About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Day of Dilemma

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

In the weeks prior to last Sunday, I experienced the growing realization that I faced a dilemma of major proportions, trapped between two competing loyalties.

I grew up in the Kansas City area, becoming a Chiefs fan when the team arrived in 1963 from Dallas. I was passionate in my support of the team, remaining loyal even during the crushing poverty the team experienced in the ‘80’s. The Chiefs began winning in the ‘90’s, but it was still annual exasperation and heartbreak as they never made it past the AFC Championship game.

In 2004, I moved to Pennsylvania, where I found myself unable to resist the Pittsburgh Steelers. I suppose it was natural. The Steelers and the Chiefs share some common attributes. Both are family-owned, The Rooneys and the Hunts beloved in their respective communities and supported by a fan base whose passion approaches religiosity at times. Both have a rich history and tradition. But the Steelers have won the Super Bowl twice in the last four years. The Chiefs haven’t even been to the Big Game in forty years. And the last three years have been exquisite agony.

So I am a guy who sports both Black and Gold, and Red and Gold with a clear conscience; you could call me ambi-teamdrous. Up until Sunday, it wasn’t a problem. The two don’t play in the same division, and due to the vagaries of the schedule, there never seemed to be time when I had to root for one against the other. But Sunday changed all that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meteorologist Jokes

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey
 And now for something completely eclectic...

How come it never rains inside a barn?
It's a stable atmosphere.

What did the Irish meteorologist name the stream behind his house?
The Mary O'Donnell Flow

What's the wierdest kind of snow?
Lake effect.  Because it can be Erie.

What kind of atmosphere exists in a theater during a chick flick?
A cry-osphere.

What does a meteorologist call the "Man Space" in his house?
The Him-osphere

What do you call a divorce lawyer's office?
The Exosphere.

What do you get if you're too slow in changing a diaper?
The jet stream.

What do meteorologists get after a long night of tacos and bad tequila?
Rear flank downdrafts and backing winds.

What do you call a kid's room?

Why did the meteorologist paint a big blue "L" on his house?
He wanted it to be an area of low pressure.

When is the monsoon?
Before the mon-later.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Snow*

*Somerset, PA Daily America, November 30, 2009

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey

The days that populate the time between the last of the fall leaves and that first snow are bland and colorless. Bare-limbed trees stand watch over fields of grass, dead and browned; no flowers bloom. The wind, delightfully cool during October, now blow cold, every breath containing sharp edges. Even on the sunniest of those ever-shortening days, it is a monochrome landscape; a world cast in sepia tones. But, the arrival of that first blanket of snow softens and brightens the world. Dull brown is covered by brilliant white and the earth becomes beautiful.

There’s something marvelously magical and exciting about the first snowfall of the season. You see it first as an occasional white streak on an otherwise dreary day. Then, a few more flutter down, and eventually, the very air becomes alive. The ground turns white and the world is transformed.

Snowfall is curiously hypnotic. Rarely do the flakes fall straight down. They flutter and dance in response to the unseen winds, even moving upwards close to buildings. They seem to reflect the moods of the storms that create them. When the winds are high, the flakes move in urgent angles, seemingly in a hurry to reach some unknown destination. Yet, on calm nights, they drift down softly, even dreamily to land soundlessly on the blanket of white that waits to receive them. Even though they share paths and directions en masse, each individual flake still possesses an independence of movement, unlike their warmer cousins the raindrops which always fall drone-like in straight lines. But, whatever the mood, whatever the pace, I am ever drawn to the window to watch, lost in fascination. It is grace and artistry as only Nature can produce.

The excitement of this event touches us all. For children, the sight of snowfall brings bright anticipation of sledding, snowmen, snowball fights, and the possibility of a precious day of freedom from school. Even adults feel changed. As jaded as we would like to pretend to be, the arrival of snow breaks up the daily routine in the most delightful ways. Our daily commute, having been Xeroxed into dull routine, becomes a challenge, even an adventure. Upon our arrival at work, the very air seems alive with talk of the weather. Everyone has a story to tell. Throughout the day, we sneak glances out the window, gauging the accumulation and wondering silently, perhaps hopefully, if The Boss might cut us loose early. Most times, when the storm ends relatively early, we all feel a bit let down by the return to normality. But once in a while, the snow keeps coming and we are left with a world transformed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lunch and the Lunch Thief*

*Waterbury, CT Republican-American, November 18, 2009

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Written content only
Like most workplaces, we have a breakroom, within which resides two refrigerators. They are placed there for the benefit of employees who bring lunches that might prove inedible after four hours in a desk drawer. In normal terms, the ‘fridge is one of the last refuges of safety and security. One can breeze through in the morning, drop the plastic discount store bag in an open spot, and proceed to the workstation with that confident feeling that your food is safe and secure.

A bag lunch is, naturally, an investment. You have to get up early enough (or stay up late enough) to make the sandwich, or package the leftovers, adding the bonus apple or thing of yogurt. (If you have a better name for those concave foil-topped plastic contraptions, let me know.)

The point being, time was taken; effort was expended. And when the noon hour arrives, there is a certain level of anticipation, even satisfaction in retrieving and consuming our custom-built repast.

But lurking among us are the lowlifes; the scum of the workplace; those whose own needs trump all others. They usually strike on bad weather days. They had planned to go out, but when visiting the window and seeing the driving rain, the blistering heat, or the biting wind, chose to be cowards to the elements.

These are the lazy; the slovenly; the careless individuals who went to bed too late, blithely assuming they’d have time to make lunch in the morning, only to sleep in just a little too long. This is the person you picture sprinting out the door, tie in one hand, electric razor in the other while doing the hop-along-tie-the-shoe-on-the-run thing, and turns a routine commute into something more suitable for Daytona or Indianapolis.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Flight 93: The Power of Unity*

November 7, 2009: The Dream Becomes Reality
*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, and National Park Service website (www.nps.gov/flni)
November 12, 2009
as "People Bound By a Cause Can Achieve Great Things"

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

It was a beautiful day, in many ways reminiscent of another perfect day, an early September morning in 2001. An impromptu speaker’s platform was set up in front of a line of flags, standing stiffly upright in the brisk wind, a familiar feature of this sacred valley. A singular group of people had gathered on this sunny day. It was a crowd whose members numbered among the famous and the mostly incognito. But every person there, despite their evident diversity, shared a common link.

Saturday, November 7, 2009, was a day when a dream ended, and reality began. Construction of the Flight 93 Memorial has officially begun.

For most of the past 8 years, a highly dedicated coalition of people have worked tirelessly, sweating blood as they surmounted innumerable hurdles. Working together, they survived unending frustration and celebrated each hard-won victory. It is an interesting collection of people. A task force and a commission made up of those with political power and personal influence; who possessed the "juice" to get things done. It also included stalwart members of the National Park Service, a few helpful volunteers, and a corps of dedicated Ambassadors, proudly wearing those sky-blue shirts. And at the heart of it all, a collection of families, all linked by a terrible personal tragedy experienced on the canvas of a larger day of Infamy. Together these remarkable people shared a dream; a dream to build a lasting memorial to 40 ordinary people who, in the face of terror and violence, stood together and fought back. On a dark day, they provided a ray of light; the light of unity, of courage, and of sacrifice.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"On My Honor;" Reflections on a Boy Scout's Life*

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, January 31, 2010
as "Boy Scout's Lives Shaped in Honor and Courage"

*Waterbury, CT Republican-American, February 20, 2010

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey

Written content only
In 1909, a publisher from Chicago, W. D. Boyce, on a visit to England, encountered a Boy Scout. As they spoke, the American was deeply impressed by the philosophy which had guided the youngster’s development. Upon his return to America, he incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. It was Deputy Chief Scout Executive George J. Fisher in 1937 who articulated their goal:

"Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows."

The BSA’s current mission is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
I was a Boy Scout, an Eagle, and a proud one. I remember with great clarity the moment that medal was bestowed. It was the first meaningful thing I‘d done in my life.

Though that moment lies almost 40 years in my past, the important things Scouting taught live within me still.