Thursday, June 30, 2016
Ok...I've got exactly 24 hours to get all the last minute stuff done, 24 hours until zero-hour, 9 am. Two appointments this morning. Submission of last minute business. Recording my epic away message on my business phone. Cut the grass. Pack my suitcase. Pack the Pacifica. Consider installing a hitch and renting a U-Haul. Kill a couple of last minute squirrels just to remind them who's boss. Drop by the bank to see if they happen to be giving away any free samples today. Have conference with Kristin to make sure she is fully up to speed on all of my ill-conceived plans for the month. Do some more packing. Consider placing whatever will not fit into a giant box and having it shipped UPS. Talk Pam off of the ledge when she misplaces one of her 16 to-do lists. Constantly reassure increasingly fragile-looking Lucy that everything is going to be just fine, even though the entire time she is casting wary eyes at the growing number of large scary bags and boxes in the staging area and thinking, " Lies. All lies. I'm screwed..."
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
A couple of weeks ago I was clearing out some very old files at my office. I have a couple of file drawers full of stuff that at some point I thought was important enough to save. So every once in a while I'll rummage through to see what was such a big deal all those years ago. I found an old faded yellow pad full of dreams. No, seriously...dreams.
I had a mentor when I first got into this business, an elderly man with an almost saintly reputation for not only production, but a strict code of honor and integrity. His name was Dan Williams. One day, which according to the date at the top of the yellow pad would have been February 1st, 1989, Dan sat down with me and challenged me to write out three sets of goals. He asked me to divide them into three columns. The first were short term goals, things I wanted to accomplish over the next year. He wanted me to stretch myself, to make it a goal that I had a decent chance of hitting, but which would require a lot of effort. Then he asked me to write out my mid-term goals. These were different, these required some vision. He wanted me to try and imagine what I wanted my life to look like in ten years. He wanted me to write out difficult, life-stretching stuff. He told me to not be afraid to dream a little. Finally, he told me to write out my long term goals. For these, he asked me to dream a lot, to imagine the possibilities.
I won't bore you with all the details, because some of them were embarrassing, to be honest. Twenty seven years ago, I didn't have much in the way of confidence in my future. My goals were flimsy things, the sort of goals someone who was afraid of the future might come up with. In my defense, I was struggling in a brutal business that is insanely difficult to break into. I had a toddler at home and Pam was seven months pregnant with Patrick. I was in debt with a 12.5% mortgage with two college loans outstanding. I knew that there was a chance that Pam would want to retire from her teaching job after Patrick was born, making us a one income household. Frankly, I was afraid of the future. Of course, I would never have admitted such a thing to Pam or anyone else. But I couldn't fool Dan. He told me that one day I would look at my list and laugh. He was right.
I tell this story, because despite the laugh it gave me at my own expense...one thing stood out from my list of long term goals...."I would like to be able to take my family to a house on a lake in Maine for an entire month."
Honestly, I had forgotten all about the list. I didn't remember writing it. I did remember how Dan always was getting on me about setting the bar too low, for limiting myself with the tyranny of low expectations. "If you don't reach for great things, you'll always be stuck with the...ok." It wasn't smooth like something Zig Ziglar would say, but I still remember it 27 years later, so that counts for something.
So, in a couple of days Pam and I will head to a house on a lake in Maine for an entire month.
God Bless America, and God bless men like Dan Williams.
I ran across a story the other day about a guy who lost his composure in the middle of a cross country flight. Was it because he became claustrophobic? Was he freaked out by the whispering middle eastern-looking couple across the aisle? Did he see snakes on the plane? No, no. His internet connection was not only outrageously expensive, but way too slow and unreliable.
Let that sink in for a moment. The man was sitting in a chair in the sky, hurtling to his cross country destination at 600 miles per hour in a climate controlled cabin, sipping hot coffee...incredulous that the miracle of an invention that didn't even exist twenty five years ago was not cheep and perfectly functional at 30,000 feet.
Conclusion? 21st century men are chumps.
As a disclaimer for what follows, I should point out that I speak as a 58 year old middle/upper middle class man in the United States of America, in reasonably good health and of reasonably sound mind.
But, honestly, when I look around this great big world today and consider all of the problems we're dealing with, I think...what problems? Consider...
1. The year I was married (1984 ) the Dow Jones Industrials was at 1200. Today it stands at 17,500, an astounding return on investment. But let the market drop 600 lousy points because of Brexit and we wail and moan, don our sack cloth and sit in ashes all day!
2. Billion dollar industries exist to sell us stuff to do with our leisure time, when 300 years ago, there wasn't even a word for "leisure time" because nobody had any.
3. Californians complain about the horrible traffic in and around Los Angeles. They do so inside the climate controlled interiors of automobiles equipped with more powerful computers than IBM had forty years ago. The average price of these vehicles clogging LA's freeways would make their owners the richest person within a hundred square miles of over half the land mass of the world.
4. Every night on television, somebody is trying to sell me some new medicine (ask your doctor if expressia is right for you!) to rid me of some ailment I didn't even know was a thing. Discolored toenails? A mere 100 years ago the number one cause of death was diarrhea, the cure for which now costs four bucks and tastes and looks like bubblegum.
5. Today's college students need safe spaces to run to whenever they hear disagreeable speech that offends their fragile world views. Their grandfathers at their age were scrambling for safe spaces from incoming mortar fire in some god-forsaken jungle in the South Pacific. Their grandmothers were assembling tanks in some factory somewhere for ten hours a day, seven days a week. Their great grandparents were probably hungry most of the time.
6. While the developing world's population is exploding, here in the west...the most sex saturated civilization in history, men need the assistance of little blue pills to obtain an erection. So much so that the company that developed Viagra...Pfizer, rakes in nearly 2 billion a year in revenue from it's sale.
Listen, I'm not trying to suggest that we don't have problems today. Sure, there are still bad things happening around the world and here at home. There is still injustice, racism is still with us, and even in the most prosperous nation in the world there are people who don't have enough to eat. But, in the grand scheme of the universe, our problems seem lame when compared to the daily life struggles of even our most recent ancestors. A little perspective and gratitude for our amazing luck at being alive in the year 2016 would seem to be in order.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Immigration has become the Rorschach Test of contemporary American politics. What one thinks about it has become the great divider. It goes something like this...
# If you are pro-immigration, you are said to be for open borders, which makes you a post nation-state globalist.
# If you are anti-immigration, you are a racist, nationalistic xenophobe.
Notice that in both of these scenarios, no distinction is made between legal and illegal immigration. Which means, charitably, that both positions are full of s**t.
For the viva l'immigration set, any nation that shuts off its borders to the free flow of the world's dispossessed is evil. Why, who are we to arbitrarily affix invisible lines on God's Earth, cordon ourselves off from our fellow man and thus shut the door in the faces of our less fortunate brothers and sisters? For these folks, the future is a stateless globe where all people live as one under one government. You know...like heaven, only without the angels. The European Union was and is the first such real world experiment in this sort of thinking. The fact that the British have turned against this future has caused no small amount of exasperation among the world's young, who fear that one of history's most civilized and accomplished nations has been taken over by barbarians.
For the anti-immigration crowd, the issue is too often painted as hordes of swarthy Hispanics seeping through every unguarded inch of our southern border with the active complicit assistance of our own government who refuses to enforce our own laws because the prospect of new Democratic Party voters is too good to pass up. Let them in. Because they have nothing, they will immediately become dependent on government. They are natural ready-made Democratic Party constituents. For many on this side of the debate, the heat of emotion comes from some ill-conceived longing for America as it used to be...Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It To Beaver, white and Protestant.
What's my take? It's actually very simple. I'm an American. As such, I believe in the concept of nations. One of the jobs of a nation is to establish and control its borders. Every nation has a right to decide who and how many people from somewhere else we allow into our country. We have a system of laws drafted by our elected representatives that supposedly control the flow. We have made many changes in those laws over the past hundred years as our needs as a nation have changed. This is right and proper. Yes, the Statue of Liberty stands proudly proclaiming, "Give us your tired, your poor, etc etc." However, it stands on Ellis Island, a tightly controlled entry point for those teaming masses yearning to be free, complete with uniformed customs officials. It's not a free for all.
My position is simple. Enforce the laws of our nation. If we determine that we, in fact, want to open the doors to millions of unskilled laborers...fine. Pass a law. But until that happens, enforce the law.
Back to the fact that I am an American. It's true. I was born here, as were my parents and their parents and their parents before them. Then it gets sketchy. We think that our ancestors came here from either (take your pick) Ireland, Germany, or Britain. One of those at least. What this means is that at some point back in the day, my family were immigrants, and I for one am forever in their debt. One of the great things about being American is that we have so many different types of people here. We have benefitted by the wonderful heritage of so many amazing experiences, of multiple ethnicities being represented here. The foods they brought with them, we all enjoy. The music, the art forms, the color and flair have helped make us great. We weaken ourselves if we say..stop! No more! I want the best and brightest from anywhere in the world to come here with their dreams and talents. But, I want them to come here with the desire to become Americans. I have no desire to turn our country into Yugoslavia. We need less Balkanization, not more. But neither do we need to remove the welcome mat for those who come here...legally. Two members of my family did just that. My sister in law from the Philippines, my niece's husband from Scotland. It was a costly and laborious process, but they did it, and my family is better for their efforts.
What to do with the 10 million or so illegal immigrants already here? I have no idea actually. I wish there weren't 10 million illegal immigrants here. How they got here is a great shame to the rule of law and a black mark on the resumes of those who presume to lead us. But now they are here. The notion of rounding 10 million people up and herding them back to the border has a trail of tears quality to it that no decent human being wants to witness. Any politician who says that this is what they want to do is an idiot and worse...a heartless idiot.
So, to recap. Am I against legal immigration? Certainly not. Am I in favor of an everybody gets in, no questions asked, and here is your democrat party registration form style free for all at the border? Certainly not. We are a nation and as such have a right to control both temporary and permanent entry into our country. We should do so with an eye towards what is in our economic and social interests.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Pam and I visited another church yesterday. It was a mixed bag. The music was uninspired. The congregation was whiter than a Chamber of Commerce picnic in Des Moines, Iowa. But, I heard one of the most intelligent and beautiful sermons I've heard in years.
First, the music. Pam says that I'm always going to hate the music in any church unless it features the thirty hymns my mother loved. This is a pernicious lie! While it is true that I dearly love many selections from the Broadman hymnal, as a musician myself, I have no problem with any church music genre if it is performed well and the lyrics have some discernible theological message. Yesterday was practically a textbook example of everything that makes me cringe in church. The worship leader, strummed his stratocaster gently while asking us to join him in worship. This dude was movie star handsome in his skin tight t-shirt, bulging biceps sporting not one but two tattoos...suggesting perhaps an edgy past! In all, four songs were performed by his tight band, none of which I knew...which is fine. Pam rightly points out that one of the reasons I don't know any of these songs is because I don't listen to Christian radio. Point taken. She does. She knew one of them. Anyway, all four of them seemed to be churned out by the same songwriter, minor keys dominating, with Hallmark card lyrics like..."My soul will dance on the wings of freedom"... not exactly "a mighty fortress is our God" but this place didn't have a pipe organ either so... Bicep Guy bayed out lots of ocean metaphors. Life is like an ocean apparently, lots of scary waves and what not. But, the musicians involved were talented and performed each selection flawlessly. As I looked around at the people around me, only a handful were singing. Maybe they don't listen to Christian radio either.
Then the pastor stepped forward and blew me away.
The topic of his thirty minute sermon was...the Trinity, not exactly stem winder material. But towards the end of his wonderfully reasoned and presented message he used an illustration that I have been thinking about a lot since. He told us about when he spent a summer in Japan. While there he became fascinated with the culture of this ancient civilization, in particular a form of art there called Kintsugi, which translated means making beautiful art from broken things. Kintsugi artists take broken pottery and solder it with gold. The results are quite stunning:
Then the pastor observed that this is exactly the opposite of what we Christians do with broken things. If we attempt to fix them at all, it is with clear epoxy so when finished nobody will be able to tell it was broken in the first place. In other words we try our best to hide our imperfections. We plaster on a fake smile to hide our own brokenness, no place more so than at church. Then he made the beautiful point that Jesus Christ is the gold that mends us and makes us greater, more valuable than we were before. It was brilliant and made a lasting impression on me.
When we return from Maine, we will go there again.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Ok. Yesterday a reader of this blog sent me a private message informing me that Donald Trump has in recent months experienced a religious conversion. Apparently, an unnamed "evangelical leader" led the presumptive Republican nominee to Christ. This was all reported to the world from the lips of none other than James Dobson himself. Later in the afternoon, my daughter sent me a link to the story with the snarky aside, "Well, that's a relief!"
Now...I suppose there is the possibility that this news is actually true, that Donald Trump has actually accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. If so, there is also the chance that he did so for truly spiritual reasons, not merely as a sop to evangelicals in a brazen attempt to get their votes. If so, I am truly happy for him and wish him the best as he embarks on his chosen spiritual walk with the Lord.
However...and life is always about the howevers, this news practically begs for my particular brand of humor, a trait that for good or ill I have passed down to my son. Yes, I am aware that making jokes about someone's faith is fraught with danger. Some of you might very well be offended by what follows, others hopefully...will get a kick out of it. But writing a blog is about self expression and fun, and last night while going back and forth with my children about this...we had lots of fun:
Me: Can you guys imagine Donald Trump praying the sinners prayer??..."God, even though most of my life has been fabulous and I have done many great things, the best things, I can maybe understand how I may have actually sinned on occasion. And, believe me, I'm very sorry/not sorry about that. I would hope that you would have the class to forgive me. So, I would like at this time to issue you an exclusive invitation to come and live in the world class accommodation of my heart...where there will never, I promise you, be a dull moment. God, actually you are going to love living in my heart, that I can promise you...
Patrick: He has the most luxurious heart...right next to the stomach that eats the best Mexican food, which is made at Trump Tower. He loves the Hispanics. He's going to be the best Christian. He's gonna follow Jesus so closely, so closely. Closer than anyone's ever followed Jesus. It's gonna be fantastic. He might even become a missionary to CHIIIIIINAAAA.
Pam: You guys are too much!! So, I can't get any of you to respond to my Our Month in Maine posts, but Trump gets multiple reactions?! 😔
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Had a lovely dinner out with my two sisters last night. I'm lucky to have sisters. Linda told us about a dream she had a couple months ago, her first dream about Mom since she passed. I have yet to have a dream about Mom or Dad since they've been gone. I was envious of her visions.
She remembers that we were on vacation, only not at the beach. Instead we had rented some grand Victorian house in the middle of nowhere. Her dream started in the upstairs of the house where Linda, dressed in her labor and delivery uniform was comforting a crying baby. Then her favorite Doctor shows up to inquire about the child. So far, sounds like a rocking vacation!!
Then she walks downstairs where she sees Mom sitting at the elegant dining room table dressed in her customary morning house coat having a rapturous conversation with my other sister, Paula. Mom had her elbows on the table with her coffee cup cradled in her hands like she always did. Everyone smiled when Linda recounted this detail because we could all picture it in our mind's eye. Only weird thing was that Mom's house coat was fire engine red! As Linda approached, she could see that the two of them were chattering away enthusiastically about something. Her dream never allowed her to eavesdrop, so the subject matter was a mystery. But Linda said that the entire scene filled her with an overwhelming sense of happiness.
After a while Linda made her way through a doorway into the kitchen, which she described in amazing detail, every nook and cranny as clear as a painting. She saw Patrick sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, dressed in a white t-shirt and black rimmed glasses. Then Sarah appeared at the counter preparing English muffins. She turned to Patrick to ask if he wanted butter. It was the only discernible words spoken in the entire dream.
Of course, all of us immediately became amateur psychologists, offering instantaneous interpretations. Hmmm...perhaps the baby belonged to Patrick and Sarah!!! We all laughed. Why were you working on your vacation??? Thanks, OBAMA!!!
Still, I was so envious. I haven't had any sort of dream about my parents, which is better than having a nightmare about them I suppose. But, I would love to be able to see them again, even in an ephemeral dream. Mom told stories and she was great at it...a gift. I would love to hear one more.
I dream about squirrels. It's not the same.
Friday, June 24, 2016
I don't pretend to be an expert on the Brexit campaign in Great Britian, moreover as an American I would think that most citizens of the United Kingdom wouldn't welcome my opinion anyway...a lesson President Obama recently learned. However, while we slept, the good people of the U.K. voted to leave the European Union by roughly 52% to 48%. All I know is...this map tells me that the Scotts were having none of it!
I have been following this issue for months now because of the impact it might have on my business, so I'm not completely ignorant of the basic issues involved. But reading a dozen articles and watching a dozen videos of David Cameron's town hall events doesn't make me an expert. Still, my reading of the thing boils down to it being a contest between the elites and the working stiffs...a fight for the soul of Great Britian between the proud nationalists and the more cosmopolitan, urbane, smart set. Yes, yes...it's much more complicated than this, but although generalizations are not often fully accurate, they are instructive. I had a feeling in my bones that the leave side was going to win when in the last week or so leading up to the vote, the remain side resorted to a fear of the unknown strategy. The Mirror had a cover photo of a giant black hole with the warning, "Don't take a leap into the unknown" or some such thing. When your closing argument turns negative....usually a bad sign. It was as if they
were admitting, Look, we know the EU stinks, but if we leave it might be much worse.
There are similarities between the Brexit campaign and our own Presidential contest. For one thing, there's this guy...
Look fimiliar? I think they have the same barber. Anyway, this is Boris Johnson, former MP and mayor of London who was a big supporter of the Leave campaign. There's also this guy...
Nigel Farage, a former commodities trader turned political gadfly, heads up the UKIP or United Kingdom Independance Party, a group steadfastly opposed to the EU. He has all the makings of a jerk...but I kinda like the cigar.
Listen, I'm not sure whether the UK made a mistake yesterday or not. Maybe the nationalism of the Leave movement winds up being nothing more than dangerous nostalgia. Maybe its stance against immigration finds its roots in simple racism. Maybe the economic fallout from their decision ends up hurting the country. But I know this...if I lived in a nation where rules were made for me by a parliament in a foreign capital...I wouldn't like it very much. We Americans are famous for our sometimes belligerent Independance in matters of sovereignty...just ask the UN. Well, from the looks of things this morning...we got it honest!
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Big storm rolling through Short Pump this morning which means that Lucy is a panting, exasperated mess, pacing around the house with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, ears pinned back, bracing for the apocalypse. Meanwhile, a bunch of politicians are lounging around on the literal floor of the House of Representatives in a fit of...something, eating donuts and singing songs. It's like summer camp for grown ups, Congress. Hillary Clinton would be right there with them except for the fact that she hasn't actually sat on the floor since that midnight seance back at Wellesley when her Fabian Society group tried to make contact with Che Guevara. Nobody on Hillary's advance team is quite sure about the optics involved of getting her back on her feet...a chance that they were unwilling to take what with Instagram and all...
Yesterday was difficult. Every once in a while something happens which causes you to doubt yourself. We develope over time our own personal narrative. It's how we see ourselves, what we think our strengths and weaknesses are. Then something happens which calls into question a part of that narrative. Am I really as good at that as I thought I was? Do people really see me the way I think they do? It can be disorienting. But, I only allow a day or so to ponder such things, then I move on. Otherwise, I would live my life marinating in a stew of self doubt. Still, when failure comes, I suppose it is right and proper to step back and examine what went wrong. What did I miss? What incorrect assumptions did I make?
This is a process that I wish our elected officials had the courage to undertake. "Hey guys..we are 19 freaking trillion dollars in debt. What did we miss? What incorrect assumptions did we make? Are we really as good at governing as we thought??" But, in Washington, self reflection is about as rare as humility. So all we get is doubling down on failed policies. Both sides do it. For the Republicans, the answer to every problem is tax cuts! For Democrats, it's always more spending! For Bill Clinton, it's always "let's get in the hot tub!!"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we are 19 trillion dollars in debt.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The following is a transcript of a top secret conversation held in the Oval Office yesterday at 1:35 between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the President of the United States...unfortunately, it too has been redacted...
LL: Mr. President, as you know, I did what you asked of me yesterday. Against my better judgement, I went on all of the Sunday shows and told them that we were planning to release heavily redacted transcripts of the 911 calls made by Omar Mateen during the Orlando workplace violence incident. I told them that the reason we omitted any reference to Islam and Allah was because we didn't want to further his hateful propaganda. I also told them that the reason we were releasing the transcripts in the first place was because of our commitment to transparency and accountability.
POTUS: Yes Loretta. I watched you on Meet the Press and thought you were amazing.
LL: Well...Mr. President, unfortunately we are getting hammered by the press today, and I mean HAMMERED. AND, it's not just Fox News, even our most reliable mouthpieces are turning on us. They're saying that by heavily redacting the man's words we look stupid. Everybody already knows what he said and the fact that we omitted key words just makes us look obsessed with political correctness and somehow disconnected from the reality of the situation.
POTUS: (inaudible clanging noise)...Well, I don't give a flying (omitted) what (omitted) thinks about (omitted)!! If we publish the man's actually words, every redneck (omitted) in America will try to make this perfectly fine crisis about (omitted) terrorism instead of (omitted) gun control!!
LL: You might be right about that Mr. President, but...if we've lost CNN, well, we have to think about some sort of in-course correction here.
(Inaudible crashing sounds)
POTUS: Ok, (omitted...omitted), here's what we do. We put out a statement saying that the press has made the redacted portions of the transcripts an unnecessary distraction. Then we lay blame for this whole thing on the State Department.
LL: But, Secretary Kerry didn't have anything to do with...
POTUS: I don't give a (omitted) about Secretary (omitted) Kerry. Just get it done!
LL: Yes Sir Mr. President. By the way, is there any particular reason why you are so fond of sending highly competent, professional African-American women from your administration out to be humiliated by the press? First, Susan Rice...and now me?
POTUS: (inaudible breaking of glass sound)
Monday, June 20, 2016
Father's Day is weird without Dad. I have no one to call. Now, I'm the one who gets called. Weird.
I often wonder what the day is like for people who have or had really horrible fathers. After all, there are lots of men out there who don't fit neatly onto a Hallmark card. In this regard I am fortunate. For all of my life I have been surrounded by men for whom fatherhood was their crowning achievement. My Dad. My uncles. The men who married my two sisters. My father-in-law. And now I see Facebook pictures of young men from my Sunday School classes from years ago holding infants in their arms, delighted and amazed. Then there are the men I've known who never had kids of their own, but instead became surrogate fathers to hundreds of other people's kids, those sainted teachers, coaches and encouragers without whom parents would be lost. I think of them on this day too.
Yesterday, my wife had her family over for a Father's Day picnic in the back yard. Despite the calendar, it was a perfect day to be outside...blue skies and no humidity. Because it was Pam, there was a theme...western bandanas with Slim Jim party favors! I grilled up beef and chicken kabobs on the grill with some teriyaki chicken thrown in for good measure.
After everyone left, I get an email from my daughter. She sent me a Barnes & Noble gift certificate so I could buy some books for my month in Maine. Then my son called to inform me that I must drive over to Havana Connection before 7:00 o'clock to pick up a package that was waiting for me.
After all of this, Pam and I were both exhausted. We had made plans earlier in the day for the Forts to come over to teach us some games to play while we are in Maine...something called Farkle, and the indelicately named dominoes game called Mexican Train. We hadn't seen them in a while and they would be spending a couple of weeks in Africa soon, and we wanted to see them before they left. We were so tired, we almost cancelled, but...it was the Forts, the easiest people in the world to hang with. So glad we didn't wimp out. Had a great time!
Now begins the sprint to the finish. Our preparations for Maine are officially on the home stretch. The finish line looms. Lucy knows that something is in the air, an ill wind is blowing. She looks at us suspiciously as if to say...What is this Maine of which you speak? Will there be trash cans and ceiling fans? If so, I must protest!
I'll keep you posted...
Saturday, June 18, 2016
It's easy to fall into despair as an American in 2016. Not because we aren't rich and powerful enough, not because we lack for anything, but because of the hash that those who presume to lead us are making of our country. The amoral, self-promoting narcissists at the top of the major party tickets remind me of what it must have been like in the waning days of the Roman Empire. Frankly, it's a national disgrace. Then, a storm rolls through and my despair is swept away with it.
All day Thursday the radio, television, Twitter, Facebook and my cell phone kept warning me that powerful storms would be passing through Short Pump beginning around 9:00 pm. There would be high winds, perhaps a tornado. Precautions should be taken. For me that meant securing my deck furniture and the administration of doggy Lorazepam to Lucy. For the longest time, nothing happened. But I could see the swirling green and red colors of the creeping storm on my weather app radar. It was close. I walked out onto my deck and gazed into the western sky.
It has always been this way with me and storms. Thunder and lightning have always drawn me like moth to flame. When I was a kid, I would stand at the screen door of the back porch when the thunderstorms came until I was damp from the rain, each flash of lightning filling me with both fear and delight. When my kids were little, I would take them out on our front porch and watch the storms roll through, holding them close and marveling at the raw power around us.
Thursday night, as I stared westward, waiting, I thought of our presidential candidates, with their monumental egos, Trump with his semi-literate rants about "winning" and Hillary with her smug, confidence, convinced that she's going to get away with it. That despite her habitual corruption, she will probably become the first female president, all her Rasputian scheming finally about to pay off. Then I hear the rumble.
A sound not unlike the sound that a Mack truck would make if it overturned it's load of gravel on a tin roof, violent and rushing. Heat flashes, still miles away, lit up the western horizon. The canopy of trees that line the fence at the back of my yard suddenly were parted by the wind, the limbs of the stately pines and mighty pin oaks thrashing about like Kansas wheat. The cold wind slapped my face, staggering me a bit. I felt the first drops of rain. Then a streak of lightning, closer now. Leaves began to swirl around me, small sticks ripped from the trees began dropping on the deck. My heart was pounding, but I couldn't look away. Directly above me I saw the front edge of the storm creeping across the heavens, a surging gray line like spilled paint, thick and milky. Then the first peal of thunder. Too close now. I must go inside, Lucy will surely be a mess by now...but I stay and watch until the rain comes harder. Oddly, it calms me, this storm. I watch how quickly my peaceful sky has been transformed into a maelstrom and I am assured in my heart that we control...nothing. There is a God in heaven and he will not forever abide our foolishness and vanity. This realization should be sobering. Instead, I am reassured. Strange.
This morning I will clean up from the damage, lots of limbs and debris everywhere. I will enjoy it. Things seem better.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
In 15 days I will begin a month long sabbatical from reality. I will retreat to a lake house in Maine where cell phone coverage is spotty, Internet access is limited and air conditioning is non-existent. My days will begin early with coffee in a rocking chair on the front porch with the elegant warble of loons drifting across the water. I might take my coffee down by the dock. I might read a newspaper, the Camden Herald or the Courier Gazette. Whenever Pam gets up, we will take our breakfast on the
round table in the corner of the porch, overlooking Hobbs Pond.
For thirty days and thirty nights I will disengage from the pursuits of modern life in America. I will check in from time to time on the dumpster fire that is my country's politics, but only briefly, only with fleeting glances. The only deep internal argument I intend on having with myself while in Maine will center on that most contentious of debates...sausage or bacon, fishing or swimming, lobster or steak?
I plan on being a regular at the Hope General Store. They brag of their award winning pizza and their 142 different beers, and their continued, uninterrupted operation since 1832. I fully intend on getting my fill of blueberry pancakes at the Camden Deli, and clam chowder at Cappy's. I will eat lobster rolls. I will eat whoopie pies. I will enjoy more than one Allagash Coolship Red.
I will hike to the top of Mount Battie, pick blueberries and stare at the glistening harbor below. I will climb the stairs of the war memorial and take pictures.
I will set out from the dock in my rented kayak before the sun goes down for an evening trip around the lake. The water will be still and the color of stainless steel and so clear I will be able to see the mossy green edges of thousand year old rocks on the bottom.
In the evenings I will listen to the hiss and crackle of the fire. We will tell stories of the time when the kids were little and rolled each other down the beach at Dummer's curled up on the inside of giant tires. We will laugh at the memory.
I worry that the country I leave behind will intrude on me with some ghastly act of violence or stupidity. If some seventh century Islamic psychopath shoots up a bus load of seniors headed to Disneyworld, it will be difficult to know how to react while eating a fluffer-nutter. I will feel guilty that my countrymen are once again dealing with the disintegration of America while I am trying to decide between whoopie-pie or raspberry pie for dessert.
But, the truth is, I'm exhausted by America right now. It's all just too much. I need some time away from the drama of Obama-Clinton-Trump. A human being can take only so many gun control debates. At a certain point, the plight of transgendered bathroom access gets jumbled up with university safe spaces and too much money in politics and before you know what has happened, your entire world looks like the bar scene from Star Wars.
So, in 15 days the world will stop and let me off. My hope is that while I am away, a portion of my sanity will be restored. If the rest of you will somehow get your act together while I'm gone, it would be greatly appreciated.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2016
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
What a strange....
So, it turns out that upon further review, the shooter with the Middle Eastern-sounding name who mowed down 49 of his fellow Americans in a gay club Sunday, might not have been solely motivated by his professed allegiance to ISIS after all. He may have been gay himself?
Apparently, our killer was a frequent customer at the Pulse, where he was known to mostly drink by himself and when sufficiently liquored up would complain about the wife and kid back home. Odd behavior for such a devout Muslim, one who went to the trouble of making not one but two pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, and regularly attended mosque. Further, it would seem that he was a frequent visitor to gay dating websites where he used the name Aries.
Does this new information change the story of Orlando? Should it? If it turns out that he used the ISIS 911 phone call as a giant head fake to hide his real motivations, then yes, it changes an awful lot. If he wasn't motivated by radical Islamist ideology, but rather was a self-loathing closeted Muslim gay man tormented by the profound contradictions of his life, then yes, everything changes.
No matter, the dude should never have been able to buy a gun. No matter, slaughtering 49 people is still an unspeakable crime. But maybe now we Americans will view the killer through a different lens. Most of us cannot in any way identify with a radical Islamist jihadist. But practically all of us can identify with a religious hypocrite.
Monday, June 13, 2016
A man with a Middle Eastern sounding name dials 911 and pledges allegiance to ISIS, then walks into a gay nightclub with a legally purchased assault rifle with a high capacity magazine and begins mowing down 50 of his fellow Americans and injuring 50 others. Witnesses claim he was laughing.
The dead have not been buried and we have already gone to our battle stations. The Orlando shooting is the fault of...
Violent video games
What if it is none of these things? Suppose it's all of these things in varying degrees? What does it matter less than 24 hours after 50 souls have been snuffed out? Can we as Americans not go one day without turning every single tragedy into a political football? The answer is...no. No, we can't.
Trump was first on Twitter reminding everyone that he was right about his idea of a Muslim ban. Only, a Muslim ban would not have prevented anything in this case since the shooter was a US citizen.
Obama refused to concede the shooter's professed connection to ISIS saying only that it was an act of hate, further confirming his clueless and steadfast refusal to acknowledge the role that radical Islamic ideology plays in the ongoing terror of the 21st century.
Gun control advocates immediately laid the blame on lax gun laws. But, in a country with 200 million guns in circulation, who seriously believes that a radicalized terrorist would have been prevented from getting his hands on weapons by the existence of stronger gun laws? You and I maybe, but determined sociopaths? It's an absurdly naive notion. Besides, we already have rules in place that should have prevented the target of two FBI investigations over possible ties to terrorists from purchasing a weapon. What good did that law do? Still, reasonable people can and should ask why it is that private citizens in this country should be allowed to buy guns like this:
Seriously? What the heck would anyone need a weapon like this for? If you are using this for hunting then you're no sportsman and a horrendous shot. If you're using this to play Rambo at the local gun range, then you're very weird. If you want one of these to protect yourself one day from like zombies or hordes of rapist and stuff...whatever. But, if what you want is a gun that can kill multiple people with maximum efficiency, then well, this AR-15 is for you. Is there a way that people like me who believe in the 2nd amendment concede that the intent of the framers probably didn't include access to mass human slaughter automatic weapons? Just asking...
Some have laid all of this on Islam. Just weeks before this massacre a local Orlando Imam sermonized that gays must be killed...out of compassion. Others have tried to suggests that conservative Christianity's opposition to gay marriage is no better, so we Christians have no room to criticize Islam. When I hear this sort of sophistry, my blood begins to boil. To equate the peaceful opposition to a redefinition of marriage with the religious sanctioning of mass murder is beyond ridiculous and not worthy of a response. But neither is it responsible to assume that all Muslims agree with the ramblings of an Orlando Imam or even the views of millions of other Muslims. Have you noticed how many different denominations of Protestantism there are around the world? We Christians can't even agree on how to properly baptize someone. Heck, we can't even agree on what salvation even is half the time, and yet we ascribe to all Muslims the most heinous beliefs of the loudest and most radicalized few?
Here's the deal. Everything on the list above has played some sort of roll in the mess we find ourselves in regarding terrorism and the culture of violence that we are living in today. No one has clean hands. There is none who is righteous, no not one...All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...The way forward will require some humility from all of us on both sides of every barricade. Is it possible? Are we beyond the ancient entreaty...Come, let us reason together?
Sunday, June 12, 2016
So, this happened yesterday morning. Three tomatoes, ravaged by tree rats while I slept. Infuriating. I went through the five stages of grief in five minutes, settled on anger, then stormed inside to Google a remedy. What I found on the interwebs is exactly what's wrong with America...
This thing showed real promise. It's called the tomatoe accelerator, and promises to create a miniature greenhouse around each plant while protecting them from nature. Only problem was that you can't buy one of these in a store, it's an online purchase and ships in 4-5 days. Plus, they run $16 per and I've got 4 plants to protect. For that much money I could buy three bushels of tomatoes from Martins and be done with it! Besides, I don't have 4-5 days!!
Then Google sent me to a host of natural remedies, you know, from the same sort of people who are always telling the rest of us to ditch the Windex in favor of spaying vinegar all over the Windows? From this hippie contingent, I discovered that the perfect repellant for squirrels is...fox urine. Apparently, they hate the stuff. So, where do you get the fox pee? I imagine from the same sort of place that sells eye of newt and crow's feet, but I have no desire to hunt down a witchcraft supply warehouse. Of course, I could go directly to the source, but that's problematic. First, I'd have to track down a fox, then get him to pee in a cup...not happening.
At this point I wandered into the PETA section of my search. I'll call them the "can't we all just get along" crowd. A proud vegan grandmother offered this suggestion..."I've found that the best way to guide squirrels and chipmunks away from my vegetables is to provide them with more desirable treats elsewhere in our yard." Ahh yes, let's guide the little darlings! This poor women actually sets out a basket of more squirrel-friendly fare to satisfy their appetite for destruction, in the vain hope that once filled, her tomatoe plants will be spared. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Neville Chamberlain-style appeasement that rewards squirrel thievery. Instead of confronting their destructive behavior, let's encourage more of it!!! This woman surely has a place in a Hillary Clinton administration.
Discouraged, I set out to find a solution closer to home. I visited three stores...Strange's, Southern States, and finally Lowe's. Finding no workable remedy, I decided to build my own...
It's sturdy and green. As soon as I finished building it I had a sinking feeling that I am about to be punked. What's to stop felonious squirrels from climbing over the top of this thing? Nothing, actually. But maybe it will discourage the lazier of their species. I could electrify it, which would be sooo cool...but that could have unintended consequences too horrible to imagine.
Oh, back to that first picture. Have you ever noticed that squirrels never ever finish eating a tomatoe? It's always a few nibbles. It's like the guy who takes a small bite out of six treats in the Russell Stover box and puts them back until he finally finds the chocolate nougat one. Well, it turns out that the reason they do this is...squirrels don't like tomatoes. But their little pea brains are so empty, they can't remember that they hate tomatoes. They're always thinking, "Hey!! These look awesome!!", then they take a bite, spit it out and move on. Worthless.
Friday, June 10, 2016
I'm generally not a foodie. I don't often feel compelled to take pictures of what I'm about to eat, then plaster it all over social media to make other people jealous. But, I'm about to make an exception. Now, if you are on some sort of trendy diet, or gluten-free, or vegetarian, vegan, or into juicing or souping, or some such thing, you may want to go to your safe space right about now...
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, from where I come from, this is fine dining. First of all, it was a delightful 72 degrees with a heavenly breeze wafting across the confined back yard of our suburban estate. Any meal served al fresco is better than what you're eating inside. Secondly, those are two New York strip steaks seasoned with some sort of amazing herb rub and grilled on my Commercial Series Char-Grill 2000, 7 minutes a side, flipped only once. There's also a serving of fresh corn, scraped off the cob fifteen minutes ago, then sautéed up in a pan of butter.
Now, I know what all of you are thinking...who eats pizza with steak?? Actually, I would be willing to try such a combination..what's not to like? But, that gorgeous pizza-shaped dish is not pizza at all. It's perhaps my favorite summer meal, number one on a long list of delicious concoctions that my sainted wife of 32 years is known for whipping up. It's called a Caprese Tart. It features tomatoes, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, with fresh basil and olive oil enveloped by a delicate, crispy crust. It tastes like summer exploding in your mouth.
I have no earthly idea how good or bad this meal was for us. I don't know the calorie count, am clueless whether or not the cow who gave the last full measure of devotion for this meal was free-range or not. For all I know, the corn and tomatoes might have been (gasp!) genetically modified!
Here's what I know, until fifty years ago this meal would have been literally fit for a king, since regular, ordinary people have historically never eaten this well. All of the ingredients for this feast were obtained at reasonable prices from a clean, well lit grocery store four minutes from our house. The line Pam stood in to buy this bounty was three deep at the high end. The entire shopping trip consumed twenty minutes of her time. I remember when the old Soviet Union introduced the world to three hour waits for daily bread rations. Today I read about the people of Venezuela standing in lines literally all day for enough food to keep them alive long enough to stand in line tomorrow. Over half the world is malnourished and we Americans beclown ourselves obsessing over the latest paleo/cro-magnon diet while sipping our artisan craft water from environmentally sustainable containers. Instead of feeling guilty for living in a country of such abundance, how about we shed all this phony baloney false consciousness, and be grateful?
Oh yeah...that's sweet iced tea. And yes, with real sugar. God bless America.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Today, I would like to lay to rest two pernicious lies that have been circulated among the American people. Number one...that the Internet is a cesspool of worthless information that is making us all dumber, and number two...that Americans don't create things anymore, that we have forgotten how to innovate.
As many of you know, as a suburbanite, I fight a never ending battle to protect my house and my vegetables from squirrels. Up until now, my weapon of choice has been my Daisy Powerline 35...effective but inefficient, and increasingly unsatisfying. But now, thanks to the glorious Internet and good old American creativity and know how, I have discovered the greatest invention since the cheese straightener. For some reason the inventor has not (yet) attempted to name or mass produce this beauty, but a few suggestions immediately come to mind...
The Critter Cattapult
It's easy to look around, especially in an election year, and fall into despair at the state of our nation. But then you stumble upon an example of the full flower of American ingenuity, and suddenly...all is right with the world. If America is still capable of this, then we can survive anything that Clinton and trump can throw at us!
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
The always vigilant American media are unanimous this morning, something truly historic happened last night. I have read three breathless accounts of how Hillary Clinton has become the first woman in history to win a major party nomination for President of the United States. It might even be more historic than when Barack Obama became the first African American to do so a mere eight years ago. If Hillary were a black woman, American journalists would all be needing smelling salts. The only things standing in the way of her relentless 16 year quest for the White House is that pesky FBI investigation and an increasingly unhinged Donald Trump. In the year of the outsiders, Hillary is holding the banner of the Oligarchy high.
I never thought I would say this, but I'm feeling a little sorry for Bernie this morning. I'm gonna miss the guy. At a time of obscene amounts of corporate money and mega donors, this 74 year old Socialist raised a boatload of cash...$25 at a time. He energized an army of millenials despite the fact that most of his policy prescriptions would have eventually bankrupted all of them. On policy 80% of his ideas were based on the premise that the wealthiest 5% of Americans would sit still for handing over 60% of every dime they earned, that this new level of income confiscation would have zero impact on the economy, and that the government could be trusted to do nothing but fabulous things with the new trillions flowing happily into the Treasury. But, there was more to Sanders than 1960's left wing Asshattery. He was actually right about some things. Modern America is controlled by a small group of Oligharchs. Very rich and very connected people in business and politics do successfully thwart the will of the American people. There is way too much money in politics. The most powerful and important street in America isn't Pennsylvania Avenue or Constitution Avenue. It's K street. So, what did we do? We just nominated an admitted influence peddler and buyer of politicians, and the single most bought off politician since Boss Tweed. Crazy Bernie, indeed!
So, pretty soon we won't have the Vermont Socialist to kick around anymore. No more of this...
I'm betting that shirt was bought off the wrack at J.C. Penney, and I also bet he paid for it with his own money. And that hair? If the guy had any Madison Avenue political advisers in his crew I'm sure they were constantly handing him a comb. But what's endearing about Bernie is that he obviously didn't care how he looked. Until last night, we had three candidates left. Only one of them was honorable, and he has now left the building.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
In a remarkably fortuitous turn of events, Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination exactly 24 hours before the last big round of primaries, by somehow flipping a handful of super delegates. The story broke last night. Upon reading it at the Politico, I could practically hear that maniacle cackle of hers as she celebrated by drowning kittens in a marble bowl full of blood...it was 6-6-16 after all!
My son texted me the news. He was angry and suspicious...and had a right to be. He considered it a dirty trick designed to suppress turnout in today's California primary, and was convinced that the alleged persuasion of the super delegates involved several large checks. I reminded him that Bernie's supporters would walk through fire to vote for him, Hillary's supporters wouldn't walk through a gentle rain for her. If anyone should worry about voters not showing up because of this bombshell eleventh hour news, it was Hillary. This point seemed to calm him down a little. In fairness to my son, he isn't a full-on Bernie socialist. He disagrees with some of his positions. But Patrick rightly points out that Sanders is the only candidate who has campaigned against the culture of corruption and big money that has overtaken the system. Now, he's about to be vanquished by the Cruella de Vil of corruption, the Nurse Ratchet of cronyism. Disgusted, Patrick moans, "So, now I'm left with voting for either the Corruptor or the Corrupted."
Of course, there is a third choice...one that would put us all out of our misery, the Sweet Meteor of Death, or SMOD 2016. But, that's in God's hands. For now, ladies and gentlemen...your Democratic and Republican Party nominees for President of the United States...
Sunday, June 5, 2016
My Dad took this picture of me last night. He does this a lot, takes pictures of me for no reason. I haven't felt well lately. My shoulder hurts. I went to the very scary Vet last week and she said I hurt it chasing the frisbee. So now Dad won't throw it to me anymore. Plus, every time we go outside, I have to stay on the leash, even in my backyard! It's terrible. The worst part is, they have blocked off the stairs. That means I have to sleep downstairs by myself. I don't understand why I can't go upstairs. It's not fair! Oh, and Kaitlin came home yesterday and because of this new stair rule, I can't even wake her up by jumping on her bed and scaring the crap out of her like I love to do. No wonder I look sad in this picture!
Well, last night was the last straw. There I was sleeping in the library where they have banished me...when suddenly I felt it. There was a thunderstorm coming! My humans are the bravest people ever. They sit there watching television or reading even in the middle of the most horrifying downpours you've ever seen! Even when the yellow flashes come, they hardly look up from whatever it is they are doing. I've never seen such valor. But just because they aren't concerned about the instant death that these storms bring doesn't mean I have to go along with their madness. No sir! At the first hint of trouble, I head for Mom's walk-in closet. It's nice and dark and not nearly so noisy. I stay there shaking until the terror is over, then come out to find my humans acting like nothing ever happened. I worry about them sometimes.
Anyway, last night this terrible storm came through and I instinctively headed upstairs to save myself when I realized that there was a piano bench blocking my escape route. I have to admit, I panicked a little. I thought about peeing for a minute but thankfully got ahold of myself. I tried whining, but they couldn't hear me. My Mom could seriously sleep through anything. So I knew it was either me or that piano bench. Even though my humans have both told me a thousand times this past week not to jump or run, I knew it was my only hope. Besides, they were both fast asleep and couldn't see me. First I thought about grabbing the bench by one of its legs and dragging it out of the way, but thought better of it. My humans have this thing about chewing on the furniture. I know, they're weird that way. I knew that my only solution was going to be jumping over the bench and somehow landing on the stairs beyond without jamming up my shoulder even worse than it already is. So, I went for it. I landed it like a boss, I must say!
Soon, I was shaking safely in my storm closet and eventually the killer storm passed. Dodged an enormous bullet, I did. But I have a feeling that my horror isn't over. I keep picking up dark rumors of a long trip in my future...something about a lake, and a place called Maine. It sounds sketchy.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Muhammad Ali died last night. I'm sure that all of social media will soon be awash in testimonials, and most of them will be over the top with high praise. I don't intend to fall into that trap. While Ali was perhaps the greatest athlete I have ever seen in my life and without question the greatest fighter, that's pretty much where the accolades should end.
Ali was a contemporary of Martin Luther King and the two were a universe apart from each other. The day that Cassius Clay embraced the Nation of Islam and its maniacally racist leader, Elijah Muhammad, Ali chose segregation over integration...King's words, not mine. Ali's relentless narcissistic chanting of "I'm the greatest of all time!!"...flew in the face of what most Americans wanted in their heroes. No one wanted their own children to develope such levels of self regard. When he decided that his "religious convictions" prevented him from fighting for his country, while allowing him to fight for money, well, most people didn't buy it.
Still, I was a seven year old kid living in New Orleans when he stood scowling and defiant over a fallen Sonny Liston in this iconic photograph. Over the next three years I watched most of his fights on our old RCA Victor black and white television in our cramped apartment. We always cheered for his opponents...Floyd Patterson, George Chuvalo, Zora Folley, Jerry Quarry. It was like watching a man fighting little boys. Ali was a thing of beauty, graceful, perfectly built, with lightening fast hands. They didn't stand a chance. After the fights there was no salute to the fallen, only semi-poetic gloating.
So, I was no fan of Ali the man and will not engage in the revisionist history that will rise up over the next few days about him. But, I was amazed at Ali the fighter who actually was the greatest of all time. So that is how I will choose to remember him, a great and iconic boxer...and nothing more.
On a happier note, my sweet daughter finished her third year of teaching yesterday and this morning is headed to Short Pump to attend the baby shower of one of her best friends...which means that she will be staying here for the next two days. I fully intend to spoil her rotten.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Part of me really doesn't want to write this. Regular readers are aware of my views on Donald Trump. Generally speaking, I find him to be an embarrassment. Despite what follows here, I still have no intention of voting for the man...but... I have to say that I do enjoy watching him with the press.
For as long as I can remember, I have loathed members of the fourth estate. I understand their importance in a healthy democracy and have zero interest in silencing them. But, I still hate them for several reasons. First of all, I know basically what their world view is, and it isn't mine. The vast majority of the White House press corp voted for Obama and would never even consider voting for a conservative anything. They all insist that their near unanimous liberal voting record in no way effects their reporting. I don't believe them. Well, I believe that they believe that, but I don't because it's impossible. My political beliefs certainly have an impact on what I think about politicians, and so do yours. But reporters expect us to believe that the fact that practically all of their colleagues believe the same thing about politics doesn't in any way affect the way they report the news, the type of questions they ask, and the questions they don't ask. It's a ridiculous notion.
Most of the presidential candidates I have supported over the years have been eviserated by the press at every opportunity, and with very few exceptions my guys have mostly just taken it as a given. Now comes Donald Trump. Practically every member of the national press has made it clear that they despise him...and with good reason. But instead of meekly submitting to their hatred, he has decided to dish it right back at them. Gone are the polite non-responses. Gone is the false pretense of friendship. It's like Trump is thinking, "Ok, you want to destroy me? Not if I destroy you first!"
Couple of days ago he called one reporter a sleeze, another a real beauty. One breathless reporter asked him if he had a problem with scrutiny and if he becomes President will his dismissive treatment of the press continue. Trump shot back..."I love scrutiny, what I don't like is lies. I find that political journalist are the most dishonest people in the world, and if I become President, yes I will continue to dismiss you guys"...or words to that effect.
Now, set aside for a moment the irony of Donald Trump lecturing anyone about honesty, when I watch him interacting with the pampered elitist national press corps this way, something in my heart thinks..."damn right!!!...and finally, somebody has the guts to call out these biased hacks!"
Of course in Trump's case, he also threatens to try to pass laws that would make it easier to sue the press, which is a horrible idea, not to mention unconstitutional. I don't want the press censored in any way. The fact that most of them are Democratic Party water carriers is just the way things are and will probably always be...and I'm ok with that. But it is refreshing to listen to a Presidential candidate treat them accordingly.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Had a great debate with my son today about the minimum wage. He is in the Bernie camp, advocating for a $15 an hour wage. I argued that if the dude who takes out the trash at McDonalds was worth $15, I would be glad to pay him, but since he is not, I resent some Labor Department functionary telling me what I have to pay my employees. It was back and forth all day, first through email, then texting and included some gems. While ripping central planning types for their lack of real world experience in the business world, I suggested that they "couldn't sell hacksaws in a prison!" Then a bit later Patrick shot back at me with, "a conservative's idea of an adequate health plan is a bottle of Castor Oil." Great stuff!!
In the old days they used to say, never get into an argument with a guy who buys ink by the barrel. Well, today it should be, never get into an argument with a millenial with video gamer thumbs. Patrick can be in mid-sentence, then Google up a term paper full of stats in like two seconds to bolster his argument. By the time I think about using Google, it's already next week. I have to rely almost solely on whatever is stored in my head, and is retrievable after 58 years of wear and tear. But, I hold my own. Towards the end of our back and forth, Patrick sent me this:
Now, this is an awesome cartoon, especially if you want a $15 minimum wage. It's practically perfect. There's the poor, lowly, innocent worker with his meager little sign and a buck and change on the ground behind him, while the big, bad, mean spirited businessman is atop his stash of billions lecturing the little guy about GREED! It was meant to be a final blow to our debate, an unanswerable gauntlet thrown down at my feet. The only problem is that I see something else when I look at this cartoon. I see it, but most don't. Very few Millenials can even imagine what I see. But anyone who has ever owned a business will see the same thing I see.
I look at the man on the top of that mountain of cash and I think...I wonder how high that mountain was before the government swooped in for their fair share? I think this way because I'm a businessman and as such have to pay all of the hands thrust my way by federal, state, and local governments with money from my own accounts. There is no such thing as "withholding" in my world. There also isn't any such thing as employer-paid FICA taxes, or for that matter...employer paid anything. I suppose I should be grateful that I don't live in California since if I did, by the time I paid both halves of my FICA tax, my federal estimated income tax, my California State taxes, real estate and personal property taxes and a thousand other transaction fees for the privilege of doing business there, nearly 60% of my mountain would have been taken by government. Since I'm a Virginian, it's only around 42%.
But notice who never gets called greedy in this cartoon? Government is never accused of being greedy, even though their appetite for our money is unquenchable. It's always that tight-fisted business owner at the top of a mountain of cash with the GREED tag. Because the cartoon always gets drawn after the hand of government has been filled and safely out of the picture.
But, it's no use asking anyone to think of the government as greedy. In much the same way that we are told that African-Americans cannot be racist, I suppose that government simply cannot be greedy either. Besides, they are here to help us and they know what's best for us, even when...especially when, we don't. The fact that the men and women who have comprised that government over the past fifty years have managed to wrack up nearly 20 trillion dollars of debt just means that they are working really, really hard to help us. And if we knew what was good for us, we would be grateful.
The long slog of May is over. Birthdays have been celebrated, anniversaries marked, weddings attended, awards collected, and new apartments occupied. Three thousand miles have been added to the odometer of the Pacifica. Eating so much restaurant food has resulted in an addition five pounds to deal with. Now comes June and its looming deadline.
This month will be devoted almost exclusively to work. It will be a grind. I need to finish many things, wrap things up in as tidy a bow as is possible. This is what happens every year the week or so before our summer vacation. But this year will be different. We will be trying something new and possibly life changing. We will be spending the entire month of July in Maine. That will require a new level of getting ready.