Bellbottom Blog

Scratching A Writing Itch From Time To Time

Politics 2016: The Democratic Party View From Here

I was hoping to wait awhile before entering the fray this time around.  Maybe I’ll just write this and hide until the Fall.

As Clinton and Sanders go through the primary fight, their surrogates, followers, what ever you want to call them, are sniping at a high volume.

I’ve been following politics for around 40 years now.  Yet, any small attempt at conversation on Twitter gets me knocked around as if I have no clue about how these fights go.

I am not alone in this. I have seen this sentiment from folks who have avoided taking a side even though there is no doubt about their Democratic Party loyalties.

Personally, I was pulling for one of the Castro brothers to get involved early on. But we have what we have.

I hope the primary fight continues until June just as it did in 2008 I am convinced that battle set our party up for a win in 2008.  The Clinton workers joined in with their Obama counterparts, at least at the state level, and delivered a resounding victory.

That can and will happen again despite what some of the most ardent supporters of each say now.

We know what a nightmare a GOP president would be.  We need to be ready to pull together when the time comes.  The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake. Sitting out this fall is NOT AN OPTION.

We also need to get the Senate back.  I wish I had more confidence in the leadership of the Democratic National Committee. We really might have to do this from the ground up.  It is possible. Turnout is the key.  It is always the key for us.

So, boys and girls, let’s play nice since we will all have to pull in the same direction come September.



In Defense Of The Big “O”

Last week, Oscar Robertson gave his opinion about defense in the modern-day NBA. Simply put, he offered the opinion that coaches didn’t seem to know what proper defense is these days.

Well….that set off quite the firestorm.

You see when it comes to opinions evidently people of a certain age should just be quiet because things have evolved so much with the game of basketball only people currently involved with the game can understand the intricate way defense is set up. If defense is so much more sophisticated these days, why do I always see a guy open in the corner ready to take a shot? I mean, ALWAYS OPEN.

Most of this hot debate centers around the incredible range of Steph Curry.  People say he cannot be guarded.  Oscar begs to differ. His opinion, which is widely dismissed, is to try picking him up earlier on the court than the three-point line. Isiah Thomas had made the same point weeks earlier on NBA TV. He showed several plays where the defender was nowhere near Curry.

Now, Steph Curry can shoot with a hand in his face from anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you stop trying to guard him. More pressure might eventually wear him down just a bit. It would be worth a try.

The thing about some pundits is they would like the era they cover to be the best ever. It gives them reflected glory. “I’m writing/talking about the best ever so I must be pretty great too.”

That has been the case from Grantland Rice to today. Pump up your time and dismiss all who came before.

Every replay of Curry,who is a great pure shooter, is followed by a dig at Oscar Robertson.

That is where I draw the line and turn the channel.

Oscar, from his days at Crispus Attucks on, was and is one of the best players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

When he started in the NBA there were only 9 teams. When he retired there were 17. I would submit that it was harder to play then because of how familiar everyone was with each other’s game.

Oscar Robertson is a man who is sure of himself. He is still a student of the game.

And he is right.



We’re Finally On Our Own

Bellbottom Blog

This post is a little late. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, so here we go.

On May 4, there was a remembrance for the people killed and wounded at Kent State University in 1971.

So , let me take you back to those times.

As a teenager , one of the things that all males of my age had in the back of our minds was the draft. The Selective Service had a lottery to determine in what order young men of draft age could be called upon to serve their country. Your date of birth was the determining factor.

If, for instance , June 4 was called first, everyone with that birth date would be first in line to go into the service.

Every year the lottery would take place.

Why was there such concern about this, you ask?  Well, we were at war in a country…

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Boycott Indiana?

I know. The GOP-dominated Legislature and the Governor here in Indiana have put in place an inexcusable piece of legislation.

So the social media insta-reaction was to come up with a hashtag. #BoycottIndiana to be specific.

If you live here and are a Democrat, as I am, it has always been an uphill battle when it comes to politics. We had a proud moment when the state went for Obama in 2008.

We have had Democratic Senators and occasionally Democratic Governors but our legislature has grown into a veto-proof GOP majority. This is not good. Districts have been reshaped so that formally strong Democratic areas have been neutralized or watered-down.

What we need in this state is help. HELP. HELP. HELP.

Telling me you aren’t going to drive through my state isn’t helping anything.

Insisting that large events go elsewhere isn’t helping.

Shunning us isn’t going to help.

Decreasing the number of job opportunities isn’t helping.

Making my fellow Hoosiers poorer isn’t helping.

Running businesses out of the state isn’t helping.

Again, I don’t agree with the legislation. Let’s be clear. There was no need for it.

People have said we should boycott, for a variety of reasons: Texas. Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, now Indiana. The populations of these states add up to around 80 million people.

The U.S. holds 320 million people. You want to write off a fourth of the population?

How about this? How about working to replace the objectionable politicians we have in abundance?

Let’s use the ballot box to target the politicians who author these bills. We can pick one off here and there.

And while we work toward that worthy goal, how about this?

Let’s work at the grass roots level. Let our local businesses know how much we appreciate their inclusive policies.

Things can be better if we work toward it. At least, we will have tried.

The people who authored this law want you to give up, write us off. By boycotting, you are doing just exactly what they want you to do.

These folks don’t like people watching while they work. That is why the signing was done behind closed doors.

One last time, I think this legislation was absolutely unnecessary. I am not a lone voice here in Indiana. Many fought against the legislation when it was brought up and will continue to fight until it is changed.

I was encouraged to see GenCon reconsider their initial response after the business community reached out to them. I hope after a few days, cooler heads will prevail and we can refocus on changing this law. Business and citizens working together can do this.

This has been difficult personally because many of the people who I have agreed with on the Left don’t seem to be able to hear me on this subject. We have fought the same fights, celebrated the wins, suffered through the losses.

I’m sure the national attention will move on to something else after a while, then we can start trying to fix this.


You Can’t Avoid The Doctor’s Office Forever

I have been waiting to write this post since August of last year.

Only superstition and a proper ending have kept me from that.

In late July, we returned from a trip to Oklahoma and were shopping for an RV.

As the day wound down and we were driving to dinner, I suddenly felt a strong sharp pain in the right side of my lower back. I thought I could get rid of it by walking around or stretching or laying down.  None of those things worked.

My wife suggested going to the emergency room but I rejected that because……well….I just don’t go to see a doctor if I can avoid it.

The pain wasn’t going away though. As the three hour mark approached, and the pain wasn’t lessening, and my wife was continuing to quietly repeat her suggestion, I finally caved.

“Alright, Let’s go.”

As I made my way down the stairs, the pain suddenly stopped.  I mean completely. Having witnessed my struggle to get comfortable for the last three hours, my wife didn’t believe a word of my sudden miracle.

Off to the hospital we went. Me insisting that I was fine. My wife nodding and driving.

At the ER, we filled out all the paperwork after which we were taken to an exam room.

I should mention that over the 23+ year course of our marriage, I have never been in the hospital for anything other than visiting sick relatives.

A CT scan was ordered despite my continuing insistence that I was fine now. When it was over, the diagnosis from the doctor was that I had probably had a kidney stone. But something showed up on the scan that made him want to send me to a specialist.

Still feeling fine, we went to the specialist a few days later.  He informed me that I could be just fine or it could be an overread from the person who looked at the scan results or it could require surgery. In other words, he didn’t know what to make of it. He decided a colonoscopy should be done next.


Now we are into September and I have to have what I considered an old person’s test done. Oddly enough, at the tender age of 58, I am considered an old person by some.

I will spare you the details of prepping for the test. Yes, drinking the prep (a combo of Miralax and Gatorade) was difficult to handle. I managed. When the test was over, the doctor informed us that he had to remove a few polyps from my colon. They sent them off for testing and scheduled another CT scan to see if there was any change from the first one.

I received the results of the polyps test in the mail. They were Adenomatous polyps which can turn cancerous in time. However, no cancer was found.

In November, I have the next CT scan and the results are the same as the first which causes my doctor to send me to another specialist. This doctor is a surgeon.  Not what I was hoping to see. Having just dodged one bullet, I wasn’t sure if my luck would hold.

My appointment for a consultation was scheduled for Monday of Thanksgiving week.

Thanksgiving week hasn’t been very good over the last few years in our family. My Mom died the day after Thanksgiving several years ago and just two years ago, my Dad went into the hospital on Monday of Thanksgiving week with an illness that would claim his life 9 months later.

I was facing this with a severe amount of dread.

The Dr. was very calm and went through all the different options available to us. He suggested we wait a few months, do another CT scan and see if there was any noticeable difference in the three tests.

That test was done a week and a half ago. His office told me on Tuesday that the scan looked the same as the others and there would be no need to look any further unless I started to feel any discomfort.

Finally, seven months of worrying came to an end.

I don’t have any profound observations to make about any of this other than to say: Don’t hesitate to go to the Doctor no matter how much you hate the idea. Whatever was going on in my colon would have gone on unabated had I just went to bed that night in August when the pain let up.

I know I am lucky.

Luck, or the lack of it, plays a large role in all of our lives.

Here’s hoping you have an abundance of luck in yours.


Deer Hunting: How Much Of A Sport Is It?

A story in the Indianapolis Star prompted me to re-open the blog.

I don’t hunt.

I clipped a deer with the front of my car many years ago. The deer ran off.

My wife is the real hunter in our family. The deer she hit with her car two years ago died by the side of the road.

That is the extent of our adventures with deer. We see them behind our house in the woods from time to time.

So, you would think I might be against deer hunting given the overall tone of the blog. Not really.

Guys I worked with during my time in the Postal Service hunted during deer season.  I always teased them about shooting Bambi and they swore they would shoot Bambi every chance they got.

Most of them used a bow.  Bow hunting is far removed from what it was many years ago.  The technology has improved to the point that most anyone can become proficient with a bow.

My friend, Doug, always bagged a deer each season. He would bring sausage and jerky into work for us to sample. I never tried it but people who did said it was good.

The story above talks about allowing the use of high-powered rifles to hunt deer. You can use rifles now, they just want a higher caliber of ammo allowed. You can tell from the article that there is a divide in the deer hunting community about whether or not to change the law.

The author of the piece,  told me , (regarding hunting) “It’s harder than you think.”

My response was, “It should be.”

My gripe, and I addressed this on Twitter, is if you want to call this a sport, shouldn’t there be a chance you come up empty in your quest?

It’s not like shooting a cow, for example.  Deer are very quick and will bolt at the slightest sound or movement.  Good for them. It’s not like they can shoot back. If it is difficult to do, that should be part of the exhilaration of the hunt. You will at least have stories about “the one that got away”.

We here at the Bellbottom Blog vote no on using high-powered rifles for hunting deer.

One other note about my friend Doug:

Several years ago, he bought a house that borders a flood plain in the city.  They have a large wooded area behind his house. Soon after he moved in, he was surprised to see his shrubs looked as if something was eating them.

One day, he got up early enough to see deer in his lawn.

He told me at work, “Man, JB, they are close enough for me to shoot them right off of my balcony! But we can’t hunt in the city.”

Karma strikes again.




Never Too Late To Try Something New

There it is.

My wife and I have spent about six of the last ten summers renting a trailer to camp in when we go to Oklahoma.

It has been fairly easy. We pick the week. Call a guy who rents campers near the state park we go to.

Send him money. He brings the camper out, sets it up and picks it up when we are done.

No muss, no fuss for us.

Over all that time, we have been carefully watching others who own their campers to see if we could possibly do it ourselves.

We have seen pop-ups, fifth wheels, travel trailers, Class C and Class A vehicles.

One by one we ruled them out.

Pop-ups are too small.

Fifth wheels and travel trailers require a truck to pull them. A large truck. An expensive truck.

Plus, you have to hook them up, back them in when you get to the site.  We have watched people spend an hour or so trying to get set up. We aren’t possessed with that kind of patience.

We settled on looking at Class A motorhomes.  It’s kind of ambitious to start out with something that size but I’m not young enough to go through all the different sizes.

When we went out to seriously look, a shrewd salesman had my wife sit behind the wheel of the vehicle you see in the picture. Over the 23 years we have been married, I know the look when she falls in love with a potential purchase. Car, house.  It’s always the same look.

We had a lot to learn about the care and feeding of one of these beasts. Generators, electrical systems, how to dump the wastewater. Where to store it. The RV, not the wastewater.

I know what you are thinking by this point. Seems like a lot of fuss for a once a year trip. Well, we decided that with one of these  at our disposal, we could take weekend trips around our area.

We have been pleasantly surprised at how beautiful Southern Indiana is. Indiana , north of I-70, is flat.  Lots of cornfields.  Southern Indiana has small towns, massive forests, beautiful state parks. There are cornfields as well but they are on rolling hills.

We have been on three trips in the six weeks we have owned our new toy.  The people have been friendly. The weather has been good. It is a nice, relaxing way to spend the weekend.

We decided that waiting until the perfect time to do something like this could mean never getting the chance to try it.

We rolled the dice.

So far, so good.










A Girl And An Uzi: My Thoughts

By now everyone has heard about the tragic shooting accident at an Arizona gun range.

The parents of a nine year old girl brought her to Bullets And Burgers to have some shooting time on a supervised range.

I don’t know why she was given an Uzi but this group of grownups allowed her to do just that and then this happened:

You can see when he switched the machine gun to full automatic that the kick of the gun overwhelmed her. The gun bucked free from her left hand, swung into the direction of the instructor’s head, firing all the while.

The instructor was shot and killed.

Let me be clear:


It is really hard to state strongly enough how completely irresponsible it is to give a nine- year old child a fully automatic weapon.  I am sure the NRA has several examples of kids successfully brandishing an Uzi. That doesn’t make it right.

I posted a tweet yesterday that said, “I wouldn’t let a nine year old have a cellphone, let alone an Uzi.”

I am still getting favorites and retweets as I type this.

As a response to one person, I wrote this, “Gun people have bought into their own rhetoric to the point of absurdity.”

I don’t think it is being overprotective to deny a child the chance to spend time at a gun range.

I don’t think it is asking too much to ask gun owners and instructors to be smarter about their choices when it comes to kids and guns.

I am not asking for legislation.

I am begging for people to use common sense.

We see stories of kids shooting siblings or other kids almost weekly.  They don’t understand the power of a gun or the consequences of misuse of a gun.

Parents, grownups are supposed protect kids.

That’s why we have seat belts in cars. Child proof cigarette lighters. Nerf balls. Safety latches on cabinets.

And that is why we should never let a nine year old girl or boy use a fully automatic weapon.

It is long past time for people to be smarter when it comes to raising children.






Ode To An Irish Barkeep

Every few days, I check the obituaries of my former hometown newspaper.

When I did so, this morning, I saw the name of one of the finest bar owners I have ever met.

Catherine “Katy” McKibben passed away at the tender age of 90.

According to the obit, she owned bars for 47 years in Fort Wayne.

In my younger days as a single and extremely thirsty young man, I found my way into one of her establishments.  It was a narrow place tucked in between two larger buildings called The Hideaway.  I remember her throaty laugh as my friend introduced me to her. She made us two wonderful roast beef sandwiches. It felt like home.  But, as is often the case, her bar was in the way of an expanding business and she was going to have to find new digs.

The place she found was south of the elevated tracks that divide downtown from the southern part of the city. She named it Katy’s Kapers.

It had all the requisite things a bar needs.

Cold beer.

A well-stocked back bar.


A pool table.


Plenty of seating.


A large circular brick fireplace was parked right in the middle of the building.

At the far end of the place, opposite the bar area, was a mural that covered the entire wall.  It was a landscape painted by one of her bartenders named Walt.  He used to love telling the story of painting that while customers made what they thought were helpful suggestions.

The customers were a mix of janitors, bread truck deliverymen, local factory workers, and more than a few of my fellow postal workers. She also had the customers who had followed her from bar to bar during her career. It was a good, fairly well-behaved group. That was because she would put up with nothing less.

Nobody ever enjoyed being a bar owner more than Katy.

Particularly on St.  Patrick’s Day.  The name might be a giveaway but her place was one of the most popular places in town because that was the day Katy made her famous Irish stew. From the moment she opened up on that day until closing it was wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder people.  The stew always ran out by mid-afternoon. The party, however, ran until well past closing time.

Late in 1990, I started to have a series of conversations at Katy’s with a co-worker.  We hit it off. One thing lead to the other, and we have just celebrated our 23rd year of marriage.

Marriage meant the end of hanging out at Katy’s.

I am not complaining.  Neither is my liver.  I watched guys try to handle balancing family, work and drinking often with disastrous results.  I was not going to be one of those guys.

Fort Wayne had a lot of bars over the 47 years Katy owned one.  I can only think of two or three that were run by women.

When Katy finally retired, she was still running a successful bar.  She outlasted almost all of her contemporaries who were bar owners in business as well as in life.

I wish I could have been at the funeral home as everyone gathered to remember her. I guarantee you laughter through the tears would have been the overwhelming emotion. Just as Katy would have liked it.

So, Catherine “Katy” McKibben, thanks for all the fun and friendship.

Thanks for giving me a spot to sit and chat with the young woman who became my wife.

And as we Irish like to say:

May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm on your face

And the rain fall soft on your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.





Letterman Calls It A Night

CBS used to have a mandatory retirement age.  The number was 70.

So, by that standard, Dave is leaving early.

The word of his announcement was revealed on Twitter yesterday afternoon.  Shock followed by people remembering their favorite moments of the show soon followed.

I set my DVR to record the show.  Watching and waiting for the reaction from the studio audience was fascinating.  As he told a story about spending time with his son, the crowd was going along, laughing in all the right places.

He followed that story with a recital of the numbers associated with his late night career.  Even mentioning the morning show.  If you watch Dave a lot, you get to play the game of “Where is he going with this?” from time to time.  This was one of those times.

And then, he said the word “retiring”.  Stunned silence.  It seemed as if they were waiting for a punchline.  Slowly, they came to the realization Dave wasn’t kidding. Eventually they gave him a standing ovation.

Way back in 1980, I was a young postal worker who was on the evening shift.  I would wake up to morning television which was all game shows.  Buzzers, flashing lights and Ruta Lee.

NBC canceled Ruta and put a young man from Indiana on with a talk show.  David Letterman was his name.

The show made me laugh.  It was refreshing and irreverent.  And all of a sudden, it was canceled.  What the Hell? The show won an Emmy award for writing.

Finally, NBC found a home for Dave.  He would get the hour after the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. They had all the usual trappings of a talk show. Desk with a couple of chairs to it. A band led by Paul Shaffer.

What made the show work was an amazing writing staff led by Head Writer Merrill Markoe.  Every story I have ever read by any writer who worked for Letterman talks about writing for his voice. I would agree with the point while also insisting he had a treasure trove of material to chose from.

Go to IMDB and type in Late Night With David Letterman. Look at the list of writers.  Then, search for Late Show With David Letterman.  Look at that list of writers.

Eventually, CBS became the new home for Dave.  Bigger band for Paul. CBS renovated the old Ed Sullivan theater.

The first show had Paul Newman standing up in the audience asking Dave, “Where the Hell are the singing cats?”

I remember the first show after 9/11.  We wanted to know what Dave had to say.

When he came back after the heart attack.

The show with a dying Warren Zevon.

Keith Olbermann talks about the show he did with Dave on the night Sen. McCain bailed at the last minute only to be spotted doing an interview with Katie Couric.

Now we are nearing the end of a long successful run.

What’s next is the latest game people are playing.

For Dave, he has a couple of  hundred more shows to crank out.

Who will take his place?  Well, someone will occupy that time slot but no one can take his place.

He is the best we have ever seen in the history of late night talk shows.  The funniest, the most creative, the best with an ad-lib. He was always willing to give the guest a chance to shine.

Just a thought about the ratings…….the Tonight Show has done better over the years.

If you put two restaurants next to each other: One, a fine steakhouse. The other, a fast-food joint.  The fast-food place will probably have more customers but the experience will be forgettable. The steakhouse will be better in every way.  More satisfying.

I wish Dave all the best with his retirement.  I hope he has many, many years of enjoyment with his wife and son.

I know how I want the show to end.

At the end of the last show, Dave has a flashback.

A grainy tape of Larry “Bud” Melman appears. Larry says, ” So long, suckers!”

Fade to black.








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