Tuesday, August 10, 2021

 Trump Deserves Credit For Changing America


         Six years ago if an American presidential candidate was recorded saying he liked to grab women by their private parts, he would have immediately become a non-candidate.   

     Six years ago, anyone who made fun of people with disabilities was considered despicable.

     Six years ago, men like John McCain were considered heroes by virtually all Americans, except draft dodgers and avowed communists.

     Six years ago if any American leader said they trusted the words of a dictator over those of our own intelligence department, they would have been ousted.

     Six years ago Americans never labeled news from serious journalistic organizations as fake just because they didn't like it.  Educated people respected the expertise and objectivity of professionals, while acknowledging that there could be bad apples in some baskets.  Most people would have discouraged throwing away entire baskets without exhaustive research from knowledgeable sources.

     Six years ago if a politician had publicly announced dozens of times that he would release his tax returns as soon as possible, he would have lost all credibility if he spent many years and millions preventing their release.

     Six years ago politicians respected colleagues in their own party. No honorable person would ever blatantly threaten anyone.  No president ever ostracized those that didn't walk lock-step in line with them.  "Primarying someone" to discourage dissent wasn't a thing. No entire political party ever cowered in fear.

     Six years ago if  99 percent of  bipartisan polling places and the president's own Attorney General and his top election cyber-security guy all said he lost the election he would have given a concession speech - not an attempted coup.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Just Two Days

     Being of a certain age,  enables a person of means to undergo interesting experiences.  For example, the character-building process of preparing for a colonoscopy to rule out any pre-cancerous colon lesions.  Without going into unsavory details, let me just say there needs to be a thorough cleaning of the entire GI tract.   

     Let's, just for fun, pretend that I had to have such a test and that I was lamenting the whole process of fasting and then the grand flush.  Imagine that I was being just a little irritated that people would eat in front of me when I could have nothing.

     Then imagine that in the middle of this I got a letter from the International Rescue Committee requesting money for the many millions of refugees around the world who are living in dangerous and unfathomable conditions.  Things like clean drinking water, sanitation, adequate food, shelter, and healthcare are commodities that millions of people can only dream of - and diarrheal diseases in these crowded camps can kill hundreds of people per day.  And it's mainly children!  

     Every five years I get to wake up to what many people live with year round.

How could I NOT send a healthy donation?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Virtues - long lost?

     When a wise person speaks against their own self-interest, listen to them.  Within their words lie things like altruism, courage, truth and

                                                         even HOPE.

      When a fool speaks - all bets are off.



Monday, May 31, 2021

Random Encounters - or are they?

     Way back in the last century, I hitch-hiked about 14,000 miles, exploring much of the United States.  It was the late 70's, right after I finished college, and the trip was a graduation present to myself.  What else could I do with the $100 I received from my graduation cards?  I spent most of the wad on a backpack, a sleeping bag, a small camp stove, and an orange pup-tent.  I still had a little reserve for Dinty Moore Stew and Pop Tarts which held me over 'til I got the first of a half-dozen short-term jobs.  Hitch-hiking is, by definition, all about the unpredictable and chance meetings.  Out of  hundreds of encounters, I'd say most were  positive, but a handful were downright unpleasant. My orange tent and nightly covert operations (to find a free place to sleep) added disproportionately to the latter group.

          Having explored about 35 states, I was headed north to Montana where I was hoping to land an outdoor job with a warm dry place to sleep at nights.  Yellowstone was my last hurrah before hanging up my backpack.  I got a ride through the southern entrance of the park and the quirky grey-haired driver said he could take me all the way to "Big Sky" country.  My memories are fuzzy regarding the driver but the car was another story.  It was old and what my mother would have called a "death trap."  I increasingly felt its grip.  As we were driving through the tight mountainous turns with beautiful vistas, the worry-free driver periodically had to pump the brakes repeatedly before they would catch.  Other times they'd catch the first time and we'd lunge forward or skid.  He assured me that all was well - "probably just a bad slave cylinder."  Hours into the ride I thought repeatedly - this is how I'm going to die.  And then I saw the sign - "Old Faithful - 5 miles."  I immediately blurted out - "Oh, I've always wanted to see Old Faithful," and the guy seemed ok with the detour.  After a long five miles, he pulled into the Old Faithful Inn parking lot and said "go check it out" but added " I can't wait forever."  I reassured him I was in no hurry and  wanted to take it all in.  I thanked him for the ride and watched him sputter away.

                                 (My room was at the top of the stairs to the left)

     At this point in my life I didn't have a five-year plan.  I knew I didn't like anchors and was intrigued by the "Help Wanted" sign as I walked through the enormous old log structure. It was late Friday afternoon as I made my way to the staff employment office.  I had just started reading the sizable list of postings on the door when it opened  and a young brunette with a great smile asked - "can I help you?"  I told her I was checking out what kind of openings she had and then she asked  "what kind of work are you looking for?"  I told her my father had a motel in Aspen and I'd done all kinds of work there on school breaks over the past two years.  She just lit up responding - "which motel- I'm from Aspen?"  Well we went on to have a lively conversation about our favorite town and our adventures there.  And then she conceded - "I'm not sure you'd like any of those jobs but I just got an opening for a bartender-trainee in this inn."  She went on to describe the position and the perks including having my own room adjoining the top portion of the 84 foot high lobby.  And I could eat in the "staffeteria" where the offerings were actual prepared meals - three per day!  I was sold and started training the following Monday.... I ended up loving the job and the hiking was spectacular.  The park was where I reconnected with nature and  I stayed through the end of the season.  In October my backpack and I were back on the road again.

      I don't remember the name of the guy with the bad brakes and I don't  recall the name of the kindred spirit who took the extra half hour to sign me up for a great job.  I DO however remember that when I hitch-hiked out of the park - I did not head north.

Sunday, May 23, 2021


- How does a kindergartner KNOW anything?

    "I ask my Mom or my Dad," would be a typical child's response.  But, does the tooth fairy or Santa Clause come to mind?  Pre-schoolers don't understand that if they get all of their information from two sources, they will never understand the complexities of human interactions. They haven't learned how to scrutinize things like conflicts of interest or ulterior motives.   A child rarely understands or values true expertise in part because they've never had any.  We can't expect a child to understand nuance, filters, or confirmation bias because they typically won't really dissect these until high school or college, if at all.

      Children may not understand that different experiences and role models mold us as we mature and interpret the small or large world around us.  Things like fear and distrust may motivate some while greed motivates lots of others.  And then there are those whose primary agenda is to relieve suffering - regardless of the costs.  Our mindsets are unique and we should be slow to project ours on someone else.  A child struggles with "knowing" because they struggle with complexity.




Thursday, May 6, 2021

So Much Water Over The Dam 

     We moved from the mountains of upstate New York where we lived for 32 years to the fields of Wisconsin - and that is now a part of our family's history.  The reason was simple - our daughter and family, including a grandson with special needs, were struggling.  But the choice was very difficult - and for so many reasons.  Shortly after we moved the pandemic arrived.

     My music was not only on the back burner, but the stove was a thousand miles away!                

     This spring I noticed that daily reports of gun violence in the news had become so commonplace that I rarely thought about the heartache for countless families and friends.  Posturing regarding gun control has replaced any hint of actual discussions about the root causes  and complexity of the problem.  I felt compelled to update and record a song I wrote two years ago.  

     It's called "ManCard- A Parody" and I hope you check it out.  It highlights in a humorous manner a significant component of a deadly problem.  

       "Mancard" - described by some as: 

                 " powerful"


                                   "like something Phil Ochs would write."

Imagine a cure for a major impotence

     a dreaded disease or a social emotion

A strapped on appendage alive and in motion

     We call it the second amendment .....

Comments and discussion are welcome



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Today's a Gift

Sometimes life seems to consist of putting out one fire after another while trying to "get things done"- as if that's why we're here.  On reflection, I've realized I have no idea why I'm here - unless it's something as simple as savoring life, while making the challenges of our fellow travelers a little easier. Regarding the latter, I struggle with the nagging question - when is enough... enough?  Maybe that's not the million dollar question, however.

Maybe there's a more pressing question for some of us - the one to ask before we can move on toward trying to save the world...... When do we have enough ourselves that we can and should start worrying about others - "the least of these" that Jesus spoke of.  I really think the answer to that question is built upon the concept of gratitude and perspective.

I wrote a song about this and just today finished producing my companion music video entitled - "TODAY'S A GIFT".       May it add some blessings to your day.

Today's A Gift (First World Problems)

TODAY"S A GIFT (First World Problems)   by Mark VanLaeys

Well I've worked ten hours and for meager pay
     and I'm cold and drenched to the bone
but I've got a job and I'll eat tonight,
     and tomorrow's winds will blow that rain away.


Well it starts out so fine as the new sun is risin'
     and the coffee is good - it's actually great.
but I open the door and the floor mat is yelling -
      "I can't believe that dang newspaper's late.


The kids are sick with colds and my back is achin"
     and the car needs new tires to be safe.
But we've got a ride and a Doc in the box,
     and I'm sure that we'll be fine if we just wait.


My wife's so tired of dirty laundry always more,
     and stacks of bills we barely pay.
but we've got a roof and clear drinking water,
     and a toilet flushing all our deeds away.

Thank you for watching - and enjoy your gift of This day,