Friday, December 02, 2016

Dark Again

I miss him today. Truth is, I miss him most every day, but when the days go short and there is more darkness around, I think of him more often. I have had more than twenty years to manage my grief, but when I look out the window into the black, I remember the light that was my father.
To be fair, it should be noted from the very beginning that my father was no saint. He made mistakes and errors in judgement that I can see clearly now that I am managing my own adult path and assuming parental chores that he once tumbled through. He gets all kinds of easy accolades because he is gone. I can remember those years before I got married and moved to California, feeling responsible for his aimless wandering after he left my mother. I took the naive stance that I could somehow affect his trajectory by going out to dinner with him on a regular basis and asking over and over where he felt his life was taking him. I never got a straight answer. He was lost in ways that I can only now begin to comprehend.
All that being said, I couldn't have asked for a better dad when I was a kid. My mom might have wished for a more consistent and thoughtful source of authority, but the laughs and warmth I felt in my house as a child was the envy of my friends. I have tried to straddle the line a little as a grownup parent of a son, being the "bad cop" in as many situations as necessary and keeping it light whenever possible.
It is a crying shame that my son never got to meet his namesake. I want to believe that they would have gotten along, but then again I can't remember anyone my father couldn't cozy up to. He was that kind of guy. I want to believe that all those years of hanging around with my dad allowed me to send just a taste of what the pater familas was like. The songs and stories he dragged along with him into the warehouse of my mind get repeated now and then, along with the adventures of my father and his brave family of five, on endless station wagon road trips and long summer afternoons at the cabin sawing wood for the fire that ended on the front porch with a vodka and tonic or down at the horseshoe pit where he would work on his technique in hopes of one day besting Uncle Marvin.
One of the last things I shared with my father was a screenplay I wrote. One hundred twenty-three pages of my best attempt at romantic comedy. He read it with the appreciative eyes of a father who was amazed at the things his kids could do. He was a fan. It could have been one hundred twenty-three pages of typing exercises, and he would have been awestruck.
That's when he would call me "Davy."
Nobody else did that. And neither did he until I turned twenty-one, and suddenly I got this new, more affectionate variation on my name. It bothered me at the time, because I was yearning to break free of the bounds of youth. I understand now why my father was so anxious to have me remain a child. His child. It all happens so fast.
It's dark again. And I miss him.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Beat By A Girl

At last! Something upon which Donald Trump and I can agree: There was massive fraud perpetrated during the 2016 Presidential Election. How else are we to explain the results? Except for the fact that Ethel Merman's forgotten son and I are probably viewing things from opposite sides of the fence. Or wall, if you prefer.
It was around ten o'clock on November 8 that I first started wondering about the number of votes cast for various candidates and the multitudes of paper turning into digits on TV screens across America. The phrase "early returns" still rings in my ears as I wondered how fast and accurate all of that ballot counting could possibly be done overnight. I could understand how the box that was busy keeping track of votes in the hallway at my elementary school could easily be rolled into whatever port that was open for dissemination of all the ballots cast by all the folks in our precinct. That would be around eight thirty or nine o'clock at night. Where were these "early returns" coming from? Maybe from exit polls. Who wouldn't feel good about shouting out to any microphone shoved in your face after you have just completed doing your democratic duty, "I voted for..." They might have been talking about me, since I voted by mail weeks before Election Day.
But telling me who the next President of the United States will be before all the votes have been counted? That sounds like a scam to me. It does to Donald Trump, too, but for other reasons. The presumptive winner of the 2016 presidential election is now tweeting that, "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias – big problem!" Feel free to file this under Mister Trump's plan to "bring the country together." This is coming from the guy who won, by most accounts. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate is asking for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Is anybody keeping track of all this?
Yes, there are still those who hold out hope that a petition to change the votes of those in the Electoral College or massive swings in the results of any of the six states mentioned above will somehow alter the destiny which we are all currently facing. Jill Stein has raised seven million dollars to help fund the recount effort. The billionaire who won and is pointing without facts to back himself up at voter fraud has done nothing but tweet his accusations from the relative safety of the winner's circle. 
We've been down this path before, people. The winner of the presidential election may not be the one with the most popular votes, and vice versa. "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." Could it be that he just doesn't understand the problem here? 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Return

Out into the world. That is where I watched my son drive. The goings and comings of our only child has become something of a routine in the last couple years. As has been documented here numerous times, the  reality of an empty nest is this: It doesn't stay empty for long. Here for Thanksgiving. Gone again. Until Christmas. Then he'll be in and out over the course of those two weeks, taking his meals here for the most part and making a point to connect with his mother and father in all the ways he used to.
And that will be fine, since my wife described to me the joy she feels watching her little boy heading out to face his world. On his terms. The terms that we helped shape, but the terms he faces the universe with every day. Sometimes those views skew to the left or right of the ones we thought we knew, but that's why we keep scheduling these rendezvous. As a parent, it is fun to watch how becoming a grownup suits him. At times it's a jacket that's too tight in the shoulders and too long in the sleeves. Other times, it's a sweatshirt that he's had for years that fits just right.
And he's still growing.
When I feel like there's a place to put a fatherly bit of wisdom, I might take him aside, or whisper in his ear. I know that he hears me, but not always right away. It's usually after the fact. I know that he has a number of different voices, my own, his mother, his friends, his teachers, and all those folks on Al Gore's Internet that have so much to say. He's a great big sponge, and there is still plenty of storage in that squishy mass. This is a guy who has replaced his brakes and now the exhaust on his car and I can only stare and wonder. How did that get into his head? I didn't put it there. His mother was born in Detroit, maybe there's some kind of automotive osmosis at work there.
Or maybe he's been talking to other people. Listening to other people. Learning from other people. And now it's my turn. Not to teach, but to learn. This year when we put up the lights in anticipation of the  next holiday return, he had a whole bunch of great suggestions and the front of our house is now dazzling. I can't wait for him to come back and I get another  chance  to learn from him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

President For Life

Fidel Castro es muerte. To say this is an end to an era seems a little short-sighted. This was a man who ruled his island nation for nearly fifty years. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Mark II. Ten different men have held a similar post in these United States while Fidel ran the first communist state in the western hemisphere. The leader of the revolution kept the lights on, more or less, into a new century. How might have things been different here in our country if George Washington had stayed in office until 1839? After Fidel left office in 2008, his younger brother was the only candidate for the office, keeping the dictatorship all in the family.
Back in 1959, Al had yet  to invent the Internet. This was because he was in junior high school back then. His science fair project that year was "Why Greenhouse Gasses Are Bad." In 1959, the Beatles were still the Quarrymen and Ringo Starr was still Richard Starkey. In 1959, music died when a small plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Jiles "The Big Bopper" Richardson Jr. gave Don McLean a chance to revive it twelve years later. Barbie was born  in 1959. The doll, not the Nazi. Alaska became the forty-ninth state admitted to the union. Hawaii would be along in short order as number fifty, making flags so much easier to draw.
For forty-nine years, drawing El Presidente was a pretty easy task: Fatigues, beard, cigar. Love him or hate him, he was the guy. While the rest of the communist states fell like the dominoes we all once feared, Cuba kept up its fierce front. Ninety miles off the coast of Florida, Fidel  and his mates kept thumbing their noses and annoying Estados Unidos to the north. This kept their nation from making some of those advances that might have come with open borders, human rights, or democracy, but that was the way things went.
Until 2014 when the eleventh U.S. Chief Executive to take office in the Castro years decided to pry open the door and let a little of that USA sun shine in.
Fidel Castro stomped on the Terra with combat boots. He may not be missed by everyone, but there's something to be said for consistency.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Unanswered Questions

Florence Henderson died last week. Not a shock, exactly, but still a moment to remember where I am in my own timeline. There was a time when the TV shows I watched defined me. If I was at home watching Fantasy Island or Love Boat, something had gone horribly wrong with my Saturday night. These were the late seventies and early eighties so if I were glued to my set watching Doc and Gopher and Mister Roarke, it meant that my social life had hit the equivalent of an iceberg. The thought of slowly sinking into the freezing waters of high school nerd was too frightening. The same could not be said for my fascination with the Brady Bunch. The story of a lovely lady and her three golden haired offspring entering into a blended family situation with man with three boys of his own was must-see TV for me. When I was seven years old, the idea that my parents would go out to dinner and leave us home to fend for our frozen dinners and ourselves didn't bother me as long as I had my spot in front of the tube staked out when the Bradys came on.
It was comfort food. It was ridiculously wholesome, and the fact that there was no problem so big or so complicated that it couldn't be dealt with in thirty minutes was a huge comfort to me. Even those two-part episodes that took them to exotic locales like Hawaii or the Grand Canyon never gave me too much need for concern. Carol and Mike would have their brood all settled down before the credits rolled.
But what about those moments before they got together? What sort of convenient accident brought these recently single lovebirds into each other's lives? The fact that I cannot recall any of the girls once exclaiming, "You're not my real dad!" makes me wonder now just what kind of nefarious scheme they cooked up to make such a smooth transition. Were the kids in on it? The thought of Bobby and Cindy being complicit in their respective parents' untimely demise is perhaps too much for us all to bear, but I can't help but wonder. In the first episode, Bobby looks longingly at a photo of his departed mom, but by the end of the episode it's a mess of a wedding cake that is the real concern. Sorry about those psychic scars, kids - say, anyone want to have a sack race in the back yard?
Maybe I shouldn't ask for so much from my pop culture past. I know that Opie missed his old housekeeper and wasn't looking forward to having Aunt Bea coming to stay with him and his dad the Sheriff, but what exactly happened to open up that spot in the household? Could this explain why Andy Taylor never carried a gun. Not since...The Accident...
Aloha, Carol Brady. Aloha Florence Henderson. Thanks for stomping so mightily on my TV Terra way back when.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

White Power

When things get tense or stressful, sometimes my wife encourages anyone within the sound of her voice to "wrap it in white light." It is her version of magic that she hasn't gotten around to fully studying or embracing, graduating from Mills College as she did rather than Hogwarts. It is an incantation that I understand as a protective gesture, one that will hopefully keep anything worse from happening. In this way, it is her White Power.
It is remarkably different from the White Power that has been discussed over the past few weeks, and beyond. This is the "alt-right" which has become such a part of our national politics as the minutes tick by in anticipation of the moment when Barack Obama is no longer President of the United States. First of all, I should say that my first encounter with the phrase "alt-right" was the one in which I assumed I would be learning about obscure keyboard commands for my personal computer. This was not the case. If you have missed the furor, this would be the truncated version of "Alternative Right" in which the "Alternative" has very little to do with Franz Ferdinand and more to to with Breitbart News. Both have a good beat, but one is imminently more dance-able. This is the group for whom Fox News feels just a little too left of center. It is a place where white folks can huddle together and spout their fear-filled rhetoric among like-minded individuals. They're coming to take our guns. They're coming to take our Christmas trees. They're coming to take our freedom. "They" would be anyone whose agenda or skin color doesn't match their own. If you don't find yourself asking any how or why questions upon looking at their web site, then you might be alt-right. If you don't find the appointment of Breitbart's former executive chair of the cornerstone of alt-right media to Donald Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor worrisome, then you may be alt-right. Forgive me if this is all starting to sound a little like a Jeff Foxworthy routine, but apparently Steve Bannon, the previously mentioned appointee, doesn't like the term. Sorry, Steve.
Alt-right.
But getting under Mister Bannon's skin is not what I have in mind. Instead, I ask us all to remember what an oppressed minority looks like. It's not the folks at Breitbart or Fox. The chance to react to perceived threats is now upon them, and we don't have to cringe in fear. That's their gig. Here's something to keep in mind: According to science, the combination of all colors of light in the spectrum makes white. It takes a rainbow to make things white. That's the power of white.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Voice Of The People

It really wasn't much of a surprise that protests broke out in Oakland after the election of Donald Trump. As a community, we are pretty famous for our city's ability to smash a few windows, set dumpsters on fire, and block freeways. It wouldn't be too ridiculous to suggest that the same thing would have happened if Hillary had won. Here in the Bay Area, we tend to riot on a regular basis just to keep our free speech and anarchy muscles loose.
I suppose these demonstrations come as a relief compared to the armed insurrection with which we were threatened by angry Trump supporters who were ready to grab their muskets and tri-corner hats to head out and defend their liberty in the face of potentially rigged elections. That didn't happen. Instead, the winners of the game show we call The Electoral College seem quite happy to sit back and gloat, making me wonder if there really would have been a mobilization of militia and blood in the streets if their boy hadn't come across for the big win. Instead, we should all take a moment to be shocked and awed by the mobilization of voters that Mister Trump and his crew were able to rally in order to achieve their result. Not a popular victory, but a strategic victory.
Which makes the next bit all the more confounding. It seems that a certain number of the Trump faithful are taking Starbucks to task for their past offenses in the eyes of the Orange One. In order to make their point, these zealots are going in to their nearest coffee outpost, waiting in line, and then asking their barista to write "their name" on the cup: Trump. When their double half-caff pumpkin spice foaming latte is ready, the employees (as is their custom) have to shout out the name on the cup. Get it? The heavily tattooed, pierced and obviously bleeding heart caffeine droids have to shout out the name of the candidate they hate. The #Trumpcup rebellion has created a fuss, of sorts, but has also done little to affect the bottom line of their bottom line. I guess what I'm saying is, "Is this the best you've got?" You won the election and now you're going to go stand in line and wait for your coffee and pay for it, but you want people to say "Trump?" Not "Anita Mann" or "Moe Ron?" I guess these folks haven't watched enough Simpsons.
Since this is also the group that is headed by a guy whose skin seems to be as thin as it is orange, I suppose we shouldn't expect much in the way of thoughtful response. Hamilton? Overrated. Saturday Night Live? Not funny anymore. Trump? Your frappucino is ready.