The Hotel Selu

Cordoba.  Spain.  1972.  Donna and I had been married a few months and we took a belated honeymoon trip – 3 weeks – to Spain and Portugal.  Two 25 year olds driving around with no reservations.  No plans.  No itinerary.  Getting up each morning and going “what shall we do today?”   Fortunately we were in sync on pretty much everything so the trip went swimmingly.  We stayed in the state-run “Paradors” for about ten bucks a night.  And we dined on the “big four” — calamari, coffee, churros and chocolate.  And informally followed the famed matador Diego Puerta as he wound his way through Spain – featured in various corridas.  The bullfighting was special having just read Hemingway’s 1932 classic Death in the Afternoon.  And Michener’s Iberia.  

Then – we got to Cordoba.  It’s late.  And the Parador was booked.  And other hotels had no room.  Finally – tired and hungry – we found a room.  In the basement of the Hotel Selu.  Cue the theme from “Dragnet” . . . .

Now today – the Hotel Selu may be a four star offering.  But in 1972 it was . . . .  Anyway, we checked in.  There were chickens cackling outside our window.  And some guy was yelling at his wife in the next room (I think the walls were made of cardboard).  Donna sat down on the bed and began to cry. . . . And that was before the rooster woke us up at 4:30 a.m. . . . . 

I felt like an idiot.  But mind you – I am not as dumb as I look.  So I resolved then and there that there would be no more Hotel Selus in Donna’s future.  Over the years, we’ve come close a few times but so far I’ve stayed out of that kind of trouble. . . . .

Chicago Violence

Did you watch “60 Minutes” on January 1st?  As I observe on November 16, 2015 — it is not the police.  It is the bad guys in Chicago who are shooting 12 people a day and killing 2 of them.  But a small cadre of uncaring – but politically-motivated – folks (like progressives, Black Lives Matter and others) blame the police.  They march against the police.  Some espouse killing the police.   And they are the ones who get the attention from the “media.”  So. . . . what happens?  In Chicago – police stops are down nearly 90%.   Why in the world would police officers be proactive (as in the past) – and stop and frisk – when they can just sit back.  And respond to “911” calls.  Do you blame them?  I sure don’t.  Talk to cops.  I do.    

Police in Chicago shot and killed 92 individuals in the last six years.  In nearly all cases, there was probably cause. Those killed by cops deserved it.  Bad guys in Chicago – in one year – shot 4,378 victims killing 713 of them.  4.6% of victims were white.   Do these numbers suggest the police are at fault?  Do these statistics give an inkling of whose fault it is? 

What if we take the cross hairs off the police and reinstate stop and frisk with reasonable cause (without having to fill out a useless 2 page form for the ACLU).  Otherwise this horrific violence will continue.  And it will grow worse.   2017 is already ahead of 2016 in shootings and homicides!  As said in 2015, if you don’t stand behind the police when the bullets are flying, go stand in front of them. 

True Confessions

(A repeat from 8/16/2011 – which still chokes me up)  Shortly after passing the Illinois bar exam, my wife and I flew to Portland, Oregon, to visit my aunt and uncle and their family. One weekend, we rented a car and drove south into the hinterlands of Oregon.

Upon leaving a small town, I saw birds on the road ahead. I announced to Donna in my best John Wayne voice “watch this” and I stomped on the accelerator. The car sped up 80, 90, 100 . . . Donna is shouting at me to slow down but – hey – I’m 25 and macho. As I approached the birds, they looked up and casually flew off. I rocketed over the carrion they’d been chewing on (“Guess I showed them“). About that time, I looked in the rear view mirror and was surprised to see a car behind us. A police car. #&X@*! I pulled over and stopped. And got a ticket. 108 in a 65 zone. #&X@*!

The bad thing was that I was to appear in court at a time I was to appear before the Character & Fitness Committee of the Illinois Bar (“sorry fellows – I have a court date“). Donna was silent.  Stewing.  At the next town, I stopped. The judge’s name was on the ticket.  So I . . . called the Police Station from a pay phone:

Scott: Hello? Officer, I’m trying to reach Judge ____ . Can you call him and ask him to please call me?

Officer: It’s Sunday.

Scott: I know but it’s important (I gave him the pay phone number).

Officer: I’ll see (Click).

I waited for 30 minutes. The sun was setting. Quiet. Birds chirping their evening hymms. Then the pay phone rang.

Scott: This is Scott Petersen (I figured that was better than “hullo”).

Judge: This is Judge ___ . You wanted me to call (sounds of splashing and children in the background)

Scott: Your Honor, I’m from Chicago. I (explained how I had) just graduated from law school and passed the bar. I was just pulled over by two officers for speeding – 108 in a 65 zone. I am guilty.  But I am supposed to appear in court and I am also supposed to appear before the Character & Fitness Committee of the Bar at that time. I was wondering. . . .

Judge: Just a minute (long silence). All right, Mister Petersen. Raise your right hand. Repeat after me. “I promise that I will never speed again.”

Scott: I will never speed again.

Judge: I want you to promise. I want you to swear to me. . .

Scott: (I raised my hand in the phone booth) I swear. . . I swear. . . I will never speed again.

Judge: Send me your ticket. Mark it “personal.” Remember Mister Petersen – you promised me. (Click)  It was a not guilty over the phone.  No fine.

The Judge could have said “tough kid – you show up or else.” But he didn’t. The lesson therefore became all the more powerful.  Seriously.  And since then, I have never taken a car much beyond the speed limit. When tempted, I am always tugged back to a fall day in 1972. . . . when I made a promise. . . .

TED

On December 29th I spoke of TED Talks.  I continue to be enlightened, motivated, inspired and nourished by TED Talks – while lunching at my desk.  Some of you may have read the post and thought “interesting.”  And clicked “delete.”  Lemme try once more.  Below are a few of my favorite TED Talks.  Simple.  Straightforward.  And easy listening.  All 10 minutes or so.  C’mon.  Click.   The first one follows up my post of February 23, 2014:

The music of sign language http://www.ted.com/talks/christine_sun_kim_the_enchanting_music_of_sign_language 

Talking to strangers http://www.ted.com/talks/kio_stark_why_you_should_talk_to_strangers  

David Brooks – what’s better.  Your resume virtues?  Or eulogy virtues?http://www.ted.com/talks/david_brooks_should_you_live_for_your_resume_or_your_eulogy  

Before I die – http://www.ted.com/talks/candy_chang_before_i_die_i_want_to

Reclaiming religion  http://www.ted.com/talks/sharon_brous_it_s_time_to_reclaim_and_reinvent_religion

Having better political discussions http://www.ted.com/talks/robb_willer_how_to_have_better_political_conversations

Having lunch at your desk?  Bored?  Need a swift kick in the caboose?  Log on to http://www.ted.com – close your eyes and click.  You won’t be disappointed. 

Is there anything in my teeth?

How often do you go in the bathroom, look in the mirror and give yourself a quick open-mouthed grimace.  Just to make sure there’s nothing stuck in your teeth.  I sometimes do.  Occasionally, I will find something lodged in my pearly whites the size of a small fishing lure.

When Donna and I go out for dinner with our daughter and her family, I will sometimes use my tongue to position a large hunk of lettuce to cover my front upper teeth.  Then I’ll open my mouth with a Cheshire cat grin and say to the crowd “do I have anything in my teeth?”   My granddaughters think this is hysterical.  They laugh and giggle.  Even my daughter (who is accustomed to such tomfoolery) will laugh.  Donna, however, will narrow her eyes, tighten her gaze and say “that’s not funny.”  I disagree.  It has got to be funny if the people at the next table are laughing too. . . . . 

Teachers Unions

Does the Chicago Teachers Unions care about education?  Or poor kids?  Look at the facts.  The Teachers Union wants a tight lid on competition.  Fight charter schools.  Fight reform.  Fight getting rid of bad teachers.  Keep lousy schools lousy.  Raise unfunded pension deficits.  Deny opportunity for educational choice.  Demand fewer school days.  Shorter hours to work.  Yet demand more money.  More benefits.   Read the newspapers.  This ain’t fake news, people.  I have to wonder why.  Why do they do it?   I see no moral explanation. 

Poor parents beg – clamor – for good schools for their children.  They sign up in droves for a chance at a charter school.  Most teachers unions respond to the poor with a snarled four letter word.  And a finger.  Talk about building a wall . . . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reformation in teachers unions.  A reformation in attitude — where education comes first.  Children come first.  The poor are not denied.  Giving opportunity to all kids to reach their highest potential.  I don’t rule it out.  But this is a change that will have to come from within.            

 

Gus Edwards

I went to the veterinarian to pick up my daughter’s dog who had been boarded for a few days. I walked in and said “I’m here to pick up Gus.” The young woman looked at me “last name?”

It was then I realized that dogs have last names that must be trotted out on special occasion. If you asked me if I had a dog, I’d say “yes.” If you asked me her name, I’d say “Daisy.” And that would be it.  If I responded that my dog’s name was “Daisy Petersen,” you’d probably look at me, roll your eyes and start edging away. . . . .

At the veterinarian though – it’s customary for dogs, cats, gerbils and the occasional fish to have last names. “I’m here to pick up my hamster – “Butterscotch Petersen.” And the receptionist would nod and check the records.  And send a note to the back room to bring out “Butterscotch Petersen.”  No rolled eyes.  No edging away.  Just a $184.00 hotel bill for Butterscotch Petersen.