Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Who Are You Supposed To Be?

Somewhere in early October, kids start asking me, "Mister Caven, what are you going to be for Halloween?" Not a bad line of questioning since it puts off the what I want for Christmas discussion for a month or so. I have a pair of standard answers. One of them goes something like this: "Oh, I don't know. Something really scary. Like a teacher." That last bit is delivered with as much menace as I can manage, depending on the time of day. The second is much more off the cuff. When someone asks me what I am going to be for Halloween, I tell them "late."
Eventually I stumble home and start to consider my options. Twenty-two years of hanging around a playground on Halloween will give one a bit of a closet when it comes to potential costumes. All of which tosses me back into that bin of "you are what you wear." There was a time when I thought that I could be the cool teacher who wore Hawaiian shirts to school every day. And my Converse hi-tops. That notion was abruptly torn asunder by a principal who insisted on a "professional manner of dress" from her staff. That's when the shirts with collars and khakis started to fill my wardrobe, and became my "school clothes." The Hawaiian shirts made an annual appearance during Spirit Week on Wacky Tacky Day.
Later, when I got a gig teaching PE once a week, I was able to trot out a T shirt from my vast collection, giving special consideration to keeping the slogan and images kid-friendly. This year that role has been expanded to three days a week, so my polo shirt gets a rest and I can be more of what I truly am through my selection of concert, sports, and pop culture outerwear, careful not to slip and sneak that Texas Chainsaw Massacre shirt in there accidentally.
Which leaves me with the conundrum of how to dress on Halloween. I thought about the idea I have circled around several times over the years: Growing a goatee and go as "The Evil Mister Caven." In 2018, that Star Trek reference may be a stretch too far for most of the students and their twenty-something teachers. Then there's this: Because of the nature of the day, we wait until after lunch to put on our costumes for the parade we are going to make around the block. This year, that will take place around one o'clock and conclude somewhere around one thirty. It's a minimum day, so kids will be sent home somewhat abruptly after that. This means all of this speculation and consideration will be for the benefit of half an hour.
And the photos that will be posted on the bulletin boards and uploaded to our web site and Facebook. So I guess it had better be good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hit Back

And now I find myself wondering: What is worse, a mass shooting with a clear motive or one without any at all? I understand this question is on a par with asking whether you want onion rings or fries with your plate of ground glass, and I am more and more certain that whenever we answer fear and anger with more fear and anger, we get (wait for it) more fear and anger. 
In a week of pipe bombs and supermarket shootings, the new normal has fully emerged. And just before the mid-term elections. Our "President" reckoned this: “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!” Of special note for me was the quotation marks around "Bomb," as if there was something figurative about them. Nope. These were the real deal. The exploding kind that needed to be disposed of by "bomb experts." 
And then someone got it into their head to shoot up a synagogue. After the "President" suggested posting armed guards at this place of worship, he went on to bluster, "I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue. Anybody who does a thing like this to innocent people in temple, in church... they should really suffer the ultimate price." That would be killing someone for killing someone. An eye for an eye. Perhaps this was in keeping with his grasp of the Old Testament and Talmudic Law
Or maybe he was, once again, using the opportunity to stoke the fires of hate when he should have been promoting peace. This came at the end of week that saw our "President" sending the Army to our southern border to fight off a stream of refugees from Honduras. This is the administration whose policy is "Halt or I'll shoot" without the halt. 
Meanwhile, back on the elementary school playground, I hear daily from boys and girls who insist that their parents have taught them that if someone hits them, they should hit back. When I ask them what happens if they run into a kid whose parents have told them the same thing, they tend to shrug. That isn't their concern. These are fourth graders who are still in the process of learning empathy. I have hope for them. 
I am not sure what we can do with the adults.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Scary Movie

Keeping in the spirit of things Halloweenie, I would like to mention here that there is a remake of Pet Sematary coming to a theater near you in 2019. This will be thirty years since the original film, adapted from the novel by Stephen King, made its way to the screen. I confess that at the time the first one came out, I was creeped out, but not to the point where it gave me nightmares or caused me to change my opinion of cats.
I do remember my older brother's reaction. He and I had gone to enough scary movies together to appreciate all the things that go into making a horror show. On the way out, he was looking down, and I asked the obvious question: "Didn't you like it?"
To which he replied, "They had to mess with the kid." Having read the book before seeing the movie, I knew that the little boy and the cat were going to have to go to a bad place to make the story work. But my brother was a new father, and the idea that anyone would "mess with the kid" struck a dark chord with him.
Now I am a father too, and I understand exactly what he meant. Once I became a dad, I found it difficult to watch Steven Spielberg movies, since he more than just about any director I can name, tends to move his screen stories along by putting children in danger. Which is a device that works, certainly, but also cuts deepest for those of us who can imagine what it would be like to have a shark bite their little boy in half. Or why a grieving father would carry his dead son to a Native American burial ground to see if the "magic" that brought the family cat back might do the same for his little boy.
Even if it meant that little boy wasn't quite "right."
Looking back on Halloweens past, I remember the grief of losing a friend to a car crash. I remember the way it felt like I was living in a movie, or a pop song. At the time I could not comprehend what it would have been like to lose a son. So full of promise. Such a bright light. Such a tremendously funny person. Another generation. Gone.
And since then, I have come to the belief that no one should have to bury their own child. I have a twenty-one year old son, and I know his life has just begun. I cannot imagine what that loss would feel like. I don't want to.
Don't mess with the kid.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


Forty years ago, I sat in the Boulder High band room, transfixed. Lance, a junior, was recounting for two of us lowly sophomores a shot-by-shot retelling of Halloween. We sat, rapt, in the middle of the day as this gawky friend of ours gave us every spoiler, every grisly detail, and then proceeded to walk down to the piano and plunk out the infamous theme.
And yet, when we went to see the movie, we were even more terrified than we might have been without any preview. And when we walked out into the darkened streets behind the theater after our screening, we were certain that it would only be a matter of moments before the Bogeyman leaped out from the shadows and -
Now it's forty years later, and I have seen a lot of horror films since then. A lot. A few have had the same kind of creep factor that was inspired by John Carpenter's slasher classic, but not many. And yet I continue to seek out those experiences that take me to a place where I actually fear for my life. Like those insurance policies sold by producer William Castle for showings of his film Macabre that offered to pay off one thousand dollars for any viewer who died of fright. Or the night I came home from seeing The Blair Witch Project, and my dog kept going to the window and staring off into the darkness. Thanks, Maddie.
Even before that, I had made a study of horror movies. I continued this exploration through college, examining all the reasons we put ourselves through this. Why hop on the roller coaster in the first place? To survive, of course. Which is why you spend the entire time in line talking about all the near death experiences we have had and how likely it is that after a certain number of trips that car is ever more likely to jump the track.
We are after catharsis. Right up to the edge, peeking over the edge, and stopping. There's a wire keeping us from falling into the abyss. Which isn't really an abyss. It's a painted backdrop. And all of those monsters are infinitely easier to deal with than angry customers or politicians or telemarketers. Watching the bored detachment of the survivors in The Walking Dead as they dispatch yet another crop of zombies reminds me of the reason we watch horror movies. We watch them to remind ourselves that we are still alive. As awful as things may be, whether it is a plague of giant grasshoppers or a bloated Creamsicle becoming President of the United States, we can walk out of the theater. Into the light.
Until the inevitable sequel.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What Price Glory?

Who do I believe won the one and a half billion dollar Mega Millions Jackpot?
Doctor Evil.
Austin Powers' arch-enemy is precisely the kind of math genius that I would expect to be the recipient of all that money. Then the discussion about just how to take it all in can begin. Would you rather have the whole one and a half billion (nine zeros) over time, or take a single cash payout of eight hundred seventy-eight million dollars? As a point of scale, you could pay the fine owed by Michael Avenati's law firm eighty-seven times and still have eight million dollars to pay down some of his back taxes.
Or maybe you could buy a few F-22 Raptors. You would still have a little left over to buy some fuel and a pilot. Or buy yourself flying lessons. And a few dozen air sickness bags.
I have a friend with whom I have joked with, over the years, about the ability to buy the world a Coke. Since I have given up that brown elixir for health reasons, I might instead choose to teach the world to sing. At around twenty dollars for a half hour lesson, I don't think I could get everyone in, but maybe if they came in groups of three or four, we could get it done. This might affect that perfect harmony, but we could give it a shot.
All that money is, reportedly, a chore to handle. We have all heard stories about the burden of being a brand new gazillionaire. Suddenly everyone is suddenly your friend or relative, and every one of those has a hand out. In this case, you could toss a thousand dollars at a million people and still have half a billion dollars to waste on yourself.
Over time.
If you were silly enough to choose that cash option, your choices would be limited by six hundred million dollars or so. Fewer singing lessons. Fewer cans of Coke. Only a couple of Raptors.
Or maybe do some serious damage to that Dollar Menu at Taco Bell.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Infinite Combinations? Thank You, No

Milk's favorite cookie.
The reason I don't mind sitting for fifteen minutes in the canteen after I donate blood.
The number one selling cookie in the United States.
Why mess with it?
I ask this because of Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Mini Oreos. Football shaped Oreos. Double Stuf Oreos. Big Stuf Oreos. Mega Stuf Oreos. Golden Mega Stuf Oreos. And the list goes on. Triple Double Oreo. Triple Double Neapolitan Oreos. Triple Double Chocolate Mint Oreos. 
As you can see, we have begun to stray far afield from the traditional  creme filled chocolate cookie sandwich. Orange Ice Cream? Blueberry Ice Cream? This is not Baskin Robbins, this is Nabisco. Or Mondelez International, if you're keeping corporate score. Before that, they were one of the Philip Morris Companies, but since milk doesn't have a favorite cigarette, things got shuffled. 
It has only been in the past ten years or so that this need to generate permutations of a favorite. With the possible exception of the amount of "Stuf" inside, Oreos have been pretty much the same for more than one hundred years. 
Why are we suddenly so challenged by our snack food attention? 
I can remember when I went to work at Arby's, back in the mid-eighties. I was a happy and proud purveyor of America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir! I became proficient at making the basic menu of sandwiches: Junior, Regular and the Super. Each came on a bun regulated by its name and size, and the Beef 'n'Cheddar with it's onion bun and cheese goop required mild additional attention. For those who showed up at a roast beef restaurant craving something other than roast beef, we offered the Hamchy (microwaved ham and Swiss cheese) and the Turkey (a cold sandwich without a clever name). Somewhere in my third year of working in the brown polyester world of fast food, it became important to create more variety in the menu. That's when the Subs showed up. Not long after that, we brought in a fryer for boiling chicken planks in grease. Not long after that, I left that world for good. I could not abide by all of those non-beef items being sold under the guise of Arby's. 
I have a similar feeling as I stand in the cookie aisle and look at all those "Oreos." 
What hath we wrought?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Path

Okay, let me see if I follow the logic here:
Our "President" proposes that we cut off aid to countries in Central America because of a human caravan heading north toward our border with Mexico. "Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S." These three countries received approximately five hundred million dollars last year in aid, and since the "President" tweeted his threat, it wasn't clear just how much of that aid would be cut. 
If any.
Part of the problem stems from the way this "President" generates policy. One imagines early morning trips to the White House bathroom during commercial breaks on Fox & Friends. Or just after he has finished finger lickin' once he has devoured a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Ideas like withdrawing from a nuclear missile treaty with Russia ought not to be arrived at on a whim, but that seems to be standard operating procedure currently. 
Did he consider that even with half a billion dollars in aid that there are thousands fleeing those countries because their living conditions have become so desperate? Did he consider that the United States is the place from whence that half a billion dollars of aid came from, and if you were of a mind to flee the desperate living conditions in your country that the source of that half a billion dollars might be a great place to head?
Maybe if we tried physics, which suggests that an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. In this case, the outside force seems to be a mish-mosh of threats of military and law enforcement or legal action with a cry for Democrats to stop obstructing and start bending to the "President's" agenda which includes a wall being built and more severe penalties for those stupid enough to buy into that whole "bring me your tired, your poor" routine. You know that the Statue of Liberty was a gift, don't you? From the French. And we know how that turned out.
Don't we? 
Sorry. I seemed to have strayed a little from the topic: We were trying to follow the logic of the "President's" decision to cut off aid to three countries in Central America. It's not really a linear exercise. More of a fractal, really. 
I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


“If we don’t defend Western civilization, then we will become subjugated by the people who are the enemies of faith, the enemies of justice.” Not a member of the Klu Klux Klan. Not a Proud Boy. These were the words of a sitting United States Congressman. If you are unfamiliar with the life and words of Steve King, Representative from Iowa, this . is the gentleman who asserted, “We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” And there was this gem about immigration from a couple years back: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there that — they weigh one hundred thirty pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Or perhaps you're a fan of his comments about African American women experiencing the "tragedy of abortion: “They chose to have an abortion. I would give you even money that a vast majority of mothers who say they can’t afford an abortion have an iPhone, which costs more.”
These statements weren't recorded  surreptitiously. They weren't taken out  of  context. They are representative of the work Congressman Steve has been doing for  the people of Iowa's fourth district since 2003. Which may be why his interview  with the Austrian far-right propaganda site Unzensuriert didn't initially ring any alarms. He told his  host, “The U.S. subtracts from its population a million of our babies in the form of abortion. We add to our population approximately 1.8 million of ‘somebody else’s babies’ who are raised in another culture before they get to us.” This double dip into two of Steve's favorite topics is referred to in far-right circles as The Great Replacement. White European culture is in danger from  someone else's  babies. Got it. 
Meanwhile, back here in the United States of America, Steve King is up for re-election in a couple of weeks. He has won his past five contests by more than twenty points. He is currently ahead of his Democratic challenger by ten points. Which I suppose is mildly refreshing, but the percentages won't  matter if this is truly representative of  the folks in the Fourth District. Can that be right? Is Iowa so red, or so white, that this ideology can carry the day? 
Hard to believe. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ask Mister Science

Mister Science, can you tell us a little about yourself?
"Well, I was born in the year of our Lord 1948, just about five hundred years after the last dinosaur."
I see.
"I was raised by a loving, conservative mother and father and the help. My nanny used to read me stories before I was strapped into bed."
"A lot of it was fiscal policy, but there were also a great many tales of adventure in high finance."
So how did you come to your interest in science?
"I don't think you would call it an 'interest' so much as a passion. I come by that from long weekends staring out the window of my bedroom, trying to figure out how things work."
Such as?
"Clouds, for example. I've looked at clouds from both sides now, and still somehow it's life's illusions I recall."
"Like climate change. All those days and weeks turned into months and years, and I can tell you that every year when the snows came, Smithson would be out there shoveling the walks, until it was time to mow the lawn again. See, the climate has always changed. There's no need to panic."
What about the way temperatures have risen across the globe over the past century?
"Isn't that great? It makes things so much more cozy for us all. It's like someone knew that what we really needed was room temperature everywhere. Just take a sweater."
"Do I really have to spell it out for you?"
No. I guess you don't.
"Besides, there are so many other things we can talk about."
Like what?
"I have recently turned my laser focus onto subjects that affect us all: Crime Scene Investigation."
"Like that poor man in Saudi Arabia, Jamal Khashoggi."
The journalist who was murdered?
"Murdered? Is that what the lame-stream media is telling you? It was an unfortunate cooking accident."
Cooking accident?
"It's what can happen when you don't come prepared and use the proper tools."
Proper tools?
"Well, obviously he shouldn't have been using a bone saw to filet halibut. I tell you, he's just lucky those nice young men were there to help him. It could have been so much worse."
Nice young men? The eighteen assassins who intercepted him in the embassy?
"Assassins? Is that what they're telling you? A tragic accident. He must have fallen on that bone saw a dozen times. Just a bunch of fellow foodies trying their best to make lemonade out of lemons."
Right. Thank you, Mister Science.
"Thank you,."

Monday, October 22, 2018

Light The Fuse

Once upon a time, there was a punk band called Fear. If you're of the generation that watched Saturday Night Live in 1981, you may recall this was the group that closed down the show on Halloween after being invited by John Belushi to do just that. Coming just a month after Rod Stewart had been crooning "Hot Legs" on the same show, Fear was a warm breeze blowing in off the trash heap. They were a harbinger of the discontent that lived just below the safety and homogenization of Ronald Reagan's America. Here are some lyrics from their best known song, their "hit single," if you will:
Let's have a war
So you can go and die!
Let's have a war!
We could all use the money!
Let's have a war!
We need the space!
Let's have a war!
Clean out this place!

If it sounds severe, that's because it was. It is now. The rancor we Americans have for one another at any given moment is so severe that we have become numb to it. As we tear into each other as if it were some sort of organized event, the rest of the world must wonder if, as the poet once suggested "our time at the top could be coming to an end." Having gone so long without an  actual adversary, we continue to eat our own and make a spectacle out of the way we waste opportunity. 
Let's have a war!
Jack up the Dow Jones!
Let's have a war!
It can start in New Jersey!
Let's have a war!
Blame it on the middle-class!
Let's have a war!
We're like rats in a cage!

And if we lose, we can take our place on the list of failed empires. Thousands of years from now, archaeologists will unearth a Starbucks and wonder how it all went wrong, and the answer will become clear: Pumpkin Spice Latte. 
Let's have a war. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Victim Of Circumstance

My wife has been tolerant of so many things, like the presence of sports on our television. Even when I am not in the room. She understands that sometimes I want to have the results spill out of the screen, but I am not always strong enough to look at them directly. She has also been very patient with the number of films that, even though I have committed them to memory, I insist on staring at once again as if they were new. Often reciting vast chunks of dialogue as they tumble by, as she sits idly by, waiting for another one of these nostalgic reveries to come to an end.
So imagine my surprise when she came in from the kitchen, took one look at the screen, and shouted, "How can you be watching this?" I was a little taken aback by her reaction, since I believed that everyone of our era had, at one time or another, been subjected to repeated viewings of The Lawrence Welk Show.
When my grandmother came over to babysit her three grandsons, we were made to understand that a certain portion of the evening would be spent in quiet reverie while soaking in the majesty of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. This was a time when the number of devices available in any household to watch television was limited, and color? Forget about it. So we sat, eyes rolling and ears aching as we endured the commercial breaks for Serutan, in hopes that we might be released from this vortex before we slid on into reruns of Hee Haw, another favorite of grandma's.
And somewhere in there, that whole mess became normal to me. The big hair. The polyester. The frigid homogenization of all music. It simply was exactly what it was. It became part of the firmament. Which is why I didn't flinch as hard as I might have when my younger brother and I were introduced to our new piano teacher, a woman with a deep and abiding obsession for all things Welk. With a specific focus on the accordionist, Myron Floren. While it is true that I did not suffer the way my brother did, attending Myron Floren concerts and having an accordion strapped to him at an age when a drum set or guitar would have suited him so much better.
But we didn't know any better. Which is why I was sitting in my living room, decades later, staring at a PBS rerun of a show taped before there was an Internet. Or remote controls. We watched what was on. We watched what grandma insisted we watch. And for this, I owe my wife a debt of gratitude: She shocked me out of my polka stupor, and got me back to not watching the baseball playoffs.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Week That Was

Listen: This is the world in which we currently live.
In an unprecedented effort to diffuse lingering questions about her heritage ahead of a possible presidential bid, Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday released the results of a DNA test that the Massachusetts Democrat said proves she has a Native American in her ancestry. "The President" on Tuesday revived his disparaging nickname for Elizabeth Warren after the Democratic senator and possible 2020 presidential contender released a DNA test that she said shows she has a Native American in her family tree.
In a related story, "The President" called Stormy Daniels “Horseface” on the same day that he was calling Senator Warren "Pocahantas," continuing his longtime pattern of attacking women’s appearances. Following this tangent, a little over a week ago, the "First Lady" claimed that she is perhaps "the most bullied person" in the entire world.
And meanwhile, in music news, "The First Lady's" spokeswoman has called for a boycott of T.I. after the rapper released a “disgusting” music video featuring a look-alike of the first lady stripping in a fake Oval Office.
Just a hop, skip and a jump down the news wire comes this nugget: Dennis Hof, the owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, featured in HBO’s Cathouse series, was found dead at one of his other brothels, the Love Ranch in Crystal, Nevada, on Tuesday morning, hours after supporters cheered him at a campaign rally for his bid for a seat in the state Legislature. People, including adult film star Ron Jeremy, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and others were in Hof’s orbit in the hours leading up to his death.
Mister Hof is projected to be the winner of that election. 
And I leave it to you to unravel the connections between these events, beyond the obvious points on the timeline. These are not made up. These moments occurred over the course of a week in our current climate. And yet, Fox News still refers to climate change as "a point of view." 
Sleep tight, America. 
And vote. 

Friday, October 19, 2018


I can be pretty judge-y. I rationalize this behavior by turning that laser focus on myself on a regular basis. It's that little voice in my head that barks at me for running a stop sign when riding my bike, or walking past a piece of trash instead of simply bending down and ferrying it to the nearest receptacle. So I go back and pick up the trash, grumbling at myself. And you can bet that the next time I roll up to that stop sign, I make a conscious effort to come to a complete and full stop in order to make up for the one I missed.
Which is why I feel the need to correct others making similar faux pas as I wander through my day. Like the gentleman who zipped past me early the other morning as I was making my way out into the darkness. I was getting on my pedals as I heard the whir of his sprockets bearing down on me. Then there was the conciliatory whistle as he sped past me, which is the moment that I made my full assessment of this fellow bicycle commuter.
He had no lights, not even a reflector, even though the sun had yet to peek above the horizon. My glimpse of him was aided by a streetlight under which we found ourselves for that moment. He had no helmet. This is a lesson I had impressed on me early in my teaching career. Not only was it a proactive safety measure, it was modeling for all those youngsters with whom I had contact each day. I was an example. Hopefully a good one. My guess was that this guy was not on his way to teach elementary school, so that obligation may not have made his list. But what about safety? This question was answered in my last impression before he disappeared into the dawn: He had his earbuds in.
I decided that I was obviously dealing with a person who expected others to clear a path for him. The whistle I got was more "out of my way" than "look out." Untouchable and Indestructible. I decided to refer to him as "Lightning." It was not a term of endearment. It was the grist for the mill as I made my way, carefully and considerately, to school.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


If you are old enough to remember when you had to stay up late to watch Saturday Night Live, rather than wake up the next morning to catch the YouTube distillation of the best bits, then you may remember a cat named Chevy Chase. He was the first Weekend Update anchor, and he had this catch phrase: "Good evening. I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not." It was a flippant bit of arrogance that began as a humorous jest since no one had any idea who Chevy Chase was. Then it became something more: arrogance for arrogance's sake, since he had quickly evolved as the first breakout star of this new late night skit show. In part because he was the only one who announced himself weekly by name. 
If you were tuned in to the Sixty Minutes interview with the "President" this past Sunday, you may have missed his moment of channeling the spirit of Mister Chase. “I’m president―and you’re not,” he told Leslie Stahl. We can only assume that this was his way of reminding the viewing public that he continues to be, not unlike the way Francisco Franco was able to remain dead, "President." And a big blustery ball of denial as well. When pressed by Stahl about whether he believes he treated Justice Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Fordwith respect, Trump said: “W―you know what? I’m not gonna get into it because we won. It doesn’t matter. We won.”
Way back in 1950, UCLA football coach "Red" Sanders told a group of PE teachers he was mentoring, "Men, I'll be honest. Winning isn't everything", then following a long pause, "Men, it's the only thing!" So maybe it was Red that Orange was channeling rather than Chevy. 
Then Ms. Stahl asked the "President" if he would pledge not to shut down the Mueller probe. The probe that has already resulted in thirty-two people being indicted. And how did he respond to this challenge? “I don’t pledge anything,” he said. “But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that. I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind.” When asked once more, Trump again fired back, saying: “There is no collusion. I don’t wanna pledge. Why should I pledge to you? If I pledge, I’ll pledge. I don’t have to pledge to you.”
He doesn't have to pledge to anyone. He's "The President." And you're not. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Where Are They Now?

I went to see First Man over the weekend. I did this with the primary motivation of re-instilling my youthful love of NASA.  I was seven years old when the Eagle landed. The summer of Apollo Eleven was one that remains etched in my memory. There were toy rockets and coloring books and an older brother to keep me fascinated by all things lunar. My family was sitting in the audience of the Central City Opera's production of Die Fliedermaus when a chorus member burst onto the stage shouting, "The Americans have beaten the Russians to the moon!" Perhaps the only time this line appeared in any version Johann Strauss' operetta.
This was a year after I had gone on a Space Odyssey thanks to Stanley Kubrick. I was hungry to go  beyond the bounds of the earth. It was becoming more and more clear to me that if heroes were to be found, they were not going to be found in the White House, or on the battlefields of Vietnam. My heroes were astronauts. Michael Collins, "Buzz" Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong: The crew of Apollo Eleven.
Especially Neil Armstrong. The first man on the moon. The first person to set foot on something that was not Earth. The first human to be counted as a lunar citizen. It wasn't until I sat in the audience of the film of his life that I started to contemplate all the ways that things could have gone horribly wrong. Apollo One ended tragically. All three of those astronauts died in a fire before their rocket left the launch pad. The part I had not considered, as a starry-eyed seven year old, was what could happen if Aldrin and Armstrong were unable to take off from the moon once they had landed at Tranquility Base. Eventually the food water and air would run out. Rescue from the moon? Not a possibility.
When the movie was over, I thought about where my heroes come from these days: sports, rock and roll, movies. Movies? Pretend? Where were the explorers and innovators and risk takers?
Where were the astronauts?
At last check, a pair of American astronauts crash landed with their Russian counterparts on a failed attempt to reach the International Space Station. They are fine, but the crew on the space station is left without replacements. There are people in space right now. Not on the moon, but hanging out off Earth. Do you know their names? Did you know that Russia is going to stop sending people into space, due to cost and safety?
Do you know where your heroes are?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

And so on. Just as soon as someone shouts out from the bottom of the pile about oppression, an anguished cry comes from some other corner, suggesting that, "you think you're oppressed? Try taking a walk in my moccasins." And so this merry-go-round of judgement continues. The saddest part of all of this equivocation is that it dulls the reality of those who are truly suffering.
It also means that we as a society are relieved of any responsibility for that suffering.
Lucky us.
It's a matter of math. African American males are two and a half times more likely to be shot by police. If there were two and a half times more African American males than white males, that would make sense. That's why it doesn't make sense. That's why people are upset. That's why there is a movement.
Here in the United States, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. That contrasts smartly with one in seventy-one men who will be raped during their lives. Which does not mean that we should ignore the trauma inflicted on men, but since the perpetrators of those rapes are overwhelmingly men, it seems as though mounting  a movement to protect men from being wrongfully accused of these crimes seems like a secondary concern.
People being wrongfully accused of crimes is a big deal, but wait just a second: Guess who is more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder? Did you guess African Americans? Which is just a hop without a skip or jump away from the percentage of the prison population, which happens to be thirty-seven percent African American males compared to thirty-two percent white males.
And so it goes. Until there really is an "us" in the U.S., we need to keep our eyes on the realities we create. Not the ones we imagine.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ride By

Sometimes I write about shootings that result in the deaths or injury to dozens. Sometimes I rail on about the nearly one hundred Americans who die every day as a result of gun violence. Just recently I wrote about the relative safety of the route I take on my bicycle commute to school every day. All of this came rushing together as I rolled past the intersection of High Street and Congress Avenue. A thirty-seven year old man was shot and killed there this past Tuesday.
I know his friends called him Dre.
I know he was loved.
I know this because of the number of candles and inscriptions on the wall of the convenience store that have been left there since. The empty bottles left by mourners compete with the burning wicks, kept lit night and day. The local news had this to say: "A nineteen-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night as a suspect in the fatal shooting five hours earlier of another man in East Oakland, police said Wednesday."
This is not an obscure act in Oakland. The seemingly randomness of it does not take into account the terrible repetition. Guns going off in neighborhoods all over Oakland, so many that the city has employed a system called "Shotspotter," a computer aided listening system that can be used to detect gunfire on the streets and yards and alleys and everywhere else guns might be going off. Or they could rely on the eyes and ears of passersby on a busy thoroughfare like High Street at four o'clock in the afternoon. 
Last Tuesday, I was wrapping up my after school program at my school at four o'clock. I walked my fourth and fifth grade students who were working on a community service project to bring more kindness into their world to the front steps. That was when Dre was shot. I went back to my room and cleaned up some loose ends. I left just after four thirty. That was when Dre was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. When I came over the hill, four blocks away, yellow tape was blocking the intersection where the altar would be mounted over the next few nights. Dre's friends waited until the police had cleared the corner and picked up their cones and other caution and investigation reminders.
And that's when the monument began.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Rock The Vote

Of course I voted for DEVO. After nearly forty years of slavish DEVOtion to the spudboys from Akron, they are at last nominated for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are not, by any means, a shoo-in. The group that David Letterman once referred to as "The Fisher-Price of rock and roll" are part of a class that includes eighteen other artists: Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, The Cure, The Zombies, and Todd Rundgren.
I have been one of those Hall of Fame kibitzers from way back, and I understand that all discussions about who gets in when is the reason for the Hall's existence. I am certain there are fans out there who are still anxiously awaiting their chance to vote for the Starland Vocal Band Winners of the Best New Artist Grammy in 1976, the SVC has a hit single and a TV variety show to promote their ascension into pop music's pantheon. "Afternoon Delight" hit number one on the Billboard Chart. By contrast, DEVO's big hit, if you'll pardon the pun, "Whip It" peaked at number fourteen. And no one was foolish enough to suggest that DEVO host their own summer replacement series. 
Still, some forty years after the fact, this bastion of the New Wave finds itself amidst heady company as votes begin to trickle in at a time when voting is a right we should all embrace. While it is true that there are probably places where your vote might make a more emphatic change, I would like to point out that DEVO played a fundraiser for Barack Obama back in 2012 in their home state. Barack Obama went on to win a second term. 
Need I say more? 
Okay. So maybe you're not convinced. There are still so very many more important issues of the day. Certainly that imposing list of fellow nominees is enough to make anyone ask, "Why DEVO? Why now?" 
To which I would respond, "De-evolution is real. Take a look around you." There is a reason my wife and I chose "Freedom of Choice" as one of the songs we played at our wedding. And so I ask you, on behalf of DEVO: If not now, when? 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

On The Dial

On the radio, that's where I heard the Beatles the first time. It is also the appliance that gave me comfort for decades with that little feature called "sleep." As I drifted off, all those songs from my youth formed my lullaby. The first time I heard The Police singing about Roxanne was at the breakfast table in my parents' house as I prepared to go out and face another day. On most evenings I could count on a quiet, relaxing dose of classical music as my mother filled the house with KVOD, and on Saturdays there was opera from the Met. At those moments when I felt the need to retreat to the rock and roll of my generation, I would head to my room and close the door where I could listen to the way the world was lining up pop culture for me. This was when I was listening to AM. These were also the frequencies that could reach our mountain cabin. The batteries we used to power that radio were a point of survival for us all. Whether it was news or weather or music, that was the machine that filled those tranquil hours of too much wilderness solitude.
That radio had an FM dial, but it amounted to nothing. No transmissions of that wavelength were going to climb up the hill into our cabin. Not without some enormous antenna. My love affair with FM radio began when I got my first real receiver. Something that could bring in those nineties and hundreds. KBPI and KAZY lived at the end of that span, and on any given night, you might find me in my room, headphones on, "studying." What I was really doing was listening to the radio. Lots of it. Pretty soon, my clock radio was waking me up to those same sounds, and once I had a car I had a mobile listening station for all the tunes that rocked the Rockies.
By a stroke of luck, the stations I listened to in Colorado had rather easily transferable formats. Hard rock, modern rock, and the inevitable Album Oriented Rock. They made it easier to feel at home when I moved to the Bay Area. And now, my radio listening time has diminished to about half an hour on weekday mornings. In the car, I tend to surrender to whatever the driver, my wife, has selected. The rest of the time, I am programming my own show: iTunes, Spotify, and so forth. The notion of calling up a DJ on the request line to beg for my favorite song has long since passed me by. But I can remember dialing and dialing the studio at KIMN and pleading with them to play Yellow Submarine one more time.
Now I just ask Google, who seems more than happy to fulfill my request.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Goodbye, Columbus

Raise your hand if you got Columbus Day off.
Let's see: That's, um, just about no one. I was asked by a few parents on the way out of school a week ago Friday if we would be open the following Monday. I had to scratch my head for a moment to imagine why. I could not remember an in-service or district work day. National holiday? What might that be? In twenty-two years of teaching, I have never had Columbus Day off. Why would we start now?
Working as I do on this liberal bastion of the left coast, I have never considered the possibility of a three day weekend in that first week of October. Christoper Columbus was a capitalist tool, wandering the globe in anticipation of new routes to extort the rest of the newly round planet for its riches. Or, if you happen to be "President," "Christopher Columbus’s spirit of determination & adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans. On #ColumbusDay, we honor his remarkable accomplishments as a navigator, & celebrate his voyage into the unknown expanse of the Atlantic Ocean."
As we have seen before, opinions vary.
How much? Well, consider this: Columbus, Ohio will no longer be participating in their eponymous holiday. Instead, the city fathers have chosen to go all in on Veterans' Day, just a month later, and probably a tad less divisive. Other cities have attempted to manage that kind of backlash by referring to an Indigenous People's Day, but have faced additional confrontations from Italian American groups as well as those Indigenous People who were not pleased to be copy and pasted over the man who they feel was responsible for their genocide. While Columbus the explorer will remain a Federal holiday, Columbus the city will keep on picking up trash and enforcing parking limits.
Meanwhile, back in the People's Republic of the East Bay, we will be taking October 19th off. Not because of Columbus, but because the newly shifted school year closes before Memorial Day, and we will therefore be taking "In Lieu of Memorial Day" to share with our loved ones. Perhaps to meditate on this matter further.
Or to stock up on Halloween candy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


It would be so easy. All I would have to do is just keep showing up as I always have. And start taking instead of giving. And start caring about myself instead of others. And close my ears to the cries all around me. And close my eyes to all the suffering.
I am a straight white male in my fifties. I could toss a bunch of money at the stock market and enjoy the ride. I could buy a bunch of guns and ammunition to protect my home and wait for the insurrection. I could vote for the candidates who are going to make a more comfortable ride for me and mine without a care for those floundering all around me. I could choose to believe what and whomever makes it easier for me to sleep at night. I could start enjoying this white male privilege and start making it work for me.
Except I have eyes.
And ears.
And a heart.
Some might say it bleeds, and they would be right. It bleeds for those who have never enjoyed playing this game because the deck is stacked against them.
My eyes cry for those who have been left behind on this fast track to get the most the quickest way possible. I weep for those who never had a chance.
My ears ring from all the despotic rhetoric that exists solely to keep those who are not white males right where they have been for all this time: at the bottom. They burn because I know that when people talk about white privilege they are pointing at me.
I know that a great portion of the reason why I am where I am today is based on rules set forth by a bunch of guys like me who wanted it to be easy for guys like me to continue to be guys like me. When I say #MeToo, it's pretty hypocritical.
I know I am outnumbered. Common sense suggests surrender, though somehow this gang of white males cling to their places of power and spew hate and fear. Probably because they are terrified. I would be too.
If I were them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What About Me?

I was never good at keeping a journal. There have been plenty of times that I have been given a notebook full of empty pages with the expressed intent of scribbling them full of my clever notions and stories. The idea that I would sit down on any sort of regular basis and make an accounting of the events of my life. Not that I wasn't necessarily up to the task. I have always been more than capable of filling up line after line of nominally meaningful prose. Or poetry. Or the occasional drawing or diagram. When I was in school and a teacher assigned a number of lines or pages to write, I was up to the task. Usually making sense. Usually working in some pithy comment or amusing anecdote, I am a storyteller.
The last time I kept a journal, a diary, was when I was in therapy. I was asked to keep track of my thoughts and feelings over the course of the week between appointments. I wrote dutifully every day, even if I wasn't always diving deep into my emotions and coming up with revelations that would bring me closer to understanding myself.
Sometimes I did. Like the casual observation that I tend to lean on a cheap laugh or wordplay when I am careening toward some sort of dramatic insight. I am not proud of the cheap laugh thing, but it certainly reminds me of where I came from. My father was an entertainer. A salesman by trade, but a raconteur as an avocation. He wasn't much of a writer, but he could tell a story.
And so could my mother. One of my favorite things as a child was sitting and listening to her tell stories about "the olden days." She wasn't a punchline kind of gal. She was a family historian. It was my mom who kept detailed accounts of family trips in little notebooks. Where did we stop? What did we eat? Who got the worst sunburn?
And then there was that guestbook at the cabin. At one point or another, we all took turns accounting for the cast and characters arriving at our doorstep. I wrote plenty of pages in that bad boy.
And then there's this. The last decade or so with daily updates on my attitudes and behavior. My opinions and beliefs. So the joke here is that I guess I have always been a journal keeper.
Surprise, surprise.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Spectator Sport

I used to live in Colorado. It snows there. Sometimes a lot. There are no indoor football stadiums in Colorado. If you want to watch football, you have to sit outside. Unless the powers that be decide to show the game on television. Then you can watch from the safety and comfort of your home. But, as I have discussed prior to this writing, concern rays have a very difficult time travelling through the air and television cables to influence the outcome of a game. This is why it is infinitely preferable to be seated in the stands, in order for your team to get the full use of one's concern rays.
I sat on a snow drift in Folsom Field on November 2, 1991 and watched my Colorado Buffaloes play the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a 19-19 standstill. The grounds crew kept the field clear, but couldn't be bothered to get the stands free of ice and snow, so the hearty souls who came out to make their voices heard and their concern rays felt had to do so in subzero temperatures dreaming of an outcome that would reward their foolhardiness. And dedication.
When I think about the hours I have spent watching spectator sports without receiving the outcome I feel that I have worked so hard to achieve. Just the other night, I sat down with my wife to watch the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs. I asked my wife along for this experience because I hoped her somewhat muted but very sincere concern rays combined with my full bore obsession rays would help carry the day. And they were nearly enough. Nearly. Not enough to win. Or tie. Enough to have put up a good fight.
And three hours of my life have slipped by in the most unsatisfying fashion.
I relate all of this sports chatter not simply to annoy my younger brother, but to relate it to my feelings about the Brett Kavanaugh experience. The past few weeks worth of concern rays have done little or anything to affect the outcome of the confirmation vote. Part of me wishes that I could have stood with those on Capitol Hill, arms linked and chanting, "We believe women." Because I do. Part of me wishes that this blog had more readers, especially those whose opinion I might have captured and swayed. Ultimately, this was a series of futile gestures on my part. Resulting in a loss that will last far into next season. Into another generation.
Perhaps it's time to stop being a spectator.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Yet Again

Hey kids, moms and dads, what time is it?
It's Thoughts and Prayers Time!
Yes, it seems like just a few days ago that the nation rallied around on one knee, eyes closed, thinking and praying about the latest victims of gun violence.
Because it was.
And who do our thoughts and prayers go out to this time?
The recipient of this round of thoughts and prayers go to the Florence County Police and Sheriff's Department in South Carolina! One officer was killed and six others wounded in a hail of gunfire that erupted when officers responded to a dispute that started as a search warrant and turned into a hostage situation.
As horrible as this news is, there is a bright spot: The children who were being held hostage were released unharmed. The suspect was taken into custody. Additional thoughts and prayers may become necessary as the children grow and try to grapple with a reality that involves this kind of violence. Apparently, residents of Florence were taken aback as well. "Surprised is probably an understatement," said Bobby Goin, who has lived in the area for more than twenty years. "The worst thing that goes on around here is that someone runs a stop sign and it gets posted on Facebook."
This may be tough for Bobby to grasp, but he is living in a country where gun violence is as prevalent as those run stop signs. 
And it is for this that I would suggest we start turning our thoughts and prayers. Thoughts. Solutions. Suggestions. Proposals. Propositions. Recommendations. Hints. Clues. Tips. And yes, our prayers, but not just for the seemingly endless list of victims. Pray to the supreme being of your choice to deliver us from the culture that makes it so easy to take a life. Pray for peace. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Relative Safety

For the second time since school began this year, my route to work was blocked by police activity. Yellow tape stretched across the intersection. Numerous emergency vehicles and crime scene investigation truck. The first time it happened, I chalked it up to wandering into a coincidental catastrophe, not unlike the one I encountered last year when I had to bike several blocks out of my way to stay clear of the major intersection that was blocked off after two police cars had collided in the early morning hours.
In the rain.
Happily, my two encounters with crime scenes this year have not included the complication of precipitation. The less happy part of these experiences is the part where I have to wonder if the corridor which I have picked for my commute is the safest one. I tend to consider the route I take from my home to school to be my neighborhood. This is primarily because there are houses all along the way that share a friendly wave, or at least a head bob as I pass in the afternoons. The mornings are a different deal, since for a great portion of those trips, I travel under cover of darkness. The interactions I have are limited to those on either end, farewell from my wife and greetings from our custodian when I arrive on campus.
Unless my way is blocked by police barricades.
Then it starts to occur to me that these are dangerous times, and that this is a dangerous place, and maybe I should be more cautious in my commute. I know that if I were to examine a map of crime scenes I might be hard pressed to find a path that would take me on a crisis-free journey from point to point. Instead, I should probably be happy to count my blessings and continue to enjoy the way I manage to avoid trouble by plunging into the heart of it. Or slide neatly into its wake.

Saturday, October 06, 2018


Sometimes it's hard not to think in terms of us versus them. Outnumbered twenty to one, we band together in those moments we share before the next barrage is unleashed. In the faces of my comrades I recognize that thousand yard stare of fatigue. How long can we keep up this way? When will there be some relief?
Maybe a day pass, a few moments away from that front line where every interaction carries do-or-die weight. In close quarters like this, it's hard to know how to proceed. Each turn could prove deadly. Ever decision has a question mark next to it. This is especially true if you have a hole in the seat of your pants.
Fifth grade girls were giggling behind my back, which is nothing new since it is something to which fifth grade girls are prone. As is my custom, I turned to glare at them, a tactic that tends to work for brief periods. At least I could finish giving the instructions to the class before they dissolved into tearful fits of full on laughter.
But that didn't work. When I turned around, the giggles had spread to the adjacent table. That's when I went to my next grown up rhetorical question: "What's so funny?"
Except this one had an answer. One of the girls stifled her amusement long enough to tell me, "Mister Caven, you have a hole in your pants."
"Two of them," chuckled her friend.
It occurred to me at that moment that I had two choices: Absorb the embarrassment and move on or run red-faced from the room, surrendering all authority and dignity in this situation. I was tempted to flee, but instead I held my ground. "Thank you. Now can we return to today's lesson?"
In my head, I imagined the gaping hole that must be expanding with each moment. I only hoped to finish out the hour with a shred of self-esteem with a chance to come back the next day to reassert my dominion.
With a new pair of pants.

Friday, October 05, 2018


Donald Trump Jr. says he fears more for his sons than his daughters in the current #MeToo climate when more and more women feel empowered to come forward with their allegations of sexual harassment and assault. “I’ve got boys, and I’ve got girls. And when I see what’s going on right now, it’s scary,’ he said during an interview on British television. When asked which of his children he fears for more, he said “I mean, right now, I’d say my sons.”
I won't say if I agree or disagree with Junior here, but I can say that I understand why he would feel this way.
Again: I didn't say I agreed. I said I understand. The product of a broken home, he has a father who provides him nothing in the way of a character building example. Like this little nugget from pre-candidate daddy: "Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
That bit comes from a transcript of a taped conversation with American TV celebrity Billy Bush, and is by far the least objectionable of the comments made during the exchange
At the time, if  you recall, this was excused as "locker room talk." It did little if anything to stir or discourage the Trumpian base. If anything, it gave us all a preview of things to come. Like this exchange with ABC News' Cecilia Vega: 
"President": "She’s shocked that I picked her. She’s in a state of shock.
Vega: “I’m not. Thank you, Mr. President.
"President": “That’s okay, I know you’re not thinking. You never do.”
Vega: "I’m sorry?
"President": “No, go ahead.”
And so it goes. Why would his son worry that his sons would be afraid? It seems to be genetic.

Thursday, October 04, 2018


This post is brought to you by the word "rebuke." 
If you are unfamiliar, verb sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions. "Sessions rebukes Trump." Or "Trump rebukes 'stupid question' from ABC News star reporter." Maybe "Senate overwhelmingly rebukes Trump with tariff vote."
And so on. There is a lot of rebuking taking place in Washington, D.C. Which makes me wonder how, with all of that sharp disapproval and criticism, anything gets done. I understand that this is very much a two-way street, with Democrats rebuking Republicans and Republicans rebuking Democrats, and everyone rebuking Rand Paul. 
Last week there was this interesting moment when, after being confronted by two victims of sexual assault while boarding an elevator, Senator Jeff Flake summed up the business of the past few weeks: "This country is being ripped apart here." He may have been describing the events of the past two years, and the effect to which we are all witness. Which is probably a result of all that rebuking. 
For just a moment, I tried to imagine a rebuke-free zone. A place where everyone worked together to solve problems and find solutions that were beneficial to all the people all the time. A cooperative place where the benefits of the many outweigh those of the few.
Or the one. 
I am pretty sure that if we took just a few weeks off rebuking one another, some of the things that have been troubling us all for the past couple years or so might get solved. Or, if we are still committed to rebuking, maybe we could take a few days off at the end of each month, just to give us all a break from being rebuked. 
But honestly, none of this will work if there is a rebuke to be found anywhere. If you are just going about your day, trying to get along, and someone rebukes you, well chances are you're going to want to rebuke them back. Or someone else, and the whole rebuke chain begins again. 
I apologize if this entry was a rebuke of anyone who is especially fond of rebukes. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


I went to college in the eighties. My generation did not invent binge drinking, but I like to kid myself into believing that we somehow elevated it. I grew up in a world of dollar pitchers and a terrifying event known as Animal Drown Night. This was an evening set aside for patrons to come to a particular establishment, pay a nominal cover fee, and then drink "for free." Rather than having this bacchanal once or twice a year, it was held weekly, usually on a slow night during the week when coaxing folks out of their dorms was a little bigger chore. This promotion worked on me. I didn't miss many of these opportunities to show off my mad drinking skills. Looking back, I wonder what sort of business plan included cramming a college bar full of undergraduates and letting themselves get blind drunk. I understand I had a choice in this. I could have stayed in my apartment, or the library or hung out at a friend's place. I didn't. I plunked down my eight dollars and proceeded to do everything I could to make sure that I drank my fill. And that of several others.
This was an age that helped define drinking games. While it is true that finding ways to get yourself or your friends inebriated through some contest or other dates back to antiquity, I lived in a world that required quarters not just for laundry but for bouncing off a table. Into a glass of beer that would then be designated for someone else to drink. At no point did the strategy for this game suggest that the person who had been picked a few times get any kind of break. The point was to get drunk. Or at least ensure that someone else did.
Which brings me back to those college bars that also had promotions called Ladies' Night. Ladies got in free, and drank one dollar pitchers all night. Again, the notion being that boys would come and drink without much excuse, but filling the place with ladies drinking one dollar pitchers would be the tiniest incentive to get all the boys who may have needed another reason to show up on a Friday night. I tended to go with ladies I knew, and would happily buy me pitchers of beer for a dollar. This was not every boy's tack. Many hung on the edges, waiting to see where all that beer was going, and finding a table full of ladies who may have spent their laundry money on beer might be a little worse for it.
And just up the street, there were fraternities running much the same concession, only with bedrooms upstairs and no one who might be held "responsible" for the bad things that might ensue. It was a party, after all. And we were all animals, weren't we?
I went to college in the eighties. So did Brett Kavanaugh. I am not proud of everything I did in those days. My abuse was primarily verbal, mostly unintelligible, and aimed at myself in waves of self-pity and loneliness. How about you, Brett? And remember, you're under oath.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

In The Room

I was asked by my wife to accompany her to one of the events for her college reunion. There was a movie being shown in the alumni hall. Friday evening, have a little dinner, take in a film. Sounds like a nice way to start a weekend. But this wasn't just any weekend. Aside from being Alumni Weekend, this was also the weekend that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move Brett Kavanaugh ahead for approval by the full Senate. There were a lot of people who were unhappy with that decision, and many of them were at my wife's college reunion. The Mills College reunion.
If you're not up on your women's colleges, Mills is one. My wife was part of the protest that kept trustees from turning her school go co-ed. Two weeks later, the trustees agreed to keep Mills the way it was. The way it is now: A women's college. This was the room into which I walked that Friday. There were already a few people sitting around a table filled with college swag. They didn't seem to be actively involved in selling the T-shirts and scarves. They were focused on the topic of the day: an accused sexual assault by a Supreme Court nominee and a bunch of Republican senators decided that this shouldn't keep him from a lifetime appointment. The folks that were sitting around the table had absolutely no respect for Judge Kavanaugh or the senators who had made the decision. Those were the men. The group discussing this matter in the room in which we were going to watch the movie were women. All of them. Except me. And the guy who was setting up the projector and screen.
And the movie we were about to see? Gaslight. If you're up on women's colleges but not familiar with 1944 films by George Cukor about a woman being manipulated into believing she is insane by her husband, then take the time to check it out.
But maybe not at a women's college reunion the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to give a pass to a Supreme Court nominee in spite of the ugly evidence that he is not qualified to judge anything.  I can say this because once the lights went down (nothing wrong with the gas) and the movie played out in front of us, I was as aware as I may ever have been that I was one of a very few men in a room full of women. I enjoyed the movie, but felt completely responsible for Charles Boyer being such a cad. And for the shriveled husks on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And for all the men who ever got in the way of a woman. In any way. Ever.
Quite a Friday evening.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Rocky Mountain Way

I used to work with a guy who called me "Colorado." No, he called me "Calluhraduh." I took this as a deep and abiding compliment, as a transplanted ex-pat from the Centennial State. I continue to take pride in those things that work out well for the folks back home, and feel a twinge when they don't. That's why it felt so good to have South Park take on "school shooting fatigue." 
If you are unfamiliar with the longest running scripted show on television, it tells the story of a group of ten year old boys in the tiny town of South Park, Colorado. It has been alternately praised and reviled by parents, critics and pundits of all stripes. It has caused even your erstwhile narrator to blush at times. The young men who created this animated treat graduated just a few years behind me from our Alma Mater, The University of Calluhraduh. 
These were guys who were interviewed as part of Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, were not far removed from their own suburban Denver high school experience when Dylan and Eric went on their rampage, sparking one of the initial outrages against school shootings. That was in 1999. Since then, there have been plenty of opportunities for folks to get all riled up about school shootings. Since Columbine, there were forty-nine additional school shootings resulting in fatalities. Dead kids. Is it any wonder that the nerve that used to twitch at these moments has gone numb? 
And that's what Matt and Trey depicted in the first show of their twenty-second season: The boys sitting in math class, unfazed as shots ring out, screams are heard in the halls, and sirens wail. “Shooter down,” says a police officer outside the classroom. Says the teacher, “Now, let’s move on to the next equation.”
I was immediately reminded of the Texas student's reaction to the shooting at her high school: “It’s been happening everywhere,” seventeen year old student Paige Curry said in an interview hours after her school became a part of that list. “I’ve always kind of felt it like eventually it was going to happen here too. I wasn’t surprised, I was just scared.”
Back in South Park: “Who shot up the school?,” Randy, Stan’s dad, asks. “Was it you?”
“No,” says Stan.
“Did you get shot?”
“Oh, well. What’s this about failing a math quiz?”
I suppose I could be embarrassed that these miscreants are making fun of a horrible situation, but I'm not. I'm proud to call them Calluhraduhns.