Finally Made it to Shanksville, PA

Well, as described in the earlier post “Let’s Roll”, I did finally make it out to Shanksville, PA to see the new Flight 93 Memorial that is now managed by the National Park Service. Mrs. Chester and I have been driving back and forth from Columbus, Ohio to our home in southeastern PA every week for several weeks. Since we take the PA Turnpike, we drive just south of the area where Flight 93 was forced to crash by the passengers on that plane.

The field is very large, and it is in the middle of nowhere. The drive from the nearest highway is 3.5 miles from US Route 30. It’s very pretty, and very peaceful now. It’s hard to imagine what that field looked like on September 11th, 2001. The memorial is nicely done – there are picture boards that tell the story of Flight 93, and a long walk out to a wall of remembrance with the names of the 40 passengers and crew who were on the plane. One of the names has “and unborn child” etched very faintly below the woman’s name.

Rest in peace, all of you American heroes. Even those who were not American citizens on the plane, you were ALL Americans on that day. The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.

Khaddafi is dead

“Sic Semper Tyrannis”.

This is what John Wilkes Booth is supposed to have yelled when he leaped from the balcony at Ford’s Theater after shooting President Lincoln in the head. Thus ever to tyrants, in Latin.

While I appreciate that Libya deposed their dictator (and Khaddafi WAS a bad man), they might have liked a trial for him. Like Saddam Hussein. But maybe this is better – at least he is gone and cannot affect their lives any longer.

Of all the dictators in history, how many get statues built of them, and how many die in the streets, fleeing their own people? It just doesn’t seem like a job with a future, unless your name is Castro or Kim. But their days are coming…

Have you ever wanted to be a dictator of a country or the whole world? If so, how would you govern? Leave a comment – I’d like to hear from you.

“We have some planes…” No. “Let’s roll.” I like that better.

Sunday is September 11, 2011. The ten-year anniversary of  9/11.

My prayers go out to all the surviving family members,  friends, colleagues and associates of the 9/11 citizens who were viciously killed that day. A special prayer of thanksgiving goes to the families of  passengers of Flight 93. These passengers are the people who took the first steps in fighting back extremism.

An equally heartfelt prayer of thanks goes out to the families of the first responders who willingly gave their lives so that many others would live.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a beautiful cloudless early Fall day. I went to work at one of the “big four” banks at an office near Wilmington, DE. A co-worker and I had made plans to go up to Philadelphia after work that day, to have some drinks with our former colleagues at a Center City brokerage firm.

I got an email from my co-worker – “a plane hit the World Trade Center”. I immediately thought “Piper Cub. Some amateur pilot got completely off-course, or had a heart attack. Boy, I hope nobody else got seriously hurt.” Then another email – “No, it was a jumbo jet. A big passenger jet.”

Hmm. That didn’t make any sense. No one can fly a jet that big anywhere NEAR lower Manhattan, or even over the city – it’s restricted air space. We walked out to the hallway where there were TV monitors so you could catch the news while getting a cup of coffee. On the news, the TV was showing the World Trade Center burning, but BOTH towers were on fire. Then we heard a second plane had hit the South Tower. Then we heard a plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Then we heard another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, a few hours west of us.

That’s when it began to dawn on all of us that we weren’t going to Philadelphia that day.

We were sent home, and my wife and I were glued to CNN the rest of the day. It was hard to watch, of course. My wife is from New York, and my youngest daughter was born there. My wife’s family was still there, and her brother worked in Manhattan at the time. My family is mostly from Washington, DC, and my mother worked in various places around the city. So we were very concerned about them.

The kids were let out of school at the regular time, and I walked across the street to meet them. I told them that something bad had happened today, and my wife and I tried to explain the best we could to 12, 9 and six-year old kids what Islamic extremists were, and why someone would fly passenger jets into buildings.

I had an enormous American flag that a friend had given me many years earlier. This flag was silk, and at one time was one of the 50 flags that fly continuously around the base of the Washington Monument in DC. I hung that flag up in my picture window in my family room, and left it up until I could get a new flag to fly in the front of the house, with a light on it so it could fly 24 hours a day, rain or shine.

I remember that it was so quiet outside. We live 50 miles from Philadelphia, so westbound jets fly overheard, but they’re pretty high up once they get near us. For days afterward, of course, no planes were flying.

In October 2001, I attended a class in NYC for work. The class was held in Brooklyn, so one day after class I took the subway over to my old neighborhood. I used to work at 120 Broadway, almost directly across the street from the plaza at World Trade Center. I used to shop at Century 21 in the WTC mall. The city still smelled very much like dust and ash, one month later. I walked past St. Paul’s, and the number of Missing posters made me cry. The tributes and memorials were overwhelming. The really sad part was seeing the parking lots at the Long Island Railroad train stations – there were a few cars that had been parked there on September 11, and they hadn’t moved since. Still waiting for owners who would never return.

I hung up my American flag, and once I put the flag out front, I prayed for the troops in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. I promised myself I would not take the flag down until the last American troop has come home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Many flags later, it still flies 24/7, and I still pray for the troops and their families. All the old, faded flags are folded neatly into triangles, blue field of stars on the outside. Waiting, respectfully, for the last troop to come home. It’s my own personal 9/11 tribute, and I’ve never mentioned it to anyone before this post. I thought maybe the tenth anniversary might be a good time to talk about it.

I have shaken a lot of hands, and thanked many service members for their service. They are, without question, the next Greatest Generation. They stood up when we needed them, and they answered the call over and over again. We owe them.

I will try to get out to Shanksville this year. It’s only a few hours’ drive from here, and I really should go to see it. See where it all began, 10 years ago this Sunday.

America, let’s roll.

(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket

I can hound you if I need to
Sip your brandy from a crystal shoe
In the corner, in the corner
While the others climb reaching dizzy heights
The world’s in front of me in black and white
I’m on the bottom line, I’m on the bottom line

I’d have a cardiac if I had such luck
Lucky losers, lucky losers landing on skid row
Landing on skid row
While the Diamond Jims
And the Kings road pimps
Breath heavy in their brand new clothes
I’m on the bottom line, I’m on the bottom line

And I gotta get a meal ticket
To survive you need a meal ticket
To stay alive you need a meal ticket
Feel no pain, no pain
No regret, no regret
When the line’s been signed
You’re someone else
Do yourself a favor, the meal ticket does the rest

Shake a hand if you have to
Trust in us and we will love you anyway, anyway
Don’t leave us stranded in the jungle
With fifty percent that’s hard to handle
Ain’t that so, ain’t that so

Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy was released in 1975, at a time when Elton John was considered one of the first “superstars”. He was putting out albums and touring almost non-stop since around 1970 or so. I was 13 years old when this came out, and one of my best friends in Junior High School, a kid named Mark Smith, was totally into Elton John.

I used to ask Mark to transcribe lyrics for Elton John songs for me, because a lot of the radio hits were hard to understand when you’re 13. For example, in Someone Saved My Life Tonight, there’s a “dingy tear”. And in Better Off Dead, the “horse and the trunks are filing in from the street.” What are whores and drunks? When you’re 13, you’re not sure.

I didn’t know (and certainly didn’t care) a thing about ol’ Elton’s sexshul orientation, and to this day, I still don’t care. He and Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to my childhood memories. And those were good memories, in the old days before all hell broke loose.

When I was a kid, I knew the names of all of Elton’s band members – Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars, Nigel Olsson played the drums, Ray Cooper on percussion. These guys were probably one of the best bands ever put together. Listen carefully to the iPod (or any other digital remastered) version of Captain Fantastic.

Side note: I feel sorry for people who can’t listen to a piece of music and pull out all the different parts. I learned to do this because I played in orchestras and bands all my life, and while the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, sometimes the “parts” are just so freakin’ tasty that you want to hear that “part” over and over again.

So back to Meal Ticket:

It opens with the signature ascending riff, then jumps right into the boogie: Piano, guitar, really good bass line, strong steady drums and a few keyboard tricks thrown in for good measure.

It’s in the the first chorus that you realize there are at least 2, if not 3 guitar lines going on here. There’s the distorted guitar playing the chords and that riff, then there’s the cool rhythm riff on another clean guitar. You can hear this same rhythm on lots of other Elton songs, like The Bitch is Back, and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. That’s signature Davey Johnstone guitar work – and when you hear this digital remastering, you get a sense of what fun this must have been to record.

The vocals are spot on – good harmonies and Elton obviously having a good time singing these songs. That the songs themselves are completely autobiographical probably lends a hand to the energy. Since it’s all about trying not to be a loser, I can totally relate to this album. How could a dweeby looking guy who wears glasses be a ROCK STAR?

Then the guitar solo kicks in, after the second chorus, note for note perfect and clean. Then the ascending chord riff leading into the intro riff.

The Diamond Jims and Kings Road pimps indeed.

I kinda like to think of it as the Diamond Jims on the Road Kings. And the dweeby little guy who wears glasses can now sling a little guitar and ride a Harley. OK, Elton John I am not, nor ever will be anything close. But hey, Elton and Bernie – I hope you will still be writing in approaching years, stifling yawns on Sundays as the weekends disappear.

Money for nothin’ – the new economy of Facebook

So Goldman Sachs decided to invest $50 million in Facebook. Plus the arrangements with other investors take the total up to around $450 million.

Okay, I’ll admit it – I am a Facebook Luddite. I tried it. I don’t get it. I probably need to spend more time on it, but because I already view Facebook as an enormous time-waster, well, that’s not gonna happen.

Even my Mom has a Facebook account. She’s the only reason I have one – she asked me to get it, and when your Mom asks you to get one, well……

But Facebook is supposedly valued at something like $50 billion. So the investment from Goldman and others is viewed as a way to increase both banking fees and the opportunity to mange Zuckerberg’s fortune and the fortunes of other Facebook executives.

And this is nothing new, apparently. Goldman wooed firms like Sears & Roebuck in 1910, and Ford in 1950, to be “friends” with their CEO’s for the same reason.

I guess I just wonder what the American economy is going to “make” now that most of our wealth is tied up in things like Facebook, and not in making real things that people can buy and use. And repair when they break.

Thank You

I celebrated a birthday yesterday, and I just have two words to say: Thank you.

First of all, I want to thank my parents. Mom is a total inspiration to me – she’s reinvented herself over and over, never gives up, always remains positive no matter what the circumstances. Dad taught me to use my hands and my head, think through the problems, fix things that are broken, and play the guitar.

30 years ago  I celebrated a birthday somewhat differently: I had just returned from a “vacation” in Cheltenham, MD and was extremely glad to be back home. Very thankful. The lesson I learned on my “vacation” was invaluable, and has lasted the rest of my life: make good choices.

So I would like to thank all the people who have helped me get to this ripe old age, and I only hope I can pass on some of the wisdom I have gleaned along this trail.

Thank you – Chester

Show us the Money!

Obama-Nobel-Peace-Prize

Just thinking the other day about the Nobel Peace Prize money. I am pretty sure you get a check when you pick up your prize in Stockholm. So……where’s the money? To whom did it get donated? President Obama stated he would donate the prize money. Haitian Relief comes to mind. The Chester Arthur College Fund for HS Seniors is accepting donations.  Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government article asks the same question.

But just in case you think this post isn’t about positive news, just think how happy some charity is going to be when they get Obama’s $1.4 million!

Contest: First one to spot the charity (and a good link for proof they got the money) wins a cyber-Harley ride!
Enter today.