I Don’t Get No Respect. . . .

My wife made me join a bridge club. I have to jump off next Tuesday.

When I was in high school, a girl called and said “come on over. Nobody’s home.” I went over to her house. Nobody was home.

My wife is such a bad cook, the flies chipped in to fix the screen door. The roaches hang themselves in the pantry. Most guys go home and get pot roast. I go home and get roast pot. Did you ever see meat loaf that glows in the dark?  In my house, we pray after the meal. . . .

Oh I miss Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004). He was a classic (which may share a whisper about my sense of humor). Born Jacob Rodney Cohen in New York, he started writing for standup comedians at the age of 15 and began performing (as “Jack Roy“) when he was 20.  In the 1960’s he was performing stand up comedy at night and working as a salesman or singing waiter by day.  Nothing seemed to go right for him and he went deep into debt.  He came to realize that he needed a stage “image.”  Since nothing went right for him, the light went on over his head.   On March 5, 1967, The Ed Sullivan Show needed a last minute replacement and “Rodney Dangerfield” made his big debut.   And he was the hit of the show.  He was invited as a guest on The Dean Martin Show and then The Tonight Show – where he appeared on 35 occasions.  Rodney’s career peaked in the 1980’s when he appeared in the iconic movie “Caddyshack” and several other films (including “Easy Money” and “Back to School“). 

In 2001, he suffered a minor heart attack backstage at The Tonight Show.  And his health began to slide.  In August 2004, he entered the hospital for a heart-valve replacement.  When someone asked how long he’d be in the hospital, he responded “if all goes well, a week or 10 days.  If not, then maybe an hour and a half.”  He died a short time later – at 83 – and was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.  His headstone reads “There goes the neighborhood.” 

Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FPv2toi5og for a laugh (and the many others alongside) 🙂

A Hero

In my post of February 7, 2013, I spoke of the courage of 17 year old Malala Yousafzai — the young woman from the Swat Valley of Northern Pakistan who stood up to the evil of Taliban oppression, was shot (and nearly died) and now continues to speak out all over the world — on behalf of women and young girls. Malala is a Hero (with a capital “H”).

At Church on Sunday, I heard another Hero speak. Her name is Bridget Brown. Bridget wears many hats.  She is a student, she mentors and teaches students with disabilities, she works as a dental assistant, she is a prolific public speaker and she does television commercials. Oh – and did I mention — Bridget has Down’s Syndrome?  Bridget’s presentation was captivating.  To say the least.  She is articulate.  Funny.  And compelling.  And she is an inspiration.  In her presentations, she urges her audience to see the abilities in those around us — not the disabilities.  And she asks listeners to be inclusive of those with disabilities – since we all share the same emotions, feelings and desire to be accepted, cared for and loved.  And perhaps because it was Sunday, at Church, Bridget talked of how Jesus seemed to spend  a fair amount of time with disabled people.  Helping them.  Healing them.  There is a lesson here. . . . . . 

Bridget’s website is http://www.butterfliesforchange.org  

The Lazy Face

In my post of March 19, 2012 (“Trouble Sleeping?”), I talked about how I deal with the issue of trying to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night.  The one big thing for me (apart from “ABC” – see 2/6/14) is the “clenched hands” issue.  When I open and relax my hands, the rest of me starts to relax.  

But recently I’ve noticed another phenomenon that also keeps me awake.  When I am laying there – thinking of work, handyman projects (like us non-handymen do), cooking, writing this blog, etc. I come to the conclusion that my eyes – while closed – are squinting.   It’s almost like my face is screwed up when one is in deep contemplation.  So, I’ve been relaxing my shoulders and letting my jaw drop a bit to relax my face.  I think of it as adopting a “lazy face.”  And you know what?   It seems to work.  In combination with the 337 other things I do to relax while wide-awake at night, I’ve now added the “lazy face.”  And then of course there’s the “bent ear” phenomenon when I find myself laying on my pillow with my ear doubled over. . . . . .   


On August 17, 1973, Ernie S  – an 18 year old with a lengthy rap sheet – broke into a home at 5009 South Ellis in Chicago where Susan Marie H was working as a graphic artist in a small studio in the home. Susan surprised Ernie while he was rifling through two purses in the dining room.  He picked up a large knife and stabbed her five times in the chest and stomach. She screamed and Ernie ran out. Susan’s friends in the other room came in and sat her at the kitchen table. She was doubled over and bleeding heavily. Officers who arrived on the scene realized there was no time for an ambulance. They picked her up and raced her to a hospital. Susan – age 23 – was DOA.

In 1976, I was 29 and a seasoned Assistant States Attorney in the Felony Trial Division. I handled a great number of murder cases and I remember details of many. But this one stands out.  It was a 2 week jury trial which I tried with my partner Chuck H.   The jury deliberated for an hour, Ernie was convicted and sentenced to 100 to 300 years (see post of 10/28/12).   

About 7 years ago, I had a call out of the blue from the State’s Attorney’s Office. “Mister Petersen, do you remember a home invasion/murder involving Ernie S__?” I said “yes” and provided graphic details.  The State’s Attorney who called me said “wow – you really do remember.” Of course. I will never forget.  Upon his election, State’s Attorney Richard Devine began asking former State’s Attorneys to participate in parole hearings.  On the bad cases.  I just testified for the third time on Wednesday.  Asking that Ernie never be released.  It is terribly emotional.  Susan’s parents both died a few years after Susan’s death.  Eight months apart.  They were in their mid-50’s.  Two of Susan’s siblings have died.  Why?  Grief.  Susan’s sister Pat has testified “you have no idea how suffocating the grief is when something like this happens to a family.”   

Ernie?  A few years after his conviction, he escaped from a prison van taking him to a hospital.  He ran into a Joliet high school, stormed into a classroom and dragged a 14 year old girl into a stairwell.  Police were minutes behind and he was recaptured. 

Neither the death penalty nor life without parole were available in 1976 but this is one case where either would have applied.  Instead remaining family members have had to argue against his release every few years.  Reliving the pain.  

So What Do We Do??

When I read of the tragedy unfolding in Syria, the intense suffering in Central Africa, the mind-numbing poverty and starvation in Sudan, the cruelties in North Korea and the violence around the globe, I have to wonder – what do we do (collectively or individually)  When it comes to this mind-boggling conundrum, there are two choices:  do nothing or do something

In the “do something” realm, I thought about the options.  And I thought I would complile a list.  To ponder what kind of “something” might serve.  Regrettably, there are not many possibilities:

Military Intervention – Always an option but never a very good one 

Political Intervention – Getting involved in the local political process (nearly as bad as the military option unless it’s political “pressuring”)

Humanitarian – The “biggee.”  Supporting with time, talent or funds those organizations which provide food, shelter, medical assistance, education and support for the oppressed

Prayer – Always an option with no downside

Mobilizing Others – This includes just “spreading the word” about the issues.  Raising awareness.  Encouraging involvement.  Raising the prospects of meaningful contribution by our brethren (mainly in the “Humanitarian” area).  Lobbying

In Walter Lippmann’s classic work American Foreign Policy, he spoke of how in foreign policy the United States should be motivated only by “national interest” (see post of 5/3/12).  But is there a “national interest” in intervening in such situations?  Can a pressing humanitarian urgency trump national interest?   Actually, I see no inconsistency between the two except possibly in cases where national sovereignty is perceived as threatened (like North Korea).  Yet there is a clear limit on what we can  undertake – and accomplish.   I’d be interested in your “take” on what – if anything – “we” should do.  Or what more we can do.  As individuals.  Or as nations.      


When one purchases a defective product, there is usually a temptation to call the company that made it. And complain. And ask for money back or a replacement. Some folks announce that “I’m going to call the President of the company and give him [or her] a piece of my mind.”  Sometimes it works.  And the decision is justified.  But if the President says “sorry” – you’re fresh out of options. 

When I have an issue with a company (or product or organization or whatever), I try to accomplish at the lowest possible level that which I want accomplished.  If I start at the President of the company and he or she says “sorry kiddo,” there is no appellate court.  You’re fini.  S.O.L.  So when I have a problem, issue, complaint or rant — and I want something done — I start with the person who answers the phone.  It may be Debbie or John or Elmer or Bambi.  And I explain.  If they can’t help me, I say “may I speak to your supervisor please?”   And I go up the ladder.  Using this procedure, you get perhaps five bites of the apple instead of just one.  Recently an insurance question came up and it was resolved with the person who answered the phone. 

This methodology is called “subsidiarity.”  The premise is that a matter ought to be handled by the lowest authority capable of addressing the matter effectively.  It is a concept that has application in government as well.  Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic study Democracy in America spoke of subsidiarity in terms of “decentralization.”  Instead of constructing massive unwieldly federal programs, one allows local municipalities and citizens to deal with issues.  When you have a problem with your local grade school, do you go to the U.S. Department of Education or do you start with your child’s teacher? 

I think there is a lesson here. . . .    

So this guy. . . . .

Two guys are in an airplane flying at 35,000 feet. Suddenly there’s a loud “BANG.” The pilot comes on the intercom “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just lost one of our four engines. We have three other engines and it is no problem to fly.  But we’ll be about one hour late getting to our destination.”

A little while later – another loud “BANG.” Captain comes on “Folks, we have lost a second of our four engines. But this plane can fly on two. But we’re going to be about two hours late getting to our destination.”

A few minutes later, there is another huge “BANG.” The captain comes on the intercom and says “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve never had this happen but we’ve lost a third of our four engines. This plane is designed to fly on one engine so we’re fine.  But we’re going to be about three hours late getting to our destination.”

So the one guy turns to the other and says “Man – if we lose that fourth engine, we’re going to be up here all day!”


Winter’s Full Court Press

I was talking to a friend about the weather.  I opined “I hate this winter.”  He responded cheerily “Oh but it’s winter.  It’s what we expect.”  I was a little more sharp than usual in my retort “but it has been intense, colder than normal with more snow than usual.”  He laughed.  “Oh that’s winter.”  Ho ho ho. . . .  

My countenance darkened.  My eyes narrowed.  Smoke began to waft from my ears . . . . . but I smiled through my teeth and remembered the admonition of my grandmother “if you can’t say something nice – don’t say anything.”  I growled inwardly.  Said “yep.”  And walked away.

I just came back from 10 days in the Caribbean.  On the night we returned, Chicago had just gotten 9 inches of new snow and it was freezing.  We got home, crawled under layers of blankets, shivered and turned out the lights.  Next morning, my eyes blinked open and it hit me – this isn’t St. Barth’s Toto.  An hour later, I’m trudging through the ice and snow in 5 degree weather bundled up like Admiral Byrd heading to the train station. 

I can tolerate cold weather but this winter has been positively awful.  I wanna be warm.  I wanna play golf.  I wanna go to the beach.  I wanna grill my food outside.  I wanna open the windows and sleep with a sheet – not 15 pounds of blankets.  I wanna walk in 80 degree sunshine to and from the train.  I wanna use my fly swatter.  Let’s put it this way.  If you have liked this winter, keep it to yourself.               

Trips versus Vacations

I like vacations. I just returned home from 10 days in the Caribbean (St. Barth’s to be precise). Every morning, I slept until 8:00. Or later. Got up. Sat on a recliner overlooking the ocean. Sipping coffee and lingering over my cereal and fruit.  Some work on my laptop.  Then, more coffee. A book. More coffee. A little exercise. Yawn. Stretch. And think about lunch. Lunch was around 1:30 to 2:00 pm. Usually a salad or something light.  Bread and olive oil.  Oh – and a large bowl of pommes frites.  Looking out on the emerald waters and golden sands.  Then back to the home we rented.  To rest. Read. Some bridge. A little wine. And then we’d start thinking about dinner. Yawn.

That vacation was pretty special. It was not a “trip.” I’ve been on trips.  And let me tell you.  They are different.  Where you have to get up at 6:00 a.m. Wolf down some breakfast and be at the bus at 7:30 a.m. Sharp. And then you drive on a bus with no bathroom for two hours to a place where you hike what seems like 20 miles to see a historical site. Then hike 20 miles back to the bus. Drive another hour where it’s time for lunch. “We have to finish lunch in half hour.  We’re running late!”   Lunch is lettuce, olives, grey meat and bread.  We’re like Navy Seals in the “Crucible” in Coronado — devouring food on the fly and racing back to the boats.  “Go go go go!!”  More bus.  Late dinner.  Collapse.  Alarm goes off at six a.m.  Groundhog Day. . . . .   

I like “trips.”  There is a time and a place.  And I’ve enjoyed most of the “trips” I’ve been on.  But let me tell you something.  “Vacations” are special.  I’m always ready for another.  Maybe next time with my Calloway X-20’s. . . . .