Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stop Telling Me To Drink On St. Patrick's Day

My St. Patrick's Day crusade which started out positively is turning nasty.  The original idea was that people of Irish descent on the day that the common cultural has conceded is theirs should find a better way of celebrating their heritage than binge drinking.

I started a kind of leaderless resistance movement called San Patricios Against Hunger.  The idea was to make a donation to a hunger fighting charity, a recognition of the large number of famine refugees in the Irish diaspora.

I then discovered that somebody more organized than I was also taking the issue on.  William Spencer Reilly (Relationship unknown, but I'm sure we must be cousins somehow) founded Sober St. Patrick's Day 

To reclaim the true spirit of the day and to change the perception and experience of what St. Patrick's Day can be by providing family-friendly, alcohol free events that celebrate the depth of Irish culture, as well as year-round educational and cultural activities.

These are both good things and I still want to encourage them, but I'm starting to get negative and have decided for a moment to go with it.

By the way, when I say St. Patrick's Day is about binge drinking don't tell me that you drink responsibly on St. Patrick's Day.  Check this out from the Governor's office in Maine from 2013.
Governor Receives St. Patrick’s Day Bill and Intends to Sign it into Law
March 14, 2013
For Immediate Release: Thursday, Mar. 14
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary (207) 287-2531
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage announced today that he will sign emergency legislation to allow bars to start serving alcoholic drinks at 6 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day, which is Sunday.
State law prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages before 9 a.m. on Sundays. But St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year so Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, submitted LD 216, “An Act To Extend the Hours for the Sale of Liquor on Sunday When St. Patrick's Day is on a Sunday.”
The Governor had promised to veto any legislation that arrived on his desk before the legislature approves his bill to pay the hospitals.
After a productive meeting with Rep. Hobbins on Wednesday, the Governor decided he would sign LD 216.
“Mainers know that I am a man of my word. But I am always open to reasonable suggestions,” the Governor said. “I’m pleased to sign this bill as a gesture of goodwill and as a supporter of Maine’s fine establishments that wish to open earlier on St. Patrick’s Day.”
“With that said, now is the time for the Legislature to move forward in paying our bills to the hospitals. The sooner the Legislature passes this bill, the sooner we can put Mainers back to work.”
Emergency legislation.  What was the emergency?  People would have to wait till 9:00 AM to start drinking on St. Patrick's Day, because it happened to fall on Sunday.  And I could not find any indication that there was anybody that thought this was a bad idea.

Then a good friend of mine sent me an invitation.  It was and event that featured Irish music and whiskey tasting. It is at a Unitarian Church.  I mean really.  When Unitarian Universalists feel that a negative ethnic stereotype can be casually alluded to, you know it is really deep.

I tried to do some research on the association between Irish descent and alcoholism.  I came up with stuff like this post. Frankly, I don't know that this is one of those things on which the science is settled.  So I'm going to go with the largely anecdotal evidence that indicates we have more than our share.

So if we are going to have a holiday that alludes to alcohol, it should be one in which nobody drinks at all rather than one in which people make sure that they drink more than usual..

I really had hoped to put more into this post, but I ran out of time.

I'll do better next year.

Peter J Reilly will celebrate St. Patrick's Day by donating to a hunger fighting charity.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Two Cousins Far Apart In the Spring Of Tin Soldiers And Nixon

As a reflection on the late sixties, my Xavier series has two serious flaws.  Well two that I notice anyway.  Xavier was a single sex high school.  I still believe that single sex with uniforms is the best way to run a high school, but it has the effect of having all my contributors having been, you know, boys.

There is also the problem of our youth.  Born in 1952, we were high school students when the really big stuff happened.  It is fairly common for kids to believe that the kids a few years older are way cooler.  Ultimately though you get over it.  Unless you were born in 1952.  The peak of the "sixties" phenomenon was probably the spring of 1970 when many, if not most, of the colleges in the country shut down in reaction to the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State shootings.

At Xavier, I remember the wearing of black armbands and a patriotic counter-reaction of American flag pins.  In a marvelous display of consistency the JROTC instructors gigged both the arm band wearing protesters and the American flag pinning patriots.  Out of uniform is out of uniform regardless of the sentiments behind it.  Two months before, just five blocks from Xavier, a Greenwich Village townhouse had been blown up as SDS Weathermen a few years older than us prepared to up the ante of their bombing campaign.

As it happens I did have a family connection to the SDS.  My cousin Marianne a few years older than I was quite the radical.  We got together recently and she finally succumbed to my begging for a submission.  
                                                        Taken For A Ride
                                                        by Marianne Reilly Dwyer

It was the Spring of the Cambodian invasion, Kent State massacre, and general unrest.  Easter was early that year and it snowed in New Jersey where I was in college. The snow was an event that seemed to propel me to Berkeley California to join in political and communal life with Hank Dwyer (later to become my husband) and some others who had already committed to the wild idea of world changing revolution.

On that snowy Easter, Hank was already on the west coast with his friends from Ithaca, NY, who had been members of a commune there and were now charged with the task of establishing a Californian contingent.  I was to join them after the current semester ended, but I had little stomach for my studies at that time and, well..., snow on Easter? I’d had it!... and booked a flight that very Sunday.

Our commune turned out to be a shared apartment on College Avenue near the Oakland/Berkeley border next door to a Lucky’s Supermarket.  Although we spent evenings discussing Marx, Trotsky and quoting from Mao’s little red book, the days were spent in finding a way to survive.  The guys would “shape up” at a Manpower franchise and I became a Kelly Girl with temp assignments at offices in Oakland.  Although I didn’t sign up for this, I exchanged my bell-bottoms and dashikis for skirts and blouses and tied my long hair back like a good soldier going incognito for the well-being of the troops.

It was on the way back from such an office job in downtown Oakland that I was hitchhiking east on College Avenue to save the bus fare.  After all, money was tight, we had even started adhering to a macrobiotic diet of brown rice and stir fried field greens in order to conserve cash and remain healthy.  It was just this sort of purist revolutionary lifestyle that made us feel uplifted.  Never mind that we regularly added mind altering  substances to our regimen, we were the revolutionary future!  I tried not to admit to myself that I would kill for a cheeseburger and was beginning to detest brown rice.

And so, on this day in a late California Spring, as I hitchhiked back home wearing my office girl camouflage, a long car pulled up and a back door opened.  It wasn’t until I was inside and looked around that I realized that something seemed odd.

The driver was a man wearing a black suit jacket.  I could see a ghostly pale, thin hand extending from a white starched cuff as it gripped the steering wheel but the position of his head looking straight out the windshield did not allow me to see his face.  His hair, combed straight back, was black and reached the collar of his stiff white shirt.

Next to him was a young woman, equally pale, wearing a white, high collared blouse, a black maxi-skirt and very long straight black hair.  She turned to look at me with a steady gaze, eyes dark with mascara, and asked simply, “Where to?” with little inflection or concern.  Her mouth, dark red in an odd shade of lipstick, smiled as if secretly amused as I managed to stammer, “Just drop me at the Lucky’s.”   She turned to the front and did not address me again.  The car sped off.

My seat partner was a fidgety young man with floppy brown hair, crazy eyes with large dilated pupils and a silly grin.  He said nothing but just stared at me nodding. OK, so I knew the signs, he was tripping and somehow I thought I may be tripping too.

When I first entered the car I had the impression that it was some sort of station wagon but as I looked behind my seat it became clear that I was in a hearse.  The place for the casket yawned out the back as I wondered whose body it would hold next. My seat was plush and the air conditioned air felt stale, the ride so smooth and quiet that I lost connection with the city.  Only the strange reality of the moment had any meaning.

It was expected, in those days, that when hitchhiking one would offer pleasant, interesting conversation in exchange for a ride.  But I was struck dumb and the others were silent.  I gripped the door handle as the hearse glided east.

When the hearse drew up across from the supermarket the young  man stopped nodding and started laughing maniacally.  I managed a quick “thanks” and jumped out gratefully.  The two in front never turned their heads but the woman lifted her hand as if in blessing as the car continued on.  As I crossed the street to the apartment I looked up at the Berkeley Hills shining orange in the evening sun.  I shook my head and laughed.  By the time I climbed three flights and opened the door, I was practicing how I would tell the funny story of the freaky folks who took me for a ride.

So if you ever wondered what it was like to live in a commune, now you know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Donald Trump On Getting Mad AND Getting Even - The Twissing of John Lewis

I've decided to create a portmanteau - "Twiss" - a combination of Tweet and Diss. Since twist is already a word, it might not work, but we'll see how it goes.  And of course the Twisser In Chief is Donald Trump.

Donald Trump celebrated the Martin Luther King Day prior to his inauguration by twissing John Lewis, one of the 13 original Freedom Riders.
Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!
Of course when you consider that he knocked John McCain for being captured, I guess it is not a surprise.

As it happens, Trump actually explained this type of behavior in one of his books.  Think Big And Kick Ass In Business And Life. which he coauthored with Bill Zanker.

Think Big is like many of the books that the worst managing partner I ever had used to encourage us to read.  There is some good advice in there, but there is something off about the whole thing.  What is in there that you won't find in many self-help books is a chapter titled Revenge.

He starts it out with "I always get even".  He gives a couple of examples of people who he considered disloyal because they did not come through for him when it was time for them to pay him back for what he had done for them.  He had the same beef with Martha Stewart.

He had been "her single biggest promoter" on the Apprentice and never once did she call him to say "Donald, thank you very much".  Then when the show failed she blamed him.

He wrote a scathing letter "Your performance was terrible.", etc., etc.
My motto is: Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.
Then there was a dispute with Rose O'Donnell who criticized him for giving Miss USA a second chance.  He had a choice.  He could attack back or let it pass.  This far into the chapter it was not hard to guess his choice.  On Entertainment Tonight and several other shows, he lashed out calling her a slob who talks like a truck driver.

There's 26 minutes worth of back and forth.

In the Q&A, Trump reinforces his revenge based world view.  On people in general, he writes:
In truth, it's a cruel world and people are ruthless.  They act nice to your face, but underneath they're out to kill you.  You have to know how to defend yourself.  People will be mean and nasty and try to hurt you just for sport.
To a question about what to do when someone intentionally harms you, he replies.
When someone crosses you, my advice is "Get even!".  This is not typical advice, but it is real-life advice.  If you do not get even, you are just as schmuck! When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it.  I love getting even.

So that pretty well accounts for a goodly percentage of Trump's tweets.  The problem he might have is that being twissed by Trump is going to turn into a badge of honor in some circles.


Peter J Reilly CPA thinks Donald Trump would do well as the managing partner of a regional accounting firm.  Leader of the free world, maybe not so much.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Xavier High School Memories Of The First Inspection

One of my early blogging goals was to become the "Tom Sawyer" of blogging by getting other people to create material for me.  Sadly one of the occasional edicts from put an end to that plan on my primary blog, but I have carried it on here and on Your Tax Matters Partner.. And I have had some luck on my Xavier High School series.

So I am very pleased to feature this Xavier post by Tom Burns.  The first time I ever wrote at length about Xavier it was a story about Tom.  That was many years ago in the preblogging days so all I could do was share it with a few people I knew, included Tom, who conceded it was mostly true.  An abbreviated version of it appeared as part of this series under the original title - The Final Revenge of Corporal Burns.

I have kept up with Tom more than any other classmate, so I am really pleased that he is sharing this.

                                                        First Inspection
                                                        A Xavier Vignette

                                                    Thomas A. Burns, Jr.
“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the
name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That
book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.

There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.” – Huckleberry Finn

I don’t remember exactly how it was decided that I would attend summer school at Xavier before I actually attended as a freshman.  It wasn’t remedial work - my grades in grammar school were pretty good.  I think someone sold Aunt Helen on the idea that I could get a head start if I took the summer courses, so, of course, I had to.  I signed up for both Math and English.  There was no military in summer school; we wore dress pants and white shirts with no tie.

My English teacher that summer was a rotund, fairly jovial fellow who was not a Jesuit.  He was pretty laid back, but occasionally took some pains to remind us where we were.  Witness the following interchange between us during the first week of the summer course.  He had asked me a question, the substance of which I don’t remember, to which I answered:
Teacher:  “Yes, what?”
Me: “Yes.” (No, I’m not stupid, just stubborn.  I’m still that way.)
Teacher:  “Burns, the proper form of address from student to teacher at this institution is yes, sir!”

Boink on the back of the head with his college ring to reinforce the lesson.  Oh brother!  It was going to be a long four years.

However, the summer courses at Xavier were not representative of the normal atmosphere.  Neither of my teachers was a Jesuit, and we saw little of them that summer.  There were no upperclassmen present, and no military obligations.  When school started for real, it wasn’t long before I wished I was at Seton Hall Prep.

The first assembly.  I’m not sure now, but I think the frosh came in a day or two before the upperclassmen for orientation.  We wore the summer gray uniform, the one that had a slit in the top of the shirt pocket just perfect to place a pen in except that it wasn’t allowed.  One or two screw-ups wore the dress blues, the winter uniform.  Talk about starting off on the wrong foot!  We are assembled in the new gym with Father Rector, Father Headmaster, Father Prefect and the Vice -prefect presiding.  We get a version of the “look-at-the-man-next-to-you-he-won’t-be-here-in-four-years” speech, as well as some general pointers on behavior expected of freshmen.  I don’t really remember that assembly as being too intimidating.  We even have a question and answer, open discussion with the various Fathers.  It looked like this place wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Ha!
Xavier didn’t have a fourth class system like West Point or the Citadel no cadre, no hell week, no manual full of stupid questions and even dumber answers to be memorized verbatim.  The Jebs probably figured that was too much to subject thirteen-year olds to, although I’m sure the army would have loved it.  However, we still learned quite rapidly that we were freshmen slime who couldn’t behave in civilized company.  The venue used to drive that lesson home was the second assembly.

We are all assembled in the new gym again.  This time, the upperclassmen are present.  I don’t remember what was discussed at the assembly.  What I do remember is Father Prefect suddenly rearing up like a rattlesnake preparing to strike and pointing to an anonymous group of freshmen, accusing them of creating a nuisance.  For punishment, the entire freshman class had to remain at attention for about two hours, after school had ended, with Father Prefect and his lackey the Vice-prefect stalking back and forth in front of us, just daring anyone to move.  We didn’t realize it at the time, but we had just received our first session of Jug (Justice Under God) en masse.

It wasn’t long before the less-than privileged status of freshman at Xavier was again made apparent, in case we missed the point the first time.  After all, repetition is an essential part of any successful teaching method.  

We had to stand for a formal inspection once a week. This occurred first thing in the morning, in homeroom.  Getting ready for that first inspection was much like trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Our shoes had to be spit shined (and nobody ever told you exactly how that was accomplished, except that it involved an arcane process involving shoe polish, water, cotton balls and a woman’s nylon stocking. Sounds like something that could get you twenty years. Our brass had to be polished to gleaming radiance and affixed precisely on the shirt collar with the use of a tape measure, and your hair could not touch either the collar or the ears and had to be less than two inches long on the top of the head.  

The favorite place for many Xavier cadets to get a haircut was the Jolo Barber Shop.  It was located in the subterranean bowels of the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square.  The place had about a dozen chairs and was staffed with white-coated Spanish-speaking immigrants, all who seemed to be about 5’3” and 200 lbs and were mostly from Brazil, I think.  None of these jokers likely had any formal tonsorial training, but they could get you in and out of the chair in about thirty-five seconds, a great virtue when you’re running late for work or school.  Most of them spoke no English, so you couldn’t tell them how you wanted your hair cut, but that didn’t matter because they knew the Xavier uniform and wielded the clippers accordingly.  Some of them weren’t such bad barbers, but every once in a while you’d draw a guy who had just gotten off of the boat.  In that case you could come out looking like you’d lost a fight with a lawn mower.

Another piece of equipment used to prepare for inspection was a curious thing called a caddy cloth, which was orange on one side and maroon on the other.  I had no idea of what in hell to do with the goddam thing – polish my brass, shine my shoes or stuff it in my shorts.  An additional problem, unique to freshmen, was the lacquer on the brass.

The brass consisted of an ornate insignia for the visored cap, two crossed rifles with a “X” surmounting the junction (to be placed on the shirt collars) and a buckle for the black web belt that held up the trousers.  When newly purchased, these were covered with a transparent substance called lacquer that conferred a subdued golden shine and had been applied to keep the brass forever sparkling and untarnished.  So naturally, we were told to strip the goddamn stuff off so we could shine the brass.  (You get used to thinking this way after you’ve been around the military for a while.)  Supposedly, the best method for lacquer removal was boiling the brass in vinegar.  One of my most vivid memories will always be of Ma and me in the basement on the Wednesday night before that first inspection, weeping and choking on vinegar fumes, working Brasso into our bloodstreams via the fingernails.

So Thursday morning arrives.  I arrive at school with some trepidation, but basically, I am OK.  I have a fresh Jolo haircut (not too bad!), my shoes have a muted gleam and I spent a good bit of time with a ruler and protractor placing my shiny, delacquered brass.  Name tag is in place.  As I head for my homeroom, I pass an upperclassman who is carrying a clipboard. Obviously, he is one of the inspecting officers.  My eyes travel down his body, to his shoes.  

HOLY SHIT!  I can see my teeth reflected in this guy’s shoes from ten feet away!  I am in trouble!
I slink to my desk in homeroom and await the worst.

The class beadle hollers, “Class a ten-hutt!”

In stride two officers, one with hands empty, the other carrying a clipboard.  Yes, he’s the same one I saw a little while ago, the guy with the shoes. They begin the inspection with the beadle, who has the first seat in the first row.  I am three or four students back.  I can’t tell how those in front of me have fared, because the officers speak in low tones, like Mafia hitman.  The guy in front of me goes white.  Oh shit, he looks better than I do!  Now the officer is in front of me.  He smells of Old Spice and tobacco.  His hat is pulled down so I can barely see his eyes under the brim as they travel the length of my body.  He grunts:


I obediently take off my hat with my right hand and place it under my left arm, displaying my Jolo coiffure to the world at large.


Plunk! The hat goes back on the head.

He glances at my shoes for a millisecond, then growls:

“Fail.  Get the lacquer off your brass, mister!”

WTF? I am totally incredulous!  If he failed me for shoes I could see it, but he failed me for the one thing I have done right!  Later I find out that only a couple of guys out of thirty or so passed (both have brothers who are upperclassmen). One will go on to win Cadet of the Month.

When it’s all over, the officers tell us we have one more chance, at re-inspection tomorrow morning. If we fail that one, we get a session of SATURDAY jug!

It’s about 5:30 that night when I get home from school. Ma and Aunt Helen are in the basement, from which the aroma of dinner arises. I go up to my room to get out of my uniform, then slink downstairs to face the music.

Aunt Helen is sitting there with her omnipresent scotch and soda. “Well, how was the inspection?” she asks.

I briefly consider a lie. “I failed,” I tell her.

“You failed! You failed your first inspection! Don’t you realize what a bad first impression can do to you…” 

Aunt Helen’s diatribe continues for several minutes. It covers my future for the next ten years or so, and ends with me living on welfare in the projects in Newark, all because I failed my first inspection at Xavier. Finished, she stomps upstairs with a fresh scotch and soda to wait for dinner, unable to tolerate my odious presence further.

Ma has been silent throughout. She knows better than to interrupt Aunt Helen when she’s on a roll. But now she moves away from the stove and comes over to the table where I’m sitting. I’m dreading this one more than telling Helen, because I know what’s coming.

“Why did they fail you?” Ma asks. “I thought you looked pretty good when you went out of here this morning.”

I should have lied, but I didn’t. Aunt Helen I could snow in a minute, but not Ma. “They said I had lacquer on my brass,” I told her.

I saw her eyes go cold. Oh, shit! Trouble!

“There was no lacquer on that brass,” she said.

“I know it.”

“Well, did you tell them so?”

“Ma, it wouldn’t of made any difference. They failed everybody for something. You couldn’t pass!”

“I sat here last night for two hours helping you polish that brass. Maybe I’d just better call them up and tell them so!”

This is what I’ve been dreading. She has no idea of the shitstorm she’ll bring down on my head if she does this. All she knows is that, by God, there was no lacquer on that brass!

“Ma, please, don’t do that!”, I say as she reaches for the phone.

“And why not?” she asks.

“Because it won’t make any difference! And it’ll just get me in more trouble!”

“I thought I raised you to stand up for yourself when you were right.” 

“They don’t want me to stand up for myself! They want to knock me down! And if you call them up, they’ll just make it worse for me!”

“So you’ll just go along? When you know you’re right and they’re wrong?” The contempt in her voice is obvious.

“I have to, goddamn it! I told you, you should of sent me to Seton Hall!”

That is a low blow. I see her face tighten. “Maybe I should of,” she says finally, “but you picked Xavier. Not your Aunt Helen and not me. You. I was just trying to teach you, you have to stick with decisions you make.”

Gotcha! “Then let me stick with this one. I’ll deal with it. Don’t call them up.”

She doesn’t like it, not one bit, but she says, “Okay. You deal with it.” She goes back to the stove to check on the meat, shaking her head. Thank Christ!

So that night, I make with the vinegar, the Brasso and the caddy cloth, which I finally found out was for polishing the brass after the laquer had been removed. When I am done, the brass looks the same as before I started.  Ma is upstairs watching TV; she will have no part in it. I resign myself to spend the first Saturday of the school year marching around on the roof with a rifle.

The next day, at reinspection, it seems like the entire freshman class is there.  I fall in on the roof with the rest of the failures and wait resignedly for the boom to be lowered.  Up comes the same officer who failed me yesterday.  The beady eyes, under the hat, scan my body like those of an automaton
“Your shoes look like shit, mister, but I’ll let you by, this time!”

Much later I would learn to answer that with, “Must be the reflection, sir!”

“At least you got the lacquer off your brass.  You should have done that yesterday.”

As I leave the roof, I reflect on what has occurred.  There was no visible difference between my appearance on Thursday and on Friday.  Thursday, I flunk; Friday, I pass.  But I’ve figured out their game  the scene with Ma helped me do that. I’m a freshman, lower than slime, and they want me to think I can’t do anything right.  They want me to work my ass off for their approval, then deny it to me, so that when I finally get it, I will be so grateful I’ll do anything they want for more.  Right there, I resolve not to play anymore.  No, I won’t show up for inspection looking like shit, but neither will I slave for hours to be perfect.

The 90% failure rate for freshmen lasted a while longer, maybe a month or so.  It taught me some valuable lessons.  Don’t try to buck an arbitrary system.  You can’t.  Don’t rely on the approval of that system as a measure of your self worth.  It isn’t.  Some of my peers spent the next several weeks getting shinier and shiner.  A few made Cadet of the Month and were promoted to the lofty heights of PFC for the last month of freshman year, but most faded into obscurity. I never failed another inspection until senior year (and that’s another story!) and that was good enough for me.


It is worth noting that our classmate Scott O'Connell, who had a career as an Army officer thought the obsession with brass and shoes was excessive.  In his contribution "How Real Is Junior ROTC?", he wrote:
The "Mickey Mouse" stuff such as short haircuts and the  obnoxious focus on brass and shoes is more extreme than the ROTC or the army, other than real Army Basic Training (or any given day in the USMC). But it was good training and helped build character - I hated it though. I hated worrying about my spit shine and brass more than whether I had prepared myself enough for Latin class. But it is a military academy tradition such as West Point, VMI, and the Citadel put their cadets though. Although I'd say Xavier then was harsher than they are now.

Tom Burns is a scientist, writer and editor and the Managing Member of Tekrighter Scientific and Medical Writing Services LLC in Wendell NC.

Peter J Reilly CPA mainly writes about taxes.

This video will indicate that some of the old bs still goes on.