Saturday, October 24, 2015

Papa's Advice for Traveling and Working and Living

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."--EH
Last night I packed my bag (that's right, bag, as in one carry-on bag or in this case, ratty old backpack) and my laptop for what will be an extended trip to Italy (and points beyond). For two months I will be working, touring the Italian edition of Moonlight Sonata, eating, drinking, playing, and whatever else I feel like doing.

All this in mind, I thought it might be appropriate to pass on some travel and writing tips to any of you considering the life of the literary expat (even if only for a month or two). But then it kind of dawned on me that you shouldn't take my word for it. Take someone else's word. Someone made famous not only by his words but by his love and fascination with travel.

Ernest Hemingway.

Here's what Birchbox compiled with regards to Papa's love of the road, the air, and the sea, not to mention his never ceasing passion for working while traveling. Something I can relate to as easily as breathing.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Guns Don't Shoot All By Themselves

Yes, Obama, mass shooting occur elsewhere in the world too

Two weeks ago I attended a handgun safety course, which is a part of the overall mandated program for obtaining a pistol permit in New York State. Prior to attending the class I assumed it would be full of young men, all of them filled with piss and vinegar, maybe a few boasting CAT tractor baseball caps, or some others with Dukes of Hazard Ts pulled over massive weight-trained biceps.

I was gladly mistaken. The room was filled with an eclectic assortment of individuals to be certain, more than half of whom were women. Women of all ages. Some in their late 60s, a couple in their 50s, and so on and so forth. The young woman who sat beside me was getting her license so she and her boyfriend could shoot together. She looked at me with brilliant green eyes and said she couldn't wait to get the permit. But many of the older women felt the need to better protect themselves in an America that has grown increasingly more dangerous over the past eight years, due to racial divisiveness and a war on the police.
It's possible this man stood up for his Christian belief and died for it

Little more than a week ago, another one of those horrible and senseless mass shootings occurred at a campus in Oregon. The shooter killed 9 students and faculty, and injured many more. According to reports, the victims were required to state their religion before the shooter pulled the trigger. I won't mention the killer's name here since it doesn't deserve even the time it would take me to type it. But I bleed for the loved ones of the dead and pray that somehow these killings will one day cease.

Within hours of the tragic event, President Obama once again used the sad news as an opportunity to press a political agenda of anti-NRA sentiment and gun control legislation that, if he were to have his way (which he won't), would mandate total confiscation of America's guns and the repeal of the Second Amendment. You've read the novel before or perhaps seen the movie. The one in which the fascist state puts together a kind of SS-style militant organization that pounds down your door, demanding you hand over your weapons. Something that would not only be impossible in this country, but would be severely resisted, by force if necessary.

But what really happens during these horrible tragedies?

Do the guns pick themselves up and do their own shooting? Or does the fault lie elsewhere, like in the brain of the shooter perhaps? Instead of touting his hatred of guns, perhaps Obama should focus on the real tragedy here. The killers are mentally ill and just plain filled with hatred. Or is "politicizing" (Obama's word), the mentally ill not PC in America? Did you know that a mentally ill person cannot be incarcerated until he or she commits a violent crime to themselves or others? Where is the logic in that Mr. Conscious in Chief? Again, am I not being politically correct? Or is political correctness akin to those ten round magazines you wish to abolish? Abide by both principles and you won't see anymore carnage. A naive notion at best, a dangerous one at worst. 
Welcome to Mexico

When President Obama spouts something so wrong as we're the "only nation where this (mass shootings, that is) regularly happens,” I have to to wonder what planet he's from, or who's advising him anyway.

Isn't this the same President who enjoyed a photo op with the three young brave Americans who thwarted an AK47 wielding madman on a train between Belgium and France? And wasn't one of those young men enrolled in the Oregon college where the mass shooting took place? What about the mass shootings taking place in the name of Radical Islam in the Middle East and North Africa?

When I was in Egypt at the end of the failed Arab Spring and the Barack Obama-supported Muslim Brotherhood was walking the streets of Cairo with their AK47s at the ready, I never once bothered to ask if anyone of them had passed a federal background check. Should we ask the families of the Christians who have been shot in the back of the head execution style if the guns were responsible for their murders, or the assholes who pulled the triggers? Should we ask the families of those murdered at Paris's Charlie Hebdo? How about Nairobi in 2013 when dozens of mall goers were shot just for not being Muslim (Trust me, a traveler friend of mine, Fran Strazzella, miraculously lived to write about the massacre in his 90 Minutes in Nairobi) What about down south in Mexico? Surely there are no drug cartel related mass shooting there either (tongue in cheek).

But this is no laughing matter. The US and the world in general has become a dangerous, angry as all hell place. Perhaps it's better to protect one's self than be a victim.

If the POTUS and I agree on one thing it's this: these mass killings must stop. But instead of pointing at the guns as the problem, point your finger instead at the crazy angry lunatics who wield them. Simply ignoring them because it's not politically correct to label them as crazy isn't doing anyone any good. Here's how politically correct I am, Mr. President: Note to all you loons who think you'll become famous for shooting up a school in the US or shooting a Christian in the face in the Middle East. Do us all a favor and shoot yourself first.

The other day, at the police station where I was awaiting being printed for the pistol license, I met an elderly African American woman. She was small, tiny even, with a sweet face and demeanor. We got to talking about guns, and the violence that was seizing our country like a plague. Two young cops had been shot this past month in her community alone. One of them about to become a father. Or course we spoke about the tragedy in Oregon. She told me that she feared for her life in this climate where it's seemingly okay to kill officers of the law. If not for the police, who will protect us? Certainly not Obama (He is, by trade, a professional agitator after all). I told her about the pistol safety course I'd recently attended, how there were several women about her age in attendance. She asked me for information about the class.

"Perhaps it's time I thought about buying a gun to protect myself," she said.