Recycling Madness

IMG_0145I look forward each Wednesday to placing the trash bins in front of my driveway knowing that at 6 Am the very next morning they will be lifted, cleared and then re-situated back in front of my garage for another week of garbage collection. It’s a cycle. I fill them up, they empty, then I fill them up again. Never ending! I have three bins total. One brown, one green and one black. Here in CA, the brown is for solid waste, the black for garden waste and the green for recycle. Funnily enough, I have watched the garbage truck arrive on many occasions and I am always intrigued by the way collections take place. In CA, the yard waste (black bin) is all separated and taken to a special plant that converts dead branches, flowers and grass into wood chips and compost, or so I’m led to believe. This truck is a truck that has only one task, that task being the removal of yard waste alone. The second truck that arrives about twenty minutes later has a different task. It’s purpose is to empty the green and brown bins simultaneously and drop their contents into two separate sides of said truck, one presumes? Presumption doesn’t always lead to curiosity, however in my case, I am curious as ever what exactly happens to each side and interested not only in finding out where they take all the crap I waste, but also what exactly happens to the rubbish I put in my recycle bin.

Recycle is such a strange concept to me. What do you place in your recycle bins? Has anyone ever told you what is allowed to be recycled and what isn’t? Are the items you recycle then recycled into some other form? Do you really care?  All reasonable questions, don’t you think? I know for a fact that a plastic bottle isn’t supposed to be placed in a recycle bin unless it has its top removed. Can you see it now? All these bottles showing up at some recycle plant and 4000 workers standing there unscrewing tops! Well I never take the top off the bottle before I throw it, do you? I don’t know anyone who does. And what about the items that your know should be out in the recycle bins but you decide at that particular moment in time that you can’t be bothered so you chuck them in the regular bins? What happens to them? They sit and rot on the dump site with everything else, but do you ever feel guilty? I don’t, but maybe I should. My points are all relevant and lead me to an experience that I had this past weekend inside Terminal C at Newark International Airport in New York.

One would presume that a garbage bin that has two different slots on its top, one for bottles and cans and one for paper, both clearly marked, would also have two separate bags inside, one reclaiming said bottles and cans and the other for the waste paper. Wrong! Take a look at the pictures I took on Saturday. Two slots, one bag. Obviously no one gives a damn! If our government-run organizations don’t care, as seen in these pictures, then why should we? Are we all being conned? Are we paying more money for garbage collection to our local authorities just to see it squandered on something quite unrelated to our garbage collection? Does recycling actually take place? If so where does it happen and who can confirm what happens in those plants? What do they do with the crap that’s put into these recycle bins that doesn’t belong there and who has the responsibility of deciding? If we all just stopped recycling, would it make any difference whatsoever to our planet, a planet that seems to be in steep and immediate decline? I was always led to believe that recycling was the best way and possibly the only way forward to avert the inevitable global catastrophe that is looming. Climate change, enhanced by excess CO2 gasses and Methane, all set free in massive tonnage from the garbage dumps we have created around the planet. Although not solely responsible for our issues of course, they are contributory in the damage the planet is receiving each day. Now, with the advent of recycling, weren’t we all supposed to partake and assist in aiding to the recovery of our planet? Hasn’t that been the ‘buzz’ word for the last two decades? Recycle and help mother earth get better?

It would appear from my discovery, your participation, or lack of, and the indeterminable fact of whether the earth will be able to survive with or without a recycle program, that our government, our leaders, the people who themselves are supposed to lead by example, just don’t give a flying fuck about anything other than throwing out the garbage the way it has always been thrown. Everything in one bag and off to the dump! When we run out of room, when the landfill is completely full, when space is at more of a premium that it is today, are we all going to look back at the bins inside Newark airport and say, ‘lazy bastards, you should have had two bags in that bin and you have enhanced global warming because of your stupidity?’ NO, we won’t. Why? Because we to, 99% of us, also don’t give a flying fuck what happens after we deposit our shit inside a garbage can, as long as the guy shows up next Thursday morning to remove it to someplace we will never care to see or never care to visit.

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Cruise Blues The Final Chapter.

IMG_3936How much does the US government spend when a US cruise ship enters another US port? Is the continual paranoia which has engulfed this country since 9/11 become so intense, so overblown that when a ship enters a port the Coast Guard is called out in a gun boat? Obviously the answer is a resounding YES, as you can see from the enclosed picture. When I stood on my balcony, cases packed and ready to go downstairs to finally get off this claustrophobic can, I was dumbfounded when a gun boat pulled up alongside us, with its machine guns manned and pointed directly at our starboard side. ‘ We are American citizens!!’ I shouted at the top of my lungs, whilst waving my white handkerchief. This was all received with much amusement from our neighbors in the room next door. The coast guard followed us for at least thirty minutes, moving back and forth alongside and then behind the ship. Why they did this, I would never find out, but it completed its task with one final swing past our room and then just vanished. It was as if the war had ended and our victory was confirmed. Perhaps this was standard procedure, perhaps not, but in any event, in my humble opinion, it was an unwarranted show of force and complete waste of tax payers money! I dislike guns at the best of times, but as you can see, this was a gun armed and probably ready to shoot in the event of trouble. The only trouble I could foresee was going to be getting 3000 overly fat people down a very long narrow gangway and onto dry land. The ropes were being tied and the ship was being prepared for just this purpose, when I received a call that it was time to descend that dreaded staircase one last time to deck 7, with bags in hand and hope in heart.

“Was that show of force all for me Erickson?” I asked in my usual sarcastic manner. He had no idea what I was talking about or perhaps he just didn’t want to discuss it, but when I asked him again, he really had no idea why we’d been followed and made a point of telling me he’d never seen such a boat on any of his previous cruises, either to Alaska or indeed any place else he’d traveled. Lying bastard!

Escorted down a further 2 flights of stairs, we found ourselves in the dining area of one of the ‘posh’ restaurants we hadn’t had the pleasure of frequenting. It was distinctly purple and drab. We sat. We sat some more. We watched, (our window seat had a bird’s eye view of proceedings),as 3000 people tried to exit the boat. It was a laborious process, but even more laborious was the small talk coming from Erickson. He wanted to get off the boat as much as we did, he had a trip planned with some of his colleagues and he kept a close eye out for the customs officer that was supposed to come on and interview us and the time on his watch, in order that as soon as she showed, he could GTF as quickly as possible.

His phone rang. “I need you to email your hotel and air reservation to my superior on the 7th deck” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“The company needs confirmation you are going to go home”

“Where else would I be going Erickson??” I was puzzled and confused as to why anyone would really care where I was going, but, with all the info on my iPhone and readily available, I pushed a few buttons and sent the schedule to whoever was demanding to see it. What I didn’t realize as I pushed the ‘send’ button, was that not only was my plane reservation for two days hence on that email but also that I had failed to delete the conversation with my business partner Lisa stating clearly and in black and white that I had made up an excuse just to get off the boat. There was NO emergency. “Fuck” I thought, ‘what if the customs officer reads that email?” I shit my pants. I could only imagine the conversation.

“Well Mr Z, we understand you have a family emergency?”

“Yep”

“Take a look at this email. Is this an email you sent? Does this email clearly state you think this cruise is a waste of your time, that it’s filled with fat ugly morons and that you think US law is a fraud?” This was just some of the terminology I’d used when, in desperation, I’d emailed Lisa to make all the arrangements that would get me out of this mess. And now, unwittingly, I’d passed them on to US customs. Shit!

Miss Rowntree walked into the room at that precise moment. She was representing US customs and Immigration. She was really pleasant, asking us if we had a hotel for the night in Juneau, or did we need assistance. She then asked us if we had any fresh fruit in our bags, and after answering no to both questions, she proceeded to place a little piece of green sticky tape on all our bags. That was it! We were free to go. I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t ask anything else, didn’t care what my email had read and more importantly, didn’t even explain to us the process of the Jones Act. It was Christmas, Hanukkah and my birthday, all rolled into one! Freedom!

We were escorted off the ship and driven to out hotel, about a 6 minute drive or 10 minute walk, as we later found out.

It was over.

On reflection, there are many things I would have done differently. The first of which was NEVER to have booked that damn cruise in the first place. We spent two brilliant days in Juneau, escorted by an incredible tour guide we’d found called Dennis. He took us where we wanted to go, when WE wanted to go. We weren’t tied in to eating with undesirables, WE were the undesirables! This was the vacation I had imagined. I saw eagles, bears, salmon, glaciers and waterfalls. We ate good fresh food, and slept in peace without 3000 people annoying the crap out of us every minute of every day. I now knew how I would come back to Alaska next time and how to tour it the correct way. I now knew that Alaska was indeed somewhere I wanted to return, and finally, I definitely knew that I was the lucky one, because these other 3000 poor bastards were stuck on that boat another 5 days, and that was something I could never have done.

I filled out the survey from NCL, you know, the one you get in your email from every company you speak to nowadays. When I filled it in, I asked for someone from NCL to call me so that I could explain to them in person my misgivings and thoughts on how they as a company could improve the whole experience. As of today, I have not hear a peep, nor do I expect to. And so, my sea sickness pills still sit unopened in my drawer. My fears of puking up all across Alaska never materialized, but now I have the experience to tell all of my friends that unless you are a complete lazy bastard who likes to eat all day, and sit around while the world passes you by at the speed of impudence, then stay off the boats and stick to dry land. Alaska had me hooked from the moment my feet got off that boat, and I can almost guarantee it will do the same for you.

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Cruise Blues – Part 3

IMG_3832With so many people on board, I was surprised that when I reached the 12th deck the line for the BBQ was small and orderly, the pool, extremely small and already filled up with kids and the band? Well the band was actually a DJ on an Apple Mac, surrounded by crew members all dressed up like Pan’s People. If you don’t know who Pan’s People are, you are either very young, or you’ve lived in America all your life and in both cases, you have missed out! The party was in full swing, the food was nice, cooked fresh in front of us and the atmosphere, for those who wanted to get down and dirty, was definitely party like. Time to grab a cheeseburger, some fresh BBQ corn, eat, then explore the ship. It was 4 15 PM on Sunday July 28th. Our next port of call was Juneau Alaska ETA Tuesday August 30th at 2 PM.

By 4.45 PM I was done. I’d eaten, I’d looked around the ship, had my hair blown in all directions by a sea breeze which was now at 20 knots, and was ready to relax in my room and read for a while before taking the time to further explore our vessel’s night life. I’d also discovered that there was a water dispenser in every corner of every restaurant, which were open 24 hours a day, and I was beginning to believe that the little Filipino man selling Aquafina to everyone who was interested, was actually a total con. I’d also figure out that the ‘soda plan’ $6.95 a day for all you can drink/per person, was another con. With soda priced at $2 a pop, you would need to drink at least 4 a day to get your money’s worth. Who does that?? Oh yes, I forgot, all the extremely fat and unhealthy people who just boarded this boat!

My room, my sanctuary, all the damn noise coming from left and right and above. This was no vacation, this was a survival course for sure! The family to my right were arguing, the chairs and feet above me were being continually dragged across the 12th deck, and without warning, while I lay on my bed, book open and ready to read, it actually started to vibrate, throwing me into total confusion and bringing on thoughts of a cheap Chinese brothels I’d heard about, you know, the one with the happy endings! I was shocked. Having no idea what was causing this, I stood up. Nothing. Complete calm. Back to the bed. Vibration! It would take me several hours to get used to this and it only happened now and again, but I never did figure out what was causing it. If any of you ‘cruise buffs’ out there have any idea, I’d be delighted to hear from you. No sarcastic comments please!

It was now 5 30PM. Time to eat? Oh no, wait, we just did that, right?? Well this is a cruise, are you not supposed to eat ALL the time? We headed upstairs, or was it down? In any event, the stairs were becoming a habit. It was the only way to bypass the girth on all the fat cruise people who hogged the elevators. With our evening about to become a drag, time passing as slow as possible on board this draconian form of transportation, we found ourselves in a seedy looking lounge towards the aft of deck 8. Are you impressed with my nautical lingo? As were entered, Sarah, an English-born lady with a scowl on her face that looked as if it had been permanently etched into her skin, was in the middle of announcing that evening’s movie tune trivia quiz. Whoo hoo! I cried. Entertainment!! We decided to sit down, and take part. What a mistake!

With 10 out of a possible 20 wrong, we came second. It was now 7 PM. Should we eat? It was still very light outside and the weather was excellent, so we decided to entertain a trip to the buffet whilst popping into the casino for a quick look round. Mistake number 2. Never enter a casino on a moving ship. The putrid smell of cigarette smoke along with and overwhelming desire to escape the continual ka-ching of the slot machine, leads to nausea and headache, in that order and all at once. After a quick exit, we decided, it must be time to eat! (Do you see a pattern evolving here?) Buffet time!

When I booked the cruise they told me on the phone that NCL is famous for its ‘Freestyle’ cruising. Just exactly what did that entail? Well, for those of you who don’t know, it means that you never have to dress up. You can go out to dine looking like you just came home from work or the beach or a jog. No tank tops, no open sandals and no swim gear, but other than that, anything goes! Also on the menu was free food, in all but 5 of the restaurants. The speciality restaurants charged extra to eat there, and I was soon to find out why. Well, as we entered the buffet there was an overwhelming desire to plunder, as shown by the many ignorant, overstuffed, carefree buffet goers who’d laid out the path in front of us. They were leading by example, the only question was, should we follow? Plate after plate was piling up in front of me, some vacationers taking three plates at a time and struggling to make it back to their tables without adding even more food to their stash. Remember folks, this was eat what you want when you want for the next 7 days. There wasn’t ever going to be any shortage of anything, but most of these people had obviously never received the memo.

Standing still for just a moment, it was hard to calculate where all this food was coming from, but it was east to determine where it was all going. I was looking at animals, hungry at that, walking back and forth again and again with mountains of food piled sky high into next week, all ready to devour and then return. It was frightening. I took some Indian food, some veg and a wee bit of chicken and made my way to a seat at the very rear of this buffet restaurant, closely followed by Wendy, my better half. We just looked at one another, puzzled, and together, we smiled with that knowing confirmation that THIS was not for us! It was now 7 45 PM, and as we didn’t drink, didn’t gamble and had no intention of eating anything else for at least 12 hours, we sat back and contemplated why on earth we’d actually booked this cruise and more to the point, how the heck we were going to get off ASAP?? Both questions resonated through the onset of the cold I was rapidly developing and both questions remained unanswered as the weather deteriorated, the noise increased and the thought of one whole week on board this tin can filled with obnoxious, tacky and self centered cruise junkies, festered deep into a soul that just craved privacy and calm!

Cruise Blues – Part 2

IMG_3815I’ve stayed in some crappy hotel rooms in my time, especially when traveling to New York. Most of the rooms that have given me issues have come from reviews that looked great but upon arrival have turned sour the second the key is slotted into the door to unlock nothing but a box like impression of this gorgeous room you thought you’d booked on line. This room on the ship wasn’t the worst, far from it, it seemed quite spacious. It had two beds pushed together to make a kind of king size alternative. It had a miniature TV set, a nice closet, some drawers and the bathroom was a reasonable size, if you like to shit and shower simultaneously! The balcony was great, with two comfy chairs outside, and we had a couch and safe and refrigerator too. We looked at one another, decided this wasn’t going to be too bad and then without warning God came into our room via the loud-speaker system that appeared to be anchored into the ceiling. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a mandatory evacuation drill commencing in 15 minutes. Look on your key cards to identify the area where you are required to meet the crew member assigned to your muster section.” “Bloody Hell!” I exclaimed, “that scared the shit out of me. Where’s my pills!!” Without hesitation, we abandoned the cabin in favor of unpacking later and attending out life saving lecture, just in case! And so, back down on deck 7, of course by using the stairs, we congregated, along with the 200 other people assigned to our station, waiting patiently to be shown how to put on a life jacket. This process took 60 seconds, but the waiting time to finally see it happen was more like 25 minutes, accompanied by three further God-like announcements on the tannoy and one alarmingly loud blast from the ships foghorn. Drill over, and we were back up 5 flights of stairs, this time to unpack. It was now 3.50 PM and we were about to set sail. Panic over. My life was about to have another item crossed off its to do list, and it wasn’t too long before I realized that this was definitely not going to be one to write home about, more like one to write to everyone about!

Party Time!

The boat was moving, I was feeling nothing other than the urge to do something. The announcement was crystal clear.

“It’s time to party like a Norwegian!” exclaimed Pedro, out cruise ship entertainment director. “How does a Norwegian party?” I asked myself. The one’s I’d met in my lifetime had been incredibly boring, pleasant, but boring, and nothing like the ‘party animals’ Pedro was insinuating in his loud boisterous tannoy tone. Before I could say sea sickness, there was a stampede. Although I was in my cabin, I could hear it. It seemed to be resonating from right above my head, but to be sure, all I had to do was open my door and watch the herd, motivated by Pedro’s offer of free booze and BBQ, rush onwards and upwards towards deck 12, where all hell was about to break loose.

Now, let me digress. When I booked this cruise, this was the phone conversation I had with the lady at NCL. This is almost word for word, remembering I had this discussion in February of this year. Time is a great leveler, but I’ll do my best to relate it as accurately as possible.

NCL “Good morning Alan how can we help you book your cruise?”

Alan “Well, I’ve been on your web site and as I’m a first time cruiser who gets seasick getting into a bath, I wondered what advice you could give me if I booked an Alaskan cruise?”

NCL “You picked the right company to make your maiden voyage with.” ‘Duh!’ I thought! “Alaska is a good choice and on our boats you will not feel any movement and won’t be sick. I promise.”

Alan “We are thinking of going in July”

NCL “Best month to go”

Alan “OK here is my criteria before I book. I would like a room that is located in a QUIET part of the ship. My sister went on a cruise and all she heard for 7 days were seats being scraped across the deck right above her. I would also like to be in a part of the ship where movement of any kind is at a minimum, should it get choppy.”

And that, my friends is how I ended up on the 11th deck in room 050. Personally guaranteed by that NCL lady, not to be noisy and to be fairly steady in case of a squall. Those words and choice of room were now resonating, as 3000 people headed out to party like a Norwegian, and all of them, bar none, were banging chairs, glasses, feet and anything else they could party with, right above my room. I was not impressed, my heart sank and my whole demeanor changed in moments. On top of that, a family of 4 had moved in next door and while standing on my balcony introducing myself to the mother, the two kids were complaining that they would have to share a bed or sleep on the floor. “It’s a lot smaller that we anticipated.” she told me. “Fucking right!” I had no idea how 4 people would fit into this room. It was tight enough with 2. On the other side of me was Keith. Keith had his wife and his sister in the same room. Kinky! I prayed to my God, no not the one implanted in my ceiling, that this was going to work out, then we decided, “it’s time to party like a Norwegian!” and made a B line to join the herd, the BBQ and the on board entertainment. We were sailing into the Puget Sound and I was about to confront Hell on the high seas!

Schooled In Porn- Part 1

images (1)Woodfarm High School, ah yes, when I think back, some happy years spent in that place. From the age of 11 to 15, a transition of sorts from primary, or elementary school, into senior high, which was to come at the age of 15 1/2. Situated in a leafy suburb of Glasgow, right in the  center of a middle class housing estate, where I lived and all of my pals lived too. We all went to the same school, all of us, except Howard, whose parents had their sights set on him being a brain surgeon. He attended a private school called Hutchesons Grammar, a school which I had the privilege of attending for 8 months before being kicked out. But that’s another story. The best thing about going to school were the stories that everyone used to make up and then dream about. The number one wish amongst all pupils was the hope that their school actually would one day, burn down, and this, believe it or not, was just what happened to me at Woodfarm High. In my final year, one night, the school was raised to the ground. Amazing!!! But really not too good. It destroyed all of us. I used to walk 3 minutes to get to school and then, half way through that fateful year, poof! It was all gone, and, after a two-week hiatus, we were all being bussed 10 miles to a stand in facility, filled with over crowded class rooms. It did nothing for my education and I ended up becoming more than just a below average student, I ended up a Porn star, or perhaps it was a Pimp of sorts. I like to believe I was just a librarian, but that’s a moot point all these years later.

Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me explain. I wasn’t born with a 12 inch penis, huge testicles, or indeed a Charles Atlas body. I never had the best looks in the world, the nicest hair, or a fabulous mouth. I was however blessed with the best sense of entrepreneurship known to mankind. The kind that never goes away, the sort that other people can only admire enviously from a distance. I was, Donald MacTrump, Larry McFlint, all rolled into one, and I was about to get very rich for a 15-year-old who had nothing but huge cajones.(read balls, for all you ignorant non-Spanish speaking immigrants out there)

Sitting in math class one afternoon, Gary McVey, who always sat in the seat next to me in that particular subject, turned round and asked me a very simple question. We were both 14, had never kissed a girl and were as raw and ready as we could be for any action either of us could get at that age. Some of the boys in our year had boasted of their sexual exploits, most of which had turned out to be complete BS, but it would be several years before I would find this out or they were man enough to acknowledge that fact. Gary was very close to a girl called Fiona and was desperate to go out with her. In those days, we were too young to drive, too old to be taken by our parents, so it was a kind of ‘stuck in the middle’ age, where you did what you could and you dared what you had, in order to get a feel or a kiss or just hold hands in the play ground at recess. The teacher, Mr. Finlay, commonly known as Mr. Knob, AKA Penis, was at his blackboard, placing incomprehensible equations  in white chalk, for all of us to see and then solve (no chance!) when Gary turned to me and said these immortal words.

“If we get erections, what do women get?”

Without even thinking, and only because I’d been allowed by my parents to watch a James Burke special,(he was the science correspondent on the BBC at that time), on venereal disease and unprotected sex, I turned to Gary and said out loud, “Their nipples get hard”.

Gary looked at me, Mr. Knob placed his chalk on his desk, Fiona, Gary’s future never-to-be girlfriend, who sat right in front of us, turned her head towards us, her cheeks bright red with embarrassment.   And then, the never to be forgotten words of Mr. Knob, resonated, not only across our math room, but right down the corridors of power into the principles office. We called him Headmaster, not principle.

“Zoltie, do you have something you’d like to share with us this afternoon?”

“Nope”

“No what?” came his stern response.

“No Sir!” and underneath my desk I clicked my heels together, thinking out loud, ‘fucking Nazi’

Mr. Knob and I were now in a power play, and Mr. Knob wasn’t about to lose. He called me out in front of 32 other pupils, took out his forked tongue leather belt and asked me to place my hands way out in front of my chest. The belt, ah yes, the belt. An antiquated form of school punishment, outlawed in the latter 1970’s or early 1980’s by the EU. Kept in the teachers top drawer for occasions just like this one. The secret when receiving three lashes, was to dip your top hand (you had your hands crossed, one palm underneath the other),towards the floor in one fluid motion on the downward swing of the belt. The downwards stroke from the teacher with his belt, barely touching the downwards motion of your palm and thus inflicting little pain and minimizing each blow. Mr. Knob however knew this and boy did he whack me!

Head down, wry smile and self-esteem intact, I returned to my desk, where Gary had drawn, or should I say attempted to draw a set of woman’s breasts, in pencil, on his notepad. He’s placed long erect nipples right in the center of each one, and he whispered to me, “let’s go and buy some porno mags” And that, my friends, is how my porn career began. It happened by accident, and it happened so fast, but when it did happen, it turned me from a quite shy and withdrawn child into a porn icon, respected by not only the boys, bullies included, but the girls too. A magical transition, worthy of a Disney movie. Well, perhaps not Disney, more Wicked Pictures. Within weeks I was destined to go from a complete unknown into Mr. Cool. I was also on the verge of making a fortune, a fortune I had no idea what to do with or how to behave. It was something so unpredictable, so enthralling and so incredible, that when it was all over, I looked back and really said, ‘did that just happen to me?’

Not only did it happen, not only did I live it, day by day, but my bank balance grew larger, my reputation grew more plausible and my head grew into one very savvy of it’s purpose in life. I thanked God every night for Playboy, Mayfair, Fiesta. All very inexpensive but also highly inaccessible porno magazines, for anyone under the age of 18. My entire life, its course, its purpose, came to fruition, all because of that one stupid question that Gary had asked. And this ladies and gentlemen is what happened next……

To be continued next week.

If I Was Fortunate Enough To Be Elected President

imagesWatching the Obama family at the inauguration this week, I realized, more so than ever before, that Barak and Michelle and the kids are just normal people trying to fit into the limelight that now surrounds their entire life. How could you not be moved by the innocence of their youngest daughter yawning while the President of the United States was in full flow with his inaugural speech? And then there were those never-ending camera shots of the entire family, just being a family. Superb stuff, no matter who you voted for and something I have rarely seen before in American politics. Perhaps it’s because the Bush girls were sort of grown up, and Chelsea Clinton, hidden from view, but these kids are surrounded by what appears to be a wealth of love and happiness and a certain amount of openness too. Which got me to thinking, how would I behave if I were elected to that office? Of course, it’s an impossibility, and one that you as a country should celebrate. To have me, a Scottish Jew, take the highest office in this land, would only leave a curse on the rest of humanity.

Or would it?

If I was elected President of the USA, here are some of the things I would implement immediately.

1 A complete ban on speed bumps or traffic calmer’s, as you call them here. What are they all about anyway? They are so poorly built that it makes no difference what speed you drive over them, and it makes little impact on anything other than wear and tear on my car. I would have them all torn up and discarded.

2 No more mention of God and politics in the same breath. God will not determine who wins any election, and if he/she does, then there is nothing we can do about it.

3 God bless America? AND how about all other nations on earth too? Come on, why only us? Why not the rest of the planet? At least the ones that like us. I mean, forget the French, the Iranians, the Afghans and all the other people who want to blow us into the middle of next week or just plainly dislike us, but there are a lot of good people out there, so let’s bless them all!

4 Make the legal drinking age 16, because 21 is a joke. The rest of the planet drinks at 16 or 18, so why not us? Think about it. You can vote, and join the army and kill people at 18, but you can’t have a drink? Makes me think of a comedian in the UK called Jimmy Jones. His opening line was ” Fuck!!!!” shouted at the top of his voice. Silence in the audience. “That’s a bad word, isn’t it?” And the audience would shake their heads up and down in agreement. “Kill!!!!” Again, shouted at the top of his lungs. “That’s not a bad word, is it?” Noooooooooooo came the reply from the audience. “Well then”, he continued, “what would you rather be, FUCKED or KILLED???” Which rings so true in our society. Unfortunately, in this country, things are so screwed up and our priorities so backwards, that it’s easier to be killed in combat at 18 than it is to get a drink in a bar? Come on, let’s change it all. Let’s make it legal to drink at 16 and illegal to be killed in combat at any age!

5 Ban all blowers from every gardener who walks this earth. See previous article, All Blow and No Job, from last year. These things are a violation of my right to breathe fresh air and live without continual noise. Get rid of them immediately!

6 Abolish speed limits on all freeways and discard any speed limit under 35 MPH. Where I live, there are areas where 15 MPH is the limit. How ridiculous and how insensitive to all those people round my way who drive red Ferraris! Let’s do a Germany, and make the freeways open season for anyone and everyone who wants to go over  100 MPH. most of us drive better than the Cops who regularly pursue us, so let’s ban them from the roads and lets keep our own rules. I would also abolish speeding fines. If anyone is caught speeding they should donate $500 to someone who needs it, and not our local Police dance fund. Let the Cops go arrest some real criminals and not us, the soft touch motorist. It’s too easy for them to pull over a soccer mom in her SUV for going 2 MPH over the limit. Let’s make it difficult for everyone. Speed and get caught, pay the fine, and donate. Get caught 3 times in the same year, then give up your car for a month to a charity who needs it.

7 I would ban all lobbyists. Who needs a lobbyist anyway, and why don’t I have one at my disposal? What is a lobbyist and what purpose can they possibly serve other than to be a parasite in the world I am trying to change? Let oil, the farmers, the coal industry, et al, live and die by their own means. If they know how to run a business then so be it, if they don’t, then fuck them, and good riddance! This would cut out a vast chunk of the bribery and corruption that is in our government and reduce it to a manageable size, I think?

8 Recall all our troops from all parts of the world and protect our own borders and not other countries. Stop being policemen in places we do not belong and stop losing lives of our kids, lives we can no longer afford. Simplistic point of view, I know, but one that can resonate with families that have lost loved ones, I bet! I know there are many who say, ‘he died doing what he loved, protecting our country”, but I am sure they would rather be saying, “Welcome home for Christmas John” It’s such a shame we are embroiled in conflict any place on earth. We have enough to sort out internally, and not in places we don’t belong, don’t you think?

9 Get rid of every reality show on TV and prevent people who have nothing constructive to offer in our lives becoming rich from the chaos they portray on these stupid shows! Have you ever watched any of them? Then you’ll understand where I am coming from. Stage managed crap! And yes, that’s how I really feel.

10 The biggie. Ban all guns. That would probably lead to me getting a bullet to the head!

11 Immigration. You want to come and live here, then speak English! I would ban all those answering systems that say, “For English, press 1” There should only be English, and NO other option! Also, anyone who enters illegally, let them sit and pass the same tests that I had to pass. Why should they get off scott free? It shouldn’t be one rule for them and one for me. I know people who came here with nothing, legally. They had a momentous struggle to survive, compete and then settle in. What gives anyone the right to come into the US without going through what I and the rest of those who did it the right way, the legal way, they way the constitutions says it should be done? Why do they all deserve a free pass, and there are more than 12 million of them according to statistics, when I never got one, nor did the 40 million others like me.

12 Taxes. I would abolish the IRS, with immediate effect. I would install a straight 20% flat tax on every working man and woman who earns over $50,000 and a 5% flat sales tax in every state. I would tax everyone, without any kind of allowable deduction. There would be no need for any legal or illegal tax loopholes. I would let every corporation in America bring in all their offshore billions, as a one time amnesty, with a 10% tax rate, and thereafter they too would be taxed at 20%. Let’s see how quickly that brings back jobs and investment to the USA?

13 I would make Haggis a staple food of the United States. That and an obligatory ‘wee dram’ at every dinner table, every night. If the French can drink wine, the Germans, beer, and the Russians, vodka, why not the Americans with Haggis and Whisky? That way the economy of Scotland would go through the roof and my fellow countrymen would enjoy a lifestyle equivalent to that of Dubai. 300 million Americans, eating tinned Haggis and drinking cases of real Scotch! Party time all over, and not just in Scotland!

14, I would increase the salary of the President of the United States to $1 million per year. Who could argue that he’s not worth every penny of that salary? And anyway, if it was me in charge, I would deserve at least double that!

15 I would opt for a ban on every infomercial that airs on TV and radio. And if that ban didn’t work, I would ban it twice for the same price! But only if you call in the next ten minutes!

16 Health insurance would be a thing of the past, and a system would be put in place to encourage students to become doctors, teachers, and nurses. I would stop these outrageous payments to anyone who can throw or catch a ball, and divert all that money to people who would contribute something constructive to society, like our nurses, teachers, etc. Why should any human being get $10 million because he can play ball, when all the doctors I know are receiving less than 10% of that figure to save a life? Which is more important? Entertainment has its place, but at a price. Paying $8 for a beer or a popcorn is also something I would stop. There should be a law against being charged $6 for water at a movie or football game. I would implement such a law, in the name of hunger and thirst and keeping a sensible bank balance!

17 Stop donating money to countries who just want to destroy us. Another pet peeve. Why give billions to these third world tin pot countries who send mercenaries here to kill our citizens or who hold countless rally’s protesting our existence? Why do we always have to try to do the right thing only to have it thrown right back in our faces? Why are we sending money to places like India, who are in a far better financial state than we are, and to Pakistan, where the majority refer to us as ‘the infidel’? Why not send money directly to causes where we can see the immediate benefits and control the source of such benefit? It’s not rocket science by any means. Send a check or cash directly to any needy concern and then corrupt governments cannot get their grubby paws on it. And if we believe such governments would indeed interfere, then do not send anything at all. Simple!

18 I would create a retirement age in the Senate and the House of 65. If I have to retire at 65, they should too. Why is my country being run by old men and woman who have more plastic than a Lego factory? Get out when you are 65, thanks for your time and effort, but piss off, you are now, like the rest of us, too fucking old! When I look at Nancy Pelosi, and her colleagues, I have to laugh. How many of them are old cronies? A lot! Get them out, and give me younger fresher blood. People who understand what’s going on in the world and that are not just being important for the sake of importance!

19  Unemployment benefit should be available to those who are genuinely unemployed! Same with food stamps and all the other subsidies that we provide to those who are unfortunate. But! and it’s a huge BUT. There needs to be a fail safe system put in place to weed out those who are abusing the system. I am aware of many people where I live who claim unemployment benefits, but work for cash 7 days a week! This is ridiculous  and it detracts from all the efforts we put into helping those who genuinely need work and money to help them and their families. I would put into place a system that stops these fraudsters.

20 And finally, the TSA. Abolish the TSA. What a bunch of losers. Standing around doing nothing for most of the day. And never ever again would any of us ever have to take our shoes off again!

That’s it for starters. You can also have your say. Let me know your top 20 things you would change if you were ever elected President. Keep them clean, keep them short, but most of all, don’t keep them to yourself!

Around The Planet

Have you ever traveled around the globe? I have, many times. I’ve gone east to west on 12 occasions, and west to east 14 times. It’s easier, in my opinion, from a jet lag standpoint going west and chasing the sun, or so it seems. However when I sit back and think about all the time spent on planes and strange hotel rooms, it mounts up to about one-quarter of my entire life. I’ve been in more than 80 countries, 200 cities, some quite forgettable, and have friends on all 5 continents, and by friends I mean friends who I can genuinely pick up the phone, tell them I am arriving tomorrow and be guaranteed a bed, warm meal and great company. It’s wonderful to have been able to make this happen, and when I think back to some of the stories my grand parents told me about their travel experiences, not too many years ago, I am always in awe when I board that 747 for 12 short hours and find myself in another city on another continent, when the same journey would have taken my grandparents months, if not longer, been far more uncomfortable and dangerous, and near on impossible to keep in touch with home whilst exploring, what in those days, were the outer regions of this planet, depending on what way you looked at it. We just don’t realize how fortunate we are. My Great Grandfather left Poland, met his wife in Amsterdam, moved to England and ended up in Scotland. And, all of this happened before the end of the 1890’s! Can you imagine traveling that far, before planes, comfortable trains, cars, fast boats, and all the other transportation we are now so used to and take heavily for granted? It would have been a nightmare, and one that even today, I find hard to contemplate. Some people might say, ‘well that was what they were used to and they didn’t know any different’ Well my take on that is always,’you go and try it’

There is nothing worse than people who get on planes, listen to an announcement which says, “good morning ladies and gentlemen, we have a mechanical, and we are going to be delayed about thirty minutes” then get up off their seats and go nuts. “Why are we delayed? I have another flight to catch! MY son is collecting me at the designated arrival time”. Just some of the pathetic excuses I have seen over the years where people fail to comprehend that to fly from NY to San Fran takes 5 hours. A 30 minute delay makes that flying time 5 hours and 30 mins. Try walking it that fast! We have grown into a race that expects too much, demands even more and a race that fails to appreciate that we are all still only human. The worst one, and possibly the funniest, that I ever heard, was on a flight from Chicago to LA, when our DC10 aircraft hit bad turbulence  I was in the galley chatting and was asked to sit down when the seat belt sign came on. I remember this as clearly as if it happened just yesterday. The turbulence , got really bad and suddenly from the row behind me the flight attendant button began to ring. Ding Ding Ding. Continually and without pause. We were all strapped in, even the cabin crew, but this guy was going nuts, so everyone thought he was having a heart attack or some other medical emergency. One of the flight attendants got up out of her seat and whilst trying to balance herself on the way down the aisle to attend to this mans needs, looked like she was walking the plank. No word of a lie, she arrived at the guy’s seat, right behind mine and his exact words were,

“Can you ask the pilot to get us out of this bumpy air please. The movie is being ruined and I am unable to follow the story line!”

That folks, is a true story.

Another one, which made me laugh for years.

I was on a TWA flight from London to NY. The plane was empty. In front of me I had an old lady, she was about 80, and during lunch, she suddenly held her coffee cup up to the air vent nossel and started to push the call button continuously. After five minutes of ding ding ding, I got up, and asked her to stop. No flight attendant had come to see what she wanted, so I felt it was in my own interest and for my own sanity that I spoke to her politely, to see if there was anything I could do to assist. I proceeded to ask, “What are you doing?” With her cup still held up in the air and with the innocence of a child, she answered me. “The flight attendant told me that if I needed more coffee, I should ring the button!” Talk about an OMG!!!

On another flight from the US to Hong Kong, I watched, completely bemused, as a passenger went into the bathroom with his girlfriend or wife, and after five minutes the female came out of the room licking her lips, and with a huge stain on her blouse. This left nothing to an already overactive imagination, other than an offer, and again, this is a true story, from me to her which went something along the lines of ” Would you like a glass for the bits you missed?”

People are so consumed by speed and ease of getting from one place to another, often and perhaps it’s too often, seamlessly. There is so little thought given to the nature and ability along with the ingenuity of how the modern world functions. It’s all taken for granted, especially by the younger generation. Take the Holocaust for example. 6 million people transported, often for many days, on board cattle trucks on trains, most with only room to stand and not a single seat in sight. They all believed they were going somewhere where life would carry on, but we all know they weren’t, and even though they never knew that at the time, most of them managed to survive these cruel journey’s without complaint, without the necessity for a movie, a book, a good meal. They just did it. Can you imagine doing that today, even for fun? Can you imagine standing up inside a cattle truck for three hours never mind three days, without any hint of complaint?  No, it just wouldn’t happen. We have grown so accustomed to our comforts, out expectations and our downright inability to accept that things go wrong, things sometimes don’t work and things are so damn easy in comparison to say 50 years ago. We have become moaners. We are all guilty of it, myself included, and we expect far too much from situations where too much is very often too little in our eyes. Getting around the planet now is a breeze. Look at those who explored the world before we had GPS, telephones, travel books, food guides and so much more. Hats off to them. They were all superhuman in my eyes.

The next time you’re stuck on the runway, the terminal, the railway track, the freeway, remember the following. Time is precious, so why are we all in a rush to spend it by complaining? Take a good look at yourself and think back to those who never had an opportunity to live with the ease in which we are all privileged to live. Think back to your great grandparents and ask yourself what it might have been like to cross the Atlantic in a small boat just to fulfill your dreams of freedom. What it might have been like to go from London to Sydney Australia, in the 1800’s, just to experience a new land. What life would have been like crossing the United States on horseback, just to get from NY to California. Think about all these things and then ask yourself, “could I really do all of that without my ipad, iphone, imac, comfortable seat, nice dinner, nice snacks, deodorant, hair brush, toothpaste, etc..” I am certain not many of us could, nor would we want to. And so, with all that said, the next time you get stuck somewhere for reasons beyond all human control, take a deep breath, relax and remember these words of wisdom. “I could have just as easily stayed at home!”