Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

Biden, Hummingbirds and History

Monday, July 22nd, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

      Thanks, Joe. … 

President Joe Biden withdrew from the 2024 presidential race.

President Joe Biden withdrew from the 2024 presidential race.

   That’s all I could muster at first. The news alert — “Biden dropping out of presidential race” — had popped onto my I-Phone screen about five minutes earlier and I reacted with surprise and I wasn’t sure what else.

       So I drank some tea, popped a couple of vitamins and went outside to watch our three resident hummingbirds try to keep an aggressive woodpecker away from their feeders. Their subsistence. Their future. Through persistence, remarkable athleticism and teamwork, they succeeded. The woodpecker left for easier pickins.

      And I had a moment of clarity.

      It seems I have a pattern. When confronted with a dramatic historic moment, rather than yielding to the ingrained journalistic instinct and rushing to write about it, I take a break to reconnect with, I suppose, real life.

      On Sept. 11, 2001, after watching on TV as a second plane flew into the World Trade Center, I got into my car, turned on the radio and drove to a park close to the newspaper where I worked. As editorial page editor, I knew I would have to write about the attack. The park was familiar to me because I used to walk my dog there before going to work in the morning. I had since moved and there was no dog, but I relaxed as I enjoyed the quiet and watched other people walking their dogs, drank my coffee and listened to reports of a plane striking the Pentagon.

     Then I went to work and wrote an editorial stating that the U.S. was at war.

      Nineteen years later, on Jan. 6, 2020, after watching on TV for two hours as a mob egged on by a president who refused to accept the fact he had lost an election laid waste to the U.S. Capitol, I finally turned off the TV, looked at the new dog and said, “Let’s go for a walk.” We took a quiet stroll around the pond in the back and, though it was cold, it reminded me of the beauty in my life.

     Then I went back in and wrote a column about the fear and anger and shame I felt at this attempted coup and about how the calming words of President-elect Joe Biden helped me to feel there was still hope. He faced a “monumental task,” I wrote, to overcome the disastrous Trump presidency and return America to its place of dignity and stability as the world’s symbol of democracy.

     Which in large part, in a remarkably successful presidency, he did. But the rot in the Republican Party, a gold-plated chamber pot of fear, racism, ignorance, greed, corruption, cowardice, hypocrisy, bigotry, opportunism, threats, lies and lust for power fueled by religious extremism, has not yet been eradicated.

       And President Joe Biden has been told by many of his formerly closest allies in the Democratic Party and much of the mainstream media that he is too old to finish the job.

       I don’t know. He’s 81 and showing signs of mental and physical fatigue. But he knows how to do the job and understands right from wrong. Trump, meanwhile, is 78, a physical, moral and mental wreck and doesn’t really care about the job, just the title and the perks. But Republicans apparently love him and too many Americans still don’t understand the threat he and his enablers pose to that American democracy.

        So as I watched the hummingbirds Sunday afternoon, I thought about what an act of selflessness it was for Biden, who clearly believes he can still do the job, to agree to step aside for someone younger, because, well because it’s the right thing to do. The patriotic thing to do. The politically smart thing to do. At least that’s what he had been constantly told for a month since his poor performance in the debate with Trump (whose litany of lies and accusations was largely ignored).

          Now, Joe Biden, with a lifetime of service to country, has thought of country first and done his job again. He has stood aside for someone younger — most likely Vice President Kamala Harris — who can bring the fight to Trump (now the only old man in the race) and the Republicans and, more importantly, convince a lot of Democrats and other Americans to unite behind her to drive away the threat to America’s future. To their future. Just like the hummingbirds did.

      Thanks, Joe … for everything.

A City Boy’s Guide to Country Etiquette

Saturday, July 20th, 2024
If you flatten it, you replace it. That oughta be the rule of the road.

If you flatten it, you replace it. That oughta be the rule of the road.

If you knock it down, you replace it ought to be the rule.

(I published this article a couple of years ago and I have since realized that it’s probably a piece that will bear repeating because (1) there are (hopefully) new readers and new neighbors who will not have seen it and (2) I keep noticing things to add to it.)


By Bob Gaydos

For most of my life, I’ve lived in small cities (Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown) and one large town (Wallkill), which is really a mall-dotted highway surrounded by housing complexes. Throw in a few years living on college campuses. Basically, it’s been city or community living.

When you live with a lot of other people close by and you want to be relatively content, you learn the rules of the road, the do’s and don’ts of getting along. Mostly, it’s mind your own business and don’t make a lot of noise.

A few years ago, I moved to the country, a bit of upstate New York between the Hudson River and the Catskills that is often protected from major weather issues by the imposing Shawangunk Ridge.

Country living means owls, woodpeckers, coyotes and starry skies, oh my.

It’s nice. Well, usually. It’s quiet. Usually. In any case, it most definitely has its own rules of the road. Things a transplanted city boy ought to know. Something I call country etiquette.

The notion (see how I used the word “notion“ instead of “idea“?) that there was such a thing as country etiquette grew out of a recent conversation about a not uncommon country experience.

A couple of years ago, our quiet summer evening at home was disrupted by a loud squealing of tires and a loud thud. Right in front of our house.

We rushed out to find a car sitting in a culvert in front of our house, a distraught young woman sitting behind the wheel and our mailbox on the ground, post and all. I don’t recall who called 911, but state police arrived quickly, talked with the driver (who was shaken but not hurt), someone called a tow truck, we went back in the house and eventually everything was back to normal, except for the mailbox. Its career was over.

In short order, we replaced the mailbox and occasionally wondered what happened to the young driver. I suspected alcohol may have been involved.

A couple of weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. Nighttime. Squeal. Thud. Car. Culvert. Young woman driver. Unhurt. Mailbox kaput.

Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. Same follow up. Police. Tow truck. Mailbox flattened.

Again, we replaced it and the new one has survived ever since. But here’s the thing. Neither driver offered to pay to replace the mailbox (they both got out of their cars and talked to us) or to have it repaired. Now, it seems to me that a basic rule of country etiquette ought to be that if you wipe out someone’s mailbox (and get caught at it), the decent thing to do is to make it right again. Pay for a new one.

And that’s what got me thinking about other rules of country etiquette. What are some things to help someone new get along with neighbors who may not live right next door? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

— Having a handy supply of eggs is nice, but keep your chickens in your own yard as much as possible. Free range doesn’t mean the whole neighborhood, or, especially, the busy road.

— Don’t shovel your driveway snow into the road. It’s only extra work for the highway crews and it’s dangerous.

— When driving, wave at people walking along country roads. It’s neighborly.

— Walkers, please wear reflective clothing at night. It’s awfully dark out there sometimes and the roads are often winding and have no shoulder. We’d like to get to know you.

— Don’t let your dog walk on the road side. Preferably, don’t walk your dog on the road at all. Some drivers are less attentive than others. (See reference to mailboxes above.) And yes, clean up.

— Slow down for people at their mailbox. (A personal peeve of mine.) You can even wave.

— In fact, slow down in general. Posted speed limits are not merely suggestions.

— In special fact (and this is a new one added from personal experience), if you see someone backing out of their driveway or road to get on the typical two-lane road in the country and you are a good quarter mile away, slow the heck down. Let them get out in peace in one piece. It’s hard enough to back into a narrow country road with trees often blocking your vision without worrying whether that driver whizzing down the road is texting or talking on the phone or so totally engrossed in something on the radio that they don’t see you, even though you see them.

— In further fact, if you’re not going to back up a lot of traffic, just be nice and let people back out of their driveways even if they haven’t gotten their rear end out yet.

— Be patient with a farm tractor on the road. He’ll be out of your way shortly, or he’ll pull over as soon as he can. He’s working.

— Be honest at roadside honor stands. Act like there are cameras in the trees.

— Free stuff at the foot of a driveway is really free. If you want it, take it. Someone always does.

That’s what I came up with so far. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comment section.

While I’m at it, I figure I might as well add another feature of country living — a potpourri of handmade road signs. Here are a few I noticed:

— Corn maze, hay ride, pumpkins, pickles, sweet corn

— Beef sale

— Fresh garlic

— Sunflower patch, mums, hay for sale

— Farm fresh eggs

— U pick pumpkins

— Fresh key lime pie

— Baby Fox

— We buy ATVs dead or alive

Like I said, nice.

‘Til next time at pet-friendly Tractor Supply.


I’ll Take Team Biden Over Team Trump

Wednesday, July 10th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

The Biden team.

The Biden team.

Sometimes the nay-sayers unintentionally help the aye-sayers.

     For example, with all the media hype on whether Joe Biden should seek re-election and questions about whether he is too old and is still capable of handling the responsibilities of the presidency, one of the strongest arguments in his favor has been his record of accomplishments in office. It  is considerable.

      He brought inflation down and employment way up. He lowered prescription drug prices and capped the cost of insulin for seniors. He got wealthy corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and got legislation through Congress to combat gun violence. He actually made a major investment in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, something which his opponent talked about a lot but never did anything about. He revived the American chip industry. He added a new nation to NATO and solidified America’s alliances in the Pacific Rim. Oh yeah, the leading stock market indicators are at record highs.

     To which some nay-sayers reply: How do you know? There could be a cabinet of people running things on his behalf.

       Well, I sure hope so. The sign of a good leader, a good executive, a good president is having people around him capable of making his or her vision a reality.

    No president can do it alone. Whom he chooses to be part of his team and what the team accomplishes says a lot about the president. So by trying to take credit away from Biden by saying maybe a whole bunch of other people accomplished these things in his name, the critics are actually complimenting Biden for his vision, for choosing good people and for listening to what they have to say and helping them get it done.

      By comparison, many team members from Donald Trump‘s chaotic presidency have criticized him for his lack of understanding or caring about presidential responsibilities. Others are in prison. Possible members of a Trump team in 2025 have authored the notorious Project 2025, which explains in detail how they would dissemble American democracy in favor of an authoritarian Christian nation.

    Predictably, since details of that document have been made public and been widely criticized, Trump, whose name appears throughout the document, has disavowed it. That’s because Trump, a convicted felon, has no agenda other than himself and power. If it’s going to hurt his ratings, he tries to run away from it. He bragged about getting Roe v. Wade overturned by appointing Supreme Court justices who would do it. But when that decision met strong opposition, he tried to backtrack from that, too. He simply lies about everything and fires people who don’t help feed his ego.

     Suffice to say, any team of folks behind the scenes doing things in Trump’s name are going to do their best to make him happy. And he’s already told us many times that what makes him happy is being treated special (absolute immunity!) and getting even with those who don’t comply. The team wagging the dog for Trump will be ruthless and vicious because he will pick those who will do his bidding in order to further their own agenda. Not the nicest and not necessarily the best and brightest. He learned that from his first term in office. He knows more than all the generals. Sycophants and soldiers, that’s what he wants.

     So, nay-sayers, do I want all those mysterious, intelligent, caring people behind the scenes making all those decisions for old, arthritic Joe Biden or do I want all those “authoritarian, anti-democratic, rightwing Christian, post the 10 Commandments in every classroom, women’s place is in the kitchen and pregnant, cut Social Security, arrest the homeless and leave billionaires alone, don’t force us to be violent” people making decisions for Donald Trump while he goes around the world like a reality show Don Quixote, jousting at windmills?

      Thanks, I’ll stick with Joe’s team.

As Promised … Gooseberries

Monday, July 1st, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Almost ripe gooseberries.

Almost ripe gooseberries. RJ Photography

  Change is inevitable, they say, so the best course is to try to learn from it. For example, moving from an urban environment, which I lived in for most of my life, to a rural one required learning some new skills.

     Some are more important than others. Pruning and harvesting gooseberry bushes without getting cut up by thorns is one of the more esoteric ones.

     I’m learning.

    “How’d you get those scratches on your arms?”

     “It’s gooseberry season.”



     That was a recent conversation. With temperatures in the high 90’s, I went after the spreading bushes while wearing a T-shirt. Good thing the berries are juicy.

        But not just that. They also have history. I’d never heard of gooseberries before becoming countrified and I imagine a few of you haven’t either. That’s because they were banned in America for decades.

      Early in the 20th century, federal and state governments banned the growing of currants and gooseberries to stop the spread of white pine blister rust. Basically, the fungus was killing white pine trees, which were vital to the construction industry in the country.

     It seems the blister rust fungus completes its life cycle only when gooseberries or currants and pine trees are living in close proximity to each other. Rather than cut down all the pine trees to save the gooseberry bushes, the decision was made to stop growing gooseberries to save the pine trees. Hard to argue with that.

      Yet here we are with seven very healthy gooseberry bushes waiting to be harvested. What happened? Are they illegal? Not anymore.

       Science saved the gooseberries as well as the pine trees. By mid-century, cross-breeding programs had been developed using remaining pine trees to develop varieties resistant to the rust. That meant gooseberries could be living safely in the neighborhood with the pine trees.

    The federal ban was lifted in 1966, although some states still have restrictions on cultivating or shipping gooseberries.

      But not ours. 

     In 2003, New York state passed a law to allow commercial growers and home gardeners to legally grow red currants, gooseberries and immune or resistant cultivars of black currants throughout the state. We’re legal.

     For the record, according to info I gleaned from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the berries I’ll soon be picking are the “Pixwell” variety developed in North Dakota in 1932. They are “easy to propagate, commonly sold three-foot bushes with small thorns … that bear medium-sized fruit that starts out green and turns purple upon ripening.”

       Right. Funny how they kind of just glided through that “small thorns” item.


(Note: “The word ‘gooseberry’ comes from the old German name for the berries, Kräuselbeere, which means ‘curled or crimped berries.’ This name became grossularia in Medieval Latin, then groseille in French, and finally ‘gooseberry’ in English. The ‘r’ may have been dropped at some point during the transition.” 

— This is from Google AI. You’re on your own regarding its accuracy.)

The Debate, Yeah, I Know

Sunday, June 30th, 2024

Americans Across The Nation Watch The First Presidential Debate Between Joe Biden And Donald Trump
By Bob Gaydos

Note to readers:

Yeah, I know about the debate and how Joe squinted his eyes, could barely walk and had plenty to brag about, but had trouble putting words together. And how the other guy lied every time he opened his mouth, as usual. And how everybody now wants Joe to quit, even though they like him, because he’s old and we can’t make the other old guy, a convicted felon and rapist, go away.

So I’m going to write about gooseberries very soon. Will probably eat some. I may have some sushi. I will then return to worrying about the future of the free world.

Enjoy your day.

The Real News Scores a Win

Thursday, June 27th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

The Post staff rebelled against a proposed new editor with a questionable ethics past.

The Post staff rebelled against a proposed new editor with a questionable ethics past.

    Score one for the good guys.

   In a time when (1.) “fake news” is thrown around routinely as a way to delegitimize real reporting by real journalists while (2.) social media is awash in actually fake news produced by fake journalists and (3.) the airwaves are polluted by well-funded “media” outlets pushing outright lies, all to support the propaganda machine of the Trump Republican Party, The Washington Post recently provided a lesson in what has historically been considered basic journalism ethics in America.

  Actually, The Post staff with major help from The New York Times gave Post management a lesson in basic American journalism.

    In brief, they forced the ordained new editor of  The Post to change his mind about taking the job because, well, it’s always more pleasant to work with people who like you and who share your principles and ethics. Or, in this case, lack thereof.

     Robert Winnett, the Post editor-to-be, announced that he’s decided to stay in England, where his brand of “journalism” is accepted and (by some) even admired, rather than come to The Post, whose staff was in revolt over his selection.

     That’s because Winnett was involved in a scandal that engulfed British newspapers years ago in which stories based on hacked or stolen phone and business records or records purchased from a data information company were published to embarrass prominent politicians and celebrities. Lawsuits followed.

      Those practices are frowned upon by legitimate American news organizations and have been for a long time. Winnett denied taking part in those activities, but both The Post and The Times published articles quoting individuals involved in those sensationalized stories saying Winnett was in it.

      Indeed. So was his almost new boss, Post CEO and publisher Will Lewis, who was, in fact, Winnett’s actual boss at The Sunday Times, a Rupert Murdoch newspaper across the pond. Lewis was reported to have assigned Winnett to do one of those hit jobs.

    Still, Lewis did manage to get hired as the top dog in Washington. Apparently, The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, didn’t notice or didn’t care that the British style of “journalism,” as practiced most outrageously in America by Murdoch-owned Fox News on TV and to a lesser extent The New York Post, wasn’t acceptable for major American media, especially those with a reputation for fairness and ethical practices, like The Washington Post.

     Bezos, who turned Amazon into a mega profit machine, is understandably concerned that The Post is losing money. Maybe he never considered all the advertisers that newspapers lost when businesses flocked to the Internet to companies like Amazon to promote their products.

   In any event, Bezos wants The Post to establish a third news-gathering wing, presumably centered on the Internet. Lewis wanted Sally Buzbee, the Post’s former top editor, to take over that new job, but she properly took it as a demotion and resigned. The Times and Post stories story on Winnett followed. Hence, the search for a new editor. (A new publisher wouldn’t be bad either.)

     Back in London, Chris Evans, top editor at The Daily Telegraph, Winnett’s current newspaper, sent a message to his staff saying, “I am pleased to report that Rob Winnett has decided to stay with us. As you all know, he’s a talented chap, and their loss is our gain.” 

     Well, chaps of a feather do stick together.

     In any case, the hope here is that Lewis and Bezos and others at The Post who maybe were thinking of taking part in some form of UK “hit job“ journalism get the message: The First Amendment protection afforded the press in this country in the Constitution is not a license to lie, cheat, steal or in any other unethical way ruin people’s lives for the sake of selling more newspapers or getting more clicks on social media.

    Not yet at least.

(Editor’s note: The author worked for more than 40 years at three daily newspapers, all of which followed the basic ethical principles of American journalism. Two of them — The Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton and The Times Herald-Record in Middletown — were tabloids in size, but not in the practice of journalistic sensationalism. The Evening Capital in Annapolis, a standard broadsheet, was no less rigorous about ethical practices.)

Willie Mays Was Simply the Best

Wednesday, June 19th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Willy Mays card bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.

Willy Mays card bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.

    Willie Mays was, hands down, the greatest baseball player I ever saw. … The irony of that statement hit me the moment I typed it.

      The basket catch. For all his skill and natural baseball ability, Mays violated one of the cardinal baseball rules: you catch a fly ball above your shoulders, both hands on the ball, to be ready to throw it quickly back to the infield.

      Mays, throughout his career, patrolled centerfield nonchalantly catching fly balls waist high, glove pocket up, like a basket, still managing not to drop any of them and getting the ball where it needed to go quickly and accurately.

     He made life difficult for more than one Little League coach: “Willie Mays can do it; you can’t.”

     Not by a long shot.

     The greatest player I ever saw died yesterday. He was 93. All of baseball mourned because Willie Mays was not just a fantastic ballplayer, he was a terrific ambassador for the sport.

     I saw him play at the Polo Grounds in the Bronx. Although I was a Yankee fan, my father was a Giants fan, so we went to the Polo Grounds a lot. I have a memory of a doubleheader in the Polo Grounds in which Mays seemed to be getting a triple every other at bat, flying around the bases, always losing his hat.

    The Giants became my second favorite team. They may have moved to San Francisco, but Willie will always be a New Yorker to me. His return to play for the New York Mets at the end of his career, already in his 40s, was a fitting tribute.

      Although he could do pretty much everything involved in baseball better than anyone else, there was no showiness about Mays. His play spoke for itself and he seemed to have the knack of coming up with the big catch or the big hit at the right moment.

    And yeah, they called him the “Say Hey Kid” and someone wrote a song about him, but off the field he played stickball with kids in New York City and missed a couple of seasons to serve in the U.S. Army.

      Life being what it is today, the news of his death was barely hours old before some reputed sports news outlets began contemplating whether Mays deserves to be considered the greatest baseball player of all time. Some Facebook fanatics started a survey to find out who baseball fans considered to be the greatest living former player, now that Willie was gone.   

      I’m not playing their game. For me, Willie was simply the greatest, hands up or down.

Gambling and Sports — a Bad Bet

Monday, June 17th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

     Clearing my note pad of news that bugs me before it gets buried by other news that bugs me. With a deep bow to the late, great Jimmy Cannon …

Sports betting.

Sports betting.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but: The major sports leagues made a bad bet when they allowed themselves to be partnered with legalized gambling. For many “fans,” the legal gambling books have taken over much of the reason for watching the games and the lure of money that can be made by betting on someone winning or losing, or striking out, or missing a field goal or a foul shot will always prove too be too much for some involved in the games to follow the rules. The rule, actually, is simple in all majors sports leagues: anyone connected officially with the league in any manner — player, coach, official, employee — is free to legally gamble on any other  sport, but not the one in which they are engaged. To protect the integrity of the sport, you know. So that fans know games they are gambling on aren’t fixed or no one is trying to make things happen in a game to cover a bet or a gambling debt. Well, in recent weeks, a Major League Baseball player and a player in the National Basketball League have both been banned from their sport for life for gambling on it. The basketball player is even said to have tried to make his team, the Toronto Raptors, lose so he could win his bets. The 24-year-old San Diego baseball player is the first active player in a century to be banned for life for gambling. (Look up the Chicago Black Sox scandal.) And now a Major League Baseball umpire (talk about controlling the outcome of a game) has been suspended while he is investigated for gambling. He denies the allegations and says he only bet on other sports. But there’s the rub. If you’re bad  at betting on other sports and lose a lot of money, it can be tempting to try to make up the losses by fixing a game you know very well. It has happened before. Baseball has thus far managed to escape the major scare of its marquee player, Shohei Ohtani, being involved in gambling, when  Ohtani’s interpreter pleaded guilty to gambling with an illegal bookie with a lot of money which the interpreter stole from the Los Angeles star. The National Football League so far seems to have escaped trouble, although the game is virtually built around legal sports betting in many places, including TV. It may be too late for the sports leagues to change their minds, with too much money already involved in all the business deals, but this oldtimer who used to help his father check the bookie’s college football/basketball weekly betting sheets back in the day thinks this has all the earmarks of a bad marriage waiting to break up over gambling and money.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: If Chief Justice John Roberts doesn’t want history to remember the Roberts Court as the one that destroyed American democracy, he needs to get Justices Thomas and Alito in his chambers, knock their heads together and tell them to recuse themselves from any cases involving Donald Trump, clue their wives in to the meaning of conflict of interest for judges and their families and stop accepting lavish gifts from people who have cases coming before the court. Pretty basic stuff. He can also write a meaningful conflict of interest policy for the court. And he can have some guts and honor a request from Congress to talk about what’s going on under his watch and his nose. Or, he can stop pretending to be the moderate voice of reason on the court.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: Even an addle-brained Donald Trump should have known better than to go to the Libertarian Party’s convention looking for a warm reception. Not only didn’t he get the party’s presidential nomination, he got laughed at and booed, suggesting there is some hope for these defenders of their liberty. Heck, they even rejected Bobby Kennedy Jr. Of course, they did select someone to run as a third party candidate, meaning some voters who might have gone for Joe Biden instead of Trump will waste their important votes on someone who can’t win, while ignoring the best choice to actually protect their liberty. But of course that never concerns the billionaire Libertarian Koch Brothers, who feel free to try to buy their freedom and anything else.



A Brief History of Flag Day, Up to Trump

Friday, June 14th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

The Betsy Ross flag.

The Betsy Ross flag.

 On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the Stars and Stripes for the American flag, establishing it as a symbol of the brand new nation. Until then, each colony had flown its own flag.

    The stripes represent the original 13 Colonies and the 13 stars represent the states of the Union. That number has grown to 50. The colors of the flag are symbolic. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

     President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 of June 14 as Flag Day and, in 1949, President Harry S Truman signed the formal observance into law. It falls during what is called Flag Week, after another congressional vote in 1966.

  It is not an official federal holiday, but rather a day to honor the flag and what it stands for, regardless of how some may seek to pervert it.

    On June 14, 1946, Donald J. Trump was born at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, New York City, the fourth child of Fred Trump and Mary Anne MacLeod Trump.

    Over the years, through various nefarious means he would amass great wealth and, through even more nefarious means, go on to become the 45th president of the United States of America and refuse to accept defeat for reelection, inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol, leaving a stain of shame on the symbol Betsy Ross, a struggling widow seamstress, made at the request of George Washington and other founding fathers.

      On June 14, 2024, his 78th birthday, Donald Trump, a convicted felon and candidate for president, had a party at a hall in Florida, which cost anywhere from $35-$60 to attend.

     Millions of Americans who would not be attending agreed the flag should still be honored on June 14 as a symbol of what America stands for: vigilance, perseverance and justice.


Happy Birthday (89), AA!

Monday, June 10th, 2024

Addiction and Recovery

(Reprinted in honor of AA’s founding, June 10, 1935.)

By Bob Gaydos

(This is an updated version of my Addiction and Recovery column, which appeared in the Times Herald-Record of Middletown in 2012.)

By Bob Gaydos
    It is one of the best-selling and most influential books of all time, with more than 30 million copies having been sold and millions of lives changed by what is contained on its pages. Yet it is not exaggeration to suggest that a majority of its readers don’t know the actual name of the book.
    It is known, proudly and even reverentially, by most who have read it as the Big Book. Officially, the book’s title is “Alcoholics Anonymous,’’ the same as the famous 12-step program for treating alcoholism (and other addictions) described within its covers. The Big Book received more recognition for its influence recently when the Library of Congress included it on a list of “Books That Shaped America.”
    There are 88 books on a list that ranges from Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan the Ape Man.” The common factor among all 88, according to the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington is that “they shaped Americans’ views of their world and the world’s views of America.”
    While it may not be for everyone, the Big Book has certainly shaped people’s views and lives. Since it was first published in 1939, it has been the textbook, if you will, of how to get — and stay — sober, for millions around the world. AA, of course, has spawned numerous other 12-step programs to deal with addictive behavior. And, while basing its recovery program on established spiritual, psychological and medical precepts, Alcoholics Anonymous has also widened the dialogue within all three areas and influenced the way practitioners in those fields deal with addiction.
    The authors of the Big Book are Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the founders of AA. But they had plenty of help from some of the original 100 AA members whose stories were included in the first edition. Many recovering alcoholics today regard it as remarkable that Wilson, the primary author, wrote two of the main sections of the book — one being his story — when he had less than four years of sobriety.
    One could say the Big Book is a classic example of what it preaches. Much of the recovery program contained is take from the Oxford Group, A Christian fellowship that emphasized self-examination, making amends and working with others. (Wilson and Smith both were members of the Oxford Group for significant periods.) But the Oxford Group’s heavy religious emphasis did not sit well with many of the other drunks who were early member of AA. As a result, most references to “God” were eliminated or changed to a “Higher Power of your understanding.”
    Editing also changed the preachy “you” to the inclusive “we” in describing how
alcoholics got sober. Thus, this is what we are and this what we did. If you follow these suggestions, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”
    What do current members of AA think about the Big Book? A sampling of recent comments:
  • “When I first read it, I had to say, ‘(Expletive!) I’m an alcoholic. How did they know?’”
  • “I used to walk around with the Big Book (in early sobriety) like a protective shield.”
  • “It helped me understand I have an allergy.”
  • “In many ways it’s like the bible for alcoholics. It provides direction and order.”
  • “Think about the impact. One person reads it and passes it on to others for more than 30 million.”
  • “When they get (the Big Book) people are usually in such pain, they will read it.”
  • “It gave me a guide for living, far beyond just not drinking.”
  • “Simple rules for broken people.”
    There’s a significant local angle to this story. When it came time to publish the book, Wilson and the others chose The Cornwall Press, a now-defunct printing operation in Cornwall. Because they were going to charge $3.50 for the relatively short book, they wanted it to look impressive, so they used thick paper and the widest possible margins. Hence, the “Big Book” nickname. Subsequent printings were smaller in size, but the name stuck.
     The first press run was for 4,800 copies, with the promise from the printers that more would be printed when the first copies were sold. But even those original copies were in limbo as the printer refused to release any books until they were paid for. Although printed in the winter of 1939, only a few copies were paid for at the time. The significant release came in early 1940. Today, with inflation, “Alcoholics Anonymous” sells for around $10, but many AA groups simply give copies to new members, continuing to spread its message. Alcoholics Anonymous today estimates membership at more than 2 million worldwide.
Bob  Gaydos is writer-in-residence at