Thursday, December 29, 2005

From tailfins to hybrids!

The half century mark passes today! I used to think of people like my father-in-law having lived in two centuries, as he went from harnessing horse teams to work his land to seeing us fly home on jets; I hadn't thought of myself that way until now.

Dad was a meat cutter; he and Mom had been married 5 years and he had worked his way up to running his own market in 1955. His store was a few door down from the Ford dealer and every day he saw the new ones come and go. In the spring of '55 he decided to trade his '53 two door for a new one. He really wanted a Thunderbird; it was the first year for them, they were gorgeous, and the two seater really appealed to him. Instead of spending the extra $200 for the T-Bird, he somehow thought he ought to get something with a back seat; before they made the first payment they found out Mom was pregnant with me...

Mom is 5 feet nothing, back then she might have weighed 100 pounds on a good day. She went into labor on Christmas Day, 1955. Our family doctor practiced through a Catholic hospital, and they didn't believe in Caesarians, so they left her in labor from the 25th through the morning of the 29th, then finally gave up making her deliver her 8 pound 13 ounce son naturally, gave her morphine to "take her out of labor" and took me Caesarian. For some reason, they said I was a sleepy for Mom there are times I think she's been getting even with me ever since!

As I look back, there are a lot of things that stand out, both good and bad. Decisions, indecisions, and a lot of pure dumb luck!

The 3rd person I met in San Diego when I transferred there out of my Navy jet engine school was a Navy Chief Petty Officer. He came knocking on the door of the barracks room I had just checked into because when one of my roomates saw the trumpet case I was carrying he said "I play too" and we proceeded to have an impromptu jam session. When the knock on the door came, I thought I was in big trouble, instead the Chief said it sounded really good and we should come play at the counseling facility he ran sometime. We became quite good friends; one of the luckiest breaks in my life!

30 years ago today I went to the plasma bank in National City, California for the 2nd time that week, if I remember right I got $9 for my donation. I had been out of the Navy for 6 months, put together a 1958 Triumph 650 Trophy model I had borrowed money from my grandparents to buy, and was doing little but riding, partying and working on bikes and cars. I crashed at the house of friends who were still on active duty, living on my plasma donations. I had come out of the ship's laundry on the USS Kittyhawk weighing about 126 pounds and was around 130 at this time, with a 29" waist. As I recall I bought a pack of papers, two packs of cigarettes, filled the bike tank and went home with about $2 left.

The Navy chief had called me earlier that fall and told me his cousin had just been transferred to San Diego from Hawaii, and that she and her younger sister were living with him and I should come meet them. I did, but the Triumph wasn't running yet, and I wasn't much on dating without wheels (dummy wasn't smart enough to call a walk to the beach 3 blocks away a date). By the time the Triumph ran, the younger sister had gone back to Vermont to college, and the older one had married a guy she had lived with in Hawaii. I spent the fall sliding further into oblivion, then around Christmas got a phone call from the older sister. The guy she had married had only wanted the "Barracks and Quarters" money she drew so he could live on it in Ohio, and now he wanted a divorce; her cousin had told her she should call me up and see if I wanted to go out with her.

We went out for the first time 30 years ago today. The date consisted of a ride out to Coronado on the Triumph, down "the Strand", past the Hotel Del Coronado, and back to Imperial Beach, then a stop at Jack-in-the Box for chocolate shakes. Thank goodness she didn't want a burger, because I couldn't have paid for it! We went back to the apartment she shared with her cousin and talked for hours; the next day we talked on the phone for a long time, and went for a short ride the day after, and talked most of the night.

I moved in with her a week later; later she said she felt sorry for me because my ribs were showing, and I will admit there were stray dogs that were probably of better character than I was at that time! I knew she was "the one" even then; after her bad experience of that fall it took almost a year to talk her into marrying me; were she less compassionate and understanding she would have fled, rightly so as I'm still no prize!

When it was time for her next duty station she was pregnant with our oldest son. She was to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and would have had to leave me stateside with a newborn, only able to visit once every 6 weeks (only officers got to take their spouses) so she opted for discharge, and we moved back to my hometown. Both of my Dad's neighbors were autoworkers, thought highly of me, and GM was hiring so they turned in applications for me, and that fall I went to work at the old Buick Oldsmobile Pontiac plant in Kansas City, Kansas. North American built B-25's there during WW2; my grandmother and 2 of her sisters had worked there. I've been there 27 years now; we tore down that old building and started production in a new one next door in 1988, and 2 years ago shifted from building the Pontiac Grand Prix to the new Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx.

This brings me to my header for this overly long missive; I came home from the hospital in a '55 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan; next fall I'll be helping build Malibu hybrids! The new Malibu in my driveway (the first car we've ever owned that I helped build)tells me everything from what mileage I'm getting and when it's oil change is due, to the temperature outside. I never dreamt that when I can remember gas at 15.9 cents a gallon that I'd see a car that gets 28 miles per gallon, let alone one that might get 50! My motorcycle only got 40 something...

Through all of this, I've been awfully lucky because most of it wasn't of my own making, that's for sure. It's truly been a wonderful life to this point! If I can ride this wave another 40 or so years, maybe get to watch my grandkids grow up and have some kids of their own, I'll consider myself one of the luckiest men ever!


Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's Christmas Eve!

Work is over for the year, and I am home not quite 2 hours into Christmas Eve. Some of the wrapping is done, lots more to go. The Christmas dinner and the adopt-a-family at work went well; I got to watch a ten year old girl scream and cry because she got the toy she wanted the most and never thought she'd get. She was actually afraid to touch it after she unwrapped it, like she was afraid it would disappear!
As I get ready to go start wrapping again, my mind is turning to New Year's resolutions; though there are many lofty and high ideal ones I'd love to make, I am going to stick to one's I have some chance at accomplishing:

1. To try to keep off the 93 pounds I've dropped since February of 2005; possibly even lose a few more, but not to gain any back. With this goes continuing to try and become healthier, and eat healthier...

2. To continue trying to be positive about things and not give in to the negativity and pessimism that influenced most of my life for it's first 50 years. Yes, the news out of D.C. is a constant source of agony and heartbreak, but I will keep writing my Congressman and Senators, trying to influence them when I can, and keep contributing what I can to the forces of change. I will continue to observe, grieve, write, think and read, but I will turn whatever emotion I am driven to to some positive end!

3. To try to explore new things instead of fearing them as I usually have my whole life. This last year physical therapy opened a new world of dieting and excercise for me; these led me to "working out" for the first time in my life, which led me to reading and learning more, which finally led to a mountain bike. Perhaps not this winter, but maybe next, a snowboard?

That's the big three for now; there are some smaller ones I'd like to add, but if I can nail those the others will fall into line.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

That's what I get...

for thinking I could put up a link that would work, lol! The blog column I was trying to share was entitled "Why We Fight", and of course my link takes you to the newest entry...someday I'll get the hang of this!

Gearing up for the Friday dinner and Christmas party at work; 15 pans of brownies through the oven tonight, and 5 more to go tomorrow night, plus a couple of extras for the family or maybe the wife's Christmas party at work on Friday. Next year I think I'll put in for vacation, just to avoid this, lol! I started out to do something for the teams I stock for, and it has snowballed over the years, like everything else I get involved I worry too much about hurting someone's feelings or saying "no" when I probably should!

Once more into the breach, my friends, the timer on the oven is calling!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

An eloquent post by a like minded person...

  • DoobertsDigs

  • Make sure to click on the little links, too, if you have time!


    Santa's list...

    used to be the one I worried about; trying to stay on the "good" one. Now I discover that by signing Greenpeace petitions and getting RFK jr.'s "Riverkeeper" newsletter, I'm probably on W's watch list along with Osama...maybe higher even, I have a couple of library cards and I use one of them, regularly! (Wait 'til they figure out I've checked out a couple of Bernard Shaw books recently!)

    Then there's my e-friend in Beirut I met on Jeanette Winterson's message board, and another in South Africa who moved there from the Phillipines. There's a Buddhist friend who moved to Europe I correspond with sometimes...I'm probably on a couple of agency lists by now!

    Then again, I also belong to a labor union, and write my Congressman regularly, and even my Republican senators on occasion...that probably doesn't help!

    I wonder how many of my taxpayer dollars have been spent trying to assess my threat level? If they find out I like "New Orleans jazz" they'll probably be breaking down my door!!!

    Merry Peacemas everyone!


    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Graduation in the snow...

    on Saturday morning was quite fun; we all got there safely in spite of the city's lack of effort at dealing with it. I am glad it worked out, at he has worked long and hard to get his degree, working full time and going to school carrying too many classes at one time while trying to have a family life and raise 3 kids.

    The rest of Saturday was a celebration at his house, which also became two of the family birthdays later in the afternoon; his wife's and my nephew, turning 18. Seems like yesterday my Dad and I were photographing my sister's wedding...

    Yesterday was 12 hours of Christmas shopping and errands, and this morning I finally got 8 hours sleep for the first time in two weeks! That could be a Christmas treat all in itself!

    Off now to get one of the last two presents and go to work; looking forward to the holiday shutdown next week as a chance to catch my breath.

    Hope you are each finding a moment here and there to enjoy the season, and the company of those you lovel Sometimes it's so hard to quit running and just be!


    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    "Good Night and Good Luck" (and the shrub)

    Almost two weeks ago, we slipped out on the wife's Sunday off and saw the movie. Since then, everytime I turn on the TV or NPR or Pacifica or the BBC, something that gets said that reminds me of this movie. I think back to the slander attacks on John McCain when he ran against Bush for the Republican nomination (I am after all a 'Nam era Navy vet, so those things get my attention); then there were all the people who questioned the war drums before we invaded Iraq being called traitors; then the "Swift Boat" attacks on John Kerry. Everytime someone speaks out they are attacked; it doesn't matter whether the attacks are true or not. If they are baldface lies, then Rove and his minions get someone else to do it, if they are halftruths then they will do it themselves, and then if the have to say "oops" later.

    That was Joe McCarthy's modus operandi, exactly! It was chilling to watch footage of the man himself doing the same identical thing to what's going on in Washington now, 50 years later. I know Truman said that "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it", but never thought it was supposed to be so soon after!

    The saddest thing is that there is no Ed Murrow out there with a network president ready to let him take on the lies and deceit, advertisers and shareholders be damned. Ted Turner might have been the last one, and they even managed to make a basenji of him.

    Today we went and saw "Syriana". Another stunning movie, though not in the same league as "Good Night and Good Luck". I have no doubt that everything portrayed on the screen has gone on over and over again in the last 50 or 60 years, and sadly, am sure it will continue to. When we finally find things out we are told it was for our own good, or that we don't understand, or some other demeaning drivel; at worst, someone gets moved, retired, or maybe demoted, and the next play is already underway.

    Sorry for the rant...

    Run, don't walk to see these two movies!


    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Twenty nine years...

    ago today my wife said "I do". It wasn't fancy, just a Judge in San Diego, at his home with his mother for a witness, and a few friends. Though we were "in it" for the long haul, I still can't belive she's put up with me all these years! Through the partying, the outgrowing of it (finally, after the kids were born) the layoffs from work, then the overtime at work (feast or famine, the GM way!) the house in need of repair or in need of the money for repair. Then there were all of the cars that always ran, but always needed worked on, the never ending cycle of getting them ready to go on vacation to Vermont (her home state) from Kansas City (because after the kids got big enough to need seats, we couldn't afford to fly anymore!), packing the tools just in case, and the spare was always something.
    Once we went to visit her Mom and Dad when I was laid off and took the diaper service diapers with us, two weeks worth! When we went the clean ones were bagged on the back floor of our '71 Impala; on the way home they were double bagged and in the trunk. The speed limit was still 55 most of the way then, and the trip was well over 30 hours; as fatigue set in somewhere in Ohio, I imagined what was going to happen if we were in a wreck and they found all the diapers everywhere and couldn't find the laundry truck...
    We went out the first time on my 20th birthday; December 29, 1975. Maybe more about that later...but it doesn't seem possible it's been 30 years ago!


    Sunday, December 11, 2005


    My first of Richard Pryor were his role in "Lady Sings the Blues"; growing up in the "wrong era" of music, I fell in love with Billie Holiday before I ever heard of Janis, or Jimi, or John Lennon. I wore out the soundtrack album stealing Sweets Edison's trumpet licks, along with others of Chet Baker, and Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berigan, et al..

    My sister listened to the Beatles, but I was always at a band practice, or practicing my horn, off in my own world, the kid the other kids said was born 50 years too late. The first rock and roll I remember listening to was in high school when riding with a friend and hearing "American Pie". The next year they put a jukebox in the cafeteria and I heard a few more, some Chicago and Paul Revere.

    I enlisted in the Navy in '73 when my Dad made me refuse a full paid music scholarship saying 180 miles was too far for me to be from home at 17; he said I could stay home and go to junior college. I told him I wasn't staying under his roof after I graduated, that I was going to college or the service. I had been playing Taps at Navy funerals for a couple of years, and the recruiter and I had it worked out to where I could go to the Navy music school. Only problem was Dad would only sign for a two year hitch, and music school required a 4 year enlistment. I went anyway, figuring I'd re-up at the end of two and go then. By the time the two was up I wanted no more to do with them, and got out and did my weekend warrior time for 3 years.

    Christmas of that year found me in the Philippines...I still haven't figured out whether Dad won or I did!

    My real introduction to the Beatles came when I was assigned to the ship's laundry on the USS Kittyhawk, on loan from my helo squadron. We worked 12 hour shifts, and the guy that ran the pants press next to the shirt press I was on listened to nothing else the whole time we worked. By then I had started to question a lot of things in my life and the world, and Lennon and McCartney fueled a lot more thought and questions. I'm still grateful to them...

    My political memories were of JFK and Camelot, his assassination; my Dad talking about how everone should be voting for George Wallace and his backhanding my teeth through my upper lip when I told him he shouldn't use "the N word" anymore, that no one should. It was fun going to school and explaining why I couldn't play my horn solos with the stage band until that healed! Funny how it was Dad that turned me on to Bunny Berigan, and Berigan said more than once his biggest influence and idol was Armstrong (as did every other trumpet player Dad loved from the big band era), but Dad wouldn't admit Louis existed until a couple of years before his (Dad's) death in '83. In early high school I had a great band director who turned me on to some early Armstrong tracks from when he first went to Chicago in the 20's, and I had told Dad he should check them out some time. 10 years later I went by to see him one day and he was working in the darkroom and had some of the Hot 5's and 7's on the turntable. Neither of us said anything about it; I wish now I'd asked him what he thought...

    Back to politics; my next big awakening was Bobby Kennedy. I heard a bit of his speeches somewhere in early '68 and had just bought "To Seek a Newer World" as I went off to a band camp at KU in the early summer of '68. The day I arrived there Bobby was killed and it seems like a light went off that stayed off for a very very long time. I thought I saw it flicker a few times, especially in the mid 90's; I thought perhaps hope and caring and taking care of each other wasn't gone and forgotten, but Newt and his buddies soon extinguished that little glimmer, and I truly wonder if I will see it again in the time I have left on this earth.

    Gene McCarthy I don't remember much about; the things I've learned in the days since he ceased to be a force in politics still cause me to say "what if", but then "what if JFK had lived, or Bobby, or Martin Luther heart starts to rend if I play that game, so I just can't. Imagining alternative history is not something I'm good at in my own life, let alone the world!

    But for every good heart that still beats in this world, I know we are less without him, and so many others who go unnoticed and unappreciated each and every day.

    I once read that the natives in Alaska used to explain the Northern Lights by saying that they were the souls of all those waiting to return to the world, and they were dancing. I'd like to believe there's a heck of a party going on while Lennon and the brothers Kennedy and McCarthy and so many others bide their time to come back and help us straighten this mess out; in the meantime I'll keep giving what I can where I can and trying to do something to turn my red state blue...


    Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    One more way to give/share this season...

    Over a year ago a friend sent me a link to a site where you click a set of banners each day, each click raising money for a cause. Since there is also merchandise shown that raises funds for each cause, their hope is that you will buy something on occasion. I have done my daily clicks almost every day since; I've also bought more than a few items for holidays and birthdays, each unique and wonderful. The idea that I'm also contributing to a cause while doing it has delighted both myself and those I gave the gifts to.
    Not being the brightest light when it comes to HTML, I'm going to put the URL below, then see if I can paste it into my sidebar...if the whole internet crashes tonight, it's my fault, sorry!


    Make sure you scroll down after you click on the first banner to see the other cause banners...if only a few people find time to do this each day it will make so much difference in so many lives! Thank you!!!!

    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    Sunday afternoon...

    is about half over now. Being a nightshift person, I slept 'til 11:30 the slowly started my day. Wife called from work at noon, then I went outside before the "front" breaks later this afternoon. 40's most of last week; 69 yesterday, 58 overnight and 61 now. We get thunderstorms and possible tornadoes this afternoon, turning to snow tonight with mid 30's, then 27 by Tuesday morning. (Peeking at the TV and they just issued a tornado watch.)

    I went out and wrapped up the air conditioners in heavy plastic, shoveled the yard (cleaning up after our dog before I can't) took the swings off the swingset and put them in the garage, and put the storm windows in the doors while I could still clean the glass.

    Some day I'll figure out how to post pics here to join in the Sunday fun...

    A lovely lady on the West Coast brought a thought to my mind earlier; I give to Harvesters, the United Way (heavily, if that makes sense grammatically, since I can payroll deduct it) and some other causes through the year, but with all that 's going on in the world, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just get everyone to give up one gift and donate it's value to some cause, any cause? Even if only half of us did it (tempted to say the good half since that seems to be how many of "us" there are at the present time) and it was a $15 gift value, that's over a billion dollars (if my illiterate autoworker math skills are correct).

    At work it's time for the annual "Adopt A Family" program; teams go through the United Way and adopt a local family for the holiday, contributing money, gifts and food to brighten their holidays, culminating with our Christmas dinners at work when the families get to come in and watch us build cars, join us for dinner and we get to watch the kids open part of their gifts, since we always try to make them save most of them for Christmas morning. I've gotten much too involved in this at times over the years, being bit over-emotional and too sentimental for my own good. It has gotten me "in trouble" at home a few times, since we have kids and grandkids and nieces and nephews...

    As I said, it's just a thought, but all it takes is a few of us to start something that could do a lot of good...


    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Our turkey's in the oven...

    Potatoes on the stove top; she just got home from work and is in the shower. Quiet day of fixing things, and perhaps an evening of TV ahead. I don't know whether to be grateful that the holiday is past, or fear that this might be the last minutes peace before the next one...


    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    The best laid plans of mice and me...

    Shopped yesterday to avoid the day before Thanksgiving; of course last night I get a list of things we still need, plus a trip to the bank because I finally talked her into direct deposit, but only mailed the stuff last week for that. Then last night at work I remembered that last year I bought little fold out paper accordion turkeys for the grandkids like the ones Dad used to bring my sister and I home from the grocery store he worked in. Needless to say, they were all sold out...but as I wandered through I saw a Christmas Tree pinata, so a different idea was born. I now have it and about 6 different kinds of candy to fill it with (feed them sugar and leave them at home?) so we'll see what the family thinks about that about this time tomorrow afternoon!

    A wonderful Thanksgiving to all!


    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Shopped today to avoid tomorrow, lol...

    and bought our "cook" turkey that I will cook on Saturday while wife is at work for "our" Thanksgiving dinner, as Thursday is at my son's and it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without turkey leftovers. Bought one last week and put in the freezer, but didn't have room for two...
    At 200 for the moment, we'll see how that does through the holidays, but since I started at 288 in February, I'm not going to beat myself up if it creeps a bit. Was in 58's, now in 38's and leaning towards 36's; I haven't seen that waist size in almost 20 years!
    As we enter the real rush of the holidays, try to remember to take a moment or two every now and then for yourselves! Catch your breath, enjoy! Each year snowballs by faster and faster, they go by in such a blur it's hard to remember distinct moments; try and save one or two for memories!


    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Whirlwind weekend!

    We signed all the refi papers Saturday morning; because of the "cooling off" period and the holiday, the check gets mailed next week. House payment dropping almost 50%, so that will let us dig out of the other debt we're mired in and maybe someday I can think about retiring...

    Wife's birthday weekend (Sunday actual) so had planned on 4 movies she really wanted to see this weekend. Oldest (Bill) called from Lawrence on Saturday with their shopping list for Sam's Club, so though I had already been Friday so she didn't have to shop this weekend, we went back there and Costco. We got home 4ish and Bill and Laura arrived; threw in a roast for dinner and then watched "Jumanji" which I had bought for her birthday but she found by accident. That was the precursor to seeing "Zathura" (better than you'd think, not that it takes a lot to tear me up). Back home after the movie, since it was after midnight she got to open one present. Kept telling her "I knew she didn't like jewelry, but" as she was opening Janis Joplin's "Box of Pearls" set, then dishes, a bit of TV and off to bed.

    Sunday was a bit more laid back; her favorite cinammon rolls for breakfast, and then she opened her card and presents from me (the last thing I'm keeping 'til the family party on Friday that she doesn't know about yet). Then we slipped off to see "Zathura" a bit later than I had planned on. The other movie was to be "Goodnight and Good Luck" but there was one at the "art house" I had been wanting to see for weeks and fearing it would be gone before we got to it, she said we could go see "An Unfinished Life" instead; stunning movie! Next weekend we'll make Gearge Clooney (hopefully still at the art house, as I keep trying to support them when I can) along with "Chicken Little" for the family day after Thanksgiving movie.

    So for the first time in 3 weeks I'm off to the gym now since I'm not between phone calls from the mortgage people, life insurance people and trying to work on the kitchen (it's not done yet, they did a drive by assessment and so things are moving at a more leisurly pace now, thank goodness!). Then I'll come home, shower, eat, pack my cooler and go off for my 9 hours at work...


    Saturday, November 19, 2005


    The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

    Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
    But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

    Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Finally, the closing!

    After weeks of anxiety, Saturday we close the refi...having that off my mind will make the holidays a lot more bearable!

    The string of family birthdays has begun, between shopping for those and Christmas, if I had much hair left I'd balder by the time we get through it. Guess it's good it's too short to get ahold of...

    Sorry if my last post was a bore; the idea of losing the one thing I thought I could depend on in my future was a bit much; I don't know how it will turn out, but I know it will, somehow. Believing in Karma makes everything so much easier to bear! :o)

    Put a second payment on my 50th birthday present this last week (in layaway 'til the refi closes and we get the money). Buying a mountain bike might not be the sanest thing I'll ever do, but when I weighed 288 in February and now that I'm down to 200, I plan to do everything I can find to keep from going the other way again! Not planning to stunt or race, but just spend some time on some single track on the weekends when the wife is working. She keeps saying if I'm going to ride then she is too, but with a replacement knee and hip everything I keep reading says she shouldn't...we'll see! Somehow the idea of going through the surgeries again would be enough to make me not do it, but then I'm not a hard headed Vermont girl!

    Off to eat and pack my cooler and go do my 9 hours in the car plant!


    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Now they want our pensions, too!

    Just before our Veteran's Day ceremonies at work on Friday night (no, we don't get Veteran's Day off until they Monday after) I was handed of the following from the UAW Newswire (I will put a link to the page at the end of this):

    "Next week the House may take up a dangerous pension bill (H.R. 2830) crafted by House GOP leaders and the Bush administration. This legislation could force GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and other companies to freeze all pension credits and/or prohibit any further benefit improvements.

    Please call your Representative toll free: 1-888-355-3588.

    If pension credits are frozen, this means no workers would be able to earn any more credits. For example, a worker with 15 years of service would be frozen at that amount of pension credits, no matter how much longer they worked. Similarly, a worker with 29 years of service would be frozen at that amount of pension credits, and would never be able to qualify for a 30-and-out pension, no matter how much longer they worked.

    If benefit improvements are prohibited, this means the UAW could not even negotiate to update benefit levels to keep pace with inflation. This would be true both for active workers and for retirees!

    This awful pension bill would also outlaw special early retirement benefits that are now triggered when there is a plant closing. This would eliminate one of the most important mechanisms for cushioning the impact of plant closings on workers.

    This terrible pension legislation represents an enormous attack on the pensions of UAW active and retired members and tens of thousands of other workers employed at major manufacturing companies throughout the United States. It is an attempt by the Bush administration and House GOP leaders to undermine negotiated defined benefit pension plans.

    At the same time that House GOP leaders are attacking pension benefits for workers and retirees, they have not done anything to the lucrative pensions earned by Members of Congress. Despite the huge federal deficits, Members of Congress would continue to have their pension credits and benefits increase automatically every year.


    Please call your Representative toll free: 1-888-355-3588. Urge him or her to vote against this dangerous pension bill (H.R. 2830), that would freeze pension credits and benefits for American autoworkers and other industrial workers. Tell your Representative that Congress ought to be protecting pension benefits for American workers, not freezing pension credits and benefits, or outlawing plant closing benefits! Also tell them it is wrong for Congress to freeze pension credits and benefits for rank-and-file workers while lucrative pensions for Members of Congress are continuing to increase automatically every year!"

    My stomach has been churning all weekend, each time I thought of losing the one thing I thought I could count on for the last 27 years. Following is my letter to my Congressman:

    "Congressman Dennis Moore
    1727 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Congressman Moore,

    Thank you for your response to my writing you about ANWR. Each time I hear from you it is the highlight of my day. I never thought I would be honored with a response the first time I contacted you, let alone each time!
    I work at the Fairfax General Motors plant, and am starting on my 28th year there. Friday night before our Veteran's Day ceremonies, I was handed a notice that there is a majority crafted bill H.R. 2830 afoot that would freeze my pension credits, making me unable to retire, that it would prohibit benefit improvements for not only active employees, but retirees as well, and would also outlaw our negotiated early retirement benefits for plant closings, which only apply to those with more than 25 years when their plant is closed allowing them to retire at the 30 year rate instead of trying to relocate with the rest of the workforce from their facility. In the dwindling environment of American autoworkers, I have known people to have waited years to be able to transfer somewhere else to try to be able to get their last few years towards retirement. I worked with one man who had hired in in 1968 in Southgate, California and was working in his 5th plant since he hired in, each time starting at the bottom of the seniority ladder as only his corporate time held, not his plant seniority. He had hired in setting park brakes at 28 years old, he was almost 60 and doing that same job again when I worked with him 6 years ago, and finally managed to get his "time to retire" last year at 64 years old.
    We each hired in knowing that no matter how physically demanding our jobs, be them in the paint booths, or the body shop, or chassis that we could look forward to doing our 30 and getting out with a pension and our medical benefits for whatever time we had left. Recently someone said in researching our retirees that they live an average of 5 years after their retirement date, regardless of their age when they go out the door. There are times each of us would have quit over the years and gone to a less demanding job, something less physically abusive, or less stressful, but knowing we had a pension to look forward to has kept us there. As of late we've had more than a few who haven't made it to retirement, and their ages are a lot closer to mine than I like to think about!
    Now it seems that even that is to be taken away from us by those who have no compassion for anything but their wallets. I have always counted on my retirement, figuring that when I did get out I would go do something else as I knew I couldn't count on Social Security and I have no savings; I also knew that when my day comes that my wife would get half my pension (somehow unfair when I still get the full amount if she dies) and get to keep her medical as long as I retire first and don't die while still working at GM.
    I don't know if there is anything you can do to save us from this; sometimes I wish it was more like the old Jimmy Stewart movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and that one honest man could stand up and change everything because I know you are that man. Reality is that in this day and time I know it takes more than one, but somehow I am hoping that you can put together some kind of coalition that can stem this assault on benefits that our grandparents and great grandparents negotiated for us because they had a vision of blue collar workers being able to retire with dignity instead of being discarded like the scrap from the factory floor.
    Once again, forgive me for bothering you amid your busy workday, and thank you for being my representative!"

    I don't know how anyone else will feel about all this; in a world where most people don't have a pension to count on, perhaps no one cares about the few of us who do having it ripped from under us, but if someone reads this and doesn't mind writing their representative, I would be truly grateful!


    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    and the world spins some more...

    Just finished begging my financial advisor(my sister the bank VP) for advice on our refi, as what they told me over the phone bears no resemblance to the papers they sent us. I should have finished the kitchen today and been outside to paint the end of the house by tomorrow to beat the assessor, but after working every day on it before going to work for 9 hours a night, I was told that I had to start over as "the wallboard just isn't working" which meant the wainscot all had to come down, I have to spackle and patch sheetrock (the whole point of the wallboard), paint, rehang the wainscot and trim it all, then paint them as well. Then the last cabinet can go up...
    The only bright spots in my week have been the Shaw short stories I've been reading at work, and Pygmalion!
    Oh well, off to the grocery, Wal-Mart and Lowe's while the first of the spackle and wood putty set!


    First post

    and though it will seem a waste, since I did this once before, didn't post and it disappeared...

    Weeks of stress are taking their toll; work, finances, working at home, trying to stay sane and have any kind of life. Now the holidays are looming on the horizon, and I'm not sure I shouldn't have said looning! Mandatory overtime at work- a good time of year for it; mentally and physically it's never a good time...

    'Til next time...