Tag Archives: Fourth of July

Birthday parties: a serious blast

I love birthday parties. They commemorate another year around the sun for those of us able to enjoy the ride.

Moreover, I also enjoy national parties, such as the one the USA is celebrating today as it turns 247 years young. Yes, we’re still a young nation, given the comparative ages of many nations with which we share this good planet Earth. I have had the pleasure of visiting countries in Asia and Europe, where they count their ages in millennia, not mere years.

This Fourth of July will be a quiet one for my family and me. We are still mending our shattered hearts. My wife left us in February after a brief, but ferocious, fight with cancer. My sons are hurting, as is my daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

I will return eventually to celebrating our national birthday. Just not this year.

The Fourth of July is intended to celebrate a great nation. It has always been great, even with its occasional dents and dings and, yes some hideous policies that have been sent to the crapper.

I look forward to enjoying the birthday party once again.


Oh, how she loved this land

The lady you see in this picture passed away 45 years ago on this very day; therefore, I want to take this opportunity to salute her while honoring the birth of the nation she loved with all her heart.

She was my maternal grandmother. Her given name was Diamondoula Panesoy. She married my grandfather after being betrothed to him for many years. This intrepid Greek woman made a harrowing journey from Marmara, Turkey, to the United States, boarded a train from New York City to Portland, Ore., and got married.

They produced three children, one of whom was my mother. The kids you see in this picture with our Yiayia are my sisters and me.

She chose to become an American, which to my way of thinking makes her an exceptional citizen of this great land. Yiayia — which is Greek for grandma — would repeatedly brush off suggestions that she return to “the old country” to visit, to see her “homeland.” She would answer, “But I am ‘home,’ where I belong.”

She never looked back once she left southeastern Europe.

Yiayia died on July 4, 1978. She had been battling many illnesses. My late wife, Kathy Anne, quipped not long after Yiayia’s passing that “She chose to die on this date just to make sure you would remember.”

Yiayia was without question a most memorable individual. Everyone knew her as “Yiayia.” That included the kids in her Southeast Portland neighborhood, the kids’ parents, the mailman, the milkman, the guys who picked up her trash, the clerks at the grocery store where Kathy Anne and I would take her on occasion.

Above all, she was a dedicated American citizen. She worshiped FDR and JFK. She always remembered to vote. As one of my uncles once noted, she probably was a closet socialist. She believed that government should help every American.

She made our nation better simply by being among its taxpaying, voting, red-blooded American citizens. Yiayia strengthened this strong land by loving it openly and without a hint of reservation.

So … this is my way of offering a heartfelt birthday wish to a great land, which opened its doors to a woman who — in my view — would become one of its greatest Americans.


Happy birthday, USA!

I am a flag-waving patriot, for which I make no apology. Indeed, it seems odd that I even feel the need to offer that ridiculous qualifier, but I do feel compelled to say as much.

Old Glory flies over the front porch of my Princeton, Texas home. It comes down if the weather threatens to get too windy; I don’t want the wind to rip the flag off the holder my son bolted into the brick and mortar for my wife and me.

Where am I going with this? The nation celebrates its 247th birthday on Tuesday. So-called phony patriots have been in the news over the past recent years, proclaiming themselves to love our country while standing under the Stars and Bars banner, the symbol of the Confederate States of America, the organization that declared war against the government in 1861.

Enough about them.

I stand by my flag and my nation because I was taught, primarily by my father, to honor the country and to serve the country if it calls your name. Dad served his nation with honor and heroism when, on Dec. 7, 1941, we were attacked by a foreign power. He enlisted that day in the Navy and in about a month was on his way into the fight of his life — and the fight of the nation’s life.

A generation later, my country called on me to don the uniform. I joined the Army and served with far less heroism than Dad did. However, the lessons I learned as a boy carried me through a couple years of active duty, including a stint in Vietnam.

I grew weary long ago of the faux patriotism of those who literally wrap themselves in the flag of our great nation. Our pride in our country isn’t about a piece of cloth. It is about the principles on which the founders created the nation.

They founded a nation on one principle in particular, which is the freedom to dissent, to protest government policy. We do so peacefully — most of the time! I am OK with that. Hell, I have protested my government’s policy at times myself.

It doesn’t make me love my country any less. It makes me love it even more. It also enables me to wish my country a heartfelt happy birthday as it approaches one more Independence Day.

Happy birthday, America. I love you more than I can express.


Hoping for a quiet Fourth

We live in a North Texas city that prohibits fireworks from being detonated within the city limits.

Indeed, Princeton City Hall has made an extra effort this year to get the word out that the Fourth of July celebration must not include fireworks within the city’s corporate boundary.

So, here comes the question: How does the Princeton Police Department enforce that rule? 

Independence Day is coming. Am I expecting a sleepless night listening to fireworks exploding all over the damn place? Yes, I fear that will happen. It will occur because the Princeton PD is unable to arrest or cite every single violator out there.

Which I guess brings me to the point of wondering why have an ordinance that cities cannot enforce effectively?

I know that Princeton isn’t the only city in America that has such a rule on the books. Indeed, I suspect most cities have them, which means that fireworks celebrations are limited to unincorporated areas way out in the country.

In our part of the world, the country isn’t so far away. Still, I am going to lament what I expect will happen in our neighborhood that sits in the middle of a growing city in Collin County, Texas. We’re going to hear bombs bursting in air and watching the rockets’ red glare.

The last time I posted something complaining about the noise associated with these celebrations, I got called out for being a sorehead. Well, I guess I’ll have to expect it once again by wishing there was a way for our PD to enforce a citywide rule.

Still, I want to wish the United States of America a happy Fourth of July birthday. I’m going to do so quietly.


Puppy Tales, Part 85: He’s gotten jumpy

Toby the Puppy has gotten jumpy, but we think we know the source of his newfound skittishness.

It’s not a worry. Indeed, I get a bit spooked at the very thing that seems to have gotten under Toby’s skin.

It’s the sound of thunder. He no longer likes it. In fact, the sound of it sends our puppy scampering for a bed under which he can curl up.

Toby is now a little more than 6 years old. He’s been through a lot of thunderstorms in his life. He has exhibited little regard to the sound of the thunder … until now.

For that matter, we have discovered he has an acute dislike of the sound of fireworks. The bombs and rockets we ignite on New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July send him into a state of near panic.

But we think we know where he acquired the unsettled behavior.

We attended a fireworks display on the Fourth of July, 2019. We were gathered along a lake in Northeast Texas, with many dozens of other fine folks. We were very close to the launching site for the rockets.

They were loud. As in really loud. Toby the Puppy heard all of that and, shall we say … he didn’t like it one single bit.

His Mommy — aka my wife — took him away from the blast zone, seeking to shield him from the din. It didn’t work.

Toby hasn’t been the same since.

He isn’t traumatized. Of that I am certain. He is an extremely well-adjusted and adaptable puppy. He travels better than any human being I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of my late mother-in-law. Toby is a road warrior, as was my wife’s mother.

However, we have discovered a weak spot in his emotional armor. It’s the loud booming sounds, be they artificial fireworks or the sound and fury created by Mother Nature herself.

Despite all that, Toby the Puppy is practically perfect.

Dear America: Happy birthday … hoping for a brighter day

Dear America … on behalf of millions of others just like me I want to offer an apology.

I am sorry that the president of the United States couldn’t bring himself to say something worthy of the birthday you just celebrated.

Donald Trump stood before Mount Rushmore and then stood on the South Lawn of the White House and delivered two unforgettable speeches. We won’t remember them for the soaring rhetoric they should have contained. We will remember them for the raw anger, the division, the rage they planted.

This isn’t the way presidents usually commemorate your founding, but you knew that already. Presidents most commonly speak to our better angels, appealing to our sense of commonality, our quest to create a “more perfect Union.”

The Donald didn’t do that. He talked about angry mobs, the taking down of statues that “honor” traitors to the nation, generals who fought to overthrow the United States of America. He said those statues are part of “our history.” You bet they are. It is a history full of hate, of oppression, of enslavement of human beings. Donald Trump wants to preserve those monuments, keep them standing in public places. He is angry at those of us — fellow citizens — who protest them.

So he talked at length about that and about made-up assertions of the motives behind the demonstrations we have seen.

I am sorry he didn’t mention except in passing the pandemic that has afflicted so many thousands of American families. It has caused untold grief and misery. It has placed insurmountable burdens on heroic medical personnel. These Americans deserve our eternal gratitude but Trump didn’t see fit to offer it to them.

So, please accept my belated birthday wish along with this sincere hope for you, the nation I love with all my heart and the nation for which I went to war.

My hope is that we can deliver you a gift worthy of all that you represent. It would come in the form of a new president who is able to speak openly to our sense of decency and to, as Joe Biden has said, “restore our soul.”

America, I am forever grateful to have been born in this land. I pledge to do all I can to deliver this gift that you so richly deserve.

Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead.

Immigrants, yes; also American patriots

The picture attached to this blog post is of three of my grandparents.

The woman on the left is my father’s mother, Katina; the gentleman is my mother’s father, George; the other woman is Mom’s mother, Diamondoula. I don’t know who snapped this photo; perhaps it was Dad’s father, John.

What do they have in common? For starters, they were immigrants. They came to this country from southeastern Europe. Dad’s parents came from southern Greece, while Mom’s parents came here from Turkey. They all were Greeks and proud of their heritage.

They had something else in common. They all loved the United States of America.

I want to honor them today to remind you about an immutable fact of this country: The U.S. of A. was built by immigrants. Whether they came her voluntarily, as my grandparents did, or were rounded up and transported here aboard slave ships, they all built this nation.

My grandparents were the proudest Americans you ever would want to know.

Dad’s parents brought seven children into the world, four of whom served in the military. Dad served in the Navy during World War II; one of his brothers fought for the Army during the Korean War, while his other brother saw Army duty in Europe between the Korean and Vietnam wars; one of his sisters served in the Navy. Mom’s parents produced three children; her two brothers both served in the military; one of them fought with Army Air Corps during World War II; the other served as an Army reserve colonel.

I want to salute my grandparents because they were Americans by choice. They forged a good life in this land. They honored the nation by flying the flag proudly. My maternal grandmother adored Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, keeping pictures of JFK in her home.

The current political discourse contains an unhealthy dose of anti-immigrant dogma. One of the president’s closest advisers is known to be anti-immigrant and has infused the president with the notion that we need a “merit-based” immigration policy that allows only those identified as potential high achievers into the country. Under that policy, none of my grandparents would have qualified … and the United States would have been made immeasurably poorer by their exclusion.

This weekend we’re going to honor the founding of this nation. We’ll celebrate it under a cloud brought to us by the pandemic. Still, we will honor our founders’ genius in crafting the framework that put together the world’s most indispensable nation.

I intend to honor — and recall with great fondness — the contributions that my grandparents made after arriving here from far away places.

They became the greatest of Americans … and played a major role in making America great.

Puppy Tales, Part 81: Hey, he’s got his foibles, too

I am obligated to report that despite what you might have inferred, Toby the Puppy does not leap tall buildings in a single bound, or is faster than a speeding bullet. He is not a version of Super Dog.

He has his foibles. One of them is fireworks. He hates ’em. They make him super jumpy. We saw evidence of it this past Fourth of July attending a fireworks show at Lake Bob Sandlin in East Texas. The rockets’ red glare — accompanied by plenty of noise — frightened our brave watchdog.

Overnight as the world welcomed in 2020, fireworks were going off all over our Collin County neighborhood. Toby the Puppy heard ’em. He didn’t like it one little bit.

We tried to turn in at our regular time, a little after 10 p.m. Our granddaughter, Emma, had conked out earlier. Was the puppy ready to snuggle with us at the normal time? Hah!

Even after the fireworks began to subside, he was having none of it. Up and down all night. He didn’t want to go outside to, um, take care of his business. Oh, no!

Dogs, of course, can hear things we mere humans cannot hear. So I’m guessing this morning he was hearing noises that were beyond our earshot.

I remain immensely proud of our Toby the Puppy. However, he has his limitations … just like the rest of us.

Puppy Tales, Part 73: Passing a huge test

LAKE BOB SANDLIN, Texas — Toby the Puppy had one of his biggest days ever, even while showing us his jumpy side.

One of our concerns about Toby over the five years he has been a member of our family has been whether he could fight the urge to chase after critters he deems to be potential playmates. I’m talking about squirrels, birds, rabbits and perhaps even fellow pooches. Thus, we had generally kept him leashed up when we gathered for outdoor activities.

We came to Lake Bob Sandlin to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and family members. We were gathered alongside Lake Bob Sandlin in East Texas. We faced the question: What do we do with Puppy? Keep him leashed or do we let him run loose? We were advised that the other puppies there would provide plenty of company for Toby to enjoy. Let him run loose, our family members advised. He’ll be just fine.

OK. So we did.

They were correct!

He ran himself all over the place. Our concern about his running away was overstated, although we have watched him in the past take off running at a full sprint at whatever critter catches his eye.

No sweat this time.

Then came the fireworks show at the end of the evening.

Not so good.  The noise frightened Toby terribly. He wasn’t the, um, “lone wolf,” though. The other pooches playing alongside the lake didn’t fare too well, either, when the rockets began blasting over the lake.

But … we learned something new about Toby the Puppy. He plays well with others. Good job, pup.

The next project? Getting him to use the doggie door …

Teleprompter went ‘kaput,’ Mr. President? Really?

Donald Trump isn’t prone to saying he’s sorry for anything, so no one should have expected him to apologize for the ridiculous assertion he made about 18th-century airports during his “Salute to America” speech Thursday night.

His blaming the mistake on a rained-on Teleprompter does require a certain suspension of disbelief. The mistake went viral, with Twitter hounds around the world poking fun at the president.

Why? Because he made some goofball reference to revolutionary soldiers “taking the airports” while they fought for their independence in 1775. You know the rest of it: The first airplane didn’t take flight until Dec. 17, 1903.

Blame it on the rain, Mr. POTUS

He said the gadget from which he was reading his text “went kaput” in the heavy rain that soaked the event. Does that also explain why he referenced “Fort McHendry,” when he should have said “McHenry,” and that that battle to which he was referring occurred during the War of 1812?

OK. I’m not going to belabor this point. Suffice to say, though, that the president of the United States is hardly a student of the very history of this great country. He made a mistake while seeking to extol the nation’s greatness.

If only, though, this individual — Donald Trump — could just say it loudly and clearly: I messed up. My bad.