Sunday, July 31, 2011


"I had a vision of a way we could have no enemies ever again, if you're interested in this. Anybody interested in hearing this? It's kind of an interesting theory, and all we have to do is make one decisive act and we can rid the world of all our enemies at once. Here's what we do. You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense every year? Trillions of dollars. Instead, if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded ... not one ... we could as one race explore inner and outer space together in peace, forever." - Bill Hicks (1961-1994)
A number of you are currently Googling Bill. Who is this character, and why would he be quoted so extensively here on this blog? Bill Hicks is God. Okay, maybe not the God, but certainly a major deity in the pantheon of truth-telling and wisdom. And he was a comedian. A very funny guy. A very bitter and cynical funny guy. The fact that the arc of his life here on earth approximated my own: spent his youth building his sense of comedy, fell into a period of substance abuse, and came out the other side with a more profound vision of how the world might be.
He got paid for being funny. He chose to be a stand-up comedian, and he was very good at it. Comparisons to Lenny Bruce abounded. His last filmed performance was titled, "Revelations." It was taped less than a year before his death, and he seemed to have some things he wanted to get off his chest before he went: "The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly colored and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride...' But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus - murdered; Martin Luther King - murdered; Malcolm X - murdered; Gandhi - murdered; John Lennon - murdered; Reagan... wounded. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want."
Nobody shot Bill. It wasn't the drugs. Pancreatic cancer got him. But his ideas are still out there. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The first werewolf story was probably written by the parent of a teenager. Those seemingly sudden changes that occur overnight, both physical and emotional. "Why is young Theodoric suddenly so distant and brooding? Why are his clothes torn to shreds on a regular basis? Can it be that we have not been worshipful and supportive parents? Perhaps he needs a bleeding, or a hole drilled in his skull to release the demons."
Nope. No amount of bloodletting or trepanning will bring about the changes that you might expect. My son's proudest accomplishment this summer has been his new-found ability to sleep until nearly noon. This has corresponded directly with the increase of his nocturnal activity. There was a time when he insisted on being in bed long before his mother and me turned out our own lights and closed our eyes. Lately we have been only dimly aware of his night time goings-on. We are only vaguely aware of his rumblings and clanking about after we have tired of listening for his eventual surrender to slumber.
By contrast, I have become freshly aware of the increasing size of my little boy. My first recognition of his expanding size was a morning not too long ago when I went to try and stir him from his mid-morning haze and I grabbed the only part of him that was sticking out from under the covers: his ankle. There was a time when my thumb and forefinger fit neatly around this joint, and a simple tug was all it took to get him moving. Not anymore. My son's leg is now a substantial limb that is more than a handful, and the hope I had of yanking him out from under his many blankets evaporated abruptly. Even more so after I heard the guttural moans coming from the lump on the bed. I slunk out of the room quietly, so as not to awaken the beast within.
I did make a point, later in the day, of checking his teeth for any odd pointedness or stray bits of flesh and bone.

Friday, July 29, 2011


There are a lot of choices out there at your local superfaplex. Wizards, super heroes, men and women in love, more super heroes. And in the midst of all of this comes the one I won't be searching for on Moviefone: "The Undefeated." It tells the story of a young woman who fought against all odds to become the governor of our largest state and fought the good fight, making America safe from enemies both foreign and domestic. The director, Stephen Bannon, chose the title because he felt it was "more triumphant" than his original "Taking A Stand." It might cause some confusion with John Leguizamo's directorial debut, or the John Wayne/Rock Hudson western. Or maybe confusion was the idea all along.
Why call the story of a woman who quit halfway through her first term as Alaska's governor and lost her bid to become vice-president by a substantial margin "Undefeated?" That's confusing. Maybe "Undecided," given that his heroine seems to be on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to making that pivotal choice as to whether or not she might favor us all with another chance to vote for her. She told Newsweek that she figures she could win. "Unfazed" because she doesn't seem to notice or care when things don't come out the way she planned. "Unfocused" because she doesn't seem to stay in any one place long enough to make more than a sound bite before moving on the the next media opportunity. "Unforgiven" because she continues to insist that abstinence is best, but she is about to become grandmother to yet another child born out of wedlock.
Wait a minute, Clint Eastwood already won an Oscar for that one. Or maybe it's like Inigo Montoya said, " You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Congress is struggling with our country's finances, but that doesn't meant they don't have other fish to fry. Irons in the fire. Axes to grind. Rugs to vacuum. There's plenty of work yet to be done. Not the least of which is to keep an eye on the various peccadilloes of its members. A body that employs both a Boehner and, until recently, a Weiner should expect distractions of this sort on a regular basis. That's what ethics panels are for, after all. While we scurry about trying to figure out how to avoid defaulting on our debts, it is important to keep their last names from becoming euphemisms for something illicit.
Nancy Pelosi wants to keep the distractions generated by the most recent allegations of misconduct by a member of the House of Representatives to a minimum. You may remember a few months ago, when Oregon's David Wu was being called out for being caught in his tiger suit. This paled, if briefly, by comparison to New York's Chris Lee who jumped out in front of the aforementioned Weiner to pioneer the shirtless look for the "Hunks Of Capitol Hill" calendar. Tiger suit? Big deal. Call us when you show up in a pair of chaps and a cowboy hat.
Now the Oregonian newspaper has quoted sources who said a young woman left voicemail at Wu's Portland office earlier this year accusing him of an unwanted sexual encounter three weeks after last year's election. The woman decided not to press changes because there were no witnesses and it would have been her word against Wu's. Why bother? He has won seven terms. In 2004, he won despite acknowledging a decades-old college incident in which he tried to force a former girlfriend to have sex.That sort of thing doesn't seem like as big a deal as creating jobs, rebuilding the infrastructure, and raising the debt ceiling. And getting a real sweet price on his next costume rental. Come to think of it, maybe a guy like him might look forward to an upcoming probe. Or he could simply resign and be grateful that the current climate allows him to slink quietly away in the night. Wu!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

By Definition

Terrorist: –noun
1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others.
3. (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror.
This is what the friendly folks at would like us to know about terrorists. They mention Russia by name, but not Norway. Until this past weekend, I don't think I would have either. The fjords, yes. The terrorists, no.
Anders Behring Breivik fixed that last Friday. He got himself into the record books and everything. He shot dozens of people and killed another seven with a bomb. Just like that. It was the worst day of violence since World War Two. Not bad for a country that was previously known as the birthplace of Henrik Ibsen.
Actually, very bad. Terrible, in fact. Horrible. This guy felt that his attacks were "atrocious, but necessary" to defeat liberal immigration policies and the spread of Islam. Yes, you read that right. He wants to stop the spread of Islam. He's a fanatical anti-Islamist. He aligns himself with the Knights of Templar. You might remember them from your history class. The ones who fought in the Crusades. Only back then they weren't killing kids at a youth camp. That's what this pinhead did. Aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror. At least he got that part right. I'm demoralized.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Physics Of The Heavy Bag

I know that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I also understand that an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. I am that action. I am that outside force. I know this bag of sand and rags never did a thing to me, but I feel the need to pummel it as if it had. It's exercise.
When I was in high school, I didn't have a punching bag. I used to hit walls. And doors. And lockers. I punched a whole lot of lockers. The thing about lockers: not much give. They're made of metal, and though I left my mark on more than a few of them, my knuckles always fared worse. That was okay with me. There was a certain amount of bravado and macho posturing that such demonstrations of force provided. I may not have been much of a tough guy, but those lockers cowered when they heard my approaching footsteps.
Or so I like to think. My parents bought me a punching bag. My dad put it up in the garage. It was a speed bag, the kind that boxers use to practice their speed and rhythm. Most of my youthful angst could not be channeled into the constructive enterprise of learning a skill. That wasn't what I was after, exactly. What I had in mind was not the steady rat-a-tat-tat, but great big thudding blows, like Rocky in the meat locker. I wanted to hammer something.
Little by little, that feeling left me. It became clear, over the years, that all those people who said that hitting inanimate objects was a waste of my time and energy were correct. Disciplining all those doors and lockers just got me sore hands. Nothing else.
And so years passed and I got more comfortable in my skin. I let the angst go. I became a grown-up. I became a grown-up with a wife who had a heavy bag on her Amazon wish list. She used to practice martial arts: she knows Kung Fu. For Valentine's Day, I bought her a heavy bag, and we hung it in the garage. It only took me a couple weeks to wear out the pair of gloves we bought to share. I got my own, and I have been working on wearing them out as well. These are sturdier, and have stood up to the pounding I'm giving.
Only now I'm not trying to prove anything. I'm not punching through anything. I'm exercising. I'm thinking about physics.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hail, Alantis!

Thirty years ago, the idea of a reusable space vehicle seemed like a very exciting concept. So enthusiastic were we all, that we opted to name the very first one after James T. Kirk's vessel. The fleet of space shuttles outlasted the voyages of the Starship Enterprise by a factor of six, unless you're counting all those movies and spin-offs. Now the final shuttle mission has come to an end, and I couldn't be more deflated.
I just got back from a trip to Washington, D.C. where I was able to walk around all those bits and pieces of our country's space program. I got to touch a moon rock. I saw capsules from the Gemini and Mercury programs. I walked through Skylab. I looked up at a recreation of the joint Apollo/Soyuz mission. I gawked at space suits and lunar rovers. I stared for minutes at the pocked heat shield of the command module Columbia. My wife struggled to keep up with my son and I as we bounced from one exhibit to the next, both at the Air and Space Museum on the Mall as well as the new facility out near the Dulles Airport. So much to see, so little time.
I remembered another trip, nine years ago, to the Kennedy Space Center, where I strolled around the Rocket Garden, marveling at the size of the machines we had thrown into outer space. It was also the first time I got up close and personal with one of America's "Space Trucks."
Way back when, the idea of being able to take off like a rocket and land like a plane seemed so revolutionary. Now it's old hat. Arthur C. Clarke's assertion that any new technology is indistinguishable from magic doesn't also suggest that when technology gets old, it's boring. Sadly, all those trips to outer space have become tired. There is a small but vocal minority who insist that America must continue to lead in air and space. But they are the minority. Most Americans are happy to see our time and money invested in creating jobs and opportunities right here on terra firma.
While I was in D.C., I also had a chance to visit Arlington National Cemetery, where new monuments have been erected to honor the astronauts of the Challenger and Columbia. I stood there in the July sun and reflected on three decades of Space Shuttle missions. A couple of days later, I was looked up at the Space Shuttle Enterprise. This was the one that had never been out of Earth's atmosphere, traveling primarily by piggyback on a 747, but there it was big as life. In a museum, like all of America's other decommissioned space ships. But I know that's not where they started. It's just where they landed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

News Of The World

Well, the water got all the way up to Rupert Murdoch's front steps, but it never came in. Any number of his underlings got the axe, and were sent packing for their part in the phone hacking scandal that many were calling Rupert's Watergate. Okay, maybe that was just Carl Bernstein, who knows a thing or two about Watergates, but it still showed up as a mighty big deal at a time when the United States was wrestling with default and Casey Anthony was found to be just a really bad parent and not a murderer. So what if a bunch of tabloid reporters were listening in to citizen's cell phone conversations?
Just because Mister Murdoch owns a paper that uses bribery and wiretapping doesn't make him guilty, but fish tend to stink from the head down. This is the guy who brought us the New York Post and "A Current Affair." Were we really expecting journalistic integrity? Why wouldn't we expect something his hands had touched to generate a machine that would seek to eavesdrop on the conversations of families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, or those of the victims of September 11?
Is it because he's built himself this air of respectability behind the Fox News Channel? Fair and Balanced in one room, Secretive and Corrupt in another. Down the hall from there is Joe Klein, recently installed executive vice president, who was last seen as chancellor of New York City's schools and was asked to advise Murdoch on education for profit, as well as how to get out of this current mess.
When Rupert Murdoch showed up to testify in front of Parliament, he said he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" at the hacking of the phone of a murdered schoolgirl by his now-shuttered News of the World tabloid. He said he had seen no evidence that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack and their relatives were targeted by any of his papers.He said that he had been humbled by the experience. Humbled, humiliated, what's the difference when you're Rupert Murdoch?
Should we expect more from the kerjillionaires and their corporations? If you held a shaving cream pie to his head, do you think that Rupert Murdoch would fess up to any of misdeeds? Would he see the error in his ways, and use all his influence and power for good, instead of evil? Like Bill Gates, who is busy re-inventing the toilet. Now that's what I call putting your money where your - er - wait a minute...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Best Spot

I don't know about you, but I have stood in parking lots, hands on hips, glaring at those who stroll boldly into Target or IKEA or whatever retail giant they find themselves near, leaving their car in a clearly marked stall reserved for handicapped patrons only. What goes through my mind at this moment is this question: "What possible affliction could be keeping them from performing the same operation that I myself have just executed: driving the length of the lot, searching for the one open space without the baby blue restriction?"
The answer that comes most readily is "They must be in an awful big hurry to buy some new trash bags, or modular furniture spelled with an umlaut." Or maybe they're just lazy. Those blue and white graphics are generally found in the closest possible spots to the front door, and those miscreants are saving themselves valuable energy getting from their vehicle to the business of their choice. I mark these moments by wishing for the magical apparition of some measure of parking authority. Someone who will openly shame the scofflaw and send them searching for a spot much more in line with their abilities, or simply handcuff them and tow their cars to a shame-based impound facility, where they can pay for their crimes with self-esteem as well as cash.
But that never happens. And when I clear my throat or show disdain in some other way, that concern is generally brushed aside, since many of these seemingly able-bodied men and women merely point at the color-coded placard hanging from their rear-view mirror. They've got the plastic, why shouldn't they be allowed to park wherever they want?
Happily, for me, the Los Angeles Times recently reported the reason for all this confusion: The California Division of Motor Vehicles has issued some fifty-six thousand disabled parking placards to dead people. The people I have been accosting in shopping centers across our great state are not disobeying any law, they are zombies. The guttural responses emanating from them as they shamble in to obey the retail siren's call should have been a tip-off. From now on, I won't be angry, I'll just feel pity. Or shoot them through the head. That's the best way to deal with your average zombie.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Everything Old Is New Again

Amidst the flurry that is shopping for a new car, I got an e-mail. It was a voice from the past, but one that had never been fully introduced. Years ago, I wrote about an anecdote that my friend Darren shared about his little sister. I never really thought much about how I was putting someone else's life out on Al Gore's Internet. I just figured it was an interesting story and wouldn't everyone who regularly read this blog find it interesting? Well, it turns out that Darren's sister read that blog. And she's been keeping up on a somewhat regular basis with things here in Entropical Paradise. Enough so that she was able to track me down when she and her kids came through town on their grand tour of the left side of the country.
A lattice of coincidence occurred over that past few weeks, wherein a number of threads from the past, including driving up the canyons near Boulder where Darren made his last road trip, as well as the renaissance of communication with a number of friends from the past that culminated in this visit by the youngest sister of Mister Tupperware, the inventor of Hungry Drunk-Boy Pizza, and the funniest person I ever met, the Okie From Muskokgee. And so there I was, at the confluence of the past thirty years of my life. With a sudden rack-focus on what I was when I was nineteen and what I am now. I want to tell myself that I haven't changed that much, as Waldo so kindly assured me when I saw him at the Jeep dealership in Boulder. I want to believe that I am every bit the friend that I was in my twenties as I am finishing off my forties. Only much wiser.
It will be some time before I get all the odd and amusing tangles out of my web of the past, and I look forward to these renewed connections as opportunities to build. I know that I have grown as a person, parent, professional over the past quarter-century, but it's very satisfying to discover that all those years ago the lives the paths I crossed became part of a map that I could rely on all these years later. It made me feel like all those dark times and pain were eventually warmed over by the light that really was at the end of the tunnel. It made me happy to see that what we have all become when we grew up wasn't so bad after all. It let me know that I was on the right track, more or less way back when, and I look forward to what is going to happen next.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

From The Ashes

A lot can happen when you go off on vacation for two and a half weeks. The last space shuttle mission blasted off for the International Space Station. The United States Women's soccer team made a run at the World Cup. And Glenn Beck rang down the curtain on his television circus. I didn't even get a chance to say "goodbye."
Well, that's not entirely true. If I had made it a priority, I could have found a TV somewhere in our travels and made a point to be sitting there on the last day of June when a tearful Glenn signed off for the last time. Maybe you missed this too: “I contend that is the reason we are successful here … because it’s true,” he said on his last broadcast. “It seems as though there’s no truth anywhere anymore. We’ve made a lot of enemies on this program. We’ve taken on every single person we’ve been told not to take on … because the truth has no agenda. It will lead us where it leads us. This show has not only survived; we have thrived. We’ve done amazing things together … It’s easy to do things when they’re from the heart. It’s easy to do things when you believe them.”
Survived? Thrived? Dude, you got cancelled. You were fired. You were let go by the very bosses that brought your frothing mouth to the airwaves in the first place. How's that for "truth." And as far a agendas go, well, history will decide just exactly what the Beckster was about for those two and a half years on Fox News. For another two and a half years before that he blasted away on CNN. This only suggests that we haven't heard the last of Glenn. Like Keith Olberman, who found the constraints of MSNBC too hard to bear and moved on to the much greener pastures of Al Gore's Current TV, Mister Beck will land on his feet somewhere.
Like his own TV network. Going one better than his liberal doppelganger, GBTV will feature Glenn's two hour signature show, blackboard and all, as well as a video feed of his radio program. News, entertainment, and recipes with a psycho-conservative-bent. Years of paying this guy millions of dollars has apparently given him the nominal clout of being able to launch his own subscription-based network. It was good enough for Oprah, so why not The Beckinator? Maybe I should have stayed on vacation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Suspicion Breeds Confidence

"You are now free to move about the country." That's what the commercial says, anyway, and to a large extent, I feel they have it right. My family spent two and a half weeks going this way and that, making our way from California to the Chesapeake Bay. We even stopped on the way back to tag off on the Continental Divide, and were able to do it with four carry-on items and one suitcase. We needed the bag primarily to haul the ever-expanding souvenir collection back to Oaktown, but mostly we lived by our wits and the T-shirts we brought with us.
It required some planning, and some sacrifices, but we were able to deal with all the bits of arcane TSA protocol as we hopped from one region to the next. I learned that the Velcro sandals are a better choice for speeding through the line than the lace-up Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Not a big leap, but one that makes easy sense in the middle of summer. My son had to give up a half-consumed bottle of lemonade that he had left at the bottom of his backpack. He shrugged and let it go. My wife had forgotten to stow our new sunscreen in our checked bag. This also happened with the tiny Swiss Army knife that she carries with her for all manner of little tasks on the road. Whether it was the Swiss Army or the knife that was tiny, the security folks at Ronald Reagan airport weren't going to let that one slide through. Far from being cruel about it, they helped her retrieve her contraband and gave her a chance to take it back to the ticket counter to try and get it back with our checked luggage.
Alas, she was just a little too late, and we left Washington D.C. without the sunscreen or the knife. A week later, I read a story about a man who tried to get thirteen knives, including switchblades through security at Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Twenty-five-year-old Amr Gamal Shedid of Baltimore had been trying to board a flight to Minnesota. Shedid told investigators he collects knives.
Whether it was the surname or the number of knives, I'm guessing that Mister Shedid wasn't allowed to take his collection back to the ticket counter. No word on what happened to his lemonade.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Would Never Be A Member Of Any Club...

Back in the olden days, it was a privilege to rent movies. When my family bought our first Video Cassette Recorder from Penny's, we made a point of choosing a VHS player because though we had heard great things about the technical aspects of Beta, there was a wider selection to be found at our local video store of the larger, less flashy kind. This was back when the choices of video stores was extremely limited as well. You could rent movies from the local appliance store, if you happened to be there picking up a part for the dryer anyway, or you could join the club at The Video Station.
Back then, you had a choice: you could join up and rent your movies for three dollars for the first tape and two dollars for each additional, or you could pay five dollars for your first and three for each additional without a membership. Yearly memberships were going for twenty-five bucks in those days, so this seemed like a no-brainer for my family. We love our movies, and we especially enjoyed that extra perk of being able to reserve those hot titles that non-members would have to wait weeks, maybe even months to see. Yes, membership did have its privileges.
Which probably explains why it was such an easy thing for me to slide into my job at another video store a few years later and immediately start hawking the benefits of being on the inside. At my store you could even buy a lifetime membership, and you could pay for your rentals in advance for just two dollars apiece. The savings just kept adding up. If you were willing to commit.
Funny story: The video store I worked at closed. It closed before a lot of our customers got a chance to use all their prepaid rentals. The competition back in the late eighties was so fierce, we had to drop that whole membership deal. People who bought lifetime memberships were confounded by this. They were even more confounded when they discovered that when we said "lifetime membership" we really meant the lifetime of our store. Whoops.
It would be easy to blame chains like Blockbuster for swarming in and offering all their titles with no memberships and extra copies of "Top Gun" so you didn't have to worry about reserving it. It would be even easier to point out how fast the home video market ballooned back in those salad days. But the blame lies squarely with me. I could have been content to wait the extra week or two to see "Repo Man" on tape. I didn't need to reserve it. If I had been more patient, I probably could have caught it on cable. Or at a midnight showing on campus.
But I demanded video. I wanted it in my home and I wanted it on my terms. Now I pay for Netflix because the choices I have on my bloated cable package is insufficient. I want to see movies when I want, where I want, and that's generally right now on my couch. I pay a monthly fee to the cable company. I pay a monthly fee to Netflix, who just raised their prices. Just don't call it a membership, please.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Out Of The Blue And Into The Red

Say, here's an interesting juxtaposition: An article that discussed our country's debt ceiling appeared just above another one describing the amount of money that our country's president had helped raise for his party and the upcoming campaigns. The debt ceiling for the United States is fourteen trillion dollars and change. That's fifteen zeroes. The money that Barack Obama has raised over the last three months for the 2012 campaigns comes to eighty-six million dollars. Nine zeroes, if you're keeping score at home, and I am.
I get perplexed once I get past a certain order of magnitude. For me, it's a little like the question of taking a trip to the nearest planet versus the nearest star. Both are essentially theoretical at this point, though I understand that Mars is "in our neighborhood," while Alpha Centauri is light years away. That's not metaphorical light years, that's the real astronomical unit.
And the truth is, we're not heading to Mars anytime soon since we don't have the billions of dollars it would take to send astronauts there. We're getting ready to pack up our space shuttles and rest on our collective laurels for a while. China, to whom we owe a great deal of money, is getting ready to head off into the void with their own space program. They're the ones with all the cash right now.
So maybe what I'm suggesting is that we go ahead and take all the campaign contributions for 2012 for both parties and buy a rocket to Mars. Or China. How many zeroes would that take?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

If Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law, What's The Other Tenth?

The morning I woke up, getting ready to head back to my home in Oakland, I found a strange feeling in my craw. You know where your craw is. It's in the pit of your stomach, and Merriam Webster would like us to know "especially in lower animals." The feeling I had was anger, so that lower animal thing made sense. I had, at last, arrived at a moment when sadness would no longer satisfy me on the loss of our car. I was mad at the idea of having to go out and find a new car. The finances being the worst of it. I don't need a wave of salesmen and their managers to help me discover that the thin line between getting by comfortably and not so much is defined by the addition of a monthly car payment.
Sure, we were throwing about a thousand dollars at our Saturn wagon every year. Pieces were breaking and falling off of it at what sometimes seemed like an alarming rate. But it was our car, and every air filter and side-view mirror we bought was going onto our car. That three hundred dollar alternator that we paid for the week before it was stolen was installed with the intent of keeping the beast alive long enough for my son to be guaranteed his first car. Then my wife and I would have saved up enough to buy the car we really wanted for our golden years. Or something like that.
Instead, some tiny-brained twit took something that didn't belong to him. He stole from us. I reflected on all the silly stories we made up about how this all made sense in the big picture, but it really doesn't. I don't want to test drive any cars. I want my car back. I know that we might have avoided this experience by having an alarm installed, or putting a big iron bar across the steering wheel. We could have purchased a less-theft-provoking car in the first place, but that's not the point. It's not right to take things that are not yours. That's stealing. That makes you a thief.
And if you're reading this blog and you stole my car, I am very angry with you.

Iron In His Words

What was I thinking? Of course it would be a challenge. Of course it would be tricky. Most of my life up until I was twenty-nine took place in this tiny bit of geography. Elementary school, junior high, high school, friends' houses, stores, parks: all within walking distance. I could walk to college from here, if I had a mind to. That's where I grew up.
This was the corner where I had this thought. That's the place where I first realized that. All of it in the shadow of those big slabs of granite. I made a deal with the planet that if I ever went away that it would leave those vertical reminders of my place at the foot of the Rockies. There they are, on the wall of my home in California. Reminding me of that promise in that very rocky way. I can go back anytime I want to. I went back recently just to make sure the Flatirons were still there.
There is a curse upon that land. I knew this long before I ever tried to leave. It was part of what made me so comfortable in my stasis. Why move if I would always be drawn back here? It made my decision so very simple. Then I left, and I found myself looking for excuses to come back. I brought my family back to stare up at that first wave of the Continental Divide, and they were duly impressed. This past visit, my son announced his interest in bringing "all our family and friends to Boulder. I think they would love it here." Of course they would. Somewhere, Chief Niwot is laughing from his perch on the path along Boulder Creek. Good magic.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thomas Wolfe Slept Here

All those years ago, my mother moved out of the house I called home for eighteen years. She didn't need all that space. She needed a smaller place to hold her stuff. Her kids were gone. Her husband was gone. There was no need for all those empty rooms and full basement. And though I was happily ensconced in California, I died a little inside when my older brother sent me a videotape of the old homestead without a stick of furniture, and bare walls, and free of us. I still have dreams about that house.
That's why, when I had the chance to go back inside, after nearly twenty years, I took it. The walls of the kitchen had been opened up, so you could see from the kitchen sink all the way out to the dining room. The half bath off my parents' bedroom had been merged with the full bath that was just around the corner from the bedroom I shared with my older brother. The walls that had once been papered with New Yorker covers were now painted a dusky rose. My little brother's room had been converted into an office as we all grew up and away was still an office. The stairway no longer had a gate at the top. Maybe it didn't need one anymore without any little children wandering around. I checked for the hole I had kicked in the wall of my parents' bedroom in a fit of youthful angst. My lumpy attempt at drywall repair had been replaced by a nice smooth finish and new spackling. As I ran my hand over the spot, I was sure I could feel a small depression where I had once pushed my luck just a little too far.
I felt a smaller depression growing inside, and as I looked at my niece who had been kind enough to come along on this magical mystery tour, I could see it on her face as well. All those years collapsed into a few short minutes as we reckoned with the changes that twenty years can bring. This wasn't grandma's house. The sink in the kitchen wasn't the one in the photo of her making chocolate chip cookies. The windows we looked out no longer showed a patio roof with corrugated plastic, or a crab apple tree. All of that was gone.
But not forgotten. When we climbed back in the car to drive the two miles to grandma's new house, there was uncomfortable talk about not being able to go back there. But I know I will. In my dreams.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fleeting Youth

The lady on the left side of the street was moving on past me. I was on the right side, sticking to the sidewalk. She was running up the shoulder, sticking close to the bike path. I felt much safer, but watched as she continued to leave me behind. I was running in the third state in almost as many days, and I started making excuses almost immediately. The air was thin here in Boulder. The altitude was playing havoc with my senses, and I was weary from the long flight just the day before. I figured I should get some credit for all the miles I had covered on land, sea and air over the past couple of weeks.
Or maybe she was just in better shape than I was. Whatever the circumstance, I took a bigger breath of the available oxygen and kept my legs moving. I thought about how I used to run out of my one-bedroom apartment, so many years ago, and keep going until I found myself up in the canyons to the west, across the city and back again. Rain, sleet, snow, dark. Scurrying about without any mail to deliver, just keeping myself busy by running.
That was a long time ago. It was even longer ago that I used to ride my five speed Schwinn up the nearly vertical incline on top of which stood my junior high. I ran down that hill and was surprised to see how shallow the slope had become over the years. Maybe I was shorter then. Maybe the earth had leveled itself substantially in my absence. Some things hadn't changed. The chain link fence around the house on Nineteenth Street was still there. The fence was notable primarily because it helped me remember the spot where a passing bird had deposited his mark on my swinging arm. Eighth grade. A long time ago. I thought of all the times I had walked, run, driven and otherwise moved up and down that street. Now I was running down the hill, only to turn a couple more corners to run back up a hill. And watch as the lady in purple moved on ahead of me. That's okay. She's probably new to the area.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Trick Is:

What's your favorite Star Wars movie? Is it number one? Do you mean "Episode IV: A New Hope," or "The Phantom Menace," affectionately known in our house as "Pulpy McBeefloaf." We call it that because "The Phantom Menace" sounds like some odd combination between Casper the Friendly Ghost and Dennis The Menace. It never seemed to carry the weight of a galaxy worth of drama and history. "Attack of the Clones?" Better, but suggests a parody, like all sequels are faded copies of the original. And at last, we arrive at "Revenge of the Sith," which is really only the third of the series and makes up a little for George "Attack of the Wattle" Lucas assuring us all that Jedi would never seek out revenge, they were more comfortable merely Returning.
Which brings me to Harry Potter. I was a little late coming to the Quidditch match, and there had already been three books and almost as many movies before I started paying attention. Once I decided to become part of the spell that has been cast over the past decade of readers young and old, I started slowly. I learned that our Sorcerer's Stone was really a Philosopher's Stone when J.K. "Richer Than The Queen" started writing her books back in merry Olde England. The movie kept the Americanized title and an industry began. Somewhere along the line, they had to switch headmasters, but even death couldn't stop the Hogwarts Express now.
Along the way, details were left out. Characters were combined or eliminated altogether, but the series kept chugging along to its inevitable light saber duel, excuse me, wand duel between young Harry and He Who Shall Not Be Named - Voldermort. Whew. That feels better. And all of the arcane business about muggles and the Order of the Phoenix and Gringots become part of the pop culture lexicon. I have become familiar with these details as a matter of course, and I even cried when I finished the last book. Now I await the last of the last: the second half of the last to be precise. When it's all over, I don't know if I will sob anew, but I feel there will be a disturbance in the force. It will be the end of an era. And that's when we all start hoping that the powers that be can leave well enough alone, and the wizards academy we grew up with will become a pleasant memory. And a theme park in Orlando.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hopelessly Lost, But Making Good Time

I'm amazed at the relative ease with which my family has been able to move about the United States. Not because we should be hindered for any particular reason, but the fact that we have moved our base of operations into the smallest possible version of itself, and we have carted it all from one side of the continent to the other. From sea to shining sea. How did we do it? I would like to thank Al Gore for a good chunk of it. Without his invention of the Interweb, we might never have known where the closest Metro stop was to the International Spy Museum. We would have struggled folding maps of Virginia back to Maryland over to Delaware.
Instead, we typed in what we wanted to know, and up popped our answer. That didn't keep us from asking any and all available human beings either. We were happy to take anybody's recommendation for lunch or directions to the bus stop. But at the end of the day, when we needed an idea about the best place to stand to see the fireworks in our nation's capital, we could always ask Al.
Likewise with our directions. If the maps we carried with us or printed out at home proved unreliable, and we were lost in a maze of east coast highways, the bossy lady who lives in my wife's cell phone would save us. More than once we found ourselves on the verge of tears, or maybe that was just me. The lady in the cell phone got us back on track and headed for whatever new destination lay ahead of us. Thank you for using all your magic satellite powers to get us from where we were to where we wanted to be.
My brother-in-law likes to say that here in the United States, we're all joined by one big street. You can get there from here if you just follow directions. It sounds easy enough, but you really do have to have faith. And a GPS device.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little House In The Woods

When I was a kid, my family spent summers away from civilization. Regular readers of this blog have been entertained by the tales of my exploits and derring-do in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. You may also be familiar with the effect that all that frontier living had on my adult life. For example, my wife understands that whenever she brings up the notion of camping or even taking a walk in the woods, I dismiss it all with a flick of my hand and remind her that I spent three months out of every year trapped in a cabin with no running water, electricity or phone. We chopped wood and hauled water from the creek to wash our dishes. At night we read by the light of kerosene lanterns. By this point she has already sighed and walked out of the room, bearing me no particular ill will, but wishing that I hadn't been so scarred as a child.
Now the truth: I wouldn't trade that time for anything in the world. It was perhaps the single most important element of the way our family bonded together. It would be silly to suggest that we were living close to the edge of survival. My mother baked us chocolate chip cookies in that big iron stove. We climbed rocks and swung from trees. We had plenty of chores to do, but we always had enough energy left to read comic books in our sleeping bags by flashlight long after our parents had hollered up at us to go to sleep. We had the run of acre after acre of tree-covered hillside, and when that wasn't enough, we could always squeeze through the barbwire fence and slip on up to the neighbor's barn where we could jump from rafter to rafter before plummeting into the piles of hay below.
And now I know why my father's brother-in-law got so angry at one particular family gathering. He was drunk, that was the base, but he was also incredibly jealous. He wasn't spending summers in the mountains. He was stuck down in town. On the streets. Where you could be outside but never exactly away. I'm sure he was mad about being cooped up in all that urban tangle. Well, to be fair, suburban tangle, but tangle nonetheless. There he was, taking big wide verbal swings at my father because he could count, among his possessions, an outhouse. Now that's what I call civilized.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Waiting In Line

One of the things I am certain to take away from my visit to Washington D.C. is the almost burdensome amount of history that has been piled up around that place. You can't walk more than a few steps without stumbling over this monument or tripping on that memorial. I confess that I was unaware that Franklin Roosevelt has already been given his own shrine on the shores of the tidal pool that already reflects the Jefferson Memorial. I knew that a plot of land had been staked out for Martin Luther King, but as it was still under construction when we visited, there may have to be a return visit to pay our proper respects to the man Don McLean once referred to as "the holy ghost."
I did stand in front of the graves of "the father" and "the son" at Arlington National Cemetery, and was told that Teddy's memorial was being drawn up even as we speak. The endless rows of marble markers that lined the hills caused my son to ask if his grandfather, who had served his country in Germany driving a radio truck sometime after the Nazis had been driven out and the Cold War was just getting frigid, was buried there. No, I told him, these were strangers, for the most part, which gave him even more pause as we watched the changing of the guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It made him reflect even more on our experience of standing in front of all those names etched in black stone at the Vietnam Memorial. So many names to remember. So much history.
And when all is said and done, I will be glad that I did the Daddy thing and coerced my family into waiting for forty-five minutes to get a chance to stand in front of the Declaration of Independence on its two hundred and thirty-fifth birthday. And the Constitution. And the Bill of Rights. The men who signed these documents and pored over every word have long since vanished into obscurity or been immortalized in granite, bronze or marble, but the words continue to live on. Nice work, if you can get it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just Desserts

I consider it a weakness, of sorts, that whenever I read of yet another shooting in Oakland that I feel compelled to read the entire article to see if I knew the victim. It's rooted in the fact that I work at a school where the siblings and parents of the kids I work with have, in the past, come to unfortunate ends at the wrong end of a gun. Not that there is a right end of the gun necessarily, but one seems more lethal than the other. I am always saddened by the news of anyone's passing, but I keep a special eye out for brothers and fathers of children I teach.
I also have a habit of reading the comments beneath such articles on Al Gore's Internet. Most of them skew to the right, suggesting that somehow this was inevitable if you chose to live in Oakland in the first place. Recently, however, I read what I thought was a more proactive idea: "Can't we talk these thugs to engage in pie-throwing instead of bullets? Sneak up on your victim and 'WHAM!' hit him with a coconut cream pie, then run. Safer and the victim is humiliated, not offed."
Innocent bystanders would now have the opportunity to lick their wounds without risk of a nasty infection. Paramedics would give way to custard-clean up. The point would be made without the ancillary expenses of hospitalization or mortuaries. It would be the dessert version of the Native American tradition of counting coup, where great honor would be bestowed upon the warriors who managed to touch their enemies in battle. Escaping without harm was considered a much higher honor than being wounded in battle. But maybe that "honor" thing is the part that is currently being stretched.
I've been hit in the face with a pie, and the worst thing about it was when it went up my nose. I smelled pie for about three days afterward, even after numerous showers. Three days of sniffing coconut cream versus a lifetime of sorrow and regret? I'll take the pie, thanks.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


One thing I have been able to take away from this eastern corner of our great land is a very solid sense of the macabre. Please don't ask me to pronounce that last word, it always comes out a little like "croissant." It's all inflection and the very specific meaning gets lost in the translation. It sounds silly coming out, so I tend not to say it. Instead I prefer to ask for one of those twisty French rolls that are so nice and flaky, or to suggest that a particular time or place was creepy, rather than, well you know.
But was my experience, tucked away on the edge of the woods. It seems like most of the streets and houses in this state sit with their backs to some vast and impenetrable forest. A forest that is simply waiting for someone to be foolish enough to wander out into them just long enough to look for that stray cat, or chase a firefly. I was immediately transported back to the first time I saw "The Blair Witch Project," and how easy it was to be sucked into the fear those kids felt as they went deeper and deeper into that tangle of branches and vines. In all the years that I wandered through the woods of Colorado, I never got the feeling that some child-eating witch was hovering just outside my view, waiting for a chance to draw me in to her trap. I was more concerned with the whereabouts of my brothers. They were a much more reliable threat. Tangible even.
I know now what drove Edgar Allan Poe to scribble furious, mad ramblings into the dead of night. Dead. Maybe that's it. There's just so much more past tense in this neck of the woods. Settlers, natives, women, children. All these spirits hanging around waiting for their chance to mess with anyone who would let them. It's downright, what's the word? Spooky.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Time to wrestle with the seeds of my own insecurities, rooted as they often are in hypocrisy. That sounds a little harsh, I suppose, coming from me who is such a big fan of myself, but sometimes the truth hurts. Not in a sucking chest wound kind of a way, but more the lemon juice in a paper cut kind of way.
I get sad and anxious when people I know go away. I wonder what it is that I could or might have done to make them flee. I used to fret over my father's departure to work, and rejoiced in his return every evening. I could not understand why anyone would want to leave home to find happiness. Wasn't that the whole idea of having a home in the first place? That's where your heart is after all, why would you want to go traipsing about the globe without one of your most important internal organs?
Well, it seems that your heart really does stay in your chest, and that home thing is really a giant battery that serves to keep it charged. You can travel for many miles on a full charge, and it's quite possible that on your journey you will find dozens of other charging stations, some of them more dependable than others.
Have I lived for years in fear that I wouldn't be able to make it to that next charging station? You bet I have. I have resented those who have taken on faith their own reserves and set out on grand adventures of their own. As it turns out, my own arm of the spiral galaxy dragged me to the edge of the continent on which I was born. Circumstances have forced me to surf the waves of uncertainty when it comes to jobs and houses and cars. Every one of those choices moved me in some small way from the galactic central point. Someday all matter will compress back in to that point, and we will start again. For now I will be as amazed and impressed when I encounter beings from other parts of my life, much in the way we all marvel at the notion of extraterrestrials. Only now I find myself, as often as not, the one who is flying back to my home world with news from across the void. I will have to work on this model and try to understand its vague complexity until I can come up with another metaphor.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Parks And Recreation

A short while back, I was in our nation's capitol. While I was there, I took advantage of the scenic trails on which I could go out and exert myself. As I was running up the side of a tree-lined creek, I came across a small park. At one end there was a slide and a jungle gym. At the other I found a basketball hoop. I found myself wishing that there was just a little more room to erect another one on the far end, creating a full basketball court. Then, I remembered all those games of half court basketball I played on driveways in my neighborhood as a kid.
Half court requires a lot of agreement and compromise. Everyone understands that there is only one basket, and if you want to score a point for your team, you have to take the ball behind a certain line. Then suddenly, where you had once played defense, you were suddenly on offense, and the goal you had sought to defend is the one in which you are now trying to score. Until the other team gets the ball back across that line, the basket is yours.
And that's pretty much how our democracy works. Two parties struggle for control of the basket, both of them understanding the rules of the game, trying to score points for their team, even though from the outside it all looks like the same game, and sometimes it's hard to remember whose ball it is. That's what that back-court line does. It makes it possible for two teams to share at the very same time they are competing: Same goal, different teams. Sometimes the teams distinguish themselves by having one team keep their shirts on and the other takes theirs off. Shirts and skins. Guess which team Anthony Weiner plays for.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Hardest Part

Flying standby is not in my nature. It isn't scheduled, though it relies on a schedule. It requires patience, which I have, but it also requires waiting, at which I am not very good. This means that I tend to bunge up just a bit as I sit in an airline terminal, waiting for my name to be called. Or not. I could be flying to Newark. Or not. I could be going to Houston, via Portland. I just need to be ready.
Because that is the thing that I do well. I am ready. So ready, in fact, that I tend to make those around me even more vigilant. Or at least that's what I would like to think. When it comes time to board that big old jet airliner, I want my party to be as ready as I am. Consequently, my family spent thirteen hours coiled, ready to pounce on that next available flight. We flew from Oakland to Denver. Then Denver to Detroit. A short hop to Chicago put us one step closer to Washington D.C. Happily there was only a forty-minute wait at Midway for an airplane ride to our nation's capitol.
Once we got on that flight, and the three of us were all in the same place, headed for our final destination, I breathed out, perhaps for the first time that day. I had my complimentary beverage and closed my eyes. Standby was over. It was time to stand down.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Pen Pal

For my birthday, I got a book. I love books. I love to read. It is in keeping with that other thing that I do quite often: write. This book was a special one. It was written by a friend of mine. I haven't seen him for many years, not since he and his family moved back to Colorado. He's the guy who wrote all those haikus over there. He grew up in Colorado. So did I. He moved to California. Like I did. He worked at an employee-owned book warehouse. Just like me. He served on that company's Board of Directors with me. We used to laugh like crazy when we realized that people trusted us with the fate of their company. Considering that the place went out of business, maybe we should have taken it more seriously.
Actually, the truth is, we did take it seriously. We talked and discussed and compromised until late into the night, and we were never done. All the while, he kept writing. He used to read his poetry at readings and open mic nights. He was much more courageous than I was with my poems and prose. I preferred to hide mine under my bushel. That was not his way. Now he has a book full of it, Now, I should point out that his name will cause a stir, but he's not that James Frey. He's the James Frey that wrote "Umbrellas Or Else," and I couldn't be more proud.
And a little jealous. I don't have a book. My wife has a book. She has two. I have less than that. Not because I can't, mind you. I could make a book any old time I wanted to. I would just sit down and let fly with the best and brightest collection of words and ideas that would stand those literary types on their collective ears.
But I don't have a book. I've got this blog, and that works pretty well for me. And I take comfort in the fact that when I first started, I received this comment: "how come my friend's blog is so much cooler than my blog...not fair!!" That came from my friend J. Diego Frey. And now I can ask him: how come my friend's book is so much cooler than my book? Well, that one's pretty simple. While I have laughed and cried along with the poems in his book, his will always be superior to the one I am "too busy" to write. Congratulations, my esteemed colleague and friend.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Free To Be You And Me

Independence Day. Today I will be free from worry about what cockroaches are saying behind my back. I will be free of the shackles that bind me to my IBM Selectric typewriter. I will no longer be bound to the floor since I have recently learned to unlace my shoes that had been nailed there.
I probably won't bear arms, though it's likely my arms will be bare. I will pursue happiness, but since it's so hot, I might have to let it get away just this once. As for life and liberty, I am happy to have them, but I don't know exactly where I'm going to store them. I'm also looking forward to exercising my freedom of religion, with hopes of getting through the top twenty before the end of the day, spending just a few minutes experiencing each one. Since I'm not big into crowds, I might have to skip that freedom of assembly thing, but knowing that I have the option is pretty cool. I hope to have my petition ready by that time, the one that I'm trying to get enough signatures on so that I can outlaw people standing outside grocery stores asking if I have a minute to sign something. I plan to exhibit my freedom of speech by not using my indoor voice for the entire day. And when it comes time for freedom of the press, I hope you'll all take the opportunity to print out this list and post share it with your friends.
Happy Birthday, America.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

All Wet

Did I have a water bed when I was a swinging bachelor-type? You bet I did. I confess that it didn't get a lot of use "that way," unless you count the times that my very swinging bachelor-type roommate seduced young women in my absence. No, mostly I slept on a water bed. From the time that I was in junior high right on through college. I was fond of extolling the virtues of flotation sleep to anyone who would listen. This was the way I kept my swinging bachelor-type fantasies at bay. It was a therapeutic choice, really, I was going to have the straightest spine of any of the swinging bachelor-types I knew.
The things I never got used to: The clammy feeling of that big bag of fluid when the heater went out. There was no rest on a water bed that was chilled to just below room temperature, even on the warmest of summer evenings. The other thing was the nearly constant ripple and flutter of air bubbles. Every week when I changed my sheets, I took a yard stick and smoothed the oxygen nodules toward the open spout at the bottom of the mattress, rising just slightly above so as not to empty the contents onto the bedroom floor. Then I would push that spout down until the faintest trickle of water dribbled out and screwed the cap back on tight, creating a vacuum. By the time I got the pillowcases on, I could already hear the sloshing.
But maybe the worst thing about having a water bed was coming home with a snootful and dropping onto that slowly undulating wave. I never got officially seasick, but there were a few nights when I wondered how I ended up on a raft in the ocean when moments before I had been at the door of my own bathroom. These were confusing times.
Now that I'm all grown up and my swinging bachelor type-days are behind me, I find that I don't miss having to add algae remover to my mattress, or having to drain the hot water heater whenever I moved. Or those bubbles.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fairly Imbalanced

Fox News Channel correspondent Chris Wallace says he "messed up" by asking Republican presidential contender and United States History expert Michele Bachmann whether she's a flake. Perhaps you might see that as the pot calling the kettle red, white, and blue, but it's the kind of hard-hitting journalism we've come to expect from the Fair and Balanced machine called Fox News.
This is the same guy who got into it with Jon Stewart, whose show airs on Comedy Central, about fairness in journalism. I found this one kind of interesting, since on the one hand, Stewart is a comedian with plenty of opinions on the day's events, but his lead-in is often a cartoon with foul-mouthed kids making fun of a potpourri of pop culture. Chris works for a company that proudly supports a cartoon show featuring a foul-mouthed kid making fun of a potpourri of pop culture.
None of this explains why Chris Wallace suggested that Michele Bachmann was a flake. Maybe it has something to do with this: "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence." The swine flu outbreak happened under Gerald Ford's watch. Maybe it was this one: "There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design." Perhaps it was, "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?" It could be that Chris Wallace, who is part of the American media decided that he wanted to dig just a little deeper. His eyes were squarely on the pro-flake, anti-flake constituency. November 2012 is a long way away.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

I was profoundly touched when I was watching "Babe: The Gallant Pig" and the little pig was explaining that his mother called all his brothers and sisters the same. That's how he got his name. That's also how my mother worked. Oh, we all had our own individual names, but we knew that there were no favorites. As much as we three boys might have tried to discover a decimal here or there, a gram or a particle shaded one way or another, we were confronted with the blank and overwhelming fairness of it all. Birthdays, Christmas, special events, my parents made it even across the board. I am sure that it took effort on their part, but it never really occurred to me how much until just recently.
A Gallup poll taken last month tells us that Americans prefer baby boys to baby girls. Forty percent preferred boys, twenty-eight for the girls, and the rest did what I would have thought was the "correct" response and had no opinion. Most of the difference is driven by men, who prefer boys to girls by a two to one margin, with women split pretty equally between boys, girls or no preference. It does pain me a little to think of those delivery rooms with disappointed dads: "Darn! I was hoping for a son!"
But why should it matter at all? Perhaps because we men have the need to carry on the bloodline, the name the family crest. Or maybe we have limited imaginations, and can't comprehend dealing with a being from some other gender. What would we have to talk about? Scary.
Or you could send your kids to Stockholm for preschool. At "Egalia," there is no "him" or "her." There are just thirty-three "friends." There are those who suggest that these kids will be set loose in a Kindergarten that won't have these same gender-free guidelines and they will be confused or crushed underneath the cold, hard world's expectations. Or maybe they will grow up believing that they really are all the same. Maybe my mom was Swedish.