Friday, November 29, 2013

Why I am a Democrat

My great-great grandfather, Caleb Warren Tate (second from right at bottom),
and 13 of his 17 children, 1873.
My mother’s sister, Betty Jo Tate Rosenberg, died September 27, a few days short of her ninetieth birthday. Aunt Betty was laid to rest next to her husband, Kermit H. Rosenberg, a career army officer who died in 2008, at Arlington Cemetery on Tuesday. A memorial service was held that morning.

Two of Betty’s sons, her granddaughter and I spoke at the service. My brother, Jerry, was the final speaker.

Aunt Betty, to put it mildly, was opinionated, one of those people who loved to argue for the sake of arguing. She argued with everybody – her husband, children, mother, sisters, nieces, nephews, store clerks, you name it. She was never malicious or vindictive about it. It was simply her nature.

She may well have gotten her love for verbal sparring from her older sister, my mother Ruby, who was a state high school debate champion in 1930 and doesn’t shy away from a good argument to this very day.

Ruby and Betty, who loved to argue almost much as they loved each other, spoke three or four times a day by phone. Rarely did a conversation take place in which one of them don’t provoke the other into an argument. Politics was a favorite topic.

Betty was a rabid Republican. Ruby is an equally staunch Democrat. Betty often reminded Ruby there was no way she could ever bring herself to vote for a Democrat. Ruby would shoot back that she could never vote for a Republican … and that Betty should be ashamed for being a Republican given what had happened to their great-grandfather.

Jerry touched on that story at the memorial service. It was a story he and I have heard a hundred times but I asked our mother to tell it to me again today so I could write it down and share it with my readers.

Betty and Ruby’s great-grandfather, Caleb Warren Tate, was a farmer in Callaway County, Missouri during the Civil War. Caleb Warren was the father of 17 children.

Missouri, during the Civil War, was in a precarious position. A slave state, its legislature had voted to secede but Lincoln, a Republican from neighboring Illinois, sent Union troops into Missouri to keep it forcibly in the union. Some Missourians favored the Union cause. Others favored the Confederacy. Both Union and Confederate troops roamed the countryside, terrorizing those they suspected of being sympathizers with the other side.

Caleb Warren owned two horses. He needed those horses to plow his fields, so he could feed his family. But both were seized by Union soldiers and taken to the nearby town of Danville.

Caleb Warren was a Democrat but his neighbor, a Mr. Dutton, was a Republican. Thinking the Union officers might be more sympathetic if he showed up with a man who was known to be a member of the party of Lincoln, the commander-in-chief of the Union Army, he entreated Dutton to go with him to ask the solders to return his horses.

“Mr. Tate,” the union officer said after had had heard him out. “Why should I give you your horses back? Don’t you have two sons fighting in the Confederate Army?”

“I do indeed,” my great-great-grandfather replied. “And they may be Confederates but at least they ain’t horse thieves.”

He did not get his horses back.

And, needless to say, he, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with the exception of Betty, never voted Republican and blamed the party of Lincoln for the loss of his horses.


It rained as Aunt Betty was laid to rest next to her husband during an impressive ceremony at Arlington.

As I was telling Betty’s son, my cousin Jim, goodbye, I told him I hoped he could find some comfort knowing that his mother was at peace.

“Yes,” he said. “But my father isn’t any more. At least he had five years of it.”

We laughed.

Jim and I hardly ever see each other but it’s good to know our extended family, however far-flung, will go on.

Even if the ones on his side of it are a bunch of damn Republicans.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I'm grateful for

My wife of 37 years still makes me laugh.

My two sons are intelligent, hard working and kind.

I have a new daughter-in-law I adore.

I’m going to be a grandpa in April.

My 100-year-old mother is sharp as a tack. We talk almost every day.

I have a brother, sister, sister-in-law, seven nieces and nephews and nine great-nieces and nephews and love them all. They love me, too.

I have two elderly dachshunds and a goofy-looking granddog I love far more than I should because I know they’ll break my heart someday.

I am learning to love my grandcat.

I am healthy.

Everyone I love is healthy.

There’s a roof over my head.

I don’t worry about where my next meal will come from.

I have interesting and accomplished friends.

For years I got paid to do something I enjoyed and can now pursue whatever interests me.

I live in a state where it’s perpetual summer.

I am a citizen of a country where everyone is free.

You might call me blessed but the coolest thing of all as we approach Thanksgiving is that Walmart, Kmart, Macy’s, Old Navy, Target, J.C. Penney, Sears, Best Buy, OfficeMax, Staples, Michaels, Toys "R" Us, Kohl's, Dollar General and Dick's Sporting Goods will be open for all or part of the day so I’m going to get on the Internet right now and read all about their special sales so I’ll know which stores to visit first and what aisle to head toward when I arrive.

My cup runneth over.

See you there.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A news flash from Dallas

If someone told my father, Bud Dryden, news he didn’t want to hear, he simply ignored the messenger and continued what he was doing.

I saw it myself on November 22, 1963. I had just turned 12 and was home from school with the mumps.

Dad, who ran a general store in the tiny town of Auxvasse, Missouri, had come home for lunch that day. He and my mother were eating at the kitchen table. I was in the next room, watching television, when Walter Cronkite broke into the programming to announce John F. Kennedy had been shot.

My parents were rabid Democrats. My mother, now 100, still is. They were married in June, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, a few months after FDR took office. They credited FDR and the Democrats with nothing less than saving America and giving them a chance to make something of themselves. Needless to say, Bud and Ruby Dryden loved Kennedy, the young Democratic president. The night of his election, they held a viewing party and invited friends over to watch the returns. It was the only time I ever remember them hosting a gathering for anyone other than family.

I ran into the kitchen. “Walter Cronkite says the president has been shot.”

My mother clasped both hands over her mouth.

“You didn’t hear that,” my father said dismissively, as if I’d announced space aliens had landed in uptown Auxvasse.

My mother was as horrified by my father’s reaction as she was by the news. “Bud,” she said slowly, like a mother trying to reason with an out-of-sorts child. “It has to be true. Why would the boy make that up?”

“I have no idea,” he responded, spearing another pork chop.

He finished his meal and went back to the store.

Funny what one does and doesn’t remember about the biggest events of one's lifetime. I’m almost sure mom and I watched TV the rest of the afternoon. I’m almost certain she called him once it was official to tell him the president had died. I don’t remember for sure but I'll never forget how my father reacted to that awful news from Dallas.

I wish I could have sat down with him as an adult and asked him about it but I never got the opportunity He died a little more than two years later.

I've spent 50 years trying to figure it out and I suppose I never will but I do, in a strange way, understand.

Friday, November 15, 2013

People who should shut their stupid mouths and go away

Wouldn’t it be great if the following people would shut up and go away once and for all?

Sarah Palin: The latest declaration from Palin, who is desperate to stay in the news so she can appear relevant and keep raking in personal appearance fees, is that Pope Francis is too liberal for her tastes. This bitch isn’t even Catholic. STFU please.

Al Sharpton: His career is based on accusing individuals and the justice system of racism when, in fact, he’s a racist. Put a sock on it.

Miley Cyrus: If she weren’t the daughter of Billy “Achy Breaky Heart” Ray she’d be asking, “Would you like fries with that?” at a Burger King drive-thru window but as a winner of the lucky sperm club she was handed her own TV show by Disney along with a recording contract. Instead of doing something good with what fell into her lap, she twerks and smokes dope on TV -- a great role model for girls who want to grow up to be drug-addicted whores. Just go away.

Tom Cruise: In a deposition he apparently compared the rigors he faces as a thespian (my favorite word) to the rigors American soldiers face in Afghanistan. I can’t believe even he is that stupid but if he really said it, I hope he runs into a group of marines in a dark alley who will set him straight.

Nancy Pelosi: Heavy doses of Botox supposedly make it impossible to smile or frown. Pelosi is proof it doesn’t make one’s mouth immovable because idiotic remarks keep escaping from hers. She should shut up. Nobody believes anything she says anyway.

The Kardashians: If I read one more headline about a tweet from one of those twits I’ll puke.

Dan Rather: Is apparently upset CBS didn’t ask him to return for its coverage of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. Good. I was upset for 24 years when CBS allowed that asshole to sit in the anchor chair. More than anyone, Rather, who has said there’s nothing wrong with reporters interjecting their personal political views into news stories, has destroyed broadcast journalism as we knew it. After being fired for attempting to influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election, he now reports the news on something called AXS-TV. It’s a safe bet has more readers than ole Dan has viewers. Go away once and for all, OK?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reason #5364 to hate big banks

Reason #5364 to hate big banks: Wells Fargo is now charging customers for making deposits.

That's not a misprint. 

The blood sucking parasites bankers at Wells Fargo, America’s fourth-largest bank, have started charging some small business customers 30 cents for every $100 in cash they deposit in excess of $5000 a month.

It had always been my impression that banks considered it a good thing when customers deposited money.

Silly me.

I discovered this today while reviewing the October statement for my business checking account. For the first (and only) time in all the years I’ve had that account, I made a large cash deposit in October – money I withdrew from my personal Wells Fargo account to cover a bill that needed to be paid through the business.

I noticed on the statement, in addition to the monthly $15 fee Wells Fargo charges to maintain the account, a debit for something noted as a “Cash Deposit Fee.”

I called Wells Fargo’s 800 number and reached a customer service representative named Dixie. She informed me the Cash Deposit Fee is a charge that is now imposed on certain small business accounts including, apparently, mine, in any given month in which cash deposits exceed $5000.

I said that was crazy. Since when does a bank charge customers for making deposits? 

Dixie took care not to agree with me – our call was being recorded for training purposes after all –- and diplomatically replied she understood why I might be upset. It occurred to me as she was talking that any bank callous enough to charge customers for depositing money probably wouldn’t hesitate to waterboard any employee its phone monitors overheard agreeing with a customer who questioned its fees.

I told Dixie I write a blog and was going to write about Wells Fargo’s new fee. She put me on hold and, a minute later, came back on the line to report she had been able to reverse not only the $15 monthly fee but the Cash Deposit Fee as well. She cautioned, however, that if I deposit more than $5000 cash in any given month, I’ll incur the fee again.

This afternoon I went to my local Wells Fargo branch and asked to speak with an officer. “What is the rationale for this Cash Deposit Fee?" I asked. The banker couldn't answer the question but did say she’s powerless to do anything about it and that Citibank is charging a similar fee.

The Cash Deposit Fee is but one more example of how small businesses are getting the shaft thanks to the Ponzi scheme that is the American financial system. The Federal Reserve is creating money out of thin air, and lending it at zero percent interest to the big banks – Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America, Chase, etc. – ostensibly so they can make loans to small businesses and individuals. But the banks, rather than lending the money they’re getting for free, are using it instead to buy US Government debt which requires less effort and administrative staff.

Our government, in turn, uses the money it gets for selling bonds to banks to pay interest on older bonds owned by investors in China, Japan and other countries. Small businesses, if they can get any money at all, are having to borrow it from small banks which don’t have it to lend because they have to now pay much more for FDIC insurance than they did pre-2008 in order to protect customer deposits at the mega-banks which will almost certainly fail one of these days because they are running on Monopoly money and everyone in Washington knows it but nobody will stop it because if they did, the jig would be up -- the American economy would go down the toilet and the Chinese Renminbi would become the world’s currency.

Did someone say small businesses could use some help? Who cares?

Well I do. I’ve run one for 33 years. My father ran one. His father ran one. Small business – not big business -- is the engine that powers America’s economy.

A small business that handles cash in its daily operations, such as a restaurant, supermarket or dry cleaner, is already operating on razor-thin margins. And how does Wells Fargo help that business?

By charging it for depositing money, the vast majority of which is already earmarked to pay vendors, employees, employee benefits, rent, utilities and, of course, income taxes.

I pointed out to the bank officer that I’ve banked with what is now Wells Fargo for 30 years. I opened an account at First Union in 1983. First Union became First Fidelity which became something I’ve forgotten which became Wachovia which is now Wells Fargo. I also happen to have a lot of cash – the proceeds from the sale of a house  – in the bank right now.

I told my Wells Fargo banker that as someone who believes in small business, I’m going to take every penny of it out within the next week. And I am. As soon as I can find a local bank that doesn’t charge for deposits of any type, I’m moving my money there.

And when I do? 

Wells Fargo can kiss my assets goodbye.

Not that they give a shit but if enough small business owners closed their accounts, maybe -- just maybe -- they would.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Great songs from old TV commercials

Yesterday the devil dropped a quarter into the Jukebox Inside My Head and a random song started playing.

Sometimes my jukebox plays classic rock. Other times it plays theme songs from 40-year-old TV shows. This time it played a song from one of my favorite musical genres – jingles from old TV commercials. Specifically:

            Never borrow money needlessly,
            Just when you must.
            Then borrow from the oldest company,
            From folks you trust.

Do you know the next line?

If you aren’t old enough to remember where you were on November 22, 1963, you don’t. But if you do recall where you were, and if you also watched The Honeymooners, which was sponsored by this company, it probably rolled right off your tongue:

Borrow con-fid-ent-ly
From H.F.C.

Up until the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, commercials were often comprised almost entirely of music – songs with catchy lyrics advertisers spent massive amounts of money to have written, orchestrated and performed.

I can’t think of a single all-musical commercial that's running these days -- yet one more example of the ways we are evolving into a completely visually-oriented society. People watch TV, they don’t listen to it. Listening to the lyrics of a commercial requires connecting the dots – something that’s hard to do while watching TV, texting, cruising the Internet and playing video games simultaneously.

Here are five of what I consider the best classic commercials that feature songs readers “of a certain age” are likely to remember. You may not remember your children’s middle names or the maiden name of your first wife but you’ll remember these. 

United Airlines

This commercial, from the mid 1970s, features my favorite iteration of the song used in United’s long-running “friendly skies” campaign. The lyrics are great. And the upbeat, carefully orchestrated music, which starts off simply and becomes more complex as the commercial unfolds, is extraordinary. This is American – I mean, United -- advertising at its best.


This song helped make Chevy America’s #1 car brand during the fifties and sixties. Though dozens of versions were produced, the most famous rendition was the one Dinah Shore always sang at the end of her show. A pop quiz question before you watch the commercial: What did Ms. Shore do when she finished the song?

(a) Swung an imaginary golf club
(b) Tugged at her earlobe
(c) Threw a kiss
(d) Bit the head off a bat

Burger King

This jingle, from the mid '70s, gave Burger King what we ad people call a “USP” – Unique Selling Proposition. The USP, in this case, is that Burger King, unlike that other rigid fast food chain, will happily make your burger to order. If you’ve already started humming “Have it Your Way,” you’re wrong. This spot features an even catchier song you probably haven’t thought about for years. But once you hear it again you will be singing it over and over until your head explodes. Brilliant. But not brilliant enough to make Burger King's made-to-order flame-broiled Whopper taste better than an assembly-line made Big Mac. 

Country Cornflakes 

Introduced in the early sixties, Country Cornflakes had a catchy song but failed to catch on with the public and disappeared from shelves. Perhaps it's because they were made with rice. Fifty years later the song hasn’t disappeared – at least from the Jukebox Inside My Head. 

Movie concession stand 

OK, this song wasn’t written for a TV commercial. It was for a trailer that ran before the feature presentation at thousands of movie theaters across the country, including the Liberty Theater in Mexico, Mo. (RIP). I still half expect to hear it every time the lights go down at my local theater.

What commercial songs are playing on the Jukebox Inside Your Head?

Let me know. It’ll be payback for these five songs I’ve implanted in your brain that you won’t be able to stop singing for days to come.