Saying Goodbye to A Dear Friend

January 26, 2013

gerry_2It is with heartfelt sadness that we report the passing of our friend and co-blogger, Gerry Ashley.

Gerry lost his battle with a brain tumor earlier today after a months-long fight against the growth and emerging lesions on his brain.

We will write more later but right now we are dealing with the grief of losing our dear friend.

May flights of angels (including Carl and Dennis Wilson) sing thee to thy rest, Gerry.

Stoutcat


On Hiatus

July 25, 2010

Friends and readers,

We’re going to take a few weeks off–while Stoutcat just had a vacation, both Alan and Gerry definitely need some time off from the heavy political lifting. Also, we’re thinking of some fresh ideas for the blog, and discussing how (and whether!) to implement them.

Please check back on August 9 for more bloggy goodness.

Thanks!
Alan, Gerry, and Stoutcat


R.I.P. Billy Mays

June 28, 2009


In recent days, we’ve lost quite a few celebrities: David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson. Although there have been a few exceptions, we don’t usually post about these things; and we’re not ones to glom onto any tragedy in search of hits and ratings.

But sometimes a character is so compelling that you just have to comment. There was something about Billy Mays that was annoyingly endearing. Made you want to like him in spite of yourself. (We like to say he had a very high “Vince” factor.)

Loud, brash, enthusiastic. Hawking wares from Mighty Putty to OxyClean, Billy’s brassy voice was unmistakable. We here at Grand Rants have long had great affection for him, and surprisingly enough, he has crept into our posts more than once.

Why not use Billy Mays as a national health care adviser? Could his plans possibly fail more spectacularly than did Hillary’s way back when? Besides, anyone who can sell the cheap epoxy putty as “Mighty Putty” for $20 must have something on the ball. (By the way… Being a hobbyist boatbuilder, etc. I tried MP, and got to eat crow for my initial disdain. See “Why I owe Billy Mays an Apology”. The stuff is far from perfect, but it isn’t a rip off.)

Top of the Ticket, the LA Times, wrote movingly about Billy today, and yet even eulogizing him, they couldn’t extinguish those elements of humor and joie de vivre that were his hallmarks.

Recently, Billy was filmed going through a McDonald’s drive-through, ostensibly for a morning radio show, but clearly Billy was in it just for the fun of it.

A voice is now silent. A loud, raspy, annoying voice, to be sure; but also a voice filled with zest and joy. I hope he’s up in heaven selling harps and halos to the other angels, with no shipping charge, and if they buy now, he’ll double the order!

Stoutcat


Memorial Day: Forget something?

May 24, 2009

While in the check-out line at a local grocery store Friday, I couldn’t help but notice the middle-age woman in front of me as she went over her food purchases just before the clerk totaled things up.

“Let me just check to make sure before you add it all up, OK?” she said to the clerk.  Then she reviewed her purchases quickly: “OK, now… steaks, burgers, chicken breasts, hot dogs… hmmm… WHAT AM I FORGETTING?”

I knew it wasn’t the time or place, but it seemed to me that she was forgetting the real purpose behind the Memorial Day picnic she was preparing for.  How I wanted to somehow remind her of those who had sacrificed and paid the ultimate price of admission to her families celebration.

Instead, I bit my tongue and said nothing.

“OHMYGOD!” she exclaimed. Obviously she had thought of something else she needed.  “The Ice Cream! I can’t believe I forgot the ice cream!” she exclaimed as if this were the most important part of her party. She pleaded with the clerk to let her get the ice cream which was in the aisle directly behind us. The clerk acquiesced. Then she turned to me and pleaded, “I’m sorry sir, this will just take a moment, I know exactly where it is.”  This  was obviously the most important thing in her life, so I smiled and said, “No problem.”  As she rushed back to the get ice-cream, I shared a look with the clerk who just smiled at me as if she understood what was really bothering me.

In a moment, the lady returned with 4 cartons of  “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” ice cream. I thought how sad that for such a solemn holiday, this was her priority. Still, I bit my tongue.

As she instructed the clerk to total her purchase she turned and thanked me for being patient. It was then, I noticed her shaking.  Then she offered an explanation in a quivering voice:

“You see, this was my son Jonathan’s favorite ice cream in the world. So whenever we get the family together, we always have this for desert in honor of him but especially on memorial day.” Then as she reached into her wallet for her debit card to pay for her purchases, I heard her say under her breath, “…that damn war!”

She managed to complete her purchase without losing it, but I nearly did. As she left, she turned and apologized yet again, and the best I could muster was to say, “Thank you.” It might have sounded like an odd response to others, but she gave me a look that said, “On behalf of my son, you’re welcome.”

By the time I had paid for my purchase, she had disappeared in the parking lot.  I had wanted to tell her how much I appreciated her son’s service and shared her loss.  But all that needed to be said was “Thank you…” and I had done that, albeit somewhat awkwardly.

So to all of you other veterans out there, and to the families of those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice,

“THANK YOU.”

Gerry Ashley (USAF) Vietnam Era


It’s WHO We Celebrate. Not WHAT.

May 24, 2009


Sometimes a story must be told in its entirety to fully fathom its significance.  I believe this is one of those times, so I  hope you will indulge me regarding its length.

I want you to meet Terry. For reasons you will soon understand, I omit his last name. But he was a friend of mine, and those are words I’m proud to write.

Terry was one of those kids you just couldn’t help but like. Tall, gangly, and shy, he was raised by his grandparents when his single mother abandoned him. But Terry made the best of it, always managing to find something to smile about. He wasn’t blessed with a lot of natural skills, so he worked hard at being the best he could be in everything he did – the best ball player, the best student. The best friend. He never wound up being the best of anything but that last item. You could count on Terry to give his all in any task he did. And his was a friendship you could take to the bank and collect interest.

Terry was naturally impatient, like a lot of kids our age. But with Terry, it was as if he somehow knew he wasn’t to be afforded as many years as the rest of us. Like the cliché, he lived his life as if every day might be his last. But unlike most who live their lives that way, Terry had plans. Knowing his grandparents couldn’t afford to send him to college, he decided to join the military and take advantage of the GI bill when he got out. It was a four-year plan that simply made sense to Terry. Although his grandparents feared he might be sent to fight in the Vietnam war, they knew once Terry made his mind up, there was no point in trying to talk him out of it.

When one hears about the death of a soldier during war, it’s often told as a tale of bravery, courage under fire. Sometimes, however, death’s suddenness springs unexpectedly… One moment you’re talking with your buddy about the plans you’re making for when you each get home, and the next instant you hear a sickening sound and watch helplessly as your friend slumps to the ground – a portion of his head blown away by a sniper. That was how Terry’s best friend in his unit described his death. He continued his description to me, some years later:

“In an instant, he was gone. It’s the odd things you recall.” He then described what he remembered. I have tried to capture the essence of his memories here:

  • Sometimes, there’s no dramatic last words. He’s alive one moment, and dead the next.
  • Sometimes, there’s no tragic throes or struggles to gasp for breath. It’s simply done.
  • Sometimes, there’s no staggering, no crawling, or desperate attempts to reach safety like you see in the movies. The stroke of death leaves you suddenly without any muscular control and you simply fall at the whim of gravity. Done.
  • Perhaps most eerily, you suddenly realize that the bullet arrived prior to the sound of the shot that killed your friend. That means he was dead from that bullet before the sound of the shot reached his lifeless body. You’re not sure why that matters to you, but it does.

This is how it was for my friend Terry, to die in service to his country. But the story doesn’t end there. because the problem with the dead is that they leave behind the living.

At Terry’s funeral, dozens of extended family and friends grieved. There was something horribly wrong in the world that day and we all knew it. Each of us left the cemetery realizing that a young man who did everything the right way and deserved to come home and raise a family with his same values was now gone.

I share Terry’s story here because I want to make a point: Multiply that tragedy by over 58,000, and you have some idea of the scope of the loss in human lives from the Vietnam war. Each one of those 58,000 was a “Terry” to someone. Every single one of them.

Now multiply that by close to two million which represents the approximate number of soldiers who died in all the wars the United States has fought in both at home and abroad, and you have some idea of the impact. These are the people we honor on Memorial Day. These are the men and women who gave their lives so that we can be free. Many thousands more survived, but with wounds that left them with far less than the complete lives they saved on our behalf.

It is important that we live our lives with as much purpose, meaning, and dignity as possible as a tribute to those who never had the chance, and for those who sacrificed much of their health in the process. To squander the opportunity they have given us would be to trivialize their sacrifices and their loss.

While it’s the leaders who establish their vision of the future, it’s the young soldier who pays the price, each one willing to lay down his or her life so that those who come after them can live and flourish. If we cannot properly honor them for their sacrifices, then we truly no longer deserve the freedom their sacrifices provided to us.

Gerry Ashley, USAF Veteran (Vietnam Era)


It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish

February 27, 2009

 

Funny how life sometimes inspires those of us brave enough to keep our heads up. I mean, consider:

  • Yes, we’re in an economic crisis. Yes, we’re going into an uncertain future, with a debt measured in trillions of dollars.
  • Yes, we face a threat of terrorist attacks from within since our Government doesn’t seem to be willing to secure our borders not just from illegal Mexican and drug cartel invasions, but also from who-knows-how-many Muslim extremists disguise as our neighbors from the south?
  • Yes, we’re facing possibly the biggest recession or even depression with a novice President trying out his ideas on how to “Spend our way back to prosperity.”
  • Yes, we’re struggling to find our way in a world that seems to be working against itself. 

Enough doom and gloom, already!  It’s enough to make you want to roll up in a ball and just say, “OK, I quit!” But we don’t, because that’s not what made this country the envy of the world.

The wise person understands that it is in struggle that we find inspiration. It sometimes takes desperation to find hope. And, so often in loss, we see the potential for gain.

We find inspiration all around us. We see the potential that comes with stuggle and effort. Struggle and effort, not just to regain control of our country, our economy, and our careers, but control of our lives, our families, and our very souls.

My gift today for you, in hopes you will enter this week-end with hope and vision, is this amazing message:

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

After watching the video below, ask yourselves… “How am I going to finish? How are we, as a country going to finish? Do we give up? Or do we finish strong?”

I’ve got my answer. Watch the video and get yours.

Gerry Ashley

H/T: Life Without Limbs


What a Bad “Water Landing” Looks Like

January 16, 2009

This what a bad “water landing”, looks like. Sort of puts yesterday’s Hudson River landing in perspective doesn’t it?

Alan Speakman