‘THERE’S ROSEMARY, THAT’S FOR REMEMBRANCE.’ THE WATERY END OF BRIGHT-SMILED MARIE JOSEPH AND HER UNSETTLING FATE.

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 By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It is high summer in Fall River, Massachusetts, once a focal point of American commerce and the most elegant of sailing ships, now a city defined by its gnawing problems and of people who arrive only to count the days until they leave this way station to something better.

Many of these new arrivals are Hispanic and the place where the most adamant of New Englanders flourished is now a place where often the language is Spanish and the orientation Latin. How surprised the mariners of Massachusetts would have been… but even they, unhappily seeing the transformation of their works, would have looked twice at the radiant smile of Marie Joseph, the kind of smile that lightens loads, brings people together, and holds them together when it’s needed, as it always is.

Marie Joseph graced lives, she did not impose upon them. Such people are too rare… always valued…. the sinews on which all communities rely, especially the ones which seem to have more than their share of problems.

The new arrivals, not yet ascending to country club status, rely on the plethora of municipal services which, in this year 2011, are stressed, pressured, threatened, deteriorating. But more needed than ever… especially if that service is the state-run swimming pools that provide relief on the so-hot summer days you always forget are a sweltering feature of summer hereabouts.

The thought of the beckoning pool, aqua marine, cool, refreshing, a blessing to folks without air conditioning is just what Marie Joseph wanted… and so, arrayed in that smile that wouldn’t quit, she made her way to the modern city’s version of the old swimming hole. In the last picture of Marie Joseph, taken the day before she died (June 26, 2011) her smile is incandescent, radiant, cast on the child in her arms with plenty left over for the rest of the world.

That image should have defined the event and the day, a happy memory in a life of challenges and tribulations… Instead, that image stands as irony, proof (if it were ever needed) that life is short, can never be taken for granted, and can end in ways inexplicable and horrifying… as it was about to do for Marie Joseph.

The water slide took her down indeed, to the conclusion of a brief life, just 36 years.

She saw the water slide. It looked fun… especially as she watched a nine-year-old neighbor go down the slide accompanied by the full panoply of quips, expressions, and ear-shattering squeals all kids horde for just such events. She was game. You had to take your fun when and where you could.

As she slid  down the water slide into death and eternity, no one (except the nine-year-old) paid any attention. No need. That water slide was popular and no one gave it a second thought. But this day something went terribly wrong… while people who should have seen saw nothing… or at least they say so now…

The first horror: death by drowning, surrounded by people.

Marie Joseph may have known how to swim; her friends and family are not sure. She didn’t ask. Why should she; she had watched her young friend use the slide joyously; she probably didn’t know the water was 12 feet deep. Once in the water, Marie was in trouble… and must have made a fearful racket as anyone would as they faced the reality of their situation and fought for life. How could this death struggle happen before so many… with only one person, her young neighbor doing anything to assist?

He at least knew something was wrong and tried to pull Marie up, to safety; and when he failed, he called upon the lifeguard for assistance. But demi-god in his Ray Bans, he had better things to do than his job; ignoring kids’ babble was part of what made him so cool and exalted.

Here the story goes from tragedy to the macabre, from one family’s grief to an enduring symbol of ineptitude, scandal, and staggering incompetence.

Marie Joseph was now dead… but no one knew it…

The friends she came with wondered where she had gone; something no doubt had come up; she’d tell them later. And so the sunburnt children wanting more… and their mothers who had had enough, all went home…

… leaving the body of Marie Joseph entombed in water, her raven tresses in constant movement under the water under the summer’s night. And so on this cheerful day did Marie Joseph pass a night peaceful perhaps for her, but of mounting worry and concern for her family and friends. Where had she and her radiant smile gone?

Business as usual.

The next day was business as usual… the kids came to swim and scream, the mothers to watch and gossip, complaining about the temperature and how hot it was; the lifeguard, high above, looked down on the scene and wondered if his girl was cheating on him, of all people.

And throughout this day, mere feet below the teaming activity, the lifeless body of Marie Joseph moved to the water’s beat, its whereabouts known only to God. Yes, on this evening, too, and throughout the stages of the night, did her unseeing eyes abide in their incomprehensible resting place.

And, though its staggers belief, it went on for another day… another day with the corpse swimming with youngsters… and where chary mothers saw nothing… and lifeguards with plum summer jobs, envied, yet saw absolutely nothing.

And still the story worsens, morphing from the shocking to the incredible.

Now officials, making a periodic visit, appeared. Despite the inexplicable disappearance of Marie Joseph, now common gossip, these officials made only the most cursory of inspections… not one suspecting that the pool itself and its cloudy waters held the body. Like everyone else but one small boy they looked… and saw nothing, though the corpse of a beautiful woman was dissolving into debris….

… which teams of  lifeguards missed and even the people charged daily with inspecting the pool, cleaning it, keeping the waters fresh and clear. Add these, too, to the staggering number who should have seen… but say they did not.

Now, of course, alarm bells ringing in the face of widespread condemnation, officials great and small come slowly forward, mutter platitudes, and run for cover. A tiny fraction of this energy would easily have saved the life of Marie Joseph or at least given her honorable burial, sparing her from becoming a thing of horror and nightmare. For such she has become, no longer the beloved
person she was but a fearful presence for the children who now see a place of sun, light, air and shimmering water as a place of dread and abhorrence, wondering what else they may find there.

Marie Joseph did not deserve her fate. Let some poignant lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, provide her one better:

“Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear
All the knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.” (1842).

Musical note

I’ve chosen the original version of Lord Tennyson’s poem, first published in 1833, and put to music by Loreena McKennitt (1991). It is haunting, spectral, and profoundly sad.

He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
Marie Joseph.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-kp6RDl94&app=desktop

“FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA” THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR A BETTER AMERICA TODAY.

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By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

I had been watching the news more than usual lately. Now I realize why I stopped. It’s depressing. Part of the reason why it is depressing, is because of the speed at which you are hit by Talking Heads all over the world. Everyone is yapping at you. Everybody knows yapping doesn’t help solve problems. You need some quiet time and a new approach.

Thus consider this article my attempt to improve America and cut my own personal jitters by ignoring the media for one whole day. That’s right. That’s the beginning of how you can help America. Stop listening to the Talking Heads.

They are cuter than you are and they talk faster. But they don’t know any more. I have been doing an informal survey about the media. Turns out the media are nothing more than “no dead air” and give the drug companies lots of space to promote diseases no one ever heard of. That’s right. They don’t want to cast light. Their job is not to cast light. It is to make you nervous as hell so that you get a serious case of jitters and go on a shopping spree you don’t need.

I have come up with a list of things you can do right this very day, that will make America better. I am going to start with, turn off the media for one day. Let’s not listen to any media whatsoever. Turn off the tube. Don’t read any newspapers, and do not go on the internet and look for ”news”. Let’s just have a day as God intended. Quiet. Serene. Peaceful. That’s the first thing you can do for America and that America needs. You can calm yourself down and ignore the Talking Heads.

You can easily put these people in their places. They get there because you are glued to the screen. I know. I have been glued to the screen my whole life. Now that I am 70, I don’t need to know. Many years ago when I was going to school in England a very wise woman told me, “Don’t read the secondary sources, read the primary sources and avoid the rest”. Boy, was that good advice. In other words listen to the people, not the Talking Heads who are interpreting “the people”. Your interpretation is good as anyone else’s. Go for it.

Now let’s get started. I want you to go and get a box of donuts or whatever is in season in your neck of the woods. Go buy a dozen and take them to the Fire Department OR take them to the Police Department OR Take them to some service provider like an EMT at the hospital who stayed up all night. Or to a teacher. You don’t have to do them all. All you have to do is one box. It will cost you about 3 bucks. Best 3 bucks you ever spent. You will flabbergast everyone.

Or consider the people who run the water department OR people who run the sewage department. These are people who make America work. What you can do is astonish them with your gratitude because goodness only knows they get constant criticism. Now, speaking about criticism… Go for one day without criticizing America in any way, shape or form. Instead list five things that you love about this great nation. God shed His grace on thee. You know it. It is time to remind yourself.

You are on a roll, let’s keep it up. Let’s go a single day without having any racially charged language whatsoever. No N-words or F-words or any other kind of hate speech, just words doing what the way they were intended to do (facilitate communication). In other words use language to bring people together, not to rip them apart.

More good ideas.

Too many of us are guilty of racial profiling. Today, let’s just clear it all together off of our palette. Caution may be necessary in certain times and places but massive racial profiling is not. My father used to say ”red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in His sight”. Remember that song from Bible School

Jesus loves the little children of the world”?

Well, not just the little children. He likes the big ones, too. You could help God by getting rid of all racially charged language. Do you really need it? Do you want to be defined by the expletives that you use? I sincerely hope not.
Next, here is a particularly good action. Help somebody. Just do a helpful deed. Do it. It becomes infectious. Only the other day I was carrying up some groceries in the elevator, and I managed to drop them. I am not the world’s most coordinated person but I have never before dropped a full bag of groceries.

As there were a number of cans in my bag; they rolled all over the lobby. I was chagrined, not least because I find getting up and down a little difficult. I wondered what I was going to do with my goods and cans that were spread all over the place. And all of a sudden I heard a voice from behind me and the voice said “You seem to need some help, sir”.

Frankly, I was astonished, and as I turned around I remembered that God works in mysterious ways. I saw a beautiful woman perfectly turned out, ready to help me. And she did.

Whatever mood or condition I was in prior to her speaking to me. I quickly changed my tune to; “Wow”, thank you! I wasn’t looking so much at her beautiful exterior as I was thinking about her beautiful interior which is far more important. We can all be beautiful inside and it doesn’t cost a cent.

So, she picked up my cans and helped me put them back in the bag. Then she went up in the elevator with me, another unexpected benefit. She then said “Would you like some help”? What could I say, I was putty in her hand.
A good deed resonates. When was the last time you simply helped someone? You didn’t have to ask. You didn’t have to make a big to-do about it. It could be a small thing, although picking up rolling cans off the stone floor did not seem a small matter at the time.

Let’s do something today that all of us should never forgo. Let’s listen to what someone else says. Actually listen. We don’t listen anymore. We yap at each other. It’s degrading, and it doesn’t get us anywhere. America works because we allow other people to have their say without jumping all over them when they are saying it. It is hard to do but if everyone just listened, we all will be better off.

Compliment!

Compliment people on their work. It could be a waitress. Have you ever watched a waitress or a waiter? They work hard, as Donna Summer said. “They work hard for the money”. Compliment them.

Remember, America is a land that works because we work together. We don’t have to like each other. God only knows we don’t have to like each other, but we do have to get along. The funny thing is once you start working with people and get to know them, most of the time you find out that they are pretty likeable.

Another thing you can do today is don’t pre-judge anyone. I am guilty of this myself. I have pre judged so many people in my life. They didn’t look the right way. They didn’t walk the right way. They didn’t have the right skin color. They didn’t come from the right prep school.

My whole life, and I don’t say I am alone. I have got 365 million colleagues in this battle. Let’s not pre judge. Let’s for one day go without pre judging anyone and see what happens.

Then, pass this on. America, the can-do country certainly can do this. We have met the enemy as Pogo once said, and he is us. There isn’t a thing on my list which admittedly is incomplete although helpful that you can’t do right now. That your spouse can’t do. That your children can’t do. That your next door neighbor can’t do.

We can remember, God shed His grace on thee. Let’s dig ourselves out from under and remember why He did it. Then when you are finished with the items on this list, sit down in a quiet place and think something good about yourself. This may prove difficult.

After all, we are getting older and we have wrinkles and things don’t work and medications that cost more every day. It may prove difficult to pull one to good thing from this cacophony.

Mother

My mother in her declining days got to be very hostile and negative to the point where it was actually painful to pick up the phone and call her because you knew you would have to listen to 30 minutes 60 minutes 90 minutes of abuse about almost anything.

Then, one day I snapped. I said to her “When we talk next week, I want you to say something good. If you don’t say something good about anything, I am never going to talk to you again.”

I called as usual the next week, she went on as usual abusing one and all. My mother. I said to her “Do you remember what I said last week that if you didn’t come with at least one positive thought about yourself; about the Cosmos; about Antarctica; about America; about the women next door; Just one thing at least. I would never talk to you again.”

She paused for a moment because she knew that I am just as bull headed as she ever was.

“The roses in the garden are beautiful today”.

And all of a sudden we were on a different path and this path, had possibilities and life and the prospect of renewal, optimism, hope, and love.
So today let us to take a different path. Let’s assume that we can improve matters because we can. Take the matter of improvement in your own hands. Remember, turn off the media. Their job is to disgruntle you, frighten you, and give you a mountain of anxiety. We don’t need that or the “facts” which prove so often to be ill considered, wrong, and unhelpful.

We are all smart enough to realize that the critical word for all our lives is “together.” As John Adams once said in 1776 to Thomas Jefferson, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall hang separately”.

Thank you for reading, now pass it on. Pass it on. Pass it on. In such a way we shall renew the grace of what makes America.

Check for further details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

Quirk. n. A personal peculiarity. We’ve all got ’em.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

It is now mid-June, 2011 here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Harvard
students have left town, some for good having just graduated; others making
the trek to where all true Harvard students go in summer, to Washington, D.C. —
and Power.

The town is now filling up with summer school students who want to buff up
their resumes by studying at Hahvud. Of course, bona fide Harvard grads
always know the difference… and make you feel your presumption.

… but I’m not here to write about these folks, though they no doubt bring
plenty of tales. I am here to comment on all the June weddings taking place
in the many churches clustered around the Cambridge Common.
The Puritans who created the Commonwealth designated Cambridge as
the theological center of their new land. And while they wanted conformity,
they reluctantly accepted multiplicity… so on any given Sunday there is a plethora of
ideological choices.

But doctrine isn’t my story. My story today concerns, as stated, the many weddings
taking place just now… and just what bride and groom, bride and bride and
groom and groom (for Cambridge celebrates its progressive attitude so)
really know about each other…

…. their quirks.

Quirks are the peculiarities each of us has collected over the years.
Passion may quell. Desire wane. Love transmute. But quirks are forever.
And ever… and ever. Which, so often, drive your Significant Other to
estrangement and Judge Judy.

Be honest with your mate… they’re going to find out anyway.

Along with blood tests and other marriage pre-requisites there should be a
full disclosure of one’s quirks… and a frank, honest discussion about whether
you can stand the quirks you are about to live with. In the interest of fair
play and total truth, I shall write here, right now, a few of my own personal
quirks.

Item: I have been known to take 3 showers or more in a day, day after day. If
cleanliness is next to godliness, I am sitting in His lap.

Item: I detest face cloths and regard their very presence as provocative, as
likely repositories of germs and bad smells.

Item: If I use a spoon when eating my breakfast, I will use it with only one
thing, and must then get another. It means more spoon washing but the clear
separation of food tastes and textures is worth it.

Getting the picture?

Since I am in the vanguard of quirk acknowledgement and disclosure, I want to push
the envelope further, aiming to make the subject a must ingredient in the selection
of mates.

As we all know, 50% of marriages, all of which commence in bliss and fairy
tales, end in divorce. I feel sure that open acknowledgement and acceptance
of partner quirks would cause these lamentable numbers to fall, even plummet.

Let me show you how that could be done.

Each partner is required to submit to the marrying authority, justice of the peace or
archbishop, a list of ten of their quirks.

Note: we know that at first go both partners, enraptured by love remember, will not be
as thorough and honest as required. So, regard this first list as practice; the fullest
disclosure yet to come.

You suggest a quirk: “I run my fingers through my hair dozens of times a day and never have
a comb handy”.

Your partner must then rate the quirk: on a scale of 1-10, (1 meaning “no problem”;
10 meaning “absolute deal breaker. Get out”.

Once each of you has run through your first list, it’s time to get serious. Each of
you must list 10 quirks of your beloved… and, the key, rate them on that 1-10 scale.

Geronimo!

GIs jumpiing out of airplanes in WWII used to shout the name of the great Apache
chief as they leapt out. It signified one wild ride was about to begin. Seems appropriate
to say it here, too…

Okay, let’s get started.

Partner 1: “When you eat M&Ms (which is every friggin’ day),you count them to make
sure you only eat an even number. What’s that all about anyway?”

Now tell your partner (scale of 1-10) just how you feel about that quirk? The lower the
score, the less noxious; the higher, the more.

This is a game sure to while away an otherwise unexceptional evening.

Share and share alike.

Remember, good manners and good cheer help this exercise move along.
Take turns identifying and rating quirks.

Remember, honesty is everything.

If the fact that your darlin’ has to count the M&Ms (and line up all the colors, too)
really bugs you, say so. And if your partner says, “so what, that’s just the way I
am”, that’s good, too. ALL perfect relationships are founded on perfect, total
disclosure. What could be better?

Now switch. Identify a particularly aggravating partner quirk?

“You hum ‘Rule Britannia’ in your sleep and have a tendency to kick me when
you reach “Britons never, never will be slaves.”

This being a nocturnal habit, partner may not even know. That’s why it’s so
helpful to talk these matters out and why Full Quirk Disclosure is sure to catch on.

Nothing but benefits.

By now I feel sure the benefits of ‘fessing up on quirks holds nothing but benefits
for all. That’s why this beneficial exercise must be expanded to parents and
children; grandparents and grand children; members of Congress and all presidential
candidates. You get the idea.

Start now. And never stint in your remarks. After all, love means never having
to say you’re sorry.

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About The Author


Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

‘Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. I’ve just flunked history — again.’ Abraham Lincoln, who dat?

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

America’s fourth and eighth graders took home their test results… and delivered the unquestionable fact that the history of this great nation is the subject in which they are least proficient.

Just one finding epitomizes the whole: the overwhelming majority of these future citizens does not know who Abraham Lincoln is… and cannot name a single one of his accomplishments.

But this is not an article just about today’s students and their egregious limitations and unfathomed ignorance. It is a story about us, all of us…

parents grandparents neighbors community leaders and politicians generally.

What we have done collectively is to strip history of its profound significance… so that its position at the very bottom of school subjects can hardly be wondered at.

Here are the facts.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, an arm of the federal Department of Education, released its 2010 “report card” on history June 14, 2011. This report is a stink bomb, a mine field of horror stories, conclusively demonstrating that how we teach history just isn’t working, for all the money we spend.

Item: Almost no high school seniors were able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought U.S. troops in the Korean War or when and why that war took place.

Item: Only 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders, and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated “proficiency”.

Item: Fewer than one-third of eighth-graders was able to answer a “seemingly easy” question asking them to identify an important advantage that the American forces had over the British during the Revolutionary War.

The bad news, the horrifying news just keeps on coming.

Item: Just 2 percent of twelfth-graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, arguably one of the half dozen most important cases determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the last 70 years.

Students were given an excerpt from the Court’s decision which included this passage:

“We conclude that in the field of public education, separate but equal has no place, separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. Students were then asked — but were overwhelmingly unable to answer — what social problem the 1954 ruling was supposed to correct. The irony, of course, is that a large number of these students owe their very places in the schools they attend to this nation-changing ruling.

About the tests.

The test were given in the spring of 2010 to a representative sample of 7,000 fourth- graders, 11,800 eighth-graders and 12,400 12th-graders nationwide. History is one of eight subjects — along with math, reading, science, writing, civics, geography, and economics — covered by the assessment which is also called the Nation’s Report Card.

The program defines three achievement levels for each test: “basic” denotes partial mastery of a subject; “proficient” represents solid academic performance and a demonstration of competency over challenging subject matter; and “advanced” means superior performance.

The students did best in economics: 42 percent of high school seniors were deemed “proficient” in the 2006 economics test, a larger proportion than in any other single subject over the past decade. But let’s not kid ourselves before we uncork the champagne; in their very best subject, 58 percent rated below proficient. Sadly, this is the best, the very best these future citizens of the Republic can deliver. Pathetic.

Grab the good news where we can find it.

The nation’s educational experts point out, rightly, that all the news isn’t bad… there are some bright spots, though only a few. Fourth- and eighth-graders know more history than in years past. Proficiency rose among fourth-graders to 20 percent from 18 percent in 2006 and held steady at 17 percent among eighth-graders. No doubt true… but set against the immensity of their ignorance of history by high school seniors, we have absolutely nothing to cheer about. The minimal “goods” are as nothing against the fact that high schools seniors, many of whom are eligible to vote, are just plain incompetent. Such are the “white hope” of the democracy….

Racial differences, some progress here.

Educational experts, taking the good news wherever they can find it, point to improvements by different racial groups:

On average, white eighth-grade students scored 274 on the latest test, 21 points higher than Hispanic students and 23 points above black students. In 2006, white students outperformed Hispanic students by 23 points and black students by 29 points. From such shards we must take what comfort we can.

Clio laments and muses at such terrible results.

The ancient Greeks, smarter than we are, assigned a daughter of Zeus himself to guard the craft of history. Her name was Clio, and such was her importance that all her amours were kings. In short, she was a person of consequence, honored. She is depicted as holding a parchment role or set of tablets, from which she made her important declarations; so came to be known as the Proclaimer, a determined woman who could confer the gift of undying fame, something ardently desired by every true Greek with any claim to the regard of posterity. Such fame is the gift of history… and is the essence of what history is all about; the story of our species and the significant goods and evils we have committed and which we expect our progeny to acknowledge, know and to either laud and extol or condemn and denounce…. but always to mine for its manifold messages and significance.

History demoted.

History-education advocates contend that these poor showings in the tests underline neglect shown the subject by policy makers ,especially after the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act began requiring schools to raise scores in math and reading but in no other subject. This was like the federal government handing local school districts a mallet with which to demolish Clio and all her works. Scores slumped as a result.

But there is more here than just bureaucrats robbing Peter to advance Paul. We have an educational system that too often disdains history as insignificant, even irrelevant. History instruction is denigrated as nothing more than memorizing dates. But this reduces the riveting tale of our species on this planet to an absurdity.

History is a compendium of our stories, great and small. First, what have we done; not just when did we do it.

Teachers cannot teach history properly because their history studies dealt too often with the most insignificant aspects of Clio’s curriculum. They cannot teach history… because they never learned and never understood history. And so one generation bequeaths to the next generation its boredom and disdain for the most important subject of all: the story of mankind here on this third rock from the sun. Our students fail accordingly and we arrive at a place where even the titans of our race, like Abraham Lincoln, are unknown… with all that that means to our collective future.

Until we have root and branch reform about what we want our historical record to keep as significant… and how we want our teachers to know and our beleaguered students to master ,there will be no progress, only trivial advances amidst a backdrop of gloom. And this we will reckon is the best we can do…. which is the most alarming deduction of all and the most pernicious.

* * * * *
About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

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‘… Well, now that we have seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, ‘If you believe in me, I’ll believe in you.’

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. In 1967 the Irish Rovers, a Canadian group audaciously featuring good natured boys from both the Orange and the Green, had a huge international hit. It was called “The Unicorn”, and it caught just the right whimsical note for its subject… and for this article. Go to any search engine and find it now. Then allow the music to do its insidious task… and in a minute, no matter how onerous your cares today, you’ll be smiling. What’s more that smile will grow to a grin when you learn that the unicorn lives…

The Arabian oryx.

Every fable, every legend, every great enduring story, no matter how fabulous or unlikely, has its roots in something real, tangible, actual. And the story of the unicorn, one of the longest running fables on this planet, is no exception. Once upon a time someone, though we shall probably never know exactly who, saw a thing… and imagined more; the tale growing in the telling, embroidered by all, a pleasure to hear, its enhancements eagerly awaited.

In this case, the thing seen was called the Arabian oryx, whose distinctive horns are widely believed to have given rise to the unicorn legend. I have good news about these benign creatures, so much a part of our imagination: they are now classified as “vulnerable”, not “extinct”. Accordingly we should give a cheer, for these days, as one species after another faces oblivion, we must take our good news where we can find it. And this is good news, indeed… for it means the oryx has been given the gift of time…

Extinct in the wild in the 1970s.

The last oryx in the wild was shot to death in the early 1970s… and that, it was thought, was that. But humans, the main predator of the oryx (wolves being a distant second) having wiped out the breed…. then, paradoxically, started strenuous efforts to revive the breed, using stock from zoos, animal parks and private collections. Its enduring legend as the unicorn made these people anxious to help. The objective was to breed enough so they could be successfully reintroduced to their habitat on the Arabian peninsula.

The oryx, glad for the help, responded as hoped to this special effort…and in due course began to return to its harsh wild conditions. It returned to Oman first, later to the deserts of Saudi Arabia.. . Israel, the United Arab Emirates… then, most recently, Jordan. About 1000 of these creatures now exist… and are doing what they need to do to survive…. and thrive, living in reality, not just in stories, no matter how enthralling.

But the stories of the oryx ARE enthralling… because people have an enduring need for the wonder of fables. And if you squint your eyes just so… you will not see a beast, no matter how attractive… you will see a fabulous one-horned creature with the power to engage our mind and lighten our load.

Al Maha

The Arabian oryx (also called the white oryx) is known locally as Al Maha and features widely in Arabic poetry and painting. It can smell water from miles away, has wide hooves that let it easily navigate shifting sand, and lives in small herds of eight to 10 animals.

Have you ever been in a desert at midday, where the heat shimmers and the mind plays tricks? In such a place, at such a time, it is easy to see what you have never known before. No mirage… but an actuality that belongs to you alone. In such a moment the fabulous unicorn presents itself for your inspection, bows its head the better to show its horn… then recedes into the shimmer… going, going, gone… now your quest for life. So the unicorn enchants and makes believers of us all… The legend begins.

Perhaps the earliest mention of the unicorn is by the famed Greek historian Herodotus in the third century BC. He called it a “horned ass”. A century later, spurred by the travels into Persia of the Greek historian and physician Ctesias, tales of the unicorn were widespread, losing nothing in the telling.

Ctesias, who admits he never saw one, quizzed local merchants and other travelers for whatever information they had. These folks, Persians and not above hoodwinking a Greek. fed Ctesias the details he longed for. Bit by bit he got a complete impression of the “wild ass of India”. It was the size of a horse, with a white body, a red head, bluish eyes, and a straight horn on its forehead, a cubit long.

It was the horn, all agreed, that riveted their attention… and while no Persiian seemed to know all its attributes… each one added another, turning the unicorn into a beast of awe, wonder, and power.

The horn, the all important horn, was magical, possessing key ingredients for mediaeval medicaments. It offered protection against poisons (no small thing in a world where a pinch of this, a smidgeon of that, could alter a royal succession or remove a pesky husband, or wife). Worn as jewelry, it protected the wearer from evil.

Burgeoning demand, miniscule supply.

There could never be enough of such potency… and, of course, charlatans, all believability, seduced the gullible and credulous, offering everything, delivering nothing. Other charlatans, all sanctimony and solemnity, arose with the means, so they insisted, of determining whether the horn was real… or not.

Place a scorpion under a dish with a piece of horn. If the scorpion dies in a matter of hours, the horn is real.

Feed arsenic to pigeons, followed by a dose of unicorn horn. If the pigeons live, the horn is genuine.

Draw a ring on the floor with the horn. If the horn is real, a spider will not be able to cross the ring.

Place the horn in cold water. If the water bubbles but remains cold, the horn came from a true and real unicorn.

You get the idea.

Capturing unicorns.

Its potency known… ways of certifying its authenticity at hand… the unceasing problem was how to find unicorns… and how to capture them. Here a magnificent series of tapestries made in Belgium in 1500 hold clues. Bought by John D. Rockefeller, the richest man on earth, in 1922, they are now on display at the Cloisters museum in New York.

There are 7 tapestries in this series which portrays, in fine detail and consummate craftsmanship, a unicorn hunt. The men, nobles all, are chasing the unicorn as if it were standard quarry. And, of course, the unicorn easily eludes them, laughing the while.

In the fifth tapestry, however, the unicorn is captured… by the power of a young maid, who represents the Virgin Mary. She needs do nothing but sit in complete tranquility. The unicorn, perhaps knowledgeable of its fate, advances unforced, puts its head in the virgin’s lap…and so becomes, in the seventh and most celebrated tapestry, a prisoner, chained to a tree within a round wooden fence; its destiny sealed.

In the words of Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass. 1871) “… Well, now, that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.” I feel sure she did… and that the unicorn abides, at peace, his head forever in her lap. May the renewing oryx fare as well.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is , where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

‘I’m gonna be like you, dad. You know I’m gonna be like you.’ U.S. Father’s Day, June, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s note. To get into the mood of this special Father’s Day article, go to any search engine and find “Cat’s in the Cradle” sung by Harry Chapin in 1974. Its refrain is haunting, and every boy-turned-father understands the bite in the words, often painfully so…

“A child arrived just the other day”, February 16, 1947.

It was my birth day but, as I couldn’t possibly have known, it was the end of their honeymoon and that special tea-for-two idyll that comes only once. My parents married February 16,1946; I teased them for years about the importance of that last digit.

Like all babies, I expected, demanded and maneuvered to be the center of their lives. It’s what babies do.

But I can imagine now what was going on in the weeks prior to that mad-dash to the hospital that transformed my beautiful young mother from a wife with a constituency of one… into a multi-tasking mother.

I was the first born child, first child, first son, first grandson on both sides; every one of these designations pushed omniscient women forward and my father back. The process, you see, in those post-War years was not made for fathers, no matter how caring. And, upon arrival, I monopolized my mother. I’ve told you, it’s what babies do… and even then I was masterful at my craft.

There must have been times, though no one to this day has ever said so, when he missed the bright, laughing eyed girl he’d married. She was the essence of the “fun on a date” ‘forties girl who had the gift of joy with lots to spare.

She gave me a clue years later, telling me she didn’t like children, didn’t mean to have any, and thought they looked like frogs. (Queen Victoria thought so, too). But, she quickly added and always emphasized that all that changed when the nurse handed me over for my first visit, textbook perfect infantile innocence.

I’d “come into the world in the usual way”. And I was determined to keep the full and undivided attention of the woman who didn’t yet know how her own instincts would conduce to my constant benefit; literally born yesterday I didn’t need Dr. Spock to tell me that.

Into this new, unstudied situation my father had to move and move delicately for now words like “shhhhhh, he’s sleeping” meant sacrifice, limitations, and even unwonted loneliness. It was a sea-change from the happy “you-for-me-and-me-for-you” days of such recent memory.

“He learned to walk while I was away.”

Like most children I don’t know what I actually remember or what I have, from pictures and family stories, been taught to remember. But there is hardly a memory either way that is not more her than him. He worked hard, long hours, lucky to have a job in the recession that promptly came with our unqualified war victory. She was the center of my universe. And, like Chapin, my first steps were probably taken when he was being a “good provider”. But there is a story that sums up the situation.

One hot, humid Illinois summer day (are there any other?) when I was about three, my mother and I screamed for ice cream. But there was not a dollar to be had… except for a dollar bill my father had circulated amongst his Navy buddies, to be autographed by each. Such a token was not to be surrendered lightly, but it was surrendered nonetheless, for the delicacy of an instant and later, poignant regrets. He must have loved us very much to do such a thing… it says volumes about the man.

“My son turned ten just the other day. He said, “Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play.”

In the suburbs of Chicago in the early Eisenhower years, you needed to be good at handling the balls of several sports… or so bright that you could afford to ignore sports because you were destined for greater things. My brother filled the first category; I filled the second. I knew my brother was easier to handle; he fit in, particularly the year he made the state Little League team, and we all trooped down to Freeport to watch him, resplendent in a uniform that said “Moose”; this was lifetime certification that he was a boy’s boy…

I was different, always with my nose in a book, the one who when asked at age 10 or so what he wanted to be when he grew up, without dropping a beat, said “Harvard graduate; millionaire; writer of many books.” II wasn’t what prairie parents were accustomed to hearing… What’s more, it all came true in due course…

Another celebrated incident took place about this time. My parents and I went to some local swimming hole for a day of the kind of innocent amusements I couldn’t wait to escape from. At the end of the day, it was, I think, my mother who said the inevitable line about their guests, “Cute couple. Great relationship.” That sort of thing. What did I think? Without missing a beat I said I thought they had problems… and seer-like, foretold splitsvillle. Of course, I was told I was wrong, but just weeks later they separated. My stock soared… and my father pressed me less to fire a gun, build superb back yard igloos, throw a ball, you get the picture. He had to wonder about this creature sui generis.. and what his role as father might mean or entail.

I was not an easy child, although I say it myself, an interesting one. He must have seen I was moving beyond his sphere into uncharted waters. I could hardly wait until it happened and my joy at crossing another day off the calendar, the sooner to commence my Great Journey, must have been palpable, even affronting. I did not want what his life epitomized and I was too green, unknowing how to say this without insult… and uncaring about the effect.

There was, in those years, more coexistence than empathy., not least because he tried hard to get me to understand and adopt verities he saw as fundamental and essential… about which I had quite different ideas. I severely embarrassed him the day I refused to answer the pastor’s call for Communion, being unable to subscribe to the tenets. (I have never taken Communion sincen.)

There was, too, his desire that I should understand the farmer’s life practised by all my cousins and should, as part, learn how to harvest oats and drive a tractor. The first scratched; the second bored. Neither oats nor tractor have played any role in my development.

“Well, he came from college just the other day…”

My launching pad to the vision I had long been shaping for my life came with a college acceptance letter. ….. and thereafter, too long, communications were as rushed and superficial as Harry Chapin sings.

“I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away…”

And so it might have stayed, both of us stubborn, obstinate, headstrong — proud men, unyielding. But, you see, the love that caused a prized war memento to be sacrificed had always been present, waiting for auspicious times. He told me the other day, cast down now and again by the tremors and afflictions of the way we age now, that he was ready to go whenever the good Lord wants him. And neither he nor I fear that… for we have, at last, found each other and gladly so.

“And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.”

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is, where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

U.S. Marine Sergeant William Woitowicz. Dead too soon at 23 in ‘the place where the winds arise’. June 7, 2011.

y Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s note. This is a sombre article on a sombre subject. I have chosen the deeply moving music “Swing low, sweet chariot” to set the mood. There are many fine versions of this well-known tune written by Wallis Willis in 1862.

I have chosen the one by Kevin Maynor. You will find it in any search engine. Listen to it without interruption of any kind. This powerful song deserves nothing less.

Mellifluous language.

The Persian language is a language of poetry and culture. It is fluid, nuanced, and often extraordinarily beautiful. So evocative are its words that once bestowed on a person, place or thing, these matters, hum-drum anywhere else, are turned as if by magic, into words of lyric beauty.

Such a fortunate place is Badghis, a province in the northwest of the nation of Afghanistan. It is a place of winds, many bruising and destructive. Other places, like Chicago, the “windy city,” have been blunt about its disposition. Badjhis prefers a softer touch that makes the point, but does so without a candor that can be abrasive.

And so this place came to be called the land “where the winds arise” and it is where U.S. Marine Sergeant William J. Woitowicz fell never to rise again, cut down by small-arms fire and so released so early from the thrall of life.

Where he fell, how he fell, just what happened when,are the pedestrian details of an incident soon to be forgotten and without any significance to anyone but William J. Woitowicz. He expired in the full bloom of youth on an ordinary day, where the quotidian was mundane, banal, commonplace to a degree, and where absolutely nothing done that day was unusual or important… except this particular sergeant. For him that day was everything…

From a place far, far away.

Ever been to Groton, Massachusetts or its near neighbor Westford? If not, make plans to visit. The fall is best, since those autumnal days of colored leaves and crisp, clear skies showcase these typical New England towns best. These are places so scenic, your finger automatically takes the pictures you will share with friends along with your decided opinion on how nice these previously unknown places really are.

No one was more of these serene bedroom communities than William Woitowicz. He knew them down to his fingertips, and they knew the brawny athlete with the killer smile and winning ways. People just plain liked him… and he, without much wondering why, liked them in return. It was a formula for many of life’s happynesses. Make a note that when your next child or grandchild is born to ask the fairies to give unstintingly of charm and an inquisitive mind. Woitowicz was gifted with both and showed just how far they could take a likely laddie.

For such a boy, the world was his oyster; everything possible, the very best that could be had in the great Republic.

That is why his decision to join the Marines directly following high school graduation in 2007 came as a shock. It was not the career path of choice parents like Kevin and Rosemary Woitowicz could understand, approve or recommend.

But their son (remember that killer smile) soon showed his “devastated” parents why his decision made sense — for him. And, of course, in this situation, as so many others, parents, even strongly disapproving parents, could in the end only concur and offer heartfelt wishes. And so they did for Billy Woitowicz. He was now en route to his strange destiny.

He now had the kind of lifestyle that exults Marines and causes lesser folk, needing their comforts, to cringe. But Woitowicz, having made his choice, was determined to turn himself not merely into a superb Marine, but the most cheerful Marine ever; it was an unusual combination… and it did not go unnoticed. Billy, in the Marines as at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, was noticed; people kept their eyes on the man, he could be counted on. That means everything to Marines, for whom the word “buddy” constitutes a religion.

They needed him and all the other meritorious Marines everywhere there was America’s business to transact. But it could only send this particular Marine to one high priority place… and the place they needed him yesterday was Afghanistan, the basket case of nations, where people like Billy were gold, not least because the locals soon understood his smile was for them, too.

And, by the way, he volunteered for Afghanistan; he knew the “basket case” needed what he had in excess, and to spare: humanity.

June 7, 2011, a day like any day.

June 7 had “routine” written all over it. And so it started… Billy was deployed as part of the Second Marine Special Operations Battalion of the Marine Special Operations Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

No one expected anything to go wrong; everyone was prepared in case it did. And then, in an instant, it went terribly, terribly wrong for Billy Woitowicz; the gym-tailored body he had been so anxious to perfect, lay face down in the dust of one of the most miserable countries on earth his hair dappled with blood and blasted expectations.

No one, despite their sense and exhaustive training, could quite take it in: Billly Woitowicz had gone before… “Swing low, sweet chariot…” and he had his orders from the highest source:

“Well if you get there before I do, Coming for to carry me home. Tell all my friends I’m a coming too, Coming for to carry me home.”

Carried home.

The people of Groton and Westford did Bilie proud. Never in their long history of service, patriotism and support had these communities poured out their pride and gratitude, their grief and pain for any citizen as they did for this citizen.

The Marine Corps, more than a career, his vocation, advanced him to the rank of sergeant and the Purple Heart. From the Corps he loved and served unto death this meant everything.

The flags at half mast, the bunting, the remnants of the heartfelt ceremonies civil and religious are all apparent, And on another day of “war as usual” Billie abides in peace in the town he knew so well, amongst the citizens who liked and loved him. Here, in tranquility he graces the ages with his all-embraciing killer smile taken too soon from us in the land where the wind arises.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

You are about to be indiscrete. Midsummer’s Night June 21, 2011.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. You are alive for one of nature’s most important events: the summer solstice. It is a matter of myth, fable, science and awe…. and you must, absolutely must, be prepared to enjoy this once-a-year event. To assist you, I have chosen music by one of my favorite geniuses, Stephen Sondheim (born 1930). You can find it in any search engine.

This tune, not as well known as it should be, is perfect for today. It’s called “Night Waltz” and appears in “A Little Night Music,” (1973). It was written for you for this day! Don’t fight this music… for it is insidious and will have its way with you…. and you will be glad of it.

“Today the very heavens moved… and puny man did sport as did, so equally resolved’ on raucous mayhem, the very gods themselves.”

June 20-21 is a day that reminds us we are but a part, and not perhaps the most important part as we suppose, of the Cosmos… and that while we are getting on with our little concerns, so all engrossing, the universe is, quite simply, taking us for a ride, a ride majestical and grand.

Today occurs one of earth’s two annual solstices, days when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and simultaneously heralds the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Today television meteorologists, well schooled and anxious for this moment, share sage observations, in 10 seconds or so. Thus they transform this profound event into mere factoids giving us the illusion that we know what is happening today, far above us, to our species and our ever-moving, never stable habitat. At such a moment, mankind, born a searcher, strives to understand the inexplicable and so myths and fables are born, from every land on Earth.

This is the day when we finally emerge free from the trammels of winter and when the promise of springtime becomes the reality of summer; at this moment we give thanks by indulging ourselves,without worry about tomorrow or regret. This day is dedicated to indiscretions, past, present, and future.

“Perpetual twilight is really a most unsettling thing”.

In 1955 Ingmar Bergman, a man who lived to expose the unending foibles of humanity, released his film “Smiles of a Summer Night.” Stephen Sondheim, master of the heart’s often unwise whimsies and obsessions, later transformed the great director’s observations into waltz time, so lush, so evocative, so enchanting that you never knew the music was leading you to the maddest thing of all… love!

The waltz, more provocative than the French Revolution.

Historians, who have their idee’s fixes, about what is important and what we really should know, often miss the forest for the trees. I am about to outrage the sterner members of the Academy by suggesting this: the waltz was more important than the storming of the Bastille.

You see, the history of mankind, both of its male and female varieties, is a tale of how to get close together, very close together, oblivious to every other soul in the world without outraging the proprieties.

A wild new dance emerged from Vienna about 1830. It was the waltz, and it took the stately measures of polonaise and minuet and, by putting a man into enticingly close contact with a woman, outraged every propriety. But even queens didn’t care — if they were young enough — and bold. Queen Victoria (just 18 at her accession in 1837) lived to waltz…

… and, with nimble feet… she knew exactly what the mad measures of a waltz could give her. She like the rest of dance-maddened Europe wanted more. She knew that waltz time was the food of love… and commanded “Play on!”, while aging dowagers clucked and whispered of the debaucheries in their midst. The more honest, remembering their own indiscretions, knew better…and longed for the chance to be indiscrete again and whirl by in satin slippers and flying ribbons.

Such things do happen on Midsummer’s Night… and why we now, just hours before the event, grow impatient for its arrival. We know its possibilities… and we are keen to enjoy them, with not a moment lost.

The great event begins to take shape…

Whilst we may have difficulty taking in the unceasing movement of the planet and the unearthly music of the spheres which accompanies it, we have no difficulty at all in marking this event with a party.

Midsummer’s night provides the perfect party time, for the world, at least its northern hemisphere, is seen softly, an evocation. It’s the abundant twilight, unceasing in northern climes. This light, soft, caressing, immensely flattering to even the oldest, is crucial to what comes…. even the oldest look young in such light… and are reborn in it.

Then music!

What could such a party, held but once a year, be without music? It fell to the lot of young Felix Mendelssohn to ensure we never found out. Just 17 in 1826 when he finished the Overture to Opus 21, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, homage to his Master, Shakespeare. In it he challenged Mozart for the crown of creating the “greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music.” (George Grove). It contains the celebrated wedding march that accompanies so many down the aisle…. the unceasing, inevitable result so surprising to men everywhere, who now truly know the power of music. (You can easily find Mendelssohn’s youthful masterpiece in any search engine.) It’s pulsating with youth! It’s grandiloquent! It’s exuberant! It’s the way a wedding should be, a thing of radiant optimism, unafraid of whatever may come, joyful in each other.

And then the guests…

Somewhere between 1590 and 1596, Shakespeare created in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the guest list for a memorable evening and even stipulated the games to make us roar.

There was the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta; four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors (one a perfect part for you). There was a forest of fairies, Oberon their king and Titania, his playful queen. For generations, they, their tricks and shenanigans have made us laugh and they will make us laugh again tonight.

Then, the world still in twilight, the special people, the lovers for whom this night was cast, will find solace in each other. American poet Louise Gluck (born 1943) remembers how:

“On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry, the boys making up games requiring them to tear off the girls’ clothes and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones leaping off the high rocks — bodies crowding the water….

Then the heat broke, the night was clear, And you thought of the boy or girl you’d be meeting later, And you thought of walking into the words and lying down, practicing all those things you were learning in the water…”

It’s all just hours away…. the indiscretion you’ll savor for life and grateful.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

‘Little buddy, gonna shut you down…’ A blue streak on the open road, a boy, his dream…. and The Wife.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note: There was never any doubt about which music I’d recommend for this article… it was “The Little GTO”. It was first recorded by Ronny and the Daytonas in 1964; later it went cosmic with the rendition by the Beach Boys. Right from the first line — “Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine…” this tune moves. You’ll find it in any search engine. Watch out… when you play it you’re 18 all over again…

This is a story that every boy who was not cool in high school can relate to. It’s a story about that day you were down at the beach (if you were in Beach Boys territory it had to be Zuma). You had gone with your best bud Herbie, but he was the president of the Chess Club. You couldn’t say a word to him; all he knew was Harvey Mudd. He’d never understand… there was no point in telling him…

Then, there it was… first for just the shortest instant as it made the turn towards the beach… … you knew exactly where it was.

Then, the sun in your eyes, a burst of color — it was ice-cold metallic blue… something cool against the heat of the day…

Then the first glance, that mobile palace of an insouciant prince of the road… his eyes dead ahead. You knew he wasn’t looking at you… but he knew you…. and every other person on that oiled body packed beach — were looking at him…

… and at the girl lucky enough to have the privilege in being his prop du jour. She had been carefully chosen by the driver… right down to the way her lightly frosted hair blew in the wind (no detail too small)… but only the clueless missed the point: the focus was not the girl… but the girl in the car…

“… let ’em know… that I’m the coolest thing around”.

And so it was….. as you ate your heart out… knowing you ached… for the car, the girl… and the profound satisfaction of being a prince in command of a certified muscle car. No wonder you barked at Herbie and told him to shut up already about Harvey Mudd, when everybody knew he couldn’t do any better than Santa Monica Junior College. He looked hurt… maybe you’d make it up to him later…

Blu Sera 385 Spiders.

Every American boy cherished his own particular image of triumph and in every story there was a car… the car… the vehicle he not only wanted, but dreamed about, obsessive, in the places in the night only he could know.

For the subject of this article, let’s call him “Alt”, that object of acute, obsessive desire was the Ferrari 348 “Blu Sera” (Metallic Evening Blue) Spider, made only in 1994 and 1995. Alt discovered through assiduous research that the other Spider colors, red, yellow, black, and white were common, hence instantly dismissed as inferior and infra dig.

Alt also discovered that the rarest interiors were grey (always spelled the English way, never “gray”). Like I said, NO detail was too small. We’re talking about The Dream and no one dreams of acquiring anything but perfection.

In due course Alt graduated from high school and put childish things behind him; only the “Blu Sera” wasn’t a childish thing… it was a part of him, something that tugged at his heart and wouldn’t go away. Godlike though it was, it might have been sent by the Devil, so insistent was the thought reiterated over and over in his brain. He wanted it. He had to have it. He couldn’t live without it. It was just as simply complicated as that.

Oscar Wilde, who understood the nuances and depths of desire, would have told him, “The only way to overcome temptation is to yield to it.”

Enter The Wife…

As every boy learns as he grows into a man with a boy’s desires… girls, even the wife who adores you… don’t get the “car thing”. A car, for them, is nothing more than a gas-guzzling necessity designed for moving screaming kids from Point A to Point B. If there’s an attractive gray interior (the English spelling means nothing to them), that’s terrific, but what matter? They know the kids will be autographing it with their spills and sticky hands. No, few women (maybe none) understand that a man makes eternal vows to only one thing: his dream car… adored in “sickness and in health”, committed till “death do you part.”

Alt had a dream. Alt had a wife. Alt had a problem.

There was no problem, of course, until his Dream became reality. And because of the rarity of this car, every arcane detail enhancing its desirability and decreasing its likelihood, there was no problem… except the problem of a man thwarted by what he could not possess. And this he could live with, just.

Then came the day, on Ebay, when the dream became reality, not something of paint and metal but a partner of power and sensuality. It was intoxicating… it was within your grasp… it was a lot of money. But there was no problem — yet. First, he had to be sure that this car, seemingly so perfect, right down to its grey interior, was The Car, His Car. He dogged the Ebay site, sick at the thought his baby would get away, but like all lovers he wanted what he wanted on his terms and his terms only. He watched, biding his time… and waiting. The car, his car, remained unsold, available, closer to his grasp.

First visit to his beloved.

Alt arranged to visit what looked to be, what quite possibly might be, the car of his dreams. He didn’t tell his wife he was going; why upset her until he knew this one was The One. He rationalized that this was better so, for her own good.

And so he went, dressing up as if for a first date to someone he had long desired.

A wealthy collector owned the car, by great good fortune so close to Alt, he could easily drive there without arousing comment. He went (perhaps too quick for strategy)… and the car, deftly arrayed to best advantage, met him. It was there… in ice-cold blue… waiting for him, just as he’d always imagined.

The owner, who had no doubt his own experience with temptations and obsessions, wisely stayed out of sight… until he saw Alt run a caressing hand over the metal morphed by a master into enticing flesh. The collector knew… Alt knew… it was a done deal… but there were the niceties to go through and the thrill of acquisition to mask. The value of the object demanded complete compliance to the code. And so it went…

Now Alt remembered The Wife and made this bow in her direction. “I have to clear it with the old ball and chain,” he said, feeling stupid, belittled, diminished at saying so. But the man who held the keys to Alt’s desire casually said “you should have brought her; we could have settled it now.”

But Alt couldn’t explain (though the collector knew) that bringing her was impossible, like bringing her to the boudoir of a more favored lover. Impossible.

But the acid in the response, the condescension, aroused Alt… and so they went toe to toe, the discarding lover, the acquiring lover, to arrange the terms of transfer, soon acceptable to both. It had been done by gentlemen, now friends.

There was now only one obstacle left, the biggest, the wife. He mulled over his options… arranging with the seller to make delivery in three days. Alt needed some time…

And on the third day, Alt arranged with the cooperative seller to meet him a block away from his house, there to take possession; the seller to exit in a car driven by his son.

Now, not as suitor testing a vehicle, but as owner of what he always wanted, Alt got behind the wheel and drove to his home…. there to surprise the old ball and chain.

He didn’t need to be told her Irish was up. He knew. She was about to say Something Disagreeable… but Alt knew his business.

He ushered her into the front seat (no prop du jour) and told her,as if in a Confessional, about his dream, that he could put the girl of his dreams in the car of his dreams. It was schmaltz… overdone… but there was something in his eyes that made the girl melt.

And there was something in his hand, serious bling in a magnificent box, to seal the deal.

“C’mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out, GTO.”

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant  where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding

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‘Run, Barefoot Bandit, Run.’ The story of Colton-Harris Moore, exasperatingly cute…. and as fast as the wind!

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note: I had no trouble at all coming up with the theme music for this article..It’s “East Bound and Down” from the smash 1977 hit film “Smokey and the Bandit.” It’s got toe-tappin’ energy. Go to any search engine, you’ll find it. Make sure you keep the link because, sure as shootin’, there’ll be some morning or other when you’ll wake up ornery and irritable, the world too much with you. This tune will cheer you up in a flash… and make you smile. Just as this article’s going to do….

“a’we gonna do what they say can’t be done!”

You’ll never understand this story until you see the culprit. Born March 22, 1991, “Colt” Harris-Moore was a teen-ager until just the other day. He still looks like a teen-ager, and 16 or 17 at that. And he has the look of a fresh-scrubbed Disney character, all firm flesh and smiles and “yessir” and “thank you, ma’am”.

He’s a big boy; a really big boy, 6 foot 5 inches tall, 205 pounds. He’s a boy’s boy and you know, with that wicked grin, he’d be mischievous… but you’d bet your bottom dollar he’s a good boy, not a mean bone in his body. But there’s a dark side to this story, and it’s a good idea to get that out right away, so you can make up your own mind about this important matter.

“Colt” Harris-Moore grew up in his mother’s house in Camano Island, Washington. It was a zoo there; chaotic, disruptive, a mess. Neighbors said they made several calls to Child Protective Services, believing he was neglected or abused. His father, Gordon Moore, used drugs and was in prison while Colton was a toddler. When he was just twelve years old, his abusive father walked out during an argument at a family barbecue after attempting to choke him.

According to his mother, Pamela Kohler, his stepfather died when he was about seven years old, and from the time Colton was in first grade, she knew there was “something off about him”, “sort of a disconnection.” He wouldn’t listen to his teachers, starting altercations at school and would sometimes deliberately break things at home.

According to a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, Harris-Moore said that his mother drank and became mean, breaking his possessions. Any way you slice it mother and son lived in a snake pit of anxieties, fears, and dark depressions… a place to avoid and escape from.

At about the age of 7, Colt started living in the wild; it was better than what he got at home.

It was then he learned his craft as an agile, nimble thief, motivated by what he could get, of course, but increasingly, as he sharpened his skills, pushing the envelope, showing himself how far he could go, how good he could get. He was determined to excel…

He started with robbing the vacation homes of people from far away places; rich, they’d never miss the stuff so easy to purloin, all indications of the stable, ample life he could only know second hand and would never have. They had so much; he so little. Why shouldn’t he just help himself? There’s hardly a kid, even those from the “best” homes who didn’t steal something, sometime. But if they were lucky, they got caught and learned a thing or two.

But Colt didn’t get caught — yet. And so he got better and better. And the game more exciting. He wanted to know, he had to know just how far he could go….

And so it began.

The authorities all knew about Colt… although even in his early days he had no trouble outsmarting them. Still, he got his first conviction for stolen property when he was 12; by the time he was 13, he had three more. Now diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, he reckoned he had nothing to lose. Each conviction bought him just 10-days in a detention center, or in community service.

In 2003 things changed and the stakes went up. He stole a neighbor’s camcorder; the police found it in his room. This time he got a sentence with bite: three years. He looked in the mirror, liked what he saw, combed his hair… and walked out of a halfway house. It was April, 2008…. and the Barefoot Bandit was about to show America how folk heroes are born….

“We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”

Now this master thief, gifted by God with a cherub’s face and a dazzling smile, got serious.

With adolescent energy and grit and determination which any entrepreneur could envy, he found his vocation… and ran with it, bare footed. He stole just for the joy of stealing. It didn’t seem to matter what he stole… although he favored toys that could move him on… for Colt was a moving target… the fastest of all.

He pinched bicycles automobiles, light aircraft, speedboats.

He was a boy who liked speed… liked turning it on, turning it up… the wind always blowing through his hair… getting away from mother, from teachers, from court-ordered psychiatrists… and from every other trammel and inhibition.

“I’m east bound just watch ol’ Bandit run.”

He zoomed east with manic energy and no purpose whatsoever except to keep on moving. The crazinesses added up: he stole flight manuals and flight simulators… so he could steal planes…

He would often slip into homes along the way to soak in a hot bath… or steal ice cream. He stole a credit card to order bear mace; remember, he generally slept in the woods. He stole another card to order a pair of night vision goggles for $6,500.

On May 30 or 31, 2011 police found a handwritten note and $100 at a veterinary clinic in Raymond, Washington. The note said, “Drove by, had some extra cash. Please use this money for the care of animals.” He signed it “Colton Harris-Moore AKA ‘The Barefoot Bandit.’ Camano, Washington.” It was just the kind of thing a real folk hero would do.

And so America began to root for this boy who robbed with his shoes off, in the freedom of bare feet. He moved, always fast, through states he saw only as a blur… authorities everywhere eager to nab him…

“… he’s hot on your trail and he ain’t gonna rest ‘tiill you’re in jail”

And so it went…. running… robbing.. running some more through Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois… over 100 thefts and counting.

“So you gotta dodge him… you gotta duck him”

And so he did… and while we paid bills, bought groceries, went to work, the image of that boy whirring through time and space grabbed us and grew. We knew he’d get caught…. we just hoped it wouldn’t be for a while yet. We knew he’d go to jail for a long time…. but he had freedom, real freedom… albeit purchased at a staggering price.

It all came to an end in Harbour Island, Bahamas, July 6, 2010. He was about to steal a boat, bless him, and local police shot out the engine and grabbed him. Colt had a gun to his head when apprehended. It’s a nice point about whether he’d have been better off using it.

Instead they apprehended him and, in due course extradited him back to Washington State and law and order in the shape of U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. She knows nothing of folk heroes and her rage about the boy and his celebrity is palpable. She made sure Colt would never benefit from films, books, or anything else. It won’t matter… we know Durkan is right, doing her job… but she is not the stuff of Americana. Colt is… and she knows it. So do we…. movie, or not.

“Keep your foot hard on the peddle… son, never mind them brakes.”

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 18 best-selling business books. Details at http://homeprofitcoach.com/listbuilding