Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dude?

I have a goal this summer. I want to be blocked by the "realDonaldTrump" on Twitter. I want to get far enough under the skin of the "President" that he or his handlers push that button that says "please stop." I suppose I could accomplish this in any number of ways, but I won't be making threats or cursing unnecessarily. Probably won't curse at all, even though there are moments or tweets that bring some of those notions to the surface. "I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party - and please let Cryin' Chuck stay!" This was our nation's leader poking fun at Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the wake of the special elections in Georgia and South Carolina. The attempt at humor was that Democratic leadership needs help right now. The potential for the blue guys to pick up a red seat somewhere along the line didn't happen.
And now our "President" is gloating. And name calling. The Cryin' Chuck reference dates back to a speech Senator Schumer gave back in January in response to the "President's" immigration ban. Chuck Schumer teared up when he recalled his own family's immigrant experience. A human reaction. For the record, Senator Schumer still refers to Donald Trump as "Mister President." It is true that he and his staff took a pretty wide swing at the Cabinet meeting fawn-a-thon on social media. He didn't call any names. He hasn't dipped as low as I have, constantly putting quotations around "President." Or calling him a Creamsicle. I do call names. In this way, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has more dignity than I do. Not a huge surprise.
But I will try and use some of that discretion when staking my claim to being blocked by the realDonaldTrump on Twitter. I do refer to our commander in chief almost exclusively as "Dude." I do point out when he is being overly aggro about this or that. Which is most of the time. The confounding thing is that months after the election that put him in office and gave him majorities in both the House and the Senate, he continues to behave as if he needs to keep winning. Have you seen his maps? Meanwhile, no substantive legislation has passed. All this winning and no real wins. Whining, yes. Winning, no.
Now the "President" wants us to get behind building a wall on our southern border with solar collectors. "Pays for itself." Clean energy and isolationist. A match made in that big empty space between his ears. “Think about it, the higher it goes, the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right, good?“ My idea.”
It will be on Twitter soon. And so will I. Working on my own special project, Dude. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dog Trip

It was not so very long ago that we would pack up the family and head out on adventures, sometimes without a specific destination in mind. Then we got a dog. That meant that we needed to find someone to look after our best friend while we traveled the highways and byways. That meant we needed to have someone we could trust with our best friend as well as our house. Mostly we had house/dog sitters. This enhanced our sense of security as we traveled those previously mentioned highways and byways.
Road trips with a dog make me think of John Steinbeck. Not because they give me suicidal thoughts, but because of Travels With Charley. If you haven't read that one, it's about an author who takes his "mind-reading" dog with him on a journey to reconnect with America. Charley was a poodle, so that probably wouldn't happen with me anyway, but having made a number of trips in my youth with a dachshund to our cabin in the mountains, I can say that this method of travel is always more amusing for the dog who is consumed with the wind rushing past his or her ears and up his or her nose. There are also potty stops that are more difficult to anticipate than those of a child. Generally speaking.
Then there's the practical matter of finding pet-friendly motels along the way. I have some memories of waking up early on some of those family road trips and seeing someone else taking their dog on a walk around the parking lot. It always looks as artificial as the plants in the lobby.
Still, that option of being the owner who gets to tell his or her dog that they are going for a ride, a really long ride, in the car would be very gratifying. Mind-reading dog or not. And yet, we didn't take our best friend on any of those sojourns we took back when we had a dog of our own. Sometimes we took her to a friend's house for an evening, or to the dog park. We even took her to the beach a few times. That was more than just a little gratifying. In retrospect, a part of me wonders why we didn't bother to try to bring her along on some of our other adventures.
Then  I remember how much I like being at home, and how much I wanted to share that value with my pet. That feeling of the wind rushing past versus the comfort of that nice warm bed. I spent a week with a neighbor's dog, taking care of him at our house. It was just long enough for him to become accustomed to all the best places to plop down on the floor. He went for a couple rides, and plenty of walks, but mostly he curled up next to us on the couch when we would let him. He missed his owner, and he didn't even mind not going to Hawaii. Hanging his head out of a 737 would have been Nirvana.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Brain Trust

Energy Secretary Rick Perry says he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a major contributor to global warming. This is amusing on a number of levels. Let's begin with those first four words: Energy Secretary Rick Perry. This is a guy who had once wanted to abolish that department, back when he was running for president in 2012. And speaking of "President," before the door hit him on the way out of the 2016, Mister Perry endorsed Ted Cruz and referred to his future boss as "a barking carnival act."
Times change, but not always beliefs. 
Like this one: "The reason that we fought the [American] Revolution in the 16th century — was to get away from that kind of onerous crown, if you will." Rick missed the actual starting date of the war for independence by two hundred years.
And it's not just math and history that get the former governor of Texas mixed up. Science is pretty confounding too: It's a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both Creationism and evolution."
Back in 2010, he referred to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico thusly: "From time to time there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."
It is probably his deeply held religious conviction that brought him to this one: "Even if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol once it enters his body, he still makes a choice to drink. And, even if someone is attracted to a person of the same sex, he or she still makes a choice to engage in sexual activity with someone of the same gender." 
You get the point. Saying that carbon dioxide is not a major contributor to global warming is just another in a long list of dumb things that Rick believes. Unicorns? If the Lord had been on the ball and put a couple on the ark with Noah, then he'd be down with that for sure. What does our Energy Secretary think is to blame for global warming? "Most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in." 
Guess what? Scientists don't agree with Secretary Perry. Should he worry? Probably not, since the head of the Environmental Protection Agency agrees with him. And so, this "debate" continues. Later, I hope to hear Secretary Rick's belief about gravity. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Postscript To The Postcard

The title of the book was Postcards From The Edge, I read it in the midst of my own recovery and found the voice refreshing. The idea that drinking and drugs could be so alluring and yet still so debilitating to relationships as well as your physical being was reassuring to me at the time. These days, when people ask if I miss my own days on the edge of reason, I can give them a straight answer: No. I don't. Back then, well, I nodded and smiled.
Back then I was still in the process of making a life change. I thought a lot about making exceptions or deals with myself and sobriety. My initial plan was to skip the binge drinking of green beer I had scheduled for St. Patrick's Day, an annual rite. I would bounce back. That stretched into a month, then two, and after a year it became apparent that there were advantages to seeing life through clear eyes. Is it possible that I could have grown a career and gotten married and had a kid while maintaining anything resembling my former trajectory? Possible, but not likely. Maintaining those things would have been nothing short of impossible.
Which brings us back to the edge. I still have dreams in which I have made some barely conscious decision to hop off the wagon. I wake up from these dreams relieved to find that I don't have to worry about starting the count all over from one. I don't currently have an accurate count, which in itself is its own relief. I know people who have not been as lucky. The physics involved in actually falling off the wagon are pretty severe. The edge is a drop of some great height, and once you hit bottom again, the climb back up is a tough and embarrassing. Sure, there's always something to learn along the way, like what it might take to keep it from happening again.
The lady who wrote that book fell off herself. A few times. She was always very candid and honest about it, sharing the bumps and bruises with us in other books and a one-woman show. The demons Carrie Fisher battled were of a different size and shape than the ones I experienced. Addicts have "war stories," the ones they tell about their trip to the bottom. She was great at making them entertaining and educational. I was happy to hear that she was still clinging to her own ledge. Until then end of last year when she died, She fell asleep on a plane bound for London. She didn't make it there. She had heroin, ecstasy, and cocaine in her. Doctors said it was sleep apnea "and other factors" that got her. I know what it really was. It was the drop. From the edge.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What I Want

Maybe birthdays don't come from a store, he paraphrased Dr. Seuss, maybe birthdays mean just a little bit more. When I was a kid, birthdays were often measured by the loot. Always impressed by the way my mom listened to my wants, I suppose I shouldn't have been amazed when I got that Fonzie T-shirt. Aaaaay.
Getting the gifts I wanted wasn't the big deal, really. It was the continuation of the story. My older brother continues to celebrate each trip around the sun, since that's the thing that really matters. The gift of life, another chance to get it right. Or foul up in the most spectacular way. Another spin on the big wheel. I'm not getting places as fast as I used to, and the next day I feel the wear and tear of the miles I have put on since the early sixties. More scars, less hair, more wisdom, less enthusiasm for random chance. Getting from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible seems like the best plan, even if the whole thing seems to be dominated by the circular orbit of the earth around the sun.
Five days ago, Edgar's friends met to commemorate his passing nine years ago. This time there was a poster, signed by many, included the date of his arrival on the planet and when he exited. It struck my that these folks were gathering each year to focus on the latter.
It made me think of how, in my twenties, I focused on the day my friend Darren shuffled off his mortal coil. It is the luxury of being so removed from death that you can remain so fascinated by it. It was a novelty. When my father passed away, he did us a mild service of going right around the time of his birthday, so his life has polite bookends that allow us to celebrate a life in total. So often I find myself writing here about how lives end, I should point out that all this observation began fifty-five years ago, and I have never made a full accounting of all those people, friends, family, strangers who made some of the smallest moments in five and a half decades special. I am way behind on my Thank You Cards. And I would like to remind those who loved Edgar to focus on the gift he was while he was here, rather than the tragic circumstances that bring the candles out to the sidewalk every June 16. All our lives we have that opportunity to share with those around us and even though it crushes us to think of it coming to an end, I want to focus on the joy I have experienced as a result of being brought into this world. That is the gift that keeps on giving. Like that loophole in the three wishes: wish for unlimited wishes with that third one.
Aaaay.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Things To Come

Amazon, the company not the river, bought Whole Foods last week. A simple enough concept: big fish eats little fish. It's the American Way. Okay, maybe it's really more the Capitalist Way, but you get the picture. To be honest, my reaction was muted compared to what I might have felt if Jeff Beezos had set his sights on Trader Joe's or Safeway. It will still be a while before I feel the full impact of this acquisition.
Or will it?
Around me, big companies are swallowing smaller companies at a rate that might cause some to swoon. I had to stop and inspect the back of an Xfinity customer care van parked on the street a few days ago just to admire all the various logos, trying to discern some sort of hierarchy: NBC, Universal, Comcast, Tad's Fish 'n' Chips. All a part corporate synergy. Walking into a fast food restaurant, one becomes almost instantly aware of the alliances. Is this a Coke or a Pepsi establishment? Franchise or chain? When was the last time those fries saw the sun?
My wife has a favorite Sylvester Stallone movie, not because of Sly necessarily, but she loves Demolition Man because of the franchise wars. Taco Bell was the only survivor. Hence, all restaurants are Taco Bell. Genius marketing from the Time Warner folks, who also happen to own HBO, TBS, DC Comics, and a host of other entertainment portals that deliver content to anyone who jacks in. Time Warner does not currently own Taco Bell.
Neither does Amazon.
Currently.
A while ago, I mused about Disney eventually owning everything, and would't that be nice? The most obsequious customer service on the planet, and a steady stream of family friendly characters and attendant swag with immersive shops, parks and bunkers in which to enjoy said content and swag. What would that mean to Amazon's plans for world domination? Currently they have the market cornered on forty-one ounce bags of Skittles and will soon own controlling interest in the headwaters of the Kombucha. All of it delivered by drones.
Now I can start envisioning the scorched hellscape that will be left when the Disney droids battle the Amazon drones to the death. I just hope I can still get a Chalupa Supreme when the smoke clears.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Confluence

Twenty-five years ago today, Batman Returns was released in America. That means that it was released in my neighborhood theater. Having waited three years for the next installment of the Dark Knight saga, and being a rabid Tim Burton fan, I was more than ready. I have a poster that commemorates this date. This was also the day that I gave up being single forever.
A quarter of a century ago, I drove down to Denver to pick up my girlfriend at the airport. Shortly after that, we returned to Boulder where we made a point of seeing one of the first screenings of what would turn out to be Michael Keaton's last turn beneath the cowl. It was quickly adopted as "our movie." She and I reveled in the romantic tension between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle: Batman and Catwoman. We were entranced.
Which may say a lot about the couple involved, but this was the moment in which my bluff might have been called. I had announced, a few months earlier, my intention of moving from my home in Boulder, Colorado to be with her in Oakland, California. As talks progressed, it became clear to me that the direct approach was my best bet, and so I pushed past any talk about trial periods or getting my own place and seeing how things worked out. If I was jumping in, it was going to be an all-or-nothing shot at greatness. I was moving halfway across the country to be with the woman I loved. How about that for a romantic gesture? Even without the cape and cowl, I felt this was pretty heroic. So for the next couple weeks, we played a game of chicken, waiting for the other to swerve. I had already sold my furniture and was camping out in my mother's basement. If I turned back now, I would have to search out yet another set of Pillow Kingdom rent-to-own living room set and someplace to put it. Back where I started.
But that wasn't going to happen. More than a decade before this, I had gone off to college in Santa Fe. I left as a hero and came home a week later when it became apparent that I just wasn't quite ready for life that far from home. I spent the next dozen years expecting to live my life alone in that one bedroom apartment, wondering what might have been. I had begun fantasizing about plans to celebrate my single-ness, as all my other friends were getting married and settling down. Being alone wasn't going to be so bad, especially if I could make a sardonic show of it.
Who was I kidding? When my chance arrived, in the form of the woman who would become Catwoman to my Batman, I leaped. Two days later, when I turned thirty, I was suddenly staring straight into a committed relationship, and a week after that, when we drove out of Boulder for my last time as a resident, I only looked back for a moment. I liked what I saw, but not any more than what I saw in the passenger seat next to me.
Our first stop on our way back west? Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Victory Lap begins.