Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018...

It’s New Year’s Eve and as of this hour, I still have no plans for the night. Yesterday began what will be a three week journey through a massive to-do list in preparation for having our downstairs hardwood floors refinished. 2018 will be the year which begins in chaos, our daily routines in tatters due to an October dishwasher malfunction. We made it through three or four items on the list yesterday in what felt like a hollow victory since the list is so long and daunting. Today, I’m thinking, will be consumed with taking down and packing up all of the Christmas decorations along with an extensive grocery shopping trip. My wife has designated 2018 as the year that she will be on a mission to throw stuff away. When she found me stacking up empty boxes from the Christmas present wrapping room for transport up into the attic, she shocked by instructing me to tear apart each box and put it in the recycling. Apparently she is dead serious with this out with the old business, so I’m hoping that I’m not included! 

One of the items on the list for yesterday was to visit a doggie daycare business in Short Pump. In a couple of weeks we will need to retreat from our house into a hotel for five or six days while the floors are being worked on, which means we will have to do something with Lucy during the day, since dogs cannot be left unattended even in dog friendly hotels. Lucy has never been boarded anywhere...for obvious reasons, making finding a suitable place a troublesome prospect. 

So, we walk into this place yesterday afternoon and are greeted by the sound of scared barking coming from behind a set of double doors. Later, we were allowed to observe the inside of the facility where the scared barking was coming from...a series of cages in various sizes, occupied by shivering dogs in various stages of nervous breakdowns. Then, we notice that one of the primary care givers was a rather large African-American man. Great. Two of the top five things that terrify Lucy the most on full display...large containers and a black man. But, it’s only for like seven hours at a time, and then we will come get her...and take her to our hotel room for the night. This is gonna be great!! Of course, I better not count my chickens. Before this establishment will accept Lucy, she must pass muster by enduring a trial run day, whereby I drop her off at 8:00 in the morning one day next week and let her interact with the other dogs and staff to see how she gets along. I’m half expecting to get a call from the large black man by ten o’clock demanding that I come get Lucy immediately, since she has barricaded herself behind several overturned cages and has taken several chihuahuas as hostages. Damn that dishwasher!!!

While all of this is going on, I’ll be starting the 36th year of my business career. When I finished my planning a couple days ago it became apparent to me that 2018 was going to involve more resolve and determined effort than has been required over the past few years. There are lots of extenuating circumstances on the calendar which require...money, so back to work I go. I will still have time for writing in this blog, but will probably write less about politics for the simple reason that when I’m fully engaged in the business of my business, politics gets regulated to the scrap heap. It’s only when I have lots of free time and greater access to leisurely pursuits that I find politics interesting. When I’m busy, politics falls back to its default position of being simply annoying. 

I have no list of resolutions for 2018, not that I can’t find things I need to be resolute about, but rather, the things I need to improve about myself are eternal, always on my list of things to work on. I will forever struggle to be more patient, kind, and understanding. I will for the rest of my natural life battle the accumulation of unwanted weight. Making a list of my personal failings only serves to remind me of their continued existence and my past failures at self improvement. So, instead, I have condensed my goals for 2018 to a workable phrase which I hope to pursue consistently throughout the year...

...Love people, use things, and worship God.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Great Retooling

Yesterday began a two day process I endure on the last couple of work days of each year. I call it The Great Retooling, whereby I bring a big, empty box into my office and begin throwing things into it. It’s like a spring cleaning, only in December. This year it was made worse by the fact that, for reasons I cannot recall, last year’s Retooling wasn’t done. So, this year I had two year’s worth of business minutiae to dispose of. By the time the shredder guy showed up, he needed one of those fifty gallon trash cans to gather it all. Of course, maybe this year I went a little overboard. I made the snap decision to finally part with my appointment books from 1991-2014, keeping the last three years only. Now, if some auditor from the SEC shows up demanding to know where I was on March 20, 1997 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I’m going to be out of luck. I was more sanguine about my bold decision to finally part with all of my tax returns from the last century, and the first decade of this century. Surely the IRS will let those bygones be bygones.

Today will be part two of the Retooling, and the harder part of the two day ordeal. This is the day that I plot and scheme my way to solvency. I start out by taking inventory of assets under management. Then I examine every detail of the previous year’s transactions. I then plot all of this data onto a spreadsheet, comparing it to the same numbers from the previous three, five, and ten year numbers. From this data, I can then make a reasonable projection of what I can expect for 2018. I say reasonable because, I am in the investment business, an enterprise known for laying waste to a whole host of well thought out projections. Still, I will labor on with my planning. I will then make a list of the many special expenses facing me in the coming year. A quick survey reveals many such expenses on the horizon:

# My son’s wedding
# Kitchen remodel
# New carpeting upstairs
# Two three week Maine vacations (self inflicted)

Once tabulated, I then will determine just how much business I will have to produce to meet these obligations, working backward from the amount of money required to the amount of effort necessary. I have a feeling that today’s calculations will be a sobering exercise. However, this year I will be aided in my work by a new partner:


This fine new leather briefcase was a Christmas gift from my wife and smells even better than it looks. It was bought to replace my old briefcase with which I have had a wildly successful 30 year run. But, the thing was starting to show its age, and the high fashion ladies that work in my office have gone to great lengths to shame me for carrying it around. While it is true that it was in bad shape, even getting to the point where it would leave little chunks of itself behind on any surface on which it was thrown down, it was still hard to retire the old girl:


So, I didn’t. I placed it on the floor behind one of my filing cabinets...just in case this new one is cursed or something. Listen, I built this business carrying this old thing around. I’m not about to throw it away just because it’s actually started decomposing. I am nothing if not loyal.

Anyway, I have said all of this to be able to explain the best part of yesterday. While cleaning out a drawer of my credenza, I came upon a photograph that stopped me dead in my tracks:


I found it at a particularly low point in my day. The enormity of the task was beginning to weigh on me when this picture slipped out of a pile of thank-you notes I had kept from clients over the years. I stopped. I sat down. There was no clarifying remarks on the back, so I have no idea where we were or what the occasion was. I just stared at these two strange people, familiar, yet almost strangers. We couldn’t have been more than mid thirties, meaning that this was over 25 years ago, meaning further that we were broke, with two young children. I have that cocky look of a man on his way up who thinks he knows everything, who is trying desperately to make everyone think that he isn’t actually scared to death that he’s going to be a horrible failure. But then I look at my wife...there she is, maybe 30 years old, a stay at home mother of two toddlers, looking radiant, thrilled to be dressed up and out from under the crushing weight of Mom responsibilities, if even just for this one night. That smile. Those eyes. She is ready for whatever setbacks I will encounter. She is ready, willing and able to provide the encouragement I will need when the skies become dark and laden with doubt. Every day when I come back home from my latest triumph or failure, she is going to be there to make things better. She will not allow me to give in to self pity on the bad days, or to pride on the good days. She will remind me that no matter what happened that day at work, I had duties and responsibilities right here at home, speaking of which, would I give the kids their baths? 

I slipped the picture into a special compartment in my new briefcase. It will remain there for the rest of my life.





Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Ridiculous Meal

Last night, I took the family out for our only restaurant meal of the week. It was at Maggiano’s, and it was ridiculous.

Our reservation was for 7:30 pm. We arrived five minutes early to discover a large jostling crowd just inside the revolving door. Pam made her way through the throng to announce our arrival only to be told that they were behind in their reservations due to the fact that a man had fallen down the stairs earlier. In literature, this is what is known as foreshadowing. 

We found a spot in the lounge to wait out the promised fifteen minute delay, which turned into thirty. But, it’s Christmas...and who are we to begrudge the proper care of an elderly man fallen down a flight of stairs? We relaxed at our table until our buzzer finally began it’s buzzing. We were escorted to a table by a waitress who was oddly unaware of any man having fallen down the stairs. I let it go. She seemed nice.

There was a special Holiday Menu which extolled the virtues of the family style ordering regime whereby the table picks one salad, one appetizer, two pastas, two meats, and two desserts from a list of possibilities, all for the exploitive price of $44.95...each. But hey, with the pending lawsuit coming from the old man, a restaurant has to do what a restaurant has to do. My family surprised me by reaching consensus quickly. Our table would be served a Caesar salad, zucchini frittes, gnocchi with Italian sausage, ravioli, chicken piccata, beef tenderloin, topped off with a dessert of apple crustada and tiramisu. Of course, my kids being my kids, they ordered a strange assortment of adult beverages featuring copper cups, festive colors and what looked like twigs from the herb garden sticking out of the top of the glass. 

I am a veteran of Maggiano’s, so I know the importance of pacing oneself early in the meal. Although I truly love the zucchini frittes and could put on a gluttony clinic on them alone, I limited my intake to two. I also showed Herculean restraint by completely passing on the bread basket sitting provocatively at my left elbow, it’s heavenly bread smells wafting skyward. No... I knew what was coming, so I resisted.

Then our able waitress brought the main dishes, struggling to find space on the table for the four huge plates. The first taste of gnocchi put an end to my restraint. I began devouring all of the delicious bounty set before me like a man possessed. I warned myself quietly to save room for dessert, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to resist the tiramisu no matter how many slices of tenderloin I inhaled. By the time it was over, we had six takehome boxes of overflow, and a bill for over $400. My wife made the observation that we could have stayed home and ordered pizza instead, to which I observed, Yeah, for a month. As I rose from the table to leave, I was supremely grateful that I was on the ground floor of the establishment, since if I had been asked to negotiate a flight of stairs at that point, I would have suffered the same fate as the future plaintiff in the case of Old Geezer vs Maggiano’s.

After driving around for an hour or so looking at Christmas lights, we finally made it back to the house where we all managed to waddle into the house without incedent. When someone suggested that we all get back into our Christmas jammies, Sarah made her first Dunnevant-esk quip when she deadpanned, Sure...if they still fit.

Now, 12 hours later, Pam is preparing her famous Christmas breakfast. The enthusiasm level for this long awaited meal isn’t as robust as in past years. 

Something tells me we will rally...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, when all through my castle,
All of us were asleep, enjoying a break from the hassle.
The hastily wrapped presents were thrown under the tree when done,
And I fervently hoped no one would notice the price tags left on each one.

Two exhausted retrievers were draped awkwardly across two humans in two different beds, 
While visions of UPS drivers danced in their heads.
And, Mama in her Soma silk pajamas, and me in my Hanes underwear, 
Had just settled what was left of our brains, for a night of fitful sleep somewhere.

When from inside my house there arose such a maddening racket,
I felt like I was caught in a scene from Full Metal Jacket.
Away to the hallway, I stumbled like a drunk
Tripping on chew toys, lost in a funk.

There was no moonlight, just the TV glow from Jimmy Fallon,
The only luster on the lawn came from the neighbor’s Christmas Dragon 
When what to my wondering, half closed eyes should appear,
But a giant FEDEX truck and two guys drinking beer!

Nothing I could do to quell the dogs from their barking, 
While outside, two drunken delivery men on my quiet street were parking
A handful of Amazon boxes on my lawn they did scatter,
When I decided to venture out to see what was the matter.

It was then that I discovered the reason for the helter skelter 
As I listened to the tale of our 21st century Santa’s helpers
These elves had been delivering our treasures for thirty six hours without lapse,
How could I then find fault with their copious consumption of Pabst?

Now that this knockoff poem has lost all rhyme and reason,
Perhaps it best that I leave you with a reminder of the season.
The men and women in their trucks, vans and trolleys, 
Charged with delivering our My Pillows, Keurigs, and dollies,
Lift a prayer, and offer a tip, bring hot cocoa and offer a sip.

And after dropping off boxes, he turned with a stagger
He looked at me and his finger did wagger 
Why should I worry about the fate of my liver,
When I still have a hundred more packages to deliver?

And I heard him exclaim to the gathered crowd of yokels,
Merry Christmas to all...and would it kill you to buy local?


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Breakfast at Satterwhite’s

Waiting on my oldest child, along with her husband, and faithful dog to arrive. The house looks great. Presents are piled under the tree, the infamous Snow Village has graced us with a partial appearance, and our neighbors have inflated the Christmas Dragon to its full nine feet of wing-flapping horror to greet them. Meanwhile, my last full meal was consumed this morning at 7:00 am at Satterwhite’s, a grill which I last visited 30 years ago, on the occasion of one of my most ill-advised projects which featured my attempt to consume one of their famous Mammoth Burgers by myself. It was a fool’s errand. For those of you not from around here, back in the day, Satterwhite’s was quite the place. Actually, it still is, despite the explosion of growth in Goochland County, this classic old-school dive has not only survived, but is now shrouded in fable...like my story about the famed Mammoth Burger. 

Actually, it wasn’t really a burger at all, more like a giant slab of meatloaf on a ginormous bun. I have searched the interwebs high and low in vain searching for a photograph of one of these babies, but none exist. You’ll have to use your imagination. The thing was about 8 inches in diameter, and the slab of meat loaf was about three inches thick. It came with ketchup, dill pickles, yellow mustard, and 25% off your first bypass operation. I mention all of this because visiting Satterwhite’s once again after such a long absence was a wonderful experience that has me kicking myself for abandoning the place once all the development came in and shuffled all the old places to the sidelines. Everybody wants to try the newest place that everybody is talking about, right? Most of the old places gave up and disappeared...but not Satterwhite’s. Clearly, they haven’t been pouring money into refurbishing the place’s look...nearly identical to how it looked the day I woofed down approximately three quarters of that Mammoth Burger...






I think they call that look, Whitewashed Cinderblock Chic. No matter, the inside hasn’t been updated either...


But, if you want two eggs, with toast, and a side order of country ham big enough to use as a doorstop, and a cup of coffee for $10? Then, Satterwhite’s would love to serve it to you...on a 50 year old table, sitting on one of those thick, heavy plates, plopped down on a paper placemat. It was so much food, I am able to type this blog out semi-coherently, despite having had no ensuing meal in over 12 hours. Now, that’s value, people.

Buy local...but more importantly, eat local!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Merry Christmas to Me

2018 will bring a first into my life. It will be the first year that I will take two Maine vacations. The first will be on Pemaquid Lake from July 14, thru August 4. This will be our annual summer vacation and will feature all of my kids together for at least one of those weeks. The second was just booked two days ago. I had thought about it for quite a while and then suddenly decided to do it. I booked a fall vacation back to Quantabacook Lake at the absolutely perfect Loon Landing from September 14 thru October 5. These two trips are separated by a mere five weeks. That means there will be two soul crushing drives up there and back...but if you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.

I cannot begin to describe for you what joy this brings to my heart. The prospect of spending six weeks in Maine endows 2018 with magical curative powers. No matter what fate may befall the Dunnevant household in the coming year, I’ve got six weeks in Maine going for me. Everything will be alright! No matter what hijinks comes from Washington, no matter how dizzying the gyrations of the stock market, I’ll have six weeks in Maine in my back pocket. 

 It’s true that this is an expensive proposition. It’s not only the rental cost but also the lack of productivity over the six weeks I am away from my business. I have no paid vacation time, an unfortunate byproduct of owning your own business, so if I’m on vacation, production halts. However, I am able to make up for some of this by busting my backside while I am working. But, regardless of how much more diligent I am, it won’t completely make up for the lost time. But, here’s the thing...I like money as much as the next guy, but I turn 60 in 2018. I’m at least two thirds of the way home. Money is just going to have to take a backseat to the enjoyment of life and time with the people who matter most to me. And, while six weeks on a lake in Maine ain’t cheap, it is still considerably cheaper than owning a place up there.

So, there you have it, Merry Christmas to me!!








Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Snow Village Cometh

Somewhere around lunchtime today, I will figuratively shut down the office for Christmas, that is...I will no longer be actively engaged in the affairs of business for the duration of the holiday festivities. This will usher in the stretch run of household preparations whereby all of the last minute details get hammered out at the Dunnevant estate. There are still tons of presents to wrap. The leaves must be gotten up once more, Pam must devote all of one day to the baking of Christmas goodies, and last minute decorations must be dealt with. Specifically...these:


Yes, boys and girls, these are what is known as Department 56 snow village houses. My wife went through her Department 56 phase,(along with mountains of cash), many years ago, and I have a garage full of them to prove it. Each year when the weather starts turning colder I trudge out to the garage, climb a ladder, and start hauling these babies into the house. Once Pam is through, our entire downstairs looks like a Victorian village from a hundred years ago, complete with an entire population of snow people dithering about on their fake lawns and fake streets. There are many neighborhoods in this Potemkin village, there’s restaurant row, a thriving downtown, and a particularly snobby suburb that dominates the mantle above my fireplace. 

This year, I had thought that circumstances might allow us to forego this labor intensive project. After all, to accommodate the installation of our new hardwood floors, every stick of furniture in the downstairs of our house has to be packed up by January the 15th. But no...I am informed by the project manager that since this will be my son’s fiancĂ©’s first Dunnevant Christmas, the snow village Will be erected in its entirety. I have no constructive roll in this project, other than serving as the designated Teamster, hauling each house in from the garage. Then my job becomes getting the hell out of the way while Pam recreates 1920’s Peoria throughout the house. When it is done, I have to admit that our house never looks better. 

Of course, there is one problem with...the village... that I am hesitant to mention, since it might call into question my mental health. There’s a small part of me that is creeped out by the townspeople. There are the kids making a snowman in front of the blue house, that weird couple getting ready to walk into the post office over on Main Street, and the strange guys serving as the moving crew outside of the house for sale over on Maple. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something sinister about all of these people. For one thing, they look awfully big for these houses, so part of me thinks they’re  from out of town. But, the worst part is the fact that I’m half convinced that they bad mouth us when we’re not in the room, like those toys in Toy Story. We turn out the lights and head upstairs for the night and I bet all of them all gather in front of Christmas Tree lot and start with the put downs...Did you guys get a load of those pajamas the old guy was wearing tonight?? ‘Hello, it’s 1950 and we want our pajamas back!!...then loud guffaws all around. They think I don’t know what they are saying behind my back, but I know...yes, I know.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Photograph of the Year 2017

A year ago about this time I began what I promised would be a yearly December tradition. It was called Photograph of the Year. The idea was to pick just one picture from the previous 12 months that captured the essence of the year for me. More precisely, I wanted to pick the one image that I never wanted to forget. Last year I chose this one:


I then challenged everyone to follow my example and show me their favorite pictures from 2016. I got zero responses. (What lazy readers I have!)

But, a promise is a promise, so this morning I have been pouring over the hundreds of pictures from 2017, searching for that one special, transcendent one. It’s not easy. If I go with the image that most sums up the political foolishness, I might consider this:


On the other hand, if I wanted to capture something symbolic of how I felt each morning reading the news?


But, as is so often the case with me, I find myself being drawn to that most special of places. There are so many to choose from:






But, once again, the winner has a familiar look and feel. Only this time it was my turn as the photographer:


So, once again I challenge you to go and do likewise. Pick out that one special photograph that you want to always remember from 2017. If you wanted to prove that you were here on this earth in 2017 and that your existence mattered, find the picture that proves it.

You’re welcomed.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Christmas Dragon?



My neighbor has an otherwise beautifully decorated house, adding much to the festive atmosphere of our very jolly cul de sac. But for reasons unknown to this writer, he has chosen to erect this giant, nine foot tall Christmas Dragon right in the middle of his front yard. It’s one of those inflatable things and has the added feature of ginormous fully functioning dragon wings that when fully extended measure ten feet from tip to tip. The only thing missing from this thing is fire coming out of its mouth...but to make up for it, he does have fire in the belly, as it were, which gives off the impression of dancing lights traveling to and fro throughout the abdomen of this beast. 

I am informed by my neighbor that his Christmas dragon has as it’s inspiration a character from the Battlestar Galatica television series...I suppose i should be grateful that my neighbor isn’t a fan of Jabba the Hut.

Here’s all I know. I will never in a million years take Lucy for a late night stroll past his house during this Christmas season. If she were to catch a glimpse of this towering inferno of ferociousness, wings a-flapping, the poor girl might spontaneously combust from the terror of such a sight!

Can We Talk?



Can we talk? My name is Lucy and I am good girl. I live in house which in best of times, a very scary place, but never more than at time called Christmas. My humans bring whole tree in house without consequence...when I try to bring one lousy stick in house, they not happy...go figure. 

Anyways, lately the trees are everywhere. Lights and chords coming out of lights. Everywhere. And boxes. Let me tell you abouts the boxes. One room in house is stacked full. Large, dark boxes stacked to heaven. Even though house now have more boxes than ever, at least ten times a day, scary men drop more boxes on front porch, forcing me to hurummph and growl and bark. You try taking nap with this foolishness! Not as easy as I make look!!

Now, today it get worse. Today, I hear human say it time to “wrap” all of dark scary boxes. I remember this wrap business of which he speak. This is where human place box on table and then wrestle scary and loud paper onto box amidst many angry words. It put human in foul mood. No snuggles or head scratches for me today. I lucky if they remember to let me out to tinkle. By end of day box room will look like bad storm. Human will have paper cut and run out of tape. Always run out of tape.

From my picture, you can tell how much I worry. Still, human will ask why I not eat all dinner...while boxes stacked all around, stacked to heaven. Still, human ask this not smart question. Soon, it will be over. Trees will go away. No more boxes. 

Then, I eat like normal dog, and will be good girl again.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joe Biden and Meghan McCain

By now most everyone has seen the clip of Joe Biden comforting John McCain’s daughter on The View. It appeared on my Twitter feed, of all things, posted by Jake Tapper of CNN. I almost didn’t click on the thing because...well, let’s just say that The View is ordinarily the sort of television show that I wouldn’t be caught dead watching. But, I was told that it was heartwarming, so I watched.

It wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t some sanctimonious, fact-free, feelings heavy diatribe against the latest faux outrage of the day. It was just Meghan McCain talking about her Dad’s struggle with cancer. She was trying to tell Joe Biden what an inspiration his son Beau had been to her Dad when she lost her composure and began crying. These were not contrived, crocodile tears, these were real, flesh and blood tears that came from a place of deep sorrow and pain. Suddenly, Biden gets up from his chair and moved closer to her, reached out and held her hand and began comforting her with stories about how much he truly loved her father, and how much his son had also loved him. Here was a man stained by cancer, stung by the loss of his son, moved by compassion and love for the daughter of a man who for most of his life has been his political enemy. Biden being Biden, it was full of warm stories and self deprecating attempts at humor. The whole thing was over in three minutes. It was worth the click, as it created in me a longing for something that has vanished from not only our politics, but our society at large...decency.

The reason this episode went viral is because we can hardly believe it’s possible for two political foes to actually love each other as dear friends. We are so accustomed to vicious acrimony and sharp division, that when we see love and tenderness being honestly demonstrated we are shocked by it, astonished that it still survives in 2017. Our political divisions are stark and widening. Our differences increasingly personal. There exists a wide chasm in our public life which seems impossible to cross. Those on the other side have taken on the appearance of monsters, people with whom no accommodation is allowed, or even desired. I’m not naive, the most extreme voices in our country belong to some truly reprehensible people. I get it and I understand that some of the views being espoused by those extremes should be challenged. There are times when lines must be drawn. But, when you step back from the extremes, most of us are divided over issues that can be dealt with by compromise and conciliation. Do we honestly think that in the careers of John McCain and Joe Biden, there have not been profound and passionate disagreements between the two? Then, how is it that the two of them count each other as close friends?

Here’s how...

Almost five years ago, I hired one of my clients as my assistant. She was smart, had a background in the business world, and was willing to work for slave wages. (Just kidding!!). She has become invaluable to me. She works hard, is a quick study, always shows up on time, executes all assigned duties with vigor and competence. Over these past five years she has also become a dear friend. I’ve gotten to know her and her family. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who are about ten years behind my two. Her stories of their struggles are so familiar to me. I laugh at her family stories. She laughs at mine.

And you know what? The two of us are at opposite ends of the universe when it comes to two things...religion and politics. Sometimes she looks at me like I’ve got two heads when the subjects come up. We both think the other is so wrong about so many things!!! Probably exactly how Joe and John have gone at it for the past thirty years. See, on many of the biggest things in life, honesty, loyalty, compassion, trustworthiness and honor, my assistant is unassailable. Our political and religious disagreements do not define us, our friendship and respect for one another does. 

Our parents used to tell us that it was possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

They were right.

So, thank you, Joe Biden, for demonstrating to us what being a decent human being looks like.







Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An Election in Alabama

I’m told that there’s a special election in Alabama today with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance. It’s an election to replace former US Senator Jeff Sessions, who took a job as Attorney General in the Trump administration. It features the infamous Roy Moore running against some democrat, who ordinarily wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance in this reddest of states. But, this is 2017, and Judge Moore has some rather unpleasant baggage. So, there’s a chance he could lose to the random democrat guy who’s running against him. A lot of political heavyweights and entertainment stars have turned up in Alabama over the past few days. Whoever had...There will be a Uma Thurman sighting in Alabama...in the office celebrity-sighting pool just made a fortune. Robocalls have been recorded and deseminated across the state’s phone lines, which I’m sure has delighted Alabamians about as much as a visit from an LSU recruiter. Last night there were dueling rallies, where the Judge’s wife assured the crowd that her husband was not anti Semitic by announcing that One of our lawyers is a Jew! Meanwhile, over at what’s his name’s rally, the keynote speakers where Charles Barkley and an actress from Orange Is The New Black. I have no idea what the significance of these two are to the election prospects of a democrat in Alabama, but I wouldn’t think it would be a good sign.

I have made my views known on Judge Moore in this space before so there’s no need to go through it again. But, here’s what I know for sure...there will be one loser tonight, and that’s the Republican Party. If the democrat dude wins, the party will have lost a reliably Republican seat in the Deep South. If Moore wins, the democrat party will hang the Judge around the neck of every Republican Candidate who runs for everything from dog catcher to Senator for the next ten years. The next time a high profile democrat running for office is found to be involved in some horrendous moral failing the democrat answer will be, Roy Moore. The next time a Republican politician feels compelled to lament the moral decay of our increasingly pagan culture they won’t bother because...Roy Moore. But hey..at least they will have saved the seat, oh...and, abortion!!!!!

So, tomorrow morning this time, the continued destruction of the Republican Party will have been advanced, whether by the election of Roy Moore or the election of the other guy. As I have watched the evisceration of the Grand Old Party since Trump was vomited onto the scene, the only worry I’ve had is what would become of a country dominated by an unrestrained democrat party? Without a viable opposition force, would that party give in to its most extreme voices on the left? Or would they be sobered by their new ascendancy and try to govern by practical consensus? In other words, would they be Clement Attlee of post war Britain, or Joseph Stalin in 1932 Ukraine? The answer seems to be neither. When I look at the democrat party today, I mostly see a collection of relics and fossils who couldn’t sell hacksaws in a prison. Maybe a new generation will rise up. Maybe the Republican Party will one day rise from the ashes of what will be an epic repudiation in 2018. Who knows? It’s politics, after all.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Weekend of Concerts

There are two weeks left before Christmas. Fourteen shopping days. The last fun thing Pam and I had planned before crunch time is over with. We drove up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to hear my brother and the National Christian Choir put on one of their four Christmas concerts this past weekend. It was great fun, even though the drive up was through a snowstorm and involved interstate 95N, never a happy thing. The day was saved by a fantastic choir performance which featured my brother in one particularly show-stopping solo, proving that his newly 70 year old pipes are in fine working order. Once the concert was over, it was still snowing, so exiting the parking lot was a 50 minute adventure, which featured an assortment of hapless idiots all trying to out-nice the next guy. ( Do you need to get in front of me even though I’ve been setting still for half an hour and only two cars can exit this parking lot for every click of the light? Why, by all means!!)

As luck would have it, our Hampton Inn was only 900 feet from a truly delightful place called the Greenfield Restaurant. We walked from our hotel to the restaurant in the still falling snow for a truly remarkable meal...the best pork chop I’ve had in years. Yesterday, the drive home was clear and bright and we got to see a couple of charming Pennsylvania towns in the sunlight instead of a blizzard...York, New Oxford and of course, Gettysburg.

But now, play time is over. It’s time to get serious about conspicuous consumption, so Pam and I had a strategy session last night to draw up a game plan. Then we finally decorated the family tree while Patrick’s Portara Ensemble performed their Christmas concert live via Facebook beamed in through our Apple TV...just like Grandma and Grandpa used to do it!

A side note...there’s something about the Christmas season that stirs the emotions for good and for ill. The strangest thing happened to me when I walked into the auditorium Saturday night. The place was standing room only, packed to the gills, probably a thousand or more people paying good money in a snowstorm to hear this Choir. And yet when I made my way through the double doors into the place, I was greeted by a vaguely familiar aroma. It startled me. It was a smell from a few years ago, one I will never be able to forget. It was the distinct smell of the lobby of a nursing home. I looked around and saw a sea of older people, gray hair, tweed jackets, old men with canes, older ladies wearing hats. It occurred to me that the audience for traditional robed choir music was largely octogenarian. For about fifteen minutes a deep sadness came over me, one that is difficult to describe but more and more familiar to me.

Of course, last night when Portara performed their Christmas concert, I saw a couple dozen talented millennials singing under the direction of a young director, which gave me hope that there is still a future for inspired vocal performance that doesn’t require auto tuning. But this is always the way it is for me at Christmas, swirling emotions from all over the map. One minute it’s a joyful, heartwarming memory, the next, something triggers an odd melancholy. One minute it’s fun, silly anticipation, the next, mournful regret. 

It’s always more good than bad though, so...we carry on. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sick To My Stomach

2017 has been nothing if not consistent, as it has provided one cringe-worthy moment after another across the fruited plain. Each new day requires steady nerves and a brave heart before turning on the computer. Just about the time you’re convinced that it’s impossible to be embarassed any further, some wretched excuse for a human being rears his or her malignant head and plants themselves right there in front of you and your morning coffee. Try this one on for size...

Police in Moore, Oklahoma yesterday released bodycam footage of the March arrest of then State Senator, Ralph Shortey, who was found in a Super 8 motel with an underage teenaged boy, the pungent smell of marijuana wafting from the room. Shortey, 35, married father of four homeschooled girls, can be seen explaining to the officers that he and his young cohort were just hanging out talking about life...and he was very close to convincing the boy to get his GED!! Upon further review however, it was discovered that the Senator was hip-deep in a child sex trafficking ring and rabid consumer of child pornography, a hobby that one would think might conflict with his Senatorial duties. (Of course, this is 2017, so I suppose I shouldn’t assume too much here.)

But, this isn’t even the worst of it. After all, in this day and age, the discovery of a politician involved in sexual perversion isn’t exactly breaking news. No, what caught my attention was the t-shirt the Senator was wearing when he was arrested. You know, they say that clothes make the man and all. I was thinking about using a picture of it here, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ll try to describe it for you...

It is one of those tight fitting ones worn by men who shouldn’t wear tight fitting anything. In the middle of the shirt was a scripture reference...Ephesians 5:22. Just below this was a cartoon sandwich. Below the sandwich were the words...Now, fix me a sammich. Just in case you’re wondering what Ephesians 5:22 says?

...Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord.

So, while getting high and having sex with a teenaged boy in a Super 8, this guy decides to wear a t-shirt with a Bible Verse. Meanwhile, his wife, the submitting one, is busy back home educating his four children. I’d be willing to bet my house that in his last campaign for the State Senate, Ralph Shortey was the family values candidate.

I look at the picture. I read the story, then glance through the comments beneath it...once again, the Christian faith taking a vicious beating in the public square, brought on by yet another wicked man claiming religious faith. I think to myself...No wonder Jesus couldn’t stand religious people!

Then I think about a girl I know, the daughter of some dear friends. She’s just out of college, extremely smart, blond and beautiful. She could do anything she wanted, her entire life laid out in front of her, the possibilities are endless. What does she do? She volunteers to teach math and English to refugees in one of the most dangerous places on the planet for the next two years. Why? Because of her love for Christ, and her desire to serve the least of these. Then I think of how the world will never see a news story about her or her work. But every knuckle-dragging degenerate cloaking their wickedness behind the banner of Christ gets plastered all over my newsfeed. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Traditions

           


Why do you guys have so many Christmas trees in your house...is a common question I get this time of year. It’s usually followed up with these reasonable observations:

That’s a lot of work.

It’s not like your house if huge or anything.

It must be a hassle taking all those trees down afterwards.

Yes. Yes. And...yes.

By way of explanation, I have posted pictures of three of the the six indoor trees. I have not included the trees in the kids rooms, nor have I taken a picture of the big family tree in the living room since it has not been decorated yet,( more on that in a minute). These three trees, from top to bottom, adorn my library, the foyer, and the upstairs hallway. Each has a theme which differentiates it from the others. In the library, the tree is silver and gold and features a variety of Christmas ornaments we received as gifts every year at Joe Schott’s Christmas parties back in my Life of Virginia days. The foyer tree is also silver and gold, but its ornaments are all of the nativity or angels or something directly related to the birth of Christ. The upstairs tree in the big picture window is a Winter tree, it’s ornaments all depicting some sort of nasty weather common during winter, snowflakes, ice, etc. The cardinals that flitter on this tree are representative of the State of Virginia. In the old days, There used to be a seventh tree, in a corner of the kitchen that featured only ornaments which the children had made, which seemed like overkill at some point after both of them had graduated from college, and was eliminated from the rotation.

Which brings me back to our family tree in the living room. There it sits, adorned with 800 colored lights, in its customary corner. In a couple of weeks time there will be presents stuffed underneath it bulging out in all directions. On top will sit a Christmas angel that my wife bought 26 years ago. It has gone out of style with its frumpy Victorianism. It matches nothing. But Pam wouldn’t dream of parting with her. See, our kids have taken turns placing this angel at the top of the tree since 1991. They were so competitive back in the day, we had to keep a tally to prove who’s turn it was every year. This year is supposed to be Kaitlin’s year, but she missed it. We missed it. They were only home for what seemed like hours over Thanksgiving and we didn’t have time. This will be the first time we have decorated the tree without them since they’ve been alive. It probably explains why it sits there unattended. 


Neither one of us are anxious to discover what it’s like to decorate the tree without them. Silly, I know. But parents can be silly and sentimental when it comes to family traditions, and we make no apologies for our sentimentality. We’ve earned it. For it is precisely these traditions that make each family unique. It’s these traditions which make your kids want to come home in the first place.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Intelligence Leaving The Body

Big day yesterday. Crossed two huge items off of my December to-do list. Booked our 2018 Maine lake house vacation, and wrenched my back out while running on a treadmill at AmFam. 

Booking the lake house in Maine wasn’t as easy as I make it sound. My search began in September while I was in Maine enjoying our 2017 vacation. I had narrowed it down to a couple of different places by the time we made it back to Short Pump and were greeted by the great exploding dishwasher caper. Needless to say, that set me back several weeks. By the time I recovered from that and restarted the search, my two previous favorites had already been scooped up by somebody else fortunate enough to have fully functional kitchen appliances. Long story short, my hopes for a four week, month of July Maine vacation has morphed into a three week jaunt from July 22 through August 12, and instead of Quantabacook or Megunticook, we will be frolicking on beautiful Pemaquid Lake. I have made a plaintiff plea to the owner of Chill Lake House, that if she should have a cancellation on either side of our three week reservation, I would be more than happy to book that week too. Briefly I considered offering some sort of soft bribe with the plaintiff plea, but decided that I didn’t want to appear too pathetic. The closer we get to July, I won’t care so much about looking pathetic and will probably end up shamelessly offering envelopes of unmarked bills!

Meanwhile, at AmFam....

So, I’m about thirty minutes in to a three and a half mile run on the treadmill, watching some felonious Trump administration official lying to some reporter on CNN, when suddenly I felt discomfort in my lower back, in the area of my belt line, to the left of my spine. That’s weird, I thought. Of course, I continued running despite this discomfort, which was growing more so by the minute. After a while, I thought to slow down to a fast walk, a stubborn concession to the reality of my situation. First, I set the speed of my treadmill to 4.5 mph, and lowered the elevation back to 6 from 12, thinking surely this would solve the problem. By the time I conceded to the fact that I probably needed to end my run, ten minutes had passed and most likely I had made matters worse. I have no explanation for this behavior, but it has always been so with me whenever I hurt myself doing something at the gym. My mantra has always been that sharp pains are merely sloth and weakness leaving the body and should be ignored. If you stopped working out every time you feel a sharp pain, you’ll end up looking like that 5’ 8” 300 pound asthmatic who thinks he’s working out when he sits in a chair and works a couple of arm handles round and round, all while wearing a headband!! So, you push through any sudden pains. This strategy is a constant source of frustration to my wife who basically thinks I’m an idiot.

By the time I made it home, I was in quite a lot of pain. I consult my nightstand for the batch of medications I was prescribed the last time something like this happened. The pill bottles say, 06/09/2017. I take one of the yellow pills and one of the white pills. Then, I think to call my administrative assistant and steal some free medical advice from her Doctor husband, who happens to be wearing Christmas tree glasses. She texts me a picture of him in these awesome glasses and asks, You sure you want medical advice from this guy? He explains that, no, I should NOT have taken the white pill and the yellow pill simultaneously, and applying heat was in fact the exact opposite of what I should be doing. It occurs to me that I should know this, considering how many times similar pains have befallen me. I must acknowledge the truth of Pam’s accessment that I am an idiot.

This morning, the pain is still with me and I now have a new fear to deal with, something that my Christmas tree glasses wearing Doctor  let slip in his telephone diagnosis...kidney stones??? No way. Not a chance. It’s just weakness leaving the body, or as my wife would say, More like intelligence leaving the body!

I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Special Season

Pam and I spent nearly 12 hours on Saturday beginning the process of decorating our house for Christmas. A couple hundred dollars of new and replacement finery was purchased. Lights were strung on two natural trees and three fake ones, with more to come. Stockings were hung along the fireplace mantle. Candles were attached to the sills of twenty four windows, this year’s versions equipped with a timing device that switch them on simultaneously at dusk. Three holly trees in the front of my house, along with a lighted wreath hanging on our front door are also hooked up to a dusk-sensing timing apparatus which cuts them on at sunset and then shuts them off at midnight without assistance from any living thing. As I watched my home flicker to life a few minutes ago it occurred to me that the amount of electricity that these lights will burn over the next four weeks would probably power a water filtration system in some third world hellhole for an entire year. But this type of thinking assumes that happiness is a finite commodity and that joy is a zero sum game. If I allow myself to experience joy then that means that somebody else somewhere must die from cholera, a pointless and juvenile notion. So...I will feel no guilt for the warm glow that permeates my home. But, I will wonder why. Why do we do this? Why do we insist on decorating our homes with relics so shot through with nostalgia? Why do we go to such great lengths to conjure up this Christmas feeling?

My pastor today attempted an answer, suggesting that the reason we all long for the Christmas spirit, is because something in us has a sense that the the reconciliation, goodwill and renewed brotherly love that so often accompanies this season offers a glimpse of what the world would look like if it actually was the Kingdom of God, and if Jesus really was the king of our hearts. He might be right. 

All I know is that whenever Christmas comes around, I feel compelled to be a better man. Sure, I shouldn’t need seasonal inspiration for this project, but too often I do. I get sidetracked by the business end of life and drift away from goodness. I don’t mean to suggest that by drifting away from goodness, I suddenly become bad, rather I become distracted by my own needs, and in the process become blind to the needs of others...and left unattended this blindness gets awfully close to bad. But at Christmas, I start to once again see the people who are struggling. I start to notice the people desperate for a Christmas miracle, instead of the ones looking for a sale on David Yurmin bracelets. Once I begin seeing them again, I’m reminded of my great good fortune. In them, I see the exhausted carpenter and his teenage wife, and I suddenly long to be the owner of an inn with vacancies. It’s at Christmas when I start looking around for ways to be a blessing with greater urgency and intention. In the process, my mood lifts, my spirits improve, my aspirations elevate to something more noble than self interest. 

Many things are responsible for my heightened mood. It can be something as simple as a carol, or the sound of the Salvation Army Bell. It might be the sight of a young couple wrestling with a toddler, trying to get that first picture with Santa. Or...it just might be the glow of the 1950’s style lights on the hollies out front, or the soft yellow glow of candles in my windows. 

But, anything that turns me outward towards the world and away from my own narrow pursuits is a good thing. And if it’s the decorations we haul down from the attic every year, then....deck the halls.






Friday, December 1, 2017

Christmas Lights and Me

   

Today is the day I’ve been putting off. It has been lurking around my consciousness for weeks now like a suppressed middle school memory. But now Thanksgiving is over and my annoying neighbors are out there, shaming me into submission. Yes...it’s time to festoon the outside of my house with Christmas lights. The purpose of this ritual, as far as I can tell, is twofold. First, it contributes to the gaiety of the season, creating an appropriately festive milieu, spreading joy throughout not only the neighborhood, but in our individual hearts. Second, it offers proof to any roving bands of nationalists out there that we are not Jewish.

I will start this project with vigorous optimism. I clearly recall the extra care I took putting all of these lights away last year. I carefully wound each strand with delicate precision, as someone defusing a bomb, determined to avoid tangles. I placed each strand into the metal filing cabinets in my garage with the kind of precise care usually reserved for placing sleeping infants into cribs or taking soufflĂ©s out of the oven. I inventoried each extension chord and every wreath, even made mental notes about improvements that would enhance next year’s display. So, I have every reason for optimism that this year will be different.

But, hovering over each of my shoulders is a spirit. On my right is an adorable Christmas cherub humming White Christmas. On my left is the Grinch, before his heart grew three sizes. He is whispering in my ear, and he knows a thing or two about my historically faulty memory. His understanding of the procedures I followed in last year’s putting away of the lights is very different than mine and he’s letting me know about it no uncertain terms. He recalls a haphazard, frustration-filled frenzy of stuffing and forcing recalcitrant and already tangled strands every which way into those metal filing cabinets, with quite a bit of uncharacteristic profanity, especially so soon after a celebration of our savior’s birth. He reminds me of my incompetence in that annoying rhyme-y way of his.

Of course, he’s right. I will open the filing cabinet drawers with great trepidation, holding on to the faint hope that I really did take care last year. But, like every year that has preceded this one...it will be a hot mess. I will pull out one Gordian Knot after another and think to myself..What the hell? 

Eventually I will untangle the mess. Then I will plug in each strand to determine how many new strands I will need to buy. Some will spring to life merrily. Others will turn on, then flicker menacingly. Others will be thrown in the trash. I will then make the drive to Lowe’s to buy new lights only to discover that this year’s models are slightly different than last year’s. This is due to some knitwittery cooked up at some government agency charged with saving the planet from global warming or some such thing. This year LED lights are all the rage, which is great if you want the outside of your house to look like the Elvis wedding chapel in Vegas. Since I prefer the vintage 1950’s style lights, which I’m sure are real ozone hole killers, I find myself in a quandary. Do I bend with the times and make the transition to LED or do I stubbornly insist on bespoiling the planet and search all over town for my old school lights? 

            Or.....



I feel rather certain that regular readers of this blog know the answer to this question. Of course, it would help matters if I had a dog who would help me with this project like this good boy...


Instead, I’m stuck with this girl...







Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who’s Next?

After a day which saw Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor both brought low by the swift scythe of the sexual harassment reaper, a natural question is...Who’s Next? I mean seriously, if Garrison Keillor can go down, literally no one is safe. So as a public service, I have compiled a list of powerful men who might be and handicapped each of their chances. I present them here in alphabetical order:

Stephen Colbert.
- Comedian. Host of Late Night, and hater of all things Republican. Devout Catholic and devoted family man, married to only one woman and father of three kids. If he were to fall, would be an excellent candidate for swanky Beverly Hills rehab facility. Odds 100:1

Ted Cruz
-Senator. Former Presidential Candidate. Southern Baptist and devoted family man, married to only one woman and father of two kids. High creepiness factor and support of “traditional family values” would make his fall especially embarrassing for tradition families everywhere. Odds 50:1

Tom Hanks
- Actor. Beloved. This generation’s Jimmy Stewart. Married twice. Divorced once. Four kids. Please God, no. Odds 75:1

Rush Limbaugh
- Radio talk show host. Conservative. Currently on fourth wife. Hater of all things Democrat. Odds 25:1

Joel Osteen
- TV preacher. Prosperity Gospel Icon. Writer of vapid books. Possessed of very white teeth and a blond wife. If this guy goes down, comedy writers in Hollywood will give themselves hernias churning out jokes at his expense. Odds 50:1

Paul Ryan
- Speaker of the House. Allegedly conservative. Devout Catholic. Married to one woman and father of three kids. Passionate P90X devotee. Squeaky clean image. Uh-oh...Odds 30:1

Bernie Sanders
-Eewww...Gross!!

Jon Stewart
- Comedian. Former host of Daily Show. “Destroyer” of all things Republican. Tepid response to news of fellow comedian, Louis C.K.’s fall doesn’t look good right now. Odds 10:1

But, because this is 2017, I would be remiss for assuming that the next big name to fall will be a man. At some point, a powerful woman is going to find herself swept up in this tsunami. Who will she be? What powerful American woman will most likely be the trail blazer? Here are a few possibilities. I will leave it to you, the reader, to set the odds.

Ellen DeGeneres
Ann Coulter
Sarah Palin
Oprah Winfrey
Elizabeth Warren
Rosanne Barr

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Creeping Ambivalence



This man has been on the Today Show for twenty years. In that time he has endeared himself to millions of Americans, including my wife. So, we were both astonished to hear the news this morning that Matt Lauer was unceremoniously fired by the suits at NBC news. Samantha Guthrie, misty-eyed, announced the shocking news this morning, that one of the most popular and beloved morning news personalities had been fired because of an allegation of sexual misconduct by an employee of NBC. There would be no leave of absence, no investigation, no stint in rehab, and as of 8 am this morning...no details. My wife had only two things to say about this turn of events...I’m very disappointed. I thought Matt was one of the good guys. And then...This is how women are going to take over the world.

I might have added...Apparently due process is officially dead...but didn’t. Just a few minutes ago, I learned that reporters from the New York Times had been working on this story for weeks. Perhaps they presented the higher ups at NBC news with their findings last night. Maybe the story was so damning, so devastating, that they felt they had no choice but to fire the man. If so, I’m not looking forward to the details.

The Matt Lauer bombshell comes on the heels of the announcement that two especially obnoxious loudmouths, Keith Olberman and Joe Scarborough have decided to back away from Twitter, in Scarborough’s case, and retire from political punditry, in Olberman’s case. One can’t help but wonder what secrets reporters are busy uncovering in their cases. At the rate we are going, it might be wise to invest in sexual addiction therapy centers, since clearly the demand will soon outstrip the supply. 

I must here admit to a creeping ambivalence. My instincts, such as they are, favor the accusers here. This is the result of the fact that I’m a man and therefore know a thing or two about the piggishness of my fellowman. I also know that whenever there is an imbalance of power in a work environment, that imbalance is likely to be exploited. There is a reason that no female officers of corporations have come forward complaining that they were sexually harassed by some dude in the mail room. But, as the pace of allegations has quickened, to the point where it can now fairly be described as a frenzy, I’m starting to have some doubts. Although I have always held firm to the belief that you should never underestimate the human capacity for evil, and that nobody has ever gone broke betting against the bad faith of powerful men, my trick knee is starting to tell me to be careful here. Introduce some skepticism into each new allegation. While it’s true that abused women deserve to be believed, this is only true when they are telling the truth. This is where due process comes into the picture. An allegation is not the same thing as a conviction. The seriousness of the charge does not equal guilt. There is a reason our parents warned us not to rush to judgement. Justice requires deliberation, a testing of the facts. But, deliberation doesn’t sell papers, the wheels of justice grind too slowly to goose overnight ratings. 

Maybe Matt Lauer is guilty as sin and deserves to be fired. But, something about this feels hasty and wrong. Time will tell, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Whatever happened to the face slap?

Between the Thanksgiving holiday, the installation of a new kitchen floor, work contingencies, an attempt to secure a lake house for our 2018 Maine vacation, the deluge of leaves in my yard, and the download of another Richard Russo novel...I have had little time and even less inclination to write anything over the past week. I will attempt to remedy that here.

Since we last visited, several more allegations of sexual misconduct have been brought against high profile men by newly empowered women, who have suddenly discovered the courage and fortitude necessary to speak up against their tormentors, five, ten, sometimes twenty years after the fact. The latest reprobate being Congressman John Conyers, described as an icon by Nancy Pelosi in a strange interview given by the fossilized former Speaker, who couldn’t seem to make up her mind whether Conyers was a saint or a sinner. Meanwhile, Senator Al Franken continues his apology tour by vowing to learn lessons from past gropings which he says he can’t remember. His latest tact seems to be his confession that... he’s a hugger. I get that. I’m a hugger too. But, I do my hugging with my arms, not my hands, and always take extra care to make sure that my hands don’t end up full of the butt cheeks of the person I’m hugging...but that’s just me. I’m no Senator. 

Still, it seems to me that that an accusation of ass grabbing isn’t the same thing as an accusation of rape, or even standing naked in front of a women who has not requested your nakedness. In other words, there are degrees of debauchery, and while all of these behaviors are deplorable, all are not equally so. Rape gets you jail time. Grabbing an ass should get you slapped across the face. (whatever happened to those women?) 

I listen to these reports and read the stories of these women. I believe most of them. Some seem overblown and even silly, but who knows, maybe their stories are true too. But the one thing they all have in common is this...none of them slapped the men across the face. Not only that, on the many occasions when they reported the assault to their boyfriends, not a single one of these alleged boyfriends tracked down the assaulter to punch his lights out. Not a single one. This is profoundly disturbing to me on many levels. I can assure you without equivocation that if someone grabbed my wife’s behind, that someone would get the s**t beaten out of him, not because she isn’t capable of defending herself, but because he would deserve said beating, and nothing short of a beating would assuage my wrath. If this makes me a knuckle-dragging misogynist, then so be it. Although the prospect of a sound thrashing  would in no way deter a rapist, it just might make the Al Franken’s of the world think twice about copping a feel. When as a society we have evolved past the physical confrontation of groping, bullying and other small time thuggery, the gropers, bullies and thugs are emboldened. There was a time when loutish behavior was often outed publically with a dramatic slap across the face, to the profound embarrassment of the lout. Many a fine 1940’s movie scene featured this device. I say, let’s bring it back.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Hardest, Longest Wait

There are big, consequential days coming up. If your children all grew up and moved away, you know what I’m talking about. One of mine lives in Columbia, South Carolina, the other in Nashville, Tennessee. We vacation with them one week a year. They come to visit us, we go to visit them. But twice during the year, we get them here, under our roof at the same time together...Thanksgiving, and Christmas. So, this is a big deal. 



Kaitlin and Jon will breeze through this afternoon around 3 o’clock, drop off their lummux of a dog, Jackson, then continue on to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with Jon’s family. They will come back Friday afternoon and stay until Sunday afternoon. Patrick and Sarah will get here sometime late tonight, probably after 10 o’clock. They will have to head back to Nashville sometime Saturday mid morning. So actually, we will have all of them here together for approximately 15 hours...which will feel like 15 minutes.

Today will be the hardest part. When my kids are on the nation’s highways at the same time, I am always a mess inside, but especially so today on the worst traffic day of the year. I have shut down the business for the week, so I will busy myself getting the leaves up from the yard. But, my mind will be elsewhere. Traveling mercies...

I have looked forward to this weekend for quite some time now, not just because I get to see them, but because Thanksgiving gives me an excuse to be officially grateful. Of course, I shouldn’t need an excuse, official or otherwise. Gratitude should be my default position. But, let’s be honest, for most of us, it isn’t. 2017 has contributed mightily to my ungrateful heart, creating, as it has, a bull market for bitchiness throughout the fruited plain. This blog has reflected this zeitgeist. From politics, to sports, and now to the runaway train that is sexual harassment allegations, our world has managed to gravely disappoint us all like no other time I can remember.

But then...Thanksgiving comes, and families gather. We see them climb out of their cars, run to them with hugs and smiles, help them drag their suitcases inside. You examine them carefully, while you smile and hug. Are they looking well? Have they lost weight?  Gained weight? Do they look worried? Tired? Do they look happy? What do they need? Do they need anything? Surely they need something...

Then you calm down and just enjoy them. On the big day the whole extended tribe will gather and the welcome scene will be repeated. Hugs all over the place. Kisses and hugs. The food will be incredible. There will be football. Rumor has it that there might be some sort of slipshod Beatle concert performed by several of the Dunnevant men. Pies will be eaten. Later on, while decorating the Christmas Tree, turkey sandwiches will be served. No one will want to go to bed. Who wants to waste time sleeping when the kids are all home? But we eventually have to because we are all exhausted. It’s the very best kind of exhaustion.

So, for the next several days, I’m going to let this dysfunctional year stew in its own juices. I’m not going to have time to whine about the latest crazy thing happening in the world. I’ll be busy being thankful for every good and perfect gift I have been given in this life. Every single one of them.

You do the same.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017.

By any measure, 2017 has been a mind blower, an assumption destroying mass of hypocrisy, an unending reel of civilizational outtakes, patched together to resemble an actual year. I found a photograph and a Far Side cartoon the other day which did a nice job of summarizing this entire miserable failure of a year:



In the climate of 2017, the year of raging disappointment, I half expect Donald Trump to Tweet this out with a caption...What do you bet these guys are talking about what a bad guy Roy Moore is? Sad...

I read a quote the other day from some alleged pastor in Alabama, who while defending Roy Moore, made the following crucially important point, “Some of these 14 year old girls, the way they dress, could pass for 20.” This from a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, out of some dark tribal place, a representative of the church suggests that if a teenager walks out of the house in tight jeans and a low neck sweater, 32 year old judges can’t be expected to restrain themselves. New Zealand has never looked more attractive.

I remember years ago there was a very famous television evangelist named Jimmy Swaggard, most famous for being a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and for weeping while singing. This dude was quite the headliner. He could deliver hour long empassioned sermons decrying the decadence and sexual debauchery of America, and somehow tie it all back to when they ripped the Bible out of the schoolhouse. The man built a media empire around this theme, his face filling cable television from Maine to California for nearly a decade. Then, it all fell to pieces when he was busted with a prostitute. My Dad was furious that such a man would bring such shame to the Gospel. I remember watching a 60 Minutes piece about Swaggard with him. He turned to me and said, Sometimes, the people who yell the loudest about something do so because they’ve got something to hide.

I’ve thought of those words a lot lately...

Maybe these liberal icons who are constantly touting their feminist bonifides...are overcompensating for something.

Maybe these pastors complaining about how 14 year olds too closely resemble 20 year olds know this from personal experience.

Maybe Charlie Rose can arrange to moderate a debate between Al Franken and Roy Moore on the subject...Too Young To Grope?


Or maybe, just maybe...we all should just give up on 2017, and promise to do better next year.