And now

He didn’t get the message and then go to Disney World
He didn’t get the message and then go to work in a soup kitchen
He didn’t get the message and then come to New York for the sights
Or to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center or the city’s bright lights
He heard them calling, Barack and Eric and Jesse and Al
He heard their call and their message
They stirred the pot and set the stage
They stoked the fires and fed the rage
And he heard their message loud and clear
From the mobs in the streets of Brooklyn
What do we want? Dead cops.
When do we want it? Now.
And they stirred the pot and set the stage
They stoked the fires and fed the rage
And he heard the message and now, now is now
And Barack and Eric and Jesse and Al
Are saddened and their hearts and prayers go out
To the families of the murdered police
And how could it happen when all they wanted
Was a simple message of justice and peace
But they stirred the pot and set the stage
They stoked the fires and fed the rage
And now, now is now.

I think she’ll like it

“Merry Christmas, may I help you?”
“Yes, do you carry ladies sleepwear?”
“We used to but with the way prices are going up even The Dollar Store can’t find articles in the dollar range.”
“I didn’t think so, thank you.”
“You might want to check in intimate apparel.”
“The Dollar Store carries intimate apparel?”
“We have a few items mostly just pieces of string.”
“Really. That will work. How much are they?”

Not quite Hallmark but not Woolworth’s

Standing in line at the supermarket I glanced over at the cover of a magazine which proclaimed, “Have the very merriest Christmas ever” with a picture of a lovely family sitting down to dinner while a fireplace roared in the background and the opened gifts lay neatly around the Christmas tree. There was dad in his red sport coat and mom wearing pearls and the kids all smiling just like at our house when I was a kid except we didn’t have a fireplace and Dad didn’t have a red sport coat and Mom didn’t wear pearls and the gifts were all over the living room.
That idyllic picture made me think about our Christmases which included special family traditions that wouldn’t quite fit into the “Have the very merriest Christmas ever” picture. It made me think of the classic short story by O. Henry with the ironic ending, “The Gift of the Magi”.
Each year at our house a large cardboard box would come down from the attic with the tree stand, the lights, a wreath, two boxes of glass ornaments and a bag with the Christmas cards my mother had received from friends the previous year.
She would sit there at the dining room table and go through the cards to determine who would receive one of our cards this year. I remember the smile on her face as she said that eliminating the Murphy’s and the Cook’s and the McMahon’s and a few others because they didn’t send us a card last year meant that she had exactly enough cards for this year. Sort of culling the card herd, I guess.
And then there came the sound of the mailman making his deposit in the mailbox, which included a card from the McMahon’s, (Art, Lucille and Morty), followed by a groan from my mother.
“You’re going to have to go to the store for more cards” she said and so off my dad went.
“All they had left were these cards and my mother gasped at the price on a box of twelve not quite Hallmark but not Woolworth’s cards.
“Well, as long as I’m going to send the McMahon’s a card I might as well send cards to the Murphy’s, and the Cook’s and the Duncan’s” and so she did and three days later when the mailman filled up the mailbox there were cards (the good ones, not quite Hallmark but not Woolworth’s) from the Murphy’s (Dick and Dorothy), the Cook’s (Ed and Marge) and the Duncan’s (Pete and Joan).
And so the friends who weren’t quite good enough friends to get a card from my mother ended up receiving the nicest cards of all from her. Is that an O. Henry story or what?

Uncle Paul’s Sleigh

When I was a kid Christmas was always the most magical time of the year. What was in that box under the tree that had my name on it? Could it be? But later on I knew that if the package was the size of a shoe box it probably contained shoes and that a thin flat package had a record album and a soft package had a robe from Aunt Ruthie. Those wonderfully wrapped gifts were still for me but the surprise part of the magic was gone. Oh sure, when Jeannie and I wrapped the kids’ gifts we would change the box sizes to fool them but the two of us didn’t have that complete Christmas surprise magic of long ago until we found out about Uncle Paul’s Sleigh.
Now a week or two before Christmas we get ready and prepare our exchange gifts (homemade cookies are best but we usually just put three or four Oreos in eight lunch sacks—two sacks for each member of our family) and then we jump in the van. I drive and find Christmas music on the radio, Jeannie watches for The Grinch and Hunter and Bethany are the runners as off we go on our Christmas gift exchange which is usually one or two towns over. We like to slowly drive up and down the streets looking at the Christmas displays just as the lights come on and compare the displays on the different streets until there it is parked in front of a big house, Uncle Paul’s big brown Sleigh.
After we see Uncle Paul come off the porch, jump back in his big brown sleigh and drive off we pull up in front of the house and the kids run up, leave a bag of cookies, bring a box back to the car and then off we go to catch up to Uncle Paul again. On and on into the evening until all of our cookie gift sacks are gone and the van is filled with boxes from our new friends.
A funny story. One time when the kids were getting out of the van to make an exchange another group following Uncle Paul’s Sleigh came running at us. I didn’t know who they were but they must have thought they knew me because one of them said something about my mom and was pulling something out of his coat until a police car happened to come by and they jumped in the bushes.
When we get back home we always stack the boxes in the garage until Christmas Eve when we randomly divide the packages between the four of us (I always like the Amazon boxes because sometimes they have two or three packages inside—one time I got a cordless drill and a driver’s side door handle for a 1953 Chevy Bel Air).
Just before midnight we start opening the boxes in front of the fire. Jeannie always cuts off each address sticker and throws it in the fire as we wish a very Merry Christmas to Mrs. Charles F. Summers of 1431 Meadowbrook Lane.
“What did Mrs. Summers get you this year, sweetheart?” Jeannie asked Bethany.
“Some kind of leakproof undergarment.”
A couple of books, a cord for a Sunbeam toaster, a porcelain angel from QVC, a gas tank for a Toro snowblower, a jigsaw puzzle, three embroidered teddy bears for grandchildren named Connie, Lonnie and Donnie, an engraved shoehorn (to Lester from Mona) and then it was my turn.
“I wonder what Ralph Hogan, of 1453 Appleseed Lane got me?”
As I opened the box there was another box inside with a big red bow. When I opened that box I found the loveliest sort of pink/purple double XL “naughty nightie” with a card which read “to R from R”.
“Thanks Ralph, Merry Christmas” and Jeannie tossed the card and the address sticker into the fire.
What a lovely way to spend Christmas Eve together with the family.
I hope all of our friends enjoy their cookies and I also hope that maybe next year Ralph springs for the matching slippers.

Videos

The way that the American justice system works is a mystery to many people who think that a grand jury finds a defendant guilty or not guilty of a charged crime. A grand jury does not determine guilt. A grand jury looks at the evidence and then determines if a person should be charged with a crime.
Following the riots in Ferguson, MO and the Eric Garner protests all across America a great number of Americans now think that our grand jury system is broken and that it should no longer be used to determine whether or not a criminal case goes to trial. They see spending months and months of listening to dozens of witnesses and experts and reviewing the facts of an alleged crime as just a delay in getting to what most people believe is the correct result.
In the Ferguson, MO case the facts and testimony of experts only got in the way since the truth about what had happened was known to many from the start. What we did find out was that the obvious truth of this situation could have been more easily documented if the cops had used police body cameras to record every stop, every incident, so that the public could see for themselves what had happened.
In the Eric Garner case in New York, where a black man died when the police attempted to subdue him during an arrest, we had a case where again the community knew what needed to be done to the police officers without having to review all of the facts of the case because of who was involved. They knew and there was a video to back up that belief. Looking at the video of the arrest numerous television personalities, who somehow became experts on police training and procedures, were able to confirm that truth to their viewers. Simply using the truth shown on the video alone to determine if the case should have gone to trial would have meant that twenty three citizens of a so-called grand jury would not have had to go over thousands of pages of testimony and expert findings. The video confirmed all that we needed to know which brings me to proposing the following:
When the police begin to wear police body cameras the general public will be able to immediately see the incident videos which can then be used to confirm the conclusions wanted by the public. The focus now should be on how and when to release these videos which confirm that conclusion so that we can get right to the next stage, the trial.
Assuming that there may be multiple incidents involving the police and the community occurring each week why not have all of the videos associated with the different cases released on the internet at 7:30 each Thursday evening? Following each video case the audience will use thumb-up or thumb-down buttons similar to “like” on Facebook or the voting on American Idol—thumb-up, no trial, thumb-down, trial. Who should vote? Justice is what we are looking for and since justice is a universal concept everyone around the world should be able to logon and vote.
Justice delayed is justice denied so this proposed system should help us along the path to providing swift justice and correcting our broken justice system. By going to a system which relies on video to determine whether a case should go to court we will not only speed up the process but also redefine what evidence really means in determining probable guilt and if that probable guilt can be determined, why not guilt?
Since this video “grand jury” system will be so efficient the same type of system could take the case right to a “video court” at 7:30 Friday night where a thumb-up or thumb-down, guilty or not guilty, vote would be done using the same videos plus any testimony the defendant or his or her lawyer may want to introduce. Now I’m not going to be the one to propose using this thumbs-up, thumbs-down system for sentencing (since there probably should be some type of appeal process) but a complete video justice system would sure get us to the desired result quickly and help us fix all components of our unjust system once and for all. An incident on Monday with a ”web grand jury” decision on Thursday, a “web trial” on Friday and a “web sentence” on Saturday could have the guilty police officer behind bars for life or executed by sunup Monday morning and isn’t that what the crowds in the streets really want?
No costs to the city controlling protests, no looting, no riots, no burned down business just pure justice for the people. What is the downside?