Sunday, June 30, 2013

The D Word

I get kids coming up to me on the playground all the time, telling me that one of their little compatriots "used the B word." I can usually figure that one out. Sometimes I'm asked to make sense out of the "the S word." It's not always what I think. Sometimes they mean "stupid." It's a relief of sorts, but it still gets my attention as elementary school hate speech. I do know that when they come to me tattling about "the N word," we're not talking about "nowledge." Over the years I have encountered a great many young African American males who are working on their machismo by puffing up their chests and hurling that particular epithet around, both in anger and camaraderie. I treat them just like the S word users. Mostly because it's only a matter of time before one of our Latino or Tongan kids gets hold of it and that intense bond that can sometimes be forged via shared suffering goes out the window. It's just another bad word.
Paula Deen should know that. The fact that responsible journalists and otherwise clever people still become flummoxed when they encounter it. Watching news anchors describe the tumult Ms. Deen has experienced "for using the N word" in the past reminds us of the power that certain words continue to hold, even after all these years. Paula Deen didn't go on the public airwaves and blather on without a trace of racial sensitivity. These were conversations that took place in private, but it was her reaction to the uproar that was most curious. What does she regret the most? Getting caught. Free speech? Sure. She can say what she wants, but her employers from the Food Network to Target and Home Depot can choose to respond in words of their own: “We have made a decision to phase out the Paula Deen merchandise in our stores as well as on Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory.”
So, what do I ask for from the kids on the playground? An apology first. Paula Deen has done that any number of times. Then I ask the kids if they have any idea what the word means. They get the same experience if they start tossing around the G or the L word. If they're using words like they were sticks and stones, they could end up hurting someone. Like themselves.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Narrow Opening

Being the opening act is thankless. Okay, that may not be entirely true. The headliner will invariably make a point of thanking them somewhere along the course of their set since it's good form. Add the polite applause that each of their songs get along with the eight or nine relatives or close personal friends of the artist and you've got your thanks. Such as it is.
Mostly what you get is a half-filled venue occupied by patrons who were anxious to get to their seats or planned poorly. The ones who do sit through the opening act chat incessantly, eager for the singer-songwriter or hard-working band to finish off their twenty minutes so they can get back to the serious business at hand: listening to the roadies check the mikes and guitars for the big name.
I did not pay to see Boothby Graffoe. I was there to see Barenaked Ladies. To be completely fair, I didn't pay to see them either, since I had won tickets back in April. The fact that Ben Folds Five were considered by many in the crowd to be as big an attraction as the band of Canadians who finished off the show only helped to build my sympathies for Boothby.
Throughout his brief set, ticket holders meandered about the venue, chatting loudly to one another, and in an impressive display of the pervasive use of smart phone technology, most of them seemed transfixed by the screen in their hand rather than the live music that was being performed scant yards from the seats into which they were settling. As a longstanding champion of the opening band, I did my best glare at those around me who were paying less than their best attention to Mister Graffoe, and cleared my throat in a rough and insinuating manner with hopes of getting those closest to me to give the guy a chance. The results were pretty much what you'd expect, but I was able to enjoy most of the silly songs and quirky humor that he brought to the proceedings.
Later that night, once Ben Folds and all those Barenaked Ladies had finished off their big show, my wife and I made our way back up to the merchandise hut, where Boothby was gratefully signing copies of his CD for anyone who wanted it that way. He signed the set list my wife had acquired from the guy at the sound board and thanked us effusively for our interest. Then we hiked up to the parking lot where the tour buses were parked and waited for the headliners to appear to do the same. They never came. That's a hat trick for Boothby - something those Canadians should appreciate.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Voice Of Experience

I've never been a huge Brett Favre fan. It might have to do with that obtusely spelled last name, or more likely, the fact that he never wore the orange and blue of my beloved Broncos. On the other hand, he didn't play for the Raiders, Chiefs, or Chargers, teams that would have instantly landed him on the enemies list. He was the opposing quarterback in Super Bowl Thirty-Two, so I got a chance to warm up to sneering at Mister Fav-ray.
But it was after that game when I really began to wonder how anybody could love Brett. Even for those die-hard Packer fans who saw him lead their team back to greatness, it must have stung them when he toyed with their collective affections, waiting to announce his retirement, then reconsidering, then finally taking his show on the road: first to New York and then to division rival Minnesota. It sent a message to football fans that this was a guy who cared most deeply about himself.
Which may explain his alleged treatment of the women he worked with while he was a member of the New York Jets franchise. The idea of a professional athlete straying beyond the polite bounds of courtship and dating is nothing new, but Brett was texting pictures of his junk before Anthony Weiner. He was ahead of the curve.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was, for a period of time, he was addicted to painkillers. His habit was bad enough that it gave him a seizure, and a trip to the rehab clinic back in 1996. This, in turn, may be why he feels qualified to become the pitchman for Rx Pro, a pain relief cream that he believes could have eliminated his need for all those painful surgeries and procedures back in his playing days. "I can speak volumes on pain and narcotics use," Favre told SiriusXM hosts Jim Miller and Bruce Murray, noting his addiction to painkillers. Rx Pro, he said, "is a safe way to treat some of your ailments. It even works with cramps, stomach pain...It's just endless what will happen with this product and this company."
Yes, sports fans, from the man who redefined "endless" with his "will he or won't he" retirement roulette, comes a new definition. This new cream can take away pain caused by years of abuse. Maybe he should try applying it to his mouth. Or directly to Aaron Hernandez.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Funny How Fallin' Feels Like Flyin' For A Little While

Please understand this: walking a quarter mile is in itself a chore for some, a challenge for others, and a daring feat for a few more. Walking that same quarter mile while balancing on a two-inch-wide steel cable fits squarely in that "feat" category, and when you place that cable fifteen hundred feet above the ground upon which most of us tend to do our walking. Nik Wallenda made his way across a deep gorge that was near enough to The Grand Canyon to be promoted as such, and the good news is that he made it.
Without diminishing this feat of muscle control and patience, I found myself recalling Evel Knievel. Evel (not his Christian name) was going to jump a motorcycle over the Grand Canyon. It was going to be the crowning achievement for a man who jumped a motorcycle over a great many things: fountains, buses, parked cars. He seems to have even retroactively inspired young Arthur Fonzarelli in his bid to become Milwaukee's greatest daredevil. The thing is, Evel never did jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. When all was said and done, he launched himself in some sort of rocket-propelled machine that landed him somewhere near the bottom of the Snake River Canyon, in Utah, where the regulations against rocket powered leaps are considerably less stringent. It was his son, Robbie (not his Evel name), who managed to secure the rights to a little corner of the Grand Canyon owned by the Hualapai tribe, relatives to the group of Navajo who decided to let Mister Wallenda take his walk in the sky.
Then there's the dual concern about these kind of stunts. First of all, why do it? The easy answer would be "because nobody has ever done it before." If you peel that one back just a little further, you'll find "because people will pay to see it." Very little of the things that fit in the realm of "death-defying" won't show up eventually on pay-per-view. Which brings us to the other side of the equation. Who is watching this stuff? Back when Evel Knievel qualified as a part of The Wide World Of Sports, I tuned in whenever I could to see which bones he might break on his next even more extreme stunt. I wasn't the only one. Just like the NASCAR fans who go for the speed but stay for the crash, it's the reason we pay to see what we hope is a near-death experience. Driving in circles is really boring, unless there's a chance that someone might die.
That's why there was no net beneath Nik Wallenda. There was no safety harness. But there were lots of cameras. If a tree falls in a forest, it might make a sound, but if there are cameras there to capture the action, you can bet people will pay to see it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Giving Up Control

The remote control was sitting on the dirt next to the sidewalk. I thought about stopping to pick it up. Then I considered where I might put it after I had picked it up. It was laying on what passed for the front yard of a house on a busy street in Oakland. I couldn't immediately imagine a use for it out there. It was a dual remote, one that could run a VCR and a TV without having to leave the couch. Now it had gone missing.
Did it get thrown out the window in a fit of pique? Did the owner of this device become dissatisfied with its performance? Maybe it just needed new batteries. In those seconds that I looked at it there on the ground, it was impossible to tell from my vantage point. It could have been that the family had purchased a new television and DVD player for Father's Day. That made this remote control expendable.
After all those years of service: kids' movies, tapes of family gatherings, all those favorites on VHS. The pause button that gave them all a chance to catch their breath when things got a little too scary in the Temple of Doom. The mute button that gave them a chance to hear the phone ring with news from grandma who was finally coming to visit. The kindness of the rewind button. The relative impatience of the fast forward button. On. And off. That pretty much told the made up story of this chunk of plastic that seemed so carelessly discarded.
Maybe someone was looking for it. How could they enjoy their favorite shows? Would they resort from walking across the living room to interact with their technology in a more dated and intimate fashion? What if there was a multimedia crisis going on in the house, just a few steps away from where I was standing?
What if this remote control had ceased to be useful for its owners for months, maybe even years? What if it was trash? I had now officially given this piece of machinery exponentially more thought than any of the remote controls in my own home.
But I did wonder if it would be there when I came back.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Operation Enduring Freedom - For Whom?

Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. Okay, maybe there will still be one army showing up, but since it takes to to tango, or dismember one another with instruments of mass and intimate destruction, then it will be more difficult to achieve the goals we generally associate with warfare. I am currently referencing the United States' concerted efforts to revive Afghanistan peace talks. What if we just pulled up stakes and left Qatar without saying goodbye?
I know, I know. It would destabilize the very precarious balance of power in that region and it could bring on a massive upheaval of violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan and the surrounding area. How would anyone notice a difference? There has seldom been a time in Afghan history during which there wasn't some sort of violent, bloody upheaval of some sort or another. It's flattering to think that the United States could, through sheer force of will and good faith, bring the people of this country something they haven't had much of in their fifteen hundred year history: peace. Ironic that we hope to conduct them to this place in time via our own armed services. I'm saying all this as a resident of Oakland, California who has seen a region torn by internal strife for decades in spite of all the efforts to bring some sort of central control to the region.
What if we just gave up and walked away? People are shooting each other practically every day, why would it be different if there was no lid on it? At some level, aren't we just encouraging strife by giving them something to fight back against?
John Kerry wants the Taliban to sit down and negotiate with the Afghan government to forge a lasting peace. Here in Oakland, we've declared a Cease Fire, but it doesn't seem as though anyone is playing along. In fact, part of the program is to bring even more officers into the area. If  we pull all of our troops out of Afghanistan and leave them to sort things out with the Taliban, maybe taking that layer of authority off the top will put a sense of urgency on things.
Or not. Maybe it's a Darwinian thing. Except I don't think that Darwin accounted for automatic weapons or IED's. Maybe peace isn't an evolved state.
Maybe not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Future Has Arrived, And It's A Little Late

I saw that the first Apple computer could sell for as much as half a million dollars. Bids for this souvenir from 1976 will start at three hundred thousand dollars, but auctioneers at Christie's don't expect it to stay there long. This is, after all, the beginning of a new age, the product of the fevered imaginations of college dropouts Steves Wozniak and Jobs. It will no longer be sitting in a cardboard box, cluttering up the basement of a retired school psychologist in Sacramento, California. Someone will, no doubt, find a special place in their home, or a museum somewhere for this piece of our future.
In the meantime, what used to look like the future is slated for demolition. The Delta Terminal at JFK International Airport is being razed to make room for a newer version. The flying saucer-shaped building that was once home to Pan Am, back when Pan Am was a vision of things to come, but that was way back in 2001. Or 1968. Einstein would tell us it's all relative, right? We've got the space station, but it doesn't have a Howard Johnson's on board. Even if you have to watch an episode of Mad Men to see their bright orange roofs, HoJo's still exist.
Speaking of roofs, another bit of retro-future, the Astrodome is on the same bubble as the Delta Terminal. What was once state-of-the-art is now moldy and out-dated. Baseball indoors? You're talking crazy. It's been a long time since the Bad News Bears made their trek to Houston in order to prove to the world just how good they could be without Tatum O'Neal or Walter Matthau. Baseball has survived, anyway.
So, as it turns out, the future looks a lot like the past, only not nearly as cool. So go ahead and pay half a million dollars for that clump of circuits soldered onto a piece of plywood. Just make sure you've got room in your hovercar port to store it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Once Was Lost, Now It's Found

When I was a kid, I used to love cleaning my closet. I almost always found some relic or artifact that made the pawing and sweeping and eventual sorting worthwhile. There were things in there that I had given up hope finding, but lo and behold, there they were in a pile of dust bunnies and debris. This could explain the continued interest in Jimmy Hoffa's remains, or the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart's plane.
My mother used to tell me that nothing stays lost long. What she didn't take into consideration was the sheer amount of stuff that we are all capable of piling on top of the stuff we already have. Eventually I expected to find the floor or the back of the closet, and not a portal to another dimension. That would have made it more acceptable to lose things, I suppose. If I could blame a Lion or a Witch for the marbles that went missing out of the Avalanche game, that would have been more acceptable. If I came away from one of those cleaning sessions with a W.C. Frito eraser that had disappeared years ago, it would all be incredibly worth it.
I had one of those experiences the other day as I spent the afternoon with my family, sorting through the bits and pieces of our lives that had come to rest in our basement. As I have related previously, all manner of things have found homes in those dark recesses. But even the most effective filing system needs some maintenance now and again. This one came about because my son's sixteenth birthday turned our lower floor into a teenaged man-cave. That meant that boxes and bags of previously sorted and considered material was exiled to the gulag of the garage. A month later, when it was time to reclaim the garage, we came in contact once again with the trash and treasure that had been so hastily moved to prepare for the celebration.
A great portion of this mass of misfit toys, books, clothes and unnameable objects passed through each of our three filters, determining its relative value: Keep it or Pitch it? As we began to fill the Pitch it pile, I came a cross a shoebox with my name on it. This deserved a second look. Inside I found a number of newspaper clippings, a fistful of cards from my thirtieth birthday, and another smaller box. Inside that box, I found the Keepers: Ticket stubs from concerts I attended in my youth. From the 1980's youth. I held on to these and though I was careful not to consign the cards and scraps of paper to the recycling heap, I made a point to bring the ticket stubs upstairs and into the light. These were my touchstones, and while I probably would have survived just fine without these aged bits of my history, I felt that pleasant comfort of connection with the past. Nothing stays lost for long, indeed. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013


If Fernando taught me anything, it was that it is better to look good than to feel good. This is probably very true for George Zimmer, founder and executive chairman of Men's Wearhouse. Make that former executive chairman. The company that George built from one store into one thousand one hundred and forty-three no longer has need of his services. After all these years of telling us "you're going to like the way your look," even guaranteeing it, he's been kicked to the curb. I wonder if the executroids at Men's Wearhouse Incorporated thought about how they might look when they made this decision.
Which brings me, naturally, to the reason for me to comment on this otherwise cruel but mundane moment in capitalism: I once saw George Zimmer. In the flesh. And you know what? He looked good. It was at an Oakland A's game. I was going down the aisle and he was coming up. Nobody else seemed to notice the mild level of celebrity that was passing by. I did. In a sea of T-shirts and shorts, George was rocking a pretty bold ensemble, a pale yellow polo shirt and a pair of casual slacks that still had a sharp crease to them. The lime green sweater he had carelessly draped over his shoulders took your eye away from what was always his fashion Achilles heel: that toupee. Still, he wore it proud and moved through the crowd with a sense of purpose befitting of his station. I know that his seats were much closer to the dugout than mine, but that was okay. Somehow in his sartorial splendor, he deserved it.
He probably didn't deserve to be let go. For his part, George believes he was pushed aside for airing his concerns about the company he built over forty years. "Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the Boardroom that has, in part, contributed to our success, the Board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns by terminating me as an executive officer." The Board has also decided to remove George as the face of the company, the only one it has ever had. The guy who was nominally in charge when profits increased last quarter twenty-three percent. Now that doesn't look too good, I guarantee it.
In the meantime, if Men's Wearhouse is looking for a new spokesperson, can I suggest Fernando?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fooling Myself

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but you can remind them of tricks they used to do. This is what my wife was doing with our sixteen year old pet and best friend a few days ago. It helped to have some treats as motivation, but it was also a refresher to me: sit up, lay down, stay. I can do all of those. At fifty-one, I've still got the basics down pat.
This doesn't mean I still don't have things that I can learn. While I was out for a run, I heard a new word in the lyrics to a Styx song. The word itself wasn't new. It was new to me: "You see the world through your cynical eyes." Since 1978 I have been singing along, or perhaps more specifically mumbling along, to those opening lines with some sort of nonsense about "You see your life through your city fool's life." The rest of the song was much more intelligible, by comparison. And now, some thirty-five years later, I can finally bust loose as I raise my voice with Tommy Shaw and the rest of the boys from Chicago.
It wasn't much of a lesson, really, but quite a relief for my tired old brain. It reminded me of being a freshman at Colorado College, where I took a course called "The American Renaissance." We were required by our professor to keep a journal, in the manner of Thoreau, Melville and their counterparts. The best part about this assignment was that there was no requirement as to the content. We were encouraged to write whatever came into our heads. Not unlike what you are reading now. In one particular entry, I noted that I had just discovered, late in my nineteenth year, I had stumbled upon the "hidden lyrics" of the old song "Mairzy Doats."I wrote in my journal: "Imagine my surprise to find that they aren't nonsense words at all. They are 'Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy too. Wouldn't you?'" This little scribble became part of a much larger group of scribblings, and at the end  of the class, I turned the whole jumble in for assessing. It was a few weeks later, when I stopped by my professor's office to check my grade that I rustled through a pile of spiral bound notebooks to find my own. I was surprised to find that he had not only read them all, but saw fit to comment on many of the entries. Including my mares and does revelation: "My God," he wrote in the margin, "I'm seventy-one years old and this is all news to me."
To this end, I'm currently working on my ability to sing along with "Mississippi Queen." I figure I've got a twenty year jump on my college professor.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Need To Know

Hello, National Security Administration. I've decided to drop all pretense of the belief that I was having this private little conversation with a few very focused and dedicated readers. I understand that I have laid bare the essence of my life and world for you to pick and prod. What sort of connections will set that red light blinking down at headquarters? I spent the second half of the Bush II administration slinging mud at whatever elected official held still long enough for me to put together something pithy. All of my liberal credentials are solidly on view and have been since before I started writing this blog. I've just made it more easily searchable.
Of course, since the last two elections have gone "my way," I haven't been as virulent in my discussion of the policies of the gang currently pulling the strings in Washington, but as the second Obama term begins to stink on ice, I won't promise to keep my ornery opinions to myself. What sort of security risk does this make me? I might complain a lot, but since I didn't suggest a violent overthrow of the government even when President Pinhead (as I used to refer to W), I'm not guessing that I'll be in big trouble now.
Now I've gone and done it. I went and wrote "violent overthrow." Maybe it's context. Since mine was hypothetical, I'm sure I won't be a problem. Or maybe I was referring to Lebron James' free throw shooting style. It's not like I called General Keith Alexander a nimrod.
Or maybe it doesn't matter at all. Maybe it's just now that we're finding out about how much our government knows about us we should just surrender to the inevitable. It's a trade. We want our likes and dislikes available online for our friends. We want to be able to call our friends from our car to tell them about our likes and dislikes. We want to be able to foment dissent from deep below the earth in our underground bunkers.
It could be that since I rarely turn on my cellular telephone that I'm not doing my part for the information retrieval portion of the game. These daily updates about what's going on in my world seems like a pretty simple price to pay for all that information dispersal. Just click on the profile over there if you want to find out more about me. Just don't bother asking about any of my friends. Let them get their own blogs. Or cell phones. Or e-mail addresses. Or tracking devices implanted at their last dental appointment.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Win For The Home Team

Considering that two years ago on Father's Day I got to go out to dinner and a movie with my family but lost a car, this year seemed to have all sorts of potential for improvement on that front. Awakening was a challenge, since it was accompanied by a flurry of stomach discomfort, probably brought on by an odd mix of salad and meat left over from our annual end of year teacher party. When my son presented me with tickets to that afternoon's Oakland A's baseball game, I attempted a rally. The chance to sit in the sun with my son and take in our national pastime was too good an offer to let a little cramping keep me down.
By eleven thirty, we had made it to the ballpark, paid the exorbitant parking fee, and got in line with the rest of the milling throng to make our way inside. There was a wave of disappointment that swept over us briefly when we realized that the "Raging Balfour Gnome" giveaway had ended before we were able to get our hands on one. We satisfied ourselves with a quick trip through the Coliseum dugout store: I got myself a new cap, that fit, and my son became the proud owner of a Josh Reddick T-shirt that he will be hard pressed to grow out of in the next ten years.
We climbed up to our seats, just behind the right field foul pole, and watched the rest of the crowd trickle in. I remembered when my wife and I would come to games with him in a baby carrier, sitting in the upper deck where we could stretch out and take in the whole field. Those same seats are now covered by tarps to push the crowd down into the camera-ready and slightly more expensive range, but it was still my favorite seat: Father's Day, next to my son, and it was only made better by a hot dog and a soda in the third inning.
That's about the time that the home team began to get the feeling for the visiting Seattle Mariners' pitching. A two-to-noting deficit was made up in the bottom of the fourth, and another two in the fifth. Then there was a respite before the four run seventh and another pair for good measure in the lower frame of the eighth. After sweating a seven hit second inning, the A's had managed to amass ten runs off seventeen hits. The sun was shining on Oakland.
In the midst of all this baseball, I had struck up a friendly association with the dad behind me. We took turns sharing our precognitive moments: "I think it's about time for Josh Donaldson to take one deep." And that's what happened. I countered with my own prediction for Josh Reddick, who had already gone three for four, "I believe he's going to yank that one right over the four hundred foot mark." And he did. There were four home runs. The Mariners even helped out by walking in an additional run. It was a good day to be a dad. And an Oakland A's fan. I even managed to pick the right dot in the dot race and figure out which cap was covering the ball on the jumbotron.
The dad behind me asked, somewhere during all those runs, if we had managed to get our Balfour gnome. I shook my head, "Nope. I guess we didn't get here early enough." That's when this guy, a stranger to me before the game, reached under his seat and handed my son a box.
"Give this to your dad," he suggested. We already had our souvenir cups and all those runs, now we were presented with our very own Grant Balfour gnome. And when we got to the parking lot, our car was still there. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


On the eve of my going to the theater to play a part in the box-office bonanza that is "Man of Steel," I engaged a friend and colleague in a little DC Comics bashing. Issue number one for me was the way that the heroes in their universe seem to come with heroic personae along with their requisite super powers. There isn't much doubt built into their worlds. I likened this to the way Batman's utility belt always seemed to offer just the right solution for whatever the situation the Caped Crusader found himself. This has always been true of Superman as well. If you needed a way out of a particularly tight fix, all you needed to do was pop the modifier "super" in front of this or that character trait, and you knew that the Last Son of Krypton would be alright. Super-breath for fighting forest fires. Super-hearing for listening in on Lex Luthor's nefarious schemes. Super-hypnosis to wipe the hard drive of Lois Lane's memory clean from the Super-tryst. Super-convenient.
Once you've discovered that you can, for example, travel faster than the speed of light in order to undo the events of the previous day, suspense is a little hard to come by. So, what's left? Super-torment? Super-reflective? Super-angst? Becoming the sole caretaker for your adopted home world is a pretty big responsibility. Super-big. It's that human part of Kal-El, the one we call Clark, that I always wish had a little more doubt in him. Super-confident plays pretty well in 1938, but seventy-five years later, I think I'm ready for a little Super-introspection.
The good news is that there is some of that to be found in this new vision of Superman. We find out that Krypton imploded because of fracking. We see young Clark Kent in his elementary schoolroom assailed by his own Super-senses in what can only be termed Super-attention-defecit-disorder. And the new Super-suit? It's darker than the one Christopher Reeve or George Reeves or any of those other Reeves wore. And even though he gets to wear his underwear on the inside this time, he's still hampered by that annoying cape.
The other fresh piece of news is that this time it would seem that Metropolis' number one investigative reporter, Lois Lane, gets to be in on the joke. No longer stymied by the puzzle of a guy who happens to work right next to her wearing a fifty-two regular and always happens to be out of the room when Superman appears, Lois is no longer part of the world's longest office prank. Suddenly Clark is Super-available.
With all this said, I still found myself pining for the teenaged ennui of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider Man. This is a guy who routinely found himself running out of web fluid, and even had to do his own laundry. Pretty amazing, but not exactly super. But maybe, as the Kryptonian scholars would tell us, that "S" doesn't stand for "Super." It stands for Hope.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Merry Christmas The War On Christmas Is Over!

Summer will be starting soon, but the folks down in Texas are already preparing for winter's presence. Sorry. That should be "Christmas Presence." Governor Rick Perry signed the "Merry Christmas" bill into Texas Law last week. Now God-fearing Christians need not fear being the ones to shout holiday-specific greetings to one another across crowded public school auditoriums. The governor was flanked by members of the Lone Star Santas and high school cheerleaders from the town of Kountze, where they really do believe that God is on their side. This new law protects celebrations of Christmas and other holidays at public schools across the state, as well as symbols, like the Christmas tree or a menorah, provided more than one symbol or religion is reflected.
Time to dust off my Flying Spaghetti Monster Nativity scene.
Always on the cutting edge of civil rights and forward thinking, represented by State Representative Dwayne Bohac, became incensed when he discovered that his son had a "Holiday Tree" at his school and not a proper Christmas Tree. Have you tried to sing "O, Holiday Tree?" That extra syllable just doesn't scan well. And more to the point, what about all those oppressed Christians? The ones who saw their numbers dip ten percent over the past two decades? Of course, once you add in Catholics on top of that holy mess, you end up with seventy-five percent identifying as Christian or Catholic, but that's hardly the point. It's a free speech issue, right?
Governor Perry? “I realize it’s only June. But it’s a good June and the holidays are coming early this year. It’s a shame that a bill like this is the one I’m signing today is even required, but I’m glad we’re standing up for religious freedom in this state. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.” Yes, it's a shame.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Father's Eyes

The last couple weeks of school are the ones in which I find myself channeling my late father most. Aside from being a pretty funny guy, my dad was prone to great waves of emotion, getting misty at what seemed like the drop of a hat. "Stars and Stripes Forever" would make him bawl like a baby. Perhaps it is no wonder that I found my eyes getting wet as I watched Robert, a fifth grader, belt out Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man" to an adoring elementary school audience. They clapped and sang along. They waved their hands in the air. As he completed each verse, his confidence and volume increased until he reared back and hollered into the microphone to bring the house down. And I was holding back the tears.
It's been a long year. It's always a long year, but this one seemed tougher than some others. Kids and teachers have used up their collective patience by the middle of May, but somehow when it was time for our annual Multicultural Talent Showcase, we all found some love for the kids who got up on stage and gave it their all. As I watched these kids appear on stage, I had years of recollections with which to filter each song and dance. I thought of kids who had come and gone. I thought about my own moments on the stage. I looked out into the sea of little faces and wondered who might be up there next year. I choked back another sob.
And then came promotion: fifth graders break forth from the protective cocoon of elementary school, and kindergarteners prepare to make room for the next group. This year I was busy teaching one last group of first graders, so I missed the ceremony, but I heard that I was remembered in at least a couple of the parting reflections from these boys and girls, most of whom I had seen come from that first promotion into first grade and were moving on to middle school with some sense of from whence they came. Junior's mom brought me a shell necklace. "Junior wanted you to have this," she told me, "Thank you." I knew how deep the respect his family has for me. I've taught brothers and sisters and cousins for all these years, and now Junior was moving on.
I told her, "Thank you." I was going to say more about how I appreciated her supporting her children and how it takes a village and it all starts at home and how I was sure that Junior was destined for great things. But I didn't. I nodded and smiled. Then I wiped a tear from my eye. I thought of my father.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dawn Patrol

It was on one of my last trips to school this year that I saw a young man sauntering down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. This was interesting to me for a few reasons. First of all, there aren't that many pedestrians making their way through the neighborhoods of Oakland in the hour just after sunrise. Secondly, his gait was unusual, or at least enough that I would take note of it. He bounced a little as he walked. It put me in mind of John Travolta strutting through Brooklyn. The third part wasn't so much John Travolta as Josh Reddick. This guy had a head of hair and beard that would have made the Oakland A's outfielder pause. This was one hairy, confident dude strolling through the morning.
As is my way, I began to contemplate his experience in terms of my own. Where was this guy going? Obviously in the opposite direction from me. I was on my way to work. Did he have a job? I'm not much of a morning person. What did this guy know that made him so buoyant at this hour?
And that hair.
I shaved off my beard and mustache after my son was born. Every so often, I get a little scruffy, but my beard-growing days are far behind me. As for the big mop he wore up top, my scalp hasn't supported that kind of prodigious shag in, well, ever. Then it occurred to me that what this guy had was something I didn't. It was youth. His direction, his gait, his hair, it all added up. And the sum was "less than Dave."
But here's what I took away from it: I've got age, and the wisdom to reflect on what once was. I might grow a beard again, someday. I know I've got a skull that supports shaving my head. And I know someday soon, I'll strut again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's a Cash Cow!

I know. Spider Man was never above hawking Hostess snack cakes or Pop Tarts, and Marvel even talked Major League Baseball into putting webs on their bases for a while, anyway. Apparently the friendly folks at Marvel believe there is no such thing as bad publicity. This might explain why Disney was so quick to snap up the licensing for all of their newly acquired heroes, including that which is connected to films made by other studios like the "Berserker Burger" at Red Robin, ostensibly to promote Twentieth Century Fox's "Wolverine." The movies are nice, but fast food is where the money is.
Which may explain why I was asked to consider how the Man of Steel shaves. I remember as a kid being puzzled by this quandary, but not for long. Gillette doesn't want you to wonder. Warner Brothers, who produced the most recent retelling of the story of the last son of Krypton, doesn't want to leave much of anything to the imagination. Carl's Junior would like us to believe that Kal-El's diet consists primarily of their Super Bacon Cheeseburger. Chrysler would like you to know that Clark Kent may be faster than a speeding bullet, but his truck is ram tough.  Maybe that ability to jump tall buildings in a single bound is aided by those snappy Under Armour sneakers. It's gotta be the shoes. Supes has already raked in one hundred and seventy million dollars in product endorsements. Without selling a ticket yet.
So, I'm guessing that once the movie officially opens, then we can expect even more Super deals on Super merchandise. For now, I'll stick to my Spider Man pizza.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It'll Be Fun, Honest!

It was arcade day in the computer lab this week. Way back when, that meant that kids could go to edutainment sites like Funbrain or Starfall to spend their full fifty minutes of free time on Al Gore's Internet. There were those who chose not to even venture out into the interwebs, preferring instead the calm seas of Kidpix or Oregon Trail. The relatively calm seas. They used to refer to Oregon Trail as "the shooting game." It was the reason that I never fully embraced The Learning Company's vision of our way west. Kids tended to buy the minimum supplies in Independence, Missouri and once they had made it a few miles outside of town, they loaded up their cyber muskets and began to slaughter buffalo. Learning? I'm not so sure about that.
Years later, I have to begin my end-of-year rap with a disclaimer about all the web sites that are blocked: YouTube, Facebook, and any number of social media spots that I am surprised to find that a great many of our kids, as young as seven or eight, want to go. Likewise to the disappointment of boys in the room who find out that they can't run high end graphics games that are either simply blocked by the school district or too flashy for our machines to run. Have fun, kids.
When the lights come up, there is still a universal, "Awwwww." They're sad to be done with another year's worth of patient waiting. They know that when they come back next year, we'll be back to a world of "must-do's" with very little "may-do's." Cartoon Network will have to wait. But maybe we can squeeze in some Cool Math Games in the service of their education.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chewie On This

If you've been hanging around this corner of Al Gore's Internet for a while, you know that I have some very strong feelings when it comes to Wookies. I have decried the Republic's specist handling of the awards ceremony following the destruction of the first Death Star. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are standing right up there next to Chewbacca, with their medals, all smiles while the music swells and the credits get ready to roll. Chewie lets out what many have construed as a celebratory yawp over the roofs of the galaxy. I prefer to think of it as a cry of pain and disgust. Thanks for risking your life back there just beyond the fourth moon of Yavin, but due to government cutbacks and shortfalls brought on by bringing a costly rebellion against an obviously well-funded Empire, we don't have any medals for guys with fur.
Add on the insult of the Wookie planet being hastily rewritten into Ewoks so that all those little people who were hanging around being Jawas , droids, and Ugnaughts were easily cast as those Muppet-y friends of the Republic. Maybe if things had been different, we might have avoided Jar Jar Binks, or at least the Yub Nub Song. Is this anyway to treat a hero of the Rebellion?
Much closer to home, here in our own galaxy, Wookies still can't get a fair shake. Chewbacca's alter ego, Peter Mayhew, was trying to board an intraplanetary transport when a government official attempted to relieve him of his light saber. In this case, the light saber turned out to be a cane, and was being used by Mister Mayhew who is nearing his seventieth year and as he stands more than seven feet tall without the aid of computer graphics, our gravity has taken a toll on his epic frame. The TSA stormtroopers were convinced to release the cane after Chewie unleashed the power of the Force (Twitter). It turns out, this wasn't the weapon they were looking for, and the uniforms told him to move along.
In the words of Captain Solo: "No reward is worth this." Are you listening, J.J. Abrams?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Roses Are Republican, Violets Are Democrat

I remember when that whole Red Versus Blue state stuff started thirteen years ago. It was a convenient way for television news to depict voting trends along cleverly color-coded lines: Red meant Republican, Blue meant Democrat. Back at the turn of the century, Colorado was holding at a pretty strong shade of vermillion. I tried to comfort myself with the notion that I lived in one of those coastal blue zones, where liberals like myself felt free to let our freak flag fly. A well-tempered donkey on a field of blue.
Having grown up in the liberal bastion of Boulder, Colorado, it was always confusing to me how the rest of the state could be so very conservative. Time and perspective have given me a clearer view of the place where I was born. Looking at the map with a county-by-county view, it became easy to see the pockets of resistance that were represented by places like my hometown and a hippie enclave like Aspen. That's probably why Barack Obama and his team decided to drop their convention right into the heart of that previously blood-red stronghold. Mile High Stadium was, for the Democrats, a little like New York in that moment: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And sure enough, when election night 2008 was over, the graphics department had to paint over that rectangle in the middle. Colorado had gone blue-y.
That's been the trend in the politics over there for the past five years or so. Legalizing marijuana and passing gun control legislation that would certainly make many of those disgruntled, red to the core folks grumble and moan. Well, now they can do more than that: they can secede. Even though the U.S. Constitution says, “No new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress,”there are still those who would like to see a more right-thinking state of "Northern Colorado." Conveniently, it is the upper right hand corner of the rectangle that wants to bolt, which would leave all the lefties to continue their blue-tinged pursuits.
Of course, there are those who would like to buck this bi-colored trend. In 2013, color shouldn't matter, right? Or maybe it's more important than I fully understand.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Let the countdown begin. Officially. There are four days left in this school year. Oh, and teachers have to work on Friday, cleaning up the paper and detritus from all the previous days before. It is this exercise in patience that shapes anyone who has ever stood in front of a classroom for more than a day at a stretch. There are plenty of us who started this countdown weeks ago. They even carefully carved out those days which were already weekends or holidays. Like the kids that we used to be, we want to know when the last day of school is.
As I explained to my son, who is currently experiencing a very similar sensation as the 2012-2013 school year trickles off into memory, there are a certain number of instructional days stuck in the year, in order to achieve the goal of a certain number of instructional minutes. No time off for good behavior, or if we finish that workbook and there's nothing left to learn in second grade. We're here for the duration. So we're playing out the string. That means more kickball. That means the art projects that were put off for the entire year because there were far too many other pressing issues now hold sway. That means there are, for the most part, more smiles. On the faces of both teachers and students. The hard work is done and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After all these years, it's hard not to start flipping the calendar ahead a few pages and begin a new countdown: how many days left in summer vacation. But I'll wait on that one. I'll focus on the now.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Beddy Beddy Good To Me

I've become quite a baseball fan over the past couple of decades. I suppose you might expect as much from a guy who started his bachelor party at a Rockies-Giants tilt at the old Mile High Stadium, formerly Bears Stadium. I've got this odd, lifelong association with the Chicago Cubs. I run a fantasy baseball league. I sit on the couch on many summer evenings, watching the hometown A's compete with hopes of one more run at the World Series.
But it wasn't always that way. I grew up in a baseball vacuum. Colorado Rockies are a fairly recent invention. They weren't the team with which I grew up. I grew up listening to the Denver Bears on the AM radio that my parents kept as our TV-less link to the outside world at our mountain cabin. I would love to romanticize the music of the play-by-play, or the way that I tracked the team's progress and all its connections to the major league clubs that it kept fed over the years. As it stands, I have attended bushels of baseball games since I moved to California. When I lived in Colorado, that number would be aggressively smaller.
But that doesn't mean I don't have memories. When the Bears became the Zephyrs, just before they moved away just ahead of the looming shadow of the oncoming Rockies (the team, not the mountain range), I went to see a game in July, just before I moved to Oakland. In the bottom of the ninth inning, a walk-off home run won the game for the Zephyrs. The lights went out, and the fireworks commenced, nominally choreographed to rock music including "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen. I felt my heart swell and I breathed the thin Mile High air. It was time for me to take my leave. It was a baseball moment.
When August rolls around, I'll be all about football training camp, and college football can't start soon enough, but for now I have this nice bridge between one school year and the next: baseball. I guess you have to grow into it.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Bon Voyage

It's that time of year: promotional matriculation commencement time. Graduating from this plane of existence to that, educationally speaking, is the order of the day. At our school we will move another group of fifth graders down the line to make room for another crop of kindergarteners. Our current kindergarteners will have their day right after them. This leaves the first, second, third and fourth graders to settle for their in-class parties and the hearty handshakes they will receive from their classroom teachers as they load out the contents of their overstuffed desks.
Then there's this group of ninety-some high school students traveling from New York to Atlanta who were thrown off a flight, along with their chaperones, after the pilot and crew lost patience with some kids who wouldn't sit down and put away their cellphones. This was a group of seniors on their way to a three-day rafting trip and excursion to Six Flags in Atlanta to celebrate their graduation. There's a lot of finger pointing going on from both sides. Each maintains that the other side was unreasonable. The kids were unwilling to cooperate, so they had to be removed. Of course, once they left the plane, it was mostly empty. The grads were then split up and placed on a number of different flights which caused them to be delayed as much as twelve hours from their original arrival time. Some students posted pictures and video of their journey on social media sites. At least one sent a barrage of Twitter messages to media organizations, complaining that the way they were being treated was a "scandal."
To these young men and women who did make the trip via jet flight, I can only say, "Welcome to the real world. Good luck."

Friday, June 07, 2013

Voyage To The Bottom Of The State

It says here that the Disney Conglomeration is raising its price of admission to their theme parks by more than six percent. Now it will cost more than ninety dollars to get in the gate for a day. That rise is more than that of inflation. It's also a good deal more than the raise I received this year from the Oakland Unified School District.
Oh, that's right. I didn't get a raise this year from the Oakland Unified School District. I haven't received a raise from the Oakland Unified School District for some time now. Times are tough in the education biz. I understand that I am comparing apples and oranges here, but since one of the things I try to do with my hard-earned money each summer is make a trip to what I believe to be the happiest on earth, I find that these are both fruits growing from a tree and therefore worth discussing for a moment or two.
First of all, the five dollars that Disney, the company not the frozen head in a jar, raised their prices will probably not be the difference between my brood and I taking to the road and heading to Anaheim. An extra fifteen dollars a day? I can absorb that. That's why I wait until the middle of the summer to head down Interstate Five, "The Five," to join the crowds and mingle with the rest of the families who have made similar plans out of their feverish Disney dreams.
But it would be easier if I got a six percent raise in my salary to compensate for the change in the cost of living at Disneyland. Which may lead me to making the career change that I have often suggested, but only now see as a realistic one: Becoming a skipper on one of the Jungle Cruise boats. It would be a whole lot easier than trying to get my single subject math credential. I already know all the jokes.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Modern Day Prometheus

Look at your computer. Look at your printer. Now look back at your computer. Don't they both look to be in 3D? Maybe it's just the angle, or the odd reflection coming from the window, but I could swear that I have a 3D printer. Or maybe that's because I don't understand the whole 3D printer thing. Or maybe they're not "printers" as much as they are "fabricators."
I probably could have made that leap more quickly if someone would have pointed me in the right direction. Well, to be completely truthful, they did some time ago. These were the machines that were going to make our houses on the moon. Even way back then, I wasn't ready to call them "printers." A friend of mine suggested "replicators," but I don't think they're quite up to the task of making "Earl Grey, hot." Especially since they're having a relatively difficult time making a gun.
That doesn't keep us from getting all worked up about the possibility of bad guys making guns on their printers. How soon before the NRA jumps into that void? How soon before we have to worry about North Korea getting their 3D printed nuclear warheads? So much to think about, so little time.
The thought that I keep returning to is one planted in my head years ago by a guy with whom I worked installing modular office furniture. He asked me, "How did they make the first lathe?" It was not a huge quandary for a guy who had never taken a wood shop class, but it became a source of intrigue for me. Don't you need a lathe to make a lathe? Which currently has me imagining that once you can get 3D printers to fabricate themselves, it's only a matter of time before Cyberdyne takes over the planet. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Only Thing I Have To Fear

My son is more afraid of zombies than he is of nuclear war. This is a striking contrast to the world in which I grew up. I was deathly afraid of nuclear war, and along with the rest of my generation, I lived long enough to see past that. I, along with the rest of my generation, can still get all bunged up about the potential of any number of "rogue nations" that might get hold of atomic weapons, but I still see zombies as a shambling nuisance at best.
My son doesn't care if North Korea had a reliable method of delivering and detonating a thermonuclear device. Likewise with Iran or any of the other breakaway republics with an axe to grind or atom to split. He's very concerned about the reanimation of dead human beings and their interest in gnawing on his skull. He has a zombie apocalypse plan. It is only slightly tongue in cheek. This is interesting to me, since he grew up in a world that had 9/11 in it. His life has been color-coded for terror pretty much straight along, but he's still more nervous about finding the best exit out of any given room and access to any kind of pointed implement that could be used to stop the undead in their otherwise ceaseless need for brains.
Maybe that's a reflection of where we, as a country are. We've surrendered a bit to the inevitability of bombs going off in public places, hostages taken, and more bombs going off in public places. Zombies don't offer that kind of certainty. They offer a unifying world view: The living versus the undead. Zombies don't care about politics. They care about brains. Yours.
So I'm at peace with this idea for the time being. I wonder how long my son can hold out with his world view being supported by George Romero, but I suppose it beats that of Ronald Reagan. Ugh, there's a thought: Zombie Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Behavior Modification

I know you've seen those signs in the bathrooms of restaurants and public places where plumbing and private time is shared by customers and employees. If not, they say something like this: "Employees must wash hands before returning to work." It's not just good advice, it's the law. For some, it's an easy enough stricture to follow, especially as it connects to those who might be tempted to skip that all-important step in their ablutions. This is perhaps nowhere more closely felt than in the fast food industry. If your goal is to serve two to three customers in two to three minutes, and the line is backing up behind the counter and that kid they just hired didn't show up for his shift again, you might be tempted to rush out the door and back to work without making the time to do the one thing that would make us all healthy and safe. It's just common sense, after all.
Employees must breathe in and out.
Employees must obey the laws of physics.
Employees must not commit adultery.
Employees must not talk to strangers.
Employees must chew food thirty-two times before swallowing.
Employees must avoid posting spoilers on public forums.
Employees must consult the oracle when King Leonidas is away.
Employees must keep out of reach of children.
Employees must write their name legibly on the upper right hand corner.
Employees must submit to background checks.
And then you have that moment, when you're standing in front of the sink and you're just sick and tired of being kept down by the man. Wait. Think about it. Take some pencils home. Don't write down that extra Pepsi you had on break. Just wash your hands, please.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Time To Fly

Last year, a very dear friend of mine stopped by my fiftieth birthday party. She brought me a bouquet of balloons. As we walked to the backyard to find a place to put my newly arrived decorations, we chatted about the years gone by. Summertime for teachers is the end of a fiscal year and tends to bring on reflection. Once we got to the back deck, it occurred to me that I could be a gracious host and offer my guest a beverage or a brownie or something festive. I tied the balloons to the rail of the deck and we went inside, just for a moment. When we came back, the casual knot that I had tied so casually had let loose and my birthday balloon bouquet was set adrift in the sunset. As I watched them go, I felt like crying, but too many trips around the sun and memories of how these things usually end told me to let them go. They were beautiful against the darkening sky.
That's what I thought about as I carried a great tub of books down the stairs of our school the other day. One of our first grade teachers is leaving. Not that she really wants to go. She has to. Her family is relocating in southern California, and the choice between job and family was a simple one, even if it might cause a little heartbreak. Mine. She's been here for nine years, and has made a difference in hundreds of children's lives. She's made a difference in my life. She's there in the mornings. She's there in the afternoons. She was a fixture at all those crazy interludes we called parties at Christmas and at the end of the year. She knew how to have a good time.
And now that good time is hitting the road. I reflected on the number of teachers who have come and gone since I first got to this school. It's summertime, time for reflection. I thought of those balloons, so light and fun, so thoughtful and appreciated. And how it was time for them to fly.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Tough Week In Toontown

Not since Eddie Valiant cracked the Roger Rabbit case has there been such commotion in the Krazy Korner of Kartoons. It turns out that it was an inside job: A twenty-two-year-old Disneyland employee was arrested on suspicion of setting off a so-called dry ice bomb in the Toontown section of the park, forcing the child-friendly area to be evacuated. Christian Barnes, an outdoor vending "cast member," was booked on suspicion of possession of a destructive device and is being held in lieu of one million dollars bail. Lesson learned. Don't mess with the happiest place on earth.
I suppose it could be seen as a prank gone wrong, or youthful shenanigans, but given our patience with explosions these days, I suppose Christian picked the wrong week to goof on Goofy. It also reminds us all that, in spite of the security measures that Disney has put in place in our post-9/11 world, there are still ways to disrupt the dominant paradigm. Checking our backpacks and handbags for contraband didn't keep Mister Barnes from using the tools he had on hand to fashion his explosive device.
It also didn't keep Angelo Lista from exercising his second amendment rights by packing heat in Disney World's Animal Kingdom. He told authorities he didn't know Disney World patrons weren't allowed to bring guns. He said he thought the security checkpoint at the entrance to the Florida theme park was only so that guards could check bags for bombs or explosives. Patrons do not walk through metal detectors nor are they subject to patdowns. That's how a woman and her grandson found a loaded gun on the seat of a ride in what is quickly becoming the less-than-happiest place on earth.
See, there's this thing called a community, and it's what I love the very most about visiting Disney parks. When I walk inside those gates, I can leave the stress and dangers of the real world behind. Communities share agreements, such as "we probably won't need a gun to fend off the animatronic pirates, and even the Jungle Cruise skippers shoot their blanks into the air." How about, we bring our kids to visit Mickey's house and we don't expect to have to shield them from shrapnel. Or maybe we could just hang a new sign outside that points in the direction of Realityland.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

A More Perfect Union

It's probably not a coincidence that I am reading a book about alternate time streams, or that the movie I went to with my wife last weekend ponders some of the same questions. Turning fifty has allowed me plenty of time to reflect on the "what-ifs" in my life. These days, I'm hearing as much about the lives of my friends' children as I am about their lives. As people begin to settle down and settle in, I am reminded that I am about to celebrate two thirds of my life as part of a happily married couple.
I also mourn for those pairings that didn't quite pan out. My wife has suggested that those of us who attend a wedding owe the bride and groom some measure of allegiance. If you're standing there in the chapel or under the chuppah or out in the meadow as you watch two lives joined together, maybe we should offer up some kind of commitment to that pairing as insurance against the storms and struggles that will, almost certainly, beset these intrepid lovers as they meander down life's highway.
All that said, I'm still happy to see anybody else take the plunge. I don't marvel in it the same way my wife, who cries at every wedding she sees on a sit-com, does. I am happily surprised by any and all efforts on the part of single human beings to become more than that. Coupling suggests that all that hooey about love just may turn out to be real, after all. Scientists may want to tell us that it's really about pheromones. Accountants may encourage it as a hedge against the Taxman. Your parents may want you to put a happy ending on the story of their lives. But there really is something magical about when things all come together and two individuals decide to form a consolidated household.
Standing outside of my friend's apartment in Manhattan, years ago, I was surprised to see Martin Scorcese's mother come out of the same building. My friend's father, who may or may not have recognized her as I did from her numerous cameos in her son's films, announced to her and anyone else who would listen: "Hey, my son's getting married today!"
Ms. Scorcese turned to us and said, "Some marriages work. Some don't," and then she dropped herself into the back seat of a waiting town car which sped off into the morning traffic.
Over the years I have thought about those odds. I'm not a big risk-taker, but this is the gamble I'm willing to take.