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


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Story

December 25th is the date Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  The reasoning behind the choice of this date for celebration is not as important as what it represents to Christians.  It’s unlikely that December is the month of Jesus birth based on a number of factors, but the fact of his birth is historically indisputable.  The calendar is based on the birth of Jesus, separating history into BC and AD.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus is Christmas to Gayle and me.

            There was another birth that occurred on Christmas Day, but much less than 2000 years ago.   Little Gayle Cross, my wife, was born on December 25th and although she wasn’t born in a manger, it falls on me to remind her occasionally that the celebrations aren’t for her.

            I can understand why, when she was a child, all the colorful lights, the joyful music, people celebrating and exchanging gifts would cause little Gayle to think that this was all for her birthday.  But to wake up on Christmas morning, peer out her window and not see camels, shepherds and kings bringing her gifts must have been a tremendous disappointment to her as she grew up.  I think it may have been some time in her thirties when she stopped looking for that bright star and finally got rid of her “swaddling clothes.”

            To say that there has been no residual effect of these delusions of grandeur would be to ignore the fact that she still waits for a wise man to bring her gifts.  She’s had to settle for a dumb guy with bad taste.  Actually, when I married her, I thought I could get away with one gift that would cover both Christmas and her birthday, but that idea died a quick and merciful death the first year we were married. 

            I’m lousy at buying gifts for women.  Always have been.  Early in our marriage I bought Gayle a ring that had a beautiful artistic design.  I liked it and she loved it.  A few years later I bought her another ring.  Unfortunately, this ring was almost identical in design to the previous ring.  That may have been the beginning of a change in our emphasis on gifts.

            We’re finally at a point in our lives where gifts to each other have evolved into travel, special restaurants, or items for the house. The initial requirement of two gifts at Christmas has evolved or dissolved.  We are more practical now.

            Dr. Walter Williams, the well-known economist and one of my favorite writers, takes the gift thing a step further than even I have taken it.  He buys his wife things that are practical.  For example, I once heard him say that he bought his wife a pair of golf shoes so that she wouldn’t slip when she washed his car.  In another magnanimous gesture, he bought his wife a small snow shovel so that she wouldn’t strain her back when shoveling the snow in his driveway.  I think he bought her a chain saw one Christmas. Now there’s a thoughtful man.

            So here we are – a day or so away from Christmas and Gayle’s birthday.  When my kids and grandkids were little I dressed up as Santa Claus.  Since Gayle and I have been married, I have to appear outside the kitchen window on Christmas morning dressed as a shepherd with a donkey from the ranch and a goat.  Talk about embarrassing . . .

*  *   *

            Gayle and I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. 

P.S. - Gayle wanted me to tell you that she doesn't really think she's God. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Three Generations of Santa

That's me delivering gifts to Dwight Klassen's grandchildren.

            Christmas is just around the corner.  Yes, “Christmas.”  Some people seem to be offended by the word, "Christmas."   When the true meaning of Christmas is discarded, all the "holiday" amounts to is a shopping spree.  No one will ever hear me say, “happy holidays” or refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree.”  You'll notice that "Christmas" is a word that has dropped out of America's vocabulary almost entirely. Years ago I predicted that after Christ was taken out of Christmas, the next to go would be Santa Claus.  It's already begun.

            Since I got personal in my Thanksgiving post and my "tongue in cheek" depiction of men in the kitchen, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into another tradition in the Higgins family.  This goes way back to a time when I was just a few years past the fetus stage.  In other words, I was just a little tike.  Unfortunately I don’t have photographic evidence of those early years.  Cameras hadn’t been invented yet and the cave paintings we left on the walls are buried under a shopping mall, but I’ll describe the scene.   

            On Christmas Eve my brother Tom and I would anxiously anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus.  My mother had briefed us on the fact that if Santa heard us or saw us, he’d leave without dropping off our presents.  We scurried around the small house on 24th street in San Jose looking for a hiding place and waiting for the sounds of reindeer hoofs on the roof.  My dad would say that he had to leave the house to get a loaf of bread, but promised he’d try to be back in time to see Santa. 

            Time passed slowly, then we heard it.  The sound of sleigh bells ringing from somewhere outside.  My mother hurried us into our hiding places where we could see without being seen.  Santa was coming to our house.  I could hear my heart beating like a jack hammer.  My little brother wet his pants.

            Suddenly the front door creaked open – we didn’t have a chimney – and slowly a guy with a huge white beard and a red suit crept into the living room.  Lit by the lights on the Christmas tree, the scene was well staged and it was very effective.  Very dramatic.

            Santa looked around to be certain the kids were asleep.  He moved silently to the tree and slid the big sack off his back, slowly placing colorfully wrapped packages under the tree.  Occasionally he would quickly turn his head as though he heard something, but would then go back to his task.

            When all the packages were under the tree, Santa turned and left the house, darting furtive glances over his shoulder to be sure no one was observing.  After we heard the sleigh bells again, we knew that Santa and his reindeer were in the air and on their way to the next house.  At that point it was pandemonium. We rushed the tree as our mother tried to control our brutal attack on the presents.  She tried to save the wrapping paper, but her efforts were futile.

            So that’s what Christmas Eve was like when I was a kid.  Years later, my brother Tom and I used the same formula and took turns being Santa for our own kids.  By the way, Tom didn’t wet his pants as previously reported. 

            Tom and Sharon have two daughters, as do I.  I’ve included a photo of the four girls peeking over a barrier at my parent’s house in Los Gatos as one of us played Santa.  My mother made the costume, which we still have.
Daughters Kimi, Shannon, Juliane, Keri waiting for Santa

            I always enjoyed playing the role of Santa and I remember the excitement when I began the charade.  Fear of my cotton eyebrows falling off and trying to see through the antique glasses that belonged to my grandfather were challenges.  The kids would leave cookies and milk out for Santa, so I had to try to eat and drink through my phony beard.  If you’ve never tasted cotton mixed with chocolate chip cookies and milk, you don’t know what you’ve missed.

My brother Tom getting help from our mother
A younger me getting ready
 Then came the grandkids.  By this time I was pretty good at playing Santa and I actually resemble him with my beard and “jolly old elf” ways, but it was shocking to discover that I didn’t need a pillow to pad the suit anymore. 

      So far that tradition of enacting Santa’s visit has spanned three generations, just as it was started by my dad back in the ‘40s.  He was the best.  I did the Santa thing for Gayle’s grandkids, as well as mine, and the grandchildren of my old buddy Dwight Klassen.  I only have one little granddaughter left to entertain. 

Johnny, grandson Gabriel, daughter Juliane spying from our balcony
            Whether anyone picks up the ball to carry on the old Santa ruse is a question, but if not, this mini-drama entertained three generations of kids. 

         I know the kids enjoyed it, but not as much as my dad, my brother, and I enjoyed being Santa and seeing their reactions.  But I could have done without trying to eat a cookie through a milk-soaked cotton beard.

 Standing for inspection by Gayle


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Believe it or Not.

Are honesty and truth obsolete in America?  Has there ever been such dishonesty and duplicity in American government prior to this President?  There has always been corruption in government, but never to this degree in America. 

            The way our country is being run provides numerous topics for discussion.  But I want to focus on honesty, integrity, and what has been referred to as the “big lie.”  Actually, the many big lies.  

            We are fed an almost daily dose of untruths, without qualification or apology.  False statements are made by the President, the Attorney General, Secretary of State, head of the IRS, Reid, Pelosi, and others.   
            A compliant lap-dog media never questions, but reinforces policies and statements to the point that, with the exception of FOX News, talk radio, and voices on the internet, the media is nothing more than a public relations arm of the Obama administration.

            Take Obama’s health care program.  This monstrosity was passed by the Democrats in the Senate with not a single Republican vote. Not one.  And none of those obsequious Democrats had even read the bill.  It was marketed to deceive the public, as was revealed recently.  We heard lies from our President, spoken emphatically and repeatedly.   

            “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Period!”  
            “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.” 
            “Your insurance cost will go down over $2000 per year.”
 These are just three of the many lies the President used to sell Obamacare to the public.

            Recently the so-called architect of Obama’s health care system, Jonathan Gruber admitted that the public had to be fooled to accept the health care plan due to the people’s stupidity.  But now Obama, Pelosi, and others say they don’t even know this guy Gruber, yet he visited the White House 21 times and met with Obama in the Oval Office.   

             And the IRS dishonesty:
            “The IRS doesn’t target Conservative groups and individuals.” 
            “The documents needed for the investigation can’t be found.” 
            “The IRS computer hard drives all burned up at the same time.”  

            The attack on our embassy in Bengasi was caused by an internet video that no one has ever seen.  This myth was stated five times on national television by National Security advisor Susan Rice and confirmed by Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, and even the President.  These people knew this was not true, but that didn’t stop them from lying to the public even after the truth had finally come out.

            Obama says that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, despite the fact that the acronym “ISIS” stands for “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”  Why would he say something so obviously untrue?  His affinity with the Muslim religion has been confirmed by Obama himself many times. 

            These are just a few examples of the continuing series of lies emanating from this government, primarily the office of the President. 

            So what’s the motivation?  Why is the deception so pervasive, so loud, so repetitious, so “in your face?”  This technique of control has historical precedence, particularly in dictatorships.

            Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister.  He is remembered as saying that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated the more it will sink in with the public and be believed.  Goebbels said, “The principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.  It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

            Goebbels’ use of propaganda is based on the idea that the bigger the lie and the more often it is repeated, the more likely it will be accepted as truth by the public.  He and his boss believed that it was government’s job to control the minds of their people, since the people were too ignorant to run their own lives. Gruber’s selling job was based on a similar perception of the stupidity of the American public.

            Adolf  Hitler said, “The lie must be so ‘colossal’ that the public would be confident that no national leader could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”  

            Hitler also said, "In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature . . . and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie.”

            Hitler shared the belief of both Communism and Islam that a lie is acceptable if it leads to the desired end. This is something to seriously consider when you hear the next lie.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Skeleton Soup and Thanksgiving Residue

Now that Thanksgiving is over, there are packages of sliced turkey, frozen turkey soup, home-made cranberry orange relish, and all kinds of things to munch on for a week or so.  Gayle says she doesn’t like to cook, but when pressed into it, she does a great job. 

            I always add some personal embellishments, like my world-famous turkey skeleton soup and my mother’s cranberry orange relish, which is fantastic.  The problem with Thanksgiving dinner is that you get full before you want to stop eating. I hate that.  Now that it’s over, I’ve vowed to never eat again.  I think I may have said that before . . .

            I’m always hesitant to “get in touch with my feminine side,” which Gayle doesn’t think exists.  I doubt that I could change her mind even if I rode a horse side saddle or spent time blow-drying my hair or getting a pedicure.  Estrogen looks good on women and that’s where it should stay.

            Despite all of that, my wife is better at some home repairs than I am.  I’ve mentioned I melted a screwdriver while changing an electrical outlet with the power on.  I think that’s when she lost confidence in me.  And no matter how I hang the Christmas lights or load the dishwasher, it’s never right.  I shouldn’t be loading the dishwasher anyway.  As my Indian friend, Rajinder Singh would say, “That woman job.”   The lines in Indian culture are clearly defined.

            Gayle can scamper up and down a ladder and hit a nail without including her thumb, so maybe I should trade jobs and spend more time in the kitchen.  Gayle doesn’t like to cook anyway and I love to eat, which is the primary reason that “buffed” weightlifter from yesteryear is buried so deep inside of me that I can no longer hear him screaming to be let out.   

            Don’t get the wrong impression here.  I’m not pulling a Bruce Jenner.  I’m just trying to rationalize the fact that I’m about to give you a recipe for my famous “Turkey Skeleton Soup” and “Cranberry Orange Relish” when only women share recipes. But I’m doing this without wearing an apron or having my nails done. In any event, don’t tell anyone.  That would destroy my image.

            Neither of these formulas is unique and I’m sure you can find identical recipes online, but, unfortunately, these were my only contribution to our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  I will admit to brutally carving the dead turkey like a rabid Cossack while holding a turkey leg in my teeth. During this type of radical surgery my dog is always by my feet, snatching flying pieces of meat and membrane right out of thin air.  

            Here’s the deal – After the turkey has be decimated - torn limb from limb and ravished by carnivores - you take the skeleton, clean off the usable turkey, break up the bones in sections, and put the bones in a huge pot with plenty of water.  As the cook, you’re free to chomp down on tempting leftover flesh, but do so in moderation or you won’t have any soup. 

            Boil that sucker until the remaining meat falls off the bones.  Using those “clamper deals” reach in the boiling water and pull out individual bones and scrape off the remaining meat. Chop up the meat in small pieces.  When all the bones are squeaky clean, put the meat back in the pot and toss the bones in the garbage.  (Never give a dog turkey or chicken bones.)  Check to be sure that there are no bones or pieces of bone in the water.

            Add seasoning “to taste,” as they say.  I add chicken or turkey broth and a few other things, but don’t over-season.  Chop up raw vegetables, like celery, including the leafy part, carrots, mushrooms, and other stuff and toss it all in the pot.  Add a small package of barley then boil the hell out of it for a few hours.  That’s all there is to it.  Behold!  Skeleton soup.

            Now to my mother’s old cranberry orange relish, which goes great with turkey.  You need one of those “food chopper” things, because you have to chop up a lot of stuff.  Start with a package of fresh cranberries.  Chop those suckers in the “food chopper” and dump them in a bowl.  Quarter a couple of oranges, take out the seeds, decimate the oranges in the chopper thing, and dump them in with the berries.  Oh yeah…don’t peel the oranges.  That’s what gives it the “kick.”  Chop up a handful of walnuts and toss ‘em in the bowl too. The next step is sinful, but after thanksgiving a lot of people pray for forgiveness anyway.  Add two cups of sugar then mix it all up real good.

            Don’t cook it. It has to be raw and fresh. Chill this concoction for several hours in the ice box…oops, the refrigerator and it’s ready to go.  You’ll love it.

            I know those two recipes are nothing new.  I also know you can find similar things online, but I just wanted to demonstrate my sincere attempts at reaching deep inside me to “get in touch,” as it were, with the “feminine” in me in order to prove that I’m “well rounded”. . .wrong word.  A Thanksgiving dinner can make an anorexic “well rounded.” How about “well balanced.”  Wait a minute - Aren’t the best chefs men?  Wow. I feel better already.