25 Things That Turn Me On About America…

Late Christmas night our house was quiet and it had been a wonderful day filled with family, friends, and good food. I started tweeting and posting on Facebook and Gooogle+ what I loved about America and boy-oh-boy the response I got was so positive and supportive, I decided to do this to wind up the year 2013.

So the things I love about America, things that tickle me and make me smile, things that make me all mushy and happy inside are (not in any particular order, well maybe somewhat in order):

Thomas Jeffersson penning The Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson penning The Declaration of Independence

1. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers.

2. The men and women serving in the US Armed Services around the globe. Proud of them. They’re the best there is.

3. Our first responders. They are tops at what they do, totally professional.

4. We’ve got heart. Some might say moxie. We’re not afraid to be an original.

5. The Killing (AMC, crime drama). The journey and friendship of Seattle homicide detectives Linden and Holder.

6. We are a forgiving people. We allow those who’ve messed up to get a second chance, or even a third or fourth.



7. We look great in jeans, sunglasses, and bomber jackets. Look pretty good in peacoats too.


8. Caesar Salad, Buffalo Wings, the hot dog, ice cream, M&Ms and Santa (they are real).

Billy Graham


9. Billy Graham.



10. The Rose Bowl Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

11.  We have the best animated cartoons, starting with Disney…then going to Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Sponge Bob, Veggie Tales. etc.

12. We are a giving people. Americans send charitable contributions from their own pockets to those in need all around the world.

13. The Global Positioning System (GPS). We’d all be lost without it. Was created and designed by the US Department of Defense and is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS device.


14. We are a strong people. We have weathered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Super Storm Sandy, many extreme tornadoes and we keep on keeping on. Not to mention the 9/11 terrorist attack and the Boston Bombing. Disasters don’t keep us down too long.


15. Independent Bookstores. Inkwood in Tampa, Brazos in Houston, the Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle, the Strand in New York City.

Key Largo Mrs Mac's

16. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Not the Food Network Show…well, yeah the show, but I mean is the real thing (take, Mrs. Mac’s in Key Largo, the Tick Tock in Clifton, NJ).


16. The internet. Invented in the good olde U.S. of A., but not by Al Gore.

Ford Thunderbird 1960

17. Vintage Fords, Chevys, Studebakers. You can keep your high priced foreign jobbie. Give me a vintage, 1960 Thunderbird.


18. Sweet Sixteen Parties. A right of passage for the American teenage girl.

19. The National Anthem ~ “The Star Spangled Banner,” and anyone who can hit that high note.


20. Pie. Home-baked, for church suppers, at county fairs and bake-offs.

21. Effervescent Salutations and Farewells. These annoy Europeans and confound everyone else. You’re not going to get too far into an American hotel, restaurant, boutique, hair salon, or anywhere else without hearing, “Hello, Welcome, Hi there, Have a nice day, Howdy.” And you won’t get out the door without, “Take care, Have a safe trip, Drive carefully, Prayin travelin mercy.”

22. The Melting Pot. We’re a culturally diverse nation with citizens, legal and illegal aliens from all corners of the world. And we mostly get along. The truth is most American families have at least one family member (perhaps married in) who is not of the same race, religion, or ethnicity as the rest of the family. Other families are a virtual League of Nations.

Flag American

23. American Flags. You see them everywhere…in town squares and on public buildings, natch. Also on houses, cars, trucks, boats, RVs, motorcycles, as well as tattooed onto arms and ahem, other body parts.


24. The Salvation Army. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being there. For staying after other organizations who come with hoopla and a media blitz asking for donations but then are long gone. Thank you for boots on the ground, for doing the grunge work of putting families and communities back together.

Seltzer w, Lime

25. Free Refills with a Citrus Garnish and Ice. Most restaurants in the US will give refills on water with ice and will gladly drop in a lemon wedge. This would be a rarity in many parts of the world. In New York City patrons can have free refills on a glass of iced seltzer with lemon. Many American chain restaurants offer free refills on their soft drinks and iced tea or iced coffee.

Note: Thomas Jefferson photo, Ford Thunderbird, American Flag, Soft Drink courtesy of Stock.xchng

Did Gotham Invent the Modern Celebration of Christmas? …Or Christmas New York Style

Xmas Sinterklaus


Well, when the Dutch settled in what is now the greater New York metropolitan area waaay back in the early 1600s and called the town New Amsterdam, they brought the idea of St. Nicholas with them. They called him Sinterklaus. He was a saintly old gent who left bits of candy and small toys in the children’s wooden shoes or stockings on November 6th, St. Nicholas Day. They also imported the notion that Christmas was to be a child centered holiday.

Many of the Hessian soldiers who were surprised when George Washington’s motley crew crossed the Delaware River in a dense fog on Christmas Eve  in 1777 decided to stay in America after the war. They brought the colonies the decorated Christmas tree. By the 1800s Christmas trees were growing in popularity in the Tri-State area and beyond. By the mid-1800s there are stories of Christmas trees in Massachusetts and Ohio. By 1855, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported a decorated tree in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and explained that it was a German custom that was catching on. But it all started in New York.

Alexander Turney. Stewart, a merchant who was about as New York as you can get and who had the largest dry goods store in the world on Broadway and Chambers street, began decorating his stores at Christmas and pushing the idea of giving gifts to the entire family. In the 1800s and early 1900s Christmas gift giving was a much simpler affair than it is today. Typical gifts for the ladies were: a dressy pair of gloves, a hair ribbon, a comb and/or brush, a length of fabric or lace. Men also received gloves, as well as scarves, perhaps a tool for his tool box. Children received small toys, bits of candy, gloves, scarves, hats, alphabet inscribed wooden blocks, and the like.

Xmas Outdoor Tree 2



1907 saw the first public Christmas tree celebration in Madison Square. It was a 7o foot high pine hauled in from the Adirondaks and lit up by the Edison Company. That New York tradition quickly caught on with villages and towns across America erecting a tree in their town square. Today New York lights a magnificent tree every year in Rockerfeller Center.


When the country was on the brink of the second world war, New Yorker Iving Berlin wrote what stands as the most popular Christmas tune of all time, “White Christmas. The second most popular song of all time was written in In 1949…you got it, one of the writers was from Gotham. Robert May and his brother-in-law, composer Johnny Marks, imortalied a red-nosed reindeer in their song rejected by his reindeer-friends, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

In 1947, Miracle on 34th Strreet starring Maureen O’Hara and John Payne was about a store Santa at Macy’s who might just be the real Santa. Elf, the movie was filmed largely in NYC in 2003. Home Alone II, staring the young Mcaulay Culkin was filmed in Gotham in 1992. These and many other Christmas movies with a New York theme have been enjoyed by folks across the country and the world.

I would never want to imply all across the fruited plain they’re stealing Christmas ideas and traditions from Gotham…no never! Just sayin…



Ho, Ho, Ho! Where The Cops Are At Christmas

Xmas, Red Balls

It seems the media is all to glad to publicize a cop story that’s negative and all too often individuals make it go viral in social media. So, I thought I’d highlight the types of things many police departments do at Christmas.

Plano, NJ: I first notices the “Christmas Cops” program in Plano a few years ago. They’ve got this pretty well organized. ~ Christmas Cops is a program operated by Plano Police employees to assist Plano families in need during the Christmas Season. Collection boxes are placed at numerous local businesses, fire stations, libraries, and city facilities to collect toys, food, new coats, and miscellaneous household items. Shortly before Christmas, our Officers and Santa’s Helpers make deliveries to these families.  http://www.christmascops.com/

Batavia, IL: Twas as if it were the night before Christmas in Batavia when the cops gave a homeless man a break.  It seems more and more to me, police are performing social services functions as best they can in the gap. http://batavia.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/night-before-christmas-kindness

Colonial Regional Police Department, Hanover Township, PA: This police department has a number of citizen oriented programs going. The “Shop With Cops” program is merriest of all. It’s the one where police officers take needy children shopping for toys and gifts. Click on the link and scroll to the bottom. The photos on the website are from a couple of years ago, but this is an annual event. They already took the kids shopping this year. http://www.colonialregionalpd.org/id4.html

New York, NY: Of course we all recall Police Officer Larry DiPrimo purchasing a pair of expensive boots and a pair of socks to go with them for a homeless man on one of the coldest nights of the year last winter. I’m happy to report, he has been promoted to detective. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nypd-boot-buying-larry-deprimo-promoted-article-1.1530216

Was the Baby Abused, or was it a Horrid Lack of Parental Competence???

It was just another day in Gotham where there are at least a hundred thousand poignant stories…and this is one of them.

The morning held dense fog — visibility at about two tenths of a mile. But by afternoon, though damp, mothers were pushing their baby carriages to Baby and Me play sessions and older children were being picked up from school.




This baby, however, was not so lucky. He was brought into one of New York City’s busiest public hospitals in cardiac arrest. All the doctors and most of the nurses in the pediatric emergency room rushed to assist. It really did look like what was depicted in the television drama of a few years ago, “ER.” It was obvious something was very wrong.


IMG_0540All the while on the wall paper border at the ceiling cheerful blue elephants cavorted with purple zebras, blue monkeys, and pink flamingoes. A green alligator rode a blue hippo, and a green turtle hitched a ride on a pink hippo. If I kept my focus there it almost seemed normal. I could almost forget the nurse who literally raced to get a piece of equipment she wheeled into where they were working on the baby.

Then two New York City Police Department detectives showed up, followed by two uniformed police officers. One of the detectives asked the doctor if he had been told why it had taken nearly a half hour for 911 to be called. Shortly after that, one hospital staff member whispered to another that the mother had seemed weirded out. Of course she could’ve been freaked because her baby was unresponsive.

They worked on the baby for three hours. The doctor who heads the ER came down. Of course, I was praying up a storm. I believe prayer is effective. I believe in addition to concrete problems in the physical world, there is an unseen realm where the Lord’s blessings and miracles can and do happen, regularly.

Then two more detectives showed up. One detective asked the pediatrician in charge once again what he knew about the length of time it had taken to phone 911.

Conversation flew back and forth between hospital personnel and I was relieved to surmise the baby was resuscitated, stabilized, and was being moved to a large private hospital I know to have an extensive pediatric unit.

I don’t know what the law enforcement determination was. But I do know there are many children in this city who suffer. I know many parents are overwhelmed. Babies are having babies. Most parents do not have the support of an extended family. I wish I had answers. I don’t. I wish I could wrap this up with a poignant sentence. I can’t.