Sunday, July 27, 2008


NOTE TO MY READERS:  The following entry is a very special one. It's my first attempt at making a "musical" entry. I've posted music before on here, as you all know, but never on this scale. Six oldie classics, hand-selected, for a little trip down memory lane. You readers of my own age and older will recognize most, if not all of these tunes. They were all smash hits, back in the day. Oh, and those *were* the days, weren't they?? So just read on, then pause when you're prompted to click on a song. Listen, then move on. Take your time. What's the hurry? Life moved slower in those days, didn't it? I hope you will pause to savor each tune and will have as much fun listening as I did putting this together.

Now, come along with me. Let's turn the clock back to -- oh -- I guess it was 1956, or thereabouts . . . . . . .


Do You Remember?

When Rock 'n Roll was young? Our parents hated it, some called it "the devil's music." But it was fresh. New. It had a different beat than the 40's Big Bands mom and dad loved so much. And we made it ours. It became the beat of an entire generation.

Something called "Rockabilly" started it. A crazy mix of country, blues, and black gospel. It was like nothing that had ever been heard before. And then one day a young man from Lubbock, Texas, who wore goofy-looking thick black eyeglasses, played his songs and sang to us across the airwaves and The Music was born. Though Buddy Holly would tragically die in an airplane crash, in 1959, his legacy would live forever. And his influence is still alive to this very day . . . . .

You MUST CLICK for the song to play.


Do You Remember?

When another young man cut a three-dollar recording in Memphis, Tennesse? It was to be a present for his mother's birthday. Little did Elvis Aron Presley know, but that cheap record would soon launch him to worldwide fame and riches beyond his wildest dreams. Born into the deepest of poverty in the rural south, Elvis lived and truly embodied the American Dream.

He didn't create Rock 'n Roll music. Buddy Holly and others did that. But with his snarling mouth and swiveling hip gyrations onstage, he taught every budding rock and roller how to perform it. In doing so, he scandalized the older generation of that era, while at the same time bringing a younger generation of adolescent girls to their knees, trembling and sobbing at his feet. Elvis became a cultural icon -- the first true Rock Idol. Many more were to follow, but none of those others would ever become the household name that he did. Performers today are wilder, to be sure, with some even stretching the barriers of decency to its limits, but they owe it all to Elvis, and, like Buddy Holly, you can still see his performing influence alive and well today, if you look closely.


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.



Do You Remember?

When popular African-American music was referred to as "Race Music?" Segregated in that day from the music and culture of the whites, that only lasted until Elvis and some others incorporated those black influences into their own sounds. That created a stir and scandal -- in both communties.

But the barriers had been broken and would come down quickly. Before long, a young, blind black man from rural Florida would cross the barrier from the other side. Ray Charles Robinson had learned to play the piano after he went blind -- no small accomplishment. His elderly teacher saw that the boy was gifted and taught him what he knew. It wasn't long before Ray Charles was outplaying his teacher. He left Florida, "paid his dues" for a few years, playing gigs mainly in black communities. But when he jammed with a country music band and blended right in with them, even those racist white men realized the young man's enormous talent and he won their grudging respect.

Ray had heard the new white phenomenon  called "Rock 'n Roll," and liked what he heard. Liked it so much, in fact, that he incorporated that sound into his own music, setting the gospel influence to an even different beat. Other blacks, especially the religious folks, were livid when they heard it and Charles came under fire from his own people. But the new sound worked and it crossed over to the white radio stations, where our young rock generation listened to it and grew to love it.

Ray Charles had created a whole new genre of music that would be named Rythmn and Blues, or "R&B," for short. The music would grow and expand from those beginnings, and would appeal to both black and white audiences alike. The color barrier in music was thus broken years before the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land. Ray Charles proved that musical genius can know no racial barriers. It didn't then, it doesn't now, and it never will.


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.



Do You Remember?

When cars had fins like sharks? When Cadillacs had the little "boobs" on the bumper? When Coca-Colas came in those little 6 ounce glass bottles and cost a dime? When you could get a HUGE double cheeseburger, fries, onion rings, and a milkshake for $1.25? When the most popular restaurants were drive-ins? When the cute female "curbhops" wore tight short-shorts in the summer and some brought the food orders out to your car on roller skates?

Do you remember when half your Saturday night was spent cruising from drive-in to drive-in, just to see who was hangin' out? You'd park, get a Coke float, and chat with friends, over the car radios, blaring the most popular hits of the day. No fancy stereos and booming subwoofers back then, either. You had a plain, no-frills mono dashboard radio, tuned in to a favorite AM station. Some of the more expensive cars had radios that incorporated a new technology called "High Fidelity," or Hi-Fi.

Close your eyes and listen now. They're playing your favorite hit song . . .


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.



Do You Remember?

Those fights after the football game every Friday night? When some guys formed car clubs and wore satin jackets, with the club's name embroidered on the back? Their girlfriends all wore matching jackets over poodle skirts. Remember when the motorcycle punks wore black leather jackets all the time, even in the summer? Remember when the car clubs and bike clubs had "rumbles," now and again? Remember the "duck tail" haircuts the guys wore? When they were called "J.D.s" -- short for Juvenile Delinquents?

Some of those guys grew up and straightened out, once their hormones settled down, but others were headed straight for prison, and, unfortunately, a few did make it there. . . .


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.



And, speaking of hormones . . . . . Do You Remember?

When your own teen hormones were running amok? Do you recall the new and weird feelings you felt when that skinny little girl down the street emerged one fall, when school began, and she had begun to look like a budding young woman, even down to real nylons, lipstick and nail polish? Do you gals remember how the guy's voices suddenly deepened, their muscles began to resemble a man's, and they began to shave fuzzy beards? Overnight, you began to see once-familiar playmates in a brand-new light and some deep primal urge began to grow within you.

Do you remember your first date, and how nervous you were? The "Sadie Hawkins" dances, when the girls asked the boys to take them out? The Junior and Senior Proms? Getting "ringed" for the first time, and "going steady?" Do you remember going to the drive-in movies with your date on weekends and hardly noticing the film that was showing? Fat  chance you could have seen it anyway, with the car windows all steamed up like that! Did you have a Lover's Lane, where you went late on Saturday night, after cruising around for hours? Did cops ever come by, knock on your steamed-up window, and tell you to get moving? Or was it some girl's father, perhaps?

Remember what you did in that car that caused those windows to fog up? Remember the first time your steady girlfriend allowed you to "feel her up?" The first time you ever got felt up? Did you go "all the way" in high school, or did that come after graduation, or when you got married?

Do you remember when you fell in love for the first time? Still remember the special song that played when you kissed him or her? Mmmmmmm -- let's see -- I'll bet it was something like this . . .


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.


Well, I guess that's about it for this little trip down memory lane. Six songs from the generation that made Rock 'n Roll the solid musical form that it has become today. My generation. Our generation. Much has been and still will be written about us Baby Boomers, but nothing I know of can sum it all up better than a tune that came out around 1975. It was written and performed by a gentleman named Don McClean. For those of you who don't know, "The Day The Music Died" line in the song refers to the day Buddy Holly and two other artists were killed in that 1959 plane crash, outside Clear Lake, Iowa.

Teen angst being what it is, many feared that Rock 'n Roll would die with him; some may have indeed believed that it did die with him. But they were wrong. It's still very much around today. It sounds different, but most of those early influences are still there, if you really listen. You younger listeners can thank Baby Boomers, if you like rock music. It was ours. We made it our music, then we handed it off to you.

On that note, I've enjoyed being your "disc jockey" in this entry. We'll have to do it again sometime. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a bonus song -- a little American Pie!


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Well, it had to happen, sooner or later, and it did today. I consider it an inevitability when you ride a two-wheeled vehicle -- sooner or later, you're bound to dump it, and I dropped Velvet early this afternoon. And of all the places to have it happen, it was in the parking lot of the Harley dealership, where I bought her a year ago last month!! And I had a small audience of other bikers standing around, watching me! Embarrassing, to say the least! Boy, howdy!!

First, let me assure you that I'm fine; totally unhurt, with only my ego bruised and my pride banged up. Velvet is fine, too. She didn't fall that hard, really, because I was only moving about 2 mph, or less, and was already leaned way over to the right, shifting my weight to the left, so that she'd come around smartly and I could back her straight into a parking slot beside the building. As it turned out, I should have pulled in and walked it back out when I left, but unfortunately, I can't see into the future and anticipate what was going to happen.

I was about halfway into my parking maneuver when somebody out on the lot nearby shouted something at a friend at the top of his lungs, by the sound of it. I was concentrating totally on my turning maneuver and Loudmouth's shout both startled and distracted me. That's all it takes when you're doing such a tight-ass turn -- one second of distraction. Sure enough, I lost my balance and over she went, past the point of no return, when nobody can hold a 600 pound bike up, and onto her right side. I have dropped enough bikes in my life to know well what to do; namely throw my weight on that left footpeg, let go of the right handgrip and just "step" off of it. And so I did. SPLAT! The lean angle sensor that helps control the self-canceling turn signals killed her engine instantly, when it detected that the lean angle was -- well,  a bit TOO steep, if you catch my drift. If motorcycles had turn and bank indicators, like an airplane, it would have registered "TILT" at that point!

There was immediate applause from my little "audience," and a few loud whistles. "Hey, the kickstand's on the OTHER side!!" someone informed me. "Really?? Always wondered where that thang was!" I responded. "That was a perfect three-point crash!!" someone else observed. "Well, when I drop in to see everyone, I really DROP IN!!!" Everyone was laughing. In a situation like that, you might as well joke about it; you sure can't undo it.

About that time, it was the loudmouth who had startled me that walked over, along with his friend. He realized what had happened. "Sorry about that," he apologized. " Didn't mean to startle you like that. Let's get 'er back up on her wheels." And in a couple of minutes, we had her back up and they helped me back her around and into the slot I had been aiming for. I put the stand down and got back off, to see how much damage there was.

"Hardly hurt it a bit," Loudmouth told me, after he'd scoped it out. "Didn't have far to fall, leaned over like that. Looks like your crash bar took all the impact." He was right. The right side of Velvet's crash bar is a little skinned up and the highway peg on that side was twisted around, all out of whack, from where I had positioned it. The right mirror was knocked cockeyed, but not bent or broken at all. And that was all. No other damage. Crash bar (or "engine protector" as they're sometimes called) kept the breather cover from being bent and/or squashed, which could have gotten expensive!!  About time I had some good luck, but then, that's why I always put a set on a bike; in low-speed dumps, they can save you big bucks on repairs, and even at higher speeds, they can sometimes help keep your legs from being trapped under the bike, if you go down. Worth the investment, definitely.

"Why's your face so red?" Loudmouth wanted to know. I looked at him sheepishly. "Well, damn! Of ALL the places to dump my bike, it HAD to be right here at the Harley shop, right in front of the crowd!! Embarrassing!" I told him. "Hell, man -- don't worry about it!" He was laughing and I started chuckling myself. "We've all done that before, and we'll all do it again, before it's all said and done!" I nodded, remembering times past, when I had dropped a bike, more than once. "Yeah, you've broke the ice now, with that new bike," said another onlooker. "It ain't really been RODE 'less it's got a dent or two in it!" "Be thankful that it DID happen here," a lady biker said. "It could been out on a deserted country road, where I dropped mine last year!!" "Yeah, but you're a cute lady," I complimented her. "Some guy in a car would stop in a heartbeat, to help you get it back up! Hell, one look at me, and they'd speed up!! I'd be up the creek, for sure!!" We all laughed a little more and my embarrassment soon faded. When I left, Loudmouth, who's actual name is Frank, insisted on me following him up the street to Coyote Joe's, where he bought me a beer. Nice guy, and I enjoyed getting to know him, even if it wasn't under the best of circumstances.

So, yes, I've dumped bikes before, especially that little "scrambler" I had when I was a kid -- mostly from insisting on riding it off the road, when it wasn't really made for that at all. And I came within a fraction of an inch of dumping Velvet just last month. I got caught out in a rain shower and headed home. I cruised up the alley behind the Dawg House, pressed the "Open, sez me!" button on my remote, and when the garage door was all the way up, I zipped up the driveway and into my garage -- and almost went down.

My garage floor is silky, satiny, finished concrete -- smooth as a baby's behind. Never gave a thought to what that floor would be like with two very WET tires! I'd have been okay, if I'd anticipated and just pulled straight in and stopped there, but no, I had to cut to the right, in my usual manner, around the jackpost, to turn it around and head it back out the door again. I hit my rear brake lightly. BIG mistake! The rear of the bike instantly veered to the left. I let off the brake, it found traction again, and rebounded to the right, fishtailing. I just DID get my foot underneath it in time and squeezed both the front brake and clutch control levers simultaneously. It stopped two inches short of the old chest freezer, which still works, but I no longer use. Suffice it to say that the next time I brought her home in the rain, I stopped outside the door and gingerly power-walked her in and around to her parking place! Lesson learned. And, like that biker said, it'll happen again, as I continue my motorcycling hobby. It's truly inevitable. Not a matter of whether you will dump your bike, but a matter of when and where!!

Let's hope I have as much good fortune in the future!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I'm spending this week in rehab. No, not for alcohol or drug addiction, but for a very painful left knee, which I told you about in my last entry.

That joint didn't get any way but worse over the weekend, in spite of everything I did to treat it myself. I kept my dental appointment, as scheduled Monday, and all went well. I'm having little pain from the twin extractions I underwent. Either that, or the pain in my knee when I walk is so much worse that it's making me forget about my sore mouth. I was still limping along on Monday -- painfully, but still under my own motive power.

Tuesday, the day I was scheduled to leave out again, all hell broke loose. I got up from bed, stood, took one step and promptly sat right back down again. YEOWTCH!!! The pain was supercharged that morning. Felt like someone was stabbing my knee with a red-hot knife when I put the slightest weight on it. Total agony with every step I took. It was all I could do to make it to the bathroom and back.

I hobbled back in there, drew a tubful of steaming hot water, then yelped some more as I lowered myself into it. Sat there more than an hour, got out, dried off, took another step and sat back down on the Throne. The hot water didn't phase it a bit, as it had done on Sunday morning. I was now down to walking in a series of tiny "baby steps," inching along to wherever I had to go. This won't do, I thought. Ain't going trucking in this shape. I wouldn't even be able to climb up in the thing, in this condition! I called my company, told them what was wrong and that I'd be seeing my doctor that morning. Wasn't much they could say but "Okay. Keep in touch." Ten-four.

I got dressed, gingerly went down the basement steps, moving slower than a snail, made it to the garage, and sat down in my trusty pick-em-up truck. Drove to my doc's office and quickly learned that she was closed for her annual two-week vacation period. So, I went to the E.R. at the closest hospital, out of necessity. I had to find out what was wrong and get some kind of relief for it. I'm a reasonably tough old buzzard, but this kind of pain was too much for even me to shrug off. Something was very amiss in my left knee and I knew it.

I got to the E.R., drove through the closest lot and, of course, there wasn't a space to be had at all. So, I went to the next-closest lot and paid three bucks in advance. This put me across the street and in the situation of having to walk over there, then down a hill, to the E.R. entrance. I didn't make it. I got across the street without getting run over, made it onto the sidewalk, then gave out entirely; the muscles in my good right leg were screaming at me from overworking them, trying to compensate for my useless left one. I was on the verge of falling over and there was nowhere I could sit down. One look at the hill I had to descend and I was quoting Tony Soprano:  "Fuggitaboudit!!!" I would end up rolling down the hill, on my head, probably.

A hospital worker came out, noticed my plight, asked me what was wrong, and I gave him the short version of things. He held onto me, helping to support me, and called inside on the walkie-talkie he was carrying. A few minutes later, a nurse came out with a wheelchair, and she rolled me through the hospital and downstairs to the E.R. I filled out the admission form and waited till they could see me. They took me back after about twenty minutes, put me in an exam room, tossed me a gown, and told me to strip to my skivvies.

A doctor showed up and I gave him all the details I could about my injury. He squeezed around and rotated my leg and knee until he hit paydirt and I yelped with the pain. He then sent me upstairs to the Ultrasound lab, where I underwent a test for blood clots in my leg. He said that long-haul truckers, like myself, were very susceptible to blood clots, due to the long hours we spend sitting in one position, driving. I prayed that I passed that test, because that sort of thing can doom a driver's career, permanently, I knew.

Whew!!! The ultrasound showed that all was normal in my circulatory system, thank God!! The doc came back into my room and told me I had a pinched sciatic (sp?) nerve. Major nerve that runs all the way through your body, practically. That was why, he said, the pain was radiating upward, into my hip, and also downward, to the top of my foot. Major pain was in the knee, though, because that's where the pinch had occurred. He thought I did it when I twisted my knee slightly, crawling under my trailer the week before. Pulling the nails from the trailer Saturday had likely aggravated it and that's when it began hurting, as I drove home. No swelling at all, and I hadn't pulled or sprained any muscles or tendons.

He gave me a shot that made my tongue feel like it had an overcoat on, and prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, to calm the nerve down, a muscle relaxer, to calm my knee down, and some Happy Pills, to calm the pain down. All the stuff is doctor-prescribed Industrial Strength, which I need and which beats the crap out of any OTC meds you can legally buy. I'm high as a kite from the pain pills as I write this. Pleasantly high, without a pain in the world. As long as I don't put all my weight on that knee. That still gets my undivided attention, even with the meds! Doc told me to take this week off and stay off the leg all I could. That's easy advice to take. I called my company again when I got home and moved my last week of vacation up to begin this coming Saturday. That will give me an extra week to recover and I won't lose a week's pay, which I definitely can't afford to do.

So, I'm not all the way out of the woods yet, but I have gotten some relief which I badly needed. Still creeping along with very short steps, with the help of the aluminum cane I bought Sunday, and which I promptly and aptly named, "McCane." It's my Best Friend right now; we're almost inseparable!! I lean on it to my heart's content, and it supports me like a government social program. And so far, at least, it's proven to be 100 times more dependable than the government ever was!

Now, let's get this screwed-up nerve all healed up fast. Got a vacation week coming up and I WANNA RIDE VELVET!!!


Sunday, July 13, 2008


Not riding Velvet this weekend, for two reasons. The first is that it's raining here currently and although motorcyclists do ride in the rain all the time, I prefer not to, unless I get caught out in it, as has already happened three or four times in my newly-revived motorcycling hobby. 

Reminds me of my youth, back in high school, when I rode my little Honda in every kind of weather there was and got soaked many times. Emphasis on the word "soaked." You will never get wetter than you will on a bike in the rain, outside a swimming pool or the shower. I carry rain gear with me, yeah, but problem is that when it starts coming down, you get thoroughly saturated before you can find a dry place to stop and put the stuff on! At that point, why even bother with it at all?? And the natural wind chill you generate when you're moving is clammy, even in the summer months. I don't need pneumonia; got enough problems without adding that to the list, thank you!

Which brings me to my second reason for not riding -- a very sore left knee. And a little gimpy, too, with a slight limp. I twisted it last week, while I was hooking to a trailer. The place had the trailers stacked like sardines in a can, only inches between them, so I had to scrunch up underneath my loaded box (again) in order to crank the dollies up, then had to crawl back out from underneath it. Somehow, in the process, my body turned to the left, but my left leg and knee were firmly planted on the asphalt and, uh, didn't turn with the rest of me. Felt a sharp pain instantly and something went "GRONK" in there. It hurt when I did that, so I stopped doing that immediately. Pain is nature's way of telling you to Cut The Crap -- Now!!

It was getting stiff and sore by yesterday morning and by the time I got home, it was decidedly painful, getting in and out of my tractor. Riding was out of the question; I didn't trust my sore left knee to securely handle the weight of my 600 pound Harley when I was stopped, so I passed on that idea. I limped in the house, limped to my 4-wheeler, limped to the drugstore, bought some Icy Hot liniment, limped back home, and slathered half the container on my aching joint. Felt a little better, but still stiff as hell and hurt like a bitch when I first got up this morning.I drew a tubful of steaming water, as hot as I could possibly stand it, lowered my jumbo body into it as gently as I could, and soaked there for almost two hours, drawing more hot water as needed. That seemed to take much of the soreness out of it, and now, slathered again with the Icy Hot and wrapped in an elastic bandage for extra support, I'm sitting here, painless for now, writing this and watching the light drizzle fall outside.

Now let's add insult to injury and reveal the fact that I'm home until Tuesday, due to a dental appointment in the morning when I will have two (2) teeth extracted. Oh, goody!! I'm really looking forward to that, on top of my wounded knee, as I'm sure you can imagine! Gee -- oral surgery! What fun!!! I asked for the day off tomorrow because with all the needed anesthesia I likely won't be in any shape to drive, at least commercially. New dentist; my former one retired at the end of last year and I don't know what manner of Happy Pills this new one will give me.

Oh, I could be Mr. Tough, suck it up, and go on out, but that's probably your worst nightmare, isn't it? A driver behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound monster, whizzing down the highway, zonked out of his gourd on Goofballs!! So, in the interest of public safety, I'll sit home till it wears fully off. By then, with any luck at all, my mouth will just be sore and I can live with that for a day or two. Small, minor things, like eating, will be touch and go for a time, but what the hey -- I can stand to starve off a pound or so anyway! I will survive this, trust me. Vacation's coming up next month and I have no doubt I'll be all healed up, ready to hit the road on Velvet again and ride myself silly by then, if not well before!!

In addition to banging myself up last week, I had another occurrence which had me wondering if anyone could see me at all. I don't mean see me in my truck, I mean see me, myself, I, etc. I went to a shipper to get my go-home load, swept out my trailer, smoked a cigarette while they loaded me (outside, of course, as usual), then took the tally sheet to the dock superviser's office, so he could type the loading info into his computer and print my bills out. Stood there at that window for twenty solid minutes while the gentleman totally ignored me.

I held my own hand up and gazed at it, then looked down at my feet, just to make sure I hadn't become somehow invisible. Nope. I could still see myself, so it was more than likely that anyone else could, too. Thoughts went through my head:  Uh, excuse me, sir, but I'm -- like, standing here, y'know?? The lights are all on --  no power failure. I'm highly visible. I am a human being. I exist and I'm right here. Why can't you at least acknowlege that fact?? Tell me, "just a second," or something to that effect and at least assure me that you're aware of my presence!!

In the course of ten years on the road, I've dealt with all types of people, all as varied and diverse as people are. I've had arguments with snotty, hateful security guards, some of whom let that little tin badge go straight to their heads, I've been in uncounted discussions with other drivers, both on my CB and in person, played Let's Make A Deal with umpteen lumpers, dealt with uncaring shipping/receiving clerks, including some female ones who were evidently suffering from Permanent PMS, and even had an occasional run-in with a spotter (although most of those guys are okay, in my personal experience.) Suffice it to say that I've been bitched at and hollered at by many, and have given most back as good as I received, when I could do so without jeopardizing my job. Truckers have to be tough, that's a fact. It can be a tough occupation at times. I'm not one to even let my company officials run over me; I have given them my view of matters more than once, respectfully and politely, of course.

Never, though, have I run into anything more rude than simply being ignored like I was at that shipper! I'd feel much better if I were in an argument; at least then, I could stick up for myself in the matter. But there's nothing you can do about such a cold shoulder, really. I mean, the man wasn't impolite, or rude to me, once he did come to the window, finally. He was friendly enough, in fact, and I'm not a rude person myself, by nature, so I responded in kind, but I had to repress the anger I was feeling inside. Am I making too big a deal out of this, you think?? Am I wrong, to let that treatment make me mad? Should I just shrug it off and not let it bother me? What do you readers think?

Finally, I've got a musical treat for you, well at least some of you, anyway!! My older readers may remember this tune well, as it's the theme song from a very popular film that was released way back in 1964. My middle-aged and older readers will be counting the gray hairs on this one, for sure, and for you younger readers, listen in and get educated a little! This is the main theme from the early James Bond film, Goldfinger, and the song, of course, has the same title as the film.

Goldfinger was performed by a Welsh singer named Shirley Bassey, who at that time was unknown in the U.S., although she was a major star in the UK and Europe. She went on to perform the themes of two more Bond films and remained a star overseas up through the mid-70's, although she never had another hit in America. But this gal had one set of pipes on her, let me tell you!! Nobody to my knowlege has ever covered this song and I don't think anyone else ever could do it justice like Ms. Bassey did it. This ain't rock and roll -- it's Big Band music, but very well-performed. It's still about the best all-time movie theme I've ever heard in my entire life.

So, enjoy, and I'll see all of you a little further down the road!!


You MUST CLICK for the song to play.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Declaration of Independence (1776)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, on July 2, 1776, a group of courageous colonists, meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, read aloud the final draft of a document which would change the course of world history. Penned by a Virginia colonist and leader named Thomas Jefferson, it had been approved by a commitee of five other rebels just a short time before the formal reading was rendered. With those bold, ringing words, those brave men declared the freedom of all thirteen of America's colonies from the British crown and King George the Third. Two days later, on July 4th, they signed their names to it, pledging their very lives to the cause of American liberty.

That Declaration of Independence became the founding document of what would become known as the United States of America. Our nation. Mine and yours alike. It told the world of the reasons why America was separating itself from the oppressive tyranny of the British Empire. These founding fathers possessed brilliant minds, though many had little formal education, and through the next seven years of a brutal and often bitter Revolutionary War, their common dream of liberty kept them going until the struggle finally ended. A constitution was then written, the thirteen colonies became independent states, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, in 2008, as we eat hot dogs and hamburgers -- those purely American creations that we all love -- and watch the fireworks tonight, we should all pause and reflect on what those courageous men accomplished on our behalf, on what our freedom and liberty means, and of all the brave men, then and since then, that have died defending the liberty that was declared in that document. It wouldn't hurt to re-read the Declaration of Independence today, if you can make the time. It's short and don't take that long to read at all. And its meaning is as perfectly clear today as it was at the time it was written.

Here are some thoughts of mine on this Independence Day, for what it's worth:

Freedom isn't free. Throughout the entire course of human history, nations that have attained their freedom have always had to fight for it. And they've had to fight to maintain it, because some other envious entity is always trying to take it away from you. For that reason, we should never take our freedom for granted. If we become too complacent, we run the risk of losing the very thing this nation was founded on and which we value most of all.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln said:  "America will never be taken from without. If it should ever fall, it will be from within." Wise words, and ones very much worth heeding and remembering, for all Americans. Be watchful and aware of what's happening right here at home, especially in our government. There are forces at work, here and now, that want to destroy our freedom and put us all in some kind of mass collective. They seem to promise some utopian "paradise," but they will deliver tyranny. And that tyranny already exists, on some levels. It must be stopped; squashed before it can spread further. We must be ever watchful, then rise up as one and speak with one overpowering voice in putting it to an end.

If we go to sleep -- if we falter -- everything that those founding fathers stood for will come crashing down and everything countless thousands of soldiers died for over all these years will be lost. And it will never return again.

Think about it, while you're eating your hot dog today.