Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Truth Is Out There

Did you have plans to Storm Area 51? If you were, along with one and a half million of your closest friends and conspiracy theorists, headed out to the desert on September 20 to rush the gates at the "secret" military installation of legend, please check your tickets.
The event, as originally planned, has been cancelled. Yes, the mob scene that was subtitled, "They can't stop us all" has been stopped. By the organizers. I use this term loosely because it suggests that there is a head lemming in charge of the rush off the cliff. A captain of anarchy, if you will. In this particular vision of chaos, that might be Matty Roberts. Mister Roberts came up with the idea of storming Area 51 lives in Bakersfield and came upon his plan at two in the morning sometime ten months ago "because he was bored." That spark was enough to incite millions to click on the Facebook page for the event. The details were stated thus: "We will all meet up in Rural Nevada and coordinate our parties. If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets see them aliens."
Can you believe that such a well-oiled machine such as this fell apart before it ever came to pass?
Instead of landing in Rachel, Nevada (population 54), the soiree will now be held in the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. It will be sponsored by Bud Light. They have graciously offered free beer to any aliens who make it out of Area 51.
I don't know about you, but I smell a rat.
The appearance of "an official beer sponsor" should be enough to put anyone's sensors on high alert. Rachel is two hours away from downtown Las Vegas. If anyone got it into their head to rush the gates of what has historically been one of America's most closely guarded military installations, they would be a hundred fifty miles away and too drunk on all that light beer to get there. Not that the visits Matty Roberts received from the FBI and the Air Force had any impact on the eventual dissolution of the original event. It turned into a concert or a rave or something, but then there was trouble with the permits and they had to move the event. And the date.
All of which leads me to believe that if you really wanted to "see them aliens," you should show up on September 20 with clear heads and open eyes. And blame Matty Roberts if you get arrested.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Coming Of Age

Here's the problem with anniversaries: they are a little like birthdays. How? Well, the first ten are very important. Armloads of attention get heaped on the day and we remember the date and where we were back then. After that, the milestones start to spread out a little. Fifteen and sixteen are a big deal, depending on your culture and bank account. If you are like me, you continue to mine the specific meaning of each year passing with the traditional gift. Usually these are prescribed by Hallmark or by Amazon.
But eighteen? That was a pretty cool one back in my teenage years growing up in Colorado because it meant I was legal to drink watery low-alcohol beer. It also meant that I could register for the draft. Had to register for the draft. Not that I would ever have to face going to war, since we were experiencing an unprecedented string of years in which no wars had us needing to call up recruits who weren't volunteering.
Eighteen years ago, our armed forces had their biggest spike of volunteers in modern history. When the towers fell in New York, men and women rushed to join up. There are, most certainly, members who are still enlisted in our armed forces who celebrate today as the anniversary of the career they began on that day in 2001.
There might even be cake.
Meanwhile, three different presidents have reckoned with the mess created by going to war in the Middle East with an enemy with which we have never fully reckoned: terrorists. Much in the same way that American colonists tormented the British army by hiding behind walls and trees instead of marching in straight lines across a field from the opposition, waiting to be shot.
And since 2001, where have Americans experienced the most terror? Right here at home. Thanks to our newly minted domestic terrorists, we have more to feat than fear itself. We have shopping malls and movie theaters and schools and churches to be worried about. After eighteen years, we still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting a war that we never understood while another is being waged right here on our shores.
Maybe once this mess turns twenty-one we can find a more adult solution. I suggest a toaster.

Friday, September 13, 2019

None Of Your Business

Let's say, for the sake of this piece, that you're an innkeeper.
A group of men show up and sign in on the register. They say they're just in town for an evening, and will be leaving in the morning. Smiles across the board. They even pay with a company credit card. Extra towels are on the rack in the bathroom, and additional pillows are in the closet along with a comforter if any of them get a chill in the middle of the night. Thanks so much and we hope you have a pleasant stay.
A week later, investigators turn up, wanting to know particulars about these men. Apparently there was some funny business about the payment and they would like to know how these gentlemen came to stay at the inn. You, as the innkeeper shrugs your shoulders and announces this "has nothing to do with me." Except it does. It has everything to do with you because your name is plastered all over the building and the sheets and the tiny bottles of shampoo. This is your business because it is literally your business.
This was the defense mounted by the "president" after reports of an Air Force plane flying through Scotland parked just down the way from one of his resorts in Scotland, and its crew stopped for a night at the Trump Turnberry resort both on their way to and from dropping off supplies in the Middle East. And paying the luxury rates. Interesting side note: This property lost four and a half million dollars in 2017, but revenue went up three million dollars in 2018.
Some might call this "conflict of interest."
Our "president" calls it none of his business.
Just like he had nothing to do with his "vice president" staying the weekend at one of his hotels in Ireland while on a state visit there. Except all the vp's meetings were in Dublin. One hundred eighty miles away from the golf resort owned by a "Donald Trump" in Doonbeg. The innkeeper in question says he had "nothing to do" with that decision. Even though he owns the place and he is the boss of Mike Pence. 
So, on a heap of burning tires, we toss this latest bit of filth. Not that it will garner much notice, since the whole thing is one hot mess. But maybe it's time to call it what it is: Trump's Business. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Organized Chaos

One hundred years of professional football, and my how things have changed.
The goal posts are now at the back of the end zone. A pretty profound alteration considering the number of players who ran smack into the poles when they were on the goal line. Player safety has been, for the most part, improved since the days of "three yards and a cloud of dust." You can't hit a guy this way or that way. You have to wait until the guy catches the ball before you try and sever his spine. All that civility and modern politeness. Then they all line up again and throw their bodies at one another as fast and hard as they can one more time.
For one hundred years, the National Football League has been paying young men to sacrifice their bodies in some of the most spectacular ways imaginable. Modern day gladiators. Are you not entertained?
Which may be why the story of Antonio Brown continues to elucidate strong opinions on both sides of the argument: Should this man have a job in the NFL? For those unfamiliar, Mister Brown is a wide receiver, considered by many to be one of the best in the sport, who left his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a bit of a huff. He landed in Oakland, where the Raiders have a tradition of large personalities and have a tendency to be open to shenanigans as long as their players "just win, baby." In the weeks leading up to this centennial season, Antonio Brown found any number of ways to keep himself from having to work too hard or to play an actual game for his new team. The team that was going to pay him fifty million dollars over the course of three years. By the time he had frozen his feet, argued about his helmet, and avoided any of that previously mentioned contact, he had burned most of the bridges into and out of Oakland, of which there are several. After yet another flurry of social media, the Raiders organization bid Antonio Brown adieu.
A few hours later, the current world champion New England Patriots came calling and signed Mister Brown up to a one year, fifteen million dollar contract. Causing everyone who holds the Patriots in great disdain to beat their chests and cry foul. Happy coincidence? Conspiracy?
Who cares?
Seemingly everyone, which is fascinating considering all the things we all have to care about currently. And yet somehow, this young man will be awarded with millions of dollars for playing a game while another young man who sacrificed his career to stand by, or rather sit by, his ideals cannot find work in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick cannot find a team for whom he can play. Apparently, his actions are considered "too big a distraction." And now that he is a "Patriot," Antonio Brown has been accused of rape. Decorum prohibits me from making remarks such as "he should fit right in."
One hundred years of organized chaos.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How Clever?

I am so very proud of myself.
Which is probably going to get me in trouble with that whole seven deadly sins thing, but really proud.
The run up goes something like this: For many years, I would take on various and sundry home improvement projects. I would strap on my Makita cordless drill and go to work on whatever needed to be altered or repaired or built. I worked primarily alone because it is my way. The challenge of having to explain my thinking or engineering was an impediment to my progress. Later, as my son grew and his interest in construction grew right along with him, he was the kid standing next to dad. Asking if he could help. Handing me screws. Holding things in place. This evolution from helping hand to handyman essentially concluded over the summer when he came back from college and helped me build a fence.
Or, rather, I helped him with the fence that he built. By this point, his acumen with things mechanical and tools had put me in the rear-view mirror. It was a bit of a reckoning for me but when the sawdust cleared and the project was complete, I swallowed that lump of pride and took it as a compliment to my parenting skills and my genius offspring.
Which only continued as he showed up periodically to do things like change the oil and filter in our car or help us refine our home wi-fi. This is a kid who chose to work on his own brakes without having to resort to taking them to a mechanic. This knowledge is why I didn't flinch when he showed up at our house last weekend with what he had diagnosed as a bad alternator and a dying battery. He parked his car on our lawn, checked the pictures he had referenced on Al Gore's Internet and proceeded to remove most of the electricals from under his hood. I stood next to him, handing him a wrench every so often, watching him work. Once the guts had been removed, he was off in an Uber to pick up the new parts. When he returned, I took up my place next to him as he continued his operation. I kept handing him tools, even holding a piece or two as he maneuvered them into position. When he had finished adjusting the screws and the tension of the belts, he went around to the driver's seat and cranked it over. The car started up as it was supposed to, but I heard his "hmmm" over the motor. He switched it back off.
"Still not charging," he muttered.
"Maybe it has to do with that black wire that's not attached to anything," I offered.
Huh. That would make a difference. We disconnected the battery and then attached the wire. Battery reconnected along with the alternator, he started the car again.
"Yup." That was it. Dad had saved the day. Or at least the moment. It helped that my vantage point of standing around looking at the process allowed me to appear clever.
And proud.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Bit By Bit

Maybe you thought the end of the world was going to come with a bang.
Not a whimper.
The notion that there would be one day, a moment in time when the world ceased to exist dates, for me, back to Beneath The Planet of the Apes. It comes about when Taylor, played by Chuck Heston, uses his last breath to push the bejeweled button that detonates the Alpha/Omega bomb: the doomsday device. A few years later I caught up with Dr. Strangelove, with its own quirky take on the nuclear destruction of the planet. Suggesting that there is one person who would take it upon themselves to bring about The End Of The World by pulling a trigger or pushing a button seems to be giving humans a great deal of credit that perhaps we don't deserve.
It seems much more likely that things will get worse and worse until eventually the trickle of humanity just dries up. This contrasts somewhat to the notion of The Rapture, in which the god-fearing and the innocent are swept up to heaven, leaving the wretched sinners down here to sort things out before the really bad stuff comes.
What I am seeing is more of an incremental rapture. Little by little, a few innocents at a time, the roll is being called up yonder. Compounding all these fits and spurts of chaos is the way the agents of death tend to show up in the boarding group with the victims. Hurricanes that wipe out entire neighborhoods don't tend to bother the weather-proofed celebrity bunkers built to withstand these climate-change monsters. Once again, the innocent are swept out to sea.
Does it help to imagine that somehow this is all a part of god's plan? We are all still waiting for our chance to repent, which means we could be just a mass shooting away from salvation. It helps a little to think about the five year olds who are taken decades before their time. Simply washing our hands of responsibility and placing that honor squarely in the hands of a god who would allow dozens more to be injured begins to paint a pretty nasty picture of a deity.
Or maybe it's time to realize that we aren't merely pawns in a game of biblical prophecy. Maybe the world doesn't have to end. We just need to evolve, which takes the edge off the Christian bent I've been on for the past few paragraphs. Maybe we don't have to die to be saved. Maybe we can save ourselves. Before Chuck Heston falls on that button.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Back To Back To School

Back to school night: The fact that this came for us this year two days after Labor Day was a shock in itself. There was the usual introduction of staff, and a reiteration for parents and caregivers about the importance of their involvement in their children's education. It was a scene that I have experienced twenty-two times previously, and so I was somewhat nonchalant about the affair. I waited until my name was called, and I walked to the front of the auditorium to the smattering of applause that tends to come with such a walk. I stood and looked out at a room that had nearly as many staff members in it as it had parents. Even though we had carefully timed the proceedings to coincide with the sign out time of our after school program, we did not have a packed house.
Not even close.
Which was disappointing, since once again our principal was preaching to the choir. Those who received the message were already walking the walk and talking the talk. They sat on the benches of the fold-down cafeteria tables and nodded, some waiting for the Spanish translation offered by our Administrative Assistant. Some of the kids were a little wiggly, having already endured a school day and were now being asked to sit still in a place where they had done just that only a few hours ago. But this group was the one that maintained. There were no interruptions or outbursts, just patient attendance.
Which is what the night is really all about. Come and meet your child's new teacher. See what they will be learning this year. Ask how you can be involved. Even if you don't ask, we'll tell you. That's our job. We will teach the children, but if they open a book or attempt a practice problem after they roar out of the front gate each afternoon, then everyone's job gets a lot easier. It's science. It's common sense. It's parental involvement.
And here is what I know now that I didn't understand twenty-two years ago: There are a lot of parents and caregivers who do not have the bandwidth to carry on with the full Norman Rockwell picture of parenthood, having exited their own childhood somewhat abruptly and landed in a world of responsibility for which they are woefully unprepared. Which is where we come in. We will help them along the path to adulthood in tandem with their children. If they let us.
Now back to school.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Climate Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I didn't need another reason to like Elizabeth Warren. I also don't know if what she said the other night will be enough to lock down my vote when it comes time, but someone who is running for President of the United States should have the clarity to tell its people this: “Look, there are a lot of ways that we try to change our energy consumption and our pollution, and God bless all of those ways. Some of it is with light bulbs, some of it is on straws, some of it, dang, is on cheeseburgers.” 
And then she continued: “But understand, this is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about.” 
Seventy percent of the carbon we are throwing up into the air comes from three industries: electric power, building, and yes, the fossil fuel industry. While we as consumers and foragers continue to feel the weight of every plastic straw and cheeseburger, somewhere there are these great beasts spewing filth in ways that can barely be comprehended. So let's keep talking about straws and cheeseburgers, and we can wonder why it would be a clever move for the current administration to walk back a federal mandate that all light bulbs manufactured by 2020 be the energy efficient, LED or fluorescent type. Similarly, the current bunch in the White House has seen fit to undo limits on methane emissions. In the interest of energy conservation, feel free at this point to generate your own joke about Donald Trump and methane emissions. 
The fear of being a coal miner in a world that no longer burns coal, or a methane producer in a world without gas is a real one. Those people could and should find jobs in a brave new world that makes a sturdy paper straw, and creates buildings that enhance the environment without destroying it. There is still plenty of work to be done. That means there will still be plenty of jobs. 
But change is difficult. Which is precisely why I enjoyed Senator Warren's words. One, in particular. It was the "dang." I know that my cheeseburger intake will be a burden to any climate, but it is a tough habit to shake. I get the impression that Elizabeth may enjoy an occasional cheeseburger herself. Hence the regret. But while we're waiting for the impossible burger to fill that void, let's keep our eyes on the big picture, shall we? 

Saturday, September 07, 2019

This Is Why We Can't Have Killing Things

Charlton Heston, Moses to many, once raised a rifle over his head and asserted,  "I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my colddead hands." I have no way of knowing if Mister Heston was buried with his gun, but I would expect this was a challenge that might have appealed to some left-wing prankster like Michael Moore once upon a time. 
It does paint a pretty solid picture of our country's literal and figurative investment in guns. A few days ago, Meghan McCain made what could be an even more stark pronouncement: “I'm not living without guns," she said.  "It's just that simple!" The tragic irony that Ms. McCain brushed past was the fact that there are ninety-nine Americans daily who stop living because of guns. 
How about some of that "common-sense" gun legislation we hear so much about? Why not ban assault weapons. Surely there is no place for these guns outside of a battlefield, right? Ms. McCain's response: “The AR-15 is by far the most popular gun in America, by far. I was just in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, if you're talking about taking people’s guns from them, there’s going to be a lot of violence.”
Democratic Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke, who was born in El Paso, has had enough and is very clear about his agenda. He has suggested that we buy back all those assault weapons that have been held by private citizens. The same kind of gun that killed yet another eight people in Odessa, Texas last week. The same kind of weapon the killer was able to purchase even though he failed his background check. So he bought via a loophole in private gun sales. 
Ms. McCain refers to people like Beto as "gun-grabber." Which takes us back to the initial law handed down by Chuck Heston. "I dare you to take my gun away." The implicit threat being that if anyone did, there would be blood. Interestingly enough, Mr. O'Rourke and those like him who suggest buy-back plans are appealing to perhaps the one thing which might supersede our love of guns: Our love of money. How much is it worth to you to cling to your AR-15? Five percent over retail? Ten? 
Maybe if Ms. McCain sat down and read some of her daddy's wisdom on gun control: “Eighty percent of the American people want to see a better background check procedure,” Senator McCain said back in 2013. “I’m very favorably disposed” toward the Manchin-Toomey compromise. “And the American people want to do what we can to avoid these tragedies.” Meghan, you don't have to live in a world without guns. But a majority of Americans would like to find ways to be safe from "America's favorite gun." 

Friday, September 06, 2019

Ten Year Tidy

It is a ritual, of sorts.
A ritual of sorting.
Every few years, I have to cull my collection of T-shirts. I collect them. Not always consciously, but I collect them. In this way, T-shirts are a little like lint for me as a dryer. "How did this get in here?" But generally I know. I went someplace that was selling souvenir T-shirts and I had to buy one.
Change that to "was compelled to."
I don't have a lot of control when it comes to the purchase of memorabilia. If I attend a concert, it is almost a certainty that I will walk out with something in an extra-large. Long sleeves if they have them. My wife points out correctly that this is where I do my clothes shopping, since it is only under threat of going naked to the next day of school that I ever consider buying something with a collar or a new pair of teacher pants. I am a victim of my own lack of fashion sense.
Change that to "eccentric taste in fashion."
I like to tell myself that I am a discerning consumer, able to select designs that are both fashion-forward and still maintain that most important element: provide a memory of the event.
So there I was last weekend, stuck with a bed full of memories. The ones that had made it nearly impossible to close my drawers. There were some tough decisions. Could I continue to wear a bright red shirt emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo when I no longer consumed their product? Did I really need to maintain fifteen different Jimmy Buffett concert shirts?
It was only recently that my wife had reminded me about the tub of stored shirts I had been moving around our basement for the past couple decades. She was able to find a few to share with her nieces, with my permission. A couple more of those were offered up to my son. In the end, enough room was generated from that sort to allow the ones I moved out of my dresser this weekend to find a home. Out of sight, but not out of mind.
For another few years.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Up Stairs

Would it be wrong of me to say that I liked Rhoda more than Mary? Would it confuse you to consider these options without having spent any quality time in front of a television during the 1970s? Mary Richards had a wacky upstairs neighbor named Rhoda Morgenstern. We were lead to understand that Rhoda struggled with relationships and her weight primarily because she appeared quite often dressed in a sweatshirt. And she complained a lot. Rhoda, in many ways, was Mary's id.
This wasn't a matter of Ginger versus Mary Ann. These castaways occupied a sliver of the situation on which their comedy was based. Movie star and farm girl. Mary and Rhoda were both single women forging a path in the brave new liberated world. Mary was wholesome, and Rhoda was not quite as wholesome. Mary's approach to life was to be indefatigable. Rhoda was not afraid to give up. Which may have explained Rhoda's relationship with her downstairs pal. It was a symbiotic kind of deal.
And somewhere along the line, Rhoda moved out of that upstairs apartment, and moved back to New York City. This was in a separate half hour from Mary's reality. This was a spin-off. That happened a lot in the seventies. In this case, I was fine with that happening. I was much more interested in the comparatively real-life challenges that showed up in Rhoda's world. Mary's newsroom pals were quirky and amusing, but not essentially relatable. Suddenly, Rhoda was the star and it was her little sister who became the comic relief. And while Mary continued to struggle with the single life in Minneapolis, Rhoda got married. This was such a big fuss over her nuptials that most of the country watched, including the men in the booth on Monday Night Football.
And a few years later, she and Joe got divorced. This kind of thing never happened to Mary Richards.
So I liked Rhoda more. I connected with her. Mary blazed a trail. Rhoda lived in the world. Valerie Harper played Rhoda. Mary Tyler Moore played Mary. How big a stretch was that for her? Valerie Harper passed away last week. She stomped on the Terra from the Twin Cities to the City That Never Sleeps. I miss her now.
Aloha, Rhoda.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Clear Thoughts And Prayers Answered

“On behalf of all Americans, I’d like to express my deepest sympathies and sorrow for the victims and their families. We ask God to comfort and heal those who are suffering and we hope that there will be a full and quick recovery of the injured.“
Those were the words our "president" chose to mark the Labor Day weekend, along with his usual snarking about how others have let him down or disappointed him and a heaping helping of self-congratulation. It occurred to me that particular sentiment is one that has come dripping out of so many social media outlets over the past few years that it is, essentially, meaningless. I did not know if he was referring to the victims of a hurricane or a mass shooting. There was no solace. There was no comfort, even though he asked God personally for help in that area. It was just a placeholder. It was a comment to fill the emptiness left by the loss of life.
Which might be more understandable if there was truly nothing anyone could do about catastrophes like the one that took place in Midland, and El Paso, and Dayton, and Gilroy and all those other cities and towns that join the list of the inevitable. Horrible and unforgivable because we have become conditioned to accept the way we allow Americans to die. This is not a matter of hurricane season or fire season. This is open season. We fill in the blanks with the number of victims and the name of the city and paint over the whole mess with a coat of thoughts and prayers. 
When a hurricane is spotted on radar, we encourage people to evacuate. Or seek shelter. Or collect supplies to help them get through the storm. There is currently no such tracking system for mass shootings. We simply react. After the fact. Our "president" has suggested using nuclear weapons to keep hurricanes away from our country, which is infinitely more assertive than his approach to dealing with mass shootings. But, since detonating a nuclear weapon in a hurricane would produce a bigger, radioactive hurricane, maybe his response to both of these catastrophes are on a par. Thoughts and prayers aren't essentially radioactive, but doing nothing continues to cost lives. 
And not just the dead and the wounded. The families that are torn apart. The empty chairs that have to be explained. The classes that will forever be remembered by their In Memoriam page. And then there's Matt Schaefer, Republican Representative for the Texas House from Tyler which is just four hundred or so miles from the site of the most recent Texas Mass Shooting. He lurched out into the light hours after the bodies had been cleared to make his stand: “I am NOT going to use the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans. Period.” And “YES to giving every law-abiding single mom the right to carry a handgun to protect her and her kids without permission from the state, and the same for all other law-abiding Texans of age.”
The terrifying point is that for some, the solution to hurricane devastation is more hurricanes. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2019


In the six or seven minutes that it took for that second to pass, I had time to consider my options: Should I just put my head down and keep running? Should I stop and see if everyone was alright? As that moment stretched out like temporal silly putty, I could reflect. What was the right thing to do?
Well, as it turns out, the right thing to do wasn't that hard to discern. Not that going on my way would have been a violation of the law or any civic ordinance. In urban Oakland, cars run into one another every day. While I was very fortunate not to be part of the impact, I could see that things were not going at all well for those who were.
Leading up to this stretchy moment, I had been running down the hill toward one of the trickier intersections on my route. Three streets converge at one stop light, including and off ramp from the highway. Once I'm past that interchange, it's clear sailing the rest of the way home. As I approached, I checked the signal as well as any anxious motorists trying to make a quick start on their Friday night. Looking left, right, then left again, I stepped off the curb.
That's when it happened. The silver Ford Focus came flying toward me, having been catapulted forward by the red Honda that had slammed into the Ford's back end. Adrenalin got me to the other curb in record time, and as I turned around to see the debris settle and the two cars come clattering to a stop just across the way, I made my choice. I would stick around and help in any way that I could. The first thing I chose to do was to dodge traffic that poured back into the intersection after the light changed. They weren't involved in a collision. They had places to be.
Except a couple considerate motorists who pulled over to check and see if they could help. And call the police. That was the limitation of my iPod. Plenty of music, but no emergency channel. So I went back to the scene of the impact to pull the tools and hard hat that had been popped out of the Ford's trunk. I carried them over to the driver, who by this point had gotten himself out of the car and was sitting on the curb just a few steps from the wrecked Honda. The couple inside the Honda seemed shaken but not visibly injured. The three people whose automobiles had just merged now sat within feet of one another, without speaking.
They were waiting for the authorities.
So was I.
I went back to the corner and pulled the plastic bumper out of the street as cars continued to make their way to wherever they were headed. When the fire truck, ambulance and two police cars finally appeared, I waited patiently for the officer to assess the scene. Then he came back across the street where I was standing and gave me my cue: "Did you see what happened?"
I had. I told him my story. He thanked me.
Then I finished up my run.
Very carefully.

Monday, September 02, 2019


A crew showed up to put speed bumps on the street above the school where I work. For a few months I enjoyed a supremely smooth ride over that hill on the new asphalt poured after the pothole riddled surface had been stripped away. And it's not so tough, considering the majority of my route is still filled with tank traps and chasms large enough to swallow pets and small children. A speed bump is a necessary civic reminder to those of us who can get up any real velocity to remember that there are pets and small children about and that we should be mindful of our progress through the neighborhood.
Speed bumps certainly had that effect once upon a time on the street where I live. The roar of minorly tuned engines in front of the house where teenage girls lived dissipated after a few of those custom street machines bottomed out while making the circuit around the block. Sure, we had to endure a few massive scraping sounds as these young turks began to understand that the track was now closed, but that was some time ago.
Even longer ago was the drag strip just east of my parents' house when I was growing into my driver's license. It was a residential quarter mile with no stop signs. Just a block to the left or right would have meant that I would have had to deal with school zones and those big red octagons. No thank you. Not when I had places to be and a stereo turned up loud.
That has changed too. There are now traffic circles that are designed to bend and constrict the flow of traffic on many of the thoroughfares in my hometown. I don't know where the boys take their cars these days to show off their testosterone. Or maybe these concrete and asphalt constructions actually have the effect for which they were intended. Maybe they influence the speed of traffic enough that they don't have to sit a police car at each end, waiting for someone to light up that radar detector for their excesses.
And all of this got me thinking: Why not put speed bumps in the hallways of elementary schools? The number of each day I have to remind boys and girls that we walk in hallways would probably diminish a great deal after a few of them dropped their transmission while sprinting to the water fountain.
Something to think about.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

What Are The Chances?

Who's running for President these days?
If I tell you that the guy currently occupying that spot on the roster recently tweeted that he was glad that Kirsten Gillibrand was dropping her bid to be the Democratic nominee: " I’m glad they never found out that she was the one I was really afraid of! I’m glad they never found out that she was the one I was really afraid of!" Hard to know exactly how to gauge that one, since this came during the same day that the "president" tweeted that he was "the best thing ever to happen to Puerto Rico."
It does let us know that the bloated sack of protoplasm will continue his quest for a second term, while Senator Gillibrand will pack up her tent and head home. The need for two nights of Democrats debating have come and gone.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is gone.
Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton has left the building.
Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, will turn his attention to re-election as his state's chief executive.
For all the folks who are cashing it in, there are still a dozen or so that insist they have a chance of taking on the sack of protoplasm come next November.
And now, interestingly enough, there are a couple of Republicans who would like a chance to be their party's nominee instead of the aforementioned protoplasm. Joe Walsh, very decidedly not the Eagles' guitarist, thinks he would make a better "president." Which may or may not be true, given his capacity for saying things like, "I wouldn't call myself a racist, but I've said racist things." Then there's Joe Kasich, the former Ohio governor who has already lost a presidential bid to the bloated sack.
We call this "parity" in the National Football League.
And in politics, it works just about as well.
Then again, on any given weekend, that's why they play the game. Stranger things have happened. A bloated sack of protoplasm was elected President of the United States.