Monday, July 31, 2023

Even Flow

 My wife thinks it's funny that I once had a job with the title "Flow Manager."

Backing up just a thrice, I woke up from a dream in which I was struggling to get all the orders out of our book warehouse on time. The people with whom I worked were, as my memory has it, dedicated but only slightly less than they were to their after work pursuits. Everyone had some sort of side hustle, but all of this mildly concentrated energy served useful purpose. In my dream, however, most of the folks with whom I was interacting were busy doing something but seemed to have lost track of the details of their jobs. It fell to me to unscramble the details. 

Because this is how I see my place in the world. When I arrived at the employee-owned book wholesaler known as Bookpeople, I understood precious little about warehousing. But since I am a hard worker and a fast study, I moved quickly from the packing line out into The Flow. The Flow was the sea of shelves upon which copies of books were placed so that pickers like myself could head out and assemble orders that had been sent in by phone fax or computer. Orders of fewer than fifteen books were collected in small batches and thus given the name Small Batch. 

During my initial trial as a picker, I proved my mettle time and time again by working without a break, often skipping the lunch that was lovingly prepared by our in-house chef. This obsessive dedication was probably what eventually got me the job of being King of the Pickers. Flow Manager. Which was just about the time that our computer department delivered a newfangled shelving system that meant that as soon as a new title came in, it could be assigned its own spot, and the pick sheets we used to assemble the orders would reflect this location. And then we split the warehouse into zones, dropping off the enormous blue refrigerator-sized carts off once we had completed our zone to the next lucky group. 

And then some clever Bookperson got it into their head that we didn't have to be tied to this procession of dangerous blue monoliths. We could send out bits of those computer processed orders to each zone, and the books from that area could be pulled, and then reassembled later at the end of the process. Yellow tubs on convenient conveyer belts that would alleviate the strain on the backs and brains of The Flow. 

I'm telling you all these facts because I want you to know that these were all bits for which I was responsible. And if things worked out right, it was a flow. My challenge was being the type of person who was never comfortable with gravity or momentum. I felt the need to push. Not that I was cracking the whip behind my employees. Instead, I was out there with them, leading by tortured example. 

Which is why my wife laughs at the idea of me being a "Flow Manager." And why I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, dreaming about all the ways I could have done it differently. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Barry Willliams Show

 True Story: In 2002, Peter Gabriel released a song that he wrote to poke snarky fun at reality TV called The Barry Williams Show. At the time he composed it, he was blissfully unaware that such a person really existed. The real Barry Williams can be seen in the video, taking a seat in the audience of the Jerry Springer-type show that is the setting for all the fun.

Apparently Pete made acquaintance of the "real" Barry Williams between the time when he wrote the song and the production of the video. 

In case you've missed an important part of your pop culture education, Barry was the guy who portrayed Greg Brady on the seminal family sitcom, The Brady Bunch. The oldest of three boys brought together with three girls with whom they would form on more than a hunch a mixed brood of squeaky clean teens and preteens. Before he landed what would become the role of his lifetime, young Barry had bit parts in numerous TV shows, while he waited for that big break. 

For five years and one hundred seventeen episodes, Barry was Greg. His life was wholly consumed by the part he was chosen to play, Then, at the ripe old age of twenty, with the series having limped to the minimum level of syndication for reruns, Barry's meal ticket was cancelled. What followed was a career full of more TV guest spots, with a recurring theme: Could you show up and be Greg Brady for a little while? Nowhere was this more in evidence than the year of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. The premise made all the more plausible because patriarch Mike Brady gave up his career in architecture for a shot at show business. Greg's sister Jan was replaced by a clone, since the "real Jan" was not eager to trade on her Bradyness. For a year, the American Broadcasting Company banked on the familiarity with these made up characters and their minimal song and dance talents to carry an hour of prime time network television. Memorable moments include the show's cancellation, but spurred on the need for periodic returns the Brady well. 

Brady Brides. A Very Brady Christmas. And who could forget The Bradys, where Barry was cast as Doctor Greg Brady? All of this over a thirty year span that saw Barry also doing his share of dinner theater and those ever-popular guest spots, often with a Greg-y twist. 

Which brings us to 2002 and the blink and you'll miss it appearance in Peter Gabriel's video. The logical next step was for Barry and his Bradysibs to start appearing in various reality TV shows, the most celebrated being the reclamation of the Brady homestead on HGTV a few years ago. 

So, I'm wondering, Barry Williams will soon be turning seventy years young. I wonder if he ever wanted to be anything but Greg Brady? 

Saturday, July 29, 2023


 My wife and I are big fans of The Walking Dead. The AMC series about the survivors of a virus that reanimates corpses. The one that seems to have a life beyond the grave. The last shuffling zombie was to have crept across our screen back in November of 2022. And yet, somehow, the walkers keep on walking. Six different spinoff series have been spawned out of the carcass of the tale that began once upon a time with a sheriff's deputy that woke up from a coma to discover that the world he knew had become a hellscape where things had gone from bad (coma) to worse (flesh-eating monsters roam the streets). Way back in 2010, this seemed like a worthwhile diversion for my bride and me as we searched for a "new show."

A very long time ago, before she was a wife, she and I were avid viewers of Moonlighting. If you don't have that show on the tip of your memory spear, that's understandable since it hasn't made much of a splash on any of your standard streaming services. Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, before he was king of the action movies, ran a detective agency. They solved mysteries and perpetuated another one with their audience: When will those two, well, you know. And if you don't know, you probably weren't there. But my wife and I were. Much in the same way that we were there for Pee Wee's Playhouse. Every episode. Avid viewers, she and I. First run and reruns. 

What I am suggesting here is that the two of us have a history when it comes to "our shows." For a good long while when we first got together, sharing an apartment and a television, we were stuck on ER. We watched that one through more shift changes than your average Denny's. Doctors Greene and Ross were replaced by equally earnest individuals with medical degrees aided by nurses who were every bit as fraught with the pains of being good looking and working in an inner city hospital. That was a decade and a half. 

This was a time that network television could promote as "must-see TV." Which is probably how we began to forge such a fierce dependence on a weekly appointment with our couch and the appliance across the room. We have been staring at something for most of our married lives. But this zombie thing may have run its course. We found ourselves questioning whether this was a good decision, not us, but the characters on the screen. Why do they continue to put themselves in danger, and why do we keep watching like it would reach some sort of logical conclusion? The dead just keep walking. 

I am saying that we may have to leave before the end credits. We might even end up talking to one another. About something other than zombies. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

The Next Sound You Hear

 The words of advice my younger brother gave my son when he became a driver were based on his years of experience navigating the streets of Los Angeles: Avoid Impact.

Not a revelation, necessarily, but a nice bit of wisdom to pass along to the younger generation. For a hot second way back when I was in my teens, I couldn't seem to pull out of the driveway without bumping into someone or something. For my efforts, I was rewarded with a suspended license, and a chance to reconsider my place in the world of wheels. I rode my bike to school for the first six months of my senior year and my car sat still, which was probably a good thing considering my nascent skills as a driver and the fact that I owned a '72 Vega. 

When all was said and done, I had graduated to a new reality more in line with the words my younger brother would eventually speak to my son. And it was those words upon which I found myself reflecting as I motored about town, running errands. I do not drive a lot, since after all these years I still find myself perfectly happy with my bicycle commute to and from work. If I go anywhere, it is most often with my wife or son who are much more inclined to insist on piloting. 


But every so often I do find myself behind the wheel and I wonder just what sort of odds are keeping us all from colliding with one another in those shiny metal boxes Sting used to sing about. I'm on my way to Safeway, and darned if I didn't witness a near-miss at the stoplight coming down the off ramp. Hear the squeal of the tires and breaks, wait for the sound of breaking glass. Nope. Impact avoided. Everyone breathes out, the light changes and pulse rates return, eventually, to normal. 

Six blocks away, at another intersection, another motorist was not as fortunate. His car's crumpled front end sat derelict in the middle of the street, impeding traffic flow. My eyes searched for a nearby matching vehicle with crumpled bits that would complete the puzzle. Then the light changed and I moved along without solving the puzzle, but not wanting to be part of yet another problem. 

After I made my summertime purchases of canned lemonade and lunchmeat, I took a different way home. It's not safe out there. 

Never has been. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023


 I used to do a bit where I would talk out of the corner of my mouth with a bit of a drawl, describing in detail what I imagined could be the problem with your car. "Well, you're looking at a differential with a bit of a gap at the junction box. I'd recommend we pop off that distributor cap and run a little cold water through it and see if that doesn't do the trick." And, "Long as we've got 'er up on the rack we could go ahead and lift the carburetor up a bit and see if we can get it to vent straight to the crankshaft."

So, as you can see, I know precious little about cars. Still. I have been in quiet awe of my son's affinity and ability to deal with motor vehicles for more than a decade now. The fact that he can still identify cars from blocks away by the sound of their engines is entertaining enough, but the fact that he is able to turn this mild talent into purposeful action by doing actual repair and rehabilitation of the automobiles that enter his orbit continues to confound me. 

As we drove across town recently, he described the process he undertook bringing the Mini Cooper he bought back to useful life as I tried to make sense of what he was telling me in real time. I knew that it involved the axles, and that noise that I couldn't quite hear because he let me know that it used to be a lot worse when it was in both wheels and if he took care of the right side then he would be able to sell it for a thousand dollars more than he paid for it. 

He went on to tell me about how a friend of his wanted to sell him a bunch of parts and a shell of a car that would all eventually be pounded into a working vehicle. It was at this precise moment that I remembered sitting at our coffee table with a much younger boy, working on a Lego set that was supposed to turn into Bob Fett's ship, Slave 1. All those little bits of plastic, and all those pages of instructions. Trying to match the picture to the bits and putting them all together into something that resembled the photo on the box had my son on the verge of tears. 

Until dad stepped in. 

That was a long time ago. I wouldn't have the first idea of how to help him now. Unless you'd wanna stick a butter knife up in that tailpipe and rattle it around a little bit. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Future Tense

 Sitting on the edge of the bed, as I often do after exercise, staring slack-jawed at the television I noticed that I was watching commercials. It took a moment for me to register that I was watching commercial television with ads interspersed throughout the programming day and that since I was home on a weekday the number of ads between bits of show were maximized. There were half a dozen spots for this and that product or service squeezed into the time that it took me to get ready to hop into the shower. 

Once I lurched from my zombified position in front of the screen, I made a mental note that I had seen not one, not two, but three different commercials for three separate fast food outfits that were interested in selling me their chicken sandwich. One of these chains is named for a video game hedgehog. Another has an air of royalty to it, and the third rhymes with "Smopeye's." And it occurred to me that maybe this was fast food making a big wide turn away from serving hamburgers.


As if somewhere in the haze of delirium for fast food, America is being asked to eat more chicken. The folks at Chick-Fil-A could not be more excited. Especially since they seem to be slipping into the "woke fast food" category, along with McD's and all those other companies that insist on selling their meaty treats to anyone capable of getting their money over the counter. Is it possible to be socially responsible and still serve food in paper wrappers? This all started when Big Macs stopped being sold in those Styrofoam boxes. And paper straws? Don't get me started.

But I tried to imagine a future when I showed up to that aforementioned counter and hamburgers as we knew them are no longer an option. Would I eat a chicken sandwich if it helped save the planet? How about a vegetable-based patty of some sort? 

Here's the truth: On our trip to Oregon, we did stop at a vegetarian fast food restaurant. No beef. No chicken. I ate my "Amy Burger" with all that extra lettuce and special sauce on a toasted bun and suffered no allergic reaction. Suddenly my vision of the future was just a little less Soylent Green and a little more Muppet Movie. Waiting for the moment I see my first commercial for Amy's Drive Thru

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Can We Stop?

 My wife and I made a pact before we set out on our road trip. We recalled our youth, and all those miles we sat in the back seat, wishing that we could stop at Stuckey's. Or The World's Largest Ball of Twine. We were told by our respective parents that these were Tourist Traps, and we would not be stopping there. The occasional National Park, but No Tourist Traps.

The pact that my wife and I made was this: We're adults. We have the money and we have the driver's seat. We will be stopping for Tourist Traps. 

We stopped at Confusion Hill. On our way out of the top of California, we pulled over for a quick peek at the home of the Chipalope, a genetic mutation involving an antelope and a chipmunk. Apparently the most confusing part of Confusion Hill is what its main attraction must be, since the World Famous Gravity House seemed to be on a par with the World's Tallest Freestanding Redwood Chainsaw Carving. Or was it the miniature train ride? The restrooms were mostly clean.

A little further up the road and on the following day we felt drawn toward the exit for Trees Of Mystery. This place had enough parking for a state fair, with room left over for Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Pal, Babe. The emphasis in this little slice of roadside attraction was on the trees, and not mutated rodents. Nor were there any gravitational anomalies to be found. Walk among the trees. Walk up into the trees. Take a tram up above the trees. Not a mystery, per se. 

As we headed north, we became aware of the number of Sasquatch emporiums that seemed to be linked in mildly direct fashion to cannabis dispensaries. None of them caught our direct attention, but may require further investigation at some other point. 

While staying in Portland, Oregon, some friends suggested we check out the Shanghai Tunnels beneath a pizzeria in Old Town. While not an official roadside diversion, this bump around in the dark proved to be every bit as mysterious as the Chipalope. My wife and I figured we might be able to give a rough simulation of the experience in our own basement with the lights off. There was good pizza at the end, and some spooky pictures. 

On our way home, we made a point to follow a friend's suggestion to check out The Oregon Vortex. A fair piece off the beaten path, this was the place where our senses were put to the test. Could we explain how all the sloppy architecture of The Mystery House made gravity all askew? Not without interrupting our guide's pseudo-scientific explanations. Here we found no giant redwood trees sculpted into rodents with antlers. Just porta-potties and souvenir tie-dye T-shirts. 

Do I feel any poorer for having paid admission to all these points of mild interest? No. My wife and I ended the trip feeling empowered. Or maybe that's just an after-effect of the gravity vortex. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

The Truth Will Set You Free

 I suppose the good news is that there are a great many of us who A) completed a rudimentary course in the history of the United States and B) do not live in Florida. Because those nutjobs in the Sunshine State have really stepped in it this time. 

The Florida State Board of Education’s new standards includes controversial language about how “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the powers that be in America's most atrophied appendage have decided that not only will Critical Race Theory and all of its attendant woke ideologies be taught in Florida's schools, they would like everyone to appreciate just how bad a rap this whole slavery thing has gotten over the years. 

And then there's this: “Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans but is not limited to 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Massacre and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre.” From the tiny minds of people like Ron "Ald" DeSantis, this isn't even a version of the truth. This is wholesale revision, using every effort to eliminate the reality of the enslavement of another people and their subsequent dehumanization for generations in order to Make America Great. The momentum gained by African Americans to regain that humanity over the past four hundred years seems to have hit a brick wall, in the form of Governor Ron's thick skull. 

Florida is, according to the folks they put in charge down there, "Where Woke goes to die." A quick check of the facts suggest that Florida is where reality goes to die, which may be good news to people running a fantasy theme park, but not so good for trying to teach kids history. After hundreds of years coming to grips with our part in the formation of this "more perfect union," why is it exactly that the governor of Florida feels the need not to sand off any possible sharp edges, but to replace it with a version of the past that can't even come to grips with the basic principles of slavery. 

Oh. That's right. He's running for president, and the only way he imagines that he can beat the former game-show host and twice impeached bloated sack of orange protoplasm with multiple state and federal indictments is to come in below that bar. I shudder to think what the Florida State Board of Education will have to say about the Holocaust. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Dearth Vader

 This has been a pretty slow summer for movies. Not in the world, necessarily, but definitely in my corner of it. And this isn't because of the writers' strike. Or the actors going out with them. I'm just not that good at getting out and going to the cinema.

Not like I used to be. Summertime was, after the release of Jaws in June of 1975, the time for blockbusters. Summers full of Star Wars and Indiana Jones and most anything that Steven Spielberg or George Lucas pointed their magic machines at comprised a steady lemming-like stream of viewers like myself. And this was long before the advent of the superfaplexes. This was back in the day when a movie could show on the same screen for weeks, months, as long as it was still doing business. 

I spent the summer of 1977 inside the Flatirons theater in Boulder, Colorado memorizing every line in Star Wars. More than three thousand other films were released that year, but I spent my time and allowance riding my bike up the hill to see that movie. Keeping in mind this was also the summer that Smokey and the Bandit came out. And The Spy Who Loved Me. And Capricorn One, for heaven's sake. I went to all those other movies, but after I was done, I got back in line for the story of Luke Skywalker and his merry band of galactic rebels. 

Of course, it seems quite likely that sixty-one year old married school teachers are not the demographic that studios are trying to reach in 2023. I don't know if they ever were, but there is still some latent impulse in me that surges when I watch previews for coming attractions. Except most often these days I am watching them on my computer screen because I have received a link or an email suggestion. And for a moment, I am transported to those halcyon days of yesteryear, where every free moment was a possible trip to the movies. Where will we find the time?

Well, there is this to consider: Those three thousand feature films released in 1977 compares to the fourteen thousand released in 2022. Sure, a lot of those went directly to streaming services, but those fifty years brought all kinds of change to a business that likes a show. Blockbuster status is now judged in billions, not millions. The first three days that a movie races into the concrete bunkers we refer to as theaters now had better pay for all of its costs, or it will be tossed aside. Flop. 

Into this mix was tossed the finale of the Indiana Jones saga. I went on a Saturday night, prepared to be disappointed or enthralled. I sat in a theater that was only half full. A week after it had been released. Maybe everyone had come out for the matinee. Or perhaps they were there the night before. Or maybe they were simply waiting for the inevitable release to everyone's home theater. 

You know, Elvis died in 1977. I don't know if this is related. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Nobody But Us Chickens

 It is the year 2023. Robots now open our doors, remind us to feed the cat, suggest which television shows to binge. 

But we need sixteen year olds to render chickens? 

To be clear: Sixteen year olds are not supposed to be working in poultry plants. There are rules against that. Any company found to be in violation of this rule could face a federal fine of more than thirty thousand dollars per incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will definitely be looking into the circumstances that found Duvan Tomas Perez screaming for help before he was crushed by heavy machinery. 

This was the third death at the Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi since 2020. To be more precise, this is the third death of a human being at the plant in the past three years. There was no immediate number of chicken deaths available. 

In February, the White House said it would be cracking down on the exploitation of migrant children in the workforce. Duvan immigrated with his family from Guatemala six years ago. A letter sent in April to meat and chicken purveyors urged them to analyze their supply chains for evidence of child labor violations. So let's just clear up any possible misconceptions: Nobody, young or old, immigrant or native born should be crushed by heavy machinery at a poultry plant. 

The optics will now most likely focus on Duvan and his family's immigration status. And the talk of "taking our jobs" will surface once again while we try and figure out why we can't keep our sixteen year olds safe. Regardless of their immigration status. Cleaning the shake machine at the local Dairy Queen can get pretty messy, but not life threatening. That's the kind of job a sixteen year old should have. Regardless of their immigration status. 

Unless there are already robots that can do that. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Golden Years

Recently I wrote here about how I have now outlived my father. This is a distinction I share with all sorts of people, close friends of mine included. That said, I am currently feeling yet another wave of what being left an orphan at this stage of my life means. 

I sat through a second hour-long teleconference about my eventual retirement this week. If you're a big fan of all those pithy commentaries I tend to publish here about being a teacher at an urban Oakland Elementary School, don't panic. I am not planning on hitting the dusty trail over the hill anytime soon. But that was the purpose for which we held these little gatherings: So someone could tell me when it was okay to stop. 

My father never stopped working. When he died at the age of sixty-one, I was the one who got to go to his office and clear out his desk. His messy, cluttered desk. Full of years of notes and reminders of appointments that he never made. Comic strips and aphorisms clipped from magazines that reminded him of his place in the universe, outside of his cluttered, messy desk. The tricky part about my dad's career was that when he decided to divorce my mom ten years prior he also left the company he had been with for most of my life. Whatever pension or retirement plan that was set up there went by the wayside because he had one of those "mid-life" things. His health insurance lapsed for a bit, and some of the things that might have been part of preparing for the golden years with his family fell by the wayside. My dad's retirement plan was to die in a small plane crash. 

Not that the crash was planned, but it was how the life insurance he had came into play. And his car and place of residence. These all became his legacy. The 401K and 403B that I got to discuss on Zoom decades later were not part of my father's exit strategy. Consequently, I find myself wondering how my father would have wanted his departure from the workforce to go. I do not believe that the seemingly endless confabulation about my relative preparedness was so torturous that I would trade it for a ride in a single engine aircraft, but it did make me wonder if dad had spent any time with financial advisors regarding his future. The one that turned out to be tragically short. 

It's all a great big word problem with variables that I can only now begin to fathom. I have faith in the process, and expect that once the price and the time has been decided for my departure from the workforce that I will be prepared. Financially and emotionally. Or at least one of those.   

Thursday, July 20, 2023


 There was a meeting of the tribe a few days back. We convened, as we used to back in the day, on our back deck. Some of the hands that constructed that architectural wonder were in attendance, as were friends from across the town and across the globe. We ate, we drank, and we talked.

And talked. 

We talked about the way things are now. Where we were finding joy and where we were finding stress. We talked about those who were not able to make this meeting, and what we imagined they might be up to currently. Then the subject turned to where we all live. 

We all live not just in houses with maintenance that has ramped up considerably since we moved in, but in carcasses that have suffered from the time spent avoiding the upkeep that might have kept them from being as vital as they used to be. We talked about aging. 

For every window that needs a new screen there was a joint or a blood vessel that needed some attention. I spoke of how we had recently taken on the help of a robot to vacuum our floors and how the baker's cyst on the back of my right knee has become as big a part of my life as the Roomba. On the edge of all the food, we chatted about what we can't eat anymore and why. We talked about energy drinks that wouldn't mess up that necessary sleep at the end of the day. We talked about appliances and how they don't make them like they used to anymore.

We avoided making the necessary connection between ourselves and the objects with which we live. Nobody seemed to notice when I made reference to my son and when he used to fit in a little basket, even though his adult frame was sitting right next to me. History might be written by the victors, but it is more surely written by the survivors. 

I have outlived a few vacuum cleaners. I can spin amusing tales about the kidney stones I have endured, but I cringe at the notion of ever having to do it again. We love the paint job on our house, but we can already see the cracks and bubbles that will need a little help before the next rainy season comes. And under our feet, we noticed the screws on the deck that we had so carefully countersunk once upon a time were starting to creep up. Just a bit. 

Somebody really ought to take a look at that. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

For Now

 When I read the headline, "Federal judge rules Oregon’s tough new gun law is constitutional," I had to go ahead and read the full article. Since so much that goes on in our nation's courts currently leaves me feeling a little cold and alone, The number of states that are passing new gun laws that assure the trend of too many guns and too many innocent victims lately has been very unsettling. 

But, as it turns out, the clue was right there in the headline: Oregon. A liberal bastion and a place where good ideas find a home, the folks up there voted to require residents to undergo safety training and a background check to obtain a permit to buy a gun. and bans magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. A federal judge said that this is constitutional. U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut said this measure, number 114, fits neatly into “the nation’s history and tradition of regulating uniquely dangerous features of weapons and firearms to protect public safety."

As an aside, my high school German couldn't help but notice that the judge's last name translates to "always good." 

Of course, after reading the full article, my mind was full of questions, the foremost was, "how long before some wingnut feels compelled to take it to a higher court?" The matter of guns and the safety that rightly should surround them is far from settled business in Estados Unidos. (I didn't take Spanish in high school). The sound you hear is the squeak of a bunch of NRA lobbyists getting their LaDeririers off their cushy office chairs to prepare to fight common sense. The common sense to which Judge Always Good referred to in her decision. 

You need a license to catch a fish. You need a license to drive a car or go out into the woods with those guns to kill animals. If you fail your driver's test, they don't approve you to get behind the wheel. I know this because when I was in high school, studying German and not Spanish, I failed my driver's license. As a matter of fact, I have some personal experience with having my privilege to drive being revoked. Imagine that. If you have a demonstrably shoddy record driving a motor vehicle, the state will take that license away. It should be noted here and now that even though this new law in Oregon is "one of the toughest in the nation," But it doesn't ask anyone to give up anything they already have. The "things" they won't be giving up are guns. Guns that just happen to be the leading killer of children in the United States. More than fishing accidents. 

And now we wait for that squeaking sound to get louder and louder, as it always seems to do in these situations. Always Good. 

For now. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Filling A Void

 I don't know if anyone remembers what happened the last time we had a writers strike in Hollywood. 

I do: Reality TV. 

When networks ran out of new episodes of scripted shows, they filled their schedules with game shows and aging rock stars emptying the garbage. Yes, we didn't get to watch any CSI or SVU or MOUSE, but we did get to see Ozzy Osbourne complaining about being left to schlep his family's trash, "I'm the Prince of Darkness..."

Okay, maybe that last bit was kind of worth it, but the legions of Real Housewives and gussied up versions of the junk we were happy to miss on daytime TV started finding its way into our living rooms in the evenings. Which spawned entire networks. House hunting and demolition. The mating rituals of all those whose pride was shed when the cameras turned on. I'm going to make the argument right here and right now that the audience (us) will watch anything that is put in front of us. 

Which is a shame, because in between there was a ton of what many have referred to as "A Golden Age of Television." The stories of Walter White and later Saul Goodman were written, and acted. Not merely unleashed on an unsuspecting public. All those walking dead zombies didn't just rise up from the grave, somebody had to sit down with a comic book and adapt them for the screen. Those dapper ad executives at Sterling Cooper sprang from the past and into our present just after the last writers strike. 

And now we're shutting the door on more golden TV. When I say "we," I mean the corporate greedheads who speak of stories as "content" and entertainment as a "product." These are the pointy little heads that decided that Regis Philbin asking "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" was every bit as interesting as a high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin. These are the monsters who have taken control of the airwaves and are more interested in a bottom line than in creating art. They are every bit as soulless as the computers they wish to employ in the creation of next Fall's primetime lineup. Or just find a roomful of chimpanzees and a bunch of typewriters. When you're done cleaning off the walls, you might find something worth putting in that nine PM slot. 

Or just start asking people to switch their Ring Doorbells to streaming. 

Oh god. Did I just suggest that? Never mind. Back to sleep. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Sorry, Honey

 I check my wife's reaction to these blog entries. Sometimes she laughs out loud, which is music to my ears. Sometimes she stops in the middle and asks me a question, like "what did you mean..." It's that second one I have to watch out for. 

Lately she has been reacting to my insistence on paying attention to the former game show host who just happened to live in the White House for four years. You remember, puffy guy with curious hiring practices and a neverending thirst for Diet Coke? That guy. The punch line to a thousand jokes and the poster boy for a million memes. 

That guy. 

What, my wife would like to know, is my obsession with this horribly unpleasant person? 

I tell her that it is my fear-based reaction to a syndrome that goes back in recent history to Sarah Palin, you remember her, the lady who stamped the template for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert? The embodiment of hypocrisy and nonsense who pushed John McCain to the edge of his legacy. That gal. And just so we don't stir up any gender issues here, Ms. Palin gave shape to a whole sea of men, women, and trans folk who now feel free to spout nonsense based on bad facts and worse science. The army of MAGAts were sprouted from this Hydra's teeth and each time a head is cut off, another one grows beside it. 

The form that this evil took in 2016 ended up seating one third of the current Supreme Court. He called for the violent overturn of an election that he lost. "Politics as normal" have ceased to be as a result of his existence. Sitting quietly at the kitchen table after 2020 ignoring him has not made him go away. Twice indicted and once convicted with more indictments stacked up in the wings like O'Hare, this guy is still the presumptive front runner of his party. Now we even have some Democrats starting to parrot his brand of insanity to try and get a foot in the door. 

I do not know if political discourse in our country will ever return to the level of crazy we enjoyed before 2008, but I don't believe that will happen without shining a light on the cockroaches in the kitchen. Especially the big, fat orange one sipping Diet Coke. 

Sorry, honey. 

Sunday, July 16, 2023


 Disney's CEO and MIC (Mouse In Charge) Bob Iger says that writers and actors going on strike simultaneously is "very disturbing to me" and their expectations are not "realistic." 

You know what else isn't realistic Bob?

A mermaid who gets her wish to walk on land.

A pretty lady who lives with seven short diamond miners, waiting for her prince to come. 

A flying elephant.

Talking cars.

Talking deer.

A mouse who tends to wear only pants who is friends with a Duck who goes without.

A five dollar churro. 

This is the very beginning of a very long list, but as you can see, it is the imaginations toiling away in those scary tunnels below Disneyland that keep the magic coming. Bob, who never had a creative idea in his life (unless you count that stint as a weatherman back in the early seventies), is being paid twenty-something million dollars a year to use his emperor's thumb to decide the fate of properties brought to him from those dungeons, and as long as those projects continue to make money, so will he. 

Lots of it. 

The average screenwriter makes just a little less than I do each year. We don't tend to hear about "average" screenwriters, since the stories we do read about screenwriters are about the fantastic deals they made. But there are a lot of average screenwriters. Take a look at all the average TV and movies there are. The average actor makes just about the same. To star in all those average movies and TV shows. The same average TV and movies that clog up your favorite streaming services. Those streaming services that are charging you to whether you watch their average TV shows and movies or not. Every month. 

What sort of reality is this, Bob? Does it sound a little like Robin Hood, except with foxes? That's not real either. Prepare for more unrealism. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023


 It's that time of year. It used to be the week or two just after the Fourth of July when my son would start noticing Back To School Savings appearing in various store windows and circulars. Now it has become the time of year when I get email reminders about online trainings I need to take before I return to the grind. 

In August. 

Not that I mind particularly, since this year we were out before Memorial Day and we are essentially graced with an additional three day weekend after the school year begins in August. Again, this is not what I mind. What I do mind are those trainings. 

The first one was about how not to get fished in by malware and online scams that could ransom the district's data and cause the downfall of public education. Bottom line? Don't open attachments from senders you do not recognize. Pretty simple stuff for the computer teacher, and just like that, I'm on to the next assignment. 

Use of pesticides in public school settings? Pretty solid common sense stuff here. Don't bring your personal bug spray from home. Keep the varmints out by sealing up holes that voles can clime through. Oh, and read the directions of products that will be used in closed quarters, keeping mind that nine year olds will lick just about any surface if allowed. Passed that quiz pretty easily.

But this last one, about mandatory reporting? It doesn't matter how many times I push myself through the details of the state regulations regarding child abuse, neglect and grooming, it continues to ring in my head for days afterward. The matter-of-fact tone that existed in the email lectures and the poison precautions are switched out for a much more dire warning: If you don't report, you're as guilty as the perp. No excuses. This image of frightened and confused teachers and administrators depicted in the role-plays found in the videos are not familiar to me, but I am assured by the voice of authority narrating the lessons that the problem is that "we" are not doing our job like we should. 

So I wade through the material. I listen patiently as the worst-case scenarios are laid out. Then I answer the sixteen multiple choice questions in with that same worst-case mindset. And hooray, I passed. Left with that bad taste, counting down the days until I am back in the classroom, anxiously awaiting a chance to do my part. That ugly, and according to statistics, inevitable chance. 

I'd rather be shopping at Target for binders, thank you. 

Friday, July 14, 2023


 I'll bet you probably thought I had my finger on the pulse of this great land of ours even while I was out traveling the highways and byways over the past couple weeks. 

Whoops. I said "byways." This may lead to a blog boycott, since I tend to support such things. Not just rural routes but tourist traps and roadside attractions. I'm also happy to accept any and all readers from lifestyles other than my own. RV drivers? Welcome. Motorcyclists? Minivans? Welcome, welcome. That Datsun 280 Z that zipped past me travelling south just across the Oregon-California border? Yes. Even that person, whatever pronoun they might be using. 

Because I'm here to tell you: Pronouns aren't it. To quote the philosopher Tyler Durden, “You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet." He goes on there to make some disparaging comments about khakis, but I urge you to consider the idea that it is the content of our character that we should be worried about supporting or boycotting. When it comes to celebrity spokesthings, it never occurred to me to stop buying Trix because they were being advertised by a tricky rabbit. Just like I was never worried about buying Michelin tires from what appeared to be a melting blob of soft serve ice cream. Most of these anthropomorphic salesthings were of questionable intent. I'm looking at you, Charlie the Tuna. This was a fish with a death wish, after all, and Starkist didn't want to muck up their brand with the bad chemicals running around Charlie's brain. 

I like George Clooney. I support a great many of the causes he does. But I don't want to buy one of his coffee machines. I don't drink coffee, and even if I did, I'm not sure being a good actor qualifies one to promote the apparatus for preparing caffeinated beverages. I really enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow in all those Marvel movies where she played the alliterative Pepper Potts. I won't be buying any of her seventy-two dollar scented candles because my life is already far too complicated scent-wise. 

John Rich, of the country music duo Big & Rich, would like us all to stop buying Ben & Jerry's ice cream. This battle of ampersands comes about because the always overtly socially conscious folks at Ben & Jerry's chose this as their holiday greeting: "The United States was founded on stolen Indigenous land. This Fourth of July, let's commit to returning it." Cue the machine gunning destruction of pints of Cherry Garcia. 

I'm thinking we would all benefit from a trip out on the open roads, where the only judgements passed are based on bumper stickers. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Down To Earth

 Standing up in a pine tree, hugging the trunk and not fully trusting all the belts and cables put there to keep bipeds like me from plummeting to the earth, I thought of the chore I did shortly before taking this trip. I was up in a plum tree, shaking fruit until it fell to the earth. By the time I was done, I had joined the plums. On the earth.

But now I was on vacation, and following my wife's whim, we were on an adventure that involved zip lines. And trees. And a strict adherence to the rules that would keep us from suffering the same fate I had experienced in my own front yard. Under the watchful eye of our twenty-seomthing guide, we learned the ways of carbiners and hooking on and unhooking and moving from one precarious perch to another, always with the anticipatoin of shoving off from the platform, picking up speed as the pulley system attached to our belts carried us back to terra firma. 

It was a ritual, of sorts, an avoidance of both age and gravity. Cheating on both ends. I felt my comort zone being tugged at from a number of different corners. Was I going to let my wife go and have all the fun? Would I just sit and watch while she and our friends went off on this grand adventure? Was I going to play the common sense card and hang back at the gift shop?

In a word, no. In a bunch more words, I thought about it and wondered if there was a statute of limitations to peer pressure. What did I really have to prove, after I had the fees for four of us rung up on my credit card, would it make any sense to just stay on the ground?

In a word, no. In a bunch of words, I wanted to see if all those years of climibing trees in the hills of Colorado and rock climbing with my older brother would pay off in some way or another. I viewed it as a kind of test. It wasn't pass or fail. It was climb or not. 

I climbed. And I felt physics and my age at work. I was pleased each time I completed on of the challenges, and thanked my youth in the trees and my older brother for all the time I spent putting faith in that one caribiner attached to the nylong web diaper. And when it was all said and done, I finished the red level and let my wife go ahead and test herself on the ultimate test: black. I watched and took pictures. I encouraged and exhorted. And I waited for that pang, the one that comes from missing out. 

It never came. 

I was tired, happy, and relieved to be joined back on earth by my high-flying wife. No plummeting required. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Back To Nature

 The stump was from an aspen tree that had been gnawed down by the beavers that were creekside residents before we moved into our mountain cabin. The significance of this stump was that it served as a marker for my brothers and I when we would go out the back door, up the path, to brush our teeth. 

We carried our toothbrushes in one hand, already dosed with Crest, and a Dixie cup with water in the other. We could begin brushing as soon as we left the porch, but we were not allowed to spit until after we had passed that stump. Consequently, that bit of vertical reminder bore a bluish gray patina from our nightly sojourns into the darkness. The light from inside, provided by a pair of hardworking Coleman lanterns was just strong enough to make it easy even on moonless nights to find our way back. No flashlight was needed. 

There was no plumbing at our cabin. And no electricity. The woods were our bathroom. The radius from the back porch for this kind of activity was a bit further out than the beaver stump. My mother was also somewhat insistent that we take a few steps off the beaten path before we let fly. For these excursions we would often take a flashlight. There was plenty of brotherly teasing about how bears were attracted to certain smells, and it was always a good idea to be ready to flee in the moments before the mauling. 

None of us were ever mauled. The bears that may at one time roamed the hills by our cabin left before the beavers, and even they couldn't be found after we started stomping around the forest full time each summer. But this was the kind of thing that gave us the feeling of living in the Little House On The Prairie. Except we were in the mountains. And there were three boys, not three girls, and I don't remember any of the Ingalls ever needing to go to bathroom. Or brush their teeth. 

We did. And we always found our way back. No one was ever left behind. And if you're asking if we ever cheated a little on that distance from the back door? Well, let's just say that nobody can prove a thing. 

Except maybe the bears. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

This Matters

 Ah, the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. The place where our twentieth century ideals went to die. 

After they decided to put a stop to Affirmative Action, they went ahead and decided to torpedo President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, and then figured it would be okay if a web designer who refuses to create websites to celebrate same-sex weddings out of religious objections. Never mind that the couple in question may not ever have existed. This is all policy being created by the judicial branch. 

If you're a fan of checks and balances, you may have believed at one time that it was up to lawmakers in the House and Senate to determine how we run the country. The Supremes are in there to make sure that it's done on the level. Upper class white males won big time. Now at last Harvard can start admitting more white males and that will work out great because chances are they won't be the type who welch on their student loans because mummy and daddums will write a big check to make sure that the lacrosse team gets new nets. And if someone starts squawking about how they aren't being unable to gain access to those halls of power, you can tell them to shove off and quit whining because the Supreme Court says their way is the Constitutional Way. 

Or at least that's how they interperet it. While members of Congress continue to ignore the PPP loans they took during COVID, they want us to understand that not paying back your debts is wrong. When it's student loans. And if you wanted a designer to put together a web page to celebrate your completely legal same sex marriage, the designer could cite her religious freedom as the reason to ignore the civil rights of others. 

And if you had any doubts about how things might roll if a former game show host was allowed to pick one third of the Justices on the Supreme Court, well now you've got a taste for it. And since they get to stick around until they decide they want to leave or are carted away shortly before they go to that big courtroom in the sky, we'll be digging ourselves out of this one for a good long time. Remember when women had a legal right to choose their own reproductive care? So far this group of Supremes has taken down abortion and affirmative action. If they're working alphabetically, we're all in trouble. Did I mention that some of these folks are currently accepting bribes

Please think long and hard before your vote for Robert Kennedy Jr. 

This stuff matters. 

Monday, July 10, 2023


 That's what the sign said: Free. I saw it as I was going past Nick's house. There was a lot more activity our front than usual. Most of the time when I would run past Nick's house, it would appear quiet and empty, unless he was headed out. Or in. Nick wasn't much for hanging out in the yard. But Nick's not there anymore. 

His tribe had descended on the place to reenact an episode of Hoarders. They were there to put order to the chaos that was home to a man who collected what a man collects over the course of fifty years in one spot. Tools. Parts of tools. Parts of machines that needed special tools to fix them. And ladders to reach the tools or machines that were in need of being fixed. 

My wife spied an extension ladder that she felt we might need, since we have, on occasion had to borrow one for our taller than average house. She paid Nick's estate twenty dollars for me to carry it away. On eht way out, she saw some other things that struck her fancy. Once we were back within the confines of our own yard, I reminded her that we were approaching the stage in our life when holding on to objects makes less and less sense. One need only take a quick peek at the saw horses and gas cans that sat out on the curb in front of Nick's house to make one wonder: What will I leave behind for my son to sort out?

I went through a version of this just recently when my mother passed away. Happily, my older brother had been working over the course of several years to pare down the trappings of her lifetime. Things that had been stowed away for decades and "might be useful one day" went away. Her piano, beloved though it was, became an albatross that was keeping her from getting around her home safely. Off it went on a trip to my front room, where I can figure out what to do with it for the rest of my life. And the flagstone coffee table. And the china. And the music books. Other prizes found a home. Sentimental pieces that reminded us from whence we came. 

And the rest of it? The Goodwill. Recycling. The landfill. Out. 

Someday, all those things that I figured were so valuable, so important, will be on the curb in front of my house. With a big sign that says "free." The value I assigned to those old Rolling Stone magazines and Planet of the Apes trading cards will be officially negotiable. Whatever you can carry, memories of a lifetime spent gathering. 

Time to let it go.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Earth Sucks

 I blame myself for having studied physics back in high school. I actually believed all that Newtonian garbage that they flung at me. Force equals mass times acceleration squared. What goes up, must come down. I had seen these equations fulfilled numerous times in my youth. I had no reason to doubt them. 

Until I got to college and some wiseacre professor began prattling on about curved space and quantum mechanics. Like these were real things. Like I should pay attention and learn them all over. Because everyone knows that an apple doesn't simply fall from a tree. It needs motivation. 

Or something like that. 

I bring this up because I fell from a tree recently. As tradition has it, I climb up into the plum tree in the front of our house three times a year. Once at the end of November to mount the Christmas lights. Again on New Year's Day because who keeps their Christmas lights up past the first of the year? And one more time right around Father's Day because that's when the plums that no one in my family likes begin to find their gravity challenged. I go up there to shake the thing until all or most all of the fruit has been harvested. 

Which is what I did. Then it was time to come back down. Which is where I had the chance to think about those physics experiments. A Dave in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force. The ground, for example. As this acceleration toward a more massive object, the aforementioned ground, I had a chance to consider the way my father met his match when the plane in which he as flying succumbed to some of these same forces. And how about that time that I decided to launch myself into the night air from a swing on my way to rupturing the ligaments of my left knee. 

So I did what I could to diminish the gravitational force by attempting to cling tenaciously to the trunk of the tree, since the ladder which had been my means of up had slipped away. Down. The direction that I was heading. 

There was no one around to witness the thud or the crumpled mass I made at the bottom of the tree. My first inclination was to sit there and wait for someone to come see if I was alright. Being a grownup, none was forthcoming. Adults get up, dust themselves off, and make a mental note along the lines of "you're sixty-one, maybe you could have someone else crawl up in that tree." 

Or maybe I should wait until I have someone to watch me disobey the laws of physics. 

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Those Were The Days

 Once upon a time, my Friday and Saturday night plans went something like this: "Let's get really drunk and..." The ellipsis periods take the place of any inane task or activity that might come into my head, or the heads of the Monkey Boys with whom I spent time with during my Days Of Wine And Roses. The expectation was fairly simple. After enough adult beverages were consumed, most everything took on the appearance of fun. Some of it might actually have been. Hard to tell in hindsight. 

Or incredibly easy. 

I say this in the context of a story that does not include me, but it might have. A man went with his family from the United Kingdom to Jamaica on vacation. As part of this enterprise, the father of the clan decided to take on the resort's challenge to consume all twenty-one of their signature cocktails before last call. He made it to twelve. Then he went back to his room where he collapsed and died. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help get dad's body back home, and are roundly criticizing the efforts of the first responders. 

Which makes me glad that I did most of my "let's get really drunk and..." in my twenties. I would imagine that many of my hijinks back in the day might have ended differently had I put them off for thirty years. Showing up to work hung over as a video clerk didn't play so bad compared to having a morning after as a school teacher. Or as a husband. Or a father. All those youthful indiscretions were solidly in my rearview by the time I decided to settle down. 

Which is why they call it that, I think. If you're the type with wild oats to sow, I respectfully suggest that you sow them during that time that you won't put an embarrassing damper on your family's travel plans. I am reasonably sure that "let's get really drunk and pass away so that mum and the kids will have to debase themselves online to raise the money to get my bloated carcass back home" wasn't on the official itinerary. 

These days, on Fridays and Saturdays, I stay sober and sit around judging people. 

Friday, July 07, 2023

Nerd Alert

 Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg fight in a cage match. If that doesn't sound like the setup to a very bad joke, very little on this big blue marble does. But aside from being just that, it was actually suggested. These two pasty nerds are so lost for something to do now that they control most of the world's information that they need to have their own personal Thunderdome. Two nerds enter. On nerd leave. 

And to what end? Would the correct and virtuous point of view be uncovered by such a contest? Two grown men grappling and slapping at one another might somehow help cure the ills of this world? 

Doubtful, but I expect that the years Mush and Zuck spent as kids being teased for their bookish ways and less than chiseled physiques probably fed into a need for some sort of gratification that could only be served by such an enterprise. I remember the time that Lyle Alzado decided to fight Muhammad Ali. That was announced as a charity exhibition. How could you lose that one? Unless you had a huge ego and you were worried about your legacy. Two other guys who decided to throw hands, Danny Bonaduce and Donny Osmond, weren't so much concerned about their respective legacies but rather how to extend them. Even if it meant making themselves appear foolish in the process. 

Again, Elno and Marky do not have anything to prove here. Not anything that couldn't be resolved over a few nasty tweets, but even then the choice of social media would tip the tables in favor of the dork who spent four billion dollars to buy the service in the first place. I notice that neither of these gentlemen chose to suggest that they could try and out-alturist the other. "I'll bet I can cure cancer first!" 

No, no, no. That is not the age in which we currently find ourselves. They won't be satisfied until someone gets a bloody nose. Or dislocates their mouse-finger. It won't be over until somebody ends up crying. Errol Musk, Elno's daddy, suggested that this is a "no-win" situation for his rumored to be biological son. Except for the revenue generated by such a freak show. 

Which leaves me with a thought about poor Tonya Harding. Her pugilistic career didn't manage to win her any new fans, but it did get her a spot on Dancing With The Stars. Why not get Musk and Zuck to tango themselves into infamy? 

Thursday, July 06, 2023


 Will the last one out of Faux News please turn out the lights. 

Or, perhaps, go ahead and leave them on in hopes that an electrical fire will somehow ignite and torch the entire enterprise. 

Geraldo Rivera is leaving "the network." It took him twenty-three years to get fed up with the way he was treated, and now he's moving on to greener pastures. I shudder to think at the quantum level of greenness that must exist outside of Fox News, but there you go. 

Word has it, by the way, that Geraldo was being kept around as the token "liberal" voice on the channel. As a registered Republican, Mister Rivera was still allowed to eat in the Fox cafeteria and to have a resereved parking spot every other Thursday. When he wasn't busy taking abuse for his pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage views, he had at times considered a run for the United States Senate. Fiscally conservative, but still willing to try and shout down the Hannitys and Watters whenever the situation called for it. He got paid two million dollars a year for the privilege. 

Before that, Geraldo was once a crusading lawyer type with clients like Harlem gang members, he took a job in 1970 with ABC News. He was able to keep on crusading there for a number of years until he decided that what everyone really wanted to know was what Al Capone was keeping in his vault. When the answer to that musical question turned out to be nothing, he realized that he was on to something. Sometimes, to quote the film, nothing can be pretty cool hand. 

For eleven years he was one of the chief purveyors of tabloid TV along with hackmeisters like Maury Povich and Morton Downey Jr. You might remember one particular episode of his eponymously titled show in which he sat a group of black and Jewish activists down next to a bunch of Nazi skinheads. If you didn't see it, your imagined vision of the chaos will do. 

It was this kind of forward thinking journalism that landed Geraldo a spot on Fox News. As a war correspondent, hanging around in Afghanistan making a name for himself by making the impossible job of American soldiers there even more difficult. When that action proved too hot, he decided to come back to the U.S. to make pointed comments like suggesting that Trayvon Martin would never have been shot and killed if he hadn't been wearing a hoodie. It was that kind of hard-hitting reporting that kept him around for Rupert Murdoch to throw money at. 

But now, eighty years young, Geraldo Rivera is preparing for life away from the umbilical Fox. Fox, in turn, will have to look high and low for a "liberal" shill to fill in the vacuum of right wing rhetoric. Don't count Geraldo out. He'll probably show up as a guest on Tucker's Twitter Playhouse soon enough. 

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Check Your Reality

 Dodge City is one hundred fifty-four miles from Wichita. I mention this because they are geographically near one another, but historically they are much further apart. 

Back in the "Wild West," an era of which we seem to be doomed to repeat the syndicated version. Those quick-draw, rootin' tootin' pistol packin' days of yore are in which so many tiny brained infants seem to believe we would all be better living. 

Except these waifs tend to forget that even back in the days of Tombstone and Dodge City, there were laws. Laws that restricted the carrying of firearms. It was customary in most of these frontier enclaves for visitors to stop on their way into town and hand over their shootin' irons to the local sherrif's office, hotel or other designated dropoff point. The trouble that roiled up at the OK Corral all those years ago came about when cowboys who met these restrictions with vague indifference were forced to hand over their guns. To the law. The marshal didn't take kindly to strangers coming into their town and shooting up the residents after they got a snootful. 

Fast forward to modern day Wichita, just a short piece down the trail, a hndred forty years ago from Dodge City. Early this past Sunday morning, seven people were shot in a saloon (club) and two more were trampled as patrons fled the scene. Why are people still going to saloons, night clubs, speak easies, taverns or pubs with guns? Looking to stir up a little trouble like back in the olden days? Chances are back in the olden days, those guns would have been locked up at the sherrif's office or under lock and key at the hotel until folks had their good times. Maybe a fistfight or two. Maybe somebody would end up spending the night in jail. 

But nobody would end up at Boot Hill. 

Too many dumb people with guns, thinking they're livng in the past. 

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

This American Land

 What is this land of America, so many travel there

A musical question asked by an American composer by the name of Bruce Springsteen. It rings a little different from say, Born in the USA. This is a song of hope from the point of view of an immigrant telling his family of what awaits them in America. 

Over there all the woman wear silk and satin to their kneesAnd children dear, the sweets, I hear, are growing on the treesGold comes rushing out the river straight into your handsIf you make your home in the American land
People have been coming to our shores since before they were ours. We are a nation almost exclusively of immigtants, populated by those fleeing oppression or searching for opportunity. We put it on all our bumper stickers and T-shirts. 
There's diamonds in the sidewalks, there's gutters lined in songDear, I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night longThere's treasure for the taking, for any hard working manWho will make his home in the American land
Any cursory glance at the History of these United States will tell you that each new influx of immigrants have struggled to become a part of this American Land. If you ask someone who has family stretching back to the Mayflower, they will tell you that everyone else after their ancestors ruined it for everyone else. Or those that came over during the Industrial Revolution. Or fled global conflicts to find a safe home for future generations. 
I docked at Ellis Island in a city of light and spireI wandered to the valley of red-hot steel and fireWe made the steel that built the cities with the sweat of our two handsAnd I made my home in the American land
We built this place to be better than the place from whence we came. 
And it is. We are all beneficiaries of the failures of those nations and societies that have crumbled before us.
The McNicholas, the Posalski's, the Smiths, Zerillis tooThe Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the JewsThe Puerto Ricans, illegals, the Asians, Arabs miles from homeCome across the water with a fire down below
To quote another great American, Bill Murray: We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts!
They died building the railroads, worked to bones and skinThey died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the windThey died to get here a hundred years ago, they're dyin' nowThe hands that built the country were always trying to keep down
Happy birthday to that unique ideal that we continue to complain about. 

Monday, July 03, 2023

Little Mister Sunshine

 Sometimes I feel like I am performing this mild public service for my wife when I write about the passing of this or that celebrity. Other times, I feel like I am reaching back into my past to connect with the spirits that moved me, recently or once upon a time. This would be one of the latter. 

Alan Arkin died this past week, leaving behind not just a massive body of work, but a hole in my life where Alan Arkin used to be. That perpetually perplexed and almost always put off man, whose presence in most any film brightened my day for watching it. 

More than anything else, I will take this with me: Serpentine! In the 1979 film The In-Laws, Alan played suburban dentist whose daughter is about to get married to the son of a CIA agent. The ensuing action and adventure is almost too  much for Alan, who learns how to stay alive on a trip that takes him way out of his comfort zone. 

There are plenty of other roles and moments assigned to my Arkin file. The creepy knife weilding psycho whop terrorizes a blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. One half of the buddy cop movie Freebie and the Bean. Before Danny Glover and Mel Gibson. He was the bewildered bombadier Yossarian in Catch-22. He was even Inspector Clouseau once when Peter Sellers tired of the role. 

After a career that spanned decades, he was finally honored with an Oscar for his part as the uncle in Little Miss Sunshine. He worked a little blue, but provided that cranky spark for which he was known. He continued to work in film for another sixteen years after that, right up until his heart finally gave out at the age of eighty-nine. 

With so many roles and films to choose from, it's hard to pick a favorite, but after the Serpentine bit, I will always have a special place in my heart for Mister Arkin's turn as John Cusack's therapist in Grosse Pointe Blank. Committed to his patient, but filled with anxiety, he keeps this assassin walking a path that will take him to turning over new leaf. 

Nearly sixty years of stomping on the celluloid Terra, but always in a serpentine motion. Alan Arkin will be missed. Aloha, Alan. 

Sunday, July 02, 2023

The Supremes

 I believe the reason our Founding Fatherstm chose to call the judicial branch of the federal government the Supreme Court was to keep wiseapples like myself from arguing with it. Once again we see that the Founding Fatherstm may not have anticipated futrue generations of change, diversity, and wiseapples like myself. 

Those nine folks in black robes just ruled that Affirmative Action for college admissions "must end." To be fair, which is really their job and not mine, not all of the folks in black robes voted to do away with race-conscious student admissions. It was six to three in favor of the folks in white skin. So-called "Justice" John Roberts wrote for the majority that those programs "violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." 

So, you fans of Constitutional Law, I present before you the Fourteenth Amendment: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." You caught that part abaout "equal protection," right? Well, that seems to be the sticking point here, but "Justice" John seems to think that affirmative action keeps that whole equal thing from happening. There was another guy, "Justice" Clarence Thomas who piled on by writing that under the Fourteenth Amendment, "the color of a person’s skin is irrelevant to that individual’s equal status as a citizen of this nation.” 

Now, if you happen to be one of those casual Supreme Court watchers, you may not have noticed that "Justice" Clarence Thomas is black. Having him write in favor of eliminating Affrimative Action seems like a way to really slam the door on this whole Institutional racism thing, doesn't it? Except that in 1971, "Justice: Thomas was admitted to Yale's Law School as part of the affirmative action practice because the school wanted ten percent of its incoming class that year to be students of color. 

Again, Good News! Because this means that whatever climate existed in 1971 that would have kept hungry young law student Clarence out of Yale Law School no longer exists. Pack up your Black Lives Matter protest signs and take down your Barack Obama scrapbooks. America is the land of the free and the home of the completely equitable. Just ask Mike "None Whiter" Pence. “There may have been a time, fifty years ago, when we needed to affirmatively take steps to correct long-term racial bias in institutions of higher education. But I can tell you as the father of three college graduates, those days are long over.” Those three college graduates are painfully white as Mister Mike. 

Sorry, I am Supremely Disappointed. 

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Family Therapy

 You may be under the impression that your relationship with your parents is complicated. As for myself, I feel pretty comfortable with the way things turned out between my mom and dad and I. We certainly had our moments, but ultimately we found our common family ground and stood together. We were united in the process of becoming a stronger unit even when things drifted afield. A divorce didn't help things much, but I am pleased and happy to say that when they departed this earth, there was not a lot of hanging threads. Not a bunch of "I wish I could have said." 

We talked a lot, my parents and I. 

It did not take a subpoena to get me to sit down and discuss my feelings. Such was not the case for young A.J. Mock of Minnesota who was called to the witness stand by his dad, Brian, in the matter of the elder's involvement at the fracas that took place outside and in our Nation's Capitol. Brian was charged with civil disorder, assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, and theft of government property.  You might imagine that the father would call upon his son as a character reference. Someone to stand up for dear old dad and tell the jury that surely they must be mistaken. Not my dad. 

A.J. Mock is one of several tipsters who informed the FBI about his father's alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. His dad had told him before he left that he "might not be coming back." Once it became apparent through an exchange of texts that the pater familias was in fact still alive, A.J. opened up to his father, the fugitive: "What you guys did today was treason and a homeland security threat ... Everyone there should be locked up for the rest of their lives, including you."

In the courtroom, things took another spin when the government decided not to call A.J., leaving open the opportunity for dad to put his son on the stand and cross-examine him. The two agreed that their relationship isn't as good as it could be, kind of a "love-hate relationship," and A.J. didn't want to see his dad sent to prison after all. 

More than a thousand arrests have been made from the mob on that eventful day, with still more trials to come. 

And a lot more family therapy.