Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A day to remember...

Today I am walking with a softer step, with a smile on my face. In a society that bitterly complains about its callow, thoughtless youth, I have experienced the opposite.

My day started off when I got a text from my daughter Shannon wishing me a happy two year anniversary! My life changed for the better two years ago when Jenny and I quit smoking. I had tried many, many times but the coming arrival of little Jaden was the help we needed to finally quit. Her text continued with "I'm proud of you!". That made my day. I thought about how thoughtful that was and how I appreciated it immensely.

This afternoon I got a text from my son Shane wishing me a Happy Veteran's Day! He ended the text with "Thank you for your service." I was so humbled, I misted up.

Yeah, my shoulders are a little straighter tonight and my voice is a little softer. You see, I have again received that cherished gift that comes with fatherhood. Thanks again kids. Thank you very much.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Yesterday, America made me proud. For the most part, she looked past the color of a man's skin and elected a man president who will guide America into the future. Personally, I had doubts it could be done. As a kid, I watched on TV the nightly saga on the news that chronicled the civil rights struggles that America was going through. I saw stories of hatred, bigotry on both sides and mistrust that I thought America could never outlive. Even today, I got a racist text message, in all capitals, about how the whites should report to the cotton fields. The person who sent that text, like many in America, cannot see past the color of a man's skin. He would happily forward on all the racist e-mails that circulated about the Obamas. When he referred to Barack Obama, he also referred to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. He has no clue that Barack Obama is nothing like the other two. He sees the black face, the automatic tax and spend tag the GOP gives any Democrat and nothing else. In a thousand years, he would never see a black person as an independently thinking individual. He sees a stereotype only.

In the same respect that I hate to be stereotyped, I refuse to stereotype. I agree with Martin Luther King in a very important distinction: I judge people, all people, by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Whereas the author of that text sees Obama only through the lens of a stereotype, I'm sure that he would not like to be stereotyped in the same manner. I'm sure that if someone would confront him as being a pedophile or traitor just because he had a similar appearance of a known pedophile or traitor, he would react quite abruptly. Those who stereotype the most tolerate it the least.

Maybe the next four (Eight, I hope!) years will teach all America that we are all Americans. Maybe then our culture will be able to lose the African from the African-American tag like it lost the Irish-American, Italian-American and German-American tags. Maybe the strength of Barack Obama's character will help America to focus not on race but the needs of all Americans. Then, when the time comes for his re-election campaign, he won't be seen as Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. He won't be seen as the first African-American president and he won't be treated differently because of his race. Maybe, just maybe, he will be seen as an unhyphenated American who applied his intelligence and talents to begin to bring America back from the precipice of a Bush-Cheney induced disaster to the honor and importance of America's proper place on the world stage.

With all this talk of stereotypes and such I find it funny about how one particular stereotype played out. Isn't it somewhat appropriate that now, just like all the other times in George W. Bush's life, when he has made a huge mess of things, along comes a black guy to clean it up!

While Jenny and I were watching the returns, I told her how proud I was that both our kids cared enough to vote. I would like to tell Shannon something very personal: "Woo-Hoo!! He did it! It wasn't Hillary but it wasn't Mc Clain either!! I am so happy for you!" I was disappointed that my favorite politician, Jill Long Thompson, lost her race for governor. Shannon, do you still have the trophy she presented to you in third grade for your young author's book? She referred to you as a "Very intelligent young lady" and me as the dumb guy. Is she smart or what? Indiana, the state where a Republican can gain 10 points in the polls by saying "He'll take your guns!" went for Obama. It is about time. The last time that happened, thousands of cars in Indiana had front licence plates that said "4 U LBJ" Also, my brother Jerry had lost his campaign for County Surveyor in the primary and never made it to the general election. Thinking about it now, I see where he missed the boat. If only he would have come out and said "Mark Strong will take your guns!!" then maybe he would be the new County Surveyor, ready to give me a high paying patronage job. Live and learn, I guess.

Last but not least, this election has brought home to all of us how important it is to vote and be counted. Hopefully, America has quit electing the guy you would like to have a beer with. Tuesday night, while she was walking on the treadmill, Jenny let out a joyful yell. Pennsylvania was just declared for Obama. What a girl! She knew the importance of Pennsylvania. Eight years ago? No way. Like 53% of America's voters, she has learned an important lesson. One thing troubles me though. In the last eight years, we have endured the 9-11 attacks, the ruination of our economy to give tax cuts to the rich, a disastrous war in Iraq and a near criminal neglect in Afghanistan that has it all screwed up, the acceptance of the use of torture, sacrificing our freedoms for security, the elimination of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and the tremendous greed that brought about the collapse of our economy, the trashing of the stock market and the nationalization of America's largest banks. What does it take for that other 47% to say "Enough is enough". This is the first time in 20 years that a presidential candidate got over 51%. If America wasn't so polarized, it would've been 63%, not 53% this time.

So ends the 2008 election. I hope that all your candidates did good. Thankfully I didn't have to vote for Lucy (Our kitty) for president.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Working with a bunch of clowns!

Yesterday, I had a train that epitomized my career on the railroad - "Boy, I work with a bunch of clowns!" For the second time in my career, I worked on a circus train. A couple of years ago, I took one from Garrett to Chicago. This one is the Barnum and Bailey Circus blue train. They have 2 trains, the blue one and the red one. The circus ended Sunday in Cleveland and is moving on to Chicago. We got the train at the uptown Amtrak Station and took it to Willard Ohio. With all the waiting we had while the train was being switched up and other delays, we only took it from Cleveland to Willard and another crew brought it to Garrett. This is the engines and the head end of the train. The head car had the horses, the second, third and fourth had the elephants and then there was a bunch of cars with people. This car is the second car of the train and had elephants in it. I was hoping to get some trunks sticking out, like they were in Cleveland, but they didn't cooperate. One thing that was striking about the head 4 cars was that they really, really smelled! The car to the right had people in it. It is sectioned off into little apartments. The trailers on this picture is loaded with all the gear they need to run the circus. There were at least a dozen cars of them with lots of cars and trucks.
I just got called to take a train back to Cleveland. This train isn't as cool as a circus train but we don't have to worry about having hundreds of people and hundreds of animals on board. One embarrassing problem with the circus train was that people had a hard time telling us apart from the clowns and animals!
Oh, I would also like to give an update about the Weight Watchers change in my life. Its not a diet but a change in life styles. As of the end of the third week today, I have lost 13.2 pounds! Hooray!!!!