Saturday, August 31, 2019


We never found the wallet.
The wallet my older brother lost somewhere along a meandering dirt trail on which he rode with his friend Mike. The same meandering dirt trail that he retraced a day later. This time he went with his younger brother. It was an adventure I was happy to take on. It wasn't a forced march but a chance to go out into the wilderness and see the woods from a different perspective.
And it was a chance to hang with my older brother.
Perhaps it should be noted that my big brother was not yet sixteen at the time, so the contents of the missing wallet did not include a driver's license, credit cards, or a large sum of cash. It was more the principle of the thing. In our family, things did not stay lost. A very responsible lot, we tended to have a place for everything and everything had its place. Somewhere between our cabin and the tip of Gross Reservoir was not the place for my brother's wallet.
We set out early, after breakfast. We had packed a lunch and some snacks in each of our Army Surplus backpacks. Our canteens were full and chilled after spending the night in the refrigerator. We hadn't gotten very far before I began to complain and ask for a break. I had yet to comprehend just how long this eight mile round trip might take. My brother waited and reminded me that we had a long way to go, and we needed to save some water for later.
We pushed on. As we walked, I tried to contain my focus to the road in front of us, in case the wallet should appear abruptly and we could head home. But as the feet turned into yards into miles and the sun climbed higher in the sky, my road focus became one of mild desperation.
We stopped for lunch after we had broken off from the road and started down the fire trail that had been such a zippy excursion on a little Honda motorbike. We didn't talk a lot, mostly because the day was long and the lack of wallet was wearing on us both.
But mostly my brother. Because he was and continues to be the model of responsibility. Which may be an unfair label to drop on him, since I don't think he asked for it. The oldest and the trailblazer, it was his journey to break the waves for those behind him. Like me. And as the day wore on and I began to notice each footstep rather than all the places a wallet might have fallen near them, our hike turned into more of a test. I was not going to let my brother down, even if I had forgotten what color the wallet was or if there had ever been a wallet.
There is a picture of the two of us, sweating and drained by the day on the road, coming up the driveway of the cabin. Our youngest brother, full of anticipation and excitement at our return, rushed out to greet us. He is the one who is smiling in the photo. My older brother and I appear ready to collapse. Canteens empty and legs wobbly, we went inside to report our lack of success.
At the time, it felt like defeat. Age has given me the perspective of how much more we got back than a wallet. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a hike.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Would You Believe...?

Yes, it was a bit of a jolt when I read that our "president" was looking to buy Greenland. The purchase of Alaska, after all, was once referred to as "Seward's Folly." It should be remembered, however, that back in 1867 that Russia was a motivated seller. And the price of seven million dollars, though enormous at the time, was just two cents an acre.
Greenland is not currently on the market. There are some nice properties in Greenland, New Hampshire available, but this is not the Greenland for which our chief tangerine was looking. He wanted to make a deal with the current owner, Denmark, for the autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. I can only imagine that the "president" expected to win the Danes over with a line something like, "Hey look - everything's for sale, right?" 
While the rest of us were busy snorting into our morning coffee, Republican Senator Tom Cotton was busy getting behind the idea, writing in an op-ed piece that if we didn't snatch up Greenland surely China would rush in and outbid us. There's gold in them thar hills. Or natural gas and other vital minerals and surprises that would benefit the United States in addition to the strategic placement of this land mass in our ongoing battle for acquisition of stuff in the Northern Hemisphere. Including a place from which to launch Space Force!
Anyway, Denmark said no, and Senator Tom had to set his eyes back on his home in Arkansas. For the time being there would be no need for a territorial potentate of the U.S. possession of Greenland. Which is about the time that a story emerged about our "president" suggesting we use nuclear weapons to keep hurricanes from hitting the United States. Thus a flurry of angry denials from the White House with equally fervent assertions that every word was true from the story's author. In the current state of Bizarroland, who could doubt anything? 
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico, an actual territory of the United States who recently endured the ravages of a hurricane making landfall, looked up from their collective breakfast and said, "So, what else is new?" 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Survival And Disaster

Andrew Luck retired. He is twenty-nine years old. He will turn thirty next month.
Two schools of thought have sprouted about this decision: Good for him, and What was he thinking?
There is a third school, the one that mingles the Who is Andrew Luck and Why should I care considerations into a package best suited for a shorter blog.
When I first caught wind of Mister Luck's choice, it made me smile. This is a man who is leaving a professional football career after just nine years. Nine years of being thrashed mentally and physically for months at a stretch. Nine years of being compared to everyone who ever played his position professionally, as well as all those autumns and springs spent preparing for what became his career choice. He became known for his habit of popping up after a particularly hard hit and congratulating the defensive player who drilled  him. Andrew understood the game and played hard enough to have a number of different lingering issues: shoulder surgery that had him sitting out the entire 2017 season and a high ankle sprain that gave him time to sit on the bench this preseason and consider his options.
While I was smiling, there were those who were up in arms. How could he walk away from half a billion dollars, the money he might have made had he chosen to continue his career for another ten years. Orenthal James Simpson, former NFL running back and murder suspect, complained that Luck's retirement had messed up his fantasy football draft. Given Mister Simpson's temperament, Luck might want to keep looking over his shoulder.
Lots of people were "depending" on Andrew Luck to keep showing up and winning football games. The city of Indianapolis who have waited patiently for more than a decade for another Super Bowl win. Which I can sympathize with, however briefly, but this is one guy. One guy with a Stanford education who made a pretty evolved choice to be able to walk when he is forty.
Andrew Luck appeared in an episode of "Parks and Recreation." He is going to be a father. He has made millions of dollars. I might pause and rest on my laurels had I accomplished any of those. As a matter of fact, I have. Without a degree from Stanford.
Will he be back? Since he was booed as he walked from the field after announcing his retirement during a Colts preseason game, I can't imagine that Indianapolis would hold much of a future for him. But I suppose the fans demand their sacrifice.
Stupid fans.
Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it. - Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Down Under

My parents were the ones who regularly hosted a house full of teenagers. Initially, my older brother's friends and then mine, moving on until the last crew that came through were my younger brother's pals. The idea being, as I understand it, that hanging around in our basement gave my parents a sense of what we might/could be up to. My parents were the "cool ones" who mostly kept their business upstairs, but always had a solid sense of what was going on beneath them.
As for us, the teenagers, none of us were trying get away with anything. We tended to congregate a our house because of the relative comfort of the surroundings. The concrete bunker that was for many a second home kept our music and video games from becoming a burden to those around us. Our neighbors were aware of the cars parked in front of the house but not so much about what the occupants were doing inside.
Laughing, joking, listening to Pink Floyd, playing Atari. Playing in general. Kids doing what kids do. Every so often, my father would come downstairs and challenge one of my friends to a ping pong game. Then he would head back upstairs where my mother was patiently waiting for the evening's entertainment to come to an end.
Sometimes the doorbell would ring and somebody else's father would be at the door. That was the first time I met my eventual father-in-law. He had come looking for his daughter, who at the time was dating my best friend. For a moment, a chill went through us all. What would happen if he came downstairs? The pleasant balance of trust and adolescence was disturbed. Happily, she made it up the stairs to meet her father and be taken home to wait until such time that she could come back without that long arm of authority disrupting our inner sanctum. Legend suggests that once upon a time my mother's mother hosted her daughter's friends in a similar fashion. The legacy of this home away from home has quite the history.
And somewhere in there must have been planted the seed that became our own basement. Once my wife and once upon a time best friend's girlfriend married and started a family, we became those parents who hosted basements full of teenagers. We knew where they were, and had a pretty solid sense of what was going on beneath us. I would not kid myself to believe that our kid never did anything stupid or careless or indiscreet. My wife and I were happy enough to be the place where they came to rest, my son and his friends.
Which makes me believe that somewhere out there in our future is another basement where my son's kids will congregate with their kids. Because that's what we do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We Can Work It Out

I hate it when mom and dad fight.
This past week, Sony and Disney decided that there would be no more collaboration when it comes to the property known as Spider Man.
How do I feel about this? Well, since you asked:
Both of these companies each has more money than God and the idea that no deal could possibly be worked out is absurd. Amazon could stop delivering crock pots the next day and just start moving piles of cash from one studio to the other and they would still be doing great business.
Who knew in 1985 that Spider Man would be a cash insect in the cinematic firmament?
I did.
I never went as far as to say that Spider Man 3 was totally engrossing or that Andrew Garfield was the casting choice of the century, but I kept going on the first weekend to whatever Spider Man the powers that be chose to toss up on the screen. And mostly, lately, I have been rewarded for my loyalty.
Good for me.
And when I went to Disneyland, I got to meet Spidey and all was right with the world.
For about five movies. Just about long enough to get Spider Man fully integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The skeptic in me imagines that this was just about long enough for us fanboys to relax and start enjoying ourselves before the business end of show business came and spoiled our fun.
Look: I'm not asking for them to make a movie out of the DC/Marvel crossover Superman Versus The Amazing Spider Man. That would only lead to anarchy. Instead, I respectfully ask for the folks who wear suits and haven't read a comic book since they sold their Archies collection on Ebay to let the fourteen year olds handle this one.
Spider Man needs a home where he can walk through the streets of New York City and occasionally bump into members of the Fantastic Four, which is a discussion that needs to take place at another time in another place because decorum prohibits me from discussing that train wreck while we still have hope for Peter Parker.
And Mary Jane.
And Aunt May.
And J.Jonah Jameson.
Okay, maybe not so much for J.J.
But can't we all just get along?

Monday, August 26, 2019

A Fine Whine

It occurred to me just the other day that, considering he is potentially one of the most powerful men in the world, Donald Trump sure does whine a lot. This may have something to do with his last two press secretaries looking for a career in TV instead: Sarah Huckabee Sanders will now be a contributor to Fox News. Please take a moment to savor the irony of someone who killed press briefings from the the White House becoming a member of the Fourth Estate. On the same day Ms. Huckabee's career took this turn, Sean Spicer announced that he would be participating in this season's iteration of "Dancing With The Stars." Precisely how Mr. Spicer earned the descriptor "Star" is open to wide and salacious debate, but won't it be fun to see ABC executives attempting to dance their way around all the disgruntled staffers who will bear witness to this freak show.
What I am suggesting is that all of this fuss is nothing compared to the day to day onslaught of his Orangeness' moaning and complaining.
For example: "Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators. Car companies should know that when this Administration’s alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin. Only reason California is now talking to them is because the Feds are giving a far better alternative, which is much better for consumers!" That was the whiny threat the "president" threw out in response to an agreement with the state of California that lays out the goal of an average vehicle fuel economy of fifty miles per gallon by 2025.
So, let's imagine that you are the White House Press Secretary and you were asked to defend this line of "reasoning." Fuel economy means savings in both gasoline and emissions. How is this a problem for consumers? Especially since Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW signed up without putting up a fight. "Far less safe and doesn't work as well?" That would be the "president" dancing once again on the end of a pin, also known as the top of his head. 
All of which may explain why the new White House Press Secretary has taken up drinking and driving. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Boss Of Me

Why did you want to fight him?
"He told me I had to buy him some chips from the food cart."
The one across the street? After school?
"Yeah. Yesterday."
Did you do it?
"No. I didn't. So they called me gay."
Do you care what they say?
Are they your parents?
Are they your teacher?
Are they the boss of you?
So why do you care what they say?
And this is the point where the trolley jumps the track and sense stops being made. Except that "gay" is as vile an epithet as Donald Trump at our school, used with little or no discretion by boys and girls to pierce that thin veneer that covers our pre-adolescent bag of churning emotions. It sits on a shelf right above fat and stupid as the weapon of choice when you really want to get someone's dander up. Which is horrifying, considering the complete lack of understanding they have. In their lexicon, gay is bad and it's a big enough stick to get exactly what they want: hurt feelings.
I have lost track of how many different times I have tried to intercede in the matter of gay. It surprises me still how deeply embedded that word has become. So much so that no amount of attempted cultural awareness can budge it. I know that some of our students have two mommies. I know some of the kids I taught have grown up gay. Into a world that still uses that word like a bludgeon. So I keep soothing those hurt feelings, and attempting to soften the hate and fear. And I long for the day when kids call each other stupid and fat.

Saturday, August 24, 2019


What is it about former game show hosts that makes them so much like, well, former game show hosts? For the time being, let's avoid the bulging persimmon lolling about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and golf courses across the globe. Instead, I would like to gesture in the direction of the once and future host of Love Connection, Chuck Woolery.
If you are unfamiliar with Mister Woolery's work, you may have caught his act when he was with his band Avant-Garde and their near miss, "Naturally Stoned." That was in 1968. In the early seventies, he appeared on television as Mister Dingle on The New Zoo Revue. But as it turned out, Chuck's forte was being a game show host, and his eleven year run hosting Love Connection stands out as one of the longest running game shows of all time with more than two thousand episodes in the can.
What was this Love Connection? Well, imagine that you lived in a world without Al Gore's marvelous invention of the Internet. How would young, lusty individuals meet one another? How about appearing as a contestant on a televised version of Tinder in which the studio audience had the ability to swipe right or left for you? It was Chuck's job to sit on the couch across from these aspiring Connectors and ask pointed questions that might have made Bob Eubanks blush. Chuck really wanted to know if that Connection was made, if you catch my drift.
And then, for a while, Chuck was gone.
But now, thanks to Al Gore's Internet, he's back. Currently known for his blunt instrument tweeting, Chuck tossed this one out the other day: "RACISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. Racism is the Progressive Left crying out for attention. If you disagree with the ProgressiveLeft. They consider you a Racist. They are desperate to hold on to the Black Vote." In case you haven't already surmised, Chuck is white. Really white. Game show host white.
Oh, and Chuck is the co-host of the Blunt Force Truth podcast. No longer content to sit on a couch and attempt to pry the salacious details of strangers' dating travails, he is now spouting his invective at those who can click to find him. Featuring stories such as "Thirty-Eight Percent Of Americans Say Colleges Are Hurting America," Chuck has found a conservative nest where he feels comfortable unleashing his pronouncements as if they meant something.
Now about that persimmon...

Friday, August 23, 2019

What I Do

"If you ran a bookstore, and it was five o'clock, would you just lock the doors and go home?" This was the question I heard dozens of times when I ran a book warehouse. It was one of the favorites of my co-managers during interviews of perspective employees. He asked it of not just potential employees, but of potential shareholders of the company. This was an employee-owned company, and everyone who passed their initial vetting probation was asked to buy in to own an equal number of shares. In this particular version of the experiment, the newest employee had the same voting interest as the most senior. Bernie Sanders would have loved it.
But getting back to that question: The correct and accepted answer was, "No. I would stick around after the doors were locked, clean up, and prepare for the next day." Or something like that. It was my co-manager's opinion, as a shareholder and veteran of hundreds of these interviews that we were not just interviewing warehouse workers but fellow shareholders.
It was a heady experience, back in those days. Happily for me I brought my hardcore Protestant Work Ethic with me when I was initially interviewed to come and pack boxes. I had six months to prove myself in order to become a shareholder. I did that and then not long after I ascended rather abruptly up this odd corporate ladder. I went through a more intense version of that initial interview to get a desk in the manager's office. Not that I spent a lot of time there, since my ethos suggested that working alongside my fellow workers and shareholders continued to prove my commitment to the company. I came in early. I stayed late. I took my management work home with me. I was eventually rewarded for all this effort with a seat on the Board of Directors.
Apparently, I had passed the audition.
Now, years after the doors of that experiment closed and my tenure as a public school teacher has been affirmed, I think of that question. I am still trying to answer it, as best I can. I come in early. I stay late. I work alongside my fellow teachers as well as administrators, parents and custodians. I act like I own the place.
Which I do, after a fashion. I stick around clean up, and get prepared for the next day. It's what I do.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

I Got Blood From A Stone!

Last week when I came home there was a door tag looped around the handle of my front gate. It was an advertisement. Normally, I take a quick glance to see which of the local pizza places is offering a special deal and then move it on to the logical recycling bin. But this one wasn't offering two medium two topping pizzas for just nine dollars. This one came from Xfinity, the cable, Internet, telecommunications beast. The bargain they wanted to let me know about by leafleting my neighborhood was a forty dollar a month deal on cable TV and Internet. I bypassed the recycling bin and carried the flyer into the house with me. How could I pass this up?
Okay. That last bit was a bit rhetorical, since I knew that this screaming deal was an offer to new customers only and the whole idea was to get those households not already under the spell of the tentacles of the monster that was once Comcast into proximal comfort for two years and then proceed to bleed them dry over the next decade or so.
I know this because it has been my experience. Which is essentially why I called the toll-free number at the bottom of the flyer. When the sales consultant came onto the line, he asked how he could help me and I requested the forty dollar a month deal. "Are you already a customer?" was the question that derailed my nefarious scheme. But only slightly.
I went ahead and asked how it could be that new customers could be offered such a pittance, comparatively, to what I was paying while someone like me who had been subscribing to their services since the twentieth century just had regular hikes to their bill. Why not, I suggested to my sales representative, offer deals to those long-term customers as a reward for their loyalty? I understand that the forty-dollar-deal was a no-frills package designed to give newbies a taste, but I still couldn't make the math work on a pro-rated scale. I wanted to pay less, but I didn't want to give anything up. Then he said the magic words: "Let me see what I can do."
Once he was finished putting my special package together, I was losing two of six Starz channels but gaining Internet speed, and everything else stayed the same. For eighty dollars less per month. Decorum suggests that I don't allow for what fraction of my bill disappeared, but suffice it to say that I am still paying more than forty dollars a month. But saving eighty over what I had been. This experience reminded me of two powerful lessons: First, advertising works. Second, I know how much Xfinity rakes in a year and this interaction let me know that they are fine without my eighty dollars a month.
As long as I keep paying them something.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I am certain that I could never have seen the movie Blinded By The Light in anything that might have been interpreted as an objective way. It tells the story of a Bruce Springsteen-obsessedPakistani teenager growing up in Britain during the Thatcher years. The words and music of The Boss help him sort out his life and give him a vision of the future.
Over my desk there is a small frame. Inside that frame is a piece of paper upon which my wife printed the lyrics, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive." A line from the Bruce Springsteen song "Badlands." It remains a guiding light for me. Along with most every other set of words he has put together over the years.
Because I'm a fan. Short for fanatic. Not the "I've seen him one hundred fifty times." Or "I've had my picture taken on the front porch of his childhood home." I am the kind of fan who makes an effort to see all the shows that are within driving distance from my house. I like to take other people with me. That allows me to show off my encyclopedic knowledge of those words and music which I spoke of earlier. A friend of mine commented on one of those occasions, "I think this is what it's like to go to church with Dave."
That kind of fanatic.
When there's a new album, I buy it. I tend to send a copy to my mother so she won't feel left out. My wife understands that this new music will be in heavy rotation for a while until it becomes part of the firmament. She also understands that each show will require the purchase of a new T-shirt. For me and for her.
I am a public school teacher. I am a Bruce Springsteen fan. I am a father. On the night before my son was supposed to start his state-mandated testing, I took him to see Bruce. We were out late. On a school night. Before state testing. He got into the college of his choice. And it was a great show.
My son was brought into this world to the strains of "Born To Run." About once a year I think about the song "Living Proof," as it tells the story of the birth of Bruce's son. It has become the story of the birth of my own son.
So, there's this movie about how a British teenager becomes obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. I think you would enjoy it.
I know I did.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


For a lot of people, Peter Fonda was Easy Rider. Those sunglasses. Those sideburns. He taught Jack Nicholson how to smoke pot. He was Captain America long before Chris Evans was even born. Peter Fonda was so cool.
And not just because he was Easy Rider. But that would have been enough. He was one half of Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry, the Larry part. I spent a chunk of the 1970s going to the drive-in to watch Peter Fonda drive and fight and shoot his way across the screen. It would have been simple for him to simply fall into the family business of acting, playing parts that his father might have taken in his youth. But Peter was his own man. He took LSD with the Beatles. He starred in The Trip, written by Jack Nicholson and directed by Roger Corman. In 1967. Peter Fonda was so cool.
My favorite Peter Fonda moment came in 1976 when he was cast as an investigative reporter investigating Futureworld. He and his partner are there to figure out what sort of creepy business Delos is up to in this sequel to Westworld. As it turns out, the bad guys are cloning executives and dignitaries who are guests, then releasing them back into the world to do the company's bidding. Spoiler Alert: When they capture Fonda and attempt to send him back into society, a pawn in the media, he pulls the old switcheroo which only becomes apparent at the last moment when he steps back in the doorway and flips major birdage to the chief of Delos before leaping aboard the tram to escape. Peter Fonda was so cool.
He won two Golden Globes. He was nominated for two Oscars. He surfed with Snake Plissken. He was in more than one hundred films over a career that spanned fifty-seven years. And he didn't have to. He could have hung out and lived off the glow from his father and sister Jane. But he didn't. And then he helped give the world another Fonda actor, Bridget. Peter Fonda was so cool.
Right up to the end, when he passed away last week from respiratory failure. To say that Peter Fonda stomped on the Terra might be an understatement, but he surely did that and more. He will be missed. Aloha, Peter.

Monday, August 19, 2019

In A Series

It took about four days.
Four days into the new school year before our public personae came out.
For the first three days, the biggest concern our staff had to deal with was the occasional kindergartner missing their mom. And a few first graders too. Mostly we were able to go about the business of starting a new school year. Reminding students that bathroom trips should be confined to recess and lunch, not scattered throughout the day as the notion came to them. Likewise, these periods of play, called recess and lunch, would be punctuated by the sound of a bell. The bell would signify the cessation of play and the resumption of the business of learning.
And for the first three days, business was good. Great, even.
Then, day four arrived. Along with it came the associations of friends who had forgotten that they were mortal enemies just a few months before. Into this mix came the new kids, some of whom determined that the best way to make a name for themselves was to strike out on their own and find a way to disrupt the pleasant order imposed over the playground and hallways. This brought on the following conversation with Mister Caven.
"So, at your old school, did you sometimes have trouble getting along?"
"How did you deal with that?"
"Well, I'll bet that if you got into a fight at your old school, you probably had to get a call home."
"You had a pretty good start this week. Did you make any friends?"
"Well, you don't have to be friends with everyone," I suggested, "but it would be nice."
Yet another shrug.
"So I'll let you know: If you have trouble getting along with anyone, I'm happy to help."
No shrug.
"Not just me. Any grownup here. They would much rather have you getting along than getting in fights."
"So, if you need help, before it becomes a fight, you come and find me. Or any other grownup."
"You promise." I looked for his eyes, and stuck out my hand.
He shook it. "Okay."
Day four.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Tao According To Steve

How is Steve King doing? Haven't heard from him in a while.
Not Stephen King, the master of the macabre and author of the Stephen King Book of the Week club. He's been busy churning out fiction as is his way.
Steve King, Representative from Iowa, Republican, and font of all things truly offensive is doing what he has been doing for as long as I have been aware of him: Spewing horrifying nonsense out to a populace who seems not to be able to get enough of it. Since 2003.
2003. Sixteen years of stuff like this: "I don't want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name—whatever their religion their father might have been, I'll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States – I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam? I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11."
What has Congressman Steve done for the people of Iowa's fourth district lately? How about this one: “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest?” King asked while speaking to a group of conservatives in Urbandale, Iowa. “Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that’s taken place and whatever happened throughout culture and society, all these different nations,” the elected representative continued, “I know I can’t certify that I was not a part of a product of that.” This was his way of justifying his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Even Congressman Steve might be a product of such a union. 
Important note: Steve King was not booed off the stage. Instead, these comments simply became yet another in a list of bizarre but somehow not offensive enough statements to have him removed from Congress. Representative? Is this what the fourth district of Iowa is made of? Up in Wyoming, Republican Representative Liz Cheney (daughter of "Dick" Cheney) called Steve's comments "appalling and bizarre." 
Now that's saying something. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019


I thought I had heard it all, but then I read the comments of Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, about the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Mister Cuccinelli insisted in an interview with CNN that the poem referred to "people coming from Europe." The poem being referenced was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 as part of a fundraising campaign to construct a pedestal upon which Lady Liberty might stand. It reads"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." It concludes, "Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Acting director Cuccinelli suggested that this was a direct reverence to European immigrants because, "people coming from Europe where they had class based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren't in the right class." Earlier in the day, in an interview with NPR, Acting director Cuccinelli was asked about the wretched being welcome on our shores to which he replied, "They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
It doesn't scan very well as poetry, but it certainly gives a better picture of how our current administration feels about immigrants. The author of the original, Ms. Lazarus, might not have agreed. She was inspired not so much by the rush of immigrants from Europe, but from Russian Jews fleeing anti-Semitic violence in their homeland. "The New Colossus" extols "world-wide welcome." Poets are notoriously less conscientious about details than they are about images, and so she callously left out things like how to get a Green Card. 
You're welcome here if you can stand on your own two feet. You will not be welcome if you become a public charge. Which is a little confounding since there are plenty of Americans born and raised on these shores who become a public charge and we don't send them anywhere. Which may be the next phase of this administration's plan: Deport the Homeless. Send them to a third country where they can await processing while the rich get richer and the poor get cast aside. 
Anybody else interested in getting a bronze replica cast of the plaque that can be installed somewhere in the Oval Office? 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Grand Teacher

Math Problem:
If a young man leaves his home at 7:55 AM travelling with his five year old daughter at an average rate of five miles an hour on a one percent grade, and both of them have had breakfast and a full night's sleep, and the father is a former student of mine, does that make me old?
Extra credit: Does this question make me judgmental?
The young man who came up and introduced himself in that now very familiar way, "Hey Mister Caven, remember me?" Which is always a tough place for me to be, since the person asking that question already has me at a disadvantage because they remember my name and my size, shape and hairline has remained somewhat consistent over the years that I have been Mister Caven. These youngsters who show up with their facial hair and heights above three feet do not tend to look anything like their pre-adolescent selves. After a moment, I can see through the way-back filter the shorter, softer version of the person quizzing me about someone they were once upon a time.
In this example, the young man introduced himself as one of my former fourth grade students, which gave me more of a window, and more clues to our math problem. It has been about twelve years since I taught fourth grade, having returned to the computer lab in 2007. That would make our mystery guest twelve years older than when I was teaching him as a ten year old. That would make him approximately twenty-two. If he has a five year old daughter, which we can assume since she is starting kindergarten, then he became a father when he was seventeen.
Or so.
Which is that moment that my mind begins to stray from the mathematics and I find myself wondering how this came to pass. Just because I waited until I was thirty-five to become a father doesn't mean that is the absolute correct answer. Parents are a club of people who care for children. A father who takes his daughter to her first day in kindergarten with a full stomach and a smile on her face sounds like he fits that bill. Just because he found himself doing that job before he finished high school does not necessarily make him less qualified than someone who waited until he was middle aged. Like me.
And since I was this kid's teacher, that makes me partially responsible. And now I will see what I can do with my grand-student.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Test Of The First

A fourteen year old has had their YouTube channel taken down for violating the video site's hate speech policy. To wit:
 Hate speech is not allowed on YouTube. We remove content promoting violence or hatred against individuals or groups based on any of the following attributes:
  • Age
  • Caste
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender Identity
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Immigration Status
  • Religion
  • Sex/Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Victims of a major violent event and their kin
  • Veteran Status
Not allowed. Like forbidden. The video that was the final nail in the teenager's YouTube coffin was titled “Pride and Prejudice,” and began with the young narrator saying that Pride month was “thirty days of AIDS-carrying paedophile victims patting themselves on the back for their lifestyle.” Which seems to have ticked off a couple of the items on that list. This is the same young woman, who goes by the tag "Soph," who produced an anti-Muslim video that included these lines:  “I get raped by my forty-year-old husband every so often and I have to worship a black cube to indirectly please an ancient Canaanite god — but at least I get to go to San Fran and stone the s*** out of some gays, and the cops can’t do anything about it because California is a crypto-caliphate.” And somewhere in there I think I lost track of the list. 
Soph's reaction to being cancelled by YouTube? She posted a picture of a gun on Twitter with the comment, “YouTube headquarters here I come.” This was, in the words of Soph, "a joke." 
All of which leads me to believe that I am old and horribly out of touch. 
Maybe they're too young.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


A twenty year old man was arrested at a Springfield, Missouri WalMart, not for shoplifting, but for wearing a ballistic vest and armed with a loaded rifle. He referred to his merry prank as "a social experiment, designed to test his Second Amendment rights. 
Dmitriy Andreychenko was taken into custody and charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree. This lead me to the obvious question: What would be a terrorist threat in the first degree? How close to killing people would one have to be before that line was crossed? When does a threat stop being a threat and become action? 
“I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment.This is Missouri," he explained. “I understand if we were somewhere else like New York or California, people would freak out.” He was carrying an AR-style rifle and had a handgun attached to his hip, which was also loaded. While in the store, he appeared to be taking a video of himself with his cellphone as he pushed a shopping cart. An employee then pulled the fire alarm to alert customers to leave the building, and an off-duty firefighter took him into custody until police arrived. 
I am curious why he didn't start with his First Amendment prank, which would probably have consisted of walking into a crowded movie theater and shouting, "Fire." But making sense of this kind of thing really becomes pointless when you start to reel through all the clowns out there making a point of carrying their guns into shopping malls and fast food restaurants. Last time I checked, there is no "common sense" dictated by the United States Constitution. James Madison probably didn't think it was necessary to include the Right to Breathe Oxygen or ban scary circus clowns from daycare centers. Some things really ought to go without discussion. 
But, since Mister Andreychenko and some others may have missed it, our country is currently being plagued by young men with automatic weapons and Americans are dying while we fumble around in the metaphorical darkness looking for that metaphorical light switch that will make the message clear: No one needs an assault weapon to shop at WalMart. No one needs to wear body armor to shop at WalMart. 
I don't remember which amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right to act like a putz. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Occam's Razor

Quite often, in this space, I take note of those who have contributed so much to society and culture who have passed on. Today I will  not be doing that. I will be discussing the death of Jeffery Epstein. Contributions to society? Pretty much out of the question. Scourge to society? 
Yeah. That. Scourge.
If you have missed any of the scourge, know that Jeffery Epstein was an American financier and convicted sex offender. You can decide for yourself which of those was the most scourge-ish. I can tell you that he was in jail on federal charges for sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. This came in the wake of having already served thirteen months on a work release program for soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an under-eighteen girl for prostitution. It would seem that stint did little or nothing to discourage him from his predilection for underage girls. And his insistence on spreading that taste to those closest to him. And those who could  afford it. 
On August 10, 2019, Epstein was found dead in his cell. This was after being put on suicide watch three weeks earlier. Authorities reported the death as "an apparent suicide." Which is where all the excitement began. "Apparent?" Doesn't that just reek of conspiracy? Who would have anything to gain from the death of this grungy excuse for a human being? 
Donald Trump.
Bill Clinton.
Prince Andrew.
The rich and the famous. 
Why not conclude that someone had him killed?
That's what our "President" did. Which is horribly ironic, since he was busy pointing a finger at Bill Clinton that could just as easily be pointed at his orangeness. Which makes such a great story. A whole lot better than the story that says this horrifically flawed human being who was almost certainly going to be put away in prison for a very long time based on new allegations that were unsealed last Friday. Awful stuff about keeping teenage sex slaves and that one of them was instructed by and Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell to have sex with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and former US Senator George Mitchell, among others. The list of suspects continues to grow. 
Or maybe this was one of those rare occurrences in which the bad guy did everyone a favor before he could hurt anyone else. A year wait for a trial. All manner of ugly revelations could be made and more lives could be destroyed. Don't get me wrong. I am firm in the belief that there are still plenty of lives that could use a little ruining. But I'm pretty sure they'll get around to doing it all by themselves. 
Just like Jefferey did. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Top Of The Hill

Riding my bike up the hill next to our school to begin yet another in a series of school years, I reflected on all the times I have found myself on that particular incline. I have often wondered just how it came to pass that my ride to work would be downhill, aided and abetted by gravity. Coming home is somewhat less forgiving in terms of slope. If I had my way, I would be able to coast home. But that is not the way things turned out.
I figure there is probably some reason, cosmic or less important, for this bit of topography. One thing is certain, it tends to promote reflection. Which is what happens on days like the one to which I made reference. I've been up and down that hill more times than I can count. Sometimes I try to do just that: count. I've made an exercise out of it. One hundred eighty days, more or less, times the number of years I have been teaching. Minus a certain number of days that I drove, or got a ride. I was sick a few times. Had jury duty. And there were the years at the beginning of my career when we were a year-round school and I worked more than those one hundred eighty days in a row. And days like the one I am currently describing in which I wasn't actually teaching but I did attend a meeting or a training or some other obligation that put me on that hill.
It should be noted that at the top of that hill sits the house of a grandmother. More to the point, it's the grandmother of a number of kids who have at one time or another attended the school where I teach. Which is at the bottom of that hill. It is in front of that house that, on any given day, I have encountered the grandchildren out in front playing, sitting, chatting. Mostly they are waiting for their mothers, grandma's daughters, to come and pick them up. The grandkids don't all live there. They  use grandma's address to allow them to keep sending their kids to the same school they have all attended: the one at the bottom of the hill.
And on this particular day, one of those three daughters was getting out of her car. She waved. "Hey, Mister Caven."
I waved back. "How're you doing?"
"Great. I'm taking Demarius to college in two weeks."
I taught Demarius, his sisters, his cousins, some time back. Demarius's youngest cousin will be in fifth grade this year. "That is great. Thanks for sharing."
"No," she said, "Thank  you."
That's when I got it. I was at the top of the hill. "You're welcome."
I'm a teacher.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Write On

Sometimes I forget I'm a writer. That's because I am so busy being a teacher.
Or a husband.
Or a dad.
Or a handyman.
Or whatever.
When the Bay Area Writing Project showed up at our school last week to give all of us teachers and handymen a refresher course on how to teach writing, I had my writing nerve tweaked. Yes, I know that I sit down daily to hammer out these accounts of my reckless life and wayward ideas, but I don't always think of myself as a writer. I'm squeezing it in as an avocation. Which is fine and noble, but it doesn't make a lot of sense that I don't share that part of myself to kids who are still trying to discover what it means to be a reader, a writer, and so on. I could be some kind of inspiration.
One of the biggest impediments to this revelation is my reaction to most students when they are given a writing assignment. The very first question is, inevitably, "How long does it have to be?" And as the class proceeds, I see their tortured faces looking up at me asking, "Is this enough?"
This is the hardest part for me to rationalize. When I was a student, a blank page was there to be filled. Just as I sit here now, anxious to cover the screen in front of me with all the words and phrases I could manage to jam together. It's an opportunity to express myself. How often does that come around?
That was and continues to be my reality, but doesn't quite match up with the way things go in the minds of many ten year olds. That vast expanse of empty cannot be filled quickly enough, which is why I get so many kids who will park a finger on a key and attempt to cover their screen with the letter G as if I might be giving their work such a superficial once-over that I could be bamboozled by such a ruse. Nope. I'm looking for real thought, real expression.
But can I make this easier for them? Yes I can. There are definitely those students whose best effort will be to copy down the prompt from the board and then ask to be released from any further abuse. Which I was reminded by the friendly folks at BAWP is easier if the kids have some alternatives to the way they respond. If that first attempt happens to be the letter G, then I can hope that the next draft might include some vowels. Growing up without a fear of the blank page doesn't mean that it doesn't exist in others. As it turns out, there might be a few more of those with that phobia than I had originally imagined.
And it's my job to help mitigate that fear. And to open doors that may have been closed. And to encourage others to start at the upper left hand corner and see where they end up. I might be surprised. I hope they will be too.
We're building something here. We'll start by learning to use the tools we have. Someday they might build their own cathedral. Or explain why they couldn't.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Everyday Magic

When I get older,
losing my hair -
wait a minute -
When I get older,
and stop going on
about losing my hair
I will still be singing
your bountiful praises.
The way you can turn
a simple phrase
into one that isn't
so very simple.
The way you can
light up a room
by simply
flicking a switch.
It's magic
and you know it.
That's the part
that I forget
from time to time.
You're magic
and sometimes
you forget it.
Which is fun
because it means
you surprise yourself.
Sometimes in this world
we forget to pay
full attention
to those magical things.
Today I pay
full attention
to you,
and the magic
that you do.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Thank You, Now Please Sit Down

I suppose I should applaud the fact that it is a suggestion for a solution and not simply thoughts and prayers. Sean Hannity, America's Mouth, believes he has a way to keep everyone safe: Surround them. “Every school,” he said. “Secure the perimeter of those schools. Equip them with retired police and military, they should be on every floor of every school.” Sean suggests these folks could volunteer for fifteen hours a week in exchange for paying no federal or state income taxes. 
But Sean, what about shopping malls? Courthouses and the like? “We can do that with stores. We can do that in malls. We can do that pretty much anywhere the public is,” Hannity said. “Courthouses, we can expand that out everywhere and keep Americans safe.” 
And if you're wondering how many retired police and military that might take, the math turns out to be in the hundreds of thousands. Seven or eight hundred thousand. Approximately the number of sworn full-time law enforcement officers currently on duty. So, as soon as they retire, we've got the thing staffed. 
One thing though: Would you feel more safe, surrounded by armed guards. Or less? Me, I'm going to have to go with less. Like when I went for a stroll through Super Bowl City when it landed in San Francisco a few years ago. Like forty mass shootings ago. Heavily armed and armored presence did not instill me with Super Bowls full of confidence. What were they expecting to happen, with all those machine guns around? Was somebody trying to abscond with the Lombardi Trophy for goodness sake? 
Nope. Just there to keep us safe. Which is weird because the way people who are insecure about having their guns taken away react is almost always to suggest adding more guns to the equation. Guns in the hands of loyal agents of the government, but never mind that most Republicans are not usually gung-ho about having big government looking over our shoulder. Unless it means we don't have to give up our machine guns. 
So, to recap: Thanks Sean for your input. The chances of getting that many well-trained gunmen to deal with the gunmen who wish they had a job where they could be well-trained gunmen seem pretty slim, but we really appreciate you being so solution-oriented. Demented and sad, but solution-oriented. 

Thursday, August 08, 2019

This Word You Keep Using

Doris Day, God Rest Her Soul, once had a hit with a song titled, "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps."
In it, she asks someone we can only assume is a suitor of hers, if he loves her. The suitor responds, "Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps." She says she has asked him a million times, but all he ever answers is, "Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps." As the song progresses, Doris becomes more and more put off by the non-committal nature of this response. "If you can't make your mind up - We'll never, get started," she laments.
Perhaps. It's one of those words designed to put people off. "Possibly, but not certainly," if you're looking for guidance from Webster. Or "maybe." Which is probably okay if you're being asked if you want to the Orange Julius stand in the mall. "Perhaps." But it does not work as well in affairs of the heart, as Ms. Day so kindly points out. 
It is also a ridiculous response when it comes to gun violence. After a week that saw dozens of Americans shot and killed while going about their daily business, our "President" said "We've done actually a lot, but perhaps more has to be done." 
Many of us were left scratching our collective heads when it came to the "a lot" that has been done by this administration to stop mass killings. Universal background checks? Nope. Assault weapons ban? Nope. Closing gun show and Internet sale loopholes? Nope. Thoughts and prayers? By the tweetful. Should something be done now?
Will there be chocolate cake at the party?
Can you help me with my algebra?
Could you please pass some sort of meaningful gun control legislation?
See? It just doesn't work there. 
Not when you're slathering at the feet of the NRA, promising them that no one not ever will take their guns away. Not when you're using the Second Amendment as a shield to deflect, well, not bullets. Bad thoughts? Indecision? Fear of growing a spine?

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

There Ought To Be A Law

I have spent the last few days in a dark gray haze. Dozens of Americans have died as a result of mass shootings in the past week. What is perhaps most terrifying to me is the fact that by the time this blog reaches you, that total could be higher. My wife and I drove down highway 101 to visit our son, and passed by Gilroy, California. I mentioned that this city, renowned for its annual Garlic Festival, was now joining an ever-expanding map of towns in the United States that have experienced a mass shooting.
Then there was El Paso, Texas.
And Dayton, Ohio.
Assault weapons used to kill civilians.
I was angry. Which I reminded myself was a secondary emotion. Anger tends to fall quickly on the heels of something like fear or sadness. I was sad. I was afraid. That's how I became angry. And now that I was there, I wanted to do something. So I called my members of Congress. I told them I wanted them to ban assault weapons. You can do this too. I don't require you to do any such thing, but if you're sad and afraid, or angry you can avail yourself of this option. Your senators and representatives are the ones who make laws. They could be encouraged to do their job, specifically to make laws that might save American lives. Like the opioid crisis, which has a lot of pending state and federal legislation designed to keep Americans from dying.
Because that's what lawmakers ought to be doing. Making laws that keep Americans from dying. Because they are not currently doing that. At least as far as that assault weapons ban goes. This isn't about home protection or hunting. This is about keeping killing machines out of the hands of people who would use them for their expressed purpose. The assertion that has been made far too many times that somehow American's Constitutional Rights would be trampled because these weapons of war should be used for that purpose and that purpose only is tripe. Garbage. Rubbish.
There's that angry part again.
Because I'm terribly sad. And afraid. I would like some help. I would like your help. Before more Americans die.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Garden

"By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong." - Crosby, Stills and Nash
If you're planning on wandering on up to Yasgur's farm to join up in a rock and roll band a few days from now, make sure to buy your tickets online and to remember your essentials: Sunscreen, plenty of water, your photo ID, and a tarp of some kind. That last one may not seem necessary, but it kind of fills in the spot where "towel" sits for Galaxy Hitchhikers. Keep out the rain or sun. Wrap it around you. Lay down on it. Use it for a slip and slide. Trade it for drugs.
Sorry. Did I say that last one out loud? Fifty years after the fact, would it be worth bringing up the somewhat rampant use of drugs all that stardust and billion year old carbon? Illegal at the time, marijuana smoke filled the air while various versions of LSD was passed around as if it were not the Schedule One drug it had only recently become. In this sea of humanity over three days of peace and music, frequent announcements were made from the stage for all to hear: "To get back to the warning that I’ve received, you might take it with however many grains of salt you wish, that the brown acid that is circulating around us is not specifically too good. It's suggested that you do stay away from that. Of course it’s your own trip, so be my guest. But please be advised that there’s a warning on that one, okay?"
Not specifically too good. That's the kind of warning that you could make to a throng of hippies and it would still be cool. The fact that the gates had long since been torn down and the anticipated crowd of two hundred thousand became that legendary half a million. Those tickets were eighteen dollars when purchased in advance, twenty-four at the site. Or free if you just wandered in barefoot. With or without your tarp. 
The good news is that someone will probably plug in and play somewhere in upstate New York on or around August 16. The bad news is that the big hullabaloo, Woodstock 50, was cancelled. Apparently there was not enough peace and music to make it worthwhile.
Or enough drugs. 
Or enough money. 
Mostly the money.
Which is pretty much everyone's drug of choice, these days. 
"We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden"

Monday, August 05, 2019


My wife and I spent a few days away from our home this summer, inspiring her to make the delusional suggestion that we limit our screen time. When we were away from our habitual ruts and remote controls, we connected to one another more readily.
Okay, good point, but what about the dozen, if not dozens, of people anxiously awaiting my appearance on Al Gore's Internet? What about all that TV that needs watching? Does she think The Big Bang Theory reruns will watch themselves?
Here's the worst part: I'm an elementary school teacher, and one of the discussions we regularly have with our students is how much time they spend in front of a screen of any size or shape. Do you watch TV at night when you go home from school? I do. Do you play video games after dinner? I do. Do you use your phone to watch videos and send text messages? I do.
I'm the computer teacher. Am I supposed to tell my students that they should turn off the power and walk out into the bright sunshine, ignoring all those amazing web sited to which I have so carefully introduced them?
Some more confession: I used to spend summers in a cabin without electricity and no telephone. The screens that I paid attention to were the ones on our front door that let the breeze come in and kept hte flies out. I read a ton of books back in those days. It was part of what made me such a clever kid. So precocious that I read Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain before I entered the fourth grade. I exercised my imagination by listening to CBS's Radio Mystery Theater when the lights went out. Who needs TV?
Turns out, I did. That's where all the movies were. All the game shows. All the sitcoms. All the things that eventually filled my head with things other than literature and the theater of the mind. Yes, I still wax rhapsodic for those days when I would go for days without encountering a television. I did not own my own computer until I was over the age of thirty. There are still days that go by when I don't even turn my cell phone on. Maybe because I secretly yearn for those days when I didn't need an electronic leash or babysitter.
But now this is where I read. This is where I write. And while I'm here, I might stop and watch a video or two. There's so much to be found, all but leaping from this screen in front of me. So you'd like to make a commitment to limit the moments I spend in front of this machine, or any other device with words and pictures and sound?
It's almost too terrifying to contemplate. At least that's what I read online.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Forever And A Day

Looking east from the window of our motel room, I watched the fog burn off. It reminded me of all those years ago when I woke up in this bed which I slept as a child. I was no longer a child. I was a grownup, thirty-one years old. I was ready to head out into the world as an adult. By the end of the day I would be married.
By every logical measure, this was forever ago. I made that promise, so forever it will be. From time to time, I confront those ideas of always and never and they frighten me. They are the ones that put a crimp in this hose that goes on forever. They are the words that mean the brakes have come on, sharply.
There were no breaks back then. Full speed ahead, into the abyss. If I knew then what I know now, I might have whispered into my own ear: Listen. Those people surrounding you on this hillside are your support. There are examples of family and friendship and love and trust. Take them with you in your heart. Take them with you when things are tough. When it gets late at night remember that meadow full of people dancing. Glasses raised, toasts and pronouncements made. I live each day in the forever that those people imagined for us.
Me and my wife.
How could I have possibly known back then what forever was? When the morning came and the clouds sat there, so quiet and still. When I got dressed and drove to the mountains where I would make all kinds of promises that would lead me to the brink of eternity, what was going through my head?
I don't remember anymore. What I thought back then were the thoughts of a single man. A warehouse manager. Not a teacher. Not a father. Not a husband. Plenty of my friends had embarked on this voyage before me. How hard could it be?
As hard and as rewarding and as sad and joyful as anything I had ever endeavored to do. I had no way of knowing what that forever was going to feel like. But I wanted to find out. And now the fog has lifted, and another day begins. Heart full and eyes wide open. Happy to have taken that step into the mist.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Some Words I Can Dance To Or A Melody That Rhymes

I don't walk around with a lyrics sheet. I don't have a teleprompter at my feet too remind me when I miss a word or two.
Nonetheless, I tend to sing along. I am one of those people. This is especially true when I am in the car alone. And, as it happens, when I am in the car with my family.
Oh, how they wish that I was not one of those people.
They don't tend to call me on it very often. I was asked, at a local production of Fiddler on the Roof, by my wife to stop singing along. Which I understand, for the most part. The most being that no one in that amphitheater paid to hear me sing all the parts. The sliver that hurt was the part where I had the joy in my heart and wanted to share it with everyone in full voice.
Not my best choice.
The best place for me to exercise this character trait (I did not refer to it as a defect) is at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Not one of those acoustic deals where I might be heard above the hushed reverence he often requires during such shows, but the great big E Street Band blowouts that seem to engender such behavior. I know all those words, studio and live versions, and I look forward to showing off this knowledge base to those around me. This is, of course, keeping in mind that most everyone else's attention is captured by the trained professionals on the stage whose amplified and rehearsed voices are pouring out over the arena diminishing most any chance for me to be heard.
Except for those closest to me: My wife and son.
They have pretty much surrendered to the idea that part of the ticket price includes dad making a spectacle of himself. And it is precisely at this moment that I should point out that the last time my son and I went to see Green Day, I actually laid out for a song or two, while he proceeded to show me just how familiar he was with the words and music of his favorite band.
But what of my wife? Well, she has her own version of this show. It doesn't tend to show up as often as the rest of ours. She likes to croon along with show tunes and folk rock from her childhood. It's always a welcome surprise when she lets loose.
Because it means I can sing along. s

Friday, August 02, 2019

Things Change

"Today, I met with a 12-year-old who was shot while in a bounce house. A grandmother mourning the loss of her 6-year-old grandson. This is America today -- the shootings continue. Loved ones are buried. Children are gunned down. And Congress does nothing."
"A guy tries to light his shoe on fire & 18 yrs later we still all take our shoes off through security. In that time there have been 37 MASS SHOOTINGS. And nothing. Not a single regulation."
The first quote was from California's governor, Gavin Newsom. The second was from comedian Sarah Silverman. I chose these because I am quickly running out of words to describe the indifference that continues to be shown in the aftermath of Americans being shot. Stephen Romero, the six year old referenced by Governor Newsom, is the current face of the tragedy we call The Second Amendment. Stephen had just celebrated his sixth birthday. At Legoland. He won't be going back. He won't be in first grade when school starts. He won't wake up early on Christmas morning, much to the everlasting annoyance of his parents. He won't be waking up.
And while we continue to have a "President" who simultaneously endorses those who are "tough on crime" and "protects the Second Amendment" while urging those in the line of fire to "be careful out there!" we continue to wait patiently for everyone to die.
"Sorry, our hands are tied," says Congress. "If it weren't for that darn Second Amendment, we'd jump right on that assault weapons ban. See, it's the Constitution and it can't be changed."
That's why they're called "amendments." We used to keep black people as slaves. We didn't used to let women vote. We used to want people to stop drinking. Then we said they could again. Things change. The Constitution of the United States has changed.
It needs to change.
Children are dying.
And it's our fault.
Responding to questions about selling the assault weapon to the shooter in Gilroy, the owner of Big Mike's Guns and Ammo declared on Facebook, “When I did see him, he was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern,” the post said. “I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power. Everyone is my brother and sister and I am mourning for the families. Mike.” To be clear: The killer purchased his killing machine via Al Gore's Internet. The same series of tubes that allowed the killer to post pictures of the Gilroy Garlic Festival moments before he opened fire. 
Things change. 
It's time. 
It's way past time.