The Missing Year


Folks, It's been a long time.

I'll say it twice--- It's been a long time.

A grand number of events have transpired in the area surrounding the Maloney ranch during the past year-- many of them not so grand-- and many other  happenstansees occured to keep me from piloting the Great Communique of Fickle Fate,  the All-Powerful Mattress Tag of World Literature-- our own Mighty  Read&Delete--  the Drumbeat of Obscurity!

A lot of stuff can take the wind out of a guy's sails-- death of a sibling, a polarizing presidential election that cost a friendship, the murder of an old acquantence, the passing of a parent. Things like this, plus a dose of world travel, adolescent offspring and the onset of pre-senility are my only excuse for my absence from cyberspace. My apologies to those who were waiting  for the last dozen newsletters, and my apologies to those who are stuck with this one. And so it begins........

June, July & August, 2004--- The only thing worse than becoming seriously ill when travelling overseas is to have a relative die back home, and you can't get there. On the last day of June, my brother with Leukemia in North Carolina had a lung infection, and I had an intestinal infection in China. We were both in hospitals on opposite sides of the planet-- one of us didn't make it out in time, the other just didn't make it.  My brother Michael was a great man, and he is missed.

  In August of that year, I had a return engagement- this time at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing. I won't discuss the medical terms- let's just say that the pipes just burst-- all of them. Wendy and the boys were on their way to the Great Wall, and I collapsed in the hotel we were staying in. A five star hotel, and the manager wouldn't call the paramedics until I showed him that I had enough money to pay for them.  This was the lowest point of the whole two month trip. I waved a fistfull of American bills at him and he calledfor a ambulance. The paramedics came, took one look at me and said , "You are very sick, we must take you to the hospital." I was discharging fluids in a near constant state by them, and it was obvious to everybody that it was a pretty dire situation.  Now the hotel manager gets upset, and starts jabbering and jumping around- insisting that the driver move the ambulance around to the back of the hotel and move me out in the frieght elevator. Even in my near delerium I can figure out that the manager was being a jerk. The paramedics put me on their gurney and wheel me out of the room and down the hall to the main
elevator, the manager protesting the whole way. Finally we start rolling through the main lobby toward the  front door. The lobby is full of western tourists (a couple of bus loads of them), all waiting to check in.  Everybody stops what they are doing and stares at the sick American being wheeled through.  If you know me well, you know that one of the last things I lose in the most dire situations is my sense of humor. What would you do if you were wearing only a bed sheet and being paraded through a nearly packed Beijing hotel lobby by two paramedics and a breserk compassion- challenged hotel manager?  I sat bolt upright on the stretcher and said in the loudest voice I could muster, "DON'T ORDER THE SHRIMP!"  The manager's face went white, then he turned into dust and blew away -- and the paramedics (who knew enough English to understand what I was doing) laughed so hard that they nearly dropped me.  I spent the next five days in a 6' x 10' "private room" (closet) being pumped full of antibiotics while Wendy and the boys toured Beijing. I still think it was the most restful vacation that I've had in a long time. I hope to go back someday.

October, 2004 Never, never, never, NEVER discuss politics via e-mail.  Anything that you write (or read) can and will be misinterpreted in the emotional rollercoaster that is the media  driven political process in the world today. Talk face to face-- argue face to face --- and you can at least see the effect that your words have on whoever you are talking to. There is no rational discourse available in e-mail.  Political blogs are for political blobs. Every side of the issue looks bad when emotions are conveyed forcefully and IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Nobody comes out of this happier, wiser or more compassionate. It usually ends up as unfunny and painful as it can get. Ask me how I know. and......have a nice day.  : )

October 14th, 2004-- The Read&Delete (E-mail version) turns 10 years old. The celebration and parade are cancelled due to inclement political weather (see above).

March, 2005.....   Nothing in the world will sober you up, knock you down, spin you around and make every one of your emotions burst out of you- like the murder
of an old friend.  End of sentence..... period.  Therese and her first husband Lee used to spend some time with Wendy and me when we were first married. Their
marriage collapsed about ten years ago and we lost track of them. Then she married some other guy - a spawn of Satan who made her life a living hell. When
she left him and tried to get a divorce, he threatened to kill her. I found out about all of this when Therese was hiding out in the home of the mother of another friend. The husband was stalking her- he was caught at it- but the authorities goofed and let him go. She took precautions, but to no avail. She was killed a few blocks away from where she had been living at the time. Her estranged husband was caught nearby with the murder weapon in his hand-- a 4 pound cross peen hammer used to bludgeon her to death.  I knew that she was in a bad situation for nearly a month before she was killed. I was going to dosomething about it- at least give her a call to see if I could help her.  I was *too busy* *didn't know what to say*  *didn't want to embarrass her*.  The next time I saw Therese, she was in her casket.  

July, 2005  Back to China! Just to prove my intestinal fortitude (so to speak) I went back over to the People's Republic for a two week business jaunt. The only
virus that I had to deal with was on my laptop computer. At the time of the infection,  I  was having doubts about the antivirus software I had been using. (Computer Associates InnoculateIT- otherwise known as innocuLAME.)  I had a series of choice phrases in mind, but I wasn't sure of the Chinese translations. I had to find licensed copies of computer software to rebuild my system - a nearly impossible task- pirated software is more than readily available- it is as commonplace over there as street vendors. A software program that costs $5000 in the US goes for $1.85 (pirated) even in the big chain stores.  Trying to find legitimate software in China is kind of like convincing your spouse that you are the Pope- without an act of God it's not likely to happen.  People will look at you as if you are missing several vital cranial components. The sales guys were nudging each other and saying under their breath, "Look at the sagwat Meigoren (idiot American) who wants to buy 1 real copy of software for the price of 100 knock-offs!"  My advice to you if you are travelling to China on business--  bring along fresh antibiotics and antivirus software- then don't plug anything in .

August, 2005  Visting our nation's capitol... in 2004, we visited Beijing -- so in 2005 it was Washington, D.C. for the Maloney clan. We used up the remainder of our frequent flyer miles to spend a week in the land of laws, litigation, larceny, bureauacracy, justice and plain ole politickin'-- not necessarily in that order.  We got to stay with some good friends who moved out there recently (A big thank you to the Lintons for putting us up - or was it putting up with us?) We toured the monuments and memorials, museums and the mall  Our senator arrainged a guided tour of the Capitol and the White House (both were incredibly impressive.) We spent 2 days touring the Smithsonian, but you need 2 weeks to see it completely. James was most impressed by the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, Peter fell in love with Mt. Vernon (George Washington's home) and Wendy and I were overwhelmed by the Jefferson Memorial. We noticed a large number of foriegn travellers visiting the city, especially the memorials. I pondered about this for a while. Why would so many foiegners- especially Asians- be visiting Washington D.C? Then the answer came to me. Whenever I would travel abroad and watch the local newscast, every second or third international news item had some connection with the U.S. Congress, the President or Washington D.C. itself. It is the city of marble columns, open air malls and the power of the people.  This image of our freedom displayed is most enticing to our foriegn visitors- who rush to include a tour of our nation's capital in their visit to the U.S.A. To me it is a great indicator of the respect and the hope that is invested in our
country by other citizens and subjects of the world. Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to visit in the summer.

September, 2005 The running joke that I shared with my dad was, "It's not the aging that kills you, its the sudden stop."  The sudden stop came on September 7th, two days after his 85th birthday. I learned nearly everything of value from my dad, and what I didn't-- I should have.  He was a one man demonstration of integrity, loyalty, devotion, trustworthyness and resource. Not exactly what you would find in the average salesman. He and my mother raised 7 children, and then started his own business at the age of 55.  He ran it until the day he died.  He was a WW II veteran who saw duty in Germany and a father who saw duty in the Cub Scouts. With only a high school education, he designed a commercial building that still stands today. As a child, I remember him drawing the plans for it on the kitchen table nearly every night after dinner.  Every bit of my mechanical aptitude I inherited from him. In 1991, when my mother was dying from cancer, he took care of her without flinching, staying strong for both of them right up until the end. He taught me by his example the right way to live, and finally --  the right way to die. You don't meet somebody like that every day.  And I hope to become at least half the man he was.

Some people would say that after a series of hard knocks like those I took in the last year should make me a candidate for some psyche therapy, and that I should think seriously about making some changes in my life. So I thought seriously about making some changes in my life and I came up with following insights into leading a fully functional and well adjusted life: (sources noted when available)

1. Occasional rebooting may be necessary to maintain optimal performance and system stability. (Microsoft Corporation)
2. Just say "no".  (Nancy Davis Reagan)
3. It depends upon what the meaning of 'is' is. (Bill Clinton)
4. Don't let it happen to you! (actor Karl Malden - in an American Express Travelers Cheque commercial)
5. If you have to ride on the Titanic, why not go first class?
6. Never eat anything bigger than your head. (cartoonist B. Klieban)

I marvel at how much the world is shrinking, until I step onto the bathroom scale.