Back From The Dead (For Now…)

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​Yes, I am still alive much to the disappointment of many of you.

The last few months have been extremely difficult for me as I had given up most everything because of a medical condition.
This was not a simple problem:  I was basically blind in one eye and was quickly losing vision in the other.  Whether I liked it or not, I needed surgery to reattach my retina in my left eye and fill holes in my right eye.

The recovery process has been long, lonely and very difficult.  I spent many hours watching YouTube videos on my phone to pass some time as I could not see my laptop.

It is ironic that right after I was getting my laptop back to a working version of Windows 10 again and much lost on it, my health would immediately take a nosedive.

What happened to me basically happened overnight and was very frustrating along with scary.  While I have regained most of my sight back, I still need another procedure done on my right eye early next year. 

Now onto the business at hand:

My plans right now is to continue my postings alternating between my 2 blogs on a weekly basis.  I will, however, be not doing any postings during the last 2 weeks of the year, as I normally never post during those weeks.

My plan is also to resume where I initially left off and that was with trip to Florida earlier this year.  

I will also be doing my annual predictions in early January as I normally do.  However, this year they will be posted exclusively to my rants blog.  I also plan on discussing some post election thoughts as well in early 2017.

Now for some changes that will happen.  I am officially renaming the “Staples blog” to “Retail Land”.  The reason is that I find myself writing more about other retailers than I do about Staples.  This does not mean that I will not write about Staples is that they are dying whether they want to admit to it or not.  I plan on writing my next post about what I found shocking on a recent visit to a Staples store.  To some it may not be, but I look at it as the dismal future of the company.

I am also changing the name of my Facebook page as well to “Retail Land”.  I am hoping that it will grow more than the very few who liked it in the past.

Eventually, I may change the page format to each of my blogs to make them different from one another, but that it is the future.

For now, until next week, email me or leave me a comment below, or visit me on Facebook and become friends with me.  Don’t forget to like my Facebook page as well.

Good bye for now.

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Why I Didn’t Caucus in Maine

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Writer’s warning:  The following post may contain material that may be offensive to some people.  Reader is advised.

 

Spoiler alert:  This post contains information that it is a major part of my other blog about Staples.  If you don’t want to know things ahead of time just skip that segment when it comes up.  It will be indicated as such.

 

It was 32 years ago this year that while in college I took a course called “Introduction to Political Science”.  This 3 time a week, 50 minute course was probably one of the most interesting courses that I took during my time in college.

 

It was during this time that the primaries of the 1984 election were happening and much of the conversations in class were the discussion of that.  Since I sat in the front of the class, I always had to turn around to see who was talking and to listen intently to what they were saying.  Of course, it was also a good excuse to look at the pretty redheaded girl Rebecca, who sat right behind me and seemed attracted to me (that is a story for another post).

 

Since this was a core class, the room was filled of people with various majors and the love or hate in the political system.  We did have a textbook but it was rarely used except for the occasional test we took.  The professor was retiring after this semester and seemed to let the class run loose with their various comments of the current political environment.

 

While the conversations were always cordial, one thing was obvious:  the people were not deciding this or any other Presidential election.  It are the delegates who make all the decisions no matter what the will of the people is.

 

Sound familiar?

 

This is exactly the same sort of thing that we are seeing this Presidential election cycle.  We have states that have primaries, caucuses like Maine, and others like Colorado, where the residents don’t even get a vote.

 

Really, does all this seem fair?

 

Of course not, while people in Maine spent hours in line for a chance to caucus in their town or a nearby one, I figured that this time would be better spent elsewhere and not wasted on expressing my political choice.

 

Now the question is what political choice?

 

This year it seems that people are picking the person who they hate the least rather than those that they really support.  This is exactly the way that I feel this time around.

 

Sorry people, I am not really attached to any candidate this time around nor do I think that some should even be elected at all.  However, now that the field has whittled down to 5 major candidates, I think it is fairly safe to give my opinion of each of them.

 

First we have the three Republican candidates:

 

By far the furthest ahead for now is Donald Trump.  He is the most outspoken person on either side and enjoys putting people down and calling people liars or stealers.  Overall, he does have a good point as many states award their delegates at disproportional level.  You can have the most votes, but still lose in the delegate count.  I call it math gone wrong and Donald may have hit on something that has always been part of the establishment.

 

In second place, we have Teddy Cruz.  I call him Teddy because he likes to use the name Ted as part of the word “Trusted”.  To me, he cannot be trusted as he seems to have connection to SuperPACs and has his people send out false emails saying to vote for him as his competition were going to be dropping out.  While he seems to talk like someone who should be more of a preacher, his actions are less than religious.

 

Lastly we have John Kasich.  Ironically, this guy sits in fourth place in a three-man race.  Marco Rubio, who dropped out a few weeks ago, still has more delegates than Kasich does.  Unfortunately, Kasich seems like he is the most qualified and part of the establishment that everyone is avoiding in this election cycle.  Every interview that he is in, he seems to get angry that people have already cast him off as a no-chance candidate.  Do we really want an angry guy to be our next President?  Why do I keep thinking that this guy is going to change into some big green creature when he gets angry?  (To those who remember the old “Incredible Hulk” TV show of the 1970’s, you will understand the reference.)

 

 

Now the Democratic candidates:

 

The most well know Democratic candidate is Hilary Clinton.  Given her email scandal, she may be more qualified for the real life “Orange is the New Black” or maybe she is trying to be just like us by saying that she always tells the truth.  If you believe that, then you have not been reading my other blog as liars seem to be running rampant.  How many of us really want a 3rd Obama term?  Do we really want to continue to fail?

 

The other Democratic candidate is Bernie Sanders.  This socialist wants to change the country in ways that would destroy our economy.  He wants to ignore the ISIS problem.  He wants to break up big banks, but has no clue on how to do that.  He wants to have free college and healthcare for all, at the expense of big corporations and raising taxes even more on the general public.

 

I have a couple of Facebook friends, who seem to be very supportive of Sanders’ social destruction of our economy.  It is unfortunately that they don’t understand that such radical behavior would cause huge job losses and many companies to leave the United States.

 

 

****Spoiler Alert****

 

During my time at Staples, I wound up in the hospital because of a leg problem caused by them.  It cost thousands of dollars for the treatment that I needed during my weeklong stay in the hospital.  Because I had used my insurance, I received a letter threatening me that I would be terminated if I did not follow the procedures that Staples had in place regarding using vacation time to offset my time in the hospital.  While I did not follow that directive, I was constantly harassed on a weekly basis by the management because I required the use of a stool because my legs were still infected and I was still being treated by a doctor.  They kept asking when I would no longer need the stool because they felt that I was abusing the “privilege”, despite the fact that I had my leg constantly wrapped in bandages to help it heal.  Seven years later, I am no longer under a doctor, but walking is difficult and standing in one spot still hurts significantly.  Sadly, Staples was always in denial of the harassment and just considered me a “bad employee” after my termination.  This is why I have not been able to get a job since as their lies have continued to follow me all these years later.

 

Do we really want people like Sanders to have businesses dictate the healthcare of employees?  Given my own case, let me say that NO employee should have be subjected to the type of harassment by the management just because they needed to use their insurance.  Under a Sanders administration, employees would be fired for similar reasons as I did.

 

Sort of puts forth the following quandary:  Does Sanders support big business to destroy its employees?  My answer is yes.

 

***End of Spoiler Alert***

 

So overall, I expect that the delegates this year will pick someone to alienate most people in both parties.  There is no reason to think otherwise given that how fractured the parties are this year.

 

My personal choice this year right now is NONE of the ABOVE.  I could only imagine what that same “Introduction to Political Science” course would be like this year.  I know it would not be as civil nor would it have Rebecca and I together in it.

 

Sometimes if I could turn back that clock…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Wonderful Time of Year?

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Note:  This week’s post is being presented in both blogs as I feel it is important to interest all my audiences.

 

This SHOULD be the most wonderful time of year for retailers as many of them bask in the profits of all their hard work leading up to this time of year.

 

However, that idea of SHOULD for many is more like NEVER.

 

Just ask employees at the 13 Tim Horton’s locations that suddenly closed up here in Maine a couple of weeks ago.  No warning just closed down all from Waterville down to Kittery, Maine including two here in the South Portland area.

 

Or you could ask those people who work at the Gap stores in the Bangor Mall or Maine Mall about their future as these stores will be closing in mid-January.  I know that closing the one at the Maine Mall will leave a huge GAP (pardon the pun) in one whole section of the mall.  I doubt that will be filled anytime soon.

 

Speaking of vacancies, the Friday before the Black Friday, our family decided to take our annual trip to 3 New Hampshire malls in one day.  It seems that every year this trip gets shorter and shorter because the stores just keep getting worse and worse as I will explain.

 

The day started heading to the furthest location first of the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua NH.  This mall usually takes a little time to get through as it is a 2 story mall and doing 2 levels take a little time.  This mall has changed very little from last year’s visit and it is the only mall on my trip that still had an open RadioShack store, although there were no customers in the store at the time nor could I find an employee in the store as I walked by it.  The store appeared well stocked given that this is one of about a third of its remaining stores.  Most all of the stores in this mall were of national names with only a couple of local shops within it.  This mall also appeared mostly occupied by stores with only a couple of small vacancies, including a couple of vacancies in the food court.  Overall, I spent about 2 hours in total at this mall.

 

We then headed to the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester.  This mall takes almost as long to get through even though it is a single story mall because it is so large.  No sign of RadioShack could be found where it used to be, but the area is now occupied by a women’s clothing store.  The area near the center court, which last year had a then-vacant Disney Store now has been completely remodeled and now houses a shiny Apple Store.  A section just to the right of that location is vacant, which along with a couple of others are the only vacancies in this mall.  Most of the stores in this mall were of name brand national stores with only a couple local retailers in there.  All together probably spent about an hour and half at this mall, which is about average for a mall of this size and stores that I really wanted to visit.  However, one store missing in this mall that was in the other 2 malls I visited was a FYE store.  Apparently if you were looking for videos then Best Buy is your only choice at this mall.

 

Finally, we headed back to the Portsmouth area to wind up our shopping trip.  Before arriving in the Portsmouth area, we stopped at the Target in Greenland, which is about 5 miles or so from the rest of the Portsmouth shopping area.  Certainly not what I would call close at least not as close as what I am used to around where I live in Maine.

 

When we arrived in Portsmouth (actually Newington area), I noticed that the Kmart in one the plazas, which was vacant last year, still has not seen a new occupant since.  Our first stop was the Fox Run Crossing shopping area.  This area, which years ago was known as the Newington Mall, is lined with stores like Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Staples, and Kohl’s.  I visited the first 3 stores but didn’t walk all the way down to Kohl’s, even the distance is no further from one end to the other as when it used to be a full indoor mall.  Maybe I am just getting way too old to walk that far anymore.

 

I purchased my annual diary and calendar at Staples down there, my only purchase that I ever make with that company anymore only because they are the only store that carries it, otherwise I would never do any business with them.  Overall, I spent about an hour shopping at all 3 stores that I wished to visit in this plaza.

 

It was then off around the block to the Fox Run Mall.  Needless to say that this mall created the most shock of any mall I visited on my trip.  Gone from this mall was one of the few CVS stores located in malls that I ever visit.  This store was always busy and surprised to see it gone.  In its place was a boarded up area with an indication that H&M store would be coming soon in the “Fall 2015”.  If my indication is right, they probably missed that date and possibly not even coming to the mall at all.  Unfortunately, for this mall, there are several boarded up vacancies with no indication of any new tenants coming in.  The only place not boarded up is the spot where RadioShack was, just a curtain covering the opening of the store with a bench sitting in front of it.  A couple of other late stores in this mall still look like their past tenants, but have new tenants.  One which is a sport memorabilia store occupies the old Suncoast Motion Picture Company store that vacated about 5 years ago and it has never been remodeled.  Walking by this store reminds me of just how much money I used to spend in this video store over the years…oh the memories there.  The other non-remodeled store is the now vacant GM Pollack jewelry store now occupied by a local store selling cellphone accessories.   Overall, this mall is about 1/3 local stores, 1/3 national stores, and 1/3 approximately vacant.  This sort of split is reminiscent of how the Newington Mall was before it died and was eventually razed.  If the Fox Run Mall doesn’t get more national retailers, I see it getting the same fate.  Overall, I spent a mind-numbing 20 minutes in this mall as it offered nothing to really shop in except a lot of disappointment.

 

So overall, the trip saw a lot of changes but to the average shopper would also present a lot of disappointment in some of the shopping areas.

 

This leads me to the next idea of what happened on Black Friday.  Word is that nationally retail sales were down about 11% from the previous year (or for those keeping track about 25% over the last 3 years total).  It is understandable why this is happening:  no good places to shop and those that are good just didn’t have in stock what people want.

 

From my own experience over the 3 day shopping weekend, I found no problems parking at the local Target, Walmart, and at the Maine Mall nor did I find any of the 3 places overly busy when I arrived to each in the early afternoon.  Walmart was the least busy even to the point that I was able to park about 10 rows up from the entrance.  Of course, the couple of things that I wanted to buy was readily available for purchase in substantial quantities even though they were advertised specials.  So either, the stores didn’t sell that much or had more inventory than they expected to.

 

This leads to the question of what happened this year.  Of course most people are shopping online and buying in store as a last resort.  This could spell curtains for struggling retailers who need to do well this year or will end up in the history books.

 

However, there are some signs of stores that won’t make it another year.  For example, JCPenney, which for years, have advertised free Disney snow globes to their early customers announced this year would be the last year of that program.  Apparently they may be thinking that this will be their final holiday season.  Other stores at risk include the previously mentioned Gap, which may close even more stores, Sears/Kmart (closing more stores), and Staples, which continues to shed stores to save themselves and prepare for a possible merger with OfficeMax/OfficeDepot.

 

Finally, I would like to mention that I really have not missed leaving retail 6 years ago.  After spending nearly 25 years in retail, I am seeing that retail as we know it is quickly falling apart and as I have written in the past malls are becoming a thing of the past.  It would be sad for people of today to tell their grandchildren of how retail of today becomes obsolete tomorrow just like downtown retail of 40 years ago no longer exists.

 

For everyone, what used to be the most wonderful time of year is no longer as such anymore?

 

But the real question is:  Is it too late to get back to old-fashioned retail again?

 

I believe it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Didn’t Vote This Year

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Yesterday was Election Day in the United States.

 

I did not perform my civic duty as I usually do for one very simple reason: there was just nothing I cared enough about that would sway the general vote.

 

This year no Congressional seats up for grabs/

 

No governor position to fight for.

 

And last, no Presidential election this year to vote on.

 

That didn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in some of the elections going on around the state of Maine.  I just wish I lived in some of the other communities to vote on some of the important things that were happening in other towns than my own.

 

I will now give comments on some of those other elections.

 

First up is the Lewiston mayoral race.  For anyone who has read this blog will realize that I have written about current mayor Robert Macdonald a couple different times in recent years.  He is most popularly known for his comments against the growing Somalian community in his city.  This has now caused him to have several opponents for his job as mayor.

 

However, under Lewiston rules, if nobody gets at least 50% of the vote (which they didn’t), a runoff election must be held with the top two candidates to determine a winner of the mayor position.  His opponent, Benjamin Chin, is of Chinese descent and may play a factor toward supporting the immigrant population.  So this runoff may be more an election of the immigrants vs. those who don’t want the immigrants.  Personally, I see Macdonald recapturing his position and will continue his dislike toward the immigrants flooding his town.

 

Portland had 2 interesting referendum questions on its election ballot.  The lesser of the 2 questions, as confusing as it was, now will allow developers to build properties no matter how much it destroys any scenic view within the city.  This basically means that people who pay big money for those wonderful ocean views may lose them to some greedy developer.  Maybe people didn’t understand the question or maybe it was twisted in such a way that nobody could understand the ultimate result of the question.

 

The second referendum question of greater importance was to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour for all employees within the city limits by 2019.  While on the surface this would sound wonderful, most small businesses fought this one hard as it would create massive layoffs and possibly have many businesses leave the city.  Thankfully, this was defeated by a 58% to 42% margin.  However, and this is a big however, the city will be raising the wage to $10.10 starting in January.  This means that Portland, Maine will be the 7th highest minimum wage in the country.  I expect to see many businesses to start leaving or scaling back very soon.  Let me point out as a side note that in the near 13 years I worked at Staples, I barely got above the $10.10 rate at the time of my termination.  I think Staples is probably glad they don’t have a store within the Portland city limits as they would probably close it just to save money.

 

Speaking of Staples, my own city of South Portland had one of its city council seats up for grabs by a former Staples sales manager.  I would never vote for the guy because I felt the type of antics that he did to get himself fired from Staples was unprofessional and uncalled for.  What makes it worse for him was that he had a strong ethic to wanting to make the city more business friendly.  While this sounds like a great idea, it throws all the regular taxpayers under the bus and not being supported.  Thankfully, the taxpayers agreed and he was soundly defeated.  Ironically, 7 of my Facebook friends are mutual friends of his, but I am not.  Maybe he is still bitter over being fired from Staples?

 

Overall, this election year was a ho-hum year for the most part with some key issues being decided locally and around the country.  However, next year I will definitely be voting in November as I want to make sure that I cast my ballot for the proper person to be our next President.

 

Until next year…. No I will have posts before next November (I hope).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxes (What else on this day?)

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There is not a better topic on this day to talk about other than taxes.

 

Yes, taxes.

 

However, this is not about those taxes due today.

 

This is about taxes that could happen here in Maine in the coming months.  Even though these are happening in Maine, some of them may apply to other parts of the country as well.

 

Some of these taxes are disguised as fees.  One such fee (tax) applies to a new one that just started today in Portland, which makes me glad that I don’t shop in Portland.  A 5 cent charge has now been implemented on every plastic and paper bag that a shopper uses also the Styrofoam cups have been banned as well.  While I don’t have a problem with the latter, I do have a problem with the bags.

 

When I go shopping, I always try to use the self-serve checkouts whenever possible.  The reason for this is that I like to have things bagged my way, which can’t be done if some rude cashier rings you up.  I always at least double bag all my purchases as the bags never seem to be strong enough to hold much of anything before they start giving way.  So on average, I would be using about 6 bags or at a cost of 30 cents per purchase.  Do this a couple of times a week every week and it adds up quickly.

 

Of course, I hear those of you say “why not just bring your own reusable bag?”.

 

As someone who worked in retail for about 25 years, I have seen that many of these reusable bags are nasty looking.  Many look like they have been rolled in a mud puddle for hours.  Do people even ever think about washing their bags?  I don’t think so which is why I use a clean new plastic bag.  It is certainly more sanitary even though it may not be environmentally friendly.

 

This is what it all boils down to.

 

That point of being environmentally friendly.

 

Don’t these people realize that much of the garbage around town may come from those people who don’t even live in town?

 

While it may make them have that “feel good feeling”, in reality the real polluters are countries like China and India, which dump thousands of pounds of garbage into the water every day.  Portland, Maine is just a small dot in the big problem.  It may be a right step, but I feel it is a step in the wrong direction and hurt more people than it helps.  I certainly would not want to be behind someone in line who is using a dirty bag, germs are spread to easily nowadays.

 

Now while this fee (tax) has been implemented, the governor of our state has decided to create his own nightmare legacy by wanting to implement some sweeping changes to the tax bases.

 

Here are just a few of them and my comments about them:

 

  • Eliminate the state income tax. While this is a great idea in concept, how he plans on making up for it will hurt more than help.
  • Putting a tax on services like plumbers, haircuts and repairmen. Consider that some of these people rely on tips; many will see their tips reduced or disappear completely because taxes will be added to their services.  End result will be less money to those who perform services and more money to the unneeded state system.
  • Expanding and raising the sales tax to between 6 and 6.5%. This would be great if it would not hurt the ordinary state resident unlike what governor thinks that tourists would pick up the bulk of this increase.  Also doesn’t he know that tax-free New Hampshire is right next door?
  • Remove the homestead exemption tax on everyone over 65 years old. This would be great except most homeowners are younger than 65 and will get no benefit from this change.
  • Eliminating sales tax exemption for non-profits. This has been abused for years by those so-called non-profits, mostly churches and charities.
  • Lowering the corporate tax rate. This only gives company’s a fatter bottom line and unfortunately the money is not passed along to employees as a pay increase.

 

Overall, the governor’s plan is to shift the tax burden from business to its residents.  Is this a good idea?

 

Not if you want to live in Maine.

 

So if I was governor what would I do?

 

In the order listed above, my solutions would be:

 

  • Keep the state income tax. While it may seem like an outdated burden, it still raises revenue where it needs to.
  • No tax on services. I think that those who provide a service should get a tip and most who pay for those services take the tip from what they give the person at time of service.  Just a bad idea period.
  • I would lower the sales tax back to 5% or better yet lower it to 3%. Lowering the tax rate will allow more money in people’s pockets and will allow people to purchase more therefore.  The state needs to be more competitive in its rate.
  • Keep the homestead exemption for everyone. Since many homeowners have mortgages, giving them a break would be more than desired.
  • I support the taxing of non-profits. In my 25 years in retail, I saw this abused by those who were buying personal items and calling it a non-taxable business expense.  But since the information is submitted to the state regarding every tax exempt transaction and those rejected by the state are subject to the business to pay not only the applicable sales tax, but a fine as well.
  • Raising the corporate tax. While many may say this would be counterproductive to business, the truth is that many businesses have been given reductions in everything from real estate to employee benefits.  It is time that businesses really pay their real fair share.

 

 

While some may disagree with some of my plan, I think that it creates a much fairer playing field as I don’t cater to the special interests of businesses or any group.  Even if you live in another state, I think you will find that my suggestions would make for a more fair system.  If you agree with what I have written, let your representatives know or better yet run for political office yourself and influence the change of our tax system.

 

After all, shouldn’t taxes be fairer even though death isn’t?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Roger Snow

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Photo/Obituary Published by Maine Sunday Telegram

Photo/Obituary Published by Maine Sunday Telegram

There are very few teachers during my years in school that had such an impact in a couple of aspects of my life as Roger Snow did.  Posted above is his obituary as it appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram this week.

 

His passion for his craft exceeded anything that I ever saw from anyone.

 

It is difficult to call him a real teacher because he traveled amongst the different schools here in South Portland, Maine to spread his talents of teaching others the fine art of music.

 

When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to learn a musical instrument.  So my parents and I went to my cousin’s music shop to look for an instrument.  My thoughts were that I really didn’t want to have any instrument that I had to blow because I usually had a shortness of breath so this type of instrument was out of the question.

 

So my choices were limited to something like the piano or violin.  Since my parents could not afford a piano and it would be heavy to bring to school, I decided on the violin.  The violin that my parents purchased was new and it cost about $500.  After shelling out that much money for the instrument, they could not really afford to purchase a new case which would have set them back a couple more hundred.  So I ended up buying a used and sort of rough-looking case.  It didn’t look great and was a little discolored but it served its purpose.

 

I used a DYMO label maker to put a label with my name and address on the case so it could be returned if ever lost.  Ironically that label has lasted many years later.  Unfortunately, my violin career hasn’t lasted that long.

 

I was one of two people at my elementary school who were interested in playing the violin, me and a girl.  As it turned out, her affection for the instrument varied and she would not show up for the practice sessions set up by Mr. Snow, our teacher.

 

I practiced the violin for about an hour everyday trying to learn the notes and songs from the songbook which was provided to me.  The learning of the notes was extremely difficult for me as I could not read music that well.

 

However, Mr. Snow was persistent that I could learn to read the notes even if I had to write down every translation below the bars in the book.  That, unfortunately, is exactly what I had to do.  Mr. Snow did not care if I did that because he felt that it was the best way to learn.  Unfortunately for me, I did this all the time throughout my short but beneficial musical career.

 

My high point of my musical career came at the 6th grade Christmas school program.   The girl who was supposed to perform with me was no-show.  So a decision had to be made:  would I perform alone or not perform at all.

 

Mr. Snow came to the rescue.

He encouraged me to go out and face the audience and perform what I had long been practicing.  I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as all of a sudden I felt the tie I was wearing suddenly tightened like a noose around my neck.

 

So Mr. Snow and I walked out onto the gymnasium floor together, where we started performing together.  Shortly he would stop, leaving me to continue the songs by myself.  I was still nervous even though he was sitting beside me.  After performing my 3 Christmas songs, Mr. Snow prompted me to stand up and take a bow. The crowd had given me a standing ovation.  Nervously I held my instrument with bow in one hand and violin in the other and bent over like I was going to have a stroke or something worse.  At this point, I could not wait to leave the floor and go out into the entry way.  Mr. Snow congratulated me on a job well done and I watched the remainder of the show from in the back of the room.

 

This night was probably the high point in my entire musical career.  Correction, this was the high point as things sort of went downhill from here.  The girl never returned to violin class ever again after this particular night.  So I spent the rest of the year alone in this class.

 

When I got into junior high school (7th grade), I was not alone.  There was one other boy, Michael, and 3 girls in the violin class.  Michael was not a great student, but he excelled at the violin.  As a group, Michael led us when we needed help because he had been playing the violin for several years and was a couple of years older than the rest of us.  His passion along with the passion of Mr. Snow  made our time very enjoyable over the next year and we performed well together during all the junior high programs that we were invited to.

 

Then came 8th grade and for some reason Mr. Snow was removed from the South Portland school music department.  It was never known if he retired or if he was forced out of the department.  This was the worst thing that could have happened to us.

 

His replacement wanted to transform Mr. Snow’s orchestra into the new head’s band.  What this meant was that the violin section would be history.  We had a choice: pick up a new instrument or leave altogether.  However, Michael would have none of that.  He led a protest to keep the violin section and keep the whole group as an orchestra.

 

Michael’s passion led to failure and unfortunately for the 5 of us, we were shown the door.  It took a few weeks before the final decision to oust us happen but when it did, Michael took it the worst.  He became so distraught over the whole situation that he dropped out of school and allegedly got hooked on drugs.  As far as I knew, he never went back to school becoming a victim of the ignorance of the school department.  I saw Michael a few years ago and he seemed to be off drugs and much more mellow, but he looked much different and appeared to finally be at peace with the world and himself.

 

However, the real question for those of us who cared was what happened to Mr. Snow.  Rumors circulated that he was fired; others said he was forced out, and others thought he just retired.  My violin ended up getting retired living in the storage space in my parent’s garage.  It has not been opened in many years so I don’t know the condition of the instrument, but I have no intention on selling it.

 

That question would always remain unanswered for me, but his disappearance would not be long as during high school in 10th grade he made reappearance in my life.

 

During my sophomore year in high school, when I had the first chance, I decided to take the driver’s education course offered in the school.  Since the course was held at the school, we all were sitting there on the first day anxious to find out who the teacher was.  To my surprise, and the surprise of others, the teacher was Mr. Snow, the music teacher who inspired my musical aspirations.

 

He was a great teacher of driver’s training, but when it came to actually getting behind the wheel of a car that became a different story for some.  I remember the car being a bright red Chrysler K car, a popular type of front-wheel drive car of its day.  The car clearly was labeled a driver’s education car with a big sticker on both front doors and on the trunk.  The label had the Chrysler logo on it with the words “STUDENT DRIVER” clearly written on it.

 

For me, it should have said “LOOKOUT CRAZY LOON ON BOARD”.  Given that Mr. Snow took out 4 students per day for their driving lesson, my day was always met with the same sort of sweat that haunted me years earlier at the solo Christmas concert back in elementary school.

 

My first time behind the wheel, the vehicle was parked near a cliff overlooking Sebago Lake.  Naturally, the first thing I did was to put the car into drive and almost sent the car over the cliff.  Thankfully, Mr. Snow had a brake pedal on his side of the car to stop me from making him, me and the others a stupid lesson on how not to drive and end all of our lives in a heartbeat.

 

Over the next few weeks, each of the four of us, were allowed about a half hour of drive time so we were together in the car for about 2 hours a week.  While everyone else in our group progressed rather well, I still struggled with the whole driving thing.

 

However, Mr. Snow was persistent in seeing me succeed as I did in music class.  When the course ended, everyone else was ready to take their driver’s test, but Mr. Snow did not want to see me fail.

 

Since he had the driver’s education car for another few weeks, he decided to give me additional lessons free to give me more time behind the wheel.  This extra time made a huge difference as this extra training along with the time my father gave me driving his car allowed me to pass my driver’s test in the first try.  I was extremely proud and happy that Mr. Snow did this much to help me succeed for a second time in my life.  Also, the Chrysler K car survived with all the bumpers and 4 wheels still on it.

 

He went above and beyond anyone in wanting to help me.  I think he would have done this for anyone who needed the help.  It was just part of his nature.  However, I believe that anyone who would do something without pay just shows his dedication to his craft.  He had the drive to make anyone succeed whether behind the wheel or behind a musical instrument.  (Writer’s note:  Sorry about that pun I could not resist.)

 

In the years that followed, I only saw Mr. Snow a couple of times when I worked at the mall.  He pretty much kept a fairly private life despite having such a talented existence.  Maybe that is why he was so great, he knew when to stay out of the limelight and let others get the glory.

 

But here in this blog post, I felt it was time that he got the glory that he long deserved.  Unfortunately, I had to write it as an obituary tribute rather than as a lifelong tribute to someone who always went that extra mile.  (Writer’s note:  Sorry about that one too.)

 

When I decided to write this, I wanted to find a current picture of Mr. Snow to put into this post, but I could not find one.  Since my old yearbooks were not accessible, the only picture that I have is an old picture of someone at the beginning of their career rather than the older white-haired gentleman that I knew all those years.  Either way, he had a long honorable life and always had my respect.

 

Rest in peace, Mr. Snow.  I know someone up there wants to hear you play one of your many instruments that you played so well.  You will never be forgotten especially every time I get behind the wheel of my car.  Just as long as I don’t ever find that cliff and forget which way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aftermath and the Angry Pig

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First let me open by saying that nationally only 60% of the voting population actually took the time to vote during the last election.

 

This meant that the other 40% was either fed up with the whole process, didn’t care at all, or just didn’t have the time.  Of course the latter excuse doesn’t fly at all because of absentee voting.  The first 2 may be because of social ignorance.

 

Then there is the other major factor in this entire nightmare this year.  I heard stories of duplicate names, people who could not be found, and overall problems with the voting system in general.  To add to this is the list of people who are either incapable of voting or who are in jail or deployed overseas in the military.  These numbers add to those who can’t or unable to vote.  Overall, the system needs to be fixed to make sure those that are able to vote can and those that no longer can vote won’t have somebody use their identity and vote for them.

 

To add to this mess is the Maine State Voter Program.  The first email I received a couple of days before the election listed our family and if we “voted” over the last few elections.  It also listed our “neighbors” and if they voted over the last few elections.  The first red flag in all of this is that this email showed up in my Spam inbox in Outlook.  This right here should be an indication that even Microsoft thought something suspicious of this email.

 

There were several errors in this email.  The first is that it said that I did not vote in 2010. This is WRONG!!  I did vote that year and I am offended that it said that I didn’t in all capital letters.  This is certainly a calling out as if I did something completely wrong when in fact they are wrong.  Secondly and even more inaccurate is the listing of my so-called neighbors.  Every one of the “neighbors” listed has moved away in the last couple of years.  Honestly why should I care whether these people voted or not in the last few elections especially since they no longer even live in my neighborhood.  The biggest offense of all in this is how this group got my email address in the first place.

 

Later, the next day I received a second email from this same group.  This time the email was similar with the listing of my family and again if they voted (again with the wrong info on me), but this email contained a listing of some of my local Facebook friends and where they live and if they voted in the last few elections.  This email, like the first one, sets off many red flags.  However the flags in this one are significantly worse than the first.

 

The biggest gripe that I have is like the first email is that the email listed my Facebook friends’ names but also their addresses as well.  The worst thing about this is that listing where somebody lives could create a dangerous situation especially if some of these people were not so-called friends of mine.  I have always felt that somebody’s address should remain private if they want it to be.  It should never be considered public information.  The fact that some of these people were former work associates and a couple were people I knew back in high school makes it that much worse especially given that I left my previous employer in a less than glorious manner.  Add to this that the people from high school I haven’t had a conversation with them in years just adds to the aggravation and paranoia with anybody knowing your private information.

 

The Saturday before the election I received in the mail a letter that was exactly like the first email I received.  Why this group would waste postage on sending this false information out in a letter is beyond me?  All I can say is that I am thankful that they never sent out the information of the second email through the postal service.

 

In last week’s local Sunday paper, a reader wrote that they were angry receiving a letter from this group after it falsely reported that a relative of theirs could not vote in the last few elections because they were in a home for Alzheimer’s patients.  What I can’t figure out is why anybody in the family didn’t have this person removed from voting roll call when they knew they no longer were going to be able to vote.  This reader called for an investigation as to why this information was even sent out in the first place.

 

Honestly, I totally agree that this group should be investigated.  While much of the information is freely available information it is the fact that it was distributed without the consent of others listed is where my biggest criticism is.  Add to that the incorrect info about me and it just adds to the problem.  The second email sort of clued me in that much of this information for both emails were in fact gathered from Facebook and the friends that I have on there that live locally.  I believe that such gathering of information from Facebook is both unethical and illegal and Facebook should be investigated to see if they gave out people personal information along with its user’s friends list for their own gain.  This should be considered a complete violation of Facebook policy especially since I keep my address private on Facebook.  Hopefully, this group is investigated and I would join any class action lawsuit that comes about for violating the privacy of myself and the privacy of others.  I would be glad if this information is never released ever again in any format especially being so wrong.

 

Now onto the elections results.

 

As expected it was a nightmare as nationally the Republicans took a majority of the U.S. Senate to now control both houses of Congress.  I see gridlock for the next 2 years at the national level as Obama will take his pen and do executive orders no matter what the Congress thinks.

 

Now that the ads are gone this year was one of the dirtiest political seasons ever with more money than ever coming in from out-of-state sources.  More mud was slung this year than ever before and more egos were severely damaged.  Some of the damage is probably socially, politically and personally permanent.

 

First up is the Maine governor race.  Once again, Paul LePage won over his Democratic opponent Mike Michaud.  Was this any surprise that this race was once again given to the person who made this state the biggest joke in the country.  How much further can this state slide and how many more people can end up being uninsured after LePage’s next 4 years?  I bet the number will go up significantly

To make matters worse is that LePage refused to accept the concession call from Michaud after the election saying that he doesn’t want to see Michaud ever again.  What a wonderful way to start a new term.  The only winner in this race are the political cartoonists who have 4 more years of great material coming.

 

In the second district Congressional race, the criminal Republican won handily over the extremist Democrat.  I still won’t give out their names as I feel none of them were capable of winning and none should have won.  We should feel sorry for those people in northern Maine as they need support, but not from who they chose.

 

As expected the other races were determined well before election day and not worth mentioning here.

 

However, the bear-baiting issue ended with the NO side winning against the YES side by a small margin.  We continue to be the only state in the country to allow the feeding of bears to kill them.  While the YES side had graphic images in their ads in the last days of the campaign, it was a little too late to get the victory.

 

The other referendum questions passed with ease despite most of them were for funds to places unknown and for uses unknown as well.  I feel that people just thought that if it meant jobs no matter where they are, then the issue should be supported.  Again, voter ignorance dominated these questions.  I guess most people don’t believe that it is the taxpayers’ money used to pay for the bond issues.

 

As far as the South Portland marijuana referendum was concerned, the YES side won by a small margin.  However, the NO side is challenging the vote and the police have already said that they will be stepping up their arrests of people possessing the drug.  If anything, the vote might have been symbolic but may not ever be enforced.

 

Overall, I felt that voting this year was under minded by the wrong information given by the Maine State Voter Program.  No matter what they say I DID  vote this election and I certainly have every right to complain about the results as most of them turned opposite of what the way the voting should have gone.

 

Maybe we should blame the 40% that didn’t vore…

 

Note: This will be the last post before Thanksgiving.  I will return in December with a new post at that time.  So have a happy holiday and a happy Black Friday.

 

 

 

 

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