What do these folks have in common? (a reprise)

The following post was written almost eight years ago. While more states and cities have increased their minimum wages and the Affordable Car Act helps greatly, this post remains relevant.

The following people have something in common. Please scroll down the series of descriptions and let me know what is common for all of them. The names of have been changed to protect their confidentiality, but the stories are very real.

Anna is working as an office manager working full-time making $8.00 per hour. She has is separated due to a domestic violence situation and has two children.

Hope is working two jobs – one full-time as an Administrative Assistant making $11.75 and the other part-time as an intake specialist at a Human Services agency making $11.00 an hour. She is also separated due to a domestic violence situation and has four children.

Julie is working full-time as a CSR (Customer Service Representative) for a bank making just over $14 an hour. She is unmarried with three children.

Nina is working full-time as a CSR for a utility company making $12.25 an hour. She is unmarried with one child.

Sarina is an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant making $12 an hour. She is unmarried with three kids.

Paul is working full-time on a cleaning crew making $11.00 an hour. He is unmarried with one child.

Carrie and Michael are married with four kids. Michael was laid off and Carrie is working in hospitality at a local hotel making $9.00 an hour.

Felicia is a Certified Nursing Assistant making $9.60 an hour at a hospital. She is unmarried and has one child.

Dedrick is a full-time security guard making $9.25 an hour. He is unmarried with three children.

Cassandra is working two part-time jobs, one as an afterschool teacher assistant making $11.25 per hour and the other as a retail clerk for a discount company making $7.95 per hour. She is unmarried with two children.

Terry is working as a public school teacher assistant making $11.00 an hour. She is unmarried with one child.

I could go on, but let me ask the question. What do these folks have in common? They are all homeless. When I tell people that the homeless people the agency I volunteer with have jobs, these people do not believe me at first. How can they be working and be homeless? It takes some people time for that to sink in. In fact, 84% of the families we help are working. The median wage for those 84% is $9.00 an hour. I purposefully used higher figures to illustrate a point – you can make above the living wage for an individual, but still be homeless if you are a parent. The living wage in my area for an individual is around $10.00 an hour and for a one-parent, one-child family is around $19.00 per hour.

There are five additional things I want to mention that are important to understanding, preventing and climbing out of poverty:

  • Family size is highly correlated with poverty. We must do a better job on family planning and providing birth control means and education. For my evangelical readers, your kids are going to be tempted to have sex. Please do not preach a message of abstinence alone. Teach girls how to say no. Teach boys to treat girls as more than sex objects and that no means no. But, let them know that if they must have a sexual relationship, to use protection.
  • Education is key. While the economic downturn altered this statement with layoffs and downsizings, for the most part, the higher your education, the less likely you are to be homeless. For kids that fall off the track, getting them back in school or on a path to a GED is essential. Fortunately, the community college systems in cities and regions do a pretty good job at getting people educated and developed with new career skills.
  • Healthcare is very important. The absence of healthcare is the key reason for personal bankruptcy in the US and an important reason for homelessness. People cannot afford their employer plan and one of the kids get sick or has an issue. Or, the parent stopped taking his or her medications due to cost and the resulting physical or mental issue causes a problem for the family or on the job. Fully implementing Obamacare will help, but the states who did not expand Medicaid need to do so.
  • Minimum wage needs to at least be the living wage for an individual. The homeless we help work hard, sometimes at more than one job. People like to say that increasing the minimum wage impacts the number of jobs. To be honest, most studies do not support that contention. We need to increase the minimum wage to the living wage for an individual. These jobs perpetuate poverty (please read “Nickeled and Dimed in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich). Short of that, we need to increase it more than it is now and graduate it to a higher level. Yet, the same people who decry people on welfare, also don’t want to pay people for an honest day’s work. If we pay people better and not like an economic slave, then the economy will actually flourish more.
  • Domestic violence is real. About 30% of the people in our program have come out of an abusive relationship. So, the spouse is making due without one of the incomes (for the most part) as well as dealing with a court-ordered spouse to stay away from her and the kids. I have said this before. If you are in an abusive relationship – leave. He will not change – leave. He will move beyond verbal abuse and it will become physical – leave. For the sake of your kids – leave. You can live a more normal life. Domestic violence is about power and control. It is difficult, but please leave.

Our agency is built with a model of helping people climb a ladder out of homelessness. The past fiscal year, 91% of our families were back to self-sufficiency in 21 months.  We provide rental subsidies based on their ability to pay, but they must work with a social worker and meet certain milestones. We also offer Hope Teams to mentor the family and kids. We do not do for them what they can do for themselves, so they must have a savings plan, take classes on Bridges Out of Poverty, and achieve certain milestones.

We all need to better understand our poverty problem in America. We must do better, but it must begin with realizing how it happens and helping people climb ladders out of poverty. We cannot solve this problem by kicking them when they are down and placing ill-founded labels on them as reasons to dismiss them as undeserving. Not only is that cold-hearted, but it is harmful to our economic growth. As Gandhi said it so well, “a society’s greatness is measured in how it takes care of its less fortunate.”

Just a few thoughts from the cheap seats

When I was in college in Atlanta, the major league baseball team was in one of its ebb periods, where victories were less frequent than losses. Being a college student, we could get a $10 ticket to that night’s game and sit up in the right field bleachers. Yes, $10. Of course, we got what we paid for from these cheap seats, but two big beers later, the game got more entertaining, at least for us.

The cheap seats offer you a distant view of things, so please keep this vantage point in mind, as you review these thoughts.

  • If a politician has to tell you he or she is not a racist, ignore him or her. He or she is a racist. Senator Ron Johnson, who is not known for truthfulness, said he felt safe during the riots at the Capitol, but would have felt less so with a BLM crowd. This is beyond dog whistle racism and overlooks the fact, the BLM movement is multi-racial and largely peaceful.
  • If a politician has to modify an inane comment with two inane parts to it, eliminating only one of the inane parts, does that not mean they are doubling down on the other inane part? Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has amended her conspiracy parroted statement that Jews are using space lasers to cause wildfires, by eliminating the slight on Jews. OK. Space lasers? And, you are in Congress?
  • If a politician has to film a commercial saying “I am not a witch,” she has already lost. In 2010, Tea Party proponent Christine O’Donnell defeated much better candidates in a primary for the Delaware Senate seat. It was reported that she had made earlier claims of being a witch. This story blew up her candidacy, leading to said commercial. She lost the Senate race in a big way. Given the previous story, she might have won in 2020.
  • If a politician or celebrity is known for womanizing and womanizes again, he is more than likely guilty as charged relative to someone who may have strayed once. That does not make the latter person innocent, but one does need to consider a person’s history. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Gary Hart, Prince Andrew, et al, are well-known for thinking with the organ below their belts. When someone has dozens of people with whom his philandering or worse occurred, then that sets a precedent. Andrew Cuomo looks like he might fit the bill.

That is enough from the cheap seats. What are your thoughts?

Lines to remember

Those who follow this blog know I love good song lyrics. Here are few, leaving off the ones I tend to quote the most. Please add your favorites at the end, as any list like this will be found lacking.

You’ve been telling me you’re a genius since you were seventeen. In all this time I’ve known you, I still don’t know what you mean.” Steely Dan in “Reelin’ in the Years.”

“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Bob Seger in “Against the Wind.”

“Stayed in bed all mornin’ just to pass the time. There’s something wrong here there can be no denyin’. One of us is changin’ or maybe we’ve just stopped tryin’.” Carole King in “It’s too Late.”

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Rush in “Free Will.”

“I wish for just one time, you could stand in side my shoes. Then you would know what a drag it is to see you.” Bob Dylan in “Positively 4th Street” better known as “You’ve got a lotta nerve.”

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we make a deal. Maybe together we can get somewhere. Any place is better.” Tracy Chapman in “Fast Car.”

“Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes. And found my cleanest dirty shirt.” Kris Kristofferson in “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

“Just when I think. I’ve taken more than would a fool. I start fallin’ back in love with you. Alicia Keys in “Fallin'”

“Then I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote. And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat. We went down to the courthouse, and the judge put it all to rest. No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle, no flowers, no wedding dress.” Bruce Springsteen in “The River.”

“And every time you speak her name. Does she know how you told me. You’d hold me until you died?” Alanis Morisette in “You Ought to Know.”

“Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothin’ to kill or die for. And no religion, too. Imagine all the people livin’ life in peace.” John Lennon in “Imagine.”

“Operator, well could you help me place this call? See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded. She’s living in L. A. with my best old ex-friend Ray. A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated.” Jim Croce in “Operator.”

“Daddy loved and raised eight kids on a miner’s pay. Mommy scrubbed our clothes on a washboard every day. Why, I’ve seen her fingers bleed. To complain there was no need. She’d smile in Mommy’s understanding way.” Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

“Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father too bold. Maybe you’re just like my mother. She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied). Why do we scream at each other. This is what it sounds like. When doves cry” Prince in “When Doves Cry.”

“Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?. Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?. I’d gladly do it because. I don’t want to fade away. Give me one more day, please. I don’t want to fade away. In your heart I want to stay.” Eric Clapton in “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Love. Loss. Pleading. Contempt. Reality. Reflection. Aspiration. There are lots of emotions wrapped up in these songs. I added the last one is it is not as well known, but to hear Clapton’s guitar and plaintive voice accent this song is worth listening to.

A man will never be shot while doing the dishes

Truisms. Sometimes we overlook obvious truths, as we look for deeper enlightenment. Here are a few to sink your teeth into regarding relationships.

  • A man will never be shot while doing the dishes. Even if he has driven his wife past the breaking point, she will at least wait until he finishes to do away with him.
  • The first sign of thinning hair for man is when he spends a day on the beach building sand castles with his kids. He will wonder that night why his scalp hurts so much – it is called sunburn.
  • A woman does not want a man to fix her problem, which is in our nature. She wants him to shut up and listen as she vents. The man’s job is to nod or say “uh-huh” on occasion.
  • A man is officially overweight when his belt buckle is more parallel than perpendicular to the floor.
  • A woman who can laugh at herself is far more desirable than a woman who cannot. The same holds true for a man.
  • Women tend to be in better shape than men as they work at it more. Drive down any road and compare the number of female joggers to male ones.
  • A man who can fix something or who is willing to crawl under a house may have discovered that he is at his most desirability to his spouse. Just do not let the tool belt reveal a fanny crack as you stoop over as that will end said desirability.
  • A woman who can cook will end up with a heavy husband unless she discovers low-carb cooking. See above comment about the belt buckle.
  • That honeymoon period does wane and the love ebbs and flows, so you better like your spouse or significant other as much or more than you love him or her. That will help greatly between the ebbs and flows. The ability to laugh will come in handy.
  • Finally, true equality in marriage will occur when LGBTQ plus couples get divorced at the same rate as heterosexual ones. Doing the dishes will help lessen the divorce propensity for all types of couples.

There are two secrets to good relationships above. The first is that word “laugh.” The second is that word “like.” Both work with all types of marriages and relationships. They will help sand over the rough patches when love and lust hide in the closet for a time. Just don’t let them hide too long. An unexpected hug or caress might get them to wander out for a spell.

None of the above is intended to offend anyone. If I did, please let me know. After thirty-five years of marriage, I have been blessed with a woman who still stands the sight of me and can laugh with me even when she has heard my jokes many times before. I do need to find some new material, though.

Only women bleed – an unlikely source for powerful words

Whether his name rings a bell for a younger generation, there is an old rocker named Alice Cooper, who beneath his “Kiss” like make-up, sang some great rock-n-roll songs. But, he co-wrote and recorded one of the most powerful ballads, with domestic violence and maltreatment of women as a back drop. The song was aptly entitled “Only women bleed.”

Here is sample of the lyrics from the middle of the song.

“Man makes your hair gray
He’s your life’s mistake
All you’re really lookin’ fors an even break
He lies right at you
You know you hate this game
Slaps you once in a while
And you live and love in pain

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at al
l

Only women bleed”

Domestic violence remains a hidden trauma for women. I use the word “hidden” as many victims try to hide their pain and bruises. They have been told it is their fault by their abusers. They are shamed as well as beaten. And, the abusers are quite adroit at masking their violent and controlling tendencies from their co-workers, friend and relatives.

In an agency to help working homeless families that I volunteered with, about 1/3 of the families in need were domestic violence survivors. In addition to losing their home, the spouse and family had to also experience the trauma of domestic violence. PTSD in these families had two causes.

If you are in a domestic violence situation or know someone who is, here are two loudspeaker bulletins.

  • He will not change. Full stop.
  • Find a way to get out before it is too late.

Let me close with the painful story of a man who started a local group called “Men for Change.” His sister hid from him and her other siblings that her husband was beating her. She would avoid family gatherings when bruises were apparent. She also hid the fact her husband was beating her two boys, on occasion ramming their heads into the ceiling.

She hid this from her siblings until they found out. How did they? He killed their sister Only women bleed. The abusers will not change. Get out.

A Path appears – Women and Children need our help (a reprise for Women’s History Month)

The following post was written almost six years ago, but still holds relevance. On the good news side, more women are running for office and winning elections. And, the US just voted in its first female Vice-President. Yet, these three powerful books remain tough, but essential reads.

Our friend Debra (see link below) has written a review of the much-needed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn called “Half the Sky.” This is one of the toughest reads you will ever take on as it discusses how women are maltreated around the globe. In addition to how awful it is to the women and children who are subject to this maltreatment including rape, sex slavery, genital mutilation, fistula due to births before the body is able, and domestic violence, it discusses the economic detriment to those communities. The book is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky, so if you treat them poorly, you are devaluing your economy, competing with one arm tied behind your back in a world that will leave you behind.

https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/who-cares-about-poor-women/

Kristof and WuDunn have followed up their first book with one called “A Path Appears,” which expands on these issues, but discusses how we can make a difference. We can find a path forward to help women, children and communities in need and how it will do the giver as much good as the receiver. Attached is a New York Times review which provides a review and summary of the book. I have yet to read this book, but have seen the two authors interviewed on PBS Newshour as they discuss how each of us can play a role in helping others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/a-path-appears-by-nicholas-kristof-and-sheryl-wudunn.html?_r=0

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem. While we are only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

Our world needs stronger positioning of women. We see the wonderful examples with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine LaGarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to name only a few, but need more. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, while not the first female, she was the most widely known ambassador of the US and made a huge difference to the issue of helping women.

But, we cannot wait on more women to get in power. We all need to see the wisdom of treating women and children fairly and as we would want to be treated. We all need to see that if we devalue women, we are limiting idea creation, market opportunities and good governance in our country and communities. We all need to see that treating a human being like property is not in keeping with the overarching messages of religious texts or answering well the Christian question of WWJD? What would Jesus do? He would treat women like he would want to be treated.

I am looking for a hard headed woman – a Valentine’s Day reprise

This post was written about seven years ago. I thought of it when I was recently commenting on how our life partners lift us up and make us better. They complete us..

One of my favorite Cat Stevens (Yusuf) songs is “I’m Looking for a Hard Headed Woman.” I tease my wife (and she returns the favor) about being hard headed. But, if you look at the lyrics of this song, you will note that Stevens is singing about looking for someone who is real and not contrived. He wants someone who is hard headed about being true to herself and seeking the same in her partner.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will take me for myself,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I won’t need nobody else, no, no, no.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed — yes, yes, yes.

I know a lot of fancy dancers,
People who can glide you on a floor,
They move so smooth but have no answers.
When you ask “Why’d you come here for?”
“I don’t know” “Why?”

I know many fine feathered friends
But their friendliness depends on how you do.
They know many sure fired ways
To find out the one who pays
And how you do.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me feel so good,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I know my life will be as it should — yes, yes, yes.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman…

Two lines jump out at me in the song, one in the beginning and one in the end. First, he says “one who will take me for myself.” He does not want someone trying to make him into something he is not. Yet, in the final stanza, he sings “one who will make me do my best.”  He wants a partner that will help bring out the best in him. He wants his lover to believe in him and help him do the best he can. To me, that is what having the right life partner is all about.

I have used two other songs to describe my wife of now thirty-five years. In Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song,” also made famous by Anne Murray, they sing in the last stanza “Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck. And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home, don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.” Holding the world in a paper cup is a terrific metaphor for someone who is genuine, such as my wife.

The other is from Gordon Lightfoot, “Rainy Day People.” He sings “Rainy day people, always seem to know when it’s time to call. Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen until they’ve heard it all.” My wife is the best of listeners. In fact, she would rather hear you talk about yourself, than the other way around. And, it is raining right now and she is out helping a friend, which is not unusual.

Like Stevens sings about, once he finds the hard headed woman, his life will be blessed. My wife is one who holds the world in a paper cup and knows when it is time to call. Thank goodness she is also hard headed, as well. For I am blessed…and equally hard headed.

Those what if questions

As we age, we sometimes reflect on what might have transpired if something happened differently. It is an interesting exercise, but also makes you ponder what is important to you. With this in mind, here are a few what if questions.

  • What if the girl or boy you felt madly about reciprocated with the same fervor? If that happened, then you may not have met your wonderful spouse and had your terrific children
  • What if you turned down a drink invitation from someone who would become the most important person in your life?.
  • What if you got the job you desperately wanted in another town? Would your career path have dramatically changed?
  • What if you had not changed your mind about leaving a job and went to another employer? Would you have shortchanged yourself?
  • What if you had not said yes to joining a charity group to help people in need? Would you be less open minded about the plight of others?
  • What if you not said no to a road less traveled and did not veer off to explore some wonderful venues?
  • What if you did not mend a fence with an old friend or relative before it was too late?

We are the compilation of our life experiences. Some of those experiences were heart breaking and some were exhilarating. Yet, we benefit from the learning. We benefit from the relationship, even if it ended some time ago. We benefit from the reflection we could have handled something better than we did. We benefit from opportunities as they teach us so much.

We each have loved and lost. We each have had relationships with people who cared either more or less than we cared about them. That is one of time’s oldest stories. Relationships are hard work. Finding and keeping one where you are on the same path forward is also hard, but oh so very rewarding.

This is a big effing deal

The swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th president is a huge deal. We can return to more normalcy in governance as he tries to unite us. But, let me set that aside and say the inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice-president is a big effing deal.

Seeing a woman sworn in as vice president is a long time over due for a country that touts democracy. Other democracies have preceded us with a woman being president, prime minister or chancellor. Angela Merkel, Jacinda Arden, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May all come to mind.

Harris is not just breaking the ceiling as a woman, which is a big effing deal by itself. She is the first African-American, the first Asian-American, and part of the first multiracial couple and family to occupy the home of the vice-president. She is uniquely American, as representative of our melting pot as one can get.

But, as a man, let me attempt to address this walk-in-the-shoes moment and what it means. My wife wore pearl earrings to honor Harris’ alma mater as she watched. And, she was crying after Harris was sworn in. A man does not realize how a woman feels to be treated in an overbearing way. Or, to be condescended to. Or to be belittled. Or, to be sexually harassed or even assaulted.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote the excellent book “Lean in,” which tells women to lean into opportunity or push back. It was and is a great title in that men are very skilled at leaning in. There is a line, I think from this book, that says a man with lesser skill sets will often feel more qualified for a job than a woman with more skill sets.

Then, we must layer into Harris’ make-up the fact she is a multiracial woman of color. In an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, she noted she has been told “no” at every step of the ladder. Then, she smiled and said “I eat ‘no’ for breakfast.” That embodies Sandberg’s theme. Just think of all of the young women and young women of color she will influence going forward. Be a leader, be a scientist, be an engineer, be a doctor….don’t accept no as a reason you cannot.

This is a big effing deal. I wish her, Joe Biden and their families and staffs the greatest of success. We need them to succeed in uniting us.

Are you watching “Casablanca” again? – a reprise post

This repeat blog from 2012 flows from a conversation between Roger, our British blogging friend, and me the other day. It was nice to add to our blogging friendship that he also likes “Casablanca.”

When my wife has caught me stopping while channel surfing on a showing of “Casablanca” as I did Friday night, she invariably asks “How many times have you seen that?” I usually answer “Not enough” depending on her mood. I was encouraged to write about my favorite movie when I stopped by a blog yesterday where the blogger did a wonderful job of talking about her favorite book and movie “Pride and Prejudice.” I should note my wife will do the same with “Somewhere in Time,” but since I appreciate the story and seeing Jane Seymour’s classic beauty it is a more than a fair trade – she of course has a thing for Christopher Reeve, but that is another story.

To me, Casablanca takes me to another place in time. It is a great story told well, set at a crucial time with a backdrop of Nazi antagonism, and played by great actors under great direction. You can go to Wikipedia and see the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards and the numerous nominations, so it is acknowledged for its surprisingly unexpected brilliance. Also, the fact that the movie is included as one of the all-time best movies confirms it is a classic. Yet, to me it is the dialogue and interaction between the starring roles, supporting roles and the many smaller roles, that make it worthwhile.

I enjoy the banter between Carl and Sasha, the head waiter and bartender, and their patrons as much as the dialogue between the lead roles. And, the most moving part of the movie includes only the third star – Paul Heinreid as Victor Lazlo with a brief nod from Humphrey Bogart as Rick – as Lazlo directs the band to play “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazi sing along in Rick’s Americain Cafe. This scene never ceases to give me chills as it shows what a heroic figure Lazlo is and why people look to him to lead and why the Nazis are so wary of him.

Setting aside this emphatic moment, it is the dialogue and story that deserve the credit more so than anything. The movie is a compilation of conversations leading us to the inevitable climax. You have little reason to like Rick at first, so the dialogue helps paint a better picture of this gray character – why he is bitter and how he was not always this way. At the same time, we see the grayness of Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault’s character evolve into someone who gives a damn at the end. Even Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is not perfect, as she is torn between Rick and her devotional love to Victor Lazlo. So, the grayness of these characters and others (such as Sydney Greenstreet’s Ferrari) shows how imperfect we all are in our daily struggles between survival and doing the right thing. In fact, the only true hero and villain are Victor Lazlo and Major Strasser with others having many shades of gray in-between.

The writers, primarily Julius and Phillip Epstein with help from Howard Koch, deserve the Best Screenplay award. The dialogue reveals the characters in this struggle. The movie is remembered for its six classic quotes being included among the 100 Best Movie Quotes, but those quotes should not overshadow the dialogue that give them meaning. The classic “round-up the usual suspects” after Major Strasser has been shot is based on earlier dialogue. It has extra meaning to me as the writers initially did not know how the movie should end even after filming began. When one of the Epsteins blurted out “round-up the usual suspects” they knew Strasser had to be killed and that led them to Lazlo getting on the plane with Ilsa as Rick had to be the one who shot him.

Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson as Sam, Peter Lorre as Ugarte and Conradt Veidt as the villainous Strasser all are ideally cast in their roles. Plus, the many dialogues and scenes expose us to Rick’s handling of the essential sub-story of the Bulgarian couple trying to win their way to America while the young wife considers sleeping with Renault and Rick’s relationship with his casino boss, Sam, Sasha, Carl, Ferrari and Ugarte among others.

Yet, we should not forget the role of Michael Curtiz and his other directors who helped him when the Academy Award (he was not the only director used on the film). Focusing on the sadness and beauty of Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa shows that much can be said without a word even in this movie of words. And, it doesn’t stop with her as the facial expressions of the people listening to other people is very telling. There is a brief moment when the guitar playing female singer cannot hide a glimpse of her disgust over Major Strasser; note it is not overtly apparent, as in real life, he may have noticed it and said something to her. There are also classic scenes where the camera catches the silhouette of one of the actors in a dialogue, to let us see the other party. There are some very effective scenes like this in Rick’s office.

So, I watch again and again. Note, I do not stop every time, but I do enjoy parts of the movie so much, that I will at least catch a taste before I move on. If you have not seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it in a theatre and it is even more special as you can see more facial expressions than on a TV screen.  If you have not watched it in a while, please check it out again and look at the facial expressions and listen to the dialogue. And, if you love it like I do, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Please feel free to share your favorite moments, characters, etc.