May 27, 2016

Continuing my week of reblogging, here is the second part on Parenting…

I am a parent by experience only.  I am household savvy but hasten to acknowledge that I have had no formal parental training.  That said, any advice I may offer is based on wounds sustained in battle.

fam2Now true, Phase 2 is a long period of time and it is possible to break it down into several sub-stages, but when it comes to raising children you want as little detail as possible.  The more you know and greater your preparation, the more you will go nuts.  Beware also:  Phase 2 is very stressful on your marriage.  This is the time when mothers and fathers, especially if they both work away from the home, have to gather up maximum stamina and wits to survive.  I mentioned in a previous blog that my wife and I had a safeguard against the possible failure of our marriage during Phase 2.  You might consider it worth thinking about.  We had the foresight early on to make a solemn pact with each other: whosoever even mentioned the “D” word would automatically get full custody of the children should the spit occur.  This kept our marriage rock solid from the git-go.

kidfingerToddlerhood is over as your child discovers the concept of “no.”  Up until this time, parents have controlled “no” and the child is accustomed to it.  There’s “NO, don’t touch the machete,” or “NO, don’t play with the neighbor’s cute little pit bull with the vice-like jaws,” or “NO, do not drink that bottle of Liquid Plumber; it will drain you…literally!”  In Phase 2, the Concept of No is reversed.  It is now the child who is expressing the negative:  “NO mommy, don’t tell me to stop peeing out the upstairs window; it’s fun watching people below wondering what it is,” or “NO daddy, I needed your saw because the chair was too high for me to climb into,” and the ever-popular “NO! And you can‘t make me.”


School, meanwhile, offers some relief because it gets the kid out of the house for a good number of hours.  The first day of school can be traumatic, for the mother especially.  It’s the proverbial severing of the tether, the official letting-go that temporarily transfers control of the child from parent to teacher.  Personally, I’m all in favor of this.  On my first day of school I didn’t feel so good.  My mother though it was simply a touch of anxiety about going to school for the first time…though I’m not sure anxiety was even a diagnosis for a six-year-old back in 1951.  I had a bad stomach ache and that’s all there was to it.  Mom thought I was probably faking it.  I convinced her, eventually, that I wasn’t.  I never made it to my first day of school.  I was detoured to the hospital where my just-about-ruptured appendix was removed.  My mother bought me a book titled “Eloise.”

As the child progresses through the initial grades of elementary school you begin to get a feel for how well this individual is going to perform in life.  There are telltale signs—mostly warning signals—that will disrupt any plans you may have had for raising successful, normally adjusted children.  You bufffbradwill no doubt think to yourself, “But I was supposed to get the perfect children.  What happened to my poor little Buffy and Bradley for whom I had such high expectations?”   Well, expectations are not yours to have—they belong to others, like the principal of your kid’s school who expects you to show up the next morning so that your child’s teacher might ‘splain why your kid is a royal pain in the ass.  So okay, those are not the exact words the teacher used, but you can tell that is what she was feeling.

Of course, school offers a whole new environment ripe with opportunities for your child. New friendships develop.  Friends smoke pot together in the girl’s bathroom.  Friends write farewell notes to their loved ones and then withdraw money from an ATM and take a Greyhound bus from Miami to Los Angeles. Other children are less adventurous but more entrepreneurial.  My son left for school each day with his prized Star Wars pillow case.  This he used to fill with individual pieces of candy which he purchased each morning from the wholesale candy distributer on the way to school.  He moneykidthen sold his daily inventory—at a substantial profit– to the other children during lunch and recess.  The principal praised his salesmanship and business acumen but told us, as he reached over and handed me the Star Wars pillow case, “Somehow it’s just not right.  Your son could get mugged and we wouldn’t want that to happen.”

homealoneIf you are working parents there is always the decision to be made as to when you can trust your children to take care of themselves during the 2-3 hours between their leaving school and your arrival home from work.  Here is the simple answer to that dilemma:  your children can NEVER be trusted!  My kids take great delight, now that they are “seasoned” adults, in telling my wife and me all kinds of stories about things they did years ago that we didn’t know about.  Some of these “fond memories” aren’t always camouflaged so well…Like the time I arrived home to find the front door of the house wide open with no one home.  As I wondered in (I wandered in, too, but mostly I was wondering), I noticed a white haze on every horizontal surface.  It was as if a giant bag of flour had exploded in the house and the contents had rained down and eventually settled atop every surface.  Or, come to think of it, it was more like my kids had a disagreement and decided they would settle it by confronting each other with the two fire extinguishers that were in the house.  Yeah, that’s what it must have been.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Phase 2 of parenting is fraught with mischief and mayhem.  Your attraction to vodka will be stimulated as will your tendency to fret and worry.  But, just as there were in Phase 1, there are proud, happy moments and accomplishments achieved in Phase 2.  You solarwill collect incredible pieces of art to post on the refrigerator door.  You will oversee last-minute construction of a gazillion panorama boxes.  You will master the mystery of the Egyptian Pyramids and you will create countless solar systems out of Styrofoam balls…there’s always a solar system project!  You will attend Tony-worthy performances in school plays and listen to ear-piercing melodies blown through a flute or strummed on an electric guitar.  Yep, these are the good parts.  Don’t tell me I didn’t include them in my blog.  You must cherish them…and take lots of pictures.



May 25, 2016

I announced earlier in the week that I would be presenting some “reblogs” and here they come.  Today is Part I of two that I wrote in October 2013.  The topic is parenting.  My kids hate when I go down this rocky road but I hasten to assure everyone that there are also sections of smooth asphalt along the way.  Oh yeah, you won’t be needing your GPS…ain’t no way that parently can be mapped out in advance….

Reblogg from October 2013


You may have heard me say this before that I believe parenting is the most challenging undertaking a person can encounter in his or her lifetime. There is no formal educational process to teach you how to parent.  Yes, there are tons of advice books and videos and therapists that often feel they have all the answers.  The only trouble with these resources that I have found is that parents consult them, but children never do.  Hence, real kids never respond in the utopian manner in which the kids in the resource materials do.  Parents and kids, literally, are not on the same page.  I don’t think that is ever meant to be.

Some parents luck out.  They have kids who, for the most part, are pretty much like them.  The genes lined up nicely at conception and anything weird or different just didn’t make it into the mix.  Other kids, meanwhile, are a composite of every obscure, obtuse and obscene element of the family’s lineage—the perfect storm kids.  Somewhere between these two extreme types of offspring is probably where most kids fall.

I am convinced if you are “the best” parents ever (whatever that means) that does not necessarily relate to your children being “the best” kids ever.  I know of only one family that fits the penultimate mode of perfection. Sometimes I wonder if they are for real.  I have looked on their butts for a Hallmark card logo or at least a Walt Disney signature.  I found neither…but who knows what skeletons may be lurking in their closets down the road.  For now, however, they define “perfect family.”

My children are in their 40s, but that doesn’t stop my wife and me from occasionally pondering how we might have handled things differently if we had to do it all over again, knowing what we know now.  Our first conclusion is to buy tropical fish and forget about having kids.  I even concede that tropical fish are too demanding–just keeping the tank clean is a daunting task.  For me, it’s stuffed animals.  In fact, I have a stuffed duck I bought years ago. His name is Dutch the Duck [note: Dutch was featured in a posting just last week].  He has little Velcro pads on his feet so I can hang him around my shoulder and he’ll stay there nicely, quietly, wanting for nothing.  Dutch and I have an agreement.  I will continue to talk to him about things going on in the world as long as he doesn’t tell anyone we have these conversations.  Dutch is totally trouble-free, like real children should be.  He doesn’t need to learn how to drive; doesn’t have college tuition issues; his disposition is always on an even keel and he never touches my ice cream.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many positive moments in the parenting process.  Phase I–The Early Years can be a wonderful experience.  Toddlers are cool.  I especially like them in overalls. Fact is, early childhood is reasonably easy and enjoyable once the child masters four basic skills. These are:

–       Learning how to use the toilet and putting an end to diapers

–       Learning how to feed oneself without having to rely on someone else to open the jar, spoon the goo into your mouth and not having to worry about it coming back out.

–       Learning how to dress oneself.  No, not everything may match, but the basics are there:  the kid knows how to put a shirt on; underwear and pants; socks and maybe can even tie his shoes.

–       Learning how to quietly get oneself up on weekend mornings; pouring oneself a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and then sitting quieting playing a computer game or watching TV without waking mom and dad.

Once these four elements of life are accomplished there is a window of relative calmness and a false sense of fulfillment that most parents can enjoy…for a very brief moment.  This is the end of Phase I.  Then, slowly but surely, children lose their luster.  Their cute smiles turn to sneers, they learn the word “no” and how to manipulate and maneuver around every directive you may issue.  Hence, the challenge of parenting enters Phase 2, a seemingly eternal period of chronic fretting, frustration and financial loss.  We’ll get into Phase 2  on the next posting.  In the meantime, happy parenting!




May 23, 2016

Happy Birthday


We interrupt this blog to bring you a special announcement!  Actually, I have two announcements and then we’ll get back to blog central tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.

I am working on two projects right now and I need help with each.  First, I am beginning some research on a project that I anticipate turning into yet another book.  I know, I hear many of you saying, somebody stop him!

I am looking for people who have reached their 100th birthday and can still pretty much carry on a cohesive conversation.  They would have to be willing to sit down and talk with me about their life and times, let me record the conversation and sign a release that states that have volunteered to do this and understand they will not receive any compensation beyond my gratitude.

I am looking for people close by here in Florida, although I may be willing to go out of state if the individual is unique.  If you know someone 100 years old who is lucid and would be a good prospect, please send me an e-mail at:

Meanwhile, I am also working on strengthening the search engine optimization for both my blog and books.  If you have read one of my books and have not filed a review on the book’s amazon page, I want to encourage you to do me the favor.  Reviews vitally affect the ranking of the book on amazon.  All that is needed is a sentence or two about how you liked or didn’t like the book.  Instructions are on the amazon page for the book.

There is also another review process you can use if you have read my book, Anchor.  I think all you have to do is answer a few questions and off you go.  If you are so motivated, here’s the link:

It goes without saying, but I will anyway:  THANK YOU!   We’ll fire up the blog once again tomorrow or Wednesday.




May 21, 2016

marc1979aQuite by accident, I found myself reading some older postings from this blog and I was surprised at how awful some of them were…and how good were others.  Having been at this blog thing for over three years, I am soon approaching my 400th posting. Can you imagine sitting down and composing 400 little essays?  Where did all this verbiage come from?

Well, most of it came from the guy in the pictures above–that’s me.  The younger one was taken back in 1979.  I was 34.  The one I use regularly now is me leaning against my pal, the tree.  It was taken about ten years ago so that makes the tree about 48 years old.

The point is, when looking at a box or album of old photographs, there are some “ah moments” among them.  Likewise among the postings on my blog.  This week, because I am King of the Blog, I have decided to bring back some postings that were particularly noteworthy for one reason or another.  This first volley wasn’t even mine.  It was written by my friend Ron Carmean who has guested on marc’s blog several times and I continue to ask him to come out of retirement and post some more.  This posting that Ron wrote ran in October 2013  has the honor of achieving the most views in the blog’s history.  It must be a mustache thing.


Contributing Folklorist, Ron Carmean, continues his love affair with Hollywood cowboys.  Today, Ron tells us about his favorite cinematic gun toter, Sam Elliott.     Read on and you may well find yourself saying, “Oh yeah, I remember that guy!”


Unknown-1John Wayne died in 1979.  Five years earlier he had been elected to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage   Museum Hall of Fame, formerly the Cowboy Hall of Fame.    But Hollywood cowboys did not die with Wayne.  It wasn’t   long before several picked up his trail and made names for themselves.  Who stood out among them?  My nominee    would be Sam Elliott.

Elliott’s famous trademark is his world’s finest mustache.  Many men would pay    cash money to have one like his.  Then, too, there’s the voice.  It’s the equal of     James Earl Jones’. tombstone-fanartYou’ll recognize it when you hear it.  It’s the voice of Coors beer   and Dodge Ram trucks.  It may be very similar to the voice we hear on Judgment       day when, hopefully, it will give us good news.  Combine those qualities with his height (6’2″) and muscular physique, plus his Hollywood’s Best Cowboy statement, “I’ve spent my entire career on horseback or on a motorcycle,” and you have Hollywood’s Best Cowboy.

289203Wait a minute, you say. He looks and sounds like an ideal cowboy should. But can he act like one, and not just once or twice?  Elliott has been in over 80 roles, on TV and in theaters.  At least 15 were westerns.  I’ll give you my top     five.  The first two were adaptations of Louis L’Amour books for TV movies: “The Sacketts” (1979) and “The Shadow Riders” (1982).  Elliott is joined in both films by Tom Selleck and both give fine performances aided by significant facial hair.  They fight gamblers, do some prospecting and cattle herding, carry out some legitimate killing which provokes relatives of the slain bad guys to retaliate…and regret it.  They survive everything.  Tough guys with right on their side always triumph.

Moving to the big screen, Sam and friends gave  their version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in “Tombstone.” (1993).  Wyatt Earp himself, living    in LA many years later, said films were making    too much of a street fight that lasted a few minutes.  Nevertheless, all actors acquit   themselves well and once again Wyatt wins.        Sam plays the oldest Earp brother, Virgil, who is wounded.  The film’s highest      point is the performance of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.  Both Siskel and Ebert   thought it was Oscar worthy. I agree.

Elliott-RossElliott’s finest work came in “Conagher” (1991).  He and real-life wife, Katherine Ross (Dustin Hoffman’s love interest in “The Graduate”) adapted another L’Amour story for TV.  Sam was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a TV Movie.  He portrayed an honest, hard-working cowboy trying to herd cattle for his employer while fighting Indians, outlaws, a turncoat wrangler, loneliness on the range, and some really nasty weather.  In the end, he overcomes everyone and everything and wins the hand of a frontier widow with a remarkable resemblance to his actual wife. Joking aside, it was an extremely accurate portrayal of cowboy life herding cattle.

strangerdudeThe work for which Sam Elliott may be best known is his performance   as The Stranger who narrates “The Big Lebowski.”  He converses with   The Dude during the film. Sam gives Jeff Bridges what I call “The Full Elliott” featuring the big cowboy hat, the fullest of mustaches, and  a voice deeper than the Marianas Trench  proclaiming “The Dude Abides.”  It is these three words his fans request when meeting him on the  street.

My SiteElliottElliott’s career began playingCard Player #2 in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969).  He went on to play Wild Bill Hickok and Virgil Earp.  In “Thank You for Smoking,” a scene called for him to threaten a visitor on his property.  The director came on the set to find no crew member had furnished a gun.  Elliott had arranged to use his own Winchester 1894 rifle.  Why does he like playing in westerns?  “I think it has something to do with integrity and a man’s word and honor.”

In 2007, Elliott was elected to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame. Good enough for me.



May 17, 2016


So why a stuffed duck? Me, a grown man with a stuffed duck. I’ve had him since sometime in the ’90s.  I bought him in a card shop in a mall. Y’know, one of those Hallmark kind of shops that also sells a gazillion little gifts and lots of candles. Dutch–that’s what I named him, Dutch the Duck–was in a big container on the floor with about twenty other identical siblings. I actually selected him from among the crowd.   Don’t remember exactly why, but he stood out…spoke to me sort of.  So on impulse I bought him. I have no idea how much he cost; can’t remember. It makes no matter because today I consider him priceless.

Dutch is basic duck yellow with orange bill and feet. He’s got a little fluff tail that no longer stands tall on its own. Now it just kind of slumps over his exaggerated butt. Dutch has worn-out Velcro pads on all four feet. Used to be he liked to hug you anywhere he could wrap his feet around you and stick them together.

Dutch’s default posture is lying on his belly, all fours extended. Once in a while I will cross his front feet together and lay his head atop them, but that’s it. Most days he’s on the bed after it’s made and there he stays until he moves to the floor at night.

Dutch is silly looking.  That’s perhaps what drew me to him. I do like silliness. He’s also sad appearing at times and often seems to be merely observing what’s going on around him.

Over the years, Dutch got to be a bit dirty and was beginning to look as though he wasn’t taking very good care of himself. I decided to gamble a few months ago and give him a bath. So I put him in the washing machine on the slow cycle, cold water only. Then I dried him on the delicate setting. He came out looking brand new. He looked great.   I quietly did the dance of joy.

Now, I will disclose one thing that I hesitate to divulge because not everyone will understand. Dutch and I have a pact. We won’t advertise all over the place that we talk to each other and if we are asked we will deny it.

I do have to tell you he is the optimist between the two of us.   Most times, everything to him is just ducky.  He’s also quite comfortable within his own feathers. He doesn’t spend hours primping his plumage or tweaking his bill. He’s happy being dumpy looking and maintaining that image. He knows others find it warm and endearing. And that’s one other big thing about Dutch—he is what he is, a lovable, goofy soft character whose only mission in life is to be there for you. He has no hidden agenda, no false pretense.

I realize I risk a little disclosing all this about me and my stuffed duck. Other people have pets to fulfill this kind of quirkiness…a purring cat rubbing up against you or a pooch on your lap licking your face. I don’t need those kinds of comforters. I’ve got Dutch. He doesn’t lick, doesn’t purr and he doesn’t sit or roll over on command. But he does just as much, if not more. He never makes a mess, never destroys the furniture or makes you feel guilty if you’ve had to leave him by himself for a period of time. And, most of all, Dutch won’t die.  There’s nothing much worse than having a pet be a part of your life for a good number of years and then, usually suddenly, it’s gone.  It’s a devastating experience.

We all need a little Dutch in our lives. In fact, I suspect it would give lots of people at least a brief moment of the one thing we all have trouble achieving…and that’s peace of mind. There’s something about a silly stuffed animal that is universally calming and peaceful. In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks had Wilson.  I have a stuffed duck…I consider him a worthy Dutch treat.




May 12, 2016

Die Entchenreihe

I spent not nearly enough time today in my thinking chair on the back patio thinking what it would be like to give up my compulsive behavior.  I hasten to state that I am not OCD.  I just have always been fussy about neatness and orderliness and things like that.  I’ve been pretty intense since the light bulb went on around 10th grade.  That’s when I remember taking my school work really seriously for the first time.  A little late maybe, but in time for me to start thinking about my life and where I was headed,

Indeed, the problem at the time was that I had no idea where was “where” and I had no compass to lead me there anyway.  My thoughts hovered around teaching or practicing law.  I wasn’t too enthused about either one, but there was nothing else at the time that remotely sparked any of my wires.

For a good number of years I really wanted to become an airline pilot.  I liked airplanes, loved going to the airport and thought being able to drive a huge building in the air would be one hell of an adventure.  The only issue that stopped me from pursuing this career path was my math skills. I struggle with math and most techy-type stuff, exactly the kinds of tasks you’d expect a worthy airline pilot to be able to astutely handle, especially at a critical time.

Even while I was applying to colleges I still wasn’t sure exactly what studies I should pursue.  But thankfully the schools sent catalogs and I went through them page by page.  That’s when it happened—the big magical moment when fireworks exploded and my body filled with adrenaline.   I was going through the catalog Penn State sent me and there it was, taking up most of a page:  “Major in Broadcasting.”   I never knew you could actually go to college and take courses in broadcasting.  That’s exactly what I wanted to do.  That’s why I listened to the radio all the time—I loved it.  Wow, I could go to school and learn how to work in radio.  What a concept.  Why didn’t I think of that?  It was a sensational moment of epiphany and I’ve never forgotten it.

So I spent the next four years at Penn State and after I graduated I got a job in public radio.  My career had launched and while it went down a somewhat rocky path, it took me to retirement and beyond.  Beyond…that’s where I am right now. Consequently, I have time to sit and ponder the trip I’ve been on.  I have come to realize my compulsiveness has been along for the ride the entire time.  In fact, it probably drove most of the way.  As my chauffeur, it took me down some roads I had no business going.  But then, almost as often, it took me touring through places a lot more amenable to my backseat driving.

I should have grabbed the wheel more often, is what I am thinking now as I look back…or at least applied the brakes.  So on this day that my odometer turns 71, I’ve decided to make the attempt to work on my compulsiveness.  I should maybe park the damn car and get out and walk a little more, or at least take my foot off the pedal.  I suspect I should spend some considerable time and effort working on this goal…but here I go again being compulsive.





May 6, 2016


I have a birthday coming up next week and I cannot seem to convince anyone that I truly just as well let it slip by. “Nothing, really nothing,” is the answer I repeatedly give my wife when she asks what I want to do when the day comes. I say, “The best gift you can give me is to ignore it.”

Okay, so I am being a miserable old curmudgeon.   I’m really not. I’ve always been a realist…especially about reality! Birthdays are reality. You spend most of your younger years wishing you were older and most of your older years wishing you were younger. It is not a fair game and no matter how much you attempt to slow it down, you relentlessly keep marching around the board, passing “go” and keep on keepin’ on until you pull that black card that says, “Do not pass ‘go,’ go directly to the cemetery.”

Oh, I’ll be 71. I suppose some of you may be asking that. I am still healthy enough to get from one place to another, remember to brush my teeth and, most times, I remember what I wanted to get when I make the painful trip up the stairs to get it. There are a few times, however, when I don’t. Those moments of forgetfulness seem to be increasing.

I am probably no different from most people my age. I plan to be around, I hope, for maybe another reasonably healthy twenty years and then bid a peaceful farewell in my sleep. That would be nice.

I am still seeking some form of self-accomplishment. I was hoping one of my books would fulfill that wish, but I may have to turn to something else. It’s getting late in the game to be a star athlete or an accomplished chess master. Just the thought of reading the Pulitzer book list is a nifty goal, but my eyes and concentration capacity have tossed that idea to the curb.

Meanwhile, there are lots of things I regret having not accomplished by now. I do not play an instrument—something I have attempted twice but abandoned both times for one reason or another. I would like to be more handy with things like carpentry or taking on home improvement projects. I’m very good at measuring twice before cutting once. In fact, I am so anal I usually measure three or four times, but still manage to screw it up.   While others in woodshop back in 8th grade were building birdhouses or little desktop bookcases, I spent the entire semester trying to cut and bevel the mandatory practice piece to the precise dimensions required.

Actually, my life has been no different. I am still trying to get the practice piece right. I am not one to give up. I feel compelled to emphasize that I in no way feel a failure.  However, like anyone else, I accept that I have a few shortcomings and a few things I do well…just sorting them out and lining them up in proper order is what takes up energy and the passage of time.  Lately, the process is quickening…right at the point when my pace is slowing.  As I said, it is not fair.



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