Letter 4

Dear Readers,

How do you start a tradition? In my case its always been without planning and by accident. Along time ago, my first year as an elected member of our governing body, I stood in front of my home. It was the first Christmas in our house and it sure looked like a big house to me. It was in fact a 3 bedroom, Colonial home, where I moved with my 5 children and wife. As I stared at the house on that frosty December morning, I was trying to determine how I was going to decorate our home. I’m very much into Christmas decorating and I make that admission with no apology. I finally took some shiny red paper and cut the needed sections to size and put a full sheet over the door.

The red Christmas door was born. A wreath installed, spotlights out in front to light it at night completed the process. I was very pleased with the result. I suspect there are a lot of people in our neighborhood that never saw the door in front of our home undecorated at Christmas since that first event took place 44 years ago this Christmas. Each Christmas, with one exception, I decorated that door myself. The exception was in 1982 when unfortunately I bumped into a tree with my airplane and spent that Christmas, of which I have almost no recollection, in Princeton Medical Center . I am happy to report that with some help, I still decorate the door myself and it looks precisely as it did 44 years ago. I would hope that I will have many more years to place that shiny red paper and wreath on my home.

Serendipity played a hand in yet another tradition in the Williams family. In 1957 I purchased a 33 1/3 RPM record of Lionel Barrymore reciting “A Christmas Carol”. I’ve had several theme songs for my program over the 30 years and I only can remember one and that is the first. However, I can still remember the music played in Mr. Barrymore’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol”. Playing that recording on Christmas Eve became a tradition in our family. While I have no idea where the original recording finally was stored, at the start of my radio career, I recorded a little message from me to my kids and future generations, gave each of my children a personal message and then a tape of the original record most likely violating some copyright law. Each of my kids still have those tapes and to varying degrees the same tradition. The tape is played just once on Christmas Eve, sometimes before or sometimes after going to church.

Finally, a far more recent tradition is Susan and I making an annual trip to New York City for a Christmas visit. We generally go the week before Christmas driving (yes driving) into New York City . I understand that the tolls will be $12 this year however, I’m a big spender. We park the car in the same garage where I parked for many years when doing my program from New York City . We walk to Rockefeller Center adjacent to 30 Rock and admire the Christmas Tree. The time that we spend enjoying the tree is oftentimes dictated by the temperature. The colder the temperature, the shorter our visit to that wonderful landmark. Then we wander through the crowds to 5th Avenue crossing the street to Sak’s 5th Avenue . No, not to shop. Many of you that know, the Sak’s windows are known far and wide and there are substantial lines in order to walk past the windows to admire the craftsmanship of the designers. The next stop directly across from Sak’s is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Neither of us is Roman Catholic but we certainly enjoy our annual visit to the cathedral. I light the required candles and a prayer or two which shall forever be known only to me. Strolling through the cathedral and the back areas where the Cardinals are interred is the best part of our annual visit. It is a remarkable building. Any visitor to New York City should really make this part of their experience. The weather becomes a factor as we stroll up 5th Avenue towards Central Park . One of the things that we look for is a friendly and always packed, cocktail lounge where in some cases you can pay $20 for a cocktail. We have done this each Christmas since our marriage. Next is dinner. A different restaurant each year which is selected with care. We have been fortunate to have been to many of the best restaurants in Manhattan and in this case we are largely confined to the mid-town area. Dinner is always pleasant but the real reason it is pleasant for me is the company. Food, you can get anywhere. On several occasions we have gone to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas show with the Rockettes. We have seen it at least half dozen times so it’s not an annual experience. I hardily recommend it to visitors to the city, and residents who have never seen the show. It is well worth the price of the ticket. Once dinner is completed we generally walk back to our car and make our way home to the house I’ve owned for over 4 decades in New Jersey . Finally, on Christmas Eve I attend Mass at St. Peters Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey . The neighborhood has changed a great deal. Many years ago when I first started this sojourn with my children and wife, if you didn’t get to the church by 11:30, you didn’t get in. Unhappily, the congregation has dwindled and now the church barely fills by midnight. I enjoy the experience and find it a wonderful way to begin Christmas Day, my favorite time of the year. At the risk of being maudlin, these are some of the things that I do and perhaps a side to my nature that is foreign to many of you. While it may not be appropriate timing, I’d like to hear what your traditions are. What gives you pleasure when you look back on your life is truly important. The things that I have mentioned to you are important to me, none of which have a lot of expense attached to them. All of which will likely be of no moment except to the family. There are things in your life, not necessarily attached to Christmas, that are important to you. Would you care to share them?

A couple of years ago when I was still broadcasting you may remember my unhappiness with the necessity for getting a Visa to go to Mainland China . First we had to go to the consulate office in New York City . After filling out numerous forms, we had to come back about 6 hours later to get our Visa’s which I felt were quite expensive and time consuming. I was put out about the whole thing. Then when in China I spoke to several Chinese and told them of the lengthy process to get our Visa’s only to be informed how much of a problem it was for them to get a Visa to the U.S. , often with a 100 day wait just for an appointment to be interviewed. I rethought the entire process. Why is this necessary? I can hear legions of you responding, “we have to keep our boarders safe”. “If we didn’t do this legions of Chinese or others who wish to do us harm would come streaming into the country.” This is utter nonsense. If you believe it’s very difficult for undocumented Chinese to get into this country, just visit any Chinese restaurant. Go into the back and you’ll find Chinese speaking individuals working in the kitchen with no papers and no English. What I’m getting at is thousands upon thousands of plain Chinese worker bees are smuggled into this country every year and nobody seems to make much of a fuss about it. These same Chinese, South Americans and those from India enter into Europe , with almost no documentation, for a short visa stay. Guess who’s getting those billions of tourist dollars? In our country the visitors from foreign countries has dropped significantly in the last few years. One of the reasons cited for these lost visitors is “why should we go through the hassle that the U.S. enforces when we can go to European countries that have just as much to offer with little or no hassle?” The point is, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars and jobs are lost to tourist business because of these ridiculous regulations. There is no question that someone has determined they can find entry into this country if properly financed. If anybody wants to challenge this then lets get together and put up a large sum of money in a Trust account and if the party that says we cannot get people into the country prevails, my money goes to charity. However, I will not lose. It’s a no brainer. I have read that the average traveler from a foreign country leaves about $4,000 here. Think about that. With all of the hassles between our two major parties, about what should be cut, who we should tax, etc., there are many activities that should be totally bi-partisan such as, a much quicker screening process for foreign visitors if you must insist upon interviews. It’s critical that we immediately hire a whole bunch of people to work in our embassies and consulates to expedite the interviews down to a couple of days. We could charge a minor fee to each person applying for a Visa to cover the cost of additional help. Why would anybody object? Similar arguments could be made for the establishment for the oil line between Canada and the United States . Canada provides the majority of our imported oil and that’s a fact. They are close by. Also a fact. A solid ally? Incontrovertible. So many people object for parochial reasons. Understandable but these must be considered quickly and put aside or find a solution to satisfy their objections. There may come a time when alternate and renewable sources of energy become available. Until that time, which I don’t expect to live to see, the world will be dependent on fossil fuels. Making it difficult to get will have little immediate affect except to drive up the price. Things like that oil line will produce tens of thousands of jobs. That can’t be argued. Isn’t that one of our main problems, not having enough jobs inside the United States ? No matter what you propose, there will be some people with concerns and some of the concerns are legitimate. Until such time that we get the government out of the way (I use the word “government” broadly and I am in no way supporting one political party from the other), don’t you think it’s time we adopted a realistic point of view? Unless a politician unequivocally promises to get out in front of this creation of jobs with the specifics I have described, I don’t care what his party or whether they are described a right winger or left winger, you can bet that I am not going to support him. What do you think campers?

I have nothing to report to you yet with regard to the Podcast possibilities. I have been up to my ears with our little Christmas enterprises and will have to put it on hold. The reality is once you get into December, it’s extraordinarily difficult to reach people and conduct business. That observed, once the first of the year gets here, we will be pursuing this hopefully, to a good conclusion. I have made it very clear to my family and co-workers that if this isn’t done right, it won’t get done at all. I have to thank so many of you for writing and telling me that you would very much like for us to try this and that you would be part of it.

COMMENTS FROM FELLOW READERS:

L.L. wrote: Here’s what’s really ticking me off. Politicians bickering among themselves. They act like first graders on the play ground. No wait, that’s disrespectful to the first graders.

I.T. wrote: I found that last email to be very disturbing. Perry has shown repeatedly that he is not intellectually qualified to be President. He has been unable to perform in the comparatively low stress situation of a debate compared to being President of the United States and you think that is fine? Unfortunately, this is where we part ways. I think your views over the recent years have become out of touch with the times. I have learned a lot from you over the years and thank you for that.

My response to I.T.: “Someone failed to communicate here and it must be me. You’re implying that this is some kind of endorsement by me of Mr. Perry and whether or not I support him. Nothing could be further from the truth.”……“What I was trying to demonstrate is the absurdity of making such a big deal out of a non-event. Whether it’s running for president, qualifying to be your dentist, or sell you groceries. The idiocy of spending so much time and being exposed to unaccountable bits on the tube of Mr. Perry’s behavior.”…….“We are constantly being inundated with material that has no bearing on the topic that is being discussed.”

M.S. wrote: People expect Chili’s to be exceptional but they don’t expect the President to know what he’s going to say to the world?

T.F. wrote: Pre 9/11 I was on a flight to Fresno where a woman went into a cardiac arrest and the flight was diverted. While waiting for clearance to continue the flight, we were allowed off the plane and into the terminal. It was after normal hours and there were no security screeners. We were cleared and re-boarded the plane. When we landed in our original destination (we were called a “sterile flight”) we were allowed to exit the plane but had to go through a back door that placed us outside of security. I am sure a terrorist planned that unfortunate emergency as well.

FROM THE TRAVEL CORNER: BAGGAGE TAGS: I’m sure many of you will be traveling now and into the Spring. I have mentioned this so often on the radio and in my column and I find it hard to believe that many have not adopted this tip as I find it to be a habit that is absolutely essential. There is no cost involved and takes no time to accomplish it. Simply put, you have baggage tags from the airlines, cruise ship, etc., in addition to your own baggage tags on your luggage. Oftentimes those tags get removed from your luggage, accidently or deliberately. Every time you check a bag, you should put your name, address, telephone number, etc., on a big piece of paper inside your bag. If everything gets torn off of the outside, when they go into the bag, and they will, they will find ample directions to see that this luggage gets to you. Without it, the chances are slim to none that you will ever see it again.

CRUISE ACCOMMODATIONS: If you’re planning a cruise and budget is an important item as it is for most of us, do yourself a favor. Take an inexpensive cabin on the ship. I have looked at some of the inside cabins that are currently available and they are extremely comfortable. No, you can’t look out the window but all you have to do is walk across the hall and go out on the deck to see everything you want to see for less than a third of the cost. Money saved on the accommodation can then be spent on shore excursions, souvenirs, etc. I’m not telling you that if you have the resources that you shouldn’t upgrade to an outside cabin, balcony cabin or even a suite. If you’re having to save for a good deal of time to even go on the cruise which does apply to many people, take it from B.W. the least expensive accommodation is the way to go. Aside from where you sleep, every other cruise facility is available to you and to the guy that buys the Junior Suite for several thousand more. He gets nothing more outside of the accommodation. Maybe this will make a cruise available to you knowing that it’s not necessary to have that suite to have a wonderful cruise experience.

From my home to yours, Susan, Pistol, Biscuit and I wish each and every one of you a wonderful Christmas season.

Keep in touch.

Bruce H. Williams