Saturday, September 30, 2017


"Nobody ever paid to hear this song," were the words my high school band director used to describe our National Anthem. An artistic, self-absorbed, autocratic leader of kids half his age, he was spouting an opinion that was reflecting his own issues about the division between high school athletics and arts programs. We were listening to the overflow of emotions stoked by years of being allowed to use facilities like the football field for limited periods of time while preparing our halftime extravaganzas.
We all knew that, in addition to those folks who were checking their watches as they awaited kickoff, the audience in the stands were not there for a high school band marching band show. Friday nights under those lights were all about football, and though we played to the empty seats vacated by those wishing to grab a hot dog or a cup of cocoa, we still gave it our all. The dozen or so "fans" left in the stands were the friends and family of the band kids, and the ones too drunk or lazy to move.
The joke was on them for a couple of reasons: First of all, the proceeds from the concession stands went to the band parents' organization. They were the ones moving all those treats and hustling behind the scenes. Secondly, those of us performing in uniform during our fifteen minutes of relative glory were dong so more as a rehearsal for marching band competitions that would be held over the course of the fall, and we used those occasions under those lights to perfect our show.
While I was in high school, it was our marching band that brought back more than their share of trophies compared to our somewhat lame football team. Not that this translated into more seats filled with enthusiastic fans. The applause we received was primarily that which acknowledged the end of our show in anticipation of the return to football.
I recognize that roar at the end of the National Anthem. It's the release of all that pent-up anticipation of the game that awaits. Sure, we dress it up with flags that cover the field, or a flyover by the Air National Guard, but that cheer isn't just for Whitney Houston. It is the war cry of the crowd waiting for the lid to come off this week's can of gladiatorial combat. I would like to believe that all that hype was about patriotism, and there is probably a little bit of that. Mostly, it's about getting the Star Spangled Banner out of the way so the game can begin.
Nobody ever paid to hear that song.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Built For Comfort, Not For Speed

I saw the young men walking toward me from a block away. Their long hair was blowing in the afternoon breeze. Their tie-dye shirts lit up the last few hours of daylight. As we walked toward each other, the holes in their jeans became more apparent, as did the sandals on the one on the right. There was a time when I knew exactly what I was seeing: Hippies. Here in the Bay Area, it was an easy conclusion at which to arrive. Young men breezily waltzing around without a care in the world, save for being put down by the man.
And before I passed them, it occurred to me: This is 2017. They have to know that they are two generations removed from the summer of love, and the tie-dye they were wearing came from a manufacturer, not somebody's bathtub in the Haight. The notion that they were carefree passed quickly when I realized that to achieve the look of a pair of hippies straight out of 1967, they would have to have knowledge of the past and chose to land there.
Knowing that the tie-dye and torn jeans of the sixties gave way somewhat easily if not sadly to the leisure suits of the seventies. And  the power ties of the nineties. The comfort of the uniforms worn in each decade gave way to a reaction. There was no actual leisure to those suits. That was how they were sold. Like the ties. Nothing magical there, either. What possible advantage could be gained in a negotiation from the color or width of the strip of cloth one chose to tie around their neck?
Then, suddenly, as I went by these after-market hippies, I tried to imagine their late twenties. And thirties. Would they follow the path of least resistance, and let themselves be caught up in the uniform of the day, or would they cling desperately to the look of a counterculture that has become more of a costume than a badge of non-conformity?
Of course, that's when I had to spin that mirror back to me and wonder if shaving my head and wearing that same ratty T-shirt when I run made the same kind of loud pronouncement about my culture. Or lack thereof. I don't think much about the width of my lapels since I don't own many. As for the ties, I have a few, but they are kept save in a closet on a rack that spins. When I go to look for the Spider Man tie on the rare occasion that I need power. Super Power.
That and my extraordinary powers of judgement.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


I was a very lucky little boy. I never wanted for blank paper on which I could draw. My father worked in printing, and he brought home reams and reams of all sizes, shapes and colors. The limit was my imagination. I favored a pencil at first for my scribblings. This allowed me to erase and refine my line.
But that wasn't really necessary, since whole forests had surrendered themselves to me for that purpose. My fourth grade art teacher only needed to tell me once to be more committed to my lines. No more of those little sketchy chicken scratches. Strong, bold, and confident. If I didn't get the spine of a stegosaurus just right, I could turn the page over and start again. If that didn't pan out, then there was always the rest of that tablet. Or the one after that.
If you were to apply a Malcoklm Gladwell ten thousand hour rule to my experience, I would imagine that the time I spent bent over a blank piece of paper in those days brought me pretty close to that illusory total. My parents used up all their refrigerator magnets on the drawings I did. And those done by my younger brother. And my older brother. Horizontal surfaces, especially those at our cabin in the woods, were covered by pictures we drew.
It is quite likely that the conspicuous lack of a television in that cabin had something to do with my voluminous output. Feel bad about missing that show? Why not draw it? Are there movies you remember and want to see again? Before there were VCRs and DVRs, there was my paper and pencil.
All that paper. By the time I was in junior high, I had the bug and I couldn't shake it. I didn't want to. I graduated to a black pen. No more erasing for me. I had confidence in where that line was going. I was going to be Frank Frazetta. Or Charles Schulz. Or maybe I was just going to be me, hunched over that table, tongue tip sticking out of the corner of my mouth as I drew.
And drew.
And drew.
I never ran out of paper. Not ever.
Somewhere there are tablets full of ideas that I barely started or didn't quite finish. After my freshman year in college, when I left the idea of being a studio art major behind, I slowed my consumption of paper. Sometimes those ideas still light up my imagination. And I look around for something to draw on.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sending A Message

I was at work early last Friday, preparing for another day keeping the crayons in the lines and out of kids' mouths. I had a few moments of quiet before the short people would begin to demand my full attention, so I took a minute or two to consider what grownup priorities I might have missed or avoided in my rush to get ready for school.
What  about that healthcare bill? What  could be more responsible and grown up than taking the time to consider how I could affect the future of medical insurance in the United States?
I wrote to John McCain. I sent him an email. I told him how much I respected the way he had honored his convictions and those of his constituents. I said that I valued his calm appraisal of the effect of his vote, and that I hoped that he would continue to work to serve all the people of the United States. The short and the tall.
I knew that John McCain was one of the swing votes for the Graham-Cassidy bill that continues the seven year slog of "repeal and replace" that has been the rallying cry of the Republican Party ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed back in those bygone days of yore. I knew that, in spite of the fact that John McCain was a Republican and he had that little dalliance with Sarah Palin, he was a man of character. Good character. He understood his job as a public servant. 
That was the thing we had in common. So I wrote him and said that I hoped that he might consider putting the stake through the heart of Repeal and Replace. The current version, at least. 
Later that day, Senator John McCain announced, “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.” I caught this update around lunchtime, while I was standing out on the playground, watching kids play, resolving conflicts, passing out band aids.
It turns out that John McCain and I have a lot in common. I told my wife that she had me to thank for his No vote. At least that's the way it looks on my timeline. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


I don't mind confessing that I had to look it up. I didn't know what "smh" meant. I haven't probably spent the kind of time on Twitter and related social media that some do. When I saw that at the end of a number of tweets responding to our "President's" opinions about what to do regarding NFL players who don't stand for the national anthem, I was curious. "Shake My Head." A number of past and  current stars responded to his royal proclamation that those who kneel or sit should be fired. In more colorful terms than that, but our new scale for presidential rhetoric seems to open the door for invective like this.
It should be noted here and now that Donald Trump was once the owner of a professional football team: The New Jersey Generals. If you are unfamiliar with this organization, it could be that  you missed the twenty-five minutes in which the USFL captured the nation's imagination. This was the league  that was going to compete with the "No  Fun  League" and hit those establishment jokers where they lived: in their luxuriously appointed box seats. They brought back the two-point  conversion, Doug Flutie, and end  zone celebrations. It was also a pretty obvious attempt by Donald "Jersey" Trump to elbow his way into the grown ups' table: the  NFL.
For  all his machinations, Donnie John couldn't get what he really wanted, so he sued. And won: the grand total of three dollars. The Art of the Deal, indeed.
And now this guy is the "President" of the United States, still  wishing that he could get sports stars and owners to pal around with him. With the exception of the oh-so-ironically named Patriots and their owner Robert Kraft, most of these folks are staying  away in droves. Like football fans  and the USFL.
Meanwhile, the "President" rescinded his invitation to the Golden State Warriors, specifically their  star and Obama golfing partner Steph Curry, to come to the White House to celebrate winning the NBA championship last June. "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!" Maybe the :"President" wishes he had any sort of championship to celebrate. Or maybe he wishes he could go golfing with Steph and Barack.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Dream Within A Dream

Week three of the NFL season is all but a memory now. Football has taken hold and the country has gone back to their regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday night, Thursday evening pattern of viewing. Those of us who rally around that sort of thing, anyway. Besides having a schedule that essentially wraps around the week with only scant moments between contests, there is the wall to wall coverage of what is happening on, off, and around the field on a wide variety of cable television outlets including their own flagship station which pumps out a steady stream of updates as if our national security depended on them.
Mine used to. My security, that is. Back in the days when I played fantasy football, I relied on those bits of news that might affect my team's lineup. Who has a tear or contusion that could keep them on the bench? Who didn't pass their concussion protocol? Who missed a team meeting? Who is in jail? It was that last little bit that really soured me in the last few years. The folks I played with used to joke about putting together an "All-Suspension Team," one which would track the accomplishments of players who had run afoul of the National Football League's arcane policies as well as those whose off the field antics had brought them infamy in ways far less prestigious than their stat sheets would account.
When the autumn leaves began to turn this year, and the smell of pigskin filled the air, I was without a league. Apparently the people with whom I used to share this deep and abiding vicarious thrill had a similar bout of disillusion. The momentum that keeps the NFL running did not need my participation. They are doing just fine, thank you very much. Games are being played and cases are being heard for those who may or may not be suspended without my daily, hourly, moment to moment, attention.
There was a moment when I felt a twinge: Do I miss this? I wondered aloud on Friday morning, and my drowsy wife rolled over and graciously offered to put a league together with me. It was a loving moment. I was moved. But I wasn't moved enough to ask her to put up a front for my benefit for sixteen weeks. It was a fantasy league that I did not expect. What man wouldn't want his wife to play Fantasy Football with him?
This one.
And that's fine.
We'll find something else to fill our time.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


"We must teach each other the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity and leadership. We must come together for the good of our children. We must remember that they are watching and listening, so we must never miss an opportunity to teach life's many ethical lessons along the way. We need to turn our focus right now to the message and content they are exposed to on a daily basis - social media, the bullying.  No child should ever feel hungry, stalked, frightened, terrorized, bullied, isolated or afraid, with nowhere to turn. We need to step up, come together, and ensure that our children's future is bright." 
What a very nice bunch of words. These are the kind of words that have been missing from our daily discourse. Did they come from Hillary Clinton?
Chuck Schumer?
Lady Gaga?
Jimmy Kimmel? 
Nope, nope, nope and nope. 
These were the words spoken by the current First Lady of the United States. Her remarks at the United Nations struck a different note than the one clanged by her husband just days before. Which stirs so very many questions. Was she speaking ironically? Without her husband's knowledge? Was this on a dare? To see if anyone was listening? 
We must come together, for the sake of the children and for our own sake. We are all watching and listening. I can say that I was cautiously gratified by what I heard from the "President's" wife. Will we hear more? On a daily basis? 
We need to step up and come together, to ensure that there is a future. For everyone. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Really Big Shoe

Once upon a time, there was a guy named Nikita. He was in charge of a really big country. He came to visit us in our really big country. While he was here, he took the opportunity to stop by the place where a bunch of other world leaders hang out and talk about whatever it is that world leaders talk about. Instead of sitting quietly and listening attentively, Nikita decided to disrupt things while others were trying to speak. He banged his fist on his table. He even took off his shoe and banged it on his table. Nikita was not working and playing nice with the other world leaders.
Did he lose petals off his courtesy daisy? Well, no. Eventually a guy named Leonid with great big eyebrows replaced him, but he wasn't kicked out of this or any other country for his behavior. As it turns out, this kind behavior is encouraged at the United Nations. 
That is the only thing I can figure out after watching this guy named Donny John stand up in that same place and rail on about whatever seemed to be stuck in his voluminous craw. Specifically, there was this: "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself and its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. 'Rocket Man' is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime." Anyone who has been hanging around poolside and reading the "President's" Twitter feed probably wasn't shocked at the saber-rattling rhetoric, but this was the United Nations. Couldn't he at least have taken off a shoe or something? 
He didn't keep all his venom for North Korea. He had harsh words for Venezuela as well. “The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela.” 
We? The other delegates from nations across the globe looked at each other in wonder. We who? Not that the powers that be in North Korea and Venezuela are innocent victims of our pompous Cheeto of a leader. There are human rights violations and deplorable conditions that deserve attention by a body like the United Nations. Specifically: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
And see if we can't keep our shoes on while we do it. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Who's Asking?

The free tickets have dried up. For me, anyway. I used to count on at least a show a year that I could attend with a guest courtesy of a local radio station. I don't listen to a lot of radio, but it wakes me up in the morning, and it is on in the background as I go about my morning preparations in my classroom. It is a lingering remnant of a life that contained a lot more radio. Before streaming services. Before mp3s.
I grew up in a world filled with disc jockeys, not DJs. Hot Dog Harold Moore. Charlie and Barney. Tiny Tim Tindall. Dennis Constantine. Rosalie. Alex Bennett. Dave Morey. While nothing can compete with the "Quarter Hour of Dave," fifteen minutes of music aimed directly at me from my friend in his college radio station booth, it was with Dave Morey that I had my last solid connection with morning radio. Dave was a wealth of musical knowledge and dry wit, a perfect cocktail for me as I made my way through those pre-dawn hours. By the time the sun was up, the radio was close to being turned off, but not before Request-O-Rama. This was the segment I waited for, the one that kept me listening. The prize for answering Dave's trivia question was the chance to hear any song from the station's music library.
And sometimes there were bonus prizes.
But that's not what kept me listening. I was hanging on because I wanted a chance to impress the rest of audience with my own pop culture acumen. Knowing that Ross Bagdasarian (aka Dave Seville) won one of the first Grammys ever awarded was worth showing off, after all. Looking back, it seems as though this thread of "Dave" may have had a certain magic to it, but when I won tickets to see REM in addition to getting to hear Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland," the die was cast. Access to a radio, the ability to hit redial when a busy signal thwarted my initial efforts, and this head full of mostly useless knowledge earned me a good bit of satisfaction. 
And some free tickets. Some were to see artists that I had little or no interest in prior, but I bought a T-shirt and enjoyed the free-ness of it. 
Right up until the radio station I listen to became a "We'll take the tenth caller" station. Now it's almost completely a random operation. Speed dialing doesn't really matter, since it's the order in which the switchboard fills. If you can burble out your name and email address when they answer your call, you win. Knowing the name of the Ben and Jerry's ice cream dedicated to Barenaked Ladies does me absolutely no good in this milieu. "If I Had A Million Flavours" in case anyone asks. Because they don't anymore, you know. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Over Again

In his song "Hard Day On The Planet1," Loudon Wainwright III made the following suggestion about the end of the world as we know it:
You know, maybe that would be fine: we would be off the hook
We resolved all our problems, never mind what it took
And it all would be over, finito, the end
Until the survivors started up all over again

If you've been waiting for the end, maybe we won't have to hang around much longer. A Christian researcher named David Meade predicted that the Rapture would take place thirty-three days after the solar eclipse. I'll save you all the calendar math: that's this Saturday. 
I know. That gives you precious little time to get in all those bucket list items that you have been putting off and binge watching Game of Thrones instead, but that's how this deal works. This is the end, beautiful friend. B-dee b-dee b-dee, that's all folks. And so on. Mister Meade spent a lot of time and effort figuring this out, so the best we can do is get our accounts in order so when the roll is called up yonder, we'll be ready. Of course, if you were meaning to get the lawn mowed one last time, maybe the Good Lord will give you a miss on that one. Called on account of Apocalypse. 
And if Planet X, or Nibiru to the insiders, comes winging past in the next couple of days causing volcanic eruptions and tsunamis and the like, life as we know it will cease to be. That's what the numbers tell us. Or Meade, anyway. He's got it all figured out.
The rest of us, the ones who aren't sucked up into that bright light and whisked away to Paradise, are the ones who are going to be left behind to start all over again. But what a start it could be: A great portion of those nuisances will be sheared off the top in whatever cataclysm overtakes them. Survivors get to push that great big reset button and pick universal health care or dessert before salad or Netflix for everyone without a monthly fee.
And if it doesn't go down like Mister Meade suggests, then we're all going to have to get up again on Monday morning and face the first day of the rest of our lives. How depressing is that? 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sorry If I Woke You

My apologies to those of you who may have been trying, this past Sunday morning, to get a little extra sleep. That was my squawk of outrage that woke you up from a few extra winks. The good news would be that since I'm out here on the left coast, those of you on the right were probably brunching or checking for hurricanes. Still, it's been a tough couple of weeks and we all need our rest.
What was I squawking about? Nothing new, really. Our "President's" Twitter feed. This  time it was an animated GIF (graphic interchange format) depicting said "President" taking a swing on the golf course that ends up hitting Hillary Clinton boarding a plane. This was a funny little Internet meme generated by "Mike on Twitter" whose handle is "Fuctupmind." Almost certainly the defense for this kind of jocularity will be that A) he was just repeating a funny he happened to run across and B) Twitter accounts are covered by free speech.
Both of these conditions may be true, and I won't bother to argue them. What bothered me so much on that quiet Sunday morning is that there is no such thing as presidential anymore. What bothered me was this was a guy sharing a funny little joke at the expense of the woman he beat in an election. What sort of human being won't turn the page after ten months? How  precisely does this  help Make America Great Again? I am not a Constitutional Scholar, that distinction goes to our last president, but I do think there is something in there about serving and protecting all of the citizens of the United States. I can imagine there were some quiet moments when Barack Obama and Joe Biden were sitting around the Oval Office that they shared a derisive laugh or two at the expense of John McCain and Sarah Palin. The day after the 1948 election, Harry Truman held up a newspaper that incorrectly identified Thomas Dewey as the winner to gales of derisive laughter.
Ten months later, Harry was busy dealing with Russia and its nuclear weapons and the invasion of South Korea by the North. There wasn't a lot of time to sit around and yuk it up. Harry played a little piano, but he wasn't much of a golfer. He was just President. Of the whole United States.
And he didn't have a Twitter account.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lapsed Catholic

There was a time, many moons ago, when my father-in-law thought it might be a good thing for my son to attend Saint Jarlath School, just up the street from us. The consideration my wife and I gave to this choice started and ended with the "up the street" part of that equation. For my father-in-law, it was the Saint that appealed to him. Maybe it was the lapsed part of the lapsed Catholic in him that hoped to get his grandson into school, and maybe a spot in heaven as well.
It was a blessedly short debate, and our son ended up walking up the hill to an Oakland Public School. After being promoted at the end of his  fifth grade year, he moved on to the middle school a few blocks away from his elementary school, and then off to high school across town. And every day he walked, rode his bike, and eventually drove his car past Saint Jarlath. There was never a lot of thought given to what might have been. He was the son of an Oakland Public School teacher, and so it was only natural that he walk past the Catholic School on his way to where he belonged.
Now Saint Jarlath is closed. The school, not the church that holds down the corner, but the classrooms that sit in its shadow. Over the summer, Bishop Barber sent word that declining enrollment and increasing costs were the reasons for closing their doors. Those factors are the same ones that have been responsible for any number of public school closures across Oakland and across the country.
The math for public schools is pretty simple: more students equals more money. When parents start sending their kids to charter schools, public schools lose funding. When parents take their kids out of private schools like Saint Jarlath, where do they go?
One option could be a charter school. Like the one that opened this fall on the site of Saint Jarlath. Lodesar, a "community public school" from the Lighthouse Family of schools, with a lot of words on their website to describe how very different they are from every other elementary school in Oakland, in California, on planet Earth. What is really different is the money. While the church runs its school from their coffers, and Oakland schools run on the money offered up by the state and federal government. Lodestar will get some of that good state and federal money, as well as supplemental funds from individuals and foundations. Those individuals  and foundations are encouraged to support those "underserved" students in Oakland.
And where do you suppose those underserved students came from? Most of us with a pubic school education can figure out that one.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Did You Miss Him?

He's back.
After that vaguely compassionate flurry of side trips to regions affected by disaster, our "President" has returned to form. What does that mean? He's back to fear mongering and name calling. The first indication was his reaction to Hillary Clinton's book, What Happened. (Spoiler Alert: She lost). What we were all missing there for a couple weeks was the twittering of that rare orange bird. He's back. Our "President" is back to name-calling and reminding us all of the sad and inevitable reality of his election, now some ten months in the rearview mirror. 
"Crooked Hillary?" Maybe shining a light a little further into the recesses of his own cabinet might generate more interesting news. As Tina Fey shouted out a few weeks ago on her Weekend Update appearance, "Who drove the car into the crowd? Hillary's emails?!" On any given day, our "President" can still be found out in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue handing out Xerox copies of the 2016 Electoral College map. 
Which doesn't mean he doesn't keep up with current events. Events that he tends to stir up himself by making his proclamations from his early morning perch while watching Fox & Friends. Connecting hurricane damage with the necessity of tax cuts. The rules of passing legislation in Congress. And let's not forget using tragedy to support his own scientifically implausible narrow-minded views: "The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!" Or, "Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner.The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!" And of course, "Another attack in London by a loser terrorist.These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!"
Maybe someone could explain to our "President" that "proactive" and "paranoid" are not synonyms. Not that I am volunteering for that job. From where I am sitting, a continent away, it hurts my brain to listen to this angry blister of a man shouting fear and anger from our nation's highest office while the carnage is still being cleaned up in our ally's subway station. 
Brainless. Heartless. Not exactly a winning combination. 
He's back. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Do you know what phrase I will never be comfortable with? "School shootings."
There has not been a single time when I have heard or read those words without feeling a pain in the pit of my stomach. My next move is almost always to click or wait to hear a number. The number of fatalities. There is no "good number," but there are worse. The number of injured is usually limited to those who were wounded or physically injured. There is no mention of the total devastation heaped upon a community after such an event. How many lives will be damaged, ruined, forever changed by the act of a "lone gunman?"
But are they really acting alone? The young man who opened fire at Freeman High School was, according to reports, obsessed with other school shootings. Oops. There goes that pain again. It's not the pain that residents in Rockford, Washington will be feeling for the next few weeks, months, years. It's that pain that comes from the seemingly relentless string of young men and women who come to school with the expressed intent of doing harm. It's the pain of all those souls trying to imagine how this phrase will now have to applied to their community in perpetuity. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Springfield. Blacksburg. And the list seems to grow by the day. The week. The month. The year.
My wife reminds me that the names of these shooters should remain unknown. Any sort of notoriety brings them the potential satisfaction of a job well done. Mission accomplished. The safest place in the world is no longer just that. Without reason. Without purpose. Another hallway becomes a crime scene.
It makes me sick. It makes me tired. It makes me wish for a solution that seems to have been left behind decades ago. When the metal detectors showed up. When the talk of arming teachers began. When we didn't have that extra word to put in front of "school shooting" that made it even worse.
You'll forgive me.
My stomach hurts.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ask A Doctor

“Boom! Boom! Just like that. The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now ― with somebody ― and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.”
This how Doctor Hunter S. Thompson described the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The founder of Gonzo and one time candidate for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado wrote down his thoughts and concerns in an essay published on, of all places. How did this polemic show up on an entertainment/sports network's website? As the Doctor once said himself, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." 
Hunter died in 2005. He never got to fully appreciate just how weird things would become. We can now look back at what he wrote then to appreciate just how much he understood: "This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force."
Sixteen years burning down the road, we've got another goofy child-president who is still trying to manage a war that might not ever end. Because this is a war of fear and loathing, something Doctor Thompson wrote about most of his life. Trying to find the bad guys turned out to be pretty difficult because, at times, they were us. The merciless fanatics on both sides continue to wage this war as if there could be a winner. Maybe it hasn't been long enough yet, but here's something else Hunter wanted us to remember: "Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why."

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Crux Of The Matter

So many voices these days. So little time.
But now maybe it's time to take some time.
Listen to the children.
Listen to the wind.
Listen to the Pope.
Man is stupid,” he said, referencing a passage in the Old Testament, according to the The New York Times and The Associated Press. “When you don’t want to see, you don’t see.” 
He may have been quoting the Bible, but it sounds a lot like the Rock Man to me: "You see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear, dig?"
And that's fine, if the intersection of what I believe in Catholic dogma happens to intersect in The Point, I can live with that. Like the way I can live with Pope Francis. I was just lauding the thoughtful words of Miss Texas, so why should I be shy about my fondness for the pontiff? Like when he and our "President" got together last and Pope Francis handed our Pointless Man his one hundred eighty-four page encyclical "Laudato Si," calling on all Catholics to make saving the planet a top priority. If your Italian is a little shaky, that translates to "Be Praised." 
Yes. Let's praise those who see saving the earth upon which we spend most of our time a priority. Let's also sing for those who are willing to point out when the Emperor shows up in his birthday suit. Like the way Francis chose to call out our "President" on his threats against DACA. Dividing families, he said, isn't "pro-life." 
Well played, Francis.
And so we navigate through this scary time, brightened by the sounds we hear coming from what is not really the resistance as much as the reality check. And we take heart in the fact that while hurricane season continues, "President" Trump seems to have found a safe quiet place to hunker down until the storms pass, tweeting his encouragement and going out only when it's time to pass out hot dogs. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Say What?

The bright spot, it seems to me, is that people who you never would have expected are finding their voice. Majority, minority: it doesn't matter. There will be no more silence.
“I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious, that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should’ve made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.” These were not the words of a politician. These were the words of Miss Texas 2017.
Margana Wood did not go on to win the title of Miss America, but she won over a group of skeptics (myself included) when she chose to stand up and deliver a fifteen second response to white supremacists that our "President" never approached. If she had crept up to the question and suggested that there were "many sides" to this issue, it would not have seemed out of character or place. Beauty pageants and direct speech about the world's problems are not immediately associated. World peace and famine have been trotted out to display the limitations of Miss America as a forum. 
It would be rude and sexist of me to suggest that pageant contestants are not capable of speaking their minds and hearts. It would not be a surprise to read here and now that pageant contestants are suddenly much more ready and capable to discuss issues that matter than our "President." Ms. Wood's platform was one of inclusion: You Belong. In an interview with Out Smart, a Houston-based magazine for the LGBTQ community, she said, “It’s important for everyone to hear the phrase because they do ― everybody belongs.” 
And suddenly, I wished that I could vote for her not just for Miss America, but for Miss Belong. I wished that I could hear some of these inspiring words from someone in elected office. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we'll have that chance.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mars Attacks

A few years back, a colleague suggested to me that I might be suffering from NES - Night Eating Disorder. It was suggested that my fondness for consuming mass quantities of peanut M&Ms was part of the trouble I was having with sleep and maintaining an overall happy vision of life as it rolled out in front of me.
Turns out I was just trying to save the world.
This was back when our grocery list included peanut M&Ms as a staple, right up there with frozen pizza. When it was discovered that these candies could be purchased in pillowcase sized sacks called "pounders," I looked on this as a challenge. At the end of a hard day, I would sit in front of my computer and answer email, engage in a variety of online time sinks, and consume peanut M&Ms. And all the while I was saving the world.
As it turns out, you see, Mars Incorporated (the makers of peanut M&Ms and a great many other delicious candy treats (was busy building a massive war chest that would eventually be used to fund the fight against climate change. My contributions helped generate part of the one billion dollars the candy folks are contributing to sustainability.
One billion dollars. That's a figure that might give Doctor Evil pause. Who would have guessed that Skittles and Snickers and yes, peanut M&Ms would be the thing that brought us to this momentous occasion? My wife wasn't buying it. Not at first.
"You mean they're going to find some way to weasel out of their responsibility for global warming and throw blame on someone else."
No. They are interested in supporting sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. Which makes a lot of sense, since the end of the world would be catastrophic for candy sales, eventually. Initially it might be great, since a lot of people would be happy to cast their dietary regimen aside for one last binge before we turn into a burned out husk of a planet, but then the gravy train pretty much stops. And that would be a bummer for everyone involved in this particular food chain.
Which leaves me at a bit of a crossroads. I want to be around forever, but I also enjoy my peanut M&Ms. I would probably live longer and be able to see more of the future supplied by this initiative if I ate more kale and avoided gorging myself on chocolate covered peanuts encased in a colorful candy shell. But I also want to save the world.
What's a guy to do?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Friends came to visit over the weekend. They came down from Oregon. In preparation for landing in San Francisco, it was decided that another layer would be necessary. A sweatshirt was purchased at the airport in Portland. An Oregon State sweatshirt. With a ferocious orange beaver logo. That was for mom. Her son declined because there wasn't a University of Oregon sweatshirt available. One with a green and yellow ferocious duck logo.
Ferocious ducks.
Ferocious beavers.
I understand these are beloved mascots. They are emblematic of life in the northwest. I continue to maintain that the state of Oregon must have had last choice when it came time to pick college mascots. I make this assertion as someone who grew up in the presence of one of the all-time great college mascots: A buffalo. The University of Colorado, by my reckoning, must have been up near the top of the list when it came time to choose what beast, mythical or otherwise, would lead the team out on to the field on Saturday afternoons.
This year, Colorado celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of using a live, snorting, galloping bison to fire up the home crowd. The first buffalo used was named "Ralph" because of the sound she made when she ran. That became "Ralphie" as an acknowledgement of her softer side. Females have been used for the past five decades because they are just a bit smaller and easier to handle when running at full tilt down a sideline. And still, Ralphie's handlers have often been Ralphie's draggers as they make that big turn to head back down the field to her trailer.
Brian Bosworth, The Boz, Oklahoma Sooner star linebacker made the mistake of thinking he might stare down Ralphie when he came to town back in his heyday. The Boz made a good choice when he got out of the way, sooner rather than later. There is no forgiveness in a buffalo stampede. Boz or Bozo.
Over the years, there have been a number of different Ralphies. They make their appearances, they make their runs. They get back in the trailer and come back again the next week. For fifty years. Ferocious. Fer real.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Reset Button

Out here in earthquake land, we're having plenty of nervous moments as we watch the "forecasted" disasters of hurricanes demolishing the Atlantic side of the country. Not because we are actively concerned about landfall in our corner of the planet, but because we worry about falling land. It reminds me of the sliding down a fifty foot razor blade versus eating a bucket of boogers quandary. Not a choice I hope or expect to be making, but hurricanes and earthquakes exist in some quadrants as a double-dip opportunity. You could have your boogers and a slice of a banister slide in some regions.
In a word, "Nothankyou."
Instead, we await the eventual crush of reality out here on the left edge of the country with the worst possible game of  Wait and See imaginable. And what do we do in the meantime? We send our first responders to trouble spots and donate money and plasma while the forests around us burst into flame. And we wish for a tiny portion of that rain to land here on the scorched earth that is the West.
And we wait.
Science has been telling us for decades that The Big One will be here any day. When we read the news of tremors in Japan, in Mexico, in Oklahoma, we wonder ever-so-briefly if living in a place where no one can afford insurance that would allow us to keep living here if some or all of California slid off into the ocean. Like the lack of flood insurance in Texas, the cost of living is prohibitive when the cost of staying alive is ridiculous.
Everyday disasters like exploding water heaters or home invasions might be enough to get some of us to give up hearth and home to retreat to a calmer, safer locale.
And where might that  be?
There is a scene in the film version of The World According to Garp in which Garp and his new wife are out shopping for a home. While they are standing there, looking up from the front yard, a small plane crashes into the upper floor. Garp's reaction to this catastrophe? "We'll  take it." The house is pre-disastered. The chances of something like that happening again are a billion to one. A pretty clever notion, but if you know the story of T.S. Garp, you know that disaster doesn't always conform to statistical prognostication. Bad news has a way of finding its way into the picture. So what do we do?

Sunday, September 10, 2017


"Confused? You won't be after this week's episode of Soap." Those were the reassuring words of the narrator introducing another chapter in the saga of two sisters and their zany families. This was a parody of soap operas, and took every trope and device to extremes, often with hilarious results. Eventually, the parody succumbed to a series of "very special episodes," and we were left with a soap opera that was only pretending to make fun of soap operas. Because it really was a soap opera. Confused?
I am.
Not by the TV series that debuted on ABC forty years ago. That's pretty much a part of history now, along with Billy Crystal. What does confuse me now is the herky-jerky reaction/response that our government seems to be lurching along with over the past several months. It starts with some whacko proclamation issued on Twitter, followed by a wave of angry replies that seem to have the most immediate effect of growing Twitter's stock. When government employees arrive to work following such issuance, then the second stage begins. This is where senators, generals, cabinet members and the like start furiously scratching their collective heads: Transgender ban? Eliminate DACA? Fire and fury? The third stage is the one where talking heads descend upon the twenty-four hour news cycle in a vain attempt to explain what may have been going on when the tweet came tumbling down to the rest of us.
Then there is the reckoning. Everyone but the guy who spouts off his inane "thoughts" are left to discuss and decipher what those "thoughts" might mean to the rest of us. Of course the US military won't ban an entire class of people from serving in the volunteer armed forces. Of course we won't drive our trucks down to the border with a bunch of old pallets and carpet remnants to start building a wall. Even if Mexico pays for our time and trouble.
Still, each time Orange Whip gets a burr under his saddle or sees something on Fox and Friends that incites him to action, we as a nation flinch. We forget that we have a government comprised of three branches, with checks and balances, and a number of clever and well-read individuals doing their job in a way that seems more or less familiar to those of us who remember the days BT: Before Twitter. Before Trump. Yes, we're testing our constitution daily. I am happy to think that it's more than worth the paper upon which it is written. More than a share of Twitter, even.

Saturday, September 09, 2017


Sometimes it's hard to remember that there is more than one ignorant voice crying out in the wilderness. One in particular, who lives in a dump and has access to Twitter, is hard to ignore. That makes some sense since he is a high profile ignorant voice and we can't really say that he is crying out in the wilderness since he doesn't believe in such things. Still there are plenty of other loud whines and cries coming from the not-so-clever.
No surprise on this list, I submit Rush Limbaugh. If you haven't heard from Rush lately, it could be that his voice has become less relevant in this age of ridiculous twaddle that issues forth on a daily basis. This could be the reason that Rush decided to up his game. On his Labor Day broadcast, he delivered a customarily freewheeling monologue in which he seemed to suggest that hurricanes were a liberal conspiracy intended to convince the public that climate change is real. The Palm Beach, Florida resident said, “The reason that I am leery of forecasts this far out, folks, is because I see how the system works. Hurricane Harvey and the TV pictures that accompany that go a long way to helping further and create the panic.” This was the way Rush chose to promote his vision of weather and the conspiracies that he feels are being lobbed at our "President."
Rush insisted that, “in the official meteorological circles, you have an abundance of people who believe that man-made climate change is real. And they believe that Al Gore is correct when he has written—and he couldn’t be more wrong—that climate change is creating more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.” And, “there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.”
Now we come to the rationale portion: How to unravel the "logic" behind this paranoia. What a relief it would be if we could find some way to make our planet more habitable rather than less. What sort of machinations and machinery would be involved in creating more and better hurricanes if for some bizarro reason. Al Gore, inventor of the Internet, now controls weather? Well that would be a headline, wouldn't it? 
And maybe Rush is just tired of not being the biggest idjit in the wilderness. 

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Boys Of Summer

Some of the normal rhythms of summer have caused me to become confused. The part where I looked up as my wife and I rolled our cart through Target and she asked me if I thought that our son needed any school supplies. Glue. Pencils. Erasers. Sharpener. Binder. Maybe a cigar box into which he could put the entire collection for storage. I tried to shrug this off, but my wife insisted that she text our son, who is in his third year of college to see if there was anything on his list. When we received no response, we let it go, assuming either he already had enough of these necessities to get him through the semester or perhaps he was at work and couldn't be bothered.
Or some combination of the two.
The other mild awakening came when I realized that there was only a month left in the regular season of professional baseball. This year has been a rather dull and pitiful ride for both bay area teams. The highlight for me was heading out to the park for a Father's Day game against the Yankees with my son. The Oakland Athletics showed up that day, and completed a four game sweep of those Bronx Bombers. At that time, there were still a couple of players whose names we recognized wearing the green and gold. By the end of the week, they were gone too. That makes this officially a "rebuilding year," which is what sports organizations like to call losing two thirds of their games and selling off any of their high-priced talent.
A month and a half later, my son came back to town and we returned to that stadium to watch Green Day play and all-star caliber set, complete with post-game fireworks. We bought our T-shirts. We paid for parking. Now the grounds crew is getting ready to turn the diamond into some sort of football-baseball hybrid, at least for the time it takes until the Oakland Raiders move to Las Vegas. This will be an odd two-year separation process.
Not unlike the one we're experiencing with our son's school supplies.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

How Does One Make America Great?

Last weekend, Donald Trump went down to Texas and handed out hot dogs. It was part of his plan to Make America Great Again. This is an important distinction, since it tends to take at least a couple tries for "President" Trump to get anything close to right. On his first visit to the flood-ravaged Lone Star State, the Orange Whip managed to miss meeting with any of the victims of the disaster, preferring instead to laud the size of the crowd that came out to see him. 
It is all about him.
The size of the crowd. 
The tremendous amount of work he's getting done.
The great people he has working for him.
Or had.
Then there's the story of Alonso Guillen. Alonso drowned when a boat he and his friends were using to rescue folks in Houston last Wednesday. His father, Jesus Guillen, said he had asked his son not to go out during the storm but his son insisted on helping people.  The thirty-one year old disc jockey died saving other Americans in midst of a disaster. He died a hero.
Which is fortunate, since had he survived, he might have been deported. See, when the "President" wasn't in Texas pretending to help out, he was also busy preparing to terminate DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This was the program that allowed Alonso to be in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of other who entered the country as minors. Now there is some question as to whether Alonso's mother will be allowed into our country from Mexico to bury her son. 
So, what makes America great? Siding with Nazis and handing out hot dogs, or saving lives while floodwaters rage all around?
This is a "President" who took the time to take shots at the media while he was supposed to be praising the Coast Guard, who saved thousands of lives, “by going into winds that this media would not go into… unless it’s a really good story in which case they will.” And to that we can only respond with the name Dave Griffin, a CNN reporter who along with his crew saved a truck driver who had driven his rig into twelve feet of water. Fake news? That's what a photo op "loading a truck" is. Dreamers? That's what Alonso Guillen was. Alonso is what makes America great. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Heat Is On

We were asked to spare the air last week. For a few days. Troubling for those who had planned road trips over the Labor Day weekend. Personally, the notion of sitting in a metal box for any period of time when the temperature hovered just above one hundred degrees was not one that I clung to with any tenacity. Poor air. Hot, hazy air. Can't we give it a break?
As for the rest of us, wandering through the blistering temperatures in search of a cool place to lay down for a moment turned into a rather fruitless endeavor. When I came home on Friday evening, I put myself on the floor underneath our ceiling fan and waited for the sun to go down. Not that this gave any actual relief from the heat. There was the illusion of the dark air being somehow qualitatively different than the white hot air that had been hanging over us all day long. There was no escape. I was resigned to being at whatever temperature the gods had declared was acceptable for the punishment I had so obviously earned.
Meanwhile, in Texas, flood waters receded far enough in Texas to accommodate Melania Trump's stilettos. Our "President" kept his "hair" in place with an attractive cap, which just happened to be for sale on his website. I was relieved that the Northern California heat wave did not necessitate a presidential visit and/or an opportunity for him to raise any of the pledged million dollars he had promised to relief efforts.
Elsewhere in California, wildfires raged, contributing to the periodically stunning sunsets and outbreaks of respiratory difficulty. Things were on fire pretty much everywhere that wasn't underwater. Even in Texas where suddenly there wasn't enough water to put out fires once there was no more flood.
And somewhere, under that red baseball cap, was a brain that refuses to acknowledge the science of global warming. Fire and flood, with famine coming in just behind almost as an afterthought as shelves empty and crops burn and emergency rations disappear. What gets the attention from our "President?" Tough guy threats to North Korea. What good is rebuilding Houston if you're just going to get us into a nuclear war where it will most certainly be a primary target?
And bring about a Nuclear Winter? There's the relief we were looking for.
Didn't even have to buy the hat.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Anti Maim

Maybe it's good news that it wasn't Sean Hannity who was spouting off about how "stupid" Heather Hayer was for going out and marching with antifa. It was Sean's radio show, but it was his guest host Jonathan Gilliam who did the spouting. The former Navy Seal and current media "voice of truth" got his camouflage knickers in a twist because "This girl goes out and marches with antifa and gets killed by one of these neo-Nazi people when she got hit by a car, but she was still marching with antifa." She was asking for it, right Mister Seal? 
Over the past week, I have been confounded by this new label: Antifa. Initially, I figured there must be something more sinister lurking within this moniker. Was it some leftover from the Sandinista? Could its origins be traced back to some dark past with foreign agitators plotting the violent overthrow of everything everywhere. Anarchists. 
Well, it turns out that "antifa" is short for anti-fascists. My reading of Captain America comics suggests that he was antifa. As was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And Winston Churchill. And noted archaeologist Indiana Jones. I wonder just exactly why a former Navy Seal wouldn't want to associate himself with these folks. Maybe it's because they showed up at a protest in Berkeley earlier this year, causing one hundred thousand dollars in damage as they prevented former Breitbart darling Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus. And they wear masks. And they break things. Antifa is bad. Remember who else fought the fascists? Communists. That's what they are, you know. Not oppressed Americans fearing for their own lives and country. The antifa are the enemy.
Wait a second. Isn't the enemy of my enemy my friend? I guess it depends a little on which side you start that particular equation. 
Opponents of antifa like to point out the associations to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Black Lives Matter. Obvious threats to our way of life. Or obvious threatened groups, especially in the face of a rising white supremacist movement. Are they anti-free speech? Are they anti-hate speech? The hardest thing about being against something is being able to describe what things you stand for. Heather Hayer didn't bother to make all these distinctions. She wanted the Nazis out of her town. She wasn't asking to be hit by a car. She was asking for the Nazis to go back to the losers column of world history. 

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Momentary Pause

Work, work, work. On this Labor Day, that 's what I will be thinking about. Not the intrinsic irony of taking a day off and calling it Labor Day, but the obvious need for a standing eight count in the midst of a life spent working.
Most of us do, you know.
We get up and go somewhere, whether it's down the hall or across town, and find the things that make it possible for us to do our daily routine. The routine for which we hopefully will receive some sort of meaningful remuneration. Money is great. Let's get that clear up front. That is the reason most of us continue to show up. Over and over. Until someone tells us to stop. Or you come by that decision somewhere in yourself.
There have been times, for moments at a time, when I have imagined that potential freeing thought: Drop out. Find your way without having to punch the clock. Don't be a slave to the machine. Divest yourself of your unnecessary and burdensome possessions and take it on the lam.
But then what would you do for work?
This is where that dream falls apart for me, because I have so desperately clung to the Protestant Work Ethic. When I read about Powerball winners who suddenly find themselves obnoxiously wealthy and decide to go back to their job the next day, I understand. It's part of life's rhythm for me. And a few million others.
From the time when I started mowing lawns to raise money to buy a water bed to the job I had reboxing educational filmstrips for gas money, I have been part of the workforce since the 1970's. I haven't won the lottery, so it's off to work with the understanding that it really isn't that big check that I'm working for. It is the chance to make a difference. Getting those blades of grass back to something that appears even. Putting those filmstrip canisters into fresh new boxes so they can find themselves back in the mail to another school, another classroom. Showing up before the sun at a school to prepare for the day as a teacher of students who have no idea what a filmstrip is. I know this is better work than unloading trucks. I know this is better than working fast food. I know this is good work.
And I'm heading back there tomorrow.  

Sunday, September 03, 2017


And just how would we go about making America great again? An answer might come from Texas, where Americans are doing amazing things and doing things that Americans have done for hundreds of years: coming together in times of crisis. A television reporter saw a man stuck inside the cab of a truck and called in help. A preacher up to his waist in muddy water checked marooned cars for victims trapped inside. Neighbors grabbed neighbors and heaved them to safety. These were the bright lights amidst the dark skies. Human chains were formed to rescue victims stuck in water that seemed to be everywhere. Rescue workers and first responders from across the country raced south to lend a hand. 
And even though there was plenty to fear, these folks went into a disaster area and made us remember what is best about our country. This wasn't the first time we have seen greatness in America. It will not be the last. It is Mister and Missus John Q. Public and their like-minded friends and family that make the difference. The folks who are willing to get their hands dirty and their feet, along with everything else, wet. 
Which brings us to the Cheeto masquerading as "President." Showing up in Corpus Christi, he was impressed as he always is, by the size of the crowd. "What a turnout!" he crowed. Yes. I am sure that this will go down as the most-watched rally from the back of a firehouse in history. Meanwhile, up the road in Houston, Pastor Joel Osteen has agreed to open the doors of his megachurch as a sanctuary for those displaced by the floods. The floods, ironically, of biblical proportions. Pastor Joel had initially put off the suggestion that his sixteen thousand seat goditorium be used as a way station in the storm, claiming that he was "never asked" to do any such thing. Any such Christian thing. By Tuesday he was open for business, and if the business was housing the victims of an Act of God, business was very good.
Then there was Ted Cruz. Ted who pulled a one-eighty when it came to disaster relief bills. The senator from the Lone Star State who once insisted that the package that he voted against for Hurricane Sandy because it was "two thirds pork." Senator Ted has no such concerns about aid that will be voted on for his state. That may be because Senator Ted is two thirds pork himself. Nobody likes Ted. 
And isn't that what Makes America Great? 

Saturday, September 02, 2017


I read the news today. Oh boy.
Twitter rampages and more casualties. Killer vans. Killer storms. Killer bees would be a nice bit of quiet nostalgia by comparison. As the death toll from Hurricane Harvey mounts, I wonder how long it will be until someone starts to compare terrorist attacks to the weather.
Oops. I just did it.
Okay, so now that particular die is cast, why don't we explore this bit of absurdity? These are absurd times in which we live, so we might as well prepare for it. Currently, the weapon of choice for bad guys is a truck or van, driven into a crowd. Since vans and crowds can be found on most continents and are part of the everyday fabric of our life, it's hard to imagine what could be done to limit the catastrophe. Driving into a crowd doesn't even require a license, just the ability to reach the accelerator. It fits neatly into that terror category as it takes everyday objects and turns them into something awful. Shoes. Box knives. Airplanes. Underwear. Add to that list Ford Econoline.
Meanwhile, down in Texas, where things are always bigger, the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Harvey proves once again that Mother Nature takes a back seat to no one when it comes to wreckage. The difference here is that storms can be forecast. They can be tracked by radar. While many experts claim that there was no way to predict that such a tempest would or could find its way onshore and generate the loss of life and property that has occurred, others might argue. Scientists have been talking about rising ocean levels and storm surges for years now. All that water that is dropping into our oceans that used to be part of ice shelves at our poles has to go somewhere. Houston? New Orleans? New York City?
What I' am about to suggest will be a point of discussion for many, myself included. If it is easier to keep track of our weather than the number of private and corporate vehicles available for terrorist acts, could we put a little more effort into sparing the lives of those we can? In the meantime, why not give to the Red Cross? We are past the prevention part, but we can give some relief. There's nothing absurd about that.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Good Guy

My older brother is going away for the weekend. I won't tell you where he's going, because that might be cause to call him up and disturb him. He has earned this, and not just because it's the weekend that backs up on his birthday.
I could relate more stories about the way that my big brother helped shape the path on which I find myself currently. So much pop culture was ushered my way through his benign goodness. I have mentioned the path the Beatles took through the ceiling of his room to the floor in mine. I have talked about the trips to high speed turbulent roller coaster type rides and the lessons learned through his eyes. I have talked to anyone who will listen about the inside movie stories and bits that we tend to share with breathless, "yeah, but didja know..." intros.
Oh. And I wrecked the truck he gave me and lived to tell the tale.
And he doesn't always agree with me, but he will fiercely defend my right to say whatever it is that got into my head on any particular day.
That would be enough. But he also happens to be one of the most responsible human beings you or I will ever meet. When our father passed away, he's the one who wrestled that mess of loose threads masquerading as an estate to the ground and managed it for all of us. With the wisdom of Solomon, I should add. He is currently riding herd on my mother's accounts as her life path takes more and more interesting sharp turns. He mows her lawn. He takes her shopping. He keeps her safe and warm.
My younger brother and I sit out here on the edge of the continent doing nothing more than marvel at his dedication and energy. We help out in any way that we can, which is often limited to nodding in assent as big brother has already found a solution and moved on to the next challenge.
For all of this, the roller coasters, the Beatles, the truck, and managing the phases of our parents' autumn years, I wish that I could send him off on a cruise to Scotland or maybe somewhere warm. I wish that he could take some time for himself and savor those moments with his own little family that he has earned.
And I know that he does that too. All on his own. Because he's a good guy. Happy Birthday, big brother. Bon Voyage.