Thursday, December 31, 2020


 Okay, for the record, 2020 wasn't just humming along fine and dandy until March. Then, out of the blue WHAM it all went into the dumpster. On fire. It was in January of this past year that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. It was also during this month that the United States became aware of its first coronavirus case. 

What I am suggesting is this: Had we been savvy consumers of time, we should have looked over that first month and asked to see time's manager and asked for a refund. The trouble is that we waited until March to get really grumpy about how things were going, even after the Senate ignored two impeachment charges and let the former game show host continue to play "president" while the country and the rest of the planet began to roil and burn and lash out at one another. "I'm sorry," said time's manager, "but you've already used a quarter of this year so there the window for exchanges or refunds is closed. Now go away." 

Trouble was that we had no place else to go. We were stuck inside, hating the situation we found ourselves in and each other alternately. Sometimes in the same instant. As we attempted to figure out how to do everything via Zoom, we learned the limits of Al Gore's Internet. For example, even though we stayed out of nature in record numbers, climate change continued. Racial injustice seemed to get worse even as we looked directly at it. 

And all the while, that former game show host continued to pretend to be "president." He didn't wear a mask. Why should we have to wear a mask? He paid seven hundred dollars in taxes. Why should we have to pay taxes? He ignores science and math. Why can't we ignore science and math? 

Yes, when November finally rolled around and the country turned out in record numbers to vote the former game show host out, there were still an alarming number of us who seemed to want the charade to continue. And even after the votes were counted, and recounted, and lawsuits were filed and lawsuits were dismissed, there were those who insisted that two and two were not four but a hippopotamus. While metaphorical Rome burned, the metaphorical game show host fiddled. And filed more lawsuits. 

Which wouldn't be such a big deal in any other year. But this is a year which saw nearly two million people die from a disease that continues to ravage countries across the globe, and fires burn for months as we try and figure out a way to keep them from consuming all the air we might eventually want to breathe. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm looking forward to a year with vaccines and dogs in the White House. I'm looking forward to seeing kids on the playground at my school again. I'm hopeful for a worldwide movement to save the whole wide world. I'm anxious to get a seat on anything that resembles the way things used to be. 

But I'm definitely going to keep the receipt for 2021. I don't want to get stuck with another lemon. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


 Pity my wife. Not simply because she ended up married to me. Admittedly that can be a pretty mixed bag. She puts up with plenty, but she is generally treated with respect and positive intent. 

Except when it comes to camping. As I have mentioned here before, summers in my youth were spent living in a log cabin surrounded by nature's wonders. There is a certain allegory for me in the notion of hauling a tent out into the woods on purpose and the suggestion that you would willingly jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Why bother? I should note here that I have not jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, but I have gone camping, a few times, with my wife. 

Another place where this kind of discrepancy occurs is in the realm of the arts. My wife is one who delights in muses of all kinds. Dance, music, theater, and visual arts are extremely important to her. Not that they aren't for me. I'm a big fan of art. The difference being that I grew up in a household that made performing arts a priority. We went to the opera. We went to plays. We went to concerts. The fact that weekly broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera filled our house on Saturdays prepared me for a childhood trip to Manhattan where we all got dressed up and attended a performance of Marriage of Figaro at the Met. We maintained a steady presence whenever road companies of Broadway shows made their way to Denver. Frank Langella as Dracula. Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. We saw ballet. We heard symphonies. 

My mother played classical piano. She read voraciously. Her three sons took piano lessons. We also read voraciously. As a family we were, effectively, steeped in culture. By the time my wife and I walked back down the aisle after we were married to the strains of Beethoven's Ode To Freedom, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, I felt that I had my fill. 

But that's nearly thirty years ago. All those chamber music and choral performances. Operas and plays and symphonies and still more operas. Testing my wife's patience with all my stories of Broadway shows I have seen in my youth. Can't I get some credit for all that prior culture? 

Or maybe I should show a little pity for my wife and take her camping somewhere near the Metropolitan Opera House. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Block Busted

 Way back in March, my wife expressed enthusiasm for the pending release of the sequel to Wonder Woman, creatively titled Wonder Woman 1984. Not Wonder Woman 2 or II. As a big fan of the initial outing, she was full of anticipation for whatever the next installment would be. 

Then movie theaters closed. And stayed closed. Studios scrambled to make alternative schedules for their big releases as spring gave way to summer, summer gave way to fall, and suddenly it was Christmas time. Warner Brothers announced that they would finally give the world a peek at what would have been the big show way back in the winter of 2019, but moved to back to June 2020. As mentioned earlier, conditions would not allow anyone to line up to buy tickets in June. Or July. And while we all struggled with the concept of social distancing, Hollywood tried to figure out how to deliver its product to the masses, huddled in front of their televisions. 

Hey, maybe they could use all that streaming business to get folks to line up virtually to see the next big thing. Warner Brothers announced the public could finally see Diana Prince take her Amazonian super powers into the mid-1980s. It should be noted that announcement came with the assertion that their movie would premiere on streaming and in theaters. The options that were left for my wife and I were the two drive in theaters located thirty minutes away from our home. This is why we decided to take our chances on HBO Max on Christmas night. 

After entering our codes and verifying emails, the play button was pushed. We have a pretty big TV, and a decent sound system, but the difference between our living room couch and a seat in the center of a theater designed for projecting big deals. And there was also a big difference between the last time we saw Wonder Woman, fighting foes mortal and immortal during World War I. 1984 didn't carry the same historic appeal. And after a promising start, the conflict generated between Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig turned into a pretty standard super hero/villain exchange. When Wiig finally morphed into The Cheetah, the battle between her and Wonder Woman took place primarily in muddy gray twilight that wouldn't have been saved by a screen ten times the size of our TV. 

Our disappointment was palpable. At the same time, it could be that there was no way that my wife and I would be satisfied. Not after waiting all those months. Not after living through all that we had lived through while we were waiting. Short of coming up with a cure for the coronavirus, there was probably not much Wonder Woman could do to make a splash in the middle of our shelter in place holiday. 

Will there be more opportunities to be surprised and amazed in our home theater? Perhaps. But this one just left us feeling a little more locked inside of a year that would not end. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

What It Was

Okay. Maybe I've been to harsh. Right here on this blog I have, perhaps, unnecessarily flogged the Chevrolet Vega. It might be that I have handed out all this abuse for all these years out of love. It could be that I am only hiding my true feelings.

If this is your first time to the neighborhood, you should know that my first car*.It was the car I purchased for less than one thousand dollars. The one that wasn't a Plymouth Arrow, nor was it a Subaru Brat or even a Chevy van. The Vega found me as much as I found it. Not unlike the dog we adopted much later in life, there was a moment of recognition. Resignation. This was meant to be. 

Part of me tried to put a spin on the overall look of the vehicle, which Chevrolet no doubt hoped to market as Camaro's little brother. It wasn't. Not that this kept me from driving the thing as if I had a real sports car. The standard transmission gave me ample opportunity to peel out, and eventually the wear and tear I put on the clutch taught me how to slip it, revving to high enough rpms to simply slide it into the next gear. 

Did I mention that it was a hatchback? This allowed me to shuttle the sousaphone I was borrowing to and from school. And the back seat was certainly ample for your standard high school canoodling. I know this not because I did a lot of it myself. When I was a sophomore, I was enlisted to drive my junior pal and his girlfriend to dark and deserted cul de sacs where there could engage in some pretty shameless slap and tickle. I say this because I was sitting in the driver's seat, listening to the radio, available for the periodic request like, "Can you hold onto my watch?"

As hard as I drove that copper colored Camaro wannabe, I had to learn how to change spark plugs with some regularity, and because of the slowly disintegrating aluminum block I was buying 10W-40 by the case. I also put as much time, energy and money into the sound system as I did on the mechanics. This had the effect of making it increasingly easy to ignore the sounds that the engine made. And once I was in a position to drive my own date to those dark corners of my hometown, I wanted to be ready. 

The thing is, I didn't do a lot of making out in that car. Probably because of those bucket seats up front, and because I really was there to drive when I was behind the wheel. Not that I didn't drive the Vega to plenty of places where we could exit the vehicle and carry on free of the constraints of the back seat. And the memories of being a chauffer. 

In the end, I did not simply tire of the Vega. I drove it into the ground. A cracked oil pan exacerbated the problem that already existed with the aluminum block. When I was done with it, there was no trade-in value. It was scrap. I learned to drive on that car. Several of my friends learned to drive on that car. It was the Vega that taught me not just how to drive, but how to care for a car. And now, some forty years after the fact, I can appreciate if for what it was.

*The truth

Sunday, December 27, 2020


By the time I received my copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I had already finished reading the Bible for the first time. I was nine. I read a lot. The timing of this gift from my parents was nothing short of transformational for me, as I was looking for meaning and hope. The stories in the Old Testament frightened me, and the ones found in the New Testament, while more hopeful, still seemed to land us all in a place. If we behaved. Richard Bach seemed to be suggesting that rather than having one shot at getting things right, we would continue to pursue perfection, returning to the place where we left off, gliding and soaring until we had it just about right, and then poof.

On to the next level. 

This was an age that had yet to embrace the reset button. Video games were in their infancy, and the notion that we could all have a chance at beating the big boss was still more than a decade away. I was reading. A lot. I read comic books. And it was somewhere around this time that the folks at Marvel decided to test Spider Man by killing off Gwen Stacy. So I got to watch Peter Parker struggle with the stages of grief and though he had the proportionate strength and agility of a spider, he had the heart of a nerd from Queens. Which may be why Stan Lee brought Gwen back to life via cloning. Because, as I began to discover, nothing golden stays. It tends to go away until fans insist upon its return. 

Like Frankenstein's Creature, or Jason Voorhees, monsters in the movies did not stay dead. Not as long as there was potential box office in them. I was watching those movies as I kept reading. And I wondered about the nature of reality and the afterlife. By the time the 1980s rolled around, I was pretty confounded by all the places that life might lead, but I attempted to stay on a path that might allow me to regenerate in some meaningful way if this path suddenly ended. That's when I heard Bruce Springsteen sing these words, "Everything dies, baby that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back." The words of a prophet. Or so I hoped. 

Now I'm raising a son, who is probably far more familiar with the stories of pop culture than he is with those of The Good Book. His formal spiritual training has centered more on the wisdom of the Jedi Knights than the writings of the apostles. Which is sort of by design, and lot out of laziness. Which means that when Han died in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, only to reappear four years later in yet another Fast and Furious movie, I was initially at a loss to explain. 

Then I remembered Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And it all made sense to me. Not necessarily to my son. He's still working that out. He should read more comic books. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020


 Back in September, a horrible milestone was reached when a two month old boy died from COVID-19 in Michigan. He remains the youngest known American victim of the disease. This week there were other moments of note as a vaccine became available to protect people of all ages from the virus. This vaccine was injected into several notable arms, including current vice-president Mike Pence and former vice-president and soon to be president Joe Biden. At sixty-one and seventy-eight years respectively, they both have a few birthdays on that infant in Michigan.

Which may make some scientific sense, given that the virus seems to target people of a certain age, and those in high risk categories. High risk categories that seem to include pandemic deniers and government officials who have denied aid to Americans who are not as fortunate to be standing at the front of the line. Mike Pence, who has offered solutions such as prayer and abstinence to slow the spread of HIV while he was governor of Indiana, got a shot and a lollipop for being such a brave little shoulder as the nation watched. Joe Biden, who has been alternately masked and tested routinely since the pandemic started, also received his first dose of vaccine in front of television cameras. All a part of the grand scheme of things, I suppose.

Senator Joni Ernst, from Iowa, shared a photo of her injection on Twitter. Senator Joni is the one who once suggested frontline health care workers were lying about the number of people dying from COVID-19 for profit. “These health care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if COVID is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing.”

If you answered, "Saving lives," I would respectfully suggest that you deserve your vaccine before Senator Joni. 

Marco Rubio's tweet back in June encouraging us all to "wear a damn mask" wasn't enough to get his party's leadership to join in that movement. But he got a shot. Responding to the photo of Rubio looking away from the needle, an ER doc named Doctor Jeremy Faust replied, "I’m an ER doctor and despite trying, I have not yet been able to be vaccinated." In my book, the only guy who should be vaccinated ahead of ER staff would be Doctor Fauci.

Meanwhile I find my profession, teacher, at the top of many lists suggesting who gets vaccinated first. I feel horribly ambivalent about this, since there are infants and elders all around me who have been felled by this disease, and while I can understand the hierarchy involved socially and economically, I can't help but wonder if there isn't some group, some individuals, who I should let into line in front of me. While I sort out my feelings on this, I will continue to wear a mask, and maintain social distance, washing my hands and all the rest. For that infant in Michigan, and the hundreds of thousands across the globe who wait with me.

Friday, December 25, 2020


 Poinsettia, oh my Poinsettia -

I hope that you forgive me my dear

I've had so very many other things

rolling 'round my head this year:

Black Lives Matter, a global pandemic,

Social justice and whose pronouns are whose,

On top of all that I've had to listen 

As Donald Trump continues to lose.

Poinsettia, oh my Poinsettia - 

with your lovely leaves of blazing red,

your name completely slipped my tired old mind

it has been so full of fear and dread

But now we can stop and give a pause

let's look forward now instead of back

let's remember things we put aside

take heart in things we have instead of lack.

Poinsettia, oh my Poinsettia - 

today we are as close as we can be

we stand face to face and heart to heart 

even though we know that it is best

to keep standing at least six feet apart

and wash our hands and wear our masks

I want you to to know on this I'll betcha

Next year I will not forget your name

Poinsettia, oh my Poinsettia. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Night During Covid

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house-y
Not a creature was stirring, on orders from Doctor Fauci;
All our masks were hung by the chimney with care,
To save us from all the droplets in the air;
The children were sealed all snug in their pods;
While visions of germs danced in their bods;
And mamma in her gator, and I in my mask,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's task,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
I checked the shutters and locked up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of midday to empty streets below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a big blue van with its driver right near,
The little old driver was so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than transit his helpers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Nordstrom! now, Fedex! now Walmart and Postman!
On, Target! on, BestBuy! on, DHL and Amazon!
To the top of the porch! to the door down the hall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the delivery guys flew
With the bag full of PPE, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard overhead
The prancing and stumbling of some guy named Fred.
As I moved from the window, turning around,
Through the front door St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in hazmat, from his head to his foot,
And his suit was sealed to stay free from viral input;
A bundle of wipes he had shared as a gift,
He looked like a custodian just opening his shift.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his crowsfeet, how merry!
His was obscrued , it could have been scary!
His mouth could be filled with sharp teeth,
And his beard stuck out from beneath;
The stump of a pipe he looked for a light,
Having a smoke, in the middle of the night?
He had a broad face and a little round belly
My guess was under that suit he was probably smelly.
He was chubby and plump, a heart attack risk,
And I hoped that he would keep things brisk;
He moved like he knew what he was doing
Behind his mask he seemed to be chewing;
He was having a snack, before he went to work
And gestured to me, making me feel like a jerk,
And laying his sack in the middle of the floor,
I wondered what he would do for an encore;
He right past me, to his team gave a whistle,
His helpers looked up with an air of dismissal.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Hmphl Krmbfl tr dll, Nad tr dll uh blrg mite!” 

Darn masks anyway...

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 There should have been a parade. Yvonne Reynolds retired. A year ago, the idea was that she would make it through the first semester, brining her to a full thirty-four years of service. 

Food service. 

Ms. Reynolds was in charge of the kitchen at my school for thirty of those thirty-four years. She was in charge of the Horace Mann kitchen when I was hired. I have never known another cafeteria supervisor. Not professionally, anyway. For all those who have never maintained a professional relationship with a cafeteria supervisor, it is essential that you make it a good one if you want it to last. I was fortunate that mine was.

I begin by confessing that the first few years left me, like most of the kids, a little terrified. That voice that resonated over the sound of hundreds of little ones in that vast room that served the purpose of feeding and entertaining an elementary school. Whenever there was a birthday to announce, or if she spied someone throwing food, we knew it. There was no way to ignore it. And not just because of the volume, but because of the directness. There was a laser focus to her voice. I tried my hand for years at yelling in the cafeteria, but it never had the same effect as Ms. Reynolds' commanding presence. I could say that there was fear in the kids' eyes too, but that would be inaccurate. That was where you found respect. She had figured out the way to connect with our students in an abbreviated way, since the amount of time the children were in her presence was limited. There was no doubt about who was in charge. 

And there was little doubt among the children at my school about who cared for them. Ms. Reynolds. No one went hungry when she had anything to do or say about it. If it was a kid who came in late and missed breakfast, she would find something. If there was a little boy or girl who lost their lunch and mom didn't bring it to school, Ms. Reynolds made sure they had something to eat. 

Unless it was one of those big bags of chips. Do not bring one of those big bags of chips into her cafeteria. Then there would be trouble. But mostly, there was lunch. And breakfast. And snack. And the perilously short time between them to clean up and prepare for the next onslaught. Ms. Reynolds did this for more than thirty years with hugs and smiles and a no-nonsense attitude. But she made the mistake of timing her retirement during a time when cafeterias had turned into empty places, and she was asked to go and help distribute food to families in need elsewhere in the district. 

So there was no parade. Because social distancing requirement would not allow. But if there is any justice in the world, when hugs and high fives become part of our everyday world again, Ms. Reynolds will be at the front of the line for celebration. The sad news is that someone will have to replace her. 

Good luck with that. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Until The Twelfth Of Never

 Some important advice: It was, "Always," no wait, it was "Never..." No. It was "Always take a litter bag in your car. And if it gets full, you can just throw it out the window." That was the wisdom that Steve Martin once left an audience at the end of what is now a relic of a standup routine. It came to me as I prepared to write this blog about the thin line between Always and Never.

Actually, there is this wide gulf that tends to separate those two which is "sometimes," but Always and Never do seem to occupy opposite sides of one concept of time. I do not live in the gray swirls of "sometimes" very much. I tend to stick to the shores of Always and Never. It makes things so much tidier, orderly. 

For example, at age fifty-eight, I have never used Chap-Stick. I have never had a cup of coffee. I have never smoked a cigarette. These three little factoids about yours truly have entertained dozens of friends and acquaintances over the years. As the pages fall off the calendar and the decades begin to pile up, they have become a pretty substantial conversational gambit. There are plenty of people who used to smoke, but have quit. Or those who have been instructed by their doctor not to drink coffee. They stopped. And some of them did so Cold Turkey, which is impressive. But they used to. And I can relate, because I had my own experience with drink and drugs that pushed them all off the "all the time" table into the dustbin of Never. If you do something a lot, like Always, turning it into a Never takes considerable willpower. So much so that industries have grown up to make it easier: Self-help groups and nicotine gum and wheat-based caffeine-free coffee substitutes. This allows for a sub-strata of the Never-world known as Not Anymore. 

And don't think I haven't been tempted. Not myself necessarily, but by others. The Chap-Stick thing especially. Blessed with very efficient pores, my lips don't tend to get chapped all that often, but on the infrequent occasions which they do come up a little raw, I have on numerous occasions been badgered about smearing some of that smelly wax on my mouth. I can't say that it always happens, but it is with alarming frequency that I am asked to defend my Chap-Stickless existence to those already trapped within its spell. It is during these moments of confrontation that I feel compelled to point out the science: Using Chap Stick makes you need more Chap Stick. I never had much in the way of peer pressure to take up smoking, and I confess that I feel socially awkward with all the ways that coffee has become a social point of interaction. 

But still, I always say, "No, thank you." 


Monday, December 21, 2020


 To say that I am getting used to Amber Alerts appearing on my phone would be an overstatement. I don't think there has been a time when I looked at my phone buzzing and reading about the abduction of some unfortunate child. My mind races to imagine the circumstances and to wish for a speedy and reasonable end to the scenario presented. If you are unfamiliar with the machinations of the California Highway Patrol, an Amber Alert is sent out in partnership with media outlets in hopes of spreading information in the quickest way possible, including descriptions of the abductors, abductee as well as the make, model and license plate number of whatever mode of transport making the getaway. As a conscientious observer, I dutifully scroll through the information to see if I could be of any earthly good for the victims. Have I seen a red Toyota Corolla driven by a man with a beard and a six year old kid? I want to help. 

Thing is, more often than not, they don't bother to broadcast the outcome. There have been plenty of happy endings, an equal number of false alarms, and the occasional tragedy. Those averages turn out to make me, at times, complacent. I would love to think, as a mandated reporter for children's welfare, I could help in any and all of those situations. As of this writing, I have not.

Which brings me to the most recent alert I received on my phone. Friday at noon, I heard the buzz of my phone vibrating on the desk a few feet away. I would like to say that I leapt across the room to see what was the matter, but I let it sit. For a few minutes. When I picked it up and refreshed the screen, it was not the standard Amber Alert. Instead, I saw this:

“State of California: All Bay Area Counties now under state stay at home order. This builds on previous local orders. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Stay home except for essential activity. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Visit”

This wasn't an order to keep an eye out for anyone but us. We were being asked to save ourselves. And I confess, it gave me a little chill. The same little chill the first time I got a heads-up for a missing child. It made me think of the folks north of me who were getting similar messages when it was time to flee from the wildfires that compounded the fear and sadness that has been 2020. It made me think of the hundreds of thousands of victims of COVID-19. It made me think of happier times. 

When my phone would vibrate for kidnappings only. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020


 A week ago, I called my mother to ask her for clarification. I do this a lot. She's my mom. This particular call was in reference to my family tree. I was attempting to regale my wife with stories of my clan of origin, the Johnsons, when I realized that I had no working knowledge of exactly how my own line could be traced up into the branches before me. 

I knew my mother, and her cousin Gail, and her family were "my cousins." I was never handy with the math related to first and second and how many times removed any of them were. I was comfortable with the simple answer. I was also aware that my great uncle Marvin was Gail's father. In many ways he filled the void left by my lack of a grandfather. My mother's father died when my mother was a teenager. My father's father was lost to me somewhere in Kansas, persona non grata. But I knew that Marvin was a Johnson and that meant my mother's mother was, before marrying Ralph Myers, also. It was Marvin's brothers and sisters that made up the core for their eponymous family picnic. 

It was this event, more than anything else in my young life, that gave me the recognition of extended family. Aunt Elda and Uncle Lloyd. Aunt Mae and Uncle Kenneth. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Dorothy. There was another aunt, who didn't make it to the picnics, perhaps because she got married off into a family called Van Houten, who I expect had their picnics at the club to which they were all members. 

The Johnson Family picnic, in its heyday, was held annually at our cabin in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. It was a mildly centralized location for those Johnsons who had made the leap in a previous generation from Kansas to Colorado. It was in and around that mountain cabin that, once a year, all those aunts and uncles and cousins of varied permutations landed for a day of food, fun and a considerable amount of drinking. There were coolers full of beer, mostly Coors, and the overflow went into the creek nearby to stay cold. Whether it was horseshoes, hiking, or the marathon volleyball game in the meadow, it was necessary to keep one hand free for consumption. The Miller boys, cousins, eschewed the Coors and I spent one summer afternoon listening to Dex extolling the beer that carried his family's name. "Miller," he confided to me, "is the champagne of beers." Up inside the cabin, the patriarchs and matriarchs held forth, telling stories and singing songs. These were aided, in part, by the portable bar that accompanied Uncle Kenneth most everywhere. 

And you might get the impression that this was a hard-drinking group of individuals. And you would be mostly right, especially in those days. Part of the way they expressed their joy de vie was sharing a cocktail or two, but it was the gathering of the family that made it all work. Long before my time, my mother described her grandfather breaking out the Old Grandad, and pouring everyone a drink. Communion, of sorts. 

Nowadays, my mother and her cousin Gail are holding down the matriarch position. The Johnsons have mostly faded into memory. Getting everyone together, climbing that winding mountain road and spending the day at a cabin that has since become part of old photographs and memories, doesn't happen anymore. That sense of belonging to something much larger doesn't get the same kind of annual charge. 

Until I call my mom, and she tells me stories of how it used to be. 

And I remember. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

"I Think It Would Be Fun To Run A Country"


EXT. XANADU - FAINT DAWN - 1940 (MINIATURE)Window, very small in the distance, illuminated.All around this is an almost totally black screen.  Now, as 
the camera moves slowly towards the window which is almost a
postage stamp in the frame, other forms appear; barbed wire,
cyclone fencing, and now, looming up against an early morning
sky, enormous iron grille work. Camera travels up what is now
shown to be a gateway of gigantic proportions and holds on the
top of it - a huge initial "T" showing darker and darker against
the dawn sky. Through this and beyond we see the fairy-tale
mountaintop of Mar-A-Lago, the great castle a silhouette as its
summit, the little window a distant accent in the darkness.
The literally incredible domain of DONALD J TRUMP.Its right flank resting for nearly forty miles on the Atlantic
Coast, it truly extends in all directions farther than the eye
can see. Designed by nature to be almost completely bare and
flat - it was, as will develop, practically all marshland when
Trump acquired and changed its face - it is now pleasantly
uneven, with its fair share of rolling hills and one very good-
sized mountain, all man-made. Almost all the land is improved,
either through cultivation for farming purposes of through
careful landscaping, in the shape of parks and lakes. The
castle dominates itself, an enormous pile, compounded of several
genuine castles, of European origin, of varying architecture -
dominates the scene, from the very peak of the mountain.
GOLF LINKS (MINIATURE)Past which we move. The greens are straggly and overgrown,
the fairways wild with tropical weeds, the links unused and
not seriously tended for a long time.
WHAT WAS ONCE A GOOD-SIZED ZOO (MINIATURE)Of the Benjamin Mee type. All that now remains, with one
exception, are the individual plots, surrounded by moats, on
which the animals are kept, free and yet safe from each other
and the landscape at large. (Signs on several of the plots
indicate that here there were once tigers, lions, giraffes.)
In the foreground, a great obscene ape is outlined against the
dawn murk. He is scratching himself slowly, thoughtfully,
looking out across the estates of Donald J Trump, to the
distant light glowing in the castle on the hill.
THE ALLIGATOR PIT (MINIATURE)The idiot pile of sleepy dragons. Reflected in the muddy water -
the lighted window.
THE LAGOON (MINIATURE)The boat landing sags. An old newspaper floats on the surface
of the water - a copy of the New York Post. As it moves
across the frame, it discloses again the reflection of the
window in the castle, closer than before.
THE GREAT SWIMMING POOL (MINIATURE)It is empty. A newspaper blows across the cracked floor of
the tank.
THE COTTAGES (MINIATURE)In the shadows, literally the shadows, of the castle. As we
move by, we see that their doors and windows are boarded up
and locked, with heavy bars as further protection and sealing.
A DRAWBRIDGE (MINIATURE)Over a wide moat, now stagnant and choked with weeds. We move
across it and through a huge solid gateway into a formal garden,
perhaps thirty yards wide and one hundred yards deep, which
extends right up to the very wall of the castle. The
landscaping surrounding it has been sloppy and causal for a
long time, but this particular garden has been kept up in
perfect shape. As the camera makes its way through it, towards
the lighted window of the castle, there are revealed rare and
exotic blooms of all kinds. The dominating note is one of
almost exaggerated tropical lushness, hanging limp and
despairing. Moss, moss, moss. Angkor Wat, the night the last
King died.
THE WINDOW (MINIATURE)Camera moves in until the frame of the window fills the frame
of the screen. Suddenly, the light within goes out. This
stops the action of the camera and cuts the music which has
been accompanying the sequence. In the glass panes of the
window, we see reflected the ripe, dreary landscape of Mr.
Trump's estate behind and the dawn sky.
INT. KANE'S BEDROOM - FAINT DAWN -A very long shot of Trump's enormous bed, silhouetted against
the enormous window.
INT. TRUMP'S BEDROOM - FAINT DAWN - SNOW SCENE. An incredible one. Big, impossible flakes of snow, a too
picturesque townhouse and a snow man wearing a red baseball cap. The jingling of sleigh bells in the musical score now makes an ironic reference to Indian Temple bells - the music freezes -
The camera pulls back, showing the whole scene to be contained
in one of those glass balls which are sold in novelty stores
all over the world. A hand - Trump's hand, which has been
holding the ball, relaxes. The ball falls out of his hand and
bounds down two carpeted steps leading to the bed, the camera
following. The ball falls off the last step onto the marble
floor where it breaks, the fragments glittering in the first
rays of the morning sun. This ray cuts an angular pattern
across the floor, suddenly crossed with a thousand bars of
light as the blinds are pulled across the window.
The foot of Trump's bed. The camera very close. Outlined
against the shuttered window, we can see a form - the form of
a nurse, as she pulls the sheet up over his head. The camera
follows this action up the length of the bed and arrives at
the face after the sheet has covered it.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Doctor, Doctor - Give Me The News

 So the Cleveland baseball team will, eventually, stop embarrassing themselves by showing up with a racist epithet on their jerseys. One hundred five years after they started.


Meanwhile, a hundred years after the women's suffrage movement finally won women of all political persuasion the vote here in the United States, there are some who suggest that women shouldn't be doctors. I'm looking at you, Joseph Epstein. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Mister Epstein suggested that "Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic." If you've been staying in the house and have grown tired of watching anything but The Crown, you may have missed the moment when the Electoral College finally gathered and did their thing, exhausting all but the most ridiculous paths to the re-election of the former game show host and soon to be former "president." Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. He won. A bunch of times. A bunch of different ways. But that hasn't kept the "faithful" from trying to drum up support for frivolous lawsuits and howling loudly in the streets to keep the inevitable from happening. 

Mister Epstein, who  was fired "for being insufficiently correct politically" from his job as editor of the American Scholar back in 1997, had other insufficiently correct politically words to toss into the fray that has been the 2020 election. His suggestion that Doctor Jill Biden drop the Doctor from her name as she ascends to the title of First Lady was met with some derision. It is Joseph, I'll call him "Mister" Epstein, that wanted Doctor Biden to come clean about her title, Doctor of Education. He harps on about how writing a dissertation doesn't automatically bestow Doctor on someone. He claims that he has an honorary doctorate, but no one calls him Doctor Epstein. He goes on, "A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child." Going hyper-literal here: If a person was to deliver a baby himself, that would be some sort of medical miracle, and since Doctor Biden has given birth, it seems as though this tossed gauntlet has been picked up and slapped back some time ago.

There are those who, most correctly politically or not, have pointed out that "Mister" Epstein would never have written such an article about a man. This is made even more evident by reviewing some of "Mister" Epstein's previous writings, like the one in which he wrote that he “would wish homosexuality off the face of this earth." Later he wrote that," given a choice, owing to the complications of homosexual life, most people would prefer their children to be heterosexual.” 

Of course, "Mister" Epstein wrote those words some time ago, and history has changed the face of our country many times since then. But my guess is that he'll still be wearing his Cleveland Indians jersey and belittling the accomplishments of women until he goes to that big cocktail party in the sky. 

If he gets invited. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Lions And Tigers And Bears, Of Course

 I have often made a point of ridiculing the folks up in Oregon for selecting mascots after all the good animals were taken. Ducks? Beavers? Noble beasts to be sure, but not exactly on a par with Buffalo. Or even a Bronco. Steely Dan reminds us that they call Alabama the Crimson Tide, and yet somehow they get to feature an elephant in all their swag. All of this mascot business likely springs from the Native American notion of a totem animal. Pick something strong and clever and it will be your guide to victory. Or effective merchandising.

Which may be how Cleveland landed on "Indians" as the name for their baseball team. Why not go straight to the source? Except they aren't called The Cleveland Native Americans. Or The Indigenous People. They are using the offensive term brought to these shores by the "explorer" who believed that he had found a route to Asia, but landed on a continent half a world away. He figured that if he called the inhabitants "Indians," it would make his case. Who would check on that?

That was more than five hundred years ago, and we have mostly let go of the term. With some obvious exceptions. This past week, the Major League Baseball franchise based in Cleveland announced that they would be phasing out the use of that as their team name, having banished the horribly offensive Chief Wahoo to the racist scrap heap way back in 2018. Fans will possibly be stuck rooting for The Cleveland Baseball Team much in the same way that people in Washington D.C. were saddled with a non-descript solution to their football franchise. 

Cue the cries of Cancel Culture, and "But what about tradition?" They have been the Cleveland Indians since 1915. Which seems to suggest that it has taken more than a hundred years to get through to the denizens of northern Ohio about their lack of cultural sensitivity. Enterprising types in that region have already begun selling Cleveland Caucasian paraphernalia. This has its own charm, however, it seems like the point is still being missed. Ohio has its challenges, it seems, with naming teams. Browns. Reds. There's a college out there whose mascot is an inedible nut. Cincinnati's football team scored big with Bengals, and a really cool design for their helmet. Tigers are not, however, a native species to the midwestern United States. Ohio Opossums? The Vesper Bats? Cleveland Smoky Shrews? 

Major League Baseball has not set a definitive timeline as yet for the change. The Cleveland front office has suggested that they hope to make their move soon. So, less than another hundred and five years. Meanwhile, it's worth pointing out just how little imagination it takes to come up with a new name. Here is where I cite the Houston Texans as an example. Pretty hard to argue with that one. Not very creative, but I'm guessing they aren't offending anyone.

And by the way, when was the last time you saw a Lake in Los Angeles

Wednesday, December 16, 2020


 Remember how Trump and his minions were going to "make America great again?" I'm looking around the scorched earth left in the wake of four years, the word "great" does not come to mind. "Scorched earth" comes to mind. And now, just to make sure no one makes the mistake of thinking that there was still something great to come out of this administration, after a seemingly unending series of meritless lawsuits, those red baseball hats have reappeared in our nation's capital. The reason for all those MAGAts to show up now was to "stop the steal." Their guy didn't win the election. Or all those lawsuits. so naturally their approach is to destroy the GOP. Really. That's what they were chanting. So fervent in their support for the former game show host and soon to be former "president," the redcaps commenced to tear things up. They went to a church and tore up Black Lives Matter signs. Threw them to the ground. And then they set them on fire. 

Literally scorched earth. 


If they can't have the White House, nobody can. If they can't win a lawsuit, nobody can. If they can't make any sense, nobody can. 


So now the question is how long can this go on? We all expected that the results would not be final on election night. There were some anxious days as votes were tallied. We all expected there to be trouble if the game show host lost. The illusion for many will not end. There are those who continue their commitment to their candidate. Not their party. The party that has so recently embarrassed themselves by insisting that the emperor did in fact have clothes on. The GOP doesn't really need a lot of help being destroyed. They're doing a fine job all by themselves.

Proud boys.


There's still another month to the inauguration. Plenty of time for greatness.

Or more scorched earth.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

What I Did In School Last Week

 For the past nine months, I haven't done a lot of teaching. My job has been primarily support. I have been making teaching possible for others, but my own classroom has become storage for bits and pieces of all the devices that make distance learning possible.

Except for one corner, where I have a pair of Chromebooks set up in front of what used to be my desk. Now it's a repository for the things that I haven't gotten around to putting in the piles that will eventually be consolidated into larger piles. At the corner of the table where I have those two Chromebooks plugged into a power strip, just a step away from what used to be the nerve center of our computer lab, this is where I have been doing my teaching for the past ten weeks.

After school. I have been working with a group of fourth and fifth graders much in the same way that I have for the past five years, once a week. Except now it's all done online. On Zoom. In little boxes that I hope will be filled with expectant faces and youthful enthusiasm. Pre-COVID, I would meet kids out in front of the school and round them up, usher them inside, and run through our week's exercise in community building. I'm running the Upward Roots program at our school, working to help build tomorrow's leaders out of ten and eleven year olds. Not the easiest feat, but this year the level of difficulty was raised yet again. Think: herding cats via Zoom.

I was blessed with a smaller group than the ten to twelve students that I had become accustomed to in years past, swelling at times to six or seven but most meetings sat squarely on the two or three die-hards who came up with their own vision of community service: COVID-19 - How We Can Help? Over the course of three months, they did the research and came up with a slideshow that they decided to present at our school's weekly Star Student Assembly. Virtually. And to make it just a little less Frightening, they chose to record it rather than narrate it live. 

Clever kids. The bottom line for them was hope. They featured the safety protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands. But they also highlighted the importance of working on this as a team. To quote one of their slides, "Yes it is hard right now and we all are not used to this but we have to try our best to stay safe we all are going to get through this."

So, that's what I have decided to do. I will keep fighting the good fight, and making the world a safer place for those who will inherit it. I think we'll be in pretty good hands.

Monday, December 14, 2020

What I Don't Know

 My son bought a car for one hundred dollars. Mind you, this is not the car from whence he tore out the V8 engine to put in his "project car." This was no donor. No, rather this was one hundred dollars worth of slightly used German engineering: a BMW station wagon. The deal was made with a friend of his who was getting ready to take eighty dollars for it to be hauled away for charity. Twenty dollars more made the charity my son. 

This vehicle was not purchased sight unseen. He gave it the once-over and ascertained that his friend and his family were conscientious objectors to the turning of a wrench. The thought of having to put a catalytic converter on this beast seemed incomprehensible to them. Did I mention that my son tore an engine out of a car and, after some fits and starts, made it run the car he bought in high school? Turning a wrench is what he does. As for the delicate bits of the installation he figured he could probably get another friend to weld the part on "for a case of beer." And probably not really good beer, either. 

So the exchange was made: cash for clunker. Except it turned out not to be such a clunker after all. On a hunch, my son took it to see if it would pass an emission test without a new catalytic converter. 

It did. He saved the money on the part, and the case of beer. Suddenly he was the proud owner of a late model BMW station wagon with, after a minor adjustment, a working sunroof. There are still some bits and pieces that need to be set right, like a seatbelt buckle and the driver's seat lists a little to port, but otherwise it's in fine shape.

One hundred dollars.

I keep coming back to this because my first car cost me eight hundred eighty dollars. That bought me a copper colored Chevy Vega. About nine times more expensive in 1978 dollars. For a Vega. When I was running up the hill near my house, I spied a Honda Odyssey minivan parked by the curb. As I passed, I noticed the scrawled message on the back window, "$1500 OBO." Or Best Offer. It occurred to me that my son could have acquired a fleet of BMW station wagons for fifteen hundred dollars. Furthermore, I realized that in a fit of parental generosity, I bought him a tank of gas for his new ride. 

That little gesture cost me sixty dollars. 

I know nothing about cars.  

Sunday, December 13, 2020

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry

 Ah, the holidays. Candy canes and silver lanes aglow. Figgy pudding and decked halls. A joyous time for all. 

Except for those who are not: safe, warm, fed. So the good news here is that there are some things we can do about those last two. Homeless shelters would be happy to receive  your generous donation, especially at this time of year. Ditto that for food banks. In spite of all that has happened over the past nine months, we continue to be the richest country on the planet. No one should have to spend the holidays sleeping on the street, foraging for food. 

But what about the safety part? I am not just talking about masks here. I am talking about violence. Domestic abuse has gone up worldwide since the onset of the pandemic. The end of the year is already a watershed for stress, and the seeds that have been planted over the past few months will quite likely take root this winter. Shopping, managing gatherings, celebrations that don't end well, stuck inside: these are all part of a syndrome that was already well known and has only been exacerbated by COVID-19 and its restrictions. 

I bring this up because I am all too familiar with the fallout. As an elementary school teacher, I am regularly confronted by the children who are afraid and confused because their home is suddenly falling apart at what should be the happiest part of the year. This year, in particular. I am aware of three families who are splitting up even as we inch ever closer to the end of one of the worst years that any of us can recall. Mothers who are attempting to flee with their children, but caught in the bind of being able to provide the necessities. They want their kids to stay in school, but that requires a computer and an Internet connection currently. And dad has decided that these items will not be released. 

We will do what we can to bridge this gap, but these are the women who have been brave enough to contact us. Fathers can face many of the same challenges when a relationship hits the rocks, but they usually don't seek help because of pride. No one should have to suffer needlessly in this time of intense volatility. 

So, if you've stuck with me this far, here's the good news: You can help these folks too. There are plenty of ways to donate, volunteer and speak out. We are a nation of survivors, and it is my hope that we will all have a chance to look back on 2020 as "the worst year ever" from the safety and comfort of 2021. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Florida Man

 Florida man attacked while taking selfie with squirrel.

Florida man in "Seriously, I Have Drugs" T-shirt arrested for drug possession.

Florida man arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after throwing an alligator through a Wendy's drive-thru window.

Thousands of gun owners in Florida plan to "shoot down" Hurricane Irma.

Florida man, tired of waiting at the hospital, steals ambulance and drives home.

Florida man tries to rob GameStop store while wearing a transparent plastic bag over his head.

Florida man breaks into jail "to hang with friends."

Florida man denies drinking and driving, claims he only swilled bourbon at stop signs.

Florida man admits to killing goat and drinking its blood in pagan sacrifice would still like to be Senator.

Florida man arrested at local park for practicing karate on swans.

Florida man refuses to leave White House after losing the state of Georgia three times.

Florida man insists noise from windmills cause cancer.

Florida man  insists COVID-19 will "just go away."

Florida man refuses to wear mask.

Florida man infects entire staff with COVID-19.

Florida man wears Make America Great Again hat while overseeing the debacle of 2020.

Florida man drives date to sports bar on stolen Wal-Mart mobility scooter.

I think he'll fit right in. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Must Have

 You are excused if you have never seen Jingle All The Way. You are excused if you never worked retail. You are excused if you never shopped in person during the holiday crush. You are excused if you never went shopping. 


So, if you're sticking around hoping for a pithy discussion of the Schwarzenegger/Sinbad yuletide treat, you may be disappointed. The story of a father's search for that "one toy everyone has to have" is the focus here. In that 1996 film, it was Turbo Man that brought all that suburban excitement to a head. 

For my son's first Christmas. there was a run on Tickle Me Elmo. This was the must-have that drove the consumer frenzy causing the manufacturer's suggested retail price of just under thirty dollars to balloon upwards of fifteen hundred on Al Gore's Internet. There were plenty of broken hearts that year. But I resolved early on that I my child would not be a victim of such crass commercialism. Like Charlie Brown before me, I would not succumb to the perversion of the true meaning of Christmas

First of all, my son was seven months old. I was pretty sure that he would never remember the occasion, save for the voluminous album of snapshots and stacks of videotapes taken of him by his devoted fans. Pretty sure. 

But I wasn't seven months old, and my mind tripped back over the rush for Cabbage Patch dolls I experienced during my days in the Target stockroom. Or the Rubik's Cubes or Gameboys or Pogs or Beanie Babies or Atari 2600s that came and went before them. I remembered watching adults tear into carts full of those unique, cherub-faced stuffed mutants, and each other, as they battled to be the good parent that delivered the goods under the tree on Christmas morning.

I would not go there. Elmo was unavailable anywhere anyway, except for the fuzzy red market. I was a first year school teacher. I could not afford the markup, not even if it bought my son's love. 

But on a trip to Target with my wife a week before Christmas, we rounded the toy aisle, because this is what we have done since long before we were parents, and there it was. Not Elmo, but Big Bird. Not Tickle Me, but Peek-A-Boo. A sensor in those googly eyes could tell when light was blocked and then suddenly reintroduced. "I see you!" Any new technology is indistinguishable from magic, and this was Christmas magic. I snapped Big Bird up, took him home, and wrapped him up.

On his first Christmas morning, my son was alternately confused and entertained by everything we put in front of him. His new toothbrush was as fascinating as anything we rushed past him. But I was determined that he would experienced the full joy of getting his must-have, even if he had no concept whatsoever of "must." I felt I was taking a huge risk, because Elmo was his early fixation but when I popped Peek-A-Boo Big Bird out of the paper, removed him from his packaging, and sat him him in his lap, I was rewarded with peals of baby laughter. 

A win! I tried very hard not to remember that I could get the same reaction from tossing a blanket over his head and pulling it off abruptly. This made sense that a toy that enjoyed the same game would be a hit. 

Then, the rest of the day unfolded, and the wrapping was recycled and the living room was returned to some facsimile of order. We were travelling the next day back to Boulder, so we needed to get our rest. Somewhere in the middle of the night, as the three of us were all snug in our beds, I was awakened by a voice: "I see you..." I woke with a start. I recognized the voice, and after a few seconds of concern about a cursed Sesame Street doll, I became concerned that the noise might wake my son. Or had he escaped his crib and crawled across the room to gather up his new favorite toy?

When I walked into the room, I was relieved to see the calm steady breathing of my little boy in his crib. Then immediately unnerved by the voice, "I see you..." It was coming from the basket of stuffed animals across the room. Moving closer, I could see those eyes, sparkling in the moonlight. Activating that voice. So calm and reassuring in the daylight. Not so much in the middle of the night. 

I lifted up Big Bird's T-shirt and yanked his batteries. 

Merry Christmas. Should have gotten him a Turbo Man. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020


 My family, all aspiring screenwriters at one time or another, have a tendency to shout out tropes or obvious holes or when we see signs pointing out obvious act changes. Like a few nights ago when we were watching The Blues Brothers. At the moment when Elwood announces, "There are 106 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses," we all know that the chase is about to begin. And what a chase it was. Half of Chicago's police cars wrecked and a Pinto station wagon dropped from the sky later, we knew we had reached the denouement. Final song, roll credits. 

The next morning, I awoke to the observations of Jeffrey Wilson, a Shakespearean scholar at Harvard University. He suggested that the soon-to-be-ex-president was exhibiting "classic Act V behavior." Which had me scrambling back to my undergrad days of studying the plays of Bill Shakespeare. A five act structure allows for more of the aforementioned denouement. The wind out for King Lear and Richard III gives us plenty of time to appreciate the fate of all those involved. Professor Wilson says, "the forces are being picked off and the tyrant is holed up in his castle and he's growing increasingly anxious and he feels insecure and he starts blustering about his legitimate sovereignty and he starts accusing the opposition of treason." He makes a mild prediction of catastrophe: "If there are these analogies between classic literature and society as it's operating right now, then that should give us some big cause for concern this December."  Like Othello sending his Iago to Arizona to cough all over the state legislature. Or armed protesters showing up outside the castle of Michigan's Secretary of State. And then there's the palace intrigue of an Attorney General who refuses to take part in the traitorous schemes. All of this taking place while citizens die by the thousands each day from the plague. 

Shakespeare would have been proud. 

Me? I remain disgusted. 

I think this whole mess would have been much more entertaining if it had ended in a car chase. A very literary, high minded and artistic car chase. "There are forty days to the inauguration, we have a full tank of gas, half a roll of toilet paper, it's dark and we're wearing masks."

Hit it. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020


 It was my son that picked Ancient Aliens for us to watch. He was interested in that slice of Netflix perhaps because it was under an hour, and therefore if it turned out to be any sort of disappointment, we wouldn't all have to sink our feature film energies into it. Or perhaps it was because he was truly interested in the possibility of the chance that maybe beings from another galaxy visited our planet thousands of years ago and proceeded to mess with us in large and obnoxious ways. 


That word is the fundamental building block upon which all the science of Ancient Aliens is built. Those pyramids are awfully big. It would have taken the Egyptians or the Mayans a long time to put them together. Perhaps they had help. All those depictions of scary monsters on the pottery and walls of our ancestors don't look like anything we have ever seen. Perhaps they were genetic mutants spliced together by pranksters from another solar system. Charles Darwin suggested that we evolved from lower forms of life. Perhaps it was ancient aliens that gave them the nudge in the first place. Perhaps Charles Darwin was one of them

All of this conjecture was too much for me. My reaction was that of sitting forward on the edge of my couch, yelling at each "Could it be" with the simplest and most obvious answer: No. And the most likely reason for my vehement denial was the past month of absurd speculations about our most recent election. Perhaps someone tampered with the voting machines. Perhaps dead people voted. Perhaps ancient aliens set this nefarious scheme in motion when they dropped by to put up the Sphinx. Or perhaps there are just too many people with time on their hands left with nothing else to do but make up scenarios concerning all the ways in which the reality in which Joe Biden became the forty-sixth president of the United States.