I Hate Guacamole!

I Hate Guacamole!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I cannot now remember the first time I experienced guacamole. It may have been at a party of some kind, where a revolutionary hostess decided to forego the classic onion dip for something more exotic. “Hello,” I said to myself when I saw the green sludge for the first time, “what could this be?”

            My fellow partygoers seemed to be scooping the stuff out of the bowl with corn chips of some kind. Being the kind of fellow who’s willing to try anything once, I chose a sturdy-looking chip and dived in. I was perhaps too ambitious, as I dug down fairly deeply; too deeply in fact, resulting in the chip breaking, leaving a piece in my hand and the rest in the bowl. I popped the virgin half in my mouth, and gingerly plucked the guacamole-encrusted half out of the bowl. Into my mouth it duly went.

            How can I describe this experience? It was clear to me that the mixture contained some onions and chiles, along with some other seasonings. But the thing that impressed me the most was the base – it was slimy and even greasy. I was told that this was a fruit called the avocado or (if you want to be precise, persea americana). While the fossil record indicates that versions of the fruit – technically a berry – existed in other parts of the world, the version we now eat is probably native to Mexico.

            Anyway, my first exposure to the now ubiquitous fruit was not a happy one, and I have seen no reason since to change my opinion. In addition to being slimy and greasy, it has no flavor of its own (don’t give me that “it has a delicate, nut like flavor” nonsense, I’m not buying it). If you think it’s so great, why not just eat one like you would eat an apple or a peach? No? I thought not.

               I do concede that the avocado is nutritious, although rather high in saturated fats. But there are more nutritious foods that also have some taste: almonds, carrots, snapper, ocean perch, cherries, tangerines, scallops, and my special favorite – pork fat! In no top 25 list of the healthiest foods that I could find did I discover the avocado. Nor did I discover the chickpea, the basis for another disgusting mess, hummus, which has joined guacamole in the hors d’ oeuvre spreads of the culinarily deluded.

            Of course, one can avoid the guacamole bowl, but the avocado increasingly appears hidden in other dishes. Just the other day, I ordered a chopped salad. When it arrived, I discovered to my horror that little cubes of avocado were mixed in with the more traditional ingredients (which generally include chopped lettuce, broccoli, bacon and cheese, among others). As I was with a group, I didn’t feel I could gingerly pick out the avocado bits, so I manfully ate the salad, slime and all. The tasty dressing at least helped me get through the ordeal.

            Be warned also that the dreaded green stuff is sneaking into sandwiches. You would be wise to read the entire ingredient list before ordering. After the turkey, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, and bacon often lurks the green monster. And I understand that the latest fad among people who read too many food blogs is to spread avocado on their breakfast toast instead of strawberry preserves. Imagine, your day ruined before it starts.  

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

State of the Unions

State of the Unions

Patrick F. Cannon

Trade, craft, professional and industrial unions have done much to improve the incomes and working conditions of their members. It was a long struggle that began before the turn of the 20th Century, when workers were largely at the mercy of their employers. Through their efforts – and yes, suffering – we now have laws governing wages, hours and working conditions. Many of my relatives were union members; when I was younger, I myself belonged to two.

            And I support the right of employees to form new unions; indeed, this right is enshrined in the law. And reluctantly, I support these unions right to support causes and political candidates so long as corporations have this same right. It’s not my money (at least directly), so it’s none of my business. It is, however, my business when this support is paid for with my money clearly and directly, i.e., when it is spent by public employee unions.

            Frankly, I wish public employee unions had never been permitted, but, as they say, that train has left the station and it ain’t coming back. But I wonder why they should use my money to support political parties and candidates I oppose. In Illinois, those candidates are Democrats. Now, I do vote for some Democrats on the Federal level, but do my best to vote for Republicans locally. Why? Simply because the Illinois Democrats have formed an unholy alliance with the public employee unions.

It works this way: The unions provide money and bodies to Democrats; in return, the governor and legislators don’t do anything to diminish in any way the great deals they’ve given the unions over many years. One example is the pension debt. In the last year, it increased by $7 billion, and now stands at $144.4 billion. And despite the annual budget crisis – exacerbated by the pandemic – Governor Pritzker has not laid off a single state employee; or even asked them to take a slight pay cut or a few furlough days. This in a state that had unemployment spike to 16 percent! Shared sacrifice? You gotta be kidding!

Again, the public employee unions aren’t going away, but I believe they should not be permitted to donate money or time to political parties or candidates. This one step would instantly eliminate one road block to true fiscal reform in Illinois (and other states where public employee unions wield similar power).

It’s true that the Supreme Court has said that union members need not pay that portion of their dues that supports political causes or candidates. That’s, frankly, little more than a chimera. Let me put it simply: I don’t want my tax dollars to pay public employees whose union dues is used to support candidates I oppose (or even those I support). In essence, they are using my dough to get more of my dough. How can that be right?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Mine Those Riches!

Mine Those Riches

By Patrick F. Cannon

Whenever I want to punish myself for some transgression, I need only go to Taylor Swift’s web site and read some of her song lyrics. They are so uniformly bad that reading just one seems penance enough for any sin. To spare you too much pain, here is just a brief example:

                        “Untouchable, burning brighter than the sun,

                          And when you’re close, I feel like coming undone.”

            Ms. Swift, in common with many of her fellow performers, writes songs about breaking up with men who have somehow done her wrong. Among the most self-involved people in the history of the world, she seems to have love affairs with young men just as self-involved as herself. This clash of personalities is bound to end ill, thus providing Swift with more grist for her composing mill.

            Now, she is a singer of some, if limited, talent. Why does it never occur to her and her ilk to mine the riches that actually talented song writers have left for posterity? It could be because she has had only the sketchiest of educations, deciding at an early age that she was going to devote her life to becoming famous. So, perhaps she is unaware that there exists a proud history of popular American song.

One wonders if she (and the many others who think the world was created when they were born) have ever heard of Stephen Foster, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers, Leonard Bernstein, Frank Loesser, Frederick Loewe, Jule Steyn, Jimmie Van Heusen, Woody Guthrie, Steven Sondheim, Randy Newman, Jerry Herman, Paul Simon, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and so many others – and the talented lyricists who collaborated with some of them.

Of course, there could be a practical reason for performing only your own songs – you don’t have to pay royalties (although copyright has expired on some great songs). And perhaps they’re afraid to sing songs that would cause people to compare them with the great singers who interpreted them in the past. The list would be very long, but just let me mention Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Rosemary Clooney, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme, Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Peggy Lee, and even Rudy Valee (that’s Rudy in the photo), to name just a few. Almost none of them wrote their own songs. Why would they, when there were such riches available to them?

While I’m on the subject of artistic interpretation, how many of our actors have ever appeared in a classic play (or any play, for that matter)? I was reminded of the reluctance of so many American actors to test themselves in the classics by the recent death of the Canadian-born Christopher Plummer. In a long career – he died at 91 – Plummer played most of the great Shakespearian roles, including Hamlet, Iago and Lear; but he also tried his hand at Chekhov, Brecht, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Pirandello and Shaw.

With a few exceptions – Jason Robards, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Brian Dennehy, and Stacey Keach  come to mind – once American actors make it in the movies, they rarely return to the stage. Let’s face it. Why would you want to memorize a part like Edmund Tyrone in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, when you could easily learn a page of dialog for a movie scene? And how frightening would it be to stand upon a stage in front of 1,000 people and convince them you really are Hamlet? Or Hickey in The Iceman Cometh? Or Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman?

But if you’re a serious actor, or a serious singer, you should want to play the great roles, or sing the great songs. But I guess “serious” is the operable word.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Is No News Good News?

Is No News Good News?

By Patrick F. Cannon

(This piece was originally published a couple of years ago, and I have updated it.. Recently, Alden Capital has increased its stake in the Chicago Tribune. If it gains control, it will accelerate the decline of a newspaper that was once one of the country’s top five. It has gutted the staffs of every newspaper it has bought. The Trib has already cut its staff significantly; it now has no regular classical, jazz or even pop music critic, and has long been without a Washington bureau or any foreign correspondents. And just a few days ago, both the architectural critic and main restaurant writer announced they were leaving. But the movers and shakers in Chicago who could band together to save the paper don’t seem to care; perhaps they think it’s good riddance.)

When I moved to Chicago in 1946, there were 5 daily newspapers – Herald-American (the Hearst paper), Daily Times, Sun, Daily News and Tribune.  The Sun and Times merged and survives, as does the Tribune. When I began riding the bus to work in the Loop in 1956, almost everyone was reading either the Sun-Times or Tribune; on the way home, they picked up either the Herald American or Daily News. Newsstands were common and convenient.

            Now, when I ride the train downtown, as I do two or three times a month, it is rare to see anyone reading a newspaper; almost everyone, however, is staring at their phones. Are they reading a digital edition of a newspaper? No doubt a few are. While its print circulation has tumbled, the Tribune has seen increases in digital subscribers, as have to a much greater extent The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.  And it’s easy to see a future when only digital editions of these and other newspapers will be available. Frankly, I’ll miss turning those pages every morning, but I guess people missed the town crier too.

            But what about local news? Between 2004 and 2018, 516 rural newspapers closed, as did 1,294 in urban areas. And almost every surviving newspaper has seen cuts in their editorial staff. In hundreds of counties, there are no newspapers of any kind. Which means no one to regularly keep tabs on the activities of local governments. Perhaps you live in Shangri La, where the politicians always have your best interests at heart; but I live in Illinois, where ex-governors and aldermen spend their declining years in prison.

Although actual figures are difficult to come by, the total daily circulation of the Tribune – print and digital – is now about 550,000; the Sun-Times less than half that. In their heyday, their print circulations were about 850,000 and 450,000 respectively.  Where then are the missing readers getting their news?

            Network news programs make some effort to cover national news, but can only scratch the surface in the 30 minutes they have (actually, more like 22 after you deduct the commercials and promos). As you’ve probably noticed, I think local TV news is laughable. Of course, there is no lack of “news” available on the cable channels and on-line. Thus, consumers are able to shop for the point of view about news that agrees with their own. While both Fox News and MSNBC give us a bit of straight news, most of their content panders to the existing biases of their viewers. No rational person would watch either. Even CNN seems to have been taken over by talking heads.

            There are any number of paid sites that cover politics exclusively, but most people aren’t interested in diving that deeply. In the end, only the daily newspapers – and the Associated Press – have the staff and resources to broadly cover the news, both local and national. Let’s say right here that none of them is perfect. Let’s also concede that most of their staff members tend to the liberal side of the spectrum. They make mistakes, sometimes serious ones that lead their critics to discount the great majority of their coverage that is actually accurate and unbiased.

            With a few exceptions, mainly Fox News, former President Trump accused most of them of trafficking in “fake news.” I define “fake news” as the news you don’t want to hear, whether you’re on the left or the right. The former president is notably adverse to the truth. He has lied so often that it’s probably pointless to any longer keep track of them, as the Washington Post did (for the record, the final count was around 20,000).   

            As for me, I’ll continue to read the paper every day. If it goes all digital, I’ll read it that way. If I want an up-to-date weather forecast, and breaking entertainment news, I’ll tune in to the local news, whose news directors read the newspapers to see what’s actually going on around town. So should we all. But what if that newspaper didn’t exist? Or its staff was so depleted that it could no longer cover all the important news? I guess we could all go to the beauty salon or barber shop for the latest scoop. You do still go to the barber shop, don’t you?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

A Dog’s Life

A Dog’s Life

(A one act play)

By Patrick F. Cannon

Scene: In a drab, institutional room, there is a counter; above it, a sign proclaims: “Bureau of Vital Statistics.” Behind the counter is a drab, institutional man of indeterminate age. Let’s call him the clerk (C). Facing him is a well-dressed younger man. He wears a suit and tie, and a fresh haircut for his full head of hair. Let’s call him the supplicant (S). Although there is no  one else in the room, the clerk ignores the supplicant until he rings a bell on the counter.

C – Can I help you, sir?

S – Yes, I need to change my birth certificate.

C – Is there some mistake on it?

S – Not exactly.

C – Would you want to be changing your sex? We get a lot of people who think they got the sex wrong when they filled out the Birth Certificate. The legislature passed a law that says it’s OK to do that now, so no problem. If you’ll give me your name and date of birth, I’ll pull up the record and fix it. Would you be going from male to female, or female to male?. Oh, I’ll need to see your driver’s license and Social Security card.

S – No, that’s not it, although if someone wants to pretend they’re the opposite sex, who am I to object? Live and let live, I say. Anyway, the Constitution guarantees equal rights for everyone, as it should. No, I want to change my species.

C (looking more than a little perplexed) – Your what?

S – My species. I want to change form Homo sapien to Canis familiaris.

C – I don’t understand. You what?

S – I decided I wanted to be a dog instead of a human. Dogs are loving and loyal; everyone loves a good dog, and I intend to be one of the best. So, if you’ll just change the record, that’ll make it official.  

C – I don’t know. There’s no box on the form for that. I guess it just kind of assumes everyone is a human being. Besides, you don’t look anything like a dog.

S – Not to worry. I’ll let my hair grow and learn how to bark. I’d consider plastic surgery, but I’m not sure it would work in this case.

C – But you wouldn’t really be a dog! You can’t be a dog by just deciding to be one.

S – You can’t really change your sex either, so what’s the problem?

C – Well, I guess you’re right. What breed would you like to be?

S – I rather see myself as a Labrador retriever. Oh, and I’ll need to change my name too.

C – What would you like?

S – How about Fido?

C – How’s that spelled?

The End

Good Luck, Joe

Good Luck, Joe

By Patrick F. Cannon

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president. Several of these United States had already seceded, and more was to come – four years of Civil War that left 600,000 Americans dead. Yesterday, a new president was inaugurated, despite an attempt to force the Congress to reverse the will of the people.

It happens that I was not particularly enamored of any of the Democratic candidates who vied for the chance to run for President last year. I have to admit that some of them scared me. Had Bernie Sanders been chosen, I doubt if I would have voted at all. But Biden was a known quantity, even if a bit too well worn. To me, center left is better than radical left. I voted for President Biden because the traditional Republican Party had all but disappeared.

            Four years ago, I remember thinking that maybe Donald Trump would rise to the occasion and stifle his baser instincts on behalf of the office and his country. I sincerely wished him the best. He didn’t. In fact, he turned out to be a worse human being that I expected. But I did make him prove it.

            I’m past wondering why anyone would have voted for Trump again. They did, and a significant number still believe – with no credible evidence – that he won the election. And some of them, egged on by a then sitting President of the United States, tried to overthrow the legislative branch of that government. I suppose none of them, as I once did, swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” Once taken, this oath never expires. How many of the people who stormed the Capital violated it?

            I’m past wondering why people would have voted for Donald  Trump. But as I did four years ago, I would ask them to accept the results of the election and give Joe Biden a chance. That’s the way the system should work, after all. Do we really want another Civil War?   

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Nighty, Night

Nighty, Night

By Patrick F. Cannon

I admit to being abashed when, as a well-known eminent authority, I was caught off balance when recently asked to provide a brief history of the bed by a curious fellow traveler in this journey of life. I had to mutter an apology and beg for time to make my ignorance right.

            I put in abeyance my quest for the meaning of the cosmos, and attempted to redeem this gap in my considerable knowledge of just about everything. We take our beds for granted. They beckon us at the end of a tiring day. Their soft comfort rejuvenates us, making us ready for another day in the struggle for enlightenment. But where did they come from?

            I began my journey at the Serta Institute for Sleep, Dreaming and Somnambulism. In its storied stacks, I hoped to go back in time to the very dawn of bedey-bye. I discovered that our earliest ancestors couldn’t go to bed. They wandered the landscape, hunting and gathering until they got tired, then tried to find a piece of ground sans rocks. They would lay down and hope a toothy animal didn’t happen by. The more woke would climb a nearby tree and find a likely branch to support them, hoping the bow didn’t break. As they were naked anyway, whether it rained or not was of little concern. Indeed, after a hot and dusty day, they were inclined to welcome a cooling shower.

            When people ventured out of Africa to more frigid climes, they sought to get out of the weather in the caves that are such a feature of the Northern Hemisphere. Increasing sophistication found them gathering grasses to spread on the floors of their dry domiciles, thus making for a more comfortable night’s sleep. If they had been lucky during the hunt, they might even have a bear’s skin as a warming blanket. The pillow not having been invented yet, they rested their heads on a likely log. The word “Logarhythm’s” comes from the sound of the family group rolling their logs into comfortable positions.

            It is to the early residents of Ireland that we owe the first identifiable mattresses. It seems that the Emerald Isle was covered in hay fields. Even after the native cattle had eaten their fill, enough was left over to stuff a rough linen sack. Before lying upon it, the Hibernians would “hit the hay” to dislodge any vermin that had set up housekeeping during the day.

            Apparently, the Egyptians were the first to raise the bed off the ground. It seems the great Ramses III got weary of having rats and asps crawling over his royal visage, and had the Chamberlain of the Royal Bedchamber add some legs to his bejeweled sleeping pallet. Mattresses were made with woven reeds harvested along the Nile, the very same reeds where young Moses was found by Cecil B. DeMille napping in a basket.

The Romans filched the idea of the raised bed, but improved upon it by having a woven rope base instead of a wooden platform. This permitted the mattress to have a bit of give in it, improving their comfort and hanky-panky endurance. The Romans were also the first to eat in bed, which may explain why the empire eventually crumbled.

Not much happened sleep-wise until the Renaissance, when the four poster was invented. These always had canopies that provided a kind of roof. This was needed – try to follow me here – because window screens had yet to be invented. Leaving the windows open during warm weather permitted birds to fly in at will. These often perched in the rafters and beams. Birds being birds, they would often poop, but the canopy would prevent their dreadful defecations from plopping onto the sleeping heads below.

 I should mention that mattresses for the wealthy were now filled with cotton, feathers and occasionally horse hair, providing a more luxurious and cushy experience. Of course, the poor still made do with hay. Simple cotton mattresses are still very much in use in primitive areas of the world, and in the United States Army. I recall fondly sleeping on bunk beds that the Emperor Nero might well have recognized, although tired horizontal springs had replaced the ropes. I shall never forget the first time I saw one of these simple metal beds with its mattress rolled up in a cylinder, ready to unroll and provide discomfort to the budding warrior. But enough of this personal reminiscence.

 The next great advance in beds was undoubtably the inner-spring mattress. One day, Cadwalader Simmons was bouncing down the road on his pogo stick when it occurred to him that the coil spring that gave his conveyance its thrust might well provide a bit of comforting bounce to his bed. It must be said that early versions were inclined to squeak. Many a child was awakened by the rhythmic squeaking sounds coming from the parent’s bedroom, creating unimaginable visions in the little tot’s developing brain. Eventually, Simmons found a way to encase the springs and separate them sufficiently to calm the little tike’s slumbers.

While memory foam now plays its part, sometimes in combination with inner-springs, I should say something about that most nautical of sleep aids, the water bed. How it came about is one of those accidents of fate that often changes the course of history. In the 1960s, the French undersea explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, built an underwater habitat. He and his crew lived and worked there for some time. To save weight, they slept on air mattresses.

One day, the air delivery was late, so they decided to fill the mattresses with water, of which there was an abundant supply. An old salt, Cousteau took to its swimmy comforts immediately, but it must be said that some of his fellow frog men got a bit seasick. That eventually became its greatest drawback; that, and the fact that sometimes naughty kids were tempted to poke it with an ice pick. In any event, we now have a bewildering number of beds to choose from. So much so that an increasing number of hearty folk are going back to nature and sleeping rough upon the forest leaves. What goes around comes around!

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Modest Proposals

Modest Proposals

By Patrick F. Cannon

At the risk of being a bore, let me return to some of my more unpopular ideas as we enter the new year. None of them is likely to gain any favor, but what the hell?

            Once again, it’s probably too late in Illinois, but some way must be found to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians like Michael Madigan. Actually, most citizens support this; at the same time, they elect representatives who don’t. Go figure.

            I’ve heard all the arguments about limiting the number of terms an elected official may serve. One says that this is something the voters should decide by simply not re-electing Congressman Jill. But what if she is in a “safe” district and no one actually runs against her? See above. Eight years is more than enough for a representative; and 12 for a senator. If they can’t stand to leave politics, let them run for something else, maybe dog catcher.

            I’m not naïve enough to think it’s possible to put a cat back in the bag, but it was a mistake to permit public employee unions. Since it’s too late to ban them, we should at least forbid them from taking any part in elections – no cash donations, no ringing doorbells, no nothing. Please understand that I’m not  against industrial, trade and craft unions. I’ve actually belonged to a couple in my long life. But isn’t there something inherently wrong with bribing legislators to vote your way, particularly when you’re using my (and your) money to do it?

            Apparently, no one – not even Republicans – believes in balancing budgets. Now, there are times when it’s not feasible – this is one of them; World War II was another. In general, it should be a goal. The problem is that politicians don’t want either to raise taxes or reduce spending. Frankly, I wouldn’t object to a slight increase in the top income tax rate for those horrible billionaires who employ so many people; but not if we don’t also take steps to rein in the bureaucracy.

            For example, the number of Federal, state and local government employees who are involved in the administration of the dozens of entitlement programs designed to help lower-income people is staggering (governments at all levels employ 20 million people). A particular family might be eligible for food, rent, medical, utility, and educational assistance; and also for the earned-income tax credit. Can you imagine the number of bureaucrats who are involved in all of this? Why not just eliminate all the  middle men and send the family one payment to cover everything? To the argument that people can’t be trusted to spend the money wisely, I say, so what? You mean there’s no fraud in the current system?

            Finally, a couple of correctives. One hears a great deal about the income gap. In 1900, there was also a huge income gap. Our left wing friends don’t mention this, but the rich folks then paid no income tax; and the poor had literally no assistance other than local charity (if there was any). People actually starved to death, as there were no food stamps or food pantries available to them. See above.

             Let me finish by saying that no one should be punished for something they said or did 20 or 30 years ago. Making people grovel and apologize might make the thought police feel better, but it’s unnecessary and undignified. And the current holier than thou folk can’t shame historical figures into being as virtuous as they think they are. Pulling down a statue might make them feel superior, but it won’t change history. Let’s worry about the future instead.

P.S. What do you Trump supporters think of your fair-haired boy now?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Leave My Culture Alone!

Leave My Culture Alone

By Patrick F. Cannon

Every year, when March 17 arrives, I find myself in high dudgeon. Although the lingering pandemic might prevent it this year, I usually find myself livid with rage as I watch the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade step off from Wacker Drive to begin its march up State Street.

            Why would this seemingly cheerful event affect me so? Let me stipulate up front that all of my ancestors came from Ireland; indeed, my father was born on a patch of the “Auld Sod.” But who will lead this celebration of Celtic pride? In days of yore, it would have been one or more of the Daleys, along with the Dunnes, Ryans and Keenes. But what do we have now? Politicians whose ancestors came from Africa, Mexico, Poland, Puerto Rico, Germany and Greece. All festooned with shamrocks and green top hats!

            This is cultural appropriation at its most flagrant! I was reminded of it when I read a few days ago that the Korean and Japanese communities felt under assault and disrespected when Chicago celebrity chef Stephanie Izzard of Girl and the Goat fame (where do they get these names?)  had cooked a beef and rice dish that she said was “inspired” by similar Korean and Japanese recipes. Talk about high dudgeon? The internet was soon aflame with indignation. How dare she appropriate these sacred dishes and then not even get them right?

            Now, you may wonder what “cultural appropriation” actually means. According to our friends at the Oxford Dictionary, it’s “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoptions of customs, practices, ideas, etc., of one people or society by members of another and more typically more dominant people or society.” Simple enough, I should think.

            But it can get complicated. In the bad old days, politicians used to visit Native American reservations on their trips to the West. Almost inevitably, they would be photographed with the tribal leaders, usually wearing an elaborate feathered head dress. One of the more famous showed President Coolidge looking more than usually dour. But apparently it was OK for Cal to wear the feathered hat because it was placed there by a chief.  But donning it later at a cabinet meeting would have been a no-no, although obviously worth seeing.

            Anyway, it got me to thinking about the more egregious examples of this demoralizing manifestation of cultural insensitivity. One came immediately to mind. Over the years, I have often eaten at diners, pancake houses and other restaurants owned and operated by Greeks. Among the usual eggs, burgers and liver and onions on the menu, one almost always finds spaghetti and meat balls. What in God’s name is spaghetti and meat balls doing in such a place? Would you expect to find Gyros or Moussaka at Luigi’s?  

            While on this subject, one of my favorite restaurants is a local Chinese emporium that we have favored with our trade for many years. While we do take-out generally, we occasionally dine inside. Recently, they have expanded their offerings to include both Thai fare and Sushi. The next time I go there I fully intend to march into the kitchens to make certain that only native Thais and Japanese chefs are preparing these dishes. If they are not, I will never darken their door again!

            And one often hears of African-Americans objecting to their White fellow citizens doing up their hair in dreadlocks. Actually, it is the Minoans who should be up in arms, as convincing evidences exists that they used the ‘do as long as 3,000 years ago. But who now speaks up for this exploited group?

            Finally, let’s all condemn the millions of Americans of all races who daily unroll their mats and assume the position. After all, Yoga is an ancient religious practice of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. That it should be appropriated by hordes of suburban matrons and urban millennials is tasteless and even sacrilegious! If they feel they have to do the exercises, they would at least find a new name for it. How about Yoda?

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

By Patrick F. Cannon

Just some random thoughts on this Christmas Eve.

            In the new stimulus package passed by the Congress, I see that most taxpayers will get a check for $600 (assuming the bill is ever signed). If you need the dough, great. If you don’t, please consider giving it away to a needy group in your community – maybe a food pantry or homeless shelter. Maybe you’re involved in one of these programs, or another that directly helps people in your community. Keep a few bucks in your pocket or purse, and give in to the impulse to make the day for some panhandler – and don’t forget the Salvation Army kettle.

            The election is finally over, so forget about it. How people voted isn’t as important as how they treat their friends and neighbors. Give the new president the benefit of the doubt. I did with the current one until there wasn’t any doubt left.

            Keep in touch. This year has been unique and difficult. We have always celebrated the holidays with family and friends – my wife Jeanette likes nothing better than a full table on Thanksgiving. No dice this year; same for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Zoom has been able to make up for some of this, but you can’t enjoy my famous stuffing over the ether! And although it seems strange to say it, some people are stuck in sunny Florida, when  they would rather come north and be cold with family. So, do what you can – pick up the phone or even write a letter!

            Watch a sentimental holiday movie! Maybe they stray from reality, but if the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life” doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will (and who could have been more beautiful than Donna Reed?). We recently watched “White Christmas” with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The usual silly plot, but what a joy to watch and hear these great talents.

            Finally, it’s easy to forget the real meaning of the season. While most religions have similar messages, the ones Jesus tried to get across, it seems to me, were tolerance and forgiveness. How these simple concepts have gotten lost among many Christians and other religionists is a paradox. Although I’m sure other religions have similar basic documents, Christians would do well to remind themselves of  two: The Ten Commandments, and the Beatitudes.

            Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Copyright 2020, Patrick F. Cannon