Monday, October 31, 2016

My Wife's Only Flaw

This blog is for men only. Women just won't understand. If you happen to be a woman and are offended by this notion that there are some things in this world that are beyond your comprehension, I apologize in advance.

Some of you who read this blog faithfully might be quietly annoyed by the unalloyed praise that I am constantly heaping on my wife. The truth is, she is an amazing woman, so it comes easy. But, today, I am here to let you know that she is not perfect. There's this one thing she does that drives me crazy. I never complain about it because. . .well, why?  But, as a man, and I think I'm not alone in this matter, this time of year it's especially egregious. By now, I'm sure that all of you are fascinated as to what the beautiful and sainted Pam could possibly have done to cause me to write a critical blog post. Ok. . . here's the problem:

Several times a year my wife heads off to a truly vile establishment called Bath and Body Works and comes home with a bag full of this stuff. . .gentle foaming hand soap. I mean, she loves this stuff. Apparently this is a seasonal purchase, since every three months I get tortured by a new set of scented  hand soap. Pump the handle and get lost in the fragrant allure of "sunny mandarin, autumn leaves and blonde woods." (What the devil is blond woods??) Whatever it is, these three fragrances combine to produce something called Golden Autumn Day. Not to be outdone, I could choose a second fragrance, Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte featuring the frolicking combination of "creamy pumpkin, toasted marshmallow and warm praline. Thank goodness, since there is truly nothing worse than cold praline!

Ok, listen. I enjoy pleasant smells as much as the next guy, but when I'm washing the filth of the day off my hands, I don't want to smell anything.  When I was a kid, I would go into the downstairs bathroom to wash up. That's where there was a bar of Lava which felt like washing your hands with sand paper and smelled like. . .absolutely nothing. It didn't come in a container with a pump. It just laid there in the soap dish waiting for your dirty hands to pick it up. This new age hand washing pump top soap is just trying too hard. Take this stuff, for example:

Fall Lakeside Breeze exhorts me to "Pack a picnic. Grab a sweater. Get ready for gorgeous leaves and crisp fall air. YOUR AUTUMN ADVENTURE STARTS NOW." I'm not making this up, its right here on the back of the bottle. Look, I just picked up an entire week's worth of Lucy's bowel movements, I'm about to eat dinner, and I am taking no chances. All I want to do is clean any poop residue off of my hands. I'm not looking for an autumn adventure, even though this particular soap treats me to the heavenly fusion of blue sage, basil and sandalwood! I just want to wash my hands without smelling like I just spent an hour in a French whore house.

So, there you have it, my wife's only flaw, obnoxiously scented hand soap. I suppose I'll survive.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Foiled by a Weiner?

James Comey, the director of the FBI, has managed something quite remarkable in this day and age. He has become the most hated man in America, at a time when Donald Trump is his competition. The  amazing part of it all is that he has become hated precisely by the people who just three months ago were fitting him for a halo. You see, when you essentially clear Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified communications in a way that would have had any other State Department employee in prison, you instantly become a paragon of judicial virtue. . . to Democrats. But, when you stumble upon thousands of her emails on the home computer of her top aide's husband's laptop while investigating him for being a pervert, then reopen the investigation because of the new emails, you transform yourself into a monster intent on interfering in an election for the benefit of your enemy. Hell hath no fury like a Democratic woman scorned.

But, the Republicans are no better. When Comey announced his decision to exonerate Mrs. Clinton in July, the howls and insults were thick and heated. Comey was a "Hack" and part of a conspiracy to protect Hillary. The FBI he runs had become a laughing stock, proof of the far-reaching tentacles of Clinton Inc. corruption. Some even suggested that Comey was part of a determined strategy to rig the election for Hillary, he was probably even on the Clinton Foundation payroll! Now, many of those same voices are now praising him for his commitment to justice and the rule of law, and lauding him for his bravery in the face of the deadly Clinton machine.

So, it would seem that one's reputation in Washington these days depends very much on who's ox is being gored.

For me, I'm not sure what to think of this. It isn't known exactly what is in these new emails. Could be about Yoga and wedding plans for all I know. But there is one delicious irony, inescapable to anyone paying attention for the last 30 years. This guy!!

If Hillary Clinton's quest for the White House ends up being torpedoed by this guy, it won't be the first time her ambitions have been foiled by a Weiner!!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Gift of Saturday

By all accounts, today should be gorgeous out, sunny and pleasant with a high temperature of 76. While that is a little hot for late October, I will fight the urge to slink into the fetal position and wet my pants worrying about global warming. Instead, I have a full day planned. My sainted wife will be in Williamsburg with her Mom and sisters shopping and lunching most of the day, leaving me alone with Lucy and a to-do list of my own making. It's going to be great!

First, I will spend two or three hours in the yard getting up leaves, cutting grass, removing a week's worth of Lucy's bowel movements, etc. Then I'll rustle up some lunch. Odds are high that the leftover container of creamy Cajun sausage pasta will do the job quite nicely. At some point after lunch, this girl...

will require an extended session of frisbee catching and retrieval. Afterwards, she and I will both settle in for a brief afternoon nap. Upon completion of this siesta, I will clean the bathrooms and vacuum the house, and maybe throw in a little dusting for good measure. Then maybe a late afternoon perambulation with Miss Lucy while we await Pam's return. We will both hope that she will be pleased with our efforts.

At no point in this day will the television be tuned onto a news channel. It will be on college football most of the day as background and then, baseball tonight. This Saturday is simply too nice, too full of potential to be mucking around in the sewer of politics. I'll just have to leave Trump and Clinton to themselves for the day. Same goes for tomorrow, the Lord's day. Come Monday morning, they will still be with us. I'll check back in then.

You should do the same.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Sleeze Wars

As the 2016 campaign winds down, each day has featured a new Wikileaks revelation. Our media cover these revelations with great hesitation, practically gagging themselves on the questions, always asked to some campaign spokesman. . . never Hillary herself, thusly:

Media Hack: So, in this latest email, some might conclude that Mrs. Clinton might have been involved in what might be described by some of her critics as illegal activity. Do you agree?

Campaign Hack: I refuse to dignify that question with an answer since these emails were clearly leaked by the Russians in an appalling attempt to influence our election.

Media Hack: I totally agree and thank you for your forthright response. But, setting aside for a moment the origin of this leak, what about the actual content of these emails? Are they, in fact, real, and if so, what about the fact that Mrs. Clinton seems to have been involved in collusion with the DNC to subvert the Sanders campaign?

Campaign Hack: was the Russians!

Media Hack: Excellent point.

On the other end of the media spectrum, the INFOWARS nuts report each word of these emails as proof that Hillary is the Anti-Christ:

Headline: New email provides iron clad proof that Killery has actual remains of aborted babies delivered to her dinner table every Wednesday night. Pictures to follow!!

There are 12 days remaining in our national race to the bottom. That's 12 more document dumps, 12 more opportunities left for character assassination. Although, in fairness, one has to have actual character before it can be assassinated, and between these two, there isn't much left. But, it will be fast and furious over the next few days. Wikileaks will reveal even more skulduggery. Clinton's team no doubt has a couple more bimbo-bombshells in the pipeline.

It's gonna be great!!

Sigh. . .

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pick Your Poison

When I was in elementary school, I used to sit in the back of Mrs. Winston's class and stare at the big clock on the wall behind her desk. It never seemed to move. It was as if it would get stuck in place whenever I looked at it, only moving when I got distracted with something or someone else. That's exactly how I feel about this election. Will it ever end? So, I write blogs about something else, anything else, to make the time go by faster. But, the more I think about it I realize what a ridiculous strategy this is. My Dad used to warn me not to "wish your life away." He was right. Why am I in such a ball-crushing hurry for this thing to be over with? Whatever happens, I'm going to be bitterly disappointed and most likely fall into despair at the prospect of four more years with a dope in the White House. So, why hurry things along? I need to savor each moment we have left where a relatively decent person is in the Oval Office. How's that for a commentary on our politics in 2016. . . I just paid Barack Obama a compliment. What's this world coming to?

So at this hour, depending on which echo chamber you live in, either Hillary Clinton is about to win a historic landslide victory in the electoral college and even the popular vote and wipe out down ticket Republicans as well, possibly winning back the House and Senate. . . Or, Donald Trump is on the verge of sending a shock wave through the political establishment by being swept into office by a wave of pissed off citizens, many of them first time voters, and an even greater number of them who have been lying to pollsters for months. As Michael Moore has said, it will be the biggest f##k you to the establishment in American political history. If this were to happen, it would also plunge a dagger into the heart of what is left of the American media. Hillary was clearly "their" candidate, and many voters will take great pleasure in sticking it to the Anderson Cooper's and Andrea Mitchell's of the world.

Either way, I'm screwed. I've about decided to go full Don Quixote and pull the lever for Evan McMullin, since my earlier semi-endorsement of Gary Johnson blew up in my face. "Who did you vote for Pop?"...."Never mind, kid. Want some ice cream?" If Hillary Clinton wins, my heart will be broken by the fact that someone so completely corrupt will have had her filthy, money-grubbing,  duplicitous life rewarded and validated by becoming President. If Donald Trump wins, I will spend the next four years perpetually nauseated every time I see his orange face on television. His election will forever disabuse me of my formerly confident opinion of American exceptionalism. His election will permanently exile me from political life, shift my entire world view away from the national to the local. . .what can I do to make life better around here? So, that may be the slimmest of silver linings, but at least it's something.

Monday, October 24, 2016

How To Explain Your Vote

Two more weeks and this 5 alarm dumpster fire of an election will be over. But, how to vote? Reading through the commentary on this decision is an exercise in rationalization. It's like nobody is proud of their candidate, so every vote comes with a caveat, a disclaimer meant to explain the unexplainable. Trump is a narcissist, but. . . Clinton is corrupt, but. . .

So, as a public service, I have gathered the better a**-covering qualifiers I've run across below. Pick whichever one feels best.

I'm for Trump because of the Supreme Court.
I'm for Clinton because of the Supreme Court.
I'm for Clinton because it's about time we had a woman President.
I'm for Jill Stein because it's about time we had a woman President.
I'm for Clinton because Trump is unhinged and dangerous.
I'm for Trump because Clinton is a murderer and a liar.
I'm for Gary Johnson because I'm tired of having to sneak around to buy pot.
I'm for Evan McMullin because he puts principle over party.
I'm for Gary Johnson because he puts "let's party" over principle.
I'm for Clinton because she wants to tax the rich.
I'm for Trump because I want to be rich.
I'm for Jill Stein because it makes me seem environmentally conscious.
I'm for Clinton because it's about time we had a lesbian President.
I'm for Trump because it's about time serial adulterers caught a break.
I'm for Evan McMullin because 75 years without a bald President is enough.
I'm for Trump because he will lower my taxes.
I'm for Clinton because she will raise your taxes.
I'm for Trump because I don't want Bill Clinton back in the west wing.
I'm for Trump because Huma is an Islamic spy.
I'm for Trump because Melania is smokin' hot.
I'm for Trump because he will build a wall.
I'm for Clinton because it's her turn.
I'm not for either of these morons.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My People

The Dixon family reunion at Green Hill in Buckingham County is in the books. It was a delightful day, sunny and breezy with random memories whipped up in the wind all around us. There were probably 80 people there, 70 of whom I didn't really know. But it was like an episode from the twilight zone where in a room full of strangers, everyone looked familiar. Someone would pass by you and there would be a flash of recognition, that nose, those eyes, that facial expression, so closely held, so dear. 

". . . you must be Bubby's girl."

" Yep! You look like Betty's son."

My Uncle John, the war hero was my Mom's big brother. His family lived in Gladstone, Virginia in the big house by the railroad tracks. We would visit when I was a boy. He had four kids, my cousins. There was Bootsie, the oldest, Bubby who would go on to be a war hero himself, then Peggy and Joanne, the youngest who was my age. Yesterday, those three sisters were in charge of things. They had organized and planned the event. I watched them as they talked, saw them interact with everyone, felt the love of family and the pride they have in being a Dixon. I have it too. 

There was a table with pictures, all pressed behind plastic, some with short descriptions. . .  Alice Horsely Dixon 1910. . . John Henry Dixon in New Orleans. The pictures were mostly black and white and faded, over exposed here, bleached out there. But each of them sent out a message. . . We were here. Here's the proof.

Then I saw this picture of my mother. Bootsie suggested that it was either her high school graduation photo or maybe a picture taken for her wedding announcement for the newspaper. . . either way, she would have been. . .16. It took my breath away. Was my mother ever 16? But, there she was in 
glorious, faded black and white. I saw my son in her eyes. Her hair was my daughter's hair. I looked closer and saw myself staring back. I saw my sisters in her smile. That nose, the dead giveaway of my ancestors, the playfulness and great expectation in her face was stunning. She had her entire life ahead of her, about to marry the man of her dreams. And now, four years after her death, the grateful family she left behind stands on the spot where she grew up, with tears forming, fascinated by the transformative power of a photograph.

It's funny. When she was alive, this was the type of event I would have come up with any excuse not to attend. But now that she is gone, something inside of me was longing for it. The older I get the more aware I have become of my mortality. These people are my people. They share with me a common ancestry. Their blood is my blood. 

We wandered the grounds, visited the cemetery up on the hill overlooking the ghost of the old homeplace. There lie my grandparents. A few feet from them lie my great grandparents. It is an odd feeling, walking through a cemetery, something that is equal parts pride and sadness.

But on this day, it was mostly pride.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Glorious Thought For The Day

I woke up at the appointed time this morning, walked downstairs, made my coffee and settled into my cozy chair. I had just opened my iPad when it hit me in a revelatory flash...

. . . It will be four long years before the American airwaves are once again bespoiled by a Presidential debate.

That happy fact rolled over me like a wave of Caribbean water. It produced in me the same feeling I get when reaching for the first strip of bacon whenever Pam makes apple pancakes. It was like how I feel whenever I see one of my kid's cars making the turn onto Aprilbud Place at the end of a long, safe drive home. It was like. . . ok, now things will be better.

Did I watch? Uh. . . No. There was baseball. Did you watch? If so, did you change your mind about either of them? I didn't think so.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Bittersweet Memory

This coming Saturday there will be a Dixon family reunion up at the old home place, Green Hill, which is now the James River State Park. It's the sort of thing that my mother loved to attend, while most of us kids always found excuses to get out of attending, shamefully. Now that my parents are gone, I am drawn to the idea. I will see people I haven't seen in years, some who I couldn't pick out of a lineup if my very life depended on it. But, I'm excited about it. Mom would be very proud of me.

As prepararation for the event, the invitation instructs us to gather up any old photographs of family members that we can find. Apparently there will be a scanner on the property to properly duplicate these pictures and enter them into the official record. In doing so, Pam pulled out the album she had put together of my parent's 50th wedding anniversary/vow renewal ceremony from 1997. It was a moving but quite sad experience to flip through the pages..

When these pictures were taken, none of us had any idea that they had less than fifteen years to live. They looked so healthy and happy. They were surrounded by all of the people they cared most about in the world, their family.

There we all were looking healthier and younger than we do now. There were some of Mom's Dixon family. There was her dear kid brother Jim who walked her down the aisle.

There was their dear friend and pastor Ron Boswell administering the vows, and a yard full of friends sharing the moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Favorite Food



With all due respect to any vegans or Muslims who might stumble upon this blog...bacon is at the very top of my favorite food list, followed closely by sausage, in either form it cares to present itself, link or pattie. I am addicted to bacon in much the same way as Trump is addicted to tanning beds or Hillary to $250,000 speaking fees. I like any dish that starts with the descriptor bacon-wrapped. Bacon is good any way it is served. Although I prefer it crispy, if confronted with a plate of droopy bacon, I will eat them with no remorse or hesitation. You want to improve the deliciousness of your dinner entre? Sprinkle some bacon on it. 

I am told by a long list of puritan killjoys that bacon is bad for you. It is full of fat and it clogs the arteries, and bespoils the intestines. Yeah, well. . . to quote the great food expert, Luther Ingram, "If loving bacon is wrong, I don't want to be right."

So, just for fun, here's my list of favorite foods in the order of their awesomeness. Feel free to judge me.

1. Bacon
2. Sausage
3. Cheese
4. Bread
5. Steak
6. Beef jerky
7. Jambalaya 
8. Beer
9. Donuts
10. Cheetos (crunchy)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Great and Good

Here's something to consider as we enter the final three weeks of the most negative presidential campaign in my lifetime. . .  the United States of America is a wonderful country. That's right, you heard me. You and I live in an amazing country filled with great and good people who do great and good things every single day. Just last week. . .

On Monday, I played in a charity golf tournament put on by the Tuckahoe Kiwanis Club. I was joined by 79 other men and women who each paid $150 to enter and spent more money buying raffle tickets to raise even more money. Several dozen local businesses sponsored holes and donated prizes for raffle winners. All of this charity work was pulled off by a local service organization with only nine active members. The beneficiary of all this work was a local non-profit who works with abused children in our county. The leader of that organization gave a three minute talk to all of us describing the work. At the end of the afternoon, $10,000 had been raised. Each member of the Kiwanis Club donated hundreds of unpaid hours to the effort. This sort of thing happens every day, all over my amazingly philanthropic country.

Yesterday, Pam and I drove over to a brand new small business called The 21hundred. It's a coffee shop which serves gelato. It's owned by some old friends of ours, who later in life have decided to take a chance. It's a family affair, all hands on deck, fifteen hour days, six days a week. The place was packed with smiling faces on this, their grand opening. The coffee and gelato was delicious. They want their coffee shop to be a place where people come not just for coffee, but also for conversation and friendship. There will be no charge for any residual goodness and joy that might break out. I have determined to drive out of my way to The 21hundred the next time I'm craving a cappuccino. I want them to succeed, don't you?

This morning, Pam and I drove up to Graves Mountain with my sister and her husband to pick some apples and have a picnic lunch creek-side. The place was packed, thousands of people. There was a middle school-aged boy stirring a giant pot of steaming apple butter. There were craft booths selling every sort of American knick-knackery. There was funnel cake and apple butter donuts, and a huge display of something called Uncle Dave's Kettle Korn. We bought apples and browsed the shops. I saw a 300 pound man wearing a t-shirt that said, "I Beat Anorexia." We ate homemade sausage and kale soup that my sister had made while we watched kids playing in the mountain stream babbling along a few feet from our picnic spot. Within ear shot, a bluegrass band was covering Earl Scruggs. The beautiful tan upright bass thumped the notes in perfect rhythm. The guy playing the banjo looked to be in his 80's. We had driven 71 miles to pick apples but instead found America, big, generous, beautiful America.

All of this was unremarkable. None of what I have described will be a surprise to any of you because all of you recognize it. This is what kind of country we live in, one that we take for granted too often. Yes, there are Khardashian issues in our country. Yes, our politics are a mess, and there are inequality and racism problems that seem intractable. But, we are a great and good people who, when the chips are down, come up big time after time. There are more Good Samaritans per capita here than any place on earth. Despite all of the problems with immigration today, as a nation we have always welcomed the stranger. If we didn't we wouldn't still be the go-to destination of  teaming masses yearning to be free for over a hundred years. People aren't squeezing through the fence to get to Mexico, after all. Nobody is jumping on rafts trying to make it into Cuba.

So, I for one am proud of my country. I'm aware of its flaws, frustrated by its politics, and annoyed by some of its culture. But, I still love it and feel lucky to have been born in such a place. That will never change. . . especially on November 8.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

November the 9th

November 9th is the day after Election Day. It's also a Wednesday. That means the recycling has to be out at the curb before 6 am. No matter who wins the election, the recycling better be out at the curb by 6 or it will pile up on the steps inside my garage leading into the house for an entire week. Every time I walk past the huge pile, I will kick myself for forgetting to take it to the curb on the day after Election Day.

November 9th is also the day that my Verizon wireless bill is due. It's always due on the 9th. I pay it electronically now, placing a stamp on an envelope having suddenly become medieval. But whether or not I pay through the mail or electronically, the bill gets paid on the 9th or my wife will get an email message notifying her that the Verizon bill is late. She will then remind me to pay the Verizon bill. It will annoy me that they send a late notice to my wife, even though I'm the one who pays the stinking bill. I think it's because she's the one who established our online account or something. Still, it always annoys me. This will continue to annoy me no matter what happens on November 8th.

November the 9th will be exactly two weeks before my two incredible kids will be hitting the road driving home for Thanksgiving. When they get here, I will be very happy and thankful that they made it home safe and sound. My happiness and thankfulness will not be dimmed in the slightest by what happens on November the 8th. By the time Thanksgiving Day comes along it will be a faded memory. Kaitlin and Jon will bring their awesome dog, Jack, with them. Patrick will be bringing his adorable girlfriend, Sarah, home for the first time for Thanksgiving. Jack will be awesome and Sarah will be adorable no matter who prevails on November 8th.

On January the 20th, 2017 the winner on November 8th will be inaugurated. It just so happens that Henrico County real estate taxes on my office condo are due that day. I can assure you that if I don't get that bill paid on time, I'm going to hear about it on Monday morning the 23rd! My county is dead serious about getting paid. Whoever the new President is, he or she will be of little help to me if I stiff Henrico County, this I can tell you.

For a small government Libertarian like me perhaps the single most annoying aspect of the 2016 election has been the overblown cosmic existential importance it has taken on. To hear some of my friends talk, you would think that the fate of all life on planet earth literally hangs in the balance of this Olympian struggle between good and evil, republican and democrat, liberal and conservative, male and female. Maybe they're right. Or. . . maybe some geek in a garage in Buffalo invents a perpetual motion device that produces clean energy out of apple cores, rendering politicians obsolete.

We will have a new President on January 20th, 2016. But, the grass will still need to be mowed, the leaves raked, the snow shoveled. We will still go to work, do our jobs, and love our children. And on the day after Election Day, we will still have to remember to take out the recycling.

Friday, October 14, 2016

4 and a half hours? Seriously??

My prediction blog of October 3rd has proven to be roughly half prescient. My National League prognostication has been golden. I had the Dodgers playing the Cubs in the championship series. My American League guesses were a disaster. Both the Red Sox and the Rangers are gone, demonstrating once again why I never place wagers on sports.

Last night's Dodgers/Nationals game was a classic, but for all the wrong reasons. The 9 inning game took 4 and a half hours to play, an hour and 6 minutes to play the seventh inning alone. Why? The plague of modern baseball...overmanaging. Washington manager Dusty Baker blazed through 6 pitchers trying to get 3 outs. This is matchup baseball taken to rediculous lengths. None of the pitchers that he brought in from the bull pen were as talented as the first guy he took out, Max Scherzer. But, the 210 million dollar starting pitcher gave up a home run on the first pitch of that ill-fated inning, his 99th pitch of the evening and that was it. Oh, the dreaded pitch count! Why, we can't let our delicate flowers extend themselves beyond 100 pitches because their valuable arms might fall off!! So, let's trot out guys who aren't good enough to be starters to get one out because maybe they struck out the same guy two years ago in a spring training game. Matchup baseball sucks. Nats fans will never know if their high priced ace could have gotten out of that inning or not because Dusty never gave him the chance to prove he was worth his contract. I wonder what Sandy Koufax was thinking as he watched this game, the guy who started three of the Dodgers last ten games of the season one year to assure them a chance to go to the World Series, pitched three complete games, giving him 385 innings pitched for the season. Today's ironmen pitchers pitch 220 innings in a season and are lauded for their durability. Give me a break.

So, I made it to the o'clock in the morning to watch Clayton Kershaw come in on 24 hours rest to get the final 2 outs. I made it to the end, but probably 10% of baseball fans joined me. A game that could have and should have been played in 3 hours tops. I think Lucy speaks for fans everywhere...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Here Are Some Suggestions

I awoke at 2:30 am, precisely 8 hours after taking my pain meds. It was rather excruciating, I must say, but nowhere near as bad as waking up at 2:30 in the morning after open heart surgery or even rotator cuff surgery, so it's all good. Life goes on.

I had a friend of mine say to me the other day words to the effect of, "...I've been reading your blog for quite a while so I pretty much know what you don't like about government. But, what would you like for your government to do??" This is an excellent question. It is much easier, I think, to identify what you don't like about how things are done than it is to suggest improvements. So, I can't answer his questions completely, but I can make a start.

I like the old saying about how a civilization can be judged by how it treats it's children, it's seniors and it's sick. I would also add, it's veterans. So, starting there, I would say that I would like for my government to honor it's commitments to first, it's seniors. By this, I mean preserve the integrity of Social Security and Medicare, the two programs that benefit mostly seniors. Neither party or for that matter Presidential candidate has said much about either because to do so would shine the light of scrutiny on their bipartisan malfeasance. Both of these social programs are on a crash course with insolvency. Fixing both will require several doses of unpopular medicine. People like me will have to subject more of our income to FICA taxes and perhaps postpone the age at which we can draw benefits. Younger participants will have to have benefits curtailed. The disability portion of Social Security needs to be tightened. None of this would be necessary if politicians hadn't turned it into an unfunded liability by raiding its lockbox decades ago. If the price to fix it has to require benefit reductions from people like me in order to make sure that people who desperately need it to survive, so be it. A deal is a deal.

The way this country treats its veterans is an outrage which should have all of us turning away in shame. VA hospitals in this country are an embarrassment and the quality of care and the skullduggery involved in their administration is appalling. Every President in my lifetime, including our current one has promised to fix the VA. Nobody has come close. If this is an example of single payer, government run health insurance. . . no thanks. I would love some hard ass retired general to be put in charge of cleaning up the mess and given the authority and the resources to get the job done. If an elected politician gets anywhere near the process it will be a disaster. Set up a commission of non politicians and get out of the way.

Here's another thing I would like to see my government do. . . Reform our criminal justice system to better reflect the real world of our inner cities. Stop throwing mostly young black men in prison for smoking and dealing pot. The war on drugs, perhaps the biggest single failure of American government since Prohibition, has been a disaster for the inner cities. We lecture minorities to get real jobs, but we virtually guarantee they won't by turning 50% of them into convicted felons by the time they are 20. You might say, "well, they're the ones who chose to deal drugs!" Seriously? You are 16 and live on the south side of Chicago. What job opportunities are available to you besides dealing drugs? Have you even driven through the Gilpin Courts of the world? Yes, having few adult father figures in these neighborhoods is a problem, but it's difficult to do when 50% of them were removed from those neighborhoods and placed in federal prison because of our drug laws. I know that the problems in the inner cities are complex and there are many villains. But, let's start by scrapping the disastrous war on drugs.

Ok, that's a start. There are other things I'd like to see my government do and stop doing, but this should keep them busy for a while.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Having Fun Yet?

Part II of my very first root canal careened into an extraction, late this afternoon, when my highly compensated Oral Surgeon decided that the tooth had cracked beyond repair. So, since I was indisposed, he went out into the lobby to inform my wife that it would have to be pulled, I suppose to get her permission. So now I'm wearing this really cool makeshift ice pack made out of ice, a plastic zip-lock bag and a sacrificed pair of gray pantyhose. The Novocain is still working, so I can't even feel how cold this thing is. Tomorrow morning should be interesting, given that I'm sure it will be pounding and no telling how swollen it will be. But, I will head to the office anyway, if for no other reason than to give Kristin the opportunity to make fun of my predicament. 

However, do not fear. This is the one and only photograph anyone will ever see of this event. There will be no close-up selfies of the inside of my mouth, no graphic shots of blood-soaked gauze. Those gory details will be reserved for only Lucy and Me. Pam is out buying me some tomato soup, bless her heart.

Unanswerable Questions

Here's a partial list of the unanswerable questions ricocheting around the vast empty rooms in my head.

How is it that every time some ugly discovery from Donald Trump's wretched past comes to light, evangelical Christians trot out the, "we are all sinners" routine, but never ever extend that redemptive get-out-of-jail-free card to Bill or Hillary Clinton?

Speaking of Donald Trump's sex life, where are all the Democrats who constantly scolded us back in the 90's that we should lay off Bill Clinton because "everybody lies about sex"  and what somebody does in their private life has nothing to do with their ability to do their job?

Why are liberal Democrats so willing to support someone who has such an incestuous relationship with Wall Street? Hasn't this been the number one knock against Republicans for over a century, that they are in bed with monied interest? So, how does Hillary get a pass after making 20 million giving cozy speeches to these fat cats?

If walls don't work, how come practically every important politician in this country lives behind one?

If the public schools are so great and indispensable, how come politicians who live in big cities send their kids to private schools?

If Obamacare is so wonderful, how come Congress exempted itself from its most onerous provisions?

Speaking of Congress, how come they exempt themselves from practically every problematic law they pass?

If Hillary Clinton is so pissed off about the glass ceiling and the wage gap between women and men, how come that wage gap exists in her own campaign organization?

How come Trump's supporters tout his toughness and resiliency in overcoming setbacks in business as proof that he's a fighter and doesn't quit. Isn't bankruptcy exactly that...quitting on your creditors and investors? Wouldn't a fighter have stuck it out and figured a way to honor his commitments?

Why have none of our intelligence experts figured out the real reason why the Muslim world is so angry and violent is because they aren't allowed to eat bacon?

Why is everybody acting so shocked when they discover, courtesy of Wikileaks, that politicians talk differently in private than they do in public? Where have these people been for the last, I don't know...2000 years? Forget politicians. . . don't you?

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I wake up this morning in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, read the news from overnight and my soul longs for...decency. Someone, anyone, man or woman, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, just someone with an ounce of decency to rise up and be counted. I'm starving here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Great Unpersuadables

With the release of the Donald Trump locker room talk video, I have noticed something. It has changed nobody's mind. Trump haters hate him even more, and Trump lovers have somehow found more to love. The American people have become the Great Unpersuadables.

I actually read a tweet today from someone who was making the case post-video that it has always been men of great failings that God has chosen to use for his purposes, comparing Mr. Trump favorably to King David. Some lady declared that now that she has heard the video, she has found even more reasons to love him. Many evangelicals were quick to point out that they have never thought Trump to be a paragon of virtue. Still others have played the, but what about Bill Clinton's rapes?? Some were quick to compare Trump's video trash talk with Hillary's Benghazi failings, Trump's locker room talk didn't get anyone killed,  apparently meant as a mic-drop debate stopper.

All of this is setting up Sunday's debate to be possibly the single most disgusting gutter-scraping public spectacle in American history. It may be the first presidential debate which will require a bleeping censor. In the past 24 hours, the words p***y and f**k have been introduced as evidence in the case of U.S Press v. Donald Trump. Not to be outdone, the Trump camp has via the U.K. Daily Mail entered the phrase attributed to Bill Clinton that his wife had "***** **** p***y than he had" into the public record. So, try to imagine the dignity and decorum that will be on display when our two presidential candidates take the town hall stage Sunday Night. It will be Beavis and Butt Head meats the Jim Lehrer Hour. It has come to this . . . A presidential debate needs a disclaimer:

The following program contains adult situations and adult language. Parental discretion is advised.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Weekend

This is our view for the next few days. That's Gatlinburg, Tennessee . . . or as it's known in some quarters, Hillbilly Vegas. 

This is the deck that overlooks the view. All things considered, better than laying down tar with the chain gang in Cool Hand Luke.

And, this is the main floor living room and kitchen where much baseball will be watched. Yes, that is a container of cowboy cookies, and yes, despite the early hour, I have already had one. Thanks, Paula!

Once all the kids get here, photographs of them may follow.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Real October Surprise

Conor Gillaspie. You heard of him? Me neither. But this is playoff baseball and this is how it works, especially if you're the San Francisco Giants. I've been watching these guys do this for ten years now it seems. In other years it was Cody Ross or Marco Scutaro. In still others it was Joe Panik or Brandon Crawford. None of these guys are hall of famers. They won't make anybody's all star team. But once the calander flips to October, they come out of the woodwork in the city by the bay.

Conor freaking Gillaspie, who earlier this year was anonymously toiling away in the Pacific Coast league, who was a former first round pick of these same Giants back in 2008 only to be unceremoniously traded away a few years later, walked up to the plate last night in the ninth inning of a scoreless tie with two on and one out and turned around a 96 mph fastball from one of the best closers in baseball. He did this with a million eyes on him, just him. He was no nickel back in a prevent defense that blends in with the furniture in football. Baseball is the ultimate team game, but the irony is, the game features a series of 27 one on one matchups. Just you and the pitcher. And in October with the game on the line, those matchups feature the white hot glare of millions of eyes.

Sometimes it's the big stars who are the heros. Madison Bumgarner is a big star and he was a hero last night. Tuesday night it was Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, big stars who basked in the glory of the limelight. But baseball always gives us a Conor Gillaspie.

God how I do love this game.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Winners and Losers

Great baseball game last night. I picked the Bluejays to win despite the fact that they are an overwhelmingly unlikeable team. I'm not totally sure why this is. Maybe it's their beer can hurling fans, maybe it's the supremely arrogant, bat-flipping, look at ME star, Jose Bautista, or maybe it's just my xenophobic grudge against Canadian baseball teams. But, I make my baseball predictions purely on the merits, not with my heart. So I'm one for one. However, I might not have been if the Orioles had been managed by practically any other manager in baseball.

All of my baseball life I have been told about the brilliant baseball mind that dwells inside the dome of one Buck Showalter. Maybe so. Maybe the dude has forgotten more about baseball than I've ever known. But apparently last night he forgot that the best closer in baseball was on his roster. Instead of bringing Zachary Britton into the game with two on and one out and the season on the line in the bottom of the 11th inning, he decided to leave the hapless Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill, he of the ugly 5.44 ERA. The rest, as they say, is history. Nice job, Buck. That's like deciding to pick up your hot date in your rusted out 1975 Pinto and leaving the bright red Maserati in the garage. That's like deciding to serve the President of the United States corn beef and cabbage while there's filet mignon in the fridge. That's like . . . well you get it.

But that's the great thing about baseball. It's the great game of what ifs.

Yesterday was one of those days. I knew it was going to be a stressful pressure cooker long before the sun came up. It was set up for stress. I had three high anxiety appointments, and three administrative foul ups to mitigate, all before lunch. But, it's the paperwork stuff that's the worst. My invaluable administrative goddess, Kristin, was on vacation, which left me and my sledgehammer personality to try and deal with the sort of bureaucratic knitwittery that requires patience and forbearance. It had the potential to get ugly. But, some sort of miracle happened. I actually was able to steady myself, rein in my worst instincts, and spend an hour and forty five minutes on the telephone communicating with idiots and morons without so much as a "wait a gosh darn minute!" All three problems got resolved in my favor without acrimony or bloodshed. It was a beautiful thing.

Today will be equally stressful, as Pam and I prepare for our weekend getaway in Gatlinburg with the kids. Heading west and to higher ground seems like one of my better ideas considering the weekend forecast! Yep, watching playoff baseball on a 60 inch flatscreen in a luxury cabin high up in the Smoky Mountains with my family seems like a top five decision of 2016 to me!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Two Nightmares

Here's a couple of nightmare scenarios for you to ponder on this fine Tuesday morning five weeks from election day 2016.

Nightmare number one.

The final polls before Election Day show Hillary Clinton with a sizable lead as Donald Trump's campaign begins to unravel in an orgy of incoherent ramblings and eleventh hour kitchen sink vitriol. Every major national poll has Clinton winning by 7-10 points, with an electoral college rout in the making. But as the votes are counted, the punditry class is shocked to discover that the polls were wrong. The race is razor thin close. Apparently, an awful lot of people lie to pollsters. The number one trending topic on Twitter and Facebook becomes the Wilder Effect. The nation is shocked to wake up on November 9th to discover that Donald Trump has pulled off the upset of the century, eeking out a 49%- 47% victory. When the results are announced, riots break out in almost every major city in the country as an alliance of Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the AFL-CIO, and  La Rasa take to the streets. Accusations start to fly. The election was stolen! The Koch Brothers are blamed for rigging the machines. The basket of deplorables are accused of depressing the black vote. Barack Obama declares martial law to quell the violence.

Nightmare number two.

The final polls don't give much comfort to either side. Some show Clinton ahead, others give Trump the edge. An exhausted country trudges to the polls to get the whole thing over with. To the surprise of literally everyone, Hillary Clinton outperforms her poll numbers in record breaking fashion, winning a huge percentage of not only the black vote, but the Latino vote as well. The much feared angry white hick vote fails to materialize, especially in rural areas where Trump had polled so well. A broad coalition of minorities and women rise up to deliver Clinton a landslide popular vote victory of 56%-42% and an electoral college blowout. When the election is called at 10:30 eastern standard time, news reports of violence begins to spread. Trump supporters are convinced that the fix was in. They take to the streets and begin attacking gatherings of celebrating democrats in every major city in the country. The nation is horrified to see the violence spill into hotel ballrooms on all the television networks. Barack Obama orders the networks to go dark and declares martial law.

Unfortunately, neither of these scenarios seem far fetched to me. I live in a country where either of these outcomes seem plausible. We are so decided. The rhetoric has gotten so shrill. The distrust and even hatred across the aisle seems so intense. Either of these could happen.

Here's what I hope. All I want is for whoever wins, to win convincingly and for there to be no shocking result either way. Because if somebody comes out of nowhere in this race, the other side isn't going to accept the result. Confidence in the system is at an all time low. We better have a clean decision, or it could get ugly.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Predictions, (the important kind).

Apparently, Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame is planning some huge document dump tomorrow which is rumored to contain damaging, potentially game-changing information about Hillary Clinton. Stop. What could we learn at this late date about Mrs. Clinton that would make her less attractive as a candidate? Furthermore, how damaging would this bombshell have to be to compete with Donald Trump's sleaze lollapalooza? I mean, on the week where we discovered that Trump made a cameo appearance in a porn film, how bad will this news have to be? My prediction? Nothing we learn tomorrow will alter the death spiral trajectory of this interminable campaign. It is clearly a sprint to the bottom, a jack-knifed nosedive into the deep end of gutter politics. But there is good news. Donald's porn cameo was fully clothed, and there's only 36 more days until day.

In the meantime, I have bigger fish to fry. It's October and that can only mean one thing... MLB playoffs are here!! So, let's dispense with politics for a minute and get to something really important...who is going to win the World Series? Let me save you the trouble. Here's how this is going to play out.

National League

The San Francisco Giants will beat the New York Mets in the wildcard play-in game. Madison Bumgarner is a post season beast and will out-pitch a professional baseball player named Noah.

As their reward, the Giants will get mauled by the Chicago Cubs in their seven game series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will probably sweep my Washington Nationals. The Nats only have two quality starting pitchers at his point and Bryce Harper is suddenly hitting like Harper Lee. Not a good combination.

This means that the Dodgers will play the Cubs for the National League pennant in a seven game series which will probably go seven, with the Cubs winning.

American League

The Toronto Blue Jays will beat the Baltimore Orioles in the wildcard play-in game, giving baseball-crazed Canadians everywhere false hope.

Toronto will then go on to face the Texas Rangers, where those baseball-crazed Canadians will be rudely brought back down to earth. The Rangers in six.

The Boston Red Sox will quickly dispatch Sam Issac's Cleveland Indians. Do Cleveland fans actually think that their city would win an NBA championship and the World Series in the same year? Please.

This will put the Red Sox against the Rangers for the American League pennant in what will be probably the best seven game series of the year. The Red Sox will prevail on a Big Papi grand slam in the bottom of the ninth of game seven.

World Series

The Cubs haven't won a World Series title in 108 years. Put another way, the last time the Cubs won a World Series not only was Pluto still a planet, it hadn't even been discovered yet! Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. The leading cause of death in the United States was the FLU, for heavens sake! Unfortunately, Cubs fans will have to wait one more year. The Red Sox win, giving New England the NFL, MLB sweep yet again.

So, go out there and place your bets, people. Remember to send me a check for 10%!!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Two Years Of Lucy

Two years ago today, this girl landed on our doorstep. Katie Boone, now Katie Atkinson, was her first owner, but was in the process of moving and getting married and couldn't manage all of that and a precocious four month old Golden Retriever at the same time. I was finally in the market for my third Golden. Pam was ambivalent. Our discovery of her availability itself was serendipitous. Katie just happened to have had lunch with my niece Christina Garland where she had mentioned that she was going to have to find a home for her dog. Christina heard the word "Golden" and immediately thought of me.

An appointment was set for us to meet her. Pam was nervous. I was nervous because Pam was nervous. The thing is, secretly I had to acknowledge that all of my wife's arguments against getting another dog were valid. Yes, it's a huge commitment. Yes, our freedom of movement would be curtailed. Yes, the financial impact might be significant if she turns out to have allergies like Molly.
Yes, yes, yes. Plus, how could she possibly measure up to Molly, her sainted and blessed predecessor? The truth was, I was still grieving Molly. She would never be replaced. When they knocked on the door, my heart began to beat loudly in my chest.

She was a whirling dervish of a thing, but well trained. We were quite impressed by the tricks she had
already been taught. Katie clearly loved her and was having difficulty with even the idea of parting
ways with a puppy with such deep, and loving eyes. Within thirty seconds, I was sold. I'm not sure how Pam really felt, but outwardly she seemed to approve.

Two years later, we are the proud owners of Lucy, the most uniquely idiosyncratic dog on the planet. She's healthy as a horse, strikingly beautiful, more fun than a barrel of monkeys . . . and dumber than a box of hammers. We have no regrets and will always be grateful to Katie for allowing us the privilege of being her owners. Although, in truth we don't really own her. She owns us!

Here's Why Statistics Are For Losers

Here's a little inside baseball about my blog that illustrates perfectly how misleading statistics can be. September of 2016 is in the books with the highest readership in the nearly six year history of The Tempest. In fact, September was the sixth consecutive month of increased readership as illustrated below:

MONTH                                           PAGE VIEWS

April                                                      3797
May                                                       4123
June                                                       5225
July                                                        5837
August                                                   6063
September                                             6898

Very nice. Over the last six months the number of page views has nearly doubled, up a whopping 82%. With all of this increased traffic, one might expect that the revenue steam generated by this blog would also have grown, by a factor close to 82% . . . but, one would be wrong. The highest revenue month was in fact...April, when The Tempest raked in a staggering $7.26!! September's nearly doubled traffic produced $5.43. At this rate, by the time I manage to attract 15,000 page views a month, I'll owe Blogger money!

Thankfully, I don't do this for a living. I do this because it makes living more fun.