Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moms

After two grueling hours on the phone, I took a break and hopped in my Dodge and started the drive to Starbucks, anxious to get the caffeine high that has to carry me through another day.  As the sound of Glen Millers "Moonlight Serenade" played on the satellite radio my thoughts turned to a night many years ago when I danced with my mom.

 Mom loved the "Big Bands". Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra were two of her favorites. She was 5'1" and 90 lbs. Fully clothed. Though Small in stature, she was one of the strongest people I have ever known. Her courage has inspired me throughout my life.

Born in the midst of the Great Depression, she grew into a beautiful woman, married her high school sweetheart and raised 5 boys. She devoted her life to her god and her family.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer while dad was trying to survive a series of 6 heart attacks in two years that eventually took his life.  Barely recovered at age 40, she moved the family from Alaska back to Utah, to be near family and friends . Needing money to survive and support her family, she returned to the workforce at age 41. Having no job skills, her starting salary was minimum wage (1.50 Hr.) at Kmart in the fabric department.

She could have complained at the lack of life insurance (Dad’s policy was just a few weeks short of becoming effective that would have assured her some financial security) But she never did. She could have asked for a handout but wouldn't  Working full time and taking advantage of Social Security Survivors benefits, she not only survived and raised her five sons, but made a vow to complete her college degree.

After several yrs of sweat and toil, she obtained a custodial job at Brigham Young University. Not much better pay, but, a job with health insurance for her family and more importantly, educational benefits. He had always wanted to be a school teacher and at age 45 she was about to make that dream come true.

Year after year she worked tirelessly at a thankless job, yet somehow, class after class was completed. She graduated after 10 years with honors and obtained a job teaching at an elementary school. Her days were very busy yet she never missed a track or wrestling meet. This often resulted in not completing House work that needed to be done, but, it was  more important to her to spend time with one of her 5 boys.

I remember teaching mom the "hustle" in my teens . Family was always the most important thing in her life. I do not know how she did it. Unfortunately the breast cancer returned and she passed away at age 58.

As I waited  in the long line to place my order, I had an Epiphany.  I noticed a young mother with one babe in arms, a toddler and another one on the way.  She was the size of  my daughter Kristen...who is the same size as my mom. 

It is an amazing thing to see the love of a mother for her children.  Without skipping a beat, she was cleaning the toddlers face, gently swaying the baby in her other arm and ordering a "Grande decaf skinny caramel machiato"....amazing...women really can multitask.

 My mom could as well.  So can  my daughters, my wife and the many Moms who are my friends.

So do people I pass in the mall, the street or the airport,  appreciate the sacrifice their mom made to give Them the life they live?"  I wonder

When I hear any of the Big bands...I think a calm nights long ago dancing with my mom.  Now you know why I love the big bands and "the Voice", Frank Sinatra.  A  art of me will always be lost in memories. Priceless time spent dancing with my mother and remembering the her courage and strength in life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Brother the Rock Star

My Oldest brother is battling cancer. He has undergone radiation, chemo, hormones,,,pretty much any and all therapies to battle the disease.  He is a gifted musician.  He never learned to read music but taught himself to play the guitar at 17.  He turned into one of the finest lead guitarists I  have ever seen.

Several years ago, tired but determined, I started my drive to see my Brothers Rock Band play in Salt Lake City after a  20+ year hiatus.  I was determined to see how the silver back rockers had aged. Their combined ages are around 200+ yrs, so I was curious to see whether they had aged like a fine wine or slowly faded, like a setting sun.

As I entered the bar, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of the crowd. Gangsta brothers, Harley boys, Trailer trash and an amusing, preppy Asian in levis and a polo shirt. "Great" I think, I fit right in.

The warm-up band was a solo....I guess the the other half of the band quit and somebody forgot to tell the lead singer that solo acoustic songs are better in the Jack Johnson, John Mayer mold. I drowned the 40 minutes of gut wrenching bad "poison" and "Def Leopard"  songs with greasy pot stickers and two coronas.

Peace and Quiet was a big band in the local Utah rock scene during the 1970's. While they never achieved top 40 success, they stayed true to their Rock roots and still play great originals and covers. Thirty years later, they continue to deliver a high energy show. Doug Salter (bass) and Gary Horan (guitar) compliment Walt Jones on drums and Carl Fritch on lead guitar. 

Walt and Carl have played together for 35 years and are a combination that would make Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton envious. Everyone should take the time to listen to Walt's  drum solos on "In A Godda Da Vita" or Carls  wailing riffs on "Freebird".  

On his last gig I hear my brother was so exhausted from therapy that  he started the night on a stool and vowed to finish the gig on his back if necessary.  The last 30 minutes of the show he literally was lying down....such is his love for his craft. Way to go big brother....ROCK until you drop,

Peace and Quiet still Rocks Utah!! See them while you can. The sun always sets, but, Peace and Quiet like a great wine only gets better with age.

Check them out, they are "Peace n Quiet" on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Manifesto, Who I am and what I stand for

Growing through my teen years in Utah Valley, My political views were shaped largely by my environment.  In ultra conservative Orem, I bought into the mantra, “you can’t be a good Mormon and a “Democrat”.  I proudly pulled the lever and voted for Ronald Reagan.

Many were the arguments I would have with my Grandfather over politics and social issues.  He was a “FDR democrat” and we disagreed over most social issues, especially Social Security and its promise to America.  I was informed that FDR cared about the common man and those who needed a hand-up (job) not a handout. Most of our national park trails, buildings, roads, bridges, and dams were begun under his administration.  “There will come a day” he said “when you realize the folly of your thoughts”.  I laughed and thought “whatever old man…this is the new America and everyone will be rich and have no need for government intrusion in their lives”.  Like most young people today, I took so much for granted and didn’t’ appreciate the sacrifice of others.

Time, personal experience and awakening proved the old man right.  I am reborn as an FDR Democrat and this is my manifesto, so read on if you dare and are not easily offended.  I intend to be simple but blunt in my views of the kind of world I want to live in. But, If you really want to know who I am..read on.

INFRASTRUCTURE (No you didn’t build that by yourself)
My conversion from Red meat Republican to FDR Democrat began as a young Mormon missionary in Bolivia. I had never seen such abject poverty or obscene wealth side by side.  Rich luxurious mansions and estates sat side by side with grass roofed mud huts with no electricity or water. 

As I pondered the lives of the souls struggling to survive in their humble abodes and became familiar with the culture, it became very clear to me that things I had taken for granted everyday in America, infrastructure, was non existent there.  With a top income tax rate of 13% and corruption, there was no tax base to develop the public utilities needed to improve people’s lives.

"I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

At the height of the great depression FDR brought hope to Americans.  This new deal began with the greatest public infrastructure investment in the history of mankind.  Bringing with it millions of jobs, water and electricity to many parts of the country where none had been before.  This and WWII became the base on which America emerged as the mightiest economic and military power ever. With access to the basic necessities of life, the lives of Americans improved by leaps and bounds.  

Putting people back to work in a job that gave them dignity was the priority, not worrying whether someone was getting a freebie.  I bet many of my young nephews, nieces and cousins don’t realize that their own great Grandparents in Coalville and Park City didn’t have running water or electricity till the 1920’s. I believe in an America that invests in itself and modernizes its infrastructure.  This costs money and that means taxes.

HEALTHCARE IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT
I was teaching an extremely poor family about the virtues of the gospel when their 4 year old daughter was carried in by neighbors.  She had just been hit by a passing vehicle that didn’t stop.  Unconscious, she lay on the side of the road until a family friend saw her and rushed her home. 

I picked her up in my arms and we rushed her to the local hospital where I was informed that since the family had no insurance someone would have to come up with 2000 pesos ($100) to begin treatment.  I dug in my wallet and paid the ransom.  She died later that night and fortunately the Christ like Doctor told the family not to worry about his separate bill.  She probably would’ve died as a result of her injuries, but, the look of shame, terror and desperation on the face of the parents haunts to this day.

I paid the $50 dollars for the tiny casket and burial plot in a potters field.  Was $150, the value of that young life?  Her name was “Angel de los cielos”…Mary From Heaven… 
That day forever changed how I view healthcare. I want to live in a world where even the weakest in society have a right to dignity and access to affordable healthcare.  It is a right, not a privilege reserved for those lucky enough to be born into wealth.

             -Franklin D. Roosevelt

I hate Obamacare because it is a corporate handout to big insurance companies not a single payer system that I believe is everyone’s right
During a discussion on healthcare during one of the Republican Primary debates I heard someone in the audience scream…”Let them die”.  He never held a dying child  and had her eyes look right through you, pleading with you to save her life…and you couldn’t.
FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION IS A REQUIRMENT OF A FREE SOCIETY
In Bolivia, the children of the poor were “educated” in classroom mud huts packed with as many as 50 students.  Often only one textbook was in the class..with the teacher. This “free public” education was for the lucky poor, for those students whose parents could afford to not have them work all day for pennies to help support their families. Only the wealthy received a good education at private or Parochial schools. Bolivia still has a 40% illiteracy rate. Upward mobility on Bolivia?  Not a chance if you were poor. 

It was much the same in America until FDR signed the last major component of the New Deal, the Original GI Bill. This bill:

"gives servicemen and women the opportunity of resuming their education or technical training after discharge, or of taking a refresher or retrainer course, not only without tuition charge up to $500 per school year, but with the right to receive a monthly living allowance while pursuing their studies."
- FDR

It also gave veterans looking for jobs unemployment insurance.  They also were given government backed 0% down low interest Home loans. Homeowner ship skyrocketed and most vets went to school.  In 1939, 139,000 Americans graduated from college by 1947, more than 400,000 vets had graduated. By 1952 more than 9 million of 16 million vets had taken advantage of this government funded investment. 
In today’s political climate…would you call that a handout?  Many do not appreciate the significance of the original GI bill…It created the middle class.  I believe that if we cut education we destroy the middle class and will revert to the poverty of pre WWII.
SOCIAL SECURITY HAS REDUCED POVERTY DRAMATICALLY
Social Security has been in existence for 77 years.  It is a program that has bettered the life of every American.. It has touched every one.  I have been reflecting what Social Security means in my personal life. 
I grew up poor.  My Dad struggled to get ahead and Mom stayed home and raisd 5 boys.  When he was close to a major promotion with a large Life insurance policy, he died from heart disease.  Left with nothing,  my family qualified for Social Security Survivor benefits.  Those payments kept us out of poverty and like the GI Bill, paid for 3 of our college educations.  While it disappoints me that some fail now to see the great impact this new deal program had on their lives and the lives of their children, I am hopeful that someday they too will have an awakening.
"we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age. This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built, but is by no means complete.... It is...a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness."-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, August 14, 1935

WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN MUCH IS EXPECTED
In Bolivia the wealthy clung to their gold and fine linens…they cared very little for the poor. In America after 30 years of tax breaks to the “Job Creators” and trickle down economics…Where are the Jobs?  Where is the trickle down?...All they have down is line their own pockets and began the destruction those very elements that made our society great

Obsession with and the linking of wealth to righteousness was one of the key drivers why I left the religion of my youth.  It is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The rich should pay more taxes not simply because they can afford it, but, because it is required of them, and the math is simple really. 
Take as an example a family that pays a 10% tax on $100,000.  That leaves them $90,000 for everything else…most of which will be eaten up with mortgage, food and other expenses just to survive.

On the flip side a lot has been said about  Mitt Romney paying 13.9 %  That’s about $ 2+ million on his income of about $20+ million leaving Mitt with about $18 million for everything else. That’s a lot of money isn’t it? 
But think about this, If he paid 38%, his tax would be $7.9 million leaving only $12 million or so to survive.

$12 million vs $90,000 to get you through the year. See why I have trouble feeling a lot of sympathy for the rich?  When you subtract the expenses just to survive in life the poor and middle class have a much higher tax burden than the wealthy as a proportion of their disposoble income.

Look to Luke 21:1-4
1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 
4 fo r all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

I believe if you are truly a follower of Christ,  you must believe in a progressive tax system where the rich pay more…there will be plenty left over for them

So this is my Manifesto…In fact you can say it is also my creed because it states my religious views as well.
FDR was perhaps the greatest president this country has ever known.  When you walk or drive thu a national park, party in vegas, drink water, take advantage of social security or student loans and grants, FDR is part of your legacy as well and your childrens.
Don't forget who created the beginnings of the great society we live in. guard it from those plutocrats who wold sell you a "solution"  when all they want is your money. 
Thank you Gramps.  I now see the folly of my youth. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Uncle Wayne

“Go get us a couple of popsicles Bobby” my uncle commanded.  I dutifully took a break from the heat of the roof on his house on American Ave and completed the assignment…Just like a 100 times before.  We sat in the shade and enjoyed the cool refreshing treat and didn’t say a word to each other.  Once we finished it was back up the ladder to pour more hot tar on that July day.  I am not sure if popsicles were a lifelong obsession with Wayne, but, that summer of 1977 we went through several packs a day.  As for the conversation (or lack thereof)?   If you asked that, you really didn’t know my uncle.  He and I communicated on many levels…words were not one of them. 
  

Life is funny. Sometimes, random memories of the departed come back and remind us of important people in our lives. 

My Uncle was an important man in my life.  My father passed when I was 14 of heart disease.  A disease I battle today.  As a maturing teenager, I worked for my uncle that summer and learned valuable lessons about being a man. Lessons I didn’t realize till later in my life, but lessons I value and try to emulate every day.

 TV at the Goff house consisted of John Wayne and sports.  I truly believed that Wayne’s TV set only had those 2 channels.  My Uncle loved the Duke.  So much so I thought his gait was right out of “The searchers” or “Rio Bravo”.  With a cowboy hat and boots, the transformation was complete.

On occasion, he would buy a huge roast beef carved to his specifications by the local butcher and invite the entire family to a backyard BBQ.  He fashioned a rotisserie, and the slow roasted over coals beef was delicious. Plates overflowing with salads, chips and countless other side dishes made for a perfect afternoon.  Everyone left the event full of food and great memories that can only happen when families celebrate life together.

My uncle was not a religious man so he really turned my world upside down when he showed me his BYU Cougar Club plaque.  However, he was a huge Jim McMahon fan and I guess the chance to buy better seats in cougar stadium overcame any feelings he may have had about contributing to “another nonprofit institution” He loved watching McMahon and the cougar’s play so much he invited me to join him and his son Marty to travel to the Holiday bowl.  Of course in typical Uncle Wayne fashion…all expenses paid.

On the 12 hour drive from Provo to San Diego, My uncle shared with Marty and I some of his experiences in the pacific during WWII.  I vividly recall the stories of death and destruction he endured on those hot bug invested islands.  I shall never forget the troubled, sad expression on his face as he shared these nightmares with us.  It seemed to be a cathartic moment for him because the rest of the trip he was like a young school boy freed from some terrible secret.  I never knew of him to mention his war experiences again.  As with many in the greatest generation, he never thought himself a hero…he was just doing his job.

The next morning, we drove to Tijuana. At the border, Wayne insisted that I drive the new Chrysler Le Baron into Mexico because “I knew the language”.  I somehow survived the drive to a parking garage and after a gratuity to the attendant to ensure the vehicle was there when we returned we walked along the market street vendors and looked for souvenirs.  Suddenly Wayne’s eyes lit up and his face beamed ear to ear with a huge smile. He slowly lifted a buckskin “Kit Carson” scout jacket. As  we examined the coat sparkling with rhinestones and tasseled sleeves, memories of a childhood long forgotten must have flooded his mind because he determined he must have that jacket. I dutifully engaged the shop owner in price negotiations and after 10 minutes was unable to get him to budge on the price…I guess he could also see the glint of childhood Wayne’s eyes and felt he had a sure sale.  We left and returned twice over the next 3 hours to renegotiate and after moving the price from $80 to $20 dollars My uncle returned to adulthood and said….what do I need a “Kit Carson” jacket for? The owner followed us for two blocks screaming every profanity in the Spanish language at us….Wayne just chuckled as I tried to calm the man….In retrospect,  I think he just enjoyed listening to me speak a foreign language.

The Holiday Bowl was great and “Jimbo” and the cougars won so the long drive home was enjoyable.  After a food stop in Las Vegas he played blackjack and won $500.  Unlike me, He always seemed to win at the tables.

One of best memories and the most important lesson I learned from my Uncle happened during a family vacation.  In 1984, I had just returned from Army Basic Training and decided to take my young family to Disneyland.  On the drive home an ominous blue smoke began to trail the old Toyota Corona. With little money remaining and no credit card, I stopped, bought a case of oil and decided drive straight through to Utah to get the worn out car home.  We had to stop twice on the drive from LA to Barstow to refill the oil and wait for the engine to cool down.  A normal 90 minute drive stretched into 5 hours as we hobbled across the desert.

Our luck turned worse in Barstow as flash floods had closed I-15 from Barstow to Las Vegas leaving two solutions, spend the night and try to cross the desert during the heat of the next day or take s a 4 hour detour thru Needles, Lake Havasu and Boulder to Vegas.  Knowing we were out of money and a surety the car would not make across the desert in daylight, we turned south towards Needles.

Fifty miles, stop, add two quarts of oil, repeat had become the pattern.  At a gas station somewhere on the way I sent my wife and my young daughter Betsy in with a few remaining dollars to buy some drinks and oil…hopefully enough to complete the trip.

Imagine my surprise when she returned with my Uncle Wayne and Aunt Effie following them.  Wayne knew we were out of money he immediately said “we are following you till you get home”.  He didn’t judge.  He didn’t ask how or why, he just stepped in and helped

We made it to Vegas, Wayne paid for our room.  The car died, he called and paid for the tow service.  I told him I had no idea how I was ever going to pay him for all the money he had just laid out on my behalf…He looked deeply into my eyes and said “I don’t want to hear another word about it..Everyone has hard times and it’s up to family to help you out if they can…”

I have tried to calculate the odds of meeting them at a random gas station on  a detour at 11:00PM at night…you can’t.  My Aunt said they didn’t really need to stop for anything…they just did…Maybe my uncle was more in tune with spiritual things than I realized...


Time finally caught up with my Uncle and Alzheimer’s began to take its vicious toll. I do not think I have recovered from his death but I am grateful he didn’t have to deal with that terrible disease any longer. Somehow through the last stage of his life… He still managed to keep his dignity.  It was difficult to watch a man who worked every day of his life and always put his family first lose touch with reality.

Yet there were a few precious moments, when lucidity returned and that gleam returned to his eyes..I could almost hear home barking out “Go get us a couple of popsicles Bobby”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Circle of Life

It’s April 1, 2012 and we have met at Iggy’s sports bar for lunch. As my daughter Kristen (Kiki) hands me a small yellow envelop, I wonder what April Fools joke she is trying to play on her old man. I take the small card out and read the caption on the front; “One fish, two fish…soon to be three fish…” I open it and see the ultrasound.  Suddenly, tears fill my eyes as I realize my baby is going to have a baby. She is filled with a sense of joy and fullfillment I had never seen before...and so am I.  The circle of life begins anew and a new light will soon grace us with its presence.

But, where did these tears come from? Why such emotional welling up inside?  When did I become such a mush ball?

I think back on my life and only remember crying a few times. My early childhood was marked by the illness and death of parents and many close relatives. The young tears quickly turned from grief to anger with each event. Soon the anger dried the tears and I thought I had found peace. In reality, I was hiding and masking my emotions, not letting in anymore pain. My sub-conscious motto was "never let anyone know how you're feeling".  I guess when you’re young and hurt you do what you need to do to survive.

The struggles and anxiety of trying to provide for a young family dominated my emotions and interfered with my ability to fully enjoy the birth of my two daughters. I felt joy but not a full measure due to a fear that I would not be able to take care of them. Fear is foolish folly that we all succumb to every now and then.

It took 38 years and a heart attack to finally realize we all are going to die.  I realized I needed to change. I begin to appreciate the beauty of the small things in life. A quiet morning sunrise, the chirping birds in the tree, the sound of a child laughing in the park. I was born again and began to truly appreciate family and friends.

My heart began to open to new experiences and sensations. I realized that family was more than blood relatives. I have friends who are family.  From childhood friends I been able to reconnect with after 40 years to total strangers I’ve met at airports and corners of the web. We can all be a family if we push through the ridiculous barriers we allow society ad religion to place upon us. We can all live on in others, in their memories of us and the time we spend together. Precious time…and there is so little of it.

My barriers totally collapsed during the birth of my first Granddaughter Emma. It was the first time I shed tears of joy in decades. Holding her in my arms those first few breaths, I felt pure happiness. As I watched her grow over the next few months she constantly would try to sit up. Straining her tiny head she failed again an again. Bound and determined she kept trying; This stubborn little girl would not give up.  I looked in her eyes and saw a piece of me.

My grandmother passed two years later at age 98. As I sat by her side those last few moments she said goodbye to me. Peaceful and calm she told me she loved me and was ready. As I drove home, reflecting on my memories of her, I fully understood that a part of her lived on in me. I cried then as well; Tears of happiness and, a little sorrow.

Just past 50, My second series of heart attacks brought my closer to lifes' end goal than I had ever been.  Even smaller moments in life took on even greater meaning. Watching the children of friends, family and my own grow and begin their families leaves me with unending amazement and gratitude that I am still able to share in the experience  of life.

You are born, you live, you love and you die. Somehow along the way, you pass on a part you to the next generation. The circle keeps going. Yes, I cry a little bit more now; always tears of joy

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't be cheap Scott, chip in a $1.06 to help the troops

Forgive me, I try and, will continue to stay out of the political arena on this blog, but, I read an article that just pushed me over the edge. I will return to writing my views on life in general... and mine in particular..once I get this out of my system.

Scott Jenkins (R), Plain City, is the Utah State Senate majority leader. He recently was one of four senators to oppose creating a property tax break for Utah National Guard Members who are called to active duty for extended periods of time stating: "..Well, I’m saying enough. I don’t want to pay for my own taxes, let alone theirs..."  and this one: "..military members indeed sacrifice to serve, but they know that when they volunteer..."

Ya Scott, they volunteer, that's why we don't have a draft...Get it!!

SMH!...still!

Below is the link to the article and my email to him. If you agree with me, especially my Ogden friends, please re-post and join me in trying to encourage Mr. Jenkins to be more supportive of our troops.

The Story:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/53521136-90/jenkins-taxes-saying-military.html.csp

My email to to Sen. Jenkins, I have yet to recieve a response.

Dear Sir,

I am writing you in regard to your objection and votes against SJR8 and SB116 to grant a property tax exemption to Utah National Guardsmen’s activated for 200 consecutive days or 200 days in a calendar year.  It is my understanding that this measure will increase the average property tax by $1.06 on a $250,000 home.  This exemption must be applied for every affected year.

I see that you served for seven honorable years in the Utah National Guard (UNG) so first, I thank and salute you for you sacrifice and service to your state and country.  I also served eight years in the UNG and was proud to stand a post on a six month deployment with the 1457th Battalion (ENG) Bn. in Germany during Operation Desert Storm.

I find your rationale for opposing the bill very disappointing, especially since you, as a fellow former Guardsman, should be familiar with the sacrifices “We the people” ask of our all volunteer military.  I find your rationale to be quite naive and disappointing, especially from one who served and wore the uniform.

My activation was for 6 month (193 days).  Do you realize that, had this Bill been in place during my activation, I would not have received the Property tax exemption?  So clearly, it is geared toward the Guardsmen that are called upon to make an extraordinary sacrifice for the state and country.  Our state Scott. Our Country.

We as a nation need to have a serious discussion whether we truly value our pledge of “one nation, under god” or merely give it lip service.  Warm feel good words are meaningless unless our actions demonstrate our commitment to that pledge.  We are either in this journey together, as one nation providing for the common good, or on our own individually.  I say we are in it together.  You obviously embrace the other view.

Were you, as the owner of Great Western Supply, responsible for paying all the cost of the roads, power grid, sewer and other infrastructure put in place that directly benefits your business? You were not.  We the people, as a community, funded these services for the benefit of all, including your business.

Do you pay the full cost of Schools, Firemen, Paramedics and Police officers that educate and protect your children, home and place of business? You do not.  We, united as one, banded together and funded the services for all to protect and enhance our lives.  The list goes on and on.

We, as “one nation”, created the armed forces for one purpose, to protect and serve our country from all foes.  In short, war.  When “We the people” decide to go to war as one nation, we all should share the sacrifice. The military is not just a job.  It involves sacrifice. sacrifice from all, not just those individuals who put their lives on the line each day in foreign lands,   Sacrifice from all, whether they agree with the war or not.

What have, “We the people”, sacrificed to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  I say to you, nothing.  Only our soldiers and their familes have. Perhaps if we all had shared more of that sacrifice, the wars would not have lasted 11 years and counting.  World War 2 was less than 4 years (our involvement was 44 months) long in part because the entire nation made huge sacrifices.

Come on Scott, don't be cheap.  Your selfishness not to sacrifice $1.06 (probably 75 cents, because you can itemize property taxes) to support the common good of our community is beyond the pale and you owe the citizens of Utah, especially our Guardsmen, an apology.

I live in Pleasant View will be placing this letter on my Facebook page, encouraging all in the Ogden Facebook community to join me in boycotting your business Great Western Supply until an apology is issued by you.  Perhaps the united voice of a community boycotting your business will make you feel more appreciative of the sacrifices made each and every day by our military and their families. 

Robert Fritch
Pleasant View,Utah

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rock Srings, Wyoming (Never Never Land)



I returned several years ago to my childhood home, Rock Springs, Wyoming.  Exiting the freeway, I was shocked at what a bleak spot of dirt the city had become. As the constant Wyoming wind blew dust on my face thru my rolled down window on that hot summer day, I started to doubt my reasons and sanity for returning to such a forlorn place.  However I had just spent 4 hours driving there, so, I pushed on, hesitant but determined to complete my quest. 

Rock Springs is a tiny speck of a town that, seen through adult eyes, would be considered  the armpit of America.  Sagebrush, sand and wind are the memories most people take with them as they pass thru on the I-80, usually stopping only for gas.  I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder because to my childhood eyes, it was paradise on earth.  My early childhood memories from there are of happier, carefree days exploring the hills of my backyard, chasing horned toads, lizards and scorpions.

As I slowly drove around Bell View drive, the neighborhood I grew up in, much remained the same...other than it was considerably smaller than what I remembered.  The tiny, sturdy, two bedroom homes haven't changed much.  It’s hard to imagine that seven of us lived happily in one of those 600 Sq. ft. boxes.  Yet we did.  Not thinking, I parked my truck in front of my old home and immediately started to the hills through the backyard of the house. 

No one stopped me, or questioned why I was trespassing through their yard.  "I guess the old Fritch residence must still be the gateway to the neighborhood play ground" I thought to myself as I walked confidently through the yard. Did I notice a little more spring in my step as I started up the hill?

Initial Rock, a large sandstone boulder at the back of the old yard stood as the entrance to the hills.  It still had the initials from the neighborhoods original children.  Searching, I found the initials of my old playmates carved meticulouslyin the soft sandstone rock.  The thousands of new initials from subsequent children made my task more difficult, but, somehow more satisfying, knowing the neighborhood registry was still being filled by new children eager to leave their mark on the world.  

 I wandered the valley of the dry wash that always filled with water and turned into a raging river when the cloud bursts came. An army of kids always rushed there after the storms.  Armed with shovels, we built huge dams that always broke and flooded the homes below. No matter what new engineering experiments we tried. I wondered how many new dams had been attempted in the many years that followed my departure at age 7.  Did any of their dams survive the raging water?

My brother Carl received an 8mm camera for Christmas one year.  Several action thrillers starring the neighborhood kids were made in those days...he spent hours using a needle and magnifying glass to scratch Laser blasts and explosions in each individual slide of film....A testament to the genius of childhood...Who needs photo shop and computers when you have imagination.

My eye spied a tiny body half buried in the sand.  Digging my hand into the dirt, I pulled out the 30 year old remains of a plastic army man, an MIA soldier of countless wars fought so long ago.  Finally reunited, I stuff him my pocket and continue on past the still littered battlefields of a childhood gone.

The wind increased its intensity as I walked by the cactus pit below a sandstone cliff constructed by "bright" young minds so many years ago. Doesn't every young child think he can fly?  Being young, but stubborn, I insisted I could jump off the ledge and clear the pit.   My brothers reluctantly let me try to pass this important neighborhood rite of passage.  I almost cleared it landing on the far side.  However, my momentum did not carry me forward and I fell back into the pit.  I still smart when I think of my mother pulling the hundreds of needles out of my back and butt, one by one. 

Before I realize it, I take a few steps back and I AM flying over the pit.  I smile as I clear it. The last rite of passage completed.  My head swells with pride as I hike to and perch on top the remains of Fort Protection. The ruins of the castle where many battles had been fought still stand. Was that a new rock wall? I didn't remember that being there. Oh well, some childhood memories do fade.

I feel like a king, returning from a long crusade after finally completing his quest.  After many years and stormy seas, I was once again home.

My solitude is broken by a rock flying by my head, hitting the wall of the fort... I lean down, take the stone in hand and think “who dares to intrude on my kingdom?"   I look down the hill and a young 8 year old usurper, is challenging me for rule of the kingdom.  "Well let the war begin" I unconsciously think as I cock my arm to return fire. 

Before I release the stone, my senses return, and smiling, I beat a hasty retreat down the hill to the safe neutral zone of the neighborhood.  The new king still honors the age old law and wanders back up the hill to his fort.

I jump in the truck and begin the long drive home.  Baptized by the ever present Rock Springs sand that permeates every pore of my body, I am warm and content.   I realize, childhood doesn't ever really end.  Each new generation keeps it alive. Even in the age of Wii and Xbox.

Guard the kingdom well my young brother.  "Second star to the right and straight on till morning."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Park City Utah (Why My Neck is Red) Part II, The 500 Stairs




One weather worn hand gripped the hand rail firmly. The other held a cane. Once again, Grandma Started the long journey up the two flights of stairs to her home in Midvale.

Many questioned why a 95 year old widow would continue to live on the 2nd floor of a modest condo. "To many stairs Lela" they would say. "Move to an assisted living center or in with family who will take care of you". They had no idea that the stairs were an intregal part of what kept grandma alive. They represented a cornerstone of her life.

She had moved to Salt Lake 12 years earlier. The winters in Park City had become to harsh for her to continue to live there. The last one had been particularly brutal. I still remember the 140 mile round trip I made nearly every week to shovel more snow off the old miner shanty she had called home for 70 yrs.

Fourteen feet of snow fell that winter. By March, I was standing on the roof throwing the snow up onto banks of snow to keep it from crushing the ancient roof. By spring she relented and left the only place she had known as home for the gentler winters in the Great Salt Lake Valley.

She was born in Park City, Utah on July 24, 1910 to Clyde and Magdalena Yates. Her first home was on Rossie hill 500 stairs up from what was known as "swede" alley, the street directly below mainstreet. Her father worked the mines as an electrician. Because he had an education, Clyde's lot in the silver mines of Park City was better than most who toiled underground on twelve hour shifts with no Unions or health care to protect them. He died in his 40's of pneumonia; a direct result result of his work in the mines. Even with the better job and social standing he enjoyed, his family, like my Grandfathers, was left destitute. No company life insurance or pension, and the Social Security Program was many years away from saving millions of retirees from spending their last years in poverty. Things we just take for granted now.

Often, in her younger years she and the other children would coax the miners to toss lumps of coal out of the ore carts that crossed the town between the many silver mines that wound underneath the city. Coal was a precious commodity and a couple of lumps meant the difference between a warm nights sleep and a cold one. especially to a poor widowed mother and her children. Eagerly, she would take the prize up the 500 stairs to her mother.

She married Grandpa at 16, and moved to the home she would know for the next 70 years in empire Canyon on Daley Avenue. She still continued the climb up the 500 stairs to take care of her ailing Mother. Somehow she also managed to take care of her husband, her husbands mother and raise 2 children.

I remember many stories she would tell me of marching up and down the stairs on Rossie Hill. To school, church, social events. Each required 500 stairs.

When I was 8 years old, I made the journey with Grandma up those stairs on Rossie hill to Grandma Yates house. I have always been active, but, I remember... just that one trip wore me out. I wanted to quit, but, Grandma wouldn't let me...I was tired and angry. Why did she make me finish that ardous climb?

Many years later, I now understand the important lesson she taught me that day.  Never shirk from helping others in need, no matter how many stairs you have to climb. All true miners know that mining communites have always banded together to help each other. Even if its their last dollar. They continue that tradition today. Dont believe me?  Ask a miner. 

Her whole life, she never complained, about life's journey or the many stairs you have to climb along the way. She endured the death of her sisters, her son and her husband. At 97, she was still volunteering at the senior center, helping much younger seniors get meals and arrange Dr.'s appointments.

She conquered those stairs at her condo 3 time a day every day she lived there.

It was no surprise to me that all those stairs never defeated her. She fell in a flat parking lot at a Walmart, breaking her back. To old to recover, her brave soul ended its journey at age 98.

So my friends, I'll proudly say my neck is red...and now you know why I am pro-union, Social Security and support single payer Universal Health Care.  To do do any less does not honor their sacrifices of blood and sweat.

Companies don't care about you. They are not people because they do not understand right from wrong. They only understand souless profits and losses.  Miners have understood this since the beginning of time.  That why unions began.  Its also why they stick together and are the most generous people I have ever met.  Its a shame so many of us have forgotten this basic lesson.

I leave you with one vivid memory that was the inspiration inspiration for this piece.  I took grandma to Park City to on a Memorial day to decorate the graves. We had a great visit with Nan Macpolan and decorated all our family plots. Both of us were exhausted at the end of the drive home. I helped her out of my truck and held her arm as we approached the stairs to her Condo.

Gently, she pulled away and as I watched those hands grip that rail,... as that determined look came on her weathered, beautiful face, I realized what importance those stairs had for my grandmother. I could almost hear her say..."One more time old friends"




Friday, January 13, 2012

Park City Utah (Why my neck is red)

Today Park City, Utah is a world class ski resort. Snow has replaced the silver mined from the mountains that started the Hearst newspaper fortune more than 100 years ago. Million dollar homes line block after block of the town. Rolls Royce, Mercedes and BMW are the cars that line the streets. Foreign brands. I guess its fitting. Park City was a town built on the sweat and blood of immigrants from Europe and Asia. The difference now is "old" Park City was community of nations that loved and supported each other.

My Great Grandfather was named Nikola Frkovic. He was raised in the town of Gospic, Croatia. Aprox. 90 miles from Trieste, Italy. It is said he deserted from the Austro-Hungarian army in 1905 and made his way to relatives in Detroit MI. From there it is not clear how he made it to Utah, but at the time the Silver mines of Park City were thirsty for the cheap labor of new immigrants. He left a wife Katherine and young son named Ivan back in the "Old Country". He promised regularly to send money  to bring them to Utah.

Month after month passed.  Katherine, tired of waiting and knowing Nikola’s drinking habits, obtained passage on a liner as a maid. She and Ivan arrived in Park City circa 1910. One can only imagine the family reunion. You see, Slavs are a very Matriarchal society.

There were no unions protecting workers rights and health back then.  Lacking proper safety gear, Nikola died of miners consumption in 1913. The newspapers noted he was a well liked  person who was commonly known as "Pete Smith". I guess he was worried about the desertion even then.  No health or life insurance, no Soscial Security or survivors benfits, the Frkovic family was left destitute...

Ivan (Grandpa then 10) took on most any job he could to help pay the bills. He completed the 6th grade and then worked full-time at various jobs, including delivery of the local newspaper. He would recount how he would deliver the newspaper to the "Red Light" district and talked with great fondness of the ladies there and the good tips he would receive. When pressed for how much or what type of tip he was talking about... his only response was a gleam in his eye.

Ivan, pronounced "eh-fi"was called "nefi" by the local Mormon children, Nefi was a prominent figure in Mormon scripture. He became know as John and after starting a successful car garage and Dodge dealership, he changed his last name from Frkovic to Fritch.

He cared for his mother from the time he was 12 yrs old until she died in 1973,. She lived next door to him. As the mines veins ran dry so did the city. Johnny, as he was now known, was involved in helping the unemployed and sick miners stay on their feet. Even though he was a shrewd businessman, he never forgot his humble beginnings. Many was the time he would write off a repair and tell the recipient he was "adding it to his tab". A Tab that was never collected for widows or miners who had fallen on hard times or in the hospital. Grandpa was able to help people and allow them to keep their dignity.

A widowed aunt told a story of a new car she bought from Johnny at a great price. When she pressed him on the big difference in price between his car and a competitors similar model his reply was " I just picked it up on a great deal Bernice".

His Park City Garage was destroyed in a fire in 1953. He lost everything. He decided to move to the west desert of Utah and work a mining claim he had bought several yrs earlier. Remembering his generosity over the previous 24 yrs, the residents in the unemployed, broken town raised more than $5000 to help rebuild his business and convince him to stay. For many it was their last few dollars. Yet, the feeling was if Johnny left, nothing of value would be left of Park City.

The garage was rebuilt and Grandpa retired living in the only home he had known in America, halfway up empire canyon on Daly Ave.. He died at the age of 87 in 1989. The day before he had pulled an engine from a car he had bought at an auction. You see retirement for grandpa meant moving from the garage downtown to the garage in his house.

Now as  I drive up the "main street" that has been rebuilt according "Hollywood" specifications....the old, clean mining town they imagine in their "millionaire reality" dreams, I am slightly repulsed. 

 I remember a different Park City: "Swede" alley, the Red-light district, Chinatown and Empire Canyon, where my ancestors, the "bohunks" lived, loved and died.

You see, park city was always a miners town...The term "red neck" comes from mining...miners, lacking proper breathing gear wore red kerchiefs to block out the dust from choking their lungs and giving them consumtion. 

It means...Union man, brother, family....and miners always took care of each other...even if it was their last dollar.

As I drive by the boutiques and trendy bars, where "Pop Jenks" soda fountain and the Blood and Guts saloon used to be.. I smile and a small gleam comes to my eye.  The Park City I knew may have died...but it will always live on... if we remember who we are and where we came from.

You can build any fantasy.....that only takes money, But, you can never rebuild a community without remembering the people who made it.

That was Park City.