If you happen to find yourself in London, consider this before you set foot into Harrods.
If you happen to find yourself in London, consider this before you set foot into Harrods.
On Saturday, the Usual Suspects made the hour-or-so trek north to the United States Military Academy at West Point to attend the wedding of our friendsâ€™ daughter to an Army Captain, who is a graduate of West Point.
It was a great experience.
It is impossible to spend any time at West Point without being surrounded by history â€“ a history as old as the nation itself. The Academyâ€™s website, which provides a brief history of the institution, states, in part:
West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications for West Point in l778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in l779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a l50-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, despite Benedict Arnold’s treason. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.
While on the installation, I often had to take pause to consider that I was walking on the ground trodden by George Washington and on the grounds of the school attended by people such as: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, George S. Patton, Jr., Omar N. Bradley, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Brent Scowcroft, Frank Borman, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Edward White II, Michael Collins and H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
The Ceremony was held in the Cadet Chapel, which was completed in 1910. I looked around the web for a photo of the interior of the chapel, but I could not find one. I suspect the reason for that is that it would be impossible to capture the interior of the chapel in a photograph. It is huge, with magnificent stained glass windows higher that one would normally expect to see them.
The chapel is also home of the worldâ€™s largest church organ, the pipes for which run the length of the building. Itâ€™s sound was breathtaking, with low notes that could loosen oneâ€™s fillings and high notes that I figure only the bats can hear. A special surprise was the battery of straight, brass horns mounted over the main entrance to the chapel. When the organist pulled out the stops on those, they blew clarion tones that J.S. Bach could easily have heard, even on his worst day.
Upon arriving to the chapel, the ladies were escorted to their seats by the groomsmen, all of whom were Army officers, and most of whom were also Academy Graduates. The groom and the groomsmen all wore their dress blue uniforms, each one wearing the ribbons showing, among other things, his service in Afghanistan or Iraq. Most of them wore, above their ribbons, the Combat Infantrymanâ€™s Badge. The Best Man (the groomâ€™s brother) is also an Army officer, and he too was wearing his dress blues. It was most impressive.
The bride was escorted down the long aisle by her dad, our friend, John. He was beaming, and she was stunning.
The ceremony itself, conducted by an Army Chaplain, was shorter than most wedding ceremonies, but was very classy and covered all the necessary ground. I liked it a lot.
The Sword Arch
After the ceremony, the guests gathered outside the church to see the Sword Arch Ceremony.
The groomsmen exited the chapel in two columns and faced each other on the steps. On command each of the groomsmen raised his sword with the cutting edge up to form an arch. The bride and groom followed the tradition, which:
â€¦dictates that as the bride and groom pass through the arch, the last two bearers drop their sabers or swords, forming a cross to block the path of the couple. The groom then kisses his bride. The crossed swords are raised for the couple to pass through. The bearer on the bride’s side, as she passes by, gently swats the bride on the backside and says “Welcome to the Army, Ma’am.”
The reception was held at the Hotel Thayer, which is on Academy property and which provides yet another history immersion. The Usuals had booked rooms in the place, so driving after the reception would not be an issue. Once we all checked in, we quickly located the cocktail lounge for a few â€œpre-cocktail hourâ€ cocktails. From there, we proceeded to the cocktail hour, where we had a few more cocktails.
Then it was on to the reception room, which was beautifully appointed and where we had more cocktails and delicious food. We did manage to find time to talk to the soldiers in the wedding party. I cannot tell you how impressive these young gentlemen are. They are bright, well spoken, outgoing, extremely polite and modest. As I noted above, other than by knowing what their decorations signify, you would never know that each of them has been, as we say, â€œin the shitâ€.
You guessed it. Back to the cocktail lounge for more cocktails. It was a long day, and it was a damned good thing no one had to drive home
The West Point wedding was fabulous. More tomorrow. I’m tooooooo tired to write tonight.
I will be away from the keyboard today, as I (along with many of the Usual Suspects) will be attending a wedding here. I’ve been to the place a couple of times in the past, once to attend a football game and another time for a guided tour. It should be fun.
This is a first for me. I always have something in mind when I start typing, but at this moment, I donâ€™t have a plan or even a vague thought of what I might write about. I have decided to take a crack at writing whatever pops into my cruller and see what happens. There is an excellent chance that this will end up in the cyber-wastebasket. Weâ€™ll see.
Perhaps I shall number my thoughts. It might make this sloppy exercise appear more orderly.
Here we go. Ready â€¦ set â€¦ type.
1. Tonight, for the first time, I watched the entire Katie Couric News Broadcast. Why would I do such a thing you ask? I was eating dinner and channel 2 had the best reception on the non-cable kitchen TV. Itâ€™s every bit as dreadful as I expected it would be. Maybe worse. Here are two of the â€œhard hittingâ€, objectively reported stories:
Bush travels to Vietnam. Bush looks frightened and stupid. Bush sounds frightened and stupid. Bush is frightened and stupid. Vietnam = Iraq. Bad, bad, bad.
Pharmaceutical companies are greedy monsters that rape old people. Congressman Dingell, who is smart and compassionate, said so. The Government needs to crack down on those heartless, corporate bastards.
I think the average sixth grader can play Hamlet more convincingly than Katie Couric can play â€œconcerned and sincereâ€.
I wonâ€™t be watching again.
2. People are trampling, shooting and robbing one another to buy a video game. There is no doubt that the terrorists are winning.
3. On the way home from work I was listening to a call-in radio show. One guy called to â€œaxeâ€ the host a question, but it really wasnâ€™t a question at all. He really called to say that Trent Lott is a racist, as is every white person in Mississippi and Alabama. George Allen is a racist, as are all republicans. The next guy called to say that O.J. was found not guilty and, therefore, as a matter of fact he did not kill those people, and the taxpayers should pay his lawyers. I figure someone must have dialed the phone for those two maroons.
4. New Jersey is so deeply in debt that the Governor is entertaining the possibility of selling some of New Jerseyâ€™s highways to private businesses. New Jersey would get the selling price and the buyers would get to charge tolls. Knowing the way this state works, I suspect that the government would use the proceeds from the sale to hire a bunch of political hacks to staff a new agency charged with regulating the people who own the heretofore public roads. You absolutely cannot make this shit up.
5. Last night I watched the tail end of a television program about crop circles, and I was quite surprised to see that people who seem to be sane and even quite smart are convinced that some of these things are not the work of a bunch of wise asses stomping on the crops to form those geometric patterns for shits and giggles. WTF?
6. I donâ€™t believe it is possible for anyone to be a bigger douche bag than Rosie Oâ€™Donnell. â€¦ No, wait. Maybe Bill Maher. â€¦ No, wait. Maybe Al Franken. â€¦ No, wait. Maybe Ted Kennedy. â€¦ Never mind.
7. I heard Rod Stewart sing â€œHave you Ever Seen Rain?â€ and I really liked it. The drummer grabs the groove and doesnâ€™t let go for a better grip. Memo to self: Next time you pick up the guitar, play that song.
8. If we were in World War II now, we would surely lose. Thatâ€™s hardly an original thought, but itâ€™s the farookinâ€™ truth.
9. I know a guy who says he never ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How sad is that?
10. Thatâ€™s all folks.
Update: Regarding No. 2, lookee here.
Thanks to Congressman Murtha (in whose eye I could happily spit) and his almost-ascension to the position of House Majority Leader, much has been written about Abscam. Given that the FBI sting operation commenced in 1978, it occurred to me that many readers may have been too young back then to fully appreciate the rot that it uncovered, which led to the . conviction of one United States Senator, six Congressmen and several and other public officials.
The convicted U.S. Senator was found guilty on nine counts of bribery and conspiracy to use his office to aid in business ventures (i.e. an interest in a titanium mine, to which he promised to direct government contracts).
Can you guess which state the single convicted U.S. Senator represented?
I thought you could.
Yes, it was democrat Senator Harrison â€œPeteâ€ Williams from NEW JERSEY, who was convicted in 1981 and who resigned the Senate, but only after the vote on his expulsion was imminent.
Oh, and one of the others convicted as a result of the sting was the democrat Mayor of Camden, NEW JERSEY and NEW JERSEY State Senator Angelo Errichetti.
Is it any wonder that New Jersey is a national political joke?
Update: In a comment, Enlighten-New Jersey reminded me that I had forgotten to list democrat Congressman Frank Thompson of NEW JERSEY among those convicted as a result of the Abscam sting. Of course, that means that three of the seven politicians convicted for corruption were from NEW JERSEY — a dubious distinction to be sure.
Same shit, different year.
Itâ€™s true. Each year about this time for the past four years (e.g. last yearâ€™s post â€“ there are also posts for prior years in the archives), we endure the Bear Hunt â€“ No Bear Hunt Debate.
All indications are that New Jersey, the most densely populated state, has too many black bears, and they tend to wander onto peopleâ€™s property, leading to an occasional and potentially dangerous person-bear encounter.
The hunters want to shoot them, and other folks think that better garbage management is the answer. Of course, like just about everything in the Garden State, it has become a bullshit political matter.
A hunt previously had been scheduled for December, but our new Governor (and former Senator) Jon Corzine doesnâ€™t like the idea of a bear hunt. According to the Star Ledger, Governor Corzine wrote a letter to Lisa Jackson, who was appointed by Jon Corzine to head the Department of Environmental Protection, in which he stated that the stateâ€™s Bear Management Policy, approved by the former Head of the Department of Environmental Protection, doesnâ€™t reflect his views on the hunt and that he would like to see the state rely on non-lethal methods to control the bear population.
Not surprisingly, Lisa Jackson agreed with her boss and said that the Department would not approve a hunt.
So, now the hunters are considering suing the state.
Like I said: same shit, different year.
I come from working folks. Both my parents worked hard in factories. My father was a maintenance man is a grubby factory that made dye, and my mother worked nights and, later, days in an electronic components factory. As such, we were never long on money. Couple that with their jobs not leaving much time to prepare fancy meals, my mother was extremely creative with chopped meat.
She would fry it up and mix it with various things â€“ sometimes, macaroni and sometimes, potatoes and vegetables â€“ whatever was in the refrigerator. She would dole out the hot mixture of chopped meat and whatever directly from the frying pan onto a plate or into a soup bowl. I loved it.
One night when I was still young enough to think that this slap-together, low-cost meal actually had a name, I asked my mother what the dish was called. As she was scooping it onto my plate, without missing a beat, she said, â€œItâ€™s what the cowboys eat. Itâ€™s cowboy food.â€
So, tonight, more than a half a century later, when I came home from work and Mrs. Parkway said, â€œI ate out with [a friend and a cousin], but there is some cowboy food in the refrigerator,â€ I knew exactly what she meant.
I still love cowboy food.
The famous Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City has closed its doors after 26 years of operation. Over the years, Gloria Estefan, Billy Crystal, Linda Ronstadt and Ole Blue Eyes played there.
So did I.
Of course, we didn’t play in the famous Copa Room, but rather in the Lounge, where winners celebrated and losers (clearly outnumbering the winners) washed away their sorrows.
I oughta write a farookin’ book.
Just returned from an overnight trip to Cape May with Ken, the bodyguard, and the Deckmistress. We visited with the Stardust Shrink. Lots of laughs, amazing magic tricks and, of course, cocktails.
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