Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Sundae Bloody Sundae

 I was very proud of myself this past Saturday night. I was able to make hot fudge sundaes for my family from the recipe handed down for at least a generation. It might have been longer than that, but the note at the top of the recipe suggested that it came to my father via a family friend who may have been cooking that syrup for decades before. All I know is that my father's capacity for peanut brittle and hot fudge sauce was unparalleled among my friends and their parents. On any given Sunday evening we might get three or four additional kids from the neighborhood showing up coincidentally just about the time my dad was going to dish up the ice cream. With hot fudge.

His hot fudge.

As years passed, I tried to imagine following this culinary path. I watched as friends and other family members attempted to scale those dessert heights. In one particularly catastrophic try, the dishes into which the aborted fudge was poured had to be thrown away because they merged with the glass and could not be removed. Mostly what we saw was a grainy chocolatey soup that proved to be edible but not in any truly satisfying sense. Even dad missed from time to time. 

That's why I was nervous going in. But I have now had many years of success with peanut brittle, and when I found the recipe among the rest of the family prescriptions for this and that, I figured that it might be time to hop on the hot fudge horse and take it for a ride. 

I should mention here that this was one of those experiences that seemed to be doomed from the outset. I am not making this up. The "directions" I read included such helpful suggestions as "a dab of butter," add "a dash of salt," a "capful of vanilla," and the totally obscure "splash of milk." I called my mother for clarification on that last one, since it seemed like it might be an important point, since the milk seemed to be the only way to at least partially dissolve the cocoa powder and sugar. Mom's assertion that it was just that, a "splash," which she describe further by just a toss of the wrist. 

It occurred to me then that this might have been one of those situations where I wasn't truly meant to make good on the arcane homespun wisdom. But I pressed on, and when I added a splash, I could see that there might be an additional splash or maybe even two necessary. I won't lie to you: Once I had three splashes going on, I feared that I might have overstepped my bounds. Then there was the temperature, which I recognized from my time over the peanut brittle kettle. Softball stage meant I was aiming for chewy, not crystalline. Once I arrived at that point, I quickly dished up three bowls of ice cream and hoped.

It wasn't just luck. There was the tiniest bit of science involved, and a lifetime of anticipation leading up to that moment. My wife and son made yummy sounds, and I thoroughly enjoyed not just the cooking experience but the consumption as well. I gave a little pause to the thought that I might have been doing this for us all years earlier. But I don't suppose that would have had the same magic. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Take A Holiday

 There is an old film whose title I invariably associate with Death Takes A Holiday. That one is great, made in 1934 starring Frederic March as Death who comes down to Earth to find out more about us humans. And ends up falling in love. It was loosely remade some sixty years later with Brad Pitt descending as Death, aka Joe Black. Both of these are fine entertainments, and I suggest them if you have the time, but the one for which I always have to look up the title is On Borrowed Time.  

That's the one that made such an impression on me way back when that it haunts me to this day. The story is taken from a Greek fable. An old man takes in his orphan grandson, and works to keep him safe by any means necessary. Having a magic apple tree in the back yard comes in handy when Death comes calling, because grandpa tricks death up into the tree, from which he cannot get down. And from that moment, no one dies. All the while that gramps tries to figure out next steps in the custody of his grandson, nobody dies. 

A victory, right? But as days pass, it becomes clear that no one dying isn't the holiday that we all might have guessed. The old, the sick, the injured, all languish in various states of decay without actually passing on. Death, as we all know from our reading, is a necessary part of life. So much so that many zealous folks will tell you that it's "part of God's plan." Which snaps us back into present day events and poses the question, "Was it part of God's plan to strike down innocent shoppers at a King Soopers?" Did God's Plan include the millions of souls taken by COVID-19? What about the dozens of protesters cut down by soldiers in Myanmar? On Borrowed Time lets us imagine what it would be like to get a break. Just a day or two. 

Nobody dies. 

Let us catch our breath. 

Death will find a way out of the tree eventually. The threshing machine will be plugged back in. But oh, for those glorious few hours when we don't have to flinch when we see someone's name trending on Twitter, or wince in anticipation of the evening's news. When the phone rings, we'll hear good news. What they refer to in boxing as a standing eight count. Let us catch our collective breath. Then clearer heads will take over and we will all realize that even if there isn't a plan per se, there is a rhythm. It's just that lately that incessant drumbeat has drowned out so much of the melody of life. I, for one, would like to hear the bell when it tolls for me. I don't want it to get lost in the cacophonous clanging of all those other poor souls.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

Just A Few Things

 Okay, maybe we should start with this: Politicians did not ban any of Dr. Seuss's books. The decision was made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises not to publish six of that late Dr.'s works because those books "portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” If it helps to think of it in terms that everyone might understand, McDonald's stopped selling their food in vats and troughs because they hoped they might be seen as promoting a healthier lifestyle. A half gallon of Coca Cola might be considered hurtful and wrong. It's a corporate move to reflect an awareness that has only recently become obvious to those who are a little late to the game. To be clear, Theodor Geisel's work with the War Department during World War II would probably not play as well now as it did when we were at war with Japan and Germany. And there's a reason why those cartoons are not in heavy rotation on HBO Max. They portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

Business decision. Not cancel culture.

Next: When it snows, inevitably someone will start to squawk about how they were pretty sure that global warming would be really nice right now since it's so darn cold. Then there are some knowing chuckles as they roll their eyes at the "scientists." It's the "scientists'" fault for letting a term like "global warming" sneak into the tiny minds of those who don't believe anything that makes their lives less convenient. Which is probably why the guy who invented the Internet and Global Warming called his book An Inconvenient Truth. For a lot of folks who happen to find themselves living a life of convenience in America, being told that their style of life needs to change so that others might eventually enjoy a life of similar convenience in future generations, bristle. Everything's fine. Never mind the rising sea levels and the increase in severe weather across the globe. Everything's fine. Even those blizzards that kill the power in states that didn't bother to pay for the sub-zero upgrades. That's fine. Don't aske them to give up their great big American cars. That would be inconvenient. 

And that's the truth.

Another point of contention: Men should just shut up when it comes to reproductive rights. The freedom of that choice is not made by men. Choosing life includes the life of the mother. A political party that makes its hay by suggesting that government should stay out of people's business really ought to stay out of matters concerning the womb. 

And while we're at it, let's just go ahead and agree that white folks don't get to decide if they are racist or not. They have no perspective. The louder that you insist that you are not, the larger the potential for that assertion to be dismissed. The "least racist person" is not the person who talks about it the most. 

I hope this clears things up for everyone. 

You're welcome. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Testing, One, Two, Three

 Next week, there will be kids back in our school. Not a lot of them. Not at first. We are, after a fashion, beta-testing. This first week before Spring Break will be a trial run for volunteers, those most in need of remediation. The littlest ones.

We have an entire Kindergarten class who have yet to set foot in their actual classrooms. They have seen their teacher face to face only in Zoom meetings and periodic distribution days. Nonetheless, whenever these five year olds encounter their teacher, they call out and run to them. And would I be breaking some ed code by saying that there have been a few hugs given out. With masks on, and hasty reminders that we need to stay safe, but that connection which is like no other. 

I don't expect that once we bring back our upper grade kids that we will see that kind of unbridled enthusiasm. Ironically, I would assume that the kids we are bringing back from third, fourth, and fifth grades will be among the more sullen. The ones who have figured out that checking in on line and then turning off your camera will satisfy the tiniest bit of attendance required by our pandemic plan. Once you're seating in your socially distanced seat, instruction will probably feel a little more rigorous. 

Then there's the teachers themselves. The party line has been that we are all anxious to get our children back into classrooms as quickly as possible. I hold this truth to be self-evident. Still, that doesn't mean that some of us might pine a little for that short walk from the bedroom to the kitchen where the laptop and the white board are set up will be missed. There is a lot to be said for working from home. Wardrobe being chief among the simplifications. Everybody's school clothes are going to have to come out of the closet. My own uniform of T-shirt and jeans which has held steady for more than a year will shift to something a little more formal. Not jacket and tie, but maybe a shirt with a collar?

Into this brave new world we will charge, with only slight hesitation. After all, we have been away from this place as a group for more than a year. There have been a few gatherings to pick up and deliver supplies, but overall we are facing a first day of school after seven months of instruction. The tired old line "keep your hands and feet to yourself" will now be more than a stern reminder. It could be the reason you don't get to stay. 

Most of all, I believe that this in-person thing might just catch on. Teachers, students and their families may see a benefit to having children go elsewhere to get their knowledge. As the computer teacher I am more than pleased and proud with the way that everyone adapted to more technology, but I am sure that there are still a lot of advantages to being in the room where it happens. 

Wish us luck. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021


 In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over. 

Those aren't my words. And they aren't that recent, either. They come from English newspaper columnist Dan Hodges. Way back in 2015. They bounced around Twitter for a few years and landed neatly on my feed thanks to a very good friend with similar perspectives. They sat there in my head after I read them and mingled with a great many others, including those that might be dancing about your own mind as you read this: Again? Really? Is he going to talk about gun control?


Like the suggestion that now that we have a phrase in the English language that sounds like this: "The latest mass shooting." 

Let that one sink in, please. Not like "the latest rainstorm," but rather "the latest category five hurricane." As if there was a tolerable amount of lives lost to gun violence. Ten in Boulder, Colorado. Eight in Atlanta, Georgia. I could go on and on. I would really rather not. On the morning that I woke up with Mister Hodges' words bouncing about my head, they spilled out in front of my wife. And then I added the location of Wikipedia's list of mass shootings. As I stood there, she dialed it up on her phone. She sat for several minutes, transfixed. Every so often she would exclaim, or sigh, or wonder aloud. Which is pretty solidly the expectation I had when I offered up this information. "Some of these didn't even make the news!" she said at one point. 

And even if they did, they were crowded out by the next one. Which made me sad to think the light shone on my hometown of Boulder would soon be moved to the site of the next murderous rampage. And somewhere on the other side of the fence I could hear the voices scoffing, "Assault weapon? You could kill someone with a phone book. Does that mean we should outlaw phone books?" Or the words of Colorado's Representative Lauren Boebert who sent an email to her supporters just two hours after the massacre at King Soopers which read, in part:  the “radical gun-grabbing left” that it claimed is trying to “violate your due process and criminalize the private transfer of firearms.” The killer in Atlanta purchased his murder weapon five hours before he gunned down eight. The murderer in Boulder purchased his AR-15 six days before he cut down ten lives. The hew and cry, as always, comes from those "responsible gun owners" who would have to suffer under restrictions like background checks and mandatory waiting periods. This is their version of "grabbing guns." 

Good for Beto O'Rourke, by the way, for saying that he would do just that. 

It is also a sad note that the youngest of the victims in Boulder, twenty year old Denny Stong had asked friends to donate to the National Foundation for Gun Rights Inc. the week before he was murdered. On that organization's web site is this proclamation: "National Foundation for Gun Rights works to expand pro-gun precedents and defend gun owners. A tough-as-nails, no-compromise, pro-Second Amendment legal entity that is NOT afraid to fight!" I can't help but think that Denny lost his fight. 

And so have we. 

But does it have to be this way? How many more have to die in order to end this fight once and for all? I'm going to say "none." 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Make It Stop

 It was a check-down menu of sorts: Active shooter.

Where? Colorado.

Where in Colorado? Northwest of Denver.

Exactly? Boulder.

My hometown. Now it wasn't a "That's kind of interesting." This was a "NoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo."

I tried to rest assured that my mother was nowhere near the scene. On the opposite side of town. My older brother is retired from the Boulder County Sheriff's Department. His years on patrol were long behind him. We are a north side of town family. Always have been. The King Soopers my brother shops at for his family and my mom sits at the near the center of town, across the street from what used to be called The Crossroads Shopping Center. Suddenly, all that internalized Boulder geography leaped back into my head. The King Soopers they were talking about was on the south side of town, in the always repetitively named Table Mesa Shopping Center. 

That end of town was where the video store I worked at used to be. I had driven past that King Soopers a couple of summers back on a visit. It was just down the hill from where my friends' parents live. I wondered about the probability of them stopping by to pick up some groceries on a cool Monday afternoon in March. That would be a coincidence to large to imagine.

But I did. Which stretched my imagination still further to encompass all the people I still know who live in Boulder who might have had any business in that area on that day. When I got back from work, I called my mother, and made cheerful conversation about what was still unfolding across town from her. Across the country from me. There was a collective sigh of relief when we were able to account for all those we knew who might have been in the crossfire. And the three victims described in the preliminary report? No names as yet.

Later that evening my wife, who grew up in Boulder as well, relayed the sad news that authorities had upped the total number of casualties to ten. I had yet to turn on the television to look at the scene from the twenty-four hour news network point of view. When I did, I was confronted by aerial footage of more police cars than I ever saw in Boulder surrounding the grocery store. Windows had been blasted out. Bodies were retrieved from the parking lot outside and inside the store. Witnesses told their stories of fear and heroism. Running out the back, but doubling back to help others who were fleeing for their lives.

And that's when I made the shuddering conclusion that my hometown had now joined a list of cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dayton, El Paso, Aurora, Columbine. Once again I was confronted by the name of the elementary school I attended in Boulder: Columbine. Not the high school south of Denver where school shootings began their ugly turn into regular occurrence. 

I turned the television off. I knew the days and weeks that followed would bring still more revelations about the killer. He used an AR-15 to kill ten seemingly random victims. One of them was a Boulder Police officer. And the trickle of information will never fill a bucket or a basin or an ocean large enough to make it make sense. As we brace ourselves for another. In someone else's hometown. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Listen Here

 "I listened to him, but I didn't do what he said." 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we ended up with more than half a million Americans dead. Those were the words that the former gameshow host and occupant of the White House for the past four years used to describe his attention to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health. 

Lack of attention. What else did the former Executive Cheeto take away from his connection to Dr. Fauci? "He's a great promoter. He's really a promoter more than anything else." This is coming from a man who tends to put his name, or at least his initials in everything he owns. Or wants to own. Casinos, steaks, ties. You name it, the twice-impeached one has promoted it. For his own gain. 

Which is precisely where he and the good doctor differ. Anthony Fauci promotes science. He promotes care. He promotes caution. The same cannot be said for the ex-"president." How very different do we know things would be now if the man in front of all those microphones every day, before he had his social media accounts taken away for reckless insurrection, if rhymes-with-dump would have suggested and reminded all his followers to mask up? 

For example. 

Another example: The guy with the gold-plated initial fixation ended up contracting COVID-19. With all that information surrounding him on a daily basis, he still managed to lick the wrong doorknob, or simply ignore the conventions that the rest of us were taking as doctrine. And what did he say after he was released from the hospital where he received the finest care available? “I learned so much about coronavirus,” he said in a video posted to Twitter that he filmed at the White House upon his return. “And one thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.” He said this on a day when only four hundred twenty-nine Americans died from the disease. Apparently they weren't listening when he told them not to let it dominate them. Or maybe they listened. They just didn't do what he said. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


 I should have seen it coming. When my son walked into the room and asked his mother and I how we felt about people smoking pot, we both assumed that he was heading in a more personal direction. I said that I would much rather have someone around me who was smoking pot than drinking, in general. My wife and I were pretty much on the same page when it came to the responsible use of marijuana. Which is why we might have been a little more prepared when our little boy reared back and suggested that maybe we should be telling that to our president.

He was referring to the White House staff members who were fired, put on probation, or asked to work from home for their cannabis use. After an initial assertion by the powers that be suggesting that they would be much more chill than previous administrations, at least five staffers were let go because of pot. The extra-grinding part of this little dust-up with authority is that recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington D.C. 

Now comes the tough part: Even though smoking dope is legal in the District of Columbia, it is still against federal law which shapes most of the employment guidelines of employees working for the federal government. Which makes sense, but not weed-sense. Double standards are not cool and can be seen as pretty harsh even if you're not high at any particular moment. The message sent to young folks lining up to be part of the Biden administration was that they would be much more chill about pot use in general, which turns out may still be true, but not for those who were asked to resign. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki asked us all to remain calm, insisting, “The bottom line is this, of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.” Presidential aides were quick to point out that things were much more strict even back in the Obama White House, a former commander in chief who admitted to prior recreational use. As a matter of fact, three of the past five presidents have fessed up to their high times. Which makes them pretty cool in some ways, but pretty hypocritical in others.

So, what do I tell my son? Things are a lot harder to parse in the world of security clearances and government hiring. Does that mean I would rather have a weekend drunk driving our policy bus instead of the periodic pot smoker? I'm pretty sure your average pot smoker would not come up with our current immigration policy, or sit by while the first dogs are sent off to boot camp. It's disappointment time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right in the middle of what ought to be our honeymoon. Not exactly encouraging for a young man who is looking forward to voting for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in an upcoming presidential election.

Or maybe we'll all be so stoned on COVID vaccine to notice. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Laugh If You Must

 So, I'm an adult.

There are plenty of people who will read that sentence and will then need some time to pick themselves up off the floor from the gales of derisive laughter that followed as a reaction. I'll pause here while you all collect yourself. 

If I may continue: Today on my way to this place where I share my innermost thoughts, concerns and dreams, I skipped past a recipe for Cardamom Date Squares. Part of the confusion for me was the new interface that Yahoo has felt compelled to foist on me and the other eighteen people still using it as their home page. Upon setting up this new landing spot for me, the Yahooligans felt the need to include a full one sixth of my landing place on Al Gore's Internet with a compendium of recipes. Pretty savvy, based on my demographic, being a human over the age of fifteen. I'm going to need to eat, after all. And what better way to pursue that pastime than by using recipes? In the business, we call this "synergy." 

Cardamom and date squares? All the good will I was tempted to toss Yahoo's way evaporated instantly when they offered this option up to me. Cinnamon? Maybe. Raisins? Perhaps. Cardamom and Dates? I don't think they know me very well, do they? I'm the frozen pizza guy. My family has institutionalized Fridays as Cheeseburger Night. When it comes to dessert, I'm looking for as many permutations of "chocolate" as possible in the title. Triple Fudge Chocolate with Chocolate Brownie Chunk - and then it can just sort of trail off because even if the last few words are "broken glass" I'm still in. I am definitely not the guy who will stand there mulling as he rolls those flavors around in his mouth wondering aloud, "Did you use cumin in this?"

Which means my wife, whose palate is much more adventurous than my own, is often stuck with various permutations of meat and cheese when it's my turn to cook. I am the person for whom Dominoes marketed the Cheeseburger Pizza. It would be my wife standing beside me, poking me in the ribs, pointing out that the nutritional information for that little treat would probably read like the periodic table of evil. In my defense,  can only counter that I'm pretty sure that no cardamom was involved in the creation of that pizza. 

And yet, they allow me to be somebody's parent. We are in the process of preparing my son to be released once again back into the wild. Back when he lived with us as a child, we knew what his favorites were, and they didn't fall far from his father's. Recently, as he has been hunkered down in our basement waiting for his papers to join the adult world to come through, his mother has been attempting to undo some of the bad things that have been perpetrated on him for two and a half decades of never having to read a label or eat a salad. As a family, we are attempting to account for a healthy diet. 

We're all adults here. 

Okay. Go ahead and laugh. We are trying new things. Recipes found on Al Gore's Internet, even. But no cardamom, please. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Yellow Light

 Hours and days seem to be rushing by in new and mysterious ways. After a year of sitting around waiting for something inevitable, it seems to have arrived. I received my second shot for my vaccination against COVID-19 last week. This occurred in a jumble of other moments that included the limited opening of the county in which I live, hastening the return of students to the inside of schools. My wife and I went out and sat in a restaurant for lunch. Disneyland announced plans to reopen their gates, and not just as a vaccination site. 

After a year of feeling as if I were walking through pudding, life began to pick up. Movie theaters in my area will soon be allowing a limited number of patrons come and sit and stare at their screens. Will we all be able to drop our remotes and pry ourselves off the couch to out to see the newest releases when they seem to be dropped into our living rooms? Will students take us up on the dare to come back to the classroom, or will parents wait until everyone has had a shot, and not just those clever enough to get a teaching credential? 

There are still a ton of questions, but direct confrontation and stable messaging of a new administration that seems intent on putting needles into as many arms as they can makes a huge difference. At the beginning of March, testing increased and new cases went down. This is in stark contrast with the insistence of the previous regime that if you tested more you would find more cases. One hundred days of masks and vaccinations seem to be doing the trick. Is it possible that the garbled messages coming out of the White House a year ago might eventually have produced this same result? Possible, but not very likely. 

Not likely at all. 

Still, there are those who want to continue to argue and discuss. Senator Rand Paul wanted to debate Dr. Fauci about the need to continue wearing a mask after recovering from the virus or being vaccinated against it. "You're telling everybody to wear a mask, whether they've had an infection or a vaccine," Paul said to Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "If people that have had the vaccine or have had the infection. If we're not spreading the infection, isn't it just theater?" The senator from Kentucky was not referencing movie theaters here. He was intimating that the government's response is overkill. It should be noted here that the senator is also a doctor. Of ophthalmology. Not infectious diseases. 

So here we are, on the one hand racing forward. On the other, we are standing still. My mind has landed on an image of a flashing yellow light at an intersection. Sure, it's not red, but it definitely isn't green either. What do we do? Slow down, and proceed with caution. I'll be wearing my mask even though I've got two shots of good news in my arm. 

To be safe. Not sorry. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021


 Anger is a secondary emotion. This is a little tidbit I gleaned from reading social emotional education materials for a couple of decades. I have brought this up from time to time, suggesting that the thing that shows up in our lizard brains most often is not anger or hate. 

It's fear. 

For example, I am pretty comfortable at this point saying that my anger at the previous "president" was rooted in my fear of him. What he represented and the potential I saw in his words and deeds for harm to the country in which I live. And myself. I worried for five years about all the ways that the direction he was steering the ship of state was dangerous. A planet at the tipping point with climate change and an economy that threatened to squeeze even more wealth to the top of the tube and a wave of white supremacy not only running amuck but cheered on. 

I was afraid.

That turned into anger. I felt once again like that turtle near the bottom of the stack built by Yertle. That's a Dr. Seuss reference. It's from the book he wrote to teach kids about the evils of fascism. I would love to tell you that all the burps I made helped topple the teetering tower of turtles, laying our Yertle low, where he is now the king of the mud, for that is all that he can see. I wan to believe that by continuing to raise my voice, in fear and then anger, that I helped take the strain off our collective backs. 

Some of us burp when we get scared. Or hiccup. If we get uncomfortable enough, we might even cry out. Where the fear is the greatest, expect the dyspepsia is greatest, expect the belches to be loudest. In communities of color. In neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic. All the places that relief is so desperately needed. 

Yes, I am aware of the squawking on the other side as well. The cry of the privileged white is being heard far and wide, and though they sound angry, we know. They're scared. As Patton Oswalt pointed out a few years back, "White people, we used to be in charge of, like, 99.9 percent of shit. And in the recent years, that number has plummeted to 96.4 percent." Which is why you hear a lot of belching and barfing from those gated communities where fear gets stored up like an alien power source that powers Fox News. And when all that indigestion hits Tucker Carlson in a wave, he just starts babbling uncontrollably. Somewhere in that pointed little head of his, I am sure Tuck is terrified of some brown person sneaking in the dead of night to steal his job. 

With all this fear hanging over the country like a lingering winter storm, the chances that spring will come and all of this will disappear seems a bit unlikely. Until the calming winds of understanding blow through, expect a lot more anger. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

First, Middle, Last

 Robert Aaron Long. Suspect. We have to say that because a jury of his peers has yet to find him guilty. We also use his middle name to help fit him into the convention of serial killers with three names. It helps distinguish him from the myriad of Robert Longs in the world who did not go on a shooting rampage that killed eight women. We refer to his murders as "alleged" not because his victims are any less dead, but because there might still be some bizarre circumstance that would change our perspective.

Robert Aaron Long. Murderer. While we're at it, let's go ahead and make clear that six of the eight women he killed were of Asian descent. I know it's early for some of you, but here's some math: citizens of Atlanta who are of Asian heritage make up less than five percent of the population. Six out of eight is seventy-five percent. Now, if we are going to allege that this was a hate crime against Asians, the percentages certainly help make that case. The recent uptick in violence against Asian- Americans is hard to ignore. In New York City. Here in the Bay Area. Across the country. Assault, battery, homicide. And now we have arrived at the mass shooting. 

I have argued in this spot before that most crime is hate crime. I have suggested that there's a little hate in anyone who chooses to harm another person or their property. For some, it's that little shove that they need to move from thinking about hate to acting on it. The anti-Asian rhetoric spouted by the previous administration fueled this hate. Allegedly. Where's the proof, right? 

Robert Aaron Long: "Nerdy" and from a "good Christian family." Had a "sexual addiction" and he was trying to eliminate the temptation. Those were descriptions form authorities in Georgia. Once again, we are left to make sense of the senseless. 

Robert Aaron Long: White. Twenty-one. Fleeing the scene. Police were able to capture him. He was not shot or killed by officers. 

Rayshard Brooks: Black. Twenty-seven. Fleeing the scene. Police officers shot and killed him. 

Robert Aaron Long: Allegedly murdered eight women at two different massage parlors in Atlanta.

Rayshard Brooks: Allegedly fell asleep in a car blocking the drive-thru of an Atlanta Wendy's. 

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released a report that says hate crimes targeting Asian Americans had increased one hundred fifty percent during the pandemic. That's a lot of hate. Enough to get a "good Christian" with a love of guns to head out and make a name for himself. All three of them. 

We currently do not have a vaccine to protect us from hate. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Because Being Bipartisan Isn't A Nasty Thing

 This week, a bunch of U.S. lawmaking types stopped by our border with Mexico to view the detention centers we have set up down there. Spoiler Alert: They didn't like what they saw. Oh, and I almost forgot: These lawmaking types were representing the U.S. and the Republican Party. It was back in the Capitol where Senator John Cornyn described what he saw in Carrizo Springs, Texas. "Unless action is taken to stem the flow of migrants across the border that Category Five hurricane is going to break the entire system."

Down the street, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the situation "heartbreaking" and "not acceptable," adding, "I think the challenge here is that there are only...there are not that many options." Those were the words from the press secretary of our President, who belongs to the Democratic Party. 

It would seem that both parties see the situation as broken heart-ways or hurricane-ways. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed the heart part at a news conference in El Paso, saying "It's more than a crisis. This is a human heartbreak." Human heartbreak, in case that was not clear in earlier discussions of broken hearts and the U.S.-Mexico border. Then he tossed this on the fire: "Even though the U.S. Congress just passed a $1.9 trillion bill, not $1 in there to help them."

Shall we unpack that for a moment? The nearly two billion dollar relief bill that passed without a single Republican vote? That one? Is the implication that if somehow the bill had shoehorned in some money for more care for our surging immigrant population at our southern border, that Congressman Kevin and his Republican pals would have been all over that bad boy? 

Probably not. Instead, it seems that Republicans are more intent on suggesting that the more lax response by the new administration toward our border with Mexico is why we have this humanitarian crisis. It's like we were advertising hope. Which, we kind of have been doing off and on for a couple hundred years. But the problem at the fence/wall/line down there is that it has been broken for a very long time and switching presidents did not change anything. It remains broken, and hearts that used to be hard, are now being broken. This is really no different than a bunch of Democrats flying down to Texas over the past four years to make their points while the sun beats down on those in the holding pens. 

Which may be good news? That may mean that a common sense approach to immigration reform is on the way, much in the same way that after school shootings and hearts are broken that thoughts and prayers bring about common sense gun legislation. Or maybe just another opportunity for one party to blame the other while refugees travel hundreds of miles to our country in hope of finding a better life. But first they will have to be props in an ongoing political feud being held up here in the north. 

It's not a blue or red problem. It's not Democrats or Republicans. It's human beings. Start treating them like human beings instead of photo ops. All y'all. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Too Late

 A lot of us wake up and worry about where the morning coffee is coming from. Who will make it? How much will it cost? Will I spill it? Not really a concern for those of us who don't drink coffee, so we have to supplement our worries with concerns outside of that steaming hot cup of java

How about climate change? 

This past weekend saw folks in the middle of the country get pounded by what experts called "an historic storm," a blizzard that dumped more than two feet of snow in some areas. Highways were closed. Flights were cancelled. Thousands of people were without power. Hot coffee was not the primary concern for these people as they began to dig out from under that nice wet blanket. My Colorado heritage allows me to recall a great many March storms that reminded us all of the words of my good friend who once asserted, "Don't like the weather in Colorado? Move!" 

Which brings me all the way down to Avon, North Carolina. This little town of just a few full-time residents on an island just off the Atlantic Coast is sitting squarely on the edge of a rising ocean, with little standing between it and the sea. City manager Bobby Outten recently told the town that they needed to raise eleven million dollars to keep the main road from washing away. He suggested raising taxes. By as much as fifty percent. The town had other suggestions, like how about getting tourists to pay for it since they make up a large percentage of the traffic on that road and part time residents could really help out. Or maybe the rest of the county, or the state could find some money. How about the federal government? 

How about packing up and leaving the town that will soon be underwater? Relatively soon. Beaches on this sandbar of an island are shrinking at a rate up to fourteen feet a year. The entire town of Avon rests just two feet above sea level, and that main road runs along the beach. Here in Oakland, we have forty extra feet of elevation, but that isn't enough to lull me into complacency. Climate change is changing geography. 

Cities like San Francisco, Houston, and Miami are even now scrambling to "shore up" their municipalities as the ocean rises and coastlines change. Avon does not have the kind of full-time tax base that these metropolitan areas enjoy. The creeping sea levels are not the only concern, as hurricanes and flooding have become a part of the cycle that now seems to be prepared to batter this little town out of existence. 

So, I guess what I'm saying is that if you happen to meet someone from Avon, buy them a cup of coffee. It's not the first thing on their mind. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It's Just A Stage

 I saw a bunch of signs in the window of a house nearby that read, "#OpenOurSchools." This sent me on a grief spiral that went a little something like this: 

  • Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings. This is how I felt a year ago. I could not imagine that I would be sitting at home, not biking my way to work each morning, opening up the gates at 7:40 and starting another day. This had to be some sort of bad dream. 

  • Pain and guilt. As weeks passed, I felt myself consumed by a feeling that I should be doing more. There had to be something that I could do that would make things easier. Better. Safer. Was I truly bringing all my skills to bear on this situation? 

  • Anger and bargaining. Okay. Maybe I could just find a way to open up a corner of the school, and sneak kids in. Those of us who were game to try something daring, maybe dangerous or deadly, we could whip this virus and all the strictures that were keeping us from doing the thing for which we were hired. 

  • Depression. As a new school year dawned, hopelessness replaced that firm resolve. This was how things were going to be from now on. The old way of being a teacher was over, and I was left with a choice: I could continue to tap dance around the edges or resolve myself to being the IT guy.

  • The upward turn. The election. At last, a light began to shine through the haze. As a country we were not going to be held hostage to denial and confusion. We could look forward to science showing us the way through. The new First Lady is a teacher, for heaven's sake. Whatever happens, it has to be better than the months of obfuscation. 

  • Reconstruction and working through. In a word: Vaccines. I was given a shot in the arm physically and emotionally. I was suddenly less terrified and vulnerable. In a moment, I was able to envision a future with kids in classrooms. Just a few at first. Something upon which we could build. The pieces started to come together in my mind. 

  • Acceptance and hope. There is still fear. What about surges? What about variants resistant to vaccines? What about kids who cannot keep their hands to themselves? The past year has re-instilled a feeling that had been lost: Possibility. We need teachers to show us the way. We were lost for a very long time, but now we are back. We will teach again. 
  • And for the record, our school never "closed." We were open for business straight along, and now we will figure out a way to work our magic in a more intimate setting. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021


 Movies we have a problem with. That would be the title I would have chosen for Turner Classic Movies series they are running during the month of March. Or perhaps I should say, Movies with which we have a problem. The folks at TCM went with "Reframed: Classic Films In The Rearview Mirror." There are plenty of conservative types who will probably scream "Cancel Culture," but they were doing that in spite of the thoughtful reflection given by this series. 

Starting with Gone With The Wind, which disappeared briefly from screens across the country this past summer, these are movies that are troublesome for one reason or another. Troublesome for anyone living in the twenty-first century trying to make sense of the depiction of slavery in the antebellum south, and the aftermath of the Civil War. If this was your only reference to that point in American history, you might wonder what all the fuss about civil rights was. Most viewers today would say that this classic film does not paint the most accurate picture of that era. It is worth noting here that another movie made at virtually the same time was The Wizard of Oz, which might be hard for us to watch if you happen to be a scarecrow. They are both Technicolor fictions, made by MGM. I would suggest, especially in hindsight, that neither should be taken as historical documents. Except as a lens through which we can view our culture at the time. The choices made in how to depict the world of 1861 seventy-eight years after the fact reflect deeply on the way we had evolved as a country. We were obviously still not ready to take a long hard look at what we had done. In many ways, it helped perpetuate white supremacy by making it seem like the natural order of things. 

I have a problem with that. But I am not willing to disappear Gone With The Wind from the history of American cinema. It tells a story of how much further we have to go. Films like The Jazz Singer and Birth of A Nation should elicit similar cringing reactions, but the fact of blackface and the elevation of the Ku Klux Klan to hero status cannot be denied. These movies remind us of what we once were. And give us a signpost from where we can mark our progress. If we are making progress at all. 

And not just the depiction of African Americans in our movies. Asian Americans, Native Americans, Woman Americans. You name it, Hollywood has found a way to degrade it over the past century. I'm looking at you Mickey Rooney. Misguided attempts by Walt Disney like Song of the South that are now being scrubbed out of the Happiest Place On Earth. It's 2021 and we're just now getting a woke version of The Simpsons

In the 1960s I was watching reruns of McHale's Navy in which the enemy was endlessly referred to as "the Nips." This was in spite of the fact that their houseboy was a prisoner of war and of Japanese descent. Even back then, something felt a little wrong about that to me. And let's not even get started about those nutty Nazis on Hogan's Heroes. Springtime for Hitler, anyone? 

Racism, misogyny, hate, ignorance. They're all on display in our movies and TV. You don't really have to search for it. That's the trouble I have with these movies. And TV. And so on. But we can't erase them. They left a mark. Maybe not for the reason they intended, but they can remind us to be better. Lots better. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Everybody's Talkin'

 I come from a family of storytellers. My father was perhaps chief among us, but we all at times carried the talking stick wide and high. It was part of my dad's job, as a salesman, to carry on conversations that might eventually lead back to the subject of his business: printing. I like to believe that he was never a blowhard, or too over-the-top. He was a raconteur. He could talk a gate off its hinges. When he had a mind to. Interestingly enough, at my wedding he gave my wife and I this advice: "Shut up and listen."

Considering my upbringing, this was a tad ironic. Sitting around our dinner table was an exercise in control. It was important to time your bites such that it never interfered with your opportunity to jump in on the conversation. It helped that we had the dress rehearsal earlier that afternoon when we came home from school and mom would ask us about our day at school over a glass of Kool-Aid. We had a chance to polish up our best five to ten minutes there in anticipation of that moment when, between forkfuls, we held the floor. This heightened level of attention was not always fair, at times we completely shut down my younger brother. This resulted in him being recognized as "the quiet one," so much so that I had friends in high school who were not sure if he could speak. 

Which turned out to be fine, since he has been making up for all that quiet time over the past twenty plus years. Without that steady competition for the spotlight, he has been able to carve out quite a nice corner of the storytelling frontier. And my sainted mother, who watched the show and made the dinners and poured the Kool Aid, turns out she can spin a tale with the best of them. Turns out she was just a lot more polite about it. 

Which is why I sometimes wonder, as I make my own way through this field of potential audience, if I am not merely prattling on because no one feels comfortable telling me to shut up. Is it possible that I am that entertaining or that my stories are so compelling that no one wants to interrupt? Or am I monopolizing what could be a pleasant two-way interaction? 

At this moment the ridiculousness of me asking this question in the midst of my daily monologue is paramount. Of course you could leave a comment, suggesting that I shut up, or perhaps you have your own story that you'd like to tell. But that's not the nature of this exchange, is it? 

Then there's the matter of my son. The young man who, upon hearing me going on during a Zoom meeting recently about some experience from my youth, shouted from across the room, "Hey, why don't you tell them about the time you jumped the family station wagon into the middle of oncoming traffic?" Which gave me two chances to reflect: First, have I told my son enough of my stories that he has internalize them along with his own? Secondly, is it now my son's avocation to prompt me to keep the stream of chatter going? I know he has his own style, and now we have our own kitchen roundtables with mom and dad and son vying for the mic. I am still carrying around a few stories from my parents, and I know that the gift of once upon a time has been bestowed upon my little boy. No one will mistake him for the quiet one. Every day is a new opportunity to make a new story. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Science Fiction President

 I am just a few days away from my second injection of COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna for me, thanks. I confess I feel a little awkward as the only member of my immediate household to have received a shot, let alone two. I will soon be in the same club as my mother and my in-laws. 

I am exceedingly grateful that the shot I am about to receive is not bleach. 

I say this in the wake of a most unwelcome slithering return to Twitter by the former gameshow host and twice-impeached "president." Without an account, he chose to put out a press release, but kept it just under the two hundred eighty character limit, should anyone care to copy and paste his "thoughts." I understand that by doing essentially that is giving voice to someone who ought to stay voiceless, but the arrogance and ignorance remains something worth commenting. 

So here it is“I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all.” Amazing what he is still able to pack into two hundred eighty characters. 

The shot I have and will take was, in fact, brought along by "Operation Warp Speed." But while we're there for a moment, let's talk about "Warp Speed." It's a term from Star Trek, the TV show, and other science fiction outlets. Captain Kirk was prone to urging his Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott to give him "warp drive," which meant faster than light. From there they drifted off into even more fantastical levels of travel. Warp Seven? Why not? As long as we're making things up. It should be noted that all the companies that have produced vaccines were in fact working on variants of this drug for years, decades, in anticipation of this kind of event. Just like Kirk telling Scotty to go fast was not inventing faster than light speed, the former gameshow host did not invent the vaccine. 

Like how the gameshow host and his robotic wife were given their injections in private, without fanfare, while the rest of the country sat and waited. Like how all these doses of vaccine that were not available for American citizens for months were suddenly getting passed out thanks to the guy who contracted the virus himself, along with his robotic wife, because he refused to follow simple masking and distance protocols. The guy who blamed windmills for cancer and stared at an eclipse is suddenly the smart guy? Allowing one camera to document the event of his inoculation, he might have spared thousands of lives. 

And now a special moment of derision for the "China Virus" bit. This past Tuesday, a seventy-five year old Asian man was beaten until he was brain dead in Oakland, not far from my house. The disgusting and unprecedented rise in violence against Asian-Americans is largely a byproduct of the former gameshow host's racist rhetoric. 

A year after denying this plague's existence, this fool is trumpeting his success over the graves of more than half a million Americans. I hope everyone remembers that. 

Get your shot. And thank science. Not science fiction. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Spring Break

 A year ago, it was "their new hoax." Those were the words of the then "president" and former gameshow host describing the pandemic that was a wave cresting just outside the U.S. It was on March 9, 2020 that the Lord of the Cheetos tweeted (because he had an account back then): "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

I'm thinking about it now. A year after we sent our kids home for what we all believed was a prolonged Spring Break. A couple extra weeks for the storm to pass. We would all go home and catch up on our Netflix and be back ready to go in April. The "hoax" did not let that happen. I feel a little ashamed of the time I spent in the days leading up to that day a year ago, admonishing kids that wearing a mask in school really isn't necessary. We'll all be fine. 

I didn't want to panic anyone. Or send the wrong message. If I could go back now, I would tell them that we were still unsure about the science, but we needed to be sure so every precaution was a good one. Staying home from crowded places like school and playgrounds was being proactive. And those masks? Get used to them. You'll get used to the smell, and the clammy feeling against your cheeks. We'll figure out a way to keep you learning, but we want you to stay alive so we have someone to teach. Then we ran inside and made copies of worksheets in a flurry never before seen, and started to imagine what online, or distance learning, might look like. But that wouldn't really be necessary unless this thing lasted more than a few weeks, right? 

On the flipside, I am glad that I did take the opportunity to shut down some of the racist hate talk that started percolating at that same moment. "Don't go to Chinatown," I heard one fourth grader insisting to his pals, "Chinese people are the only ones who can get it." This assertion came fast on the heels of the Cheeto Lord's practice of referring to COVID-19 as a Chinese problem, gearing up for months of insisting that there were bad guys in all of this and they should be referred to in the ugliest Nationalistic terms. 

Maybe I should have made the point louder, given the number of attacks on Asian Americans over the past several weeks, months after Lord Cheeto slithered out of office. More than half a million Americans have died. Most of them were not of Asian descent. America continues to hold on to their lead among all nations when it comes to death rate and overall number of cases. 

It didn't need to be so bad. We would not be struggling to find our way back from the longest Spring Break ever. We could see friends and visit places without fear of contagion. We might have been vaccinated in a timely, orderly fashion. To paraphrase the wisdom of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "when the hoax becomes fact, print the hoax." That's what The Cheeto did. 

A year later, we're still paying the price. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

N To The O To The R To The MAL

 It is the goal of every person I have encountered over the past year: The yearning to return to normal. This sentiment is almost always couched in air quotes, or the phrase, "whatever that is." Nothing that we knew a year ago has gone without effect from COVID-19. I liken it to airplane travel after September 11. Take off your shoes. No bottles of anything. Ever. Say goodbye at the curb, and expect to wait an extra hour at that same curb when you come home because of the extra circuit your loved one will have to make while they circle the terminal. No belts, no watches, and your laptop is subject to examination by the TSA Geek Squad. 

When folks go on airplanes these days, and I'm told that there are those who still do, they still have to surrender their shoes and expect to be poked and prodded and inspected. Even though they are obviously taking their lives in their hands by sealing themselves in a metal cylinder with strangers for periods much longer than the average stop for takeout. Of course, we have been assured that the way air is circulated through aircraft is much better than your average Wing Stop. We are also privy to any and all altercations between passengers and inflight personnel who have to rage at one another over the wearing of masks. You won't be tossed out in mid-air, but you can expect a shameful reception at whatever gate you happen to have your dust-up. 

Just the side-eye that we give and receive for our relative attentions to public health is something that I can't imagine will go away anytime soon. Like those folks who use their fingers at the salad bar instead of the tongs. You remember salad bars, don't you? 

There was a time, many months ago, when I scoffed at the number of masks my wife had acquired. Always fashion-forward, she was not content to simply have a bandana or a strip of white cloth strapped to her nose and mouth. Accessorizing is her thing. Now I have half a dozen of my very own that I wear in rotation, never with the same style or flair that my wife exhibits, but always with an eye on safety.

Because this is where we find ourselves, after a year of washing our hands raw, internalizing just what six feet looks like, and assuring people that we meet that we are in fact smiling somewhere behind the PPE. There is a whole class or kindergarteners at our school who have never had to learn to stand in line. Handshakes and hugs have been all but forgotten. Talk of our social bubble will, I believe, continue on long past our vaccinations. 

So what is normal? If you were to ask my mother, and I do this regularly, she would tell you that normal is however you find yourselves living at the time you live. Scrap drives and ration coupons were once normal for her. She lived through a World War. She lived through the Cold War. She lived through the Battle of the Network Stars. 

I trust mom. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021


 On Sunday night I felt drawn to the furor being generated by celebrity acrimony. 

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow continue to wage war with one another about allegations of the abuse by Woody of Mia's adopted daughter. Not the one Woody married. That remains unseemly enough, but instead the focus was on Dylan, who was five years old at the time. 

Just up the dial, Meghan Markle and her husband Harry were detailing their struggles trying to keep their little family together amid the challenges of being in a bi-racial coupling. And being an heir to the throne. 

Try as I might, I could not move myself from the office to the living room where these discussions were taking place on our big screen TV. Something about the relative importance of these difficult life events compared to those experienced by those in my own neighborhood. Far be it from me to diminish the suffering of all of these celebrities, but the resources allotted to them to help them sort out their lives seems proportional to the candlepower of the spotlight being shone on them. 

Because they are famous. 

The voices of hundreds of abused children and their parents rarely make the evening news, let alone grab the brass ring of an HBO documentary. The pitch meeting must have been a treat. "This one's got everything: Sex, celebrity, and suffering! Did I mention the celebrity angle? Who cares if this thing is decades old? This thing has Emmy written all over it! Did I mention that it has Mia Farrow and Woody Allen in it?"

Meanwhile, Oprah was doing us the favor of turning over the rocks of the Royal Family in order to expose their antiquated ways to the light. What lessons could we learn after we already know that Harry's mum was killed by fame? Who would be shocked to discover that there was racism mixed into this inbred clan? 

This is not an excuse for any of the behavior exhibited by any of these perpetrators. I was able to write off Woody Allen some years back, when he made a public defense of his relationship with Mia Farrow's daughter with whom Mister Allen became acquainted while she was still in her teens. I tuned out most of the rest of the noise after that, feeling sad and disabused by another comedy hero who turned out to be a cretin. 

And the Royals? Well, since Diana was the one that I ever mildly connected to, I had pretty much let go of that thread after Elton John finished singing at her funeral. 

Yes, I can see the potential of the million watt bulb being placed on the spot where these folks sit before cameras. That light could allow others in similar situations to access the help they need, and to feel some sense of belonging and hope. 

Or it could be just another Sunday night of "must-see litigation and dirty laundry."  

I'll be in the office, thanks. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Protest Too Much

 Jeanine Pirro was born in Elmira, New York to Lebanese-American parents. I ask you to hold on to that fact for a moment. 

Late last week, Ms. Pirro who has a television show on Fox News. The name of that show is Justice with Judge Jeanine. Not just because Jeanine is a Judge, and has experience with the criminal justice system, but because she judges. People. Things. Ideas. There's not a lot that Jeanine has not judged since making her way up the media ladder from syndicated courtroom officiate to Fox Celebrity status. She's got opinions, and the folks at Fox are pleased and happy to give her a great big electronic podium from which to blast them. 

Most recently you may recall that Judge Jeanine was named in a defamation suit brought by voting machine company Smartmatic. Along with some of Fox's best and brightest, she is being sued for two point seven billion dollars for their collective insistence that Smartmatic's software and hardware had been manipulated as part of the evil scheme to keep the former game show host in the White House. Without any facts, of course, but that's not the way that Fox "News" runs.

But my focus today is the hate that Judge Jeanine was spewing last Thursday. From her television bench. “We’ve got people being released at the border right now who’ve got COVID. Wait a minute, I listened to you, you listen to me! They’ve got COVID! They’ve got all kinds of diseases! They are being released into the United States!” And now for the possibly tastiest bit of irony, the person to whom she was insisting that she be heard was the nominal voice of reason in this argument: Geraldo Rivera. It was Geraldo who was attempting to push back on Pirro's anti-immigrant screed by attempting to find some comfortable middle ground between her frothing and the absurd notion that anyone on Fox would become soft on illegal immigration. Especially when those nefarious schemers who are preparing to stream across our southern border are only going to steal the jobs that all those poor Americans who are not fortunate enough to have their own TV contract are aching to find. It was Geraldo Rivera who pointed out that a year ago, all of those migrant workers were designated essential by the administration previous to the current one, and that the jobs that are being snapped up are not the ones that have historically been snapped up by the United States' sea of unemployed. Harvesting our food and packing our meat. People who have traveled hundreds of miles for a chance at work that no one else seems to want. 

And isn't it bizarre that suddenly, a year after insisting that COVID-19 was a liberal scam, the screeching heads at Fox "News" are terrified of "all kinds of diseases!" And Geraldo Rivera turns out to be the bleeding heart in this scenario. 

And when Jeanine's mother returned from Beirut all those years ago to marry her father, I wonder what people said about the diseases she was bringing into our country. I would like to think that no one did, but if they did, they didn't do it with the help of a nationally televised megaphone.  

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Enough To Eat

 There was a time when, if somebody had asked me, I would have jumped at the opportunity to make fifteen dollars an hour. A six hour shift at Arby's. for example, would have put ninety dollars in my pocket before someone came and took money back out of my pocket for taxes. But still, it would have been quite the boost. This would have been a time when the rent I was paying was on a one bedroom apartment. The groceries I was buying were subsidizing the roast beef sandwiches I was getting for each shift and the regular drop-in dinner at my parents' house. That stop would have most likely included a chance to do a load of laundry instead of spending my quarters in the facilities in the basement of my building. This would have been a time when the cars I was driving were purchased for less than a thousand dollars, and the gas I was putting into the tank would have cost me just above a dollar per gallon. 

Fifteen dollars an hour? You bet. 

But that's not what happened. The jobs where I earned minimum wage paid me just that. The minimum. When I finally climbed up that metaphorical ladder to become the manager at a book distributor, I was finally making enough money to buy the occasional Arby's sandwich for myself. Not that I did, but I could have. Because I was finally making more than the minimum wage. Which meant, in California, I was able to afford that one bedroom apartment and start thinking about expanding my family. I have mentioned in this spot before that the circumstances that led to me and my wife being able to put a payment down on a house began with the untimely death of my father. The chunk of change that accompanies the passing of a loved one should be put to some good use. Thus, another rung on that ladder toward comfortable was achieved. 

When I took the big jump into the salaried position of teaching at a public school, some of the fear of getting by went away. Only to be stirred up by the occasional contract dispute or strike that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with my fellow union members. Which isn't exactly true, since I have been able to ride the escalator of an organization that looks after its members and pays active attention to things like cost of living. I would love to think that the hourly rate that I now enjoy is both commensurate  with my skills and abilities as well as geared to the realities in which I live: early twenty-first century professional in California's Bay Area. 

I can now make it on my own. My son does his laundry in our basement. A college graduate himself, he flinches in anticipation of rejoining the workforce once the swirl of economic despair and global pandemic slows to a point where he might find work that would pay him fifteen dollars an hour. Or more. Because fifteen dollars an hour is the minimum he should expect when gas now costs upward of three dollars a gallon and a Classic Beef 'n' Cheddar costs more than five. 

And aren't we all just a wee bit tired of having millionaires telling us what we can afford to live on? I wonder when the last time Joe Manchin was in an Arby's. 

Monday, March 08, 2021


 I wonder if my parents ever had a moment when they were buying Tang and wondering, "Is this our future? Will we soon stop buying orange juice? Will everything eventually come from powdered concentrate?"

I remember when my mom brought home Space Food Sticks. They came in three flavors: Chewy Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Caramel. Other flavors were added later, but having three boys in the house and three flavors made all kinds of sense from an accounting point of view. And I would like to tell you that I was pleased and happy to be the lucky one who "got to" have chocolate as his primary flavor, It was not the taste of chocolate, I assure you. The texture was most definitely from outer space, and the foil packet from which they came held an element of science fascination, but the chalky aftertaste was there to remind you that this was Space Food. Not Real Food. Some time after the initial release of these cylindrical treats, they added chocolate mint. The mint was the saving grace. It covered up that space age chalky question mark. It was about this time that the "Space" drifted away and Pillsbury went with the not-so-enticing moniker, Food Sticks.

This was about the time that Space stopped being the future. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We went to the moon. We brought back rocks. We have rocks here on earth. And while were talking about earth, have you noticed what a mess it is? We should really start thinking about getting back to nature. Stop worrying about outer space. Let's focus on making our planet a nicer place on which to live. Which is why we started eating granola. My mom started buying granola. For us to eat. Chocolate was not an option here. Chocolate mint was out of the question. 

Meanwhile, Tang slipped to the back of the kitchen cabinet. Every so often my mom would mix up a batch of hot spiced tea which was a conglomeration of instant tea and instant orange juice. Just add hot water. Not very space age, but very comforting on a cold winter's day. Not like a cold day on the dark side of the moon, but still.

The Food Sticks went away. They were eventually replaced by, of all things, granola bars. We had to go all the way to space in order to figure out a way to mash granola into nice little portable snacks that could be delivered in foil packets. I figured we were on the right path when they started adding chocolate chips. By the time the space shuttle was making regular trips into the trackless void of outer space, you'll never guess what they took along. Granola bars with raisins

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And gnawed on granola bars with raisins

Sunday, March 07, 2021


 Hey! Look at that! Way down at the bottom of this page. It tells you the number of days until Soylent Green becomes available to the public. Lest you believe that Blogger is somehow involved, this is a little widget that I installed a few years back. To be funny. Because I find it amusing that our possible futures keep rushing up on us faster than we can generate them, but somehow we keep finding ourselves living in the present that looks nothing like what we were promised back in 1970. Except for the big TVs and cell phones. And the crystals embedded in our palms that count down to our ritual suicide. 

Originally, that spot was going to be a countdown to the moment that Skynet became self-aware, but that was way back on August 29, 1997. The events of the Terminator saga may have been playing out behind a veil of media blackout and misdirection, but if they truly are currently set in motion, here is the good news: We only have to wait eight more years until the resistance, led by Sarah Connor's son John, destroys Skynet and we can all go back to imagining a future where we eat people crackers instead.

I apologize for the previous paragraphs in which my nerd expectations forced you to wade through the scrap heap of my mind. But it is a messy business, this future thing. Like the announcement made recently by the Gateway Foundation, where they told us that we are just six years away from the opening of the first hotel in space. I was alerted to this news via a tweet in which someone was opining "Hotel in space? We just want healthcare." Which immediately set my memory banks reeling to the not so distant past in which Neill Blomkamp's 2013 film gave us a peek inside what's coming, and it turns out they are completely connected. In Elysium, a great big wheel of a space station, the privileged live in a world without war or poverty or sickness. 

Sound familiar?

Well it turns out that all the sickness and poverty is stuck down on Earth, with the rest of us. The rabble. A resistance, led by Sarah Connor's other son Matt Damon, travels to the eponymous space station in the hopes of bringing down the upper class and opening the door for universal health care. That movie is set in 2154, so we've got a while before we have to start worrying.

Except that the first hotel in space really happened in or around 2001, when Hilton and Howard Johnsons worked together to make outer space your home away from home. In your Earth years, that was 1968 with a future envisioned by Stanley Kubrick. It is not clear if reservations made for that Hilton in the intervening fifty years or so will be honored at the Gateway resort. Or if Matt Damon will be allowed to travel there. Because he has a history of getting stuck off planet. 

Maybe he can keep himself from getting hungry by dipping into those nice green crackers.

I'm so confused. 

Saturday, March 06, 2021

What Goes Up

 Remember when Rudy Giuliani was "America's Mayor?" He rode that wave of popularity straight into a gig as the "president's" personal attorney. Well, not exactly straight, but things seemed to be on an upward tick after a career of getting tough on crime. Which may be how he became so familiar with it. Crime, that is. He cleaned up Times Square and made it family friendly. Unless your family was a group of pickpockets or panhandlers. Removal of these folks paved the way for the opening of a Disney Store. And it was the brave face that he showed after the September 11 terrorist attacks on his city that brought him Time's Man of the Year award, and an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth. 

Which is a long way from holding a press conference at The Four Seasons Landscaping firm, or inciting a riot days, then weeks after an election lost by his client. My mind turns to the image of Kong falling from the Empire State Building in the original 1933 version, bouncing and careening as he plummeted to his eventual final resting place. 

It wasn't the airplanes that got him. It was the gravity. Which is what all that  "the mighty have fallen" talk is about. What goes up must come down. 

Which brings us to Andrew Cuomo. The governor of the Empire State is currently facing a lot of scrutiny for his actions over the past several months. Those past several months have seen Governor Andrew rise to the height of COVID-19 popularity, with his press conferences evoking memories of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading comics to his city's kids way back when. Way back when New York City's newspaper delivery folks were on strike. In hindsight, it's a little difficult to separate the politics from the person. But the optics were great. And so were Cuomo's daily news conferences. A bit of fresh air in a world stifled by masks and shelter in place. 

But it turns out that all the news that came out during those sessions wasn't really all the news. Apparently, there are plenty of questions about how nursing homes were handled during the initial surge of the virus, and that deaths may have been under-reported or simply covered up. This was after his call for elderly patients to be sent initially to nursing homes rather than hospitals. Not exactly the Sunday funnies. 

Then go ahead and drop the allegations of sexual harassment by Governor Cuomo and you have the perfect scandal salad. Now damage control is focused not on the crisis at hand as much as how the person in charge handles himself. Initial impressions aside, it appears that this once mighty hero of New York politics is on his way down. I suppose the good news is that scandals don't appear to be a partisan issue. As the Police once sang, "The truth hits everybody." Especially once gravity takes hold. 

Friday, March 05, 2021

Cancel This Blog

 A short time ago, I wrote in this space about how I was embarrassed about having used Britney Spears as a punchline. A great many times. Enough that I found myself looking back with shame. I have had this same experience reflecting on my history as a "funny guy." I definitely went through a period where I told jokes that did not reflect who I was as a person, but rather who I was as a "comedian." Big wide racist, misogynistic bits of hate which were reflective of one thing: How unhappy I was with myself. 

The whole notion of "Can't you take a joke?" is built around fragile psyches that do not allow much room for questioning. They are, for the most part, looking outward. They question others, not themselves. In an attempt to connect with others, a sharp stick is taken up to poke at others. Usually the bigger the better. And I suppose it would be a nice thing to say here that I had an awakening where I finally looked in the mirror and found myself in the reflection looking back, "Hey man, do you really like yourself?" Well, that's the challenge here. I have had a number of these revelations, the most recent being my awakening of my mistreatment of Ms. Spears. 

But I haven't apologized to Ted Cruz. Or Donald Trump. Or the National Rifle Association. I still feel pretty comfortable with my eight year assessment of George W. Bush as a "pinhead," but his friendship with Michelle Obama has made it difficult to continue to grind that particular axe. 

Why? Because all of a sudden he didn't do all those dumb things I said he did? Because it turns out that he was always acting in my best interests and those of our nation all that time? No. It was more like a new threat had reared its head that was far worse and it turns out that W is just a public-spirited individual who likes painting dogs. Never mind the war crimes, have you seen the bit with him and passing Michelle a candy during John McCain's funeral. 

Am I just going to stop making fun of the man who led us into two meaningless wars in the Middle East because he's friends with Barack Obama's wife? Will this trend eventually put me in the position of relaxing my stance on the former game show host and twice impeached "president" who remains such a thorn in my side that I rarely mention him by name, let alone remove the quotes around his former title? 

Hate is a learned thing. I learned this from a real comedian named Denis Leary. "Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates. Naps! End of list." An interesting point made by a man who tends to be fueled by rage most of the time. But maybe that was a moment where that fire hydrant of anger was turned on the very thing that gives us pause. Misogyny, homophobia, Islmaophobia, and just about every ophobia you could  care to rustle up stems from a fear. A fear of being replaced. A fear of being on the wrong end of the joke. 

All of which makes the whole idea of a "cancel culture" so very confounding. Once you take the "just a joke" excuse away, you're left with the question: Was it funny in the first place? 

By the way, I reserve the right to be wrong. Feel free to tell me about it when I am. 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Watching MTV

 "Too much is never enough." These were the words I heard Billy Idol say back in the mid eighties. A life of excess was pretty easy to imagine back then. Especially if you were watching MTV. It was during this period of my life that I began to wonder just how much really was enough. A place for my Battlezone game. Gas for my used car. Pizza money. Beer. Comfortable. In my twenties, it seemed like having enough cash to get by was a lifestyle. When I looked at adults scratching their way to the top of middle class, I sometimes wondered what I was missing. It did not occur to me that I was missing out.

It was only after I turned thirty, married and settled down that perhaps I could be more concerned about my monthly paycheck. The notion of saving for the future became a reality for the first time. Mostly because I started to imagine one. A future, that is. So I started to listen and take the advice of those who wanted to help me manage my money. I knew that being an elementary school teacher was not going to put me on the fast track to wealth and fame. There was no MTV contest to generate a responsible and stable financial base upon which I might one day retire. 

It was around this time that I remember walking back from a movie with my wife and some friends of ours. The husband of one of our best high school pals suggested a "personal salary cap." At the time, it was his notion that no one needed more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. Anything more than this just clogged up the works and made excess the thing that people strived for. Why couldn't we all be happy with a hundred grand? At the time, I chose to play the devil's advocate and ask what he might do with more than one hundred thousand dollars. Couldn't you, for example, use the extra money to donate to the charity of your choice? Take care of others less fortunate? The easy answer was that everyone would be afforded that same opportunity to make their salary cap, so there wouldn't be such a need to stretch. Plenty for all. No surprise that this fellow found his way to Bernie Sanders over the past couple of elections. 

Meanwhile, we all continue to chase that dream of financial independence. Somewhere between the arguments for a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage and the demonization of Jeff Beezos, we attempt to find our comfort zone. As I round the corner that has regular and continued conversations about retirement, I wonder how it is that as hard as Bill and Melinda Gates try, they cannot give away all their money. Elon Musk makes a big show about giving away his money. The afore mentioned Mister Beezos lives a life of perpetual comfort while his employees struggle to put food on their tables. It's easy enough to make Mister Amazon the bad guy here. But how far down the ladder does one have to climb before we no longer resent them?

My cynical notion is this: one step below wherever you find yourself. I own my own house. Well, I will once the mortgage is paid. In a few more years. Right now I've got what we call "equity." Which is ironic, because this word either means "the value of the shares issued by a company" or "the quality of being fair and impartial." 

Too much? 

Never enough.