Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I slept on the couch of my son's house. Not for the first time, but maybe for the last. He will soon be graduating from college, and the future will provide him with a new place to live. The potential for more couches still exist, but they most likely be shared with a group of college students with different majors, backgrounds and circumstances. The next couch could be in the place where he lives by himself. That would be brand new.
This caused me to reflect on the houses and apartments in which I lived after leaving my parents' house so many years ago. Initially, there was the requisite dorm room with a single bed. My roommate chose to live up in the loft, the roommate assigned to me by campus housing. In the room that was assigned to me by campus housing. I fled the next year.
Landing in my hometown again and being in my second year of undergraduate studies, I found a townhouse where the kind of hard-drinking heroics I was becoming familiar with could take place. I brought a roommate to this place, and we put out an ad for two more. We got lucky on one, and took a Mulligan on the second once he moved out after the first couple months. We walked on the supplied furniture and I learned to make Hamburger Helper in the kitchen. In June, the gang split up and I headed down the hill to a one bedroom where I could be alone.
But not for long. A co-worker of mine from Arby's took up residence in that place, and after a brief negotiation, we made the crash into a shared living arrangement. This was an apartment small enough that the fun often spilled out onto the street. Sometimes from the fourth floor balcony as we asked arriving guests to play "If You Catch It, You Can Keep It." This was also part of our strategy when it came time to move across the street, joining forces once again with our friend from Muskogee. We tossed a great many of our belongings to the ground below, and then hustled them across the street, into yet another furnished apartment.
Where we walked on the furniture. And played the stereo loud. And behaved as we had honed our skills to be animals who drank and drugged and oh by the way went to school and had part time jobs. It was a delicate balance that eventually spilled out into disaster. Three of us moved in. Only two moved out.
I returned to a one bedroom. This time I was on the south end of town. My place was no longer party central. It was another furnished bunker where I lived by myself.. No additional distractions to keep me from my appointed destination: graduation. When I needed debauchery, I had to travel across town. It was on one such adventure that I tore up my knee, necessitating a recovery period that kept me from going to the two classes of summer semester that would have pushed me out into the world a few months earlier. Instead, I spent the summer rehabbing my broken joint and putting off the inevitable. It came six months later, and I walked to campus carrying my robe. When the ceremony was over, we gathered at my parents' house. Full circle, one might say, but I still had more apartments in my future. The ones where I was a grownup.
Or at least that's what I told myself.

Monday, December 30, 2019

From The Road

With our son in the back seat, we headed south. We had made this trip enough times to know it by heart. The past few voyages down the coast had been in the service of getting our boy to work on time. A four hour commute was necessary because of the lack of functioning wheels on his end. He was in the middle swapping engines from a car he did not love to one with which he had grown up. It was a much more involved exchange than the YouTube videos had led him to believe.
What this meant to our holidays was that if we wanted to be together, we would have to make some sacrifices.
He rode the train up, and we drove him back down, allowing maximum time as a family. And plenty of time on the road. We listened to each other and to the music and podcasts we could share. 
But two days after Christmas we were also trying to nurse the boy through a miserable cold. On this leg he nestled into the back seat and we kept offering tea and sympathy. In some other families, this could have been a chance to extend the vacation. Not for our child. He was going to work his full shift even if it killed him.
It was our fervent wish that this would not be the case, but we were as committed as he was. We raised him that way after all. His bosses were pleased with his work ethic as well. I had been the one who limped, hacked, wheezed or sniffled his way to work on more occasions than I cared to describe. I had set the bar for missing work at kidney stone and therefore I could only imagine what odd standard I had impressed on my son.
Actually, I didn't have to imagine. I was seeing it played out in front of me. No plaintive emails. No calls from the road. No note form his parents excusing him from the day. He was determined and honor bound to make his appearance. 
So we got up early and headed out on the highway. We remembered all those road trips we made to the bottom of the state. The anticipation then was very different. We knew what awaited us. This was different. We were headed to the inevitable. Not to Disneyland, but back to the  mall where he would survive to sell another big screen TV or two. Realistically, we understood that he was not courting death in this version, but rather a continuation of the reputation that preceded him. Bravo to him and his parents who carried him there. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Ghost Of Video Stores Past

It was the night of Christmas, and all  through the house
discussions of movies began with my spouse
we went down her list and studied with care
in hopes we could find something to share
four of us sat in the kitchen fretting
about which title we soon would be getting
We offered suggestions and films by the score
but couldn't find one that didn't seem like a chore
No violence for grandma, no romance for me
no downers for mom not even for free
Now Netflix, or Hulu or Amazon Prime
all of these choices - please don't wast our time
Then a cry rose from the living room
that had been quiet as a tomb
"How about something from Disney?"
my son hollered with glee
"Maybe some Avengers or Star Wars perhaps
to awaken us all from our long winter naps"
We sat on the couch with minds still turning
possibilities of movies still endlessly churning
Classics and comedies, documentaries galore
with all these choices we still wanted more
Action, no rom-coms, how about drama
there must be something to show to your mama
We had some cookies and fudge to keep up our strength
continuing our search and discussing at length
Then the clock on the wall told us it was time to go
we hadn't even watched our favorite TV show
And when grandma had left, bags in her hand
we all went to bed much earlier than planned
We drifted off to dreamland our holiday marred
Next year we'll all agree to watch Die Hard

Saturday, December 28, 2019


"I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I've studied it better than anybody I know. It's very expensive. They're made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they're manufactured tremendous — if you're into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it's in China, Germany, it's going into the air. It's our air, their air, everything — right? They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday. You'll see more birds than you've ever seen ever in your life. You know, in California, they were killing the bald eagle. If you shoot a bald eagle, they want to put you in jail for ten years. A windmill will kill many bald eagles. It's true.  If you killed one, they put you in jail. That's OK. But why is it okay for these windmills to destroy the bird population? And that's what they're doing. I've seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you've ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up. If you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth fifty percent of the price."
I submit this rambling monologue not as much as an impeachable offense, but rather as an offense to any sentient being. These were the words of the "president" to the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit last week. It's one thing to say this group skews a little to the right, but their rabid support of this guy, whose favorite color is orange according to his ramblings, makes me wonder about the future of our youth. It would be one thing if Alec Baldwin had gotten up on stage and started raving like this and it was part of some comedy skit. Not so. This was a scheduled personal appearance by the "president," not a drunken tirade given at last call by the guy at the end of the bar. There were lights. There were cameras. There were recording devices. The absence of apologies or clarifications about any of the "facts" contained in his diatribe tells me that there are vast swaths of humanity willing to gobble up this swill without bothering to examine any of the content. It's just great to see someone sticking it to "the man." 
Except this is "the man." The man to whom on any given day half of our country is looking up to as the man with a plan. The same guy who wants to make a Space Force to defend our planet from invaders does not understand wind. 
Sleep tight, America. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

2020 Hindsight

Great news, America! Your government won't be shut down after all!
Maybe you missed that little bit of drama amid the rest of the drama that currently pervades our national scene. Last week, the "president" signed a bill called "the National Defense Authorization Act," and it allows all that money to go to the places where it needs to go. Or where the powers that be insist that they go.
Seven hundred thirty-eight billion dollars will go to "defense." That's how the bill got its name. That was a twenty billion dollar increase over the previous year, but not the seven hundred fifty billion that the "president" wanted. That's nine zeroes, by the way. If accounting is your bag. And if it is, you should know that this  budget accounts for the one trillion, four hundred billion dollars we will lavish upon ourselves in 2020. And if you dig that kind of math, then you have already reckoned that we are spending more than half of our budget on "defense."
Those quotation marks keep showing up because I take issue with the description of jet fighters and machine guns and tanks as "defense." Once again we will be buying replacement bombs and so forth to put in place of those we have not used. Because you never know when you're going to need to blow something up. For defense. On land, sea, air, or space. Space: the final frontier. This new budget officially tags forty million dollars to get Space Force up on its gravity free legs. Another note: this is thirty-two million dollars less than the "president" had asked for, but Death Stars weren't built in a day, were they?
And then there's nearly one and a half billion dollars to build a wall here on earth. The "president" had hoped for five billion, which would have allowed for stereo speakers and shag carpeting, but in these times, tough choices sometimes have to be made.
There were some "wins." There will be an additional one point four billion dollars spent on the upcoming census. Election security got a four hundred twenty-five million dollar bone tossed its way.
And nobody who makes bombs or spaceships will have to go hungry this year.
Yay, America.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Biased Review

Several people have asked me, "How did you like the new Star Wars."
It should be noted that none of these people asked me how I liked The Rise Of Skywalker. The inquiries I have received for the most part lie in that conversational gambit pit much in the same way that people talk about "that new show on Netflix" or the weather. I do not doubt their interest, in me anyway. That's because when I give my response that includes a shrug of my shoulders and words like "adequate" and "tying up loose ends," I get a sad face in return. And, "Oh, I'm sorry."
Because I have waited forty-two years for this. After buying tickets to see A New Hope in a theater dozens of times before the advent of home video, and snapping up the novelization and the nominal sequel as we all waited for the Empire to Strike Back, I did not dare to imagine that there would or could be decades filled with anticipation for the next chapter. Back in 1977, there was no talk of trilogies, outside of that close-knit group of nerds who hung on each syllable and wisp of myth. Fanboys.
I was one of those. I remember being crushed by the revelation that we would have to wait two years to discover what exactly Darth Vader meant by "I am your father." The Princess is his sister? What? Then, in 1983, all those questions were neatly answered by a bunch of Ewoks and a finale that left me wondering why it had to end like that.
Thirty-six years later, I feel that same sense of ennui. Why did it have to end like that? The choice to move ahead with episodes seven, eight and nine was not so much daring as good accounting. The public had already had its patience and pocketbooks tested by three prequels, why not stack another trilogy on top? A science fiction Big Mac, as it were.
The Last Jedi hooked me, much in the same way that Empire got snared me way back when. I was chock full of anticipation. How could any one movie cap off all those decades of nerdful expectation? The answer is simple: There is no way. In the same way that I picked the space nits off episodes one, two and three, and my misgivings about the way the Jedi returned, I was treating it as if it were my shared vision.
Which is dangerous, since it leads to disappointment. The joy and wonder I felt wandering around Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland and the warm feeling I got from the moment my six year old son ran in from the living room announcing, "Dad! Luke blew up the Death Star!" Those are the gifts of that land of make believe. The opportunity to quibble about the Kessel Run and Midichlorians only proves how important all of this made up junk was - is - to me.
How did I like the new Star Wars? I think it gives me a chance to do what I have been doing to 1977: Worry about something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Wishes

I wish for climate change
a way to turn back the clock
no more arguments
a planet that will support life
I wish children could be seen
as something besides targets
and not heard
screaming down hallways
I wish there was an app
that would remind people
to put down their phones
and talk to the people
in the room
I wish for a reboot
not of a movie or TV show
but our moral compass
up, down, right, wrong
I wish for a family
not torn apart
gathering together
without walls
I wish for peace and quiet
because currently
the peace we have
is far too loud
I wish for a friend
someone to talk to
who agrees with me
but not all the time
I wish for a thousand points of light
not in the sky
but here on the ground
to light the way
I wish for more happiness
because there is not enough
there never has been
but it's something I can wish for

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

By George

George was sad. You could see it on his face.
Unfortunately the audience for that face was half the school. During the holiday assembly, as his class sang "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town," he wasn't singing. He was in obvious distress. As the kids around him pantomimed "you better watch out, you better not cry," he was preparing to do just that: cry. The celebration taking place in the cafetorium was muted not the least little bit by what appeared to be his imminent collapse. Everyone on stage and in the crowd was immersed in the cute assault that first graders singing about Mister Claus making his list and checking it twice.
Except for two people. George and his mother.
Seated in the second row, George's mother was urging her son on, mouthing the words to him and shadowing the choreography. Each time George's eyes met his mother's, the tension increased. Mom's help wasn't having the desired effect. Just the opposite. All the stress that could be summoned up for this one performance was focused on this one six year old boy.
George is a very clever kid. He knows his dinosaurs and is happy to share what he knows about if you give him the chance. Sometimes it's about video games. Sometimes it's about the idea he has about dogs. He has boundless energy. On his own, he is a show. Now, here he is with an opportunity to show off, and he can't.
At least not the way he wanted to. Or his mother wanted him to.
George is also hopelessly devoted to his mother. Even  though they don't see each other as much as they would like. She drops him off at seven thirty every morning, and at the end of the day he is picked up by his daycare provider. Sometimes he spends the night there. His mother is working. She is equally devoted to her son, but her job keeps them apart.
Showing up to watch her son perform was a gift for them both. And it was overwhelming. When George's class trouped offstage, his mother met him at the stairs. She put an  arm around  him and  he  buried his face in her jacket. It was all too much. Now it was over. Together again, George and his mother walked out the side door. And they kept going. They would have some time together now. Christmas had come a little early.

Monday, December 23, 2019


If you pick up a box of corn starch, mostly full, and carefully knead it with your fingers you can simulate the sound of footsteps in the snow. If you are not one of those households that have a mostly full box of corn starch, then you are out of luck. If you don't know what footsteps in the snow sound like, then you may have a bigger problem.
Riding my bike to school over the past week there was wind, and rain. The temperature hung in the low fifties. I was briefly grateful for the essentially monochromatic weather scheme offered here in the Bay Area. We don't have snow days. Last year we did have a day where the smoke from wildfires to the north of us made holding school a health hazard and we were asked to stay home. Before that we had a day that was predicted to bring torrential rain and so the school kept us away. Which is probably best for the educational process, but not so good for the sound of a box of corn starch kneaded between your fingers.
I walked to school back in Colorado. From elementary school all the way to ninth grade. Yes, there were a number of occasions upon which my brothers and I were able to finagle a ride from my father on those days that things were frozen and becoming ever more frozen. And there were certainly days when we huddled around the radio, listening for school closures, hoping to hear Boulder Valley RE-2 among the districts that would not open.
But mostly we pulled on our gloves and hats and puffy jackets and headed out into the wild. I remember carrying my tennis shoes in a Wonder bread bag so that I could change out of my boots once I got to school. This necessitated not just that one change, but potentially several throughout the day if we were sent out into the elements to play. Many was the time that by the end of the day I had grown tired of all that shoe rotation and wore my tennies home, soaking them and freezing my toes. Then they would be propped against the heat register to dry overnight.
But when I did walk in the snow with my boots, the sound was evocative of an expedition to the North Pole as I was joined by my younger brother and friends from the neighborhood. It was a forced march that we made on those days when the snow piled up on the streets and sidewalks. That crunch that accompanied every step reminded us we were one step closer. One step closer to school. One step closer to turning around and making that same tired parade back home.
The box of corn starch is a lot warmer.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

And Then

We were dissuaded from celebrating the impeachment of the "president." Any whoops or hollers from the floor of the House of Representatives was cut off abruptly by a glance that I wish I had in my arsenal as an elementary school teacher. Ms. Pelosi would have none of that. This is solemn business and should not be entered into lightly.
And yet, in my home, my wife and I could not help but feel some joy. Some relief. Vindication for all those years that we have spent wondering, sometimes aloud, if we might have it all wrong. As it stands currently, it seems as though half of the country believes one thing while the other believes something else. I spoke with a friend of ours that night and she suggested that it was the kind of evening when maybe I wished that I hadn't given up drinking. I laughed because I knew we were kidding, but added: "Tomorrow history will move on and I'll be hung over."
Which is kind of where we will be for a while. The Senate trial which has been promised to be an open and shut affair by the powers that be across the way. "I'm not an impartial juror," announced Majority Leader Mitch "Bubbles" McConnell.
And so it goes.
Any notion of bipartisan this or impartial that has gone with the wind. The uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinners we experienced a few weeks ago are most certainly going to be followed by equally tense gatherings around the holiday shrub. "Silent night" may be a reference to the living rooms in many estates as families and friends come together to not discuss politics.
This was not the case in our home on the night of the vote in the House of Representatives. It was more muted than our celebrations of Super Bowls or a Silver Anniversary, but we felt it. We shared it. And at the risk of upsetting Ms. Pelosi, we reveled in it. Months after this trained pulled out of its metaphorical station, it has finally arrived. The other side will complain that this is something that the Democrats have been trying to do since the "president" was elected. I find it difficult to argue that point, since I told my mother after the results were announced that I gave him nine months. There is no denying that the "president" appeals to a certain segment of the American people. A quick glance at the cable television lineup suggests that I do not see eye to eye with everyone else. This was the conversation that I had with my mother before my wife and I went to bed. I wanted to reach out to my mom because she had been with me through Watergate, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Hers is the perspective that I reach for at times like these.
She said, "Well have to wait and see."
Gotta love mom.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Early Draft

Dear Nancy,
Yeah. Right. "Dear."
I thought we had a thing, once. Remember when you stood up and clapped at me during the State of the Union? I thought that was real.
What I'm asking is why you gotta go and do this thing? It could have been so good. DACA for you. A wall for me. Stock Market records and world leaders meeting at world class resorts: mine. Have you been to Mar-A-Lago?
Well, not like I would invite you now. Now you went and did all this bad stuff to me. When I did absolutely nothing wrong.
Okay, there was that time that I fudged on my taxes for the last thirty-nine years, but who doesn't do that? Really.
This is legacy stuff we're talking about here. You will be remembered as the lady who went after the most popular president of all time. Is that what you really want?
Maybe it is. I know how you ladies in your pantsuits run. Wannabe in charge but really missing out on all the world has to offer you girls. Like that AOC woman with her pals, always trying to make a fuss when they should be watching an old movie with some friends. They should just chill.
As a matter of fact, everyone should just chill. Especially you. You and your gavel. I guess you take your "Speaker of the House" title literally. With your, "This president did this," and "This president did that." It's not like I'm the first guy to step over the line. A little bit.
Not that I'm admitting anything here. That was a perfect call. It was a perfect day. I remember it well. It was right after I had finished staring into the solar eclipse. I came inside and offered a deal to our friends if they would just do everything they could to stop corruption in their country. And if they happened to let a few juicy bits about Sleepy Joe sift in, who's to say that's not a good thing? Not that I'm admitting anything here, but wouldn't you really rather work with me than him? 
Bottom line here, Nance: I really need you to do the right thing. You are the ones interfering in America's elections. You are the ones subverting America's Democracy. You are the ones Obstructing Justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.
How about a few tickets to my next rally? 
Think about it, kay? 
Your favorite president

Friday, December 20, 2019


It's making me wait.
It could be that it was the advent calendars that did it. Those twenty-four doors counting down to the big day. As the poet suggested, "The waiting is the hardest part." Looking out on the expanse of December and making it nothing but a countdown to the Big Day assures me that rumors of the War for Christmas are nothing more than a callous marketing ploy.
On top of this, drop the water-torture aspect of the music, steadily increasing in repetition and intensity starting just after Halloween and culminating in wall-to-wall snowmen, reindeer and baby Jesus in the days just before the celebration of all that Nativity.
Including that little ditty about how "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." Maybe. If you count the glazed look in the kiddos' eyes and the inflatable manger that pops up every evening around sunset.  Candy canes? Maybe. Silver lanes? Not so much. Toys in every store? Come to think of it, there were some Hot Wheels piled in an ersatz display at the front of Best Buy the last time I stopped in to purchase the most recent labor saving device to add to our Google-assisted home. The five and ten has long since been replaced by the Dollar Store, where the sale-a-bration never ends.
What hasn't changed is the fever that builds starting the day after we return from Thanksgiving and culminates in this week during which precious little learning takes place. I have surrendered to the idea that I am simply housing kids in anticipation of the doors flying open on Friday afternoon and the quiet that will fill the halls after all the cellophane from the candy canes hit the floor.
"And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again."
Because it will.
You might not get the toy of the year or the trip to Hometown Buffet, but you will most definitely find yourself back inside that classroom once again after the Bowl games have all been played. Not as if it never happened, but once the realization sets in that those weeks of tension were all played out in order to get a few days away, our eyes start drifting down the calendar for the next big deal. One without quite so much rocking around the Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Turn Out The Lights, The Party's Over

Dandy Don Meredith used to sing that song, sometime around that point in the fourth quarter of a Monday Night Football game where all hopes had been abandoned for a comeback and one of the teams would be throwing in the towel. Except this was professional football and, as Yogi Berra put it so eloquently, it ain't over til the fat lady sings. First of all, who knew Yogi Berra was a fan of opera? But more currently, who would have expected the Raiders' stay in Oakland would end any other way than when the curtain came down last Sunday?
Bottles, cans and debris were thrown. Additional security, on hand to control the boisterous crowd at the last "home game" in this city by the bay, were pressed into service when that crowd turned mob and began to rush the field. Not out of joy, but from frustration. And loss.
The Oakland Raiders lost the last football game to be played in the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum in truly heartbreaking fashion. Not only would it have been a shot in the arm to a tired and beleaguered franchise, the city could have used some holiday joy. Having only recently lost the Golden State Warriors from the arena across the parking lot, Oakland was about to lose its National Football League franchise. For the second time. Back in 1982, the team high-tailed it down to Los Angeles in search of sunnier climes and a bigger fan base. They played down there for a dozen years and came limping back up the coast in the mid-nineties to return to glory or at least to the rabid fan base that had been the envy of organized football for all those years.
The Black Hole, they called it. That spot in the end zone where the most enthusiastic and decorated fans would assemble to cheer on their team. An appropriately named spot for a vortex into which not even light could escape. After a flirtation with success in 2001 and 2002, the wins became fewer and further between. The question mark that seemed to hang at the end of the team's motto, "Commitment To Excellence" began to loom larger. The desperation in their dearly departed owner's rallying cry, "Just win, baby!" was never more apparent.
So a couple years ago, it was decided that the Raiders would up and move again. This time to Las Vegas. Never mind the generations of silver and black clad fans who never fully gave up hope of another championship season. The opportunity to be the only team to play in Sin City was too great to pass up. Except they didn't have things as nailed down as they thought, and eventually had to come back to play one more season in Oakland.
This one started promisingly enough, but quickly turned to that hard luck storyline to which Raider fans were all too familiar. A week after the team had essentially handed their playoff season away to the Tennessee Titans, the full house slavered in anticipation of taking one watching one last win inside one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL.
Taking a thirteen point lead into the fourth quarter, the Raiders managed to fritter away that last victory and lose in the final seconds. That's when things got ugly. Garbage, including glass Snapple bottles and half-full cans of beer, rained down from the stands. Cheers were covered up by boos, and the proud tradition of the Oakland Raiders was sealed.
Until sometime in the next dozen years or so, when they come back, helmet in hands, looking for a place to play. Just leave, baby.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Pardon This Interruption

Dear Kentucky,
I hope this note finds you well. Congratulations on selecting a new governor to lead the Bluegrass State into the next decade. I'm sure that Andy Beshear will be a great chief executive and advocate for you.
And just in case you had any lingering doubts about the man you sent packing, Matt Bevin, let me assure you that you made the correct choice. To wit: On his way out the door, he stopped to pardon a man who was convicted of decapitating a woman and stuffing her body into a fifty-five gallon drum. Bevin explained his pardon of Delmar Partin, who was convicted in 1994 for the murder of Betty Carnes, a mother of three and a co-worker of Partin’s at a factory thusly: “Given the inability or unwillingness of the state to use existing DNA evidence to either affirm or disprove this conviction, I hereby pardon Mr. Partin for this crime and encourage the state to make every effort to bring final justice to the victim and her family.”
Sounds like some real CSI stuff, right? Well, according to the Lexington Herald Leader, back in 2008, Partin, who prosecutors said killed Carnes because he was angry that she had ended their love affair, asked a circuit court to perform DNA testing in the case. The Court of Appeals denied that request, however, with Justice Laurance VanMeter ruling that the “evidence as a whole was sufficient to uphold the jury’s verdict and the trial court’s denial of a directed verdict.”
On top of this grotesque swerve around justice, Bevin also pardoned a convicted child rapist, a man convicted of murdering his parents, and a mother who tossed her newborn baby into the trash at a flea market. Not a single parent who was serving twenty-five years to life for drug possession. Rapist. Murderers. Another recipient of Bevin's last minute pardon flurry was a man convicted of in a 2014 home invasion and homicide. Whose brother just happened to have raised $21,500 for the Bevin re-election campaign. 
In his endorsement of ex-governor Bevin, the "president" let anyone who would listen know that this was a guy who was "tough on crime." Last week, as he was having his office packed up for him, ex-governor Matt had this to say: “I’m a big believer in second chances,” he told the Post in a message last week. “I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances and new pages in life.”
Right. Good luck with that.  
You can do a lot better, Kentucky. Good luck to you all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Relative Comfort

Sitting in the comfy chairs up front, I thought briefly about the architecture of what had once been a church that had become a synagogue. I considered all the ways that this spot, this antennae to God, had been used. A sanctuary. A place to commune with the spirits that pretend to listen, or we pretend to care if they listened. A sacred place because of of its construction or because of all that communing. I thought about all the voices raised from that spot and how much easier it would be to hear them crying out if they were only concentrated in that one specific location during very specific hours of the day. Preferably on the weekend.
I recognized that the building itself did not have to go through much change, but those comfy chairs up front were a revelation. The Methodist church I attended in my youth was all about those wooden pews. Sitting through a service was doing penance. As a kid, I would much rather have been lashed to a log in a sawmill than stuck on those right angled benches while the hereafter was discussed. The only thing that got me through was the envelopes for tithing and the pencils next to them next to the hymnals. My parents let me draw on them until they ran out. I had enough discretion not to scribble in the margins of the psalmody. I knew that God could see me squirming and groaning without a lick of attention paid to the sermon but I was not fool enough to deface church property.
It wasn't until much later, after I had been excused from church for a decade or two, that an art history class afforded me a chance to consider the layouts of all of these houses of God. The steeples and spires. The nave. The transept. The narthex. It put me in mind of the body parts of an insect. Only much, much holier. There was math and precision to all that construction of cathedrals. And even though the neighborhood house of worship was never so ornate, there was still a sense of purpose to the layout. You should be able to tell from the outside that this was a place where believers would gather to send their pleas and thank-yous to whom or whatever might be looking down.
Back in that comfy chair, I wondered where the pews had gone before they had been replaced with something much less restrictive. I wondered if there was ever any confusion up in the sky switchboard when the prayers started coming in on Saturday instead of Sunday. What sort of permitting process would be involved?
Or maybe my dad was right: Church was where you found it. Where you made it. It was his insistence that standing under the sky in the mountains of Colorado, looking up, you could see God. Or someone like him. You didn't have to get up early, or cram the family into the station wagon, or sit in those forsaken pews. You just had to be with that thing, whatever you chose to call it. Whenever you chose to call on it.
The somewhat unfortunate irony was that my father found himself, sometime after he left my mother, heading back to a place he could call a church. It didn't have its own building. Its congregation met in a beer bar located behind a shopping center. No pews there. Just the harsh light of the morning after. The whole thing makes me feel uncomfortable.
All over again.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Virtue? I Would Have To Be Patient For That

The whole house smelled like burned hair. My wife, charitably, told me that it smelled more like burned sugar. Which it was. She said it reminded her of creme brulee. "People pay top dollar for that experience," she reminded me.
I was not cheered. For the first time, I had botched an entire batch of peanut brittle. After years of becoming more and more reliable with each passing year, I managed to destroy a whole pot of sticky goodness.
Charred might be the best way to describe it. I chose to go ahead with the project even though my taster and spotter, the aforementioned wife, was not in attendance. This turned out to be a bad choice. Had she been there, I would have had someone to look over my shoulder and question my process. Instead, I forged ahead. With the next two weeks full of additional commitments and distractions, I picked last Thursday night to make peanut brittle. As it turned out, I should have waited. To get it right, it really takes two.
Of course, I know that my father routinely poured out batch after batch in my parents' kitchen reliably over years. But he was a machine. My mother had the day shift, baking cookies and making fudge in the same mad flurry. It was all part of feeding the neighborhood. And the gang in the bindery. And the relatives around town. And anyone who stumbled across into our doorway during the month of December. No one would go without some Chocolate Crinkles. Or some fudge. But especially the peanut brittle.
So each year, around this time, I attempt to recreate that machine in my own kitchen, signalling the beginning of the holiday season. There is a somewhat substantial financial entree into this business. Sixteen ounces of Karo syrup runs about six dollars. Raw peanuts? Try and find them. The time it takes to stand over that pot and get the mix to just the right temperature?
The supplies are brought in by my wife, who is invaluable in that role. She is also the one who drops in the mix of vanilla and soda at just the right moment, after making sure we had reached the critical juncture of peanut readiness and brittle crackliness. Foolishly, I took that bunch of sugar and nuts and tried to make it happen all by myself.
The result was reminiscent of the Horta from the "Devil in the Dark" episode of Star Trek. No use trying to mind meld with this one. It's dead, Jim.
I know I will get another shot. There are too many people counting on me. At least that's what I like to tell myself. I've made sticky peanut chew that was never brittle. I've scorched a few batches. But I have never had a batch that went straight to the compost. Now it's time for redemption.
With a little bit of help from my friends.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Time Magazine, and I use the second descriptor loosely since "magazines" are part of antiquity, named Greta Thunberg "Person of the Year." Feel free to applaud here. Not just for her accomplishments, but it is also one of the very few tangible outward effects of winning this prestigious title. No cash award. No trophy, save the printed covers that can be kept in plastic sleeves in perpetuity like portraits of Dorian Gray. Great will have plenty of years to outlive the portrait that graces this week's issue.
The other tribute paid those who achieve this particular level of notoriety? The slings and arrows of pop culture, who want to pull the Person off their pedestal and elevate anyone instead. Not unlike People ?Magazine's" Sexiest Man Alive, the distinction seems to exist primarily as a source of angst and ennui for those who like to argue about such things.
Like our "president."
The orange thing that sits in a chair and golfs had this to say regarding this young woman's elevation: “So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” 
Ridiculous? I could give him half a point for tossing in the "chill" reference to be hip or perhaps regarding her work on climate change. Ridiculous because the speech she gave at the United Nations wasn't met with snickers. Hers was applauded
Maybe it's the Anger Management thing. The spittle collected from the braying this man exudes on any given day would require gallon buckets. The orange paint he seems to favor for his face covers up the flush he maintains for the tiniest of slights. He is one big tangerine aneurysm. 
And he has already been named Time's Person of the Year. Is this some sort of hazing ritual that is traditionally run by former winners? Or is it simply another tirade on the part of the Thing That Would Not Leave? Well, except for the Paris Accord. He left that in a hurry. 
And Greta has been there, glaring at him, letting him know just how ridiculous his 1970s approach to the environment is. Ridiculous. I have dozens of kids at my school who have adopted Greta as a hero. By contrasts, when many of those same kids want to put someone down, they call them "Donald Trump." 
It's that kind of notoriety you just can't buy. You have to earn it.
Congratulations, Greta. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019


“I don’t want to see their little smug faces about about how much they care about law enforcement when I’m burying a sergeant because they don’t want to piss off the NRA.” That's the voice of Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo speaking at the funeral of shooting victim Police Sargent Christopher Brewster. "They" in this invective are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cronyn. “Make up your minds. Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?”
Every single day
Acevedo is particularly angry that the Senate hasn’t renewed the federal Violence Against Women Act. A provision of the bill passed in the House would close the so-called boyfriend loophole. Federal law currently prohibits felons and domestic abusers living with their victims from buying guns, but abusive dating partners living elsewhere can still purchase firearms. Brewster was killed, allegedly by the armed, abusive boyfriend of a Houston woman, as he responded to a domestic violence call.
Loopholes. I cannot imagine that speaking to the family of gun violence victims gets any easier because of a loophole. "Well, we could have done something to stop your brother/son/daughter/wife/husband/aunt/uncle/boyfriend/girlfriend/acquaintance from shooting (name of victim), but there was this loophole that allowed this person to have a killing machine, so what do you suppose they did with it?" Shrug.
No trauma doc, first responder, law enforcement officer, clergy would ever think of doing such a thing. They are the ones left to make the call to tell the families and friends of those who won't be around for the office party/family gathering/bowling tournament/following day. 
Legislation is stalled, said Acevedo, “because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends.” He added: “You’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you’re here for the NRA.”
The NRA is the National Rifle Association. The National Rifle Association that gave both Texas senators A plus ratings as well as substantial contributions to their campaigns. The NRA did not give any contributions to the victims' support groups in Houston. 
That would require some sort of loophole that we have yet to encounter. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

My List

My own personal articles of impeachment:
1) Riding an escalator to your own campaign announcement.
2) Bankrupting casinos. Four of them. Who's in charge here? Danny Ocean?
3) Staring at an eclipse.
4) Pardoning war criminals.
5) All those nicknames.
6) That hair.
7) Just dropping the umbrella on the way onto Air Force One. Somebody else will get that, chief.
8) Caging children.
9) Helping turn Rudy Giuliani from "America's Mayor" into "America's Cryptkeeper."
10) “I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back.”
11) Destroying markets for our farmers with useless trade wars.
12) Not understanding how tariffs work.
13) That picture of him photoshopped onto Rocky's body.
14) Eric, Ivanka, Donald Jr.
15) Using a Sharpie to doctor meteorological maps of hurricanes.
16) Kicking people off food stamps.
17) The Nazis in Charlottesville, "you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."
18) Took credit for opening an Apple manufacturing plant that had been open for nearly six years.
19) Opened the door to let Turkey storm the Kurds in Syria.
20) That hair.
21) "Winning" an election while losing by three million votes.
22) Allowing his former press secretary to end up on "Dancing With The Stars."
23) Mexico is going to pay for what?
24) Blames wildfires in California on "poor forest management."
25) Brett Kavanaugh.
I could go on and on, about the golf trips and the photo ops with Kim Jong Un and serving fast food to highly trained college athletes, but I'm willing to go along with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for now. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

What Are You Pedaling?

How do I feel about that Peloton commercial?
I can say that my initial reaction was not rage or a cry for justice. I figured I was getting a thirty second glimpse into a life that was already damaged before I came to it. If you are unfamiliar with this piece of drama, let me see if I can encapsulate for you: A young woman is led downstairs by her daughter on Christmas morning to find she has been giving the gift of a stationary bike. Not just any stationary bike, but one that connects her with a large and supportive online community of fellow riders. As this bright young lady tells us in her selfie narration, she never thought she would be able to stick with this program, whether it be late at night or early in the morning. We end with her sitting on the couch, next to her husband, watching a compilation of the video montage she has pieced together. She looks adoringly at him and says, "A year ago, I didn't realize how much this would change me."
So in the back of my mind, the quickest reference I could access was the Stepford Wives. Obviously this stationary bike has given this woman a focus for her life. She rushes home from her job or her charity bazaar to hop aboard and ride with the rest of her network-assisted posse. There is a shot of her pedaling madly alongside her daughter, who has her own junior version of mommy's bike. Milestone after milestone pass by as she sits astride her motionless steed. She feels as if she has gone somewhere, but there she is, still sitting in that room, staring out into the abyss. Going nowhere.
Yes, I know that I could be celebrating this woman's accomplishment and her commitment to her fitness. And the fact that her husband gave her a three thousand dollar piece of exercise equipment. I could imagine that this woman is living life to its fullest outside of the hours she is spending on that stationary bike. I am reminded of the quote from Coach Bob from John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire: "Get obsessed and stay obsessed."
Maybe there's a back story we aren't privy to. Perhaps she is a recovering addict and her first few weeks at home since being released from the rehab center have been difficult. Her husband has figured out how to supplant her chemical addictions for this physical challenge. In this light, I am suddenly warmed to the idea. I can cast off this notion that dad wants to cage his pretty young wife and keep her attached to the exercycle while he busies himself with his own adventures. There is no sign of her frowning at a bathroom scale, wishing that she could be just three pounds lighter. There is no goal of competing in a real bike race at the end. Only endless spins on a virtual landscape. How is she changed? Is there something else we need to know? It's a thirty second ad. There is still so much to know, but do I really want to?
A few weeks ago, I didn't realize how much this ad would change me.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

On My Way To Where The Air Is Sweet

If you keep track of numbers, and I do, then you might appreciate that this being the fiftieth year of Sesame Street alongside the fact that Carroll Spinney is eighty-five means he got his job as Big Bird when he was thirty-five years old. Or to be more precise, it might be correct to say that Mister Spinney was eighty-five. He died over the weekend. Which I suppose means that he will always be eighty-five. I confess that I'm not exactly sure how that works.
I am sure about that fifty years thing. Carroll Spinney was the insides of Sesame Street's avian emissary for forty-nine of those years. Actually inside the feathery costume until 2015 when the physical demands became too great for a man in his eighties.  The voice was always Spinney, and perhaps most important, so was the heart.
As a Muppet aficionado, I was familiar with Carroll Spinney for all those years. I was seven when the Children's Television Workshop opened up shop on Sesame Street, so I was just outside the target demographic. Which did not keep me from looking in. It was fast and funny, and it was a chance to regularly see the Muppets, to whom I had been introduced on the Ed Sullivan Show. The Sesame Street Muppets were a kinder, gentler version of the ones I had seen on that really big shoe. With the possible exception of Kermit, who provided a link thanks to Jim Henson. The man who hired Carroll Spinney to be the conscience of the neighborhood.
And the crank.
Carroll Spinney could also be found inside the trash can of Oscar The Grouch. This, as a behind-the-scenes kind of fan, was fascinating to me. How did they get those two characters to interact? The  obvious answer: magic. Plain and simple. Muppet magic. Many years later, I watched the documentary I Am Big Bird, appreciating the lifelong commitment Mister Spinney had for his work. Big Bird would not have walked down Sesame Street, let alone strolled along the Great Wall of China. Multiple generations of children have grown up watching that eight foot tall flightless fowl and his grouchy green doppelganger. And the Muppet magic suggests that they will continue to, as finding someone to take over the nest and trash can. But there will never be another Carroll Spinney. In those big orange feet, he truly stomped on the Terra. He will be missed.
Aloha, Mister Spinney.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

You Too?

I remember thinking, back in 2011, what a nice turn of events it was to see the movie Bridesmaids. Here we could see women acting every bit as awkward and tawdry as their male counterparts in films made in the the previous decades. Drinking, barfing, arguing, just like their Y chromosome predecessors had done for all those years before. At last. A movie celebrating how truly awful girls could be. The time, it would seem, had come.
Last year, we were treated to a much more noble appearance of the feminine when Marvel finally released a female-centered superhero film. Captain Marvel (no relation) was their response to DC dusting off their long-awaited Wonder Woman. Suddenly, the world was being saved by the fairer sex, and that was about time, too.
Cut to this past week, where in successive evenings I sat at my computer and watched previews for two coming attractions. The first was Black Widow. After finishing their most recognizable female asset  off (spoiler alert) in last summer's Endgame, Natasha Romanoff is getting her eponymous feature. Saving the world, or parts of it, guns ablazin', and quips aflyin'. Agent Romanoff finally gets her time in the spotlight.
The following night I clicked on the link for the No Time To Die trailer. Pretty standard James Bond stuff with Daniel Craig racing and punching his way around the globe. And of course there were girls. And one of them, as it turns out, is a double O. She's got a license to kill, just like James. How about that, sisters? It should be noted that it was back in 1995 when Dame Judi Dench played M, the head of Britain's MI6. That's when she referred to her most infamous charge as a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur." Now, it would seem, we are at last ready for a female version of that character. 
Much in the same way that Virginia Slims cigarettes made such great strides for women in the field of lung cancer, now we are breaking new ground for sexist dinosaurs. You've come a long way baby!
Or maybe we should savor those things that still divide us. Do we really need a female Rambo? A girl Terminator? Wait a second. We already had one of those
How about a guy as Mary Poppins? 

Monday, December 09, 2019


There's the stock we use for making soup. Boiling a carcass until the meat separates from the bone and all the juices have been absorbed.
Taking stock is when you take inventory. Checking to see what is left on the shelves and what may have drifted out the door.
The stock market is where shares are traded. If you have enough money, you can trade it for a tiny piece of a company.
A rifle has a stock. It comes at the end that tends to be for holding, rather than killing. Sometimes there is a compass in the stock. Sometimes there's a bump.
You could come from healthy stock. Or not. Depending on where your family originated, you might be good or healthy stock.
If you owned a farm, you might keep your stock in a pen. And not the fountain kind, since they probably wouldn't fit.
But none of these are exactly what I brought you here to talk about today. I would like to discuss "laughing stock."
More specifically, I would like to discuss how the rest of the world views our "president." At a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last week, a group of European leaders were caught on video discussing the great big orange elephant that was not currently in the room. Canada's Justin Trudeau, Britain's Boris Johnson, and France's Emmanuel Macron can be seen in a group, chatting up one another. They all have the same "can you believe it?" expression as they relate their experience dealing with the United States' chief executive. Mister Johnson can be seen turning to Mister Macron with a smirk, asking “Is that why you were late?” – only for Canada’s premier to interject: “He was late because he takes a forty-minute press conference off the top”, in an apparent reference to our "president," as Mister Macron had just come from a joint press conference with the "president." Trudeau finishes off the exchange, “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor!” A real chucklefest. 
Except this isn't an open mic, with comedians waiting their turn on stage. These are world leaders making fun of our "president." They continue to try and do their jobs as they continue to run afoul of this arrogant poseur who never met a person, foreign or domestic, that he could not offend. 
What to do? Toss him into a pot and boil him? Put him out to pasture? 
It's time to take stock.  

Sunday, December 08, 2019

For Your Lamentations

Those were the words in the header of the email my older brother sent: "For your lamentations." He is my primary news source for things in my hometown. When something changes in Boulder, Colorado, invariably I hear it from him. The things that matter. Like the advent of the closing of Liquor Mart. If you did not grow up in Boulder, the announcement of a liquor store shuttering its doors might be met with a shrug of its shoulders.
I did, and I'm not.
Liquor Mart was an institution. For more than fifty years, it was the place to shop for beer, wine and spirits. Before 1968, Boulder was a dry county. With the exception of a few establishments sprinkled throughout the town, prohibition never ended. Until 1968, when a visionary named Tom Lacey applied for and received the county's first liquor license. In May of that year, he opened Liquor Mart.
If you are familiar with barns like Bev Mo, the notion of a grocery store for booze isn't a particularly new one. Pushing a shopping cart up and down the aisles does not seem peculiar. Back in the late sixties it sure did. The idea that you could pick up bottles and examine them rather than asking for them from behind a protected counter was a brand new one. More than anything else, Liquor Mart was a celebration of Boulder being "wet."
How many adventures of my youth began with a trip to Liquor Mart? Coincidentally, before it was a liquor store, the location where it has stood for most of its existence used to be a grocery store. Where my Aunt Peggy worked. I had become familiar with those aisles searching for jars of Goober 'n' Grape and rows of Clanky Chocolate syrup. Those were the aisles in which I eventually accompanied my father on a hunt foBeaujolais Nouveau, or bargains on the vodka that would mix with tonic for my parents' evening cocktail. 
But it was my introduction to the beer cooler, along with my older brother, that changed my life. He called it "The Disneyland of Beers." He was correct. Braving the cold was worth it when you discovered those odd off brands or imports that couldn't be found anywhere else. I was with my older brother when I first encountered "The Mystery Case," a sealed box filled with two dozen bottles and cans of various brews. Some of them were treats. Some of them were Coors. You never knew what you might get. 
But everyone knew what you got at Liquor Mart. This is where the kegs came from. This is where the Everclear was purchased for the "punch" we served. This is where we bought our DrMcGillicuddy's Mentholmint Schnapps. Okay. Most of the time we bought it. Liquor Mart was the beginning of every night that we started with the phrase, "I know: let's get real drunk and..."
Somewhere in there, my cousin got a job as manager there, continuing the odd family connection we had with the place. It was also, oddly enough, the place my father suggested we stop just after he had picked up the cremated remains of his mother. He offered to buy my friend and I a case of beer in some sideways wake-inspired gesture that left us grateful but a tad confused. For the record, we chose Moosehead. 
And so it went, even after my own personal prohibition went into place, Boulder's liquor needs were met by the Mart. Certainly it did not hurt business to be located just down the hill from one of the foremost party schools in America, the University of Colorado. Stumbling distance from so very much student housing, this was the place where wine tasting or binge drinking began and ended. 
Ended. The property has been sold to a real estate developer who specializes in retail and residential space. More condos for an ever-expanding student population. On the spot where all those parties started. There will be some powerful mojo going on there. 
But not just now. 
The lamentations have begun.