Sunday, June 16, 2019

In What Universe Is Time A Constant?

I can't imagine what it would be like to actually be one of those male human beings who flaunt their "manhood" with statements like, "I've just got the one kid - that I know of."
Har har har.
The notion of being some kind of stud service for a planet already overcrowded with people who have grown up without the love and care that they need is unconscionable. I regret that I cannot recall what female comic who made the same statement in her standup. It was one of the funniest and immediately saddest moments of comedy I have ever witnessed. Maybe if men had to pass a bowling ball through their privates at some point during the process, there might be a little more consideration for the entire undertaking.
I cannot imagine being absent from my son's life. Much in the same way that I hung on every bad joke and chased after those moments with my own father, I still cling to the time that I get to spend in the company of my son. I would not have missed a diaper, a late night, a bump on the head or seemingly endless game of catch in the front yard. And still, I want more. Each year that brings him closer to being a grownup with a family of his own is a clock that is ticking. I can only hope that I get to spend that endless amount of time playing catch with grandchildren, but I know there is a difference.
We went all in, my wife and I, when we chose to stop with the one kid. We felt and continue to feel that we had won the lottery when it came to offspring and so we chose not to tempt fate. Which only meant that there would be that much more strain on the minutes that fill up a day for our little boy. "Please stop reading to me so I can go to sleep." But I haven't had a turn yet. How can that be fair?
I suppose I can be thankful that my son hasn't done the favor for me that I did for my dad. From the time I was nine or ten, I began drawing a caricature of him for birthday cards, and father's day cards and the like. I cannot say that it was flattering, but it was generally agreed to be pretty accurate. Even by him. Which is what I have currently decorating the spot where our grandfather clock usually hangs. The clock that he built especially for my wife and I on the occasion of our wedding. Keeping track of the time we spend together.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Looking Up

I do a great portion of the long-distance driving for our family. Not because I like to drive so much. I don't. I do prefer it to staring out the window at seemingly endless strips of asphalt. It gives me something to do. Again, I do not consider my talents as the operator of a passenger vehicle to be anything worth shouting about, but I do manage to keep the machine between the lines and the number of citations I have received in the last twenty-five years numbers somewhere in the low zero area.
Which can't necessarily be said of all the other drivers out there on the highways and byways. One of the ways my wife and I tend to pass time on road trips is to comment on the relative carelessness of the company we find out there. Signal lights, following distance, all that stuff that seemed to be such a bother back when I was younger and had a place to be. It never occurred to me that everyone else might also have a specific time and destination in mind. I could be the impediment to their arriving on time for dinner. Why don't I just get out of their way?
Still, it continues to amaze me that there aren't more collisions of all sorts, interstate, city streets, country roads. It requires a pretty solid set of sensory responses to pilot an automobile from point to point, and even though we seem to be interested in finding all manner of distractions to keep us from paying attention to the task at hand, most of us get from point to point without turning into a charred mass of twisted metal.
Good for us!
Sometimes, as the miles begin to stack upon themselves, I find myself wondering about a Jonathan Livingston Seagull approach to driving. That's when you have that momentary lapse of focus and the horn sounds behind you. No thump. No squealing tires. No broken glass. Just that near miss. What if that was just the way it translated into some new plane of reality, leaving behind the wreckage of what might have been and pressing the reset button once again. I almost fell asleep there. I should have checked my mirror. I shouldn't have looked down on the seat for my wallet. Oops. Never mind. Start again.
And this time, pay attention.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Rubber Meets Road

I was up on the rack for a short while earlier this week. This was my ten thousand mile checkup. Or annual. Or just about time for me to see what might need loosening or tightening before the next scheduled pit stop.
I got to share a bit with my doctor about my least favorite phrase, "at a certain age." As near as I could ascertain, we are all at a certain age. There may be some who at some indeterminate age, but I have yet to run into them. Sure, there are those who defy aging. Until suddenly they don't. But I take some solace in the fact that "for my age" I am holding on to most of my factory-installed parts. I also find that this automotive metaphor suits me pretty well, in spite of the fact that I have no idea what my current Blue Book value might be.
I know that when I used to go out for a run, I would see others doing similarly. I would try and ascertain from their posture, gait and look on their face how old they might be. I have been passed up by plenty of runners more advanced in years than myself, just as I have blown past those young punks who must have over-exerted themselves in the first mile. And more often than not lately, I content myself to putting one foot in front of the other. Every day above ground is a good one.
And every day that I can still get up and find some new way to wear myself out, to build something new, fix something that's broken, touch my toes, I count it as a win against entropy. Things fall apart. It's the nature of things. I make a few more noises than I used to, and I am discovering muscles and bones in ways that remind me to take it easy on the old guy since he's not getting any younger.
None of us are. Which makes my relationship with my doctor an exercise at times in compare and contrast. We share knee stories, and I take comfort in her assurance that I'm in pretty good shape. I try not to manually insert the tag: for my age. Most of the time I don't. I feel pretty good. I'm not going to go ten rounds with the champ anytime soon, but depending to which champ I could be referring that might not be such a difficult chore.
There will be no rolling back of the odometer on this model, so I expect I'll keep it filled up with oil and slap a little Bondo and some primer on as necessary. I've got miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Draining

I have this theory that I like to espouse regarding home repair: I don't mind doing plumbing because if you mess up you could end up wet. I don't feel the same way about electrical matters because if you mess up you could end up dead. This is my story, and I'm going to stick with it. In spite of my Monday battle with our bathroom sink.
It all started innocuously enough on Sunday evening, when I noticed that the sink was draining somewhat slowly. So I applied our household version of drain cleaner: baking soda and vinegar. Great burbles of black goo was what I got in response, so I figured I must be onto something. I remembered my previous trips down this path and left the puddle sit to slowly make its way down and away. I rinsed the excess mung and went on to bed, feeling  lightly satisfied in a plumbing sort of way.
Monday did not bring relief, as the morning's ablutions proved to be more than the drain could handle, and I made the decision to try something more invasive. Sticking a snake down the pipe didn't bring about the rushing flush that I had wished for, and I decided to try something more drastic. This meant going out to the garage and bringing back our real and true pipe wrench. I had hoped that the mere introduction of such a tool would frighten the pipes into behaving in the manner in which we had become accustomed.
No such luck. As I began taking things apart, I noticed that the collar to one of the fittings had a hole in it, and since my wife was busy at the grocery store, I took it upon myself to ride my bike up to the hardware store to buy a replacement. Simple enough. I came right back and started to put things back into place and when water was introduced to this new setup, a spray came out of yet another piece of the trap. At this point, my wife had returned and dutifully raced out to the hardware store to buy a replacement. That needed to be cut to size. Which meant I got to use my hacksaw.
But not before I used a flashlight to peer into the hole where the sink was attached to the wall. There was a pipe full of mud just a few inches away, which suggested that there was a good four feet of goop standing in the way of proper drainage. I chose to let someone with better tools than mine deal with that matter, but I would put things back into place before I gave up completely.
But not without discovering yet another hole in the third piece of the trap, the "J" as we were to learn, so off to yet another hardware store went my supply sergeant. I left a wet, muddy mess in the bathroom as I waited patiently for what I hoped would be the last piece in the puzzle that had been laid out in front of me so casually three hours earlier.
If it had been electricity, it would all be over now.
What doesn't kill us is probably plumbing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

De Nada

"Bringin' in another one."
"Okay. Let me get the camera ready."
"Stand here on the x...No no entiendes? Pararse en la x."
"Can you get him to lift his head up?"
"Levanta la cabeza."
"And turn a little to the left?"
"Doblar a la izquierda."
"Gracias, gracias. Okay -"
"What's the holdup now?"
"That guy looks familiar."
"Probably because we get the same fifty guys in here every month or so. Everybody's looking for a new life in the U.S.A."
"No. I haven't seen him in here before. Hey, cuál es tu nombre?"
"Eh?"
"They guy asked your name. You're gonna have to put it on the form in a minute anyway."
"Uh. Pedro."
"Pedro?"
"Si."
"No. I don't think - hey wait a second. I know where I've seen this guy."
"Yeah? Where."
"On the front page."
"Huh?"
"Of the newspaper."
"Really."
"This is none other than Andrés Manuel López Obrador. President of  Mexico."
"No. Really."
"Greetings, your honor, El Presidente." 
"Qué?"
"My friend here seems to think you're somebody special."
"No. No. No."
"Here. Take a look at the picture."
"Well, he does look a little more kept up than most of the folks we see in here."
"Come on. Same hair. Same nose."
"Okay, okay you guys. Keep it down. I just want to come across so I can apply for asylum."
"So you're really -"
"Yes. Or at least I was. Now I just want out."
"How come? If you don't mind my asking. It is kind of my job."
"I just don't want to talk to him anymore." 
"Him? Him who?"
"Your president. I haven't had a moment's peace since I took office. Blah blah border this. Blah blah drugs that. Tariffs. Threats of armed force. I just wanted to run my country. I didn't think I'd be getting calls and texts from this guy all the time."
"All the time?"
"Twenty or thirty a day. For months now. I need it to stop. I just want a simple life." 
"So you decided you would cross the border - illegally?"
"Okay, so maybe I wasn't thinking. Maybe I didn't have it all figured out. But I just want a quiet place where I can lie down and get a night's sleep."
"Well, it won't be the presidential suite..."
"Just promise me you won't tell anyone I'm here. And no phones."
"Sure. I think we can do that, can't we Ralph?"
"You bet we can, Sam. Right this way, Pedro."
"Muchas gracias por su ayuda."
"De nada."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Weakly

I suppose I could have listened, back when a writer friend of mine pointed out that the magazine I was so very fond of was getting rid of most of their editorial staff and taking articles by freelancers. At the time I figured that this was a way to gather in more disparate voices, ones that might not be heard if not for this outreach. It was a way to shake things up, and that's always good, right?
Except it wasn't. Entertainment Weekly, my source for so very many things pop culture, was being downsized to fit some corporation's notion of how a magazine should be run. The well-kept secret: They were running it to make a profit.
I know. Not to keep me in the know about all those things TV, Film, Music, Books and Broadway related. They were hoping to make money. I didn't flinch when they sent Owen Glieberman packing. Nor did I properly mourn Lisa Schwarzbaum when they shooed her away. Change, it would seem, is inevitable.
I could blame my mother, who grew up reading movie magazines straight from the newsstand at her parents' drug store. She's the one who introduced me to Pauline Kael and that corner of The New Yorker called Current Cinema. I wanted to finesse my appreciation for film, and so I sharpened my teeth on the criticism of one of the greats of all time. I grew up receiving and reading film encyclopedias for Christmas, and reading them cover to cover. I watched with mild disdain as two of the country's best film critics, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, sold their collective souls to sit down week after week and give chatty "reviews" of the movies coming out that week. Thumbs down for that idea.
But I knew that I couldn't escape that zeitgeist for long. I succumbed to the subscription machine of Entertainment Weekly and read it as if it mattered for decades. I never considered that a little thing like the death of magazines in general might keep me from enjoying this habit forever. As Pony Boy said, "Nothing gold can stay," and when those "special issues" that made an excuse for EW to become bi-monthly, I should have picked up on the scent.
Last week, the news came down that a new publishing  concern hand bought up the magazine and was turning it into something more along the lines of Entertainment Monthly. All the while they assured us that their online content would be ramped up and we wouldn't notice a difference. My morning ritual is to sit down at the breakfast table and read as much of each week's issue as I could until my breakfast ran out. This allowed me to stretch each issue over the course of a week. I am relatively certain that is not going to be a possibility with a monthly mag.
No word as yet if my annual subscription for a weekly magazine will be prorated to four times as long, but I can't say that I'm interested.
Maybe I can use that time to watch more movies.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Big Foot Note

By means of introduction, let me state here that I used to spend summers living in a mountain cabin with my family. There was no phone. No electricity. No running water. Doing our business meant walking up the path behind to the outhouse and returning, often with just the light of the moon to guide us. Sounds serene, doesn't it?
Except if you happen to be a young man with what some might describe as an over-active imagination. In which case, some of those strolls to the comfort station were less comforting than others. For those trips I tended to take the Radar Lite, a great beast of a flashlight that could be used to signal passing aircraft, if necessary. And there was a flashing red hazard light on the back end of the thing, probably for use in case of road hazards and the like. I figured it would come in handy if I was confronted in those late night trips to the loo. If I needed some sort of emergency help. If aliens landed nearby and wanted to abduct me, for example.
This kind of speculation was brought on by the lack of television, which offered us a chance to read every word of every Time Magazine and daily newspaper that found its way into our mountain retreat, as well as countless Peanuts collections, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and literature ranging from polite young adult novels to Michael Chricton, Bram Stoker, and HG Wells. All of which created a combustible mixture of fantasies that sometimes made it less than desirable to venture outside once the sun had gone down.
Because, aside from all those graphic descriptions of cattle mutilations that may have coincided with strange lights in the sky, there were reports of Bigfoot. Never mind that none of them included Rocky Mountain National Park as the location of such sightings, but if there were aliens landing and turning cows inside out, why wouldn't there be an eight foot tall Sasquatch lurking just outside. Waiting. Waiting for someone's bladder to get just a little over-full. Waiting to pounce. Or whatever it is that Bigfoot was supposed to do. Not satisfied with assertions made by so many that this missing link was profoundly private and most likely vegetarian in his appetites, I chose to proceed with great caution. Sometimes I was accompanied on these sojourns by our intrepid mountain dog, Rupert. A dachshund who transformed, in his mind, into a beast several hands high with a bark that was amplified by our proximity to a large pile of granite. I let Rupert go out ahead of me.
In all those years, all those trips to the outhouse, not once did we encounter Bigfoot or an alien probe. Now, forty-plus years later, the FBI has released what they hope is their definitive report on the matter: No such thing. What a relief. Guess I won't need the Radar Lite anymore.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

And Intermediate State Or Condition

Two guys walk into a bar, which is really stupid since you would figure the first guy walks into a bar then the second would see it, right?
And this old joke occurs to me now as I bask in the supposed afterglow of our "President's" most recent visit abroad. This illusory bar that gets thrown around so often is supposed to be the one that is jumped over, a high jump. The current world record for this physical feat for a human being is just under two and a half meters. Considering most humans stand just below two meters in height, this is a considerable achievement. But that's not where most athletes start. It's not where they practice. Initially, the idea is just to clear the bar. That bar is placed lightly at the top of vertical standards so if contact is made, it falls, suggesting that maybe the bar should be lowered. Lowered until the jumper can make the jump without knocking the bar down. 
If you smell a metaphor, you are right on track. Our "President" has currently lowered the bar for "presidential" behavior. Name-calling, lying, arguing. It's like we're raising a petulant teenager instead of being led by a competent statesman, as the dribs and drabs of his social media stream continues to show just how cantankerous and ridiculous he can be. 
For example: Just before taking the podium at a military cemetery in France, marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day, our "president" took the opportunity to point fingers and call names one more time. He called former special counsel Robert Mueller a “fool” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “disaster.” Mister Mueller, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war had no response. Ms. Pelosi, who was also in Normandy to commemorate the invasion of Normandy, had this reply: “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country. That’s my principle.”
Ah, principles. That's what we've been missing. And while our commander in chief scurries about the globe irritating others and stirring up his own brand of trouble, he seems to be playing a different game. Not the high jump, but Limbo. How low can you go? Squeezing under the bar set by his conduct seems easy enough for him, even as he systematically lowers it himself. Donald Trump walks into a bar, but misses as he slides right below it. I don't think I want to see how much lower he can go. 

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Reaching The Bottom

Somehow in the midst of all that beer, I never bothered to taste much of it. That was the reason for the Lite Beer fixation. A third less calories. Get drunk and don't fill up. Something like that. Beer math isn't always the best way to get at a logical answer. In my mind there is this sensation of a cold beer consumed right after mowing a lawn that had just the right bubble and chill. Quenching. Of course it was rare that I had that one to savor. Instead, it was the steady march into the abyss that made the dulling of senses the main focus. Could I have enjoyed the taste of a craft brew? An IPA? I'm sure I might have, if I hadn't been consumed with consumption.
For many years, I told those with whom I was drinking that I would meet them at Penny Lane. This was a mystical location found at the bottom of any bottle, can or glass of beer. To keep things interesting, I would alternately refer to this place as Strawberry Fields. It would have been more clever if it wasn't a device to empty cups of beer. Which might explain the preponderance of beer-drinking games that consumed more evenings than I can count. It was as if we were getting a volume discount.
I found myself considering this over the past couple weeks after a video of Aaron Rodgers attempting to chug a beer went viral. This caused a number of his NFL counterparts to prove their own prowess at throwing beer down their throats. All these years later, it turns out that the ability to swallow beer is still considered a test of manliness. How about that? Sure, you won a Super Bowl and hold several NFL passing records, but can you force twelve ounces of watery hops down your gullet without throwing up?
For the record, since there apparently is one, Aaron did not throw up. He chose not to throw his head back and empty his beer into his face like his colleagues. Not a choice I made, back in the day. I was in a rush to finish my beer to get to the next one. And the one after that. Now that I have retired, and people ask me why I don't drink anymore, I tend to tell them that Milwaukee sent me a nice note. It read, "Thanks for your patronage, but let's save some for everyone else."
Now chug is something a train does.
Penny Lane is a street in Liverpool.
Strawberry Fields is a garden in Central Park.
And beer is something that makes your mouth taste like a sock the following morning.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Lists

I have a friend who insists that all those lists you find on Al Gore's Internet ranking signposts in popular culture are made by men. I have so far resisted the impulse to point out that she is making her own list, of one. But keeping that aside for now, I believe she has a point. It is a rather distinctly male chore to slap some sort of hierarchy on top of people, places and things that are primarily subjective. Clicking on a link that portends to give a definitive grade to the thirty greatest rock guitarists is first of all an exercise in patience, wading through endless pop-ups and poorly arranged pages that have the net effect of generating disagreements with the editor of said list and a sincere wish for those ten minutes of your life back.
So why go down that rabbit hole in the first place?
To see if you're right, of course.
Everyone knows the correct answer is Eddie Van Halen.
Just like I know that the best Batman was Michael Keaton. Or maybe Adam West, since he's the only one who didn't seem to need to growl once he put his mask on. Which is precisely the reason I have so much difficulty creating my own "best of" lists. Once I get up near the top, I start to get indecisive. I feel pretty comfortable saying that the hands-down all-time best portrayal of Frankenstein's Monster was Boris Karloff. Which may seem like a no-brainer until you consider there have been seventy-some actors who have played the role, with varying degrees of success. I'm looking at your, Robert De Niro. Special commendation to Lon Chaney Jr. who pulled off the superfecta of playing the Monster, Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolf Man.
Which sounds like I'm already beginning to waver. But I'm not. Boris Karloff. For sure.
Now I have to figure out some sort of rating system for the other sixty-eight or so. That just makes me tired. So maybe I'll have to wait for that notch more incisive individual who can complete the list for me. And then I'll take ten minutes to click through it, and another day and a half to argue about it. Seems like a pretty male avocation, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Common Senseless

You may have come here looking. Over the past few days, frequent visitors to this place might have expected me to write something about the Virginia Beach Shooting. It is, after all, a preoccupation of mine. Not the shootings so much as our response to them. I tend to pull up near the end and make an impassioned plea for common-sense gun laws. Anything that might limit or even prohibit tragedies that occur all too frequently in the land of the brave and the home of the heavily armed.
Twelve people were shot and killed in Virginia Beach's Municipal Building Number Two last Friday. The motive, as so often is the case, is "a mystery." The idea that this man "just snapped" seems a little out of character for a fifteen year veteran employee of the city. Knowing the reason why he gunned down twelve innocent victims and wounded four more will not bring any of them back to life or health. Crime Scene Investigators will not bring relief to any of the families and friends by discovering that lone clue that will make it possible to convict the shooter of his crimes. The crimes were murder, and attempted murder. Not a lot to uncover there.
Common sense gun laws.
Why does that phrase ring so hollow right now?
Maybe because so little of what that legislation might cover seems to apply to the name. Common Sense. Besides, we already have one of those, don't we? "Tho shalt not kill." Over the centuries since then all kinds of asterisks and amendments have been attached to that notion, leaving it hollow and archaic. Like the kids on the playground who insist that their parents told them to hit back, we seem compelled to find ways to excuse and even encourage shooting back.
And then we go and pray about it. I'm here to tell you, God seems to already have had his say. But we want to argue. God made man in his own image, but all the pictures I've seen don't show our Lord packing heat. Okay, that's mostly the case. Which makes me wonder why twentieth century "artists" would want to depict the guy who said, "Love thy neighbor" carrying a rifle. Common sense suggests this is a way to continue the narrative that God wants us to have guns and when the voices inside our heads tell us to head down to the job or school or movie theater and pop a cap in a few of those innocent bystanders, it's all a part of the plan. God's plan. The Constitution and the Bible are one big advertisement for guns and ammo.
Right.
Common Sense.
I don't get it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

What?

I have Natalie Merchant to thank. If you don't remember Nat, she was the distinctive voice behind 10,000 Maniacs and a solo artist in her own right. The other day I picked her out of essentially thin air to be the artist whose music began our morning. This included a cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity. As she was easing into the second verse when I heard these words: "And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear."
I'm about to turn fifty-seven. I have listened to that song, mostly the original Bowie version, for fifty of them. I never knew what those words were. They were the part of the song through which I mumbled tunefully until I got to the next line about "time to leave the capsule if you dare." In this age of Al Gore's Internet and Google Home Assistant, there really is no reason for me to go without any knowledge. Ever. And yet, there I was, missing that line from a rock and roll classic for a full fifty years, even after the death of its composer. Until an American songstress did me the favor of enunciating that one bit just a little differently than I had always heard it before. The scales fell from my eyes and suddenly I could draw a direct line between that song and The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." That man on the TV who tells you how white your shirts could be but he can't be a man 'cause he does not smoke the same cigarettes as me. That came four years before, but it wasn't until DEVO covered it that I felt compelled to learn all the words. That was in 1978, when I was a teenager and not a toddler, ready to soak up pop culture that wasn't Snoopy.
Once upon a time I gave a revelation similar to this to a professor of mine, who had never fully grappled with the lyrics to Mairzy Doats. He was seventy-two before he realized that those nonsense words were really about farm animals and their diets. I have had more of these moments of clarity thanks to earbuds and repeated listening to a limited number of songs, but it never ceases to amaze me when I discover that Green Day was not singing "tongue grabs you by the wrist" but rather "time grabs you by the wrist." Much better metaphor, and even works thematically with the song.
So if any of this comes as a revelation to you, you're welcome. And if it helps at all, I'm still not a hundred percent sure about Bismillah, but since most of Bohemian Rhapsody is a linguistic flurry, it will have to wait until I have more time. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Just For Showing Up

I am no stranger to the Participant Ribbon. One of my earliest encounters was the Honorable Mention award I received in third grade at the Science Fair. The year before I had cruised to a first place blue ribbon with my diorama of dinosaurs I made from clay roaming around Easter grass foliage and sipping from a tin foil pond. It probably helped my cause to sit next to my exhibit with my sad face and crutches, having experienced a pinch or tear or something that generated a pitiful limp. In third grade I essentially recycled that same diorama but moved up a few epochs, with a family of clay Neanderthals and a wooly mammoth and a saber tooth tiger. Same plastic grass. And no crutches. When I came back from perusing the other kids' exhibits, I found my redux diorama adorned with that dull green ribbon. The judges saw me coming, I'm sure.
Many years later, when I was in high school, I was a sophomore taking the last of my quarter-long Physical Education classes: Tennis. I took this class because I understood it would take me outside and keep me from being under the crushing peer pressure of playing on a team, like volleyball. If I was going to miss a ball of whatever size lobbed in my direction, I would suffer that indignity alone. No one should be depending on me.
Which worked out fine until we were instructed to pick a doubles partner. The only alternative from my perspective was to tap my friend Greg for this dubious distinction. So we practiced, after a fashion, batting the ball back and forth to each other and at the fence. And copious breaks that helped us while away the time until the bell rang. And then came the last week of class. We were told there would be a tournament and we should all bring our newly minted skills and competitive spirit. Which I suppose Greg and I did. We ended up playing against a pair of young men who might at one point been saddled with the label "jock," and we were trounced. It might have been the breaks we were taking, or the lack of any particular talent on Greg and my part. On Friday, we were told that we did not have to dress out. There would be an awards ceremony. To my surprise, Greg and I were each awarded a red second place ribbon. Because there were only two teams.
I crossed professional tennis player off my career goals list. I helped my son make a few dioramas, but I always counseled him to change the grass. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Accidents Will Happen

All those storied are going to have to wait.
The ones I keep imagining as I pedal past houses and fences and piles of debris. I don't have a radio to listen to as I ride to work in the morning, so I entertain myself with tales of the unexplained. If only for a short while. The bike ride and the time it takes me to come up with the truth surrounding the circumstances of what might have led to that car being shoved most of the way onto the sidewalk and the driver's side front quarter-panel crushed like tin foil.
Godzilla?
The tire tracks leading up to it suggest otherwise.
Drunken neighbor?
Cuckolded spouse?
Student driver?
In those morning hours with so very few witnesses or even additional worried souls making their way past the scene of the crime. Or was it a crime? Maybe it was a car that had already been damaged and someone did a terrifically bad job parking it before going inside to call the nearest body shop.
Which brings me to the focus of my daily trips to and from school over the past year: The building that now occupies what used to be a hole in the ground about one third of the way from my house to work. It is no longer a hole,  but instead of evolving into a lovely new home for some lucky family to occupy, four townhouse-y units now crowd the lot. The pair in the back have a glorious view of the back of and identical structure and one can only surmise that landscaping will be out of the question since it is already a very small pathway between these cramped spaces. Who will live there? Why would they live there? Whose idea was this anyway?
Over the next couple months, the siding will go on, and I suspect the plumbing and electrical will be complete. It's possible that the next time I ride by I may not recognize them as they blend into the neighborhood firmament. Or maybe I will stop on the way home some afternoon and knock on the door, asking if I could perhaps come in and take a look around. I don't need to stick my nose into their business, exactly. I just want to know what happened.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Honestly

“If we had had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so." These were some of the words tossed around during Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's farewell address to the troops. Before the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and author of the widely redacted report that bears his name, Mister Mueller stood up in front of a bunch of reporters. That little puzzle of a sentence was among the remarks he made. 
For those who hoped that he might open up more fully and clear his mind and ours about any nagging doubts, he added, “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond this report.” That same widely-redacted report that has many clamoring for impeachment of "the president" while others see it as a doctor's note excusing him from any further accusations and PE for a week. 
Then again, there was this additional nugget from Mueller's press briefing to continue to keep the waters as murky as possible: “Under long-standing department policy a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional,” he said. “Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”
Would you, could you under oath? Would you, could you remove this growth? Would you, could you with a fox? Would you could you with a fox?
Okay, so maybe we'll have to content ourselves with the Report itself. The one that includes this assertion: “The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts." Along with that came the list of at least ten instances of ten instances of obstruction of justice, limited primarily by "the president's" own staff being unwilling to carry out his orders. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.” So sayeth The Report. 
What could be more clear? 
Just about anything. 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Promotion

I set up a lot of chairs. I swept the floor. I scraped the gum off first. The cafeteria had once again been transformed into an auditorium: a gathering place for families and loved ones to come pay respects to the fifth graders who would be moving on. I will confess that this is a year when I don't have a particular tangle of emotions about any student or group of students. These guys are ready to move on and I won't shed a specific tear when they go. I'm sure there will be a time when I get around to missing them, but not right now.
Instead, I find myself dealing with that moment of departure when colleagues begin to pack up their boxes here at Horace Mann. For the last time. They won't be coming back. I will. I continue to be something of an anomaly in the Oakland Unified School District. When I take those surveys at the year winds to a close and they want to know how long I have been teaching and then how long I have been at this site, it's the same answer: Twenty-plus. And every year I have said goodbye to a friend I have made. Some of them are still seen around town, at the grocery store or at some teacher training and I share a moment describing "who is still there."
Well, there's me.
Which is why I was so very touched and embarrassed when I received and "unsolicited letter of recommendation" from one of my fellow educators who happens to be moving on herself this year. Having written a few letters this year to help my co-workers find the next step in their professional development. I will be maintaining my current level, much to the chagrin of many of those around me. This was not lost on my colleague. My friend. She mentioned the seemingly endless jobs I seem to have acquired to that original description of "prep teacher." And she appreciated me for it. In so many words.
And she recommended me to stay in my current position. Who else knows where all that construction paper is? Or how to get the staples out of the locked door? Who else has been around the block enough times to remain unfazed while one more teacher calls in sick without a substitute? I can't say that I've seen it all because every year brings a new flavor, a new surprise, a new set of faces. And I will miss them when they are gone. And I'm still here.
I'm keeping the letter. And the memories associated with it.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The One That Got Away

I have made a little joke with friends from time to time about how I wanted to be remembered. Mostly regarding how it should not be a mystery about how I passed: "It must have been all the times he ate a Big Mac in one bite," or "After that much Coca-Cola, your kidneys would leap out of your body too." He was a Coke drinker and a Big Mac masher. I'm not sure if that would fit on a headstone, if I have one. It would serve me right if whatever monument ends up at my last mile marker it would read, "He stomped on the Terra."
Aloha, Dave.
Over the weekend, I read this: "After battling the disease of Lewy Body Dementia, Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27th surrounded by his family. Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." I'm not sure I would garner that last bit about the arms of his Lord and Savior, and I hope I can avoid dementia of any sort. At least the kind that could kill me. 
But if you've been alive as long as I have, or longer, once you read the name "Billy Buckner," you probably thought, "didn't he play baseball?"
Yes he did. 
And you might even remember that he played for the Red Sox.
And if you made it that far on the memory train, you probably got to the part where, in the 1986 World Series, Bill let the potential first championship for the still-cursed team from Boston slip through his fingers. Or between his legs. His error allowed the Mets to score the winning run, and go on a couple of nights later to win game seven, keeping the Red Sox on the Bambino list for another eighteen years. That was the accomplishment that was splashed all over Al Gore's Internet. Not his twenty-one years in the major leagues. Not his lifetime .289 batting average. 
Nope. 
The powers that be posted video of the one that got away.
For the record, Bill Buckner deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, and he did in fact stomp on the Terra. He will be missed. 
Which is why I'm pretty sure I need to find that picture of me with a mouthful of McDonald's

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Slings And Arrows

Do you remember when Nancy Reagan bubbled over about her "tiny little gun?" Do you remember Nancy Reagan? There was once an American President named Ronald Reagan, and he was married (for the second time) to a lady named Nancy. To show her firmly held conviction regarding the Second Amendment to our Constitution, she gave a folksy little interview about how Ronnie (the aforementioned President) gave her a "tiny little gun" to protect herself when she was left alone in their Pacific Palisades home.
This was the anecdote that came abruptly to my mind when I read about how our current "president's" golf weekend in Japan was interrupted by the announcement that North Korea had fired missiles in what his underlings described as breaking the U.N. restrictions on such ballistic missiles. Which wasn't how Michael Bolton's boss saw it: "North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?"
Perhaps it's our "president" sending us a signal: As a guest in neighboring Japan, the American "President" chose to brush off what most of the rest of the world felt was some kind of provocation as a way to connect with the man he used to call "Rocketman" on their shared disrespect of the former Vice President of the United States. Never mind that those missiles might be used on targets across the Sea of Japan, Kim Jong Un was capping on the "president's" potential rival in the 2020 election. The election in the United States. Far away from the Sea of Japan. And all those potential targets in Japan. Japan's new Emperor Abe viewed those missile tests with "great regret."
Swampman. Low IQ. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Situation: Normal

You may have heard my stifled scream on Sunday morning, and for that I apologize. No need to panic, as it turns out. Order has been restored in the most benign way possible: turn off the machine, restart and try again. All is well again.
What was the problem?
No Google.
I know, right?
Being the ever resourceful tech genius that I am, I found a tired icon on my laptop's desktop for Microsoft Edge. Cautiously, I opened it to see if there was still an Internet. Feeling reassured about that experiment, I was still worried that some sort of Thanos Snap might have disintegrated half the web browsers in the universe. Stopping first to check my email, and finding it visible through what used to be Explorer, I proceeded to my next most logical alternative. Restart.
I held my breath for a moment or two as I waited for my computer to shake off the cobwebs and bring me back to what I hoped was the land of all that is good and Googly. I reflected briefly on the conversation I had with the daughter of a friend of ours. She wondered aloud why the home assistant was called "Google" instead of something more clever and lyrical like Siri or Alexa. I reminded her that by keeping the name branded, it allowed us all to speak the company's name several hundred more times each day and thus creating neural pathways that would be most certainly hardwired. This sent another wave of panic through me: What if our home assistant had failed as well? Would I have to turn on lights and appliances myself? Touching buttons and switches has become so very antiquated. Hurry up and boot, computer.
As I typed in my user name and password, I continued to hope for the best as my reflection continued. There was a time not long ago when I used to teach my students to use search engines as if it were some sort of level playing field, before google became a verb. Before Google got us all using docs and Chromebooks and forgetting a world of Bing and Ask Jeeves and DuckDuckGo. A time that included Netscape and Firefox. But this was all crazy fear talking. There would be Google again. There had to be.
The words you are currently reading are brought to you by the friendly faceless monolith with the cute doodles. Even before I started making my incessant entries into this cyber-salon, Google had gobbled this little corner of Al Gore's Internet. Like they have so many other avenues and on-ramps on the information superhighway. So I want to thank you all for hanging on while I sorted this all out, and hopefully something that terrifying will never happen again.
Whew.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Magnificent Obsession

She's out there, waiting. I know this time of year all too well. When my thoughts begin to turn to my avocations, my obsessions. For years now - how many has it been? Has she always been there? There must have been a time when she wasn't that angry itch, waiting for me to scratch. The seasons change and the pages of the calendar fall to the floor, but no matter how things change, she's still there to wrestle with. To mock me. To make every attempt at controlling her a laughable charade.
Her? She? What? My white whale. My albatross.
I'm talking about our front gate. No other portion of our house or yard has required so much of my attention and robbed me of so many weekends. Sagging, sticking, slanting, it's never been quite right. When we first rebuilt the front fence, the gate was one long eight foot section that opened in one wide swing. For a month or two, until the weight began to strain the hinges and the corner scraped as it needed to be dragged over the grass to force it to stay open far enough to drive the car up the driveway. For a while, there was a cable running from the post to the end to limit the droop. Every departure and each return served as a reminder of the faulty engineering I had wrought.
There was that cathartic moment when I took a circular saw to the center of it and slapped some hinges on the opposite side. Half the weight, half the problem. Which was about the time we got a dog who was as concerned as I was with the gap between the two sides. Finding a viable latch that could withstand her insistent nudging and prodding brought me a dozen years of searching hardware stores for just the right latch. It was at some point during this era that a neighbor dropped by and left me with two eight inch metal plates he had drilled especially to help me keep the lower portion of the gate from being shoved so as to subvert the closure system. And that worked for a while.
Weather and age have proved to be our collective undoing, as all that fitting and making things just so only last as long as warping and the posts holding the hinges in place stay put where they were before and after the rains came. Friends who come to our house are timid about driving inside the compound for fear of losing their side view mirrors. I could do nothing to alleviate those fears except to stand outside holding the gate back and guiding them as they ease backward out into the street, free from the worry of damage caused by that gate. Her. She. The portal to the rest of the world.
This weekend, she got some new springs. It's a new direction, and I hope that their addition will settle my mind once again as I pursue any other imaginable concern. Stamp collecting. Gardening. Ceramics. Anything that might bring me a moment's peace. Anything that might take my mind off of her.

Monday, May 27, 2019

My Old Desk

This desk isn't going to clean itself.
Nor is this room.
As the end of official business comes crashing in on top of us, teachers like myself are beginning to look at the piles they have generated over the previous nine months and begin to assess the damage. What, amidst the tidal wave of paper that has littered my main work surface for the past year will follow me into the next? Is that the note I was going to send home with Jane after Christmas break? There is most of a ream of gold paper sitting on the right hand side, ready to turn into Jaguar Cards if any teacher comes to ask.
But they haven't. And consequently one of the paperweights that adorn my desk is the weight of the paper I have not used. And yet I have worked around this and other obstacles for weeks and weeks. Don't get me wrong, I can still access my keyboard and make out my screen. Even if it means that I have to shove things to the left and the right. That broken pair of headphones that only works on one side is my souvenir for rescuing it from students who insisted it was broken. Not completely, I assured them, and have proceeded to use that one tiny speaker to reference the sound that might otherwise have come from any other device I might have connected.
Just beyond that is the can of spray sunscreen that has come in handy less and less as the rains have continued to come through this very wet spring. It is there in case I need it, or as is probably the case, just in case I decide to take it home for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
At the bottom of one of the stacks is a laminated sign reminding those who might intrude that testing is taking place, with the reminder at the bottom, "Do Your Best!" For the third, fourth and fifth graders here as well as their teachers, that time has passed. Doing our collective best is now pretty much optional, since the actual teaching has slowed to a virtual halt. We have opportunities to make common sense connections, like reminders that balls don't tend to leave the yard over fifteen foot high fences "on accident."
And there are a number of additional technology scraps that need to find their way to electronic waste or a cabinet where I will find them at the beginning of next year when I will take them out and set them on my desk with the intent of dealing with them. Sometime next year.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

If...Then...

How are you gonna keep the kids down on the farm after they've seen Paris? The same can be said for extra recess. It is the closing of the school year, and teachers have all but surrendered to the inevitable tide of pending report cards and twitchy children who have become allergic to the seats we have all worked so hard to keep them in for the past nine months. It is a time of field trips and art projects and cleaning out desks. That last one is an endeavor that I can remember as a somewhat endless task when I was in elementary school. Papers seemed to regenerate withing the dark recesses and corners of that seemingly finite space. And there's that package of erasers I brought in the second week of school, shoved way in the back.
There is some mild leverage left with fifth graders. We have announced to the students and their families that any fifth grader caught in any chicanery or hijinks would be subject to losing their spot on the stage come promotion time. Or worse still, they wouldn't be allowed to line up for the barbecue the day before. The pride of walking across a stage to receive a rolled-up piece of paper may not be as stirring as the thought of all those hamburgers and hot dogs. Leaving us with one final day to negotiate.
Anecdotal memory: As a senior in high school, our marching band went on a trip to Mexico. It just so happened that this tour began a couple days after graduation. We were told by our band director that if there was any mischief or tomfoolery that our diplomas would be rescinded. At this time, I was cruising on the edge of being a bad boy, at least as far as that description can be applied to a high school band member, and I wondered just how serious this threat was. Having been removed as Pep Band President by this same band director, I leaned in the direction of believing it was sincere. What followed was a rather chaste and polite trip to Mexico City and Acapulco with my girlfriend even though our relationship had proceeded somewhere south of the chaste and polite border back home. Meanwhile, we were witness to all manner of misbehavior by the "good kids": underage drinking, sex, curfew violations, curfew violations with staff. All the while, I maintained composure. I wanted to keep my diploma.
Decades later, I am certain that holding us hostage for our diploma was a lot of fluff. I can say this because of the repeated assurances we give our fifth graders even as the kids in lower grades hang from light fixtures and scream profanity at anyone who cares to listen. We are, effectively, inviting them back. Why would we want to keep this one group of knuckleheads from moving on?
It's a long week. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Just Sayin'

Raise your hand if you love your Amazon Prime. Okay, let's see: one, two, three, four, um - one hundred one million. You joined up because only a schmuck would wait for six to ten business days to get their Instant Pot pressure cooker. And you'd have to be deranged to actually drive to a store that sells it and carry it home yourself. We are Americans, after all, and we pride ourselves on finding the cheapest, most convenient way to do the cheapest most convenient things. Owning a pressure cooker is a great way to save time and money, and if you use your Amazon Prime membership to get that bad boy to your front porch ASAP, you're just being a good American.
But it probably isn't worth losing a life over.
I'm not sure what gangsta rapper and NBC's star of Law and Order needs with a pressure cooker. Or maybe it was any one of the six hundred six million products available for purchase on Amazon. Whatever it was, the composer of the lyrical hit "Body Count" complains that he "almost shot a MF creeping up to my crib last night.... Just sayin." This was part of a Tweet in which he was suggesting that those MFs should be wearing uniforms or be in some way outwardly distinguishable as Amazon delivery personnel. To which Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations & Customer Service Dave Clark tweeted back to Ice-T, "Just sayin…thanks for the suggestion. We MF’ing love you and our drivers. Lots of innovations coming on this and many that already exist to help you track your package and delivery on a map. Thanks for being a customer."
Which puts us all square in the cross-hairs of being a proud American. We don't want to be bothered to go to the store to pick up our pressure cooker, or whatever, and we want to cling ferociously to our Second Amendment Rights. Which makes the only logical solution to do the following: Arm Amazon delivery folks. Uniforms can be expensive and need frequent laundering. Why take the chance that the one night you end up on the front lawn of one of the stars of NBC's procedural cop shows your bright orange vest is at the cleaners? Why take the chance that former bad boy and now reformed good guy gangsta with a gun is going to pop a cap in you when you can be a good delivery guy with a gun and shoot back?
I just hope the pressure cooker survives the exchange of gunfire.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Sing As If No One Was Listening

It seems somewhat unlikely that of the leventy-seven kerjillion candidates currently running for president on the Democrat's side that there would be a dearth of campaign songs, but let it be known here and now that Dee Snider is fine with you using one of his compositions as your theme. “There's a simple litmus test here: Are you pro-choice?” says Snider. “And by pro-choice, I mean all choices. I mean, pro-people's rights to choose, particularly a woman's right to choose. I feel very strongly. And that is the litmus test. I hate the whole concept of pro-choice versus … well, I call it ‘no choice.’ It's not like you choose for yourself, and that means you can have children, or you don't have children. They're like, ‘No, we're deciding for you what is right for you.’ Anybody who is pro-choice, and has at least that position, knock yourself out — Republican, Democrat. And there are Republicans out there who are [pro-choice]. They call them ‘Northeastern Republicans’ as a rule, and they tend to be fiscally conservative/socially liberal. I love those guys. So yeah, if you're pro-choice, yeah, go for it.”
Go for it indeed. Thirty-five years after the song was released "We're Not Gonna Take It" is the choice of those who choose. This anti-authority anthem may seem a little off the shelf for some, but considering Dee's past association with his game show host buddy, one might assume that he was all in for the current "President." Not anymore
Anyone who has previously made the association between the Trump Administration and the actions of one Douglas C. Niedermeyer will take heart in this news. Blasting that kind of overzealous spittle-spraying personality through a window with one massive power chord feels completely right about now. For those of us living in an America that feels pretty great without attempts to remake it in some draconian image of Napoleon's France would be happy to sing along: 
We'll fight the powers that be just
Don't pick our destiny 'cause
You don't know us, you don't belong

Which makes pretty good sense, when one compares those lyrics to the Trump campaign's use of the Rolling Stones classic, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." As for Mister Snider, well it seems that he learned a few lessons from his ex-pal, since previous associations with his song may have caused others to forget it and leave it on a heap with the rest of those fist-pumpers from the eighties. Or you could keep playing it at your rallies for a whole new generation. Dee-licious. Dee-lightful. Dee-cisive. And so on. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

All Done

From the start I should state that there have been two, in my experience, and only two satisfying finales to a series on television. The first was Newhart. and if you have never seen it to appreciate the cleverness of its manipulation of our realities, maybe you should skip clicking on that link up there because you deserve to live through the entire eighteen year combined odyssey Bob took us through. As jokes go, you have to admire the patience in that setup.
The second, primarily by date rather than preference, is Breaking Bad. Hearing Badfinger chime in with their line, "Guess I got what I deserved," and watching the clock wind down on Walter White at last was cathartic for those of us who stayed on the tired RV until it came to a stop. Almost beyond words. But since I came up with "cathartic," I might as well add "amazing" and "satisfying." Those words come close, anyway.
Which leaves the rest of television with which we can haggle. My wife and I checked into the last episode of The Big Bang Theory only to discover (spoiler alert) that the elevator had been repaired. I have no complaints with the maintenance of the building in which they lived, but there was a safety and comfort to the way things ended up with dreams fulfilled and wishes granted. We watched long enough to see "the gang" hanging around the apartment one last time, sharing takeout. No reason to mess with success, I suppose.
Historically, I suppose The Mary Tyler Moore Show had its charm, as finales go.  And M*A*S*H just went on and on in hopes of plucking ever last heartstring. Which makes me glad that I was only a casual viewer of The Sopranos, since the hardcore fans remain frustrated by the ambiguity of that final scene.
Then there's Game of Thrones. So many friends of ours stared blankly at us for so long when we confessed that we hadn't watched, including our son, we decided to hop on the dragon's back and go for the ride. I only lasted through the first season. My wife clung more tightly and she stuck with it right to that last murky shot. And I won't be giving anything away to say that the planet sat in grumbling disbelief as the curtain came down. "Is that all there is? Is that all there is to a fire?" That sound you hear is the whimper of the long-awaited culmination of all that blood and sex and bloody sex. I was asleep, but my wife needed to wake me up to express her disappointment.
Or maybe it was all some crazy dream.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

History Lesson

Here's something to note: Back in May of 2005, The Huffington Post came online. It's a news source, an opinion platz, and a thorn in the side of most everyone who doesn't share their left-leaning view of the world. It was fourteen years ago this month that I opened my own little corner of the Interwebs. The one upon which you are currently gazing. Coincidence? Maybe not.
But it's definitely a conspiracy.
Back in those days it seemed like it was an important thing to do, writing about all the things that went on in my head. George W. Bush was president then. I didn't put quotation marks around his title, but I didn't refer to him as anything but "Pinhead." Without the quotation marks. This became my repository not just for the pent-up frustrations I maintained with the politics of the time, but it was also a place to store treasured memories. And a place to store anecdotes relating to my teaching career. The children I wrote about back then are now legally adults. The ones that survived.
And I don't mean that sarcastically or in reference to my own abilities as an educator. Sadly, over the past decade and a half, there have been a few of my former students who have given up this mortal coil.
One of the first entries I wrote was about the massacre at Columbine High School. I wrote back then about how I chose to stop playing Doom, a first person shooter computer game that was very much in vogue. It was a favorite of the boys who shot up that suburban Colorado high school. They chose to channel their anger and frustration into a video game. Only they didn't stop there.
This past week, I walked around one of the hexagonal sets of work stations in my classrooms and found a third grade boy staring at a screen. He was playing Doom. By some awful twist of Al Gore's Internet, a web service found a way to obfuscate the filtering service our district employs. This allowed him to roam, heavily armed, through virtual hallways and passages shooting at demons and bad guys.
My heart sank. I tried not to infuse my reaction with all those flavors that I had tasted over the past fifteen years. I asked him to log off and take a seat in the classroom time-out chair. I needed a moment myself to modulate my response. When I came to him a couple minutes later, I asked him if he had a sense of what he was doing. He knew that he wasn't being safe, responsible, or respectful as our school-wide expectations suggest. I asked if he was allowed to play that game at home. After a pause, he replied, "No."
After a few more minutes, we agreed to let him return to his assignment, the one that had nothing to do with gunplay or demons or dark passages. I tried to set aside what continue to be my own views on all things not found in Ed Code. I knew that I would eventually find myself behind a keyboard with a chance to reflect back my shock and dismay that some things are beyond my capacity to change with a page-long blog entry.
Kind of like the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I'll Say It Again In The Land Of The Free

I have quoted it here before.
Here we go again:
Freedom of Choice is what you got - DEVO
Here's a new one: "I think Alabama has gone too far. It's an extreme law. They want to challenge Roe v. Wade, but my humble view is that this is not the case that we want to bring to the Supreme Court, because I think this will lose." - Pat Robertson, God's little elf and host of the 700 Club. 
And there's this from Tomi Lahren, talking head for something on Fox said (tweeted) that the Alabama ban on abortion was “too restrictive” and warning it wouldn’t stop women from seeking out the procedure. “It doesn’t save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries,” she tweeted. “You don’t encourage life via blanket government mandate!” It should be pointed out that Fox News and Twitter is where all the exclamation points go to die.
Some observations here:
The Venn Diagram that describes the intersection between pro-life groups and the National Rifle Association is essentially concentric circles. Which seems pretty ironic to me. A very similar demographic would have you believe that the party they chose to represent them is all about staying out of our lives, but welcome their intrusion into our living wombs. A group of mostly white older men are writing laws designed to protect life theoretical. Women who are affected don't deserve a choice.
Freedom from Choice is what you want - DEVO
Spoken, or sang, like a group of mutants without the ability to bear children. It would be so much easier not to choose, after all. To let someone else drive. Let those difficult decisions like life and death be meted out by the Second Amendment and its fans. And down in Alabama life and death is being delineated by a group of politicians. But even some of the harshest red voices think they may have gone too far.
Which leads me to one more moderately scientific observation: Once you've gone too far to the right, it turns out you're going left. It's not right anymore.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Last Stop

Over the past few months, I have wished for the days of quiet introspection and ignorance of those around ourselves. Sitting on a bus used to have attached to it a certain amount of anonymity. The goal, it seemed, was to sit quietly and stare off into the middle distance and wait for your stop. It shouldn't matter whether you were front, back, window or aisle, you could just keep your awareness at a level that would allow you to be aware of the relative distance to your destination without having to engage with the humanity around you. If you were one of those bar or strap hangers, this would go double for you. 
Seventy-four year old Serge Fournier learned the hardest possible way when he was pushed off a bus after an argument with a fellow passenger boiled over. Serge died from his injuries a few weeks later. Police arrested a suspect, twenty-five years old, after inspecting video footage taken by security cameras on the bus. He landed face first on the curb outside bus, landing on top of the shopping cart he was carrying. After refusing medical treatment at the scene, Mister Fournier went to the hospital later in the day, where his condition worsened and he eventually passed away from the physical trauma he endured. And it was perhaps the emotional trauma suffered in the incident that had him rushing away instead of allowing him to be examined at the time of the incident. 
Video of the shove has been everywhere over the past month, and once assault had turned to homicide, then it become even more important to catch she person who made the shove. Police now have a suspect in custody, and "justice" will no doubt be served. 
Civility, it seems, will have to wait. 
Public transportation should be a place where one can disappear for a few minutes. Ring the buzzer when you approach the place where you want to be and step back into the world where life will continue as before. That personal space bubble has disintegrated. Not that anyone should shirk their human decency along as they board, but sitting on that bus should allow everyone a chance to collect their thoughts or ignore them. My younger brother, who drives a para-transit bus in addition to his career in the arts, has a phrase that applies: Victory through apathy. Not that we shouldn't all care more about things and one another, but there should be more attention paid to those moments and locales in which doing and saying is unnecessary. 
Until life can resume at its regular pace. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Hasn't She Done Enough?

Trade war with China. Mass shootings on a weekly basis. A constitutional crisis as the "president" continues to thumb his nose at Congress. The Middle East. There are all kinds of things about which an individual could choose to lose sleep. This week I have been tossing and turning because of the possible futures of Britney Spears.
You remember Britney, don't you? She of the Mickey Mouse Club, where she hung out with a baby Justin Timberlake and a pre-hunk Ryan Gosling. The Britney Spears who sold more than twenty million copies of her second album.  The young lady who signed a two-year endorsement contract with Pepsi before she turned twenty to the tune of kerjillion dollars. She appeared at the MTV Video awards not with Justin or Ryan, but with a large albino python. Her first marriage lasted fifty-five hours before it was annulled. Remarried, this time long enough to have her first child at twenty-four., subsequently photographed driving with her infant in her lap. A month after being investigated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after her son falls from a highchair, Britney announces that she is pregnant with baby number two. Two months after the birth of her second son, she filed for divorce from husband number two. Checks into a rehab facility. Checks out the next day. Two days later, she shaved her head. Bald. She lost physical custody of her two boys a few months later. Lost visitation rights to her sons after an encounter with police. Checked into the UCLA Med School Psychiatric Ward. For a month. She appeared in an episode of Glee devoted to her and her music. In 2015 she landed a residency at the Planet Hollywood hotel in Las Vegas. 
On the edge of returning to Vegas, she was hospitalized in order to get "some needed me time." And now the powers that be suggest she may never perform again. 
Which would be a tragedy of some proportion. And perhaps a release for Ms. Spears who has spent almost her entire life, from age nine, in the white hot glare of superstardom. And she may not be entirely well. So I am suggesting that we let the last twenty-six years stand as her body of work and let her be. Whatever she will be. 
And now back to the regularly scheduled turmoil.