Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Four Years of The Tempest

Today marks the completion of four years for The Tempest. That's four years, 805 blog posts, the equivalent of two War and Peaces, and while nobody will ever accuse me of being in Tolstoy's league, at least I've had enough to say to keep this thing going. It has been great fun, so much so that I  believe I would write even if nobody ever read it, although the fact that so many of you do is gratifying.

I'm writing this on my new iPad Air 2, a first for me. It's pretty cool, a surprise Christmas present from my wife. I love it and feel absolutely, positively zero remorse about the fact that it was assembled by cheap Chinese labor, although I would have preferred cheap American labor. If this makes me a callous, uncaring capitalist, then so be it. The benefits of free trade far exceed its limitations in my view, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over how much Yao brings home every Friday.

Speaking of capitalist exploitation, my son and I had a fabulous text debate yesterday about the positive vs. negative effects of Walmart on the economy. It was awesome. Patrick took the view that Walmart is a greedy, money hoarding beast that deliberately impoverishes its workers by paying slave wages, forcing the government to have to provide food stamps and other welfare assistance to them lest they starve. I took the view that the mere existence of Walmart has lowered the cost of living of lower income Americans and therefore done more economic good for poor people than any government program in history, and besides...what Walmart chooses to pay its employees is none of my business since I hold no economic interest in the company. We went back and forth all afternoon! The entire exchange was civil, well reasoned and well argued, making me extremely proud of my articulate son. I'm not sure who won, probably a draw. But since I'm the Dad...I win.

Pam and I will go out for dinner tonight and try to avoid drunk drivers along the way. 2015 is coming whether we are ready for it or not. As long as I get to spend it with her everything will be ok.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Lost Week

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the most awkward and tentative seven days of the year. It’s the wasted week. The old year’s not quite over but the New Year hasn’t quite arrived. Very little is going on at work. The tsunami that was Christmas is over and the resultant letdown arrives. The kids leave for their new homes in other states, turning your house into a large, inappropriately decorated, eerily quiet place. At some point it will be fun to actually start playing with your new stuff, but in the back of your mind you’re pondering that age old question…what in the world are we going to do for New Year’s?

At some point this week, I will begin making lists. I do that this time of year and I bet you do too. There will be a list of business goals which can be distilled down to two entries…earn more, work less. There will be personal goals that invariably include losing the 10 pounds I’ve packed on over Christmas. The common term for this list-making is resolutions, but I have never liked the word. “Resolutions” implies resolve, and generally speaking very little is involved with these lists. It’s much more a list of hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be nice if…

Friday, December 26, 2014

Lucy's Christmas Eve Adventure

Every Christmas adds a story to the family lore. Future retellings always begin with, “remember that year when…?” It is part of the charm of the season. Well, this year was no exception at the Dunnevant house. This new story begins at around midnight on Christmas Eve.

We have discovered that Lucy hates Christmas. Just about the time that her skittishness and general anxiety had been largely overcome by a settled routine, Christmas arrives with its light-strewn trees and packages being delivered by strange men at all hours on the front steps. Christmas…with its large shopping bags being lugged in from the garage, with its incessant wrapping of boxes, and large terrifying socks hanging from the mantle. Let’s just say that Lucy has been on edge of late.

Veterinarians tell us that there is an actual medical term for what happened to poor Lucy at midnight on Christmas Eve…post-traumatic intestinal dysfunction, or put another way, she literally had the s**t scared out of her.

My wife, bless her heart, hasn’t had as much experience taking Lucy out for her morning and evening constitutionals as I have. It isn’t as easy as I make it look. On the night in question, matters were made worse by Lucy’s excessive jumpiness and the presence of scary boxes in the garage and Pam’s terrifying black raincoat (don’t ask!). Even though she really, really had to go, she had to literally be dragged through the garage first. Then, after she relieved herself, she was equally hesitant to reenter the house via the dreaded garage. By this time Pam is getting a bit annoyed by our adorable yet neurotic puppy. After dragging her inside the garage, Pam had to slam the garage door shut behind her. The loud noise this slamming made set off a series of unfortunate events which I will attempt to describe in as elegant a manner as is possible.

After two weeks of Christmas noises, apparently the slamming of the garage door was the noise that broke the camel’s back. Lucy bolts frantically for the house ripping the leash out of Pam’s hand taking two freshly manicured nails with it. Now, the race is on, Lucy dashing wildly in hysterical circles around the house, the leash handle crashing into everything behind her. With each loud noise of the leash handle Lucy runs faster. Patrick, who was busy wrapping presents begins laughing uncontrollably at the sight only to hear his mother screaming, “This is NOT funny!!!” Patrick finally gets his wits about him long enough to corral Lucy and begin the calming down process when they both notice…the smell.

Ok, we consider ourselves rather fortunate that Lucy is er, uh, how shall I say this…regular. Not only regular, but very, uh, er, consistent, if you will. Put another way, when Lucy has to go, it is extraordinarily easy to pick up. A very good thing since in every room of the downstairs there are little, smelly, brown…deposits. Here’s one by the front door. Here’s another by the refrigerator, oh, and one more in the hall! A classic case of post traumatic intestinal dysfunction. As our crazed puppy was frantically trying to escape from the clanging leash handle, she was projectile pooping everywhere!! So, at midnight on Christmas Eve, Pam and Patrick were engaged in a poop recovery mission, Patrick following his nose and Pam coming along behind him with paper towels and Windex. By 12:30 it was all over and Pam came upstairs to bed while Patrick finished his present wrapping. At 1 o’clock Patrick sends his mother a text:

“Ok, so I found one last poop ball on the rug by the tree. I almost stepped on it!! How do I clean poop out of a rug? Help!!”

Alert readers might well ask where I was while all of this was taking place. It’s a fair question. That’s easy…I had just settled my brain for a long winter’s nap, but unlike that sap in the poem, I did not spring from the bed to see what was the matter thanks to my CPAP machine which had blocked out the entire ordeal.
Lucy is in recovery. I have scheduled dog-therapy for next week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sad Memory

It’s almost Christmas Eve. Pam sent me a honey-do list that magically popped up in the reminder file on my cell phone, deviously clever, that woman. I’m glad, grateful suddenly to have a list of jobs to occupy my mind.

Last night Pam and I took dinner over to my niece Christina who is home with a week-old baby girl. I was very excited to get to see little Evelyn. But right before we left Pam asked me to take the cooler out and put it in the back of the car. It was only then when it all hit me. As I unhatched the door to the back of the Pacifica, a flood of memories poured down upon me in an instant. For nearly two years, every Tuesday and Thursday night, I loaded up a full cooler of food in the back of this same car in preparation for our trips to bring dinner to Dad. I hadn’t done it since March, but the memory is still fresh and warm. Now I was bringing another meal and on this one I will pull in the same old driveway. But this time, someone else lives in Dad’s house. I’ll drive around back to Paul and Christina’s new place near the woods. I will glance in the windows of the old place while I drive by. I won’t be able to help myself.

It was great seeing the baby. I held her for the first time. She is beautiful. But I haven’t been able to shake off the grief that found me in my garage loading that cooler. It’s the strangest thing. I can go days, weeks even without thinking about it, but the smallest most inconsequential thing can unleash a torrent of sadness over me.

I’ll snap out of it. I always do, at least I always have. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sugar High and Christmas Lights

Last night, after a heavenly dinner of shrimp scampi, a new Dunnevant family Christmas tradition made its debut. My wife got the idea from some old friends of ours on Facebook…and when Pam gets an idea, watch out! Soon, I received an e-mail invitation notifying me that I was to prepare for a night of caroling and Christmas light viewing topped off by a visit to Krispy Kreme. The attire was to be pajamas only, and hot apple cider would be provided.

So there we were at 7 o’clock, Pam, Kaitlin, Jon and myself piling into Ron and Paula’s disagreeable old Buick. Never one to leave the house unprepared, Pam brought a couple of bags of popcorn (two flavors) and enough blankets to warm a platoon of men at Bastogne.  First stop was out in Hanover County at the home of Roger and Cynthia Harris, dear friends who suffered a terrible loss recently. Unfortunately, they weren’t home, a predictable result of such spontaneity. Undeterred, our hearty band then set out to carol our new-Mom niece, Christina. We got halfway through our second number when we remembered how much Ezra hates music, “No Sing!!!” We imagined him inside, perhaps seconds away from falling asleep only to be roused into hysteria by this crazy band of random singing monsters outside of his window. Kid will probably be scarred for life! However, all was not lost, since we got to see little Evelyn for the first time. Adorable child.

One more caroling stop at Pam’s parents’ house and finally success. Russ and Vi had just gotten home from church and were still adorned in Christmas finery. One out of three ain’t bad.

Then we decided that the Christmas light show would have to wait until we were properly fortified with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, or what we in Richmond, Virginia like to call them…H.A.B.’s( heart attack bait). Of course, the red “ready light” was shining brightly and the place was packed. It was probably the only place in town where seven people in pajamas with bright red, furry Santa hats could go unnoticed. An observation…ever notice how loud everyone is inside a Krispi Kreme joint? An effect of the raging sugar highs I suppose.

Up next was a beautiful and enchanting drive down Monument Avenue where we got to see how really wealthy people decorate their 2 million dollar anti-bellum mansions for Christmas. Hint: no inflatable Santas. I, for one, am glad that the current fad of these jolly inflatables came along after my kids were grown. I can only imagine the years of psycho-analysis I would have to pay for after my kids saw Santa alive and happy one night and then deflated and clearly murdered the next morning on the neighbors’ lawn.

“Daddy, who killed Santa!!??”

“No, no Patrick…he isn’t dead. H-he’s just…resting. Yeah, that’s it, he’s resting!”

“No Daddy. Somebody killed him! He’s just lying there dead on the ground!!”

“No son, he just looks dead. The closer we get to Christmas, Santa only comes out at night. He sleeps during the day!”

“Wait…Santa’s a vampire?”

Anyway, the lights were beautiful, from the elegance of Monument Avenue to the delightful kitsch of suburbia.

Oh, and for the record, a total of only sixteen doughnuts were consumed. Sixteen out of a possible twenty four, an admirable demonstration of discipline in the midst of a season of excess.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Present Wrapping Fail

All the presents have been purchased, and the last two trees decorated. This morning is the 20th of December. Not bad.

Of course, there’s still lots to do, namely present wrapping. Speaking of which…there was a time when after watching Pam do it for ten years or so I had become relatively respectable at applying ribbon to a Christmas present. Not anymore. A couple of nights ago after buying all of Pam’s presents in less than two hours at the mall, I settled down at what used to be our dinner table but for the next 5 days will serve as present wrapping central. Because these were Pam’s gifts I determined to take great care and make them as festive as possible. This meant that ribbons would have to be included. I submit the following photograph for your consideration:

First, I should point out that I was stone cold sober at the time and no animals were hurt in the process of wrapping this present. I just don’t understand what happened. I used to be a passably decent wrapper of presents. What happened? Maybe with the passage of time, I’m losing some of my fine motor skills. Perhaps my vision was playing tricks on me, throwing off my depth perception. Or maybe I should have had a couple of beers first!
Luckily, Pam was very understanding. “Oh…look at you. That’s ….adorable.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Whatever Happened to "The Show Must Go On?"

There’s an old saying in show business…the show must go on. Unfortunately, this old saying comes with a twenty-first century addendum…unless you get threatened by hackers.

Yesterday, a day where being a Communist made a comeback, not only did the 60 year embargo on Cuba get lifted, but a handful of pajama-wearing, basement-living geeks managed to bring Sony Entertainment to its knees. Ten days ago, they hacked into Sony’s computer system, demanding that the upcoming movie, “The Interview” be cancelled. Yesterday, Sony capitulated, giving the anonymous hackers everything they asked for. Revenge of the Nerds, indeed.

The ransom note left by the hackers reads like the assembly instructions that come with those entertainment system cabinets you buy at Target. Apparently, North Korean doesn’t translate well to English:

remember the 11th of September, we recommend you to keep to keep yourself distant from the places at that time…Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Entertainment has made, then the world will be full of fear…All the world will denounce the Sony”

This stinging rebuke comes from a country whose people subsist on sticks and berries.

Still, on a day where Regal Cinemas announced their refusal to show the movie in question, Sony followed with a full retreat, pulling the film from every movie theatre in the world. This, despite the fact that the FBI finds zero evidence of any active threats to any cinema in the United States.

Before all the hubbub about “The Interview,” this movie would have appeared dead last on my “List of Things To Do Before I Die” list. But when I see naked cowardice and capitulation it serves to give me an insatiable appetite for horrible movies. If I ran Sony pictures, I would have been handing out free tickets! If I owned a Cineplex, I would be giving out free popcorn and drinks to anyone who showed up. I would make it my avowed goal to break Gone With The Wind’s 70 year old box office records. Then I would take out full page ads in every newspaper from Variety to the New York Times saying…Dear North Korean Hackers,…..Kiss My Ass.

This is not who we are in America, or at least, it’s not who we used to be. We love liberty, we cherish our freedom, yes even our freedom to indulge in terrible films. We have always gotten highly annoyed when anyone tried to censor art. And while The Interview isn’t exactly Hamlet, this is America. If we want to spend our money watching a comedy about the CIA hiring a couple of Hollywood types to go kill a dictator in North Korea, well…that’s our business.

Today it appears that personal safety trumps liberty and freedom. The mere possibility of violence is enough to send corporate types into the high grass in fear of lawsuits. We used to be made of sterner stuff. Imagine what we would have done in the 40’s had Hitler vowed violent attacks on anyone going to see Casablanca? Suppose the Soviets had threatened death on anyone daring enough to pay money to see Dr. Strangelove back in the 60’s? It would have been laughable.

But here we are in 2014, losing a huge battle in the Cyberwar, to a bunch of computer hackers.

Merciful fathers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When to Shop?

The question of the day is, when exactly am I going to go Christmas shopping? Today is the 17th, so we are officially entering the last week. This afternoon was a natural for getting it done. I had given it serious thought until the thermometer hit 57. Everybody knows you can’t go Christmas shopping if it’s that warm. Besides, a last minute business appointment popped up out of the blue for 3 o’clock.

Tomorrow shows a lot of promise. A cold front is supposed to sweep through overnight ushering in much cooler temperatures. Thursday’s high should only be in the mid-forties. I just might be able to put on my Santa hat and slip over to the mall after lunch. The only problem is that Thursday, being the 18th, is an even day and I’ve never had much luck Christmas shopping on even days in the teens. Plus, at some point I’ll need to get my pre-Christmas massage, and Thursdays are usually pretty slow over at Hand and Stone.

Of course, Friday is the start of the weekend so the crowds will be off the charts crazy. That leaves Monday, Tuesday of next week, classic sucker days, full of panicked rookie husbands and frantic moms on their last nerve. Trust me, you don’t want any part of that.
That means that next Wednesday, Christmas Eve is still open and available. Sure, you run the risk that the stores will be out of stuff. Sure, if you wait until the very last minute, what happens if you’re sick with diarrhea and projectile vomiting? Although these are valid concerns, waiting until Christmas Eve comes with the advantage of not having to worry about it…now. Why do something unpleasant now that can be put off until sometime in the future? It works for the United States Treasury.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

126 Dead Kids in Pakistan

While we slept, Taliban gunmen stormed an elementary school in Pakistan killing 126 innocent children before blowing themselves up. A caller from the Taliban took responsibility for the attack, explaining that it was revenge for the earlier deaths of several Taliban fighters at the hands of the Pakistani army.

And therein lies the fundamental difference between conventional war and the war on terror. The telephone.

I don’t recall George Patton ever having to ring up The Berlin Bugle to take credit for kicking their backsides in Lorraine. I don’t recall him having to contact someone at the news desk in Rome to inform them that it was his Seventh Army that had just run roughshod across Sicily and beaten Montgomery to Messina. See, in traditional war army A. engages army B. in battle on hill C.  Army A. prevails. Army B. withdraws to lick their wounds and plots revenge. Later, on hill D. army B. exacts revenge…and so on until one army runs out of either men, ammunition or both.

Not so with modern terrorism where ragtag band of jihadists A. declares a fatwa of some sort against government B. with the intent of overthrowing said government and instituting sharia law. Government B. fights back and sends several jihadists to their seventy virgins. Ragtag band of jihadists A. attacks elementary school C., kills 126 children, then notifies the local press that they are responsible[Ma1] .

Our bettors from academia to the New York Times constantly preach the doctrine of moral equivalence lest we Americans get on our high horse about these barbarians. “Sure”, they preach, “terrorists are brutal but no worse than what Christians did during the Crusades! Oh, and don’t forget how awful we were to Native Americans…and what about slavery!!??” Ok.

I’ll remember that the next time I am awakened with a story of a band of angry Methodists storming a school bus full of Jewish school kids. I’ll read all about moral equivalence the next time I learn that a half dozen Baptist deacons massacred 17 innocent Unitarians on a picnic. The next time an election doesn’t go my way I will note with irony the violent protests and looting of Muslim businesses by a bloodthirsty band of local Rotarians.

I am fully aware of the manifold failings of the West in general and America in particular. We have our fair share of problems and inconsistencies. But for those who are fond of always declaring us “no better” than our enemies I have a response after reading of the massacre in Pakistan.
Go to hell.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A Review

Last night, instead of finishing up the Christmas decorating, Pam and I settled down on the sofa to watch Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, and I must say that this once delightful Christmas tradition hasn’t aged well. With the advent of modern psychoanalysis and the emergence of political correctness, it’s a miracle that Rudolph is still on the air. Is it any wonder that my generation is so screwed up, what with 30 million of us watching this show every year? Consider:

1.     When Santa visits Donner’s cave upon Rudolph’s birth he is only concerned with his future usefulness as an unpaid sleigh-puller. Worker exploitation.

2.     At reindeer practice, the Coach is a tyrannical autocrat who upon discovery of Rudolph’s deformity unceremoniously banishes him from the team with the full support of a herd of laughing, mocking reindeer trainees, despite the fact that Rudolph was the only one who could actually fly. Classic bullying.

3.     Then there’s Hermie, the dentist wannabe, a self-declared misfit, who dreams only of extracting people’s teeth without anesthesia. Hermie’s slave-driving boss is having none of it and berates Hermie at every opportunity in front of the other elves. The message is clear…individual dreams must be sacrificed on the altar of the common good of the company. Corporatism.

4.     Don’t even get me started on Yukon Cornelius, possibly the most inept businessman in the history of Hollywood what with his geologically doomed prospecting business at the North Pole. This idiot actually thinks that by simply heaving his pick axe into the air, it might actually fall onto the ice and find gold.

5.     Then there are the many misogynistic missives flying through the dialogue. When Donner decides to go out looking for Rudolph, (months after his disappearance), he dismisses the wife who wants to come with him with the classic, “This is man’s work, dear.”

 I could go on like this forever, but you get the picture. Try to imagine what this show would look like if it was produced today. Santa would be a black woman. Rudolph’s deformity would be AIDS. Hermie would finally be able to come out of the closet, and the Island of Misfit Toys would be a place where everyone was an illegal immigrant without health insurance cowering in their safe spaces, the ghastly specter of global warming creeping ever closer, until Santa's solar powered sleigh comes to their rescue.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Too Late. You're Screwed...Conclusion


Matt: Well, for those of us who have kids, (little kids), it would be better if we ate earlier.

Doug: Wait…was that an insult? I know when I’ve been insulted!!

Christina: Yes, I agree. We need to eat as early as possible.

Paula: Yes! If we wait until 3 o’clock, Ron will be in full nap mode.

Doug: Well, I take a pretty mean nap between 2 and 4 lots of times, but…it’s Christmas Day people.  Everybody just needs to take some NoDoze and drink some of Ron’s coffee.

Bill: Somebody in this family needs to run for office.

Paula, Doug, Donnie, Linda, Jenny, Christina, Jenny, Becky, Lauren: Wait…what??

Patrick: What about the music? Nobody has mentioned anything about the music.

Ezra: NO SING!!!

Kaitlin: None of this matters, as long as I get to be with the most handsome man in the world. Did you guys know it’s out first Christmas together as a married couple??

Ryan: Gag!!

Jenny: Who is bringing the apple cranberry casserole? Is that Pam’s dish, my dish or Mom’s??!! It’s SO CONFUSING!!!!

Sean: Hey Patrick, I think we should do a reggae Christmas music theme this year.

Patrick: Uh…no offense Sean. Dale and the Z-Dubs can’t compare with Johann Sebastian Bach even on your best day!

Ron: And what about the nutmeg, hmmm?? Where in the world am I going to find Rhodesian nutmeg with only 13 days until Christmas?

Ruaridh: Can I bring a bottle of Scotch?

Donnie: Only if you want Nanny to come down from heaven and wipe the floor up with you.

Doug: Ruaridh, one word…FLASK

"Too Late. You're Screwed."

Inside the two week window of the Christmas season, and a silent panic begins to settle over the Dunnevant house. We have sped by a half dozen signposts that we had told ourselves would signal “go time.” Each signpost has been ignored. Today, Pam passes the critical signpost marked, “Last Day at Work.” The next sign, off in the distance, simply says, “Too Late. You’re Screwed.”

My Sister Linda just sent out a family e-mail beseeching the rest of us to begin engaging in a meaningful dialogue about Christmas Day. America often is similarly harangued to start meaningful conversations about race. But unlike America, we actually follow through. The emails have been coming in fast and hot.

Linda: Ok, this year I am NOT going to be the cruise director.

Doug: Sorry. That was a lifelong appointment.

Linda: Well…what about the menu? Remember that year we did Italian food?

Doug: I am trying my best to forget. When I walked in the house and smelled lasagna I remember thinking, “what the heck? Is this Columbus Day??”

Linda: Yes, but it’s so much easier than turkey with all the trimmings. You men just don’t understand!!

Doug: I understand enough to know that if God wanted us eating lasagna on his birthday, Jesus would have been born in a manger in Venice.

Linda: Well…what about the time?

Doug: I’m cool with 1:30

Pam: Since I will have all of my kids home, I would really prefer not having to rush out of the house so early. I think 2 would be better, actually 3-4 would be even better.

Doug: Like I said, I think 2 would be better, actually 3-4 would be even better.

Paula: Bag the Italian. Turkey with all the trimmings. I’ll have Ron bring a ham.

Christina: Ezra naps from 2-4.

Jenny: Yeah, 2-4 doesn’t work for us either. Bennet chops the heads off of bad guys and saves the world from Kryptonite from 2-4.

Linda: Well, we might have to do a second seating table out in the piano room. Any volunteers?

Paula, Doug, Pam, Becky, Lauren, Donnie Paula, Ron:  NO!!!!!

Ryan: I’m fine with the second seating table…as long as I can watch Sports Center.

Doug: I say put all the Pups out there, cover the table with gummy worms and Cheetos and lock the door.

Ron: Wait…I’m bringing a ham?

Paula: Yes, dear.

Ron: Well thanks a lot for the advanced notice!! I’m not sure I can find all the spices I will need to get a ham ready for Christmas. I mean, the special Tahitian cumin I use takes three weeks to ship!

Paula: Nobody cares about Tahitian cumin for crying out loud! Just make sure there isn’t any blood on the plate.

                                                  --- to be continued---

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Palpable Anguish?

First Columbia School of Law, now Harvard.

The cream of America’s academic crop have demanded dispensation from their upcoming exams due to, among other things, the “palpable anguish” looming over their campuses as a result of the national crisis brought on by the Ferguson and Garner verdicts. In a letter to the Dean of Harvard Law, the “traumatized” and “visibly distressed” students reasoned that it was far more important for them to “stand for justice rather than sit for final exams.” Apparently, Ivy League law students feel that their obligation to do their school work ends whenever the American Justice system disappoints them. When did our nation’s future lawyers become such delicate flowers?  How would you like to be represented by a lawyer unable to rally himself out of his “palpable anguish” at being overruled by a judge?

As a public service, I would like to describe what real “palpable anguish” looks like outside the cloistered ivory towers of academia.

Palpable anguish is what Harvard students felt every day during the Civil War when their fathers, uncles and brothers were being slaughtered on battlefields from Shiloh to Antietam, the future of the country hanging in the balance. The only time classes were cancelled at Harvard was when the school ran out of students.

Palpable anguish was what my Father’s generation felt the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked plunging this nation into an existential fight for its very survival. The only college students who were allowed to skip their exams were the ones who either enlisted or were drafted into the fight.

Palpable anguish was what every member of the armed forces felt when the twin towers came down and they were swept up in the endless war on terror. Despite their “trauma” and being “visibly distressed” they showed up for work.

Palpable anguish is what parents feel when their child is given a cancer diagnosis. Real life gives them no dispensation from having to work even longer hours to pay the bills. Real life doesn’t allow them a month to contemplate the flaws of our healthcare system. They show up at work and soldier on because that’s what adults do.

Palpable anguish is what I feel when I read about a collection of pampered, and privileged Ivy Leaguers making demands of their schools that previous generations of Americans would never have made. Such trauma! Such anguish! How can they possibly be expected to take an exam when a couple of white cops just got acquitted for killing a couple of black men? Oh, the humanity!!

Here’s a news flash for the delicate flowers of Harvard Law. This world is a very disappointing place at times. And yes, the American justice system is sometimes unjust. Crap happens. And sometimes the crap that happens makes you angry. But, disillusioned or not, you still have to show up for work the next day. You buck yourself up, screw on a happy face and go about your business. The real world doesn’t stop to give you time to sort through your angst, to process your feelings.
Get over yourselves!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Not a Good Week For Rape Victims

Misc. observations on yet another cold, rainy morning:

1.     It hasn’t been a good week for alleged rape victims. First came the collapse of the UVA/Rolling Stone story. Now comes a retraction from Random House over the star of Lena Dunham’s memoir, Barry the campus conservative and rapist. It seems that there really was a “Barry” at Oberlin back in the day and he was the campus conservative. Trouble is, he has lawyered up and is fighting back by loudly claiming his innocence, so much so that now Ms. Dunham claims that his name wasn’t really Barry. Here’s a little advice for all of you aggrieved feminists out there. There are enough real rapes out there. You don’t need to manufacture fake ones. When you get caught, it damages you and everything you stand for, not to mention legitimate victims.

2.     Over the weekend Pam and I went to see the Grand Illumination downtown with Gordon and Leigh Ann Fort. It was fun. While there we took two pictures, one of Gordon and Leigh Ann and another of the two of us. We would have done a selfie of all four of us, but couldn’t manage the mechanics. Later we posted both photos on Facebook. As of this morning the Dunnevant photo has 15 “likes”. The Fort photo has 75 “likes.” The Dunnevant family self-esteem is at all-time lows as we consider the appalling state of our popularity.

3.     It has been fascinating to watch the evolving tactics of peaceful protesters around the country over the Ferguson and Garner incidents. The latest rage seems to be something called a Die-In, whereby protestors gather at some high profile place and then lay down on the ground as if dead while photographers snap pictures. Interesting. I have never taken part in an organized protest in my entire life. It’s not that I have never been outraged by anything. I get mad as quick as the next guy. It’s just that it all seems so pointless. In a couple more weeks all of these protests will be over and cops and black men will still be enemies. Maybe it does serve the needs of the protestors by giving them a way to demonstrate their frustration which is fine and good. I just can’t imagine being part of a crowd of angry tax-paying businessmen marching on the IRS headquarters on April 15th. The very idea of laying on the sidewalk with my pockets inside out pretending to be dead-broke seems preposterously silly to me. I mean, it might make me feel better, might even be great fun, but I still owe them the money.
 Lucy is about to lose whatever sanity dogs come with. It has been cloudy, rainy and disgusting outside for what seems like forever, robbing her of her favorite activity…destroying my backyard. She has had only one digging session in the past week and the withdrawal symptoms are starting to become debilitating. Poor girl has taken to sitting at doors and windows and letting out long mournful whines. It’s a dog’s life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

We Need To "Crank" it up!

If I didn’t know better I would think that the Dunnevants are turning into the Cranks.

This weekend would have been a perfect time to finish up the Christmas decorating what with all the chilly rain out and all. We had every intention of doing just that. I managed to put the swags in the windows and get a couple of trees down from the attic and set in place. Then everything just sort of petered out. The usual manic holiday momentum never materialized despite the festive Christmas soundtrack booming through the Bose sound dock. Of course, it didn’t help when one of the trees collapsed in a heap and crashed into the Palladian window upstairs, the plastic stand cracked in three places rendering it useless. We never recovered after that.

Pam did manage to address a bunch of Christmas cards, so we got that going for us.

Here’s the thing. When there are no kids at home it’s hard to summon any meaningful urgency. Kids are the engine that powers Christmas. Without them it’s so much easier to procrastinate. But here it is December the 8th, only 17 days until Christmas and I haven’t even put the lights on the holly tree out front. At this pace, we will be one of those weird couples that put up their decorations on Christmas Eve and then take them down on New Year’s Eve. What’s the point?

Maybe it was a mistake to watch “Christmas With the Cranks” the other night. I was against it, but Pam and Kaitlin insisted. Terrible movie. Poorly written, badly acted, moronic dialogue, and yet a compelling story line. Skipping Christmas in favor of a Caribbean vacation? Sounds fascinating actually. Set aside for a moment the fact that if we all skipped Christmas, the country would fall into an economic quagmire that would make the Great Depression look like Shangri-La. Also, set aside the millions of crestfallen toddlers scarred for life by the selfishness of their parents. Once you get past a few negatives, a couple of weeks on the beach sipping Pina coladas and munching conch fritters sounds pretty darned good right about now.

I’m sure we will ultimately rally. We will wake up some Saturday shaking in panicked horror at the fact that there are only ---- days left until Christmas. Pam will start barking out orders, then follow it up with some sort of computerized to-do list sent directly to my cell phone. The kitchen will explode into action, cranking out cookies and banana bread seemingly by itself while the dining room gets transformed into present-wrapping central. My bank will begin a series of calls warning me about “unusually high use volume” on my credit card. Lucy will curl herself up into the fetal position in some corner of the house, terrified by the chaos.
Then we will find ourselves all dressed up sitting in a row together at the Grove Avenue Christmas Eve service wondering how we ever managed to get it all done. Since it will be the first time that either of us has sat down in two weeks, Pam and I will fall asleep during the reading of Luke 2….and it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that ZZZZZZZZZZZ…

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Too Good To Check

What the hell?

Just about the time I have finally simmered down after reading of the horrific rape at UVA, word comes that Rolling Stone no longer has confidence in the story and apologizes to everybody for publishing it in the first place. Their exact words were:

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.”

Hmmm, “we apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.” Does that include me? I sure was affected by this story and I’m here to tell you, Rolling Stone, I do not accept your apology. At a time when journalism has become about confirming and advocating agendas, not the honest pursuit of truth, a simple apology isn’t going to cut it. This story was apparently too good to check. This writer set out to write a piece about rape culture and was simply too willing to accept testimony that confirmed her own beliefs and biases. But, that’s what editors are for. That’s what the Perry Whites of the world do. They bark at their reporters for “sources, sources and more sources!!” But even in the make believe world of the Daily Planet, the barking is done BEFORE the story goes to print.

To those out there who ask, “Do you actually think that an accused rapist would agree to be interviewed?” My answer is that if a writer came up to me and said, “Mr. Dunnevant, I’m writing a 9000 word story that’s going to appear in the Rolling Stone about a girl named Jackie who is accusing you and 8 of your buddies of repeatedly raping her at a frat party in 2012,” I would absolutely either A. Tell her that it was a lie or B. contact my attorney and give her a “no comment.” Either way, the reporter has something to write and has made a good faith effort to get the other side of the story, which I understand is Journalism 101.

Instead, not only have many key details of the story collapsed under scrutiny, but the last remains of my confidence in journalism lies in tatters on the floor.

The problem with advocacy journalism disguised as news reporting is that it segregates us into information ghettos. If I lean conservative in my politics, I watch Fox News. If I lean liberal, I watch pretty much everything else. But regardless, I know in my heart that I’m being lied to at some level by all of them. Everyone has an agenda. Every story has an angle. I’m so tired of it all.
I shed no tears for the frats at UVA, but I do shed tears for the truth.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ilma Stone R.I.P.

I was in South Carolina on business when I got the news that Ilma Stone had passed away. For many years she was my Mom’s best friend so her loss saddened me at first. But then the idea entered my head that the two of them are reunited in heaven and I couldn’t help smiling. Like my parents, Ilma’s final years were plagued by declining health, so belief in an afterlife where she has been made whole is a comfort. Still, every time I think of Ilma I smile. I can’t help it. She always made me laugh. Let me explain.

Forty years ago, I was a cocky, wisecracking teenager. It was about this time when I was introduced to my mother’s new friend, Ilma Stone. She was a very pretty lady with an infectious laugh who could be laughing one minute and crying the next. She and Mom were always sitting at the dining room table nibbling on pound cake, sipping iced tea and talking about Jesus. That’s pretty much all I ever saw them do together. Sometimes their discussions would get pretty intense. I would bound down the stairs and pass by them on my way to the kitchen and find Ilma sitting there with tears running down her face. I would always go over and hug her and ask if she was ok. She would always smile and hug me back. Then every once in a while I couldn’t resist saying, “Hey, look Ilma…a CAT!!” She would always scream and nearly jump out of her chair and onto the table. I thought it was great fun but Mom would always fuss at me for being so mean. Ilma was more afraid of cats than anything in the universe so naturally, I always kidded her about it. Somehow she loved me anyhow.

Tomorrow, I will attend her funeral, the first such occasion I’ve been to since Dad passed away. There will be a viewing before the service. I used to hate everything about funerals. But now that I’ve been through two big ones, not so much anymore. Besides, this is Ilma. I know where she is and who she’s with.

Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Another Dead Black Man

Eric Garner, the latest very large black man to be killed by the police, was a 43 year old father of six with a rap sheet that included 31 arrests. Therein lies the Grand Canyon-sized chasm between white and black America. I don’t know anyone 43 years old who has 6 kids, and I have never been in the presence of a single solitary person who has been arrested 31 times.

We have all seen the video a hundred times by now. There is Mr. Garner resisting an attempted arrest by several NYPD officers, one of whom slips around behind and wraps an arm around his neck wrestling him to the ground. Somewhere in the ensuing melee, Eric Garner breathes his last. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who administered the chokehold was placed on office duty after the incident, then the case was sent to a Grand Jury for review. Yesterday that Grand Jury acquitted Pantaleo and charged him with…nothing.

What heinous crime was Mr. Garner guilty of? What horrible act was he in the midst of committing that would have justified such a violent apprehension? He was selling loose, unregistered, (un-taxed) cigarettes…loosies. Wait,…what?

You see, in New York City, politicians have declared tobacco to be worse than practically any substance on earth. It has been the goal of the powers that be to eradicate its use both inside and out. To this end they have taxed cigarettes out of reach of most New Yorkers. A pack costs $11.00, half of that price lines the bank accounts of governments from Washington to Albany to New York City. If I didn’t know better I would think that somebody set out to create a black market. “Hey everyone, I know what we should do! Let’s make cigarettes twice as expensive in New York as they are anywhere else in the country. That way, we’ll create a huge incentive for crooks in Kentucky to bring their 4 dollar-a-pack cigarettes up here where they can sell them on the street for 8 dollars a pack. That will save smokers in our city 3 bucks a pack and rob us of revenue while making illegal cigarettes a thriving black market!!”

I’m all for law and order and I generally support the police over perpetually aggrieved race pimps like Al Sharpton, but when I watch the video of Mr. Garner’s final moments on this earth, I can’t help thinking…all of this over selling illegal cigarettes? The NYPD has nothing better to do than go after some 43 year old man selling contraband smokes? Whatever happened to proportionality? How about the punishment fitting the crime?

I would imagine that in a city the size of New York there are probably hundreds of thousands of laws and ordinances on the books. No police force is equipped to enforce them all. Decisions have to be made because of budgetary restraints, prosecutorial discretion must be exercised. We see this all the time. For example, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in the United States and yet, every Friday and Saturday night on most college campuses, an orgy of law-breaking takes place in full view of the local police. The police decide that there are bigger fish to fry.

For the life of me I cannot understand why the cops in New York City felt compelled to take this type of aggressive approach to apprehending a cigarette salesman. Seriously? How do they actually expect someone 43 years old with 31 arrests to make a living? At least he wasn’t selling black tar heroin to school kids. As parents we pick our battles, we seldom choose to die on the hill of forgetting to make the bed. In the grand scheme of deviance in a city like New York, Eric Garner forgot to make his bed. Now he’s dead.

President Obama has pledged 75 million dollars to outfit police officers with cameras that he says will reduce confrontations. This particular crime was recorded on tape for all to see over and over again on CNN. The result was another acquittal of a police officer accused of murdering a black man. Maybe Pantaleo’s actions didn’t rise to murder. But to be cleared of any wrong doing? Excessive force?  Wrongful arrest technique? Anything?
On this one, I’m with the protesters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cameras For Cops?

President Obama has responded to the Ferguson riots by convening another White House meeting that he hopes will begin another “national conversation” about race, which by my count will be the 16th such conversation since he's been in the White House. It seems that we have had a national conversation about little else during his Presidency. But this time he intends to do more than just talk. Yesterday he announced a 74 million dollar plan to outfit up to 50,000 cops with lapel pin-sized cameras to record their interactions with citizens. It is hoped that the knowledge that such interactions are being recorded will improve the behavior of the police and give people of color more confidence that they will be treated fairly. Ok. Fair enough.
I would like to suggest that the President take this program one step further. How about we spend a far smaller sum to equip all 535 members of Congress with cameras? Perhaps if Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell knew that their interactions were being recorded, it would improve their behavior. While he’s at it, how about slapping one of those babies on Eric Holder? I mean, it’s a well known fact that the American people hold a dim view of politicians in general and Washington DC in particular. The popularity of Congress is at historic lows. What better way to restore some trust than a little transparency? Lapel cameras for all politicians should do the trick.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My New Blog Template...and a shameless plug

When you run a business, everything is about momentum. The day to day pace of work is carried along by whatever you happen to be working on each day, which leads to the next thing, then the next. So when a long weekend comes along like a five day Thanksgiving break, it can be difficult to find your place again. The older I get the more difficult this is to do. Just as it is hard to turn around a battleship or to start a 30 car locomotive from a dead stop, so it is with restarting a business enterprise that has laid dormant for nearly a week. If you work for someone else, it’s the job of your boss to get you restarted. When you work for yourself and your boss is sometimes a confused jerk, well you might have problems. This morning, I’m a confused jerk.

Over the holiday weekend my son volunteered to redesign my Blog. It was his considered opinion that the Tempest layout was tired and cheap looking. So, while I was outside getting up leaves he sat about reworking everything. By the time he was done, the fake bookshelf background was gone and there was a big link imploring readers to buy my new book. Pretty cool.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, our attention will soon turn to Christmas shopping. When I say soon I actually mean at some point. When I use the word attention, a better phrase might be…deliberate procrastination. So, let me write that sentence more honestly. Now that Thanksgiving is over, our deliberate procrastination will at some point give way to the job of Christmas shopping. For me, it usually begins around the 20th. Can’t wait. This year I’m not alone, apparently. Black Friday sales have come in down 11%, a number that nobody who cares about such things expected. Several theories have already sprung up to explain the bad numbers. The one that seems to dominate is the rise of online shopping, which makes sense. Why risk having to fight off hysterical women for that last 55 inch big screen? Why risk getting trampled by the zombie mob at Walmart? Why get in a fist fight at Best Buy at 2 o’clock in the morning, when you can just point and click on Amazon while sipping your pumpkin spice latte in your pajamas as Nat King Cole sings softly from your Bose?

Speaking of pointing and clicking, did I mention that you can buy my book simply by clicking its picture at the top right hand corner of my blog???
Just saying….

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Until Next Time...

By the end of the day, my house will be empty again. Although Pam and Lucy and I will still live here, all my kids will have gone back home. I’m not sure who will miss them more, Pam and me, or Lucy?

Last night I celebrated National Small Business Saturday by taking everyone to the Hanover Tavern for dinner and a show. Neil Simon’s ‘They’re Playing Our Song” was playing and it was delightful. When we got back home, we decorated the Christmas tree while Lucy tiptoed around in skittish terror at the presence of a tree in her house and boxes of ornaments strewn everywhere. It was quite hilarious.

So, today we will eat yet another huge breakfast together, then head off to church and lunch with friends. Kaitlin and Jon will hit the road soon after, then we will take Patrick to the airport. Once he’s in the air we will begin a three day fast to lose the ten pounds we have packed on over the past four days.
The good news is that they will all be back in three weeks for Christmas. The house will be full again…and so will we.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Success

Thanksgiving was great. There was enough food to feed an army and yet there were very few leftovers. There were all sixteen members of the White clan present which meant that Patrick got to try out his fancy new camera on a big family portrait in the front yard, (pictures to follow). Then it was time for football.

This morning my elbow is enflamed, my back is tight and my hamstrings have risen up in outraged protest. I imagine that when I struggled to get out of bed this morning, I was in good company. Millions of my mid-fifties countrymen struggled along with me, no doubt. The reason for this is unfathomable to millions of wives out there who watch their husbands diving on the ground attempting a miraculous catch. They are unimpressed with our tales of touchdowns and interceptions. They just stare at us, mouths agape, wondering what we possibly could have been thinking throwing ourselves onto the ground wearing a perfectly clean wool sweater. Just for the record, the three man team of Patrick, Jon and yours truly triumphed over the four man team of Mike, Mick, Isaac, and Randy…28-21.

We are quickly approaching the two month anniversary of the arrival of Lucy. In all that time she had only whined when we put her to bed one time and that was the first night she was here….until last night. Lucy has been in doggy heaven ever since meeting her new siblings. They have spent most of their time snuggling or playing in a pile on the floor. The kids are in love. Then, last night when it was finally bedtime, Lucy started to whine as if to say, “I can’t go to bed now, there are people upstairs to play with!!” I’m a little concerned that she will be bored with the two of us once the kids head back on Sunday.
Once again proud to report that none of my family has fallen prey to the hideous orgy of conspicuous consumption that is Black Friday. Today we will busy ourselves with getting up leaves and other traditional Thanksgiving activities. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, Patrick did slip out last night at midnight to pick up a killer deal on a PS4 at Gamestop. But, he was first in line and nobody got trampled when the doors were opened, so I suppose that was a victory of sorts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ferguson Verdict

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of the verdict in the Ferguson case yesterday and I hesitated for a minute before answering, “It doesn’t matter what I think.” That was the best I could do. But it also happens to be true. What a mess.

Anytime a police officer pulls the trigger and a teenager ends up dead it’s a tragedy. No matter the mitigating circumstances, parents are not meant to bury their children. Therefore, I can and do have sympathy for any parent suffering so tragic a loss. I find myself giving them a lot of room for error, allowing them to say hurtful even stupid things in the pain of the moment. I try to imagine how coherent and sensible I would sound with a thousand microphones stuck in my face after losing a son. In this case Michael Brown’s parents get a pass.

As far as the police are concerned, there isn’t enough money in the world that would entice me to become a police officer. It is the worst job in America. Every day, you put your life on the line trying to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, and most of the time it’s devilishly hard to tell the difference. On the rare occasion where you actually have to fire a weapon, you place yourself under a microscope and the glare of that spotlight can destroy you. No thanks.

So, 12 men and women just completed their three month long grand jury duty. They listened to more than 70 hours of testimony, read reports, listened to more evidence, re-read reports, all the while knowing that whatever their decision happened to be would set off a firestorm of criticism. They were screwed from the beginning. I’ve read just a fraction of the testimony, but enough to know that whatever the per diem is for jury duty in Missouri, it ain’t enough.

My opinion of the verdict doesn’t matter because whatever it happens to be will be wrong. If I believe that Officer Wilson acted in self-defense then I will be judged to be in support of a trigger happy bigot who epitomizes the excesses of the militarized police force in America. If I support the not-guilty verdict, then I will be judged as someone who doesn’t value black lives.

If I believe that Officer Wilson was guilty of murder and got away with it because of systemic racism in our judicial system, then I will be judged to be in support of lawlessness, rioting, looting and mayhem. Worse, I will be lumped in with the Al Sharpton’s of the world, soft on crime and in cahoots with the coddlers and excuse-makers of the left, more concerned with perpetuating grievance than with justice.

So, I’ll just watch the bonfires in the streets of Ferguson. I’ll listen to the protesters chant their slogans…you didn’t indict, we shall fight…f**k the police. I’ll watch them burn down their own town in a rage. Then I’ll wait for some politician to introduce legislation to finance the rebuilding of Ferguson with a new urban renewal plan funded by taxes on the law-abiding citizens of St. Louis.
But I won’t comment on the verdict. It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m wrong anyway.