Sunday, December 08, 2019

For Your Lamentations

Those were the words in the header of the email my older brother sent: "For your lamentations." He is my primary news source for things in my hometown. When something changes in Boulder, Colorado, invariably I hear it from him. The things that matter. Like the advent of the closing of Liquor Mart. If you did not grow up in Boulder, the announcement of a liquor store shuttering its doors might be met with a shrug of its shoulders.
I did, and I'm not.
Liquor Mart was an institution. For more than fifty years, it was the place to shop for beer, wine and spirits. Before 1968, Boulder was a dry county. With the exception of a few establishments sprinkled throughout the town, prohibition never ended. Until 1968, when a visionary named Tom Lacey applied for and received the county's first liquor license. In May of that year, he opened Liquor Mart.
If you are familiar with barns like Bev Mo, the notion of a grocery store for booze isn't a particularly new one. Pushing a shopping cart up and down the aisles does not seem peculiar. Back in the late sixties it sure did. The idea that you could pick up bottles and examine them rather than asking for them from behind a protected counter was a brand new one. More than anything else, Liquor Mart was a celebration of Boulder being "wet."
How many adventures of my youth began with a trip to Liquor Mart? Coincidentally, before it was a liquor store, the location where it has stood for most of its existence used to be a grocery store. Where my Aunt Peggy worked. I had become familiar with those aisles searching for jars of Goober 'n' Grape and rows of Clanky Chocolate syrup. Those were the aisles in which I eventually accompanied my father on a hunt foBeaujolais Nouveau, or bargains on the vodka that would mix with tonic for my parents' evening cocktail. 
But it was my introduction to the beer cooler, along with my older brother, that changed my life. He called it "The Disneyland of Beers." He was correct. Braving the cold was worth it when you discovered those odd off brands or imports that couldn't be found anywhere else. I was with my older brother when I first encountered "The Mystery Case," a sealed box filled with two dozen bottles and cans of various brews. Some of them were treats. Some of them were Coors. You never knew what you might get. 
But everyone knew what you got at Liquor Mart. This is where the kegs came from. This is where the Everclear was purchased for the "punch" we served. This is where we bought our DrMcGillicuddy's Mentholmint Schnapps. Okay. Most of the time we bought it. Liquor Mart was the beginning of every night that we started with the phrase, "I know: let's get real drunk and..."
Somewhere in there, my cousin got a job as manager there, continuing the odd family connection we had with the place. It was also, oddly enough, the place my father suggested we stop just after he had picked up the cremated remains of his mother. He offered to buy my friend and I a case of beer in some sideways wake-inspired gesture that left us grateful but a tad confused. For the record, we chose Moosehead. 
And so it went, even after my own personal prohibition went into place, Boulder's liquor needs were met by the Mart. Certainly it did not hurt business to be located just down the hill from one of the foremost party schools in America, the University of Colorado. Stumbling distance from so very much student housing, this was the place where wine tasting or binge drinking began and ended. 
Ended. The property has been sold to a real estate developer who specializes in retail and residential space. More condos for an ever-expanding student population. On the spot where all those parties started. There will be some powerful mojo going on there. 
But not just now. 
The lamentations have begun. 

Saturday, December 07, 2019

First Place Goes To...

I was reading an interview with Michael Nesmith on Al Gore's Internet the other day. I've been a fan of Mike's since he showed up on my television in that wool hat, singing songs with his bandmates, The Monkees. A couple of generations ago, I was given second pick in the "who is your favorite band" category. My older brother picked the Beatles. I picked the Monkees. Over the years I began to understand the differences not just in style but in the makeup of these two groups. But since I too had taken to wearing a knit cap when I was nine, it seemed like a pretty savvy choice. 
Back to the interview: Mister Nesmith was discussing the past and future of the Monkees, preparing to go out on tour with the other surviving member of the group, Mickey Dolenz. The Mickey and Mike tour will bring the pop music made famous by the remaining duo, along with a few of their solo tunes. This announcement did not take me aback. Mike had surrendered to the nostalgia machine a few years back, and was prepared to take it on the road one more time. What did surprise me was the way he talked about his old bandmates. The ones who had passed on. About Peter Tork: "We didn’t have too many civil words to say to each other, but we also didn’t fight all the time. We just didn’t say much. There wasn’t a lot to say. Peter would play me the songs that he thought were good and I didn’t. And I would play him the songs I thought were good and he wouldn’t. Then we just left it at that. Partners in silence." And Davy Jones: "We were all friends on some level, very casual work-space partners."
Immediately I was tossed back into the feelings I had after reading a similarly dated interview with Pete Townshend. Regarding the Who's departed bassist and drummer, “It’s not going to make Who fans very happy, but thank God they’re gone." Ouch. More pointedly about Keith Moon: "With Keith, my job was keeping time, because he didn’t do that. So when he passed away, it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to keep time anymore.’” Then there was this faint praise for the other survivor, lead singer Roger Daltrey: “I used to say that I love him, but with my fingers crossed,” Townshend said of Daltrey. “Now, I like him too. I like all his eccentricities, his foibles, his self-obsession, and his singer thing. Everything about him.”
All of which brought the focus back to those in the first choice band, the Beatles. Their in-fighting was legendary and was even documented in a film titled, amusingly enough, Let It Be. The acrimony that left the biggest band in the world in tatters swirled about for years after they stopped writing and recording together. The past fifty years for Paul and Ringo have been all about making amends, in little and big ways. It should be noted that the Fab Four never reunited as a band, nor did they tour in parts other than the occasional very special guest appearance. In the meantime, they have been happy to reminisce in respectful ways about one another, seeking common ground and happy memories. Those two seem very content to let the myth survive. 
Which probably has a lot to do with them being the Beatles. 

Friday, December 06, 2019

Living The Dream

My son is on the verge of becoming a college graduate. This is not a surprise as much as it is a celebration of his tenacity. Way back when, after a particularly arduous first day of kindergarten, announced that he had enough. All of those rigorous structures and expectations were weighing heavily on him, and he figured after dipping a toe in that he had a solid understanding of what might take place for the next eighteen years.
After some cajoling and a few tears, he was persuaded to give it another shot. One day became a week, a week became a month and pretty soon he had managed to string together a full school year. Complete with promotional exercises.
How could he have anticipated that this would continue for the better part of two decades? Each time he considered cutting and running, his parents were there to cajole him into giving it one more chance. This education thing was a very mixed bag. On the one hand, there was homework. On the other, there was a herd of new friends. With each passing year, new connections were made. Some were left behind, but this new feature of gathering associates and playdates kept him in the game. There were still struggles, but he found his way to that promotion at the end of high school, the one that felt like a leap into the abyss. Instead he landed in college, where he was surrounded by a number of his pals from high school. A considerable comfort compared to the experience of so many freshman entering that dorm room for the first time, not knowing what to expect.
It would be easy to say that the social aspect of school is what kept him going all these years. But it wouldn't be entirely true. At the end of each day, there were still those expectations and structures that kept him from running in the halls and leaving whenever he felt like it. He stuck with it, even when the struggles outweighed the successes. He took bits from each class he attended. Not that he would acknowledge it now, but he learned a lot. So much so that he felt the need to share his new learnings with his parents. We tried not to remind him, as he spoke at length about ideas he had collected as a result of sticking with this whole education nonsense, the times that he had wanted to cut and run.
But we didn't.
He didn't.
That's the really impressive part. He did not give up. He made friends. He kept them. He learned, as his university's motto reminded him, by doing. Over and over again. That sound you hear is that of the applause from his friends and family.
Bravo.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

View From The Top

Last week I was going to make some offhand joke about the "president" pardoning turkeys, wondering what war crimes they might have committed. And I suppose I have done just that, though in a much less emphatic way than I might had I used an entire entry up on that bit.
But it's scary to think this is the vein in which I found myself mining. The story of newly reinstated Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher opens a window into the parts of life that the "president" does not understand. Will not understand. The insulated life that he leads, and has led for all of his seventy-three years, causes him to act in what he may believe is everyone's best interest, but he has no real idea what that might be.
He tells us to congratulate him for making the stock market go higher and higher. Economists who have made a living studying such things know that such leaps and bounds eventually lead to a "correction." Simply put, what goes up, must come down. Much in the same way that the impact of Chief Petty Officer Gallagher's pardon opened up a can of worms that has a reach far beyond this one case, there is no sense of logical consequence. This is what a life of insulated privilege has created in this individual. A man who has skated free from most, if not all, of life's bouncy surface thanks to the cushion of money that has always been there. Even Richard Nixon, in his famous "Checkers Speech," recounted his humble beginnings: "I'll have to start early. I was born in 1913. Our family was one of modest circumstances, and most of my early life was spent in a store out in East Whittier. It was a grocery store, one of those family enterprises. The only reason we were able to make it go was because my mother and dad had five boys, and we all worked in the store. I worked my way through college, and, to a great extent, through law school. And then in 1940, probably the best thing that ever happened to me happened. I married Pat who's sitting over here. We had a rather difficult time after we were married, like so many of the young couples who may be listening to us. I practiced law. She continued to teach school."
And so on. 
Richard Nixon became a millionaire, but it is important to note that he did this after he had been President. After he had served in the United States Navy. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade. Our current "president" did not serve in the armed forces. He routinely ignores advice from those who are currently serving or those who have. This is how he feels his title "Commander in Chief" should be regarded. Top down. 
His view of the world is that from on high. He does not consider those who might have come from other circumstances or how his often surprising decisions might affect those of us down here. Looking up. Which doesn't seem right. Or fair. 
Or democratic. 
See how I did that? 

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Our Shot

We raised our son in Oakland. He heard his share of guns going off. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes on a holiday. Celebratory gunfire. Most of the time we consoled ourselves with the idea that it was probably firecrackers. Probably.
In the second or two after we heard the report, then the crack behind us, all those sounds played in my head. And while those moments from the past jangled about, the words that came out of my mouth were these: "Move. Now."
We weren't in Oakland. We were in San Luis Obispo. How could this be happening? My son reacted to my tone of voice as well as his own adrenaline from the noise we all heard. He went quickly around the back of the house. His house. The one we were visiting. He wanted to make sure that we could get inside.
I had a hand on my wife's back, herding her to the front door. I knew that the door was unlocked. I had been the last one out when I left to go pick my wife up at the train station, and my son from his Black Friday shift. Once we were  through the door, I considered turning off the porch light. I thought about locking the door. I wondered where my son was.
That's when he appeared. Seconds after we had separated on the driveway, we were reunited in the living room. All three of us were breathing like we had run a marathon. Then the questions started.
"What was that?"
"Was that a gun?"
"What did it hit?"
"Are you sure it was a gun?"
My son was sure. He dialed 911 and reported a shot fired. He gave them his name and  address. He hung up.
"They said someone else also called it in."
We stood in the center of the dark house, not wanting to move. Not wanting to turn on a light. A patrol car was coming.
Eventually we sat on  the couch and turned on the television. We waited.
My son answered the door to meet the officer who was there to make sure we were safe. My wife and I, emboldened by the presence of two police officers, walked outside to look at what may or may not have happened. As we looked around with the aid of our law enforcement flashlights. We were asked to point out where we heard the sounds. They wanted to reassure us that it probably wasn't a gunshot. There was no damage to the garage, the car, the driveway. There was no shell casing.
Maybe it was a pellet gun. Maybe an Airsoft rifle. We listened politely to the conjectures. We took some comfort in them. And when we went back inside, after thanking the officers for their help, we spend the next hour unjangling our collective nerves. It  didn't make a lot of sense that a gun would be fired in suburban San Luis Obispo on a Saturday night. By some drunk? A frat guy?  A teenager? Juvenile delinquent?
We wondered aloud. We doubted. Then we affirmed. Whatever it was, it got us all moving. Together. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Admission

I would love to tell you that I had a hard time getting accepted into a university. Initially, I cast my bread upon the waters of academic institutions across the western United States. Eventually, I was rewarded with a pittance of a scholarship to the College of Santa Fe. I did not spend days waiting anxiously at my mailbox hoping for a school of some regal reputation to deign to grant me entrance. I was pretty sure that as a clever boy I would find my way to that next level.
Of course, after I accepted their kind offer, I bailed. Never attended one class. I was emotionally ill-equipped for such an adventure. So I enrolled in the school of hard knocks, fast food division one. After a year of slinging roast beef, I was ready to test the waters once again. This time I kept things a little closer to home. I wrote a doozy of an essay and got into Colorado College. First try. Turns out I was pretty good at this college acceptance thing. This time I stuck with it. For a year anyway. Then I skedaddled back up the highway to the University of Colorado, where I could walk home to my parents' house. If I needed to.
The thing is, I don't think my experience was all that common. Why else would these Hollywood types risk prison time to get their offspring into the college of their choice? Which brings me to the real point, our evil empire of a government chose to create a fake university in order to lure immigrants to our country, charge them fees and tuition, and then proceeded to arrest and deport them. Close to two hundred fifty wide-eyed and hopeful undergraduate candidates felt the sting of ICE as they played their ugly practical joke on those seeking higher education, and refuge. 
Why wouldn't they? A chance to better themselves, and maybe carve out the tiniest slice of the American Dream? 
Ha ha. Silly foreigners. So easy to fool. Prospective students paid around twelve thousand dollars per year in tuition and fees to attend the fake school, all entered the U.S. with legal student visas. Surprise! No school. No future. Do not pass Go. Do not collect a full refund from this illusory university. ICE officials have claimed that people who applied to the University of Farmington, that claimed to be a “nationally accredited business and STEM institution," should have quickly realized that the university was fake as no classes in a physical location were offered.
There is no free lunch. Or free education. Or freedom. Why hold out hope that someone would actually grant wishes to anyone. Ever? Right now there are millions of young men and women suffering over those college essays and hoping that someone will give them a chance, even if the have no classes in a physical location. I can assure you that both times I took it as my mission to be accepted by an institution of higher education, I never questioned their qualifications. They questioned mine. That was the game.
Am I smug because I managed to score both times I had the ball? No.
Well, maybe a little.
But now that I know our government was in the business of tricking folks into trying to gain admission to their pretend school? Only shame.

Monday, December 02, 2019

I Hadn't Heard

When I think about war and holidays, I tend to settle on the story of the soldiers in World War I who crawled form their trenches on Christmas Eve and met their foes in No Man's Land for some drinking and fraternization if only for a few hours. And that's the war on Christmas, right?
Or maybe it's the Fox News surreal suggestion that we liberal types are out to destroy the most ubiquitous holiday of all time. It used to be that there was a breath, a pause, a whisper that allowed us all to celebrate the giving of Thanks before the baby Jesus and reindeer began to appear on lawns and that music began to pour from every speaker connected to the central server. Holy silent jolly holly wonderland lyrics that get stuck in your head no matter what language you choose to sing them. I'm looking at you, Jose Feliciano. And all these angels we continue to hear on high for months at a time are now audible starting around Halloween and don't stop until sometime after the Super Bowl.
Please understand, I hold the Christmas season in the highest regard. I participate in all manner of festivities from the tree to the peanut brittle to the candles to the stars in the sky. I confess that I still sit out the church part, but my wife goes and sings for both of us. My son helps fill the stockings of those desirous of home theater for extra shift after extra shift at Best Buy.
I'm saying we're doing our part to make sure no one stamps out Christmas. Though I remain more than just a little ambivalent about the rather crowded calendar December brings, starting with Pearl Harbor Day and ending with New Year's Eve. Mumbling "Merry Christmas" seems to ignore all those other notable events in between.
Maybe it's just a hoax of some sort.
That suspicion got quite a jolt last week when the "president" was rambling, as is his custom, at a rally in Florida for some reason. He told the crowd, "You know, some people want to change the name Thanksgiving. They don't want to use the term Thanksgiving."
They? Whom? Us liberal pukes who know that there are plenty of folks from other countries who are confused by our need to gorge ourselves and watch football to celebrate what was essentially the beginning of the genocide of Native Americans?
No. We still call it "Thanksgiving." Because that's what it is. A time to reflect on those things for which we are grateful. Like how many shopping days left until Christmas. The real and true reason for all of this unnecessary chatter about "holidays." Back to the front with you!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Reboot

As the poet once said, "Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years."
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, Toys R Us is back. Their first new store opened last Wednesday in Paramus, New Jersey. “Toys R Us is built into the fabric of childhood and for more than 70 years has been the most trusted source for toys and play,” said their chief merchant Richard Barry in a statement. “With the return of Toys R Us stores in the U.S., we are bringing a highly engaging, experience-driven retail destination that celebrates play and deepens the connection between the world’s best toy, play and entertainment brands and customers.”
Which sounds like gobbledygook until you remember the bottom line: There may soon be a toy store near you that you can walk through. And touch stuff. And play with things. 
Which may sound like gobbledygook to you if you have grown up in a world in which all of your toy purchases were made online, and the only way you could determine how fun something was to count the aggregate stars next to reviews from strangers. What if there was actually a place where you could go in and sample the wares before making that all important purchase? All those commercials with the tiny print at the bottom of the screen that reminds you that this is not the actual size or that it's not really a flying toy become academic in a place like this. A place where kids could play with toys. Where a kid can be a kid, pat pending. 
Of course, this also brings back that old sadness about the neighborhood toy store. Toys R Us was responsible for all those little shops that used to be ceasing to be. Those big giraffe-festooned boxes that anchored shopping malls yanked consumers off their quiet lanes and into their parking lots. This was the place in which I found myself and friends when I really needed a Nerf gun. Or that Lego set. I went to Toys R Us on a Christmas morning to buy a new toy box for my burgeoning consumer and toy vacuum of a son. 
And I remember passing by that store as it was liquidated. Even the fixtures were sold. My son, in college at the time of the bankruptcy, mused quietly about a late night raid on the front of the store to retrieve his very own backwards R. He truly was a Toys R Us kid. 
And now, he can be again. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Scheduling Conflicts

Climbing into our plum tree, once again, I found myself wondering if there was a premium for getting things done "on time." This year's holiday light spectacular began the Monday before Thanksgiving, as my son and I found ourselves with an hour to kill before we picked mom up from the movies. We pulled into the Ace Hardware parking lot, and assured each other that we could just as soon leave empty-handed. But since we were there, why not take the opportunity to peruse the selection of ornamental lighting before we pushed on into the next task.
It has been several years since my son has been around to support this habit of mine. Most recently he has been mired in the world of retail, on call for that most dubious of tortures: Black Friday. Traditionally, this has been the day when the ladder and that big tub containing string after string of dangling bulbs appears. This is an exercise in which the wheat, those lights that still light, are separated from the chaff, those that have outlived their usefulness. Then all we have to do is arrange them in a carefully managed sprawl across the front yard. The new purchases are used to fill in the gaps left by the features that no longer hold a charge. I felt fortunate to have my son along for this year's mounting, but I knew that his eventual return to his real job would mean that I would have to reschedule.
And then there was the rain.
After months that had been dry as a bone, suddenly we were in the midst of the first storm of the winter. So we had to move quickly and decisively. The new elements, one hundred thirty-four feet of solar powered illumination found its place abruptly. The two additional strands of more traditional teardrop bulbs went into the tree. The tree in which I found myself when I found myself wondering about the premium for getting things done "on time." I am a firm believer that anyone who still has their Christmas lights up by the second week of January has surrendered. Given up. It's just another ten months or so before they have to go back up again, so what's the point?
On the other end, I have maintained this notion harbored by my older brother as a continuation of my father's insistence that the opening salvo of Christmas decoration should erupt on that day after Thanksgiving. As leftovers are being heated up and the local malls brace for the onslaught, stringing lights provides a pleasant counterpoint.
But doesn't Thanksgiving move around a lot? Sometimes a week closer. Sometimes a week further away. What is on time?
As the skies began to darken overhead and the rain began to fall, I pulled the tools and debris out of the elements and waited for night to come. The lights would be ready. On time.
More or less.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Dangerous But Necessary

Perhaps it was no mistake that cartoonist Walt Kelly set his comic strip Pogo in the Okefenokee Swamp. It seems as deliberate as any artist who would declare, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." In 1971, this was a declaration on the anniversary of the first Earth Day. Now it seems that the mirror that that little possum once turned on himself is reflecting back on us.
The current regime crows loudly about how it wants to "drain the swamp," but it only recently occurred to me that this tactic is most often employed by real estate developers. Wanting to make room for a new housing development, the tall grass would be cut down and the muddy waters siphoned off somewhere else so that new deluxe apartment building could take the place of what was once the habitat of crocodiles, muskrats, owls, and the occasional wise possum. No matter what good these creatures may have produced prior to the need for that skyscraper, they've got to be run off. Swamps protect the dry land nearby, acting as a sponge to soak up excess rainfall before it washes neighboring habitats. The animals that survive this ill-advised reclamation project end up in uncomfortable and unlikely places. Like an eleven foot long alligator that shows up in a suburban swimming pool.
Not a surprise that this kind of thing happens a lot in Florida.
But let's return for a moment to the metaphorical swamp known as Washington, D.C. Politicians in their native habitat are generally less harmful than the previously mentioned real estate developers. Yes, their actions often impact the world outside the bog where they dwell. Yes, life inside the swamp is often tempestuous and sometimes a little dangerous. So is nature. So is real estate. I don't pretend to understand the busy social interactions in those wetlands, anymore than I understand what makes someone think that their arrival on the scene will be a game changer.
Stripping away the artifice for a moment, I will suggest that we need "the swamp" and those that dwell inside it. They are part of a system that has been functional for hundreds of years. While I understand that looking at the cold eyes and many teeth of a creature that has resisted evolution for so very long can cause fear, we should also keep in mind that at distances of one hundred fifty feet an alligator can outrun a man.
Stay away from the swamp, man.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Obsequiousness

I want to thank you all for coming here today.
I am expressly grateful for your attention and I want to explain why.
It's because I have this need to share these thoughts.
The ones that wake me up in the morning.
The ones that come to me during the day.
The ones that I cannot shake.
Questions that need answers.
Answers to those pressing concerns.
You didn't know they were pressing.
Did you?
I want to thank you for keeping this forum alive.
I am more than happy to share.
I have words to spare, or so it seems.
We don't always agree.
Which is what makes things so lively.
I understand that sometimes this all feels so one way.
My way is not the highway.
I am thankful for the time to consider options.
There are a lot of different places to go for random thoughts.
I am please and happy that you landed here.
I would like to make you all a pie.
Everyone gets a piece.
It does not have to be a feast.
Just a little sweetness to share.
This is a long strange trip we're on.
I don't want you to get lost.
The metaphorical door is always open.
Come on in and put your feet up.
Thank you for not smoking.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Do You Hear That?

The morning begins with a concert, of sorts. The streaming service takes a song and winds it into a symphony that could go on for hours.
Sometimes it does.
As I listen to each new tune, I reckon on the story behind the tune. What brought these musicians together and what sounds were in their heads when they wrote the melody? Are the words the same as they were when they came to mind, or have they evolved from the page to the studio?
I tell these stories out loud like they mattered to anyone else but me. Everyone else including me. The line that connects Tom Petty to Van Morrison to The Band. I describe these connections like they were a book in the Bible. My Bible. The one that is filled with the begets: Chuck Berry to The Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen. How did all those singer-songwriters in California find one another to ad a noise or a lyric? And how did some of them make it while others vanished.
Oblivion is full of pop stars, and the ones with good stories are the ones that live on. The story of the Beatles survives while Johnny Gentle, for whom they were once a backing band, is forgotten. No one sings a Johnny Gentle song at their wedding.
Which is fine, because there are so many really great songs. The ones that rise to the top and become not just singles but singular. A song that defines a moment. Sometimes in history or a relationship. Music that bookmarks lives and gives us a common language. Once there was this thing called radio and it played those songs to us all under the condition that  we might go out and buy the records ourselves and discover the tracks on either side. Or even flip it over to hear what was going on back there.
I love mining these sounds and the stories that go with them. Finding out the reason why it goes that way, like knowing that Frank Sinatra was a trombone player before he became a vocalist, which allows his voice to make so much more sense. That Eric Clapton was invited into George Harrison's life to play a solo and he became smitten with George's wife to the point that  he wrote one of rock's greatest anthems, it fascinates me.
I know there are things that I have forgotten, but once I hear that song, it all comes rushing back to me. And my wife puts up with this. As long as I let her listen to the song too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Notes

I want nothing.
I want nothing.
I want no quid pro quo.
Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing. 
This is the final word from the Pres of the U.S.
Some have suggested that this sounds like a song by Morrissey. Others maintain it's more like the Ramones. And yet, it comes form one of the least musical human beings on the planet. Our "president" made these notes before going out to holler at the press as his response to the week's impeachment testimony. A handwriting expert suggested that the scrawl exhibited "the sign of a liar."
Just that first line: "I want nothing." It is difficult to imagine any phrase being less true of this man. This person who seeks to amass wealth and fame in buckets regardless of the source wants "nothing?" The guy who sat in a room while someone wrote a book for him called "The Art of the Deal" wants nothing? The sociopath who once insisted "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible." 
He's a real estate developer. 
He's a game show host. 
He wants nothing. 
I get the "no quid pro quo" thing, not that he has any idea what it means. It's Latin, after all, and by all accounts this was not nor does he continue to be any kind of scholar. A word like "anonymous" is enough to give him fits. He makes up countries. He doesn't like it when people correct him, or try to coach him, so chances are he has latched onto that phrase and repeated it in order to sound smart. We are not in any imminent danger of that happening
And then there's that last line: This is the last word from the Pres of the U.S.
If only.
Nothing would be a pleasant change. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mothers Of The Revolution

It is with great pride that I describe my most loyal readers as a bunch of mothers. My own, who never misses an installment. My own wife, the mother of my son who saves up a week's worth to read all at once. My mother-in-law, who keeps a daily routine that includes me and my blog. And just the other night, during a conversation with friends, I was informed that the matriarch of their clan has become a fan as well.
I understand that this nearly half dozen converts does not a national trend make, but I am still pleased and happy that the word is getting out. Or the words, in the case of most entries here. If I am tweaking sympathetic nerve endings or raising questions that had not been asked prior, then I am happy to continue my business here.
There are times when rooting around in pop culture and politics becomes a messy and depressing avocation. A hobby that included less immersion in the details of presidential politics and more focus on getting that ship into the bottle might be nice. Of course, once I had my eyes opened to the trick of this particular craft, I decided that it wasn't quite the challenge I imagined. So why not continue to mine the seamy underbelly of this great land of ours for the entertainment of the mom mass that hangs on my every syllable?
I hope that the patience of mothers of all genders is rewarded by my continued press for the truth, whether it pertains to the current administration or my cable bill. I hope that I raise as many chuckles as eyebrows. I hope that if you don't happen to identify with the label I am tossing about here that you will bear with me. Because my initial audience was, and continues to be, my very patient mother. She was the one who lauded my second grade composition, "The Drunken Snake." She was the one who sat patiently, endured and encouraged my attempts at political satire in the fifth grade. She was the one who laughed at the right spots.
So I suppose that I am not surprised by this revelation. I expect that opening an eye to something missed or forgotten is a public service, which fits in well with the rest of my plans for world domination. Mothers are the reason we're all here, after all, and if I'm giving anything back then I am doing something good.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Humans Are Such Easy Prey

Let's pretend for a minute that I wanted to avoid all this impeachment business.
Maybe I just wanted to go away for a little while, to escape the din of hearings and witnesses and testimony.
Or perhaps I just wanted to stick my head in the sand and wait for the parade to pass me by. But every time I stood up and looked around, it was still there: in bright red, white and blue. I just want to get a ride to work, maybe take a few moments with my lovely wife and catch up on the events of the day. Unless the radio is on. And those voices cut through the what is happening now to make apparent what was happening back then.
I am reminded of the dialogue between school children which I have witnessed countless times:
"Shut up."
"No you shut up."
"I told you to shut up."
"You shut up first."
"No, you."
"No, you shut up most."
And so on.
The lines are pretty well established now. Trying to make a case that impresses anyone from either side to acquiesce seems to be a pretty futile gesture. All the words spoken, written and reiterated are like wads of Kleenex tossed at a brick wall. Sure, given enough time and an endless supply of Kleenex, one could imagine that a dent could be made. Not in this lifetime, however.
And so we are left with this wall. Democrats on one side, Republicans on the other. The divide seems to dismiss common sense, since the belief that only by coming together can this wrong be righted. Relieving ourselves of this despot, or falling in lockstep to Make America Great Again, ours is a nation of extremes.
Which is exactly why I keep hoping for that alien invasion. Simulcast on CNN and Fox News. With crawls at the bottom of the screen blaming the other party for setting us up as such easy prey.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Veering Right

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. In the late sixties and early seventies, I watched the culture change. I can remember seeing smoke from the fires set on the university campus. I recall the vans full of hippies loading and unloading on The Hill. Some of them were students. Some of them weren't. It was a time during which the way we learned shifted from being primarily a classroom based activity to the world around us.
Outside those ivory towers, across the country, young people were questioning authority in ways that had not been done before. Rather than banding together to start scrap drives or volunteer at the USO dance, students marched in the streets. They pushed for change in social, political and economic arenas that had been only hypothetical discussions in class a decade before. Liberal bastions were created in places where these flowers blossomed. College campuses became places where ideas could grow and our country could evolve as a result.
This was true for quite some time. Nearly fifty years. Now the phrase "Campus Republicans" isn't just a punchline. There are voices being raised as a pendulum swing to all that left wing claptrap. Somehow the push back is coming from a conservative place that many might have believed had disappeared. Donald Trump Jr. has been taking his book tour on the road, visiting colleges along the way, When he showed up at the University of California at Los Angeles last week, he was booed off the stage. Not by the libs he came "to own," but by conservatives who believe his daddy is not tough enough on the "snowflakes." Triggered, indeed.
Meanwhile, on campuses across the country, incidents of racism, sexism and homophobia are on the rise. Syracuse University just announced a one million dollar plan to curb racism after a white supremacist manifesto was dropped into students' phones overnight. Nazis have become the oppressed in this weird scenario, and their suffering has become the new talking point for those who live in a world where ideas, no matter how inane, are allowed air and a place to thrive. Ridiculously far right voices like Milo Yiannopolis and Gavin McInnes complain that they are being silenced. By college pukes. Whatever happened to the Free Speech Movement, anyway?
There's no such thing as a free lunch, either.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Impossible

I can remember those nights, coming home from a closing shift at Arby's, wanting to collapse in a heap once I made it inside the door. Instead, I made a point of taking a shower and attempting to scrub off the initial layer of grease that hung over me like a shroud. My brown polyester pants and vest had been left behind, draped over a hanger in the "employee lounge" where everyone else's uniform awaited another day of slinging America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir! That initial hosing down was enough to feel human enough to feel one notch closer to human rather than some fast food homo sapiens hybrid. I drifted off knowing that it would not be until I had two days off in a row that I would be able to feel the sensation of the wind touching my skin. It would take that long to shed the film of tallow in which I was encased.
I bring you this memory, in part, to test your gag reflex. And to introduce the lawsuit being brought by a Florida man who also happens to be a vegan. It is his assertion that Burger King's Impossible Whopper is not a vegan alternative because the plant-based patties which form the core of the sandwich are cooked on the same grill as meat products.
Well, duh. It's Burger King. He must have been looking for his local Vegan King franchise. Was he really expecting that the home of char-broiled meaty treats was going to break out a special surface upon which those Impossible burgers would be charred? I don't believe this gentleman spent any quality time in the "kitchen" of a fast food restaurant.
I offer as a second vision into the minds of the fast food mind this memory: Bob and Cowboy, our franchise owners, were in the back room testing the new french fry packaging. They filled the small paper envelope, then the large paper cup and set each one separately on the scale. Delighted by the result, they discovered that the large and small portions weighed within a gram of one another. Customers were paying an extra fifty cents for the cup.
Don't get me wrong. I'm excited by the idea that someday I will be able to order a drive-thru burger that will help me save the planet in my hybrid car, but I don't imagine this will be happening anytime soon. Or at all. This is a marketing ploy.
Oh. Sorry. Did you think the change from "veggie burger" to "Impossible Burger" was an accident? Which one would you rather wash down with a large Diet Coke? And a large order of fries. That will take at least a couple of days to wash off.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Over The Shoulder

Someone pointed out that we are scant days away from the end of a decade. In just a little over a month, we will leave the TweenTeens and enter the Roaring Twenties. As for the naming of the decades, I assume we will have a few years to work that out. Wouldn't it be nice to have the Boring Twenties, spending ten years catching up on our non-news reading and enjoying conversations that didn't feel so weighted down by worry? And will we look back at the past ten years with longing, wondering where our Hope went?
Six out of ten of those years, it felt like there was hope and change available. Coming out of the Naughts, it was nice to think that we were on the cusp of something larger. On our way to where the air is sweet. 
How quickly things change. Ten years ago, I noted that "the decade comes to a close much in the same way that it began: Terrorists win." I was bemoaning the fact that I was still being asked to take my shoes off before boarding a commercial airliner. Only ticketed passengers were allowed on the concourse. Which is pretty much how things are pretty much the same, but for the low, low price of just eighty-five dollars for a five year membership the TSA will let you go through screening without opening your laptop or taking off your shoes. 
What a difference a decade makes. Unless you're fighting a war in the Middle East, in which case it's business as usual. There have been approximately seven new iterations of the iPhone, and each one has been more exciting than the last. And more expensive. Buying pot got easier, but not necessarily less expensive. You can order food with your phone. Wait. That's not new. You can call for a ride with your phone. Wait. That's not new. The phones are "smart" now. Smarter? Or maybe we're just not as smart as our phones. 
A new decade gives us a chance to start yammering about the good old days like these were the good old days. Let's hope that's where we're headed. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Oversight

Sexiest Man Alive?
I'm not on the list. Happily, I am not on the Sexiest Dead Men either, so I have that going for me. But it does give me pause, in this era of #MeToo that we continue to sell magazines and launch a million Tweets about this peculiar distinction.
A long time ago, Rod Stewart asked the musical question, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" I suspect that back in the day, this was a rhetorical question. Now that Rod is known more as a model train enthusiast than a swinging disco god, the point is essentially moot. Unless you're into that kind of thing. Which raises the point, "Who gets to decide such things?"
Currently, singer, songwriter, producer, actor, and philanthropist John Legend has been awarded the title. Congratulations may be the last thing that need to offered to Mister Legend for this distinction. Being viewed as an object by the publishers of People Magazine seems to confuse the talents of their object with his inability to stay out of a swimming pool while fully clothed or his struggle to button his jacket before knotting his bow tie. This brings to mind all those photo shoots of women in various states of undress for various publications in various levels of absurdity. Here's Plaything of the Minute watering plants at home in her dainty underthings. We've got Object of the Moment checking her SAT scores on her home computer which just happens to be next to the Jacuzzi. And so on. The ridiculousness of all of that is not leveled by putting a man in similarly ridiculous circumstances. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then John Legend is a few thousand words behind in terms of legitimizing his career again. I have been amused by the reactions posted by Mister Legend's wife, Chrissy Tiegen: "The sexiest man alive just made me a ham sandwich." This is the kind of perspective we all need. Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, and the list goes on. These gentlemen have managed to maintain a career this side of cheesecake since being deemed sexy by a publication whose journalistic cred is based almost exclusively on "what's hot and what's not." 
And yes, you may correctly assume that I am still stinging from the aforementioned lack of inclusion on any of those lists for all these years. And relieved at the same time. Now I can return to my obsession with model railroads.