Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Loco Parentis

 Sometimes, when I get a spare minute here or there, my mind starts down a path of what might be considered antisocial behavior. Given a moment or two with little or nothing about which to think, I might consider some kind of low grade vandalism. This particular muse struck me a few days ago when I went past someone's front staircase that had glass slats for their railing. It did not take me long to pivot from the admiration of the design to "I wonder what a BB gun would do to that from a few yards away?"

But here's what you should know about these wicked thoughts of mine: They don't last long. They are chased out of my head almost immediately by all the practical considerations found in my cerebral cortex. "Okay, genius: how would you go about carrying out this petty crime? Are you going to come back later in the day, disguised? And whose BB gun are you going to use? I suppose you could come back late at night and carry out your nefarious scheme, but would you drive the car? Or would you walk up here, with the BB gun you don't have hidden under the trench coat you also don't own? If you drove you'd probably have to park a block to two away, and then run back to the car. That would be a pretty picture, wouldn't it? And as fond as you are of waking up in the middle of the night I'm sure you'll want to make a special trip up here just so you can scratch that malevolent little itch in your soul. Shame on you for even thinking such a thing."

So, that tiny bit of anarchic whimsy of my inner child was drowned out thoroughly by my inner parent. I might feel worse about this if I hadn't spent a good deal of my youth stealing the numbers off of busses and the occasional road sign. My parents, the ones who lived with me before the voices in my head took over, were aware of my faint brushes with the law, but since I was such a good boy in so many other ways, this little larceny was overlooked. 

For the most part. 

When I moved out to go to college, my father loaded all those bits and pieces of municipal property in the back of the family station wagon and, in the middle of the night, dropped it off in front of the county courthouse. 

He got away with it. I would imagine that this transaction helped activate those voices in my head. Walking the straight and narrow used to be my parents' responsibility. These days I am responsible for a couple hundred elementary schoolers. Making those good choices is what I am all about, 24/7. Still, it's probably a very good thing I don't have a BB gun. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Signs And Symbols

 Congressperson Barry Moore from Alabama would like to adopt the AR-15 as our "national gun." We have a national bird. We have a national tree. Why not a national gun? 

If you are currently nodding your head and saying, "Yeah! Why not?" Please stop reading now.

All clear? Good. 

We do not need a national gun for the same reason we don't need a national poisonous gas. We, the country that has all the guns, is not really in a position to choose. Once guns outnumbered human beings in these United States, we lost our perspective about which one is arguably "the best." 

Of course, this really isn't the point Barry is trying to make here. It's just a line in the mud that emphasizes his insistence: “One rule to remember: any government that would take away one right would take away them all.” That right he's talking about is, as usual, the right to bear arms. Not just a revolver or a shotgun to keep pests and predators away. A great big semi-automatic weapon created with the sole purpose of shredding human beings. Very little of our nation's proudest moments have come at the end of an AR-15. Uvalde, Atlanta, Las Vegas. And on and on and on. There is probably no coincidence between making this type of monument to death and the failed arguments for keeping statues of Confederate "heroes" around. Some people just want to watch the world burn. 

Over and over again.

Meanwhile, many of us on this side of the argument continue to butter our arguments in such a way as to not conflict with that most holy of holy, the Second Amendment. "We don't want to take your guns. We just want to put some common sense into the way we blunder about with them." We step into the ring looking for a solution that will make the nuts who insist that they need as many guns as they can afford because it is their right have some sort of point to make. Instead, I say we start saying what we really mean: "Yes, we would like your guns because people are getting killed with them. We want to put them away so that no one else gets hurt just so you can feel some sort of angry connection to the rich white slave owners who penned that antiquated piece of legislation."

Or maybe we should take the words from some other good ol' southern boys regarding guns: "You ain't good for nothin'/But puttin' men six feet in a hole." National gun? How about national disgrace? 

Sunday, February 26, 2023


 In Ohio, the only things substitute teachers are not supposed to do? Lunch duty and summer school. End of list. They are required to do lesson plans, testing, behavior management, report cards, IEP meetings, parent teacher conferences. If it feels like those lists may be transposed, I would agree with you. At my school, we are fortunate to have a parent volunteer to assist on lunch duty, and our staff is traditionally nowhere to be found when the list for summer school comes around. 

Each year, it seems, one class seems to be bit by the substitute bug at our school. Try as we might, getting and keeping an experienced teacher in that room somehow seems impossible. Personal and personnel issues collapse on themselves creating a perfect staffing storm. Students and parents complain that "nothing is being done," but we all know the challenge of getting a qualified teacher to take a classroom in urban Oakland. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the staff steps in as we can, supporting whoever it is at the front of the room, learning the names and figuring out how this thing called elementary education works. I know for a fact that we have seen enthusiasm and commitment broken before our eyes. Bright-eyed idealistic young men and women show up at our school with an eye toward being the next one to spend their career here. 

The problem, as it has been for decades, is a teacher shortage. That's how I found my way into a classroom. I enrolled in an intern credential program that allowed me to take a job in a school before I had any kind of "formal training." I truly was a "student teacher." I was being asked to teach reading and manage classrooms before we had gotten to that chapter. I was, as the saying goes, making it up as I went along. 

I can no longer count the number of colleagues I have worked with and through. I have been fortunate to have gained skills and wisdom as I have stuck around, but having that backstop of a master teacher who could step in and save me when I wandered away from the best, most effective strategies was sorely missed. I cannot imagine the experience that awaits those fresh-faced youngsters coming to us, or in Ohio, or anyplace else, with a bachelor's degree and the notion that teaching school might be a pretty cool gig while they are waiting for the next best thing. 

Whatever that might be. A job where three letter acronyms didn't fly around like debris in a hurricane. A job where the only nose you were asked to blow was your own. A job that was not in the education field. The curious thing is, there seems to be a lot of those hanging around these days. Not just in Ohio. Or California. 

Everywhere needs a teacher or two. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Keep It Civil

 You don't have to feel sorry for Marjorie Taylor Greene. Lots of people get divorced. Just under fifty percent of all marriages end that way. Back in December, Marge and her former husband dissolved their union after he had declared it had become "irretrievably broken." 


Again, you don't have to feel sorry for Marge, especially since she seems to find this solution applicable to all manner of things. This past week she declared "We need a national divorce. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrats' traitorous America Last politics, we are done." The fact that this "policy suggestion" was issued via her Twitter account suggests just how seriously we should probably take this, but since the folks over at Faux News picked it up and ran with it like it actually meant something, we might prepare ourselves for a few weeks of discussion about why this thing isn't really a thing and remind folks about a time that someone made a similar suggestion in our nation's history and how it didn't work out so well for all those involved. 

And it's not like Marge didn't think about it, or what amounts to thought in that big empty head. Back in 2021, she started kicking this notion around: “After Democrat voters and big donors ruin a state like California, you would think it wise to stop them from doing it to another great state like Florida. Brainwashed people that move from CA and NY really need a cooling off period.” So there's some consideration for just how this whole thing would work. She is probably busy concocting a plan in which travelers going from blue to red states would require special paperwork, to be presented at MAGA checkpoints and received by a special force of nimrods like Kyle Rittenhouse. 

Of course, I do wonder if she has considered what lopping off the economies of California and New York would do for the "flyover states." I am sure that the braintrust found in those locales like Florida will figure out how to replace Wall Street, for example. Just as soon as they figure out how to get all those naughty books out of their libraries. 

Meanwhile, we should all take a moment to reflect on the pain and suffering Marge has undergone during this stressful time. Divorce is never easy. Even when it's a divorce from reality. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

War Zone

 Joe Biden showed up in Ukraine on Presidents Day. It seemed fitting, since the presidents of both countries met to talk about things presidents do: governance, war, and the way you can't please everyone. 

Back home in the "United States," everyone's favorite marionette Marjorie Taylor Greene chose to commemorate the day by suggesting, "We need a national divorce. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrats' traitorous America Last politics, we are done."

If this weren't clear enough, she added,  “I can not express how much Americans hate Joe Biden.”

First of all, I don't know if Marge has checked the map lately, but the state she nominally "represents" shows up blue on most strategists' maps. 

You might wonder if, sitting in the middle of a war zone, the first sitting American President to do so outside the aegis of the US military wondered if the air raid sirens and shelling in the distance was a welcome change to the constant bickering back home. 

Republicans used the opportunity to insist that the right place for the President of the United States was in one of those states. In this case, they wanted him in East Palestine, Ohio where toxic chemicals continued to make things uninhabitable for humans and other wildlife. Never mind that Biden's trip to Ukraine was in the works for months, and the appearance of government officials at disaster sites tend to be media opportunities rather than actual attention and help, the MAGAts wanted the guy they don't believe is really the president to be there choking down the poison air and making a show of passing out rolls of paper towels. 

Or something like that. Never mind that the man who currently stands behind the emblem of this country's head of state was supporting an ally, trying to stem the tide of an invasion brought by what many consider "the bad guys." Never mind that back in Ohio, Republicans continue to make it easy for big corporations like Norfolk Southern rail to make big profits while operating on the wrong side of safety. Two weeks after the derailment in East Palestine, the CEO of Norfolk Southern Alan Shaw broke his silence: "I've made it clear--I am terribly sorry for what has happened to this community--we're going to be here today, we're going to be here tomorrow, we're going to be here a year from now, and we're going to be here five years from now."

A couple things there: First of all, Mister Shaw issued his apology many miles away from the devastation his company caused, and in the divorce Marge suggested Ohio is hers to clean up. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Half Life

 My wife asked a very pointed and pertinent question: "Did you ever get that Twinkie out of your mom's refrigerator?" Backing up a half step, the genesis for this inquiry stems from a bit by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. If, Bobcat posited, Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty years, when you took a bite out of a Twinkie that was twenty years and one day old, would you say, "Ewww. This Twinkie tastes funny?" At some point, I took it upon myself to put a Twinkie in my mother's refrigerator where I figured it would be safe for two decades. 

Then I moved to California where I couldn't keep an eye on it. When at last my mother moved out of our childhood home, my older brother did me the solid of transferring all that Hostess goodness to the new place, where I was able to check in on it from time to time when I was in Colorado visiting. And somewhere in there I lost track of the time. My mother's house is currently being sold, after her passing late last year. Which is why my wife was wondering. 

The funniest version of this story would be the one in which the new owners contacted one or all of us surviving family members to ask about the golden sponge cake with creamy filling wedged in the back of the otherwise spotless fridge. This did not happen. Somewhere in all these intervening years there was a moment of common sense that pushed the commitment to the bit to the side, allowing our grand experiment to conclude without a punch line. 

I thought of that Twinkie as my son and his friend pulled out of our driveway with his first car on the back of a trailer. Hobbes, named for Calvin's tiger, was back on the road after a stay of more than two years in front of our garage. During that time, our son had dalliances with a number of different vehicles, but he was adamant about his commitment to one day return and take his beloved Supra back with him to his newly established bachelor digs. 

During the time that Hobbes sat dormant in the driveway, there were multiple attempts to get it moving on its own, if only long enough to get it someplace where it could be worked on in peace. All the while, the entrance to the garage and the sidewalk that runs between the house and the driveway were made slightly less passable by a factor of one car. Inside the garage all the attendant spare parts, wheels and interior and hoses and electrical bits, were stacked loosely in piles waiting to be freed. 

This past weekend, the truck came for the Twinkie. The relief I felt was mixed with a twinge of regret. I will miss having to scoot around Hobbes. Hobbes is part of the family, after all. Just don't ask me what the shelf life for a Toyota Supra is. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Appointment With Destiney

I don't like going to the doctor. I tend to equate the experience with bad news. Both of my parents went to doctors shortly before they died. Coincidence? I think not.

Or maybe I should stick with the wisdom espoused by the late Warren Zevon who, shortly before he became the late Warren Zevon, suggested that perhaps a few more regular trips to the doctor might have kept him from experiencing the cancers quite as completely as he ended up doing. 

Or perhaps I should stop looking for chicken and egg correlations in this matter and see the occasional doctor's office visit as a mildly affirming or corrective. This past week I made one of my less-than-frequent stops to our family doctor. I had not been to see her since COVID began. And my mom died. And all sorts of other life changes. I was tensed for whatever might come my way. 

My wife has a much more regular and, if I may, healthy relationship with our doctor. They talk about me when they meet, I mean besides all the other potential subjects that could come up between them, specifically my wife's health. But I expect that I will be tattled on for one thing or another if I don't show up, so I got myself an appointment and headed on in.

The first non-surprise was my blood pressure. I have always skewed to the higher end of "healthy" and my initial reading was higher than that. High enough to inspire a suggestion: How about medication to bring those numbers down a bit? 

I take a few medications. And a handful of vitamins. One more pill? What's the difference? Well, the surrender to the certain age at which I find myself. The age in which I find that having high blood pressure could be more of a problem than when I was a  mere slip of a lad. When I was in my forties, I used to get a stern look and a reminder not to eat so many salty foods. The salty foods have already been diminished or eliminated, and now I was left with the option of giving up one more thing, or trying this one little pill. 

It felt a little like surrendering, but I asked my doctor on the way out if there was any good news. She told me she thought I was pretty healthy overall, and that I was doing a good job staying active and finding ways to stay that way. Suddenly the sting of that little pill diminished.

A bit. 

So now I'm sixty and taking medicine to get to seventy. Or eighty. Next year I will be in the running to outlive my father. I'll keep taking my medicine and stay away from small planes. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023


 With my son, it was and to some degree continues to be giant transforming robots. During this year's Super Bowl, the one thing that made him sit up and take notice was the preview for the leventy-seventh entry into the Transformers saga. To his everlasting credit, he is consistent. He also went straight out to the movie theater to see Pacific Rim and its sequel. An enormous version of Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots is his idea of a way to spend an afternoon at the cinema. 

He knows what he knows, and that's a good thing. 

For me it was super-intelligent apes. I truly appreciated the way that producer Arthur P. Jacobs was able to make a loop out of Planet of the Apes franchise. If you were to sit down in your living room with a boxed set of the original five installments, from Planet to Beneath to Escape to Conquest to Battle, you would eventually find yourself back on the path to start the whole shebang over again. A friend of mine and I did just that a few years back, spending the better portion of a day immersing ourselves in all things Ape. We even managed to squeeze in an episode of the TV series. It was a magical time. It brought back a youth spent mining all the lore that existed in the void between films. There was plenty of time to imagine how things might have spun out in the years that young Milo lived in the circus with kindly Armando. Or the events that ran up to the moment when the humans decided to blow one another up and the ever-evolving apes retreated to their safe havens, waiting for the radiation scarred mutants to crawl out of their self-imposed rubble to seek revenge for we can't be sure what reasons on the ape's society. 

Sometimes it's best not to ask questions. Like why Adam Driver would want to take his daughter back to dinosaur days, unless he really didn't like her in which case it makes a ton of sense. Once movie makers decided that they weren't going to get away with putting humans and dinosaurs into the same movie without a pretty darn good reason because, you know, science, screenwriters have been working overtime to merge these time streams. And special effects artists have been hard-charging right behind them trying to figure out ways to make it all look like it was supposed to happen. 

I have even gone so far as to line up at my local movie palace to see the rebootage of the Planet of the Apes. You know the ones that have all the computer-generated chimps and orangutans and gorillas pasted over actors who have to emote through a layer of pixels instead of the latex they used to wrestle with back in the day. I figure it's only a matter of time before someone gets the clever idea to merge Transformers with Planet of the Apes for some out of this world CGI romp. 

And when this happens, know two things: First of all, it was my idea first, and secondly that my son and I will be standing in line to buy out tickets. 

Monday, February 20, 2023

Used To Be

 I spend way too much time on this blog pining for those who have recently passed on. Today's entry attempts to shake that up a bit by bringing a tribute to someone who is still with us. But not as much as he used to be. 

Bruce Willis was recently diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The reason for my qualifier up there in the first paragraph is because in many ways the Bruce we knew, the Bruce that I grew up with, is gone. But I have memories. 

These go back to a time when a wisecracking detective had his agency nearly sold out from under him by the owner, a supermodel who had been cleaned out by her manager of everything except this one asset. Moonlighting was, for me, appointment television. In the days before DVRs and in a time when it was easier to sit down and watch commercials for an hour than to program your Panasonic VCR, I was watching every episode. Bruce Willis starred as David Addison, the wisecracker mentioned previously, looking for every angle to keep his business open as well as find a way to woo his boss Maddie Hayes, played by Cybill Shepherd. Will they? Won't they? And how about the mysteries that each episode nominally revolved around? I couldn't tell you about those. I was there for the workplace interactions and the whip smart dialogue. To this day I quote Mister Willis/Addison: "Vacation never ends, it just changes location!"

Which is why most of the planet reacted poorly to the suggestion that this same wisecracking detective, he of the poorly received solo album, Return of Bruno, and it's follow-up. If It Don't Kill You It Just Makes You Stronger, was slated to appear in an action movie. Die Hard. As the legend has it, turned out to be a smash hit and Bruce Willis became an action hero on a par with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. A big enough action star that he no longer needed to pad his resume with ill-advised dips into Motown's vaults for a third album. 

Since then, Bruce ahs been all over the map in his career, from his quiet turn in The Sixth Sense to the hero out of time in Twelve Monkeys. He was in Pulp Fiction. He even got himself a guest shot on Friends

Some of us wondered when the Die Hard train was going to end. Sadly, that decision was essentially taken out of Bruce's hands. But I will always have those Tuesday nights to remember, and the way he used to be. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023


 Raquel Welch. That name alone brings to mind things like fur bikinis and white wet suits. I understand that this is not very woke of me, but when I became aware of Ms. Welch, she woke something in me. As I watched One Million Years B.C., I probably should have been paying attention to the dinosaurs who had no business interacting with all of those humans walking erect with tools and such. Instead, I was made fitfully aware of my own animal nature, at the age of six or seven. Then there was the showing not long after that of Fantastic Voyage, where I was being asked to consider the possibility of humans being reduced to microscopic size to be turned loose in their fancy innerspace submarine to float around inside some very important individual whom they trusted to be cured by this experiment. I wasn't thinking about anything but the rubber suit Ms. Welch was wearing as she ventured outside the ship only to be attacked by white blood cells. 

Impure thoughts. That's what they were. 

But the one that sticks with me all these years later was a film she did shortly after those, but I did not see until I was in college: Bedazzled. She played one of the seven deadly sins. I'll give you a hint: It wasn't sloth. It was this role that cemented, in my mind, all the terrible, awful, glorious imaginings I might have about the objectification of women. This one particular woman. 

Sure, you could have your Ginger Grant or your Jennifer Marlowe, but when you wanted bombshell in the sixties and seventies, you went with Raquel Welch. Which of course isn't very woke at all, but we were all pretty sure that all those demonstrations of powerful womanhood were part of this newfangled Women's Lib movement. By the time the eighties rolled around, her career had slowed down to a more leisurely pace. She showed up in an episode of Mork and Mindy in 1978, and then she was pretty much gone.

But not forgotten. 

Which is why I can quietly mourn her passing this past week at the age of eighty-two. She lit a fire in me way back when, and while I don't think I would describe her performances as those of a master thespian, she was memorable. For all the reasons I have embarrassingly enumerated above. She did stomp on the Terra, for millions of years. She will be missed.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Extra, Extra

 Waking up to the news is sometimes a little too much for our collective systems. Myself, I usually take a peek at the headlines just before dawn, as I am downing my orange juice and vitamins, preparing to take on whatever comes my way. A lot of things can happen overnight. 

If, for example, there has been some sort of retaliatory strike by Macy's balloons in response to the recent trigger happy response to floating things floating in the air, I want to know about it. This might entail some sort of life-saving duck and covering. Or if local wind turbines had suddenly gone rogue and began to creep across the landscape on newly evolved limbs, hacking everything in their paths into ribbons, I would want to know. 

Generally speaking, however, the morning news is typically a rehash of the headlines I looked at shortly before heading off to bed the night before. Sometimes there are updates. Body counts are revised. Positions are clarified. Election results are confirmed. Over the course of four time zones, we can rest quietly assured that things in the United States will remain more or less status quo while we sleep, with the exception of a few dumpster fires that get set overnight and are waiting for the dawn's early light to be extinguished. These exceptions are what fuels the twenty-four hour news cycle. 

That and the rest of the planet. Natural disasters and political upheaval in foreign lands are the sorts of things that can make mornings more interesting. Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, for example. I want to consider myself a citizen of the world, but I confess that my concerns radiate out from my current location, with concern for those things closest to me getting my most immediate attention. The cat threw up, for example, is the kind of headline that will get my eyes open. Sometimes against my will. Local traffic is generally not a concern for me on my two mile bike ride to school on side streets. It really isn't until I sit down and fully face the day, once the sun has peeked over the horizon. 

That's when things start to hit the wire from New York. And Washington. And before you know it, another day's news is being spilled all over the front pages and buzzing in on your phone's notifications. I try not to look on some days. I take a conscious vacation from the blur of what's happening and focus on what happened yesterday. Or last month. Or when things were less ridiculous. We'll have to get into the WayBack Machine for that. 

So I am considering construction of a Morning News Trough, one that doesn't tax my emotions or psyche. I would love to know what's happening in ways that will make me feel like continuing with my day instead of pulling the covers over my head and wishing that today had not begun. 

Ah, but it has. And so we go boldly into the fray once again, hoping to read the headlines without finding our names in them. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

What's The Point?

 Yes, what exactly is the point of repeating the same tired news? Gunman aged x killed y victims and wounded z in location b. The resulting equation always turns out the same = nothing. We are still waiting for the news that says that the number of mass murders taking place in our schools, churches, movie theaters and garlic festivals is zero. Raising the obvious question to me: Why would China or extraterrestrial life choose to gather information on a civilization that seems so very effective at killing itself? Just sit tight and wait us out. We'll most certainly do the job for you. 

In this space I am once again on that tired soapbox decrying the senseless waste of life caused by what we refer to as "a lone gunman." This one was on the campus of Michigan State University.  The variables in this case are a forty-three year old shooter, three dead and five more wounded. As has become tradition in these scenarios, authorities are searching for a motive. 

Let me back up here, for just a moment, and suggest that the term "lone gunman" is fallacious. If this guy were shot dead by police or captured or shot his own broken head off, another three would spring up to take his place. Hydra's teeth. 

If you're tired of reading about this, I can only begin to relate to you how incredibly tired I am of writing about it. The gunman in this version of the story was confronted by police five miles away from the scene. He killed himself, ending the need for a trial and creating a vacuum for the discussion of his motivation.

Here's a familiar twist on an old tale: According to the Michigan Corrections Department the shooter was on probation for eighteen months until May 2021 for possessing a loaded, concealed gun without a permit. 

Until May 2021. It's 2023. Acquiring a gun permit in the state of Michigan requires that you pass a simple True/False test. Then they run a background check on you. One might assume that if you had passed through your probation period that was imposed prior to the application process that you have rung some sort of magic bell that makes it okay to buy a gun. 

And then use it to kill other human beings. 

While we're on the subject of gun laws, I would like to put forth that the most important gun law that should be on everyone's mind is the one that states, Thou Shalt Not Kill. Using this as a starting point, we might expand that to something more like a physics problem, wherein a gun tends to kill unless acted upon by an outside force. Take the gun out of that equation and the rest doesn't really seem to matter. 

Is anyone out there still listening? 

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Watch The Skies

I find it difficult not to compare the way our world is spinning currently to the first act of a Michael Bay movie. About how many minutes away from discovering that all these airborne curiosities are giant robots from Cybertron?

And don't we know that our alien overlords have only been probing us, if you'll pardon the allusion, attempting to discover the limits of our defenses?

Of course the number of unidentified flying objects dispatched before the downing of the giant Chinese spy balloon might frighten us to know, but now that we have begun to shift our collective gaze to the heavens, we will probably start seeing spaceships on a weekly if not daily basis. 

Now there is a version of this story in which those oddly shaped, high-flying objects were put there by our own military. On command from a President who was looking to score points for his tough new extraterrestrial immigration plan, they are being blown up by a group of generals who have grown restless and trigger happy. It's a win-win. 

It does raise the age-old question of exactly what a UFO is. The Unidentified part is the point of debate. The fact that we as a nation are now given unprecedented access to information about what is happening where, no one is safe. Try as we might, our phones and remote cameras give us away in spite of our concerns for privacy. "They" are watching. 

Which brings me back around to Michael Bay, who was not responsible for the shenanigans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his spirit certainly runs rampant through it. Those giant aircraft carriers in the sky? Those were instruments of the US government intelligence community, eventually commandeered by the double agents inside that organization and turned on our own people. 

It took a couple more movies for the aliens to arrive. 

The question for all of us to ponder is where we are in this cycle. Are we still in the corrupt governments phase, or have we pushed on through to the point where Michael Rennie will soon arrive with his indestructible Gort to settle our hash, once and for all. "It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you."

That last bit? Personal responsibility? That's going to be the tough part. It's so much easier blaming the Democrats. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Before It's Too Late

 A couple weeks ago, a fourteen year old New Jersey girl was found dead in her home. She took her own life just a few days after a video of her being attacked by a pack of girls from her high school was posted online. Not content to merely hit her in the head with a twenty ounce bottle, knock her to the ground where she was hit and kicked, the ugly event was recorded and played endlessly for the jackals who were pleased and happy to share their antics. 

In the wake of the victim's suicide, four girls have been arrested and charged with the attack. It should be noted that video concludes with adults intervening and separating the beasts from their prey. The day of the attack, the girls were suspended from school. The arrests came too late.

Too late for a lot of reasons. If police had been called right after the attack, the video might not have been posted. The exponential growth of humiliation occurred thanks to social media. And now the world wants to know why the school didn't do more.

I can tell you what I believe. I am a veteran educator, and though I have spent my career a few doors down from the middle schoolers and high schoolers who we hear about far too often these days, I can tag off on the fierce undercurrent of rage and violence that exists just below the surface of far too many of our kids' lives. Just the other day I had to step in when two second grade girls were locked in a struggle, each with a hand on the other's hair leaving the other hand free to swing wildly. Once they had been separated, I sat them down to try and figure out how this ferocious fracas began. As it turned out, it was because one of them had found a fake fingernail on the ground, and the other insisted that she give it back to a third girl to whom it had been intended. They were pummeling one another over a piece of acrylic that was no longer useful for its intended purpose. 

And though it took several minutes for the pair to calm down enough to discuss next steps, neither of them felt that what they had done warranted further discipline. The storm had passed and they were ready for lunch. What I felt was a lingering sense of shock, seeing these two eight year olds tearing into one another. Their classmates did not turn into the cheering mob that accompanies melees in fourth and fifth grade, but they didn't seem to be as shaken as I was. I knew that neither of these second grade girls was going to be suspended for their actions. Instead, their parents would be called and consequences would be doled out at school, where we have some control over their measure. 

I know that the older they get, the more difficult it will become to teach them empathy, which is what we hope to be able to do. Before they get to middle school. Before they get to high school. Before it's too late. Before their fights are posted on the Internet. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Saint Valentine

 A poet once said,

It's hard to be a saint in the city

That wasn't me

It was someone else

I would guess 

this is even more true

If you want to be

Saint Valentine

Keeping track of

all those random hearts

the buckets of flowers

and boxes of chocolate

It's not the saint's job

to make connections

It's the saint's job 

to promote them

Like it was a good idea

Like giving your heart away

was a good idea

It could be

But only if

You get one


Monday, February 13, 2023

Good Neighbors

 I came home yesterday to find the owner of the apartment house next door to us in our back yard. The good news is that we know one another and are friendly enough to limit the questions to "what're you working on?" The answer, as it turned out, was pretty obvious: A large section of the fence that has stood between our two properties for the better part of three decades was lying in pieces on the ground near his feet. Some of it on our side, some of it on his. 

After a brief look at what he was working on, I went to our garage and grabbed my stock and trade: the cordless drill and a box of screws. 

Happily, as I began to pick up slats and try to piece them back into some sort of vertical assemblage, I noticed that the posts had been pushed back to more or less upright by a number of means, including a brace that tied one to a tree on his side. The goal for us at this point was to make as much of a barrier as possible with the remaining bits of wood. The chunks of dry rot were tossed aside and some clever adjustments were made with the not-so-rotted pieces. 

As we worked, conversation was limited. Mostly we talked about the task that stood in front of us. Not just the repair in which we were currently engaged, but also the eventual reclamation of the entire run. A few years back, my son and I had taken on the front half, replacing the fence that stood at the north end of our front yard. At that time, it was our labor, and the cost of materials was covered in part by our neighbor. At that time, it was done in just a couple days because we had a dog that who needed a line not to cross. Caution tape where the fence once was turned out to be an ineffective reminder for her. 

Now we were a home for an indoor cat. An indoor cat who has made a great show on the occasions which he has chosen to dart outside to reclaim his kingdom makes short work of the back fence, leaping from the ground to the top rail, then over. I thought about this as I continued to screw slats into the empty spaces, a little bit of fence orthodontia. 

Eventually, we had recreated a semblance of the former "fence," and we agreed that once spring had arrived and the days grew longer, we would meet back in that corner of our shared world for a discussion about what we knew would be another few days of home improvement. I figured I would be seeing him again, from time to time when he showed up to drag his building's trash bins back from the curb, about the same time I arrived home from school. Just in time to drag my trash bins back from the curb. We would chat, as we have for all these years about sports and the weather and the fence. The one between us. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Dynamic

 You know Bruce Springsteen. He of the cars and girls and workingman's plight? I have, on so very many occasions held up his words and actions as something for which we can all reach. "Nobody wins unless we all win," is a quote that has served me well for decades now. 

Well, Bruce Springsteen could be declared a winner by certain measures. His current net worth exceeds seven hundred million dollars. Not enough to buy Twitter, but certainly enough to keep him in denim and boots for a good long while. "The Boss," as he has been labeled by his bandmates for his attention to the business of the group, has long ago passed the level at which he was collecting money and paying for a good night of rockin'. He has people now. People who take care of him and the fortune he has amassed. 

It would be easy enough then to point fingers at those people for the acceptance of "dynamic pricing" for tickets to see Bruce and the E Street Band. Those people who have allowed ticket prices to leap to the somewhat ridiculous strata of five thousand dollars a seat. 

Five thousand dollars? Mister Springsteen has been asked to defend this, to which he replied, “I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there's any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.”

Uh, yeah, Mister Springsteen? Yes. Me in the back here with the tour shirt from 1985. What if you don't necessarily have the money to pay in order to be involved in that guarantee? Every time you hit the road, since 1981, I have rattled my piggy bank and cut back on whatever items I might need to save on in order to come up with the price of a ticket to your shows. 

Every time. 

When I got married I bought two. When our son was old enough, I bought three. And yes, I can say that those experiences were not anything I would trade. I'm happy to have paid the price.

Five thousand dollars? Apiece?

Sorry. I'm a fan. Not the biggest, but I do know all the words and I buy the shirts and I sing along. And I have defended you in the past. I am also a school teacher. I don't take home each month what it would cost for me to take a date to a show like that. I confess that I had, once upon a time, a flinch point of seventy-five dollars a ticket. 

So please don't take my word for the distress. Instead, hear this: “Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result,” This was the response that came from the fervent and loyal fans, the editors of the fanzine Backstreets, which has decided to stop their presses as they have come to "the end of an era." This is the Boss's fan club speaking. 

Currently, there are no California dates scheduled for this tour which makes it a little easier for me to take a stand alongside the folks at Backstreets. I will not say that I will never go to another Bruce Springsteen concert, but rather that I will only attend those shows which are affordable. For me. Not for "The Boss."

Saturday, February 11, 2023

You Know - For Kids

 Anyone who watched the State of the Union address, as I did, probably felt as if they needed to check the rules. To get the nitty gritty on the whys and wherefores, I went to a  called "State of the Union For Kids." Here is the introduction I found there: "The State of the Union Message is a message from the President to Congress, usually given once a year in January or February.   In the message, the President talks about important issues facing Americans and offers his ideas on solving the nation's problems, including suggestions for new laws and policies."

Sounds pretty lame, if not pretty relaxed viewing. 

Not this past Tuesday. 

Fourteen years ago, a trend began with South Carolina's Representative Joe Wilson, who yelled "You lie!" during then President Barack Obama's State of the Union. At that time, this was considered outrageous and shocking. Then things got worse. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House in 2020, sent a message to the "president" and former gameshow host she tried to impeach twice by tearing the text of his speech in half. Then quarters, and so on until only tatters remained. I suppose, to her credit, she didn't do it page by page while he was speaking. 

That kind of behavior would have been right in line with the boorish cat-calling that took place during Joe Biden's second State of the Union address. Hoots and hollers and boos rained down from the Peanut Gallery (Congress) while the President talked about key issues facing Americans and offered his ideas on solving the nation's problems, including suggestions for new laws and policies. Many of these went over like a Chinese weather balloon. 

Instead of the patient waiting for applause lines and choreographed standing ovations, we were witness to the death of civility in our nation's government. It might be easy to point fingers at Republicans who hissed and called out, but the whole affair seemed to be geared toward fracas, not unification. While I suppose I can take mild satisfaction that the President didn't back down from a fight, I find it sad and embarrassing that this is the window we are opening up to the world. "Hey folks! Welcome to the Dysfunctional States of America. Pull up a seat and watch the fur fly. Don't expect that much will come out of these chambers over the next few years while we attempt to achieve more of a professional wrestling vibe here in these hallowed halls." 

State of the Union for kids? I would expect better behavior from ten year olds. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Watching The Dream

 In 1970, the Mississippi Commission for Educational Television met to discuss the future. A future that would include enormous saffron birds and furiously animated short films about counting to twelve. The Children's Television Workshop was beginning to push the boundaries of the previously only seen on Saturday morning cartoon festivals wedged in between commercials for Cocoa Puffs. The notion that television for children could be programmed for any other reason than to get those children to beg their parents for whatever was being force fed them through the tube was threatening in so many ways. 

Perhaps most notably, this "public television" was being generated out of that liberal fortress known as New York City, and what was coming out was, for many, disturbing. 

Not Ernie sitting in his bathtub singing to his rubber duck. It wasn't even the relationship between Ernie and the pigeon fancier Bert. It wasn't the puppets. It was the kids. 

In 1970, it was a shocking vision to see children of all colors playing and learning together. The commission, appointed by segregationist governor John Bell Williams, stated that Mississippi was "not yet ready" for Sesame Street. "The state has enough problems to face up to without adding to them," an anonymous member of the commission said at the time. 

And public television was doing all of this without commercials. 

Unless you count advocating for early childhood education and the integration of neighborhoods where black, brown and white kids would learn and play with green grouches and blue cookie-addicted monsters. And not once did that cookie monster look up and recommend to viewers that he preferred Chips Ahoy. In fact, for all the big talk, he was as comfortable ingesting capital letters as he was baked goods. 

Mostly it was the kids. Sesame Street had already begun its creep out of those liberal bastions into the flyover states, and it would only be a matter of time even without Al Gore's Internet that this anarchic vision of the future would become commonplace. But there was still resistance. In Shreveport, the local PBS station dropped the show because they "didn't have enough money" to keep it on the air. 

It wasn't the puppets. It was the people. Gordon and Susan and Bob and Mister Hooper and all those kids. All those kids of many colors. All that stuff that Mississippi wasn't ready for in 1970. 

Are they ready for it now?

Thursday, February 09, 2023

That's Why They Call It Work

 Everybody eventually hates their job. It's just a matter of course. My son, who spent two years in our basement after he graduated from college applying for jobs that never came, is now gainfully employed. And while he is quite happy to be able to have his own place and qualify for a loan to buy a car, he suffers from those first few minutes of each day that say "you gotta go to work." 

I know how he feels. As much as I look forward to having a chance each day to expand young minds and support my community, it's still a chore. A commitment. A not laying in bed kind of thing. Then there's the part where they can't pay me enough for all the work that I do. This comes with the territory. The territory described by the "job" that I am currently doing. 

Imagine then the plight of the Taliban fighters who, after decades of fighting their fight against whatever occupying forces happened to be setting up camp that month, have moved back to the city. They have put down their machine guns and rocket launchers and returned to "the work force." If that image seems just a hair comical, A one-time freedom fighter complained, “We had a great degree of freedom about where to go, where to stay, and whether to participate in the war. These days, you have to go to the office before eight am and stay there till four pm. If you don’t go, you’re considered absent, and the money for that day is cut from your salary." Omar the Insurgent now has to worry about rent and traffic and pine for the jihad. 

Omar isn't the only one who suffers from transitioning from the shifting fortunes of the job market. “Becoming a member of Congress has made my life miserable. I made a lot more money before I got here. I’ve lost money since I’ve gotten here.” These were the words used by Marjorie Taylor Greene, the brain trust of the House delegation from Georgia. For the record, her salary is one hundred seventy-four thousand dollars a year. This does not include the fees she charges for showing up in various neo-conservative talk shows, podcasts and TV shows to spout her ill-conceived notions. Before she took this step back on the responsibilities of being a United States Congressperson, Marge was large and in charge. She was using her Bachelor's degree in Business Administration as vice-president of the general contracting firm her father left to her and her husband. And she had a job as CFO with Taylor Commercial which she left after doing little or nothing. Then she turned her passion for fitness into a new business called, creatively, CrossFit Passion. 

We can only assume that her previous positions as CFO and vice-president of a construction firm didn't allow enough time to spend culling the dark corners of Al Gore's Internet for wacky conspiracy theories and working on her glutes. Her lamentations continued: “We don’t get to go home and spend more time with our families, our friends … or maybe just be regular people because this job is so demanding. It’s turned into practically year-round. For those of us in the House of Representatives, we have to run for Congress every two years. So you’re practically campaigning nearly the entire time that you’re here serving as a representative.”

I will say that it seems unlikely that the press would be likely to pick up a story about a disgruntled franchise owner of a CrossFit gym. So she's got that going for her. Maybe she could try a job at an office in Kabul. It might mean more access to automatic weapons. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Hot Air

 I have written here on occasion about the daring exploits of those master thieves who pick elementary schools as their target. Not a lot of risk for not a very big reward. Break a window or two and get away with a couple of electric pencil sharpeners and a mostly inflated basketball. Then evade the lackluster response from the local gendarmes and you've got something that you can try to live down for the rest of your career as a criminal. 

I am wondering if the pilots involved in the pursuit and elimination of the Chinese Balloon feel any of that same sort of mild embarrassment. To be fair, these folks from the ground crew and support team to the fighter jocks in the cockpits were acting under presidential orders, so they have that to put on their collective mantel. Which is nice. 

But running two F-22 Raptors as well as support from a number of F-15 Eagles along with a number of inflight refueling tankers and the presence of the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the USS Carter Hall, an amphibious landing ship ensured success at all levels. The threat identified as Chinese in origin was eliminated. This was the first combat "kill" for an American F-22 in combat. One Sidewinder missile was all it took to win the day. 

That Sidewinder missile cost $381,069.74. Retail. Plus tax and license. 

Again, on the plus side it gave the folks at NORAD something to do while they wait for their next opportunity to track Santa's Sleight. 

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other threats out there, but Marjorie Taylor Greene took it on herself and a great many other gun-toting imbeciles to make the balloon target number one, setting aside Jewish Space Lasers and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as her primary bulls-eye. "Why doesn't President Biden shoot the balloon down?" Her potential running mate Donald Trump "never would have tolerated this," she insisted. 

Except he did. Three times, according to reports. Which ultimately may make more sense than spending the millions of dollars an exercise like this cost the nation's taxpayers. I suppose you have to legitimize a defense budget of just under eight billion dollars a year somehow, but it is unfortunate that it seems as though Joe Biden was goaded into taking an F-22 to a balloon fight. 

I hope we can all sleep better knowing that those nasty balloons won't be back soon. Just try not to think about the global satellite network that China maintains. We got that balloon. That's what matters. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

That 70's Show

 Sometimes I sit down on the couch with my wife only to discover that the movie that is playing on our television is one she has never seen before. On this particular evening, that movie was Conrack, the autobiographical tale of Pat Conroy's experience as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. Made in 1974, it tells the story of an idealistic young man who takes a group of black kids who have only known their own tiny corner of the world and opens their eyes to everything from baseball to Beethoven. I saw it a long time ago myself, but I was happy to give my wife this little gift of the seventies. 

I couldn't stick around and watch. As much as I enjoyed it way back when, and as much as I could find resonance in that fifty year old story in my own life, I could not stay. 

It was Jon Voight. I could not separate the man on the screen from the man he would become all these years later. The man whose heart bled as profusely as any for liberal causes like ending the war in Vietnam and worked to register voters in the inner cities as he campaigned for George McGovern has become one of the leading celebrity voices for that former game show host and twice-impeached "president." The man who won an Academy Award for his sensitive portrayal of a disabled Vietnam veteran is now a regurgitator of election fraud conspiracy and insisted that the siege of the Capitol in January 2021 was "The battle of righteousness versus Satan - yes, Satan."

I know that there are thousands upon thousands of stories about perfectly normal human beings who somehow sniffed around the Faux News tree long enough that they set up camp there and decided to stay. Finding a way out of this nonsense vortex has caused many a family dinner to turn into an episode of All In The Family. But I never would have imagined that the once and future Midnight Cowboy would eventually be recast as the Archie Bunker end of that argument. 

 Back when Jon Voight wore his heart on his sleeve and wanted to change the world, not just for a group of black kids in a two-room schoolhouse, but across this great land of ours. This onetime staunch Democrat spouted this on Faux News in 2013: "Five years ago I said Obama would take the country apart piece by piece, he would cause a civil war in this country. In hindsight we can see how many things have come to pass."

Eventually I found my way back into the living room and watched the end of Conrack. I watched that idealistic young man float away from the island that had been his home to the strains of Beethoven's Fifth. And then I remembered: Jon Voight is an actor. 

Monday, February 06, 2023

Needs Assessment

 I am stuck with this vision of Spider Man flitting all over Manhattan in search of people and cats to save. Like it was his job. because ultimately it is. Which has to wear on him sometimes. I know: That whole Uncle Ben's dying guilt trip about great power and great responsibility, but come on. Santa Claus gets three hundred and sixty-four days off a year and we treat him like a saint. 

Tina Turner may have said it best when she sang "We don't need another hero." At the time, she was referencing Max, who was still a little bit Mad after dealing with all that road rage. Tina may have been suggesting that what we really needed was to be heroes ourselves. 

What if, when Superman came streaking down from the sky, the neighborhood had pulled together and put sand bags out to keep floodwaters from ravaging the town? "Thanks Supes. We got it. You can head on back to the Fortress of Solitude. Better yet, why not go see what that girl reporter is up to?"

When heroes exist, it's hard to imagine life without them. What's more, it seems to drive the expectation that whatever the calamity that comes there will be a costumed avenger or two around to keep it from happening. Like the way New York City was saved from an alien invasion by a team of super-powered individuals who came together to stave off the attack. 

Except the aliens wouldn't be there trying to wreak all that havoc if Mister Captain America hadn't forced the issue with that blue cube in the first place. Again, we might forgive Cap for his oversized sense of duty, since he tends to show up as pretty oversized in most ways. All those other dogfaces in Europe fighting against the Axis were doing a similar job without the aid of a shield and super-soldier serum. Were they any less super? 

My wife and I talked a little about this the other morning, and we were wondering if there wasn't a better supper hero out there: De-Escalator, able to calm down every situation before it becomes a conflict. How about Community Organizer, who harnesses the powers around him to create a larger force that only seeks to defend, protect and nurture their own neighborhoods in positive ways. Maybe Mind Your Own Business Gal, ready to leap in and remind us that sometimes it's better to let things run its course. 

There are so many opportunities to save the world, but I believe that maybe we could start by trying to do the job ourselves. 

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Early Returns

 I do not have the opportunity to vote for DEVO this year. Try as I might, I was not able to singlehandedly drag the Spudboys from Akron over the finish line to the Promised Land of Cleveland. I am reasonably certain that the egos of these Beautiful Mutants were only vaguely affected by being passed over once again for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group that David Letterman once referred to as "The Fisher-Price of rock and roll" will sit this election cycle out while I cast my votes for nearly forgotten luminaries like Warren Zevon and Kate Bush. 

Such is the nature of online voting. I could attempt some sort of write-in frenzy to see if I could generate a groundswell of popular opinion, but I am imagining that there are still plenty of enraged and bitter fans of other artists who have been left off the list one too many times. Still, even though it took what could scientifically be observed as forever, Rush managed to find their way into the Hall. KISS made it. Dolly Parton? 

I have learned that it is probably best not to apply strict logic when it comes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Each year as I type my misgivings about those who deserve the recognition and the criteria by which this band or that artist is elevated to those lofty heights, I begin to see other infuriated writers scribbling their issues about who was "snubbed" and who was "overlooked." 

And as a matter of course I am drawn back to my own world, in which I have to console boys and girls ever Friday: There can only be one student of the week from each class. There will be another chance next week. Start preparing yourself for your next chance to impress. No more tears. 

And yet, somehow I can't hide the feeling I have about George Michael being elevated more abruptly than New Wave pioneers like DEVO. It's not like I am expecting The Suburban Lawns to get their plaque ahead of Mister Michael. I am that clever. Or at least I have surrendered to the business end of the music business. But only to the degree that I feel the need to cite the influence of that first album, produced by Brian Eno and championed by none other than David Bowie. Both of these men have already been ensconced in those hallowed halls, why not their progeny? 

Well, there I go again trying to make a math problem out of it, when the reality is that the whole enterprise is a bit of a sham designed to keep us fans fanaticized. I allow myself to be swept up in the moment, and I forget that what really matters is the music. So you'll excuse me now while I go and drown my sorrows in a little bit of Duty Now For The Future. 

Saturday, February 04, 2023


 I cannot lie. I do not understand cryptocurrency. I have tried to wrap my head around it. I have had my son walk me through it. He once made a couple hundred dollars in an exchange that I still can't comprehend. 

Which is fine, because it lives in a world that I do not enter often, if I enter it at all. I have retirement accounts. Periodically I have people who ask me if they could manage them. Then they ask me what I would like to do. Which is just a little disingenuous from my point of view, since I figured they would be managing this mystery fund that sits out there, just over the horizon with all sorts of restrictions and qualifications that require me to have someone managing this sadly small wad of cash in the first place. Manage it, I say. Make it into a slightly larger small wad of cash, please. And please don't let any of these transactions harm a polar bear or hasten the end of life as we know it on this planet. 

Sounds simple enough. Which is why the allure of pretend currency seems so attractive to those people who spent the end of the last century doing something called "day trading" from the comfort of their basement office/bunker. Making money with a few clicks of the mouse and then waiting for the precise second when an additional click would catapult you forward into vast riches seems more like a game played with a speedy blue hedgehog than high finance. Go from left to right as quickly as possible gathering as many golden rings as possible without running into spikes or vines or a cliff. Or another greedy hedgehog. 

While we're on the subject of hedgehogs, I confess that I do not have a working knowledge of hedge funds. What I do know can be encapsulated in the phrase "hedge fund bad." This simple rule is based entirely on the number of headlines I have read that include words like "indicted" or "arrested." I am supposing that whatever rules and guidelines I am afraid of in my personal finances are magnified in the world of funds that are hidden just out of sight from people like Robert Plant

And me. I continue to live in a world that rewards me with a monthly paycheck for services rendered. The more I work, the more I get paid. I understand how antiquated this notion is, and I have tried at times to imagine how I might buck this trend, but it has served me well for six decades, and best of all, it makes sense to me. 

So forgive me if you're calling to ask if you can manage my finances. I'm pretty straight on how direct deposit works, and I'm sticking with that. For now. 

Friday, February 03, 2023

Nostalgic For Nostalgia

 Cindy Williams gets my vote. If I was voting for a likely source of prepubescent fascination of a certain generation. Not mine, of course. That was Elizabeth Montgomery for me. 

But that's a tale for another time.

Cindy "Shirley" Williams passed away this week at the age of seventy-five. If you have a picture fixed in your head of Ms. Williams, it might be difficult to imagine that. Seventy-five? For a generation, she was twenty-something, rushing out of the door grabbing her coat on the way to the brewery where she worked with her erstwhile friend and roommate Laverne Defazio. Shirley was the sweet to Laverne's savory. She dreamed of something more than being a bottle capper for Shotz Beer. 

Shirley did escape Milwaukee. In season six, Laverne and Shirley moved to Burbank, California. In search of dreams and guys. The rest of the gang found work on the left coast where fake snow only had to look like fake snow because they were in Hollywood. 

In real life, Cindy was able to hold down a steady TV-based acting career, never fully realizing the heights her roomie Laverne experienced, or that Cunningham kid she dated that one time. They won Oscars, for goodness sake. 

Speaking of Opie Cunningham, it was Cindy's starring role opposite Ron Howard in American Graffiti that will always be my fondest memory of her. With her boyfriend's letterman sweater draped over her, she clings to Ron in their spotlight dance at the hop. All her tough talk disappears as the weight of his imminent departure sinks in and a tear falls. "What's wrong?" he asks. Pulling him just a little closer, she replies, "Go to hell."

A couple of years later, Cindy and Ron were reunited when Fonzie set up a double date for him and Richie with Laverne and Shirley. The events of that night set the wheels in motion for a new nostalgic look back at the fifties starring a moderately sanitized version of everyone's favorite brewery gals. 

And now I find myself looking back fondly on the late seventies, when we were all looking back fondly on the late fifties. Cindy follows her pal Penny to the great beyond, where they will Schlemiel, schlimazel into eternity. Cindy Williams slipped and slid across the Terra for our amusement. She will be missed. 

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Super What?

Hello and welcome to the non-competitive phase of the National Football League season. 

I could be talking about the flag football distraction that will be taking place during the "Pro Bowl," the NFL equivalent of an all-star game. Not that this contest was ever particularly contested. It was a chance to see all your favorite stars on the same field, and maybe run the old Fumblerooski just for show. The grim intensity that tends to exist on the sidelines of most of these exhibitions is missing. This is partly because it takes place at the end of the season, after the playoffs, and the participants are playing for the fun of it. Not for seeding, or home field advantage. These are professional athletes playing a game for the chance to be seen one more time, without the aid of any of the players who still have a game left to play: The Super Bowl.

"I only watch for the commercials." This is the refrain heard most often over the next couple weeks as rooting interests are shuffled and combined and forgotten. Certainly the hometown fans of the cities represented by the franchises lucky and talented enough to land themselves a spot in the "world championship game" are pleased. And excited. And, in my experience, resigned. 

One team will win. And they will get to keep the T-shirts and caps printed up special for them. The other team will go home without ever seeing what might have been their championship swag. Second place is absolutely no place to be on Super Bowl Sunday. 

"I'm just hoping it will be a good game." This is another frequently uttered phrase in the days leading up to the hype which none greater can be imagined. This allows the average fan a chance to take in the spectacle while remaining impartial. Appreciation for a good catch or a nice run, masking the inner turmoil that wishes that it was their team that was playing on Super Sunday. What could have, might have been. I guess your team wasn't so super, after all. 

Ultimately, it is just that: the last game. Unlike other sports which allow several opportunities for teams to get a shot in a series, alternating arenas, best of seven, one more chance to stretch the inevitable end date of the season by one more game. 

Not in the NFL. This is sudden death, and you'll forgive me if I don't buy in completely on the idea that this is the best possible game under the best possible conditions. It's not flag football, true, but is it really Super? 

And as a fan of a team whose chances at playing in the Big Game were done back in September, I can assure you that those grapes have been sour this whole time. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Dream Gig

 In my dream I was trying to play the sousaphone that was wrapped around me. It seemed like a reasonable enough request: play along with this group of current and former band members as we marched through the middle of town. 

What town? A hybrid of Oakland and my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. The reference points were made available from the times I have spent over the past year or so walking through the streets of this city by the bay in protest. But in my dream there was no protest. This was a celebration of some sort, perhaps one that recognized the turnaround from a year ago when we were marching to keep the schools open. Now we were marching because we were staying open. 

In my dreams. 

Because there are still plenty of potholes out there to overcome. My impacted embouchure not being the least of them. All those schools that had been preparing to welcome students from schools like mine that were going to be closed now have to give money back to the district to create budgets for the those schools that have recently been brought back to life. The county trustee who oversees such matters will have to look into the economic feasibility of all of this before the parade can truly commence. 

And why would it also seem like I was hanging around in Boulder? Could be that in my mind I was fishing around for some sort of retirement plan as well, where I would return to the streets of my youth. The ones I marched with a sousaphone as part of a high school band. Long before I considered a career in education, I was a consumer. I learned about reading and writing and music from teachers in schools that are still standing. Still open. Columbine. Centennial. Boulder High. 

Here in Oakland, four elementary schools were closed back in 2012. A middle school was closed in 2019. At the end of last year, another school, Parker Elementary was closed. It was deemed "unsustainable." The word "revenue" gets tossed around a lot in these moments, and one wonders if public education is really the profit center that so many have hoped it would turn out to be. 

Meanwhile, back at the parade, unable to blow my own horn, I felt like it might be a good idea to wake up because if I wasn't going to be able to fully participate, I wanted to clear out of the street. It felt dangerous, as if maybe someone had neglected to get the proper permits for this event. Traffic could commence at any moment. 

When I awoke, the uncertainty still hung in the air. I wasn't going to need my tuba playing skills right now. I will need patience moving forward, with an eye toward the future and whatever it brings. Maybe a parade. Maybe a move to somewhere else.