Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Summer Reading List

Now that summer has officially arrived, the time has come to prepare and purchase your summer reading list. And no, I don't mean the latest tortured Trump tweet or the most recent CNN retraction. I'm talking about vacation page turners, you know...real books.

This summer, I will be taking four weeks off. The week of July 8-15 we will be on Hatteras Island with the Dunnevant Oligharchy. Then from September 7-29 Pam and I will be on Quantabacook Lake in Maine. Yes, yes..I know...my white privilege is showing. But since I work for myself, these are not paid vacations, so I'm not a total bourgeois eliteist. Relax!

So, as is my custom, I like to buy a book to read for each week that I will be away. So far, I have bought only three, so I'm opened for suggestions for that last week. The first one I bought is an e-book. I feel guilty about this for some reason. I have a couple dozen e-books now, so this is nothing new. But I always feel bad that I didn't buy the flesh and blood version, the one I can hold in my hand and smell the ink from the paper. I get it...wave of the future and all. Besides, my gorgeous library book case is filling up fast and at some point will reach capacity. The e-book in question is called Teammate. It's written by David Ross, a fifteen year career backup catcher who's final season was spent becoming the most beloved member of the 2016 Chicago Cubs team which broke the 108 year title draught. Every summer, I have to have at least one baseball book. Candidly, I must admit that I have already started reading this one...and it's awesome.

Then, I always get one history book. This also is a hard habit to break. Once a history major, always a history major, I suppose.



The Loyal Son promises to be a real barn burner, since it's about the strained relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his illegitimate son who became governor of New Jersey and devoted loyalist while his Dad was becoming perhaps the most famous American patriot in the world. Can't wait to tear into this one.



Every year, I look for a novel, not just any novel, but something rich and compelling. I prefer intelligent, sophisticated writing, and I'm hoping I have found it in A Gentleman In Moscow. I have heard about this Amor Towles guy and his debut novel from a couple years back called Rules of Civility, which I have not read yet. He's supposed to be quite the writer. He intrigues me because he was a twenty year veteran of my business before he decided to devote himself to becoming a writer. Hmmm.... Anyway, here's a blurb from the flyleaf:

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the Count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

I'm onboard. If it's as good as all that, I'll buy his first book as my fourth.

Here's what I won't be reading on vacation...

1. The Drudge Report
2. Investors Business Daily
3. The Wall Street Journal
4. The world's third shortest book...French Army Victories of WWII
5. The world's second shortest book....Famous Jewish Athletes
6. The world's shortest book...21st Century American Statesmen


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Healthcare Debate

Republicans in Congress are stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling along trying to repeal or replace Obamacare. Most of them ran for reelection promising one or the other. Now that the vote is getting near, the debates have begun in earnest. For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders is leading the charge...which is odd since he doesn't even want Obamacare, he's all in for single payer.

So far the debate has gone something like this:

Libertarian: My objections to the concept of single payer is that it essentially places the government atop a giant monopoly, and asks it to run this enterprise efficiently. We already have a single payer system in this country, administered by the government. It's called the VA and is about the most corrupt organization in America. Additionally, I'm not all that keen on having to wait an average of 38 weeks for an MRI like they do in Canada. I just don't have a great deal of confidence in the government's competence when it comes to providing a service at a reasonable cost. The cost estimates, for example, which were predicted by the CBO for Obamacare were wildly inaccurate. The rollout of Obamacare, with its bizarrely dysfunctional website was emblematic of what most people experience at the DMV or the Post Office, not a hopeful sign of things to come.

Progressive: You're mean, and you want to kill people.

Libertarian: Our government has managed to rack up twenty trillion dollars worth of debt. What are the core competencies this government possesses that make you think it ready to take on the role of healthcare provider and administrator for 300 million people?

Progressive: You hate poor people.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Is America Out of Ideas?

I just saw a commercial on the internet for a new shampoo whose featured ingredient is...caviar.

America is officially out of ideas.

I can remember a day when the presence of caviar was sure fire evidence that you had stumbled into the wrong party. Instead of taking the right turn at the bowling alley to get to the FCA mixer, you had gotten lost on the interstate and wound up at Claire Worthington's debutante ball at the Country Club of Virginia. Now, they're dumping the stuff into shampoo for its alleged 24 hour moisturizing properties. Thurston Howell III is probably spinning in his grave.

But somewhere, somehow, somebody sitting around a conference table at some multi-national health and beauty aid company blurted out, Hey, how about we grind up fish eggs into our shampoo? This daft idea carried the day, and now, BAMM...Caviar Shampoo is a thing.

I'm wondering what this development is going to do to the price of caviar. Face it, up until now there has been a limited market for the stuff. It's very much a 1% indulgence. It's relative rarity is what makes it so expensive, I would think. But, if there's now a company using caviar in the mass production of shampoo, maybe the supply starts to get disrupted, causing the cost to skyrocket. What then? What will be the price point on the shampoo? I mean, you can up-market shampoo all you want, but at the end of the day...it's still just shampoo. Will people be willing to shell out, say $50 for a bottle? Sure, rich girls wouldn't hesitate to instruct their servants to pick up a bottle, but what about your average Jane Doe? Or maybe, this fish egg shampoo winds up being the next big thing in the beauty aid game, providing the multi-national company with the insentive to build giant caviar farms,  flooding the supply, therefore driving down the price of caviar. What happens then? If caviar becomes as cheap and abundant as tuna fish, what reason would the rich have for pretending to like it? I foresee the potential for great mischief here.

All because the Western Woman simply must have moisturized hair.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

There's an Elephant Man in My Mirror!!

Woke up this morning feeling very strange. The world looked a bit odd. My face felt...out of place. Then I looked in the mirror and discovered that my right eye was swollen shut. I will not horrify you by sharing a photograph. Suffice it to say that the extreme puffiness made me look like the Elephant Man. What the heck?

For the past half hour I have had an ice pack plastered to the thing, and that has helped. It is still a bulbous mess, but at least I can see out it. It doesn't itch, thank God, and it's not emitting any bodily fluids, so I've got that going for me. Still, today will be a wearing sunglasses inside sort of day.

You would think I could come up with something more interesting to write about on this Saturday morning...but I got nothing. It's been one of those weeks. Summer has this strange way of distilling the tumultuous roar of life down to its essence. It gets hot and thick outside, where even breathing seems like a chore. So, you slow down. Then, people start going on vacation, families packing up their cars all up and down your street in shifts, the Smiths one week, the Joneses the next. Your time is coming. Your life becomes all about counting down, making lines through the days on the calendar until it's your turn. People stop watching the news all day. They would rather surf the web for fun stuff to do during your stay in Virginia Beach. The news will still be there when you get back, so you disengage. It's therapeutic.

The down side is, if you have a blog, you find that your hot-take tank is on empty. It's just too humid out to bother with thinking. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Bad Can It Be?

Just got back from a very fun couple of days playing golf with my brother up in Gettysburg, Pa. Beautiful course, good people, fun time. But, this blog isn't about any of that. No, this blog is my first attempt at being a travel writer. I've always wanted to give travel writing a try, but the only time I've ever been tempted is after a bad experience, and who wants a travel writer with a bad attitude? Nevertheless...here goes.

When Donnie first asked me to play in this fundraising golf tournament for the really cool touring choir that he's in, he assured me that he was going to take care of all of the details, like booking us a room in Gettysburg, for the night before the tournament. I was nervous at this bit of news. I have had the great fortune in my life to travel all over the place and have become quite the snob about accommodations. I'm kind of a Hilton Rewards Club sort of guy. When Donnie and I were kids, our father had very different priorities when traveling. Dad's tastes were decidedly low brow...think, Econo-Lodge meets the Bates Motel. Whenever the Dunnevant kids were anywhere near an interstate highway, we thought fine dining consisted of a pecan roll from Stuckey's. So, naturally, I was dubious of the sort of place my older, less traveled brother might pick. He assured me that all was well..."Don't worry, little brother. I've booked us a room in the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center." Sounded pretty impressive. I mean, it was named after a former President and perhaps this country's best strategic planning General, and, it had a conference center. How bad could it be?

What neither of us knew was that the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center was badly misnamed. A more apt description would have been the Eisenhower Inn, Motor Lodge, Kitsch Emporium, and Laudromat. Driving up to the place unleashed a raging bout of cognitive dissonance. Instead of a Conference Center, I saw a parking lot full of restored American Motors hotrods painted up from a palette of incandescent colors found nowhere in the natural world.  It was like we had traveled through time back to 1962. There were Ramblers, Hornets, Gremlins, Pacers and even a couple AMX's. I half expected George Romney to jump out of the uranium green Gremlin parked by the front door and offer to take our bags. No such luck, not a bellhop to be found. But just inside the front door hung a lovely portrait of the 34th President. About the time I was close enough to the portrait to get a good look, I noticed.....the smell.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that the place was a dump. No, it was actually quite clean...always a plus. But there was a distinct aroma to the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center, and it wasn't anything you'd find at Bath and Body Works. Bath Iron Works? Maybe. It was a combination of several bad smells, really, producing an aroma that was clearly worse than the sum of its parts. Think...two day old cabbage, moth balls, with just a hint of rotten egg. It's like you arrived at a church basement fellowship hall, two days late for a covered dish supper where no one had done the dishes.

But, the Dunnevant brothers are nothing if not resilient, so we soldiered on. I mean, if old Dwight was good enough to plan and execute freaking D-Day, the least we could do was suck it up and stay in his stinking hotel for one lousy night, right? How bad could it be?

Our room was number 138....which almost matched the room's temperature. Only one of the key cards worked. Once inside only two of the lamps worked. The two queen sized beds were neatly made and reasonably comfortable. To add some light into the cave-like darkness, I decided to throw open the heavy, thick curtain of the sliding glass doors. Our view was quite the shock. There, no more than four or five steps from the glass doors was the very large indoor pool, filled with equally large and loud teenagers blowing off some steam after a long year of school. What architect came up with this design, I thought? Look, Marge...we can keep an eye on the kids while they're swimming right from the comfort of our bed!! All I can say about how I slept is, it's a lot harder to fall asleep while people are taking turns doing cannon balls twenty five feet from your pillow than it sounds.

To be fair, the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center had the look of a place that was probably, in its day, something very special. Unfortunately for us, it's day was probably about the time when it's namesake only had one star.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Georgia Post Mortems

Despite spending more money than Ronald Reagan spent running for President in 1980, the Democrat candidate lost the election last night in Georgia. Jon Ossoff, hipster documentary film maker, and major league dufus, lost to the kind of candidate that most Democrats are always lecturing us we need more of...a woman. This morning, the bloodletting begins. The accusations hang thick in the air. Political consultant heads will roll. Pollsters will be fired. Spinners will spin.

Is there no end to the corrupting influence of the Russians?

Our candidates have no chance to win in a country dominated by misogynistic, patriarchal....no wait.

That Georgia voters resented the fact that Ossoff's California donors outnumbered his Georgia donors 8,000 to 800 proves just how provincial southerners are.

Where were the big stars? Sure, Alyssa Milano is great, but we sure could have used some personal appearances from some A-listers like DiCaprio or Matt Damon. 

You know, this election was never really about Trump. It was always a local election about local issues.

What ever happened to the invincible power of white male privilege in the South?

Every dark cloud has a silver lining, and for Jon Ossoff, there are several. First, now that he's not going to have to represent the people of Georgia district 6, he won't have to actually live in that God forsaken hell hole. Judging from his donor list, he has significant support in California...Go West, Young Man!! Losing the election at least trolled him into finally popping the question. The future Mrs. Ossoff would like to thank the voters of Georgia Congressional district 6 for that!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Forgetting How To Laugh

I stumbled across a hilarious Tweet yesterday, at least I thought it was hilarious. It offered this bit of first class snark:

If the Huffington Post and Salon had been around in 1942, they would have been writing about the gender gap at Auschwitz.

Of course, to be fair to my progressive/statist friends, I suppose if National Review had been around in the time of King David, they would have been describing the tithe as an oppressive wealth redistribution scheme.

See what I did there? That's called bi-partisan snark, and it is sorely missing in today's hyper political culture. We are great at zinging our political opponents, but almost completely unwilling to tolerate jokes at our own expense. It's a short trip from not being able to laugh at yourself to wanting to shout people down. Very short. Which brings me to the Julius Caesar kerfuffle...

The Shakespeare in the Park people up in New York City are currently staging a production of the famous play about political intrigue and skullduggery which features Julius as a Trump-like figure. Throughout the play extra effort is made to disparage this Trump stand in. When the climatic assassination scene comes, it's quite brutal. Trump supporters are apoplectic, demanding that sponsors pull their support and now some of them have taken to storming the stage in protest. Liberals are suddenly scandalized at this blatant attempt to silence voices of dissent and have employed fascist/Goebbles comparisons to describe the stage rushers in Central Park. It's all quite hilarious. Honestly? Have these scandalized progressives been living in a cave for the past five years? Have they not seen the tender reeds in Ivy League schools demanding safe spaces and shouting down any voice contrary to their own? And what to make of these stage rushing idiots? Aren't these the same people who constantly malign these college fascists with the tag, snowflake? So, which is it? Are these offended souls trying to shout down Julius Caesar...snowflakes???

Tribalism has taken root in the black soil of politics. It has blinded us to our own hypocrisy. When the other side shouts down a conservative voice, it's an outrage. When our side tries to silence a liberal voice it's called fighting back. The air is now thick with this accusation: They can dish it out, but they can't take it. Neither is true. Neither side even knows how to dish it out with anything approaching civility and fairness. Neither side thinks they should ever be forced to take anything. We can't even define hypocrisy anymore.

And it's all because we have forgotten how to laugh...at ourselves.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Silent.

Yesterday was nice. Fathers Day. Social media was a wall to wall tribute to us. Adorable photographs, heart warming tributes, competing claims to Best Father Ever, turning Facebook into a living, breathing, digital Hallmark card. Mostly, this was a very good thing. Who among us would rather read unhinged, fact-free political debates? No, I'll take pictures of fathers hugging their daughters any day. But...

I don't know what it is with me. Sometimes, among the happiest of times, at the point of greatest joy, my mind can be counted on to find a dark cloud. Yesterday was the perfect example of this unfortunate tendency. As I was reading the glowing tributes by my friends to their wonderful dads, I started thinking, Wow, this must really be painful for people with horrible fathers. I personally know many people who were raised by monumental jerks, don't you? What must go through their minds on Fathers Day? After all, nobody would post something like this:

On this Fathers Day, all I can think of is what a worthless, drunken, abusive, self-centered beast my father was. I have no idea where he is today, and frankly, I couldn't possibly care less.

No, that's not how Facebook works. People who have horrible fathers remain silent. They read the tributes from their friends and wonder what it must be like to have a father who loves them. Or, they tune everything out by voluntarily censoring it for a few days until their news feeds are cleansed of all the love. They wait for summer vacation pictures from the beach, or July the 4th celebration pictures, something with which they can better relate, something less painful.

Much has been made about the unreality of social media, about how it distorts people's perceptions of what life is really like. To judge by Facebook or Instagram, you might think that your friends have all won the lottery, every day is a celebration of accomplishment, every morning bringing more evidence of God's favor and provision. On the one hand, I get it. You want to bankrupt Facebook? Make a rule where only bad news, personal failings and betrayals were allowed on your timeline? I mean, who would want to wade through that cesspool all day? Personally, I enjoy hearing good news about people I know. It's comforting.....right up to the point where it gets annoying. Too many, Can you believe it??...my husband got another promotion?!, posts and something inside me bristles. Heck, I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I'm constantly extolling the many virtues of my wife on social media. Number one, it's easy to do because she truly is amazing, and number two, I'm not about to post something about how what a maniac she can be to live with the week before a vacation. Why? Because I'm not an idiot, that's why. And, well...I'm not sure why. I just don't post things like that.

All I'm saying is, on days like Fathers Day, I feel for the fatherless. On Valentines Day, I feel for the lonely. I suppose I secretly wish that all of life was as clear and undefiled as it seems on Facebook, especially on Fathers Day.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

An Observation.

With regards to the recent acquittal of the Minnesota police officer in the killing of Philando Castile, I should probably not even have an opinion. If I did, I should probably keep it to myself. After all, I'm a white guy who tends towards a law and order stance in matters of crime and punishment. Additionally, I was not on the jury in this case. I didn't sit for weeks sifting through all of the details of testimony. My only understanding of the facts of the case are what I am given by the increasingly unreliable media. Still, I do have an observation and it is this... it seems virtually impossible for a police officer, of any color, to be convicted by a jury of killing a black man in the line of duty. It doesn't seem to matter what the circumstances were, whether one shot was fired or twenty, whether the perp was still or fleeing, high or sober, belligerent or docile. No jury in America seems willing or able to convict an officer of the law of murder, or even excessive force. And, if I were a black man, this fact would piss me off.

That's it. That's all I've got.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm Not Getting Old...I'm MATURING.

I had a doctors appointment yesterday. Lucky for me, this is a rather rare thing. I don't have a long list of doctors on speed dial. This is a very good thing. However, I am forced to use these people much more often than I did thirty years ago, which is a normal part of the maturation process, a phrase that I much prefer to getting old. I'm not getting old, I'm maturing.

Anyway, so yesterday was typical of these occasional doctor's visits. I introduce myself and explain to her the reason for my visit. I've developed this troubling problem with my...foot, knee, back, neck, bowels, which is causing...headaches, burning, shooting, searing, throbbing pain, acid reflux, unpredictably violent trips to the bathroom, and vertigo. The doctor usually looks up from her furious note writing and gives me an understanding nod or two. After describing my concerns, my favorite doctors sometimes say something like this:

Doctor: Does it hurt when you do this?

Me: Oww! Yes!!

Doctor: Then, don't do that!!

Unfortunately, doctors with this sort of sense of humor are about as rare as Lamborghinis in a Pentecostal Holiness church parking lot. Mostly, it goes more like this:

Me: Yeah, this pain has been getting worse over the past few months, and although I'm not even sure you can do anything about it, I thought I should have it checked out to make sure it wasn't anything more serious than...

Doctor: Mr. Dunnevant, unfortunately, you are 59 and you insist on working out four times a week at a gym, and maintaining the same level of activity which you did when you were 25. This always results in this sort of thing...pain, inflammation, and worried visits to the doctor. As we age, our bodies don't respond as well to physical exertion. You should keep this in mind, and keep plenty of cold packs on hand, and always remember to stretch before and after each session at the gym. Other than that, I don't know what to tell you.

Then, I come home from the appointment and Pam asks, how did it go? I always end up saying the same thing...nothing too serious, just my maturing body acting out again. Then after a couple of minutes I offer up, no cancerous tumors or communicable diseases...so I've got that going for me.

Yes you do, dear. Yes you do.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Shooting in Washington

A congressman got shot this morning by a disturbed man with a rifle. The congressman was with a bunch of his colleagues at an early morning practice for the upcoming charity baseball game between Republicans and Democrats from Capital Hill. It's a tradition that's been going on for over a hundred years, a break from the political battles to play some ball and raise some money for charity. Now, this.

The shooter is dead. The congressman is in serious condition. The rest of us are reduced to watching the freak show that has broken out on Twitter and other places where insanity breeds. All of us, every single one of us need to be paying close attention to who says what. Everyone of us needs to be taking names. Later, when things calm down, we can all purge these people from our news feeds, our friends list and our Twitter follows. Here's a handy guide for the purge to come:

Anyone who says that the Congressman got what was coming to him because he was a Trump supporter...needs to be purged.

Anyone who tries to suggest that Bernie Sanders is responsible somehow for the actions of someone who voted for him...needs to be purged.

Anyone who tries to suggest that because the shooter was a fan of Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher, and John Oliver, then all three of them are somehow to blame for this...needs to be purged.

Anyone who's hot take involved making the case that since the shooter might lose his health insurance if Obamacare gets repealed, then his actions could reasonably be construed as self defense...needs to be purged.

I've got a news flash for the lunatic fringes of the right and the left in this country. I don't have political enemies, I only have politicians with whom I disagree. If reading that sentence makes you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, then you, my friend, need to check yourself. No political liberal of good faith is my enemy. I am not the enemy of any liberal of good faith in America. We just disagree on things. Are there people from the left who are unhinged and unreasonably beyond the mainstream of progressive thought in this country? Sure there are. There are also people from the right who fit that description. Years ago, when Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was shot, many of them showed their true colors in their gleeful reaction to that attempted assassination. The next day...they got purged. In times of great stresses to our system, the best and worst of human instincts emerge. Take careful notes this go round. My Dad used to make this observation about how people react under stress...What's down in the well, always comes up in the bucket. What's inside of you, what's really inside of you will show itself in times like this. Look around you tonight. Take note of those who care only about the political affiliations of both the shooter and the victims. Avoid these people...like the plague.

Earlier this week, ironically enough, I read an article by a well known commentator who asked the question Are we about to fall into civil war? I thought his premise overblown and ridiculous, largely because, to me, it's preposterous. The very idea that I would be willing to bear arms against my fellow Americans is lunacy. Perhaps I feel this way because I'm not a political animal. I don't live and breathe politics 24/7. I have much more important things to do with my life. I have a family to love and provide for. I have a business to run, clients to take care of, I have friends to support, a faith to live out, vacations to take, grass to cut, golf to play, baseball to obsess over. If a political party that I largely am at odds with comes into power, I get along with my life. It would  never, ever occur to me to pick up a gun and start shooting random Democrats on a baseball diamond. What is wrong with us??

The one encouraging image from all of this was a picture taken, I'm guessing, at a different field being used for practice by the Democratic team of Congressmen. Apparently, they had just heard the news about what had happened to their Republican counterparts across town. They had all gathered in the dugout and were huddled together saying a prayer for the fallen. It was a beautiful image, the only one of the day. This is what we once were, and it is what we desperately need to become again.

I love this country with all of my heart. Most of the people who I agree with on politics do too. But, you know what?  Most of the people across the aisle love it too.

Let's try to stop listening to the voices who don't.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Message For My Millennial Friends

For a variety of reasons, I have a lot of Millenial friends on Facebook. Some of them are friends of my two kids, others are kids I taught years ago in Sunday School. Having such a large and diverse group of Millenials on my newsfeed has given me a bit of insight into how many of them think and feel about things. I don't consider myself an expert, by any means, but I have noticed one thing that stands out. Many of them feel isolated between being a "kid" and being a "grown up" and most of them don't think they are very good at the latter. I think they are being way too hard on themselves! First of all, they are doing much better than they think, and second of all, they labor under the false impression that people my age are actually proper adults, and have our adulting act together. Well, for any of my Millenial friends who might be reading this, take heart. Let me tell you about my day...

Tuesday began in the usual way. I woke up without an alarm clock. I brewed coffee, caught up on the overnight business news. Then I wrote a blogpost about a movie I had just seen with Pam at Cinebistro. Then, it was back upstairs for a shower. So far, so good.

Right before I began backing the car out of the garage it occurred to me that I didn't have my wallet with me. I turned off the car and went back inside, sure I had left it on my desk. I searched in all of the usual places I leave stuff and found...nothing. Suddenly, a memory from last night at the movie. I reached into my wallet to get my credit card to pay the waiter for our meal. I was pretty certain that I placed the wallet on the wide arm of the chair instead of back in my pants pocket. I was also reasonably sure that I had walked out of the place without it. I had left my wallet inside of a movie theatre!!!

I drove very carefully to work, the last thing I needed was to get pulled over for speeding. When I
got to the office I called Cinebistro. A recording. Cinebistro will open its doors thirty minutes before the earliest showtime of the day. 2:30?! Not only would I not be able to retrieve it before 2:30, but I won't even know if it's still there until 2:30. What do I do? Should I call the bank and place a hold on all of my accounts? Would that be too rash? Would I regret the hassle if it turned up safe and sound? No way I'm waiting until 2:30. I drive over there at 10:00 and start banging on the door. The early morning cleaning crew was there and came to the door but wouldn't let me enter since the opening manager wouldn't be in until noon, and if anything was turned in, it would be in the safe in his office, and he's the only one who knows the combination. Completely frustrated by events and increasingly pissed at my own carelessness, I headed back to the office.

Once there, I realized that all of the bill paying I had planned on doing couldn't be done at all...because I didn't have my wallet. No worries, I'll just kill some time by going over to Short Pump Elementary school to vote...except I couldn't vote because I didn't have any ID because I didn't have my freaking wallet!!!

Finally, the noon hour arrived and once again I was banging on the doors at Cinebistro. No one was answering. I walked all the way around the mall to find the service and delivery entrance to the place where I proceeded to bang on some more doors. Eventually, after soaking my shirt through with sweat because of the 90 degree heat, someone finally opened the door. I tried to explain to this young man about my lost wallet, but he didn't look like he was buying any of it. I demanded to speak to this elusive opening manager. After what seemed like half an hour, he showed up on the scene and checked his office safe where he found...nothing. "Perhaps it was left at the front desk," he offered with zero conviction. Nothing. "Do you remember which theatre you were in and which seat?" Yes!!!
There it was, lit up by the opening manager's handy flashlight, under the chair I had been sitting in less than 18 hours earlier, every card intact. I had wasted literally half of the work day, but I had finally found my wallet. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the highlight of my day.

The following 3 and a half hours were spent on the telephone with my bank, and the DMV's of two different states, trying to fix a problem of my own making which involved my son's car. It's a long
and boring story which could have been completely avoided if I hadn't made a boneheaded mistake three years earlier when I failed to put my son's name on the car title. Now the car couldn't be registered in his state because it was registered in another state, my state, and oh by the way, my son can't get his license renewed for another 30 days because of essentially dad's screwup, and so far he's already gotten one ticket for driving on expired tags!

I am 59 years old. I have been successfully married for 33 years and have fathered two children. I own a thriving business, a certified adult by any measure...and I still have days like today. I still have days where I'm a complete screw up.

So, to all of you Millenials out there beating yourselves up about how you are horrible at adulting? 
Give yourselves a break.

Wonder Woman

Saw Wonder Woman last night. Pretty cool. I'm not normally a super hero/comic book movie fan, but this one seemed better than most. It was full of special effects shock and awe scenes, as one would expect, but surprisingly sweet and tender in places. The writing was decent, even downright witty in spots, and while Gal Gadot isn't the greatest actress I've ever seen, she is plenty athletic...and smoking hot, with the sort of eyes that have been the inspiration for roughly 75% of all the poetry written in the history of civilization.

Apparently, the fact of Gal Gadot's stunning beauty has been a problem for some feminist reviewers, who have complained that Wonder Woman wasn't cast as a more plain Jane, perhaps a Lena Dunham type. Sure, that would work...in about the same way as casting John Goodman as Superman would work. Of course, back in the day when they were casting about for a new actor to play James Bond, I was bitterly disappointed that the studio big shots chose Sean Connery over my man Marty Feldman. But, what are you gonna do?

  





So, basically, people tend to prefer actors who are easy on the eyes in big heroic roles. Why is this? I have no idea, but I'm pretty sure it's not because of sexism. It's probably more because, movies are escapism, and one of the things we like to escape from is...ordinary. Face it, most women in the world don't look like this:



So, if we are going to drop 15 bucks on a movie ticket and watch strangers emote, most of us would prefer that those strangers were attractive. This is so far down the list of bad things that need to be fixed ledger, I'm thinking that feminists need to give this one a rest. Nobody is going to pay a nickel to watch Lena Dunham doing slow motion flips in the air while shooting a triple-arrow bow at three German soldiers on a beach. Quit trying to make frumpy happen!

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Quirky Back and an Election

I threw my back out this past Friday and there's an election tomorrow. Coincidence? I think not.

First, the back thing.

Yeah, I have what is known in orthopedic circles as...a quirky back, that is to say that every so often, for no apparent reason, and at the slightest provocation, my back will seize up, accompanied by extreme discomfort and dramatically reduced mobility. This unfortunate event often brings on bouts of acute ill-temper in it's owner. Such was the case Friday morning at the office. I had just finished a meeting with a client, and had shifted my chair around to face my credenza where my computer sits. I pulled up my broker dealer's website and was trying to read a bulletin which had been posted there in smaller than normal print. As I leaned forward in my chair to get a closer look, I felt a fimiliar snap. Immediately, I knew what had happened. I must confess that my one word reaction, which I muttered with more resignation than anger, was the word often used to describe human excrement. It seemed the most appropriate one word modifier available in the English language to describe the situation.

I sat there for the better part of thirty minutes accessing the situation, making probing movements to determine the extent of the damage. There is always a fit of anger that comes with these back tweaks. Did I throw my back out while helping a friend move a piano down three flights of stairs? Was I in this predicament because I foolishly tried to lift an anvil without bending my knees? Was I trying to shot put a filing cabinet? Nooooo! I was squinting to read something on a computer screen, people. The last time this happened, I was brushing my teeth, the time before that I was plugging in a lamp!!!  I'm sorry, these are not activities that should result in a trip to Patient First to visit your Nazi doctor from Pakistan, who, after taking a couple of X-rays, informs you that your back is Very, very spasm! You need cold press and stay off your feet. You need shot now? I give you shot if you need shot. Otherwise, take these pills and cold press and lay down quick! There was no way in Dante's inferno that I was gonna let this woman give me a shot. So I wedged myself back into my car and drove home, muscle relaxers and high dose Motrin in hand. Although I was able to make it through a car ride to D.C. to watch a baseball game, I had to beg out of a round of golf which had been scheduled for this afternoon. I am on the mend, and hope to be at full strength within the week.

Speaking of frustrating personal discomfort, there's an election tomorrow. We Virginians are being asked to make judgements on a variety of subjects about which the average Virginian(including me) knows virtually nothing. The Republican and Democratic Party primary elections for Governor and Lieutenant Governor are on the ballot, along with candidates for the General Assembly. You don't have to be a registered member of either party to vote. Luckily for me, you don't even have to know what you're doing to vote. My knowledge of these candidates are limited to the amount of annoying junk mail I have received from them, and their way more annoying television commercials, which have sprouted up like mushrooms after two days of rain lately. Here's what I know:

The contest for my district's General Assembly representative on the Republican side is between somebody named Eddie Whitlock and another guy who is black, but whose name slips my mind. Ok, this Whitlock guy has spent a small fortune on mailbox stuffing drivel. Vote For Eddie...he will fight for you, that sort of thing. He also has been the only candidate from either party who has showed up at the end of my driveway, alone, to hand out a pamphlet and personally ask for my vote. Kinda creepy, actually. Anyway, no offense to Eddie, but all things being equal, I might as well vote for the black guy. Diversity, and all. All of the other races are like white noise. I have no idea what any of the Democratic candidates stand for except that they hate Trump. The Republicans, as is their habit, are running a proven loser in Ed Gillespie, against two other guys who I've never heard of. My nephew has been volunteering for Gillespie, and has managed a tepid endorsement. But I've gotta say, that commercial I saw last night for Frank Wagner was strong. What's an uninformed citizen to do? Part of me doesn't like voting in primaries. It's like, it's none of my business. I'm not a member of the
Republican or Democratic parties. Why should I get a say in who they nominate? Won't I just muck up the works with my ignorant, random, game time decision? Probably.

But, I'll go vote tomorrow anyway. You probably should too.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Comey Show

Yesterday about this time, a bunch of United States senators were standing in front of their bathroom mirrors in their expensive Georgetown town homes, practicing their I'm gravely concerned facial expressions, in preparation for the big James Comey hearings. This was to be the big event of the season for the government set. It was all that anyone who was anyone had been talking about for weeks now, a super bowl for the chattering classes. I didn't watch it for the same reason I don't watch soccer...tediously long periods of time passing during which, despite great expenditures of energy, nothing of consequence happens. Besides I have a business to run. So, I figured I'd watch the highlights on ESPN later.

This morning it appears that everyone is happy. Everyone, on each side of the barricade, apparently got what they wanted out of the event. Comey managed the remarkable feat of both exonerating and excoriating the President. Trump lovers are feeling vindicated, while members of the resistance are convinced that impeachment is now in the bag. Meanwhile, John McCain wants to hear Comey's views on the chances that Marie Antoinette will become the mayor of Düsseldorf.

There are days in life when everything that happens feels like crushing disappointment. Yesterday was one of those days. I mean, it's not the end of the world or anything, today being a brand new day and all that. But, yesterday was a doozy. At every bend in the road, a setback. Around every corner lurked a blow of some kind. I recovered from each of them, because that's what I do. I roll with punches. I allow sadness into my life in small doses, then I shake it off. I have no choice. It's too exhausting otherwise.

So, I didn't watch the Comey Show, something I never would have missed twenty years ago. To do so would have been like extending an engraved invitation to depression, here, come on in to my life and stay a while. Watching my government in action isn't good for me or my mental health. It makes me feel smaller and more petty. Anger starts to build. Resentment bubbles up from some hidden place. So, I make the decision to look away...at virtually anything else. If this makes me a bad citizen, so be it. I vote, pay my taxes, and avoid law breaking behavior. What else do they want from me? 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hawk Gazing

Yesterday, I received an email from the pastor of my church. This paragraph stood out:

"With today's technology, we have so much news, and so much information that comes to us with a threatening tone - that it can seem the world is collapsing and may implode any day. Often, it's more information than our emotional wiring can handle. Much of the news and its tone contributes to fear, the fear contributes to anger, and it all becomes a worrisome recipe. Avoid this trap."

Easier said than done, but he has a point. All of this "news" is hard to avoid. When I was in college, if you wanted to get caught up on the news of the day, you only had a few options. You could pick up a newspaper and read news that was 8-12 hours old. You could turn on the car radio (at the top of the hour only) and listen to a five minute update. Or, you could tune in to one of the three major networks  thirty minute newscasts which aired at 6:00 every week night. Depending on which network you chose, you would hear either Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, or Howard K. Smith give you the news. That was it. If something crazy happened, like a President getting shot or a moon landing, a scary banner would flash across the television screen alerting the viewer that there was Breaking News!! I say "scary" because whenever you would see that screenshot, everyone's heart would  beat a little faster because you knew something big was happening, otherwise they wouldn't dare preempt freaking Bonanza for something trivial. But, that was about it, a few short interruptions of everyone's day at agreed upon times to get us all up to speed on world events.

Now, I'm sure that the world was still a screwed up place back then. There was political chicanery all over the place, along with incompetent Presidents, womanizing congressmen and international intrigue aplenty. But mostly, we were only tangentially aware of it because the news wasn't an industry. Today, you can't go five minutes without being drowned in news. Entire channels are devoted to broadcasting it 24/7. Every social media outlet on the internet spreads some version of it all day, every day. I can consume it from every device imaginable on demand. With such a saturated marketplace, news sellers have to compete for eyeballs. To do so, news often has to be sexed up. Enter advocacy journalism and news celebrities. Throw politics into that witch's brew and my pastor is right, it can seem the world is collapsing and may implode any day. But, it's not and it won't. How do I know? Call it my trick knee and the fact that my highly refined bulls**t detector, bequeathed to me by my no nonsense mother, knows hyperbole when he hears it. Also...this:

"Often when I'm outdoors, I think something like, 'That hawk flying way up there - he doesn't know what year it is. He doesn't know about politics or terrorism or a million other fears. He soars like hawks have done for thousands of years and will for thousands of years to come....' Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough cares of its own.' In other words, "Do not give your heart to all the fear and worry, give your heart to the one who is powerful over all things, living each day in the present"

Again, easier said than done. To pull this off requires discipline, a willingness to unplug from all of the noise. This doesn't mean a retreat from the world, a cowardly escape from reality, but rather being selective on what noises and how much noise we allow into our lives. Maybe eliminate the highest pitch screamers, pass on the shrill voices. Kick the Chicken Littles to the curb in favor of a little more hawk gazing.

So, thanks, David Dwight. Thanks for breathing some life into my week.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hockey...and Nashville?

My son, along with 683,999 other Nashvillians, have suddenly been transformed into unhinged, frothing at the mouth, delirious hockey fans. This odd juxtaposition...Nashville and hockey...has been brought on by the shocking rise to fame of the local franchise, the Nashville Predators, and their inexplicable presence in the Stanley Cup finals. Because of his enthusiasm, I have watched more hockey in the last couple of weeks than I have since the 1980 Olympics. A few thoughts...

To the untrained eye, hockey is hard to follow. The puck is small, the game played at such a pace and with so much attending violence, that half the time I find myself searching frantically to find the thing amongst all the sticks, skates, and very large men. But, like anything, the more you watch, the easier it gets. Still, not being knowledgeable about the game means that I am ignorant of the strategy, only partially aware of the rules, so I spend much of my viewing time being baffled by events. In this way, I am not unlike most Predator fans. However, as a lifelong fan of athletic prowess, I am mesmerized by the skill set required to play this game at its highest level. These men have to be dressed in uniforms that resemble the Michelin Man, because the combination of size, speed and the presence of long wooden sticks and metal skates, and a playing field made of freaking ice, make decapitation a real possibility. When you consider the fact that up until the late 1970's, professional hockey players didn't even wear helmets, one must allow for the fact that these guys are probably somewhat mentally imbalanced to start with. This would explain the fact that the players go about their business on the ice with a simmering hostility towards each other, that is always bubbling just underneath the surface. It is for this reason that the old joke exists about the guy who said he he went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

But, I must say, watching these Predators has been a hoot. But watching the city of Nashville's adoration of them has been even better. There is something magical about sports in this regard. Nothing unites an otherwise diverse crowd like fandom. The full throated chants of the crowd at Bridgestone arena have been incredible. Leave it to a city full of musicians to be able to pick up on cues well enough to thunder, "YOU SUCK AND ITS ALL YOUR FAULT!!" at the opposing goalie after a Predator goal.

So, after last night the series is tied up at two games each. The heavily favored defending champs, the Pittsburg Penguins are probably still favored. But with each game, the Predators seem more and more confident, allowing their fans to dream that their 16th seeded team(out of a 16 team tournament) just might win a title. I'm pulling for them, if for no other reason than to watch the city of Nashville celebrate!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Whataboutism

After church Sunday, had lunch with my sister, her husband, and my nephew, Ryan. The usual Sunday lunch banter was exchanged. Then Ryan launched into a classic demonstration of the latest fad in political conversation sweeping the nation...whataboutism.

Whataboutism is designed to end uncomfortable discussions about partisan politics by invoking that time honored characteristic of politicians over the past several millennia...hypocrisy and her twin sister, inconsistency, and their first cousin, the double standard. Only, it never actually does end an uncomfortable discussion, it only makes it more frustrating. Here's how it works:

Frustrated Republican: I hate the press. They are so over the top critical of ______. They pick apart every single word _______ says and try to twist it around. It's so infuriating!!

Frustrated Democrat: But, whatabout when _______ was President? Fox News twisted everything that came out of his mouth into something horrible. I didn't hear you complaining about that!!

Frustrated Republican: That's not even close to being the same thing! And whatabout how your liberal media buddies hated George W. Bush? They were on a vendetta against him for eight years!

Frustrated Democrat: You want to talk about vendettas?? Whatabout the vendetta the Republicans had against Bill Clinton?! Newt Gingrich trying to impeach the man over that Lewinsky thing at the very same time when he was having an affair himself!

Frustrated Republican: Are you kidding me?? The press did everything in their power to protect that pervert. Whatabout how they always hid JFK's womanizing from the people? Democrats...always protecting their own!

.......................................................three days later........................................................................

Frustrated Republican: I can't believe you're blaming Adam for that Garden of Eden thing!! Whatabout Eve? If it hadn't been for her weakness, everything would have been fine. Typical, man-hating feminist!

Frustrated Democrat: You pathetic patriarch-loving misogynist! Whatabout God's role in all of this, huh?? Why did he have to create man first?!

So, yeah...as a debating tactic, whataboutism is a dodge, an attempt to change the subject, to reengage the rhetorical battle on more favorable ground. Instead of dealing with the topic at hand, it's an attempt to point out equal or even more egregious examples of the failings of the other side. Everyone does it. As a result, no political argument ever changes anyone's mind. No one in America is persuading anyone of anything. We're all just trying to win the exchange. Everyone is floundering around in search of a mic drop moment, but few ever find one.

My pastor tried valiantly yesterday to give us some sage advice, by sharing something quite profound. Live your life seeking to understand, rather than seeking to be understood.

.....But whatabout......





Sunday, June 4, 2017

Is Hollywood Out Of Ideas?

Cinebistro is our preferred movie house. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, our only movie house. Sure, it's expensive, but there are no kids, the floor is never sticky, and the food is out of this world. So, I was toying with the idea of taking my wife to a movie this evening. The six screens at Cinebistro are currently filled thusly:

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman 3D
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Baywatch
Alien: Covenant
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

In other words...Hollywood is out of ideas.

Ok, this lineup of films could be referred to as the revenge of the remake. You've got Wonder Woman, the latest in a long line of comic book..pardon me, graphic novels movies. This one, a reworking of a 70's television show. The only thing unique about this seems to be the fact that the hero is a woman and her first name isn't Chris.

The interminable Pirates of the Caribbean franchise returns for like the 16th time defying all explanation other than the fact that this is Hollywood's valiant and determined effort to keep Johnie Depp off food stamps.

Of course, then there's Baywatch, the answer to the question that absolutely no one was asking...When will Hollywood put The worst television show of the 1990's on the big screen?? This Show, best known for it's tight shots of female breasts bobbing up and down in slow motion, was actually begging to be made into a movie. With the technological advancements made over the last twenty years with HD and digital photography, I'm sure the bobbing boobs scenes will be off the charts.

Alien Covenant returns in its latest iteration, in a vain and pointless attempt to improve on the original. How many times can you watch a human being giving birth to a terrifying alien creature without eventually yawning?

I understand that this Guardians of the Galaxy thing is another graphic novel brought to life, and it has a Chris in it. But the emotional heavy lifting will be done by Vin Diesel playing someone named Groot. Luckily for the people at Disney, Mr. Diesel was available to take the part, as he had just wrapped up his turn as Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and had some time to kill before playing Othello in the fall.

But seriously, these were my choices. Two comic book pictures, a sequel of a sequel of a sequel of a movie based on a ride at Disneyworld, a television show remake, and a sci-fi sequel.

I think I'll read a book.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bill Maher's Bad Word

Bill Maher is all over my Twitter feed this morning. I'm not entirely sure who, or more precisely what he is. Sure, I know he has a show called Real Time on HBO which I don't watch. The only time I hear about him is when he says something unconventional enough to generate controversy, no small feat in today's America. What I'm not sure about is what he actually is, a comedian or a semi-serious political commentator? Since I don't watch the show, I'm not in a position to answer the question. Many of the controversial subjects I've heard him speak unconventionally about tend to be about serious business...hence the confusion.

Anyway, Mr. Maher has stepped in it, and suddenly the first amendment lynch mob has moved on from Kathy Griffin. (Hmmm, perhaps a little left wing pundit collusion???). See, I'm not even sure that lame attempt at a joke is accurate. Some of the opinions voiced by Maher on Islam, for example, seem positively neo-conish. It's all so very confusing.

Ok, so back to the topic at hand. On last night's show, Maher was interviewing Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska. The Senator has written a book extolling the virtue of physical, manual labor (among other things) as a character building tool for the youth of America. During the interview, there was a light hearted exchange about how Mr. Maher needed to get out of his east coast elite bubble and come visit the Great Plains. The Senator said that they would welcome him to Nebraska with open arms and even maybe put him to work "in the fields." Since the subject of this interview, and his book was the morally therapeutic benefits of manual labor, and Nebraska is widely known for it's farming economy, this was an understandable attempt at humor, to which, out of freaking nowhere, Maher says, " Work in the fields? Senator, I'm a house nigger."

Uh-oh...This may not end well.

Although the rules about using the N-Word have more amendments and codicils than a Hollywood divorce decree, generally speaking, white people need to avoid this word at all times. Nothing good comes from its use. It's one of those words that is loaded with so much baggage, so much pain, it should be permanently banished from our collective vocabularies. My mother made this painfully aware to me when she happened to hear it come flying out of my mouth when I was ten years old. First, she lectured me about how hateful and ignorant it was, then launched into a quick bible study review of the evils of the tongue, and then (because it was 1968 and she was Betty Dunnevant) she "tanned my hide" with the closest stick she could find. Suffice it to say...lesson learned!!

Already, there are calls to cancel his show. Twitter is in a righteous fury, mostly from the left but also from some conservatives who want to be consistent after a week of calling for the head of Kathy Griffin,(sorry). So, what is a libertarian like me supposed to do?

I generally don't want anyone censored for words spoken. Calls for boycotts and cancellations seem juvenile to me, and vaguely Un-American. Land of the free, and all that. However, when I hear someone throw this particular word around, it does inform me about a great many things. If I were at a party and just met someone and were having an introductory conversation with them and they were to suddenly drop the N-Word during that conversation...I would instantly disengage, and probably say something like, Wait...what the hell is wrong with you, man? Their use of this sort of language tells me everything I need to know about them, primarily that there is a profound emptiness in their heart, and that they are someone who I no longer desire to be associated with. However, my next step would not be to begin a Facebook/Twitter campaign urging everyone who knows them to shun them from society. I mean, who died and placed me in charge?? In Maher's case, I now know more about him than I did before, and it ain't good. So, lesson learned. No Real Time With Bill Maher for me. Time to move on to the next outrage.

I hope he gets to keep his show, that he doesn't lose his livelihood because of a spoken word. But, I also hope that fewer and fewer people watch it, and eventually the free market votes his show away. Isn't this the same thing? If you think so, you completely don't understand the First Amendment. But it's not just you, there's a lot of that going around.




Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stupid Metabolism...

Six weeks ago, I went on a diet. I'm 59. I've never, ever been on a diet. Mostly, this is because I've never piled on the weight. Thirty five years ago I was 185 pounds and for most every year since I've fluctuated between 185 and 190. The other reason I've never been on a diet is because I love food, and launching myself into some project that conspires to limit my access to food always seemed...well, stupid.

Suddenly, around a year ago I noticed that I was putting on weight. I wasn't doing anything differently. I was eating all the same stuff, still faithfully putting in my 3-4 workouts at the gym every week. But for some inexplicable reason, everything changed. A couple of months ago I stepped on the scale and was astonished to see the green digital number...203.4 blinking back at me. What was this outrage?? Surely our old scale was defective. But later, at the gym, their much newer, shinier scale confirmed the sad news. Actually, the reason for my weight gain wasn't inexplicable at all. For years, whenever one of my buddies would complain about gaining weight, I would pat my belly and say something obnoxious like, "You see this svelte physique? I got two words for you, my friend...superior metabolism!!" 

Uh...no longer. It would appear that Middle Age has caught up to me. So, I went on a diet.

It involves this app called My Fitness Pal, a truly annoying name for a diet if ever there was one. No, a diet is not my pal, buddy, or friend. It is this ruthless, demanding, 24/7 buzzkill that stalks me day in and day out, doling out guilt by the truckload every time I even look sideways at a donut. For the first several weeks of this purgatory, Pam did all the heavy lifting with the meal planning and such. I faithfully entered all of my meals into the fiendish app, appalled at what I learned about the quality of my diet. Note: I consume enough sodium on a daily basis to give my entire neighborhood high blood pressure. If I ever looked over my shoulder at Sodom, I wouldn't turn into a pillar of salt...because I already am one! But after the initial logging everything in phase, eventually I stopped logging in at all. But, I still stayed on the diet in one important way, I stopped eating so dang much food!! Smaller portions, better stuff, no snacks between meals. That's the extent of my diet right now...not stuffing so much food in my pie hole. Not very scientific, but when I stepped on the scale this morning, the blinking green number said, "192.8"

Of course, here's how this works. During the week, from Monday morning until Friday afternoon, I take great care to demonstrate restraint. I'm careful. I hit the gym pretty hard. But then the weekend comes and, well...man does not live by bread alone, people. We eat out a couple of times, or even worse, go visit the kids where we eat out a lot. So, essentially, every weekend I gain back 2-3 pounds.  It's one of those two steps forward, one step back sort of things. But, that's ok. The overall line still heads down, and that's all that matters. But, I gotta tell ya...I do love the weekends!

My goal when this all started was to get down to 190. Three more pounds to go.

Who am I kidding? I am fighting a rear guard action here. Stupid metabolism. For the rest of my life it's going to be a battle to keep the weight off. Right now I'm winning...a little. But, I know that losing some battles is just around the corner. I'm one encounter with a food truck away from a huge setback. You ever see me walking into a Brazilian steak house and you'll know that all bets are off.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kathy Griffin and My Dilemma.

Just when I thought there was literally no form of Trump bashing that was unacceptable in America, a Hollywood D-lister comes along and proves me wrong. Thanks to Kathy Griffin, I now know that holding up a bloody, beheaded image of someone who is a dead ringer for the President, is beyond the pale. I mean sure...there was that Bush head on a spike image in Game of Thrones a few years back, but that was clearly an artsy thing, and it was George W. Bush for crying out loud. This severed, beheaded Trump thing was different. It looked an awful lot like something ISIS would have produced, only with better lighting. Nevertheless, the reaction was swift and bipartisan, conservatives and liberals, united in their disdain for Griffin's gag. Good.

I will now attempt to give voice to a nagging concern I have about the current state of American politics. It's an observation that has been slow to develope, but over time has picked up steam up there in the vast empty spaces of my gray matter. Here goes:

I take a back seat to no one  when it comes to my frustration with the Vaudvillian dumpster fire that is the Trump presidency. I have written of my views of the man many times in this space. I take back none of it. But, most of you also know of my other bedrock political belief, which is a congenital distrust of establishment politicians. I believe that in America there exists a permanent class of oligarchs, a bipartisan gang of apparatchiks who have been made rich by government, and who have a vested interest in keeping and hoarding all the status in status quo. Who are some examples of these people? In no particular order...Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham, Diane Feinstein, Chuck Grassley, Dick Durbin. Everyone of these people, and others like them, are united by one thing...their white hot hatred of Donald Trump. This is the seed of the idea that is troubling me. As much of an unstable, embarrassment as Trump can be, he sure has all of the right enemies. Sure, it might be the broken clock theory at work here...no matter how moronic someone might be, the law of averages says that at some point they will be right about something, after all, a broken clock is still right twice a day. I sure hope that's what it is. Otherwise, I am faced with the possibility that what unites all of these establishment gadflies is their fear that Trump is a threat to their privilege and power. Who is this unrefined outsider who thinks he can waltz in here and bust up our racket?? So, I've got to decide which is worse, having a tweeting, vulgar, narcissist in the White House, or perpetuating an oligharchy which has enriched itself lustily at the public trough while wracking up 20 trillion dollars worth of debt for the rest of us to deal with? Is the enemy of my enemy really my friend?

Of course, a third option is out there on the far edge of the table...the blood-sucking, establishmentarians and Donald Trump are equal disasters. In which case, we're screwed..and will the last person in Washington please turn out the lights on your way out?

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Fallen Star




This is a difficult image. It's hard for me to look at full on, eye to eye. And I'm not even a Tiger Woods fan.

When this story broke earlier today, I wasn't surprised. After all, Mr. Woods has been on a slow fade into oblivion since his spaceship of a life came crashing down to earth nine years ago, that fateful night in Florida, his crumbling body surpassed only by his crumbling reputation. Still, this picture still shocks.

In his prime, I didn't care for him. He was just too good. Funny how that happens in sports. We say  that we want excellence in our athletes, but what we mean is occasional excellence...not too much. The very best are always hated by at least as many people as love them. Tom Brady, Lebron James, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods. Everyone of them has a legion of haters out there gleefully cheering every mistake, denigrating every accomplishment. Today, Google any story about this DUI arrest and you will see a comment section dominated by people positively giddy at his latest humiliation. But, when I read the story and then look into the eyes of this once great athlete, I am overcome by sadness.

Yes, yes...I know. Tiger Woods made a fortune selling a lie to the world. He carefully crafted a wholesome, family man image that allowed him to sell us everything from wristwatches to Buicks. His was the story of prodigy made good through tenacious competitiveness and a work ethic forged into his DNA by his USArmy officer father. Here was natural talent wed to hard work. How could he not be great? But, there was always around Tiger Woods an air of arrogance, an off putting cockiness vibe. It's why I always rooted for whoever he was paired with on Sunday. That was actually the only time I bothered to watch golf on television...to see Tiger get beat. I wasn't alone. There were millions of us, and without Tiger those millions of eyeballs are watching something else on Sundays.

But even I had to admit that I had never seen anything like him before. I'm old enough to remember watching Jack play. He was great. I never watched Arnie, my favorite golfer, when he was in his prime. I saw a little of Gary Player, a lot of Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. They were all great. But none of them were Tiger woods great. Nobody hit the kinds of shots that Tiger hit. Nobody made as many clutch putts as Tiger Woods made. He was a phenomenon.

And now, it is all in pieces, his life seemingly ground into a fine dust, and his fall from grace has been as deep as his ascent had been steep. The four back surgeries have taken his game away, and his reckless personal behavior has destroyed his marriage. Now, his deshelved hair, unkempt beard and bulging, bloodshot eyes are plastered across every computer and television screen the world over, his epic disintegration laid bare.

I cannot take any pleasure from such a sight. I will not rejoice in such a thing. I can only pray that God will place someone in the man's life who can help him recover, help him pull himself out of the mire.

I am now a Tiger Woods fan.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Eternal Search

I've just spent the last hour and a half doing the same thing I do every year about this time. As soon as  the Memorial Day weekend comes around, something draws me to my computer, where I find myself Googling Mid-Coast Maine lake houses. I blame my wife. If I had never met her I would have had no reason to ever set foot in Maine. I could have avoided this obsessive compulsion to be there when warm weather arrives.

A couple of years ago I made the decision that buying a lake house in Maine was a stupid idea. Even if we lived there all summer, (which we would), it would still be a stupid idea because my kids and my future grandkids wouldn't be able to afford flying up every summer. They wouldn't be in a position to visit for a month at a time, like they do in the fevered dreams of my imagination. No, we decided that renting a place for a month every summer was a better plan. Last year it was a beautiful house on Hobbs Pond, this year it will be an even more beautiful place on Quantabacook Lake. And yet, every year, I search the listings. Maybe I'll find the place that has my name on it, the place that I can pass on to my family when I die. Every year, they will all gather there for a couple of weeks in the summer and sit around the fire at night telling stories about me. In this way, I will live on, never leaving their hearts and minds. It would be the Dunnevant family compound and we would all vote on an awesome name for the place. The Bush's have the Bush Compound in Kennebunkport with 24/7 secret service protection. We would have the Dunnevant Compound on Megunticook with major plumbing headaches and a really annoying caretaker. But still...it would be ours.

But, it's just too far away. The trip from here to there is too long, hard and dangerous.

So, we rent a place every summer, which belongs to someone else, and is full of their memories. We Dunnevantize the place for a month and pretend that it's ours, and it actually works quite well. Then Memorial Day comes and I type in Mid-Coast Maine lake houses, obeying some primal urge within my heart which will not be denied.

Oh...here's one, three bedrooms, two baths, on Frye Island in the middle of Sebago Lake accessible only by ferry...an absolute steal at $475,000.

Hmmmm......

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Montana Special Election

Three quick observations about the special election in Montana last night:

1. Whenever the Democrats get around to actually winning one of these special elections, that will be the one which actually will be a referendum on Trump.

2. To all these Democrats complaining about the fact that 35% of the votes cast were early votes which couldn't be changed...here's a novel idea...how about we set up one day where everyone gets to vote, just one day. We can call it Election Day.

3. Republican candidate Greg Gianforte might be the first politician in history who when he says, I'll fight for you, actually means it literally.

I love reading all of the reaction to the body-slamming tango between Gianforte and the reporter. Many Republicans were reserving judgement pending a full accounting of the facts of the case, like what was said prior to the assault. Seriously? Does this mean that if the reporter actually said something really mean and nasty, it would make the assault by Gianforte...ok??

Reporter: Mr. Gianforte, I gotta say man...I think you are the sorriest excuse for a human being I've run across in my entire career covering politics. Think about that for a minute, dude. I cover politicians, and you, my friend are the lowest of that life form! Oh, and your wife is ugly and she smells like mothballs.

Oh, well sure. That explains it!! Damn reporter had it coming.

Full stop, people. I can't believe I'm actually writing this...but there is no circumstance on this planet that would justify any politician physically assaulting a reporter, no matter how obnoxious and moronic the reporter might be. This is non-negotiable. Part of the job of our worthless public officials is to subject themselves to obnoxious questions from the press. There's even something in that Bill of Rights thing about this, you can look it up. Beating reporters up isn't part of the process. I mean, it's perfectly fine to make them look stupid by exposing their biases, but not ok to like...choke them. Belittle them for their laziness and water carrying reliance on Democratic Party talking points? Absolutely. Punch them in the face? No.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Joe's Ice Cream. A Modern Fable.

Bob walks into his favorite ice cream store. The owner of the ice cream store, Joe, is behind the counter:

Bob: What's up, Joe?

Joe: Busy as a one-armed paper hanger, Bob. How's the family?

Bob: Couldn't be better. I'll take my usual.

Joe: Ok, so...I'm afraid I can't do that.

Bob: Wait, don't tell me you're out of macadamia nut truffle!!

Joe: No, not exactly. I've got plenty. It's just that you can't have that flavor anymore.

Bob: But...I love macadamia nut truffle.

Joe: Yeah, I know. You've been coming in my shop twice a week buying macadamia nut truffle for the past twenty years now, and, don't get me wrong, I really appreciate your business, but yeah...you can't have that flavor anymore.

Bob: What do you mean, I can't have my favorite ice cream in the world?? Who died and put you in charge?

Joe: It's not me Bob, if it was up to me I'd sell you a gallon of the stuff. It's this new regulation from the Department of Health. Starting today, I can't serve macadamia nut truffle ice cream to anyone who has bought it for the last twenty years. Something about it being bad for your blood pressure or blood sugar, I forget which. Yeah, so...no more macadamia nut truffle. But, you are allowed to buy anything in this freezer over here.

Bob: But, this freezer only has vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Joe: Neapolitan...it's called "neapolitan."

Bob: I know what it's called, Joe!! I don't want "Neapolitan" I want macadamia nut truffle!

Joe: I'd love to help you Bob, but they'll shut me down if I sell you what you want. This is the law now, so if you want to get your ice cream from me, it has to be Neapolitan or nothing.

Bob: You're not the only ice cream store in town, Joe. I could always head over to The Creamery Crock down the street.

Joe: True. But they can't sell you any macadamia nut truffle either. Same regulation applies to them too. Were all the same now.

Bob: I can't believe this is happening.

Joe: Me neither.

Bob: Ok, well I guess I'll take a double scoop of this Neapolitan on a sugar cone, then.

Joe: Coming right up.

Bob: This is ridiculous...

Joe: Ok...that will be $7.37.

Bob: What?? You doubled the price??

Joe: I didn't double the price. This new regulation doubled my expenses. I had to buy a special new freezer, special new ergonomic scoops, and a couple new computer programs to handle the reporting requirements of the new regulation. That stuff adds up, man. I'm obsorbing some of the extra costs, but I'm forced to pass on some of them to you.

Bob: So, let me get this straight. All of a sudden, somebody at the Health Department decides that they know what kind of ice cream is right for me, takes away the ice cream that I love, then charges me twice as much for ice cream that I don't even want???

Joe: Sounds worse when you say it. But yeah, that's about the size of it.

Bob: You know what? I've got half a mind to just start making my own ice cream...at home...with one of those hand crank things.

Joe: I'm afraid that's the whole idea. The Health Department folks don't think much of the ice cream business, you know...all those calories, all that sugar. But, they can't just shut us all down. So they're doing the next best thing...driving us out of business little by little.

Bob: But, they know best, right?

Joe: That's what I'm told.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Good Boy.

I have one son, and tomorrow is his birthday. He will be 28 years old. I can hardly believe it. Many of you have never met him and only know him as the guy who argues with his Dad a lot on Facebook. Others reading this have known him since he was a baby. He's quite a kid, this son of mine. And incidentally, my daughter argues with me just as much as her brother does...just not on Facebook as much!

I hesitate calling him a good boy, since that makes him sound like a middle schooler. He's a grown man, I hate to admit, since that makes me kinda old. But the fact of the matter is, he is a good boy. He's whip smart, talented and funny. He has a good heart, a pure heart, in that there's lots of room in there for his fellow man. Four years ago when he was still in graduate school, on his 24th birthday, I wrote this...

The thing I’m most proud of in my boy is his ability to think for himself. Patrick will never be bullied into group-think. He thinks things through and comes to his own conclusions about difficult problems. He doesn’t believe a certain way just because his father does. He thinks. He researches things, listens to others and makes his own informed judgment. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but I’m always proud of how he arrives at his views, through careful thought, without lazy reliance on  dogma. When his views aren’t popular, he has the courage to defend them. A father can’t ask for much more than that.

Yes, my son and I often disagree on issues great and small, especially, on Facebook. But whenever we go at it I am reminded that he learned his argumentative style from his father, so I suppose I should take it as a compliment. 

I'm very proud of my son. He's working his tail off in a city with a different time zone than mine. He has two jobs and is constantly taking on song writing and arranging assignments, all the while spending as much of his spare time as possible in volunteer music projects all over Nashville. Whenever we travel there his friends speak so fondly of him, clear confirmation to his parents that it's not just us, other people see it too. 

My son is a good boy.

A Day In The Life

Yesterday was one of those bad days right out of central casting, complete with rain and dark, low clouds. It was the sort of day one often experiences immediately after a trip away. The awfulness of this particular day centered around three things, giving it a weirdly organized morning, noon and night theme. So, if you were going to write about such a day, it would be rather easy to gather your thoughts. Here goes...

First of all, I have recently come to grips with all of the government mandated changes sweeping over my profession. With the help of my wife I have made peace with it, accepted it's inevitability, and attempted to move on with life. Despite this new acceptance, yesterday brought new revelations that make compliance even more difficult. Just when I thought I had reached the top of the bell curve of understanding, I find myself once again...scrambling up the edges of the thing. Now, a new strategy must be employed, a new, more logical explanation found to use when presenting this new reality to my clients. Yesterday was a jarring one. It felt like a setback to me. Most of my afternoon was spent dealing with this new information, trying to make sense of it. The time got away from me. Suddenly, I looked up and it was 5:00 and time to attend a memorial gathering at a friend's house who had recently lost his wife to cancer. I walked to my car in the parking lot through a misty rain.

My friend is my age. We are two months apart. His wife was Pam's age...and he had spent the past six months or so watching her die. As I drove out to their house I wondered how he would be holding up. He was struggling. He had aged since last I saw him. Who wouldn't have? He loved her in the same way that I try to love Pam, with absolute devotion and honor. Her loss seems to have cast him adrift. In other words, he looks exactly like I would look if I lost Pam. Nobody knows what to say at times like this. I certainly didn't. I mumbled something stupid and empty. He talked about her, struggling to keep his composure. Then, he leaned in close to me and whispered, "Die first..." The drive home was somber. The rain had picked up.

After sleep-walking through dinner, I settled into my library recliner and opened up my iPad. There on Facebook, my newsfeed was dominated by some guy I vaguely remember from years ago at Grove. He was a singer. Not a member of the church, but connected to it somehow. The guy had an incredible voice, and for some inexplicable reason had found his way onto my Facebook friends list. And now, after a very long and bruising day, this thirty-something year old man with a beautiful wife and a couple of kids had decided to announce to the world that he was gay....on Facebook. It was quite the spectacle, an Olympian effort of self pity. Since I came out earlier today, I've lost 134 friends on Facebook. What does that tell you, he pleaded at one point. Well, since he has over 4000 such Facebook friends, it tells me that he lost 3% of them. Not bad, actually. Then, the church where he is employed apparently informed him that he wouldn't be able to sing there any longer. His response was a drama-filled, I would cry but I'm all out of tears.

I read his posts and then scanned through the hundreds of responses. They had the effect of putting me a trance, unable to comprehend what kind of thought process was at play in his mind to lead him to think that coming out on Facebook was a good idea. Although I felt bad for him as a human being, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of day his wife and children were having. I wondered if they were out of tears too?

It was the perfect ending to a perfectly horrible day, a day that felt like something was crumbling around me.

But, today is a new day, and it owes yesterday nothing. On this day, I will move the ball down the field a few feet while grappling with change. My friend will wake up in the house that he and his wife built, without her in it. There will be a gaping hole in his heart where she used to be, but he will put one foot in front of the other and carry on. And my Facebook friend who can't quite decide if he's gay or merely bi-sexual, will, no doubt, be over-sharing his plight on social media.

This is what my world looks like today, May 24, in the year of our Lord, 2017.

Monday, May 22, 2017

All I Have Needed...

Great weekend. The Portara concert was wonderful. Everything went off without a hitch. So, today we make the 600 mile drive back home, back to our life in Short Pump.

The strangest thing happened to me in church yesterday. Patrick is a paid section leader in the choir at West End United Methodist church in Nashville. It meets in one of those old, stately buildings that feature grand stained glass windows and giant stone archways. There's that smell of furniture polish and musty carpeting so familiar to me from my childhood. The service at West End is highly liturgical, and the pulpit is hovered over by an imposing pipe organ, the kind that you feel in your chest at times. Towards the end of the service, the organ began blasting out the notes of Great is Thy Faithfulness, as the recessional. The congregation was invited to sing...all three verses.

...there is no shadow of turning with thee...

Music has a tendency, like smells, to evoke memories. As the words of this old hymn began ringing out in the great hall, a flood of them came to me...the musty taste of stale sugar cookies and kool-aid in cinderblock rooms during vacation bible school, the clink-clank of silverwear in the fellowship hall  while standing in line at a covered-dish supper.

...thou changeth not, thy compassions they fail not...

It had been so long since I had heard a crowd of people inside a church singing this old song from full-throated memory. It occurred to me that it had been one of mother's favorites. We kids would frequently hear her singing it while she did the dishes or ironed our shirts.

...as thou hath been, thou forever wilt be...

I began to feel a sense of great loss for some reason. The memories stirred to life by this hymn felt ancient, yet stillborn. They came from a place I can never again go, a time that only occasionally comes to life in a photograph or in the lyric of a song.

...Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see...

Then, suddenly my voice went silent. A tightness came to my throat. My mouth moved to form the words, but no words would come. My eyes became moist. It was as if I could actually see my mother standing at the sink, wearing her apron, humming the tune until she got to these words. It was at this moment when we could all hear her rich alto sing the words that I could not...

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

The emotion startled me. Where had it come from, so powerful and intense? The second verse began and I quickly recovered, but when the chorus came back around, the heaviness in the throat returned. Once again, I couldn't form the words...

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided...

I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the human mind and the place that memory has in the heart of man. But, for me, music is often the catalyst. But, why this particular line, why these words? Perhaps because it perfectly reflected my mother's entire life on this earth.

...all I have needed thy hands hath provided...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Please. Read. This.


Www.cua.edu/speeches-and-homilies/2017/commencement-2017.html

The above link is my blog for today. It cannot be improved upon by anything I might add. She is one of my heros, and her commencement address is so profoundly wise and beautiful, I feel it my duty to insure that as many people as possible read it. Pour yourself some coffee, give yourself fifteen uninterrupted minutes and read this. You will not be disappointed.

You're welcomed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Getting Pumped for The Escape

Ok, today has many fun things on the agenda. First thing for me will be an hour in the workout room of the hotel. Last night, I gorged myself on not one, but TWO ginormous kielbasas. They were almost  Blazing Saddles big, so much so that I almost felt compelled to say, Auf Wiedersehen, baby to the waitress when we left! Anyway, the damage has been done, so repair work must be done, which will include at least three miles on the treadmill.

Patrick and Sarah have a rehearsal planned this morning for their Portara concert on Sunday night, so they are tied up. We have been tasked with the huge job of securing lunch from the famed Hattie B's.
Apparently, there is no hope for actually getting a table, so plan B is for us to order our food at their website, then go pick it up from the place, then meet Patrick and Sarah at his apartment so we can eat it there. What in tarnation is up with this Hattie B place, anyway? I've never heard of a restaurant where actually getting a table is considered a bridge too far. This Nashville hot chicken is apparently all that and more. I'm told by my son to not even think about getting my chicken with the hot designation. He says that I'll have enough trouble with the medium, that hot is undoable. Hmmm....

Assuming we can secure our lunch without incedent, Patrick will then take us to visit the famous Nashville Parthenon, which somehow in our previous 38 trips down here, we've managed to miss. It is essentially a full-sized replica of the Greek original and contains an American knockoff of Athena herself.



So, after an afternoon of unabashed idol-worship, we will meet back up with Sarah for another fabulous dinner in this city of unlimited culinary choice. I forget which restaurant we decided on, but I'm sure it will be amazing. After dinner, the highlight of the day will feature the four of us paying $40 a head to be placed in a locked room with four complete strangers and tasked with solving a vexing puzzle all the while a gigantic clock tics overhead reminding us how much time we have left to either solve the puzzle of die in a hail of gunfire/ be boiled in a giant vat of acid/ or succumb to instant nuclear winter....metaphorically. The game is called Escape, and it's a thing. Sounds awesome to me, but I'm nervous we will get teamed up with some loser family from Arkansas on their first trip to the big city...look Ethyl, them steps actually move, you don't even have to climb!!!! Or even worse, we'll get the group of four social justice warriors in town for the George Soros "Resist symposium"...this game blows!! It's so patriarchal! Regardless, I am confident that we will prevail, despite whatever dead weight we are asked to carry. We are Dunnevant's, after all.