Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pawn Stars

The History channel on TV was one of my favorites when it showed biographies of famous people. It fell out of favor for me when it began to show things that, to my mind, were not real history. And so I did not tune into it. Recently, I have rediscovered this channel because of it's show Pawn Stars. I find enjoyment in this simple show about a pawn shop in Las Vegus.

I remember the first pawn shop I ever entered, it was in downtown Detroit. We had ridden the Baker Streetcar to Griswold and from there walked to a series of small shops. That area today is covered by Cobo Hall. There must have been four pawn shops in that area and they were known to us as being owned by Jews. Whether that was true or not we really did not know, nor cared.

Five of us had come into the area to get shirts for our sandlot baseball team. One of the guys knew about this place where we would be able to get shirts for a good price. I was twelve years old at the time and had the position of first base on the team. We did not have a name for the team, but when we saw some cool shirts with a bulldog on them, we right then and there decided to buy the shirts and the name of our team became the Bulldogs. Having completed our purchases, we did some sight seeing in the area.

There was a pawn shop a few doors down from where we bought the shirts. In the display windows were displayed an assortment of jewelry, musical instruments, tools, typewriters, adding machines, coin collections and stamp collections. All of us entered and found it a strange, dark place. There were not as many display cases as found in most stores. Many items were hung on the wall, large items were strewn about on the floor. I particularly remember a race car in the back of the store. Three elderly people ran the store and they looked at us very suspiciously, we felt like crooks. The discomfort we felt soon overtook us and we left.

The pawn shop in Pawn Stars is well lit and inviting. The owner Rick is an amiable, good natured man. He is smiling most of the time and takes great interest in the items that people bring in. His knowledge about rare items and their history is astonishing. I like him. The show generally revolves around Rick, the items brought in, proof of value, how that proof is ascertained and the negotiation about the price. Many items are old and of interest to collectors. Age and condition affect the price paid. It is fascinating to me.

Pat cannot understand my interest, she sees only an offshoot of "The Road Show" and is not interested in that either. I do like "Road Show" but not nearly as much as Pawn Stars. Why is that? It may be the fact that these owners are ready to part with their treasure. For sure I am interested in the final established price that the item gets from the Pawn Shop. When an owner asks for a high price (and nearly all do) I am amused at how Rick brings them to reality and reminds them that he is in business to make a profit and must pay a lower price than the established retail price given by the expert. (Academics who teach that businesses should not make a profit should watch this show.) I challenge myself to estimate what price Rick will start the negotiation, it pleases me when I am close.

The main point for watching is the historical aspect of this show, and it is why it appears on the History Channel. Items that I have read about in many of the books I have read are continually showing up: Colt revolvers, civil war caps, WWII flying jackets with emblems, scales dating back to the 17th century, old coins, original Disney sketches, first edition comic books, a blunderbuss gun, old slot machines, old juke boxes, etc, etc. All are valued and most are purchased by the pawn shop for future sale. Nearly everything has a history an it's history is told in an informative manner. Yes, I like this show.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tea Party Demise

Townhall Magazine is carrying a query: "Is the Tea Party dead?" They ask people to vote on it. This is widely out of reality since there was no "real" Tea Party. Firstly, it was never a "Party." It had no officers, no hierarchy, no attempts for voting for officers, no command structure, no official literature, no official money bundlers (though some did try), no art work as an emblem of the party, and, very few that attended the rallies thought of themselves as forerunners of a third party. Then what was it?

For the most part it was best defined as a flash mob. The flash mob gets out the information that there is to be a "rally" at such-and-such a place at a certain time and people interested show up. Of all the people that I know that attended a Tea Party rally that is what happened to them.

What the Tea Party did have was a message: Are you against higher taxes? Are you for smaller government? Are you against a government takeover of all medical services? Are you distressed with non-enforcement of our boarders? Are you against government bailouts? Are you against the entrenched political class? Do you accept high unemployment? And a few others that I cannot bring to mind at this time. People who attended the rallies were self sorting, wanted more information, and wanted to be a part of the movement. They also wanted to let others know how many people felt just as they do.

It was never about the Republican Party, though many Republicans did attend. It was never about white people, though most were white there was diversity in the crowds, as well as gender diversity. All attendees believed that this Country was going in the wrong direction, politicians were not listening, the debt condition was a disaster, and this country needed to be turned around. Like minded people were associating with those who thought like them.

The Tea Parties did accomplish some things: It got some people more interested in local politics, they questioned their representatives more closely, for some, they even succeeded in replacing their representatives. The interest in politics was kindled and more now paid focused attention to what was happening in their districts. Some politicians associated themselves with the Tea Party and were rewarded with support, and sometimes with a win.

Now the question is being asked: "Is the Tea Party dead." It can't be dead, it never existed. The people that attended those rallies are still alive, their ideas are still alive and retained in their hearts. Will they ever become a force in politics? That remains to be seen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sentenced to Church

A teen aged boy, who smashed his truck while driving under the influence and thereby killing one of the passengers, has been sentenced by the court to ten years in church. What is the judge thinking when he decides on such a sentence? Does he believe that association with Christian people will make him a better person? Or, that he will develop a conscience and feel remorse? Or, "holy by association"? And what are the other members of the church he attends to think? Will they feel an obligation to train this youngster to abstain from drink, drive safely, and obey all traffic laws? What is the punishment in this sentence? To associate with Christians is a punishment?

This story caught my eye because of a story recounted to me when I worked at Ford in 1950. Tom, one of the senior draftsmen in my department had served in WWII as an infantryman. He landed in France on "D Day" plus two and had fought through France and Germany until the end of the war. After seven months in the field, the military paper "Stars and Stripes" told about a group of soldiers that had formed a group that was stealing military supplies and selling them on the black market. This profiteering group was caught, tried and found guilty. They were sentenced to serve on the front lines. About a week later, Tom's unit discovered that the some of the sentenced men were serving in a unit next to them. Tom said the regular soldiers were talking among themselves and saying: "What the hell an I doing fighting here, I didn't steel anything, I am not a thief. I should be home and let all the thieves fight this war." He said that his unit felt it was an injustice for them. Tom said that the original group of 85 men, with whom he had landed, had been reduced to 39 by the end of the war. Not all killed but many injured and returned to the States.

Are there any members of the church that feel the same way the soldiers did? "What the hell am I doing here, I didn't kill anybody by driving drunk."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rocket War

The launching of rockets into an enemy's territory as is happening in Israel at this time is not a first for me. I recall when Germany was doing that to England with the V-1 rockets, which had a large payload, and later with the more elusive V-2 rockets. In 1940 the rockets were so worrisome that Londoners were sending their children to other countries for protection. Many came here to the United States, some to Canada and some to Australia. With the V-2 all that could be done was to hunker down and absorb the blow.

The RAF developed a technique against the V-1 of flying next to a rocket, placing one wing of the plane under a wing of the rocket, then lifting slightly and thus knocking the rocket from it's path and into a tailspin to crash into uninhabited areas. The V-2 rocket was designed to fly in a high arc which gave it a vertical descent onto the target. The V-2 was almost impossible to thwart and took many more lives than the V-1. There were rumors of a V-3 being developed and it was impetus for as early an invasion of Holland, Belgium and France as possible.

Back to Israel. Rockets have been shot into Israel for quite a few years and Israeli citizens have taken many a loss from them. The Palestinians have been trying to develop more sophisticated and powerful rockets and Israel has been trying to develop a better defense against them. The most recent rocket attacks have been with large payloads and, to the amazement of all, the Israelis have been able to shoot some out of the sky. This is ground-to-air defense similar to the vaunted Star Wars defense Reagan supported.

A new aspect has just begun in this recent rocket war, Egypt has fired rockets into Israel. This would not have happened if Mubarak was still in power for he honored Egypt's commitment to peace. The Arab Spring movement, supported by Obama, deposed Mubarak and that has destabilized the area. If Egypt continues to fire rockets into Israel will the Israelis invade Egypt to stop those rockets? We are going back to 1940 again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pro Choice

One of the reasons some women are pro choice is that a raped woman that becomes pregnant should not be required to take the fetus to birth. she should have control of her own body. Under this circumstance women should be allowed to abort.

Dr Mike Adams professor at the University of North Carolina - Wilmington has a suggestion about a pregnancy as a result of rape. Since pro-choice people say the woman should be able to abort such a  fetus, he proposes: Since the fetus is an innocent person resulting from the rape, why not take it out on the guilty party. When there are two innocent persons in the crime of rape, why should one of the innocent persons lose their life? If a life is to be taken it is only just that the guilty party be the one to suffer the loss of life.

He proposes that the law should be changed so that the person that commits a rape, that results in a pregnancy, that person would be executed. Since it would be a law, the decision to kill is taken out of the hands of a woman who is herself an innocent victim. Also, should she feel compassion for the father of her child and say he should go free, it would be out of her hands, the law takes over. A jury trial would decide if there were any extenuating circumstances. Finding a forceful, un-enticed, masculine over-powerment would result in a guilty verdict and execution.

I find this an interesting idea, punish the guilty. Perhaps it would be a deterrent to future rapists. It would certainly cut down on the repeating rapist, or the recidivist rapist that does a rape after leaving prison.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Our veterans are remembered and recognized at this time of year. I do remember some of them from the Navy Street neighborhood.

There were two brothers that lived on Senator across from the schoolyard. They started as seamen on the Great Lakes and went to earn more money in New York as members of the Merchant Marine. Canada was sending war material on individual ships across the Atlantic. German U-boats sank many ships before the invention of Convoys. These two brothers never came back.

I remember a person that lived on the corner of Navy and Mullane. His parents owned a small grocery on that corner. In late 1939 or early 1940 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Canada was recruiting in the United States since they were at war with Germany. The RCAF was sent over to England to fight in the air war over London. He never came back.

Armond Palmer lived with his parents on Navy, next door to us. He joined the Army to serve in the Army Air Corps. I have blogged about him before. He was stationed in England and was attached to the Strategic Air Command. They flew over Europe to bomb factories, oil installations, railroad yards and air fields. His plane went down during a bombing of the Polisti oil fields in Romania. He never came back.

The Luria twins, Willie and Bill, with whom I played a lot of softball, lived on Senator near Mullane. Further down on Senator, almost to Lawndale, lived their cousin, Mike Di Angelo. Mike was one of the first ones drafted into the Army. He never came back. When it came time for the Luria brothers to go for their physicals for the draft it, was a big deal for Mrs. Luria. I was stranding in the street in front of their house when they returned from their physicals. As they walked down Mullane toward their house, Mrs. Luria was on the porch waiting for them. They gave some kind of signal (indicating they had failed the exams) and she ran into the street crying hysterically to hug them. She knelt down in the street and prayed out loud for thanks to God that her sons were spared. Neither of them served in the military.

Elmer Clark lived across the street from us and was drafted into the Army. He was sent to the South Pacific and served on Fiji Island. He came back on leave once and reported that the longer he was on that island the whiter the native girls became. He returned after the War and told us about the preparations that his unit had been making for the invasion of Japan. He was very pleased that Japan had surrendered after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Prior to that surrender he had felt that he was going to die in the invasion. He got a job with the Gas Company and eventually retired from there.

When I was about nine years old I was told never to go down on Mullane further than Gardner. There was a group of toughs down there known as the Lane Gang. These guys would rough up any non-gang member that walked into their teritory, Kahalen was the boundary. In 1943 I delivered the Detroit Times on Lane and noted the number of Gold Stars in the windows. Many of the Lane Gang did not come back.

When I was just learning to play softball in the school yard, Les Pierson organized the games and commanded a lot of respect. He was a very out going, affable leader and served as a dutch uncle to younger kids in the schoolyard. Les joined the Army because he was going to be drafted anyway. He was discharged in 1946. When he came back he was a different person and did not resume his previous area leadership role. I don't know why.

Ernest Butler, who lived on Lawndale, joined the Air Force and became a telegrapher. He served as radio operator for General Curtis Le May the head of SAC. This was the time when we had an Nuclear, airborne, umbrella over the Soviet Union 24/7. Ernie retired from the Airforce and lives in Panama City, Florida. He raised five children, two of whom became medical doctors.

Bernie joined the Navy for the Korean War. He was assigned as a seaman on an oil tanker. While off the Korean shore his ship was taking on supplies. Bernie was injured during the movement of those supplies. He very nearly drowned when the plane that was carrying him from Japan to Hawaii crashed into a rice paddy at the end of the runway. He was eventually given a medical discharge and received a 100% disability. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Father William Westhoven

Father William Westhoven was a priest at the Passionist Retreat House at St Paul Of The Cross Monastery on Plymouth Road. He was the retreat master at the first four retreats I made there. I went there in the middle fifties with a group from Ford. We were all young, most of us just starting our families, and the retreats were geared to our station in life. Father Declan was the retreat director, a man with an unusual memory. While he saw us only once a week end in a year, he was able to remember our names every year we went there.

In these retreats we were exposed to a deeper religious education than we had had at Catholic school. The lectures explained our life journey and it's goal of achieving eternal life, (something we all wanted.) It was explained that it is possible to live the life of a saint, even in this secular world. It was here that I was informed about the book "The Imitation Of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis. This is a small book and is broken into four parts: One: Admonitions Useful for a Spiritual Life. Two: Admonitions Leading to the Inner Life. Three: The Inward Speaking of Christ to a Faithful Soul. Four: Which Treats Especially of the Sacrament of the Altar. At that time it was an eye opener for most of us and we sometimes discussed what we learned during the year. Many of us went on annual retreats for over ten years.

Father William gave us lectures on how to live but he gave us even more after classes. He told us about his life in China, how the Chinese Communists decided to eradicate Christianity in China, how he was rounded up with other priests and Protestant ministers and put in jail. He made his bad treatment in jail very real for us. After a few years his health began to fail and he was one of the first, three, religious people expelled from China. In order to get out of China they had to walk out on a bridge and all were so weak they would not have made it if some on the other side had not come forward to help. When he regained his health, such as it was, he began to give retreats. He once surprised us all when he began to play the organ at the Sunday morning mass, he was good. After he died we decided to break our large group apart and form another group, it was named the Father William Group. I was elected to head that group and our numbers grew, all new members coming from Ford. Father William taught us about suffering and always giving thanks to God for our lives.

Jim Sheedy was a member of the Father William group and I recall how he thanked me for getting him there. A few of us convinced a fallen away Catholic to join us on a retreat. He was living a licentious life, sleeping with whoever he could persuade. Yet, he did come and was enchanted by Father William. He told us he was going to change his life. But, the lure of the flesh enveloped him once more and he did not join us again.

All this came back to me when I recommended, on Facebook, that the book "The Imitation of Christ" was appropriate. I still pick it up and read a few lines that are useful in specific situations. Yes, a form of prayer.