Sunday, December 31, 2017

Counting Down

So this is the windout. We are closing up the big box of 2017 for real, and I cannot  say that I will miss it. Any year that sees the departure of Tom Petty from this material plane should not be classified among those "good years." It did have the silver lining of bringing his music back to me and the rest of the world in a retrospective lump that can be doled out in liberal scoops over the decades to come.
Of course, Chuck Berry made all of that music possible decades before, and his death meant that Elvis would have to make room on the throne for the true king of rock and roll. Happily, heaven is a place where Chuck's ego would have plenty of room to stretch out and make itself at home. The fact that he had to cancel concerts, at age ninety, because of his death speaks to his legendary status.
And now episodes of Mary Tyler Moore's show can now be reviewed and savored in that time capsule way that her passing allowed. She made some of the funniest shows on television way back when, with a smile that makes things suddenly seem worthwhile. Proof that the nice folks don't always have to finish  last.
Glen Campbell had to go away this year too. If all he every did was sing "Gentle On My Mind," that would have been enough. But he was also part of the Wrecking Crew, instrumental in creating the sound of an era. And he was Texas Ranger La Boeuf in True Grit. Toss a little "Rhinestone Cowboy" on top of that and you've got an epoch. 
I know that time will eventually soften my image of Jerry Lewis, but when he died this year, I could only think of the slicked back hair and the lozenges. His comic genius was always underscored by his mean streak, and when the pages of history get filled up, I hope that it's the crew cut Jerry we get to remember. 
And Jonathan Demme and Sam Shepard and Fats Domino and Adam West and David Cassidy and John Heard and Harry Dean Stanton and the list that has an end but only seems endless. Gone, but not forgotten. The year that was 2017 will be remembered for all kinds of reasons, but these folks are the treasures of a lifetime, and more. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hot Enough For Ya?

The other thing I can say about 2017 is that besides arguing with small-minded folk about the relative worth and goodness of Nazis, the debate about global warming continued. The "President" even appointed an energy secretary who not only disavowed its existence, but was ready to eliminate his position had he himself become president. Once he took the job, he was unaware that his responsibilities included overseeing the United States nuclear stockpile. With this as a prime example of the brain trust now running our country, is it any wonder that scientific fact continues to be up for grabs?
How about Oklahoma senator James Inhofe? As the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, Senator Jim would like you to know that things are not as dire as all those science types would have you believe. As proof of this, he brought a snowball to the floor of the Senate (feel free at this point to make your own joke about that snowball's chances)
to demonstrate just how cold things still are outside.
Never mind that temperatures across the globe continue to rise each year. Those eggheads at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, want us to believe that things are getting warmer every year. The geniuses who sit with their arms folded tightly across their chests as polar bears die, will continue to bleat their mantra, "The climate has always changed," even as the ground beneath our feet turns to cinders.
If only there was a way that we could show all of them some sort of empirical evidence that would put this controversy to rest. Infrared photos of the planet, charts and graphs showing the annual temperature increases don't seem to have the effect we might have hoped. As long as this is still looked on as a partisan issue, it is good politics to place yourself on the other side of the climate fence if you encounter someone from the opposition who wants to slow or stop this threat to our existence. Never mind that when the planet becomes inhabitable for human beings that it will impact Democrats just as surely as it will Republicans, Americans just like those wacky Europeans and the other one hundred ninety-some countries that have signed the Paris Accord. Even Syria. We are now the only country on the outside, looking in.
Sure, climate change will continue to give our "President" chances to hop on Air Force One to go and toss paper towels at those affected by hurricanes and floods and blizzards, but it's not a game we can win. Not in the long run. Unless some of those assertions made about Jim Inhofe's snowball turned out to be true. Maybe we're already in Hell. Climate change doesn't make a lot of difference in Hades.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Not That Funny Currently

Hey kids, we are beginning our descent into 2018, and the thing that probably bothers me the most about the year we are leaving behind is this: Nazis. How could it be that more than forty years after we had put a stake through the heart of this movement that we are currently hip deep in them again? We have spent the last few decades dealing with Nazis as pop culture punch lines: The Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, for example. How funny it would be to find these oppressive characters wandering around in real life. So much so that my family adopted a friend's tradition of The Birthday Fascist.
Whoever was lucky enough to be celebrating their birthday was given this honorary title, and they were allowed to make demands of all those around. All those participating swore undying allegiance to the Birthday Fascist, and if that meant a twilight game of miniature golf, that was what happened. If that meant eating the cake first and saving the frosting until last, that was how it was going to be.
Of course, the Birthday Fascist was generally a pretty benevolent soul and did not make a practice of calling for race cleansing or the elimination of those he or she found impure. Nobody got hurt.
That has not been the case in 2017. Just last week, a Virginia couple was murdered by a teenaged Neo-Nazi who was angry with them for reporting him and breaking things off with their daughter. This is not a very special episode of Family Ties, where Alex Keaton explores the darker side of Republican politics. These are real people, Americans, exploring all the ways that Hitler really seemed to have a handle on things.
In 2017.
The suggestion that there is an "antifa movment" in our country seems patently absurd. Do you know who was "antifa?" Franklin Roosevelt. Harry Truman. Oh. That's right. They're Democrats. What else would we expect? Well then, how about Dwight David Eisenhower? The man who brought Richard Nixon to the national stage. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower led the Allied Forces in Europe against Hitler and Mussolini and all their fascist rank and file. It was part of the reason that he was elected: He was a war hero in the war to rid the planet of fascists.
And now they are back. At a time when I can walk into my living room and ask my television to turn itself on, I have to worry about "the Master Race?" It should be over. We fought that war and we won. 2018 awaits. Let's make it Nazi-free, shall we?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Boys Club

"She was just seventeen, and you know what I mean..."
No, Sir Paul, I am not exactly sure what you mean. What precisely do you mean? She is younger than the age of consent, and therefore, if you know what I mean, this would make you guilty of a crime. This is the kind of questions that have been plaguing me over the past month or so. The guy in this song, even if it is a persona created by Sir Paul, has some issues about women. To wit: "Well she looked at me, and I, I could see, That before too long I'd fall in love with her."
Dude, she was just looking at you. This is by no means a basis for a relationship. It is all in your mind. Women, young girls, people in general tend to look at one another. This is not some tacit suggestion of interest or enthusiasm. How about introducing yourself first? Get to know them before you decide that you will "never dance with another."
It got worse when I heard Bruce Springsteen singing about Fire. "I'm holding you close, you just say 'no.'" I don't care if you are the Boss, you're not the Boss of her. When she says "no," she means "no." And how does Mister Springsteen respond? "You say you don't like it, But girl I know you're a liar." Apparently, to hear him tell it anyway, when they kiss there's fire.
Well, that may be well and good if it happens to be a mutual fire and it is between consenting individuals of similar age. But Bruce goes on: "You say you don't like it, But girl I know you're a liar." She's a liar? You're delusional. You're also probably guilty of assault. Still, this is the language of youthful yearning and lust. Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen are not the only purveyors of such macho assertions. It's rock and roll, after all. 
And yet it makes me aware of just how far we still have to go. Toward the end of Fire, Springsteen evokes the names of Romeo and Juliet as well as Samson and Delilah. I wondered if William Shakespeare was any more sensitive to the struggle of men and women. Juliet was clever enough to pretend to be dead at first, but dumb old Romeo had to go and kill himself for real, causing his lady love to follow his lead when she woke up. Then there's Othello, who is stupid enough to take Iago's word about his wife's infidelity so he ends up strangling her for no good reason, except that he is a man and can't imagine how he might deal with trouble in his personal life without taking a life. 
And don't even get me started about the Marx Brothers

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Forgive me, but this may take a while. This idea of "Year In Review" intimidates me more this year than it has in quite some time. Back when George W. landed us in a war on two fronts to start this century, it felt as though we might be experiencing end times. Karl Rove certainly played the part of the Emperor well and Dick "Dick" Cheney was Darth Vader straight out of central casting. But to extend this metaphor just a little more into nerd territory, what kept us slipping off the edge was the glimmer of good that twinkled somewhere deep inside the President back then. The full force of evil was abated by this guy who turned out to be a painter who really did believe he was doing right by his family and his country.
That is not the sense I get from the current administration. At each turn, I feel as though the stupidity doubles down with wicked and we end up with the worst case scenario for all concerned. Except for the "President" himself. Dumb and ruthless is a pretty nasty combination. As fear and anger spreads across the land, I continue to hope that there is enough elasticity in this republic to contain all the frustration contained within our borders. I also wonder if there is enough forgiveness based on our past deeds to those outside to get us past this "rough patch."
Closing borders and threats of nuclear war get lost amid the daily barrage of lies and excuses for what is happening here. They stock market climbs to record heights, and the level of homelessness increased for the first time in seven years. While the "President" carries on with his wealthy pals at his private golf club, crowing about how "You all just got a lot richer!" Meanwhile, my school district is cutting jobs and services. I don't feel any richer.
I know that I should rejoice anytime the federal government gives me anything back, but I understand that there is no free lunch. The free lunch at my school is paid for by someone, and if that money goes away, so will the lunch. None of which will matter if California is bombed into a sheet of glass by the North Koreans in their bid to prove their might in the face of relentless teasing from our head of state.
At this point it seems prudent to both light a candle and curse the darkness, since there is so very much of it. I also want to wring ever last drop of joy out of every positive experience I stumble into in the coming year, since the challenge of being happy continues to challenge us all. Every day above ground is a good one. Every sunset holds the promise of a new dawn. Every day that passes brings us closer to the end of Donald Trump's presidency.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Deliver Us

How do I know this is America? A national headline was made out of the resignation of the head of a pizza company. Not just any pizza company, mind you. This was Papa John's. The Chief Executive in question is none other than the papa of Papa John's, John Schnatter. As the head the pizza sponsor of the National Football League, he was very unhappy with the performance of the NFL this past season. And he said so. He said that his pizza company had been hurt by protests by players taking a knee to draw attention to police brutality. Or disrespect the flag, depending on which side of the loony bin you find yourself. "And more importantly, by not resolving the current debacle to the player and owners' satisfaction, NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders."
Somewhere in there is a logic that is inescapable, at least for Papa John Schnatter. Players kneel, and shareholders lose money. It's as simple as that. Somewhere in there is the panic generated by those who fuss over the declining ratings for professional football, and the message that is sent by all that free speech. Mixed into this message is the idea that somehow free speech causes a decline in the sales of delivery pizza. 
As a matter of total transparency, I should point out that I once ordered a pizza from Papa John, and it had a direct correlation to the NFL. During the Super Bowl run a few years back by the Denver Broncos, franchise owner, quarterback and celebrity spokesperson Peyton Manning made it seem like it would be a good idea to merge my interest in the team and the cheesy meal I would choke down while watching them. We call this "synergy." Of course there is something just a tad antithetical to the comparison of highly conditioned athletes competing and ingesting a few days worth of carbs and calories with extra pepperoni. But it's a thing.
At no point during that broadcast did I pause and say, "Wow. This is really great pizza!" It met the requirements of my fussy palate: It was flat. It was warmer than room temperature. I found no bits of broken glass in it. It was totally edible. After that, we didn't order another, preferring instead to get the adequate pizza from the place that delivers without the aid of any logos or corporate sponsorship. Just plain, thanks. 
Meanwhile, Papa John will leave the seat he occupied white supremacists vowed to make Papa John's the official pizza of the alt-right. He continues on as chairman of the board, and according to the company he founded in 1984, Schnatter will continue to "pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education." Aside from being confused on a matter of racial sensitivity, maybe he can figure out how to make a better calzone. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Waiting For The Light

I can't help
but reach for the switch
the switch that
will bring light to this room
If feels like
it has been dark too long
I don't work
in this prolonged night
What I know
what I have to believe
Is morning
will be here very soon
When it comes
we will see things clearly
The way now
seems far too perilous
Why go out
if you can't come back?
But I know
the answer is simple
I have cursed
this darkness many times
I have been
afraid to venture out
there is a light in us all
It shines bright
when we need it most
There will be
light and laughter and song
We will dance
together in the light
Because this
is not over by a long shot
Inner light
will keep us warm and brave
It will help
us all to find the way

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Tax reform wasn't on my Christmas list. Maybe it's my fault for believing at this point in my life that someone would read, and correspondingly heed my requests. The spritely comings and goings of a lone, weight advantaged individual who prefers the company of reindeer and little people have become the stuff of anecdotal legend in my world. I know who puts the stickers on all those Hot Wheels Super Garages. The idea that my wish would halt or even slow the momentum built up for this grand gesture by a Republican dominated government seems a little ridiculous now.
I had hope. Those Affordable Care Act saves and the Doug Jones win gave me that hope. Surely cooler heads would take a moment before the holiday recess to imagine a different solution to the top-down reward system offered up by this brain trust.
Or not.
Now I am left with a reality that barely recognizes my existence. A married household putting one child through college making less than seventy-five thousand dollars a year doesn't show up on the charts and graphs passed out along with the back slapping and handshakes that accompanied the signing of this tax "relief." As a school teacher, a public school teacher, I rely on taxes as not only the source of my income, but the continued function of my business. Knowing that there is another portion of this agenda that puts public schools on the chopping block makes me even more nervous.
Still, I have hope.
Because this is not a sprint. The absurdly quick pace that brought this flawed tax reform package limping out of Congress while dozens of reliable sources pointed to holes and flaws in the finished bill, including many Republicans, suggests that in the not too distant future there will be an equal and opposite reaction. If the people who were left hanging by this most recent legislative dog and pony show turn up at their polling places in 2018, there will be change to go along with that hope. It's not a sprint, after all. It's a marathon. If Santa can visit all those chimneys in one night, I believe there is fair and lasting change out there waiting to happen. In the twinkle of an eye.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Countdown

I survived the endless rehearsals of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Over the past two weeks, our student council has been preparing for their appearance at our annual Holiday Assembly. Try as we might to be culturally sensitive and aware, the program has skewed pretty heavily to the Holiday to which our children look forward to with awe and reverence: The Orgy of Greed. Pardon me: Christmas.
I don't hear from kids about how they are looking forward to spending time with their families or how nice it will be to have those two weeks away from the grind of elementary school. Instead, I hear about how "I'mgonnaget," or "mymomsaidshe'dgetme." The quid pro quo has nothing to do with being good all year or any mention of what they might be presenting their parents for another year of patient upbringing. And this is why this happens: They are Americans, and they have been fed this capitalist fever dream of consumption for their entire lives. Even those most recent arrivals to our country, many of whom practice another religion in their homes, subscribe to the bottom line. They have their eyes on the prize, as it were. For fifty-one weeks out of the year, their lives are full of the have-nots. All of a sudden this winter solstice celebration shows up with the promise of toys that can barely be afforded and all is right with the world.
Maybe this explains the fascination with those twelve days. There isn't much interest in lords a leaping or turtle doves, but the idea of having twelve days in which your true love would shower you with gifts of any sort makes for a profound fulfillment of that American Dream. Each year someone on Al Gore's Internet does a quick tally of the current cost of the presents doled out over those dozen days. This year it would run you less than thirty-five thousand dollars to impress your true love. Or drive them away forever, citing fear of avian flu or a dairy issue as a result of all those maids a milking. An Xbox suddenly seems like a real bargain.
Meanwhile, down the hall, they have finished up this year's performance, and it will be another year before I have to endure the holiday version of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer On The Wall." And yet I still can't shake this urge to go out and buy my wife five golden rings.

Friday, December 22, 2017

No Spoilers - Really

Raising a kid in today's world is a challenge. So many distractions, so many choices. How can you ensure that yours will stay on the right path?
My wife and I talked about this as we walked out of The Last Jedi. Light side. Dark side. It's a little like making toast. A piece of toast that will go forth and bear testament to your family and its ability to parent for the next generation. A very high-stakes piece of toast. Jedi or Sith? It's a pretty clear choice from where we are sitting, but a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it wasn't always so easy.
To hear his parents tell it, young Ben Solo grew up with a father who was away from home a lot. His mother struggling to make ends meet and run a rebellion, it was their choice to send him off with his wacky uncle, the hermit. The hermit whose father had tried to kill him half a dozen times and managed to cut his hand off "to teach him a lesson." Or something like that. Depending on whose account you believe, after that summer camp with light sabers, Ben ran off and changed his name and his style, ditching the loose fitting robes for something more tailored. With a helmet. And a cape. 
It seems that even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there were predators waiting to scoop up those wayward youths who strayed from the straight and narrow. Ben joined a gang.
His parents must have been devastated. I can only imagine how they must have felt, knowing their offspring was out there, running around with a bunch of toughs, roughing up the indigenous peoples and blowing up planets. I know how I felt when my son got a speeding ticket. Destroying an entire world? He would definitely have some explaining to do.
So this is why I feel some compassion for Sarah Palin. Last Saturday, she had to call the police to report that her son was "freaking out and was on some type of medication." Officers responding to the scene discovered Sarah's husband, Todd leaving the residence in a vehicle with "injuries to his face and head based on the visible blood running down his face." Their twenty-nine year old son Track was charged with one count of felony burglary, one count of fourth-degree assault, and one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief for causing property damage of between $250 and $999. No evidence of light saber abuse was found at the scene. 
Kids these days. And a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Truth Is Out There

If everything is in fact a conspiracy, why would you trust this blog?
Maybe you assume that since you tend to get along with a portion of the opinions and ideas expressed here, what I am presenting is the truth. That's a small "t." Why would this little corner of Al Gore's Internet have the market cornered on such a commodity? Shouldn't we look at this page with the same jaundiced eye that takes in the rest of that questionable information that gets flung at the collective us every day?
If I told you that the government was running a secret program to investigate Unidentified Flying Objects, would you believe it? If I told you that a group of researchers were sent out to the deserts of Nevada to check out what was really happening in the skies above us? If I told you it ran for five years and was eventually shut down because the cost ran up to twenty-two million dollars, wouldn't that make sense? If I told you that the program ran from 2007 to 2012, would you still believe it?
This wasn't the first endeavor of its kind operated by your government. Between 1947 and 1969, more than twelve thousand incidents of possible contact with extraterrestrials were investigated and while many of these encounters remain under lock and key, the work of Project Blue Book is available online. Just a click or two away.
I encourage you to spend some time examining the contents of this archive, and decide for yourself. Is this a smoke screen put up by the powers-that-be in order to obscure exactly what happened and when, or should we trust that these government types did a thorough job researching all available data and came up empty?
Because that's the way our government tends to do things, after all.
Or maybe they are here now. You know what I mean. These reports and revelations of absolutely nothing going on are exactly the kind of thing that would be released by a group of intensely secretive individuals who were hoping to misdirect that public and send them off to their metaphorical bed with a nice warm glass of metaphorical milk. Nothing to see here. All is well. Humanoid replicants have not been placed among us in order to subvert our collective wisdom and send us down a path that would make us ripe for the coming invasion.
Trust the government. Why would they lie?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Tale

I am as guilty as anyone of this: staring at every tweet to come out of the "President's" office. Each new missive brings me some kind of twisted hope that something will come trickling out that is an admission of guilt or a confession. "My fellow Americans, it turns out that I know absolutely nothing about what I am doing. Please forgive me and now I wish that I had never taken that escalator ride."
That kind of honesty and self-awareness does not exist in the world according to Trump. At each point, when those of us outside that world wonder if we have seen the bottom, the hole continues to widen and deepen. Accusations of all manner of impropriety and collusion swirl around him and his administration, and yet what sticks is somehow imperceptible. Consequences continue to be doled out. Subpoenas have been delivered. Investigations continue. Elections are lost. Resignations are made. Somehow the center holds.
How can this be?
The simple answer is that Donald Trump is in league with Satan. Having sold his soul many years ago, it  is no surprise that the Dark One has managed to control his minion's rise to Leader of the Free World. How else could one explain his ability to walk away from the wreckage of failed marriages and bankruptcies, crimes and misdemeanors? Where is the karma that we have  all heard about? Where is the comeuppance?  Where are the consequences?
If this were a story written by Charles Dickens, we probably would not have to wait too much longer. The ghosts from Donald Trump's past would visit him over the next few nights and would  bring about a glorious revision of his character. A light would shine forth and suddenly those reparations and reconciliations would be made. Those who had been fired would be rehired. A happy ending.
Or maybe this is a tale told by Stephen King. Donald Trump truly is the harbinger of Doom. We should not be surprised when the Gates of Hell fly open and winged demons perch on the roof of the White House. Or the missiles really will fly, setting up the inevitable post-apocalyptic sequels, in which mankind is forced to reckon with just how low we had allowed ourselves to fall. We will rebuild. But only after we deal with those winged demons.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

#Them Too

Jessica Leeds: The "woman on the plane." Groped by Donald Trump back in the eighties on a flight in first class. She left her seat to take safety in the back of the plane. The "President" mocked her at a campaign rally, suggesting she wasn’t attractive enough to sexually harass. “Yeah, I’m gonna go after. Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”
Ivana Trump: In 1989, she was raped by her soon-to-be-ex-husband in a fit of rage. Or maybe not. Since then, the now former would-be-First-Lady claims it was all a lot of stuff and nonsense created by lawyers. I suppose that's the kind of thing that gets you a fourteen million dollar divorce settlement. 
Kristen Anderson: Groped by 45 at a club in the early 1990s. After recognizing her groper, she says, “It wasn’t a sexual come-on. I don’t know why he did it. It was like just to prove that he could do it and nothing would happen.” On this account, she is currently correct. 
Jill Hearth: She claims that Trump made repeated unwanted sexual advances as she and her romantic partner at the time, George Houraney, pursued a business relationship with the mogul in the early 1990s. This includes an episode in which, during a tour of the estate, Ms. Hearth was shoved into daughter Ivanka's empty bedroom and attacked. She and Houraney filed for breach of contract, which included a sexual harassment suit that was later dropped after a settlement was reached. 
Lisa Boyne: In the mid 1990s, she was invited to dinner and on the limousine ride her host made disparaging comments about women he’d slept with or wanted to sleep with. Once they arrived, during dinner, several models were called over and instructed to walk over the table to his Orangeness.“As the women walked across the table, Donald Trump would look up under their skirt and comment on whether they had underwear or didn’t have underwear and what the view looked like.” Ms. Boyne did not make it through the dinner. She excused herself, saying she felt ill. Which makes sense. 
Victoria Hughes: Ms. Hughes, one of several Miss Teen USA contestants that were walked in on by pageant owner (you guessed it) Donald Trump. How did he defend himself? To hear him tell it, “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good,” he said. “You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.”
Temple Taggert McDowell: As a contestant representing Utah in the 1997 Miss USA Pageant, she was introduced to the man in charge. “He kissed me directly on the lips,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’ He was married to Marla Maples at the time. I think there were a few other girls that he kissed on the mouth. I was like ‘Wow, that’s inappropriate.’” And she was right.
Cathy Heller: Continuing hist hot streak in 1997, Ms. Heller was the victim of another unwelcome Donald Kiss. “He took my hand, and grabbed me, and went for the lips,” she claimed. Alarmed, she said she leaned backwards to avoid him and almost lost her balance. “And he said, ‘Oh, come on.’ He was strong. And he grabbed me and went for my mouth and went for my lips.” She turned her head, she claims, and Trump planted a kiss on the side of her mouth. “He kept me there for a little too long,” Heller said. “And then he just walked away.” This incident occurred at a Mother's Day brunch. In front of her family. 
Karena Virginia: A year later, while waiting for her car to be serviced,, she was approached by the current resident of the White House. She overheard him making comments about her to other men. “He said, ‘Hey, look at this one, we haven’t seen her before. Look at those legs.’ As though I was an object, rather than a person,” she said.
“He then walked up to me and reached his right arm and grabbed my right arm, then his hand touched the right inside of my breast. I was in shock. I flinched,” she continued. Trump then asked her, “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know who I am?” Yes. She does. We all do. 
This list takes up up to the new millennium, during which the Cheeto that walks like a man did not slow down. And what can we make of this pattern? Especially when the most recent statement the "President" made on the matter was that he had not met any of these women. Which is probably true, from a sociological perspective. To meet someone means that you have to engage them as human beings. He has not done this. Not with these women, and not with anyone. We know who this man is. We know what he has done. What are we going to do about it? 

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Long Time Ago

I have been standing outside theaters on the sidewalk, waiting to get inside, for forty years. 1977 was a very different time. Home video was still a quarter inch away from being a reality. If you wanted to see a movie without commercials, you went to the local theater: great big beasts with big sound and screens to match. Before these movie palaces were chopped into concrete bunkers to allow many more shows on many more screens, there was that need to be in one of two lines: ticket buyers and ticket holders. The idea that you could just walk up to the box office, buy a ticket and walk in at a time of your choosing was ludicrous. You had to pay.
And pay I did, along with my family and friends. I stood in lines that wrapped around the building, waiting for the last crowd to clear out so we could go inside and find our seats in that hastily cleaned theater. One of us would stake out a place in the line, while the others would rush off to buy tickets to become certified Ticket Holders. There were times that this exchange happened at such a furious pace that I was met with my tickets just moments before the usher reached out to take them from my hand to tear them in half.
Made it. Now the time I spent making small talk with those around me drifted away and the full gravity of the event of seeing the curtain go up and the lights go down fell on me. I felt that way again last Thursday night. Sure, there were some changes. The tickets had been purchased a week in advance from an online service, and there were two theaters the same building showing The Last Jedi. The big theater was half an hour earlier, in 3D. An enhancement and an expense I could do without, since the screen upstairs was still far larger than the one in my living room. Arriving an hour before showtime, we were still standing around the corner from the marquee. How many rabid fans were in front of us? Dozens? Hundreds? I relaxed a little when I rationalized that there would be a seat for us. We had assured that by buying tickets ahead of time. Where they would be was still a source of mild anxiety.
That abated somewhat after a young couple came and stood behind us. I thanked them for taking away that last-in-line stigma, and we struck up an easy nerd-centric discussion about our time spent in line. These were recent college graduates who remembered seeing Episode IV: A New Hope for the first time on VHS. By that time, there was a numbering system. There were trilogies. Prequels. I became a little wistful while recounting all the lines in which I had stood for the chance to be the first to see the new Star Wars. Among the first. Back in 1977, I spent the summer and the following autumn going to see Star Wars because that was how long a movie theater could show a film. Months passed and the lines diminished. I memorized all the dialogue, but I still kept going. As each new episode appeared, I found myself out there on the sidewalk. Waiting. The words "wait for video" had no meaning back then.
Or now.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


If it seems at times lately that we are watching a reality TV show rather than governance, let us keep in mind that our "President's" biggest claim to fame was the NBC show in which he starred from 2004 until, well, now. It was called, appropriately, The Apprentice. This makes sense, since it seems to apply as much to the host as it does to the participants. The dictionary defines "apprentice" as "a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages." This describes Donald Trumps voyage through television, which he has suggested that he conquered on his way to the Oval Office. So much so that he feels compelled to speak out on ratings for this or that news organization or professional sports. All the while he maintains his fanboy allegiance to Fox and Friends, the only true source of news on this planet. 
This experience left such a mark on our "President" that he dragged along one of his previously fired cast members with him: Omarosa, first name only please she's a star, was hired to be  communications director for the Office of Public Liaison in the White House. It should be noted here that Omarosa's qualifications include a stint with then Vice President Al Gore's office during the Clinton administration. She was fired from that job. 
Now she had resigned her position at the White House, directing those communications amid all that tweeting and hollering and such. Did she jump or was she pushed? According to Omarosa, she had a “candid conversation” in the White House Situation Room that ended with her making the decision to resign. Or she was bodily removed by the Secret Service. This depends on which version you choose to believe, but I know which one would bring in a bigger audience. 
At this point, the reclamation project that has been the last year at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shows no signs of slowing down, with the number of firings, and resignings, to somewhere around I've lost count. For the record, Omarosa suggests that she has "a story to tell as the only African-American woman in this White House; as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear."
In Prime Time, I hope. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dance Of The Hour

I confess: I did the Happy Dance.
I confess: I started looking for results before noon Pacific Time.
I confess: I was worried.
In an election all the way across this great land of ours in which my influence mattered less than Channing Tatum and Charles Barkley, I felt like I had a lot to lose if things didn't go a certain way. If Roy Moore had been elected, the deep red that is Alabama might as well have been tattooed on maps for another thirty-one years. That would have exacerbated the narrow divide in the United States Senate and given more clear control to Republicans, who at this point control the House, the Senate, and the White House. Numerically speaking. Ideologically this whole kettle of fish was starting to smell, well, a little like a kettle of fish.
Add to this mix the mild spice we find in the form of Doug Jones. In all my fervor to point out what a bad choice Roy Moore was, I may have ignored the chance to point out the qualifications of the Man Who Would Be Junior Senator From Alabama, Senator Doug Jones. As a U.S. Attorney from 1997 to 2001, he prosecuted the remaining two Ku Klux Klan perpetrators of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing which killed four African-American girls in 1963, and also secured an indictment against the Atlanta Olympic Park Bomber. He has referred to his own views as "middle of the road." Others have called him a "moderate Democrat." In 2017 Alabama, that is significant. Running against someone who believes "a strong family based on marriage between one man and one woman is and should remain our only guide and model. I oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, civil unions, and all other threats to the traditional family order," and "We should not be entangled in foreign wars merely at the whim and caprice of a President." Not sure exactly how Roy Moore would have reconciled that last one with the fight the current "President" has picked with North Korea, but I guess we won't have to worry about that right now.
Because he lost. Doug Jones won. For the record, the "President" backed Luther Strange in the Republican primary for this election, and then decided to get behind Roy Moore when he became the candidate of his party. In this particular race, Donald Trump backed the wrong horse. Twice. He and his minions have scurried to distance themselves from this loss, stating that it was in no way a referendum. 
And yet, I confess: I did the Happy Dance

Friday, December 15, 2017


I am going to strike what I imagine may be a dangerous stance: Pipe bombs should be illegal. At the very least, we should have strict regulations regarding who can possess these weapons and there should be some sort of national registry for owners of pipe bombs. Tragedies such as the bombing in New York City earlier this week might have been prevented by just knowing who has the pipe bombs.
I know. There are those out there who would suggest that pipe bombs don't kill people. People kill people. Certainly there is a point to be made about intent and malice aforethought, but by limiting the number of pipe bombs in our midst, it seems likely that we could discourage bombing altogether. I hear you asking, "What about the responsible pipe bombers?" And, "What about those who use pipe bombs for sport?" While I respect the tradition we have in our great nation of blowing things up, I will say that it is time that we really examine our need for pipe bombs. There is a faction that will want to rise up and demand their rights as pipe bombers to use them for fishing and small game, but is this really worth the carnage we experience every year from pipe bombs?
At the very least, we should have a discussion about what it means to be a responsible pipe bomber. If you own a pipe bomb, you should keep it locked up, especially if you have kids in the house. Children have an innate fascination with things that go boom, and so we should do everything we can to wait until they are of age before we introduce them to explosives. To that end, we should have mandatory pipe bomb safety classes for those who insist on maintaining their pipe bombs. An educated pipe bomber is a responsible pipe bomber.
I know what you're saying: "Hey, my house is full of pipes, but I'm no pipe bomber." Fair enough, but it's a slipper slope. Add a few barrels of gunpowder to that equation and suddenly you have a dangerous mess on your hands. There are those who say our founding fathers did not expressly forbid the ownership of pipe bombs in our Constitution, so what right do we have to forbid them from owning pipe bombs? This matter will have to be decided, eventually, where all of these kinds of questions go to be decided: social media.
Until then, we will simply have to wait and hope that those who own pipe bombs will use them in ways that protect and defend this great land of ours. I may not own a pipe bomb myself, but I respect your right to complain about it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Wait

Five years ago Adam Lanza murdered twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school. That time has been spent debating, discussing and at times diminishing the causes of such a tragedy. There are a lot of numbers out there, but most of them put reported acts of gun violence at schools in the United States at two hundred. Give or take. On second thought, strike that "give." Leave it as "take." As a nation, we are currently experiencing a daily mass shooting. Today, somewhere, four Americans will die as a result of gun violence. On second thought, let's strike that "gun violence" politeness and cut to the chase: Four Americans will be killed. Shot. Murdered. Their lives will be lost and the ripple effect among the friends and family of the victim will move outward long past the next report of a shooting that takes more lives. 
And so it goes. Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has released a public service announcement called "Tomorrow's News." If you don't have a minute and a half to watch the video, the idea is that this kind of horror is preventable. The spot takes the form of a news report for the future, predicting the now terribly predictable refrain: “When the shooting starts happening tomorrow I’ll probably just think it’s firecrackers or a car backfiring or something,” a parent says. “He told some of us that his dad kept a gun in his closet,” a classmate of the shooter says. “And he always talked about using it on, you know, the people that bullied him. Tomorrow I’ll probably say that I wish I told someone.”
While we wait for Congress to pass a series of tax cuts that we don't need and build a wall that we don't need and search their calendars for a time that would be just right to talk about common sense regulations for guns in our country's possession, we can keep our eyes open. Nobody has to die trying to get an education. No one should have to stand guard over six-year-olds, protecting them from that lone gunman that "no one" ever thought would go off like they did. Shooting back  should be the stuff of action movies, not elementary school. Or middle school. Or high school. Or college. There are those who like to scoff at the notion of a gun-free zone. I work at an elementary school. Many of the kids I teach have had first hand experience with guns and their power to take lives. They are genuinely pleased to have a place to go where gunfire is not part of the day. The suggestion that we should surrender that ideal because "nothing can be done" is unacceptable. To me, and the kids I teach. Don't wait for tomorrow. It's happening right now. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I love the fact that sometimes when I sit in my son's car I hear a song that I remember. I remember it from a time when I was young. Anything by Van Halen. Anything by DEVO. Anything recorded before he was born. This is a testament to the way I set things in motion back before he owned a car. Before he picked the music. Before he knew what music was.
It used to be part of the air around him. He came into the world full of Beethoven and Bruce Springsteen. The Bruce was an echo from my youth. The Beethoven was a replay from my wife and my wedding. It was the Ninth Symphony. "Ode to Joy," when my son was born. "Ode to Freedom" when we were married. And all of that came from hanging around the stereo at my parents' house when I was small. Classical music was the soundtrack of my childhood. My mother played piano. We listened to KVOD, the classical voice of the Rocky Mountains. We listened to the Metropolitan Opera on the weekends. With all of those composers, all of those sonatas, symphonies and suites, how did I land on Beethoven?
I blame Schroeder. And Charles Schulz. The bust on the toy piano. The way he obsessed in the way Linus obsessed on the Great Pumpkin. I took piano lessons. I played Mozart, and Bach, and Shostakovich. And Ludwig Van. Later, I started to complain to piano teacher that I wanted to play more contemporary music. I played Elton John. I played Don McClean.
Then I stopped taking piano lessons. All that music was still in my head. Along with the Beatles and the Stones and the Monkees and ZZ Top. Full and overflowing. It didn't occur  to me that it could be any other way when my son came to stay at our house. There should be music. Good, bad, old and new. Pop and punk and dance and mood. The surprise would be if my son would have denied his heritage.
When we sat in the driveway last weekend and he tried to sell me on the merits of video game music, I flinched. How could this be important or worthwhile? Songs played while Sonic the Hedgehog made his way from left to right across the screen acquiring as many gold rings as possible and anything on Van Halen's first album? How could this be? Then I started listening. And I smiled.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Who's A Dotard?

I was sitting at a family dinner last week, having a conversation with the father  of the girlfriend of my wife's cousin. Feel free at this point to break out a white board and some dry erase markers to determine the connection this gentleman and I had. If you came to the conclusion that we are in no way related, then you might understand why I chose to move forward with my somewhat standard political rant. A Democratic-liberal-snowflake-incredulous kind of rant that if you stop by here often enough it would be the refrain to a well known song. Initially I was testing the waters, since I had no prior knowledge of this gentleman's political views. I also knew that I was erupting into what had been a perfectly nice holiday type gathering where people had been catching up with aunts and cousins and how are things going, anyway?
I tried to stay the course, but my patience with small talk is notoriously limited, so when there was a little opening, I dove. Right in. Why are Democrats resigning and Republicans doubling down? Is there anything to be gained from a higher moral ground? I suggested that if this was a long game and not just a twenty-four hour news cycle, we were probably better off not carrying around a lot of asterisks and excuses. I worked myself into a frenzy of sorts as I tried to embrace hope for the future with the current wages of despair. When I received mild acceptance from the girlfriend's father, I pressed on, but only for a moment.
That's when I realized, "There are dinner tables all across this country where people are pontificating on just how great it is that we are about to Make America Great Again. They truly believe that. And no matter what happens, we're all going to have to live together in a year, two, four." It was this sudden reckoning that made the bubble in which I travel and write is painfully small. The caricatures that I feel comfortable living with in my mind of supporters of this current regime don't get a lot of testing or questioning. Somehow this country has created a sea of people for whom banning Muslims is a good idea, and it's about time that we had a wall to keep all those undesirables out.
These are Americans. Just like me. Color, size, and consistency may vary, but they should be suitable for everyday use as Americans. If a North Korean Intercontinental Ballistic Missile were to make it to these shores, would I mourn the victims of a blue state any more than a red one? Could I hope for some sort of smart bomb that would only kill dotards?
Presently, the world seems full of dotards, which I understand is a completely subjective point of view. But I have faith in the system that was put into place two hundred forty years ago. The idea that we have built regime change into our process makes me remember that Nixon and W. have come and gone. We are still here. Vietnam and Iraq have become historical notes while we go searching for new ways to spread our way of life across the globe. Willfully. With purpose. And I have faith that human nature will continue to be our saving grace, since the act of voicing our opinions makes it difficult if not impossible to get away with anything without somebody spouting off. At the dinner table or the floor of the Senate.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ghost Rider

It wasn't my bike that suffered the worst abuse. That was saved for the one owned by my little brother. That was the pecking order of things: If there was science to be done, it would be done at the expense of items belonging to my younger brother. In this case, it was the repeated experiment of pedaling a bicycle at a high rate of speed in the direction of the end of our street, and then hopping off. The momentum of all that pedaling would send the two-wheeled projectile in a more or less straight line until gravity caught up with it. Then it would tip over onto the ground, which brought us running after to pick it up for yet another run.
When I say "we," I mean my friends and I. My younger brother was the voice crying out in the wilderness for us to spare his bike the indignity and damage caused by such unmanned flights. We didn't heed his protestations. We kept launching it in hopes of catching a glimpse of something truly spectacular. For instance, every so often, the front wheel would hit a rock or a curb and the bike would rear up on top of itself. This was worth at least another half dozen attempts to recreate that scene.
And all the while, we ignored the pleas from the kid whose only mode of transportation was being recklessly pushed toward being less than useful. We called this game, long before Marvel Comics or Nicolas Cage jumped into the fray, "Ghost Rider." It got to the point where all we had to do was say those words in front of my brother to get a rise out of him. It should be noted that I maintain a certain degree of shame for this behavior as an adult, knowing that I was gifted with a sibling who was ultimately very patient and trusting, who was not a tattletale. Somehow, the spell of hanging out with the big kids was enough to keep him from running inside and bringing our mother out to tell us to knock it off.
The price he had to pay for his association with his older brother and his idjit friends? Surrender all hopes of maintaining his things in the manner he might have planned. I had a sense of this from my own interactions with my older brother, who taunted me as mercilessly at times, but I was all too ready to rat him and his buddies out if I ever got too uncomfortable.
So this comes as a much too late apology for any and all physical and emotional damage I may have caused my little brother who provided us with seemingly endless hours of fun, crashing his riderless bike into the curb.
It was pretty cool though. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Voting Your Conscience

We are just a couple of days away from the special election being held in Alabama to see who will fill Jeff Sessions' vacated seat, a seat that got that way because we have a new Attorney General. Initially, the Republican vote was split between Luther Strange, the former Attorney General not of the United States but of the state of Alabama. Confused? Well, you don't have to be much longer because Luther Strange lost the Republican primary to former Chief Justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, Roy Moore.
You might be familiar with Mister Moore. He's the one currently undergoing a lot of scrutiny for alleged crimes against women. More (or Moore) to the point, these were teenaged girls who were accosted, molested, groped some years ago. When it became apparent that Judge Moore might become a United States senator, it seemed like the right and imperative thing to do. Five different women have come forward to say that they were assaulted by Judge Moore. A month ago, United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women. At that time, the "President" kept quiet about his allegiances, since his support of Luther Strange hadn't panned out the way he had planned. As the date of the election closed in, Senator Mitch walked back his rhetoric about Moore saying, "I'll let the people of Alabama make the call." That assertion was doubled down by the "President" who found it necessary to endorse Moore because, in his words, "We need Republican Roy Moore to win." Because when all is said and done, pedophilia can be overlooked when it comes to getting that swing vote.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota took his apology and penance to the floor of the Senate and did what his party asked of him: he resigned. On the way out he made some excuses and tried to mitigate the reality of the situation, but his sexual misconduct got him pushed out of the Senate, the United States Senate by the Democratic Party.
It is no wonder that Time magazine chose as their Person of the Year the Silence Breakers. The world is changing around us, and even if things have to get worse before they get better, we can't go back to a time when the truth got buried for the sake of someone's career. Or a vote.
By the way, there are still at least sixteen women who allege the "President" assaulted them. It's a new world. I guess we'll have to wait and see just how new it really is.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Order Up

I am happy to be a salaried employee, and as such I feel that I need to work a little on the edges to justify what would be the hourly rate that mathematics would suggest that I am paid. School teachers live on this weird island where the perception of what we do and for how long is often a little skewed. There is an old joke that overs around the teaching profession that our three favorite things about our job is June, July and August. In the interest of full transparency, it should be noted that I am paid for ten months, but I take advantage of my district's willingness to spread that money out over twelve months. This is so I don't have to calculate and save up each month's portion of a check that would be my July and August salary. Just to be clear: during those summer months I am not hanging out poolside at my beach house sipping daiquiris trying to imagine new and fantastic ways to spend the money I am making.
But that's not exactly why I brought you here. That last paragraph was to say this: I am happy that I have a salary that can finally be categorized as a living wage, and I don't have to depend on tips to make ends meet. There are those who don't fully reckon on how this works. Mister Pink, for example. He believes that tipping automatically is "for the birds." Now, it seems that he may have company in this assertion. The Department of Labor is suggesting a change to the way employers deal with tips. Specifically this: as long as the employee is being paid at least minimum wage, the employer can keep their tips. The plan is that then the tips can be dispersed about to those "back room" employees who aren't available to the world of tipping.
Or the employers could simply keep the tips. That doesn't seem likely, does it?
As a recovering dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant, I can say with moderate pride that the place where I worked, there was a code of honor associated with tipping. If a wait person had a particularly good night, it was up to that person to kick a little back to the cooks, the bus boy, the bartender, and yes, even the dishwasher. It is understood in most of the service industry that it is a team game. If you want your orders up in a timely fashion, it's a good idea to grease those wheels. And if you want to have dishes on which to put those greased wheels, the trickle had better be of the down variety. All kinds of Tyler-Durden-ish behavior lives just outside the view of any restaurant. You probably don't know the truth behind the lobster bisque. And probably you don't want to.
So, I'm suggesting to Mister Orange and his cronies over at the Department of Labor that unless they want to find out what happens before your order lands in front of you, consider how many hands have touched that - how many hands have passed by that sign that says "Employees Must Wash Hands." Fifteen percent doesn't seem like a lot to pay for peace of mind.

Friday, December 08, 2017

What Drives You?

I know someone who works for one of those ride-sharing services. Let's call it "Lybber." I noticed the identifying marks on this person's car, so I I took the opportunity to ask a few questions. Specifically, I wanted to know what the deal was with all that double parking. Each and every morning that I ride my bicycle to school, I have to weave my way around at least one if not more sedans pulled over to one side or another, hazard lights flashing, waiting for their rider. Occupying a lane of traffic. I asked this Lybber driver if double parking was part of the program. Was it in the training?
The driver being questioned described the comprehensive training offered by the service: an hour long video watched at Lybber headquarters, along with a mildly thorough inspection of driving records. Then you download an app and you're ready to head out on the street, impeding traffic.
That's when this phrase came to mind: "Chauffeur's License." Why isn't that required? Is this part of some elaborate scam to get around having to take a test?
I get it. You're driving around in that big four-door, with three empty seats. Can't sleep. Can't make ends meet. Why not take money for the aimless wandering you're doing at all hours of the day and night? And if you happen to impede traffic while you're looking up an address or shifting from one app to another, what does it really matter? If getting another star affixed to your rating means you have to park facing the wrong way on a one way street, so be it. It's all about the "likes."
In the meantime, I am trying to remember the last time I saw a cab in my city. I know they are out there. The airport still has a vast lane devoted to their parking, even though it stands empty on the occasions I find myself down there. Maybe I'm just not looking closely enough.
Or maybe I'm distracted by all the other traffic around me, jockeying for that spot by the curb. The holy grail of spots: the one right outside baggage claim. Or maybe it doesn't matter if you've got your hazard lights on and that sticker in your window. Maybe they're searching for a working pay phone.
It's times like these that I really miss Louie DePalma.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Don't Ask, Don't - Wait - What Was The Question Again?

So, here's an interesting thing: The number of waivers granted by the active-duty Army for marijuana use jumped to more than five hundred this year from one hundred ninety-one in 2016. Three years ago, no such waivers were granted. I don't understand statistics very well, but that may be how you get those wacky numbers like "a five hundred percent increase." 
The reason for all of this paperwork centers around the need to fill the ranks of an all-volunteer armed forces.  Head of the Army's recruiting command  Major General Jeff Snow said, "Provided they understand that they cannot do that when they serve in the military, I will waive that all day long." Major General Jeff is under orders to expand the Army's size, and if means looking the other way or filling out a note that says "that was then, this is now," so be it.
As long as you promise not to smoke dope once you are enlisted.
Of course, I saw Platoon, and that was back before weed started becoming legal. Major General Jeff guesses that the number of waivers will only grow as more states decriminalize marijuana. How long will it be before the active military decides that they should enjoy the same rights enjoyed by the civilians they are protecting and serving? 
Tough to say, but seeing as how the Cheeto In Chief wants to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, we are presented with what we call a "conundrum." Let's say that Recruit X is honest about his or her marijuana use, but still wants to serve their country. That same recruit would not be able to serve if they were as candid about their sexuality. Shouldn't there be a waiver for that? Or is smoking dope easier to excuse than being who you are?
Currently, the "President's" proposed ban on transgender Americans serving in the military has been blocked by the courts. Maybe that will give Major General Jeff a chance to find and process the correct forms. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Never On Sunday

Looking for distractions from the news that continues to bear down on all of us, I have sat in front of the television looking for the solace that used to be football. Spectator sports have been a way for me to ignore the stink and furor that surrounds us all. In the past. I waited for the weekend to be entertained by the gladiatorial displays of my favorite teams.
This year, there won't be bowl games. There won't be a Super Bowl. Not for me, anyway. Sure, I'll tune in to watch the commercials because it is part of the American firmament I suspect that I could fall under government surveillance if I didn't.
And yet, it seems as though ignoring the National Football League would be falling in line with the forces of the Evil Empire. Darth Trump would like to think that fewer and fewer Americans are watching on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays because they are fed up with the anti-flag, anti-veteran protests that have ruined the game. I disagree. I don't think it has much to do with the demonstrations taking place before the game. I think it has everything to do with the lack of entertaining games may have had something to do with my lack of interest. To be clear: I was tuning in for the past several weeks just to show the dark side that I wasn't put off by sitting, standing or kneeling. I was there to watch football.
Then came all the injuries. No Arron Rodgers. No J.J. Watt. No Andrew Luck. The stars were sitting not because they didn't want to pledge allegiance to the flag but because of broken bones and torn ligaments. Then there was rookie Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson who donated his first ever game check to hurricane relief in the city for which he played, until he had his knee torn up to put him and his spectacular play on the shelf for the rest of the season.
And then there's the Denver Broncos, who started the year with hopes of battling for first place in what many considered to be the toughest division in football. Maybe there's something about too much orange, what with the tangerine in the White House, but this has been a spectacularly forgettable season in the Mile High City. Each peek into what's happening with the team on any given weekend has brought me nothing but grief.
As a fan. As someone who appreciates some of the finer points of the game. They aren't there. Not now. I find myself ignoring what goes on in spite of myself and all those years of conditioning. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I should take a page from the Cubs fan book and start planning for next year. That's where hope lives.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How Long?

"I am not a crook." Those were the words of Richard Nixon back in 1973. If you're a student of history or maybe just an American over the age of forty, you might remember that  it turned out that Richard Nixon really was a crook, and in spite of his assertions otherwise, he had been for some time before he made that little speech. He left the Oval Office in disgrace just a few months later. He was just a couple years into his second term after being elected in a landslide victory over liberal Democrat, George McGovern.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Those were the words of Bill Clinton back in 1998. If you are a student of history or just an American over the age of twenty, you might remember that it turned out that Bill Clinton had in spite of his assertions otherwise, had sexual relations with that woman and had for some time before he made that  little speech. He left the Oval Office with a curiously high approval rating. He was just a couple years into his second term after being elected in a landslide victory over conservative Republican, Bob Dole.
Welcome to 2017, where we have a "President" who was elected in a landslide victory of the liberal Democrat who happened to be the cuckolded wife Bill Clinton. He doesn't tend to make speeches as much as pronouncements, and tweets. Historians may have had an amusing time dealing with the social media of former presidents Nixon and Clinton, but hindsight allows us to settle into a narrative that becomes history. It's part of a process.
My wife had a button with a picture of Bill Clinton as a hippie, with his hippie wife Hillary that bore the legend, "My President." She does not own a button with a hippie Richard and Pat Nixon that says, "My President." The discussion about to whom the current "President" belongs stops abruptly because "our President" continues to be Barack Obama. Barack Obama was elected in a landslide for his second term, and he managed to maintain an approval rating that dipped below fifty percent just a couple times over the course of eight years. This was the guy who won the Democratic nomination for president over his rival Hillary Clinton, the cuckolded wife of Bill. Who was impeached. Richard Nixon was not. He resigned just ahead of that.
As for the current "President?" Sexual misconduct allegations as well as all manner of political malfeasance swirl around his first term in office, while the rest of the planet seems to stare at us in wonder. How long will this one last? 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Keeping Watch

Anna has just turned five. She is in our Transitional Kindergarten class. For the first month and a half of school, she was overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds of the rolling wave we call elementary school to react with much but a slack jaw. At some point over the last month, she began to awaken to just how busy every day was and out popped her fear. Mostly in transitions, moving from her classroom to the lunchroom to the playground and back. All that shifting about made her extremely anxious.
I know this because she told me.
Through sobs and gasps, she clung to me, holding my hand and pleading with me to make things safe. Every approaching child was a threat. Every potential activity was a trick, designed to move her further away from whatever sense of security she might have. Anna struggled. I might have taken this as mild flattery, being the one adult she had chosen to trust, but I quickly understood that I was just the current link in a chain of grownups upon whom she had latched.
Still, my job of roaming about the playground during recess isn't impeded much by having a little person holding on to my hand, except when I have to stop to tie someone else's shoes, or if there is trouble in the boy's bathroom that needs to be halted. During these sojourns about the yard during lunch recess, I have continued to try and convince Anna that there are far more interesting people and things to do than hanging with Mister Caven. A number of Anna's classmates, starting with Alice, have come up to us and asked Anna if she would like to play. Anna's response has been to cower behind me and shout "Noooo!" We worked on this until we managed to get a wincing "No thank you," so as not to hurt the feelings of the potential friends.
With each new entree, I have asked Anna if she might not reconsider, which had been met with more worry and woe. And so we walked the playground, looking for someone or something that might serve as a distraction for part of the day.
Until this past Thursday. Alice returned, and to her credit she did not rush up and immediately intimidate Anna. Alice asked me if I thought Anna might like to play. I looked at Anna, whose face brightened, and then she said, "Yes. I would like to be her friend." With that, she dropped my hand and went racing off to the play structure, where a world of wonder and potential friendships awaited.

Sunday, December 03, 2017


How lucky we are to have the benevolent leader looking down over us, keeping track of all the bumps and scrapes along life's highway. He will not let fake news confuse us or deter us from our mission to Make America Subservient Again. He knows the truth, and he will announce it in the most dignified manner possible: through his social media account.
We can take comfort knowing that even though we elected a "President," we have a really smart guy in charge. Someone who can be a better judge than Thurgood Marshall. Someone who can be a better statesman than Winston Churchill. Someone who can be a better detective than Scooby Doo and all his pals rolled together in their Mystery Machine. Benevolent Leader will shine a light on all those things that other bad people are doing so that we can go about our duty to Make America Dull Again. 
The "President" has uncovered plots to foil and muddy his vision, and he isn't afraid to point the finger at anyone who does not share his last name in an effort to put the blame where it belongs: On anyone but him. Like the way he uncovered that "unsolved mystery" that took place in Florida years ago. Donald J'Accuse Trump points his tiny finger at the potential for malfeasance in Joe Scarborough's district office back in 2001. Law enforcement officials concluded at that time that a staff member, Lori Klausutis, whose body was found dead in that office had fainted as a result of an abnormal heart rhythm, which caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk. Never mind that a medical examiner had confirmed this by using science. Science is the very same voodoo that brought us "global warming." Heresy! Not when we are striving so very hard to Make America Dumb Again.
And yet, there are some cracks in Benevolent Leader's facade. Why does he seem so angry all the time? How can he watch all those NFL games to count those disrespectful louts defaming God and Country by not doing as they are told? Why does he get so upset when his sheep don't fall in line? 
Maybe we're not sheep. Maybe we have started to notice that even he puts quotation marks around "fake news," since we have already lived through a prior reality when someone said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." Global warming is a "theory." Nazis are "misunderstood." Keep an eye on that punctuation, "Mister President." It's giving you away.

Saturday, December 02, 2017


So...Matt Lauer. 
And the hits really do just keep coming, don't they?
Matt Lauer was fired by the National Broadcasting Company for “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” For some, it came as a shock. For others, it came as a part of another day. The list of men who have abused women continues to grow as the house continues to get clean. This metaphor isn't lost on me, since I spend a good deal of time cleaning my house. Not metaphorically. For real.
What happens is this: You get out the dust pan to sweep up a mess that has been made in the corner of the kitchen. Once the crumbs have been swept up, you notice something sticky on the floor adjacent to that first spill, and so you get out the squirt bottle and a rag to wipe up that spot. And the spot next to it. And isn't that a trail that leads all the way back to the refrigerator? 
So...You get out the mop and a bucket because the kitchen floor is one big spot and the tile where you have recently been spot cleaning is easily distinguished from the tile that has not been cleaned and the whole floor gets mopped and scrubbed to make it look like a place where food could withstand the five second rule. That's pretty good.
So...You take your mop and bucket into the bathroom, which is also full of tile that has a questionable layer of filth on it. The benefits of being able to walk into the bathroom first thing in the morning and know that when you pop out of the shower, the bottoms of your feet won't need an additional rinse afterward. Which reminds you of the toothpaste spatter on the mirror that needs a quick once-over, as does the mirror on the back of the door, which leaves you staring at the wood floor in the bedroom. When was the last time that got anything but lightly swept?
So...You put away the mop and bucket and get out the natural wood cleaner and a different mop because you don't want to put too much water on the wood but you really want to make the rest of the floors in the house as clean as those in the kitchen. We have standards to keep, after all. And somewhere in the voyage around the house, staring at the floor, you notice the dust that has collected on the shelves just a few inches from that floor.
So...You get the dust rag, and as you finish the floors, you start to work your way up to eye level, where the dirt is really noticeable. How long have we been living in this filth? There are cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. How long have they been there? 
So...You fire Matt Lauer. 
The house will be dirty until it gets clean. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Fun With History

Imagine that you and your family had waited seventy years for the recognition they deserved for your service to your country, but because of racial tension and unease with history, that attention had been bypassed in order to maintain a certain narrative that made the powers that be more comfortable. Such is the case of the Windtalkers, Native Americans who used their language as code during World War Two. These brave soldiers gave not just their language but many sacrificed their lives in armed forces of a country that had once been responsible for running them off the lands of their ancestors and robbing them of their heritage. Until all of a sudden some of that heritage turned out to be quite useful in battling the enemies of the country that had nearly wiped them out half a century before. This kind of irony hung on the edges of the Nicolas Cage-starring film, made in 2002. It should be noted that Mister Cage did not play a Navajo in this movie, which focused more on his Marine character who was assigned to protect a Navajo Windtalker. Not really a surprise, since the Windtalker project had only become public knowledge in 1968. Even though they have been recognized as one of the essential factors in America's victory in the Battle for Iwo Jima.
Quite a piece of history, that. 
Given the chance to make things just a little correct, the "President" invited three of the Code Talkers to Washington D.C. to honor them. Once there, with the microphones and cameras on, the "President" began to ingratiate himself with the following address: "You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas."
And this was how the "President" chose to commemorate the service of these brave men, by taking a wide and ugly swing at Senator Elizabeth Warren. And while this partisan sideshow was taking place, these three heroes of World War Two stood beneath a portrait of Andrew Jackson, a favorite of the "President" and the man who signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830
No word yet on whether Nicolas Cage will be playing Jackson or Trump in the film version of this debacle. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Caveat Emptor

My son survived his first Black Friday on the front lines. He was there when the doors opened and the wild-eyed deal seekers came pouring in. He was asked by at least three separate customers if he worked there, but he had the patience and calm to avoid pointing at his name tag and uniform shirt and exclaiming, "Well, if I'm not I guess I'm a little overdressed." It may have been some of these same patrons who expressed their pity for him, "Sorry you have to work today." For the record, he did not say what he wanted to back: "If you feel so bad, why didn't you stay home?" He told his parents what he was thinking after the fact. He's a good employee, and a good son.
Yes, working retail is a character builder. And I know that he likes his job. A lot. Why else would he have raised his hand when it came time to staff those hours after Thanksgiving dinner? And the day after? And the day after that? Certainly there is an argument to be made that he is a glutton for punishment, and since I raised him, I can take responsibility for that. I can also take pride in his commitment to his job, and his paycheck. I can also take some pleasure in knowing that he has found his video store job.
My son does not work in a video store. He works in a place that sells video. And stereo. And computers. And little bags of M&Ms on the way out the door. I am relating his current employment to that of my own youth. When I was in college, I worked in a video store. I rented all the copies of Top Gun and everything else that was "new that's good that's in." I spent hours of my life trying to explain why E.T. was not available on VHS, and then hours more explaining why Steven Spielberg had finally decided it was worth the hack on his artistic reputation to let that happen. I remember the desperate faces of parents on Christmas Eve who pleaded with me to find something for the kids to watch so they could just get a little rest. Kids love Voltron. Trust me. Because it's still sitting on the shelf.
And then it was over. We locked the doors and shared stories about our day. We brought happiness to many, disappointment to some, and a retail experience that was unrivaled by many. Never growing visibly tired of the inane questions that float around those moments of customer service that cause you to reflect on the wisdom of a phrase like "the customer is always right."

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Pro Test

We are coming up on an interesting anniversary. It has been almost a full calendar year since Colin Kaepernick took the field to play in an NFL game. His former team, the San Francisco Forty-Niners, have gone on record saying that they would have cut him if he hadn't opted out of his contract. The team had fallen on difficult times, from playing in a Super Bowl in 2013 to winning just two games in what would be Kaepernick's last season.
Cut to the beginning of the 2017 season. Colin is out of a job, but a number of teams lose their starting quarterbacks to injury or just bad play. This guy with an 88.9 career quarterback rating is sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring. Or maybe he wasn't. This is the guy who, during the preseason of 2016, began to kneel during the National Anthem. At first, he went essentially unnoticed, until other players began to join him. First on his own team, and then on teams across the league. When asked, Mister Kaepernick described his protest this way: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Cut to a year later, where that message has been run through a blender of conservative "thought" that turned it into a matter of disrespecting veterans and the military and the Constitution and motherhood. The public relations nightmare that would have arisen for any team that would have chosen to add Colin Kaepernick to their roster was never worth the potential wins that he might have brought to a struggling franchise. 
And somehow the cultural impact of Colin Kaepernick continues even after a year away from a football field, kneeling or not. GQ magazine named him "Citizen of the Year." Conservative pundits have not been as kind. For a great many of these talking heads, he has become the Meme of the Year, most recently featured in a photoshopped picture posted by Tomi Lahren. She pasted a kneeling Kaepernick into a black and white photo of a World War Two landing craft, with soldiers rushing onto Omaha Beach. The suggestion made that while good Americans are confronting Nazis, Colin is taking a knee. Taking a knee rather than confronting Nazis? Who does that  sound like?
Not Colin Kaepernick.  
How  about the guy who continues to rant about the behavior of professional athletes, except those who are still willing to play golf with him? Maybe Colin should take up golf.