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  • December 6, 2023

    I AM A MAN!


    When it comes to getting a new driver’s license, sometimes it makes sense to back up, look around, and figure the perfect approach.

    That’s not my approach. My approach is to bitch, complain, bone up on the vehicle code, and try to memorize all the silly minutia the state deems important. And that’s what I was doing when my wife Carmela, who is also known as the “work-around queen,” stepped in and did her magic.

    She found out that seniors can take a special “e-learning knowledge test” online to get their licenses renewed.

    Now, you have to be careful here, because there is the “online” test and then there’s the “e-learning” test that you take online. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!

    The online test has tricked many of our friends and others we have heard about. They have done all the usual things. They’ve read the little prep book, they’ve taken practice tests, they’ve paid their $41, and they’ve taken the test. Then they were told they flunked it. By the time they flunk it for the third time, our older friends and acquaintances are flustered, frustrated and in a panic that they’re not going to get their licenses renewed at all.

    Armed with a half-dozen such horror stories, Carmela went searching for a strategy for how to take the test and pass it. She ran into something called the “e-learning” test.

    The e-learning test is divided into several parts – speed limits, rules of the road, road signs, etc. After each subject, the applicant takes a multiple-choice test to prove he understands what was just presented. If the test-taker is unsure of an answer, he can go back to repeat the lesson before taking the test on that segment. The whole thing takes about 45-minutes for seven sections – that’s a smidge more than six minutes a section. How hard could it be? So, I took the e-learning test, and I passed with flying colors.

    The only problem was the hoops I had to jump through before I could take the test and after I took the test.

    The DMV wanted me to submit proof of who I was and pay a fee. We gathered all the appropriate paperwork ahead of time, uploaded it all, and had it ready to submit. Then we spent two full hours (not counting the 45 minutes taking the e-learning test itself) going through several layers of DMV Hell to get the information submitted to the DMV’s satisfaction. Still better than the alternative.

    But then I was told I had to bring the same information I’d just submitted online to the DMV. I’m still trying to figure out that one – especially since some of the documentation they wanted was actually issued by the DMV – that is my driver’s license and my auto registration, which were both being used as proof of my residence.

    While at the DMV, I was supposed to take an eye exam and pose for a photo. Then I would be issued a temporary 60-day license while they supposedly reviewed my information once more and decided whether I could have a permanent “real” license.

    Going to the nearest DMV to be shunted around like a helpless bovine at the slaughterhouse is less than ideal, but that was my plan.

    It turns out however that our nephew, Anthony Doolan, had a better idea. Anthony grew up in Bishop, California. It’s a rural town along the way to the ski and outdoor recreation area on the eastern slope of the Sierra Mountains.

    Since we were planning to go on a two-week road trip to Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and one of the places we planned to pass through was Bishop, it made sense to go there. The DMV in Bishop is small, relaxed, and customer friendly, Anthony told us. In and out in less than an hour, he promised.

    So, I made an appointment in Bishop. We drove there one day, got up early the next morning, and went to the DMV to keep our appointment. So far, so good.

    One of the things I wanted to have stipulated on my license is my status as a veteran. I am proud of my service to my country, but having the veteran status on my driver’s license also qualifies me for discounts at various establishments across the country, from coffee houses, to hardware stores. So, I came prepared with my DD-214 – the official United States of America honorable discharge form, which has been in use since 1950. But what I found out at the Biship DMV is that the DD-214 is no longer good enough for the State of California. Turns out the whiz kids in Sacramento have decided that the DD-214 is too easy to forge by people who are not veterans, and in some cases, not even citizens.

    Now, in the state of California, you have to provide a VSD.001 – a special state form to show you are not only a veteran, but also a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of California.

    At that point, I was ready to give up trying to get my veteran status on my license, but Carmela is made of sterner stuff than me. How can we get this VSD.001, she asked in her still friendly, yet quite firm voice.


    We could contact Sacramento online and wait about two weeks for the form we were told. “Really?” Carmela asked – again in THE voice. “The official form of the United States of America military isn’t good enough?”

    “Well, you could go see Gordon,” the Bishop DMV lady told us. It turns out Gordon  handles veteran affairs at the state building on the other side of town. Gordon is a good guy, the DMV folks told us. Just go to the state office building and ask for Gordon. You will know the building when you see it – it looks like a giant prison.

    So we thanked them, told them we would be back, and hot-footed it over to the state building. It was fairly easy to find. Like the good folks at the DMV said, it looked like a giant prison. When we went inside, it felt like a giant prison as well.

    There was a small reception area with folks sitting behind bullet-proof glass asking visitors to state their business before deciding whether or not they would be allowed beyond the locked doors. I suppose in this day and age I understand it, but I grew up in an era when a public building was public. People went in, they went to the appropriate office whether it was to get a building permit or pay their water bill, and they left.

    But that was back in happier times before the world went insane.

    Anyway, we were able to contact Gordon, who said he could see us that afternoon. We agreed to come back at the appointed time.

    When we returned, Gordon actually came down to the lobby to greet us and get us badges to provide access to the inner sanctum. Gordon was a buff and hardy former Navy corpsman, who now works in Veteran Affairs for the State of California.

    Gordon took my information from my DD-214 and other forms of ID I provided and filled out the state form to officially make me a veteran in the state of California. But then he had one more question.

    “Who are you,” he asked.

    It seemed a strange question since he had been calling me George all the time we had been sitting with him filling out forms.

    “I’m George Cunningham,” I said, a little perplexed. He looked at me with a half-smile as though I didn’t get the question. “George Lee Cunningham,” I repeated, a little louder.

    By this time, Gordon is laughing. No, he said. Are you swan or a unicorn or what? I have to know how you identify.

    “I am a man,” I said firmly. “And my wife is a woman. I have always been a man, and I always will be a man.”

    It was kind of funny, but what the hell is wrong with the idiots in Sacramento?

    Gordon finished filling out the information for my VSD.001 state veterans’ form and we drove back to the DMV where I took an eye test, was photographed, and issued a temporary license. By the time we returned home, less than two weeks later, my official license was waiting for me in the mail.

    I am now a certified California driver and a certified man through November 2028 at which time I will be 88 years old, God willing.

    Thank you Gordon, thank you kind and lovely people at the Bishop DMV, thank you Nephew Anthony for steering me in the right direction, but most of all thank you Carmela for clearing my path through the bureaucratic nightmare that is the state of California.

    In the meantime, I happily plan to hit the road as often and as long as I am able. Driving my own car whenever and wherever I want to go.




    I love bad weather. I love the gray skies, the rain, the snow, and the kind of  winds that almost knock you over.

    And that means I love Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, especially in the late fall and early winter, when the roads are mostly still open and the hot chocolate slips down your throat like delicious black lava.

    I admit that my love of storms and gray-on-gray landscapes is not what most folks find beautiful or relaxing, but getting out of the car to take a picture and almost being knocked over by blinding rain or snow gets my juices flowing. And Carmela loves it too, mostly I think because I love it, but also because it is bracing, exciting, and just a little bit dangerous. If anything goes wrong you are a long way from home, and have to find your own way out of your predicament.

    Our pup Henry does not share our love for storms. Henry likes a nice comfortable place to lay down, quietly snooze, and enjoy his doggie life. He enjoys going out for walks around his own neighborhood, where he has memorized where his doggie enemies live and where there are children who love puppies and will give him a little doggie rubdown when they see him.

    Henry is a tough little guy, but he is getting older, and the time we have left to share with him grows shorter by the day. Henry is a member of the Cunningham Pack – although there seems to be some confusion over who is leader of the pack.

    But, where we go, Henry goes, and where Henry goes, we go.

    Henry is not the only one getting older. I’m getting older too, and I don’t want to just lay around the house and go for walks around the neighborhood. I want to go adventuring into the wild.

    And I’m willing to give up a little comfort to do what I want, even though frigid temperatures and high altitudes result in nosebleeds and make it hard to catch my breath. So I move a little slower, and I travel with small absorbent sticks called “Bleed Cease” that go up my nostril and stanch the flow of blood if needed. If my nose bleeds, out comes a Bleed Cease. The flow is stopped. Then, a while later, I will sneeze, open the wound, and begin bleeding profusely once more. No problem. Grab another Bleed Cease.

    The joy of the trip is worth it.

    The one thing I don’t have to do is go to the bathroom standing barefoot in the snow on ice-covered ground with my butt hanging out in the storm. For Henry, that’s a fact of life. But Henry is part of the Cunningham Pack, and so he bravely pressed on.

    When we got to Bellevue, Idaho, 22 miles south of Ketchum, Idaho, Ernest Hemingway’s hometown and the Sun Valley ski resort, we checked into a very nice hotel and prepared to head north the next day, over the mountains and on to Racetrack, Montana.

    Before we moved on, an early blizzard hit town – with temperatures dropping to 14 at night and the wind howling through the valley and daytime temperatures climbing into the low- and mid-20s. That’s not really a problem for me, but I get to wear pants and go to the bathroom in a nice warm room. Henry has to go outside, barefoot with only his little doggie sweater on his chest and his butt hanging out in the cold wind.

    It soon became clear that the boy was suffering, and that trumps my bloody nose and my love of rain, wind, and snow. So we packed up my Bleed Cease sticks, bundled Henry up, and headed south, to Provo, Utah – still cold, but not snowy and frozen. Then to Cortez, Colorado and finally to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – near where our friends Jonathan and Linda Beaty and J.R. Absher live in the hills south of town.

    It was a lovely trip, and as we headed into lower elevations and warming weather, my nose stopped bleeding and Henry began to perk up as well.

    You make your choices in life and you take care of friends and family – whether they’re human or canine. You do the best you can by those you love.

    Unfortunately, that theory was about to be tested. Back home, Henry returned to his happy self, delighted to be back on his home turf, vigorously barking and growling at his doggie frenemies, gobbling up his food, and going for walks.

    But within a week, things changed. Henry lost his appetite, he lost his energy, and we feared for his future.


  • December 5, 2023

    Dog Loyalty


    Our dog Henry is a spoiled and stubborn little Yorkie, who thinks he has certain rights and privileges as a member of the Cunningham Pack. And he is absolutely right.

    When we go for a walk with Henry on the leash, he thinks he is taking us for a walk. He wants us on other end of the leash so we don’t wander off in case he needs us to clean up after him.

    Henry repays us with absolute loyalty to the Pack. But Henry is almost 15 now, and he is failing. He sometimes stumbles and falls for no reason, and he has to go out to pee or poop every hour or two, rain or shine.

    Henry has always been loyal to us, and we have always been loyal to him. That’s not going to change now.

    We thought we might lose Henry last week. His usually ravenous appetite disappeared, and we began to see blood in his stool. It was a tough week with Henry hooked up all night to IVs at the animal hospital and losing more and more weight by the day. After two nights in the hospital, we took Henry home, held him in our arms all night, gave him lots of medications throughout the day and night, and took him back to the vet to be put on an IV all day long. That went on for another five days, until finally we were given more medications for him to take and told he just had to come in for fluids every day.

    More than $3,000 later, Henry is getting back to himself, eating everything in sight, gaining back his lost weight, and being his usually spoiled-brat self. We celebrated with a new stylish haircut for the boy at the Salty Paws Salon.

    He is a handsome little devil indeed.

    We are under no illusion that Henry’s problems are over. Like all living creatures Henry’s days are numbered. But for now, he is returned home, acting like his old self,  and we are joyful to have our little boy back.

    We understand our happiness is temporary.  We have talked to the vet and when Henry’s time comes, when the pain outweighs the joy, we will be with him in our own home to say our loving goodbyes and cuddle him as he passes.

    It will be our sad and final gift.

    – George Lee Cunningham

     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.

  • October 12, 2023

    Retail Suicide

    You have to wonder sometimes if some big corporations are intent on committing suicide or if they are just so incompetent that it only seems that way.

    As we get older, our clothing requirements are simple. We buy much of what we need either online or from superstores such as Costco. But once in a while, my wife Carmela likes to go to a big retail store and try on different outfits and see how they look and feel – something that is impossible online or at a large warehouse store.

    So a couple weeks ago, off she goes to Macy’s – where over the years and through many iterations – she has shopped for more than 50 years. But this time the experience was different.

    She went there to buy a leather handbag, but on the way to the handbag section, she passed though the women’s clothing section and found five items to try on. She decided to buy one of them – a pair of white slacks – and proceeded to the section with purses.

    Little did she know that  the retail genii at Macy’s seem to have divided the store into sections. And although she’s really not certain, after the day’s experience, she has gotten the idea that shoppers are supposed to pay for each item in the particular section it’s chosen from and and if a shopper wishes to buy items from two or more sections, they have to stand in line two or more times and pay for the items at different registers. Now Carmela is not absolutely sure this is the situation, but the brouhaha that ensued with her planned purchase of slacks and a purse makes this seem likely.

    It’s as though when you go to Home Depot you have to wait in line to pay for nails at one cash register, then go to another register to buy light bulbs, and wait again for a potted palm at yet a third register.

    Macy’s – one of the first department stores – has been through many iterations, but in one form or another it has been around for 165 years. How much longer will it survive in an ever-competitive field?

    Good question.

    So my wife – a very clean-cut and friendly 68-year-old woman – went shopping unaware of the new rules that Macy’s seems to have implemented.

    As she walked over to the handbag section with the as-yet unpurchased slacks on her arm, she heard a man on a two-way radio saying: Customer has left try-on area with unpaid merchandise on her arm. She’s moving toward handbags.

    How weird, she thought.

    Then she looked up to see three women security folks with walkie-talkies tracking her – one to the left, one to the right, and one stealthily moving in front of her. The disembodied voice then described Carmela and kept directing the three women to keep tracking her.

    Realizing what was happening, Carmela approached the closest security woman and said, “excuse me, I think you’re talking about me.” The young woman quickly turned her back to Carmela and would not acknowledge her presence. She tried once more to talk to her with the same results. Then she tried one of the other two women. Same response.

    Meanwhile the man on the walkie talkie kept tracking Carmela’s movements, describing her and his suspicion that she was a thief over the walkie-talkies so everyone in the area could hear.

    At this point, another customer looked at Carmela and asked, “what’s going on?”

    Carmela told her Macy’s security obviously thought she was stealing something, even though she was in the interior of the store, moving further inside the store, and nowhere near the exits – which she would have to use in order to actually steal something. The fellow shopper made a nasty comment about how lousy Macy’s has become.

    Carmela obviously agreed.

    Disgusted by the experience, Carmela put the slacks back in the slacks section and left. Then she came home, cut up her Macy’s charge card, and wrote an angry letter to Macy’s corporate headquarters, complaining about her experience.

    Two weeks after sending the letter, Carmela was contacted by a woman from Macy’s corporate headquarters, who promised somebody would be in touch soon.

    Three days later another person from Macy’s called. She rudely said there would be a “thorough investigation” into the situation, but “of course” they couldn’t tell Carmela anything about the investigation nor would they ever contact her again.

    In corporate-talk: Screw you lady.

    Fair enough.

    When an organization is intent on suicide, there’s not a lot to do except remember them for what they used to be and take your business elsewhere. Online, perhaps.

    – George Lee Cunningham

     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.

  • July 30, 2023



    Tim Urban, a very witty and smart fellow, recently tweeted about his wife’s theory on girl power and dominance. Here’s what he wrote:

    “My wife has a theory that when two girls pass each other on the street, the hotter one just kind of has the right of way and everyone mostly abides by that. And that this creates awkward moments when two people think they’re equally hot. Is this true?”

    Like so many things in life, I do think there is some truth in it and some important missing nuance. Yes, I think there are women who dominate because of their looks and desirability to men. But no – and this is a huge no – it is not nearly that simple.

    In our white-bread, 21st Century society, a pretty woman may step aside and yield power to a beautiful woman. But there are a lot of exceptions. My wife and her sisters are half Sicilian and half Calabrese – two societies of pretty mean people.

    In my wife’s culture – into which I have been welcomed – the meanest woman gets the right-of-way over the less mean woman. And if two woman both think they are the meanest – well it can get pretty ugly, even if the two women may love one another under normal circumstances.

    So in my adopted-by-marriage world, the meanest woman has the right-of-way, no matter how pretty or ugly she may be. If a young and beautiful 21st Century girl thinks otherwise, she will soon learn her place.

    Mean beats pretty every single time.

    By the way, Tim Urban is a very interesting guy with a sometimes quirky and unconventional view on life. You can find some of Tim’s thoughts on life at http://WaitButWhy.com

    – George Lee Cunningham

     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.