Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hand Raised

A lot of kids are anxious for summer vacation. Looking forward to spending more time with family. Fun in the sun. Road trips. A few months away from the pencils, books, and the looming specter of being gunned down in home room.
In the days after the shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, this sentiment has been echoed without a smirk by children across the country. They are not cracking wise. They are stating what has become inevitable fact. News sites have to amend their list of fatal school shootings an a weekly basis. And even as the numbness continues to set in, there is still outrage, pain and suffering among those who can still feel. While we wait for someone to offer up anything that sounds like sense. 
It's not coming from the Lieutenant Governor's office in Texas. Dan Patrick has a lot to say about what is happening in his state, and the nation. Lt. Dan appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, he wanted us all to remember that guns "are a part of who we are as a nation. It is our Second Amendment — you know, it talks about a well-run militia…our teachers are part of that well-run militia.” Yes, I know that there are plenty of other folks across this great land of ours who would like teachers to take on the additional responsibility of armed security for our schools. Most of us educators feel like the job description is already pretty full, and finding the prep time to fit in target practice would mean a whole lot more negotiation with the district and will it be a merit based system whereby each bad guy gunned down brings a bigger bonus? 
This is a guy who suggested that there were just too many doors in a school to keep all the kids safe. Which is interesting from the standpoint of someone who has to run fire, earthquake, and lockdown drills. Mostly we want to keep the kids away from the fire or the falling debris or the gun. It helps to have more than one door for this. We do whatever we can to keep kids from bringing matches to school. We don't allow students to have guns. These seem like pretty good rules to have in place, safety wise. So far this year, adults bringing guns to campus hasn't really worked out so well. 
Oliver North, the new president of the National Rifle Association has a different take. He blamed the problem on "youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence" in which many young boys have "been on Ritalin" since early childhood. "They've been drugged in many cases," he said. Ollie failed to make a connection between the culture of violence and the easy availability of guns. 
So we get ready to head off to summer vacation. Don't worry kids, I'm sure the grownups will have this all figured out by the time the Back To School sales start. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cult-cha

I have been accused of "knowing everything." Not by anyone in a position to grant true Genius standing to yours truly, but being Mister Know-It-All has its downside. Like the knowledge that I do not, in fact, know everything. I have harnessed my concern rays on a rather specific sliver of all the world's information. A voracious reader and storehouse of pop culture references does not equip me to be a rocket scientist.
I know that at times I appear in people's lives as a font of wisdom, but it is primarily recycled aphorisms from movies that I have seen and lyrics from rock songs that have disappeared from playlists in other folks' minds. I can't count cards, but I can tell you about Rain Man. I find things that appeal or amuse me, and I try to spread these bits of trivia as if they were my gospel. A walk into my living room is a walk into a very busy mind. Two very busy minds, since my wife's obsessions are stuffed in there too. If you visit, we will take turns trying to cram your head full of the things we have just noticed or experienced. We are fortunate when those visitors are willing recipients of the word on high, or medium high anyway.
The trouble is, I am a much better transmitter than a receiver. Heaven forbid someone will take me aside to tell me about a TV show they have been enjoying and it hasn't made my playlist. I search frantically for a reason or connection to something else that will allow me access without having to increase my bandwidth too awfully much. My reputation, as I mentioned, tends to proceed me. That means friends will often show up with artists or artifices that really should be in my lexicon. "You haven't seen....?" or "I can't believe you missed..." Which sets off an alarm in my head. How did this happen? What could have been in the way from me to have ignored this significant event? For this reason, I own a Grateful Dead CD. I have watched the first season of Game of Thrones. These initial contacts were not enough to send me into a frenzy, watching and listening to all aspects and tangential material connected. Breaking Bad was different. That one set off a binge watch that ended with the purchase of a Walter White action figure that now stands on the altar above the television. No Jerry Garcia action figure, sorry.
But now that I have taken the time to write this, I know that such a thing exists.
It never stops.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Which Witch?

“Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History," tweeted the "President," “And there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!”
First, apologies on the grammar and capitalization. This is how our "President" tends to spray his invective, in odd swatches of poorly written babble. Words that are to emphasized are big, and we can only be relieved that Twitter does not allow much in the way of font management, or we might be subject to even more creative use of the characters those tiny thumbs are pushing out. 
But what is the message? It seems to be sarcastic, since his overall feeling about the Mueller probe does not seem to warrant congratulations. He does seems to be pretty convinced that there is No evidence of collusion or obstruction, which is interesting since there seems to be a number of other bright red arrows pointing to just the opposite. So far nineteen people and three companies have either been indicted or given guilty pleas: four former Trump advisers, thirteen Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. In the business of hunting witches, we call this "evidence." And like the trail of bread crumbs in that first showed up in Hansel and Gretel, the idea is to follow them until you find home, you don't expect to find a witch. 
But if it cast spells like a witch, cackles like a witch, and turns people into newts like a witch, it's probably worth checking out. Those bread crumbs, by the way, get more difficult to follow with each passing day, since wind or birds or scurrying rodents tend to disturb that clear path to and from home. A clever witch would probably do whatever he or she might do, as a witch, to disrupt that improvised trail. Which suggests that it might take more than a weekend to uncover the truth behind that house in the woods all covered with candy, and the witch that lives inside. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Surprise Free Zone

My thoughts and prayers this week are with Meghan and Harry. I wish them well, and thank them for supplying a great big international distraction from the horror of everyday life here in the Colonies. Speaking of the "thoughts and prayers" meme, most of the talking heads steered clear of that phrase as they attempted to wrestle with yet another school shooting.
Quick aside: Do you know how much it pains me to put the phrases "yet another" and "school shooting" together?
And we're back. Texas this time. Santa Fe. The headline in the New York Times included the phrase, "Many unsurprised."
Sorry. Another quick aside. Many unsurprised?
A seventeen year old student, armed with a shotgun and a pistol killed ten and injured another ten, including an armed security officer who was unable to stop the carnage or detain the suspect. Ironically, considering the New York Times headline, witnesses reported that the killer shouted something before he opened fire: "Surprise!"
Another quick stop here, while I check to see if the meaning of "ironically" can be stretched to include the way it makes my stomach pitch and fists clench.
This was, by reportage, the deadliest school shooting "since Parkland." Way back three months ago. Back when we didn't have any common sense gun legislation being enacted by our government. By contrast, there was a flash of a scandal last week when a mass shooting occurred in Australia. Certain wags pointed their fingers at that incident to say, "See? Australia doesn't allow any guns and still people die. You can't stop the killing."
A friend of mine said this: "Every time politicians say there’s nothing that can be done to stop school shootings, it becomes a little more true."
Which is why we aren't surprised. It's a part of the news cycle: Sports, weather, and this week's tragic mass shooting. News trucks descend on the town, knowing the drill: conduct the interviews, get some shots of the candlelight vigil, capture the shock and pain, wait for the call to pack up and move to the next little town torn apart. Another church. Another school. Another town full of families that will never be whole again.
I think I will continue to pray that I don't have to think and pray so much about this anymore. No surprise there, either.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

What Me Worry

It is easy to get caught up in the day to day drama that I often refer to End Days here. The "President" fulfilling "biblical prophecy" and the international bartering over nuclear weapons makes most of us nervous. And then it takes a little Neil deGrasse Tyson to remind us about our planet. "Planet Earth survives massive asteroid strikes - it'll survive anything we throw at it. But Life on Earth will not." A fine distinction, but one that seems quite relevant to me after Monday night.
With a head full of concerns about the Golden State Warriors' chances in the NBA playoffs, I sat with my wife on the couch after finishing dinner. That reverie was replaced abruptly by the house rattling and my seat below reminding me of the seventies movie theater gimmick, Sensurround. For a few seconds, I had a chance to reflect on all the things I had been told about surviving in the event of an earthquake. When the shaking stopped, my wife and I were still sitting, transfixed, on the couch holding hands. If that had been The Big One, we would have gone happy, together. Without any rage against the conditions that brought me to the brink of that abyss. It would have simply been the way nature decides for itself in some geological way that enough is enough. Thank you for playing. Game over. 
Humans like to exert their mastery over the ground upon which they tread, but at the end of the day, we don't do as much dictating as we would like to imagine we do. The fracking and the ozone and the litter and the cute attempts at conservation are essentially a sum zero equation for the third planet from the sun. Climate change might eventually make life unbearable for us, but our replacements will be hot and happy with the biosphere we have generated. Someday they will write books about the land dwelling mammals that created the vast oceans that cover the surface and made it possible for the return to the sea. Those volcanic eruptions in Hawaii were just the first shots in a war that sent us back to where life began. 
Or maybe they won't write books at all. Documenting their existence may be low on their list of priorities, since survival seems so very much more important. It's pretty hard to type with flippers. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stories To Tell

My wife made an interesting point to our son on the advent of his twenty-first year. She said that she was tempted to spend a lot of energy and time re-living the past two decades and change, through pictures and videos and stories. Because we have a lot of them. As an only child, he has never suffered from an attention deficit, externally anyway. But she didn't want to focus on all those memories. Instead she encouraged us all to look ahead at the next phase of his life: adulthood. Which I understood, especially since each new day brings a little more of that future to light.
Which does not mean that I don't find myself staring down into that well from time to time. I take a lot of pride in the childhood that I witnessed and helped construct. The man that my son has become was shaped by the boy that he was. A pediatrician once suggested that there was a lot of music in our son's head. This didn't turn out to be a prediction of his piano prowess or his fondness for classic rock. It was a way to explain the way his brain worked, with a nearly constant soundtrack as an accompaniment to the adventure that was his youth.
The music is still there, but he now has a better handle on the volume, though he still likes it loud. I take responsibility for that gene.
It's the kind of thing a parent can make themselves crazy doing: taking credit for the way their little weed grew. Each little bump and scrape was my fault, but so were the triumphs. There were plenty of times I know that my wife and I were taking proud satisfaction for providing the inspiration for the same landmark. We all took piano lessons. We all drew pictures in the margins of our notebooks. We all rose up from a remarkably similar pool of genes.
Which makes those slight divergences from the path we drew so long ago such a surprise. All the comfort we might take at knowing just exactly where our little boy might be at any given moment goes out the window when we can't find him on our map. A million years ago, he used to cry when his mom would leave the house for any period of time, and needed armloads of assurance that "mommies always come back." Now it's his parents that need that reinforcement. He'll be back. And he'll have stories to tell.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Depends A Lot On Which Book You Read

And we're back!
Not that we ever really left.
But Judge Jeanine of Fox News would like everyone to know that "the U.S. is back as a dominant regional player after the Obama years." The region in question is the Middle East, and this assertion was made in anticipation of the United States opening an embassy in Jerusalem. The judge went on to tell us, "[Trump], like King Cyrus before him, fulfilled the biblical prophecy of the gods worshiped by Jews, Christians and, yes, Muslims, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state and that the Jewish people finally deserve a righteous, free and sovereign Israel.” First, I looked up Jerusalem. Wikipedia tells us, "It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions — JudaismChristianity, and Islam Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally." As for the King Cyrus thing, he was considered by many to be the deliverer of the Jews, which is apparently the connection drawn between the current "President" of our country and this ancient king of Persia. 
But what about the Palestinians? If the United States is plotzing their embassy for Israel in Jerusalem, instead of part of the consulate, it is pretty solidly picking a side. Which has a long history of not working out so well in the Middle East. Which is why there were bloody riots on the day that the embassy officially opened. Meanwhile, one of the biggest soccer clubs in Jerusalem will be adding the current "President" to its name, becoming “Beitar Trump Jerusalem.” Which works out well for a guy who likes to stick his name on things that other people built. 
Now might be a good time to point out that biblical prophecy also includes a pretty fiery and miserable end to mankind, nor is there any mention of a "Jared Kushner," but I guess we'll have that as breaking news when it occurs. We live in interesting times. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Just A Joke

I do not know if I ever ended a relationship because of a joke. I confess that I have spent many years living on the edge of civility, with the intent of generating uncomfortable laughter. It is, I believe as mountain grown Folgers is, the richest kind. There is a point at which a jest in a particular vein might relieve tension generated by the stress surrounding a person, place or thing. I was one of those people who did not wait very long before making jokes at the expense of the death of John Lennon. My dachshund was doing an impression of the late Beatle not more than a few weeks after his murder. I also wondered aloud what John might be doing if he were still alive: Considering a reunion with the other lads from Liverpool? Recording an album of a capella love songs? Scratching frantically at the lid of his coffin?
Yes. I know. It is still in horrible taste, and decades later I feel the tiniest bit embarrassed for poking fun at expense of others' suffering. Not enough to never repeat the bit, using the most current celebrity to muse upon. And I did this because I care. My own reaction to John Lennon's death was one of foundation-rocking grief. Whether it was misguided (it was) or ill-timed (was it?) will be left for those who switched me off or tuned me out or put me on permanent mute to say. But probably not to me, since I have offended them so deeply.
Which is why I am a little conflicted by the reports that a White House staffer, Kelly Sadler, was openly dismissive of John McCain's opinion because "he's dying anyway." The gasp from the United States Senate was audible way out here in California, with members of congress from both parties expressing their outrage at this leaked attempt at humor. Bernie Sanders said, “It is beyond my comprehension. It is one thing in the White House for somebody to say something crude and stupid and disrespectful about an American hero. It is another thing for them not to apologize. So it is beyond my comprehension. And I just don’t know what goes on in that White House mentality for there not being an apology for that terrible remark.” Lindsay Graham said, “It’s a pretty disgusting thing to say. If it was a joke, it was a terrible joke. I just wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that was inappropriate [and] that’s not who we are in the Trump administration. John McCain can be criticized for any political decision he’s ever made or any vote he’s ever cast, but he’s an American hero.”
Here's what I can tell Ms. Sadler about comedy: Pain plus time equals comedy. I am pretty sure that implies that some time needed to pass, even a few days, before someone's death becomes fair game. I can understand her confusion, given who her boss is, but even I wouldn't go there. 
And that's saying something. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Thinning The Herd

Maybe I have been looking at this all wrong. When I read that Oklahoma's governor had struck down legislation that would allow adults to carry firearms without a permit or training, my initial reaction was, "Hey, good for her. Finally a little common sense entering into the arming of every man woman and child in the United States. Thank you."
And that sloshed around in my head for a while, and got mixed with the wit and wisdom of Thanos. For those of you who read this blog without attending blockbuster movies, I will pause lightly here while you toddle on out to your local cineplex and watch Avengers: Infinity War start to finish, and we'll meet down on the next line.
Better? Okay then. I can expect that now you understand that the big purple guy, Thanos, has this aim to wipe out half of all life in the galaxy. Sorry if I spoiled anything there, but short of looking up show times for you, I really can't be held accountable. Anyway, we are presented with this towering villain who has been working his way from planet to planet trying to achieve his goal, and is keen on finding a more efficient way to eliminated fifty percent of the population everywhere in a snap of his fingers.
Why? Well it turns out that he's kind of an environmentalist. He has reasoned out that too many people using too many resources causes too much pain and suffering, so what he is doing is providing a service. Kind of an evolutionary reset button. All those deer were going to starve because there wer just too many of them. Shooting them in the head was saving them from some crueler fate. If it sounds a little like Candide, then you might be guessing where I am heading.
If we were to arm all the people in Oklahoma, then eventually there would be fewer people in Oklahoma. Ergo, one can assume that getting the rest of the country packing heat could only help us out. The same goes for climate change. When we are finally left with a cinder on which to live, only the heartiest souls, I'm thinking Viggo Mortensen in The Road here, will survive. Likewise nuclear war. We should be celebrating the potential for limiting the traffic jams and crowds. This is Make America Great thing turns out to be a boon for all of us!
And the line to get into the next Avengers movie will be even shorter. This truly is the best of all possible worlds.

Monday, May 14, 2018

My Son

Today I will start changing my answer to the question, "Do you have any kids?" I can now say that I do not. I have an adult. The little boy whose hand I held crossing the street for so many years is a memory now, one that returns to me on most every street corner. Before that I can remember carrying him, like a football, then a sack of potatoes, too tired to take another step. Either one of us. But we did. On a path that took us here. Now. Twenty-one years later.
How many nights did we wander around the night kitchen, waiting for sleep to come? How many mornings were celebrated with Warner Brothers cartoons? How many miles of train track, of various gauges and materials were laid out in the living room? How many different vehicles, starting with a jogging stroller before you were born, did I help construct before you were putting brakes on your own car?
I have lost count of all of that in favor of keeping track of all the years we have spent together: Twenty-one. It is convenient because it also serves as a career-tracking device for my years as a teacher. I have been working overtime to keep up with you. All those years of Legos and theater tech have turned the tables and now I find myself learning from you when we build things. I just stand back and watch you grow.
I also know that this is a mile marker. It is by no means the end of the trail. I will continue to give you advice, wanted and unwanted. I pine for those days when you could be amused by tossing a blanket over your head, but I am exceedingly pleased each time I get a new bit of off-color humor from you to share as my own.
There have been plenty of times, over the years, when someone has asked me "why didn't you have another kid?" The answer is pretty simple: Because we did such a great job on the first one, thank you.
And thank you for inviting us along on this journey we have been referring to as Your Life. I am as proud of you as the day is long, and I love you even more than that. It is a life-affirming feat to feel that small echo of yourself out there, but I am even more pleased to know that the noise you are making is entirely your own.
Happy birthday, my son.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The 'hood

Everything I know about Motherhood, I learned by watching. By watching I have learned that all mothers are saints. This is on account of how all mothers have performed miracles that confound and confuse me. Creating life being the most profound of those, right along with sustaining that life. If that means convincing their little miracles into believing that broccoli stalks are really tiny trees to be consumed by dinosaurs, bravo. Moms win. Moms rule.
Now let me get this out of the way right from the start: This idea of "unfit mother" that gets all the press and attention when something goes horribly wrong is terrifying for the very reason that I have just mentioned: All mothers are saints, but some are fallen. The confounding surprise and burden of suddenly carrying a life inside your own and being responsible for that life forever. Forever. That can put a hitch in anyone's giddy-up.  And if anyone asks, Joan Crawford wasn't a mom. She bought her way in to that gig. Biology was sending her a message: Joan dear, stick to acting.
Which brings me back to my main point which was to say that all mothers are saints. I can say this unequivocally because my mother raised me and continues to do so from the relative comfort and safety half a continent away. She put up with me, and therefore she has earned her sainthood. The same can be said of my wife, who got mixed up with me and then found herself responsible for the care and feeding of mini-me. Congratulations to any and all mothers who have to put up with anyone who ever turns up a nose at the lunch put down in front of them on a Saturday afternoon. Every sandwich is a gift, as Warren Zevon would tell you, and every day is another chance to thank your mom for all those sandwiches. And books read and shoes tied and noses wiped and costumes prepared and forms signed and rides given and reminders given even though they may not have been necessary because yes they were.
All of those things. Every year on this day we pause and appreciate the way that human beings continue to prowl this planet because mothers made it possible for them to do so. If that means you make her breakfast in bed to make up for all those times she cooked your bacon just the way you like it, then it is certainly a worthy investment. If that means you have to find a card that strains to rhyme with all those things I mentioned above, so be it. And while you're at it, say a little prayer for your mother. Because she's a saint.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Uber Alles

If you have been lucky enough to hang around with me for any amount of time, I have probably subjected you to my insistence that the time for a flying car passed some time ago. It is 2018. We live in the future, where we send pictures of cats through satellites in space for the amusement of anyone who happens if fortunate enough to be on the end of your "reply all." We have robot maids, and jobs we hate, why can't we have that other staple of the Jetsons' lifestyle: The Flying Car?
I have seen a number of prototypes over the years. I have one friend in particular who delights in sending me each new advance in flying car technology in hopes of meeting my approval. Along with the limits of the jet pack experiments he has sent along to me, I let my derisive sniff carry the day. When there is a marketed version of this futuristic transportation that I can imagine parking in my garage next to my weed-eater and Weber grill, then it might as well continue to be a prop in a cartoon.
Unless Uber is serious about their flying taxi. It looks like a great big drone, and it is being built to eliminate the congestion of urban areas. It can fly at speeds up to two hundred miles an hour, and has a range of sixty miles on a charge. That sound you heard was my wife falling over herself wondering where she can get one, since solar charged batteries are a big part of her reason for living these days. The bad news? Uber says they are still two years away from getting their future and five from making that future available to ride-sharing public.
Which is encouraging, until you remember that it's Uber. Which means that these vehicles will be double parked somewhere just over your house, humming away in the early morning hours while the GPS is double checked and the realization is made that they really wanted Brookdale Avenue and not Brookdale Street. Which reminds me about the way I feel about driving in general: I avoid it. Imagine all that potential gridlock occurring a few hundred feet off the ground, and suddenly my terrestrial bicycle seems like the best possible future I can imagine.
Until I can get one of those that flies.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Invitations

Around the time my son was born, my wife introduced me to some software she had acquired that would help us, as new parents, set our affairs in order. Wills, trusts, and that sort of thing. But what caught my interest immediately was the part where you could plan your own memorial service. The part where I got to pick the music was the thing that appealed to me most. There were other features, including inscriptions for plaques or headstones, but there was not a form into which I could type a guest list.
In case anybody asks, I don't want Donald Trump at my funeral either.
Not that this will create the kind of fuss that John McCain made by making that same assertion a few days back. The senator from Arizona has been reported to have made this addendum to his future plans, and it certainly makes sense to me. These are not men who have enjoyed much in the way of even workplace friendship. It was the current "President" who said of the Vietnam vet and former prisoner of war that he preferred to associate with "people who weren't captured." 
That sort of sums up the level of discourse shared between these two men, with Senator McCain tending to stick to the more business-like high road, and our "President" relying primarily on hist usual snarkiness to convey his points. When he was just a candidate, Donald "Chester" Trump was openly critical of the senator's stance on immigration. Back in June of 2015, he declared to a crowd, “We have incompetent politicians, not only the president. I mean, right here, in your own state, you have John McCain.” In response, McCain told The New Yorker that what Trump did at his rally had “fired up the crazies.” It was a month later that the incipient "President" said of McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
Tensions mounted, and John McCain refused to attend the Republican National Convention to witness the coronation of a bloated bag of snack food. Once that bloated bag of snack food was sworn into office, the senator did not make his job any easier, by casting his votes to strategically let air out of such issues as health care and trade. 
For the record, I hope that John McCain lives a long and happy life, long enough to dance on the legacy of that bloated bag of snack food. I hope I get invited to that party. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

How Long Can This Go On?

How am I? It's all right here, isn't it? For the past thirteen years, I have been rambling on and on inside this little box, waiting for the scroll bar to appear on the right. That tells me that I have probably wasted enough of your time. This is the short attention span theater, after all. Which doesn't mean I don't have a lot on my mind. I have a lot on my mind.
The problem is, I have to keep parceling it out in these little packages. I have to be careful about what I talk about during the course of any given day, since I don't want to give up any potential conversational gambits that might prove to be better collaborations. Instead of me droning on and on, there is something to be said for an exchange of ideas. That's not exactly what is happening here. I am letting you know what I believe here, and I hope that you enjoy the ride. Some of you have been on this ride for more than a decade. I appreciate that. If you have only clicked here on accident, expecting to find insight on the third law of thermodynamics, you might be a little let down. Not that I don't have some thoughts on that. But mostly I like to take my mind on a walk once a day, and I'm happy to have folks follow along.
So thanks for following along, and I appreciate hearing about the times that we have ended up spending together. Excuse me for doing all the talking, but it's my preferred mode of exchange. I give you words, you give me your time. It seems like a pretty good trade to me. And every so often, I do hear back from some or all of you. Sometimes they come in the form of comments appended to the bottom of these entries. Sometimes they come in phone calls, when I get caught up with someone who tells me that I don't need to tell them about my life because they read my blog. Which is kind of intimidating.
I suppose that's what I get for making a daily habit out of my daily habits. Keeping it light. Keeping it moving. Keeping it real. Okay. For some, it's too real. And once upon a time I tried throwing in a little fiction, just to make this whole enterprise a little less about me. For those few entries, it was about people I made up. Which made some readers wonder what I could possibly be thinking. Why would anyone want to read a collection of stories about made up people, when you can drop by here once a day to find out how I am.
Thirteen years later: Fine, thanks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Pardon Moi

When our "President" stands up in front of a crowd and chooses to whoop it up about how great our Second Amendment is, even though he is just a couple months removed from the events of Parkland, Florida and his mild promises to look into the causes of gun violence, it just kind of figures. We don't expect much else from this flip-flopping Cheeto with no real sense of right and wrong. He is, after all, the American "President" touting those things that are quintessentially American. Like owning guns and talking about owning guns. And sometimes talking about using them to protect us from other Americans who happen to be exercising their Second Amendment rights. But it's probably not a good idea to call out other countries and their gun laws.
That's what Chester the Cheeto did last week in Dallas, when he addressed the National Rifle Association. Instead of going after homegrown topics like the Waffle House or Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, he picked the massacre at Paris' Bataclan concert hall to pump up his bullet riddled agenda. Ninety people were killed, and another forty were injured. "They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!," Chester said, using his hands in a gun gesture. And as become his familiar refrain, he insisted that if civilians had been armed "it would have been a whole different story."
Okay, nimrod. We are used to hearing from those who prefer their possible pasts as better because of more gunfire. It's so quintessentially American. But how about keeping your mitts off the tragedies of the rest of the world. Our allies, in particular. This wasn't an Alaska congressman spouting off about how the Holocaust could have been prevented: "How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?" This was the "President" of these United States using another country's horror to pump up the masses who don't really need to be pumped up in the first place. 
How did France react? The way we might expect them to: "France expresses its firm disapproval of President Trump's comments about the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015 and demands that the memory of the victims be respected." And, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he hoped Mister Cheeto "would come back on his words and express regret. His comments are shocking and not worthy of the president of the world's greatest superpower."
As an American citizen, I apologize. We currently have a guy in the White House who is not worthy of being the president of the world's greatest superpower. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Swampier Than Swamp

"To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!"
If that sounds like a weird way to make an endorsement, then you probably aren't familiar with the campaign stylings of one Donald "Chester Cheeto" Trump. The candidates behind whom he has thrown his considerable weight have not fared that well. He also has a tendency to "forget" his prior support when things gang agley. It makes sense that anyone in the Republican Party would want to toss a towel over the head of Don Blankenship and hustle him into their version of the witness protection program. 
Mister Blankenship is a former coal mining executive and convicted criminal. In this way, he stands in stark contrast to another Republican candidate for senate, Roy Moore.  You may recall a period of time during which the "President" endorsed Mister Moore. He did this while many of the big names in the GOP were looking for other choices. Like letting Alabama have a Democrat in the Senate for the first time in twenty-five years. But this is a primary and Don Blankenship is running against other Republicans, so there is still a chance for his challengers to come out of this ideological swamp with a victory. Even as Blankenship tries desperately to grab hold of the raft upon which Chester Cheeto is paddling through the mire, the "President" stands above him like Billy Zane in Titanic, oar raised. Some people just don't belong. 
The problem is this: Support in West Virginia for Blankenship continues to rise. And what does he have to say about his non-endorsement from his leader? “The establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me to be in the U.S. Senate and promote the president’s agenda. Tomorrow, West Virginia will send the swamp a message — no one, I mean no one, will tell us how to vote. As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it.”
Meanwhile, the two other men have to be satisfied with the high praise of being "not Blankenship." Good luck, West Virginia. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

When I Grow Up

Okay, so maybe I won't grow up to be President of the United States. I can accept that, but I am encouraged to think that I could grow up to be a very successful doctor or lawyer. What might have once seemed like an obstacle, years of study and training, now seems unnecessary. After all, I know the definition of "obfuscate." Over the past week or so, it has become apparent that one of the chief talents required to become a successful doctor or lawyer is the ability to fabricate nonsense and the capacity to follow instructions blindly. All that Hippocratic Oath and swearing to uphold the law is just so much window dressing.
When we were told that Doctor Harold Bornstein had simply written down the letter dictated to him by is patient, a Donald (middle initial J) Trump, that he did so without flinching or considering the ethical canyon into which he was leaping. After thirty-six years of examining this particular specimen, it only now occurs to Doctor Harry that something might be a little "off" about his patient. Again, I am not a physician. I have no medical training, but it does occur to me that a cursory glimpse at the diet maintained by the subject in question as well as his age and girth might come to the conclusion that this is not "the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency." And yet, somehow this man has been allowed to practice medicine. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.
Then there's the case of Rudy "9/11" Guliani who has just recently vacated his post as primary vocal reminder of September 11, 2001 to act as the "President's" lawyer. "Act" being the important designation here. The "President" can afford to have a cadre of legal weasels at his disposal, and he does. Why he needed the star power of Rudy Guliani is obvious, even if it cuts into the time he could be using to remind us that he was in New York City on September 11, 2001. The "President" is currently experiencing something of a public relations meltdown. Apparently there is a "porn star" who is suggesting that she and Rudy's client once shared a bit of dalliance and was then paid a great deal of money to keep her mouth shut.
I am no lawyer, but it seems to me that openly confessing that the "President" repaid yet another lawyer for funneling money to the "porn star" to keep her mouth shut makes the matter a bit of a fait accompli. I'm pretty sure that's Latin for "really dumb move." Could I go on Fox News and handle a few softball questions before spilling the beans?
Maybe I could be a lawyer after all.
Or a double-not spy.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Gravity

In a world in which I begin my day talking to my wife about how it feels to see kids on my school's playground pick up orange safety cones with bad intent, it makes me feel like a strangeron the planet which I live when I read a story like this: "Fifteen-year-old says her one thousand dollar monthly allowance makes her 'feel like a peasant.'"
First, the kids on the playground: When the kids' rage turns to action, they tend to grab the object closest to them via instinct, in hopes of bashing whom or whatever has caused them consternation. Seeing a three foot kid pick up a two foot cone with malice aforethought tends to give me pause, even when I need to step into action, as the calming influence. I confess that the phrase, "Put the cone down," is not one that I was taught in teacher school. Those cones are out there to mark various stations and areas of play. They are not forgotten remnants of a construction site. We used to place many more of these pylons out to clearly define the play places on our yard, but that just meant more ammo for the disgruntled. Finding a way to rid ourselves of these cones is probably the next step, though having no fixed reference point for our swarm of children still learning object permanence presents its own challenge. The brief consideration of using cinder blocks or something more substantial as markers would only mean I would get to see eight-year-olds holding chunks of concrete over their heads frightens me enough to toss that idea aside.
Which brings us to Beverly Hills, and the self-confessed "princess" who believes she cannot function in a world where her monthly allowance has been slashed from five thousand dollars a month to the previously mentioned one thousand. Nicolette chose to take her complaint to a higher power: Doctor Phil. It was her hope that she could gain a compromise with her mother and settle on a middle ground of two thousand five hundred dollars a month. The somewhat predictable train wreck of parent-child guilt and recrimination ensued, and social media erupted with suggestions for what both women might do to solve the problem. Few, if any were constructive. 
And so I find myself, on the 2018 version of Earth, wandering through a reality that shares these two visions of rage. Rage against a world that seems to have lost some of its humanity, a vast chunk of its civility, and a handle upon which we could all hold. Gravity remains a constant. Maybe Nicolette should have chased her mother around Doctor Phil's studio with a safety cone for an hour instead. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Draft One

Dear American People,
As the personal and intimate care physician of one Donald J. Trump, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you all that I have no doubt that this man is unequivocally the healthiest individual to ever be elected to the presidency.
Furthermore, I have found his physical strength and stamina to be extraordinary, and I would not be surprised to discover that his genes are the same ones that were descended from Charlemagne and Napoleon. Only taller.
He can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is more powerful than a speeding locomotive. He possesses the proportionate strength and agility of a spider. He can add three six digit numbers without using scratch paper.
I guess what I am saying here is that, as a doctor, I cannot imagine a more exquisite being on this planet. His is the kind of fitness that Schwarzenegger and Stallone (personal friends of the patient) could only aspire to. He is truly a god among men.
As a matter of fact, I may be understating things here. This man's physical attributes in all categories are off the chart. If you know what I mean, ladies. Not that he has any need to brag, but if it's true then it's really not bragging, is it?
So much winning will be possible with this man as president. We will all get tired of the winning that will happen because there will be so much of it. You can trust me on this, because I am a doctor, after all.
And did I mention that he is an extraordinary judge of others' talents and abilities? Because he is. Since his such an amazing specimen in both mind and body, he cannot tolerate being around anyone who is not as eminently suited for the office he has been selected. That is why his offspring will be so vital to his administration, since they are the only ones genetically suited to keeping up with this amazing man.
I have begun to believe that I should consider resigning from the practice of medicine, for I have been to the mountain and I have looked up, not down, to see the epitome of all that is and shall ever be as far as things that doctors can see in one person. With really big hands.
Signed,
Donald Trump's Doctor

Friday, May 04, 2018

Mission Accomplished

I have written about this before: funny is not objective. I consider myself a pretty funny guy, but I have had the distinct displeasure and exquisite torture of standing in front of a group of people whom I believed would find me endlessly amusing and entertaining only to discover that there was a difference of opinion. I thought I was funny. They did not. What made things worse, in hindsight, was that this was a couch full of stoned twenty-somethings who seemed primed to laugh at just about anything. Anything but me.
The fact that this experience kept me from actively searching out an opportunity to pursue a career in stand-up comedy seems like a modest relief at this point puts some of the pain to rest. I like to trot that anecdote out when discussion turns to "have you ever bombed?" Not professionally, I can reply, but I understand what it means to crash and burn.
Which brings me to the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, which this year featured the comedic talents of Michelle Wolf. Somewhere near the beginning of her set in front of Washington D.C.'s glitterati last weekend, she elicited a few groans for one of her remarks, to which she replied, “Should have done more research before you got me to do this.” The dinner, which has traditionally been a venue for roasting D.C. insiders and outsiders alike to a crackly crunch, picked Ms. Wolf from a sea of comedians, and it seems ridiculous that they would not have had any idea as to just what kind of heat she might be using. It is not as if she was Bob Dylan and suddenly showed up at the Newport Jazz Festival with an electric guitar and a bunch of zingers about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She showed up and delivered. 
I understand that some in the audience were shocked and dismayed. I also know that there was laughter and applause throughout her set, and by that measure it could hardly be suggested that she failed in her attempt to entertain. Everyone? Probably not. But is it fair for those who chose not to attend to insist that she did fail in her mission? 
Not at all. 
Is it fair to demand an apology from a comedian who poked fun at obvious targets and did her job? 
Nope. 
But being fair isn't really what this bunch is all about, is it? 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Making Sense

"Due to the attendance of the Vice President of the United States, the U.S. Secret Service will be responsible for event security at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, As a result, firearms and firearm accessories, knives or weapons of any kind will be prohibited in the forum prior to and during his attendance." This was the announcement posted regarding Mike Pence's appearance at the National Rifle Association's convention in Dallas. 
And that makes sense. The Secret Service has a job: to protect our nation's leaders from threats and potential harm. Firearms are dangerous. Of course we don't want to mix them into a room full of ardent admirers of a like-minded politician. All it takes is one nut with a gun to mess that up. This still comes as an interesting distinction for an organization that allows concealed weapons to be carried in their offices, in accordance with Virginia State Law. Not by visitors, however. They need to check their guns at the front desk, or enter through the firing range entrance. 
Which still makes sense, for the most part, since you never know what kind of nut might try to run afoul of all those good guys with guns. It's just better to be on the safe side. Hence, there will be no guns allowed for Pence. 
See how I did that?
Does that logic stretch out to a school where non-elected representatives of the proletariat are lurching toward their educational goals? In a word: No. Schools are precisely the place we need to have more guns, in order to turn back the threat that guns represent. "Gun free zones?" the NRA scoffs, "What good have they done?"
I suggest that if the NRA wanted to show the courage of their convictions, they should promote bringing firearms to Mister Pence's speech. Let the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Arena become a free-fire zone, and let the good guys with guns sort things out
Or just maybe you'd have to be nuts to believe that, right? 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Ghost of Christmas Past

It wasn't Christmas.
And it wasn't really a ghost.
But when my cousin showed up on my doorstep last weekend, it was a whirlwind rewind that set me back on my heels a bit as I started to absorb the length and width of my life. It had been twelve years since we had last met up, and while so much around us had changed and moved on, there was this core of a memory that held fast.
I was the city mouse. He was the country mouse. My family would travel out to his family's house for Thanksgiving. On the farm. When Christmas rolled around, they came on  into town to spend the day with us. It was a tradition. It was a ritual. It was part of the rhythm of the year. In the summers, they would come up and visit us at the cabin  in the mountains. It was the way we bounced through our youth.
Once we had graduated from high school, that pattern began to break down. But those Thanksgivings were a stabilizing force. That was a gathering that turned out to be a proving ground  for a number of relationships. If  you wanted to see if your girlfriend was going to stick around, bring her out to the farm and have her do a few laps on the car hood towed by tractor with a chain, slinging us around the snowy patches of bare fields. And then there was the witty banter around the table during dinner. Keep up or get left behind.
And now here he was. It took a few minutes to navigate the decade that had passed since we had last connected. Before long, we were back on the footing which we had  shared before the days that took us to different corners of the country, and for him, different corners of the globe. It would be silly to say it was as if no time had passed. Middle age and its mild  ravages made sure for that. We shared meals. We sat down in the living room. We talked. When my younger brother came across the bay, we shared more meals and talked more in the living room. Until late in the evening.
This was family. This was a part of my life that I couldn't forget. Or let go.
There was no need to. He is a part of my life.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Trying To Make Good

It is a pity that there are three hundred fifty-some kids at my school, all of whom need to be heard. It is a pity because they outnumber the grownups by more than ten to one, and every day is a triage of pathos. Starting from the first students to arrive, an hour before the bell rings because their parents work, or are too busy to notice that their children have wandered out into the dawn to be in a place they believe is safe. With their friends. To socialize. To play. To be kids.
This is when my "duty day" begins. I am out there watching a sea of activity that swells until the official beginning of the school day and teachers sweep up their classes, taking them inside for a day of learning, with intermittent breaks for trips to the bathroom, water fountain and recess. And from those early morning moments when those first disparate souls appear on the blacktop together, the potential for conflict begins.
"You're out."
"No. You're out."
"You're out."
"Your mama."
This is the kind of interaction that I hope to head off before it escalates to any kind of physical confrontation. In some ways, it is a cathartic moment. Whatever stress or strain that has come to school with these kids has found a release. Finding a way to let the steam out without anyone getting hurt is the challenge. Of course, there is the reality of the hurt that has already occurred. The hurt that made it impossible for them to have a civil game of four square in the first place. The hurt that gave them a zero-to-sixty acceleration of anger like a Maserati. The hurt that lives in them most days. The hurt that no band-aid can help.
But I stick with it because I hope to be able to mediate the situation and turn it into a learning moment. Maybe there is a way that we can make the next time someone questions the number of times a ball bounced in his or her square into a relaxed reckoning. And wouldn't that be nice?
I pride myself on the number of incidents I am able to defuse, yet I flinch when I think about those that I don't. It makes me sad to think about those kids who, in spite of everything else in their lives, show up to school with a smile on their faces. Then they get stuck in a circumstance that cannot be easily solved because it is not of their making. They look to me for help, and I hope that I can give it to them. Unless I am already knee-deep in somebody else's problem, and I have to ask a little boy or girl in tears to wait behind the other boy or girl in tears while I try and patch up the situation that brought them to me. A band aid. A pat on the head and the assurance that it will be alright.
At least until lunch time.