Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Where Will I Get My Cracker Jacks?

 Ah, the boys of summer. Now that school is out and the basketball and hockey playoffs are winding down, I can focus on Major League Baseball.

Except that the Oakland Athletics seems to have already taken a mulligan on this season. The long rumored and sadly anticipated removal of the team from the Bay Area has begun. This is happening even as they continue to play games just down the road from me. Their record is not just bad. It is the worst in both leagues. By a considerable margin.

Which wouldn't bother me so much if there was some character or some effort going on anywhere in the organization. From the top down, the once proud green and gold has become a franchise not even worth derision. It's a place where baseball goes to die. The plan seems to involve making local fans so monstrously disinterested in going out to watch a game that the powers that be can just slide what's left of the team out into the desert in Las Vegas where they promise to build a stadium that will be the envy of every other American League team located in the state of Nevada. 

That would be no one. And what about the once rabid fan base in Oakland? They'll get over it. They will forget the four World Series victories. The 1989 Earthquake. The 2002 season's twenty game winning streak that was so captivating to the world that Brad Pitt made a movie about it. Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ricky Henderson. 

Never mind. It's a business, after all. Two months into this season this Oakland A's team has yet to win twenty games total, let alone in a row. So the reverse alchemy created by those at the top of the baseball food chain seems to have worked. The Green and Gold is now the dead and lead. Someone in Philadelphia might read this and point out that these things happen, and point out that there is no forever in baseball. The five World Series won by the Philadelphia Athletics are just part of a bygone era. Bye, Athletics. We'll miss you when you're gone. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Super Duped

 I started in the other day about Super Friends. When you start with Superman, that makes some pretty obvious sense. Wonder Woman? Sure. She's got all that strength and agility and stuff. Batman and Robin got to come along because, well they were super well-funded. They were pretty solidly in the gadget corner. Aquaman? He could talk to fish. And hold his breath for a real long time. So what I'm suggesting here is that there is a distinct drop-off in super-ness after Supes and the Amazonian princess. 

I believe it was someone in marketing who must have felt that adding Wendy and Marvin along with their Wonder Dog. None of these individuals had any special abilities to speak of, but they did let Marvin and his mutt wear matching green capes. I'm sure this was an effort to give us kids someone to "relate to." Yes, marketing director,  we kids are tuning into your Saturday morning cartoon featuring super humans to keep track of the exploits of a couple of a couple of teenaged hangers-on and their pet. Wonder Dog, as in "I wonder why they think a dog was necessary," was probably stuck in there because of the runaway success of Scooby-Doo. This little trio was primarily on the scene to be rescued by their super-patient custodians, without the perks of being made a ward like Dick Grayson. The only logical conclusion is that the title "Super Friends" only applies to that special bond between those with special abilities and those who they felt oddly compelled to put up with for extended periods of time. 

When ABC decided to reboot the Super Friends after a three year hiatus, Wendy and Marvin were gone, as was Wonder Dog. In their place were the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna. And just to keep their toe in the animal sidekick water, we got their pet monkey, Gleek. The Wonder Twins not only stepped into the game in matching purple unitards, but Gleek had his own flashy costume. With a cape. Gleek had no special abilities of his own, but he was blue. Zan and Jayna could turn into water in any state, and any animal respectively. It was up to the writers to determine just how useful these talents were in battling crime. If the rest of the Friends De La Super were unavailable, The Wonder Twins could cause enough commotion to discourage your second-tier supervillain. Their powers were scaled back probably by the same executive that brought us Wendy and Marvin, in order to keep them from somehow overshadowing those legitimately in preemptively Super. 

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman: They have all had their own big screen iterations. Because Wendy, Marvin, Wonder Dog and even those Twins of Wonder were not Super enough to make the leap. It would be another ten years before someone in marketing figured out you just needed to take the Super out of it, and thus Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey and Phoebe were born. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Forever Kids

 The names and the faces, all of them, go into a box. They get stored there, next to the others. 

In my head. All those kids. Their parents. Their behaviors. Their funny moments. And I file them away. I try to keep them out of the archives, since I never know when I might need to access them again. It's a lot like going through the skiff on the top of my desk at the end of the year. When I set that adapter on the corner, I was going to get right back to it. It belonged to someone's Chromebook. Or phone. Or hotspot. 

I held onto it for a reason. The reason I held onto it now escapes me. I might need it. Someone might need it. 

Someone will probably need all those names and faces. Me, for example. In the weeks and months to come, someone will invariably ask if I remember that kid from third grade who had a sister who used to go here. Because for me, they will always go here. Because they always come back. 

Okay. Not always, but quite often. This is when I am given the opportunity to remember who that person used to be. Before the ravages of time took over and they were a foot shorter. With different hair. Or different sense of style. 

They sometimes end up walking their little brother, sister, cousin, friend in that front gate. Because that's what they used to do. Weeks or months ago. Now they're back and the onus is on me to recall the name and the face and the time that he or she went to the thing or forgot the other thing. The ones I have no trouble remembering are the ones for whom I made special trips up on the roof to reacquire their lost football, soccer ball, water bottle, lunch box, shoe. They get to hang around for a moment while I recall that rescue mission in graphic detail. 

All of this to make room for the new faces and names. The ones that will fit into those slots where the quiet, pleasant kids who made their way through our school without making any nasty waves or confounded adults in any particular waves. They will have to earn that special distinction of being etched in the memory banks. The forever kids.  

Sunday, May 28, 2023

If You Were To Ask Me

 I'm probably the wrong person to ask. Before my mom decided to pick my dad up and dust him off to marry him, she had a string of "nice safe men" to date. This was before gay men were invented. She was just happy to have someone who liked opera to hang out with and didn't always push her into situations in which she did not want to be. There was no judgement. Just appreciation. 

Later, once the closet began to burst open in the seventies, it turned out that one of these very good friends was not only gay, but created two of Boulder's enduring restaurant institutions: The Gondolier and Tico's. One of my very first summer jobs was working as a dishwasher at Tico's, which employed a great many "nice safe men." One time, early in my employment, a cook made a sideways comment about me as I was bringing clean plates to the kitchen. The rest of the summer was a hot, sweaty mess, not because of anything remotely connected to sex, but because the dishwashing room was always at least thirty degrees hotter than the rest of the building, and the steam mixed easily with all that melted cheese and refried beans. 

It was sometime around then that my godfather, another of my parents' high school chums, came out to them. And it was no big deal. He was the same guy I grew up with minutes before, and was the first person to encourage me to try and get a handle on my drinking. Thank you, godfather. 

So when I see that right wing idjits are making videos and posting them to try and shame Target out of selling Pride T-shirts, I close my eyes and count to ten. Maybe when I open my eyes again this group of intolerant insecure inhumans will have ceased their protestations and gone back to the quiet place where their voices are what they are: a minority. Because I can remember being labeled "queer" and "gay" as early as elementary school, and I learned the trajectory of these words, aimed directly to the head and the heart. When I became a teacher, I watched again as the torment of children without a clue about what gay might be used these barbed epithets to make their peers fuss and cry. 

And in there somewhere, a genius decided to make it about Pride. Own those words. Use them to build up community, not to tear it down. And then one of the nation's biggest retailers decided that it was a market that they could sell to, and the Rainbow Section of Target grew. Until some monsters with a passing capacity for the use of a cell phone began to confront customers in stores across the country to let them know just how closed their hearts and minds were. 

And Target, claiming that they were trying to protect their employees from verbal and physical abuse, retreated. 

And I think that's awful. 

But I'm probably the wrong person to ask. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Bad News

 In the neighborhood where I work, there aren't a lot of surprises. Not after two and a half decades. Still, every so often, East Oakland gives me pause. 

A ten year old girl was stabbed to death by her mother six blocks away from my school. “I don’t understand why this happened,” said a neighbor. “Her daughter was her world.” Sometimes the world is not enough. Sometimes horrible things happen without a reason. 

A number of us, upon hearing the news, made some quick internal checks. Were all of our ten year old girls present the day after the stabbing? Could it possibly be that one of our Horace Mann Jaguars was the victim of such a horrible fate? Because of the nature of the case, police did not immediately release the names of the mother and daughter. 

So we waited, and held our collective breath. 

When a few days had passed, with no revelations or rumors, and with our fourth grade accounted for, we stepped cautiously forward in the hope that we would not be surprised. 

Still fully aware that our neighborhood had experienced this tragedy, we attempted to file it away with the rest of the East Oakland reality that often creeps into the idyllic educational setting we all attempt to construct. Not for the first time, I wondered how very different my experience at this school was from that of a teacher who dealt regularly with the PTA. Or did not have to trip over the phrase "trauma informed teaching" while going about each day. I know that things could be very different if I picked another school. I know that things could be very different if I picked another city. 

Still, I persist. The community persists. Our school persists. The incremental creep of our test scores and other data continues to trend up. I know that I am filling a hole in the line. There are hundreds who could replace me, but they would have to show up for work. 

Every day. 

Even when the news is bad. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Through A Glass Darkly

 Upon hearing that the NAACP had called for a travel ban for African American tourists headed for Florida, class act and alleged human being Ann Coulter let this one fly: "NAACP issues warning to African Americans to avoid visiting Florida; employees in restaurant and tourism industry brace for 0.00 % drop in tips."

Across the lake of fire, Ted "Can Cun" Cruz made this assertion: "In the 1950s & 1960s, the NAACP did extraordinary good helping lead the civil rights movement. Today, Dr. King would be ashamed of how profoundly they've lost their way." Thanks for that spot-on assessment of the situation, Ted. 

If you lived in a state where history includes the story of the Civil Rights movement, you may remember a boycott of many of the businesses in Alabama. You might also remember that Doctor King led these boycotts and was opposed to what he referred to as "The Three Evils." His daughter, Bernice, who had some passing knowledge of this bit of the past, replying to Ted Cruz, "What my father would be deeply concerned about is the harmful, discriminatory legislation in Florida."

Two thousand twenty-three. Let it sink in for a moment. Just moments after the United States elected its first woman of color to the Vice Presidency, a few moments after the first African American served as President of the United States and fifty-five long years since a racist murdered Doctor King.

Here we are, normalizing blatant racism, homophobia, xenophobia, pantophobia. Painfully white America is clinging desperately to their control over everything by any means necessary. This means that grotesques like Ms. Coulter have crawled out into the light, believing that they will be safe in this "new reality." And maybe the suggestion that we, as a nation, are better than all of this is a flawed one. It seems far too easy for these tiny brains to gather more like-tiny-minded individuals together in order to form a less perfect union.

In the name of making America "Great Again."


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Lazy Hazy Crazy

 Out there somewhere is summer. I'll know it when I see it. It has the shape of something I am very familiar, but I cannot describe it. The colors are bright, but I cannot list them. I look forward to it. And I dread it. 

You may have a passing understanding of my feelings of dread. Most of them cannot be categorized as rational. Mostly I tend to worry about things over which I have no control. Vacations are near the top of that list. Which seems a little absurd, since vacations are all about planning, right? So is global domination, but try as they might, the Germans never saw D-Day coming. Which is pretty much how I feel about vacation planning: Prepare for global domination, but leave the door open for an invasion in Normandy. 

Somewhere out there in the midst of a relatively commitment-free two months is an expanse of Free Time. This is precisely the kind of time that usually ends up being filled with learning just how limited my actual Do It Yourself skills truly are. I might have a vision of rebuilding some section of the house that has fallen into disrepair (I'm looking at you, back fence) or maybe that clever addition that won't fit into a weekend-only slot (pouring concrete). These kind of adventures seem so viable before Memorial Day, and yet when August rolls around, they have yet to pass committee in my head. 

Much the same can be said for events like my birthday. Fourth of July. Our wedding anniversary. That one on the end will get some special notice because we will be passing the superficially significant thirty years. Right now, options are wide open. Celebrations could wrap serpentine over several weeks, culminating in the observations of yet another twenty-ninth birthday for my wife. 

And all that time, plants will need watering. The cat will need to be fed. Laundry doesn't do itself yet, and the trash piles up unless somebody moves it to the curb. That's a month right there. So that leaves me with just a few days to sit down and cogitate on just what sort of festival I can make out of the remaining time. The time we call "Summer." 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Hand In Hand

 First, the Waukesha School District decided to ban Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus's duet Rainbowland from the first grade concert at Heyer Elementary School. The district's  decision was made based on "whether it was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students" and because of "social or personal impacts" on them. Then the kids' teacher spoke up about it. Then the School District put her on administrative leave. 

The song itself is pretty simple, with lyrics like "Wouldn't it be nice to live in paradise/Where we're free to be exactly who we are," and "Living in a Rainbowland/Where you and I go hand in hand/Oh, I'd be lying if I said this was fine." First graders tend to go hand in hand quite often, in my experience. And I suspect that the real trouble here is allowing children to believe that it's okay for them to be free to be anyone except what their uptight parents and government officials want them to be. 

This is Wisconsin, after all. The Dairy State is one of the few places where Republicans have allowed the discredited practice of "conversion therapy" to continue, and anti-trans bills proliferate. And now, with the school year coming to a close, Ms. Tempel's kids are going to have to finish out the year without their teacher. 

This comes just a few months after a principal in Florida was forced out of her job because she did not adequately prepare parents of sixth grade students who viewed Michelangelo's David. The statue wasn't the problem, since it had been viewed by sixth grade art history students in previous years, but the notification was not sent. According to Ms.Carrasquilla, three parents were upset, two parents said they wished they were notified about the lesson beforehand, while one parent complained more specifically about the nudity, equating it to pornographic material." And you know, Florida. 

So here I sit, on the edge of another year's end, pleased and relieved that I work in a district where the district and teachers seem to be on the same page when it comes to teaching kids about the planet which they will soon inherit. We may not always see eye to eye about compensation, but at least we can sing our little hearts out about being free to be whoever we want to be. Walking hand in hand. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

News To Me

 A group of veterans was kicked out of a Newburgh, New York, hotel last week. Why? To make room for migrants who were going to be housed there at taxpayer's expense. This kind of outrageous behavior is typical of the current administration and further evidence of just how misplaced its priorities are. These men who served their country are being put out on the street so that the charade on our porous southern border can continue. How can you call yourself an American and not be incensed by such shenanigans? 

As a follow-up, how could you be so gullible? A number of media outlets, ran with that story right up until it turned out to be made up. Fox and Newsmax went all frothy at the mouth after picking up the story from the "always reliable" New York Post. Yes, the journalistic integrity of these outfits was once again sorely tested and when it turned out that it was all made up, they moved on to the next frothy outrage opportunity. 

The group of men were offered two hundred dollars each to spin this tale, and if they were uncomfortable with the lying, they could be identified as mute due to post-traumatic stress disorder. It was the New York Post that ran with the headline: "Longtime advocate lied about vets getting kicked out of NY hotels for migrants." In this version of the truth, we learned how "devastated and disheartened" others were to find out that the original story turned out to be a lie. New York State Assemblyman Brian Maher was confounded by the actions of Sharon Toney-Finch with whom he has worked over the past three years on various veterans' issues. When pressed about her charade, Ms. Toney-Finch said, "I had to help the veterans.” Since the men in question were only pretending to be veterans, it is a little difficult to tease out just exactly how this was helping anyone. 

Anyway, when the smoke cleared, there wasn't much of a story, except that someone appropriated outrage from one sector and used it to generate more outrage. Which, I suppose is actually a pretty efficient system. It's certainly much easier than telling the truth. 

And I heard that hotel in Newburgh was also being used as a halfway house for transexual late term abortions. 


Monday, May 22, 2023

From The Travel Bureau

 Dear Governor DeSantis,

Can I call you Ron? Everyone else seems to. I'm not going to waste a lot of time making fun of your name here, but I thought I would like to send you this note not as a fan, but as someone who has a very tiny stake in the mess you're making out of your state. 

I live in California, so I don't have to worry too much about finding a beach or an amusement park lorded over by a large rodent. These are things that you also have in abundance in the state you "govern." Kind of like the rodent we mentioned previously. But here's the deal: I have some very fond memories of visiting the Sunshine State, and I confess that currently I have no interest whatsoever in recreating them. 

A very long time ago, I flew in a single engine aircraft from Colorado to Miami to see the 1990 Orange Bowl. It was quite the experience. I had an amazing meal at an Italian restaurant on New Year's Eve, and then attended the game the following evening. Even though the Buffaloes lost, it was a fascinating look inside bigtime college football. On the way down, we dropped into Orlando just long enough to check out a little corner of Walt Disney World. It was here that I put on my bucket list a return to the sprawling expanse to see even more. 

Somewhere in there, I celebrated my first anniversary of sobriety with a trip to Key West with some friends to see what all that fuss was about. We were not disappointed. The sunset cruise lives on in my mind as one of the most serene moments of my young life. 

This is probably why I insisted on making the southernmost tip of the United States as a port of call when planning my honeymoon cruise. I also coerced my new wife into driving from Miami after we docked al the way back to Orlando for a a few extra Disney Days before returning to the not quite as magic reality of the rest of our married lives. The image of a guy dressed in a cow suit standing on a street corner in the heat of Florida summer promoting a nearby steakhouse remains forever the worst job ever. 

Ah, and then there was my fortieth birthday. A reunion with my pals in Key West, and then a hop up the coast to land in Disney's Animal Kingdom to celebrate. Echoes of Jimmy Buffett songs and the sounds of zebras braying in the morning return to me even now. 

But would I return to Florida myself? Now? 

Thank you, no. 

But thanks for the memories. And good luck trying to sue the large rodent. 

Your pal, Dave

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Appreciate This

 My principal, who spent many years in a classroom before ascending to the administration level, was not going to let Teacher Appreciation Week slip by unnoticed. After returning from our strike, she made a point of having our last staff  meeting of the year be a celebration of us all. There was food. There was a cake. There was laughter. There was appreciation.

And of course there was shop talk.

It began with reflections on the past year: What was right. What went wrong. What tested us. What we overcame. And then we settled in to telling war stories, as teachers will, about students that tested us and our resolve. As we passed out of the current crop and wandered into the past, memories came flooding back. 

And then came was my principal's story about a kindergartener she taught some sixteen years ago. Marie was not any sort of unusual problem. Just a kid who took "extra molding," to use her term. Eventually, Marie was able to show up to school on time. With her backpack. With her homework. With a sense of what school was about. Extra molding. 

Marie was shot and killed last month. A man who decided that he was going to put a stop to the loud traffic on the street outside his house on MacArthur Boulevard went out into the street at one in the morning and started firing his AR-15 at passing cars. One of the bullets struck Marie in the head. First responders were unable to revive her and she died at the scene. Oakland police said they seized two AR-15 rifles, two handguns, high-capacity rifle magazines, one hundred ninety-four loose rounds and body armor. The late-night assailant is also the father of two young children. 

Those children will most likely grow up in a world without their father present. Marie, who was on the cusp of being a grown up will not grow up any more. All that extra molding gone to waste. So we look forward to another chance with another kindergartener. A kid who needs help. 

Appreciate that. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Value Of Family

 It is a shame that women in this greatest of all possible worlds are still being forced to choose between career and family. While inroads have definitely been made over the past (checks watch) hundred years, all too often a fork appears in the road and the choice appears: settle down with your husband, raise some kids, or continue the struggle to raise yourself above the sexist fray that keeps a glass ceiling over virtually every corner of the workplace. 

Nowhere is this division more apparent than the halls of Congress. Currently one hundred forty-six members of Congress are women. Twenty-four of one hundred senators, and one hundred twenty-two representatives out of four hundred thirty-five seats are occupied by the fairer sex. Pardon that last appellation, but here I am not referencing their looks or charm, but rather my hope that these members are actually more fair than their male counterparts. I reference Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney in this argument as examples of the way women have climbed the ladder in both parties and delivered calm leadership in the center of a storm. Former Speaker Pelosi is, as a matter of fact, a great example to all those "career women" who are trying to imagine a path that would allow them to have their family and eat their career cake too. 

Of course, then there's the flipside of that coin. Poor Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently opined, "Becoming a member of Congress has made my life miserable." Not necessarily because she felt conflicted about leaving her three kids without their mom for extended periods of time, but rather because "I made a lot more money before I got here. I've lost money since I've gotten here." That traditional schism can be heard in her words after the repeal of Roe v. Wade: "The greatest choice a woman can make is becoming a mother." Interestingly, there is no mention here about being or staying married. Because she didn't. Marge divorced her husband of twenty-seven years amid rumors of extra-marital affairs swirled around. Perhaps she felt that the polyamorous lifestyle would put her more in league with Godhead of MAGA. 

And most recently, irreconcilable differences struck another MAGAt household: Lauren Boebert's twenty year marriage ended, leaving Mister Boebert heartbroken and bereft. The Colorado Representative hasly said she met Jayson when she was sixteen and working at Burger King. The couple had their first son, Tyler, when she was eighteen, and they recently shared news that they’re about to become grandparents. All of which gets popped into the blender of "advice" doled out by the legislative dynamo and family values proponent, who once told an audience of the faithful, "Are you struggling in your marriage? Begin to speak life into your marriage. Ladies, you were called to something great in your marriage. The power that you have in Christ, for your marriage, is unmatched." Calls to Mister Christ were not immediately returned. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Strike Back

 Are you tired of hearing about the teachers' strike in Oakland?

Well, then you're going to be really tired of reading yet another account of a mass shooting.

This one happened in Farmington, New Mexico. Go ahead and add Farmington to the list of cities and towns in the United In Fear States of America that have experienced the murderous streak of violence propagated by the two to one ratio of guns to humans in our frightened country. 

An eighteen year old murderer walked through a neighborhood in a residential area north of Albuquerque. He killed three and injured six more including a police officer responding to the scene. Law enforcement shot and killed the shooter outside a church.

And just like that, America experiences YAMS (Yet Another Mass Shooting). "At this point it appears to be purely random," Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said in a video message posted on his department's Facebook page, calling the incident "devastating." Devastating, but not particularly newsworthy. No records were set in terms of carnage. The shooter was using "an AR-15 style rifle." No motive was immediately available. 

Eventually the manifesto and political affiliations of the murderer will be available to the media and those who tend to pick at the carcass of the tragedy. Which will give us all a chance to name any other possible threat or cause for these lives. And the lives of fourteen hundred Americans so far this year. Aside from guns. 

Mental health? Big problem. No doubt. Unfortunately the same forces that continue to ignore guns as a root cause of gun violence also tend to cut funding for mental health. Most of those same voices, if prompted, would say that guns should be kept out of the hands of those with mental health issues. But never at the expense of anyone who might want to exercise their "god-given" right to own multiple weapons capable of shredding human beings. You need a license to catch a fish. You need a license to hunt animals. You need a license to drive a car. 

Maybe we could organize some sort of strike on gun violence. I would walk that picket line. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023


 Seven days. That's how long it took God to create the heavens and the earth. At least that is what I have been told. What I can tell you is that seven days is also the length of time it takes for the Oakland Unified School District to hammer out a contract with the Oakland Education Association.


Four years ago, the teachers went out on strike and set everyone's schedule and lives on end by removing the relative comfort and safety of a normal week of school from the city's calendar. That's seven school days, mind you. There were a couple of weekends in there that left students, parents, teachers and the rest of the city waiting on tenterhooks while discussions raged on about compensation, safety, equity and how to deliver all those kinds of things.

Then it happened again. Somewhere in the wee hours of Monday morning, the word came down that we could all return to work. So wee were the hours that a lot of students, parents and teachers did not get the information until the regular school day was supposed to begin. That is why the district chose to call this "Transition Day." The teachers who were awake at five, like I was, picked up the email and started making plans. Those that were a little slower on the uptake chose to ease back in. 

Parents were given the same message. "Schools will be open, but some teachers may not be on site." 

I was. I was there early and started getting ready for the hordes of screaming children who were anxious to return to their home away from home. I prepared as if there might be a hundred or more of them.

There were nine. They were dropped off primarily by the same parents who had been leaving their kids with us to take them to the solidarity school at the library. We were ready for them. More than ready. Mostly teachers who did show up hung out in their rooms, trying to wrap their heads around the week and a half of missed instruction and the closing of the school year in less than two weeks. We tag-taught the crew that ranged in age from K to Five and gave them a chance to do some reading, writing, and art. They even got an extra turn in Mister Caven's Computer Lab. Recesses were a little longer, kids got to pick their lunch from a menu, limited as it was. Mostly we ran things like we felt comfortable. 

If you've ever done any kind of teaching, you know that transitions are the toughest part. Moving from one subject to another, one room to the next. From work to strike to back again. I looked into the expiration date of the new contract. I believe that will help me decide on a retirement date. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Just One Day

 El Salvador would like us all to know that they have gone a full year without a murder. Three hundred sixty-five days without a homicide. President Nayib Bukele attributes all this lack of death to a crackdown on gangs and a yearlong "war on crime." Sixty-eight thousand suspected gang members were rounded up, arrested without warrants, and crammed into overcrowded prisons. Constitutional rights were ignored in order to create a year without murder. 

At least that's what the former night club owner who is now President of El Salvador would like us to believe. Maybe all those suspected gang members would have something to say about it. Of course no one seems interested in letting that happen. 

Which made me think of Jordan Neely. Mister Neely was choked to death on a New York City subway train on the first of May. A fellow passenger put him in a chokehold when he started, or continued, to act "erratically." The chokehold was maintained for several minutes until Jordan Neely's body went limp. And he was no longer behaving erratically. He was behaving dead. This one-man crackdown was accomplished by a former Marine who, after some discussion, was arrested and charged with second degree manslaghter. There will be much debate over the next few months about the Constitutional Rights of both of these individiuals. What is certain is that New York City will have to work a little harder on this "no murder" challenge. Here in America we are having a doozy of a time trying to go more than a day without one of us killing another. We're doing it on subway trains and shoppin malls and schools and birthday parties and the beat goes on. 

And on. 

In case you're wondering, I don't think El Salvador is murder-free either. I don't expect that "good samaritans" strangling homeless people on subway trains is going to solve anything either. Just a day though? Just one day?

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


 Being on strike provided me with a few extra hours to fill. Instead of writing lesson plans and preparing for the following day, I found myself taking up the rhythm of not working, but rather showing up at the appointed hour that my work might commence, erecting a canopy for those of us on the picket line, helping others bring the signs from their cars to the sidewalk and then begin the lonely business of not teaching school. 

The bright spot in all of this was the kids who did show up, not to cross the line or go inside the school, but the ones who showed up to take the hike over the hill to our solidarity school at the nearby branch of the public library. These interactions were seeded by the ones we had with parents on that first day of the strike where we explained our position and gave them the option of spending the day with their teachers or sitting inside a mostly empty building being attended to by grownups with whom they might not be as familiar. 

For more than a week, we had a dozen kids who showed up a little after their own traditional arrival time, ready to play games, snack, catch up with one another, and make the occasional loop with a picket sign. By the third day, we began to hear some of them complain that they "missed regular school" in spite of the influx of material and instructors ready to take them through a mock-up version of their day. 

That was about the time Dulcinea showed up. Her mother dropped her off, and as with many of our parents, she needed a safe place for her daughter while she went to work. I learned this by hanging to the side while a colleague of mine used his far superior Spanish skills to inquire and encourage mom into supporting our cause. Dulcinea is in kindergarten and as a late arrival this year has had little time to absorb much English. But she recognized me, her computer and PE teacher. Once she climbed out of moms' car I took her hand and walked her over to the sidewalk. Several other kids were playing a raucous version of tag on the grass in front of the school, including a classmate of hers who had been dropped off with her brother and sister. 

Dulcinea showed no interest in joining them, preferring instead to stick with the guy she knew. We sat down on the steps in front of the school and I quickly used up all of my conversational Spanish, asking how she was, did she want a snack, did she want to play? Fine, nope, nope. And so we sat.

Then I asked if she would like to go on a Lion Hunt. The Lion Hunt is a special favorite of kindergarten PE classes, and Dulcinea was thrilled at the chance to have something that felt "normal." Off we went. Through the tall grass. Across the river. Up and down the tall tree. When we came to the cave, she admonished me: "Not a kitty! A lion!" She was right of course, so off we raced, patting our thighs furiously to simulate our retreat. The English Dulcinea did know as contained in that Lion Hunt. To say that I was happy to have played the game with her would be the understatement of the month. 

A short time later, we did a command performance of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and she came alive again. Dulcinea was safe and happy. She belonged. 

And that's the story I will be taking away from this teacher's strike. 

Monday, May 15, 2023


 "So, Mister Trump -"

"Mister President."

"Excuse me?"

"I'm the President."

"Well, yes. You were."

"No," chuckles and sniffs, "I'm the President."

"Okaaay - Mister - ah - President Trump -"


"During this town hall meeting, we expect we may be touching on some of the legal challenges you have encountered over the past several months."

"Oh? Which ones were those?" Sniffs.

"The sexual battery and defamation case with E Jean Carroll, the Stormy Daniels indictment..."

"Never heard of them," sniffs, "and if I had they weren't my type anyway." 

"That sounds a little hostile and a little sexist."

"That's what happens when you're a star. Fortunately or unfortunately. It's been true for a million years."  

"I don't think they had media stars a million years ago -"

"You're a nasty person."

"Alright. What about the 2020 election. Don't you think that after two and a half years, you could use this opportunity to clear up any misconceptions people might have about you believing that you really won." 

"You are a very nasty person." 

"Well then, is there anything in particular that you would like us to ask you about?"

"I have a new set of computer generated bubble gum cards coming out. Only a hundred dollars apiece. One of them shows me signing the Declaration of Independence. Another has me winning the four hundred meters in the Tokyo Olympics."


"History," sniffs. "You really are a most nasty person."

"Thank you Mister Tru - Mister President. We look forward to having you on stage."

"The pleasure was all yours."

How did they think there would be anything but magic in New Hampshire last week? And why should we ever listen to anything CNN has to say ever again?

Sunday, May 14, 2023


 I'm not sure exactly how to proceed.

I've never done one of these without my mom.

I know a lot of moms, but I only had one. 

She was my mom.

And now it's mother's day.

Not exactly sure which way to go. 

No flowers to buy or cards to send.

Just a warehouse of memories. 

So maybe I'll shine a light today. 

A very bright one.

On the mothers I know

that are not mine. 

I know a lot of them. 

They love without limits. 

They care and feed and nurture. 

They bring the life.

They bring the spark. 

/They're all amazing, but

they are not my mother. 

My mother was a Snort. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Video Killed The News Star

 Where do you get your news? 

Well, if you happen to be my wife, in many cases this would be the place. On a somewhat frequent basis she walks into the room with a pained expression asking, "Why didn't you tell me (fill in the blank with pop culture icon) died?" 

The answer is, of course, I did. It just had to travel through all the tubes and wires that would eventually lead to her clicking on the link that brings her here to my long-running anthology series called "What's On Dave's Mind." It's that three day lag time between writing and publishing that makes it seem like I was hiding something from her. I wasn't. It's the limitations of the machine. 

Which brings me to the sad news I recently received through my usual sources: MTV News is calling it a day. After thirty-six years of bringing a generation news about music, television, and music television, the folks at the central office are pulling the plug along with layoffs throughout the Paramount system. The outlet that let me know that Kurt Cobain had left Nirvana on his way to rock and roll heaven has gone away itself. 

This may not seem like a big deal to a generation who would not recognize a cable network that existed primarily as a place to play promotional films or "videos" for rock bands. There was an age in which these little movies were created with the explicit intent of landing on this network, this so-called "Music Television." For six years, that was good enough, but then somebody got it into their head that we might all want more information about the guys in Duran Duran, or what Cyndi Lauper was up to between albums. Former editor and feature writer for Rolling Stone Kurt Loder was shoved in front of a camera to answer these and other probing questions. 

Over time, MTV News began to form its own identity, covering not just concerts and contests but landed a unique spot in the political arena by helping form the Rock The Vote movement, designed to get eighteen to twenty-four year olds registered to vote. It would not be a stretch to say that this focus helped usher Bill Clinton into office. And yes, it was Kurt Loder who broke into the regular broadcasting day to let me know that Kurt Cobain had disbanded. 

And now, MTV News has closed up shop, part of a massive layoff at their parent company. I apologize to my wife for not telling her sooner. 

Friday, May 12, 2023


 Somewhere back in the flurry of the strike and all that other fun, the forty-fifth "president" of the United States was found guilty of sexual abuse and defamation. The twice-impeached former game show host and newly indicted still facing multiple state and federal charges of attempting to steal an election and incite an insurrection...That guy. The guy who describes himself all too frequently as "the most innocent man in American history. That guy. 

The guy who is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. 

Also, somewhere in the throes of all that history being made was the fact that this blog celebrated its eighteenth birthday. For most of the past two decades I have been railing about this thing or that person, celebrating those who deserve it and denigrating those who need it. I spent four years complaining about George W's second term and the war he took us to. I spent another eight years relaxing in the sunshine of the Obama administration. 

Then came the dark times. The Trump years. I spent a lot of time way back then, listing and documenting the slights and omissions and miscarriages and malfeasances. Names like Bannon, Stone, Manafort, Flynn. Eleven associates of the host of Celebrity Apprentice have been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes from tax fraud to misuse of federal funds and just plain old lying like a cheap hotel rug. The Trump "presidency" was lauded by some comedians for the relative ease with which one could bones which could be picked. Such was the case for this blog. From the moment he appeared at the top of that escalator, we all knew that this would be a different sort of "president." 

It was my wife who pointed out that we had a rapist living in the White House for four years. I understand this statement is open to wide interpretation, so perhaps I should refine: Donald Trump is the only convicted rapist to live in the White House. His reign as enfant terrible ends much the same way it began. There will, most certainly, be those who ignore the verdict or worse insist this is the time to double down and work even harder to support him for a second term. 

But I gotta be honest: I don't really want the next five years of this blog to be all about the new depths this "man" can plumb. I look forward to new and inspired places to take you all. Because that would be a much nicer place to be. 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Here's The Pitch

 The screenwriter in me was moved, ever so briefly, to write a movie in which super heroes were given the task of dealing with the world in which we currently live. Like the costumed crusaders who would now be busy protecting shoppers at the local mall from neo-Nazis ready to open fire in front of the food court. Because that's where you'd expect evil to hang out, right? 

No more super-villains with their monologuing and hideouts in dormant volcanoes. The bad guys are all around us, and they didn't have to go to superspy school to get a license to kill. They just went down to the local gun shop, signed a couple of forms and walked out ready to kill helpless civilians. Ready for the twist? Just before the superhuman is about to break the semiautomatic rifle over the head of the suspected bad guy, a frenzy of "good guys with guns" starts up as the assembled crowd begins to crow about their God-given right to carry fully loaded weapons on a trip to TJ Maxx. 

We don't really want to be saved. If you listen to Megyn Kelly, you might believe that the debate over gun control is over and those who seek to infringe in any meaningful way on the blessed Second Amendment have lost. "Serious q for gun control advocates: you’ve failed to effect change. Pls face it. You can’t do it, thx to the 2A. We’re all well aware you don’t like that fact, but fact it is. What’s next? Must we just stay here sad, concerned, lamenting? Could we possibly talk OTHER SOLUTIONS?" Keeping in mind that Ms. Kelly let this one go just a few hours after the Nazi shot up the mall in Allen, Texas.

And yes, I can imagine all kinds of ways that a super hero might shut her up, but that would be diminishing her second favorite amendment's protection. OTHER SOLUTIONS to mass shootings that don't involve gun control? In my model, it doesn't seem like the powers of mutant humanoids would be a lot of help against the pointy-headed freaks who insist that they need machine guns to protect their stuff, which consist mostly of more guns. Sounds like a job for Bizarro.

For those of you unfamiliar with the lore of Superman, Bizarro plays the role of anti-Supes, like a mirror image. In Bizarro's world, logic like "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" is top-shelf thinking. Given the premise that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," Bizarro would probably grab the nearest NRA member by the legs and beat the rest of the congregation to death with his weaponized corpse. Because that makes as much sense as anything else going on out there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Stop Making Sense

A long time ago, someone asked David Byrne why he called his movie "Stop Making Sense." He replied, "Because it's good advice." 

 "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet." This advice was originally given to US Marines in Iraq under the command of General James Mattis, who was later was named Secretary of Defense by a former "president" and gameshow host. More recently, they were the words that were handed out by Faux News in the wake of the massacre at the shopping mall in Allen, Texas. Rootin', tootin', "Constitutional Carry" free-wheelin' gun-slingin' Texas. 

I checked around for some Texas voices suggesting gun control. The saddest part is that while the elected officials continue their stream of thoughts and prayers, none of that mental exertion brought a single body back to life. The victims and families connected to Uvalde, Snnta Fe, El Paso, Fort Hood? They feel the pain all over again and after raging, some of them for years, at the machine they have turned ot a level of acceptance that this will just keep happening. 

I am drawn once again to the words of Dr. Seuss's Lorax. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." The Lorax was speaking for the trees, but I speak for the men, women and children who are being cut down without regard to their existence. Instead, we feel the need to place "god-given" before our insane right to bear arms. How can the author of the First Commandment, thou shall not kill, be involved in the glorification of these false man-made idols we call guns? 

It doesn't make sense. It's time to start making sense. 

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Out Of Time

 I have stated here before what a big fan of ruts I am. I really love knowing where to go and what to do. Routines are a huge part of not just my day to day life but weekly, monthly, yearly. The cycles that make up each day for me provide me with a map to follow when my concentration is at a premium. 

This is why a disruption to those patterns is so confounding for me. 

A school day consists of waking up before the sun, having my orange juice and vitamins, sitting down in front of the computer long enough to check and see of there is any reason to go back to bed, i.e. flooding at the school or limited nuclear exchange. The personal email inbox is checked, then the work email. Back to the bathroom to floss and brush. Pull on my work clothes, kiss the wife and out the door to hop on the bike. 

Most of that can still be accomplished on a strike day. It's what happens at the end of that bike ride that stops my progress cold. 

I don't go inside. Instead, I put up the tent and wait for the picket signs to show up. I wave to our principal who is holding down the fort just behind the gate as I prepare for the uncomfortable reality of spending the day on the sidewalk in front of school. Talking to parents and students about the situation we have put them in. I want them to be safe, and I am willing to get them to an alternative place where they can have that with some structure and maybe some reading or at least peer connections: The public library. 

It's not school. It's not the rhythm. It's not the way things work. If workers control the means of production, are teachers workers or managment? Students are the ones who suffer the most. I feel that. I want them to be able to come to a school where the folks that are teaching them feel valued and maybe then can pass that along to their young audience. 

Because that is a routine that I know best. 

Monday, May 08, 2023

Hero's Journey

On the second day of our strike, I reflected on what a hero I've been. 

Not just to the students who have been fortunate to be under my tutelage for all these years. Or the parents that I have spoken to and cajoled and encouraged to be more a part of their child's educational journey. Or my fellow teachers for whom I have plugged in power cords and climbed ladders and removed the occasional stray rodent. Not to the wide range of administrators for whom I have altered and stretched my job description to fit the needs of most every occasion. 

I figure I've been a hero to my community. When I started out, I was making a probationary teacher's salary. I had just bought a new home and a baby had arrived just a few months before I was embarking on a career that was as new and mysterious as my own first day in kindergarten. So we limped along and made our little home with our little family comfortable and happy. We brought a dog along. I worked extra days and took on extra projects. Each year got a little bit easier as I climbed the pay scale, keeping an eye that ideal "living wage." 

Over the past three decades, I have been a part of a union that has alternately frustrated me and invigorated me to keep working toward that Valhalla we call "retirement." I've been a part of work actions, strikes, elections and school board meetings. I cannot say that I have been a model union member, but I have done my part and spoken my piece. 

Now, in the twilight of my career as a teacher, my union is looking to push through yet another raise to bring all of us Oakland teachers into line with those in districts around us. This comes to me with a bit of chagrin, since now that my own journey is winding down, I can sit back and watch others bear the fruits of my labor. And labor actions. I raised a family here in Oakland, while teaching the kids in this town how to read, write, and open a Google doc. I'm not looking for a trophy, but I'm also not going to be satisfied with a participant's ribbon. 

Maybe a parade. Or a donut. Chocolate old-fashioned. 

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Strike Two

 It was a gray day on Thursday. My first day on the picket line. My first day back on the picket line. I was out there four years ago, On strike. Because it's something that union members do. 

It was not lost on me that the Writers Guild was also on strike, mostly in Los Angeles. My wife suggested that I take a look at their signs. For inspiration. There are lots of ways to say "we want a fair contract," or "please stop giving all the money to the people with the nice offices." 

For the record, I don't have an office. I have a classroom. Well, to be completely transparent, I have a desk in the corner of the computer lab where I teach. This functions as my office. A little behind the scenes secret here: many of the blog entries that you read here are composed on a laptop perched on the corner of that desk. This one was not. It was pounded out one the desktop in the front room of my house, where I stopped to take a quick break after spending the morning walking up and back over the same hundred feet of sidewalk, carrying a sign and barking out slogans and chants to anyone who would listen. Mostly the ones within earshot were fellow union members who were pretty much in agreement with the words I was spouting. 

But getting back to those signs. Many years ago, during another work action, I decided to write my own sign to carry. In my best handwriting I wrote, "My mom wrote me a note that says I don't have to come to school until I get a fair contract." I would love to tell you that I was besieged by admirers of my cleverness, but I was pretty quickly convinced that teacher strikes aren't about showing off. They're about showing up. 

So when I showed up with the sun on this past Thursday, I picked up a sign off the stack and started pacing. And chanting. And talking to parents who missed the messages we sent out about the teachers strike. I handed them flyers and for some I attempted to make sentences in Spanish that would explain our situation. Mostly, the kids at our school stayed home. With just a few weeks left in the school year, they got an extra day off. 

I didn't. I was busy doing my job. Walking and talking. It's for this that I want the big bucks. And an appreciation for all my cleverness. 

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Not Yet

 The year is 2023. Young Tuck(er) Carlson was fired from Faux News (in part) because of the following text he sent he sent to a producer at his former employer: “A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living s**t out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it.” That text was sent in 2021. Two years later, after much consideration and a settlement with Dominion Voting Systems for three quarter of a billion dollars, the higher-ups at Faux News felt it would be in their best interest to let Mister Carlson go. 

A couple things here: Young Tuck(er)'s following insists that he was railroaded, a sacrificial lamb. His is the voice that moves the masses with glazed eyes and red baseball caps. He is the light and the way for the cave dwellers. The Lorax speaks for the trees, but apparently Tuck(er) speaks for the MAGAts. 

Meanwhile, whatever nondisclosure agreement or gag order has been applied to Carlson is not keeping vile things from spewing forth at Faux News. If the bar is Tuck(er) Carlson, there are plenty of mouths willing to audition for his old spot. How about Jesse Watters? On Tuesday's broadcast, Jesse went off: “I saw on the way into work an illegal immigration family digging through the trash looking for recyclables,” Watters said, prompting co-host Jessica Tarlov to ask him how he was so sure. “You can tell,” claimed Watters, whose explanation didn’t fly with Tarlov. “I can tell! I’m a city guy. You don’t want me to get into it, but I can tell.” 

“It’s the saddest thing to see because they’re not able to work here. They came to work, but they’re not able to work here,” he continued. “The point is this: you have to be able to choose the people that come into the country based on needs. If you need this type of person, bring them in. But to just say everybody come in and then, oops, you know, now people are looking for a five cent bottle, that’s not right. And you can’t blame the guy down in Texas for that. Joe Biden is the common denominator for all of this.”

There's a lot to sift through there, but what ultimately lands on a knock against Joe Biden manages to make the harshest racist generalities in ways that apparently even made another Faux talking head nervous. 

It's 2023. Why aren't we better than this yet? 

Friday, May 05, 2023

In My Head

 "You worry too much, you make yourself sad, you can't change fate, so don't feel so bad." - Oingo Boingo No One Lives Forever

I am not worried about living forever. I am worried about our new dishwasher. And the cat needs hundreds of dollars of tests. My son isn't happy at his job. I have no idea when I should retire from my own job. Is that Baker's Cyst behind my right knee ever going to go away? What shall I get my wife for our thirtieth anniversary? Why is CNN inviting Donald Trump to do a Town Hall meeting?

I have a lot of worries. I always have. Perhaps it's part of having an imagination and using those powers for evil instead of good. Evil for myself, primarily. Many is the time that I have spoiled a perfectly good time by worrying about something over which I had no control. Like the verb tense of that last sentence, for example. I worry about things at home when I am away, and then when I get home I wonder if it wouldn't be better to have some time away. 

My mother would have said that I'm not happy unless I'm worrying. She was probably right. In many ways, she was my model for overthinking. She used to refer to this as "fretting." Many was the night that I laid awake, focused on something that might happen the next day at school, and my father's advice was never quite comforting: "You're going to stay up all night worrying and then of course you'll have a hard time tomorrow." Thanks dad. He was right, of course, but the time I spent being agitated about how right he was did not net me any additional rest. 

Sometimes I worry about how much anxiety I feel. 

And that's probably how I will cruise through the latter years of my life as well, wondering what phantom ailment will show up at my next doctor appointment. Or if we have planted enough trees in our yard. The flipside of this, I know, is that all of this troublesome thought provides me with a continual list of things that I can do. Plant more trees. Spend more time on WebMD. My future is a highway littered with agonizing choices and decisions I have yet to confront. 

My wife has helpfully suggested that I try meditation. I have. I worried that I wasn't doing it right. Now I worry that I might make her feel bad by dismissing her suggestion. 

Never a quiet moment in my head. 

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Land Of The Free, Home Of The Dead

 In the race to the bottom of the evolutionary scale, I have mentioned that Marjorie Taylor Greene has some stiff competition. Admittedly it is difficult to out abhor the conduct of a woman who insists that stepmothers are not real moms. And yet, here comes Texas Governor Greg Abbott, filling in that space where you figured no one else would go. 

Over the weekend, a man in Cleveland, Texas went next door to ask his neighbor to stop firing his rifle in the front yard as there were children trying to sleep next door. For his trouble, that father was rewarded with five dead bodies, including nine year old Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman. Deep in the heart of Texas, you don't tell a man when and where he can shoot his gun. The reality of too many guns came crashing into this neighborhood near Houston, and a manhunt ensued to capture the murderer from next door. 

It would be easy enough to point a finger in Governor Greg's direction, he of the continually loosened gun restrictions in his state. Faced with the carnage of the past few years, Texas is leading the way to put more guns in the hands of more people. As if that weren't bad enough, it was Governor Greg who issued the announcement for a reward for the killer of young Daniel. His office announced a reward of fifty thousand dollars for information about the "fugitive who is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants in a shooting Friday night in Cleveland, Texas."

Five people are dead, murdered in the Great State of Texas, and Governor Greg felt it was important to include the immigration status of all involved. No mention of the names or ages of the victims. No description of the assailant beyond "illegal immigrant." Almost immediately the screeching horde lit up with the insistence that none of this would have happened if our borders were secure. Without a pause to consider the percentage of mass shootings that have taken place this year in the United States that have not included immigrants other than the kind that arrived here generations ago. The demographics aren't really the thread to follow. 

Follow the guns. More than one hundred sixty mass shootings have taken place already in the calendar year 2023. In the United States. Just us. Just US. Why should we bother insinuating that any particular group or demographic has the monopoly on gun violence? I hear the streets are paved with gold and there's hot and cold running bullets. It's the land of opportunity and a place where any man or woman who can get their cash over the counter can buy a gun and be a part of something bigger. E pluribus dead. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2023


 Okay. I am unhappy with the way we are handling our words here in America. 

Let's start with the one that has been stuck in my craw the longest: I am not "pro-abortion." I support a woman's right to choose what happens to her body. This puts me in the category of "pro-choice." I can't say that I am "pro-life" because a bunch of religious zealots beat me to that particular label. Why can't I go ahead and say that I am pro-life of those who have already achieved personhood and call those other folks "pro-fetus?" 

Because I'm not in charge of labels. 

I feel this "pro-life" label would allow me to extend my beliefs about gun control. I think there is an obvious link between common sense regulations that might keep more of us who have achieved personhood alive longer and the "sanctity of life." Forcing rape and incest victims to carry their pregnancies to term just so we have a more target-rich environment for the next school shooting seems like a sum-zero equation. 

And while we're on the subject of target-rich, can somebody please point me to the moment in our history when being anti-fascist was a bad thing? I'm pretty sure the Greatest Generation got their label because they were just that. Nazis were something we were trying to destroy, not integrate into our major political party's platform. I'm proud to carry the antifa flag.

And then there's this whole business of being woke. As I have opined here on numerous occasions, I would rather be accused of being awake than asleep at the wheel. I am terrified to think that there are those who find the phrase, "Florida is where woke goes to die" a source of pride. Remaining alert to changes in culture, science and politics feels like a good choice to make, if you're into that whole choice thing. Which I am. Just because it is a new idea does not make it wrong. As a matter of fact, most old ideas that have been replaced by new ideas have turned out to be something we call progress. Which is why some of us end up getting called "progressive." Who wants to keep the life on this planet habitable for the next generation of consensual humans who aren't Nazis. That's the life for which I am pro.  

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

A Peeling

 A few nights ago, it came to me in a flash: I could start to like bananas. 

I do not currently like bananas. I avoid them. I pick them out of my fruit salad. I politely decline them when they are offered to me. There is nothing about them, their taste their texture their consistency, that I like. This has been true as long as I can remember. I used to eat the Jello from around the sliced bits of banana my mother tried to sneak into me via "dessert." 

Bananas are at the crux of a group of foods that I would classify as "mushy." I prefer some resistance to my meals. I like to chew. I prefer my pasta al dente and I would like a little more cheese in my macaroni if you please. As a kid, I was suspicious of all food that was not hamburger. When my older brother started asking for Taco Bell, I would whine and moan until our fast food foraging included a stop at McDonald's as well. 

But if it came down to it, bananas or nothing, I was going to go hungry. 

Maybe I got hold of a bad jar of Gerber's banana paste when I was tiny. Or some now forgotten encounter with one of those brown, spotty, slimy messes more suited for baking than peeling and eating. 

Oh, and you can try and dress up your banana bread with chocolate chips and I will have a little piece to be polite, but only to be polite. It's banana bread. It's not chocolate chip bread. 

Which I understand at the ripe old age of sixty years is pretty peevish. I remember reading somewhere that Mick Jagger eats two bananas right before he goes onstage for that big potassium burst. I have an abiding respect for the design of the fruit, with its distinctive color and biodegradable package. There is a lot of great comedy that swirls around bananas, but I have not found a reason to change my ways. 

Until now. I sometimes eat Taco Bell now. I celebrated my birthday last year at a vegan Ethiopian restaurant. Somewhere that little voice in my head that is probably an echo from my late mother is saying, "Isn't it about time you got over this banana thing?"

Maybe it is. I have no current or specific plans to bring a bunch home for myself. It's more a matter of principle at this point. It might have to do with a scene from Escape From The Planet of the Apes, a movie I saw when I was nine. If a highly intelligent chimpanzee hates bananas, enough to teach me the synonyms "loathe and detest," maybe I'm onto something. 

Or maybe it's all in that very cramped space inside my head. 

Monday, May 01, 2023

Daylight Comin'

 The king is dead. Long live the king. 

It would be easy enough to write a paean to the life and work of Harry Belafonte, who passed away this past week at the age of ninety-six. His calypso style influenced generations of musicians decades after his debut in the late forties, back when he was backed by The Charlie Parker Band, whose members also included Max Roach and Miles Davis. And I could go on about his movie career that saw his star rise even higher by the late fifties. Or perhaps I could just focus on his activism, which saw him standing side by side with Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. He helped to organize USA for Africa that brought together recording artists from across the spectrum of the industry to record We Are The World. An amazing man with an amazing legacy. 

But that is not why I gathered you all together today. 

Instead, I am here to note the passing of one former mayor the Cincinnati, Ohio: Gerald Norman Springer. His political career, including a stint as campaign adviser to one Robert F. Kennedy would later be obscured by his dabbling in the medium of television. 

Better known to his friends and viewers as Jerry, Mister Springer took an oft-ignored afternoon talk show and turned it into a sensation. In 1991, Jerry took to the airwaves with the high-minded idea of hosting a politically themed chatfest featuring guests like Oliver North and Jesse Jackson. After three years of floundering ratings, Springer's producers decided to get into the business of pandering. They brought on "real people" with "real problems" and then let the cameras roll as lives fell apart. Critics hated it. The public loved it. Confrontations were the name of the game, and kept Jerry's on-set security led by "Big Steve" Wilkos. Fists and food flew and minutes of a show went unheard while censors leaned on the mute button. 

And thus, our modern political rhetoric was born. 

Jerry Springer kept his show chugging along until 2018, but with a "president" in office who could use his own gameshow experience and access to the bully pulpit, there wasn't as big an audience for a former mayor of Cincinnati. He passed away last week just a couple days after Mister Belafonte at the age of seventy-nine. Harry danced lightly but firmly across the Terra. Jerry brought in angry and confused people to let them do the stomping. 

Some will be missed more than others.