Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Monday, April 29, 2013

Under Water in Bora Bora

     It was another sunny afternoon on Bora Bora in the South Pacific, just a short jaunt from Tahiti. My good friend from childhood - high school Hall of Fame athlete, and fellow musician - Dwight Klassen and I had a few hours before our ship left port.  We’ve shared a lot of adventures together through the years and I wanted to add one more from that afternoon before we hit the cruise ship buffet.

            The clear turquoise water was irresistible, so I suggested we try scuba diving.  I had always wanted to try it, but never had the chance.  Our wives were on a warm sandy beach somewhere, so Dwight and I found a diving crew for our first lesson in scuba diving.  We were in a group of about a dozen fellow “divers,” who were about half our age, along with a few French “instructors,” who spoke broken English. 

            Since they didn’t have a vest that fit me, I went topless, which didn’t seem to draw any attention from the few young women on board.  Sad.  We were issued tanks and all the hoses, straps, weight belts, and stuff just as the boat began our journey to deeper water.

            Rapidly strapping on gear while trying to keep our balance in the small boat bouncing toward our destination, our “instructor” tried to tell us what is required when descending into a wet and foreign environment.  Hand signals and breathing techniques were quickly demonstrated as we struggled with the equipment and tried to understand what he was saying.  Remember – we weren’t kids and “senior citizens” take a little more time to get “rigged up.” But Dwight and I were ready by the time the boat anchored at our destination. 

            There was a lot to remember or surmise from the few minutes of “instructions,” but I guess the main thing is to breath through the mouthpiece without sucking in the ocean.  In retrospect, I don’t think this is the normal way to learn scuba diving, but it was our only chance to give it a try.  I think I got nervous when we were told that we would be down on the bottom for a half hour and there was no returning once our underwater tour began.  No escape!

            We were told to use a rope as we descended with an “instructor” and to grab a rock on the sea floor to avoid being dragged away by the current. We were to hold on until everyone was down.  I was about half way down the rope when it hit me that I was a “land dweller;” a biped designed to walk on the beach and check out the topless ladies. That seemed more natural than breathing under water. This was a world meant for creatures with scales and gills.

Dwight checking for sharks, while an instructor provides last minute instructions to a student. 

            Moving down the rope, I suddenly got claustrophobic and fortunately remember the hand signal for returning to the surface.  Klassen was already down, hanging on a rock and making eye contact with a fish.  It didn’t seem to bother him.  When I reached the surface, I felt like a wimp. Probably as a result of almost drowning several times in my life.  Once when Klassen and I went over a waterfall in a small raft and were pinned underwater by tons of cascading water.   

            After gathering my senses, I told myself that I’d rather die than be remembered as a wimp, so I went down the rope again.  I forced myself to reach the bottom.  I grabbed a large rock and tried to get used to breathing under water. I think that was what bothered me.  I couldn’t have cared less about the shells on the bottom or the fishy residents of this strange domain.

            We had been told to follow the guy with the yellow suit, yellow flippers, or something.  Following in a line and being distracted by weird life-forms, I soon acclimated.  I got a little too comfortable and, for a brief second, thought that I didn’t need to clamp onto that mouthpiece.  Fortunately, my pragmatism overcame my temporary delusion of being a “merman.”  I swam along with the others and kept my mouth shut tight.  After a half hour of looking at rocks, shells, sand, and the water swishing around inside my goggles, it was time to return to our natural habitat.  You’re supposed to move to the surface slowly, but I’m sure I went up faster than I went down.

            I have friends who are professional divers.  One played the villain in the underwater scenes in the James Bond movie, “Thunderball.” You may remember the bad guy with the eye patch.  That was my good friend, Rick Tegeler.  I may write about Rick and others in another blog.  But all of the pros say that you normally learned to scuba dive in a swimming pool and gradually move up to a real dive.  Not in Bora Bora. They strap a tank on you, say a prayer in French, and toss you overboard.                                                                                    

            I like it better on top of the water.  If I want to see life under water, I’ll go to an aquarium, watch a nature show on TV, or snorkel, where I can escape to the surface at will.

Survival celebration with Gayle, Lynnette, and Dwight

Monday, April 22, 2013

Too Close for Comfort

     It must be obvious by now that I’m Second Amendment guy.  If that isn’t scary enough, I’m also politically conservative with a libertarian bias and I admire Ronald Reagan.  In spite of my political orientation, I’m still allowed to move openly in broad daylight and drink from public water fountains.   

            I believe in freedom and I don’t consider big government “my friend.”  That’s it in a nutshell.  Here are a couple of recent items that I found somewhat encouraging, but also too close for comfort.

            The Toomey-Manchin gun registration bill went down in defeat by a 54 to 46 vote in the U. S. Senate last week.  The thing that amazed me was that Toomey had an A rating with the NRA.  Gayle and I got to know Pat Toomey and his wife before he was a Senator and I was very happy to see him replace Arlen Specter.  Pat Toomey is a nice guy in person and a strong conservative.  He’s certainly not anti-gun, but I’m afraid this bill hurt him politically.

            Back here in California, the Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Assembly Bill 134 that is meant to block the release of personal information of concealed carry license holders in California.  CCW license holders are a rare breed in California, but they have been thoroughly vetted by community leaders, local law enforcement officials, and the FBI.  They are “squeaky” clean, trained and qualified in the use of guns and are an effective deterrent to crime. 

            So far 38 states have laws protecting the privacy and safety of permit holders, but in New York an “anti-gun” newspaper published the names and addresses of concealed carry (CCW) permit holders and registered gun owners.  So much for privacy.  This Assembly Bill is important to protect the law-abiding gun owners in California.  But, of course, this is California

            California is now considered the state with the least freedom and the highest taxes and regulations in the nation.  It’s a mess.  And the sheeple elected Governor “Moonbeam” twice, which is mind-boggling.  But California’s insanity is contagious.

            How many people know that in mid-April the U.S. Senate narrowly passed a measure that prevented the implementation of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which was pushed by the Obama administration?  Essentially, this would have given the United Nations authority over our Constitution.  Can you believe that 46 Senators were in favor of this?  It’s worth noting that all 46 were democrats.

            We were just four votes away from surrendering our Second Amendment rights to that “august” body of morons at the United Nations and setting a dangerous precedent.  Was the public informed of this or was the media focused on some kid drawing a picture of a gun?

            We are at a tipping point. With the public resistance to gun control legislation, it will be interesting to see how the President bypasses Congress and the will of the people through Executive Order or fiat, moving us further from our Constitutional foundation. Watch for it.

            I had a problem with the NRA when they backed Harry Reid in the last election and I registered my complaint by phone and in writing.  I’m not a hunter, but the NRA is the only formidable force holding back the complete destruction of our Second Amendment.  If this issue is important to you, join the NRA.  Gayle and I are both members.  The Second Amendment wasn’t written for hunters.  It was written for American citizens as a defense against government tyranny. 

            As I’ve said before, our Second Amendment rights are being eroded incrementally and insidiously.  Think about this. Half the Senate and the President are willing to turn our constitutional protections over to the United Nations, starting with gun control. 

            Patriotic Americans need to inform the uninformed and stand up to those who would turn us from citizens into subjects.  Too many have died to give us freedom.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Growls from the Garage

     Spring has sprung here in the mountains.  The air is warm, the sun is shining, and I can smell the pine trees.  I thought about sitting down at the computer and dashing off a blog, but I heard a familiar voice calling me from the garage.  It was my Triumph motorcycle.  After a long winter of inactivity, my hungry bike begged me to feed it some pavement.  How could I resist?

            You have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up.  I’ve said that before.  I dread the day that I begin to think like an old man, but I certainly don’t ride the same way I did fifty years ago.  I now realize how stupid and careless I was in my youth.  After knowing guys who were killed on motorcycles, I’m much more careful now. 

            When I was younger and “dumber” I had typical bumps, blood, bruises, and the customary cast on my leg, but that was mostly the result of dirt riding and hill climbing.  Close calls on the road, including the German autobahn, where the slow lane is 100 mph, are worse and I was very lucky.  Those reckless days are long gone. 

            Gone too are the days of looking “cool.”  After a certain age, you don’t worry about that stuff.  While riding my ’69 Triumph, a friend said I looked like a circus bear riding a toy bicycle.  What a pathetic image.  I couldn’t do much about the bear thing, so bought a bigger motorcycle.  Now I look like a circus bear riding a slightly larger bicycle.   

            I’ve always been a Triumph guy.  I’ve had several and still have two, including a “duplicate” of the classic 1969 model I bought in Denmark.  One reason I prefer Triumphs is the fact that there aren’t many on the road.  They’re somewhat unique.  I have several friends who read this blog and are Harley guys.  With all due respect, Harley’s are great, but too common and stereotypical for me.  But Triumphs are accepted by the Harley crowd for some reason, where a “rice rocket” may not be.  Back in the fifties Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and James Dean all rode Triumphs.  These bikes must have left an impression on me when I was a kid.  

            Yesterday I answered the call of my bike and rode through the beauty of the Sierras.  Forget city or freeway riding - sucking exhaust fumes and fearing for your life isn’t much fun.  Riding through the mountains allows the smell of pine trees, the visual beauty of the terrain, the warm wind, and the total ambience of nature to permeate your being through osmosis.  It’s a pleasantly refreshing catharsis. 

            Don’t get the impression that I sit in a lotus position, breathing incense, and chanting a mantra.  I haven’t been able to sit like that since I was 12 years old.  I just don’t know how else to describe the riding experience, but that’s why I chose a motorcycle for travel through Europe back in the ‘60s.  I wanted to absorb the total environment.  I know that sounds weird, but fellow riders understand.

            There is camaraderie on the road with bikers - the extended hand or wave when passing another rider and the tap on the helmet warning that a highway patrol car is lurking ahead.  It’s all in the game.  I’ll quit riding when I get so old that I need training wheels on my Triumph, but until then, I’ll keep feeding my two-wheel monsters as much road as I have left.  Uh oh…I hear that hungry growl coming from the garage.  Gotta go. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Second Amendment??

     The government has pushed the issue of gun control in our face to the point that it can no longer be avoided.  In America a frontal assault to confiscate guns would not work, so disarming the public must be done incrementally.  But now a "shotgun" approach of incrementalism is being applied.

      There are so many issues hitting us at the same time that the gun grabbers are certain to get some restrictions past the guards.  Among many issues being pushed on us are limited magazines, semi-autos, shotguns and rifles with hand grips , assault weapons (sticks and stones are excluded), bullets, and deceptively benign gun registration.

     Thomas Jefferson was one of the most intelligent men in our history.  Check his biography.  His brilliant mind and achievements will blow you away.

     During a gathering of his cabinet and government leaders, John F. Kennedy said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."  The obvious implication is that Jefferson was smarter than all of them combined.

     Jefferson said, "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny in government."  He also said, "Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not."  Gun control is not about guns.  It's about control.

     One of the first things dictators have done throughout history is to confiscate guns from the citizens, which turns free people into subjects.  (See the quote above.)

     Without going into detail, look at some nations that have established gun control and the number of people exterminated as a result.  Between the Soviet Union, Turkey, China, Guatemala, Uganda, and Cambodia, these countries have exterminated over 43 million people after establishing gun control.  This doesn't even count Germany under Hitler when gun control was established in 1938.  This resulted in 13 million people exterminated.  And there are other examples.  This is typical of tyrannical governments.

     Guns have only two enemies: rust and politicians.  We can handle rust, but does anyone trust politicians?  Do our leaders really think that criminals obey laws?  Isn't registration a necessary precursor to confiscation?  That would never happen here, right?

     But it happened in Australia, England, and, closer to home, in Canada.  Precipitated by a tragedy, these governments rode the emotional wave to implement confiscation.  People lined up like sheep turning in collectables, heirlooms, and guns of all kinds.  Do American politicians really believe that gang members, drug cartel associates, and other criminals will stand in line with the law-abiding citizens to register their weapons?

     Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York have the most restrictive gun laws and the most crime and gun violence.  Compare that to Switzerland where everyone carries.

     Because of the NRA and other such groups standing on the Second Amendment, the process in America has been slowed and forced to become more insidious and palatable for the naive.  Based on the last two elections, half of the country can be described charitably as naive.

     Maybe a push-back is coming.  A growing group of County Sheriffs, including our own County Sheriff, are refusing to enforce federal or state laws that conflict with the Constitution.  Many firearm and firearm-related companies have stated that they will no longer sell products to states, counties, cities, and municipalities that restrict their citizens the right to own firearms.

     On the other hand, some companies, such as Marlin, may be closing their doors.  Have you noticed the millions of high caliber hollow point rounds the Department of Homeland Security is purchasing and the empty shelves in the ammo department of stores?

     These are just a few of the ominous moves by the government and those who seek to disarm the law-abiding public.  Now the U.N. wants to insert itself into the process and override our Constitution establishing universal gun laws.  Research on this subject will reveal many more pieces of the mosaic that will present the real picture for those with eyes to see.

     William Henry Harrison, in his inaugural address back in 1841, said, "It is in periods like this that it behooves the people to be most watchful of those to whom they have entrusted power."  That's good advice for us today - if it's not too late.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Helpful Hints for Married Men

     Marriage is a continuous learning experience, but there are a lot of things I still don’t understand and some survival techniques that I’ve learned.

            One thing came to mind today while looking for my shoes - pillows.  I’m talking about colorful, frilly, decorative pillows.  What’s the deal with piles of these pillows at the head of a bed?  Sometimes you can’t even find the bed.    

            I just toss them in the closet.  Now I can’t find my shoes, because they’re buried under a huge pile of pillows.  But the next time we have company, out come the pillows.  All of our friends have massive piles of colorful pillows on their beds too, so it must be some kind of strange obsession that hits only women, because a man would have to be awful light in the loafers to play with pretty pillows.

            Then there’s the house cleaning syndrome.  I’ve always maintained that dust is nature’s way of protecting the furniture.  Try convincing a woman of that profound truth.  And cob webs…I know what a spider is and what a spider web is, but what the hell is a cob?  No one has ever seen a cob, yet one of my tasks is to look for cob webs.  Cobs are obviously elusive little suckers.  I hope to find one before I leave the planet.

            My wife is omnipresent.  She suddenly appears when I’m searching the cupboards for the chocolate she hides for herself.  Chocolate is the drug of choice for women.  There is a documented case of missionaries taking cocoa away from the native women in a primitive village.  The women killed the missionaries.  That’s a true story.  Seriously.  So never get between your wife and chocolate.

            Old husbands learn new tricks.  No matter how I organize the dishes in the dishwasher, it’s never right.  Gayle takes over and re-arranges everything.  You have to know scientific stuff, like how water splashes.  I learned to put the dishes in upside down and backwards until the job transferred automatically to Gayle.

            This trick of incompetence works in many areas.  When assigned cleaning, if I don’t do a good job, Gayle steps in and does it right.  Eventually, she doesn’t bother to ask me to do the work.  When we travel, I lug the suitcases out and stack them behind the car.  Gayle is the only one who can pack it right, so I go back in the house, relax, and finish my coffee.  The “incompetence” ploy can work in numerous situations.

            No matter what I lose, Gayle can find it.  “Where’s the ketchup?” I ask while digging through the frig.  “What’s the rule?” she responds condescendingly.  Her rule is to move something.  I move everything, but there is no ketchup - until she finds it. She knows where everything we own is located.  To prove she knows where something is, she will get it for me.  Asking her where something is hidden saves me valuable time for more important things.

            One of the first things married men learn is the “hearing” trick.  It’s called “selective hearing.”  It’s a proven fact that a woman’s voice hits a certain sound frequency that is difficult for older men to hear.  That’s your medical fall-back position, guys. Gayle says that I don’t pay attention to her when she talks.  Sometimes I seem to go deaf.  So now she leaves notes on the door when it’s time to take out the garbage and little post-it notes on the refrigerator to help me make it through life. 

            Another trick I use is to act like I’m having trouble getting out of my comfortable leather chair.  I blame old football injuries, back problems, or my new knee, for my slow rise when the phone rings.  As I peel myself out of the chair, Gayle’s got the phone on the third ring.  It works every time. The trick is to move slowly physically, but always maintain your mental agility.

            Confusion is a technique that can apply even outside the home.  If you find yourself in an embarrassing situation, just act confused.  If you pat a woman’s butt in a grocery store, thinking it’s your wife, just act confused and embarrassed.  If the woman happens to like it, remember that your wife is in the next isle.

            The great Walter E. Williams takes it a step further, while demonstrating great compassion.  He said that for her birthday, he buys his wife useful things, always thinking of her safety.  He once bought his wife golf shoes, so she wouldn’t slip when washing his car.  On another birthday, he bought her a small snow shovel, so she wouldn’t strain her back when shoveling the snow in his driveway.  I’ve learned from Williams.  I think I’ll buy Gayle a small lady-size chain saw for her birthday this year.  Mine broke.

            Lethargy, confusion, selective hearing, and incompetence are only a few techniques older men can use to make life easy.  When all else fails, you can always go back to being deaf.