ADDICTED TO OUR IPHONES

REFLECTIONS – Updated every Wednesday

by Steve Liddick

We are becoming a nation of addicts. I don’t mean drugs, although that is another problem to discuss at another time. No, we are becoming addicted to our smart phones.

You see it all the time; mostly young people walking down the street talking or texting on their iphones, seemingly unaware of the world around them. I have seen people walk into lamp posts, parking meters, and even into other people. Occasionally you see couples in restaurants or two people walking side by side, talking on their phones, not conscious of the actual human next to them. You have to wonder who they are talking to. Possibly to each other, but they apparently don’t know how to relate in the old-fashioned face-to-face mode.

I went to a county fair once and saw a young woman sitting on her horse, completely oblivious to her surroundings and–I’m not making this up–she was texting. It was as though the horse was not even there, just a convenient place to sit. At the very least she might have taken her weight off the poor animal and found a conventional chair to sit on to do her texting.

More and more car crashes these days involve drivers who were texting instead of paying attention to the road ahead of them. Texting while driving is at least as dangerous as driving drunk.

I own an iphone, of course. It would be un-American not to. I’m not addicted to it, though. I only use it for phone calls, email, messaging friends, connecting to the Internet, reading my Kindle books, checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, monitoring my checking account, watching TV shows and movies on Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Crackle, taking pictures, checking Craigslist, ordering items through Amazon, and as a calculator. I don’t wear a watch anymore, so I use the phone’s clock and alarm features to give me the time and to remind me when to walk the dog, water the outdoor plants, take my pills, and carry the trash down to the road for weekly pickup.

But I it’s not like I’m addicted or anything—like today’s young people.

Comments are invited

 

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GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH GRANDMA

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

By Steve Liddick

Saturdays were special in the 1940s. There was no school and it was the day I got my allowance. My 50-cents and I would get on a bus to the city to see a movie. The bus ride cost a dime. The movie ticket was a budget-busting 15-cents and a box of candy was a nickel. That left ten-cents for the bus ride home and one lonely dime for two comic books.

I would usually stop off at my grandmother’s apartment in the city on the way to the show to say hello, maybe get a snack, and ogle the pretty nurses from Grandma’s kitchen window as they went by on their way to the hospital next door.

Grandma was a pretty hip old lady who understood kids. She knew the young would always have oddball fashions and terminology all their own. She understood the need of the young to be the same as their peers in fashion and different from grownups in their language.

“Where are you going, boy?” she would say.

“To the movies, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Wait, I’ll get my purse and go with you,” she’d say.

“Uh . . . ”

Now, when I said I was going to the movies, I meant I was going to the theater Grandma would not have been caught dead in. The grungy Rio Theater showed a western and mystery double feature, 24 color cartoons, a Three Stooges short subject, a Superman or Rocketman serial and a live talent show on stage. We all got to holler and cheer and boo at what was on the screen, sit with our feet up on the orchestra pit railing, and be obnoxious where our parents couldn’t see us.

But, what my grandma meant by “wait I’ll get my purse and go with you” was, “we’ll go to Loews Regent Theater.”  Instead of watching Lash Larue whip the bad guys into line or Red Ryder and Little Beaver thunder across the silver screen, we would be watching Howard Keel sing to Jane Powell. Or maybe it would be Fred Astaire dancing alternately with Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller or Mitzi Gaynor. And you couldn’t holler and cheer or boo at what was on a classy screen like the one at Loews Regent Theater with its plush carpets and gilded decor. Certainly not with your grandma sitting right next to you. They didn’t even have an orchestra pit railing and even if they had it would probably be covered with velvet and you wouldn’t have been allowed to put your feet up on it.

But grandma paid for the tickets and the candy and I got to spend the time with her.

Many years later, long after Grandma had passed away, MGM came out with a video compilation of clips from their movies of the 40s and 50s.

Those Saturday mornings all came back to me in a warm wave as Howard and Mitzi and Cyd and Fred and all the rest sang and danced in glorious Technicolor.

But the best part of watching those videos was that for a couple of hours I got a chance to sit beside my grandmother one more time.

A JACK RUSSELL TERRORIST

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

All I ever wanted in a dog was a big, goofy animal that sat when you told him to sit, and didn’t chase chickens. Truthfully, we didn’t want a dog at all. A house with three cats sharing space with two aging humans is already near capacity.

It started one night. You know how when it’s dark outside and you think you see something dark running across your back yard? Black on black. Kind like of Mafia hitman’s shirt and tie. Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but that was our introduction to a little Jack Russell terrier.

We didn’t see him in daylight until the next day, which was a Sunday. He had apparently escaped from somewhere. He had been running around for awhile and possibly mistreated in that time. He finally came to my wife. She brought him into the house, put him in her bathroom to separate him from the kitty herd. It was late in the day, too late to take him to the county animal shelter.

He turned out to be really friendly. He climbed up on my lap, cuddled under my arm, looked up at me with big, brown, wet, pleading eyes, and by Monday morning there was no way he was going to the animal shelter.

We took him to the vet to see if there was any ID embedded in him. There was not. What he did have was a fractured jaw, some bruises, and cooties. We figured he had gotten into a disagreement with a garbage truck or maybe got kicked by one of the equines we had at the time. We accommodated the fractured jaw by feeding him soft food. We couldn’t tell if he’d had his shots, so we brought those up to date. We had an ID chip installed and named him “Chip.” We also had him—ah—neutralized, so to speak.

To make a long story even longer, hundreds of dollars later we had repaired and taken ownership of a Jack Russell terrier with more energy than is generated by Hoover Dam. Just imagine a team of Jack Russells hitched up to a sled. They’d be a shoo-in to win Alaska’s Iditarod.

Chip occasionally gets super excited and races back and forth from one end of the house to the other. We call it “turboing” and we step aside for fear of getting bowled over by a 15-pound dynamo traveling at high speed.

Life in our household was changing dramatically.

Cats, as you may know, are relatively self-sustaining. They tend to go their own way pretty much, requiring only food, water, and an occasional lap. Otherwise we lived in peaceful harmony, making few demands of each other.

A dog is different. A Jack Russell dog is really different. He requires at least two walks a day because we can’t let him out on his own or he would be in the same dangerous situation we rescued him from.

Chip the Wonder Dawg, as I have taken to calling him, wrestles with Willow, the cat, who is the same size and weight as Chip. As far as we can tell, each is happy with the arrangement, neither fears the other, and nobody has gotten hurt.

The moral of this story is that a Jack Russell terrier is not a dog for older people. But the only way you will get him away from me is the use of lethal force.

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A TRIBUTE TO AMERICA’S HEROES

In the mid 1980’s I had the privilege of meeting some veterans of the 158th Regimental Combat Team, aOLD HEROES - Platform World War II U.S. Army fighting outfit that had been known as the “Bushmasters.” They were attending an East Coast reunion of their old unit near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Bushmasters took their name from a deadly snake in Panama where the men trained before entering the war in the South Pacific. There they were turned into what was to become known as one of the toughest, most feared American combat units in the Pacific Theater.

When I arrived at the reunion hotel, I was slightly surprised to find a room full of old men. What should I have expected? After all, it was four decades since the end of their war. It occurred to me as I looked at the gray-haired veterans to wonder what it was that made them the fierce fighters so revered by General Douglas MacArthur and so dreaded by Japanese soldiers who had the misfortune of facing them in the jungles and on the beaches in the South Pacific.

While talking with the men, I heard story upon story of incidents during the years they spent in battles from New Guinea to the Philippines. Some of the tales, frankly, appeared far-fetched. But, with each anecdote, twenty or so other men standing within earshot would nod, validating events related by the others.

I happened to mention that some of the incidents sounded familiar and asked whether their stories had ever been dramatized in the movies.

The laughter was deafening.

“Yeah,” one of the men said. “A lot of movies. But the films were usually about the U.S. Marines.”

The 158th was not a large force. It began as an Arizona National Guard unit with approximately three-thousand men. It was an unusually small group considering the big job ahead. Still, undermanned and the odds weighed heavily against them on so many occasions, the American soldiers won the day . . . and a great many terrifying nights.

As Japanese troops who went up against them soon learned, being compared with the reputation of the venomous snake from which the Bushmasters got their name was a frightening understatement.

Most striking was the fact that these old men had retained their humanity. These were not cold killers. They were people just like those we see in the supermarket aisles and those with their families next to us in restaurants, in theater lines, and at the gas pumps. Something happened to them out there that turned those “ordinary” men into extraordinary warriors.

It was their job to save the world. And they did.

There were other WWII combat units, of course. I just happened to have met these men personally. I’m certain other outfits also fought hard and well. “Old Heroes” is a work of fiction. The idea came to me after my brief meeting with the real-life veterans and convinced me that under similar circumstances today, even at their advanced ages, these men and others like them would rise to the challenge again, just as they had during those terrible war years so long ago.

Those I encountered that day in a hotel meeting room and all the men who fought and died on those South Pacific islands deserve my best effort in honoring them. OLD HEROES is a novel that was done with great affection and respect. I hope all those who participated in the war will accept this work in the admiring spirit intended.

Steve Liddick, Author

 

OLD HEROES is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Old-Heroes-Steve-Liddick/dp/097141937X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472406493&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=steve+liddick