Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sales Trip

A couple weekends ago, my wife and I traveled down the coast to visit our son. We had initially planned to make this trip to take in a football game. A college football game. This is my son's third  year in college and we have yet to sit in the stands and take in all that sound and fury that is college football together. As it turned out, my wife's understanding of football schedules was hindered by an understanding of the "@." These are the "away" games. There would be no college football game viewing on this trip.
Which turned out to be fine. That left our little family more time to spend together, not watching college football. Instead, we had meals together. We watched a little television. Well, we didn't watch a little television. We watched a great big television. It was the new addition to my son's household: a great big 4K Ultra HD TV. All of those letters meant we were very impressed with the picture quality and the size of the screen. Really big. His parents were duly impressed by the way all those colors came leaping into his living room. They were also asked to be impressed by the deal he had made getting that big TV into his living room.
Our son works for that big blue electronics store. His employee discount and a ready access to the inventory of the store at which he works made it possible for him to turn around his home entertainment situation more abruptly than his parents might have imagined. Or approved. My wife and I bit our collective parental tongue and admired as we should.
The next day, instead of watching that college football, my wife and I made our way to that big blue electronics showroom. There we encountered our son in his blue shirt and name tag, far too busy helping  paying  customers select their home theater components to spend much time chatting with his mom and dad. They watched their son sell TVs. He was good at it. In a very low-key, informational way, he was really good at it. There was a moment, when he looked up between customers that we caught his eye. He walked over to us and asked if there was anything he could show us. Always a fan of good salesmanship, I let him show me around the future of TV. He talked to me about clarity and pixels and OLED and QLED. I learned things from my son that I did not know. He made me interested in buying a new television. My wife steered clear of that vortex. I believe she understood the power of television in our lives and wanted to steer clear of having to load a big screen into the back of our  car for the trip back up the  coast.
That didn't happen. I was grateful for the chance to see my son work. It was better than college football and, as it all turned out, less expensive.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Come Dancing

I went to a few Homecoming Dances in my day. They were mostly uncomfortable affairs that served primarily as a way for me to exercise what my friends and I considered manliness. Asking a girl out on a date was a nearly impossible task. For me. I had friends who dated successfully and often. They had steady girlfriends. They had relationships. That meant when it came time to pair off for that annual rite of Fall, they were set.
Me? I had just come back from summer vacation without having done the necessary groundwork for such an enterprise. Talking to girls wasn't really the problem. Talking to girls about anything that mattered was the problem. I was a funny guy. I had memorized more comedy albums than anyone else in my class. I was not afraid to climb on top of things and pretend to be a gorilla. The Pepsi machine in the hallway outside of  the band  room, for  example. That lack of fear did not extend to the ability to experience the following exchange:
"Hey (girl's name), are you going to the Homecoming Dance?"
"Well, nobody has asked me. Yet."
"Gee, that's great to hear (girl's name). Would you like to go with me?"
"With you, (my name)?"
And that's where the trolley jumped the track. I was pretty sure I could get laughs. I could get a reaction. It just wasn't the reaction I could have imagined. Wished for. All for the chance to get my suit out of the closet and fret about a corsage and washing my car and my palms to stop sweating in the days leading up to the Big Night.
Then there was the really big leap: What if I asked this girl out to the Homecoming Dance and we ended up having this great time and then drove up to some secluded spot and then we ended up getting married? No pressure, (my name).
Decades later, I encouraged my son to try and get out in front of these situations and ask a girl out to see a movie or grab a slice of pizza. Don't wait until the week before that Big Night. Don't climb on top of Pepsi machines and act like a gorilla. Give yourself a chance.
I went to a few Homecoming Dances in my day. I was terrified. I'm sure my date had a wonderful  time.

Monday, October 16, 2017


It is with a fair degree of certainty that I can say that I have told stories in this spot, or retold them, that may have not been completely true. In a fact-y kind of way. The ability to verify each and every item and opinion is so challenging on my twenty-four hour news cycle. Things change so fast these days, it is hard to keep up with what is real and what is click bait.
I try to avoid stories about pythons swallowing other large predators. They never end well, and they tend to be generated for their sheer "I've got to see that" sensationalism.Then there are those which rely on the "no he/she didn't" cue, which requires a bit of cross-checking to verify sources and quotes. Which I don't always do. "When the legend becomes factprint the legend." That's a quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I looked it up. 
If I was able to do that much research, why wouldn't I get everything right all the time? Partly because I feel the need to keep up with all those other bloggers and tweeters and instagrammers around me. Creating the top to bottom truthiest piece of information for my readers might require that I spent more than my generally allotted time in front of a screen. I have computer solitaire to keep up with, and replying to all those Trump Tweets don't happen on autopilot. 
My point is, I have a life to live, and I can't get bogged down in what is real and what is fake. However, there are those who do. They are called "journalists." They went to school, most of them did, to learn how to do their job. I know because I looked that up, too. I learned that to be a journalist you should be ready to: Study libel laws, keep up with current events. learn to be an ace researcher, learn how to find and interview sources.
I'm no journalist. I never claimed to be. And if I did, I was just trying to fill space or meet a deadline. Being a journalist requires a different set of muscles that overlap some of the abilities I bring to the keyboard, but I wouldn't know a libel law unless it came in the not-so-fine print of a summons delivered to me by an officer of the court. If that's how they do it. My research skills are on exhibit here, primarily for the purposes of finding examples of the point I am trying to make, not the "truth." Whatever that is
So, are you reading fake news here? Yes, I suppose you are. But I don't claim to be a journalist, either. And neither does Alex Jones. I know because I looked it up. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Long Way Home

It was 3:15 PM. Students had been out of school since 1:40. It was Wednesday when students are released early and teachers attend training of one sort or another. The kids who hadn't rushed home were in their after school program rooms, busy with whatever their extended day had to offer. That left Leslie, sitting alone in the office.
Except she wasn't alone. I was there along with the office staff to see that she got where she needed to go. The adults searched and scrambled about, trying to find a way to reach Leslie's parents. Had they forgotten that was Wednesday? Even on a regular day, she would have been sitting and waiting for half an hour. Her attempts to remember her phone number were in vain, since the only one she could remember was her mom's cell number, the phone that had recently been lost. Or turned off. Or stolen. Or eaten by a vermicious knid.
Whatever the case, Leslie was still waiting more than an hour and a half after she had been dismissed, and we had no way to connect her to her family. Which is why I volunteered to walk her home. And, it was reasoned, if I encountered an adult when we got there, I could get that person to fill out an emergency card so if such a thing ever happened again, we would have up to date information. I asked Leslie if she would mind walking. "It's not that far," she assured me.
Off we went.
As we meandered through the neighborhood, I tried to keep up a moderate string of conversational gambits: Who do you usually walk home with? Is there really a dog behind that "Beware of the Dog" sign? Do you trick or treat on this street? All of which were met with the vague indifference of a fifth grade girl. Still, it was one of the longest interactions I had ever experienced with her as our hike stretched from just a few blocks to nearly half a mile.
When we finally arrived at the gate in front of the house she identified as hers, she rushed up the walk and told me to wait while she went in and got her mom. I did as I was told. This afforded me a chance to view a front yard filled with debris of a life that spilled out the front door and down the steps. When the front door opened, mom stood bleary-eyed in bare feet and sweatshirt. She thanked me for taking the time to walk Leslie home, gesturing with the blank emergency card Leslie had carried home to her. "No problem," I waved. "Please make sure and send that completed form back with Leslie tomorrow morning. It really helps us to have a current address and phone number."
She thanked me again and turned around to respond to the growling male voice that came from inside. I waved at Leslie. "See you tomorrow," I shouted as the door began to close. She smiled an embarrassed smile and went inside.
She was home.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

No Excuses

Hollywood has been an escape for my family and me for generations. My mother was raised on a steady diet of MGM musicals and repeat viewings of Gone With The Wind, reading movie magazines as soon as they were delivered to her parents' drug store in Granby, Colorado. I grew up standing in line for the latest big release from Tinsel Town and those continued showings of Gone With The Wind. I maintain a subscription to Entertainment Weekly to stay ahead of the breaking news and upcoming blockbusters.
Reflecting on the past year's discussion about Civil War monuments, I feel as though my need to see the romanticized version of the antebellum south and its descent into that unfortunate conflict may have dropped off to zero. All those backstage stories about how Clark Gable used to chase Vivien Leigh around with his false teeth and how they burned down the sets from King Kong to recreate the burning of Atlanta are now stacked on a pile of useless memories like the routines of Bill Cosby. Forced perspective. My world view has changed via my life experience. It's a learning curve.
Like when we learned about Harvey Weinstein and his ugly behavior. His excuse? "I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then." Hard to imagine there was a time when sexual assault was part of "the culture." But this is one of those nasty reminders of a society that used to treat "the casting couch" as a quaint feature of a young actress's story on their rise to fame. Producers being "handsy" was part of becoming a star. First, you had to become an object. Then you got to be lit like one.
I have said before in this space that the more I know about the magic of Hollywood, the less inclined I am to consider it a magical place: a dream factory. Instead, I am reminded that King Kong was less than two feet tall. That cute little story about false teeth and the stars of Gone With The Wind is really one of sexual harassment. It was at least a hostile work environment for all of those afraid of Mister Gable's legendary halitosis.
It's not okay. Hollywood needs to check itself. The reality of sixties and seventies was that women were no less obligated to be subjected to the abuse they were back then, even if we looked on it as part of our culture. Fifty years later it is just as revolting. No excuses.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Relative Safety

The email I got on Monday morning came as a relief. My younger brother sent a note to let us all know that he was okay. He lives in the North Bay, not to be confused with the South or East Bay. Nobody talks about the West Bay, since that's San Francisco. Actually, there are plenty of people who talk about San Francisco, they just don't refer to it as "The West Bay." And San Francisco is not currently on fire.
That distinction belongs, currently, to the North Bay, where seven different fires have consumed countless acres and dozens of buildings. Evacuations have taken place in places like Calistoga, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. It would seem that the West Coast, not the West Bay necessarily, felt left out of the current wave of disaster that seems to be plaguing our nation. While not as easy to spot on satellites or track with radar, fires can be predicted with some measure of accuracy and if you live in California long enough you know that fire season and hurricane season seem to run concurrently. It is the price we pay for living where the sun drops into the ocean each night much in the same way that living on the right hand side of the country means you have to understand "storm surge."
Once you leave the Bay Area, you travel down the coast to find that the planet we lovingly refer to as SoCal is also in flames. Orange County, home to Mickey and Goofy, is also peering up at a smoke-filled sky. Evacuations and advisories exist everywhere around the happiest place on earth.
Meanwhile, Californians wonder when the "President" will fly out here and toss paper towels at us. None of us are currently holding our collective breath, except those who are trying to get around without succumbing to smoke inhalation. For many, this is what we of the People's Republic of California deserve. We brought this on ourselves. For being blue. For taking a knee. For being a sanctuary. For protesting and kicking up a fuss when "everyone else" seems to be just fine with the way America is being made Great Again.
I am grieving the loss of life and a disaster just up the road from where I live, and I am glad that my younger brother is okay. The rest of this will have to be worked out while the seasons turn.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Seat Filler

Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game last weekend. This doesn't seem that odd since their star quarterback, Andrew Luck, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury and the team had been struggling of late. They were playing another team with rebuilding issues of its own in the San Francisco Forty-Niners, so this was far from a marquee matchup. But Vice President Pence is a Hoosier and former governor of the state of Indiana. He was probably there, as many fans were, to celebrate the retiring of Peyton Manning's number and the dedication of a statue of number eighteen.
Then one of those upstart San Francisco players had to go and kneel.
Mike's boss had given him strict instructions to leave the stadium if such a thing occurred. On his way out, he tweeted: "I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem." And sure enough, Mike's boss was quick on the Twitter trigger, announcing, "I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen."
You don't suppose that this was some sort of photo opportunity or publicity stunt designed to stir up the folks who may have moved on to this or that other national kerfuffle? While the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has crashed and burned yet again and the country rallies around the open wound that is Las Vegas, how can the POTUS crew remain relevant? Why not conduct their own counter-protest that would have gone virtually unnoticed because, as it turned out, the game was kind of exciting. It went into overtime with the Colts pulling out a victory in the end. They vanquished the godless Bolsheviks of the Bay Area. 
By that time, former governor Pence was on his way back to the underground lair where he transmitted his "mission accomplished" tweet to his overlord. The conversation once again settles back to the disrespect of the flag and the anthem, rather than the disrespect toward the citizens which they represent. The victims in this scenario? Poor Mike Pence, who did not pay for his seat or the airfare to get a chance to vacate that seat to pop out of it when he felt his country was being disrespected. Did he stick around to talk with the players afterward, to hear them out or generate some sort of dialogue.
Nope. Mike had a plane to catch and a boss to please.