Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Reflections on the Past and A Shot of Wisdom for the Future”

I am what I am today because of the foresight, wisdom and generosity of the American people, the legacy of our forefathers, and their undying belief and faith in the fundamental concept of “equality and justice for all.”  Within that system of beliefs is the essence of what we once envisioned for us all, only to have cast it to the winds in exchange for a hedonistic and materialistic lifestyle that is consuming all of the greatness we once cherished and for which we fought so valiantly.  All of those virtues we cherished and which we held out as a beacon for the rest of the world are evaporating into the mists of time.  As they become only a fading memory I ask myself and my fellow Americans, what are we getting in return?  There is no answer but the hollow and empty sounds of the nothingness we have become. 

I am grateful that I came from a better time and only wish we could collectively visit and rekindle the priceless value we saw in them and for which we so willingly and generously sacrificed.                                                                                    
There is no pain in anything within us that we freely give for the sake of us all and a better future for those yet to come after us.  It asks no real sacrifice of what we have, but it does reward us for that which we so willingly share and give to others.  That is what comes from mediocrity and selfishness within us when we place it on the alter of our common welfare and decency.    

I came from a modest background.  I am from a working-class home in Wyoming where I graduated from Hot Springs County High School in Thermopolis in 1954.  My first job was that of a soda jerk that  helped to keep bread on the table at home until I graduated and set out to see the world on my own. 

I enlisted in the United States Navy in 1954, completed Boot Camp and Service School at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego.  Upon graduation, I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  My next assignment was to a fleet tanker for the remainder of my tour before being discharged in Long Beach, California in 1958.  All of this was a gift freely given to me by the American people for my own welfare and what was to be returned in kind after I had reaped the benefit of those with the vision and generosity and who had the foresight to see it as an investment in my own individual and our collective future.  

Thanks to the G.I. Bill, I enrolled and was accepted as a freshman at San Jose State College.  Two years later, I was accepted for admission to the University of California at Berkeley and received my Bachelor of Science Degree two years later.  With the benefit of the largess of the United States Government, I was accepted for a graduate fellowship and later received my Master of Public Health Degree from U.C. Berkeley, as well. 

I chose Hospital Administration as my profession in life, which proved to be the most ill-conceived choice I could have made.  But, it was a fast track to the top and a respectable salary for one whose roots were still very much anchored in the sod of Wyoming.  Lesson to be learned was “never go for the gold; always go for whatever is best for the common good and wherever your heart and head take you.” 

Sadly, after wasting all that time and effort playing the role of a healthcare executive, I finally listened to the wisdom of a few cherished friends and realized that my real calling was to the written word.  As to the veracity of that pathway, those few real friends were right on the mark and I was way off.  But, sometimes that is life, isn't it? 

My Dad often said the saddest thing a man can do with his life is to have to admit, “If I had all to do over again.”  Truer words were never spoken.  If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have set my sights on the School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley; rather than the School of Public Health.  With the benefit of hindsight I am inclined to think I might have made a respectable career had I taken the “road less traveled.”

My first “real job” out of college was in San Francisco and it was, to be quite honest, a love affair at first sight.  I just don’t see how anyone with a sense of romance in his being can ever quite forget time spent in “Baghdad by the Bay,” to quote Herb Caen.  The mystique of all that city is and ever has been captures your very soul.  There is no other way to describe it.

One of the first things that gripped me in that wonderful city of Cable Cars and hills was the plethora of real journalists who became famous by simply courting and wooing all that “The City” had to offer.  The San Francisco Chronicle had the best cadre of columnists of any newspaper in the business.  There was a running contest as to who was “the best,” but each had his trade mark.  Who can ever forget the aura of The City created by Herb Caen, Charles McCabe and Stanton Delaplane, all capped off with a dollop of Sally Stanford, Melvin Belli and Carol Doda?  It just doesn't get any better than that. 

I have to admit that I favored Charles McCabe, perhaps because of his background and the tempering of his Irish Background that was his heritage.  There is something special about a real Irishman, I have to admit.

So, here I sit having retired from health care and staring over the precipice of what will soon be eighty years of travelling the old sod of this earth we all inhabit.  Did I make the most of what was given to me?  Not one bit.  Do I regret those roads never taken?  In spades! 

When I hung up my yoke of a hospital administrator, I returned home and decided I would have a go at writing a blog.  It was like returning a very thirsty fish to fresh water.  I was finally where I belonged.  I started writing a blog in 2006 and I have posted 192 since I started writing.  Not bad for an old bird peering at the coming sunset on life. 

I have on my desk four books that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.  One was copyrighted in 1970.  One was copyrighted in 1973.  One was copyrighted in 1974 and the last of the collection was copyrighted in 1984. 

I have yet to read one of those books from cover to cover.  Why?  Because they were all written by one Charles McCabe ESQ, whose facility with the English Language and the ability to charm and inspire the least among us has no equal.  I do, however, thumb through them, from time to time, just to remind myself of how great poignant prose can be and its affect on my very soul.  I find it almost addictive.  To not share this rare treasure with a world starving from a diet of all that has been produced by computer technology at the expense of real writing is, in my opinion, downright obscene and blatantly shameful to the detriment of us all. 

San Francisco has been co-opted by some of the most shallow, tainted and vulgar people on earth.  They have no sense of the taste real writers give to us and to the world in which we live.  Instead, they revel in their ill-gotten gains of fabulous wealth.  They have bought up one of the greatest cities in the world for their own self-indulgence, callously disenfranchising some of the poorest among us for their own insatiable greed and gluttonous appetites for more, more and more!  Where is the civility in all this, I ask you?  I have yet to see a crumb.  They seem to be impervious to the fact that they have disemboweled a national treasure for the sake of greed.  Those of that ilk should, in my opinion, go back to Los Angeles, Houston, Manhattan and other such environs so those few remaining aesthetics can live in and savor what our ancestors (in their infinite wisdom) created for and bequeathed to the rest of us.

The greatness of these United States of America is on life-support for no other reason than the predatory nature of all those who steal favors from the working class in order to further lace their pockets with great wealth for their own indulgence.  If that isn't downright evil, I don’t know what is.  The final justice to all this is that The Grim Reaper waits for us all and it is a date with destiny that none of us can avoid.  The clock keeps ticking.                 

I recently wrote to the publisher of the four books by Charles McCabe ESQ and published by Chronicle Books in San Francisco, only to have my letter returned unopened.  I can only presume the books are no longer in print.  However, be assured I seek no personal gain from sharing these treasures with my readers.  They are just too good to allow them to be tucked away from prying eyes only to gather dust from those who could only be moved and treasured by their love of good prose. 

For those of you who might enjoy adding these books to your collection, I am sure you would have no trouble finding copies from book dealers and other like sources.  You will be glad you did.  After all, life is short.

Yes, there were better days and better people who preceded us, all of which we seem to totally disregard in our gluttonous pursuits of today that seduce us into believing that all we covet is somehow euphemistically superior.  Such is our modern-day folly.  Meanwhile, Our Creator weeps.      

“Cowboy Bob”
The Sagebrush Philosopher
January 3, 2015


 “On Being Poor”


Charles McCabe ESQ

The other day some flipping sociologist or other came out with some flipping survey or other which concluded that the poor aren't popular in this country.  The elaboration of the obvious is almost the
name of the sociologists’ game.  They set out to prove that black is black, and there is always a 
grant somewhere, to endow this dauntless quest.  

I spent my life growing up poor, and I can tell you that it is no fun.  There was no welfare and no food stamps when my family was poor, save the occasional and shaming handout from the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Our poverty wasn’t grinding poverty, because none of us had ever known any better.  My parents came from the bogs of Cavan and Longford, where their parents had often slept in bins with the pigs.  I knew nothing about any world other than my own except occasionally from rumors in the tabloids about the lives of people like Daddy Browning and John D. Rockefeller.  I really didn’t believe there were any rich people.  Your wisdom is your experience. 

None the less, I new I was poor and this was in the fabulously affluent 1920’s.  I knew it and I know it still, and there is nothing on God’s acre that angers me more than people who get angry with people because they don’t have money. 

I know all about the shiftless poor, some of whom aren’t poor at all, who collect welfare in three or four countries, and are more or less a criminal elite.  But the welfare system cannot be b lamed or the poor, worthy or shiftless, crooked or honest.  The kind of people who seem most to deplore the abuses of welfare are the children for whom the system began to be created, in the Depression days of FDR.  Ronald Reagan was a poor kid, and he has turned into a holy horror on the subject of the poor. 

The survey mentioned above said Americans associate poverty with “moral failure.”  Poor people are not loved by their non-poor contemporaries because they cost money and threaten the work ethic. 

I have a firm and old-fashioned belief in free will, but there is damned little free will about who is rich and who is poor.  A lot of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and Nicaraguans are poor not because of any inherent incapability of being rich but because they do not possess adequately the language of this country, and because they look funny.  A lot of blacks are poor just because they are black. 

Someone said to someone else that the rich are different from us because they have money.  The poor, and those who have been poor, are a helluva lot more different from us than that.  The next worst thing to being destitute is being compelled to live off charity.  If you have ever undergone the experience, and I did so for years as a child, you are never going to forget it. 

Even to this day, one of the greatest sins in the world for me is throwing away money.  If there are any people in the world I loathe, it is the lavish tipper, the big spender, the guy who puts hundred dollar bills in the hands of head waiters so that he can feel secure for an hour or two.  I even get mad at people who leave food on their plates; even when the person is, as occasionally happens, myself.

Being smug and righteous about the “moral failure” of the poor is something I hope I have never been, and do indeed hope I shall never be.  I have been there, and I don’t want to go there again.  Being outside looking in is not the greatest fun in this damned world.

Being non-poor is mostly luck, as practically everything else is.  My luck has run well in the adult years of my life.  My children and grandchildren almost certainly never will know poverty, and that is something.  But I knew it, and shall never forget it, and that is something.  But I knew it, and shall never forget it, and I daresay the reason I am writing these words is to assure that I shall never forget it.  The poor are our brothers.


May the wisdom of Charles McCabe ESQ always be with us, to teach us, to inspire us and to bring out the best in us.

Our gratitude for saving these treasures to:

Chronicle Books
San Francisco, California