Thursday, November 30, 2023

It's Rocket Science

 The University of California played against the University of California at Los Angeles last Saturday. The Golden Bears beat the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. The final score was thirty-three to seven in what was considered by many to be an upset. The victory also allowed Cal Berkeley to become eligible for a bowl game with its sixth win. 

All of this is anecdotal to the news that this was the last regular season football game played in what has been known as the Pac 12 Conference. We can start retrofitting any or all of this information for trivia questions moving forward. 

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a group of twelve collegiate football teams is suddenly left without a conference in which to gather and create schedules and sell swag with their logos, do they continue to play?

Well, if you're a sports fan of any stripe, you know that there are already college football teams without conference affiliation. The most notable of these is Notre Dame, who is able to fill its schedule with all manner of opponents anxious to take a shot at a school that gave us Touchdown Jesus and Rudy. UMass and UConn are the other two, but it's likely that they will eventually follow Army's lead and find a conference that will give them revenue sharing and a bigger slice of the pie that affiliation allows. 

Which is why those twelve teams that used to hang together as the Pacific Twelve went scurrying to find homes in conferences that would share money and chances to get into bowl games and the like. Cal Berkeley and their arch nemesis Stanford will be playing next year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. With all the Nobel Prizes in Cal's history, there is no one who can explain this geography to me. 

Because it doesn't make sense. Like when the University of Colorado went shopping for a new conference back in 2011. They landed themselves what they thought was a sweetheart of a deal in the newly enlarged Pac-12, former the Pac-10. Which makes some sense, until you try to reckon on the Big Ten Conference with its eighteen teams in its newly minted configuration. Geography means nothing. Numbers mean nothing. 

Happily, we all have a few months to try and straighten this out. I promise to care more when competition extends beyond teams formed on this planet. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Killer Idea

 Tis the season, the season of givng. and if you've got an extra twenty or thirty bucks looking for a home, I have some suggestions.

You could give to the Red Cross. Your donation will help those who really need it. Disasters happen all the time, and it's best to be ready. 

Maybe you're a civic-minded person who would like to give directly to your local homeless shelter.

You could go down to your favorite toy store and pick up a new toy to give to your local Toys For Tots chapter. 

How about buying a bunch of lottery tickets and hand them out to strangers? Put a smile on someone's face and maybe a jackpot to go along with it.

What I am suggesting to you is that there are so many different ways that you can spent twenty-some dollars that can make a difference this holiday season. Just promise me that you won't spend that money on Kyle Rittenhouse. You might remember Kyle from his murderous night in Kenosha, Wisconson three years ago. Kyle was a teenager when he got it into his head to drive across state lines to administer his own brand of justice during a protest after an unarmed black man was killed by police. Kyle shot and killed two of the protesters and wounded another. He was later acquitted of two counts of homocide and another of attempted homocide. Kyle became the darling of the guns and ammo crowd, appearing at Republican galas and events at Mar A Lago.

That was three years ago. Now Kyle is twenty years old and he's out of money. So he wrote a book. It's called "Acquitted." He's worried that the pending civil lawsuits against him by the familes of the men he killed might spoil his plan for world domination. 

So instead of buying that book, you and a friend could take that money and do some real damage to the dollar menu at Taco Bell. Or maybe you could buy a grande Pumpkin Spice Mocha Latte to share. 

But before you throw thirty dollars out in the street, you could just Venmo me and I'll make sure that Kyle gets it. 

You can count on me. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


 This year, my son made Thanksgiving dinner. Not that there wasn't a bit of a tug-of-war about who would be doing the main dish. I have spent the better part of a quarter century becoming proficient at wrestling a mostly flightless fowl into the oven and getting it ready to serve to guests before it becomes a hypoglycemic incident. 

But not this year. My son called and said that he wanted to treat us all to his smoked tri-tip. Both my wife and son worried that this might be a difficult discussion for us all. For a few minutes, all those turkeys that I had slavishly basted and peeked at over the years obscured my vision of what could be: Free access to more football. Suddenly, the couch opened up for me. Sure son, you go ahead and get up at six in the morning to smoke the meat you've been marinating since the day before. We'll just wait here. 

And it started to catch up to me that this is how things work. Sure, I made some delicious potato salad and a grasshopper pie, but the actual marathon event that is making the main course of a holiday meal just slipped a generation. It's not like the kid's cooking prowess is in question. We have been witness to many of his creations, and he has even passed along a few recipes to his parents. 

But this was the big time. Thanksgiving dinner. How would he fare? 

I needn't have worried. The meat was tasty, and he even did us the offhand favor of saying that he had an extra slab of meat he left for his roommates that was even better. 

Even better? I'm not sure he fully comprehends the magnitude of this moment. Like the time he offered to take care of the hotel on our most recent family visit to Disneyland. "I've got this, Dad," are some pretty magical words. At once I am as proud as one might expect, and the next moment I am looking over my shoulder for the men in white coats, coming to lead me away. 

I still make a pretty good potato salad. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Borderline Ridiculous

 Ah yes. Problems at the border. Not the one between the United States and Mexico. This was more of a Great White North problem. 

On the night before Thanksgiving, a car packed with explosives attempted to crash through the barriers that separate our sovereign land and Canada. Obviously a terrorist attack. Didn't we all just know that leaving Joe Biden in charge of things would lead to something awful like this? Please feel free at this moment to wring your hands and furrow your brow. 

Except don't.

Because it wasn't a terrorist attack at all. It was a man and his wife, driving at excessive speeds in a very expensive but very much not loaded with explosives car that jumped a guardrail and was airborne briefly. When it landed it blew up. It was the always alert and not always clear on the details folks at Faux News that declared the terrorist attack. While other more responsible news organizations waited to hear from authorities on the scene, the Faux Folks repeated what "high level police sources" had told them about how this was obviously a nefarious act by our enemies. 

As it turns out, Kurt Villani and his wife Monica were supposed to attend a concert by the rock group Kiss. Lead singer for the band Paul Stanley was taken ill, and so the show was cancelled. Kurt and his wife were left with an evening without plans. So they decided to head north to Canada to gamble at a casino. They didn't make it. To be clear, these were American citizens out on a date night. 

Meanwhile, back at Faux News headquarters, the powers that be stuck with their version of the story until just about everyone else had decided to go with "freak accident." Even as their on-air talking heads began walking back their terrorist story, the social media trail that they had blazed remained intact for anyone not clever enough to double check their sources. 

Paul Stanley could not be reached for comment. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023


 Most of your everyday laws can be decided by a court. Or Judge Judy. But when things get really hypothetical, you want an experienced panel of jurists to listen to the case. 

Like this past week when a Colorado District Court ruled that the former game show host, the one with ninety-one charges currently pending against him, could not be taken off the ballot in this coming year's presidential election. The plaintiffs in the case were suggesting that the bloated orange sack of protoplasm had violated the 14th Amendment.  The 14th Amendment prohibits someone from holding “any office … under the United States” if they engaged in insurrection after taking an oath as “an officer of the United States” to “support” the Constitution. The judge ruled last Friday that Trump had engaged in insurrection by inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, but the judge tossed the lawsuit by finding the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to the presidency.

Kind of your basic "good news - bad news" situation. Both sides have decided to appeal. Because there are still higher courts. Why not shoot for the top?

Speaking of courts and shooting, a Federal Appeals Court in Maryland struck down that state's licensing requirements for handgun owners. The law that was in place stated that an applicant for a handgun license must meet four requirements: They must be at least twenty-one years old, a resident of the state, complete a gun safety course and undergo a background check to ensure they are not barred under federal or state law from owning a firearm. Then they must fill out an application, pay a processing fee, and wait up to thirty days for a state official to issue a license. All of this seemed to be unconstitutional to the Appeals Court judge. Especially that whole waiting period. The decision read, in part, “the law’s waiting period could well be the critical time in which the applicant expects to face danger.”

It should be noted that this law was put into effect shortly after the massacre of school children in Sandy Hook. None of the victims were available for comment. Which doesn't sound unconstitutional. It just sounds tragic to me. But keep track of that ticket, because the appeals will keep coming. 

And coming.

And coming. 

Because that's constitutional. 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Jukebox Heroes

 I grew up in the seventies. I listened to a lot of music. Some of it was very good. Some of it was not. 

Today I read an article about Daryl Hall filing a restraining order against John Oates. If neither of these two names rings a bell for you, that's okay. There was a lot of music made by these two gentlemen back in "my day," and if you were not subjected to it, it's possible that you dodged a cultural bullet. Or you're missing out. 

If you are familiar with songs like Maneater and Kiss Is On My List, you're probably aware that Daryl Hall is the tall blond guy and John Oates is the one with the mustache. You may also have had the sneaking suspicion over the years that the bulk of the talent was in the tall blond half. Now, after fifty years since forming their partnership, Mister Hall is letting the world know how he feels about things. “You think John Oates is my partner? … He’s my business partner. He’s not my creative partner.”

That's something to which the rest of the planet was already pretty much convinced prior to this announcement, but there it is: A dirty little secret we already knew. Or at least those of us who were paying attention at the time. But it was a lot like watching Simon put up with Garfunkel for all those years. There was all that room on the marqee, after all. 

Of course, maybe you're one of those John Oates apologists, who will point to the eight solo albums he has recorded since 1999, and how he even has his own page on the Hall and Oates website. This is just a misunderstanding and it will all be straightened out in time. 

Or maybe that restraining order will just make things more interesting, like putting Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth back together on stage for a Van Halen Tribute tour. 

I am so very old...

Friday, November 24, 2023


 When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

This came to me the weekend before Thanksgiving as I strolled through Best Buy with my son. My son who lived through his share of Black Fridays. Not as a customer, mind you. He was that young man in the blue shirt attempting to hold back the throngs of rabid consumer zombies with his grit, determination and the promise of a catered dinner when it was all over. 

Those days are now in his memory book, as exemplified by his quiet assertion to me that a certain forty-eight inch 4K TV looked "like a really good deal." This coming from a young man who used to break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the day after Thanksgiving. 

I had my own brush with the surreal event known as Black Friday. This was back when there were a certain number of stores that even bothered to open their doors while there was all that football left to watch and leftovers to consume. In the video rental business, this was a day when wild-eyed parents showed up demanding "something for the whole family" when the only thing left on the shelves was three of the eight episodes of Berlin Alexanderplatz. Explaining to these holiday victims that some of our customers had reserved their copies of Overboard and Top Gun ahead of time only increased their fury. I was the last thread of connection to sanity. And I didn't have "anything by Disney that we haven't seen twenty times already."

And now, my son who lived through an even more intense version of this barely human behavior, was ready to plunk down his own hard-earned money on a screaming hot deal in the very store that gave him all those PTSD dreams. It should be pointed out that this was also world that has adopted the term "Black Friday" like "Sale-A-Thon" and "Christmas In July" as if they made some sort of logistical sense. It was almost a week before the actual day of "door-busters," but the frenzy had already begun. Without actually having to bust any doors. 

A kinder, gentler Black Friday. 

So where's the fun in that? 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Cold Turkey

 I am starting to wonder about the conventional wisdom of Thanksgiving. I mean, I get the whole idea about being grateful. That seems like something we might want to make a part of every day, but the idea of a feast. Well, let's just say that I wonder how that has aged over the years. 

Back in 1621 when fifty-some settlers from another land sat down to dine with ninety-somWampanoag to mark a successful harvest, I don't think they had Turducken on the menu. They probably had some sense of what they were doing, putting together a way to show gratitude to those who had made survival possible. And probably to commemorate the large number of their party that didn't make it through the previous winter. The half that were left of the original group that came across on the Mayflower probably felt pretty justified in the three day gorge-fest they organized more than four hundred years ago. 

These days, the survival rate of transatlantic crossings has risen sharply. The survival rate for the Wampanoag not so much. Thanks again for that nudge with our little startup, but we can pretty much take it from here. And thanks again to all those other tribes who gave us all the room to spread out. While we effectively extinguished an entire race of people, we still gather together to ask the lord's blessing and to eat until our guts strain and we make room for that one last piece of pie. 

One in six American children face hunger every day. Four hundred years later. This is why we get those letters in the mail asking us to think of them while we stuff our faces. A big show is made of those Thanksgiving dinners put on by various charities, with all the trimmings. Next Thursday, we hope there are leftovers. 

Yes, I understand I am throwing a big bucket of cold gravy on what should be a festive time. I admit that I am not currently willing to simply forgo the annual tradition of conspicuous consumption, much in the same way that I have yet to find the off button for Christmas. These impulses are buried deep in the wiring, and simply pulling the plug seems like a moderately impossible task. 

Instead, I propose we go into this day with our eyes and hearts open. Appreciation for those things we have, those around us, another trip around the sun. And certainly, our remarkable ability to digest. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


 Politics, it has been said, makes strange bedfellows. 

Which is pretty yucky when you think about it.

At all. 

It's supposed to bring to mind visions of bipartisan agreements and the like. It really shouldn't give us time to consider anything that could be considered any sort of physical canoodling. But then again, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy have historically had something to say about that. You may remember that before we ever had Stormy Daniels to worry about, there was a matter of a videotape that may or may not have existed showing a certain former game show host who was caught watching a pair of Russian prostitutes defile a bed in which the Obamas formerly slept in Moscow's Ritz-Carlton hotel. 

I know, I know. I didn't want to bring it up, but it was that former game show host who brought it up yet again at a campaign stop in Iowa. Just in case any of us had just started to forget about the escapades of this bloated sack of oragne protoplasm, here it is again. For your consideration. And disgust.

Which is probably why we can only shrug our collective shoulders as we learn that compulsive liar and New York Representative George Santos has, among so very many other ridiculous and illegal things, used his campaign funds to pay for subscriptions to OnlyFans, a porn site. Yes, he also used supporters' money for Botox and designer shoes, but gosh aren't we happy to know just a little more about what may or may not be George Santos' personal pecadilloes. 

That is a rhetorical question. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Bottom Of The Ninth

 My son grew up in Oakland. The baseball he knows is from Oakland. He was carried into the upper deck of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in a baby bucket when he was an infant. 

He never experienced a World Series, but he had the joy and excitement of numerous playoff runs. His parents indulged him in souvenir T-shirts and made a point of trying to attend bobblehead days. 

My son had a number of favortie players. Eric Chavez, third baseman for the Oakland Athletics for thirteen years, was affectionately known around our house as Señor Backpack because of his appearance on the Back To School book bag we brought home with us after a game.  Josh Reddick had a number of outstanding seasons in Oakland, and he became a favorite for his connection to Spider Man with is superhuman grabs in the outfield. And there was Coco Crisp, who became a household fixture, immortalized in dessert form with my wife's "walkoff pie."

Somewhere in there, we stopped taking our son to games. He started taking me. For Father's Day. We had a streak going where the A's were unbeatable when my son and I were in the stands. Speaking of streaks, he was only five years old when his team posted twenty wins in a row, an American League record. Nine years later he was able to savor it all over again when Brad Pitt brought it all back on the big screen in Moneyball. And just a few years after that, the guy who played Scott Hatteberg became Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. 

What kid wouldn't love that? 

And through all those years, my son endured all the discussions of his team leaving. For the first time in what seems like forever, we didn't go to a game this year. I don't think the ownership missed us. But now that Major League Baseball has approved the move of the Oakland Athletics to the desert of Las Vegas, we'll miss them. 

We will miss our baseball here in Oakland. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Time To Go

 There were a lot of weddings way back when.

Then there were a flurry of baby showers.

Now there are far too many funerals.

I understand that this is entirely a byproduct of my travels through what Prince once referred to as "this thing called life." The scenery has not changed as much as what I notice. 

A trusted friend and dedicated follower of this corner of Al Gore's Internet experienced the loss of a parent this past week. Her mother died, leaving her an orphan after her father passed more than twenty years earlier. The fact that her own son was home for a visit when the news came was some solace to be sure, but becoming a member of the parentless demographic never goes down easily. 

Her mother lingered, and tested the bounds of hospice, sticking around longer than most anyone had predicted. Which gave the family a chance to circle the wagons, preparing for the worst. A number of times. This exercise was trying for obvious reasons, but also became an odd sense of comfort. Mom outlived Tom Petty. She outlasted David Bowie. And George Michael. 

It was that last one that got us laughing when we shared a call after mom had passed. It was the inventory call that accompanies the end of a life. Perhaps it is a dubious activity to measure one's life by the number of celebrities that went to their final reward ahead of those we love. It's part of the bargaining and accounting of the event. The consolation of a life well lived is one thing, but sticking around planet Earth longer than half the Beatles shouldn't be discounted.

And the river of memories that come flooding back. I was reminded of sliding down the stairs at my friend's house when we were high school, and the molds we made of our faces in plates of chocolate mousse. Or the way we may have damaged her mom's microwave by loading it with marshmallows. 

And then there was the way I could reach back a year to the death of my own mother, and the odd connection that I felt with the newest orphan. And the new topics of discussions available to us, like estate planning and drafting our own wills. In hopes of greasing the track to the next world for when that time comes.  

Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Little Real

 I used to get more bent out of shape when I heard someone declare that I wasn't "a real teacher." Never mind that I put in every bit as much time supervising, herding and entertaining children as my colleagues. Never mind that I earned a teaching credential and have maintained one from the State of California for lo these many years. Never mind that on any given day, if there were multiple absences and no substitutes available, I would step in and take on a class for a day or two. And let's not forget about the five years I taught my own fourth grade class. Just like a "real teacher."

Keeping in mind that stint in fourth grade game me some appreciation for how this squishy distinction could be made. "Mister Caven's Class" is currently more a room than a group of children. When I introduce myself as a teacher, the inevitable return is "Oh? Which grade?"

To which I reply, "All of them."

Which means to some degree I play the role of divorced dad. I show up a couple times a week, take the kids out for some exercise or an hour in the computer lab, and then I bring them back to their "real teacher." The prevalent feeling among many of my colleagues over the years is that I then disappear for another week or handful of days, only to return at the appointed hour to scoop up their little darlings so they can crawl under their desks and breathe deep into a paper bag until I bring them back again. 

We call this "prep time."

Over the past decade, I have relaxed more into the role I truly play: utility infielder. "Mister Caven, can you take a look at the copy machine when you get a minute?" 

"Mister Caven, can you take Andy for a few minutes? Just until he cools down and writes a letter of apology."

"Mister Caven, can you look after my kids while I go to the bathroom/move my car out of the no parking zone/have a good cry?"

And if it sounds like I am complaining, I apologize. I have lucked into a very important position at my school. And though I may not appear real to everyone, the services I provide are. And somewhere in the course of a day, I try to teach. A little.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Not On My Playground

 If you're worried about how the rest of the guys are going to look at you if you back down from a fight, you've got bigger problems than the fight. 

On Tuesday morning, Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin said he was nobly representing his state's values by challenging Teamster boss Sean O'Brien to a fight. Not an online chatterfest or war of soundbites, but an actual physical altercation. In the chambers of the United States Senate. It began, as these things often do, when Sentator Mullin read a Tweet from O'Brien Mullin felt disparaged him: “Quit the tough guy act in these Senate hearings. You know where to find me. Any place, Anytime cowboy.” Mullin followed it up by saying, “This is a time, this is a place. We can be two consenting adults. We can finish it here.” “OK that’s fine, perfect,” O’Brien replied. “You wanna do it now?” Mullin said. “Would love to do it right now,” O’Brien replied. “Well stand your butt up then.” 

At this point, Mullin began to remove his wedding ring and rose to his feet. He needed to be restrained and then admonished by the committee's chair, Senator Bernie Sanders. “You know you’re a United States senator, act like it.” This show was enough to get Mister Mullin a guest shot on Sean Hannity's show, where the host praised Mullin’s actions, saying any other response would have been “gutless.” Which must have played well among Hannity's viewers, a man who described his hypothetical response to a mass shooting by touting his training in mixed martial arts. Senator Mullin is not just a United States senator, but a former and apparently not quite retired Mixed Martial Arts fighter. “What did people want me to do? If I didn’t do that, people in Oklahoma would be pretty upset at me.” He added: “I’m supposed to represent Oklahoma values.”

During a Veterans Day speech last Saturday, the former game show host and current Republican frontrunner for "president" called his political opponents and critics “vermin” and accused them of being a bigger threat to the U.S. than countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea. Historians and researchers were quick to warn that his language was reminiscent of authoritarian leaders including Hitler and Mussolini. The game show host's team's response to their candidate's oration? “Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their entire existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House." 

Meanwhile, the man who once described what is best in life thus: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women," was last seen on a Monday Night Football broadcast, cooing and feeding his pet donkey Lulu. 

Things are not getting any less strange out there. Be safe. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Goofy

 What guy wouldn't want his fiancée to talk him up to anyone who would listen? Especially if those who are listening are reporters from Vogue magazine. She says he is “goofy”, “extremely funny” and “the life of the party."

Which is pretty easy to say, especially to a group of reporters from Vogue magazine. And your fiancé happened to be the world's third wealthiest human. And that fiancé had presented you with a thirty karat pink diamond engagement ring, along with a team of Oompa Loompas to help lift your arm as that little bauble dangles from your left hand. 

Does it come as any kind of revelation to anyone that Jeff Bezos is "the life of the party" when he can buy and sell the party hundreds of times over until he is surrounded by enough sycophants who will laugh at any and all "goofy" things he might say in an "extremely funny" way? "I mean, you’ve heard him laugh, right?” asks Lauren Sanchez, the fiancée in question. 

Yes, Lauren. We can all hear him. Laughing all the way to the bank. 

Which reminds me of an old Bobcat Goldthwait bit in which he described his feelings about the later years of Elvis Presley. "He was on so many drugs, he pretty much laughed everywhere he went."

I am not suggesting that Jeff Bezos is under the influence of anything but cash, but that seems to be enough. 

I am suggesting that Ms. Sanchez, who insists that she will take Mister Bezos' name when they are married, will happily share any and all enthusiasm for her betrothed until such moment as he wants to trade up for a newer, flashier model.

Like he did with his first wife of twenty-five years. Who was awarded with one of the largest divorce settlement in history: Thirty-eight billion dollars. 

Keep laughing, Lauren. Money can't buy you love, but it might help improve your sense of humor. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Race To The Bottom

 Republican Senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott, has dropped out of the contest to determine who will win the consolation prize. The crowded field that once held as many as twenty potential candidates has been whittled down to a number that will allow half a dozen or so that will climb on stage and attempt to appear presidential while never coming right out and saying that what they really want is to be second banana to a former game show host currently facing ninety-one charges under four separate indictments. 

But let's get back to Senator Tim. He suspended his campaign for second place over the past weekend. He has quite a lot of financial backing, but there must have been something that kept him from connecting to Republican voters. 

Some have speculated that his bachelor status was holding him back. At fifty-eight years old, why is this guy still unmarried? The insinuations being made by some was that Mister Scott was gay. Because we all understand that this would be a terrible thing for any candidate to profess, but it plays a whole lot easier in red states than saying that he is black. 

Because Senator Tim Scott is that: Black. 

With little or nothing to do about his ethnicity, Senator Tim trotted out his girlfriend at the end of last week's third Republican Presidential debate. There were those in the media who gleefully pounced on the appearance, wondering why there had been no previous evidence of this "very nice Christian girl" who Axios has revealed goes by the name of Mindy Noce. The pair have reportedly been dating "about a year." 

This was Tim Scott's last best chance to be considered relevant in the primary races coming up. By dragging this poor woman on stage with him for a photo op, political strategists hoped that this might make the anti-bachelor prejudice disappear. 

Or whatever reason Republicans needed not to vote for the guy who happens to be a black bachelor. 

I suppose the upside here is that Mike Pence, who is most defiantly married and ridiculously white dropped out before Tim Scott. What happens to the "winner" of all this chicanery? Like most game show contestants, they can hope for some lovely parting gifts and a home version of the game. 

Good luck to those left standing. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Time Off For Odd Behavior

 Jacob Chansley has filed paperwork to run for Congress. He would like to represent Arizona's eighth district. Mister Chansley registered as a Libertarian. 

I can see you wondering what all the fuss is about. 

Unless you recognize the secret identity of the "QAnon Shaman." Jacob has been out of the limelight for the past couple years. Because he has been in prison. Locked up for his role in the melee that occurred on January 6, 2021. He was the guy with the blue and red face paint wearing the buffalo headress. Originally sentenced to three years for his part in the riot, but received time off for good behavior. At the time of his sentencing, he told the court, "I am not a violent man or a white supremacist. I am truly repentant." Additionally, his lawyers wanted everyone to know that their client is on the autism spectrum and suffers from a personality disorder, which defense lawyer Albert Watkins said contributed to a diminished decision-making ability.

That Jacob Chansley. 

Truly repentant? You might want to check out Jacob's "Forbidden Truth Academy," a website that promotes Jacob's online courses in metaphysics and his podcast. And of course, there's swag. Only a matter of time before "Shaman for Congress" bumper stickers are available. 

And what about his chances? Well, his lord and savior the former game show host and insurrectionist-in-chief may be on his way to jail when the 2024 election occurs. 

We live in strange times. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Making It Work

 Some folks will tell you that Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. Most of these folks work for the advertising agency that creates the feel-good commercials for customers to watch. If you're sitting on the couch on a hypothetical Saturday afternoon and that dripping faucet in the back bathroom has you thinking, "Well how hard could it be?" Especially if you have that guy at Ace to steer you in the right direction. Of course, this being the twenty-third year of a new millennium, they aren't just helpful hardware men as much as a group of helpful hardware folks. Which should make you feel even better about being supported in your do-it-yourself tasks. 

Because calling a plumber just isn't the thing that we are all encouraged to do these days. Or, in my case, a locksmith. My wife has been interested for some time in getting a keyless deadbolt for our front door. Part of this comes from an interest in being on the cutting edge of technology and home security. Another part of this idea stemmed from a predilection for not always being able to produce a front door key when the moment comes to open said front door. 

Did we go to Ace Hardware to make our purchase?

No. We did not. 

We went to Home Depot. We waited for an epoch or two for someone with an orange apron to come and unlock the cage where the device we needed was kept. Then we wandered up to the cash register, where the person in the orange apron carried the deadbolt and deposited on a table for us "to pick up when we were ready." We were ready, so seconds after he had oh-so-carefully placed our pending purchase on that tiny table up front, we picked it up, paid for it, and rushed home. Too tired from all that commerce, I decided to put off the installation until the next morning.

The next morning turned into the next afternoon. I opened up the box. I took all the parts out. I read the directions carefully. I took out the old lock and painstakingly put the new one in its place. Everything worked until that moment when the code was supposed to make the bolt slide back and forth. It did that once, then made a clicking sound and refused to do my bidding. I took it apart. I put it back together again. I did this three separate times. Same result. I took it back apart, put the pieces in the box from whence it came, and hustled it back to the customer service desk at Home Depot. Only after a wait for someone to process the return. 

Then I hiked to the back of the store, to where the locks were kept, ironically enough, under lock and key. After several near-misses, I interrupted an orange apron's phone call just long enough to make sure he knew that I could use some assistance. When at last it was my turn for thirty seconds of his attention, I asked him why he figured the lock I had purchased just the day before was not cooperating. "Did you put fresh batteries in it?" He wondered. When I answered "brand new," he shrugged his shoulders and suggested I spend sixty dollars more to get "a really good one." 

Not helpful. 

On the way home, with the replacement in the passenger seat, I thought about McGuckin's Hardware. The hardware store I grew up with. The folks there wore green vests. They all knew their stuff, and if they didn't, they would find someone who did. They got my dad through his share of tough spots as a homeowner, and my older brother has helped keep them in business over the years by asking for advice along with his washers and wire snips. 

I was eventually able to make the door lock work. My wife was pleased. I was relieved. And I couldn't get that stupid jingle out of my head. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Fear And Loathing

 I have what I believe is a ludicrous fear: When I walk over a sidewalk grating, I worry about suddenly becoming very thin and slipping through the gaps and disappearing forever. 

Happily, I live in a city where this isn't a regular occurrence, but it sits there in the back of my mind, waiting to twist my Amygdala in knots, making rational thought all but impossible. However, there are plenty more where that one came from, so I do my very best when I trip over one of these irrational concerns. 

Now I'm reading more about Joseph Emerson, the Alaska Airlines pilot who decided to try and crash the plane he was riding home on  in October. Captain Emerson wasn't doing the actual flying at the time. He was just riding up front in the cockpit in the jump seat, hitching back to San Francisco. After the plane reached cruising altitude, he began to appear agitated. He tossed off his headset and announced, "I'm not okay." That was when he reached up and yanked the plane’s two fire-suppression handles, the ones designed to cut the fuel supply and shut down both engines. The other pilots were able to subdue Captain Joe and keep him from causing the plane to plummet to earth. They diverted the flight to a not-so-abrupt landing in Portland, Oregon. 

Just a slight inconvenience. 

For his part, former Captain Emerson says he was desperate to awaken from a hallucinogenic state that had consumed him since taking psychedelic mushrooms two days earlier, during a weekend getaway with friends to commemorate the death of his best friend. “I thought it would stop both engines, the plane would start to head towards a crash, and I would wake up.” 

The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded pilots dealing with depression or other mental diagnoses, with policies so strict that the decision to seek psychiatric help or a prescription for standard antidepressant medication is enough to trigger a suspension of their flight eligibility. This means that pilots who are feeling more than just a little blue need to keep their mouths shut to avoid being unemployed. It would seem former Captain Emerson chose to self-medicate. 

Which raises the question: Who's flying the plane you're on this holiday weekend? And stay away from those grates. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023


 I had a troubled set of teenage years. When it came time to confront life after high school, I lost touch with many of the things that made me strong. For some reason, I felt the need, compulsion, to argue with my parents. The minimal barriers they put on my freedom were things I felt I needed to press up against. 

By the time I turned twenty, I had started to come back to something that resembled calm and normal. When I look back at those years and the storm that passed through, as a parent myself, I wonder why I was making such a scene. 

Here's the quote: "What are you rebelling against?" Marlon Brando's character is asked in The Wild One. He responds with another question. "What have you got?" 

I was not mistreated in any way. My parents were supportive and caring. They were interested in what I was doing and did everything they could to make my path easier. Even when that path had them going to therapy with me every few weeks while I went every Tuesday to straighten out whatever kink had shown up in my line. I'm sure there was some hand wringing on their part when I bailed on my first attempt at college without ever attending a class. One night in a dorm and I had enough. That straight path to adulthood took a sudden and jarring turn. 

Such a bright boy. Such a good boy. What could we have done differently?

Looking back, I will say with calm certainty that I do not believe there was anything else they could have done. My brothers kept me in their sights and never let go. They appreciated this phase I was going through. Did I come by it righteously? Probably not, but mental health is a tricky thing. Making sense out of not making sense is something people spend their entire careers trying to unravel. 

The good news is that I came out on the other side, eventually. I was stronger. I was smarter. And by the time I got to be old enough to supervise a bunch of kids who struggle with their own vagaries, I was ready to give them the same understanding that I learned from my family when I was lost in the woods. 

For those of you who remember those days, so very long ago, my apologies and appreciation for your patience while I figured things out. 

With your help.  

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The New Math

 Last year, the Pew Research Center reported this: "Currently, 61% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say it should be illegal in all or most cases."

I am not a statistician, but my elementary teacher's understanding of decimals, percentages and fractions tells me that stacks up to just about two thirds of the country supporting a woman's right to choose. Given that this information was available to the public over the past year, it does make one wonder why states would be trotting out legislation banning abortion in all or most cases. So far, thirteen states have bans on a woman's reproductive rights. These were enacted as "Trigger Laws" after Roe v. Wade was overturned, meaning that legislatures in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming had laws in the can, waiting for the moment when the Supreme Court decision was struck down to enact their bans. It may not surprise you all to hear that, for example, North Carolina's pending prohibition on abortion was created in 1973 shortly after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Contrast that with the folks in Illinois who had their own Trigger Law in place, but they repealed it in 2017. 

Since June of 2022, there have been a number of states that figured they could just go ahead and push anti-abortion laws through their legislatures after the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. So far, none of these have passed, with voters in Kansas just a couple months later lining up in a reflection of the Pew report, with sixty percent turning back a ballot measure to restrict a woman's right to choose. Forty percent supported it. The plan to "let states decide" seems to be working, but perhaps not in the way that conservative types had hoped. 

This past Tuesday, voters in Ohio went to the polls to decide on an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee the right to have an abortion. The preliminary results were fifty-six percent "yes" and forty-four percent "no." Other states followed this trend by confirming Democratic control of state houses and governorships, reaffirming what we already knew: most Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

As it turns out, it's not really hard math at all. An elementary school teacher can do it. 

Friday, November 10, 2023


 If the government were to shut down, hypothetically, when would it start?

November 18. 

In the days leading up to this potential disaster, what was the House of Representatives busy doing? Well, a number of them were meeting in a special committee. Probably to discuss the potential fiscal impact that such a shut down would cause. Or maybe they were trying to iron out our nation's aid packages to Israel and Ukraine. Or possibly they were gathering to argue about gas stoves and ceiling fans. 

I'm here to tell you that it was that last one. House Republicans are incensed by the new proposed rule by the Biden administration regarding ceiling fans. The GOP already has their collective knickers in a twist about energy efficiency standards, highlighted by the suggestion that gas stoves should be phased out. The new rule seeks to make ceiling fans more efficient, therefore saving consumers money over time. Representatives with an R in front of their names argue that this would cost homeowners and businesses millions of dollars to convert their old clunky fans. 

So they set themselves a date to complain about it. 

Mind you, this is not a hearing about climate change, but rather an opportunity to play to the common man and woman who are threatened with change. The change of their household appliances. The household appliances that many Americans who have jobs with the Federal Government that might not be able to afford the gas or electricity to run them if the government shuts down. 


It's November 10. 




Thursday, November 09, 2023


 "Because it's a school night."

That was the excuse I had been making for all the months leading up to the night. I couldn't possibly go to San Francisco after dark on a Sunday.

Not even if it meant going to see the Fiftieth Anniversary DEVO show.

Until a friend and constant reader of this blog emailed without provocation to inquire if I was going to be in attendance. 

Two days before the show. 

When I read the email, I felt that nudge I needed to get me off the fence and into the online box office. My wife and I bought tickets, and on that Sunday Night, we drove into the big city and went to a concert. 

It was a celebration of the decades I have spent lugging around an energy dome and my yellow radiation suit. Waiting for one more chance to have the word passed along to me one more time. The word: Devolution. As I have each previous time I have been in attendance, bassist Jerry Casale asked the assembled Devotees, "How many of you think devolution is real?" I roared along with the crowd in assent. "You don't have to look far for examples," Jerry continued. 

We knew what he was talking about. 

Since 1980, when I bought my first DEVO album and hopped aboard the Spudboy Express and didn't look back. These gentlemen from Akron, Ohio have informed my world view and kept me dancing since way back when my high school sweetheart fretted that I would "get into punk rock." The good news was that I did. A world of crashing sounds and dangerous ideas. And somewhere along the line, my wife and I chose "Freedom of Choice" as one of our wedding songs. When the question came up, "When is a good time for our young son to see his first DEVO show?" the answer was obvious: As soon as possible. 

My wife and I were a little chagrined when we realized it would just be the two of us attending the show in San Francisco. We needn't have worried. We were surrounded by Beautiful Mutants. After being bombarded by hits and misses with a massive video screen as their backdrop, Boojie Boy appeared to remind us all "It's A Beautiful World." And he asked us all to promise to return to that very theater in fifty more years for the one hundredth anniversary of Devolution. 

I promised. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

The Last Line

 My older brother sent me a gift in the mail. It was Jimmy Buffett's last album, "Equal Strain On All Parts." It was not a huge surprise, since he emailed me the day the release was announced. He didn't want me to rush out and buy one for myself. He was going to take care of this one. 

Much in the same way he has taken care of so many of these transactions before. It was my older brother who first introduced me to Jimmy Buffett way back in 1979, when he slid a few of Key West's favorite crooner onto a mix tape for me and my friends. Summertime for me in the 1980's were not complete without a trip to Red Rocks with my brother and all our Parrothead friends to sing along with all those songs we knew by heart. 

When I opened up that CD, the last Jimmy Buffett album, all the memories I had of warm summer evenings in various stages of inebriation. I thought about the gusto with which we would harmonize. I looked forward to each opportunity I had to bring a new Parrothead into the fold. When I moved out to California, I continued to spread the word. "You've never been to a Buffett show?" I could fix that. 

Years passed. Complications and obligations mounted. Eventually the obsession dulled, as being a grown up became more consuming. But in the background, I could always hear Margaritaville calling. When Jimmy Buffett passed away two months ago, this last record was already completed. There would be no tour for this one. But the songs were there to remind me why he was such a presence in my life. My brother's life. 

And on one track, "My Gummie Just Kicked In," Paul McCartney played bass. Which was significant since it was my older brother who also introduced me to Paul's old band, The Beatles. As synchronous events would have it, the day that Jimmy's album showed up in my mailbox, The Beatles released their last single: "Now And Then." Everything old was new again. 

For a moment or two. And I remembered all that music and all the words and sounds that my older brother brought to me. "Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have been," he wrote once upon a time. 

What a good line. 

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

I Remember

 Does fifteen years feel like a long time?

It's more than a lifetime for the kids I teach. It's about half the time I have lived on the Left Coast. As a matter of fact, it was here in California where I cast my ballot for one Barack Hussein Obama for president. 

Fifteen years ago. And he won. For a short while, things felt like there were going to be fine. We had turned back John McCain and his "rogue" running mate Sarah Palin. The Bush administration suddenly felt like they were ancient history. The election of 2008 was going to change things. We were hopeful again. No more war. No more racism. No more division. We elected the guy who told us just a few years before that there were no red states, and there were no blue states, only the United States. 

We elected that guy. He was President of the United States. 

And he was black.

How could we ever look back? 

Well, fifteen years later, looking back is what I am doing. Wondering how we found ourselves in the position we currently find ourselves. The divisions that we had hoped to put to rest when Barack Obama took the stage in Chicago's Grant Park have grown deeper and more bizarre. 

Hope has been replaced by desperation. All the possibilities we envisioned on that chilly night in November 2008 have been cashed in on business as usual. 

But it helps to remember that once there was a spot for happily ever aftering. Even if it was only a moment in time fifteen years ago. 

It could happen again. 

Monday, November 06, 2023

The Beat

 It is not a new notion that politicians are crooks and liars. 

This idea has been around as long as our great republic. 


Which may have everything to do with the current political climate. The easiest place to start is the four indictments and ninety-one felony counts facing the presumptive Republican nominee for "president." In all his egomaniacal bluster, he insists that these court appearances are keeping him from standing in front of his indoctrinated followers babbling about whatever passes between his remaining synapses. This, he insists is "election interference!"

Oh dear. Heaven forbid that he should want to clear his good name. 

If he had one. 

Then there's the case, or shall I say cases, of George Santos. Mister Santos is a demonstrable liar and currently under his own thick blanket of accusations. These include  Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, False Statements, Falsification of Records, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Credit Card Fraud. The House of Representatives held a vote to expel him from the halls of Congress, but that effort failed when thirty-one Democrats voted to save the Republican from New York's Third District. Which is pretty interesting since the initial move to give him the boot came from his fellow New York Republicans who are very interested in distancing themselves from the mountain of crime this political newbie has generated. 

Which is also why the Republicans continue to try to make the Hunter Biden laptop trick work. Four years of tireless effort on their part along with their media arm, Faux News, has failed to create any impeachable offenses for Hunter's father, but it has provided some rather colorful exhibits provided by everyone's favorite astronomer, Marjorie Taylor "Three Names" Greene. And while we're on the subject of Ms. Three Names, she doesn't spare her GOP Housemates. She referred to her former pal Lauren "Hot Shot" Boebert as “vaping groping Lauren” and Texas representative Chip "Ahoy" Roy as "Colonel Sanders." Not that there's anything necessarily illegal about resembling a fried chicken magnate, but the jury continues to ponder this and other questions as the beat goes on.

And on.

And on. 

Sunday, November 05, 2023


 As I have mentioned here previously, I am currently not feeling the depths of my spectator-sports fandom. What does that mean? Well, I watch a lot of football, most notably the Sunday broadcast of NFL's RedZone. If you are unfamiliar, this is essentially crack for the average viewer. Six hours of commercial-free highlights as they happen from around the league. This predilection dovetails well with the fact that I am commissioner of a Fantasy Football league for a group of teachers at my school. And while my wife's team continues to flirt with first place, I remain mired somewhere near the bottom of the pile, just below our kindergarten teacher who has not made a single move with her team since we drafted the week before the season began. 

Couple this with the fact that there has been no meaningful professional baseball played in Oakland since the start of last season. The World Series just wrapped up. Please tell the rest of the country outside of Arlington, Texas. It was the lowest rated World Series broadcast. Ever. A very good friend of mine who lives in Arizona caught all five games because she was rooting for the second place team. That would be your Diamondbacks. The excitement, to judge by the reports of the week that was, came in the form of the Texas Rangers winning their franchise's first championship. 

Yee. Haw.

Another teacher at my school plays hockey, and so he is regularly asking me if I saw the Sharks game. I have not watched a hockey game on purpose since I was in college, with the notable exception of the time when the Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup. In their first year this newly christened franchise won it all, and I won some money. From the bet my dad made at the beginning of the season on a whim. I got that ticket when he passed away on the way home from a trip to the left coast. It came to me as an afterthought when the contents of his wallet were dispersed among his three sons. This was not enough to keep me watching hockey.

The National Basketball Association has begun its regular season, and I can't say that I am completely disinterested, but there are two factors that keep me from sitting down and soaking it all in: First of all, there are dozens of games to sit through before they start to figure out who ends up in the playoffs, and by June when things are all said and done, the bright starts of this or that team may be the bottom half of a stat sheet that tipped the other way. Secondly, I have a pretty solid track record that suggests that anytime I sit down on the couch to stare at a Golden State Warriors game, they lose. So I will resume my purely vicarious interest in their progress.

Which leaves us back at football season. Things are heating up, or cooling down, depending on where you live. The most notable stories this year seem to come out of the coaching ranks, where the new coach of my old university's team is getting more attention for any four-win squad I can remember, and the guy the Las Vegas Raiders hired a year and a half ago to run their vaunted franchise has been shown the door. With the promise of more coaches being shuffled across the NFL in the coming weeks. 

All of this distracting us from the relative pain and misery of each passing day. 

Cue the confetti cannons. 

Saturday, November 04, 2023

If You Let A Game Show Host Have A Cookie

 There are only two people living in our house.

The last chocolate chip cookie was eaten.

Who could be to blame? 

I could blame the cat. The cat is notoriously feline in all his movements and attitudes. I have heard that cats have preternatural strength when it comes to baked goods. He could have jumped up on the counter, carefully removed the lid of the cookie jar, removed that last Toll House yummy, and replaced the lid without anyone hearing. I'm just saying. 

Or maybe it was my wife. She is always talking about how much she loved the cookies that I bake. Especially when I put walnuts in them. And yes, she is very agreeable when it comes to the chocolatey treats in the house, and almost always demurs when it comes to that last cookie. But who's to say that she didn't do that act long enough just to lull us all into complacency, allowing her to swoop in snap up that last cookie. 

I know that the lamestream media has been reporting about how they heard me talking about how much I love those cookies. So much so that I learned how to bake them just so that I could enjoy them any time I chose. And I know that there was one cookie left for two days, and then after I came home from work, before dinner, there was no cookies left in the cookie jar. It's entirely possible that it has to do with the water pressure in our kitchen. Or NATO. But when things like this happen I think it's important to remember who invented those cookies. I've heard that a lot of people believe that was me. Which should pretty much give me the right to any cookie left anywhere at any time. 

And event though all my lawyers have been saying that I had spent the entire day before the cookie went missing talking about how much I wanted that cookie, I wonder why these lawyers would all of a sudden want to say that it was me that ate the cookie. 

Ridiculous, isn't it? 

Friday, November 03, 2023

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

 "The night they drove old Dixie down," sang one Joan Baez. On a record that was certified Gold in 1971. It tells the story of a family in Virginia during the last year of the American Civil War. The song was written by Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm of The Band. It tells the tale of Virgil Caine and his suffering at the hands of Union General George Stoneman and his men. "In the winter of '65, we were hungry, just barely alive/By May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it's a time I remember, oh so well." In his autobiography, Mister Helm describes the writing process: Robbie and I worked on 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' up in Woodstock. I remember taking him to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect."

All due respect. For the commander of the Confederate Army.

Fifty-some years later, I have my doubts about how much airplay this song would receive. Nostalgia for the antebellum South is not as easy to scare up these days. Just a couple weeks ago, a statue of Robert E. Lee, the one that sat squarely in the center of the "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was melted down. It was at the culmination of a counter-protest to the neo-confederate and white nationalists who gathered there in 2017 that Heather Heyer was killed when she was run down by one of the "united right" pin heads. 

It was after this tragedy that the former game show host and "president" said that "You also had some very fine people on both sides." 

Six years ago. Very fine people on both sides. 

For the record, if you'll pardon the pun, there have been a number of songs written and performed about Heather Heyer. 

None of them were recorded by noted activist and human rights sage Joan Baez. 

And none of them went Gold. 

Maybe Joan could melt down her gold record in the same furnace as the statue of Robert E. Lee. 

Thursday, November 02, 2023

I Was Today Years Old

 There I was, teaching a word study lesson, when I wrote the month on the board: October.

"And if we know anything about root words," I began, "This should be the eighth month."

A row of blank faces from various grades met my assertion.

"OCTOber. Like 'octopus.'" 


"How many legs does an octopus have?"

A fourth grader called out, "Eight!"

"Correct! And how many sides does an octagon have?"

Another pause. Had I gone too quickly to geometry? "Eight?" came the uncertain response from another one of my young pupils. 

"Exactly!" I turned to the board and underlined the root with a dry erase marker for emphasis. "What do you suppose 'octo' means?"

More lingering silence.

"Eight legs. Octopus. Eight sides. Octagon." I wrote the words directly below the month.

"Eight?" That first voice came back, but this time just a little more assured.

"Right, so why is it that we're here in the tenth month and we're using 'eight' to start it?"

Now they started to get it. There was a mystery afoot. They seemed to understand that there was a conspiracy afoot. 

"Extra credit for tomorrow: Why do we call it 'October' when it's the tenth month?"

Our time was up, and I sent them on their way back to their respective classes.

That was when I raced to my laptop and hit up Google. I had no idea that March used to be the first month on the original Roman calendar. Which suddenly made sense to me, since that would put October in its correctly labeled spot, and DECember would be month ten. And everything was right with the world once again. 

The next day, when the kids returned to my room for our small group lesson, I asked if any of them had any luck searching out the answer.


I wrote the twelve months of the year on the board. Then I numbered them, starting with January as number one. "Watch this," I said, switching the color of my marker, this time starting with March in the number one spot. When I finished, I whirled around, pointing to the board. "See, back in the olden days, they used to start the year in March. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and look where eight lands!"

My enthusiasm was met with a few raised eyebrows. A murmur of assent. No one came out of their seat. No one hollered "Eureka!" This bite-sized bit of revelation was for me. And someday, when they are in their sixties, these kids will puzzle over something just as innocuous. I too my new piece of knowledge and put it on the shelf for the next time I need a conversational gambit. 

And I returned to the mystery of the "gh" in "sigh."

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Dia De Los Muertos

 Could this BE any more sad? 

When I saw the headline about Matthew Perry being found dead in his Hollywood home, I felt a wave of grief that had been cresting for the past few weeks. The anniversary of my mother's passing tacked onto those of our beloved dog and my college roommate all lingering in the autumn air like the smell of leaves burning. 

And just to make things even more gloomy, my wife's uncle chose last week to cash his own ticket with the Hemlock Society. Put my principal's uncle on this list and suddenly there isn't much room to move without knocking over a flower arrangement or an altar of some sort. 

Day of the Dead? I'll need a month for this, thank you. 

I am terrifically aware of my tendency to bundle catastrophes together. I understand that if I chose any particular corner of the calendar to stare at I would find an abyss into which I could stare. Furthermore, this time of year is well-suited for staring longingly off into the distance as the greens give way to browns and gray. 

Matthew Perry was found dead in a hot tub. It's sad in part because it is so cliché. Young star burns through his youthful fame in a haze of addiction only to discover the wonder of second chances. And then passes out in a jacuzzi. 

It's a struggle to find that unique balance between a life well-lived and a light that went out far too soon. As I meander into my sixties, the relative age of tragedy has risen. If you die before you're as old as I am, that's a tragedy. Matthew Perry was fifty-four. He leaves behind a ten year run on a sitcom that will live beyond him in reruns, and so in this way he left his footprints on the Terra. 

And he'll be another reminder for me why this time of year is exactly what this time of year is.