Friday, November 30, 2018

The Sporting Life

The Bay Area professional football teams have not had a lot to shout about this season. The Forty-Niners and the Raiders are battling it out for the cellar in their perspective conferences, while injuries and poor management make it hard to bet against either one in their race to the bottom. And all of this might be easier to take if it were just football related.
You may remember the San Francisco Forty-Niners as a once proud franchise with a history of Super Bowls and superstars. Currently in search of their third win for the season, they are perhaps more easily remembered currently for their handling of one Colin Kapernick. The Niners' ex-quarterback has not played a down for them or any other professional football team since 2016, but remains a recognizable face due to Nike's pop-culture savvy ad campaign featuring him. Kaepernick is currently more recognizable as the leader of a movement than the leader of a football team. By taking a knee during the National Anthem to raise awareness for police brutality on people of color. His actions led to him being let go by the team he took to a Super Bowl in 2012. And made him a Twitter-target for the "President." And led to all manner of knee-related sports protests, including a Forty-Niners cheerleader who took a knee at the beginning of two games this season.
This being the Left Coast, and a perennial hotbed of social activism, you might expect that this kind of forward thinking would be reflected if not rewarded by the team. You might believe that cutting linebacker Reuben Foster after he was arrested for domestic violence while on a road trip to Tampa Bay is an example of such forward thinking. Except that Mister Foster had been arrested just last spring on the same charge. With the same woman. This is a guy who failed a drug test before he was drafted into the NFL. He served a two game suspension last year for marijuana possession and a gun charge. Last year when both of those things were still illegal.
Two arrests for domestic violence. One suspension for gun and drug charges. Reuben Foster was let go by the San Francisco Forty-Niners. Colin Kaepernick, who has not been arrested for anything is still looking for a job. That's the sporting life.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Mornings Are Broken

How do I feel about morning radio? What has been referred to as "drive time" was always my "time to wander around my classroom time." I no longer wake up to the radio. The alarm I set is on my Google home assistant. On mornings that both my wife and I are getting out of bed at the same time, I ask Google to play me something off Al Gore's Internet. We hear music, and the chatter between songs is the conversation we are having as we prepare to go about our day.
The idea of a "morning show" in which a little music is played and a little traffic news is discussed and a taste of national and local events are ruminated upon is one two which I surrendered many years ago. I accepted that listeners might want or need some kind of chat to begin their day. I shuddered to think that one of the local stations had become part of the Howard Stern Radio Domination Network, but I needn't have worried. Howard took his peculiar brand of talk to the satellite and our airwaves were once again peaceful and quiet. But only for a moment. Syndicated sounds from across the country came swooping in to fill the void. That comfortable relationship that I had once endured with Dave Morey on KFOG was replaced by a series of cleverly matched voices chosen to stir my brain cells in a manner I had not been accustomed.
I stuck with KFOG primarily because it meant I didn't have to tune the analog dial I had in my classroom for all those years. This fall when I returned to start a new school term, I quickly tired of the babble streaming from the speakers and retreated up the frequencies until I landed on a place that gave me one voice followed by a little music, followed by that same voice with a little bit of music. It sounded like a radio show.
This lasted a couple of months. Then suddenly I was gifted with another voice on this station. Now there was both chit and chat. There were "segments" with discussions of roommates and shopping and boyfriends and the incidence of music became more spread out. Apparently there was a lot more roommate, shopping and boyfriend concerns than I had originally imagined. Music? That was to take us to the top of the hour.
So I went back down to KFOG, only to discover that The Woody Show had taken up residence at that frequency. Plenty of surveys and contests and "can you believe this?" And music to take us to the top of the hour. I surrendered. Now there is noise coming from the corner where my radio sits. I try not to pay attention to the types of noise, just make sure to turn it off before I go outside for yard duty. If I want music, I'll ask Google.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What We Get

Spending time with my son over the past week, he said something to me that lingered: "I've picked up a lot of your mannerisms over the years."
I thought about all the things I have seen and heard, over the years, that he might have been referring. The first thing I remembered was how, after years of hearing me answer the phone, I heard him answer a call with my own odd inflection: "Mmmm-yello." Since I had borrowed this from Frank Bonner portraying Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati, I felt as though my job as a conduit through which popular culture could pass was being done effectively. How else would this sound from a seventies sitcom find its way to to his head in the twenty-first century?
I asked him what he felt was a gift from my generation to his, and he replied, "You know how when  you burp, you say 'burp?' I do that too."
I could have been more proud.
That's when I started thinking in a little bigger picture: My son had appropriated one of my odd bits of business, which is something I could relate to, since that's something I have been doing with the sounds around me for my entire life. If something got a laugh, I made a note of it and incorporated it into my big catalog of fun. Upon further review, I recognized the absurd number of noises, songs and stories I got from my father. Maybe not absurd, but comforting.
This is what I began to consider about my relationship with my son. All those jokes and ancillary silliness, my son had been listening. To what else had he paid attention? He has a deep and abiding respect for others, and a passion for helping others. Did I do that? It would be awesome to me to think that I did, in that big book of nature versus nurture. I would like to imagine that I had some hand in the character that was built with my wife's help. And the rest of the world that comes pouring in every day. Or maybe he was genetically engineered to announce his gastric distress onomatopoetically. 
Hard to imagine that I could be more proud either way. Which, in itself, is funny enough to continue passing down this silliness.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I can't help myself. No matter how much I try, I still find myself drawn inexorably to the Twitter feed of the "President." Here is what he had to announce last Thursday: "This is the coldest weather in the history of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC, and one of the coldest Thanksgivings on record!" All by itself, it sits in a realm of what a lot of Thanksgiving dinner finds its way to: The Weather. Really Grandpa? Tell me about those balmy November days you used to spend on the golf course. That's fascinating. Except this is the "President" of the United States, and in between crabbing about how the border patrol can't do its job unless they can kill people and announcing that he will take time out of his busy day to talk on the phone to some active duty soldiers, he found time to toss this little meteorological fact out into the pool.
Well how about that? Coldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, you say? I guess this means that people had better bundle up if they are going to attend. And they probably want to get some cocoa before they go out shopping afterward. And global warming is just a hoax, since it's so cold.
And this may be primarily because the government which he currently "leads" is released a report on the this "hoax" the day after the "President's" weather report. Climate change is already harming Americans’ lives with “substantial damages” set to occur as global temperatures threaten to surge beyond internationally agreed limits. The report continues, “impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans’ physical, social, and economic well-being are rising.” Climate change-related risks “will continue to grow without additional action.” 
Some of the other "highlights" include: 
The summary states the “earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future.”
Average sea levels along the US coast have increased by around nine inches since the early 20th century as the oceans have warmed and land ice has melted. If emissions aren’t constrained then “many coastal communities will be transformed by the latter part of this century.”
Fisheries, tourism, human health and public safety are being “transformed, degraded or lost due in part to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and higher numbers of extreme weather events.”
Wildfires have burned at least 3.7m acres of the US in all but three years from 2000 to 2016. “More frequent and larger wildfires, combined with increasing development at the wildland-urban interface portend increasing risks to property and human life,” the report states.
More than 100m people in the US live in places with poor air quality and climate change will “worsen existing air pollution levels.” Increased wildfire smoke risks heightening respiratory and cardiovascular problems, while the prevalence of asthma and hay fever is also likely to rise.
Major groundwater supplies have declined over the last century, with this decrease accelerating since 2001. “Significant changes in water quantity and quality are evident across the country,” the report finds.
Climate change will “disrupt many areas of life” by hurting the US economy, affecting trade and exacerbating overseas conflicts. Low-income and marginalized communities will be worst hit.
The report doesn't mention whether or not certain Florida golf resorts will be underwater, but we can only assume that the "President" already has a plan for that. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Too Much?

My son works retail. He does his job very well. He does his job proudly. That doesn't mean that he was aching to work not just the day after Thanksgiving, but the day before and on Thanksgiving Day. Happily, we were able to spend some time together on the days leading up to the retail Armageddon, but he was missed around the dinner table, and we could feel the tension mounting as the day approached: Black Friday. In those days leading up to the event, we talked about the sad reality of naming what amounts to a celebration - sale-a-bration - Black Friday. 
I looked it up: In the 1950s, shoppers would swarm Philadelphia after Thanksgiving and before the big Army-Navy game to prepare for the holidays. Police, cab drivers and anyone affected by purchasers taking over their city called the chaotic day “Black Friday” to show their disdain. And yes, I know from my training as an Arby's employee that customers are not an interruption to our business but rather the reason for our business. I also understand that businesses across the country bank on these final weeks of the calendar year to turn their ledgers from red to black. Why not just put on your big-boy pants, or big-boy blue shirt and make the best of it? 
Maybe because the scariest part of free enterprise is on display in those moments when the doors fly open and the deals start pouring out. And all that crazy spills out, leading to injuries to shoppers and employees alike. There was a shooting at an Alabama mall on Thanksgiving night. One dead, two wounded. Sadly, in the age in which we find ourselves living, one doesn't need a shopping excuse for gunfire. Still, every year people are injured, and even killed, on this festival of mercantilism. Perhaps some of this angst is a result of not taking the time to reflect on those closest to us. Maybe we should be counting our blessings instead of our savings. 
Just before the deluge began at the store where my son works, he tweeted this:" Like as happy as I am with time and a half and as much as I enjoy my job, being told "I'm sorry you have to work on Thanksgiving" is such a #@*@! cop out, like no you're not if you were sorry you wouldn't be here." And he could be sitting at the table with us.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

One To Open

In this space, I have at times pontificated about the perils and terror of being "the opening band." The audience is invariably still arriving, carrying with them the devil may care attitude that comes with the thoughts of a headliner, and this is just the bonus material, music to accompany finding one's seat. These are our seats? I think I'll nip out to the loo and see if I can get a snack before the show starts.
But of course the show has already begun, and the opening band is putting their collective heart and soul into winning over the crowd as they trickle in. This was not the case last Wednesday night when my wife and I traveled over the hill to Berkeley to see Steven Page, late of the Barenaked Ladies. His opening band was John Wesley Harding, also known as Wesley Stace. If the name sounds familiar, it could be that you remember the Bob Dylan album about the nefarious outlaw with the same name, or the nefarious outlaw himself. Or maybe it's because you were listening to college radio in the late eighties and early nineties and you caught his early stuff. I discovered the early stuff about the same time I discovered Steven Page and Barenaked Ladies.
Full circle, right?
And it so happened that the venue at which we found ourselves was the Freight And Salvage Coffeehouse, the same hall where my wife and I watched our son perform his piano recitals back in the day. Back in the day that my wife and I were attending more piano recitals than concerts by big names like Steven Page and Wesley Stace. We found ourselves seats right near the corner of the stage. Second row for us was a new experience. Even when we came to those piano recitals, the other parents crowded in ahead of us and nabbed all the best seats.
Not this night. We were close enough that we could see and hear Mister Harding/Stace as if he were doing the show in our living room. He sang songs from those olden days. Songs from 1992, and he commented about how things hadn't changed all that much since then. And he told stories about how the songs were made and where they were recorded and reminisced about a time when there was such a thing as radio and records. When he finished up his set, he told us that if we enjoyed the music, we should really catch him at the merch table. "This is just a warm-up. I'm really great at the merch table."
And it turns out that he was. He was happy to sign a CD for me and chat me up, if ever so briefly because there were dozens of others who had come to see the opening act. Steven Page came on after that. He did a great show, but he didn't stick around and sign things. Thank you, John Wesley Harding.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

You Deserve A Break Today

Good guys with guns. Sounds so musical and right. What happens if that good guy has a bad day? Like if that good guy got some really bad news and was in a McDonald's, ordering his Value Meal, and he decided to make somebody else's day just as bad as his. Or worse?
Which may or may not have happened at a Minnesota McDonald's last Monday night. I am trying to give the guy in question the benefit of the doubt, but video of the interaction doesn't make him look so "good." The fact that he ended up pulling a gun on a group of Muslim teenagers makes him look, well, dangerous.
And maybe I should say that it has been a long time since I worked in a fast food restaurant, but I am pretty sure that once this confrontation started, I don't think that my response would have been to send the kids outside where the guy with the gun was waiting. I worked in fast food long enough ago that the idea that a dispute in that establishment would have probably ended up with me having to mop up some drunk guy's poorly digested Beef 'n' Cheddar. I currently live in a neighborhood that has recently installed a bulletproof glass shield around the food prep area of our Subway. This is because you never know how a good guy with a gun is going to react to getting his twelve inch meatball marinara on wheat bread instead of Italian, which is what he asked for! I live in a world where armed guards are everywhere. I live in a world where I have to go through a metal detector to get into Disneyland.
I was a teenager, once upon a time, and I was completely capable of being an obnoxious handful along with a few of my buddies. I was never threatened with a gun. I have been a grownup for a while now, and though I have encountered my share of obnoxious teenagers. I have threatened none of them with a gun. Not the Muslims. Not the Jews. Not the Seventh Day Adventists. This has a lot to do with the fact that I don't believe that a gun is the proper response to a fast food dispute. And probably also because I don't carry a gun around, just in case someone forgets to put my curly fries on the top of the bag, where I can get at them on my drive home.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Siren's Call

In the middle of the night, I could hear it calling.
Calling my name.
I tried to sleep.
In vain.
I was a mile away, which I believed
was a safe distance
to rest
to wait.
I didn't stand a chance
there was no way
I could stay
Just up the road there was magic
waiting for me
and my family
to arrive.
The gates will soon be open
and we will all
pour in
as we do.
And yet another day of magic
will blossom
and glow
for us.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


I am grateful for on demand
I am grateful for walks in the sand
I am grateful for the chance to snooze
I am grateful for the Jungle Cruise
I am grateful for a little bit of rain
I am grateful for still appearing sane
I am grateful for the trips we take
I am grateful for forest floors to rake
I am grateful for a peek at the stars
I am grateful for hybrid cars
I am grateful for the songs we sing
I am grateful for my wedding ring
I am grateful for that piece of pie
I am grateful for a nice blue sky
I am grateful for that son of mine
I am grateful for students in a line
I am grateful for a place to sit and write
I am grateful for a place to grab a bite
I am grateful for chocolate
I am grateful fora a sneezing fit
I am grateful for our big old house
I am grateful for my lovely spouse
I am grateful for the roses out back
I am grateful for that turtle named Mack
I am grateful for another chance to vote
I am grateful for that thank you note
I am grateful for the moving picture show
I am grateful for having a place to go
I am grateful for each new sun
I am grateful for being done

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Breaking Up

It's your birthday. You and your significant other have been together for quite some time now. You're looking forward to spending some quality time with one another on this special day. When that day comes, your significant other is nowhere to be found. It's not like you made a secret of the day or time. It's not like it wasn't a big deal. It's not like this day hadn't been important for both of you for a very long time. Now it's your birthday, and you're left alone.
Should you break up?
Even if it had been raining?
I ask this because I think it's time to break up with our "President." On Veteran's Day, both the "President" and his Vice Minion chose to skip the part where presidents before have traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Could it be that they were out of town? Nope. Barack Obama missed a Veteran's Day wreath-laying, but he was in China at the time. Other presidents have missed the ceremony, but somehow managed to send someone in their place. The Executive Branch was a no-show this year. Maybe he was caught up in the hurly-burly topsy-turvy daily events at the White House. Or maybe he was using that time to tweet about how the threat of  "presidential harassment" was giving the stock market "headaches." This comes from a guy who routinely touts his love and respect for our armed forces and veterans from his Twitter account, but seems challenged to make a meaningful connection to the troops deployed across the globe. Too busy. Phone calls to make. Tweets to send. Fox & Friends is on.
All of which might be a little easier to take if he had shown up at all for the one hundredth commemoration of the end World War I. Instead of joining the rest of the world's leaders walking hand in hand down the Champs-Elysees, our "President" took a motorcade to the photo op at the Arc de Triomphe. After which he hopped in his car and headed back to the palace for lunch. 
Whether it is his fear of steps, or his inability to operate an umbrella this guy continues to thumb his nose at common courtesy and convention. He is content to make everyone bow to his whims and limitations. 
Or we could just break up with him. 
In a text. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Getting It Write

The first screenwriter I knew about was Paddy Chayefsky. He wrote Network, and when he won an Oscar for it, I was just old enough to figure that he was the bomb. And he was. For a time. This opened the door for me to start paying attention to the screenplay credits of all the movies I watched. And while I was waiting for Mister Chayefsky to turn out another masterpiece, there was this guy who seemed to have a pretty good gig going: William Goldman.
I am probably dating myself by suggesting that everyone should see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. At least once. Made in 1969, it was the prototype for buddy movies that came by the crate-full shortly after that. And while many of them were quite enjoyable and well made in their own right, they didn't have the wit and buoyancy of the original. All through the seventies and eighties, when the credits included "screenplay by William Goldman," you could be pretty sure you were in for a fun ride. He wrote the novel Marathon Man and adapted it for the screen, giving us all a legitimate fear of Nazi dentists. He adapted Ira Levin's novel The Stepford Wives, giving us all a legitimate fear of suburbia. He turned Stephen King's Misery into a movie that made us all fear our number one fan.
Then there was this book my wife, before we ever started dating, insisted that I read: The Princess Bride. It was written by S. Morgenstern, and retold in a "good parts" version by William Goldman. Yes. That William Goldman. When all that fencing and fighting and torture and true love was made into a film, it was only right that William Goldman should prepare it for the screen. I hope that I am not dating myself again by suggesting that if you were alive in the past thirty years and have not seen The Princess Bride, then you are not as happy as you could be. And though she would complain bitterly that the omission of the first chapter of the book makes it a lesser work, my wife will always watch every frame, because it was written by William Goldman.
And now the man who made so many of those favorite moments has gone. He left dozens of screenplays and inspired a generation of screenwriters, and would-be screenwriters like me. He brought the Terra to life for Butch and Sundance to stomp on, and for Buttercup and Westley to find each other. He will be missed.
Aloha, Mister Goldman.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Anatomy Of A Snow Day

When I was a lad, I used to sit in the kitchen listening to the radio, barely able to breathe as school closures were announced. At times the list seemed to be organized with the specific intent of driving those children in Boulder Valley RE-2 mad with anticipation. We certainly had our share of disappointments, as our hearty pioneer town's spirit was generally rewarded with a slog to school in all kinds of inclement weather. It snows in Colorado. Get used to it, kid.
But on those rare occasions when the roads truly were impassible and the forecast was for even more, we got what we wanted: A chance to spend the day playing outside.
And that's pretty much what I expected when the Oakland Unified School District chose to fall in line with the rest of the Bay Area and cancel classes for the Friday before Thanksgiving Break. What would be gained by sending those children hearty enough to brave the last day before a week off into the poisonous cloud that had been plaguing the area for the past week? More and more kids had been showing up to school in masks, along with their parents, certain that any exposure to the atmosphere would cause them to melt into a choking mass of spasms. I didn't have the heart to explain how bitterly all of those students had taken the pill handed to them called "indoor recess." They would happily run and kick balls and climb and chase one another until they dropped. The powers that be just didn't want to be responsible for that last part.
So we got a smoke day. It was announced just as school was being dismissed for the day on Thursday, and I heard the news first from a group of third graders. Which is precisely why I doubted it. Then our crossing guard approached me with the same proclamation. Which is right about the time my phone began to buzz. An email delivered directly to me, from the superintendent, telling me that I didn't need to come to work the next day. We were getting an extra day right before our scheduled vacation.
Which I used to come into school for a couple hours, to straighten up and prepare for the next time we all got together to do the teaching thing. On my way down the hill, I saw one of my little charges jumping rope on the sidewalk. Braving the elements. "Mister Caven!" she cried, "What are you doing? There's no school!" Her face was squished into a knot of confusion that mostly found on second grade girls.
"I'm just going to go in and clean some things up," I replied. And enjoy the day of quiet.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bearing The Smoky

As we negotiated the poor air quality here in the Bay Area, I had a number of random thoughts.
The first one was this: I would love to be the person who had the concession on those tacky surgical masks that men, women, and children of all ages are strapping to their noses and mouths. I have to imagine that the markup on those babies is pretty severe, since they run from anywhere between eleven dollars and thirty-two dollars. Reminiscent of the run on duct tape and plastic sheeting in December of 1999.
Another aspect of living in a haze is the choices that we make. I went out for a run on a couple of mornings after the air quality began to dip. This decision was based primarily on the notion that I might not get any exercise at all being trapped inside all day. This transferred abruptly to the enthusiasms of the kids at school, who felt disabused by the suggestion by these so-called grownups that they should not be allowed to play outside. Never mind that their number had been reduced steadily over the course of the week due to parental concerns and wheezing among their family members. The overarching sentiment seemed to be, "I may end up in the hospital tonight, but I will play four square today!"
The last impression that has been renewed for me is that of the morning cigarette. There have been plenty of times when I have been riding my bike to school or out for a run as the sun is making its presence felt, and I see a man or a woman hunching over to light up. There is no better way for your lungs to start a day than to fill them with contaminants. Add to this picture the gray could of smoke enveloping them from outside even as they take that first big drag. And proceed to hack up what remains of their respiratory system.
And all the while, we know that these are the lucky ones. The ones who dealt with the extraneous effects of the worst wildfire in California history. Where there's smoke, there's smoke. The fire is a hundred plus miles away. Take a whiff of that. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018


What a great slogan "Good Guy With A Gun" is. It has that brevity that makes it hard to dislodge from your prefrontal cortex. It has the alliteration that makes it sing. It seems to make so much sense. Until you start to unravel it.
The number of good guys with guns that died in the line of duty because of a gun that wasn't in the hands of a good guy is forty-four. Forty-four good guys and gals with guns died because their jobs are inherently dangerous. Because, as most people will remind you, there are a lot more bad guys with guns who don't follow the rules who don't care who they shoot on the other side of that thin blue line.
And then there's Jemel Roberson,a church musician and a security guard at Manny’s Blue Room Bar in Robbins, Illinois. Jemel was doing his job early last Sunday morning when he asked a group of drunken patrons to leave the bar. Moments later, one of them came back with a gun. He opened fire. In the ensuing tumult, Roberson apprehended one of the men outside the bar. He had a knee on the bad guy's back and held a gun on him, suggesting that he did not move. Police officers arrived on the scene and shot Jemel Roberson. He was shot five times. Without ever firing a shot in anger, Jemel Roberson was dead. 
Two days before this incident, Roberson had played at his grandmother's funeral. 
Without casting any further judgments into these murky waters, let's just take guns out of this interaction. Security guard asks drunken patrons to leave a bar in the wee hours of the morning. One of them comes back looking for a fight. A scuffle ensues, and police are called. They show up and settles the dispute. Someone ends up being cited, maybe jailed, for their behavior. Order is restored. 
In this particular version, however, Good Guy with a Gun Gone. And the number of times this kind of thing goes wrong, it's probably worth remembering. Not just in your prefrontal cortex, but in your heart as well. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Evacuate And Shun

A very good friend of mine and I were joking the other night as we talked on the phone. She was relating to me how she had coordinated a five minute, a thirty minute, and a one hour evacuation plan. I suggested that we pitch an HGTV show, where she could go from home to home, advising others on the delicate balance of things you need when you can't stay in your house. Having just returned from two days away from her own home, evacuated from the path of the Thousand Oaks fire, our conversation strayed into some pretty dark places. Considering there were a great many people who had never had the chance to flee, or to ponder what items might make the trip away from their homes, there was an edge of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I.
Which made me start to inventory my own life. What would I drag out the front door if I only had five minutes to choose? Would I have the presence of mind to remember my carefully laid plan? The most obvious answer is the one where I take the irreplaceable: My wife and myself. The stuff would have to wait. People, we preached to our son from a very early age, are more important than things. But what about those animation cels? The movie poster collection? Somewhere in a recess of my mind, I recall insurance playing a part in this, but I cannot imagine that there will be a replacement for the frame signed by Chuck Jones to me. I don't expect there is a set price for wedding photos. Or DVDs of our son when he was a tiny boy. When we taught him that people are more important than things.
Still, there is a short list of things I would like to believe I would tuck under my arm when the flames came over the hill, or the house began to creak and fail in an earthquake. The photo album. That first edition of Breakfast of Champions. Our wedding cake topper. The file cabinet with the last twenty-five years of documents, warranties, and policies. Or maybe just my wits.
It pains me just a little to think about what Neil Young must have lost in the fire. It makes me smile when I think about the man who found his wife's wedding ring amid the ashes. It gladdens my heart to know that my friends and family are safe again.
For now.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Man

I have thought about writing this epitaph a hundred times. Stan Lee lived to be ninety-five years old, and I am still working on finding words to express the impact this man had on my life. For a period of time, I was signing my name with the parenthetical (the Amazing Spider Man). I read more comic books than your average nerd, and though I had dalliances with other publishers, I was a Marvel guy. This was the standard and the brand that I could trust. It was part of the road map of my life.
It should be noted that the first time I proposed to my wife, I did so as an homage to Peter Parker and his paramour Mary Jane Watson. As I mentioned, this was the first of many attempts, but it should be noted that a copy of that comic still stands on an altar next to our wedding photo. It is the way the legend has proved to be stronger than the more twisted path of reality.
If you don't know Stan Lee, you might have been asleep for the past fifty years, so I will tell you that he is the man responsible for heroes. Heroes like the aforementioned Spider Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Incredible Hulk, and Howard the Duck.
Yes. I went with my older brother to see Howard the Duck when George Lucas turned it into a movie. We paid full price. And we liked it. I watched the CBS TV version of Spider Man. Okay, I wasn't in love with it, but I watched. When Sam Raimi finally got his hands on the Webslinger, I was in heaven, even if that third outing went a little awry. But I was back in line when Andrew Garfield pulled on those red and blue tights. Twice. All this time, Stan was gearing up for a Marvel Cinematic Universe that brought us Iron Man, and resurrected Captain America, breathed new life int Black Widow and made Hawkeye cool.
With each new movie, I found myself drawn back to those comics. The ones I had read for so many years, and eventually introduced to my son. He and I sat in the audience of together and waited for the cameo from the man who brought us all these amazing stories. As many times as I have watched the Avengers on screen, I return to that frame where the Avengers discover Steve Rogers, frozen in time. This was the moment of my awakening, and ever since then, I have made mine Marvel.
Stan Lee stomped on the Terra and galaxies beyond our imaginations. Thankfully, he shared those worlds with us, and I that those ninety-five years were never enough, but I am eternally grateful for the gifts he shared. He will be missed. Aloha, Stan. And Excelsior!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Autumn Years

Autumn, for me, is a swirl of memories about  loss. When my grandmother died, my father drove my friend Darren and I around  while he picked up his mother's  ashes. Afterward, not knowing exactly how to  cap off an errand like that, stopped and bought us a case of beer. Which we put in the back of the car with that box of cremains. That was one fall.  A couple of  years later, as the leaves began to  turn, it was Darren who died. He was taken much too soon, before he graduated from college. It was my father who went to the hospital to pick up  my friend Joe, who lived through the car crash. He told  Joe that this was the time that he believed that dads should be able to tell kids  that everyone and everything would be okay. They both knew it wasn't. It wasn't okay. My parents bought us pizza that we may have eaten. We weren't hungry. It was a few more years before it was my father's turn. I was hungry on the day of my father's funeral.  It wasn't a car but a plane that got him. By this time, I had stopped drinking, but I went for a cheeseburger and sat in a booth where we had sat with my father so many times. It was almost twenty years before the undertoad reached up and grabbed our beloved family dog. I suppose she did us a favor by choosing the anniversary of Darren's death to go to sleep and not wake up. We buried her in our back yard. There was a chill in the air.
And all of these images come to mind when the days start to get shorter, and the shadows grow longer. I have been able to fill in the gaps with seasonal memories that don't come with graveside visions or ironic connections to those who have passed. Trick or treating with my son. Thanksgiving preparations and back to school sales. Most of those years have not included funerals. Still, at some point when summer is over, my mind starts to wander down those dark lanes. At some point I will sit and ponder my own existence and how I came to live here. To be alive here. I figure I owe that to those who went ahead of me. I am making autumn mean something more than loss. Yet, I can't help but be a little anxious at this time of year.
Because I remember.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions is a climate change denier. "Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases," he said during a 2015 Senate hearing for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
He called the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation,” a quote that he stood by during his failed 1986 federal judicial confirmation hearing.
One of Mister Sessions' staffers, Thomas Figures, testified that his boss derogatorily called him "boy" and joked about the KKK in front of him. Sessions' former co-workers also testified that he joked that he thought the hate group was “OK," until he learned that they "smoked marijuana.”
Figures also testified that Sessions called the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.” 
Sessions was the first senator to endorse Donald Trump. “People don’t have to endorse all of his rhetoric, but he’s correct on the issues, substantively, and he’s where the American people want to be, and we as a party should celebrate this and join this movement.” 
Yes, there was a time when Jeff Sessions was appointed by the man who he felt was"where the American people wan to be." He became Attorney General of the United States. And when that didn't turn out to be a slam dunk for his boss to be immune from prosecution, his boss had to let him go. Or in this peculiar version of reality, he was "asked to resign." Now he's gone. In his place is an opening that will no doubt offer the "President" a chance to fill it with something more subservient and dedicated to the movement he inspired. Something more divisive and more supportive of the untouchable nature that this administration demands. Jeff Sessions, once considered to racist to become a federal judge, apparently wouldn't go fare enough.
Scary? Imagining there might be a future when we look back at Jeff Sessions' stint as Attorney as "the good old days?" Very scary indeed. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Paradise Lost

I decided to bring the fifth graders in from the playground early. In the middle of their recess, it became apparent that some of them were feeling the effects. Not from the nominal rigors of exercise, but the challenge of breathing in air that was increasingly laden with smoke. One hundred seventy miles north, a fire was burning, and in Oakland, we were feeling the effects. We went inside and played Heads-up/Seven-up. Much to the dismay of many of the fifth graders who felt there was no imminent threat to their health.
On this Thursday afternoon, air quality in the Bay Area was measured at 199, some thirty points worse than that of Beijing at the same time. Those with breathing challenges and other concerns were advised to remain indoors. Meanwhile, one hundred seventy miles north, things were much worse. In Paradise, California the air was on fire.
Thirty thousand people were evacuated in advance of the wind-driven blaze, and the quixotically named town burned to the ground. Homes, businesses, restaurants, a retirement home, all destroyed. Paradise was gone, but not forgotten.
These kind of wildfires are now becoming more prevalent, especially in high density areas that were once farmland and open space. Providing fuel for fires makes them burn longer, faster. They also occur more often in a world where the climate has shifted enough to make conditions tinder dry at a time when rain used to dominate the forecast for months at a time.
The year before I moved to Oakland, there was a similar firestorm in the hills above the city. Neighborhoods were wiped out. Hillsides were left barren. But it didn't take long before lots of people and their insurance money returned to the area and built new homes. Because of some twisted pioneer spirit. And that will probably happen in Paradise too. And these folks will live there as a constant reminder of what can happen, and whenever the wind blows in that certain direction...
I don't think this is the last time we will be having PE inside.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Stop Making Sense

Well, after all that heady business of midterm elections, it's nice to know that we can get back to basics: A mass shooting. If it seems like just minutes since the last one, you would be right. Instead of screaming at each other about red and white and policy, we go back to screaming into the night about the blood on the floor.
Wednesday night, a lone gunman walked into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California and did what lone gunmen do: He opened fire. When it was all over, thirteen people were dead, including the shooter. Among the dead was Sergeant Ron Helus of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. Sergeant Helus was one of the first on the scene, and was hit multiple times by the initial spray of bullets.
Sorry. That's a bit of hyperbole brought on by trying to describe another senseless murder. "Spray of bullets?" I embarrass myself, and I beg your forgiveness. There is no polite way to describe guns going off in close proximity to human beings or other animals. "Hail?" I think I used that one a week or so ago as I discussed the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The synagogue whose name will now always have an ironic ring: Tree of Life.
Sorry. There I go again. I am trying to make some point by connecting the facts of the case with the tragedy itself. It's something humans do: Try and make sense. Which is why there will be yet another search for a motive. Why did this twenty-something walk into a bar and kill a dozen people? It matters most to those who lost a friend or loved one, but we all lean in to try and understand how such awfulness could erupt at a college-friendly watering hole in southern California.
The killer was a Marine who had previously been contacted by authorities earlier this year during a domestic dispute. He was evaluated by mental health professionals and deemed "not a threat." The handgun he used was purchased legally. And finally I apologize for writing any of this down, except it is the only way I know to try and make it fit into my world.
It should make sense.
But it doesn't.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Path

Ten years ago I strutted around feeling like I changed the world. My vote for Barack Obama was the stuff of legend. I had actively participated in the election of the first African American President of the United States. I truly felt that I had been a part of the hope and change our country and this planet needed. Since then, I have endured my share of disappointments. I have lived through what appears now as the inevitable backlash of all that hope and change.
I am old enough to remember casting votes for Al Gore and John Kerry. I can also remember the tearful days of consoling my wife who feels these things even more deeply than I do. We had voted for Bill Clinton, twice, and we assumed that the United States was coming around. When Bill's wife lost her chance to become the first woman President of the United States to a blustering, questionably coiffed real estate developer, it became clear that the path to hope and change was a winding one. It was not an escalator.
Seeing how I was in this for the long haul, I signed up to vote by mail. I did this primarily to ensure that I would be an active piece of the democratic machinery ongoing. In case my tires were flat on Election Day, I had already passed my ballot on to the proper authorities and my voice would be heard. And, after the debacles of 2000 and 2016, it seems like a lot of others decided to join my in my compulsion. Thirty-six million of us in the 2018 midterm election. 
We voted for a Democrats to take control of the House of Representatives. We voted for the youngest woman, at twenty-nine, to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a dreamer, a Dreamer, and a Bernie Sanders-style progressive. In Colorado, the first openly gay man, was elected Governor of the Centennial State. Jared Polis  vowed to fight for Medicare-for-all. He also backed stronger gun laws, investments in renewable energy, repeal of the death penalty, and for universal full-day preschool and kindergarten as an extension of Colorado’s public schools. And what did I do, here in California? Well, I kept my little corner of it blue. Deep blue. As I talked about the returns to my mother back in Colorado, she sounded disappointed. "I guess I wanted more," she said. And I understood. The fear and hate is still out there, and all this hope and change will be hard pressed to extinguish it.
But it's a start. 

Friday, November 09, 2018

Life Matters

When the man who shot and killed eleven at a Pittsburgh area synagogue was brought to the Allegheny general hospital to have his wounds treated, it was nurse Ari Mahler who cared for him. Ari Mahler is Jewish. The man who shot and killed eleven at the Tree of Life temple had screamed "Death to all Jews!" just an hour before was kept alive by the very people he wished to exterminate. Nurse Mahler wrote this last Saturday: “I’ve watched them talk about me on CNN, Fox News, Anderson Cooper, PBS and the local news stations. I’ve read articles mentioning me in the Times and the Washington Post. The fact that I did my job, a job which requires compassion and empathy over everything, is newsworthy to people because I’m Jewish. Even more so because my dad’s a rabbi.” 
Compassion and empathy over everything.
Which brought me back to a time some twenty years ago, when my school's staff was given an opportunity to visit the Museum Of Tolerance in Los Angeles. While there, we were afforded an audience with a survivor of the Nazi death camps. He told us about how he escaped from a train car that was taking him and his family to extermination. His family was not as fortunate as he. After he told his story, someone asked what he would do if he encountered Hitler today. "I wouldn't kill him," he said. "I would build him a house in Israel. With glass walls and windows and doors, so every morning when he woke up, he would see us. That he could not kill us all." 
And so there it was. Given a chance to exact revenge, he chose to enforce empathy. The number of times Jewish gunmen have broken into alt-right meeting groups and screamed "Death to all Nazis" sits squarely at zero. That is not how this is supposed to work. Life will go on. Every day we learn something new. 
I learned something from nurse Ari Mahler. Here it is: “If my actions mean anything, love means everything.”

Thursday, November 08, 2018

You Are What You Reap

It's about time to close up shop on the front yard garden. This summer we had great success with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. We were giving the stuff away, we had so many vegetables. The same cannot be said for the sunflower we planted in the corner of one of the raised boxes we maintained with mild vigilance. Somehow the regular watering that seemed to make everything else grow so very impressively didn't seem to matter to the wilting stalk that started with so much yellowy promise.
We also tried to coax more than a single fruit from our green pepper plant. There was an initial burst that seemed to suggest that we might have salads to be proud of which resulted in that aforementioned lone pepper. And it had been gnawed upon by creatures who seemed only vaguely interested since they left the back half of the pepper, the part we could see initially, but the back half was a toothy mass of discarded rodent snack.
In the back forty (yard), we planted parsley and four strawberry plants. The first was for garnish and breath freshening. The second was for shortcake. Or a reason to bake shortcake, but you know what I mean. The parsley flourished, while the disregard ladled on the green pepper by furry pests was not felt by the strawberries. After surrendering a month and a half's yield to the trash pandas, I rigged up a hanging pot that took them out of the path of the dessert vermin.
Now it's November, and the harvest is just about complete. Since the tomato plant was a leftover from last year that seemed to awaken in spring, we might still have a few of those to drop into our store bought salads. The cucumber vines are spent and tired, and there are two butternut squashes that seem about ready to be rescued from their spot on the ground.
And the biggest green leafy surprise was the chard my wife rescued from the Ace Hardware dumpster. For a month, we ignored it. Then we decided that as long as we were planting a garden we might as well try to resurrect it. Lo and behold, it came charging back, leaving us with great leafy goodness that was chopped up and fried down into a brown paste that my wife seemed to enjoy quite a lot. And that rogue tomato plant? I'm thinking I might go ahead and string some Christmas lights on it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

People Who Live In White Houses

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
"If someone throws a tone at you, throw back a loaf of bread."
"There is a time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones together."
"They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. ... I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military police, I say: Consider it a rifle."
If that last one doesn't ring quite as true or sound as poetic as the others, consider the source: That's what the "President" suggested how the troops he sent the the U.S./Mexico border deal with anyone who would cast a stone at them. Shoot them. Men, women and children who have walked hundreds of miles as an act of desperation probably didn't get the memo. 
Elsewhere in the world, The Nigerian army last Friday used our "President's" remarks to justify opening fire at Shi'ite Muslim protesters in their country earlier in the week. Good news travels quickly, but vile threats might travel just a little quicker. 
It could be that being echoed by a government weighed down by human rights abuses, after eight years of conflict with Boko Haram, our "President" chose to tone down his initial bombast. Instead, he went with a more subdued, "They won't have to fire. What I don't want is I don't want these people throwing rocks," the "President" told reporters outside the White House. "If they do that with us, they're going to be arrested for a long time."
A long time. More than likely separating families. In tents. And guess what?
There are still people coming north. The conditions that they left behind in Honduras were such that being threatened with rifles and prison hasn't stopped them. You can't really bet the farm if  the farm has already been burned  to the ground. Why would they throw rocks? Because rocks are what are left them when they have run into obstacles. Thousands of troops with rifles versus hundreds of undernourished and exhausted refugees. Why would they line up for asylum in a country that would shoot them for throwing rocks? 
Perhaps because America, in spite of best efforts by those who would make it great again, is where they long to be. Throw bread. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Look Out 'Cause Here It Comes

It's not my nineteenth nervous breakdown. I passed that milepost somewhere last year. In Spring. Since then it's been a series of moments of disbelief coupled with impotent rage while the country that I love has been turned into a Monopoly game. Look at those numbers! Look at that stock market! Look at all this winning!
Not winning here, sorry. Stuck in a morass of competing notions: The ones lauded by Fox News, and the "lies" spread by "Fake News." I would like, at this point, to say that I have always held a certain amount of doubt about everything that I read and see. As it turns out, Darth Vader wasn't really Luke's father. He was an actor in a costume, a guy who lifted weights for a living and also portrayed Frankenstein's Monster. And that wasn't even his voice. It was the Lion King's voice. And Luke was really that kid from Corvette Summer. We live in a swirl of information that needs to be verified.
But here's one thing that you can take to the bank: If you don't like the way things are going, you have a power that doesn't get exercised nearly as often as it should. You can vote. Vote like your life depended on it, since it turns out that it just might.
I am a fan of hyperbole, at least when it comes to exploding angry ideas held mistakenly by those who have spent too long with their heads in the metaphorical sand. Or even actual sand, if that happens to be the case. The suggestion that we are somehow Making America Great Again by creating more divides and widening the gulf between the sliver of haves and the vast majority of have-nots, or that missiles and guns are our best defense in a world that has already normalized the idea of mutually assured destruction scares me. If it scares you, vote.
Vote if you have a conscience and you are tired of being told that all is well as strains of fiddle music can be heard coming from the White House as the country burns. Maybe not all at once, but slowly turned to a cinder by ignoring climate change.
If you have spent just ten minutes in the past two years wondering how things could have taken this ugly turn, vote. Honestly, even if it never occurred to you that things have taken a nasty turn to the right and we are accelerating toward a cliff, take a moment to consider exactly how you want your city, state, county, country to look in ten years. And why not ponder this question on your way to your local polling place? Where you can vote.
That is what makes America great. And has for two hundred forty-two years.

Monday, November 05, 2018

What Are Those?

At the dawn of the sports shoe phenomenon, there was one shoe: The Adidas Superstar. In the mid-seventies, there was no glut of athletic footwear. I wore Keds to play in, and Buster Browns to school and church. Come home from school, take off school shoes and lace up the knockabouts. Which was fine for elementary school, but the advent of junior high school suggested that I would need to have a pair of shoes to wear for PE. Daily. The advent of junior high also meant that I was suddenly thrust into a pool of peer pressure that I had not anticipated. Carrying an extra pair of shoes around all day was not something that was done. Kids were now buying those expensive brand name athletic shoes and wearing them all day long.
All day long.
I took this matter to my mother, who was my chaperone in matters of sartorial splendor. Every autumn we would go shopping for school clothes, with a stop at Thornton's Shoes to pick up my Buster Browns and Keds. Which is where the plaintive whine began to emit from her middle son. "Mom, all the kids have Adidas. Why can't I have Adidias?" And so, in good faith, we went down the block to check out the sporting goods store to see just what we were getting into. When it became obvious that the price point of Adidas Superstars would buy three or four pair of Keds, I began to back down. I had grown up accompanying my mother to the grocery store, pushing the cart and acting as coupon caddy, and I understood value. And economy. These "tennis shoes" were not necessities, they were luxury items. I got that.
But my mother was listening. A week later, she returned from a trip to the mall with a pair of tennis shoes with green stripes. It turns out that Penny's was selling their own version of the Superstar. I now owned a pair. I wore them to school the very next day.
The snickers that accompanied my entrance into Centennial Junior High washed over me like a wave. How could this be? At last I fit in.
A "friend" of mine took me aside and pointed out the obvious: Adidas had three strips. My Penny's tennies had four. Anyone could see the difference. I pulled out a few valiant defenses of the value of my shoes, and how I could afford to buy two or three pair of my discount brand while they would have to save up for months to buy just one of the "real thing."
What I didn't reckon on was the strength of status symbols. I was not going to buy anything to elevate my status from Penny's. Which is probably why I ended up buying my first home stereo components from them. And I wore those shoes out. And bought another pair.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Posse

"Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
The current "President" told reporters that he might send up to fifteen thousand troops to the border with Mexico to deter a Central American migrant caravan slowly heading toward the United States. “We’ll go up to anywhere between ten thousand and fifteen thousand military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border,” his highness said.
How are these two items related? If you are wondering how the despot currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania can get away with flying directly in the face of a federal law that has been on the books for more than one hundred forty years, then you're not alone. The most obvious response would be that the Congress is currently squarely in lapdog stage of existence coming just before a midterm election. Also, since the "President" continues to refer to the group of refugees from Honduras as "an invasion," he will most certainly whip enough dim minds into a frenzy that will allow the use of overwhelming force against a band of men, women and children who have walked hundreds of miles in order to find relief from the life they had been leading south of our border. 
If fifteen thousand troops were to be deployed on that border, that force would outnumber that currently deployed in all of Afghanistan. I suppose it does allow the tyrant-in-chief a chance to visit the troops in the field, something he hasn't done yet during his term. Since there aren't a lot of quality golf clubs in Afghanistan, I suspect. 
But getting back to the posse comitatus, how is this obvious assault on federal law being justified? The same way Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed. The same way laws have been broken by this administration for the past two years. The same way this nimrod got elected. 

Saturday, November 03, 2018

What You Read

Believe this: I do not expect that anyone would take anything that I write here as gospel. I am a tech teacher in an urban elementary school and I teach my students about Al Gore's Internet and how it works. One of the first lessons is this: Don't believe anything you see once. I spent a couple of days politely disagreeing with a third grader who insisted that vampires were real, much to the distress of his little brother. He had seen a video on YouTube that convinced him, and that was enough. I asked if maybe he wanted to look at another website or two that might persuade him differently. On the third day, it became apparent that a parent had stepped in to put the kibosh on the stories of pointy-teeth undead roaming the streets of Oakland.
Just because you saw it on Al Gore's Internet, it doesn't mean it's real.
Which may still be a surprise to Jacob Wohl. Jacob was a teenaged hedge fund owner who ended up running afoul of several state and federal investigations, decided to become a conservative media star in his twenties. His most recent effort included a tweet that suggested that a bombshell was about to drop on Robert Mueller, media-wise. The "scandalous story" was teased, and then the following day was unveiled. The former director of the FBI was being accused of sexual misconduct. The investigators were from Surefire Intelligence, who exist primarily in the form of a cobbled-together Linked-In profile created by (here's the twist) none other than Jacob Wohl. As this shaggy dog of a story began to shed, it was revealed that "someone"  had offered various women twenty thousand dollars to claim that Mueller, while an attorney in private practice in the mid-1970s, and engaged in some form of sexual misconduct. Surefire's voicemail redirects to Jacob's mom's voicemail. 
So, it turns out that the scandalous story was there, just not in the way Mister Wohl may have expected it to unravel. 
Which doesn't mean that Robert Mueller isn't a vampire, however. 
But you don't have to believe me. Call my mom's voice mail. 

Friday, November 02, 2018

Words Matter

For years, I have straddled a lie. I have positioned myself as one who believes that sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me, and at the same time I know that there are plenty of names that can inflict pain. These are the lessons of youth, as well as the struggle of being human. We all know that, when backed into a corner, there are directed and aimed words that are thrown around with malice and forethought. When I think back about all the fights I have had in my life, very few of them have involved punches being thrown. This does not mean that I have not hurt anyone. This is why I have spent my teaching career educating children to use their words. Not in a harsh or evil way, but in a caring and careful way.
This means that sentences like "Your mom is so..." are not not going to help. Most of the phrases that address the other person first turn out to be challenges rather than reconciliation. The really useful ones are those that start with "I." I-Messages are something that we teach little kids to help them express complicated feelings. "I don't like it when you kick my backpack." At the same time, we are teaching children to hear those messages and heed them. This sometimes turns out to be even more difficult than the giving the message in the first place. If you are stuck in a place that doesn't allow much room between action and reaction, caring about how another person feels often gets lost in the blur of emotions that make up a day.
And every so often, it works just like it's supposed to. That is when the magic happens. Fists unclench. Brows unfurrow. Tears dry. Smiles return. And the business of the day continues. I want to believe that are the moments when our society grows stronger. Bonds are made. Peace replaces chaos.
America is a tough playground. There isn't a lot of listening going on. That makes empathy a pretty scarce commodity. Hearing the pain and making room to let the air out of hate and fear as it strains to take over all our interactions. And the understanding that it takes a lot of strength to say, "I'm sorry." Making mistakes is part of being human. We can all stand to be a little more human to each other. Use your words.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

How Long?

The full fury of Twitter was unleashed after our "President" suggested that armed guards at a Pittsburgh synagogue would have helped save the day. The four responding police officers who were wounded in the hail of gunfire last Saturday may have different opinions on that matter. Good guys with guns are rarely the solution to halting hails of gunfire. They tend to be victims along with the good guys without guns, since armed guards would be responding to trouble instead of going out in search of trouble.
Which seems to be the model upon which the "President" is aiming. This is a guy who seems to believe that it's best to shoot first and ask questions later. Since the shooting is over, for now, here are some questions:
What places or institutions would be safe without armed guards?
What places or institutions should be safe without armed guards?
Is there a connection between harsh rhetoric and the violence in our country currently?
Is there a place where, if an attack occurred there, you would be willing to consider gun control?
Are you troubled by the number of your supporters showing up with blood on their hands?
When will it end?
Pardon me.
Now I see that my questions have veered off into bleeding heart territory, which is of mild comfort to myself because it suggests that I do indeed have blood flowing through my heart. It is the part that makes me grieve for the victims no matter how many times we wander down this path. The obscene irony that some of the dead in Pittsburgh were old enough to remember a time when Jews were rounded up and killed because of their faith. They lived long enough to have their light extinguished by someone who wanted "all Jews to die."
One more question: When will it end?