Monday, May 31, 2021

What Happens Next

 Polly looked up at us, all us adults, and asked a question. She was the last of the kindergartners to parade through our makeshift drive-through promotion ceremony. Polly and her parents had stopped, received the certificate, goody bag and completed work packet, then moved to the photo spot for a great many shots of Polly holding many of those items. She posed with permutations of those assembled adults. Her parents. Her teacher. Her teacher and her parents. And so on. As the last student to officially be matriculated at our school in our ersatz ceremony, she was the focus of all of our attention when she asked, "What happens next?" 

There were some quick answers: "To the candy store!" "To lunch at grandma's!" "Summer vacation!"

I waited for a moment and put in my two cents: "First grade."

Polly gave me a furrowed brow. "I don't know how to do monkey bars." She went on to explain that she had other concerns, but not having spent any time during her first year of school climbing on the play structure was chief among them. She had not spent any real time confronting this worry, since she had only just now come up close and personal with monkey bars. 

As a grownup, I felt compelled to reassure her, telling her that there would be plenty of time to learn all about such things, and more math and more reading too. This did not have the effect that I had hoped. It was just more future waiting for her out there. In that amorphous expectant place. 

Looking at that worried little face, I felt empathy. For the past week, I had a great many parents, staff and fellow teachers asking me the same question: "What happens next?" Except their concerns existed somewhere outside the realm of monkey bars. They wanted to know what school would look like in August. Would we all still be relying on our connections to Al Gore's Internet, or would we be seeing one another in the flesh? Five days a week? Full time? Would lunch be served? 

I did not know how to answer these questions, except to say that there were still plenty of details to tack down and even if there were decisions made they would, as they have been for the past year and a half, be subject to change as we all begin to emerge from our COVID bunkers and step out into the light. Two months, as we have learned, can bring sea change. Like the leap into return to school. Like that dive into first grade. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021


 "What the hell is wrong with us?"

This was the question Governor Gavin Newsom asked this question to a group of reporters as he addressed the killing of nine people in San Jose. To be clear, the Governor of California was not just referring to that bunch of mediots, or himself, but all Americans. When he spoke last Wednesday, he was talking about the sixty-eight mass shootings in the United States over the past two months. If you had "more than one a day" on your gun violence Bingo card, congratulations. 

Or maybe we could take Governor Newsom's question as something more than rhetorical. What is wrong with us? Each time an American is killed by a gun, we look for answers and come up short. I say this because for the most part, no one seems to take the vow of "never again" very seriously. What is wrong with us?

We tolerate the murders of the innocent. First graders. Children caught up in their parents' custody disputes. Road rage that culminates in the death of a passenger strapped into a car seat for their protection. These kind of incidents are not freakish, they are the nightly news. So much so that we need to clarify at times to which murderous rampage we are referring. "Oh, that one. With the crazy guy with the gun." 


And our national response has been outrage, followed by a discussion of the Constitution. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of the Second Amendment. What the hell is wrong with us, indeed. 

Down in Texas, the most recent legislative move on guns was to allow its citizens to openly carry weapons of mass destruction without a permit, background check or training. In our current climate, how can this be seen as anything but inciting violence?

What is wrong with us? We don't like each other. You would have to search hard in your history books to find a time in the U.S. when we were this divided. We have made a sport of arguing about wearing protective face coverings during a global pandemic. And don't look at our elected officials for guidance. They are often the ones acting the most ridiculous and making the most bizarre pronouncements. 

What is wrong with us? We are letting a small group of financially influenced lawmakers plot our course. An overwhelming number of gun owners support expanded background checks and other similar "common sense" gun legislation. And yet, that roaring silence you hear is coming from Capitol Hill, where the fear seems to be more about not being elected than another mass casualty event. 

Whatever it is that is wrong with us, I hope we can figure it out before we end up getting shot. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

To Whom It May Concern

 I confess that the only time I think about my email's spam folder is when a message squeaks through and reminds me of a special offer in which only I can participate. Well, I huff, this should obviously have been caught by the bot that is in charge of making these kinds of discernment. At which point I congratulate myself for being clever enough to know spam when I see it, and not the potted meat kind. Certainly there are those lonely days when I will foolishly click on one of these errant attempts to capture my attention simply because no real person has bothered to contact me over the course of a day. Not a huge surprise here, since I am fond of communication and a 2014 study suggested that at least ninety percent of all electronic mail can be classified as Spam

Then, the other day I was encouraged by a colleague to "check in your spam to see if that gift certificate I sent you got stuck in there." I have heard of such things happening. Once you creep up past a certain number of recipients, even the most personal and benign message can slip into the forbidden zone. Only a periodic check of the cracks and crevices into which such items might fall would allow one to discover treasure beyond their wildest imaginings.

Or, maybe they would find the mess I discovered. Once I chose to go ahead and open the door to Fibber McGee's closet, I flinched in anticipation of what I might find. It would be far too simple a task to expect that I would find that one message, clearly marked "here's your gift card" right at the top of the stack. 


The first page of errant missives were from the day before. Looking back more than a day meant wading through hundreds of emails from helpful folks who wanted me to look into this or that financial opportunity or support them by simply sending them some personal information that would unlock all kinds of wonderful. Searching for "gift card" was another option. The one that provided me with a long list of offers to get things free and no obligation if I would only send them that personal information that I was avoiding sending to that first group. 

This is when I felt complete and utter gratitude for the work that this little bit of technology was performing for me each and every day. By the hour, from the looks of it, my spam filter was lifting out all those innocuous bits of email that would at the very least cause me to wonder if I really knew a Mrs. Jane Valerian, who hoped that I would take on her humanitarian cause and blah blah blah. Not even tempted, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the filter we call spam. 

I suppose that when I finally discover that gift card, I could just forward it on to my friendly neighborhood Spam-er Man. If I could only figure out his/her address. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Parents Just Don't Understand

 God how I miss John Hughes.

If you wonder about that name, sounds familiar but you can't quite place it, then you probably don't share my feelings on this matter. If you are familiar with Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and the phrase "Brat Pack," then you might go along with me here. It should be noted from the outset that I had aged out of the prime demographic for those films, but still in contact with the emotional highs and lows of my teenage years. And very clear on the concept of "mom and dad are gone for the weekend, let's throw a rager."

Which is pretty much the backbone of most of the films of John Hughes. Ferris Beuller's Day Off is about skipping school to party like a rock star. Sixteen Candles moves from the Freshman Dance to a rich kid's house that gets destroyed by a horde of "friends" who drop by to celebrate the absence of parental authority. Pretty In Pink moves around a void of parental authority, with the exception of a hangdog Harry Dean Stanton who just wants to make his daughter's prom experience one she will remember. Weird Science has something to do with layering Frankenstein over the top of Sixteen Candles, and Breakfast Club is about spending a day in a high school library and having a party even though they're all in detention. Common thread: Party.

I wondered what John Hughes would make of the story of Adrian Lopez, a seventeen year old from Eastvale, California. Adrian figured he would promote his birthday bash via social media. And then a friend picked up on the lack of likes and pushed it into the realm of Tik Tok and Snapchat. Somewhere along the line, Adrian's Kickback became the sort of thing for which Al Gore created the Internet. Suddenly it was everywhere and kids from across the country selected his get together as the place to be. He and his friends tried to get out in front of it, selecting a larger venue and getting sponsorship, selling tickets. But on Saturday night, a horde of humans under twenty years old poured into Huntington Beach, looking for the party. Chaos ensued. 

And if it had been a John Hughes movie, the police would have been fooled and the only people hurt were nameless extras and Adrian would have gotten to make out with the prettiest girl in school. This would have been a happy ending. Instead, none of the alternative events planned ever officially came off. Police dispersed the crowds, and Adrian's friends now believe he has a career as "an influencer." Just as soon as he cleans up the mess from that wild night. And writes a screenplay about it. Featuring Molly Ringwald and James Spader as "the parents." 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

On Our Way

 The load out. 

That's what's left. 

Each year at this time, teachers roam around their rooms, looking for those bits and pieces of personal effect that they cannot live without for the two months during which they will be away. The boombox. The bag of candy that has been in a drawer since who knows when. The books that will be set on a desk somewhere at home with the full and sincere intent of being reviewed over the summer. Then there are those things that go immediately into the landfill. Toys that have been left or forgotten after they were confiscated "until the end of the day." Probably that half bag of candy. 

And the paper. All that paper that has been collected and collecting and spawning more paper until there are very few cupboards or closets that have not been stuffed full.

But not this year. So very much of the business of educating has taken place over Al Gore's Internet and lodged somewhere in the cloud that those stacks and reams of recycling never had a chance to get wedged into a filing cabinet, much less stuffed into student desks. That ritual of having students empty their desks of workbooks, broken crayons and forgotten bags of Cheetos did not have to take place. 

Not this year. 

Kids wont' be struggling home with backpacks and paper bags filled with a year's worth of worksheets that may or may not have been finished. Teachers will not be saddled with the ugly chore of pawing out the remains of their students' efforts. All of that took place somewhere in the ether.

Which is fine. Because it makes complete sense that there will be now written record of the events of this past year. There will be some accounting, whether it is merely attendance of the series of online assessments that pushed through the void and into their scholastic endeavors. 

Next year will be full of reckoning. All of those fifth graders who need a little boost to catch up to where they left off in fourth. The third graders who need a little leg up after missing vast chunks of what should have been their second grade year. 

But for now, we're closing up shop. Next year is just over the rise. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


 There are vast and significant alternative universes in which things turned out differently for Dave. Here in this reality, he is a public school teacher who began that career because the time/space continuum shuttle dropped him at that stop. 

At another juncture, it was possible that I had managed to snag the job that I had applied for when I first moved to Oakland. I wanted to work at the video store up the street. The commute would have been amazing, in that it was stumbling distance from the apartment I first moved into with my girlfriend, and even the one a little further down the lane once we got married. I had been a video store manager way back in those Colorado days that preceded my voyage to the left side of the country. I missed doing that job, since it was the vocation to which I felt I was most suited after having spent such a very long time studying film both in and out of classroom. Not to mention all those years I spent working in a video store. 

I filled out an application. I waited for an interview. But no one ever called. Not in this universe. In a neighboring universe, however, I was brought in as help on the weekends. Steadily earning trust and picking up more hours as I became a customer favorite for my incisive suggestions and encyclopedic knowledge of movies and their stories. I would eventually have risen to the rank of manager, a lofty spot where I would be in charge of the monthly newsletter and the ordering of new and additional titles for our library. The owner would thank me for my flexibility and dedication, to which I would respond, "Hey, it just happens that I was in the neighborhood." Because I was. 

Meanwhile, back at home I would imagine that I still got married, but maybe didn't have the same rise up the fiscal ladder I enjoyed in another plane of existence where I ran a book warehouse. I never got to be in charge of a newsletter there, but I did do a great many personnel reviews and helped supervise yearly inventories. No matter what reality I find myself in, I can't seem to shake this responsible thing. Had I stayed at the book warehouse instead of leaving to get my intern teaching credential, I might have been swallowed up by the demise of the wholesale book business which would have put me back out on the street, looking for a job. 

Where I still might have found my way to that video clerk job. Maybe not a career, but a name-tag job that could have filled the void until something better came along. Is being a teacher better than being a video store manager? In terms of giving back to my community? I know what the answer should be, but I ask that you don't press me on the issue, because I still might get it wrong. Are there days when I am standing on a playground full of kids that I pine for the relative solitude of a video store? I won't lie: Yes, there are. Would I trade that reality for the one I am in currently? I suppose the fact that the video store up the street has stayed in business all this time without my help suggests that they truly didn't need my help after all. 

I wonder if there is an Arby's in an alternate universe that needs a closing manager? 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Just A Moment

The moment might have gone unnoticed. It was after school. We were standing outside with the lingerers. Those who lingered. After dismissal, there were still a few students who had yet to be picked up by their parents. Or aunts. Or uncles. It's been a long strange year. But we still don't let kids go wandering off from school without adult supervision. So we were waiting on the curb, chatting with one another and keeping an eye on the children who remained. 

A gentleman came from around the corner. "Angelo!" he called out. The third grader standing in the shade of the sidewalk tree and his towering teacher looked up.


Angelo's daddy walked straight to his son and looped a hand around his neck. A tough and loving gesture. Then he did something interesting. He had never met his son's teacher before. With all the separations and distance created over the past year and a half, Angelo's mother had been the point of contact. Dad was just a name on a form.

Until now. The last week of school. That's when the moment occurred. Angelo's daddy kept that one hand draped over his son's neck and the other, his right hand, was extended in the direction of Angelo's teacher. For that moment, there was a pause while this gesture was recalled from the dim past. A handshake. The open hand extended in friendship. 

Time stretched as Angelo's teacher found his wits and extended his hand in kind. "It's been a long time," he said. "I haven't shaken hands with anyone for a long time." 

"Oh, sorry," and for rest of the moment, these two men tried to unravel the meaning of what they were doing.

"No, it's fine," Angelo's teacher gave another shake. This one was more assured. Firm. Then it was over. Angelo turned and walked away with his daddy, pausing to look back and wave. 

And that was a moment too. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Moving Along

 Martin has been with us for seven years. At an elementary school, you may have already figured, you tend to max out at six. Martin managed that extra year by taking an extra trip through Kindergarten. This would be one of the mild successes I have encountered through my career for retention. We caught him early enough that he never had a chance to get radically bitter about having to catch up to that first group of classmates. He benefitted from another round of socialization and finding his place in a school setting. 

The school setting in which he found himself was the one at which I teach. The one where he has now spent most of his life. Martin will be commemorating this experience this week when he appears as our promotion speaker for his fifth grade class. He has been one of the kids who returned to in-person instruction this spring, and has made a point of connecting with me, telling me how much he's going to miss the old place and all the good times he's had.

And I was not going to spoil the moment by reminding him of the not-so-good times he had. Like when he got it into his head that PE was not his bag, exactly. To say that he was recalcitrant would be a stretch, mostly because it would suggest some sort of specific attitude generated from experience. Martin's was more of a practiced contrariness. Whatever I suggested, Martin had another idea. If I said it was time to start, he was done, and if I said it was time to go, he wanted to stay. This was a difficult period for both Martin and I. 

Happily, Martin was able to calibrate his attitude and happily somewhere in the middle of this past year, I caught wind of his comments in a classroom discussion about PE teachers. "Mister Caven is the best PE coach," he wrote to his classmates without the knowledge that all the comments he was putting into the chat were being saved within the application for teachers to read later. I took the flattery and chose not to embarrass Martin in front of his peers. 

Which is pretty much the path that I have taken when it comes to fifth grade boys who find themselves reflecting, on the advent of their promotion to middle school, about the way they spent their time in these hallowed halls. I don't have any idea how Martin will choose to share his thoughts about the past seven years. I don't expect I will get a shout out from the virtual stage we are preparing, but I won't be surprised either. I have been a consistent presence in his life, even if most of the other teachers who have taught him have moved on to other places and vocations. I've been here. I watched him grow and learn. There are still plenty of things for Martin to experience, as those who have made the leap to middle school will attest. 

But I hope he keeps his promise. The one about coming back to visit. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Limits Of Imagination

 The last thing I want to do is stifle creativity. That would be wrong. Then again, so is the idea of a Cheetos Movie. We have already lived through a couple movies about GI Joes. I have lost track of how many Transformers movies there are. I have made my peace with these, since they are films about action figures, not dolls, and action is what summer movies are all about so why not bring them on? 

Battleship? It's a board game. A board game that is so simple that it can be played with folded pieces of paper and pencil. And yet Hollywood managed to wring nearly two hours of stuff blowing up and aliens blowing up and blowing up aliens to satisfy the masses. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of fifty-four percent, so somebody liked it. And it wasn't the first board game to get the big screen treatment. Clue was and its all-star cast showed up in multiplexes way back in 1985. Its box office was aided by having three different endings. Which, if you had waited for the home video release, were all revealed on one VHS cassette. 

Speaking of varied endings, there is the issue of movies "inspired" by video games. Part of the relative joy to be found in playing a video game is finding your own path to the battle with the big boss. Watching Sonic the Hedgehog go from left to right as fast as he can, collecting as many gold rings as possible on his way, without access to a joystick of any kind save the Twizzlers in your popcorn bucket seems like a pretty empty prospect. Apparently not. There is a sequel in the works. 

What are the limits of the imagination? How about a feature film based on a cell phone app? Angry Birds. Everyone's favorite time sink back in 2009 made it to movie houses in 2016. And then all those loose threads were sewn up in the sequel three years later in the sequel, much to the relief of all those who were losing sleep over such matters. 

How about a movie featuring not characters so much as those little clumps of pixels you stick in your texts instead of writing "happy," "sad," or "poop." Yes, in case you missed it, Sony Pictures unleashed The Emoji Movie four years ago to an unsuspecting and gullible populace. It made more than two hundred million dollars. 

Which brings us back to Cheetos. This one is not about the adventures of Chester the Cheetos Cheetah, but rather tells the story of the guy who claims to have come up with the idea for the "Flamin' Hot" version of the snack. Not exactly Citizen Kane, but then again, who really wants to sit around for two hours and watch some old guy complain about his missing sled? 

Oops. Spoiler alert. The sled, I mean. Not the red junk that gets all over your fingers. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Heartbreak Kid

 Charles Grodin. You know. That guy. 

If you are of a certain age, you can match up the face with a dozen or more appearances on screen. Mister Grodin stood next to some of the biggest stars of the last fifty years, delivering performances that were instantly memorable but always in the service of making whoever was in the room with him look better. Not that he wasn't good looking in an anxious nebbish sort of way. In 1972, he was the romantic lead in The Heartbreak Kid. It's hard to imagine anyone else playing the young newlywed who falls for another girl on his honeymoon. And if that sounds like an awkward situation, you owe it to yourself to cringe your way through the original, before Ben Stiller got hold of it. Nobody did awkward better than Charles Grodin. 

Nowhere was this quality more effectively displayed than in his role as a doctor of veterinary medicine in Albert Brooks' Real Life. While Albert ran about manically, as himself directing a film about "real life," Charles played Warren Yeager, the head of the expressly normal clan chosen by Mister Brooks to star in his cinema vérité opus. No one could believe how oppressively normal a family could be. Unless you watched the Yeagers live through this precursor to every reality TV show made. Completely scripted and completely hysterical. If you don't mind that whole cringing thing.

Which is pretty much the way you make your way through the collected work of Charles Grodin. At the instant that you might start to feel some empathy for his character, he will slip down just a notch or two down the scale to make you wonder how you ever imagined feeling bad for this cad. I believe this is an art, one that he was the chief practitioner of for decades. Whether he was in a scene with Goldie Hawn or Warren Beatty, he was happy to be the schlub. Not that he appeared that way. He spent his entire career looking uncomfortable in his own skin. Or making others feel that way.

The role that I will always remember him for, among so many, would be his portrayal of Fred Wilson, the oil executive whose bright idea it was to bring King Kong to New York to sell gasoline. So much of the 1976 remake was wrong or out of compliance, but Charles Grodin was the height of boorishness. The only person to completely earn being trampled underfoot by a forty foot tall gorilla. 

Because Kong truly stomped on the Terra, and Charles Grodin. Charles Grodin just made the Terra just a little more droll. Aloha, Chuck. You will be missed. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Offering A Solution

 So here's a quandary I have: Are the same folks who would rather that we did not put restrictions on guns the same group that would very much like to see restrictions on the homeless? It certainly seems to be a thread that, when pulled, starts to unravel the bright red baseball caps on top of so very many pointed heads. 

And once that cap has been shredded, you can start to see the connection between homelessness and people of color. 

So, am I suggesting that there is a direct connection between those who might "do away" with homeless encampments and guns and people of color?

Yes. I am. 

If this makes those red-capped ideologues uncomfortable, maybe I can suggest an alternative solution: Arm the homeless. Make them officers in the fight against crime. They can continue to camp out, but we could give them fancy uniforms and flags that announce them as Urban Pacification Forces. This way, when you come across some guy living in a tent down by the overpass, you don't need to panic. They aren't here to make you uncomfortable. They are here to make you safe. And the cost of some shirts and badges would be considerably less than the cost of those periodic "homeless sweeps" that destroy encampments and force their inhabitants to move down the tracks. For a while. Because bulldozing them does not making them disappear. They do not have homes to go back to. They will not evaporate. They are human beings. 

And now they will be heavily armed human beings with a stated purpose. This part might be a little bit of a tough sell, since not everyone will be excited about giving assault rifles to those people who have been cut out of the American Dream. They might get it into their heads that revolution is the only solution. They might take up those arms against us. Which is why we have to ask them to promise to only use their guns to serve and protect. Serve and protect us, the ones who need the kind of reassurance that having a home filled with guns can provide. Imagine how much more secure we will all be once we have the homeless on our side? If you're lie awake at night after seeing Americans camped out near your neighborhood, imagine how soundly you will sleep when you know it's really an armed post for securing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Makes a lot of sense, right? 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Long Distance

 A year and a half later, my younger brother and I met for what we call our "regular gathering." He drove across the bridge, bringing a treasure box full of scraps, glue sticks and scissors. I opened the door. I gave him a hug, not only because we are both vaccinated, but because we are brothers who have not seen one another for a year and a half. 

We were hungry, so we walked up the street to get some sandwiches. As we walked, we talked. Some of it silly, some of it reflective, but mostly catching up on the year and a half that has passed between us. I may have mentioned this. The year and a half.

Before the plague, I used to satisfy myself with the excuse that he was up the road a piece and when we really needed to see each other, we would. Holidays, birthdays, special events. An art show, perhaps one in which we might see some of his work? Without traffic, we live less than thirty minutes apart. Separate lives keep us from getting together with any more regular frequency. Which turns out to be just fine since we have a ridiculously easy time falling back into whatever interaction we were having the last time we were together.

Then came the dark times. When that thirty minute drive might has well have been thirty days. We holed up on our discrete sides of the bay, and pursued our own paths through the epidemic. We stayed in touch, mostly through emails and connections enabled by having other family members who had spoken to one of us in order to keep tabs on the clan. Knowing that we were all relatively safe and sound was a comfort, but when all the holidays passed and then his birthday, I felt the void. 

But now he was here. In my kitchen. With the big box of collage fun. We got to work, listening to music, cutting and pasting. And laughing. Art therapy. We talked about all the things that had happened to us while we had been away from one another. This included the potential move he and his wife were thinking about making. Arizona. Not a thirty hour drive. More like twelve and some change. 

And we didn't talk about what that might mean for future collage parties. Instead, we bounced back and forth between current events and stories from the past. My wife and son eventually came and joined us, and we all made creations that amused us greatly. And for some reason, it made us all very tired. 

When it came time to say goodbye, my brother and I hugged again. Not because we were vaccinated, and not necessarily because we didn't know for sure when the next time we would get a chance to do that again. We did it because we're brothers. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


 My wife and I tend to rewrite movies when they don't meet our needs or standards. A few nights back, I showed her Looking For Mr. Goodbar. This was one of those, "you've really never seen..." moments in a relationship that has been crowded with them. Having spent so many years in darkened theaters and in front of televisions in my youth while she was out cavorting about in the sunshine, I quite naturally maintain quite a lead in terms of titles viewed, many of them multiple times. This one, from 1977, came up in a discussion of women's struggle to free themselves from the oppressive male dominated culture. Though I hadn't seen it myself for more than twenty years, I could recall the power of Diane Keaton's performance and the stark depiction of the mid-seventies sexual revolution and its casualties. 

The story was adapted from a novel which in turn was a retelling of Roseann Quinn, a young teacher who frequented neighborhood bars and allegedly had a habit of bringing men home. In the end, she brought the wrong man home. She was stabbed eighteen times by this stranger and left to die. Her death opened the door on her so-called "double life," and became tabloid fodder and eventually the subject of a bestselling novel. To paraphrase a good friend's reaction near the conclusion of his first viewing of West Side Story, this story doesn't end well. 

I will say that I attempted to prepare my wife for the ending, stopping far short of spoiling it or discouraging her from watching in the first place. So after more than two hours of immersing ourselves in the life of this proto-feminist, a woman who was struggling to get out from under the thumb of her father, the men she hoped to love, and the Catholic Church, it seemed that her sacrifice came like a judgement bolt out of the blue. After all, everyone knows that good girls don't get murdered by strange men in their apartments. 

So there we were, stuck with the "true story" angle, but feeling as if there must be some better way to deliver the message that must be more complex than "good girls don't." I apologized from dropping this culture bomb into our evening, and tried to appeal to her appreciation of all the things that went right. "You wouldn't have been so upset if it weren't for Diane Keaton doing such an amazing job," and other half-measures to appease her spirit. It hadn't been broken, but rather taken for a ride that ended abruptly and unpleasantly. 

What to do? 

As I mentioned, one of our periodic pastimes is to play "How Would You Fix It?" She took her laptop to bed that night and typed furiously for an hour or so. The resulting page was enough to calm her jangled nerves so she could let herself sleep. The next morning, she had even more ideas, but she was ready to accept my premise that there must have been something there to go through all the trouble to make it turn out a certain way. Not to change the ending, but to deliver something that spoke to the generations of women who came after Roseann Quinn. The absurd notion that she was somehow "asking for it" or that her untimely death was inevitable should be purged forever. And maybe in 1977 there was no one willing to make a statement like that. Not in Hollywood, anyway. What would a woke version of Looking For Mr. Goodbar look like? 

Stay tuned, I guess. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Open To The Idea Of Opening

 Here's a fun game: Making health and public safety decisions based on their popularity. 

I bring this up because, after more than a year of hybrid/isolation/distance learning, America's teachers unions are calling for all schools to be open this fall. Which is a little like America's elves calling for Christmas to have toys delivered this December. How about football players calling for the use of prolate spheroids? Kind of comes with the territory, right? Not really rocking the boat, exactly. 

It was just a few months ago that teachers unions were not having any of that nonsense. They weren't going to be guinea pigs. They weren't going to have their members showing up on campus to contract a deadly virus just so moms and dads could send their kids back to school and put the wheels of our great democracy back in motion. Not until it was safe. 

So they let us cut in line to get vaccinated. And they shipped us a bunch of hand sanitizer and masks and face shields and Westinghouse air purifiers. At my school, we started letting kids come trickling back a little more than a month ago, and of the one hundred four students whose families asked to have their kids return for in-person instruction, just over sixty of them have appeared. In person. 

Which sort of makes sense, after more than a year of being told that schools were a dangerous place where you could get sick and die, and the alternative was to roll over just after nine in the morning and log onto the online machine provided by the district and get your learning in the safest and perhaps lowest impact way possible. And maybe here is where I should point out that my teachers union made a fuss when they were told they had to do the distance learning portion of their day from the school site. So instead, they got the same deal as the kids: Mornings can be done from the living room, and after lunch those who wanted to participate more fully would all meet back in classrooms filled with all that Personal Protective Equipment. Desks moved and arranged so that there should be touching or sharing of germs. Safe and in person.

So this experiment in the limited return to classrooms turned out to be pretty much a non-starter. And it just so happens that at the moment that the world became a notch easier to move around more safely, government sanctioned restrictions have eased. Profoundly. Voices that had been calling for the end of restrictions are no longer a fringe of red baseball cap wearing furies. Cries for the return to classrooms just the same. This is not a cave to conservatives who had previously made the same assertions. They came by this idea all on their own. Based on science.

We are told. 

And maybe, just maybe, a little bit of politics. Now was that so hard?

Monday, May 17, 2021

Stripping Away

 What will we do when we can all throw our masks away? 

Will we all throw our masks away? I confess that I have become very used to the ritual of stretching that band of cloth across my face, tugging on one ear and then the other. I have developed a number of different mannerisms designed to affect mask slippage. I have become accustomed to a certain amount of steam on my glasses at different points throughout the day. When I step outside onto my front porch, if I can feel a breeze on my chin a wave of self-consciousness sweeps over me: I have forgotten something. It is a feeling not unlike patting your pocket, expecting to feel and hear the jingle of your keys and coming up with nothing but a slap on the thigh. 

A jolt to the system, to be sure. A habit that was hard to install, but will be difficult to break. Now that I have become completely used to the idea that I am saving lives by wearing a mask. I have also enjoyed the almost complete lack of a "flu season" over the past year. This is due in part to the flu shot I got way in advance of my COVID vaccine, and the overall lack of contact with the clouds of bacteria I might otherwise have encountered while pursuing your average scholastic campaign at an elementary school. But I have also been wearing a mask in most, if not all, social interactions. 

I can relax in the knowledge that all of my COVID tests have come back negative, and I have lived through both of my injections and their side effects. I am certain that there are still plenty of things out there that will kill me, but I have escaped this round of plague and made my largest effort to keep those around me from catching the germs that I might be spreading. This extends to my exercise regimen, where I continue to wear a mask while running even though those passing by are not always like-minded. 

What did I do during the great plague of 2020? I wore a mask. I stayed home. I kept my distance. It wasn't that hard. As a matter of fact, I kind of relaxed into the idea that some of these changes might become permanent. Not to go so far as to decline handshakes and hugs from those who might want to share their oxytocin, but having a few extra feet in which to operate safely seems like a boon at this juncture. 

I also maintained a series of smirks and grimaces behind that strip of cloth that I didn't have to share with anyone. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Living The Dream

 Hey, kids! Here's something you probably didn't expect to see in my blog: A quotation from Liz Cheney: 

"Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar."

Liz Cheney, Republican Representative from Wyoming. Daughter of Dick "Dick" Cheney. Until a few days ago, third in line for leadership of her party in Congress. 

Which is my way of suggesting that when it comes to liars, she probably knows about what she speaks. She has been speaking, since January 6, 2021, about the big orange tumor that has been ignored by so many in her party. The one that lied about most everything it came into contact with, and about which the lying in Republicanville continues with ferocity. 

Like Representative Andrew Clyde from Georgia, who insisted that there was no insurrection, and no real trouble back then. “If you didn't know that TV footage was a video from January the sixth, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” 

I have been to the U.S. Capitol as a tourist. During my visit, no one broke windows, beat police officers, and most importantly, no one died. I walked the Mall back then, and I do not remember seeing any gallows erected to hang the sitting Vice President. A different time, I guess. A different world. 

Meanwhile, the main strategy coming from the powers that be in the Republican Party seems to be clinging to the ghost of the twice-impeached former game show host and big orange tumor. Rather than washing their hands of a man who lost the popular vote for the second time in as many attempts to run for the office, they have chosen to deny that this happened and while begrudgingly acknowledging questions about Joe Biden being the new President with a pouty, "Well, that's what you say," they work feverishly to find ways to disenfranchise voters who brought about those totals. Math is the latest concrete reality to be assailed by these folks, having consciously ignored science for some time now. 

To be clear, this is not a disagreement about whether it's better to take the highway or surface streets. This is about whether we should have a turkey sandwich or broken glass for lunch. This is a break with reality that is being promoted by a great many of our sworn elected officials. The Republican Party has turned on their own, and it is anyone's guess when the express train to looneyland will stop. 

I understand that this is an exercise in preaching to the choir, but if we all sing loud and clear, maybe we can still make our voices heard. Let's not embolden the liars. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Hall Way

 So, if it's a popularity contest, why wasn't Carole King inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame way back when it opened? Her album Tapestry is the eighty-first best selling album of all time. And yes, I understand that this seems like an obscure fact, a number that could be plucked out of the air to substantiate a claim. Or maybe a vote from Rolling Stone magazine to rank it number twenty-five one their list of the top five hundred albums of all time. 

And even if this was the one-hit-wonder that ushered Ms. King into the pantheon of rock's greatest artists, wouldn't that be enough? 

How about songwriting credits?

The first two singles, "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" were already huge hits for Aretha Franklin and The Shirelles, respectively. Ms. Franklin and The Shirelles have had a home in the Hall for decades. Yes, you read that right. Aretha was inducted in 1987, and rightfully so. The same can be said of The Shirelles' entrance in 1995. So, what about the songwriter? It's not as if Carole King had this one great burst of creativity and was fortunate enough to have that lightning caught in a bottle. Her good friend, James Taylor, plucked "You've Got A Friend" up off the stack of amazing songs from that one record to have his own hit.

Way back in 1960, Carole and her husband Gerry Goffin started churning out hits for others like "Chains," recorded by The Beatles, and "The Loco-Motion" sung by Little Eva. You want more? How about "Up On The Roof" for the Drifters, "One Fine Day" performed by The Chiffons, and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" for a little group called The Monkees? All of those and others before 1968. She was not done. 

Did I mention the animated musical of Shel Silverstein songs "Really Rosie?" A favorite of mine. Not a million seller, but I already knew all the words.

And the same can be said of so many of her songs. So much so that a Broadway musical was produced featuring her music: Beautiful

In 1987, Carole King was quite rightfully inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and now more than thirty years later, the folks at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame have seen fit do follow suit. She had my vote. And it's about time

Friday, May 14, 2021

What Goes 'Round

 The upside of the pandemic has been -

No, wait. Come back. I'm not going to tell you about the weight I have lost or the sourdough starter that I want to give you. 


The upside of the pandemic has been the opportunity to hang with my son, whose birthday is today. He came back to his ancestral home here in the hills of Oakland this past fall as the aforementioned plague shoved everyone else away. His graduation from college gave us the chance to offer a landing spot while he sorted out the next act of his life. What is he going to be now that he's all grown up?

Initially, I would have to say an endless amount of conversational amusement and appreciation for the connections we share. It's almost like we were related. It's that close. Sitting around the living room, laughing at one another's attempts at humor, sharing meals and conversation like we did way back when. Only there wasn't as much to talk about twenty-four years ago. 

Back then, it was a steady struggle to introduce myself into his life. Later, it became his job to insinuate himself into mine. Lately, there has been little need for such formalities. But as pleasant as things can be, we both acknowledge the moment will come soon enough when he leaves the nest in search of his fortune. Or a fistful of magic beans. Whatever. I'll be proud of him if he makes a good deal for those beans. 

Because he is my son. Our son. My wife and I each had a share in the DNA, and continue to slide whatever wisdom or advice we can into that brain that is so full and overflowing with ideas about how to proceed into what comes next. And all the while, I am learning about Formula One racing, and Reddit, and Dogecoin. I listen to the places he wants to go and the things that he wants to do, and am always flattered when a percentage of those include his mom and dad. Wishes for yet another trip to Disneyland. Buying a house somewhere into which his parents could retire so they would be nearby. A modest little place where he can extend the courtesies his parents have shared with him all these years. 

Or maybe one day we'll just move into his basement. 

I don't think he would mind. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Public Disservice Announcement

 Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys - Willie Nelson

Mama didn't raise a victim - National Rifle Association

Given a choice, and I am as a citizen of these United States, I'll stick with Willie. His is more career advice, couched a bit in the ironic since he speaks from experience: "Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks, make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such."

But by no means should you allow them to be members of the NRA. That second bit comes from a Tweet sent out by the ghouls at Gun-Totin' Central just a few hours after an idiot with a gun killed six and then shot himself in Colorado Springs. It features a smiling mother and daughter holding their matching assault weapons. The suggestion seems to be that if mom and her little girl had been at the party in the mobile home park with their rifles slung over shoulders, the only bloodshed would have been the idiot who made the mistake of confronting them. 

These kind of ridiculous fantasies are propagated by those who never consider crossfire or errant shots. Or the simple fact that a twelve fifteen in the morning during a family birthday party no one should have to be thinking about getting off a clean shot and available cover. It's only the idiots who prioritize shooting and killing. This slogan didn't just leap off the thumbs of some NRA staffer over the weekend, by the way. It has floated about Al Gore's Internet and elsewhere for a few years, sometimes as a simple feminist reminder, but mostly as a call to arms by those who are interested in picking a fresh market for the sale of guns and ammo. 

I don't suppose that the NRA's advice extends to the thought processes of women and men of any age and how they should be able to discern reality from fantasy. Grinning models holding weapons that they most likely were handed just prior to the photo shoots are no more capable of squeezing off a few rounds in the midst of a domestic dispute are the fiction. The reality is an epidemic of gun violence that is not quelled by shooting back. The regularly scheduled killing will not stop until someone gets it into their head that killing is the problem. It's not who or how we kill. It's killing at all. 

You're better off being a cowboy. Take it from Willie. He wouldn't steer you wrong. The National Rifle Association? You bet they would. In the most fiendish and manipulative way possible. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Knowledge Base

 I should be ashamed of myself.

But I'm not. 

A few nights back, I was having a Zoom chat with friends from high school. One of whom I had asked to marry me, once upon a time. Another who accepted that offer, eventually, and that pretty much wraps up the story of my "serious relationships." 

I am fifty-eight years old. How is it that I have ever gotten away with giving any advice whatsoever to the lovelorn? As if I had any vast or varied experience that might be useful in any and all affairs of the heart? Outside of those two relationships, I could probably count the dates I have been on using the fingers I have. Without the thumbs. 

You might assume that this awareness would keep me from assailing those around me with tips for the broken-hearted. You would assume incorrectly. Long before I ever went out with any girl anywhere, I was quick to offer up what amounted to my expertise. By the time I was thirteen, I had hears my share of pop music, read a fair number of books, and seen movies from several different decades. I was well acquainted with the artifice of romance. 

And you might think that this obvious lack of experience would keep people from paying any attention to what I had to say on the subject. You would be wrong there too. I had a great many friends, boys and girls, seeking my counsel when it came to seeking the wisdom I had to impart. Which was generally made up on the fly, but delivered with care and conviction to make it sound as if I knew what I was talking about it. 

Believe it or not, all of that earnest blather about not much at all seemed to carry the day. Friends would often return with heaps of appreciation for the help I had given them sorting out their tangled web of love. And eventually, after I got married to the woman who said "yes," I felt that I was once again charged with disseminating the correct way to carry out a romance. It did not occur to me just how lucky I was to find a person who saw what I had to offer as clever and worthwhile. Happily, no one has sought me out after the fact to sue me for malpractice. I certainly didn't mean any harm. 

So, if you're reading this and you feel that I may have, in some way or other contributed to your unhappiness or your bliss, I'm sorry or you're welcome. I had no idea what I was doing. 

Still don't. But it seems to be working out okay. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Songs We Know By Heart

 As I was mowing the lawn the other day, listening to a mix of streaming music of my mild selection, a song came on that I realized fit in a unique niche: it was a song by one of my younger brother's favorite groups about a singer that was one of my older brother's favorites. "Allison" by the Pixies sounds by the title like it might be a cover of an Elvis Costello hit, but instead is a tribute to the last jazz pianist Mose Allison. This gave me pause because there used to be so much music that brought us together. Back when we three boys were in the back seat of the station wagon on those cross country road trips, we learned to campaign for those few songs and artists that lived in that sweet spot of rock, roll and music my parents would tolerate. Harry Nilsson, Neil Diamond, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel. With roughly three years between each of us, there was a spot in the seventies when we could all agree. 

But as the eighties dawned, and my older brother found himself in college, and I worked toward high school graduation, shadowed closely by my younger brother, our music tastes fragmented and became our own. Friends and acquaintances outside our nuclear family began to influence our tastes. The sounds that emanated from our rooms and eventually our cars were distinct. 

Except for Jimmy Buffett. It was during the 1980's that all three of us found ourselves ensconced in that group known Parrotheads. It was my older brother who brought Mister Buffett to the party, but it was the three of us who made him feel a part of our home. We listened to the records. We learned all the words. We went to the concerts. We bought the T-shirts. And somewhere along the line, the King Kong Trio was born.

Or re-born. Initially, the King Kong Trio was a group of three backing musicians who accompanied Jimmy on a stripped down tour. This tour coincided with the high water mark or our collective Parrotheadness. This period in history will also be remembered as a place in time when all three of us had found our way to the mythical island of Margaritaville, meaning that we were all capable of holding our liquor. And remembering all the words. The most infamous performance of our brotherhood trio was on the advent of my twenty-first birthday, after consumption of a few celebratory cocktails, put on a record and sang a long. At the top of our lungs. Migration. Fins. Cheeseburger in Paradise. And more. We sang until we were hoarse. Then we kept going. 

Until we were through. 

When I look back at those times, it reminds me of the joy of having brothers. It reminds me of the music that was always playing, somewhere in our house. It reminds me that we were happy. 

Like I am right now, just thinking about it. 

Monday, May 10, 2021


 Since January, this blog has taken on a tilt that is decidedly less political. Not because I am any less concerned or opinionated, but rather because there is less on which I feel the need to harp. The new President, a guy named Joe, seems to stir less vitriol in me. Which isn't really a surprise, since the last guy to sit behind the Resolute Desk was much like Jabba The Hut in his awfulness. 

To me.

And this is significant. Because there are folks who, I am told, feel the same way about the new guy as I ever felt about the old guy. Let's take this guy, we'll call him "Mitch," who says that he is one hundred percent focused on stopping this new administration. His words:  "We're confronted with severe challenges from a new administration, and a narrow majority of Democrats in the House and a fifty-fifty Senate to turn America into a socialist country, and that's one hundred percent of my focus." This guy "Mitch" had similar feelings way back in 2010. Coincidentally, there was a Democrat in the White House in 2010. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," he said back then, noting that Republicans were open to some compromise and adding, "I don't want the president to fail. I want him to change."

Which brought me back to one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite films, Inherit The Wind. Cantankerous liberal lawyer Henry Drummond is confronting his cantankerous conservative opposing counsel and friend Matthew Harrison Brady regarding the parting of their ways. “All motion is relative. Perhaps it is you who have moved away-by standing still”

Which in turn may have something to do with that whole notion of making America great again. As if our greatness can only be found in the past. Back when segregation was the law of the land, and we didn't speak of things like sexual preference, or sexual anything. Our founding fathers were writing words that were to be taken literally and any question about their support of slavery as a means to generate wealth should be ignored. And the fact that our great nation was founded on the genocide of an entire race? Hush your mouth. 

"Mitch" and his like-minded folks are grabbing at the wheel of the ship of state, looking for icebergs. One hundred percent. They may or may not want the current President to fail, but they don't seem interested in change at all. Unless that change can be created by standing still. 

So I'm not going to just sit quietly while idjits like "Mitch" take out their partisan frustrations on the attempts to push our country forward. There is far too much at stake. I am, to paraphrase the Amazing Criswell, interested in the future because that is where I am going to spend most of the rest of my life. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021


 The mornings when we wake up. She's there. Waiting. Getting ready to get you ready. To send you out into the world.

The afternoons when we wander back home. She's there. Waiting. Anxious to hear all about the adventures we've had.

The nights when we couldn't sleep.

The days that didn't turn out like we'd planned.

She's there. Waiting. 

And somewhere in there, it started to make you anxious. Maybe because you worried that she would always be there. Or because you thought she might not.

She's still there. 

Telling stories. Listening to yours. Because she cares.

She cares about you. She cares for you. She cares.

While you go out and live your life, she continues to wait. Just in case. 

You might need a band-aid or a kiss on the forehead. Or a smile. 

She taught you things you only remember as part of your regularly scheduled life. 

She wrote you notes to take to your teacher. She stood in line with you.

And waited.

Because she wanted to.

And you wanted her to be there with you.


She's there now. 

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Much Appreciated

 This past week was filled with little reminders, mostly from our principal, of just how much we teachers are appreciated. There were bagels and fresh fruit on Monday, treated to Taco Tuesday, a very special video of thanks on Wednesday, yogurt and ice cream sundaes on Thursday, and Goldfish snacks on Friday. Combined with daily and weekly shout-outs for a job well done by our administrator, we felt honored and recognized. Appreciated. 

The President of the United States tweeted his appreciation for us all, including his First Lady, Doctor Jill. She's a doctor of education. You get that right? She's not going to open you up or prescribe you a pill. She's going to educate you to make you well. 

As are we all. It is what we do. And yet, once again teachers are simultaneously being held up for their efforts and torn down for their organizing. I don't tend to think a lot about this kind of push and pull much over the course of any day. I'm there to do a job. I'm there to keep kids safe. To keep them learning. Showing them the difference between area and perimeter. Asking probing questions about Charlotte's Web. Bringing four square balls to the playground and ensuring that there are no cherry bombs or chicken feet. Reminders to be safe, responsible and respectful. Waiting on the front steps of the school when mom is running a little late at the end of the day. 

And all those things in between. Meanwhile, I am reminded that "a good teacher is hard to find, but even harder to forget," and "behind every great person is a teacher who inspired them." Whether these messages come from the side of coffee mugs or posters sent to us by the school district, they exist to remind us grownups of the job we are here to do. Over the past twenty-four years, I have not met anyone who went into teaching for the money. Or the illusory paid summer vacation. The only reason I get a check in June and July is because I have the accountants downtown set aside a chunk of my salary and defer it to those hazy lazy crazy days when I am doing trainings, attending meetings and catching my breath in anticipation of yet another autumn filled with school. Anyone who has volunteered to stop by my job to help out for a day is always gratified to know that once that bell rings at the end of the day that they are done. Because I and my fellow teachers are not. We are cleaning up and preparing for the next day. Collecting papers, finding a new pencil sharpener to replace the one that was broken during an experiment to see how it performed on the wrong end of a pencil, and oh those meetings. 

I am not a teacher for the appreciation, but it helps. It helps when you look at test scores or attendance numbers that aren't trending the way you might have hoped. It helps when you are trying to figure out how to get kids out of their warm beds to sit in front of a screen, or someday soon find their way to a classroom nearby. Eyes open, ears too. The appreciation makes the other weeks of the year feel like they are part of this great challenge to get kids from one August to the next, able to distinguish area from perimeter. 

Totally worth it. 

Friday, May 07, 2021

Marriage Story

 I hope I won't get into trouble, seeing as how I am writing this with the aid of many of the software and hardware bits and pieces developed over the past forty-five years by Microsoft. I feat that if I type the name Bill Gates that I might be struck down by some bolt out of the blue from my keyboard or a virus less virulent than COVID-19 but would nonetheless keep me from getting my point across. 

So far so good.

My point is this: Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced: big deal. Oh yes, I understand why for many this stacks up as a very big deal seeing as how it will cause a shift in the thinking of just who is the wealthiest person in America. The settlement involved here will likely divide up the billions of dollars that Bill and his wife Melinda have shared into smaller piles of billions. Splitting that fortune down the middle will leave them each with approximately sixty-five billion dollars each. And since the two of them have been doing their level best over the past twenty years to give all that money away, this redistribution of wealth may be the key to making that happen. 

Or not.

Money tends to make more money, and though their generosity has become somewhat legendary, neither Bill or Melinda will be scouring the neighborhood dumpsters for their foie gras anytime soon. But if you're worried about the end of the truly inspiring love story embodied by these two, stop. Their coupling began way back in the heady days of the late eighties, culminating in a private ceremony in Hawaii in 1994. After more than a quarter century of what we might assume was wedded bliss, they decided to call it quits. 

It happens all the time. 

What do most couples fight about? Money. "How much did you spend on that Winslow Homer?" And if you live in an earth-sheltered compound named Xanadu 2.0 that comes with an inscription of a quote from The Great Gatsby on the ceiling that reads, "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it." It is extremely likely that some of their most heated discussions about whatever vast amount of money that needed to be shoveled this way or that took place beneath these words. For what it's worth, and that phrase has rarely been held up to this kind of ironic strain, Bill and his soon-to-be ex-wife have pledged to continue working together on philanthropic causes. Like public health. Vaccinations. Stuff like that. 

Which is nice. But I might suggest a new Gatsby quote for the ceiling: “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Family Values

 The words of my son: "I cried just a little bit during the movie, but first I let loose the MAN TEARS when I got to hear the big Movie Sound Dolby 7.1 demo reel that played after the previews." Those were the ones he chose to commemorate our family's return to the movie theater. Last Sunday, we made our way down to Alameda where they are currently seating for select showings of selected films. In our case, it was the five fifteen screening of Nomadland.

My wife, who secured our tickets, bought us popcorn and large sodas, cried a little too as the lights went down. It was our return to the place where we have come together so often: in the dark with our concessions in our lap and the projector shining above our heads. It was not the packed house that we had experienced for so many first day premieres. Every other row was blocked off with caution tape. When we bought our tickets, the two seats to our left and right were automatically blocked out. There would be plenty of elbow room.

We tried to remember the last time we were in a movie theater together. My wife and I were fairly certain that the last film we had seen anywhere other than our living room was Parasite, our last ditch effort more than a year ago to try and see all the best picture nominees. Leading up to this year's Oscars, we had seen a grand total of two of them, compared to our usual full slate. The two we had seen prior to the ceremony were streamed into the aforementioned living room.

When Frances McDormand, star and producer of this year's winner encouraged us all to go out and see this year's best pictures in a theater, we took it to heart. But we were also patiently waiting for our favorite movie house to announce their grand re-opening. That has yet to happen, but down in Alameda, they were ready for us.

So off we went.

The film itself was a pleasant enough ride, a little like a song from Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Certainly a lot to think about in this year of departure. But mostly, the three of us were caught up in the experience of sitting in a movie theater. The trailer for the coming attraction James Bond installment roaring through the sound system reminded us of the sensual extremes available in such a setting. Over the course of the feature, we were aware of the quiet moments as well, and when the lights came up again, we realized that the theater's cleanup crew may have outnumbered the paid attendance.

We felt taken care of. We felt like we had found our way back. We felt like we were home.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

What Would Betsy Ross Do?

I have not spent a great deal of time worrying about statehood for Washington, D.C. I hail from Colorado, a great big sate. I am currently a resident of one of the biggest states, California. The idea that these little corners of North America are considered to be on equal footing with these easily recognized shapes of geography with the big boys is a cute notion. 

Or it was, before it was pointed out to me that population and representation are huge deals when it comes time to decide things like taxation and national elections. I confess that my biggest concern prior to this concerning adding an additional star or two to our flag. Fifty-one is not a prime number, so the arrangement could still be made in a symmetrical fashion, or we could all just get an additional star and stick it anywhere on the field of blue that suits us. It's a free country, after all. Just not so much for those living in the District of Columbia. 

An argument that is getting quite a lot of play these days is that the state of Wyoming has a smaller population than Washington D.C. Wyoming gets two senators, and a representative in the House. The folks in Washington D.C. get nobody in the Senate and a lone representative with limited voting privileges. To be clear, there are plenty of ordinary citizens in the District of Columbia who live, work and pay taxes into a federal government that they live with in close quarters and yet have no voice on the national scene. Eleanor Norton, who has represented her home in Congress since 1991 as a "delegate" would like to see that change. The flag is the least of her concern.  

And neither is the Twenty-third Amendment. That's the one that provides for the appointment of elecotors who can then participate in the Electoral College and thereby help select the new President and Vice President. It seems as though some of the Republican persuasion have their conservative knickers in a twist about having to repeal an Amendment to the Constitution in order to admit the District into the Union. 

Or maybe they're concerned about all those black and brown and blue votes that would suddenly be given a voting voice on Capitol Hill. That would be squarely on brand with the current Republican strategy of attempting to disenfranchise as many votes of color as possible across the entire United States. 

I had a little twinge there when I typed "United." 

Or maybe it's still that whole flag thing. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

What Lies Ahead

 I have been taking longer runs over the past six weeks. This is partly because it's spring, and there is more daylight in which to exercise. It also has to do with the school district's wellness competition. We were encouraged to make a team with members of our site's staff, and then track our physical activities each day over the course of a month and a half. The expressed intent from on high was that this was a way to encourage those of us who are more sedentary to get up form behind our screens and move about. In previous years, simply counting the steps that a teacher takes over the course of a normal school day would qualify them for substantial activity. Walking with your class in and out from recess, to and from lunch, wandering about the playground during yard duty, and all of the meandering about the classroom to peek over the shoulders of students working feverishly on their assignments. 

This year was different, and finding an excuse to move about was welcome. 

But why was it a competition? Because we are human beings, and we might not push ourselves unless we can hear the footsteps of those behind us, or those passing us by. Early on, I was pleased to find myself among the leaders not just at my own school, but citywide. I attributed this to my compulsive need to complete things like the daily form in a timely fashion. There were those who would let a day or two go by and then fill in out of memory. Not me. I needed that satisfaction of seeing my numbers go into the chart as I finished them. Running. Walking. Biking. I was gratified to discover that yard work, strenuous yard word, was a category. Mowing the lawn was now more than simple home maintenance, it was points for my team. 

And did I mention there was a trivia component as well? Each day brought a new question about our virtual trip around the globe. I started each day answering those, only missing a few over the course of the challenge. But those misses made me acutely aware that there were those who were getting every question right, putting me in danger of losing my spot at the top of the leader board. 

Somewhere in all of this came a voice I recognized. "It doesn't matter if you're first or last. If you're doing your best, that's all that matters." That voice was my own. It was my voice encouraging student who, like a much younger version of me, struggled when it came to physical education. There will always be someone ahead of you, and almost certainly someone behind you. That's what I thought about on the closing weekend of the wellness challenge, as I noticed a long-legged stride pass me on my left, and across the street on my right, someone else was chugging along uphill in the opposite direction. I couldn't help but compare my own gait to theirs and wonder if, perhaps, one of these folks were the names I saw clustered around me as I entered my totals at the end of the day. 

Then I reminded myself that next week I will still be running along at my same pace, and some people will be hanging up their sneakers until next year. Finishing last is better than not finishing at all. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

Faster, More Intense

 My son's observation was this: "It takes more than five hours to make a fifteen minute movie."

This may sound like an obvious viewpoint, but his comes from firsthand experience. A film crew descended on the elementary school at which I work last week, and since I was acting as the site liaison I was privy to all that would go on during the day. A very full day, when I glanced at the Call Sheet. My name appeared prominently, both for being the aforementioned point person as well as being part of "the talent." Seeing this as a form of leverage, I decided to press my luck and ask the director/producer if my freshly minted Theater Arts graduate might find some work experience as part of the crew. Ah, show business. It's not what you know, but who you know. And, as my son soon found out, what you're willing to carry. 

My time was split between rushing about finding objects, unlocking doors, and eventually having my head put in front of a camera where I spoke with great eloquence about the Fit Kids program, the group we were there to promote. As I sat there beneath the interrogation lights, I waxed poetic and spun great metaphors and eloquent connections. I was, after all, being asked to speak. 

Which may have been a mistake, considering the penchant I have for going on and on and on. Eventually, I was asked to see if I could boil down some of my long-winded answers to something that might have more of a sound-bite quality. Reigning in my rhetoric proved to be a challenge, but eventually I was able to whittle my words down to a useable bit. 

It was around this time that my son showed up. Being a volunteer and not a fully compensated member of the crew, he was able to slide into the filmmaking process by asking "is there anything I can do?" This, he discovered, was a most welcome response, as most everyone found tasks to keep him busy and making up for any tardiness. A trip back home to pick up a house plant to decorate the library that we were using as a set. A run to the sandwich shop to retrieve lunch for everyone. And lifting any and all equipment, sandbags, or miscellaneous debris that needed to be moved into our out of the shot. 

When the day was over, or at least mostly over, I asked him how he enjoyed his day on set. He was tired, but enthusiastic. It had not worn off the edge of excitement that being around all that creativity. It was, to use the hackneyed expression, "a good kind of tired." 

On the way home, I thought about all the times I had been in front of a camera. I thought about all the times I had been behind a camera. I wondered if my son might someday have the joys I experienced when I was a kid with my dad's Super 8 rig. None of the movies I made took five hours to make. I hope he has a chance to make his own five hour/fifteen minute movie. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Paying For It

 My first thought was a federal program that would supply guns to every family in America, paid for with tax dollar. Your tax dollars. I was wondering if the allure of the Second Amendment might take some of the hurt out of that whole tax thing. I make the large assumption here that for those who cherish their right to bear arms are also the ones who bristle the most at taxation, representation or not. 

It's a trial balloon. You know, the kind you float up to see if anyone will shoot at it. 

Because I believe it is this same group of people who are incensed by the suggestion that we add a few years of public education to the system we already have in place. "And who's gonna pay for that?" asks the public. 

Well, the public, seeing as how it's public education and all. 

And the way we tend to fund public programs is to collect taxes, based on income, to pay for all that wonderful stuff like schools and sewers and streets. And highways. The ones that inevitably you see those fun folks driving on while they talk into their phones generating social media proclaiming their fierce loyalty to their one nation under god and the principles which our founding fathers put forth in what is essentially the vessel for the Second Amendment, our Constitution. 

What if we said that we wanted to put down some more highways for the purpose of recording video rants, but the only way we could do that was by collecting taxes from our citizenry. And what if we felt that the people who had great big buckets of money anyway might want to toss a few extra coins in the bucket to make sure that we had streets and highways to take us all the places we wanted to go.

The freedom to go to all the places we want to go. That's almost as important as guns, right? Well, what if I suggested that education would play a vital part in getting you where you want to go? More education would mean more places to go. Makes sense, right?

Unless you were really afraid of socialist programs like public education. The kind that was first put forth by a senator from Massachusetts by the name of Horace Mann. He suggested that teachers should be trained. Professional. And that everyone should be afforded the opportunity to go to school. In America. Land of the free and home of the taxes. 

A few days ago, another senator, this one from Delaware who happened to have climbed the ladder just a little higher to the White House, suggested that public education in the United States should include universal preschool and two years of community college. 

That won't be cheap. But probably a lot less expensive than outfitting the population of the United States with AR-15s. 

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Comparing And Contrasting

 Comedian Joe Rogan attended the University of Massachusetts Boston. He has said that he found it "pointless," so he dropped out. 

Doctor Anthony Fauci attended the College of the Holy Cross, graduating in 1962 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in classics with a pre-med track. Fauci then attended medical school at Cornell University's Medical College where he graduated first in his class with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1966. He then completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

Comedian Joe Rogan has appeared in numerous television shows, most notably NewsRadio from 1995 to 1999 and the game show Fear Factor from 2001 to 2006. He has also appeared on stage as a standup comic since 1988. 

Doctor Fauci joined the National Institute of Health and the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases in 1968, became head of the LCI's Clinical Physiology Section in 1974, and in 1980 was appointed chief of the NIAID's Laboratory of Immunoregulation. In the early 2000s he was involved in creating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief  and in driving development of biodefense drugs and vaccines following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Comedian Joe Rogan has his own podcast, downloaded more than sixteen million times a month.

Doctor Anthony Fauci has served six presidents of the United States, starting with Ronald Reagan.

Comedian Joe Rogan was suggested by former president and gameshow host Donald Trump as a moderator for a debate between himself and Joe Biden. 

Comedian Joe Rogan recently said about COVID-19 vaccinations, “Are you healthy? Are you a healthy person? Like, look, don't do anything stupid, but you should take care of yourself. You should  if you're a healthy person, and you're exercising all the time, and you're young, and you’re eating well, like, I don't think you need to worry about this.” 

Doctor Anthony Facui replied, "You're talking about yourself in a vacuum. You're worried about yourself getting infected and the likelihood that you're not going to get any symptoms. But you can get infected, and will get infected, if you put yourself at risk.”

If you can't make up your mind about to whom you should be listening on matters of infectious diseases, take if from a guy who writes his own daily blog: Get vaccinated.