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


  • November 19, 2019


    – Photo by Ken Whytock on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

    If you believe in the theory of Supply and Demand – and really who doesn’t – you already know that the more plentiful a commodity is, the cheaper it becomes.

    For instance, gold is a commodity. What makes it valuable, is that there isn’t that much of it. What makes gold even more valuable is when an artisan takes the raw material and fashions it into a beautiful ring or necklace. It is no longer a commodity, it is a work of art.

    Advice is liked that. Everybody has an opinion and few are shy about sharing it. That’s why people warn you that advice is cheap, which of course is its own kind of advice.

    What transforms advice from a commodity to something of value is when the person giving advice to you knows what he or she is talking about and is kind enough to share it with you.

    For example:

    DON’T BELIEVE any advice that relies on statistics to make its point. Common sense is almost always better than statistics. It’s almost impossible to know all the details about how the data was gathered, who gathered it, and what role personal prejudice and motive played in putting together the conclusions.

    On the other hand, in the rare incidents in which common sense turns out to be not correct, you need to be willing to look at the other alternatives.

    MY BUSINESS PARTNER once advised me, during a tense time when a lot of money was coming in and a lot of money was going out to pay bills, that it wasn’t really about cash – it was about “cash flow.” This was of course complete nonsense – 90 percent wishful thinking and 10 percent blind hope – but we still laugh about it today.

    THE TRUTHFULLNESS OF ADVICE doesn’t necessarily make it valuable. I had a fellow vet give me a street-wise tip about dealing with the Veterans Administration. When you are trying to score some drugs to get you through the night, never tell them “you keep thinking about killing people.” That will get you in deep shit, he warned.

    “Tell them, you dream about killing people. You can’t help what you dream, man.”

    I thought it was good advice if I wanted free drugs. Sadly, I did not.

    NEVER TRUST anybody who says “trust me.” In my experience, the words “trust me,” translates in real life to “I’m going to tell you a lie.” If you don’t already trust him, certainly don’t trust him after he tells you to trust him.

    This manifests itself in a variety of ways. When Google promotes itself with the term, “Do No Evil,” watch your back. What they mean is “do no evil,” unless there is a good reason to do so. Other manifestations of the same sentiment are auto dealers trying to convince you to buy the undercoating; realtors urging you to come down $10,000 on your price, costing them maybe $300 in commission; and those Nigerian princes, who always need some fast cash.

    NEVER TAKE anything you read in the news or see on TV at face value. Across the political and aesthetic spectrum, news reporters and editors have prejudices, hidden agendas and sometimes weird perspectives. And as in all occupations from college professors to plumbers, incompetence is rampant.

    That means, if you read a story in the newspaper and you don’t understand exactly what happened, there’s a good chance that neither did the reporter.

    You may think I am being a skeptic. You would be correct, and I think you should be too.

    At least, that’s my advice.

    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.

  • October 14, 2019

    No Socks For Me!


    We are visiting in Fort Bragg, a beautiful Northern California town, when I decide to step into a sock store, to maybe buy some socks to keep my feet warm or maybe just as a gift for one of the children in my life.

    But there’s this sign on the door, and it pisses me off.

    The sign says:


    ALL Races

    ALL Religions

    ALL Countries of Origin

    ALL Sexual Orientations

    ALL Genders


    I don’t go into the store. In fact, I walk away in disgust, but it makes me think, why does that holier-than-thou sign make me so mad?

    In fact, if I ran a store, I would have the very same policy. As long as people had money in their pockets, I would sell them stuff. And if anybody made trouble, I would evict the rascal from the premises.

    I would also have the same policy toward bigots – which come in all races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, and genders. One of my rules would be, don’t make trouble in my store no matter what your personal beliefs may be.

    You may look, you may buy, but if you start insulting my other customers – then you are not “safe” here anymore. You are gone.

    My problem isn’t with the policy. My problem is with the virtue-signaling that proclaims to the world and all the potential customers that the owners of the store are on a slightly higher moral plain than the great unwashed rest of us, including the ones with a little cash in their pocket and a passing urge to maybe buy some socks.

    A couple of days later, we find the same sign showing up at another businesses in the area. This one was a restaurant in Mendocino with a lovely view of the ocean and a $16 charge for bacon and eggs. We decided to walk down the street to the Mendocino Hotel, where we could buy breakfast without a political lecture.

    It’s not about the politics involved. People can believe what they want.

    I would have the same problem with a store owned by Christians, who wanted to deliver a little sermonette to their customers before they sell them something. I think they have a right to do it. But, I have a right not to do business with them.

    The only difference is that one set of business owners considers themselves superior to others because they are “saved.” The others because they are “woked.”

    The sock store folks and the owners of the restaurant are not on a higher moral plain than the rest of us. They are just business people, trying to eke out a living in an area with a dying economy

    The lumber industry, which once was the backbone of the Fort Bragg economy, is virtually gone. The fishing industry, one of the other financial legs of the local economy, is flailing because of both foreign and regional competition and a die-back of the kelp beds that helped sustain the marine population.

    Tourism is also down. One by one, numerous restaurants and shops have closed over the last few years. The choices of dining and shopping that once existed here have diminished greatly.

    It is beautiful up here, but living in a lovely locale beside the sea is not enough to put food on the table or to buy back-to-school clothes for the kids.

    Who knows, I might even have bought two or three pairs of socks and some bacon and eggs.

    They should have thought of that before they insulted me.

    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.



    I don’t want to complain, but I’ve always marched to a different drummer. I recognized it, even when I was a kid. Except back then, I would make an effort to get in step. But it never worked.

    Now, I don’t even try.

    It’s a dangerous way to be nowadays, when society increasingly wants you to fit in, listen to what people in authority tell you, work together as a team, and reach a consensus with your peers.

    Even when the consensus is bullshit, we’re all supposed to pretend that it isn’t.

    Nowadays, more and more people are being sent to re-education camp to learn the proper way to think and the proper way to act. It’s like when your mother wants to give you a lecture, and you’d rather just get a spanking and get it over with.

    Re-education camp in the United States goes by such names as traffic school, sensitivity training, and forced apologies that folks are pressured to make whether they’re actually sorry or not.

    I used to go to traffic school when I got a ticket just to keep my insurance rates within reason. Traffic school is a thing thought up by a bunch of bureaucrats to convince people to drive defensively. Having been to traffic school several times over the years, I can attest that everybody is just going through the motions – both the teachers and the students.

    After they started offering traffic school online, I hired by young niece – nowhere near old enough to drive herself – to attend in my name and take the test. Over the months, she got pretty good at it.

    If I do say so myself, I think I was instrumental in making her the fine driver that she is today.

    Then there was an editor – when I was a reporter at the Long Beach Press-Telegram – a rather stupid woman, whose name I cannot, and do not wish, to remember. She decided that the staff needed was sensitivity training. Her idea was to teach reporters not to be mean to black, Hispanic, or Asian people.

    Since I was no meaner to black, Hispanic, or Asian people than I was to anybody else, I didn’t see the point.

    The class was taught by a very nice black man, who showed us a film starring a little black boy, who came to a white neighborhood where people had big houses and spent their weekends at the country club. That certainly had not been my experience growing up white and poor, but that was the opening premise of the class – that white people spend their weekends at country clubs.

    The instructor said, “if you don’t think you need this class, then you are free to leave.”

    I left, much to the anger of the editor.

    I have no idea where she is now, but I’m sure if she has not died of acute bitterness, she is somewhere, railing against how mean men are to women, white people are to black people, and Americans are to the rest of the world.

    Then there was my pal, Roger, a very liberal and progressive kind of guy, with whom I got along despite our political differences. The problem was Roger thought if I didn’t agree with him to the letter on every issue, that I obviously had a whole other set of “right-wing” values, whether I expressed them or not.

    In Roger’s mind, you were either this or that.

    The end of my relationship with Roger came when he told me – using simple one-syllable words – that “what you need to understand George is that: Black folks are good people. They are nice and they are fun.”

    I told him his statement was ridiculous.

    Some black people are nice, fine folks and some were really jerks. The same as white people, brown people, Asians, and Indians.

    That was the end of my relationship with Roger. It wasn’t that he felt differently about things than I did, but that he insisted upon giving me a little lecture as though I was an idiot. And a bigot.

    Time marches on.

    Now, people are being forced – upon threat of losing their jobs or their status in society – to apologize for what they said or a joke that they told, whether they are really sorry or not.

    And some people, who declare they are not prejudiced, are being told they actually are, but they just don’t know it. Women vote against what is good and right because their husbands make them do it. Or so the story goes.

    The people who say this have obviously never met my wife, Carmela. If I dared to tell Carmela who to vote for, she would tell me in the most loving way possible, to mind my own damn business.

    I like that about Carmela.



  • August 6, 2019



    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.