Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

#MeToo
#HimToo
#BlackLivesMatter
#AllLivesMatter
And so on. Just as soon as someone shouts out from the bottom of the pile about oppression, an anguished cry comes from some other corner, suggesting that, "you think you're oppressed? Try taking a walk in my moccasins." And so this merry-go-round of judgement continues. The saddest part of all of this equivocation is that it dulls the reality of those who are truly suffering.
It also means that we as a society are relieved of any responsibility for that suffering.
Lucky us.
It's a matter of math. African American males are two and a half times more likely to be shot by police. If there were two and a half times more African American males than white males, that would make sense. That's why it doesn't make sense. That's why people are upset. That's why there is a movement.
Here in the United States, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. That contrasts smartly with one in seventy-one men who will be raped during their lives. Which does not mean that we should ignore the trauma inflicted on men, but since the perpetrators of those rapes are overwhelmingly men, it seems as though mounting  a movement to protect men from being wrongfully accused of these crimes seems like a secondary concern.
People being wrongfully accused of crimes is a big deal, but wait just a second: Guess who is more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder? Did you guess African Americans? Which is just a hop without a skip or jump away from the percentage of the prison population, which happens to be thirty-seven percent African American males compared to thirty-two percent white males.
And so it goes. Until there really is an "us" in the U.S., we need to keep our eyes on the realities we create. Not the ones we imagine.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ride By

Sometimes I write about shootings that result in the deaths or injury to dozens. Sometimes I rail on about the nearly one hundred Americans who die every day as a result of gun violence. Just recently I wrote about the relative safety of the route I take on my bicycle commute to school every day. All of this came rushing together as I rolled past the intersection of High Street and Congress Avenue. A thirty-seven year old man was shot and killed there this past Tuesday.
I know his friends called him Dre.
I know he was loved.
I know this because of the number of candles and inscriptions on the wall of the convenience store that have been left there since. The empty bottles left by mourners compete with the burning wicks, kept lit night and day. The local news had this to say: "A nineteen-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night as a suspect in the fatal shooting five hours earlier of another man in East Oakland, police said Wednesday."
This is not an obscure act in Oakland. The seemingly randomness of it does not take into account the terrible repetition. Guns going off in neighborhoods all over Oakland, so many that the city has employed a system called "Shotspotter," a computer aided listening system that can be used to detect gunfire on the streets and yards and alleys and everywhere else guns might be going off. Or they could rely on the eyes and ears of passersby on a busy thoroughfare like High Street at four o'clock in the afternoon. 
Last Tuesday, I was wrapping up my after school program at my school at four o'clock. I walked my fourth and fifth grade students who were working on a community service project to bring more kindness into their world to the front steps. That was when Dre was shot. I went back to my room and cleaned up some loose ends. I left just after four thirty. That was when Dre was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. When I came over the hill, four blocks away, yellow tape was blocking the intersection where the altar would be mounted over the next few nights. Dre's friends waited until the police had cleared the corner and picked up their cones and other caution and investigation reminders.
And that's when the monument began.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Rock The Vote

Of course I voted for DEVO. After nearly forty years of slavish DEVOtion to the spudboys from Akron, they are at last nominated for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are not, by any means, a shoo-in. The group that David Letterman once referred to as "The Fisher-Price of rock and roll" are part of a class that includes eighteen other artists: Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, The Cure, The Zombies, and Todd Rundgren.
I have been one of those Hall of Fame kibitzers from way back, and I understand that all discussions about who gets in when is the reason for the Hall's existence. I am certain there are fans out there who are still anxiously awaiting their chance to vote for the Starland Vocal Band Winners of the Best New Artist Grammy in 1976, the SVC has a hit single and a TV variety show to promote their ascension into pop music's pantheon. "Afternoon Delight" hit number one on the Billboard Chart. By contrast, DEVO's big hit, if you'll pardon the pun, "Whip It" peaked at number fourteen. And no one was foolish enough to suggest that DEVO host their own summer replacement series. 
Still, some forty years after the fact, this bastion of the New Wave finds itself amidst heady company as votes begin to trickle in at a time when voting is a right we should all embrace. While it is true that there are probably places where your vote might make a more emphatic change, I would like to point out that DEVO played a fundraiser for Barack Obama back in 2012 in their home state. Barack Obama went on to win a second term. 
Need I say more? 
Okay. So maybe you're not convinced. There are still so very many more important issues of the day. Certainly that imposing list of fellow nominees is enough to make anyone ask, "Why DEVO? Why now?" 
To which I would respond, "De-evolution is real. Take a look around you." There is a reason my wife and I chose "Freedom of Choice" as one of the songs we played at our wedding. And so I ask you, on behalf of DEVO: If not now, when? 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

On The Dial

On the radio, that's where I heard the Beatles the first time. It is also the appliance that gave me comfort for decades with that little feature called "sleep." As I drifted off, all those songs from my youth formed my lullaby. The first time I heard The Police singing about Roxanne was at the breakfast table in my parents' house as I prepared to go out and face another day. On most evenings I could count on a quiet, relaxing dose of classical music as my mother filled the house with KVOD, and on Saturdays there was opera from the Met. At those moments when I felt the need to retreat to the rock and roll of my generation, I would head to my room and close the door where I could listen to the way the world was lining up pop culture for me. This was when I was listening to AM. These were also the frequencies that could reach our mountain cabin. The batteries we used to power that radio were a point of survival for us all. Whether it was news or weather or music, that was the machine that filled those tranquil hours of too much wilderness solitude.
That radio had an FM dial, but it amounted to nothing. No transmissions of that wavelength were going to climb up the hill into our cabin. Not without some enormous antenna. My love affair with FM radio began when I got my first real receiver. Something that could bring in those nineties and hundreds. KBPI and KAZY lived at the end of that span, and on any given night, you might find me in my room, headphones on, "studying." What I was really doing was listening to the radio. Lots of it. Pretty soon, my clock radio was waking me up to those same sounds, and once I had a car I had a mobile listening station for all the tunes that rocked the Rockies.
By a stroke of luck, the stations I listened to in Colorado had rather easily transferable formats. Hard rock, modern rock, and the inevitable Album Oriented Rock. They made it easier to feel at home when I moved to the Bay Area. And now, my radio listening time has diminished to about half an hour on weekday mornings. In the car, I tend to surrender to whatever the driver, my wife, has selected. The rest of the time, I am programming my own show: iTunes, Spotify, and so forth. The notion of calling up a DJ on the request line to beg for my favorite song has long since passed me by. But I can remember dialing and dialing the studio at KIMN and pleading with them to play Yellow Submarine one more time.
Now I just ask Google, who seems more than happy to fulfill my request.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Goodbye, Columbus

Raise your hand if you got Columbus Day off.
Let's see: That's, um, just about no one. I was asked by a few parents on the way out of school a week ago Friday if we would be open the following Monday. I had to scratch my head for a moment to imagine why. I could not remember an in-service or district work day. National holiday? What might that be? In twenty-two years of teaching, I have never had Columbus Day off. Why would we start now?
Working as I do on this liberal bastion of the left coast, I have never considered the possibility of a three day weekend in that first week of October. Christoper Columbus was a capitalist tool, wandering the globe in anticipation of new routes to extort the rest of the newly round planet for its riches. Or, if you happen to be "President," "Christopher Columbus’s spirit of determination & adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On #ColumbusDay, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, & celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean."
As we have seen before, opinions vary.
How much? Well, consider this: Columbus, Ohio will no longer be participating in their eponymous holiday. Instead, the city fathers have chosen to go all in on Veterans' Day, just a month later, and probably a tad less divisive. Other cities have attempted to manage that kind of backlash by referring to an Indigenous People's Day, but have faced additional confrontations from Italian American groups as well as those Indigenous People who were not pleased to be copy and pasted over the man who they feel was responsible for their genocide. While Columbus the explorer will remain a Federal holiday, Columbus the city will keep on picking up trash and enforcing parking limits.
Meanwhile, back in the People's Republic of the East Bay, we will be taking October 19th off. Not because of Columbus, but because the newly shifted school year closes before Memorial Day, and we will therefore be taking "In Lieu of Memorial Day" to share with our loved ones. Perhaps to meditate on this matter further.
Or to stock up on Halloween candy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Us

It would be so easy. All I would have to do is just keep showing up as I always have. And start taking instead of giving. And start caring about myself instead of others. And close my ears to the cries all around me. And close my eyes to all the suffering.
I am a straight white male in my fifties. I could toss a bunch of money at the stock market and enjoy the ride. I could buy a bunch of guns and ammunition to protect my home and wait for the insurrection. I could vote for the candidates who are going to make a more comfortable ride for me and mine without a care for those floundering all around me. I could choose to believe what and whomever makes it easier for me to sleep at night. I could start enjoying this white male privilege and start making it work for me.
Except I have eyes.
And ears.
And a heart.
Some might say it bleeds, and they would be right. It bleeds for those who have never enjoyed playing this game because the deck is stacked against them.
My eyes cry for those who have been left behind on this fast track to get the most the quickest way possible. I weep for those who never had a chance.
My ears ring from all the despotic rhetoric that exists solely to keep those who are not white males right where they have been for all this time: at the bottom. They burn because I know that when people talk about white privilege they are pointing at me.
I know that a great portion of the reason why I am where I am today is based on rules set forth by a bunch of guys like me who wanted it to be easy for guys like me to continue to be guys like me. When I say #MeToo, it's pretty hypocritical.
I know I am outnumbered. Common sense suggests surrender, though somehow this gang of white males cling to their places of power and spew hate and fear. Probably because they are terrified. I would be too.
If I were them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What About Me?

I was never good at keeping a journal. There have been plenty of times that I have been given a notebook full of empty pages with the expressed intent of scribbling them full of my clever notions and stories. The idea that I would sit down on any sort of regular basis and make an accounting of the events of my life. Not that I wasn't necessarily up to the task. I have always been more than capable of filling up line after line of nominally meaningful prose. Or poetry. Or the occasional drawing or diagram. When I was in school and a teacher assigned a number of lines or pages to write, I was up to the task. Usually making sense. Usually working in some pithy comment or amusing anecdote, I am a storyteller.
The last time I kept a journal, a diary, was when I was in therapy. I was asked to keep track of my thoughts and feelings over the course of the week between appointments. I wrote dutifully every day, even if I wasn't always diving deep into my emotions and coming up with revelations that would bring me closer to understanding myself.
Sometimes I did. Like the casual observation that I tend to lean on a cheap laugh or wordplay when I am careening toward some sort of dramatic insight. I am not proud of the cheap laugh thing, but it certainly reminds me of where I came from. My father was an entertainer. A salesman by trade, but a raconteur as an avocation. He wasn't much of a writer, but he could tell a story.
And so could my mother. One of my favorite things as a child was sitting and listening to her tell stories about "the olden days." She wasn't a punchline kind of gal. She was a family historian. It was my mom who kept detailed accounts of family trips in little notebooks. Where did we stop? What did we eat? Who got the worst sunburn?
And then there was that guestbook at the cabin. At one point or another, we all took turns accounting for the cast and characters arriving at our doorstep. I wrote plenty of pages in that bad boy.
And then there's this. The last decade or so with daily updates on my attitudes and behavior. My opinions and beliefs. So the joke here is that I guess I have always been a journal keeper.
Surprise, surprise.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Spectator Sport

I used to live in Colorado. It snows there. Sometimes a lot. There are no indoor football stadiums in Colorado. If you want to watch football, you have to sit outside. Unless the powers that be decide to show the game on television. Then you can watch from the safety and comfort of your home. But, as I have discussed prior to this writing, concern rays have a very difficult time travelling through the air and television cables to influence the outcome of a game. This is why it is infinitely preferable to be seated in the stands, in order for your team to get the full use of one's concern rays.
I sat on a snow drift in Folsom Field on November 2, 1991 and watched my Colorado Buffaloes play the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a 19-19 standstill. The grounds crew kept the field clear, but couldn't be bothered to get the stands free of ice and snow, so the hearty souls who came out to make their voices heard and their concern rays felt had to do so in subzero temperatures dreaming of an outcome that would reward their foolhardiness. And dedication.
When I think about the hours I have spent watching spectator sports without receiving the outcome I feel that I have worked so hard to achieve. Just the other night, I sat down with my wife to watch the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs. I asked my wife along for this experience because I hoped her somewhat muted but very sincere concern rays combined with my full bore obsession rays would help carry the day. And they were nearly enough. Nearly. Not enough to win. Or tie. Enough to have put up a good fight.
And three hours of my life have slipped by in the most unsatisfying fashion.
I relate all of this sports chatter not simply to annoy my younger brother, but to relate it to my feelings about the Brett Kavanaugh experience. The past few weeks worth of concern rays have done little or anything to affect the outcome of the confirmation vote. Part of me wishes that I could have stood with those on Capitol Hill, arms linked and chanting, "We believe women." Because I do. Part of me wishes that this blog had more readers, especially those whose opinion I might have captured and swayed. Ultimately, this was a series of futile gestures on my part. Resulting in a loss that will last far into next season. Into another generation.
Perhaps it's time to stop being a spectator.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Yet Again

Hey kids, moms and dads, what time is it?
It's Thoughts and Prayers Time!
Yes, it seems like just a few days ago that the nation rallied around on one knee, eyes closed, thinking and praying about the latest victims of gun violence.
Because it was.
And who do our thoughts and prayers go out to this time?
The recipient of this round of thoughts and prayers go to the Florence County Police and Sheriff's Department in South Carolina! One officer was killed and six others wounded in a hail of gunfire that erupted when officers responded to a dispute that started as a search warrant and turned into a hostage situation.
As horrible as this news is, there is a bright spot: The children who were being held hostage were released unharmed. The suspect was taken into custody. Additional thoughts and prayers may become necessary as the children grow and try to grapple with a reality that involves this kind of violence. Apparently, residents of Florence were taken aback as well. "Surprised is probably an understatement," said Bobby Goin, who has lived in the area for more than twenty years. "The worst thing that goes on around here is that someone runs a stop sign and it gets posted on Facebook."
This may be tough for Bobby to grasp, but he is living in a country where gun violence is as prevalent as those run stop signs. 
And it is for this that I would suggest we start turning our thoughts and prayers. Thoughts. Solutions. Suggestions. Proposals. Propositions. Recommendations. Hints. Clues. Tips. And yes, our prayers, but not just for the seemingly endless list of victims. Pray to the supreme being of your choice to deliver us from the culture that makes it so easy to take a life. Pray for peace. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Relative Safety

For the second time since school began this year, my route to work was blocked by police activity. Yellow tape stretched across the intersection. Numerous emergency vehicles and crime scene investigation truck. The first time it happened, I chalked it up to wandering into a coincidental catastrophe, not unlike the one I encountered last year when I had to bike several blocks out of my way to stay clear of the major intersection that was blocked off after two police cars had collided in the early morning hours.
In the rain.
Happily, my two encounters with crime scenes this year have not included the complication of precipitation. The less happy part of these experiences is the part where I have to wonder if the corridor which I have picked for my commute is the safest one. I tend to consider the route I take from my home to school to be my neighborhood. This is primarily because there are houses all along the way that share a friendly wave, or at least a head bob as I pass in the afternoons. The mornings are a different deal, since for a great portion of those trips, I travel under cover of darkness. The interactions I have are limited to those on either end, farewell from my wife and greetings from our custodian when I arrive on campus.
Unless my way is blocked by police barricades.
Then it starts to occur to me that these are dangerous times, and that this is a dangerous place, and maybe I should be more cautious in my commute. I know that if I were to examine a map of crime scenes I might be hard pressed to find a path that would take me on a crisis-free journey from point to point. Instead, I should probably be happy to count my blessings and continue to enjoy the way I manage to avoid trouble by plunging into the heart of it. Or slide neatly into its wake.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Pants

Sometimes it's hard not to think in terms of us versus them. Outnumbered twenty to one, we band together in those moments we share before the next barrage is unleashed. In the faces of my comrades I recognize that thousand yard stare of fatigue. How long can we keep up this way? When will there be some relief?
Maybe a day pass, a few moments away from that front line where every interaction carries do-or-die weight. In close quarters like this, it's hard to know how to proceed. Each turn could prove deadly. Ever decision has a question mark next to it. This is especially true if you have a hole in the seat of your pants.
Fifth grade girls were giggling behind my back, which is nothing new since it is something to which fifth grade girls are prone. As is my custom, I turned to glare at them, a tactic that tends to work for brief periods. At least I could finish giving the instructions to the class before they dissolved into tearful fits of full on laughter.
But that didn't work. When I turned around, the giggles had spread to the adjacent table. That's when I went to my next grown up rhetorical question: "What's so funny?"
Except this one had an answer. One of the girls stifled her amusement long enough to tell me, "Mister Caven, you have a hole in your pants."
"Two of them," chuckled her friend.
It occurred to me at that moment that I had two choices: Absorb the embarrassment and move on or run red-faced from the room, surrendering all authority and dignity in this situation. I was tempted to flee, but instead I held my ground. "Thank you. Now can we return to today's lesson?"
In my head, I imagined the gaping hole that must be expanding with each moment. I only hoped to finish out the hour with a shred of self-esteem with a chance to come back the next day to reassert my dominion.
With a new pair of pants.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Fear


Donald Trump Jr. says he fears more for his sons than his daughters in the current #MeToo climate when more and more women feel empowered to come forward with their allegations of sexual harassment and assault. “I’ve got boys, and I’ve got girls. And when I see what’s going on right now, it’s scary,’ he said during an interview on British television. When asked which of his children he fears for more, he said “I mean, right now, I’d say my sons.”
I won't say if I agree or disagree with Junior here, but I can say that I understand why he would feel this way.
Again: I didn't say I agreed. I said I understand. The product of a broken home, he has a father who provides him nothing in the way of a character building example. Like this little nugget from pre-candidate daddy: "Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
That bit comes from a transcript of a taped conversation with American TV celebrity Billy Bush, and is by far the least objectionable of the comments made during the exchange
At the time, if  you recall, this was excused as "locker room talk." It did little if anything to stir or discourage the Trumpian base. If anything, it gave us all a preview of things to come. Like this exchange with ABC News' Cecilia Vega: 
"President": "She’s shocked that I picked her. She’s in a state of shock.
Vega: “I’m not. Thank you, Mr. President.
"President": “That’s okay, I know you’re not thinking. You never do.”
Vega: "I’m sorry?
"President": “No, go ahead.”
And so it goes. Why would his son worry that his sons would be afraid? It seems to be genetic.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Rebukamunga!

This post is brought to you by the word "rebuke." 
If you are unfamiliar, verb 1.express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions. "Sessions rebukes Trump." Or "Trump rebukes 'stupid question' from ABC News star reporter." Maybe "Senate overwhelmingly rebukes Trump with tariff vote."
And so on. There is a lot of rebuking taking place in Washington, D.C. Which makes me wonder how, with all of that sharp disapproval and criticism, anything gets done. I understand that this is very much a two-way street, with Democrats rebuking Republicans and Republicans rebuking Democrats, and everyone rebuking Rand Paul. 
Last week there was this interesting moment when, after being confronted by two victims of sexual assault while boarding an elevator, Senator Jeff Flake summed up the business of the past few weeks: "This country is being ripped apart here." He may have been describing the events of the past two years, and the effect to which we are all witness. Which is probably a result of all that rebuking. 
For just a moment, I tried to imagine a rebuke-free zone. A place where everyone worked together to solve problems and find solutions that were beneficial to all the people all the time. A cooperative place where the benefits of the many outweigh those of the few.
Or the one. 
I am pretty sure that if we took just a few weeks off rebuking one another, some of the things that have been troubling us all for the past couple years or so might get solved. Or, if we are still committed to rebuking, maybe we could take a few days off at the end of each month, just to give us all a break from being rebuked. 
But honestly, none of this will work if there is a rebuke to be found anywhere. If you are just going about your day, trying to get along, and someone rebukes you, well chances are you're going to want to rebuke them back. Or someone else, and the whole rebuke chain begins again. 
I apologize if this entry was a rebuke of anyone who is especially fond of rebukes. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Animals

I went to college in the eighties. My generation did not invent binge drinking, but I like to kid myself into believing that we somehow elevated it. I grew up in a world of dollar pitchers and a terrifying event known as Animal Drown Night. This was an evening set aside for patrons to come to a particular establishment, pay a nominal cover fee, and then drink "for free." Rather than having this bacchanal once or twice a year, it was held weekly, usually on a slow night during the week when coaxing folks out of their dorms was a little bigger chore. This promotion worked on me. I didn't miss many of these opportunities to show off my mad drinking skills. Looking back, I wonder what sort of business plan included cramming a college bar full of undergraduates and letting themselves get blind drunk. I understand I had a choice in this. I could have stayed in my apartment, or the library or hung out at a friend's place. I didn't. I plunked down my eight dollars and proceeded to do everything I could to make sure that I drank my fill. And that of several others.
This was an age that helped define drinking games. While it is true that finding ways to get yourself or your friends inebriated through some contest or other dates back to antiquity, I lived in a world that required quarters not just for laundry but for bouncing off a table. Into a glass of beer that would then be designated for someone else to drink. At no point did the strategy for this game suggest that the person who had been picked a few times get any kind of break. The point was to get drunk. Or at least ensure that someone else did.
Which brings me back to those college bars that also had promotions called Ladies' Night. Ladies got in free, and drank one dollar pitchers all night. Again, the notion being that boys would come and drink without much excuse, but filling the place with ladies drinking one dollar pitchers would be the tiniest incentive to get all the boys who may have needed another reason to show up on a Friday night. I tended to go with ladies I knew, and would happily buy me pitchers of beer for a dollar. This was not every boy's tack. Many hung on the edges, waiting to see where all that beer was going, and finding a table full of ladies who may have spent their laundry money on beer might be a little worse for it.
And just up the street, there were fraternities running much the same concession, only with bedrooms upstairs and no one who might be held "responsible" for the bad things that might ensue. It was a party, after all. And we were all animals, weren't we?
I went to college in the eighties. So did Brett Kavanaugh. I am not proud of everything I did in those days. My abuse was primarily verbal, mostly unintelligible, and aimed at myself in waves of self-pity and loneliness. How about you, Brett? And remember, you're under oath.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

In The Room

I was asked by my wife to accompany her to one of the events for her college reunion. There was a movie being shown in the alumni hall. Friday evening, have a little dinner, take in a film. Sounds like a nice way to start a weekend. But this wasn't just any weekend. Aside from being Alumni Weekend, this was also the weekend that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Brett Kavanaugh ahead for approval by the full Senate. There were a lot of people who were unhappy with that decision, and many of them were at my wife's college reunion. The Mills College reunion.
If you're not up on your women's colleges, Mills is one. My wife was part of the protest that kept trustees from turning her school go co-ed. Two weeks later, the trustees agreed to keep Mills the way it was. The way it is now: A women's college. This was the room into which I walked that Friday. There were already a few people sitting around a table filled with college swag. They didn't seem to be actively involved in selling the T-shirts and scarves. They were focused on the topic of the day: an accused sexual assault by a Supreme Court nominee and a bunch of Republican senators decided that this shouldn't keep him from a lifetime appointment. The folks that were sitting around the table had absolutely no respect for Judge Kavanaugh or the senators who had made the decision. Those were the men. The group discussing this matter in the room in which we were going to watch the movie were women. All of them. Except me. And the guy who was setting up the projector and screen.
And the movie we were about to see? Gaslight. If you're up on women's colleges but not familiar with 1944 films by George Cukor about a woman being manipulated into believing she is insane by her husband, then take the time to check it out.
But maybe not at a women's college reunion the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to give a pass to a Supreme Court nominee in spite of the ugly evidence that he is not qualified to judge anything.  I can say this because once the lights went down (nothing wrong with the gas) and the movie played out in front of us, I was as aware as I may ever have been that I was one of a very few men in a room full of women. I enjoyed the movie, but felt completely responsible for Charles Boyer being such a cad. And for the shriveled husks on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And for all the men who ever got in the way of a woman. In any way. Ever.
Quite a Friday evening.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Rocky Mountain Way

I used to work with a guy who called me "Colorado." No, he called me "Calluhraduh." I took this as a deep and abiding compliment, as a transplanted ex-pat from the Centennial State. I continue to take pride in those things that work out well for the folks back home, and feel a twinge when they don't. That's why it felt so good to have South Park take on "school shooting fatigue." 
If you are unfamiliar with the longest running scripted show on television, it tells the story of a group of ten year old boys in the tiny town of South Park, Colorado. It has been alternately praised and reviled by parents, critics and pundits of all stripes. It has caused even your erstwhile narrator to blush at times. The young men who created this animated treat graduated just a few years behind me from our Alma Mater, The University of Calluhraduh. 
These were guys who were interviewed as part of Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, were not far removed from their own suburban Denver high school experience when Dylan and Eric went on their rampage, sparking one of the initial outrages against school shootings. That was in 1999. Since then, there have been plenty of opportunities for folks to get all riled up about school shootings. Since Columbine, there were forty-nine additional school shootings resulting in fatalities. Dead kids. Is it any wonder that the nerve that used to twitch at these moments has gone numb? 
And that's what Matt and Trey depicted in the first show of their twenty-second season: The boys sitting in math class, unfazed as shots ring out, screams are heard in the halls, and sirens wail. “Shooter down,” says a police officer outside the classroom. Says the teacher, “Now, let’s move on to the next equation.”
I was immediately reminded of the Texas student's reaction to the shooting at her high school: “It’s been happening everywhere,” seventeen year old student Paige Curry said in an interview hours after her school became a part of that list. “I’ve always kind of felt it like eventually it was going to happen here too. I wasn’t surprised, I was just scared.”
Back in South Park: “Who shot up the school?,” Randy, Stan’s dad, asks. “Was it you?”
“No,” says Stan.
“Did you get shot?”
“No.”
“Oh, well. What’s this about failing a math quiz?”
I suppose I could be embarrassed that these miscreants are making fun of a horrible situation, but I'm not. I'm proud to call them Calluhraduhns. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What Is Cool?

Phillip asked, "Mister Caven, have you ever been to a funeral?"
This was the question that started my day. In my mind, I did a quick inventory: Aunt Nell, Darren, my father. I faltered for a moment. Was that it? In all my years and all my associations, I could only come up with three?
"Yes. I have." In my mind, I scrambled for details. Each one was so very clear in my mind, perhaps because I had only attended three. I thought about the car rides and the music and the silences. I thought about the clothes and the shoes and the light. I thought about the way things never felt quite the same afterward. "Have  you ever been to a funeral, Phillip?"
"Yeah. I went to my cousin's funeral." A pause. Then, "It was fun."
I tried not to register anything.
He went on, "Well, it was kind of sad. A lot of people were sad."
I nodded.
"But it was also kind of fun." He continued, "There were these two motorcycle cops who rode in front of all the cars, and they made the other cars stop. All of our cars could go through red lights." He looked at me with a kind of halfway grin. "That was kind of cool."
I had to agree with him. Probably out of the entire experience of going to a funeral, he had picked the coolest part. Running red lights on the day that you're really not in a hurry to be anywhere else is a pretty interesting bit of irony. Irony can be cool, can't it?
I decided that I didn't really want to press Phillip about how close he was to his cousin or how old he or she was. It was plenty for him to register at ten years old that he had been to a funeral, and that it was kind of sad and also kind of cool. I tried not to imagine how many more funerals he might attend before he was my age. I tried not to imagine that there was any kind of competition. I was glad that Phillip could remember those moments.
And then he was off to play four square. A much more appropriate preoccupation for a ten year old boy.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

WWBCD?

"They persecuted Jesus and look what happened." These were the words that Bill Cosby's lawyer used to mark the sentencing of his client for three to ten years for sexual assaulting a woman in 2004. That would be the kind of hyperbole one might expect from a defense attorney, but one who lost his case in the face of fifty-nine additional accusers, over a span of nearly fifty years. Most accounts of the life of Jesus Christ have him living between thirty and thirty-five years. In order to generate that history of being tormented, he would have had to live longer, so maybe attorney Andrew Wyatt was drawing a more delicate parallel. “Not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. So, Mr. Cosby’s doing fine, he’s holding up well and everybody who wants to say anything negative, you’re a joke as well.”
A lot of people suggest that Jesus Christ was a black man. But I am not familiar with any part of the Bible in which the words "you're a joke as well" appear. An interesting retort, considering that when Cosby was about to be taken away, Janice Dickinson (one of the dozens of accusers) laughed slowly and loudly in the courtroom. “See I got the last laugh, pal,” the actress said as she looked at Dr. Cosby being led away in handcuffs.
And so this chapter of #MeToo comes to a close. Meanwhile other defendants and their attorneys attempt to make defenses out of thousands of years of male-dominated jurisprudence. CEOs and Supreme Court Justices will now be held accountable for their actions. It should be noted here that while Jesus didn't have a lot to say on the nature of comedy, or the last laugh, he did suggest that the meek shall inherit the earth. Or maybe just a good sized chunk of it in the settlement.
Or maybe the "weaker sex" isn't so meek after all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Keeping Up

Having a home means that it is your problem if something breaks. If you are a renter, the problem is often solved with a quick call to the manager or a trip downstairs to knock on the door of the super. The most important skill one needs to have to be a renter is communication. Important. Vital, even. That is exactly how I got a new dishwasher installed in my one bedroom apartment back in my bachelor days. A few weeks before I moved out, on my way to California with an achin' in my heart, I had a couple friends over for some celebratory ice cream sundaes. All those months and years of living alone had not afforded me that many dishes, but here I was with more than a few dishes in the sink and a chance at last to use the automatic dishwasher that had never been necessary before. And when I did, the water that poured out from the cracked and dried out seal left an inch of water in my kitchen, and began to soak into the carpet in the hallway and dining room. I called the manager immediately and I went down the stairs to pound on  the maintenance guy's door to tell him that the flood waters were rising.
I had remembered to shut off the dishwasher before I did any of that. Showing off what would be my strong suit as a home owner: common sense. Which is where I found myself once again after I had discovered that those cute little raccoons had been scarfing up all our strawberries. With no one else to turn to, I went to the garage where I kept the tools of my avocation. I put together a hanging pot to keep our fruit out of those clutching claws. I added this triumph to that of the slow flushing toilet in our bathroom I had wrangled into submission a day before and the load of laundry I had completed earlier that day. What a flurry of home management.
When at last I was on my way back inside when my wife came up the stairs behind me and pointed to one. "Are those termites?"
And that's when I wished that I was renting again. But there was no one else to call. This was my moment to head back to the garage and grab the tools that would help me deal with this new problem. On the plus side, the dishwasher was still working. Last time I checked, anyway.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Don't Not Vote

“We get the leaders we vote for. We get the policies we vote for. And when we don't vote, that's when we wind up with government of, by and for other people." This is part of what Michelle Obama had to tell a gymnasium filled with Nevadans, part of her first rally for When We All Vote, the nonprofit voting initiative she launched over the summer. “While some folks are frustrated and tuned out and staying home on Election Day, trust me, other folks are showing up. Democracy continues with or without you.” 
What is she talking about? As percentage of eligible voters, Hillary Clinton received 28.43%  of all votes compared to Donald Trump’s 27.20%  and Did Not Vote’s 44.37%. That's more than one hundred million Did Not Votes. Nobody wins in a landslide!
And yes, it would be easy enough to paint a circle around this disparity and say that if one candidate or another had all of those votes that there would have been no contest at all, but that's not how the see-saw works. It seems just as likely that those votes would have been split evenly across a disgusted group of individuals too put off by what hangs in the air currently to go to the polls. People who have given up on the Democratic process. People who would rather watch and be disappointed than participate and potentially be disappointed. 
But at least have a horse in the race, right?
“Believe me, I am frustrated, too,” Ms. Obama said. “I am sick of all the chaos and the nastiness of our politics. It’s exhausting and, frankly, it’s depressing. I understand wanting to shut it all out.” She continued: “They’re finding all kinds of ways to keep you at home, hoping that when you hear about all those things, you’ll just give up. Don’t let anybody intimidate you from being a part of this process.”
If nothing else, voting gives us the unalienable right to complain. That's a part of the process that we don't often take the time to fully appreciate. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When I Was Seventeen

10/1/1979 - Study for Biology Quiz - Talk to Sally
10/2/1979 - Check out new Police album "Regatta De Blanc" - Talk to Sally
10/3/1979 - Band practice after school - buy spark plugs - Talk to Sally
10/4/1979 - Grapes of Wrath Quiz - Get Sally's #
10/5/1979 - Football @ Home/Cherry Creek - Happy Joe's - Call Sally
10/6/1979 - Music lesson - Drive by Sally's house
10/7/1979 - Help in yard - hangout with Jay - Does he know Sally's brother?
10/8/1979 - Computer Lab before school - talk to Sally's brother
10/9/1979 - Talk to counselor about switching Algebra - What section is Sally in?
10/10/1979 - Band practice after school - Try talking to Ann
10/11/1979 - Algebra quiz - study for Biology - Call Ann
10/12/1979 - Football game - Drive to Westminster with Jay and Ann(?)
10/13/1979 - Music lesson - Stop by Ann's house
10/14/1979 - Ann's house for bake sale prep - Buy cookies
10/15/1979 - Bring $10 for uniform cleaning - Drive Ann home
10/16/1979 - Check with Brad - Sally broke up with Dan?
10/17/1979 - Band practice after school - Call Dan
10/18/1979 - Buy Homecoming Tickets - dinner at Ann's house(?)
10/19/1979 - Football @ Home/Aurora Central - Happy Joe's w/Ann
10/20/1979 - Music lesson - Bake sale
10/21/1979 - Call Ann - Already asked Sally to Dance?
10/22/1979 - Dan for breakfast - Ask Sally to Homecoming?
10/23/1979 - New shoes for dance? - Call Sally re: Homecoming
10/24/1979 - Band practice after school - Go by Sally's house
10/25/1979 - Pop Lit. Test - Read Cliff's Notes - Check with Dan
10/26/1979 - Football Game - take Sally
10/27/1979 - Music lesson - Wash car - buy Corsage - Dance
10/28/1979 - Call Ann - Thanks for last minute change
10/29/1979 - Call Dan - Thanks for nothing
10/30/1979 - Drop Algebra - Pick up Selected Topics in Math
10/31/1979 - Band practice after school - Call Shelly

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Nature's Wonders

A lifetime ago, my friends and I took a sunset cruise out of Key West. As the boat eased out into the gulf, the skipper was spinning tales of dolphins who came swimming alongside, following him and his crew into deeper waters. Then he started to describe the rays who would leap out of the water, sometimes three or four at a time. It was at this point that the Colorado born and raised landlubber in me began to scoff. Not loudly, but a bit of eye rolling with my buddies. Flying manta rays. Right. At which point heard a splash and looked to my right. Hanging there in the air, a couple feet above the water, was a great leathery flying saucer. It hung there for a moment, just to be certain that I could recognize what I was, in fact, seeing: a manta ray leaping out of the spray. And me sitting there, stunned, with my jaw and camera in my lap.
I have no evidence of that aquatic display, save my memory of the experience.
Last week, I had a similar moment when my wife and I were sitting out on our patio having one last dinner on the deck before fall. We were enjoying cherry tomatoes in our pasta and diced cucumber salad we had grown in our garden. A rustle in the bushes in the far corner of our back yard caught my attention. Poking its nose around the branches of our lemon tree was a raccoon. The beast then clambered down the fence post, followed by another smaller raccoon. Then another. And  another. A mother and her three babies began their slow parade across the stretch behind our lawn. I gestured to my wife, not wanting to scare the wildlife.
"What? Is it Fluffy?" She was referring to the cat that lives across the street. The one who makes a habit of flouncing over to our house, taking Fluffy's own sweet time to desecrate the final resting place of our beloved dog. My wife says that Fluffy is "visiting her friend." I know that Maddie would not agree. Nor would she sit still while a family of rodents trooped through her domain. Still, we sat and stared, caught up in the urban wilderness show. Eventually the little family made crept up into the blackberries on the other side. Which is where it occurred to my wife and I that these furry scoundrels may have been the culprits who had been sneaking into our strawberry patch, harvesting our sweet treats before they were completely ripe.
All just a part of the wonders of nature.
And missing my dog.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Announcement

A friend and colleague of mine sat down after a busy day of teaching to share some news. She wanted me to be among the first to know that she was pregnant. This was especially nice to hear, since there aren't a lot of people to whom I would immediately ascribe the epithet "mom." She is one of those.
We talked about the tricky first trimester, in which the physical realities of carrying a burgeoning life is still so foreign and many of the physical and emotional swings of this phenomena are felt to their fullest extent. She suggested that she might start her own blog, featuring "things I have thrown up." I suggested it might be best as a photo essay. Perhaps with before and after pictures.
Then the conversation turned to the revelation portion: When to tell anyone that this miracle was taking place. She didn't want to lead anyone on. She didn't want to get anyone's hopes up. Her own, I ventured. And then it became a matter of no surprise. After twelve weeks, it becomes a little more academic. Now you're on the ride and you're starting to mark off weeks and days. And you can start shopping and painting and making decisions that could alter the rest of that life that has only just begun.
And there is still all that poop to worry about. Months and months of it. Someone else's.
Which is where I started to remember the time I spent at a changing table, wrangling the Diaper Genie, and making things fresh but only for a moment. I tried to explain that all that mess is just a part of the package: a package that has so much else to offer that the poop is anecdotal. A widely discussed and repeated anecdote, but anecdote just the same.
The chance to share the tiniest moments with this person that is all your fault is a double-edged sword. The dull side is the responsibility. The worry. The anticipation. The sharp edge is the one that cuts through all that fret and leaves laughter and tears in its wake. Photos that will never capture the whole moment but serve as signposts to the place from whence they came. The opportunity to be one the party planning committee for all those birthdays? Priceless.
I was surprised how much of a contact joy high I carried with me after this announcement. Reminders of when my wife and I had a baby, and how he grew. A pretty amazing trick, with stories to last a lifetime.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Battle Zone

It's the part of the story that continues to befuddle anyone who reads it: "Motive unknown." It is the refrain for numerous articles about shootings here in the gun capital of the world. We, as a nation, own a lot of guns. For every hundred people, there are one hundred twenty guns. This is more than twice the ratio for Yemen, a country currently experiencing a civil war. In Yemen, with all those bullets whizzing about, ten thousand civilians have died. In the United States, with all those bullets whizzing about, ninety-six people a day die from gun violence.
Last time I checked, the United States was not currently experiencing a period of civil war.
Or are we?
Maybe that would explain all this "lack of motive."
Last week, an employee at a Wisconsin software company went to his office with a pistol and extra ammunition and began firing on his colleagues, seriously injuring several. He was eventually shot by police responding to the scene. If we were to understand that this was an alt-right or an anti-fa individual, then the lines would be clearly drawn. Unfortunately, these kind of incidents tend to be pretty one-sided when it comes to who is holding the bullets and who ends up being the repository for those bullets. In Yemen there tends to be armed factions showing up on both sides of the argument and they shoot at each other. When they aren't shooting innocent bystanders. 
Still, wouldn't there be some comfort in the idea that there were certain areas to avoid, like churches and theaters and schools? They seem to attract a lot of gunfire presently, and until we can declare some sort of demilitarized zone, it's probably best to steer clear of those free-fire spaces. 
Or maybe there are just too many guns. I know, this is crazy talk, and a land of free and brave citizens such as our own deserves to be armed to the teeth because that is certainly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote that bit about militia and bearing arms. Except they had no concept of rapid fire or high capacity magazines or guns that could be generated on a 3D printer. 
Owning a gun doesn't make a person bad, by the way. It is a culture that makes killing with guns nonchalant. That's bad. 
Almost worth starting a war. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Headlines. Of Course.

Republican men — and not a single GOP woman — will be Christine Blasey Ford's interrogators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because of course they are. 

Texan Behind 3D-Printed Gun Legal Battle Charged With Sexual Assault of a Minor. Because of course he was. 

Trump Tells Hurricane Florence Survivor 'At Least You Got A Nice Boat Out Of The Deal.' Because of course he did. 

Trump Boasts About Steel Industry’s ‘New Life' As More Steelworkers Vote To Strike. Because of course he did.

Twitter Users Rib Ted Cruz For Joking Beto O'Rourke Will Ban BBQ. Because of course they did. 

Trump's Space Force Would Cost $13 Billion In First 5 Years: Air Force Memo. Because of course it will. 

Kanye West Says He's Moving to Chicago. Because of course he is. 

Arrest shows challenge of keeping rogues off Border Patrol. Because of course it does.

Sesame Street Writer Says He Was Misinterpreted on Bert and Ernie's Sexuality. Because of course he did.

Wall Street Journal Goes All Out To Defend Kavanaugh Amid Sexual Assault Allegation. Because of course they did. 

Kavanaugh Accuser Faces Death Threats Ahead Of Senate Hearing. Because of course she does.

Japanese Billionaire Will Fly To The Moon With SpaceX, Elon Musk Says. Because of course he does. 

Trump calls Florence 'one of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water.' Because of course he did.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Boys Will Be Held Accountable For Their Actions

Boys will be boys. I am not familiar with a corresponding phrase for girls. Maybe that is because "boys will be boys" is an excuse we make for otherwise deplorable behavior. It has become a built-in aphorism that sits in the same pocket as "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." It is supposed to sound like wisdom, but it is really a way to keep things stuck. Stuck on bad.
How bad? We have a nominee for Supreme Court Justice who has been accused of sexual assault. I have already heard all the rationalization imaginable leading up to this from other high profile cases. What? A guy can't make a mistake? Way back then? What was she doing there in the first place? It's not like he killed anyone, right?
Let me take those in order: Yes, a guy can make a mistake. And every mistake will have an impact on the life that guy will lead ever after. Way back then or five minutes ago, "no" means "no," and a crime is still a crime, statute of limitations do not expunge the violation. If an assault took place, it would seem that what she was doing there was being a victim. That's how these things work. No, he didn't kill anyone. He killed expectations and dreams and a part of all the souls that he touched through his actions.
Boys will be boys.
Give me a break.
And yes, it needs to be pointed out that this is by no means the only person in this position. Les Moonves, former CEO of CBS, is no longer the CEO of CBS after resigning his position after six women came forward, alleging sexual harassment. These women told stories of abuse, assault, and ultimately career death by manipulation. For this, Moonves was awarded a severance package, still being negotiated at this time, but is rumored to be in the neighborhood of one hundred million dollars.
Boys will be boys.
And ain't that a shame?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What We Watch

I apologize. I would love to feel as invested in the Emmys as I do to the Oscars, but I don't. Of course, that's not because I don't watch television. I watch a lot of television. I always have. I continue to. A lot of the movies I watch these days are on television. Partly because of the new way we all watch television. On demand. Streaming. Lazy.
Which is kind of the whole deal about television, right? Television comes in half hour bits, with breaks built in for toddling out to the kitchen for a snack or the bathroom for relief from said snacks. And if you miss something, there would always be a rerun. TV just comes barging into your home, usually invited, but not always. Sometimes things get preempted and you end up watching something that isn't very entertaining at all. It's like news or something. And yet we sit there on the couch, wading through these interruptions as if it were part of the program. What I can't figure out is this: Why do they put commercials in the Emmy Awards Show?
Okay. I get it. Television is different from movies. It makes sense that the show that honors them would be different. Except that now TV is supposed to be so awesome and great and golden and better than that dreck that is playing in tn he concrete bunkers we have taken to calling theaters. We have these television providers who are going out there and making movies and pushing them through our cables and Internets. Sometimes they come in two hour chunks, and sometimes they come trickling out over weeks and months or even years. Unless you get it into your head to do that binge thing, which doesn't tend to happen as much with movies.
Unless you get it into your head to watch all five of the original Planet of the Apes movies in a day. With limited bathroom breaks. And even the documentary that came with the box set. For which I believe we deserve some sort of award. Not an Emmy or an Oscar, since we didn't create anything. We managed to sit through it, after all.
Which is how I feel about watching the Emmys. There isn't a huge amount of drama or suspense built in. I can't recall ever supporting or becoming involved in an office Emmy pool. But the Oscars? That's a different deal. Want to know how I know this? Because this year the Emmys gave a prize to the director of the Oscar telecast. And it was the best moment of the night. Go figure.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Time To Reconsider

I surrendered this Sunday.
It came with concessions, mostly to reality. The reality of time.
My bedroom clock has been set a few minutes ahead of the actual time for about as long as I can remember. Since I was allowed to be in charge of my own devices, I have moved the hands forward in hopes of fooling myself into believing that I am late. And ever since I was allowed to move those hands forward, I have been susceptible to this ruse. I am so clever, and yet, I am so gullible.
At first, it was just four minutes. That was just enough to keep me honest. Or confused. I would see that minute hand creeping past the top of the hour and I would feel a twinge. Where did the time go? I was sure I had plenty of time.
At least four more minutes.
Of course, when I showed up in that near empty room, I was early. Such a relief. Which was probably a reaction to showing up late for those commitments managed by my father. His clocks were not set forward. Or if they were, he had figured out a way to surmount this imaginary obstacle. My father was no prisoner of time. Even if the rest of his family was.
And so those four minutes became my friend. They were the difference between living in my father's rushabout world and the world in which I found myself with my pick of seats in a theater, at the front of the line, ready to work.
Maintaining this ruse meant that I had to remember to get that extra nudge each time I reset my clock for daylight savings time, or after a power outage. That and the mild embarrassment of having to explain my chrono-peculiarity to anyone who asked, "Do you know your clock is wrong?"
Wrong?
Ultimately, I became surrounded by clocks. The one on my arm. The one on my computer. The  one on my phone. The one inside our Google assistant. The one on the microwave. But, as it turns out, the most important one was inside my head. That one is always running fast. So I gave up those extra minutes on my night stand. I gave up the extra math and the manipulations of hardware. I have given up. I know what time it is. More or less. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What's The Difference?

My wife and I take walks around our neighborhood. Once a week or so. We  tend to walk around sidewalks and paths that are well worn. We can meander over the routes our son took to elementary and then middle school. We know these streets like we know our front yard. Somewhere along the way last week, she wondered aloud if we had made a difference.
I am pretty sure she meant to our neighborhood.
What have we done to make a difference to our neighborhood?
We have connected with the kids who lived across the street. They have since moved on. A couple of them moved a little further down the street. We still see them from time to time. They are where they are and who they are, in part, because of the interactions they had with that family across the street: us.
They came and played in our front yard. They pushed our son in the tire swing that still hangs from a limb of the plum tree. They played in our back yard. They scooped sand in our sandbox and built castles and roadways with our son and all those Tonka trucks. They came inside and held our son up as he waddled through his first attempts at walking on his own.
Walking.
It was those early steps that turned into the ongoing capacity to perambulate up across the street and up the hill, into the halls of elementary school and middle school. He walked through his neighborhood, holding his mom and dad's hands when we came to the corner and stepped off the curb.
Like the curb that we stood on that warm August night as we scooped ice cream for the kids across the street. And everyone else who came out to share in our good fortune. We had been a warded a neighborhood ice cream party because my wife entered a contest, thinking what a great thing it would be to share with the families that lived up and down our lane. Every August after that, we block off the street and spend an evening sharing casseroles and flipping burgers, connecting with those of us who are still here. And with the ones who have moved in since. Since the kids across the street grew up and out. And down the street.
We have made a difference.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Too Soon

I have been told that tragedy plus time equals comedy. I do not know how certain I am that this applies to all instances of tragedy, but the works of Shakespeare have been fodder for slapstick and parody for some time, so perhaps in another hundred years or so some of the things that feel impossibly sad currently will become a laugh riot. On a long enough timeline.
Last Thursday, Karen's grandmother came to pick her up from the after school program. Her grandmother explained that Karen would not be coming to school on Friday, and then gave me a courtesy smile as she walked out the front door with her little charge who turned to wave at me. Her smile was more genuine. It was the smile of a second grader who was looking forward to a long weekend. "See you on Monday, Mister Caven!"
It was our after school director who filled me in: Karen was going home to receive the news that her nephew had been shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. The funeral would be held on Friday. She had just a few hours to confront the death of someone close to her. Not in age. Her nephew was twenty-two. The layers of generations and family connections can make things even more confounding. How is this eight year old going to come to terms with this person who showed up as a permanent fixture in her life suddenly disappeared? Worse yet, how will this eight year old comprehend the loss of another young man in Oakland?  Family gatherings will be a little smaller, a little more somber.
She is eight. I don't know if the comedic aspects of this tragedy will be available to her for, well, ever. I cannot imagine what timeline will allow laughs to come out of this situation. I can imagine that Karen will laugh again. Kids are resilient. Kids are amazing that way. But not so resilient that this won't leave a mark. A numb spot where grief was dulled down to a child-friendly acceptance for the way things are in the world. In Karen's world, where laughter will take a holiday.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Introducing The Conditional Clause

It is in my nature to ask the universe, "What if?" It is the thing that puts me squarely in the creative set, and has bound me to a world of fiction and other made up stuff for the life I have been living. I do this a lot when I am riding my bike to school. It is true that quite often those musings lean toward the "What if I had a car?" Then there are the other days, when I imagine all kinds of different things from outcomes to scenarios that might have turned out differently "if only."
So there's that hanging chad: "If." Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about it. Malcolm McDowell starred in a movie about it. Many of us have lost sleep over that tiny little word. What if a robot came back from the future to kill the lady who would become the mother of the anti-robot rebellion? There's Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. I'm telling you, this is powerful stuff.
Which is why I don't tend to turn it on myself very often.
What if I had paid more attention in those math classes?
What if I had put a little more effort into the science classes?
What if I had not been so swept up in science fiction and fantasy as a kid?
What if I had considered a career path in my twenties?
I like to fix things. I could have been a TV repairman. What if I had done that?
Who repairs TVs anymore?
What if I had become a doctor? Instead of memorizing entire screenplays full of dialogue, I could have committed all those body parts and fluids to memory and made a find living off all that useful knowledge.
What if I would have spent as much time working at promoting my writing career as I did creating all those stories of drunken escapades?
Then I wouldn't be sitting here now, enjoying the trip that brought me to this place. I took the road less marked by regret. What if I stopped saying "what if?"

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Unto Himself

Raise your hand if you remember the Trump Administration's lackluster effort to help Puerto Rico on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Keep your hand up if you were hit on the head by one of the rolls of paper towel that the "President" tossed out during his embarrassing appearance in the wake of the storm that left the island without power and nearly three thousand fatalities. “I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” the "President" said at the White House during a meeting with FEMA administrator Brock Long, Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “I actually think it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done.”
In this Through The Looking Glass world in which we currently find ourselves living, it makes sense that Puerto Rico would show up as a success by this "President's" reckoning. A guy who shows up to a September 11 memorial pumping his fists, eager to shake hands with his base has a number of perception issues that cannot be fully discussed in the space we have here. There may not be space anywhere to take on such a sweeping topic. Up is down. Left is right. Catastrophes are successes. 
I get it. Donald Trump wants to reassure the folks in the path of Hurricane Florence that the United States government has their back. He is also correct to point out that the eastern seaboard is not an island. “Puerto Rico was actually our toughest one of all because it’s an island, you can’t truck things onto it, everything’s by boat. We moved a hospital into Puerto Rico, a tremendous military hospital, in the form of a ship — you know that. And I actually think, and the governor’s been very nice and if you ask the governor he’ll tell you what a great job. I think probably the hardest one we had by far was Puerto Rico because of the island nature.” For perspective's sake, 1,833 people died in Katrina. That plus a thousand more died in Puerto Rico. 
Puerto Rico is, and I checked it out to be sure, an island. Surrounded by water. The "President" lives on an island too. Surrounded by delusion. 
God save us all. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Don Of Justice

Your "President" would like the Department of Justice to investigate the New York Times to uncover the identity of the Op-Ed piece written a week ago by a senior White House Aide. If the full weight of all that jurisprudence down on that miscreant, it would make everyone's head spin.
Of course, somebody would have to figure out just exactly what law had been broken in order to send out the dogs.
The whole thing starts to reek a little of a bad whodunit. All those faces crowded into a room, each one eyeing the other with murderous intent. All of that loyalty being tested, minute by minute as the would-be sleuths do their best to crack the case. Men tugging at their collars, women at their hemlines as temperatures begin to rise. Telltale moisture beginning to form on the upper lip of those who have the most to lose.
But who has the most to gain?
Or maybe the babysitter who keeps answering the phone, getting garbled noise on the other end, something about amorality and impetuous leadership. And somewhere in the middle of the night, the phone rings again, this time it's Jeff Sessions telling that orange-haired babysitter that the calls are coming from within that very house.
Meanwhile, Bob Woodward, who knows a thing or two about impetuous leadership and amorality inside a White House, has been happy to raise a hand and sign copies of his book. The title of which is Fear: Trump in the White House, which should go a long way to clearing up just how he feels about this particular administration. How he feels as well as a great many appointees and hired hands in that group of mildly recalcitrant members of a government trolley gone off its tracks. "Crazytown," if we are to believe any (or all) of what Mister Woodward has to tell us.
And why shouldn't we? Each day brings new lies and corruption. Each day brings more confounding chatter. Why wouldn't we, for example, believe that the "President" was close to declaring war with North Korea in a tweet?
And so the plot, as they so often do, thickens. Like a really old bowl of clam chowder.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Fixer

So let's get this out of they way first thing: I enjoy nothing more than fixing something that is broken. The satisfaction that comes from being able to return something to usefulness is unparalleled in my universe. Stopped drains or clogged toilets are especially gratifying. Water swirling down a drain when it had previously threatened to spill out onto the linoleum brings relief along with satisfaction. Mending my son's toys made me feel like a better dad, as well as a thrifty consumer, since replacing a Lionel train engine can be expensive.
Replacing anything can be expensive.
The accounting in my head sometimes adds it up wrong. Assuming that by repairing something on our car does not, I have found, mean that I have saved the purchase price of a new car. Or a used car. I may have avoided paying someone with better tools than I have for their labor and expertise. I can often find parts on Al Gore's Internet for less than I might have paid if I was purchasing them from a "reputable dealer." I don't have to pay in other ways, such as the uncertainty of just exactly what might or might not have been done to the inside of the machine that I have opted to cast into the lap of some stranger.
When my electric lawnmower stopped working, I asked Google for some hints. What I found amid dozens of links describing a similar experience others had, was a video showing exactly how to replace a bridge rectifier. I had no idea what a bridge rectifier was until I spent some quality time removing and replacing this little square doohickey. Can I explain to you now exactly how and why the bridge rectifier brought my electric lawnmower back from the dead? No. But I can say that the piece was correctly named, having rectified the situation in which I found myself.
And then there is the ever present terror of being without wi-fi for any length of time. For any reason. Ever. I have spent a good deal of quality time on my hands and knees, peering at lights that out to be steady that are blinking instead. Then I turn it off. I wait. When I turn it back on, I hope that the lights are steady and bright. I am not waiting or paying for a service call. I did it myself, thank you very much. And now I can get back to the business of writing this blog.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tee Time

What sort of moron would tell the citizens of their country not to pay attention to sports? Sports are from where all our great metaphors spring: 
“Winning isn't everything--but wanting to win is.” - Vince Lombardi
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game." - Babe Ruth
“I've never lost a game I just ran out of time.” - Michael Jordan
“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”  - Billy Jean King
“Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.”  - Knute Rockne
“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play. ” - Mike Singletary
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” - Phil Jackson
I could go on and on, but you get the point. sports is a unifying force. That's why we have a National Pastime. Even if we don't completely agree about what it might be. Which is why we tend to let our sports seasons go on and on, allowing all kinds of overlap because we, as a nation, love our sports.
So I reiterate: What sort of moron would insist on driving a wedge between us and our sports? 
You know the kind: A golfer.
“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” - Mark Twain
“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it's open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” - Dave Barry
"Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps." - Tiger Woods
We have a country club golfer for a "President." While the rest of the country was mourning the death of John McCain, he went golfing
Now he wants us to stop paying attention to the sports teams that we have been following all our lives. Because he believes that we should all pay more attention to a song for which he is himself unclear on the words. He won't have our sports champions over to his house because they don't agree with one another. Barack Obama used to golf with John Boehner. And he had a pretty sweet jump shot. Our current "President" says he should have left college basketball players in jail
What a moron.