Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

  I’m a city boy. Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown. Not big cities, but places where most stuff you need was in walking distance, there were downtowns, buses (in varying degrees), lots of kids, stickball, cats, dogs, and people you might nod and wave to. No emus.

      Today, I’m a country boy. Pine Bush. Burlingham actually. Slightly upstate New York (about 75 miles from the city), but definitely not urban or even suburban. It’s nice, except for the stuff you need not being in walking distance. The pandemic has made even that less of a nuisance since we’ve discovered that you can order anything online to be delivered to your door. It eliminates the human connection, but society has been working on that for some time now.

       Back to the emus. One of the pleasures of country living is the abundance of non-human neighbors. In the past I’ve commented on eagles, coyotes, owls, woodpeckers and the variety of visitors to our bird feeders (still just two cardinals). But that’s chicken feed compared to the menagerie we’ve seen on just one local road over the past few months.

       In the four-and-a-half miles under discussion, we have seen: Two stunning black swans, two emus, flocks of chickens, one beautiful white swan, one peacock (please get off the road)  a pig, two score of horses, herds of cows, four white, domesticated geese, Canada geese galore, a llama, several sheep (please stay off the road!), a blue heron, grazing herds of deer, a bull and one outspoken burro. A recent addition — a mare and her foal. Most of these are permanent residents we look forward to seeing regularly. Toto, we’re not in Bayonne anymore. By the way, I’ll give a shout out here to any reader who can identify this road.

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

      — By the way … speaking of shouting out. Mitch McConnell is probably wishing he’d kept his mouth shut last week. The Senate majority leader first said that Barack Obama “should’ve kept his mouth shut” instead of criticizing the Dotard’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Classless,” McConnell suggested. He got mocked all over Twitter and Facebook for this absurd comment, given the lack of class demonstrated by the person he was defending. Then, McConnell had to eat crow by admitting that, contrary to what he and Dotard were saying, the Obama administration had indeed left a detailed playbook on how to handle future pandemics. Dotard got rid of it. That’s what happens when lying becomes so automatic you do it as naturally as breathing. McConnell is a disgrace.

       — By the way … Kentucky, the state represented by Republicans McConnell and the foolish Rand Paul, both of whom have objected to further stimulus funds for people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, is one of the states most economically impacted by the pandemic. This from the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Figures released Thursday show that another 103,548 Kentuckians filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of initial claims since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak in mid-March to nearly 500,000, or 24 percent of the state’s total civilian workforce. Two analyses from financial technology companies show Kentucky is one of the most-impacted states when measuring the number of claims as a percentage of the workforce, and when measuring the percentage increase in unemployment claims from the start of the COVID-19 crisis.” But hey, Kentuckians, keep electing these yohos because, you know, they’re poking fingers in the eyes of The Man.  And you’re about to lose your old Kentucky home. 

        — By the way … A lot of state and local governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to make it difficult or impossible to get access to public records. Many are routinely denying Freedom of Information requests. Of course, at the same time, these governments are making major decisions and spending billions fighting COVID-19. Not a time when government secrecy should be encouraged. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit fighting this trend, says, “It’s just essential that the press and the public be able to dig in and see records that relate to how the government has responded to the crisis. That’s the only way really to avoid waste, fraud, abuse and to ensure that governments aren’t overstepping their bounds.” Or to find out if they even have a clue as to what they’re doing.

        — By the way … Rep. Justin Amash, an independent Michigan congressman who had the guts and good sense to quit the Republican Party, has again come to his senses and given up his foolhardy and potentially damaging bid to run for president as a Libertarian. (You didn’t know?) Amash blamed COVID-19 (it’s become a handy multi-purpose excuse) for making it so difficult to campaign. Call it a mercy killing. He didn’t mention that maybe he had no shot at winning and the effort would mostly be an exercise in ego and spreading routinely rejected Libertarian views. He was running because of his dislike for Drumpf, which is commendable, but his candidacy would also have gotten votes from Republicans and others who don’t like Drumpf, but can’t find themselves voting for Joe Biden or another Democrat. Shades of Ralph Nader and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. This is no year for symbolic votes, people.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Fame, Fate and Happenstance

Friday, May 8th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Me with Mario Cuomo.

Me with Mario Cuomo in Albany.

This isolation thing has us looking desperately for ways to stay connected on social media, which, of course, is exactly what it was intended to do in the first place. Unfortunately, politics — more accurately, confrontational politics — and outright lies have for the most part pushed pictures of cute dogs and cats and delicious meals to the periphery, if not completely off the Facebook news feed. Twitter is worse. The connection, when there is one, tends to be of an us-versus-them nature.

   I admit to being part of this changed atmosphere. I think there’s a fight going on for the future of a once-proud nation. But I also think there’s a need to maintain that unthreatening, neighborly sense of connection. If we’re all in the same boat, who are my co-passengers?

    To be fair, I have seen attempts during this isolation to “connect,” as it were, on Facebook. But I don’t know what letter my favorite album begins with, Willie Mays will always be the best baseball player I ever saw and I don’t qualify for the 10-photos-that-prove-I’m-a-mom challenge. I do like the renaissance of cooking photos, though.

     So, in my own need to connect in a neighborly manner, I wandered through old columns I’ve posted on the Internet to see if I could find a promising topic.

     There it was. On April 6, 2011. Ego. We’ve all got one and journalists have well-nurtured ones. But this column was an essentially harmless exercise in ego — compiling a list of “famous” people I’ve met. As I wrote at the time, it was prompted by my previous column — an obituary in effect — in which I recalled a chance meeting with the late Geraldine Ferraro on a hot August day at the Ulster County Fair in 1998. The Newburgh native, former congresswoman and vice presidential running mate to Walter Mondale (first female from a major party to run for the office) was now running (again) in a Democratic primary for a Senate seat from New York. I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown at the time. She was gracious: “Hi Bob, nice to see you again.“ She answered my questions and moved on with her hand-shaking. She lost to Chuck Schumer. She should’ve been the first female vice president of the United States.

       That column got me to thinking of other “famous“ persons I had met. I’ll run through some of that list, with the hope that some readers will do the same in the comment section or in an email. Then I’ll share them. Remember, this is about connecting and I’m sure many of you have memories of a brush, or more, with the famous or infamous. So share them. Basic ground rules: It must have been an actual meeting, meaning words were exchanged, hands possibly shaken, and local politicians don‘t count except for members of Congress. You need a line somewhere.

      I must also add that, working in newspapers for more than four decades, one is bound to run into prominent people. It comes with the territory. My list happens to be heavier with sports personalities and politicians because I was once a sports editor and then a political writer and editorial writer. Of fellow scribblers, probably the most famous was columnist Pete Hamill, who visited The Record in Middletown. There was also Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and longtime sports writer Milton Richman.

      The world of sports offered encounters with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (interviewed in the back of a limo in Binghamton. N.Y.), boxer/TV personality Rocky Graziano (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer (naked in a whirlpool bath), boxing champ Floyd Patterson (eating in a restaurant in New Paltz), Olympic marathon gold and silver medal winner Frank Shorter (after shorter races in Middletown, his hometown) and a memorable handshake in Binghamton with Jackie Robinson. (“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Robinson.”)

      In the world of entertainment there was the very tall Harry Belafonte at the Concord Hotel (somewhere there’s photographic evidence), the very drunk Clancy Brothers (around a bar after hours in Binghamton), Western novelist Larry McMurtry in Fort Worth, movie and TV actor Victor Arnold (the hit man in the original “Shaft”), over coffee in Middletown, Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (on a stage in Sullivan County) and, in a Woodstock art gallery, an also very tall Henny Youngman (“Take my card, please.”) He really said that. And I took it.

     Not surprisingly, there are a bunch of political figures on my list, starting with Ferraro’s running mate, former Vice President Walter Mondale (a hello-how-are-ya in Minneapolis). There are the New York governors: The imperial Nelson Rockefeller (he of the middle finger salute), the lanky George Pataki from Peekskill, and the Cuomos — the senior, Mario, who could hold a room hostage for hours ( and did), and junior, Andrew, when he was state attorney general and when he was messing up the gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall. Also, the other also-rans: New York Mayor Ed Koch, Tom (Who?) Golisano, Pierre (“the Record staff are the rudest people I have ever encountered”) Rinfret, Andrew (I don’t stand a chance) O’Rourke, Howard Samuels (a very cool customer), and Arthur (Hey, I was once a Supreme Court justice) Goldberg. Throw in Marvin Mandel in Maryland and Anne Richards in an elevator in Fort Worth. And of course, a special place is reserved in my heart for short-term New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, the dumbest smart politician I ever met.

       Among senators, the erudite D. Patrick Moynihan held court in Goshen and Chuck Schumer showed up seemingly for breakfast every day at The Record. And, giving them their due, Congressmen Ben Gilman, Matt McHugh, Howard Robison, Maurice Hinchey, John Hall (who founded the rock group Orleans and also qualifies as an entertainer), Bella (The Hat) Abzug (hors d’oeuvres and handshakes on Long Island), and Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who famously and entertainingly imploded during an interview with The Record.

    Among civil rights figures, Jesse Jackson (handshake and question) towered above the rest, literally and figuratively at a conference in Charleston, S.C., but Floyd McKissick, national director of CORE, was more accessible about 15 years earlier at Gentleman Joe’s, a popular bar in Binghamton.

    But perhaps the most “famous” person I ever had a meaningful conversation with is someone whose name almost nobody recognized, and most probably still don’t know: Norma McCorvey. McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that confirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion. When I met her in Middletown, she had not only changed from pro-choice to pro-life on abortion, but had joined the Roman Catholic Church and announced she was no longer a lesbian and was campaigning to overturn the decision. Change is news.

      That’s it. My list. Now I’d like to hear from you, either in a comment or email. It’s either that or take another trivia quiz or walk the dog again. Netflix will always be there later.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Bankers Strike Again; Also, UFOs

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

BOB GAYDOS

THE REPORT … bad loans, Beyond burgers, UFOs, takeout

    072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD  So the cardinal count at our bird feeders has doubled. We now have two males. I take that as good news, believing there have to be two families close by that these dads are rushing back-and-forth to feed. By the way, there is no social distancing at the feeders.

     — Also by the way … Super stock analyst, TV star, Philadelphia Eagles fan and world-class speed talker Jim Cramer raised an important point on his CNBC show when he said, “I just want to know who made the bad loans.” The loans he was referring to came from the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2.2 trillion rescue plan passed by Congress to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone casually familiar with social media the past few days is aware that many of these loans went to large corporations which were never intended to receive the money. Smaller businesses were shut out. In fact, the fund ran out of its original $349 billion cache after just a few days. When Shake Shack, the Los Angeles Lakers and other well-heeled companies were embarrassed by the publicity surrounding their getting the loans, many said they would return the money. But others said they would keep it.

       Two problems here. One, why did these large corporations even apply for the loans in the first place? Two, as Cramer wondered, who gave them the loans? “I think that banks were complicit. I think banks gave loans to very good customers, maybe because they needed to keep them afloat,” Cramer said. He said Americans are “sick” of this kind of behavior from banks and he’s absolutely right. Penalize the companies, who must have supplied phony info to even apply for the loans, and the banks, who surely knew. Make the names of those banks who approved the loans public, as Cramer suggested. Congress should investigate.

      — By the way … we finally found Beyond Meat burgers at the supermarket and created our version of a drive thru treat at home. Delicious. Of course, now, having already decided the Impossible Whopper is also delicious, some serious taste-testing is in order in the plant-based food wars. Any personal reviews out there?

     — By the way … speaking of out there, did you notice that little UFO item the Pentagon slipped out in the midst of the pandemic, maybe figuring no one was paying attention? It declassified videos

The Navy released this video of UFOs this week.

The Navy released this video of UFOs this week.

showing swiftly moving UFOs with the soundtrack of naval pilots expressing, well, awe. The videos were actually made public a couple of years ago by a private group, but the Pentagon had no official comment on them at the time. Recently, the Navy announced a formal policy on reporting UFOs. Apparently, the brass decided to believe their pilots were actually seeing something that they could not identify or explain. The Pentagon had a classified program to study numerous reports of such phenomena from 2007 to 2012, but abandoned it for what it said were more pressing priorities. The former head of that program resigned in protest in 2017 over the secrecy surrounding it. Retired former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, who pushed for the original program, tweeted that release of the videos now “only scratches the surface of research and materials available. The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications.” Or we can let the new Space Force handle it.

      — By the way … folks in my neighborhood have been familiar with the UFO phenomenon for a long time. In fact, Pine Bush, N.Y., has an annual parade/festival to celebrate its designation as the UFO capital of the Northeast. Nice event.  Unfortunately, it’s postponed this year until fall. Of course, some folks may think we’re a bit out of it, but It’s hard for me to discount the idea that there’s something out there and it’s intelligent, because it’s smart enough to stay away from us right now. Make a hard left at Earth, captain, and get out of the neighborhood fast.

       — Finally … scenes from a pandemic: Sitting in the parking lot waiting for our Chinese takeout. Customers preceding us waiting at the door, socially distanced, all wearing some variation of masks. When they leave, a silver hearse pulls up, white skull painted in the rear window and a spooky ghost in one of the side windows. Normal-looking lady wearing a mask gets out the driver side, goes in, picks up her takeout and drives away expeditiously. GrubHub? DoorDash? Thinking I’m definitely in a Coen brothers movie. By the way … I had shrimp lo mein.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

BOB GAYDOS

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

THE REPORT … mowers, mail, movies and moving Michael Cohen

April 20, 2020

072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD

Bob Gaydos

    So the lawn guy showed up unannounced and unsummoned today to a great deal of running about, barking and general enthusiasm. The dogs were excited, too. Went out to greet him at appropriate social distance. “You mowing?” I asked. “We’re essential!” He answered. “Heard last week. That Cuomo’s a tough cookie.” Yes, he is. Thankful for that. By the way, the grass is now neat and manageable for walking about and tending to business. The dogs are excited about that as well. Grateful to have a lawn guy.

  —  By the way … Michael Cohen, we hardly knew ya and now you’re about to leave us? The onetime lawyer/fixer for Hewhosenameshallnotbespokenhere has been residing at a minimum security federal prison camp in Otisville, about a 10-minute drive down the road from us. But if Cohen comes through a two-week quarantine in a medium security penitentiary next door, he’ll be going home to finish out his three-year sentence. He can thank COVID-19. Since social distancing is a major challenge in prison, some federal inmates are being switched to home confinement. Also, Orange County, where Otisville is located, had 211 confirmed virus-related deaths at this posting. My first reaction to the Cohen news was that somebody cut him a break. But then I remembered he cut a deal with the feds to get a lighter sentence on campaign fraud and lying to the FBI about hush money paid for Hewho… so Hewho wouldn’t likely make a call for Cohen. Looks like the system just did its job. Go figure.

   — By the way … We’re doing our part to burnish the reputation of Netflix and Amazon Prime during this period of isolation. Recent viewing includes “The Danish Girl, “The Coldest Game” and “The Ladies in Lavender.” Each is a little quirky, but time-passable with some good performances. Any suggestions, please feel free in the comment section.

    — By the way … If the post office is worried about losing $2 billion a

Forget the rain, snow, etc., the Post Office needs cash.

Forget the rain, snow, etc., the Post Office needs cash.

month because of the pandemic and Republicans in Congress won’t bail it out, why doesn’t Jeff Bezos just sign a month-to-month contract with the USPS to make up the difference? He could do it out of his pocket change and not even touch his Amazon stock. It would actually be a patriotic thing to do.

  —  By the way … a report just issued by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that the 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia covertly meddled in the 2016 presidential election, with the ultimate goal of helping Hewhoshallnotbenamed win, was accurate. Big surprise only in that Republicans admitted it.

   —  And finally, by the way … if there was any doubt left of the utter lack of basic decency in today’s GOP, I give you Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of the great state of Texas, which is starting to reopen its economy despite warnings from medical experts that it’s too soon and spreading the virus could result in deaths. Says Patrick: “There are more important things than living and that’s saving this country.” No plan. No leadership. No concern or compassion. Nothing. Texas is no country for old men or women.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

BOB GAYDOS

Thursday, April 16th, 2020
The new normal.

The new normal.

THE REPORT … masks, wildlife, dogs, waste and scoundrels

April 16, 2020

  072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD   So I shaved my beard and mustache off the other day. Three-blade razor, no soap or gel. Not bad and only two small nicks. Now my N95 mask fits more snugly and friends will be able to understand me when I shout hello to them from 6 to 8 feet away in the supermarket. By the way, a big thank you to all supermarket workers. Be well.

     — By the way … The cardinals have still not returned to our birdfeeders, but we had a visit from a large, male wild turkey the other morning. Undoubtedly shopping for his young brood snuggled away someplace nearby. He apparently didn’t like what his feathered comrades were feasting on and eventually wandered off. Probably see the whole family soon.

     — By the way … One of the more significant changes brought about by the coronavirus came in the country of its origin, China. Following up on its decision announced in February to ban the eating of wild animals, the Chinese government last week said it will also be illegal as of May 1 to eat animals raised as pets. In China this is big. Dogs and cats are now safe. The wildlife trade in China has long been controversial and lucrative and has always been a potential source of some new virus. Wildlife has traditionally been used, not only as a source of food, but for clothing, medicine, ornaments and pets. Past attempts at curtailing these uses of wildlife have been only marginally successful. Given the worldwide pandemic that is believed to have started in a Chinese wildlife market, one would hope that there will be serious international pressure on the Chinese government to strictly enforce these new rules.

    — By the way … is it just me, or does it make no sense in a country of such vast resources for there also to be such widespread need? With the pandemic making it even harder for millions of Americans to get enough healthful food, farmers in Florida were plowing under acres of fresh produce and in Wisconsin and New York – including in my own Orange County — dairy farmers were pouring gallons of milk into fields. With schools and restaurants closed, the major buyers have almost disappeared. But people are still hungry. Question: Instead of giving farmers millions of dollars in bailout money for throwing away good food, why not buy the food and give it to food pantries for people who are hungry?

      — By the way … when Congress gets back from its self-isolation, that handful of members who sold and bought stock after being briefed early on the virus should be investigated for insider trading. They knew what was coming, kept quiet or even downplayed the risk and then cashed in big on the worldwide suffering. Unconscionable.

      — By the way …  I think the stay at home order is resulting in a lot of healthier canines. Walking the dog is not just a chore anymore.

       — And finally, by the way … although I am firmly ensconced in the age group most susceptible to dying from COVID-19, I am not willing to simply give it up so that Rush Limbaugh, a bunch of Tea Party Republicans, Dr. Oz, Laura Ingraham or any other cult member can “get back to business.” I plan to live for the Day of Reckoning. For any evangelists who wandered into this column, that’s The Rapture without the empty clothes stuff.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

BOB GAYDOS

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

THE REPORT … disposables, China, Vlad and the planet’s rebellion

     So it’s been an interesting couple of days learning how to wash my hands properly (and often), how to avoid close contact with people in the supermarket, remembering not to touch anything, including my face, and mastering the art of properly removing disposable gloves from my hands. Inside out. Snap!

    — By the.way … while on the topic of disposable gloves, I don’t think simply dropping them next to your car in the supermarket parking lot is the optimum way of disposing of them. They’re like weeds out there, people. There are trash cans outside the store doors. Use them. If there aren’t any, tell the manager there should be. But be polite. Lots of stress inside there.

072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD    — By the way … there’s a theory making its way on YouTube that the coronavirus is simply the planet, or maybe the Larger Consciousness System, setting things in balance again. A reset button. Physicist/author Tom Campbell notes the skies over China and Europe being remarkably free of pollution since the pandemic and the canals in Venice now flow with clear water filled with fish. Since we’re all connected and our species seems to be OK with casually tossing possibly contaminated gloves on the ground, this theory isn’t far-fetched.

  —  By the way… apparently Vladimir Putin is not immune to the effects of the virus, at least politically. After first announcing that his orchestrated vote to rewrite the Russian constitution to allow him to serve as president for 16 more years would be held April 22, despite the pandemic, he bowed to reality and postponed the vote. Also, Moscow’s mayor had said numbers provided by the government on how many people were infected were too low. What a surprise.

     — By the way … where have all the cardinals gone? Our bird feeders, usually resplendent with red visitors, are disappointingly bland so far. An occasional cardinal sprinkled in with the grey and black. Anyone got any ideas?

     — By the way … sometimes things just happen. Like a vegetarian food day not by design. Flax and raisin bran cereal, with banana, for breakfast, grab on the go (not far) veggie burger (mostly brown rice and carrots) for lunch, cauliflower pretzels (who knew?) for a snack (tasty but on the salty side) and individual cauliflower crust pizzas for dinner (not bad). Feeling full and boastfully healthy.

      — By the way … with the rest of the world focused on the coronavirus that was born within its borders, the People’s Republic of China, apparently having come through the worst of its crisis, announced the opening of two deep-sea research stations in the South China Sea. The sea is hotly disputed territory because of vital shipping lanes and energy reserves. The U.S. Navy regularly sails through the sea, claiming free navigation lanes. But China likes to claim all of it and the various scientific facilities of the Chinese Academy Sciences, as well as other civilian sounding installations, are part of its campaign to control the sea. It also has established a variety of airstrips, missile shelters and harbors to strengthen its military presence. So, virus, notwithstanding, China’s still got its eyes on this target. An appreciative nod, by the way, for this news tip to a former colleague at The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., Pete Kutschera, who still tracks such things. Thanks, cap. Or is it colonel?

    — Finally, by the way … remember that social media is supposed to be an interactive process.  Readers are much appreciated and “likes” are very nice. Non-sarcastic comments as well. But this is about sharing. So spread the news and if you’ve got an idea for a story (non-Trump) you think deserves attention, please feel free. My email is below. We’re all in this together. 

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Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Bob Gaydos

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

THE REPORT …

Vlad, Rudy, Meryl, Rand and Joe

   I started writing this report, which I intend to deliver on a fairly regular basis, a couple of weeks ago. It was my latest attempt to keep up with the news in the Era of Trump without being caught up in the daily chaos and without ignoring items of interest in the rest of the world, including my backyard and even my own mind. Mostly my own mind.

  072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD   It turns out, turning off Trump is harder than it sounds. As I was compiling my first non-Trump report, the Dotard went and made it all about him again by declaring that a lethal virus roaring through China was no threat to the U.S. and, indeed, was another Democratic “hoax” intended to make him look bad. So coronavirus took over the news and I scrapped my first report. 

    But now, while staying in place as much as possible and simultaneously trying to maintain sanity, I find it more necessary than ever to look for other items of interest — local, national, international, even personal — that might be worth sharing with whomever decides to read it. I guess it’s the newsman’s DNA circulating in my veins.

      So I’m giving it another shot. I’m also using an approach I’ve stolen before. An old-time sports writer favorite of mine, Jimmy Cannon, used to occasionally sum up his take on world events with his “Nobody asked me, but …” columns. It’s a handy writing device. Covers a lot of ground and keeps the writer from getting too wordy. While I’m stealing Cannon’s idea, I won’t steal his signature phrase. I do have some scruples.

     So, “By the way ….” 

     — Did anybody notice that, while the rest of the planet was hunkering down to control the coronavirus, Vladimir Putin was busy rewriting the Russian Constitution to allow himself to continue as the country’s leader until 2036? He got the whole parliament to resign, rewrite Russia’s constitution, got the top court to agree with the changes, and set a nationwide vote on the new constitution for April 22. With or without the coronavirus. He says it’s under control and there’s no reason to delay the vote. This vote bears watching for lots of reasons you can probably deduce for yourselves.

     — By the way, is Rudy Guliani in self-isolation? Ukraine? Asking for producers at Fox News.

     — By the way, the creative genius who came up with the title for Meryl Streep’s latest movie — “The Laundromat,” on Netflix — didn’t do Streep, the film or its subject any favor in my humble, non-movie-critic opinion. There’s no laundromat for starters. The movie is about a whistleblower who uncovers an epic legal off-shore money-laundering, tax evasion operation in Panama. Millions of files.  Lots of political names. True story. Streep plays a swindled widow who, in the movie, blows the whistle on the operation. The director’s come-along-and-we’ll-tell-you-a-story approach is clever, but it trivializes the magnitude of the worldwide con job known as the Panama Papers. A news story that didn’t last as long as Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. Movie’s still entertaining though.

       — By the way, Rand Paul, ain’t karma a bitch? After being the lone member of the U.S. Senate to vote against an aid bill that included free coronavirus tests for all Americans, he became the first senator to test positive for the virus. Of course, his test was free. And he admitted he had no symptoms. And he continued to go about his usual routine before his test results came back, including visiting the Senate gym. Now, typically, he’s criticizing the government system for testing, rather than acknowledging his own poor, individual choices. Apparently, his personal libertarian philosophy of individual freedom does not include individual responsibility. Putz. It’s Yiddish.

       — And finally, by the way, has anybody seen or heard from Joe Biden lately? Just asking for millions of Americans.

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Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A Tool Kit for Problem Gambling

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

E8A71752-5BCA-4631-A888-1DFBF62002A6     March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month in New York State. One out of 12 isn’t great odds, but it beats zip, so it’s worth noting.

      In truth, problem gambling, especially if it rises to the level of a mental disorder, is not a joking matter. It is a serious affliction that can ruin the lives of many more people than the gambler. As with all potentially addictive behavior, knowledge is the key to recognizing the problem and taking steps to address it, both for the gambler and those affected by it, usually family.

      To help family members learn about problem gambling, the New York Council on Problem Gambling has produced a Family Toolkit with a variety of useful information. The section titles include: 1) Understanding Problem Gambling, 2) Information for Struggling Families, 3) Self Care Information for Family Members, 4) Resources to Give Loved Ones When You’re Concerned About Their Gambling Behavior, and 5) Is gambling affecting your life?

        The Toolkit is the result of a partnership between the Council and NAMI-NYS. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. Addictive gambling, now classified as a disorder, is a recognized mental illness. According to the Council web site, the “partnership aims to bring awareness, hope and help to families struggling with problem gambling.”

         For the record, and lest anyone think it’s just a bunch of killjoys out to close casinos and kill sports betting, the Council on Problem Gambling is a not-for-profit, independent corporation which says it is “dedicated to increasing public awareness about problem and disordered gambling and advocating for support services and treatment for persons adversely affected by problem gambling.” It has a neutral stance on gambling and is governed by a board of directors.

          Even more interesting is its origin. According to the Council’s web site, “In 1972, the Board of Trustees of Gamblers Anonymous in the New York City area requested their Spiritual Advisor, Monsignor Dunne, establish a Council on Problem Gambling to do what they could not do because of anonymity — call national attention and raise awareness of problem gambling in the United States. The National Council on Problem Gambling was founded at that time and in 1975 was chartered as a nonprofit organization.”

         So you can thank the people who knew best about the ravages of addictive gambling — the gamblers themselves — for the creation of this lifeline. Appropriately, a 20-question quiz from Gamblers Anonymous is at the bottom of this column to help those who think they might have a problem decide. Hint: If you think you do, odds are you’re right.

      The Family ToolKit and other information on problem gambling are available on line at nyproblemgambling.org. For more information about NAMI-NYS, visit their website: https://www.naminys.org/. 

    Locally, as always, if you or someone you know is experiencing any addiction that is affecting your mental health, call the Orange County Crisis Call Center at 1-800-832-1200. Advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

 

Gamblers Anonymous 20 questions

1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling? Yes No
2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy? Yes No
3. Did gambling affect your reputation? Yes No
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling? Yes No
5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties? Yes No
6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency? Yes No
7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses? Yes No
8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more? Yes No
9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone? Yes No
10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling? Yes No
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling? Yes No
12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures? Yes No
13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family? Yes No
14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned? Yes No
15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom, loneliness, grief or loss? Yes No
16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling? Yes No
17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping? Yes No
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble? Yes No
19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling? Yes No
20. Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling? Yes No

 

According to GA, most compulsive gamblers will answer ‘yes’ to at least 7 of these questions.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. He has been writing this column on addiction for more than a dozen years. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

How to Live Life and Fight Coronavirus

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

  1C731039-1A6C-416C-8764-4A0518417310 If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it. 

   Rules by which to live a life.

  The one, two, three of how to be were shared with me recently by a friend of a friend over a cup of coffee. That’s how life is sometimes. I was struck by the simplicity and basic decency of the message. Sometimes, things aren’t that complicated.

   Donald Trump has a simple playbook as well: If you want it, take it. If it’s illegal or immoral, hire lawyers to bury it. If you don’t know what’s what, make something up. This philosophy has served him well until now, but it’s kind of hard to bullshit your way through a worldwide pandemic.

    Not that he and his shameless tribe of enablers aren’t trying. I gave up any hope for Trump many years ago. The moment he announced he was running for president, I thought, what a joke. Joke’s on me.

   Trump is what he always has been — a phony with lots of money (not as much as he says) who will do or say anything he thinks will impress his audience of the moment. It’s always about how he looks right now. Shallow doesn’t do it justice. There is nothing deeper at work than self-aggrandizement and self-preservation. Well, greed and revenge are also motivating factors.

      Of course, this isn’t news today to anyone but the delusional true believers at his campaign rallies. The rest are all in it for whatever they can gain out of it. They do this by sucking up to and covering up for their boss (all those unqualified people currently occupying well-paying government positions). Or they do it to hold onto their cushy elected positions (all those silent Republicans in Congress). Or it’s out of convenience (the evangelical preachers who can use the Trump-created chaos to stir up donations while they wait, comfortably, for the Rapture).

     I suspect the folks at Fox News, save for one or two, have been administered some mind-altering drug, had electric shock treatment or were hypnotized in the manner of “The Manchurian Candidate.” I honestly can think of no explanation for their posing as journalists while functioning as propagandists save one — they are just like Trump, phony and interested only in self-preservation. Rotten to the core.

      That may sound harsh to some, but consider the response to the Coronavirus. At a time when health officials and government leaders worldwide are issuing statements of concern, caution or even warning, this Trump/Fox/suckups coalition has gone out of its way to downplay the threat and defend Trump’s laughable effort to insist Americans need not worry, warm weather is coming, he has a “hunch” the scientists are wrong, the drug companies will come up with a vaccine any day now, Mike Pence will pray away the virus and, besides, even though Trump fired all those disease control people, it’s Obama’s fault.

      You want just one example of pure heartlessness at work? Health Secretary Alex Azar, a former lobbyist for drug companies, refused to say that, should a vaccine for Corona be developed, it would not be free or at least affordable for all Americans. Asked about this in a congressional hearing, Azar said, “We would want to ensure that we’d work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.” In other words, the drug companies will set the price. That is unacceptable when facing a possible pandemic.

        It’s really simple. At a time when calm leadership and clear information is needed, Trump silences the health officials and tweets insults at Democratic presidential contenders. By the way, don’t notice the stock market is plunging because of worries about how the virus will affect world trade. It’s all about image and it borders on criminal.

        The irony is, if the reaction worldwide actually was overblown, the best way to deal with it would have been to demonstrate a clear understanding of such threats, have a plan and team in place to deal with them and a commitment to make all information available quickly and to insure that all necessary treatment, etc. would be provided to those infected. Or at the very least, admit we’re playing catch-up with this threat and doing everything we can to protect all Americans. Meanwhile, wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face and stay home if you’re feeling ill. Something.

        Which brings me back to my friend’s friend’s one-two-three rule for living life. Trump and his cohorts either never heard of it or, worse, don’t care about it. As I said, I’ve felt this way about Trump for some time. It’s how many others are willing to go along with him that is disheartening. Their version of do unto others apparently comes with the caveat, before they do unto you. And lie to protect yourself.

       I am far from perfect, but I am at least willing to try to live up to that one/two/three. So are many others. We have put up with a lot of self-serving and orchestrated praying from the Trump crowd, but when people’s lives may be at stake, it would be nice if at least one of them offered something close to basic decency instead of the usual B.S.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

        

Escaping The World with a Mani/Pedi

Monday, February 17th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

A male pedicure ... good for body and soul

A male pedicure … good for body and soul

  I have discovered what may be the perfect antidote to the attacks of “the world has gone mad” that arise from time to time, leaving me restless, irritable, discontent, utterly disgusted with millions of people and uninterested in putting those feelings into words. A paralyzed pundit is not a happy person.

   The solution? A one-hour pedicure followed by a manicure, applied in a skillful, caring manner.

    Donald who?

    My most recent mani-pedi came on the heels of the sham Trump impeachment trial in the United States Senate and the Democrats’ Iowa caucus embarrassment at the hands of a faulty app. (Puns acknowledged.) Sometimes, a guy’s just gotta get away.

     What better escape than a place where no one ever  — ever — discusses politics or fantasy football? My escape place  is located near Middletown, N.Y. I am one of about a dozen male customers, according to the proprietor. I have personally seen another man getting a pedicure or manicure at least four different times when I’ve been there. And yes, each time it made me feel more comfortable with myself, with my fragile “manhood” I guess. See, Bob, you’re not the only one.

     To say that I was self-conscious and felt awkward on my first mani-pedi experience (at a different establishment) would be an understatement. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what to ask for. How much do I tip? My partner took care of all that.

     She told the salon worker what we wanted and closely guided her through the whole process. Get those ugly nails in shape. Get rid of the calluses. Use the grinder on the tough nails. Be careful of the heel cracks. No color.

     I sat and watched. I fairly quickly stopped wondering what the women in the shop (there were no men) were thinking about me and concentrated on enjoying what was happening to me.

    So this is why they come here, I thought. This is great. Why don’t more men do this?

    In turns out, more men are. According to recent surveys, once they overcome the initial uncomfortableness, more men (especially younger men) are discovering the many benefits of mani/pedis and becoming repeat customers. But bucking stereotype takes a while.

      “It’s the best kept secret in the world!” proclaimed Tony as he burst into the salon on a recent visit and saw me sitting in a chair with my feet in the warm water, sipping on my hot coffee. One guy to another: “Hey, best thing ever, right?” Right. (Still secretly glad to have some male company.) “I try to get my buddies to do it,” he says, “but they don’t listen.”

        Tony’s a union guy who wears work boots all week. He says his wife and three daughters kept telling him to go get a pedicure. He finally did and loved it. He also gets his eyebrows waxed. He’s comfortable here, obviously a regular. “It’s so relaxing,“ he says.

         It sure is. But it’s more than that. It’s also a self-care way of paying attention to parts of the body that a lot of men, me included, tend to ignore. The feet. The toenails. Finger nails. A good mani-pedi should leave you feeling clean and neat and relaxed. I often say I feel a little lighter. Some may think of it as a little self-indulgent, but I think I’m worth it and I feel better every time.

         For the uninitiated male reader wondering what to expect from a pedicure, don’t worry. Ask your partner or good female friend to recommend a place. The process is pretty much the same every time, depending on the condition of your feet and nails. You sit in a massage chair (a bonus), roll up your pants, put your feet in warm water and relax as a (hopefully) skilled technician clips your nails neatly, trims cuticles, shapes the nails, removes dead skin and anything else hiding between your toes and files down those calluses. She will buff and peel and trim and grind until your feet are smoother than they’ve probably ever been.

      This is not just cosmetic. In addition to Trumpomania, a pedicure also helps fight fungal buildup, ingrown nails and painful cracked heels. Depending upon the level of pedicure you purchase, the nail technician will apply cream, oil, lotion, gels, or wraps in some combination. There will most likely be a brief massage of the feet and lower legs at the end of the treatment. So, while your feet and toes are now cleaner and neater and probably better smelling than they’ve been in a long time, your circulation is improved as well.

      The manicure is pretty straightforward. Clipping, trimming, shaping, a little grinding if necessary. Some lotion and a warm towel to clean the hands. No color for me. The nails look neat and clean. (People actually notice.) Thank Cristina for a job well done.

       “More and more men are coming,” said the proprietor. “Couples, too. The men are uncomfortable the first time, but they get used to it if they keep coming. Feet are sometimes difficult the first time (mine were), but they get under control with regular visits (mine are). You don’t know how good you feel after a pedicure.” I do now.

         And so do plenty of other men. One recent survey of 2,000 men and women reported that, among males aged 18-34 who said they had gone to a spa, 25 percent said they had gotten, not a haircut, but a pedicure or manicure. Another blind survey on spa-going got 1,792 respondents, 563 of them males, 77 percent of whom said they’d gone to a nail salon with their partner. Others said they’d be willing to do so.

     Of course, like everything else, overcoming societal stereotypes and image issues is more challenging for some than others. The proprietor said she noticed a man sitting outside the salon in his car for quite awhile late one day: “I finally went out and asked if I could help. He asked if he could get a pedicure. I said sure. He said all the curtains would have to be drawn. He was a judge.”

      Our lips are sealed.       

rjgaydos@gmail.com