Saturday, November 30, 2019

Scheduling Conflicts

Climbing into our plum tree, once again, I found myself wondering if there was a premium for getting things done "on time." This year's holiday light spectacular began the Monday before Thanksgiving, as my son and I found ourselves with an hour to kill before we picked mom up from the movies. We pulled into the Ace Hardware parking lot, and assured each other that we could just as soon leave empty-handed. But since we were there, why not take the opportunity to peruse the selection of ornamental lighting before we pushed on into the next task.
It has been several years since my son has been around to support this habit of mine. Most recently he has been mired in the world of retail, on call for that most dubious of tortures: Black Friday. Traditionally, this has been the day when the ladder and that big tub containing string after string of dangling bulbs appears. This is an exercise in which the wheat, those lights that still light, are separated from the chaff, those that have outlived their usefulness. Then all we have to do is arrange them in a carefully managed sprawl across the front yard. The new purchases are used to fill in the gaps left by the features that no longer hold a charge. I felt fortunate to have my son along for this year's mounting, but I knew that his eventual return to his real job would mean that I would have to reschedule.
And then there was the rain.
After months that had been dry as a bone, suddenly we were in the midst of the first storm of the winter. So we had to move quickly and decisively. The new elements, one hundred thirty-four feet of solar powered illumination found its place abruptly. The two additional strands of more traditional teardrop bulbs went into the tree. The tree in which I found myself when I found myself wondering about the premium for getting things done "on time." I am a firm believer that anyone who still has their Christmas lights up by the second week of January has surrendered. Given up. It's just another ten months or so before they have to go back up again, so what's the point?
On the other end, I have maintained this notion harbored by my older brother as a continuation of my father's insistence that the opening salvo of Christmas decoration should erupt on that day after Thanksgiving. As leftovers are being heated up and the local malls brace for the onslaught, stringing lights provides a pleasant counterpoint.
But doesn't Thanksgiving move around a lot? Sometimes a week closer. Sometimes a week further away. What is on time?
As the skies began to darken overhead and the rain began to fall, I pulled the tools and debris out of the elements and waited for night to come. The lights would be ready. On time.
More or less.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Dangerous But Necessary

Perhaps it was no mistake that cartoonist Walt Kelly set his comic strip Pogo in the Okefenokee Swamp. It seems as deliberate as any artist who would declare, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." In 1971, this was a declaration on the anniversary of the first Earth Day. Now it seems that the mirror that that little possum once turned on himself is reflecting back on us.
The current regime crows loudly about how it wants to "drain the swamp," but it only recently occurred to me that this tactic is most often employed by real estate developers. Wanting to make room for a new housing development, the tall grass would be cut down and the muddy waters siphoned off somewhere else so that new deluxe apartment building could take the place of what was once the habitat of crocodiles, muskrats, owls, and the occasional wise possum. No matter what good these creatures may have produced prior to the need for that skyscraper, they've got to be run off. Swamps protect the dry land nearby, acting as a sponge to soak up excess rainfall before it washes neighboring habitats. The animals that survive this ill-advised reclamation project end up in uncomfortable and unlikely places. Like an eleven foot long alligator that shows up in a suburban swimming pool.
Not a surprise that this kind of thing happens a lot in Florida.
But let's return for a moment to the metaphorical swamp known as Washington, D.C. Politicians in their native habitat are generally less harmful than the previously mentioned real estate developers. Yes, their actions often impact the world outside the bog where they dwell. Yes, life inside the swamp is often tempestuous and sometimes a little dangerous. So is nature. So is real estate. I don't pretend to understand the busy social interactions in those wetlands, anymore than I understand what makes someone think that their arrival on the scene will be a game changer.
Stripping away the artifice for a moment, I will suggest that we need "the swamp" and those that dwell inside it. They are part of a system that has been functional for hundreds of years. While I understand that looking at the cold eyes and many teeth of a creature that has resisted evolution for so very long can cause fear, we should also keep in mind that at distances of one hundred fifty feet an alligator can outrun a man.
Stay away from the swamp, man.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


I want to thank you all for coming here today.
I am expressly grateful for your attention and I want to explain why.
It's because I have this need to share these thoughts.
The ones that wake me up in the morning.
The ones that come to me during the day.
The ones that I cannot shake.
Questions that need answers.
Answers to those pressing concerns.
You didn't know they were pressing.
Did you?
I want to thank you for keeping this forum alive.
I am more than happy to share.
I have words to spare, or so it seems.
We don't always agree.
Which is what makes things so lively.
I understand that sometimes this all feels so one way.
My way is not the highway.
I am thankful for the time to consider options.
There are a lot of different places to go for random thoughts.
I am please and happy that you landed here.
I would like to make you all a pie.
Everyone gets a piece.
It does not have to be a feast.
Just a little sweetness to share.
This is a long strange trip we're on.
I don't want you to get lost.
The metaphorical door is always open.
Come on in and put your feet up.
Thank you for not smoking.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Do You Hear That?

The morning begins with a concert, of sorts. The streaming service takes a song and winds it into a symphony that could go on for hours.
Sometimes it does.
As I listen to each new tune, I reckon on the story behind the tune. What brought these musicians together and what sounds were in their heads when they wrote the melody? Are the words the same as they were when they came to mind, or have they evolved from the page to the studio?
I tell these stories out loud like they mattered to anyone else but me. Everyone else including me. The line that connects Tom Petty to Van Morrison to The Band. I describe these connections like they were a book in the Bible. My Bible. The one that is filled with the begets: Chuck Berry to The Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen. How did all those singer-songwriters in California find one another to ad a noise or a lyric? And how did some of them make it while others vanished.
Oblivion is full of pop stars, and the ones with good stories are the ones that live on. The story of the Beatles survives while Johnny Gentle, for whom they were once a backing band, is forgotten. No one sings a Johnny Gentle song at their wedding.
Which is fine, because there are so many really great songs. The ones that rise to the top and become not just singles but singular. A song that defines a moment. Sometimes in history or a relationship. Music that bookmarks lives and gives us a common language. Once there was this thing called radio and it played those songs to us all under the condition that  we might go out and buy the records ourselves and discover the tracks on either side. Or even flip it over to hear what was going on back there.
I love mining these sounds and the stories that go with them. Finding out the reason why it goes that way, like knowing that Frank Sinatra was a trombone player before he became a vocalist, which allows his voice to make so much more sense. That Eric Clapton was invited into George Harrison's life to play a solo and he became smitten with George's wife to the point that  he wrote one of rock's greatest anthems, it fascinates me.
I know there are things that I have forgotten, but once I hear that song, it all comes rushing back to me. And my wife puts up with this. As long as I let her listen to the song too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


I want nothing.
I want nothing.
I want no quid pro quo.
Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing. 
This is the final word from the Pres of the U.S.
Some have suggested that this sounds like a song by Morrissey. Others maintain it's more like the Ramones. And yet, it comes form one of the least musical human beings on the planet. Our "president" made these notes before going out to holler at the press as his response to the week's impeachment testimony. A handwriting expert suggested that the scrawl exhibited "the sign of a liar."
Just that first line: "I want nothing." It is difficult to imagine any phrase being less true of this man. This person who seeks to amass wealth and fame in buckets regardless of the source wants "nothing?" The guy who sat in a room while someone wrote a book for him called "The Art of the Deal" wants nothing? The sociopath who once insisted "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible." 
He's a real estate developer. 
He's a game show host. 
He wants nothing. 
I get the "no quid pro quo" thing, not that he has any idea what it means. It's Latin, after all, and by all accounts this was not nor does he continue to be any kind of scholar. A word like "anonymous" is enough to give him fits. He makes up countries. He doesn't like it when people correct him, or try to coach him, so chances are he has latched onto that phrase and repeated it in order to sound smart. We are not in any imminent danger of that happening
And then there's that last line: This is the last word from the Pres of the U.S.
If only.
Nothing would be a pleasant change. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Mothers Of The Revolution

It is with great pride that I describe my most loyal readers as a bunch of mothers. My own, who never misses an installment. My own wife, the mother of my son who saves up a week's worth to read all at once. My mother-in-law, who keeps a daily routine that includes me and my blog. And just the other night, during a conversation with friends, I was informed that the matriarch of their clan has become a fan as well.
I understand that this nearly half dozen converts does not a national trend make, but I am still pleased and happy that the word is getting out. Or the words, in the case of most entries here. If I am tweaking sympathetic nerve endings or raising questions that had not been asked prior, then I am happy to continue my business here.
There are times when rooting around in pop culture and politics becomes a messy and depressing avocation. A hobby that included less immersion in the details of presidential politics and more focus on getting that ship into the bottle might be nice. Of course, once I had my eyes opened to the trick of this particular craft, I decided that it wasn't quite the challenge I imagined. So why not continue to mine the seamy underbelly of this great land of ours for the entertainment of the mom mass that hangs on my every syllable?
I hope that the patience of mothers of all genders is rewarded by my continued press for the truth, whether it pertains to the current administration or my cable bill. I hope that I raise as many chuckles as eyebrows. I hope that if you don't happen to identify with the label I am tossing about here that you will bear with me. Because my initial audience was, and continues to be, my very patient mother. She was the one who lauded my second grade composition, "The Drunken Snake." She was the one who sat patiently, endured and encouraged my attempts at political satire in the fifth grade. She was the one who laughed at the right spots.
So I suppose that I am not surprised by this revelation. I expect that opening an eye to something missed or forgotten is a public service, which fits in well with the rest of my plans for world domination. Mothers are the reason we're all here, after all, and if I'm giving anything back then I am doing something good.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Humans Are Such Easy Prey

Let's pretend for a minute that I wanted to avoid all this impeachment business.
Maybe I just wanted to go away for a little while, to escape the din of hearings and witnesses and testimony.
Or perhaps I just wanted to stick my head in the sand and wait for the parade to pass me by. But every time I stood up and looked around, it was still there: in bright red, white and blue. I just want to get a ride to work, maybe take a few moments with my lovely wife and catch up on the events of the day. Unless the radio is on. And those voices cut through the what is happening now to make apparent what was happening back then.
I am reminded of the dialogue between school children which I have witnessed countless times:
"Shut up."
"No you shut up."
"I told you to shut up."
"You shut up first."
"No, you."
"No, you shut up most."
And so on.
The lines are pretty well established now. Trying to make a case that impresses anyone from either side to acquiesce seems to be a pretty futile gesture. All the words spoken, written and reiterated are like wads of Kleenex tossed at a brick wall. Sure, given enough time and an endless supply of Kleenex, one could imagine that a dent could be made. Not in this lifetime, however.
And so we are left with this wall. Democrats on one side, Republicans on the other. The divide seems to dismiss common sense, since the belief that only by coming together can this wrong be righted. Relieving ourselves of this despot, or falling in lockstep to Make America Great Again, ours is a nation of extremes.
Which is exactly why I keep hoping for that alien invasion. Simulcast on CNN and Fox News. With crawls at the bottom of the screen blaming the other party for setting us up as such easy prey.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Veering Right

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. In the late sixties and early seventies, I watched the culture change. I can remember seeing smoke from the fires set on the university campus. I recall the vans full of hippies loading and unloading on The Hill. Some of them were students. Some of them weren't. It was a time during which the way we learned shifted from being primarily a classroom based activity to the world around us.
Outside those ivory towers, across the country, young people were questioning authority in ways that had not been done before. Rather than banding together to start scrap drives or volunteer at the USO dance, students marched in the streets. They pushed for change in social, political and economic arenas that had been only hypothetical discussions in class a decade before. Liberal bastions were created in places where these flowers blossomed. College campuses became places where ideas could grow and our country could evolve as a result.
This was true for quite some time. Nearly fifty years. Now the phrase "Campus Republicans" isn't just a punchline. There are voices being raised as a pendulum swing to all that left wing claptrap. Somehow the push back is coming from a conservative place that many might have believed had disappeared. Donald Trump Jr. has been taking his book tour on the road, visiting colleges along the way, When he showed up at the University of California at Los Angeles last week, he was booed off the stage. Not by the libs he came "to own," but by conservatives who believe his daddy is not tough enough on the "snowflakes." Triggered, indeed.
Meanwhile, on campuses across the country, incidents of racism, sexism and homophobia are on the rise. Syracuse University just announced a one million dollar plan to curb racism after a white supremacist manifesto was dropped into students' phones overnight. Nazis have become the oppressed in this weird scenario, and their suffering has become the new talking point for those who live in a world where ideas, no matter how inane, are allowed air and a place to thrive. Ridiculously far right voices like Milo Yiannopolis and Gavin McInnes complain that they are being silenced. By college pukes. Whatever happened to the Free Speech Movement, anyway?
There's no such thing as a free lunch, either.

Friday, November 22, 2019


I can remember those nights, coming home from a closing shift at Arby's, wanting to collapse in a heap once I made it inside the door. Instead, I made a point of taking a shower and attempting to scrub off the initial layer of grease that hung over me like a shroud. My brown polyester pants and vest had been left behind, draped over a hanger in the "employee lounge" where everyone else's uniform awaited another day of slinging America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir! That initial hosing down was enough to feel human enough to feel one notch closer to human rather than some fast food homo sapiens hybrid. I drifted off knowing that it would not be until I had two days off in a row that I would be able to feel the sensation of the wind touching my skin. It would take that long to shed the film of tallow in which I was encased.
I bring you this memory, in part, to test your gag reflex. And to introduce the lawsuit being brought by a Florida man who also happens to be a vegan. It is his assertion that Burger King's Impossible Whopper is not a vegan alternative because the plant-based patties which form the core of the sandwich are cooked on the same grill as meat products.
Well, duh. It's Burger King. He must have been looking for his local Vegan King franchise. Was he really expecting that the home of char-broiled meaty treats was going to break out a special surface upon which those Impossible burgers would be charred? I don't believe this gentleman spent any quality time in the "kitchen" of a fast food restaurant.
I offer as a second vision into the minds of the fast food mind this memory: Bob and Cowboy, our franchise owners, were in the back room testing the new french fry packaging. They filled the small paper envelope, then the large paper cup and set each one separately on the scale. Delighted by the result, they discovered that the large and small portions weighed within a gram of one another. Customers were paying an extra fifty cents for the cup.
Don't get me wrong. I'm excited by the idea that someday I will be able to order a drive-thru burger that will help me save the planet in my hybrid car, but I don't imagine this will be happening anytime soon. Or at all. This is a marketing ploy.
Oh. Sorry. Did you think the change from "veggie burger" to "Impossible Burger" was an accident? Which one would you rather wash down with a large Diet Coke? And a large order of fries. That will take at least a couple of days to wash off.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Over The Shoulder

Someone pointed out that we are scant days away from the end of a decade. In just a little over a month, we will leave the TweenTeens and enter the Roaring Twenties. As for the naming of the decades, I assume we will have a few years to work that out. Wouldn't it be nice to have the Boring Twenties, spending ten years catching up on our non-news reading and enjoying conversations that didn't feel so weighted down by worry? And will we look back at the past ten years with longing, wondering where our Hope went?
Six out of ten of those years, it felt like there was hope and change available. Coming out of the Naughts, it was nice to think that we were on the cusp of something larger. On our way to where the air is sweet. 
How quickly things change. Ten years ago, I noted that "the decade comes to a close much in the same way that it began: Terrorists win." I was bemoaning the fact that I was still being asked to take my shoes off before boarding a commercial airliner. Only ticketed passengers were allowed on the concourse. Which is pretty much how things are pretty much the same, but for the low, low price of just eighty-five dollars for a five year membership the TSA will let you go through screening without opening your laptop or taking off your shoes. 
What a difference a decade makes. Unless you're fighting a war in the Middle East, in which case it's business as usual. There have been approximately seven new iterations of the iPhone, and each one has been more exciting than the last. And more expensive. Buying pot got easier, but not necessarily less expensive. You can order food with your phone. Wait. That's not new. You can call for a ride with your phone. Wait. That's not new. The phones are "smart" now. Smarter? Or maybe we're just not as smart as our phones. 
A new decade gives us a chance to start yammering about the good old days like these were the good old days. Let's hope that's where we're headed. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Sexiest Man Alive?
I'm not on the list. Happily, I am not on the Sexiest Dead Men either, so I have that going for me. But it does give me pause, in this era of #MeToo that we continue to sell magazines and launch a million Tweets about this peculiar distinction.
A long time ago, Rod Stewart asked the musical question, "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" I suspect that back in the day, this was a rhetorical question. Now that Rod is known more as a model train enthusiast than a swinging disco god, the point is essentially moot. Unless you're into that kind of thing. Which raises the point, "Who gets to decide such things?"
Currently, singer, songwriter, producer, actor, and philanthropist John Legend has been awarded the title. Congratulations may be the last thing that need to offered to Mister Legend for this distinction. Being viewed as an object by the publishers of People Magazine seems to confuse the talents of their object with his inability to stay out of a swimming pool while fully clothed or his struggle to button his jacket before knotting his bow tie. This brings to mind all those photo shoots of women in various states of undress for various publications in various levels of absurdity. Here's Plaything of the Minute watering plants at home in her dainty underthings. We've got Object of the Moment checking her SAT scores on her home computer which just happens to be next to the Jacuzzi. And so on. The ridiculousness of all of that is not leveled by putting a man in similarly ridiculous circumstances. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then John Legend is a few thousand words behind in terms of legitimizing his career again. I have been amused by the reactions posted by Mister Legend's wife, Chrissy Tiegen: "The sexiest man alive just made me a ham sandwich." This is the kind of perspective we all need. Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, and the list goes on. These gentlemen have managed to maintain a career this side of cheesecake since being deemed sexy by a publication whose journalistic cred is based almost exclusively on "what's hot and what's not." 
And yes, you may correctly assume that I am still stinging from the aforementioned lack of inclusion on any of those lists for all these years. And relieved at the same time. Now I can return to my obsession with model railroads. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It Took Seconds

Sixteen seconds.
That was my takeaway from the most recent school shooting. That was how long it took for a student at Saugus High in Santa Clarita, California to kill two of his classmates, wound three others, and then turned the gun on himself. The shooter had just turned sixteen.
Maybe there's something there. More likely it's just a terrible coincidence.
Sixteen seconds.
You will spend more time reading this blog than it took for that teenager to end three lives and change those of hundreds more. It takes thirty seconds to order a meal online. Texting your mom takes longer than sixteen seconds, if you go beyond just the emojis. There were plenty of students at Saugus High who took the time to do just that as they waited for the all clear, long after the shots had all been fired. Three off-duty officers from local law enforcement were first to respond to the incident. Because they were at the school dropping off their kids. These brave individuals did not hesitate. They rushed back into the school right after the shooting began.
"Don't Walk" signs count you down from fifteen seconds to get you across the street safely.
Go ahead. Count off "sixteen Mississippi" in your head. It would take anyone that long just to figure out where the shots were coming from.
And here's another thing that takes more than sixteen seconds: Conducting a lockdown drill. Many of the students who escaped had stories to relate, many of them included their relief that they had prepared for such an event. Practice makes perfect. It could be that lives were saved because of that preparation. Or maybe not, since the killer saved the last bullet in his gun for himself. When he ran out of ammo, he was done. Sixteen seconds is how long it takes to change a community forever.
Santa Clarita joins a seemingly never-ending list of cities that bear the hurt of being the site of a mass shooting. It took less than half a minute. It took just over a quarter of a minute. Usain Bolt can run one hundred meters in less time, but not the rest of us. We would still be standing in the doorway, looking back at the carnage that just erupted before the school day had even begun.
It's just not enough time.
Or maybe it's too much.
It's all too much.

Monday, November 18, 2019


Pizzazz: an attractive combination of vitality and glamour.
I looked it up. Just to be certain. This was the element that NBC and Reuters said was missing from the first days of the impeachment hearings. Perhaps because we have become accustomed to pizzazz. This could be due to the evolution of paparazzi, or the elevation of news celebrities. We expect that the only good news is breaking news. If it bleeds it leads. No bores or snores. We need action. We need revelations.
The trouble here is that there is no revelation. All of this, the scandal John Oliver has taken to referring to as "Stupid WatergateII," has been played out in front of us in such a way as to numb us to the details. "So what if there was a quid pro quo?" "Hoax." "Witch Hunt.
Let me just pause here to suggest the following scenario: If, in 1692, any of the accused Salem witches had insisted that everyone read a transcript of a conversation they had that included the phrase, "I could turn your husband into a newt,  but I would like you to do us a favor though,” then it wouldn't have been much of a trial and all this shade being thrown on those unfortunate events way back when wouldn't carry such a stigma. The difference here is that the transcript released by the White House includes just exactly that. "I would like you to do us a favor though." Page Three. 
Yes. I understand that in the midst of a presidency that includes so many horrible moments and obnoxious statements this little "favor" doesn't match up to the pomposity and hyperbole to which we have become accustomed. It's kind of delicate by comparison. Business as usual includes the stripping of civil rights from previously protected groups, overturning government regulations meant to save the environment, and caging children. So what's the big deal about asking a foreign leader to do "us" a little favor? It's against the law. Big time
And though it may seem a little like passing out speeding tickets at the Indianapolis 500, this is the place where the rubber meets the road. It is the moment at which hiding those tax returns and his business dealings in the past become a tapestry of deceit. As one former employee of his said, “He ignores the law when he doesn’t like it, he uses the law to get his way.”
So there isn't enough pizzazz for the folks at NBC? I understand that this may not be anything like their old Thursday Night lineup. No Friends. No Seinfeld. But make no mistake this is "must-see TV." With or without pizzazz. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pressure Drop

"The sunny optimism that likely propelled them into the field is rapidly fading as the result of low salaries, insufficient funding, and the often complicated social-emotional needs of their students." That's how the article by Reggie Wade for Yahoo(!) Finance began. I read on with interest, being a teacher. I got to the part that described the measuring stick used to define this drop in confidence, which suggested that in just a year that mark has moved from fifty percent to thirty-four. My first thought: Wow. We were only at fifty percent last year, and now we've dropped another sixteen percent. Those numbers are positively Trumpian.
All of this sad information came from The Educator Confidence Report, a document composed in conjunction with You.Gov, a survey site that crunches numbers of this sort. "Job satisfaction," how about "optimism?" How about reading the blog I've been writing for the past fifteen years? Probably not the most scientific way to gather data, but it might give a picture of what working in urban education is all about. The highs. The lows. The in-between days. There are a lot of those. Those are the ones with an asterisk next to them. The ones with a small victory mixed into the pudding, leaving a sweet taste of success that brings us rushing back for just that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. 
Low salaries? I signed up for that. Insufficient funding? I'm ready for the battle. The often complicated social-emotional needs of our students? Okay. You got me there. That's a nut I have been trying to crack for nearly a quarter century. Using the template of my own experience in school and childhood does very little to prepare me for the Escape Room. That's where the confidence comes in. Can I figure out a way to invest my young charges with the enthusiasm that brought me to this job in the first place? Can I give them a little of that sweetness that gets me coming back the next day? That's my job, after all. Just like Mary Poppins, I'm looking for that spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. In the most delightful way. 
And that little connection there is enough to get me through to Thanksgiving break. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019


On what do I base my feelings about Donald Trump? It could be the angry mob of sycophants that surround him. I would happily pick the other side of any argument that had Sean Hannity in it. Much in the same way I would do for just about any current administration official. The angry, darting eyes of a hunted animal are the giveaways. I have even opened my acceptance of these individuals to the exception of "just a job." They work for a man who made "You're Fired" a catchphrase. This is the kind of boss from whom you would shrink, find excuses to stay in the bathroom, hide under the desk. And when the lights come on and the cameras are rolling, you mindlessly repeat the talking points generated out of desperation and hope that you can find someone else to throw under the bus while surviving to the next list of meandering talking points.
That cult of borderline personality reeks of fear and desperation. Anything that runs on the souls of the individuals that are grist for the mill must require a sacrifice. The turnover rate for the "president's" A-Team stands at eighty percent. The message being thrown around from the top of that stack of turtles is that the fault lies in the dismissed, the fired, the resigned. And once their eyes stop spinning counter-clockwise, they will write their book describing life on the inside of that dryer full of rocks. The problem is all that stuff at the bottom, we are told. Not the howling windbag way up high. Looking down.
The hypocrisy in thought and deed, the never-ending greed, the hate and fear is terrifying, but this is a man who once tried to talk a kid out of believing in Santa. On Christmas Eve last year, the "president" and his wife were taking calls from kids, and this is what he said to a seven year old: "Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at seven, it's marginal, right?" 
Marginal? Really? This is the same man who suggested that the problem between Syria and Turkey should be solved with the following metaphor: "Sometimes you have to let them fight. It’s like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart." I give him a point for consistency, since that seems to be the way he runs his meetings. 
With those nuggets in place, I cannot find any reason to doubt any of the other scandalous, horrible moments attributed to our wispy-haired head of state. Those that are part of the record, video and audio recordings, stand on their own merits. Or faults. But when you tell kids they are "marginal" for calling the Santa Hotline and professing their belief in Santa Claus? 
Impeachment's too good for him. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

I'm Watching

Here is where it starts: You're out in the front yard, playing catch with your dad, and when you make an errant throw or the ball glances off your mitt and falls to the ground, the first words out of your mouth is, "I'm sorry." We are conditioned to apologize for not keeping the ball in the air. It is for this reason I believe all professional sports are fixed.
Come now. Don't stare at me with those unforgiving eyes. It happened in the 1919 World Series. Why wouldn't it be possible a hundred years later? Please understand that I enjoyed watching the spectacle as much as anyone without a specific rooting interest in what would be the least-watched World Series in the past five years. A Series in which the home team never won a game, which meant that every out had to be played. Home runs leaped out of each park, and a stolen base was recorded in game one, assuring a hungry nation that Taco Bell would make good on its offer of a free Doritos Locos Taco to anyone who could stumble into one of their restaurants between the hours of two and six on October 30.
Exciting? Sure. Fixed? Why not?
Bear with me for a moment as I point out that there are a great many adult Americans who continue to believe that Professional Wrestling is real. Considering there is a considerable overlap between this fan base and those that consider the eternal left hand turns of NASCAR high entertainment, and that so many of our great institutions have now become sullied by slow motion instant replay booth reviews, who would argue the point?
Okay. You're not convinced. How about the potential for these highly trained athletes to perform at such a high degree that they are throwing balls faster than I have ever driven my Prius and tapping their toes on the sideline even as they are careening toward the opponents' bench while all manner of chaos goes on around them? We are often reminded by announcer-types of the impossibility of what we have just witnessed and the improbability of a rookie kicker coming in at the last minute to push a ball through the uprights in the last seconds to pull off a victory. Except that's his job, and he's been practicing since at least mid-July for just such an opportunity. If he makes it, he's a hero. If he misses it, he will be replaced.
Then there's this: There was no television in 1919. Major League Baseball earns billions of dollars each year via its TV contracts with various outlets. The National Football League makes more than six billion annually. It is in their best interests to keep the ball in the air. All those enormous contracts given to players assure they continue to train for those moments of high drama and to keep the ball off the ground.
And for their silence.
Convinced? No? Just keep watching for proof. I know I will. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Time is fast approaching when I will have been alive the same number of years as my father when he stopped being alive. My older brother passed that mark this past year. Another trick of math tells me that I have now lived nearly another half of my life since dad passed on. Kicked the bucket. My personal favorite: Joined the choir invisible. A phrase I attribute to John Cleese, but was originally from a poem by George Eliot. Aside from the hairline that endure as a gift and tribute from my old man, I continue to keep alive many of his worst jokes and stories.
And the peanut brittle.
And the clock on the wall.
And the walls that surround me. By managing the insurance money I was given as a parting gift from dear old dad, my wife and I could afford the down-payment on the house in which we now reside.
So, no, there aren't many days that I don't think about him. A quarter of a century ago, there were plenty of other things on my mind. Starting a new life in a new state and striking out on my own. All those strings attaching me to being "Davy" and lashing me to a future that was only what happened in Boulder, Colorado had been cut.
And it all changed in an instant. There was a flash of time during which I began to imagine a life that brought me back to my hometown, to be the caretaker for my horribly injured father. It was long enough to imagine the scenarios in which everything would play out just fine. The relative comfort and safety of going back to my hometown came as a mild relief at that time. I was terrified at the prospect, but it seemed like the next logical chapter in my story. But first my brothers and I were going to have to sort out what was really happening.
My father died in the burn ward. He didn't make it home. Not until we carried his ashes up to the cabin he built and sprinkled him there, as he had often pontificated: "Scatter me here." Suddenly, I was released from that binding commitment of looking after an invalid. I was returned to my regularly scheduled programming. But nothing was regular about it. I had been pushed through a door into adulthood like I had never imagined. It was my older brother who carefully sifted through all the paper and accounts and did the heavy lifting. I returned to the relative safety of the west coast, where things eventually returned to normal. But a new normal. This was the one where a parking space for Donald Caven had just opened up, and one of the best things I ever helped create was someone to take it over.
Now it's his lifetime that dates this whole process. There's a burgeoning adult who has been indoctrinated in many of the same ways I was to the ways of the world. He knows many of the same songs and stories I do. And though it seems like forever ago, I know it is just ever.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Hey, history buffs: Where were you thirty years ago?
It could be that you were still trying to put your life back together after the Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the Bay Area even as the local baseball franchises went head to head in a World Series that had to be put on hold while both cities dug out and cleaned up. Batman had just been brought back to the big screen, setting up what would eventually become a burr underneath Martin Scorsese's saddle after a few more decades. George H.W. Bush was President of the United States. I mention most of this because I didn't have a blog yet and many of these events seem important to me.
Like the fact that it was thirty years ago that construction began on the first McDonald's In Russia. This was the kind of thing that led to the Scorpions recording their Glasnost hit, "Wind Of Change." And for those of you who may be too young to remember the Scorpions, they rocked like a hurricane, even though they were saddled with some pretty severe accents. But because they were from a country that chose to build a wall down the middle of what used to be their capital, we give them a pass here. And because it was thirty years ago that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
It wasn't an earthquake, or a stampede to be first in line for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. They use the metric system over there. After years of pressure from within and without, the edifice which had been the most outward symbol of divisions created by the Cold War was toppled.
I wasn't there. I watched it on TV. And it is just now occurring to me what a terrible shame it is that we weren't more equipped to deal with that groundswell of democracy. As those protesters leaped into the vacuum created by all those years of Soviet oppression, we gave them our best: blue jeans, MTV, and a chance to be "free." In 2019, walls are back in fashion, and the freedom that was chased for all those years is being turned back on itself. Those open borders are closing down as the European Union begins to crack under the strain of Nationalism. Boris Johnson has improbably turned Britain on itself to collapse under the weight of its inability to do those things that make a country truly free.
And now, just down the road, a new wall is being built. Because, we are told, "Walls work." If the goal is to build frustration and anti-government hysteria, then I would have to agree. I just don't see it as a step forward.
There's a new Batman movie being made.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

My Eyes Are Open

I listened with interest to my son's podcast, as he and his co-host stopped every so briefly on the topic of making a peanut and jelly sandwich. It was his assertion that the correct way to go about this process was to put peanut butter on both slices of bread and then put the jelly in between. This, in his experience, would keep the jelly from seeping into the bread. The peanut butter creates a pocket to cradle the jelly.
My son's reaction? It blew his mind. He said as much, to his listening audience. Which included me. And I shared in his wonder. I have thirty-five years on this kid, a spend it never occurred to me to line the inside of my sandwich with peanut butter. All my previous attempts had focused on keeping those two ingredients separated until the last possible moment. I had also been concerned with keeping the knife clean between spreading the sweet and then the savory. The jelly went first, I came to understand and then wiped the knife on the lip of the crust. The now moderately sterile knife could then be stuck into the peanut butter without worry of generating an accidental goober and grape fusion. Only when all the spreading had been done could the two faces be mashed together and the sandwich accompli.
What if I could have been doing this all along?
My initial take was that it would be a revelation of sorts. A PBJ was always a bit of a comfort food, and the idea that there was an even more comforting version of this favorite gave me pause. Would I have been predisposed to making even more of them for myself over the years? And my family? They would have enjoyed this special treat with regularity. My son: "Dad, will you make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
That never happened. There was a lot more turkey with mayo and mustard slung around our kitchen. And with that extra layer of peanut butter, we would have had to buy twice as much. Could we have supported that kind of deluxe lifestyle? Difficult to imagine.
But I know what the future holds for me. And it blows my mind.

Monday, November 11, 2019


I went to junior high with a kid named Steve Easilymocked. That is not his real name, but it is true. It was especially true for other junior high kids. And it didn't help that he was in band. So was I. It didn't help that he was kind of short and round. So was I. It didn't help that he wore glasses. So did I. And lest you worry that I am secretly describing myself in an attempt to put psychological distance between my reality and my remembrances, fear not. Steve Easilymocked was a real person. Even if that's not his real name.
Steve was the way that I kept myself in the game. Specifically a game called "Bombardment," a peculiarly sadistic form of dodgeball that used flattened soccer balls as projectiles and the preternaturally aggressive instincts of adolescent boys to terrorize the short round, glasses wearing victims on the back row. Please God, just don't let me get hit in the face. But if I could stay in the fray one round longer than Steve, then I was going to be okay. Steve was the slow gazelle. He was going to be thinned from any herd in which he found himself running. And the lions in junior high were especially unforgiving.
I told myself, "Yes, you're in band, but at least you're playing tuba. Not the wimpy old clarinet like Steve."
I told myself, "Yes, you carry a lunch box, but at least it's not some nondescript brown paper bag with your name written on it by your mom."
I told myself, "Yes, you're one of the last ones picked, but at least you're not the last one picked."
I told myself all these things as an ongoing reminder that even if I was near the bottom of the pecking order, I wasn't the bottom of the pecking order.
Which is why I feel so awful about not going to Steve's birthday party. About halfway through our seventh grade year, Steve and I had struck up an acquaintance. The kind of acquaintance fostered by sitting outside the band room waiting for it to be unlocked in the morning. Or milling about fearfully near the back of the gymnasium as the flattened soccer balls whizzed past our heads. We were going to live through this. But when I was handed that little envelope, I could feel a gulf opening up between us. If I went to Steve's birthday party, I would need to invite him to mine. Even though it was months away, I imagined all the forced conversations we would necessarily have about this and that. I would be stuck with Steve Easilymocked as my friend. Forever.
I didn't RSVP. I didn't tell my mom that I had been invited, because I knew what the right thing to do was and I didn't want her reminding me. I "lost" the invitation, and though I remembered the following Monday to ask how it was, I knew that it was probably just him and his mom and maybe a relative or two, sitting around having the kind of forced fun that feels like torture when you're in seventh grade.
By ninth grade, Steve was no longer in band. He had slipped into a group of nascent cowboys, having found his way through the somewhat traditional channels of buying a hat and boots. And raising a goat in 4H. It didn't make him any more popular, but he had a caste. When we got to high school, we had stopped even nodding at one another in the hallway. That moment was gone.
And I feel awful about it today.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Welcome Back

Jerry came back last week.
In November.
It would be kind to say that he was missed. He's been gone a year and these past few months, but his special brand of havoc would not have made our meal of primary education any easier to digest. I make a practice out of saying that there are not bad kids, just bad behavior. In Jerry's case, I would continue to stress this point, but the behavior with him came in great big vats.
And now, those vats of behavior are back.
A lot has changed since he left. We have a new principal. We have a different culture. We are stressing our Horace Mann Expectations. When he left, he was a second grader. He returns as a third grader. It would be incredible if the year he spent away would translate into maturity and a shared vision with those attempting to steer him in a direction that would bring success.
Or maybe just a relief from the constant flurry of calls to the office.
Jerry just hit someone.
Jerry just stole something from another student's desk.
Jerry kicked a ball on the roof.
Jerry is wandering the halls.
And maybe Jerry won't do any of those things anymore, having been given this new start. A clean slate, with the possible exception of the flinch that his name induces in staff and students alike. When his dad took him out of our school at the beginning of last year, there was a collective sigh of relief. We had weathered that storm.
And now Hurricane Jerry was coming back.
I hope that Jerry is ready for what is ahead of him. I don't expect us to break. I don't imagine that exceptions will be made for him. I also expect that he'll be checking to see if there are any of the old cracks or holes in the fence. Not literally, of course. Jerry wouldn't miss a day or skip from school. He knew that would be far too easy.
And nobody said it was going to be easy. Our dreams are our ticket out.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

For Which It Stands - Or Whom

I wrote recently about how Oklahoma Republicans got together and released a big ol' group of low-level prisoners from their prisons. I suggested then that maybe there were some things that were just the right thing to do.
And some things, red or blue, are just the wrong things to do.
Like digging up a September 11 Conspiracy Theory to get yourself back into the fading spotlight of a twenty-four hour news cycle. Tulsi Gabbard, one of more than a dozen remaining candidates for the Democratic Nomination for President, had this to say on her website: “The American people still don’t have access to the truth about Saudi Arabia and who helped Al Qaeda carry out these deadly attacks … It is absolutely unacceptable that our government’s investigation into Saudi ties has been kept from these 9/11 families and from the American people.”
Not ridiculous in its own flash of light. There continues to be a ton of potential questions out there about Saudi Arabia and all the ways our foreign policy seems to skip around the edges of Saudi Arabia. But it also smells deeply of the terror or terror agenda that hangs over a more conservative agenda. It fits in well with a number of Ms. Gabbard's other talking points: She has voted to make it harder for refugees from Syria to enter the United States. She has had praise for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi as he’s directed a crackdown by painting much of his population as Muslim extremists. She has worked closely with supporters of Hindu nationalists in India who see the country’s millions-strong Muslim minority as a major problem. It dovetails part of the same narrative Gabbard’s used to attract fringe supporters on the left and right and to peddle debunked ideas with serious stakes for millions of vulnerable people, like repeatedly claiming that most Syrians fighting the country’s dictator Bashar Assad are tied to al Qaeda and other terror groups. 
It's a tough road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There are still miles to go. Not everyone will make it. But maybe we don't have to stir the mud quite so furiously along the way. 

Friday, November 08, 2019


The headline, "More than 450 Oklahoma inmates walking out of prison doors," left a lot to the imagination. Does this mean there was lax security on a particular day? Were the doors themselves of poor construction, allowing this mass breach? Maybe four hundred fifty walked out of prison doors, but they were all summarily rounded up and put back where they belong. Whew.
Or maybe this is part of criminal just ice reform. 
Oklahoma has had the highest incarceration rate in the United States for years. To avoid this injustice and embarrassment, lawmakers have sought to commute the sentences for many simple drug possession and low-level property crimes. According to the Oklahoma governor's office, this will save the state nearly twelve million dollars over continuing to keep those folks locked up. To be clear, there were more than eight hundred cases reviewed, and just over half of them were commuted. Like Tess Harjo, a twenty-eight year old who was released Monday from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma who had been serving a fifteen year sentence for possession of methamphetamines. Ms. Harjo said, "I have met many women in here who came from a medium- or maximum-security prison who have already served eighteen or more years. It's ridiculous."
So maybe this is the hopeful part, in which the real bad people are put behind bars and those who make poor choices are given the chance to put things right. 
This is somewhat confounding, given that a good deal of this criminal justice reform is being led by conservative Republicans, like Kevin Stitt, the Governor of Oklahoma. Which makes me glad, because good thoughts and ideas are not the exclusive purvey of one party or ideology. Back when Barack Obama pardoned three hundred thirty federal prisoners on his last day in office, it may not have been an affront to the incoming administration. It may have simply been the right thing to do. Which is how it should be. 
Keep it up, people. 

Thursday, November 07, 2019


My wife and I are currently on a path to limit the possibility that neither one of us will suffocate under the weight of their tongues of a certain age in our sleep. We are doing this with the aid of machines that inflate us not unlike Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Each night, we kiss each other goodnight and then strap these ersatz Alien face hugger masks onto the front of our faces and wait for the rush of oxygen. Maybe there's some nitrous in there, or maybe once my sinuses are properly inflated and my mouth's soft tissue is flattened properly, I have been sleeping more deeply. Which was the suggested outcome for this particular therapy.
Success, right?
Well, there is the struggle to keep a plastic cone affixed to your face while the rest of your skull is politely compressed by a series of straps that were obviously designed with comfort in mind, but the mild bondage aspect and the potential for suffocation sits just off camera, pointing and laughing. And there is one thing that makes that anxiety disappear: The chance to be rewarded by your air app the following morning. A month into my CPAP experience, I earned a Gold Badge. How does one measure up to such a lofty standard? By using the machine as recommended by your physician. I am nothing if not good at surrendering to a routine, so I was set up for success. Even though I find the periodic hissing or intermittent whisper of air shooting up onto my eyebrow from an improper seal distracting, I am now dedicated to getting a good score every single morning.
You might think that it is overtly compulsive to continue, after a month, to check the results from the prior night's sleep on my phone. And you would be right. I am hopelessly devoted to watching that little dial spring from zero blue to the deep orange of the nineties and the ever-elusive one hundred. My wife and I compared scores, initially, but my over-commitment to holding still for an entire night while being injected with what I hope is oxygen fits a little too precisely into my "good patient" model. I need that ridiculous level of approval.
For now.
Eventually I hope to be freed from the app and enjoy the results of a good night's sleep without this video game enticement.
For now, I'll just have to sleep on it.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


I've built a few fences. I have built them primarily with the goal to keep people, animals and the like out, and to keep a different subset of those same elements inside. Creating a perimeter is something that homeowners do. Sometimes it's as simple as planting a hedge out near the sidewalk. When we moved into our house, our baby did not present a flight risk, but the neighborhood kids who had been using our front and back yards as their playground needed some sort of impediment to slow their entrance and egress. Situated as we are between two apartment buildings, there was talk with both landlords about defining property lines. There was some discussion regarding the old saw, "Strong fences make good neighbors," So I took my old saw and I cut up some lumber, hammered and screwed it into place and there it was: the limits of our  domain were defined.
Once we got a dog, and our son became ambulatory, there was a need to shore up our defenses, and a gate was installed. The bane of my existence. Over the two decades of shoring up our defenses, I finally arrived at a version of our portal that worked to keep the dog in and the interlopers out. Not that in her prime that slowed her down much. If she really wanted out, she could clear those four feet with strength, grit and determination. So if we left the house, we left her inside. When the folks in the apartment building to the north made poor choices in their late night parking attempts, occasionally they would knock out a slat or two. That meant our dog was gifted with an easy out if we were dull enough to let her into the front yard without noticing the gap. Which meant that somewhat abruptly after retrieving the hound from a tour of the dumpsters around the block, I needed to shore up the defenses one more time. Impenetrable? Hardly.
Which is why I had such a good chuckle when I heard that smugglers were cutting holes in the vaunted wall erected as a monument to Donald Trump's hatred and  fear. An eight year old girl scaled a replica of that same wall in just a few seconds. These breaches of our southern border will of course send the carpenters and engineers in charge of such things scurrying about, looking for ways to make it more  difficult to get past that barrier. But as I learned about neighborhood kids getting in and dogs getting out, any fence is just a challenge to those on either side.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Dreams Die Hard

The crushing sound  you heard at the end of last week was that of my son's heart breaking. Not via an  ill-fated romance. Or maybe it was. Not the cancellation of his favorite show. Or maybe it was. Not the breakup for his best-loved band. Or maybe it was.
It was something much, much worse.
Beto O'Rourke dropped out of the presidential race. 
Feel free at this moment, if you don't know who Mister O'Rourke is, to breeze through the rest of this entry, stopping only long enough to ask yourself, "Why don't I know who Beto O'Rourke is?" He's the guy who the "president" referred to as a "poor bastard" who quit the race "like a dog." He's the guy who took on Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat. He's the guy who said, "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47." He's the guy my son wanted to become the next President of the United States. 
And now that's not going to happen. 
Beto O'Rourke suspended his campaign late last week, vowing to stay active in the fight to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee in 2020. Just not that active. Which puts my son in the awkward position of trying to find someone who can take the place of the one person who he felt could save this country. His hopes and dreams were all stacked up on that one guy to win, and  now he's not even in the race.
Perhaps I'm overstating. I know that it was next to impossible four short years ago to get him interested in voting in his first election. We got him a ballot so that he could mail it in, and we did what we could to instruct him in the ways of the Force, but ultimately the midi-chlorians never coalesced and his enthusiasms did not translate into action. We cannot blame my son for the current state of affairs, since Hillary Clinton easily held the deep blue state of California, but it did nothing to instill democratic/Democratic fervor in him. 
So you can imagine how proud we were when he picked a candidate heading into the coming fray. A highly principled man who was not afraid to take on the establishment. Running on the wind behind the slogan, "A campaign by all of us, for all of us," he was ready to speak his mind, kick ass and take names. My son followed him on Twitter. 
He'll get over it. In time. And so will we, the American People. As the homogenization of the political process continues and we winnow down our choices to the safest possible alternatives. Does it sound like I'm hurt by Beto's departure too? I am. I have my son to thank for that. 

Monday, November 04, 2019

Bye Bye Bye

"1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House, is the place I have come to love and will stay for, hopefully, another 5 years as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, but my family and I will be making Palm Beach, Florida, our Permanent Residence. I cherish New York, and the people of New York, and always will, but unfortunately, despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse. I hated having to make this decision, but in the end it will be best for all concerned. As President, I will always be there to help New York and the great people of New York. It will always have a special place in my heart!"
These were the words that the "president" used to announce his departure from the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, Gotham, the City So Nice They Named It Twice. Another funny nickname for New York City might be "The City That Pays Millions In Overtime To Its Police Force To Provide Security For The Potted Plant POTUS." There won't be a lot of tears shed over this in Manhattan. “Good riddance,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted. “It’s not like Mr. Trump paid taxes here anyway. He’s all yours, Florida.”
Seeking a cocoon where he can crawl, where no one will talk back to him, this slug who will never turn into a butterfly hopes to find refuge. Near a golf course, of course. Far away from baseball stadiums. And about that "millions of dollars in city, state, and local taxes," well, we probably won't ever really know because there seems to be some sort of holdup on viewing his tax returns. Speaking of taxation, Florida does not have a state income tax or inheritance tax, which has the Trump offspring salivating. More than usual. 
So, if you were hoping to spend a weekend in the Empire City, reading all the books in the Trump Library, you may need to rethink your plans. Instead, you could take a tour of all the businesses the "president" rode into bankruptcy. Fun for the whole family!

Sunday, November 03, 2019


The folks over at Deadspin have left the building. They quit, rather than being subject to the oppressive agenda set by their corporate overlords: "Stick to sports." While it is quite true that Deadspin is predominately a web site filled with sports content, including Major League Soccer updates, and has a masthead that reads, "Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion."
I write about sports, even though my masthead says something about short attention span theater. My audience will, from time to time, weigh in on the subject matter upon which I choose to prattle. "We like the funny stuff," say many. Others like to remind me that they prefer it when I tell stories in which they themselves appear. It is not very often that I get a request for "more sports." Of course, none of these folks are paying for the privilege of reading my prattlings. Which may explain why the Deadspin staff started feeling the heat after one of their writers, Laura Wagner, decided to write an article biting the hand that nominally fed them. The upshot being that it seems as though the content-makers were less than satisfied with the new CEO laying off a number of employees all the while filling executive positions with cronies from his previous stints at Forbes and Playboy. For those of you unfamiliar with those two publications, they do not feature sports as their bread and butter.
Which doesn't mean that the line gets blurred from time to time. Sports paints a pretty wide stripe down the middle of our country, sometimes we find ourselves on one side or the other and on those happy rare occasions we find common ground smack on that stripe.
Last week, when the "president" decided to pop by Game Five of the World Series, the crowd turned more or less as one and booed. For that moment, the wide world of sports and the not quite as wide world of politics coalesced. Baseball fans resented the insinuation of this great orange distraction into their national pastime. The fact that their derisive cheers were louder than that for the opposing team suggested that we, as a nation, care about a number of things all at the same time. We don't need to have our news, weather and sports separated in the manner we find in TV dinners. And maybe we don't need the corporate pinheads from Forbes silencing editorial viewpoints that may make it difficult to get a tee time at Mar-A-Lago. And for those who quit Deadspin in solidarity, I offer this cribbed version of the Olympic Motto: "The most important thing in the journalism is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
Keep fighting the good fight. 
The Nationals won the World Series, four games to three. And even though he wasn't in attendance, the "president" was still booed during the video presentation of the game in Washington D.C. 

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Gotta Catch 'Em All

It's 2019.
Why am I still concerned with kids and their Pokemon cards? It feels like I've been doing this forever. And if you consider that I have been teaching at this school forever, at least that's what the kids tell me, then it makes sense. Back in 1996, Pokemon cards first became available in Japan. A few years later, they were picked up here in the United States and this fad has continued more or less unabated for the past two decades.
For the uninitiated, Pokemon (pocket monsters) are a shred of Japanese culture that has become a fixture in the hearts and minds of children across the planet. While some trends come and go, this one stuck. World of Warcraft, Legend of the Five Rings, even a Star Wars version of this collectible card game have come and gone while Pokemon reigns supreme.
Kids bring their collections, sometimes in neatly organized binders but mostly in loose stacks that are shoved into jacket pockets or held under desks by the fist full when anyone is looking. They are fetish objects for the elementary set. The power these colorfully painted pieces of paper hold over their holders is frightening. The tears that erupt when cards are lost or ruined, the distractions generated by their mere presence, and the Gollum-esque fixation that comes over kids as they attempt to collect the most obscure and rare is confounding. This past week we had to shut down a black market sales ring that was convening behind our portable classrooms. Boys were selling them to their classmates for a dollar apiece. Considering you can buy a box of one hundred for twenty dollars, that's a pretty steep markup. Which also brings parents down to school to find out why their child's after school snack money has "disappeared" over the past few weeks. It hasn't disappeared so much as been redistributed. Now some of the more entrepreneurial kids will be getting more afternoon snacks. And laughing all the way to the metaphorical bank.
So while the weeping will continue until we round up every last one and stick them in ziploc bags to be picked up at the end of school, it will be the job of every adult to keep an eye out for those furtive glances and fists stuck inside pockets. Because we weren't busy doing anything else.

Friday, November 01, 2019

With Whom

Remember Al Franken? 
If you answered, "Yeah. He was that writer and sometimes performer on the old Saturday Night Live," then bravo for you because you watch a lot of old television. 
If you answered, "Yeah. He's the former senator from Minnesota who resigned in disgrace after allegations of sexual misconduct, then bravo for you because you watch a lot of current television.
How about Katie Hill? Perhaps you're not as familiar with Ms. Hill, but she is a recently-resigned member of the United States Congress from California. She shares something with Mister Franken in that they are both Democrats. And they both quit rather than accept the white hot lights of television and other media shining into their personal lives. 
What is different is that Ms. Hill was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with a campaign staffer. The problem may come from that word, "consensual" which just sounds dirty. Or maybe it's because she is a woman. Currently mired in a rather ugly divorce from her husband, Representative Hill was separated from her husband at the time of the affair. But explicit pictures appeared online of her with the campaign worker. Interestingly, one of Hill's congressional colleagues, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, is running for reelection despite being charged with using campaign funds to finance romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides. Did I mention that Mister Hunter is a Republican? And did I mention that the staffer with whom Ms. Hill was involved is a woman?
And now we find ourselves in the middle of a quandary: What part of this scandal is sex and what part of it is the sex of those involved? In 2019, is the outing of a member of Congress a bigger deal than using funds to buy  ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office and women’s homes? 
What does Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi have to say? "We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces." That was for Katie Hill, whom Ms. Pelosi had been grooming a leadership position. Feel free now to make your own joke about "grooming" and "leadership position." 
I can't. 
It's just not funny anymore.