The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Chicago’


In an era of jet planes and SUV’s most of us have forgotten, or never known, the importance of the railroads in helping America become the nation it is.  While the preferred Christmas gift for most youngsters today is the most recent incarnation of a smart phone or the latest violent video game, once upon a time, little boys wanted nothing more than to get a model train under the tree, whether it was a Lionel or an American Flyer.

My introduction to trains came from my summer vacations in the Catskills.  There was a bridge and if you walked over it, there was a stretch of railroad track – coming from somewhere and going to somewhere else.  One day I walked along it for several miles.  It seemed to be never ending with as much track ahead of me as when I had started my journey.  In my eight year old mind, the railroads introduced me to the concept of infinity.

This was a freight line, and as endless as the track itself seemed, the number of cars it carried were nearly as much so.  I remember watching one day from across the road as a train pulled through.  It took more than ten minutes from the time the engine made its appearance until the caboose signaled that its mission on this stretch of track had been completed.

I remember feeling overwhelmed that one engine, as mighty as it looked, could muster enough power to move all those cars.  I knew exactly how long this segment of its journey took because I was wearing my Christmas present – a Mickey Mouse watch with a bright red plastic band.

It was many years before I learned that the reason we have a “standardized system” of time was because of the railroads.  Before their initiatives, first in Great Britain and later here, most communities observed “sun” time, with noon being the moment that the sun was highest in the sky, in the same way that pre-industrialized man had kept time for millennia.

In the interest of commerce this was overthrown, although not before much controversy, by the establishment in 1918 of the “Standard Time Act” by Congress.  That divided the country into the time zone divisions that we know today.  The railroads had adopted a standardized time system in 1883 – thirty-five years ahead of those who made it official in Washington.  Commerce, via the railroads, helped push America forward once again.

Because of the monumental cost of building out a railroad, none of this might have happened had it not been for the incentives that the railroads received from government.  In the case of one of those railroads, The Illinois Central which became known as The Main Line of Mid-America, those came in the form of land grants made by the State of Illinois to the railroads’ founders.  Both Senator Steven Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln lobbied in favor of this award.

The Illinois Central was given land from its main terminal in Chicago to the most southern part of the state, Cairo.  This was known as the railroad’s Charter Line – and in return for its receiving this land, it was incorporated into the Illinois State Constitution that, in perpetuity, the state would receive six percent of all revenue that was derived from the railroad’s operations along this stretch of track.  Without this “gift” it is unlikely that the railroad, which served a vital role in both Illinois’ development as well as that of the Midwest, would have been built.

For those of us who are used to catching “Flight 229” or some other number which is equally impersonal, it might seem amusing that the railroads used to give their trains specific names.  The Illinois Central’s most famous was “The Panama Limited” which ran from Chicago to Louisiana.  It was later renamed, “The City of New Orleans” and became the subject of a song by singer/songwriter Steve Goodman, a Chicago native who died at the age of only 36 of leukemia.

I heard him perform this at “The Earl of Old Town” – a saloon on Chicago’s near North Side that, like Goodman, passed into history in 1984 after a wonderful twenty-two year run – but not before bringing us artists like him and Steve Prine and Bonnie Koloc.  You could also catch John Belushi there doing some impersonations if you were lucky.

I don’t know why the Christmas season always causes me to think back to the time when I was a kid.  Looking in the store windows with their displays of villages all snow covered and the little electric train pulling into the station, ready to unload their gift of friends and relatives for the welcoming residents to greet.  Or maybe it’s standing with my Mickey Mouse watch with the bright red plastic band to see how long it would take the freight train to pass by.

Those were simpler times – before we had to deal with mass shootings and mass mania.  I can’t speak for you, but I miss them.


After losing my Irish Setter, Finney there was a definite emptiness in the apartment.  Acting as his seeing-eye person for over fifteen years had probably brought us even closer than the typical relationship between a loving companion person and their canine best friend.

A period of time went by when I debated whether it would be disloyal to Finney’s memory to consider finding another companion.  But after a few months I realized that he devoted his life to making me happy and I was sure that he would approve of my finding another friend.

I was able to find an Irish Setter breeder about forty miles from Chicago in a northwest suburb.  I called to inquire if she had any puppies that were for sale to a good home.  The breeder, Irene met my inquiry with a series of questions to determine whether I would be a fit companion for one of her dogs.

I could tell that she wasn’t impressed with my being a single person, living in an apartment, working long hours and attempting to raise a puppy.  But I explained that I had lost my blind Irish Setter and had been his seeing-eye person for 15 years and that seemed to thaw some of the iciness in her tone.  She agreed to meet me – to evaluate whether I was a worthy candidate.

After an hour interview with Irene she suggested that she had a puppy who was seven months old and it would probably be better for both of us to take a dog who was a little older than an eight or ten week old.  I agreed.  So she sold Tristan to me, but she had a lot of stipulations.

I was required, under the terms of the sale, to call her every day for the first two weeks Tristan and I were together to give her a progress report.  The next two weeks I had to call her at least three times a week for the same purpose.  After that I had to call her at least weekly for the next two months.  If I failed to make those calls, she had the right to “repossess” Tristan.

I thought this was a little bit much but at the same time I appreciated how concerned she was about the people who would be companions to her dogs.  And as it turned out, calling Irene became less of an obligation than an opportunity to speak with a new friend.  In fact, we became extremely good friends and she came to dinner several times.  I think she enjoyed seeing Tristan more than my cooking.

Tristan was your typical goofy Irish Setter – but more so.  If you’ve heard that Irish Setters are stubborn – you’ve heard correctly.  Tristan would always do what I asked of him – if he had a mind to do so.  If not, he would look at me with his beautiful mahogany face and beam an expression that I translated as “In your dreams.”  But like all the Irish Setters I had known he loved people – he loved everybody.  He lived to love people.

When he was three years old I had come home late from the office – but knowing I would be home late I had come home during lunch to take him for a midday walk.  I quickly prepared his dinner and then we went out for our usual mile long walk.  It was a crisp fall evening and we both felt invigorated by the gusting wind and the cool temperature.  As we were returning on the loop home, a man came up to us.  I sensed a threat in his body language as he approached us on a not particularly well-lit side street.

I thought about crossing the street simply to avoid a possible incident but as I started to take Tristan across the street, he rushed up to us, brandishing a large hunting knife.  He demanded my money and watch.

Having been through a mugging once, I wasn’t about to put up any resistance.  But as I reached for my wallet, Tristan pulled free of my hand and attacked the man’s left leg – viciously.  The assailant dropped the knife in the bushes and tried to kick at Tristan to free him from his leg.  I could see that Tristan had ripped the man’s pants and later, when we got home, I saw blood on his muzzle.  He had done some damage while protecting me.

I started to yell for help and at the same time tried to pull Tristan away so that the man wouldn’t be able to harm him.  I finally got him to release his grip on the man’s leg and my assailant, deciding that he had met his match, started running – or more exactly – limping away from us.  Tristan and I made our way home and I called the police to report the incident.

When the police arrived to take my report their first comment was that I would have to have Tristan impounded for observation for a two week period.  This was the ordinance regarding dogs who bit humans.  Obviously, I thought that this was ludicrous.  Tristan wouldn’t have bitten anyone if I hadn’t been assailed by a thug.

The good news was that I could keep him at my vet’s for observation.  Since I had a great relationship with the two vets who owned the practice, I knew that I could keep him at home and have them sign off on his quarantine after the appropriate time passed.

Well, the police never apprehended my potential assailant.  And Tristan came through his “quarantine” with flying colors.  I did have him examined as I was concerned he might have caught something from the man who tried to attack us.

Several weeks later I ran into a member of the church choir that I had directed several years earlier.  Isobella was a Hispanic lady whose family came from Guatemala.  She worked in the medical industry and enjoyed the usual socially liberal mindset with which most in my neighborhood felt comfortable.  I hadn’t seen her for quite a few months – and as it happened – this incident happened just a few doors from her apartment.

After describing the incident, Isobella looked at me and asked, “So when are you going to have your dog put to sleep?”

Naturally, this question not only disturbed me because I wondered about the state of my friend’s sanity, but it also ticked me off.  How had Isobella come to the idea that this loving animal should be destroyed for doing his job and saving me from what could have become a nasty incident.  So I asked her to explain that statement.

She said, “Well, think about it.  If you had been attacked and even stabbed, you have medical insurance.  You could have gotten treatment.  But the guy who was going to attack you is probably poor, most likely does not have insurance and will probably go through the rest of his life with a bad leg.”

I know that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that my Chicago neighborhood was in the Illinois State Senate district that gave President Obama his political start.  I can also say with one hundred percent certainty that Isobella would have cast her vote for him, not only for the Illinois Senate but subsequently.

If there is anyone out there who wonders why this President is presiding over the worst economy since the Great Depression I would refer you back to Isobella’s thought process.  People with her mindset are responsible for putting him in the White House.

As for me and my more rational readers, I would suggest that we might all be better off if we franchised the canine vote.  At least they have a realistic way of looking at how the world really works.


There was a time in America, not too long ago, that people believed that if they worked hard and they worked smart, they had a chance of doing well for themselves and for their families.

Some of these people worked for others and realized that self-sacrifice was necessary.  They saved some out of each paycheck and spent less than they earned.  They built a nest egg and many bought small houses in which to raise their families.

Others, resounding with the pioneer spirit that built America were more adventurous than those who accepted a wage for a living.  They were entrepreneurs who took the risk, trusting in their own ideas and in their own abilities to create something where previously there had been nothing.  Some failed, yet many succeeded and in so doing collectively gave employment to millions of their fellow Americans.

I have been a member of both classes of these American workers and am appreciative that I had the opportunity both to find a job when I needed one and to found a company and offer jobs to many others.  Whether it was as an employee or as an employer, I always tried to do my best – putting forth more than the amount of effort my employer expected – and challenging myself as the employer to offer a better product and better service to ensure both my and my employees’ security.

Things didn’t always go exactly as planned – there were recessions which threw us off track – but somehow through sheer determination and a lot of faith I was able to struggle through and at the end of the day things worked out okay.  I must admit that I felt proud of both my accomplishments and my record.  It made up for the many sleepless nights wondering how I was going to meet the payroll during our worst economic times.

I cannot imagine the reaction that people who are entrepreneurs today must have had to the recent declamation by President Obama concerning their businesses that, “You didn’t build that …”  Beyond the insensitivity of the remark is something far worse – pure and blatant stupidity – which seems to run rampant in an Obama speech when he is deprived of a teleprompter.  And this coming from a man who’s career is distinguished by a lackluster stint in the Illinois and U. S. Senates, preceded by a couple of years as a “community organizer.”  When the history books are written, he will probably be remembered as the person who was most responsible for attempting to destroy the “American dream.”

Let’s look, for a moment at how this prescient President began his post-school career.

As a community organizer on Chicago’s Southeast Side, Barrack Obama accomplished several things.  First, he was involved in helping to develop “neighborhood watches” to improve the security of the residents in the high crime rate areas which were within his purview.

Security and personal safety are obviously worthwhile goals and are important to all of us.  But the reason that there was a need to develop neighborhood watches was because the residents of these communities had very limited education resulting in a high rate of unemployment and a consequent large dependence on welfare to sustain their existence.  The thugs who threatened them met the same demographic and found, since they had no useful skills, that it was easier to band together in gangs and either sell drugs or steal from others.

As an adjunct to the neighborhood watch, there were the neighborhood “clean-ups” which Mr. Obama set in motion.  By clean-up I refer to getting volunteer residents to pick up the debris which littered their streets – the refuse that came from irresponsible people tossing the containers that originated in fast food restaurants and which had been discarded wherever the purchaser decided it was most convenient for her.

It is this “business background” and resume which apparently enables the President to have a keen insight into what it takes to run a business.  Frankly, if he applied to my temporary service for a position, I doubt that I would have felt comfortable recommending him to any of my clients – except, perhaps for a low-level job in the mail room.

Given President Obama’s view of things, none of us should be surprised that small businesses, the backbone of economic growth and employment, are not hiring and the economy is stagnant.  But at least one good thing came out of his comments.

Unlike so many other issues on which he has flip-flopped repeatedly to appear in the favorable light of momentary public opinion, I think we do have a good idea of what this man is all about through his statement about small businesses.

Hang in there all you entrepreneurs.  You are a credit to yourselves and to a country that allowed you the opportunity to be all you could and chose to be.  You’ve had to endure tough times before but your faith and diligence carried you through.

And as with all things, even with Big Brother, this too shall pass.



If you are even one tenth as much an aficionado of great pizza as I you have no doubt your favorite version of this sublime delicacy.  Of course, growing up in New York, I still prefer the version that is produced there.  Even a bad New York pizza is better than a great pizza from anywhere else.

Living for many years in Chicago I became acclimated to the deep dish thick crust pizza that is the signature trademark of Uno’s and Due’s – started by an Irishman, Ike Sewell.  In fact I make a very good version of it.  It’s filling and satisfying and brings back memories of sitting in Ike’s restaurants with good friends and a pitcher of beer.

In Las Vegas there are a number of pizzerias all of which throw New York somewhere in their name to entice the unwary into thinking that they’re about to get the real McCoy.  Some of them do a reasonable impersonation of the genuine article.  They carry that off almost as successfully as I would doing an impersonation of Mae West.

A new pizzeria, Dom DeMarco’s came to town last fall.  It is only about a five mile drive from the house and people talked it up as the authentic thing – coming as they do from Brooklyn.  I stopped by one day and picked up a menu.  I thought it was pricey but ordered one the next night.  I got there ten minutes early as my salivary glands were in overdrive and found that my pizza beat me to the pick up station by some time.  There was no heat lamp so I had to reheat it when I got home and there were so few toppings I wondered if I had been given someone else’s order for a plain cheese.  All this for $28.00 for a 16” pizza.

I happened to mention this the next morning at the dog park and one of the other morning regulars said he had the same experience – no toppings and overpriced.  He also mentioned that when President Obama had been in town on a fundraiser he had ordered seven or eight pizzas for his entourage from Dom DeMarco’s.  Had I known that I would have realized that I was going to get gypped and not patronized the place.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I did find a pizzeria in North Las Vegas at Uncle Angelo’s Pizza Joint in Jerry’s Nugget Casino which is as close to the real New York experience as I have come.  When I ordered one I swooned.  Great crust, plentiful fresh toppings, excellent sauce, the right amount of cheese and baked to perfection.  A 17” pizza for $17 and that included a free pitcher of beer.   I was by myself so I passed on the beer and took home six wonderful slices to enjoy over the next three evenings.

So what is it about New York pizza that makes it different?  Everyone tells me that the secret ingredient is the water.  New York reportedly has some of the finest water flowing from the tap of any city in the country.  I can believe it – and I think the water has properties that go far beyond allowing for the creation of fantastic pizza.

I say this because I read a story the other day that former Rep. Anthony Wiener (D), NY is considering a return to politics, perhaps running for Mayor of New York City.  The former Congressional Representative resigned last year because of the flap over his posting semi-clad photos of himself on the internet.  He is apparently sitting on $4.5 million in campaign contributions which could be used to facilitate that bid.

Apparently the former congressman’s incipient career as a model for men’s undergarments didn’t work out.

I have a theory that New York City water increases libido and diminishes any sense of propriety.  It is possible that this may only affect politicians.  I have a call in to former Governor Eliot Spitzer to see if I can get some confirmation of this.  I will keep you posted as developments warrant.

Until then, I would suggest that politicians who either live in or are visiting the Big Apple take caution and make sure that they only consume water that has been bottled elsewhere.

There’s something in the water.



It was a wonderful crisp day in early October, 1985.  A glorious day.

After struggling through the Recession of 1982 I had finally made the last payment to the bank on our line of credit.  It took three years but finally that $250,000 Sword of Damocles had gone away.   Of course, this was back when banks leant money – if you could make a good case for why you needed it.  In our situation, that reason was that we needed it to survive.

With the loan came an obligation.  Of course, repaying the money to the bank was their primary concern and my primary obligation.   But to make them feel more secure, they requested that we prepare a monthly financial statement so that they could see how things were going.  In 1982 things weren’t going at all well.

The bank handed me a packet of forms on which my accountant would prepare the monthly statements.  I took one look at them and realized that the bank with which I had an account for six years didn’t have a clue about my business.  I was in executive search, a service business and these forms were appropriate for a manufacturing company.

Not to bore you with accounting but the first item on the form read, “Cost of Raw Material.”  I remembered reading somewhere that if you took apart a human being you would wind up with approximately ninety-eight cents worth of chemicals.  So I thought I would count the number of applicants we had and multiply this number by ninety-eight cents and use that as a starting point.  And then I decided I would let my accountant figure the whole thing out.

Well, that was all in the past.  Three years later was my day of emancipation and as it happened it was Friday, I was going up to the Gold Coast to have a celebratory dinner with a few friends.  We planned to eat later as I had first to get home and walk and feed the puppies and change out of my business attire into something more casual.

I had taken care of business at home and was driving north on State Street, just past the Chicago River.  Traffic was surprisingly light for a Friday night.  Perhaps all those who ate dinner earlier had already settled into their favorite restaurants.

But as I was enjoying the cool air flowing over me from the open driver’s side window I was shocked to see that the Cadillac in front of me suddenly rolled down the passenger’s rear window and a huge bag of KFC debris was hurled out onto the middle of the street.  On impact it spilled all over State Street that Great Street.

I knew there was a Police Station a few blocks north so I duly noted the car’s license plate, repeating it to myself over and over as I didn’t have anything on which to write – and I noted that the tags had expired one and one half years earlier.  I was determined to provide this information to the police and would be willing to testify if they needed me to do so.

The Cadillac continued north on State Street when I arrived at the Police Station.  There was no parking to be found on that block so I turned the corner, repeating the license plate to myself.  Nothing there either – or the next block or the next.  So I went back to the station hoping something had opened up while I was cruising the neighborhood.

There were seven spots in front of the station marked “Police Cars Only” but four of them were vacant.  So I pulled into one and turned on my flashers hoping to explain my infraction once I had spoken with someone inside.  This was my first and only time in a Police Station and I didn’t know what to expect other than what I had seen on sitcoms on television.

The sitcoms were pretty accurate.   I saw two policemen, one the Desk Sergeant who was entering the name of the individual who had been handcuffed by the apprehending Officer.

The Officer proceeded to explain that he was bringing in this person on a – then he gave a number which was police lingo for trying to steal a car – but I shut it out because I didn’t want to confuse myself with the number of the license plate on the car which I had come to report.

I repeated the license plate number again.

I thought they would never finish with this guy and I glanced at my watch to see how late it was getting.  I didn’t want to keep my friends waiting – but this was important.  As I looked at my watch there were more numbers.   I turned away from my watch and kept repeating the license plate to myself.

When I was done with my report I would find a pay phone and call the restaurant to let them know I was on my way.

Well, the alleged car thief finally got booked.  The Desk Sergeant let me know how important he was by keeping me waiting another five minutes and after he had finished writing all that he needed to conclude his previous work he turned to me and invitingly said, “Well?”

I explained to him why I was there and before I forgot it asked him to write down the number of the license plate on to which I was holding with only the tiniest thread.  There had been so many numbers since I first saw it.

I went on to explain that I didn’t know if what I had come in to do was make a “citizen’s arrest” or whether the CPD would merely need my testimony when they apprehended this individual and he or she went to trial.

The good Sergeant put his right hand under his chin, emulating Rodin’s “The Thinker” and after he had thought for a moment said , “So let me get this straight.  You’re here to report a case of littering.”

Well, I thought to myself there’s “littering” and – well, isn’t their some category for really, really “flagrant littering.”  Surely this case deserved to be classified in the most extreme manner.

I started to respond when he stopped me.

“Let me explain something to you.  We’ve got car thefts – as you just saw while you were standing there.  We’ve got home invasions; we’ve got domestic violence; we’ve got rapes; we’ve got homicides; are you getting the point?  What we don’t have is time to arrest people for littering.  Have a good evening.”

And he put his head down and I knew that I had been dismissed.

Well, it might not have been important to the Sergeant but it was important to me.  As I walked toward the door of the station I was determined to get this story out to the world.  I was going to write a letter to “The Chicago Tribune”.

But as I reached my car I found a new venue for my grievance.  Sitting on the windshield of my car was a parking ticket for “Unauthorized Parking in a Police Parking Space.”  The citation carried a one hundred dollar fine.  Okay.  I would have my day in court and tell my story to the judge and to the world.

Four weeks later I appeared in the Chicago Traffic Court building, room 102 as instructed on the ticket.  This was my first time in Traffic Court and I didn’t quite know what to expect.  But I soon discovered that the CPD’s Traffic Officers were on the job writing tickets galore for moving violations.  Those were the cases that were heard first by the judge.

The court time on my ticket was for 10:00 a.m.  I sat in the room wondering when we would be done with moving violations and get on to the business for which I had come.  I had replayed the events from the month before so many times in my mind that I was sure when I had my chance to address the court I would give a speech worthy of Clarence Darrow.

It was now noon.  All of the moving violations had been adjudicated – finally.  The judge looked up from his bench and said, “All of you who are here about parking violations, rise.”  All fifteen of us who were still in the courtroom rose.

“There are reasons that the City has rules regarding parking.  Those rules are designed to protect and provide access for all motorists.  Ladies and gentlemen, please keep that in mind in the future.  But since it’s lunchtime I’m going to give you a break.  All your tickets are dismissed.”

Fourteen people gleefully left the courtroom.  I thought about going up to the bench and venting my frustration but the judge apparently had a luncheon date as no sooner had he pronounced our dismissal, he disappeared through a door into his chambers.

That was the first, last and only time I ever tried to make a citizen’s arrest.


Chicago has a number of outstanding parks which provide a welcome breath of openness to the vertical sprawl of the city.  I was fortunate that I lived across the street from one of those, Jackson Park.

The park ran through a good portion of the southeast side of the city and incorporated the last remaining building from the Columbian Exposition, now re-named the Museum of Science and Industry.  It was the usual place that I took my dogs for their daily walks.

Because the park extended to Lake Michigan it was a popular venue for people to come and enjoy their weekends.  Picnickers appreciated the cool breezes during the summer and the well-maintained lawns that the Chicago Park District kept up with great diligence.

It was always difficult for me as a resident during the summers trying to find a parking space because of the inflow of people who came to the park.  But I learned to deal with it.  After all, these were public parks and I understood that we needed to make accommodation for all who wanted to enjoy them.

Some of those who visited on the weekend found their own solution to the parking issue.  They simply pulled their vehicles onto the lawn of the parks and left them there while they picnicked.  The fact that the city had installed “handicapped sidewalks” made access very easy as there were no curbs to surmount.  Of course, the city also posted signs that said, “No vehicles are permitted on park grounds,” but those went ignored.

Having your car directly by your picnic area was helpful in two ways.  It made it easy to unload the food the visitors had brought with them.  And for those who didn’t own a boom box they could simply crank up their car radio for their listening pleasure.  Generally the boom boxes blaring their “Gangsta rap” drowned out the relatively puny car radios.  The weekends always provided the visitors an opportunity to engage in a battle of “dueling cacophonies.”

The city had placed a large number of trash cans throughout the park, none of them more than perhaps twenty feet away from anyone enjoying a summer’s al fresco dining experience.  They largely went unused.  When I would take my dogs for their Sunday morning walk before church I had to watch carefully because of the debris that was left behind, littering the entire park within a few feet of the empty garbage cans.

On these walks I always saw a  few people carrying large plastic bags and wearing gloves, despite the heat.  They would sift through the trash laying on the ground in search of the valuable aluminum beer and soda cans which were the treasure they sought.

In searching the picnickers’ refuse they tended to spread it out even further through the park.  I had to be extremely watchful that neither of the dogs picked up any of the bones that lay all around.

The trash pickers returned early Monday, before the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation and employees of the Parks Department came through and cleaned up the mess that had been created over the previous two days.  By Monday evening the park was once again immaculate – ready for the next weekend’s assault.

After seeing the same scenario repeat itself summer’s weekend after summer’s weekend over many years my sense of anger about this callous behavior slowly faded away into acceptance that it was going to happen.  The picnickers never disappointed me.

I guess it’s old-fashioned but  I was taught to respect other people and their property – and the parks were the property of all of us who lived in Chicago.  We had laws prohibiting parking in the parks; the City had done its job in providing receptacles for trash; and there was a curfew in the parks which generally was ignored by at least several hours – sometimes until the early morning.

If each of us took personal responsibility for our actions and thought about their implications on others, we wouldn’t need most of the rules and regulations we carry on our law books.  I’ve said before that it’s impossible to legislate morality – or even acceptable behavior.  I learned good behavior from my family, not a book of statutes.

It was the luck of the draw – but I guess I was fortunate.  Apparently many others didn’t fare so well.  Perhaps they had a different game plan handed to them at birth and through their upbringing.  Maybe they think that their mission in life is to turn all the beautiful spots on earth into a garbage dump.

They seem to be well on their way to accomplishing their goal.



Allow me to introduce John Morse.  He was the owner of our employment agency.  He had pulled himself up by his bootstraps.  Mr. Morse rarely came in the office because he was now working on mergers and acquisitions and had turned over the day to day operations to his son Ray.  But when he did come in it was because he was displeased with either his son or his son’s staff’s performance – and ultimately that filtered down to us.

It was my fourth week with the agency when Mr. Morse made his first arrival.  He was in time for the morning degradation.  That day I got to be one of the degraded.  So after Bill Richards had chastised us in his usual manner, Mr. Morse took over the reins.  Mr. Richards was a pussycat by comparison to the rant that ensued.

I can’t say that my home environment was puritanical, but I don’t recall ever hearing my parents swear – and they taught me in that way as well.  Obviously, Mr. Morse’s background was different

As he began his diatribe I discovered that he would have been unable to speak had it not been for the word f*ck – in all its multiple forms.  The word appeared in every sentence he spoke – often a few times in the same sentence.  I figured he liked that word – a lot.

I didn’t like Mr. Morse very much.  What was worse – he scared me.

Apparently the reason for this visit was that Mr. Morse was not happy about the productivity of the firm’s employment counselors.  We were collectively behind on the amount of business that he had set forth in his business plan.  According to Mr. Morse, “We were low life f*cking scum and he was there to kick our asses.”  On hearing that statement I involuntarily put my hand on mine to guard it from his abuse.

Well, the rant ended after about ten minutes.  I’m still not sure if I breathed at all while it was going on.  I was too startled.  This was my introduction to what I presumed was the real world of business – and I thought to myself, “What in the name of all that is holy are you doing here?”

My employment agency was one of the largest in Chicago with over seventy personnel consultants.  To our minds large generally implies good.  So I couldn’t help thinking, “If this is the way that a good agency is run, what must it be like to work at a bad one?”  That thought also frightened me.

Well, as I’ve said earlier in this series, I was young and foolish.  After the rant ended I thought about how my father conducted his business and how he respected his employees.  The contrast between these two management styles was cosmic.

On the one hand you had a tyrant – on the other a compassionate soul.  I decided, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, I would try to emulate dad rather than Mr. Morse if I ever owned my own business.

I didn’t make any placements that week but I had a few things going which I hoped might close the following one.  I have to admit to a bit of childish confliction as I realized that three quarters of the revenue I would generate would go to Mr. Morse.

But then I thought that I was doing this to help people improve their careers – and I was doing this to make a living.  As I focused on those two things it made it all seem okay to me.  Well, at least it made it seem better.

About ten years later I had established my own firm and we were doing well.  I heard from one of my colleagues in the industry that Mr. Morse had died.  As he put it, “No one other than some of his immediate family came to the funeral.”

I didn’t like Mr. Morse.  But I felt sorry for him when I heard that.  What a sad and lonely way to live – and die.

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