Monday, August 31, 2009


The family and extended family welcomed a new little addition, fresh born Fischer Charles Robinson. I held him yesterday and marveled at the wax like perfection to the little ears and nose and lips. I enjoyed holding him but now lets get him grown up so we can play.

I'm always aware of and marvel at the Mars / Venus differences between men and women. Now I know that not all women are exactly alike and not all men are exactly alike but by in large you walk a new baby through a room of women and they all will crane their necks, and coo and surround the little thing with broad maternal smiles on their faces. The men in the room will shuffle their feet to get out of the way, averting their eyes fearful that someone will expect them to hold the fragile thing. The women will exclaim, "What a beautiful baby!" Men will clear their throats and say something like, "That sure is some baby there."

Fischer is a boy. Discussions among the genders are different when it's a boy. The little guy is going to be circumcised. Women smile with a small smile of humor at this. Men cringe and most feel a little pang of sympathy. There were three or four of us males discussing this impending procedure and being male, jokes began. One said, "What do they use, a cigar cutter?" Another said, "Can you keep a souvenir?" One guy told the tale of the Doctor that slipped up and took the whole thing off. He said the Doctor left it to the family as to whether to raise the poor thing as a boy or a girl.

How does the Doc break this news to the family? "I've got some bad news and some good news, the bad news is that we whacked the whole thing off, the good news is there's a junior miss sale at Macy's!"

How do you raise that boy as a girl? I mean how's that beard thing at your first prom doing for you? I'm one of those guys that think a girl born in a boys body or a boy born in a girls body is a genetic screw up rather than a lifestyle choice. I'm thinking that that the X's and Y's got together for a quorum and by the time the decision was sent by pony express the barn was already built.

Newborns are just ultra-special. My oldest daughter Samantha said it best. Upon her first born she said, "Dad, I know that everyone thinks their baby is really special, but mine really is!" You are right honey, they really are.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please, Mr. President - an open appeal

Mark Twain said, "Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress, but I repeat myself."

Will Rogers said, "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer."

I wrote an earlier blog on the health care debate. There is not enough space to get into every specific but I am watching with some dread as the debate goes in ways that are not in our best interest. I put the blame on one thing. The President has deferred to Congress to come up with health care legislation. Let me make this a direct appeal to the President.

Mr. President,

You were elected on a groundswell of enthusiastic hope for change. Although our economic woes came late into your campaign you embraced the problem upon taking office and you gathered the top economic minds of the nation and you set forth a program to deal with this enormous problem. You consulted Congress but by in large you made the decisions. Most independent economic experts are agreeing that the stimulus plan has generally worked and a brighter 2010 is in store.

Why then have you acquiesced to Congress on the health care legislation. In all my years I have never seen a committee achieve anything great. No matter what the great idea is, it is a muddled mess when it comes out the other end.

Only strong leadership keeps the mud from happening. Maybe you had idealistic hopes of bi-partisanship when you came to Washington. Maybe you thought the members of congress would be swayed by the enormous amount of support you came to Washington with. You should have known better. If you thought that any given individual member of Congress would put the overall good of the nation's people ahead of getting re-elected in their district or state, shame on you for your naivete.

The time is now to gather the best experts from all sides of the issues and formulate the plan that best services the American people. This will take great intellect and tremendous leadership skills. It won't take a committee. If you succeed and your plan betters the lot of most Americans we will recognize it. Then when the obstructionists make themselves known they will be dealt with at the next election.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little naive.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Who's that guy ragging on Phoenix

Just the name of my overall blog -the average boy - should tell you that I'm a pretty moderate guy. I don't usually go to the extreme end of almost anything. Being of this nature I'm always surprised to hear of someone taking an extreme knee jerk reaction to a subject that clearly has two sides to it. I was reading about this - so called - travel expert, Arthur Frommer, who after seeing the story of the nitwit that took a AK47 to an Obama rally in Phoenix, declared that he would never visit Phoenix again. He wanted no part of a place that allowed citizens to carry guns. Read a previous blog and you'll see my attitude about that guy that carried the gun, but I had to just laugh out loud. Great Googilymoogily, if you get spooked by a nut case in a metropolitan city you just limited your travels to Mayberry. And even it had Barney Fife. Try telling the citizens of Chicago or New York, and lord knows L.A that they don't have a few wacko's hanging around. I really don't know who this guy is but I'm pretty sure if he left his home and visited Phoenix the average I.Q. of both places would drop dramatically.

Okay, let me ask you this; How many of you guys have a neighbor that is maybe border line strange. We have this one old couple that cracks me up. He always wears a Jungle Jim safari hat when he's outside and she has fake deer in her desert landscaped front yard. Here's the fun thing. She covers their antlers and the top of their heads with tinfoil. I think she's afraid aliens will read their thoughts. Does every neighborhood have an old reclusive couple living in a house that looks like it belongs in the "Silence of the Lambs"? One cool thing is, we have a neighbor that knocked out the kitchen wall and put in a garage door. In good weather they push a button and have an open air kitchen. That is too cool. We have another neighbor we call Wonder Woman. She does it all. Paints her own house, builds a block wall, stucco's, puts in electricity. Whew! It makes me and my male neighbor friends tired just watching.

Let me know who your weird neighbors are. If you are a neighbor of mine, never mind!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aardvark and turtle eggs

Am I the only one that ever wondered why we humans, no matter where in the globe, generally find only 4 1/2 species of animal on our plates at supper. Cows, pigs, chickens, fish (I'm including crustaceans like lobster and shrimp) and the 1/2 is lamb. We don't really eat sheep as such. Think about it. All those other animals out there, roaming around completely safe because they never end up in soup. Now I'm not talking about indigenous tribes in the Amazon that eat monkey, I'm talking about what you will find on the restaurant menu. Restaurants in China or Japan or Thailand or Brazil or Canada or Mexico or Ireland or Europe. Cows, pigs, chickens, fish and lamb. It must really suck to be them. Imagine coming out of your mother's womb and you look up and see a cow. You think, Oh crap! How did that happen?

Think about it. Horses are in abundance, especially here in the west. What about gophers? In my Dad's day they hunted rabbits and squirrels to put on the table but not so much today. Wouldn't rabbits be easy to raise in quantity? After all they multiply like...uh, rabbits. Okay, this'll start an uproar. What about cats? Lots of those around. An elephant could feed a family of four for a month. Twelve elephants a year and you've ended world hunger. There are hundreds of coyotes out in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Fix'm up for the St Vincent DePaul soup kitchen. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

I love bacon and eggs for breakfast. A little sliced pig and depending on your point of view either the pre-chicken or the end result of chicken (pun intended). But why just chicken eggs. Lot's of species lay eggs. Turtles, birds, snakes. How about fish eggs for breakfast. Caviar and coffee, yum! I don't know, I'm just saying maybe we should expand our horizons. What would you like to see on your plate?

I have to stop now, the waitress is interrupting. She's asking if I want my raccoon crispy and my swan eggs over medium.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Her voice, His voice

I bet my wife once that I could tell her the gender of an author by reading the first few pages of of the novel. The female voice in the narative is much different than that of the male. The one book that comes to mind that was written by a woman but had a mostly male voice was "Water for Elephants". A very good book no matter the voice.

My favorite writers happen to be all men but I'm sure that's not a surprise. Early on I became a huge John Steinbeck fan. My favorite two novels of his are strangely enough are not "The Grapes of Wrath" or "East of Eden", both masterpieces, but instead, "Cannery Row" and its sequel "Sweet Thursday". I've read both at least twenty times. It's like reading the best prose that reads like poetry. I just have always loved Doc and the boys. In my twenties I fell for the Travis McGee series by John D MacDonald. I still have the original paperbacks. Most of my friends know that I am a big Western fan and soon I will write about westerns and what they mean to our culture. So many think I must be a big fan of Louie L'Amour. He must have written 500 westerns but to my mind only a handful of really good ones. For my money the best westerns were written by Elmore Leonard. Yes, that Elmore Leonard. When he first started writing he wrote some of the best. Check out "Hombre, Valdez is Coming, and a great book of short stories called The Tonto Woman". The Tonto Woman is the best set of western short stories since Dorothy M Johnson's "Indian Country". Dorothy Johnson and Leonard have in common that several of their short stories were made into movies. I have to believe that Elmore Leonard has more movies made of his works that any other writer, living or dead.

If you like to write, go to the bookstore and buy "Elmore Leonard's 10 rules of writing". It's better than a college course. Please Mr. Leonard won't you write some more westerns. Robert B Parker is and if you do you might revive an American institution.

Today I will buy any Robert B Parker book when it comes out. Spencer and Jesse Stone rock. And, better yet he has recently published a trilogy of really good Westerns, "Appaloosa", "Resolution" and "Brimstone" featuring Virgil Cole and Hitch the best buddy team since Butch and Sundance.

I am current reading "Scaramouche" by Rapheal Sabatini. Most his books were written in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Once you get by the style of writing of that era and whether you are man or woman, if you like your swashbuckling, sword fighting, dashing hero's in historically correct intelligent novels, old Rapheal is your guy. My other favorite of his is "Captain Blood". Check it out.

I was taught to read before I went to school and quite frankly reading has made me the man I am. It may be the most important thing a child learns.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wow, ain't Phoenix great!

I love Phoenix. My family says I should be the Chamber of Commerce poster child. When I moved here in 1979 it was the biggest small cowboy town I'd ever seen. My first week I was downtown at the courthouse transacting some business when a guy pulled up on a motorcycle wearing his leathers and a pistol on his hip. In my naivete I assumed this guy must be a undercover cop. Nope! Just a biker going about his business with a gun on his hip.

This memory was prompted by a picture that is racing around the country. A guy carrying an AK47 to an Obama rally here in Phoenix. The law says OK, he has the right. I agree with the law. I have guns. I hunt. I have pistols for protection. I'm licensed to carry them. My heart tells me that the odds on me needing to ever pull a pistol are slim to none, but a day doesn't go by that I don't read about a home invasion somewhere in the city. Pastors at our large Church's are now surrounded by armed bodyguards during church services.

All that being said, what the hell was this idiot with the AK47 thinking. Let me guess. He was thinking he was helping the cause to support the 2ND amendment. The right to bear arms. He couldn't have been more wrong. Those of us that support the second amendment don't need his sorry ass carrying an AK47 to a presidential rally. All he accomplished was to scare the bejezus out of the vast amount of people that don't have guns, don't think about guns, don't care to use a gun for any reason but might not object to the rest of us doing so if we act responsibly. If you want to recruit fence sitters to vote in a anti gun law this is the way to do it. Way to go dimwit.

Okay, after all that testosterone here's my movie of the month. "Julia and Julie" or is it "Julie and Julia", no matter. Get you sweet patootie, get a hold of your feminine self and go see this delight. Amusing, poignant, laugh out loud funny and heart catching. I guarantee you will leave the theater hungry and with the overwhelming desire to go home and cook!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Health Care Debate

Isn't America great. No matter your opinion on any subject you can stand on the stump and shout it to the heavens. The problem I see are those bozos shouting over the top of those trying to have a civil discussion. I know, civil discussions are too boring. No one would watch it on the news. TV footage of people shouting at other people is much more compelling. Not productive, but compelling.

Okay, first of all, stop shouting! No opinion was ever shouted into change.

All right. I'm an average boy, here's what I see.

On my first day of school my mother held my hand and walked me to school. We barely had enough money for food and rent but I received a public education. I moved from Illinois to Arizona and drove the whole way on a free public highway. I have enjoyed public libraries all my life. Public parks, public lakes, public streets, public mail. Just because I've enjoyed public institutions doesn't mean I am a socialist.

I don't believe a single payer system is feasible. Not going to happen unless the insurance industry implodes much like the car industry. I don't see that happening. I believe all legal citizens of this great country should have access to quality health care. And no matter the source it should be affordable to their particular situation. The concept of insurance is to spread the risk. Okay, let's spread the risk and the cost to all insurance companies and their policyholders and to the remaining American citizens that have to rely on a government plan. Spread it equally. Strength in numbers is what it is all about. If independent insurance companies are the answer, fine. If a government plan is necessary for those uninsured or families that can't afford large premiums, fine. Whatever the solution will be it should be founded on equally sharing the risk. If the risk to any insurance company would be equal to the risk of any other company of its size and number of policyholders then its profitability would be more determined by the quality of its service and the competence of its management.

Here are some of the serious breaks in the current system that I feel should be addressed:
  • Being uninsured because no company will take you because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Network discounts. This is like my Fry's card when the checker tells me how much I saved today. Really? Saved? Make all doctors and all patients in the network then figure out what health care really costs.
  • I had cataract surgery. The anesthesiologist stood beside me for less that two minutes. His bill was over $500.00. The nurse told me they had 35 procedures that day. By the way, the nurse was there the whole time. Wonder what she's paid? There were four homes sold in the Carefree area for over $2.5 million dollars each. Three of the four were bought by doctors. They deserve to be paid for their worth but really? Two different dermatologists performed the same procedure on two basil cell cancers I had one year apart. The procedure took less than fifteen minutes. One charged less than $400.00 the other for the same thing, $850.00. Doctors need to be well paid but why should they be filthy rich. Pursuing the dollar means cramming more patients through each day with the result of diminished health care. Reward doctors for improving health instead of paying them for unnecessary procedures.
  • Here's a sticky one. Guaranteed issue. All citizens should have affordable insurance available but why should I buy it if I can wait until I have the problem and then buy it? I don't know if I have the answer to this one unless health care like education is an American right and available to everyone at birth.
  • Make secure digitalized medical records easy to access when authorized. Doctor to doctor, patient to doctor, doctor to patient.
  • We as a people must be accountable for our health and not overuse health plans. Having a $25.00 co-pay doesn't entitle you to visit the doctor each time you stub your toe.
  • Not being able to afford health insurance doesn't mean you are poverty stricken. Sometimes there just simply isn't enough money for basic needs and insurance premiums. Spending money on a new SUV doesn't mean you can't afford health insurance it means you are a fool and need to learn accountability.
  • Anyone that has a financial interest in seeing the outcome of the debate to culminate to their financial benefit should be required to declare that interest rather than entering the debate behind the guise of a citizens committee. Health care is a problem for our citizens and it should be private citizens that engage, not insurance companies and privileged groups.

I don't pretend to have all the answers but it is a serious problem that should be addressed by serious people. I am not for more government but our recent economic woes have shown that sometimes left to our own devises we allow greed to cloud our judgement. Sometimes the police are needed to keep us inside the lines.

Don't worry, all my blogs won't be this serious.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I just finished a lunch with my daughter and her husband and the subject of tipping came up. This is an activity that happens across the country millions of times a day. Eat a meal, leave a tip. I wonder why it is that this rather mundane activity is mostly generated by guilt. There is no guilt in leaving a tip. The guilt lies in not leaving a tip. Or deciding how much to leave?

It is now an old fashion thought that tipping was to reward good service. Today it is a social requirement. If you don't think so, wait until the next time you are with a group of your peers and after a meal where the service has been less than desired declare that you are not leaving a tip. Oh, the uproar. What a cheapskate. So then the guilt starts. How much? I grew up when the norm was 15%. Somewhere along the line when I wasn't watching someone in charge of such things changed it to 20%. I suspect that person was also a waiter or waitress. But, here it is. How much do I leave. The waitress was slow and inattentive. I asked for the check and she brought it but somehow didn't take the hint that I was ready to go and she disappears for twenty minutes. Not across the room helping someone, I mean gone. Not there. Absent. For twenty minutes. How much? Do I teach her a lesson and leave 10%? How about 15%. That's my old number. That's enough. But, my wife sits next to me. Watching this internal battle. The waitress finally brings the bill, takes the credit card and this time is back in a second. I study it hard and with my wife watching I fill in 20%. I don't want the waitress to think I'm a cheapskate. My wife already knows.

The Average Boy

In my senior year of high school I was dating a girl that was on the yearbook committee. Senior year was when the cool pictures were made and a side quote was inserted to express just how cool each student was. "He will go far" or "The world is her oyster". Since I was dating the girl that was choosing these epitaphs I had high expectations. I opened my new yearbook with great anticipation to read "he takes his greatest joy from being an average boy!" I was crushed. Needless to say the romance waned after that. I was too average for her.

Now, some 45 years later I have come to accept the fact that she indeed got it right. I have lived a full life that is firmly entrenched in the middle class. I have found over the years that my thoughts and opinions while seemingly unique to me were actually shared by millions of Americans. I now embrace the fact that I am indeed the average American. My life style is average, my income is average and my business is as middle class average as a business can get.

I have to make clear that while I am completely average this does not apply to my wife or any personal family member (cya).

So I've started this blog to share some very average, very middle class, very American observations.