(Editor’s note: This commentary will take time off during the holidays to spend more time with family and friends. I’d like to thank all of you who have read this blog the past five years and particularly to those who take time to comment, whether you agree or disagree. I hope all of you have a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I will resume Friday, January 4. If you have an issue you think I should explore please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Despite all the nonstop miserablism leaping out at us by shrieking talking heads on cable news, crazed and misinformed social media pundits, panicked radio talk show hosts, and “fire and brimstone” newspaper opinionists, Americans have never had it so good. The rest of the world too.
Two recent books — “It’s Better than It Looks” by Gregg Easterbrook and “Suicide of the West” by Jonah Goldberg — explain why we’ve all won the lottery just by being born or living in the United States in this era. Reflecting back and reading their revelations it’s little wonder there are caravans of people walking across Mexico and others risking their lives on leaky rafts in the Caribbean, desperate to share what we currently enjoy. This is indeed the promised Biblical land of “milk and honey.”
In a nutshell we need to learn to appreciate what we have and successfully contradict those that hate western capitalism and claim that everything about it is villainous and oppressive. These are people who think the only way to provide productive work and equality is by expanding and staffing golden goose slaughter houses and hiring more guillotine blade sharpeners.
People my age realize that everything we currently enjoy came about very quickly and is very fragile. As Goldberg points out in his book almost everything about modernity, progress and enlightened society emerged in just the last 300 years. He says that if we condensed, the last 200,000 years of humanity into one year, then nearly all material progress came about in the last 14 hours. Others are sharing in the benefits too. In the West and everywhere that followed its example, incomes rose, life spans increased, toil lessened and energy and water became ever-present commodities.
Sure, there’s still bad news. For example, despite all our modern marvels we are currently looking for ways to stop our teenagers from killing themselves by eating laundry detergent pods and snorting condoms up their noses (check it out, I didn’t make this up). And because of technological innovation we’ve gone from a society of people gazing up at airplanes, birds, stars, and cloud formations, to one of dead-eyed zombies constantly looking down, tapping away on electronic gizmos. We’re also not suppose to smoke in our own bars or eat a transfat pastry. But we can dispose of an unborn child if that child is an inconvenience. And our collective government has the combined maturity of a horny 15-year old schoolboy while a cabal of unelected bureaucrats are conducting an obvious coup in an attempt to oust a sitting president and nullify 63 million American votes.
But overall, the good far outweighs the bad. In the spirit of the Christmas season and as we approach a new year let’s take a look at the good news and how blessed we are.
Our air is cleaner than ever, our food and medical care cheaper, safer, and better. Just 100 years ago 80 percent of people around the world were illiterate: today, it’s about 15 percent. The U.S. has 21 percent less land under cultivation than it did in 1880, but that smaller portion of land now produces six times as much food and fiber than in the past. And it’s safer. Modern medicine has extended our lives, provided new joints, limbs and organs, and reduced pain. Granaries are not empty, there are no worldwide plagues, and in the U.S. we aren’t choking on pollution.
Rapes, deaths by violence and disease, slavery, illiteracy, and torture have all declined massively while rights for women, minorities, and the disabled have expanded extraordinarily. We’re carrying around supercomputers in our pockets, delivering packages and pizzas to our doorsteps by drone, and working on driverless cars. Good grief , not long ago people refused to get into an elevator that didn’t have an operator. Crime and wars are not getting worse and blood-thirsty dictators like Stalin, Mao and Hitler aren’t multiplying or succeeding.
And it just keeps getting better.
I remember as a newspaper reporter changing typewriter ribbons, bookies calling me at the paper asking which horse won the second race at Hialeah, and my mother handing me the phone when she called my Canadian grandparents and being told not to talk too long because long distance calls were expensive. I vividly recall watches you had to wind, standing in line for a polio vaccine injection, musical instruments that didn’t plug in, radios that weren’t portable, having no television, and thrilled when we got a black and white one, “colored” and “white” water fountains and restrooms, and 45 rpm phonograph records with two songs, one on each side? Those of you that recall the following expressions that have become obsolete due to technological innovation are probably about my age: “Don’t touch that dial”, “Carbon copy”, “You sound like a broken record,” and “Hung out to dry.”
Any adult living just 20-50 years ago should be as astounded as I am by the speedy social, economic and technological progress we’ve witnessed and currently experience. I don’t need to win the lottery. I won when I was born in Canada and ended up in the U.S.
This is a wonderful time of year to count our blessings. Merry Christmas!
Veeck As In Wreck: In the absence of baseball I make do by reading about the game. Avid Pittsburgh Pirates fan and good friend, Bill Cimino, recently gifted me the 1989 book “Baseball Anecdotes” by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf and if you’re a baseball enthusiast this is a fun read, a book you can pick up and open to any page. Bill Veeck, was one of my favorite baseball executives when I was a kid due to his showman style and antics such as pinch hitting a midget. The book does him justice. The authors explain that Veeck was also a savvy businessman known to carefully watch his bottom line. He bought the dismal St. Louis Browns in mid-season 1951 and the team finished the year with a 52-102 record. Members of that team included 45-year-old pitcher Satchel Paige, 3-foot 7-inch, 65 pound, pinch hitter Eddie Gaedel and pitcher Ned Garver, who won 20 games, more than one-third of the team’s total. Garver earned $18,000 in ’51 and asked for a substantial raise for the 1952 season. The thrifty Veeck turned him down with unerring logic saying: “We finished last with you. It’s a cinch we can finish last without you.” I also learned from the book that when the Browns sent in number 1/8 Gaedel to pinch hit that year for outfielder Frank Saucier, Veeck threatened to shoot the midget if he tried to swing at the ball. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because Detroit Tiger pitcher Bob Cain was laughing so hard he couldn’t come close to finding the plate and walked Gaedel on four straight pitches.
Things I Don’t Get: Democrat party Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said this week that building a wall on the Mexican border is “immoral” no matter who pays for it. Since Ms. Pelosi’s home is surrounded by a wall, is that also immoral? And why didn’t someone in the media ask her?
Sometimes It Does Take A Rocket Scientist: Canadian cousin Bill that sent me this story and swears it’s true, and even if it isn’t I don’t care because it is just too good not to share. According to Bill scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard four-pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity. The idea was to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields. British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains. Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British engineers. When the gun was fired, the engineers looked on in shock as the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer’s back-rest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin like an arrow from a bow. The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the design of the windshield and requested suggestions from the U.S. scientists. NASA responded with a one line memo: “Defrost the chicken.”
Things I Wish I’d Said: “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and putting things in it.” — author Terry Pratchett.
Drinking, Dinning & Dancing: Joey Ledet who arrived on Amelia Island about three years ago and worked with Amelia Island Hospitality Group and eventually became general manager of the Fletcher Avenue Surf, has announced that he is returning to his New Orleans home, leaving what I thought would be a huge muffuletta gap on Amelia Island. However, while we will miss Joey and wish him the best in his new venture, Lagniappe Restaurant (4810 First Coast Highway) owner and chef, Brian Grimley, has come to the rescue with a creation that Central Grocery — the muffuletta birthplace — in The Big Easy would applaud. This huge and delicious creation (pictured here) was available this past Wednesday and Thursday but may not always be available so if you want one call ahead at 904/844-2634. The half pictured here goes for $19 so bring a friend because it’s a meal for two. If you’re lucky Brian will also have some of his special Louisiana style fried boudin balls on hand and they’re as good as any I’ve eaten at any Cajun eatery in Louisiana. I understand now why Brian named his new restaurant Lagniappe (lan-yap), a Creole term that means “a little something extra.” And speaking of a little something extra, Island Bar-B-Q, 1925 S. 14th Street, told me that on Christmas Day, from 11-2 they will serve a free plated Christmas dinner to all public service men and women — police, firefighters, and medical professionals as well as current military and veterans — and those without homes. They have lined up volunteers to assist them and many of their suppliers have donated food. Dinner will include ham and chicken, mac & cheese, green beans, collards, a drink and more. Call ’em at 904/624-7811. Wednesday is wing night at PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, 12 South 2nd Street, and this past Wednesday we once again picked up the spicy flappers from Publix but added Island Bar-B-Q’s fried chicken gizzards and livers for something a little different. I didn’t think I’d like chicken gizzards but I did. I ventured over Shave Bridge Tuesday afternoon to visit Tom DeMario’s Coastal Pizza and sample his thin crust pizza and his hot Italian sandwich. The affable Mr. DeMario served me the reasonably priced ($7.25) sandwich with a twist, adding his homemade tapenade to a generous helping of Genoa salami, cappiccola, provolone cheese, shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes and his special Chianti basil dressing on Amoroso bread he gets from Philadelphia. Go get one! It’s terrific. So was the thin crust pizza that Tom will cook extra crispy of you want. He’ll also cut his pizzas in squares if you ask and sells slices with a drink for a mere $2.50 from 11-3. Tom says his most popular pizza is the First Coaster with sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, bacon and extra cheese that sells for $10.99 (10″), $18.99 (14″) and $20.99 (18″). He also offers an Over The Bridge special white pizza with mushrooms, spinach and bacon for $9.99, $17.99 and $19.99. There are numerous other pizza selections too as are well as calzones, appetizers, salads and even a variety of wings and more. A 16-ounce Bud Light, Yuengling and PBR draughts go for a rock bottom $2.50 all day while a 12-ounce Rolling Rock and a 16-ounce tall boy Narragansett are just two bucks. There is also a generous selection of wines. A third generation Italian, who came to this area from Connecticut, via
North Carolina, Tom knows the food business well having served as a food sales representative before opening Coastal with his wife, M.C., almost four years ago. Finding Coastal is tricky as it can’t be seen from State Road 200. It’s located at 464099 SR 200, just behind the Verizon store in Yulee. Call ’em at 904/491-9998 or go to their web site at www.gocoastalpizza.com. They are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. This coming Wednesday, December 19, from 5-7 p.m. Main Beach’s Sandbar & Kitchen will conduct a “Bust the Barrel” featuring their own 13 1/2 year-old, 119.2 proof branded Whistlepig rye whiskey for $10 per person for a one and one-half ounce portion and a Whistlepig glass. Whistlepig shots this size normally for $16 and you can’t keep the glass. Happy hour there is also 3-6 p.m. Call ’em at 904/310-3648. I received a card in the mail alerting me that the Amelia Island Montessori School will conduct a chili cook-off February 23, 2019 at downtown Fernandina Beach’s Centre and 2nd Street from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Last year there was no cook-off and no explanation of why not so Pajamadave Voorhees decided to have one at his joint with several chili heads participating. If you want more information about the Montessori event call 904/261-6610. No word yet if PJDave is planning a repeat contest but it wouldn’t surprise me if he held a simultaneous challenge to make things even more interesting.
Dave, I must be older than you as my first polio vaccination was on a sugar cube not an injection. Much easier for us little kids than a shot.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Linda. Have safe and fun travels.
Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee
Merry Christmas! Thanks for your blog
Dave , the very best of all thoughts as you and Linda travel and visit family Your news and mews bring a nice cleansing breeze to this some what stuffy community. Thanks for all do in support of this community .Time for lunch when you get back. I’m now bionic like you.
MERRY CHTISMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR. May all your wishes come true.
Hi Dave and Linda
Just to let you know that we still read your blog although we moved to Vero Beach two and a half years ago. We love it here also, but miss you, Linda and all our friends on the Island as well as the enchanting Island itself. We really appreciate that you keep us updated on all the changes and events. Makes us “homesick” sometime. However, we do visit once in a while and plan to be at the Ritz on New Year’s Eve as was our tradition while we lived there. Maybe we will see you and Linda there this year! Take care and thanks again for what you do.
Dave, have a merry Christmas and delightful New Year. Always enjoy your observations on the local and national political scene and know after a few weeks off, you will return with gusto. Your references to Veeck was memory evoking. He was indeed a character. Besides his showmanship he did a laudable job helping integrate baseball, particularly the American League. And yes, your main theme of how things in the US keep getting better is right on the mark and should be required reading for the naysayers of our society.
Dave, I hope you and Linda have a great sabbatic.. sybari.. break. Your blog is a flash of insight and delight – and you are right! We do have much to be thankful for.
Things have changed a lot in the last seven decades, and I’ve tried to stay up with it all, from entertainment to entanglement theory. Two that have bothered me lately are word and phrase definition changes, and cockroaches.
Recently, a friend told me that her cat had ‘crossed over the rainbow bridge.’ I had no idea what she was saying. Rainbow bridge… Wheen I was young, ‘rainbows’ were beautiful, and had elves with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But more recently, rainbow has been the color set and the flag of the ‘alternative gender’ population. Fine with me.
So when I heard my friend say that her cat had crossed the rainbow bridge, I wondered if she was saying that he cat had come out of the closet and was announcing that the cat was gay, or something…
The other thing I’ve thought about – Why do we find dead cockroaches on their backs? I discovered the answer, but it is complex. Maybe you could do a blog comment on it?
Very nice and appropriate year end message. There are lots of advantages to being older chief among them being able to look back and see how truly fortunate we are by comparison to an earlier time. Thanks, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dave, I’m a first time reader, enjoyed it very much, please put me on your mailing list. I’m going to the Sandbar for some Whistlepig, but let me point out that the photo of the “131/2 yo Whistlepig” showed bottles of 10yo.. Merry Christmas
I hope you and Linda have a wonderful Christmas my friend.
Looking forward to your return in January
(Your item on Veeck was total gobbledegook to me – but I’m sure it was earth shatteringly meaningful to all your American groupies🙃🙃🙃🙃)
Merry Christmas good friend and just 60 days until pitchers and catchers report!
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you & Linda!!
Yes defrost the chicken. I will vouch for the fact they do indeed throw chickens at planes. My friend worked for Pratt and Whitney building jet engines. He told me that one of the things they do to test an engine design is fire it up and throw 2 whole chickens into the spinning fan blades to make sure it holds together….. Enjoy the Holidays.
Merry Christmas Dave and have a happy New Year. Thanks for your blog, always a good read which makes me look forward to Fridays!
First off thanks for your weekly messages most of which I totally agree with. Look forward to them each Friday. We were the first in our neighborhood to have a
television set and every day at 4:00 pm the kids would be
outside our house hoping to
to watch Howdy Doody and
all the other shows.My mother would line em up for
a brief inspection only the cleaner ones passed and came inside. ( she was a real
stickler for hygiene) Every one else watched thru the
windows and front door. This happened every day for a long time then other people got TV’s and the crowds ceased. It is hard to
believe all of the advancements and life changing improvements I have witnessed and continue to see almost daily. You are right Dave, in spite of all the crap going on in American politics it is still the best place in the world to live.
Merry Christmas to all my island friends and a blessed New Year.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Dave.
Dave, Wishing both you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year.
Thanks for the heads-up about the 2019 Chili Cookoff February date.
Last year we too attended PJ Dave’s version after showing up for the unannounced cancellation of the main event. Thanks, Dave, for salvaging the day for us.
We understood at the time that last year’s event organizers (apparently new volunteer leaders) unfortunately realized too late they were unprepared to pull it off. At least that was the scuttlebutt on the street at the time.
Hopefully, lessons were learned so the worthwhile and enjoyable event will go off without a hitch in 2019.
As usual I enjoyed reading your blog. Particularly I could relate to the mention of Bill Veeck., I remember well the St. Louis Browns, Ned Garver and the midget Eddie Gaedel and his famous base on balls. What you didn’t mention is that Major League Baseball (which wasn’t MLB in those days, but two separate leagues) made the use of midgets illegal following Veeck’s stunt. The Browns became the Baltimore Orioles a couple of years later.
Bill Veeck’s son shares much of his father’s business acumen. Being a Minnesota resident, at a time when the Twins were at the bottom of the American League, I watched him successfully launch the St. Paul Saints. When the Twin Cities were vying for a major league franchise, Minneapolis and St. Paul each built stadiums, hoping to lure a team. St. Paul lost because Minneapolis built its stadium in Bloomington, while St. Paul built its inside the city. When Calvin Griffith moved his hapless Senators to Bloomington, he probably made one of the few intelligent moves of his baseball life when he named them the Minnesota Twins, not the Minneapolis Millers nor the Bloomington (supply the name– Bean’s, Bloopers? Blue Sox?). As a result, St. Paul was left with a white elephant. It was a stadium that would hold around 25,000 as I recall, and it had no team. It was Veeck’s son who saw the opportunity to offer outside baseball around the time the Twins moved into an indoor stadium (the Metrodome) and for awhile, during the summer, sometimes Veeck’s unaffiliated team outdrew their crosstown rivals. You could sit in the sun and drink beer. Veeck Jr. used all sorts of tricks to bring in fans. There was always something going on besides baseball to keep the fans from falling asleep! One I remember was a pig roast. They actually had a live pig run out and deliver the baseball to start the game. I don’t think that was the pig that was roasted, however.
The Saints are still in business and still prospering many years later. The city of St. Paul tore down its large stadium and recently built a smaller, minor league sized ball park in downtown St. Paul, which continues to draw fans in decent numbers.
Some of your columns have been a little weird but today’s is one of the best. Happy Holidays to you and Linda.
Merry Christmas Dave!
Very appreciative of your “count your blessings” recount since most of the news is of the “woe is me” rants style today. I must be near your age because I recall all those things you mention and even more. Remember having a party line phone and picking up the phone and the operator connecting you to CA-nal 455? Black was the only color.
And, reminder that it’s the 2nd Friday of the month and the American Legion will be hosting a dance band – Touch of Grey. Get out of the storm because the building is built to survive!
Merry Christmas Dave, and I hope you don’t take off too long as I’ll miss your blog! Sherry from Blackshear, GA
Defrost the chicken…… I should have seen that coming…. LOL
Merry Christmas to you and enjoy your family!