An Ode to America

SumoflamUSAAs we approach Independence Day 2014 I look at my country with different eyes than I did 20 or 30 years ago.  We have gone through some tough times as a country and these have impacted each of us at a personal level.

The economy is tougher than it has been in years and many of us, including me, have gone through job losses, economic difficulties and more. It has not been a fun ride.

Yet, we move on and we survive.  We find ways to make it.  Despite the political and ideological differences that sometimes divide our diverse population (as can be seen be all of the banter on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), we still come together as a country.

LambertsCafeOzarkMOThis became very clear to me as I traveled across America during May and June of this year. Whether in the plains of North Dakota, the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Wyoming or the impoverished deltas of Mississippi, the flag hung high, people were Americans (and not political parties, races or otherwise).  All spoke their dialects of English (and indeed, American English in Minnesota is different than that of American English in a small town in Southern Mississippi or in central Nebraska).

EStLouisILUltimately, I am grateful to live in this free country.  I can gripe about rising gas prices, Obama’s political agendas, dramatic inflation, bad roads or anything else.  But, I have the right and freedom to gripe if I desire…it is my inalienable right in this country.  Something many other countries don’t have.

I have the freedom to drive across this great nation without discrimination and go through the Blackfeet Reservation, a Cajun community and predominantly Scandinavian community or a small mid-American farm town and still feel these freedoms and experience others enjoying them.

So, despite any challenges, I believe it is time for me and all of us to Fall in Love with America again.  So, here is an ode to America by my good friend Antsy McClain.  It was his reminiscence of experiences while loving in America. I was fortunate enough to work with Antsy in producing and making this video. I hope you enjoy it.

Who Should We Be Celebrating on Veterans Day?

Today is Veteran’s Day, the day that we supposedly celebrate those individuals who fought for our country and our freedoms.  As i perused through a number of Facebook entries this morning I saw the numerous comments thanking our veterans.  I too thank our veterans, but, perhaps in a different way and perhaps to different veterans.

You see, I was in high school during the Vietnam War.  I grew up around protests and anti-war sentiment.  Later on, while in college, I turned away from a possible Law Degree to pursue a degree in Geography and History, and then later a Master’s and even some PhD work in Political Science.  I was fascinated by Political Geography (the use of geography for political gain) and delved deeply into understanding the mindsets and strategies of so-called “terrorists” and “insurgents”.  I wrote papers on the Vietnam War, I learned about coups in Africa.  I understood the dealings of Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevarra and others.  And no, I did not sympathize.  I detest violent means of getting something accomplished.
Here I am now, in 2009, while many of our country’s young men and women are fighting battles in far off places like Afghanistan and Iraq, and seeing a President receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to increase troops in what I personally perceive to be another Vietnam. The French fought and gained little ground in Vietnam and neither did we.  In similitude, the Russians fought and gained little ground in Afghanistan, and an increase in forces there may not do us any good either.
What many are thankful for is how our young American soldiers are fighting for the freedoms and rights of others….they are NOT really protecting our country.  This effort is not unnoticed by me.  I am grateful for their sacrifices in trying to make this world a safer place…I know that many have died on foreign soil.
But, who REALLY protects our country?  Who are the veterans that really don’t get celebrated for their sacrifices and risks as they should? Here are a few:
1. Our Firefighters – They protect us daily from fires.  They risk their lives to save us.  They drive speedily down a road to save a life only to be thwarted by careless selfish drivers who disregard them.  
2. Our Police Forces (Police, Sheriffs, Highway Patrol, etc) – They protect us from ourselves.  Like the firefighters, they are out every day protecting us from the menaces of society.  They pull us over for speeding.  They crack down on drug dealers. They control traffic.  They intercede in domestic abuse.  They fight for our daily freedoms. They work to keep peace in our country and keep us safe.
3. The National Guard – These are our people, the ones we work with every day, who sacrifice a couple of weekends a month to train so that they can protect us in our own states and regions.  They assist with the big picture things – – disasters, floods, bombed buildings.  They save lives, they rebuild and they sometimes lose their lives trying.
4. Nurses and medical staffs – These individuals as well protect us.  They work in hostile environments to protect us and save us from disease, many at risk of catching and possibly dieing from these diseases.  They fix us we get broken and are bleeding, or can’t walk, or can’t breath.  They care for us in so many ways.
5. Our Border Patrol Here is a group that really does go unnoticed. They work around the clock to keep out the intruders-the drug dealers, the illegal immigrants, those who might fly planes into buildings. Yes, on 9/11 some got through. But countless others do not. These folks really do fight for our freedom and protection.

6. Paramedics – Like the firefighters, these individuals risk their lives to save ours. They are not paid very well, but they are dedicated to make sure that those of us in emergency situations as a result of heart attack, influenza, accidental injury or otherwise, get the up front assistance we need and make it to the hospital alive.

7. Prison Guards – Another uncelebrated and under paid protector of our freedoms. These individuals work in a hostile environment every day, risking their lives to make sure the murderersm thieves, rapists and other unruly members of our society are kept separated. They risk being taken hostage, or riots within the prison walls. They try to help those who have slipped but are trying to get back into society as productive citizens. They help us have more freedom.


8. Teachers – Another class of poorly paid and seriously abused citizens of our country who dedicate themselves to guiding our youth to become decent and productive citizens.  This is a tough job as many parents now use the schools as a “baby sitting service” and they don’t really support the efforts of these tireless folk we call teachers. Where the Border Patrol is the fence, the teachers are the tenders of the gardens within those fences.

I admire the daily strugglings of our youthful soldiers overseas.  Many do make the ultimate sacrifice.  Many serve because they have nowhere else to go.  Many serve out of devotion to country and family.  Though, in my opinion, they are fighting for the freedoms of others and not really for our country’s well-being, they still represent our country.

But I think we could do better by taking the massive amounts of money that we currently put towards fighting other country’s battles and pumping it into our country.  Use it to pay the teachers, the prison guards, the paramedics, the border patrol, the national guard, the nurses.  Use it to get jobs back. Use it to fight for our true freedom in this country.  Many of us have lost the ability to control our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as a result of mislead politicians sending our youth overseas to fight unwinnable battles that really have no bearing on the continuity of our own land and political system.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Hurricane Ike and its effect on a small Canadian town

This morning I was on my way to work taking the normal route I always do. It
was drizzly out, but not much else was different…until I got to the main
intersection. Unlike most mornings, this morning the road was clogged with a
line (or a lineup as they say here in Canada) of cars. The Sunoco gas station
(or petrol stand) was packed to the gills. Indeed, the aisles were 6 cars deep
and the overflow had come out to Juliana Dr. and all the way to the main drag
through town. Fuel was $1.21/litre (about $4.58/gallon), which is about what
it has been for quite a while up here.

My first thought was the speculation on Hurricane Ike down in the Gulf of Mexico
and the pending doom on the Galveston area and all of its oil refineries. I
kind of marvelled at how a hurricane over 2500 kilometers (abt. 1560 miles)
away could have such an effect on a little town of about 20,000 in SW Ontario.

As I passed another station on the way, it was at $1.25/litre (abt. $4.73/gal)
and it too was pretty full. Then, about a mile down the road was another
station…it was at $1.36/litre (abt. $5.15/gal). This station was empty.

These hurricanes are devastating, especially to those in the direct path of the
storm. I have friends and family in Houston and I fear for their safety in the
wrath of this soon to be Cat 3 hurricane. We know what happened in New Orleans
and the same devastation could easily happen in Galveston and its surrounding
areas.

But, what many of us don’t realize is that the far reaching effects…the unseen
and undetected arms of the hurricane…are there. People in little Woodstock,
Ontario are seeing higher fuel prices and ultimately, possibly higher food
costs as a result of a three to four day pounding of a storm in a coastal town
in southern Texas.

It is a scary thing.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Juliianne’s Haircut…isn’t she a fox?

Thiis afternoon Julianne got a haircut.  For the last few years it has been basically the same, but all of a sudden she got this mod new look and she looks younger, foxier and ….. need I say more?  I wish I were there dadgummit!!!

Here is my foxy wife and her new haircut!!

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

My Blog has now been updated with new (old) stuff

I have now moved a number of things to this blog so I can consolidate all of my blogs, journals, etc. and provide an opportunity for folks to comment.

As well, I at times want to write about things in general and this will be the place.

This blog was formerly my Weight Loss Blog.  All of those entries remain, but I have also added many of my trip journals, all of my Trailer Park Troubadours blog entries from a different blog I did and there will be more subject matter upgraded in the future.

Please subscribe and post your comments.

Cheers
David

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Some new directions

I originally was using this blog to record my weight loss journal, but have decided to expand the blog to numerous areas.  My weight loss has unfortunately floundered.  A number of reasons can be attributed to this and many excuses can be fished out of me.  But, bottom line is that I have not remained focused and life has thrown me numerous curves since last year.

After losing my job at Lexmark in November 2007, I had to take the unemployment route and began delivering Pizzas for Papa John’s to try to supplement the income until I could get something substantial again.  Obviously, delivering pizzas is not conducive to eating a good weight-loss promoting diet.  And I ate pizza almost daily.  Stress of being jobless did not help either.

Then, I finally got a position that would be more substantial financially, but it meant my having to move to Woodstock, Ontario without my wife and kids and grandkids and begin working as a Japanese interpreter at the new Toyota plant there.  There were obviously pros and cons associated with this move.  Te pros included a substantial income increase, the opportunity to build upon my Japanese skills even more and then the opportunity to see a bit more of the world (which I have documented on my website at http://www.sumoflam.biz/ontario.htm).  The downside would be that I would live away from home and travel back once a month (originally…but that changed to twice a month as of July).  I would be working in a plant environment which meant lots of time on my feet and knees.  I would be living in hotel which meant lots of eating out.

To make a long story short, I have had the best of times and the worst of times here since February.  In March I was involved in a major accident while on a trip to Ohio in a snowstorm.  My van was totalled and I had to get a new “used” vehicle.  My three to four month gig in Ontario has turned out to be more than 8 months long (though I now see the light at the end of the tunnel as I will finally get to return to Kentucky on Oct. 3).  I have seen some wonderful scenery, many interesting places and met many wonderful people through my travels around SW Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  My Japanese skills are even better and it has been fascinating to watch a shell of aplant turn into a production facility. And my fascination with production processes has been fulfilled as well.  But, my health has taken a hit….I have gained a substantial amount of weight back due to poor eating habits, eating to assuage loneliness and depression, etc.  I have developed veinous stasis (poor blood circulation in my legs…I think I already had a bit of this in the past, but all the time on my feet here in the plants has exaccerbated the problem.  I now have to wear compression stockings to keep my legs from swelling too much.  My knees have gotten worse as well. 

But, on the bright side, I have tried to remain upbeat as much as possible.  I travel alot (despite the cost of gasoline) and have had the opportunity to see sights and write about them.  The trip journals have proven to be therapeautic for me, as has the traveling.  But, living out of a suitcase can be a drag.  Seems like even when I go home, I am living out of a suitcase.

Well, as the Sumoflam Saga continues, I plan to now use this blog to document my random thoughts, to wrap up my travels in a different direction than my trip journals (i.e., go into deeper analysis about things such as why communities have instituted the use of murals as a form of community promotion and beautification; why some communities use novelty items, such as giant statues of mooses, buffaloes and cows, to promote tourism; production plants and infrastructures–a look at why so many auto plants are along US Interstate 75 and Canada’s Highway 401 corridor, etc.)  Naturally, I will also try to comment on weight loss.  I’ll comment on music and whatever else seems to be he course du jour in my mind.  I need this outlet to keep me sane and mentally active.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.