Saturday, April 29, 2017


It has been my experience in this life that bad news tends to arrive in waves. Disturbances in life always bring friends along. Trouble seems to travel in packs.  One bad thing seems to usher in the next bad thing in rapid succession, then after the tumult has passed, order is restored and life returns to happy normalcy. I could sit around for days contemplating why this is so, pondering the randomness of life, but that way lies something close to madness. There are just things that you shouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about. Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? See, I wouldn't spend much time worrying about that one. It just doesn't matter. Well, neither does the entire subject of the vicissitudes of life.

And yet, sometimes, when you're in the midst of a bit of a losing streak, thinking can overcome you. For me it's been a combination of big changes in my profession which are far beyond my control, stupid unforced errors involving bill paying, and a variety of stress-induced physical ailments. The third problem is directly linked to the first and largely beyond my ability to control. But, what in the name of Warren Buffet was I thinking this month paying my bills? This is the wave thing I was talking about. Bad stuff comes in waves!

So, for what seems like an eternity, I have had two separate and distinct Verizon accounts, one which covers all of the family cell phone usage, and a second which pays for my cable service and land line. (As an aside, the last time I made or received a call on this land line thing was probably when my kids were still in high school...). Now, I have tried on several occasions to get the fine people at Verizon to combine these two bills into one for my convenience, but have been met with a stone wall of yarns, tall tales, and prevarications about why this thing I ask is impossible. Apparently, these two different divisions of the Verizon colossus are separated by a Chinese firewall, the likes of which no man has ever been allowed to see. When talking to Verizon, it's almost impossible to get either one to even acknowledge the other. It's like every time the subject of the other Verizon organization comes
up, somebody lowers the cone of silence over our conversation...

Anyway, I put up with this largely because we have always had good luck with them. Our cable almost never doesn't work and our cell phone coverage and service is impeccable. But, this month when it was time to pay Verizon number 1, I did so via my nifty Wells Fargo bill pay app. Two weeks later, when Verizon number 2 was due I duly paid the bill...but inadvertently applied it to Verizon number 1's slot in the app, no doubt causing squeals of delight over at Verizon Wireless, but sending the guys at Verizon Communications to crank up the old email alert system accusing me of being a deadbeat customer. Alert!!! Alert!!! Your account is past due!! Immediate action must be taken!! Then, to make matters worse, I completely forgot about an automatic deduction that comes out every month on the exact same day...I just forgot! Of course, there wasn't enough money in the account, so my overdraft protection kicked in. But it was so stupid. Are you kidding me? That deduction comes out the same day every month, and I have never once forgotten....until April, 2017.

I mean, it's an easy fix and all, but this is the sort of thing that can send you into despair when it comes on the heals of other problematic stuff. It's like, what, have I forgotten how to be an adult all of a sudden? What is wrong with me??

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Painful Awareness

The Bible warns of the corrosive properties of envy. Webster defines it this way...a painful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. My Mother, who always provided me with the real world working definition of sin, described it as the classless inability to rejoice in a friend's good fortune. Either way...envy=bad.

So, let me be clear that it isn't envy which motivates me to write what follows, more like a desire for some good old fashioned consistency.

When I learned that former President Obama had signed a deal to give a speech to Wall Street banker, Cantor Fitzgerald, for the tidy sum of $400,000, my first thought was, man-o-man are the Clinton's gonna be pissed. That's dang near twice what they make for a thirty minute speech!! My second thought was, wonder what Bernie Sanders will have to say about this? But then, my less knee jerk response was more contemplative. I marveled at how quickly the tide turns in this life.

All of my adult life the Democratic Party has railed against the monied interests. Forget my life, the Democratic Party has been demonizing the rich since Andrew Jackson. Wall Street fat cats have been the single favorite punching bag for these people. It's as reliable as death, taxes, and Spurs win!! Actually, that's fine as far as it goes...monied interests can be a troublesome bunch, and sometimes Wall Street fat cats have indeed been a pox on this Republic. But watching career politicians eagarly cashing checks from the very people who they made their reputations trashing is the stuff of grim irony. Not to worry though...I hear that Elizabeth Warren is "concerned," and I'm sure she will remain so right up to the very minute she cashes her first speech check.

President Obama has done quite well since becoming President, having made 15 million from the sale of his three books. Even now he and wife Michelle are about to sign what is rumored to be a 60 million dollar book deal.  Add to this not one, but two $400,000 speech fees, the second from an adoring A&E network crowd, and suddenly the befuddled observer has to wonder about these words
from the former community organizer:

"I mean, I do think that at some point you've made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product or providing a service."

I will assume that the President is now in the service business, and I am confident that as soon as he gets to that point...he'll let us all know where exactly it is.

Until then, I congratulate the President for proving that the American Dream is still alive and well.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Get Ready For the Lying Olympics

I am so fired up right now. I haven't been this excited since Christmas morning, 1964. Seriously, the next several weeks are going to be awesome...Trump just released his tax reform plans, and you know what that means. "Let loose the dog's of hypocrisy," someone will shout, and the full flowering of literally everything that is wrong with Washington DC will be laid bare before our very eyes and ears. You're going to need a scorecard to keep up with all the flip flops, prevarications, disingenuousness and flat out whoppers on display everywhere across the political spectrum. I've prepared a cheat sheet to make it easier for you...


When you hear one of these people downplay the negative impacts of deficits and the National Debt, you are being scammed. When Obama was in the WH, the skyrocketing national debt was a travesty.

Whenever you hear any Republican say that a giant infrastructure spending plan will add some multiple of value for every dollar spent, you are being scammed, since when any Democrat said the same thing over the past twenty years they screamed that the spending multiplier was a myth.


When you hear a Democrat professing grave concern about ballooning debt and out of control deficits, you are being scammed, since over my entire lifetime they have exhaustively proven that they couldn't possibly care less about debt, or deficits.

No matter what is actually in Trump's tax plan, it will be excoriated as a giveaway to the rich. Even if it could be proven that 99.9% of the tax cuts were going to the poor, it wouldn't matter. It's a giveaway to the rich if even one rich guy gets one dime of tax relief. You could look it up.

In other words, our politicians have absolutely no credibility on this issue, but that won't stop them from catawauling back and forth debating tax policy. It will be infuriating to watch, but I won't be able to avoid it since it will be everywhere. By the time it filters down to social media, it will be even more garbled and partisan than ever. Rich vs. poor. Blue state vs. Red state.

I know what you're thinking, ok Smarty-pants, what's your plan?? Well, for starters, I'm just a private citizen so therefore, it's not my job to have a plan. But since you asked...

A flat tax would do quite nicely, thank you. The rate could be negotiable...15, 17%? Exempt the first 30,000 or so of income to protect the poor from having to actually pay federal income tax. To prevent the rich and connected from weaseling out of their obligations by paying an army of accountants to hide their income, eliminate all deductions. After all, that's what a flat tax is...a flat rate for everyone,  with no deductions. But Doug, but Doug, some rich people would end up paying less!! So what? Many more would end up paying a lot more since carried interest wouldn't be available as a tax dodge, and they could no longer have their McMansion subsidized by the rest of us. But Doug, but Doug, a flat tax would lower revenue to the government!! So what? I've had MY revenue lowered by the government plenty of times and guess what...I adjusted. So will they. By the way, I've done the math, and I would wind up paying more under a flat tax with no deductions, than I do now...and I'm still for it!

Before you start ripping a flat tax, ask yourself this question. If by instituting one you could, as a bonus, do away with all of this infuriating weasel language coming out of Washington for the next couple of months, wouldn't that alone make it worth doing??

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ann Coulter and Free Speech

The First Amendment, specifically free speech, is taking a beating lately. It is a striking reality of our times that in an era of proliferating free speech delivery systems (the one I'm using right now being unimaginable twenty years ago), the old fashioned, retail variety is getting hammered. Witness the unseemly spectacle unfolding at Berkeley.

Writing a blogpost defending the likes of Ann Coulter is much like kissing your sister, appropriate at times, but highly unsatisfying. In the early days of her ascendancy, I liked her books and even bought a few. She was fresh and provocative and the women had a flair for the biting phrase. She had a swashbuckling style which appealed to the bomb-throwing cynic in me. But, with each passing year she has been transformed into something outlandish, a cartoon character committed to nothing higher than being noticed. Her views have taken on a nastier, more brutish tone, and I have soured on her schtick. Of course, it's possible that she hasn't  changed at all, but rather I have changed over the years. Nevertheless, Ann Coulter has the right to speak at a tax-payer funded institution of alleged higher learning if she is invited.

There are people out there who hold views which I find infuriating and unconscionable. There are people who, when given the chance, disparage my country with the vilest slanders imaginable. According to these sort of people, my country is the focus of evil in the world. America, in their telling is a lying bully, roaming around the world sowing discord. We are responsible for all of the world's problem because of our capitalism, our consumerism, our power. They give us and our 240 year history no credit for anything positive, in fact, have created cottage industries out of revising the history of this nation to turn every good thing we have ever accomplished as a people into something unrecognizable. Diabolical motives are assigned to every positive development. The Founders? Nothing more than rich, slave-holding men with white privilege trying to enrich themselves. The Bill of Rights? An overhyped, veiled attempt to restrict the power of the government. Fighting a Civil War to end slavery? Nothing noble about that, just a bunch of money grubbing oligarchs trying to expand their markets. Democracy? Nothing more than a bourgeois obstacle to be overcome in the long arduous journey towards the utopia which will be the worldwide victory of the Proletariat and the glorious future of Communism.

People who believe these things stand at lecterns every single day in Universities all over this country. Many of them enjoy tenure. No matter how far out of the "mainstream" of contemporary thought they might be, their positions are secure, their right to spread their views unchallenged.

But, somebody invite Ann Coulter to speak to a couple hundred people, and all hell breaks loose.

Here's the thing. When I was in college, occasionally I would have to sit through a lecture given by a Marxist. I would listen. It was uncomfortable. I objected to most of what was said, but I listened. Mostly because I had no choice. I was a captive audience, because he was my Professor. I am aware of no requirement that anyone at Berkeley has to attend Ms. Coulter' speech. If  Angela Davis had been invited to campus when I was there, wild horses couldn't have dragged me to hear her. But, it never would have occurred to me back in 1980 to try to prohibit Angela Davis from speaking. This is what I don't understand about the modern University experience. If someone with whom you disagree gets invited to speak, you have to make an ass out of yourself by shouting him down? What's so liberal about that value? That's just acting like a spoiled child.

Here's my suggestion for the leftist radicals at Berkeley....let the woman speak. Then go back to class and be comforted by the next lecture in your America As Cultural Rapist class.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Stress-neck, and a shoutout to my Father-in-Law

It has been my experience that during periods of high stress, the body reacts poorly. It's as if it wasn't built with anxiety in mind. Some might refer to these physical symptoms of stress as psychosomatic disorders, the mind playing tricks on us to divert us from whatever unpleasantness we happen to be going through. "You think dealing with your rebellious kid is difficult...wait until you get a load of this killer migraine!!!"

In my case it's always been intestinal eruptions of some kind. I will not go into any of the gory details, but whatever you might be imagining is probably not as disgusting as it actually is. Pretty horrible. But lately, ministers of grace be praised, my intestines have been functioning like a well oiled machine....which may be the single worst metaphor I have ever written. No, the new physical manifestation of stress for me is...a stiff neck.

I first noticed this strange phenomenon a couple of weeks ago. I had printed out a 40 page FAQ produced by my broker-dealer which attempted to explain the upcoming regulatory mandate from our friends at the Department of Labor. I had set aside an uninterrupted hour to read through the thing, when about fifteen minutes in I felt my neck tighten up. By the time I finished about an hour later, my neck felt exactly like it feels when you wake up after sleeping on it funny. I had a crick in my neck, out of nowhere!!

Since that day it has come and gone at least five times that I can count. The last sighting was last night when I was talking to Pam about work worries. One minute I was absolutely fine, the next minute I couldn't hold my head upright without big time pain. Taking muscle relaxers and Aleve helps some, but what really helps is to stop thinking about the Department of Labor regulations. Which's all in my head...right?

This is a bizarre thing for me to accept. If there's really nothing physically wrong with my neck, and therefore no good reason for it to be hurting, why can't I prevent it from happening? How is it possible for nothing more than a worrisome thought to inflict real pain? For me, this is no different than telekinesis, something that really isn't a thing, except in the movies. I should be better than this. I should be able to worry about stuff, or more concerned about something without having to deal with muscle spasms!

Speaking of causes of high stress, my Father-in-law's birthday is today. Although I couldn't resist making a joke at his expense, nothing could be less stressful than an encounter with Russ White! He turns 80 today. He doesn't look it or, even better, act it. My wife, in no small part, is the person she is because of the fine example of kindness and goodness illustrated for her by her father. Russ is a good man in a world where good men are harder and harder to find. He's smart, funny and devoted to his family. Although he remains a loyal Redskins fan for reasons that are unclear, he did introduce me to the agony and ecstasy of Red Sox baseball, which is something for which I'm not sure I should thank or blame him. In the nearly 33 years that I have been married to his oldest daughter, he has always been supportive of us and an ally on whom I could depend. He has been a loving and proud grandfather to my children, and if they will get on the ball, Russ will no doubt be a stellar Great-grandfather. Even though 80 sounds old, when I think about Russ, I don't think of that word. He's just not old. I really can't explain it, but if you know him, you probably know what I mean. So, happy birthday, Russ!

Monday, April 24, 2017

The French Vote...C'etait terrible!!

So, the first round of the French election is over, and the result leaves progressives the world over with a real Sophie's Choice. They can either support the multi-millionaire, former investment banker man, or make history by electing the first women to the French Presidency. Identity politics can be so confusing!!

But seriously, something weird is going on throughout the western world. The professional political class is being shown the door. What happened in France yesterday is hard for Americans to fully understand. It would be like us holding a presidential election among five candidates and the Democrat and the Republican both losing to the Libertarian and Green Party candidates. It's as if people everywhere are looking at what has become of our world over the last twenty five years and are saying, "What the hell, let's give _ _ _ _ a chance. He/she surely couldn't do any worse than these clowns we have now!" 

No way the British people will vote to leave the European Union, they said. Not a chance the American people will elect Donald Trump, they said. Le Pen is not a serious candidate for the French presidency, they said.

Now, of course, all the smart people are assuring the world that Macron will win in a landslide, since all of the defeated first round candidates will endorse him. (The prospect of the right wing National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, winning the election is so beyond the pale for French elites, no other story line can even be imagined.) Now comes the part where the French glitterati will now all promise to leave the country if Le Pen wins. Soon, we will be treated to the delicious spectacle of thousands of French leftists rallying in the streets of Paris for a man who made his bones in the grubby capitalists pits of the financial industry, and who even now can't decide if he's a socialist or not! Great, another capable women being thwarted by a less experienced, less qualified, and younger man!! Hillary must be thinking..."Yeah, cry me a river."

I have no idea who will ultimately win the French election, but I do know this...If I were an establishment politician running for anything in the Western world right now, I would be nervous.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Tale of Two Dinners

This is a tale of two dinners, one of which hasn't actually happened yet, but why let a mere timeline get in the way of a good story. The first dinner happened a couple of nights ago at the Grapevine restaurant in Short Pump. The second will happen tonight at Firebirds in Fredericksburg.

Dinner at the Grapevine...

It is now an irrefutable fact of life in the modern American church that the term Sunday School must never again be uttered in polite company. It sounds silly to 21st century ears, and what could be more of a turnoff to a budding seeker than the idea of church So, several years back, all the very bright people in the church growth game devised a new groups. By way of definition, as far as I can tell, a life group is an association of 8-12 people thrown together randomly or using some sort of demographic dice roll algorithm, which seeks to serve as a mini-church. By this I mean, the people in this group meet periodically to study the Bible, talk about life's struggles, and hopefully get to know and love each other. The group serves as a connection for small groups of people who are part of the much larger and more impersonal church where it's much harder to feel such a connection. This group is supposed to function as a support mechanism, one which can be designed for people of the same age and station in life. In other words....Sunday School. Except, the meetings don't happen at church and never on Sunday...and usually there's food.

Anyway, as you all know, Pam and I have been attending Hope Church for several months now, so we have been exposed to the plaintive pleas of practically every speaker extolling the virtues of the sainted Life Group experience. They even offer the occasional life group mixer, whereby a room full of a hundred strangers gather to mingle to see if something magical might happen. It's called Group Link night. Think, speed dating only ten times more awkward. No thanks. Luckily for us, we actually know one couple at Hope and as fate would have it, that couple has been in the market for a life group, and since they have been going to Hope a lot longer than us, they know several other couples in the same boat. So he took the initiative to extend an email invitation to five couples about the possibility of forming a group. "How about we all agree to have dinner at the Grapevine?" He asked. "We can talk about it over baked spaghetti and baklava and see where it goes," he said.

So there we were Thursday night in the parking lot of the Grapevine staring at the mass-produced Michelangelo's David knockoff in all of his anatomically correct glory. I remember thinking, "Great, I already feel awkward and I'm not even out of the parking lot yet!" I can think of almost nothing more fraught with land mines than having dinner with a group of perfect strangers where the goal is to like and be liked. So many things can go wrong. First of all, your's truly is an acquired taste, which is the most polite gloss I can put on the fact that I can be hard to warm up to, even in small doses. I'm opinionated, a bit loud, and am famous for speaking before thinking, which can lead to awkward moments. This unfortunate trait has been a constant source of embarrassment to Pam over the years, bless her heart. In addition to my loose cannon lips, there's also the issue of my inability to sit still for long periods of time. So, this night had the potential for being difficult for me, but horrible for Pam. Then, there's the issue of everybody else at the table. Who were these people? Suppose they were all flaming liberals, or worse, rabid Trumpsters?? Suppose they all hated baseball, and loved soccer?? What if they were all cat people??

I'm happy to report that none of my fears were justified. Everyone couldn't possibly have been nicer. The conversation flowed naturally. I didn't say anything outlandish or controversial, and as a bonus, I made it nearly an hour and a half before I had to stand up! These were people who I could see becoming friends with, people who I really wanted to get to know. We made plans for how we wanted the group to work, agreed on some guidelines and how often we would meet. We get it all started in May. A good night.

Dinner at Firebirds...

This will be a family affair. Every once in a while, and never often enough, all of my siblings get together for dinner. To help accommodate my brother who lives in Maryland, we eat in Fredericksburg, which means that his drive home is only ten hours instead of twelve! Of course, because we are Dunnevants, the decision on where to eat required an exchange of 35 emails, gastronomical putdowns, dueling reservations etc..etc.. eight chiefs, no Indians sort of thing. But, when we get there tonight at 5:30, it will be great. Unfortunately, for the other patrons of Firebirds, we will be the loudest table, which will require very generous tipping in order to ever be allowed back. Whoever our waiter is will long remember his/her encounter with us. Someone will insist that although she wants a steak, there must absolutely, positively be no blood on the plate. At least one of us will probably try to order something that isn't on the actual menu. Somebody will order something,  but add some weird request...."yeah, I'll have a BLT, but leave the tomatoes off, oh and I'm not a big fan of lettuce."  

The conversation will be all over the place, leaving no stone unturned from issues of the day to "what the heck is wrong with cousin _______?" Of course, we will talk politics, baseball, tell stories about Mom and Dad, getting weepy while doing so. Then we will pivot to our kids...Christina, Jenny, Sean, Lauren, Becky, Kaitlin, Patrick, and Ryan. Nodody will think it weird when I stand up and walk around the table a couple of times. I won't have to worry about whether they will like me, I won't even have to worry about saying something controversial, in fact they will all worry if I don't. See, that's the great thing about family, everybody knows you, and loves you anyway. I don't have to be so guarded, I don't have to do anything except be myself.

So, I can write about tonight's dinner before it even happens, because I know it will be great. How wonderful is that?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Frustration and a Lesson From My Son

I have a feeling that this blog is going to be a disjointed hodgepodge of a thing, largely because my week has been a disjointed hodgepodge of a thing. Whatever is in my head always seems to gush forth onto this space, despite my best efforts at self-editing. So, having fairly warned you of the turmoil lurking around in the great barren plains of my mind, proceed at your own risk.

For those of you who own your own businesses, you may better understand what I have been dealing with this week. I am a 35 year veteran of my line of work, the past 20 of which as an independent investment advisor, running my own shop. This week I have had an epiphany of sorts. I have figured out why my work has suddenly become so much more frustrating than I ever remember it being 30 years ago. It's always been difficult, but not tediously frustrating. Here's my theory, one I think covers many different businesses, not just mine. The skills required to build a business are not the same ones required to sustain it. When I got my start back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I needed four basic skills to survive and eventually succeed:

1. Tenacious determination. 
2. Creativity
3. The power of persuasion 
4. A finely tuned moral compass

Without any one of these, I would have failed. With all of them, I nearly failed. I needed to be tenacious because I was dealing with daily rejection, the grinding, soul crushing routine of being told to take a hike roughly 100 times a day. Therefore, I had to learn to be creative, to figure out new and better ways to convince people to give me a chance. Once given that chance, I had to be able to convince. I had one shot to persuade someone to let me compete for their business. Finely, it didn't take long for me to figure out that if one possessed a felonious heart, mine was a terrible business to be involved in since it would be relatively easy to take advantage of people. I suppose I have my parents to thank for instilling in me a firm commitment to the Golden Rule, that in matters of commerce, it was my responsibility as a Christian to do what was best for my client, not my checkbook.

However, having built a business, I am finding that the skill set required to sustain and administer an enterprise are not necessarily the same ones I needed to build the thing. Much of this is the result of the regulatory regime that has grown up around the advisory business over these past 35 years like so much crab grass and chick weed in an unattended lawn. With the rise to dominance of lawyers in our society, simply having a moral compass is not enough. I've had to change how I think, learn to question everything, every procedure by asking one overriding question, "Will this get me sued?"

The skills I now need are as follows:

1. Computer and technological savvy
2. Ninja level powers of organization
3. Expert record keeping 
4. Ability to read and understand sentences which begin with the phrase, 'The party of the first part...'

I possess roughly none of these skills....hence, my frustration.

On a related note...yesterday morning I exchanged some short, perfunctory texts with my son..."what's up? How's your day going?.....doing great, how about them Red Sox?"  Routine stuff. But then I did something I seldom do. I told my son that I was having a difficult week, and actually asked him to say a prayer for me. Whenever we ask people to pray for us, it's almost a throwaway line, something you say just to communicate to the other person that things are tough at the moment, not really expecting them to actually drop what they are doing and...pray for you. Here's what my son said...

"Will do Dad.

I use these from the Book of Common Prayer. The first one is one I say often, the second is one I've used occasionally when stressed. So, I'll pray both of them today on behalf of both of us...

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: we humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I am ashamed to admit that there was a time in my life, when I was about my son's age, when I would have disparaged anything found in something as dusty and old as the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I would have considered it the extra-biblical ramblings of people with too mechanical an association with God, people who really didn't understand what it was to have a "relationship" with
Christ. I felt the same way about Pastors who read their prayers. That was back when I was in my late 20's and knew everything there was to know about my faith!!! But, these ancient words brought great comfort to me. The fact that Christians have been using these same words for roughly the past 600 years felt like a profoundly holy and blessed thing.

The day we stop learning new things about our faith is a sad day, a day that marks the beginning of something rigid and lifeless, and worthless to others. I needed my son to teach me that lesson....again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Ever Happened to the Ossoff Spring?

Three days ago, I had never heard of this guy. He's a thirty year old documentary filmmaker who was running for a vacant Congressional seat in Georgia. The second it appeared that he had a shot of winning, the national press corps began carpetbombing us with adoring portrayals of one Jon Ossoff. The prospect of this guy winning a red seat once held by Newt freaking Gingrich was just too much for our Democrat dominated media to resist. They were positively giddy with the hope that somehow this guy might win the seat outright with 50.1% of the vote. One headline called him the Trump Slayer!! Full length essays had no doubt been written about what this shocking upset might mean for the Democrat party's chances of retaking the House in 2018...HINT, (it would be a sure thing!!!). Long retrospectives were ready for publication about how this tall, handsome, very liberal young man might just be the new blood the Democrats need to recast their image and message.

Unfortunately, despite a jaw dropping 8 million dollars having been spent from the DNC war chest, Ossoff came up short and now faces a runoff against a single Republican candidate instead of the 18 which were on the ballot yesterday. His chances of winning that sort of race are roughly equivalent to my chances of turning around an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

This morning, the crushing disappointment of the press is palpable. Glum faced reporters are everywhere reporting the unhappy news as quickly as possible, not wanting to cause too much despair among the faithful. They had been fantasizing on how awesome it would be to hang this loss of a Republican seat around the neck of Donald Trump. And now, it's over. The Ossoff Spring snuffed out before it even got started.

So far, no mention has been made about any possible Russian tampering. No reports of the roll played by angry white men in the results. But, it's only been 12 hours since the polls closed, so I'm sure we will hear something in the next couple of days. I mean, the press, like anyone else needs time to grieve after such a devastating loss. Even the most faithful and reliable water carriers need to take a moment to gather themselves when their hopes and dreams get crushed. So, I'm thinking that by Friday we will read about some shadowy Russian connection that convinced the Georgia Republican Party to brilliantly run 18 candidates against a single Democrat and in so doing falsely raise the hopes of the national press corps.

Trump's four dimensional chess strikes again!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Amazing Kims

To read any newspaper in this country at the moment, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that  Kim Jung Un's North Korea poses an existential threat to these United States. It is being suggested that the strongman's nuclear weapons program has now advanced to the point where cities in America are now within range of North Korean ICBM's. For this reason, the South China Sea has become a flashpoint of international tension. Storm clouds are steadily gathering. The phrase, nuclear war, is now being bandied about. Carrier groups are said to be on the move. The Chinese are on edge.

I'm not buying any of it.

It's difficult for me to take the North Koreans seriously. The only news footage westerners ever see of the place is the stage prop square where a million soldiers are always marching stiff-legged during one of their incessant military parades. The rest of the country is a certifiable hell hole. If the folks from Michelin were ever allowed in the place, they would give the entire country negative stars. Like all communist plutocrats, the Dear Leader Kims have diverted the nation's wealth away from anyone who might threaten them. Their people might starve, but it works out quite nicely for the Kims.

Yeah, it's hard for me to take a country seriously that teaches it's school children that Kim Jong Un learned to drive a car at age 3, and was winning yacht races at age 9. Of course, young Kim cannot hold a candle to his Dad, the infamous Kim Jong Il, who on his first ever attempt at golf, shot a mind-numbing 38, coming into the clubhouse 34 strokes under par with a round that included a stunning 6 hole in ones!!! As an amateur golfer myself, I can say with relative confidence that the elder Kim is a baldface liar, and that a nation of people who would even pretend to believe such a tale should have their nation-card revoked. It is precisely this sort of thing for which Colonialsm was invented. North Korea needs to be sent to the principal's office, stripped of it's flag making ability, forced to give up its seat at the United Nations, and made into a vassal state of South Korea. Or even better, how about we ignore them altogether?

Of course, if it turns out that they actually do possess a viable nuclear capability, I will issue a retraction. But, something doesn't smell right here. Maybe this whole Kim thing is just a convenient distraction, a handy excuse to empower the Empire loving politicians here AND there.

In the meantime, I want Kim Jong Il in my next captain's choice foursome.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Easter, 2017

The last strands of light linger outside on this long Easter Day. I am now alone with my thoughts. They are everywhere, all over the place, competing for my attention. So much to remember.

The day began earlier than most. The church I currently attend, but am not yet a member of, had rented out the Altria Theatre for their Easter services. There would be two of them instead of the usual 5. We would be attending the 9 am service, so we scrambled to get out the door in time for the longer drive and the ordeal of parking downtown. Our children were away, in other states and time zones. It was just us, just my wife and me. You would think that I would have grown used to this by now, being apart from them on the large, important days, but it still stings a little, a feeling of melancholy still lingers in the background when they aren't here with us. It isn't spoken of. No complaints are made. lingers.

I didn't know quite how I felt about having Easter in the same building where I had just seen the Book of Mormon a month ago. Pam had just seen Cinderella there recently. I half wondered if the band might find a missing shoe backstage. Sure, we Christians have been taught all of our lives that the church is the people, not the building. But, most of us find it difficult to imagine meeting for services in a strip club, or a casino. Of course, the Altria Theatre is neither of those places, but it still felt weird, until I saw three thousand people filling the place and heard the thrilling proclamation of my savior's resurrection ringing off it's walls. The service was beautifully and artfully crafted together into a living thing. A woman I had never seen before stood and recited a touching monologue about how the risen Christ had turned her into a Spring person. The incalculably talented Nicole Unice then presented a spirited defense of the physical resurrection of Christ with an eye towards the skeptic in each of us. Then the music came. It's normally the part of the Hope Church experience that I simply endure, not because the musicians aren't talented and not even because the songs aren't my style, but rather because I don't know them well, and I can't hear my fellow congregants singing the words. But, today was different somehow. Maybe it was the larger stage, the heightened excitement of the event, the majesty of the theological moment, but they were amazing. It was the thunderous exclamation point of the service, and each player seemed to sense it and their role in pointing the way to the transcendence of the risen Christ.

There was a video which was beautifully produced about one of the band members, his back story. I've seen him play lead guitar many times. He's older, carries himself in that unhurried Clapton manner, very much a slow hand sort of guy. I had no idea what the man had gone through to get to the stage, no idea of his tragic back story. Yet, there he is every Sunday, laying down soft licks in the background. I was choked up the entire time it took to tell his story.

Then David Dwight walked onto center stage carrying a stool in his hand and no notes. He spoke for maybe twenty minutes. He hardly raised his voice above standard conversational tones. Given the occasion and the topic, he would have been excused a bit of over exuberance, a little Pentecostal flair. But, this is David Dwight. He doesn't do flair. It was as if he knew that something special was going on in the room, and he didn't want to be a distraction, didn't want to screw it up. Instead, he talked to us, like he does every Sunday...from his mind and heart...."Who are we and why are we here, and why do we feel compelled to even ask these sorts of questions? Because Jesus Christ is the author of life and he has placed eternity in the hearts of man." Every word he spoke to us was designed to point us towards the ultimate meaning of this day, that because Christ loved us so much that he was willing to endure the cross, overcoming death, we are free to have a relationship with him. The meaning that we are all longing for can be found with the very author of our story.

When we walked out into the blinding sunlight of Monroe Park, it didn't matter to me that I had been overdressed. I wasn't annoyed at the traffic or the parking deck. I even took the scenic route home, driving through the back streets of the Fan, then turning on to the Boulevard by the museums, then the Diamond. I was actually trying to soak it all in, and I needed some time before the soul crush which is 95 North.

Once home, it was time to prepare for hosting my wife's family for Easter lunch. Everything was beautiful and the food was delicious. I still missed my kids, but knowing that they were both, hours away just getting out of their churches where they both heard the same story, told in different ways, made me miss them a little less.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 14, 2017

By All Means...Let's Have a Debate.

Instead of debating the efficacy of this big honking bomb, let's debate a more important question..."Why are we still in freaking Afghanistan???"

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Scare Lines

The memes are coming fast and furious. Ignited Airlines. United Scare Lines. The best one I saw was an ad from Southwest Airlines with the tag line..."We beat the competition...not you." Earning a lifetime exemption in the CEO's hall of shame, United top dog Oscar "the grouch" Munoz, poured gasoline on the fire by praising his employees for their outstanding work in the case of one Dr. David Dao, who had made the ghastly mistake of paying for a ticket on Mr. Munoz's airline. When news came that the flight was "oversold" none of the passengers were willing to take United up on their offers of money, hotel vouchers, stock options and free cake, to get off the plane. That's when the stellar employees at the friendly skies broke out the best practices handbook, looked up "what to do when passengers will not agree to forfeit their seats" and read the words, beat the ever loving snot out of them.

It is for precisely this reason that corporate public relations departments exist, and this morning they sprang into action. The New York Post published a hit piece on the victim. Apparently, the good doctor Dao isn't so good, having had his medical licenses taken away from him...twice, for writing bogus prescriptions to various gay lovers. When he wasn't trading drugs for sex, he was attending anger management classes mandated by a string of employers. The snakes over in the PR department are hoping that this information will rehabilitate the company's battered image by suggesting that the bloodied doctor had it coming.

However, none of Dr. Dao's past troubles in any way change the fact that he paid good money for a ticket, was sitting in his seat minding his own business, when he was forcibly removed by the company who sold him said ticket. This is a part of the free exchange of goods and services that Adam Smith never imagined....the part where you sell someone a product, then right before he uses it, you rip it from his hands. Imagine for a minute that you're sitting at a very crowded Chick-fil-a about to take your first bite of that very delicious chicken sandwich, when suddenly the manager runs across the dining room and literally grabs the sandwich out of your hand, explaining that unfortunately they have discovered someone else who is even hungrier than you are, so that sandwich will have to be given to him. But, no problems because the management will give you a free sandwich on your next trip to long as you buy a large drink. Or, suppose you and the wife have just settled in to your comfy king sized pillow top at the Hyatt Regency in Boca Raton, when suddenly, several large men burst through the door to inform you that someone else far more important than you needs your bed. "Here's your hat, what's your hurry?"

The American airline industry is a hot mess at the moment. I don't know enough about the business to explain their incompetence, but my trick knee tells me that dragging paying customers off of planes in this age of cell phone cameras might be the single most epic public relations fail in history!

Monday, April 10, 2017

14 Years Ago This Month

Today's agenda is packed; important meeting, three days worth of paperwork to complete, a half dozen phone calls that have to be made, and a plethora of other various and sundry items to check off my list. But, it's the best kind of "packed" since the purpose of all the activity is to accommodate a five day, four night escape to the beach!

"Hold on a second," you might be thinking. "Didn't you just get back from a four night getaway to Florida?"

Well, yes. Yes I did. Let me explain how life works.

The first five years that I spent in this business were a brutal gauntlet of ten hour days filled with rejection, failure and virtually no money. That was precipitated by the fact that A. My chosen field of endeavor was insanely difficult to break into and B. Our decision for Pam to be a stay at home Mom. The following five years were only marginally better. Money began to be made, but the hours remained brutal. Many days I would look at my paycheck...yes, back then we actually got paper checks...and wonder why the heck I had chosen a career where there was no guarantee of anything. Why had I insisted on being my own boss? Didn't I realize what a cantankerous boss I would be? The next five years started to get better. The money was better and the hours got more normal. Then, out of nowhere I found myself laying on a cold table listening to myself counting backwards from 10. Open heart surgery is like a telegram from God reminding you that he will not, in fact, be mocked. From that moment on, my life goals changed. No longer did I care about how much money I made. Well, I cared, just nowhere near as much. Instead, I laid out fresh new goals. Goal number one was to take off more days this year than I did last year. With very few exceptions, I have accomplished my goals. There's nothing quite so motivating to your plans for self improvement like the possibility of sudden death.

It's been 14 years ago this month since I obtained the eight inch scar in the middle of my chest. Back then it looked like a swollen zipper and I was horrified at the sight of it. Today, it's hardly noticeable. But, looking back, it might just have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

So, yeah...I take a lot of time off. In a couple of weeks we will head down to see my daughter for several days, two weeks after that it will be Nashville for some time with my son. July will bring yet another week at the beach with the Dunnevant clan, and for three weeks in September, a lake house in Maine will be our home. Since I don't have an employer , I don't have paid vacations. So, my income will take a hit. A very  small price to pay.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Truths of Easter

About a year ago I wrote this about Easter:

"Easter is what I cling to nowadays. At a time when church has lost its urgency for me, and at a time when I spend most of my time there feeling embarrassed, the resurrection still moves me. It remains the essential doctrine that for me validates my faith. I have studied the story a thousand times, a thousand times I have tried and failed to fashion an explanation for it that doesn't include the physical resurrection of Jesus. Still, nothing explains the impact wrought on civilization by Christianity, other than that band of poor, itinerant fishermen seeing and touching the risen Christ. Nothing. Because he rose from the grave, he must have been the Son of God. For me, it all boils down to that central fact of history. Everything else is fluff."

The only thing that has changed is that I have rediscovered the urgency of the assembly and being there no longer embarrasses. For this I am thankful and I suppose I have Hope Church to thank. Every Sunday I go there expecting to be challenged, expecting to hear something foundational yet intelligent. It is a bittersweet experience most Sundays since along with that intelligence comes conviction, with its stubborn insistence upon the fact that I am a sinner in need of a savior. Yes, I am loved by God, but he also expects something from me. He calls me to be the best version of myself, to be better than I want to be sometimes. So, I be reminded. And I leave thinking about what I just heard. For a moment at least, I am outside of myself and focused on the transcendent, and on this Palm Sunday, nothing is more transcendent than the truths of Easter.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Airstrikes in Syria

I'm a nobody blogger. Nobody has asked my opinion on last night's missile strikes in Syria. I have no training or experience in matters of geopolitics. But, I am a pissed off citizen with an opinion, and this is America, so here goes.

I have read a stack of analysis of this thing over the past three hours( yes...three hours) and the only positive that can be said of this strike was that we did preserve the element of surprise...nobody over there expected a decision on a strike to be made and executed this swiftly. But, having said that...I fail to see the "vital National security interest" imperiled by the killing of Syrian babies by a dictator...just as I failed to see it when Clinton/Obama claimed the same justification for attacking Libya. As far as Iraq was concerned, I..along with most everyone in Congress,  believed Colin Powell's WMD speech at the UN and supported the action, and I was wrong to do so. When that intelligence was proven worthless, I was for a complete withdrawal. No matter who occupies the White House, the siren call of intervening in the Middle East seems too powerful to resist. It is infuriating.

If "vital national security interest" is now defined to include..."whenever horrible video emerges showing innocent people being treated horribly" then we better get used to a future of unending interventions. My son rightly asks, Will we now begin accepting refuges from a country we are officially bombing? All actions produce a reaction, and in the arena of military action, that reaction is more often than not unpredictable.

The only aspect of Trump's campaign that garnered any support from yours truly was his rather emphatic non-interventionist rhetoric. I could literally post a dozen or more tweets where he outlined his view that it was time for America to stop meddling in the Middle East, time for us to be willing to intervene more in Chicago's south side than some hell-hole in the desert. It was the only thing that encouraged me about the man...maybe this guy might be an idiot, but at least he won't be a globalist idiot. So much for that theory.

Let there be no confusion. My views on this subject have nothing to do with the military. Those guys follow orders and execute whatever assignment they are given with amazing efficiency. And, my views should not be construed as insensitivity to man's inhumanity to man. Do I care about the fact that babies in a hospital were targeted in a chemical weapons attack? Of course I do. It's horrifying and infuriating that this sort of thing happens in the world. But, how do these 60 Tomahawk missiles change anything on the ground. We destroyed one air base from which Assad could launch attacks on his own people. He has five more perfectly in tact. Furthermore, the other five most likely are crawling with Russian and Iranian equipment and personnel. To all of you cheering Trumpian "decisiveness" guys onboard for going after the other five, risking an all out war with a legitimate military superpower? All to protect Syrian civilians? Seriously? Is this what you were hoping for when you elected Donald Trump....more Middle East adventurism?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I've Had Enough of This!

In the past couple of days, I have regrettably been introduced to another internet provocateur. A friend of mine, Sam Issacs, posted something on Facebook, then the next day I read a profile written about him on National Review by Ian Tuttle. It was horrifying. I hesitated writing this for fear of giving him, even in this small space, what people like him crave...attention. So, as a compromise, I will not mention his name.

To save me the trouble of having to summarize his toxic ideas, below are two paragraphs from the Tuttle piece which will give you a flavor of what this man is about:

"Bigger is better for xxxxxxxxxx. “Size is status.” He ridicules the “weak” and “weak-minded,” who indulge guilt and shame, or what he calls “slave emotions.” He wants men to be “dominant,” which requires careful attention to juicing recipes, muscular density, and “testosterone biofeedback.” xxxxxxxxxx is very concerned about testosterone. “Check your testosterone levels,” he advises. “Every study on evolutionary psychology has correlated testosterone levels with dominance.” If you’re devoted to a “scientific” approach to masculinity, as xxxxxxxxxx is, you can acquire “super serum” — xxxxxxxxxx's name for semen to which women become “addicted.”

"Xxxxxxxxxx initially was not much interested in politics, except where it involved feminism (Danger & Play: “The two pillars of feminism are narcissism and entitlement”). He generally occupied his time writing blog posts such as “Misogyny Gets You Laid,” “When Should You Compliment a Woman?” [A: “During or after sex”], and “How to Cheat on Your Girlfriend.” But in Donald Trump, xxxxxxxxxx found a man he takes to be a kindred spirit — or, at the very least, an opportunity. He has become a social-media warrior for Trump, unabashedly embracing the label “alt-right” and using his Twitter profile to disseminate fabricated stories. Currently, he has 241,000 Twitter followers. He even scraped another book out of it: MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again."

Where to begin? First, I should declare that I have many problems with feminism. But, because I'm a man, there's no point going into detail about those problems since I would be accused of mansplaining. But, if anyone on this planet could make a feminist out of me it would be this idiot. And yet, this man has nearly a quarter million Twitter followers. 

So, it's weak to feel guilty for being a jerk? A sense of shame for boorish behavior equals "slave emotion?" Funny, in the bad old days, this used to be referred to as...having manners or being a gentleman. Now, to this man, and men like him, masculinity is about size and dominance. Where does this view lead? Let Mr. Xxxxxxxxxx tell you:

"To him, being “dominant” justifies declaring that “date rape does not exist,” that “women want to be tamed,” and that one of the key signs of a real man is “aggression,” sexual and otherwise. Lie if you like, cheat if you can; what matters is being the “alpha male.” What is the truly “masculine” man’s maxim? “We are done when I say we are done.”

Suffice it to say, if my mother ever heard anything approaching this coming out of my mouth, she would have worn me out. Further, whatever whipping she would have given me would have paled in comparison to what my father's reaction would have been! The mere idea that the role of men in the world is to dominate women sexually is a the vile philosophy of a childish and ultimately weak man. 

The bottom line is...I'm just tired of reading crap like this. I'm tired of this type of man, this brand of boorishness being celebrated and rewarded by the internet and popular culture. Heck, I'm even tired of reading these sort of words(what used to be called "gutter language") in newspapers as prestigious as the Washington Post. It's time for us all to turn on these people, good and hard, turn against them with every weapon we possess. And we can start by speaking out against it. So I am here to say that this is not what being a man is, it's not even close. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Theory

It's been five months since the election, eleven weeks since the Inauguration, and it seems that social media has finally stepped back from the edge. It used to be that every morning, my Facebook wall was plastered with Trump memes, and long angry threads featuring wild accusations of treasonous skullduggery in and around the White House. Suddenly, 90% of that is gone. It's been the same here at The Tempest. I haven't written a Trump-themed blog in quite a while. But not just Trump, I have written much less about political themes than I used to. Why?

Well, it's certainly not because Trump has stopped doing stupid things, and it's certainly not because the democrats have suddenly stopped being hysterical hypocrites. There's something else going on. I have a budding new theory and like all theories, it's incomplete and requires more research and testing...but that's not going to stop me from going off half cocked and writing about it anyway. Here goes.

The election of 2016 was like none other in my lifetime. There has always been bitterness and acrimony associated with presidential politics, but this seemed different, unprecedented. Most of this was due to the fact there hadn't been a candidate like Trump since maybe Andrew Jackson, but that was like 180 years ago and all current politicians,  except Nancy Pelosi weren't  around back then, so most people don't remember Andrew Jackson. Trump was the kind of candidate who provokes insanity both in his followers and his enemies. To his supporters, he can do no wrong. No matter what insane, unhinged thing comes out of his mouth, the diehards are there to provide context, to explain that what sure sounded like a bald face lie to the rest of us was actually a metaphor, or a shrewd tactic designed to achieve some objective invisible to all of us who can't keep up with his four  dimensional chess. Meanwhile, his enemies constantly imbued him with mystical powers of evil, actually believing that when it comes to destroying the country he really is playing four dimensional chess, that he really is capable of shrewd tactics. Every single unhappy thing that happens in the world is due to some nefarious Trumpian machination.

It never seems to occur to the Trump supporter that maybe his nascent administration has been one uninterrupted mistake after another because he's an amateur who doesn't have a clue what the hell he's doing. It also never seems to occur to his enemies that no, he isn't Sauron, and no, he possesses no dictatorial powers and can't, in fact, cast all gay people into a fiery furnace.

So, after a few months pass and Trump is shown to have feet of clay and begins to make a hash of things, his most ardent pre-election, pre-Inauguration fans start to maintain a kind of radio silence, slinking slowly away from the social media square hoping the rest of us won't notice. Meanwhile, those who had been the loudest in their warnings of the horrors that would befall immigrants/homosexuals/women/old people/dogs, can't help but notice that there are still immigrants here, still plenty of loud, rich and happy homosexuals, a host of prosperous and powerful women, loads of old people who haven't yet been thrown into the streets...and cute pictures of dogs are as prominent on Facebook as ever. In other has a knack for going on.

The insanity of political rhetoric runs in direct relationship to the calendar. The closer you get to a major election, the dumber it gets, the more unreliable it gets, the more stark and partisan it gets. Therefore, the closer you get to an election, the less you should pay attention to political rhetoric. But the opposite is true. Most of us can't even be bothered with politics until an election comes along. The rest of the time we would rather argue about sports or play video games. After an election, most of us go back to living our lives, back to the Redskins' incompetent front office and the Legend of Zelda.

So, that's my theory. Things are never quite as horrible as the doomsayers predict, and when events start proving it, the loudest, angriest voices start taking time off for bad behavior. And we all are better for it. At least until the midterms.....sigh.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Birthday Success

Here's how my birthday went down.

1. Pam made me a batch of molasses crinkles, my favorite cookies, which are a cross between a ginger snap and a sugar cookie. She placed them in a big Tupperware container for me to take to work to share with everyone. Of course, Pam was bitterly disappointed in how they turned out..."worst batch I've ever made!!" Fortunately, the Philistines I work with have the most unsophisticated palettes in all of Christendom so they didn't notice. Their response was summed up nicely by our designated eater, Allison, who was heard remarking with her mouth full, "Free cookies good!"

2. Then I went about my normal duties at work with little fanfare. There was no pile of presents as one might expect from my colleagues, not even any cards. This is how we roll. The only accommodation made for anyone who has a birthday at my office is that the birthday boy or girl gets to be the target of all of the day's normal wisecracks, putdowns and insults, instead of having them administered evenly which is normally the case. Seeing as how I am the primary putdown artist, wisenheimer, and insulter-in-chief, my birthday brings down an especially vociferous rain of smack talk, since from whom much is endured, much is returned.

3. Around 3:30 I made my normal Monday trip to American Family Fitness, that monument to the fruitless fight. Since I knew I would be eating a large and calorie rich dinner, I went at it extra hard. The elliptical, the stationary bike and the treadmill were fully engaged, then a fifteen minute visit to the steam room. The entire workout took an hour and fifteen minutes and I had sweated off the two pounds I needed to lose in order to gain back three and a half pounds during dinner. Mission accomplished.

4. Pam had asked me what I wanted for my birthday dinner. I had answered...New York Strip steaks, green beans, grilled potatoes and homemade warm banana pudding for dessert. It looked like this...

5. During the day, Patrick and Sarah had sent me a video greeting wishing me happy birthday, while Kaitlin and Jon Facetimed me after dinner.(Advantage Kaitlin) Then it was time to open my presents. As usual, my wife went overboard. I am now stylishly dressed in spring/summer finery, along with some awesome summer pajamas. Not only that, but she had grown weary of seeing me wear the cheap giveaway sunglasses I had picked up from a vendor booth in Chicago, (I had lost my Ray- Bans).So she bought me brand new black Ray-Bans!

So, there you have it. Birthday was a success. 59 feels alright.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


59 is a meaningless number, signifying nothing. Other numbers have history, a certain cache. 59 needs context to rise up to the merely ordinary. 0 defines itself, its nothing. 1 is alone. 2 is a couple, 3's a crowd.  7 is lucky. Nobody wants to be behind the 8-ball. 12 is a dozen, 13 unlucky. 16 is sweet, 18 brings the age of majority and the Selective Service, 21 ushers in the full weight and statue of law. 39 is when the lying begins. 55 is the speed limit. But, 59 is null and void, empty of all meaning...right up to the very second when it means everything.

Tomorrow, I turn 59. I have 365 days left in which I can honestly describe myself as being "in my fifties." 59 is the age where everyone who learns how old you are says, "Well, at least you're not 60," small comfort indeed. I'm about to finish out my fifth decade. I've been drawing breath as a free man for 708 months, 1416 fortnights, 21535 days give or take a leap year or two. 59 winters and summers  have passed since my mother gave birth to her last child. Many of her friends had been upset with her when she announced that she was pregnant with me. Back then, my mom was a new Christian and had gathered around herself a church family. In those days we were struggling financially, which is a formulation used by mostly white people who don't want to use the word, poor. The fine ladies up at church had wondered, some aloud, what my parents could possibly have been thinking, bringing a fourth child into a house that was struggling to provide for the three they already had. Although Mom loved them dearly and valued their council, even back then, my mother didn't take crap off of anyone.  She let them know in no uncertain terms what they could do with their opinions.

Mom told me this story a few years before she died and I remember thinking how glad I was that she hadn't told it to me when I was a kid. I probably would have ended up in therapy, the psychotic people-pleaser trying desperately to prove the church ladies wrong! But, nobody who has known me more than five minutes would confuse me with a people-pleaser. That ship has sailed!

On the bright side, I feel good, my mental acuity is acute enough for government work, and I still have my hair. So, I'm ok with 59.

The funny thing is, even though they're dead and gone, at age 59 I'm still trying to make my parents proud of me. In many ways, when it comes to them, I still feel like I did when I was a little boy, knowing instinctively that I was difficult, trying not to be too loud, trying to sit still more and not worry them so. By the time I was 25 and on my own, I knew in my heart that I had caused them more grief than my other three siblings combined. But, by that time, there was nothing I could do about it except try to make them proud as an adult. I mostly did this by staying out of jail. They were probably so exhausted after the first 20 years of my life, the bar had been set pretty low. But, when I married Pam and then presented them with Kaitlin and Patrick, it felt like redemption to me.

So, tomorrow, I will wake up to my first day as a 59 year old. As a bonus, tomorrow is the beginning of the baseball season. I'm at peace with one of those things, and ecstatic about the other!

Play Ball!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Wolf and the Sheepdog

I'm about to attempt a very difficult thing. I'm doing it partly because of what happened to Mike Pence with regards to his "marriage rules" controversy. I'm also doing it because I think it needs to be done. When we arrive at the place where something as innocent as not having dinner alone with a woman if she's not your wife, becomes fodder for hysterical condemnation, something has gone off the rails. Here's what I think is happening...when we disagree with someone's politics, that disagreement becomes all-consuming, and allows for zero exceptions, that is if someone is our political enemy, we cannot for a second consider that he or she has any positive traits. Our disdain for anyone on the other side must be complete and unremitting. Any accommodation feels like weakness so it's full battle stations 24/7. This is the environment in which America finds itself...and it has to stop.

To that end, I will attempt this difficult thing. First, I will identify my three least favorite politicians. Then, I will do a full internet investigation of every detail of their lives, public and private, and I will attempt to find something about them that I can praise, something that is worthy of acknowledgement, something that will transform my view of them as mere political animals and replace it with a dash of humanity. It's a version of what my parents always asked me to do about people with whom I couldn't get along when I was a kid. "Find something good about them."

Here are the three candidates for my personal worst person in the world award, in no particular order,
Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. I will not here list the many reasons why I hold each of these individuals in such low regard, that should be self evident to anyone who regularly reads this blog. However, after some exhaustive research, I have discovered some things about them that I didn't know, things that have managed to move the needle a little in my estimation of their
value as human beings. Let's start with Senator Warren.

She was not born rich and entitled, but rather to lower middle class, blue collar parents. She is the youngest of four, with three older brothers. When she was young, her Dad got sick and lost his job, endangering the finances of the family to the point that at age 13 she got her first job waiting tables at her Aunt's restaurant. In addition to not being afraid of real work, Ms. Warren made the decision to be a stay at home Mom for the first two years of each of her two children's lives, even to the point of practicing law from home. These two experiences of her life demonstrate fine qualities which deserve praise and acknowledgement.

Charles Schumer has raised two accomplished daughters, Jessica and Allison, and has been married to his wife Iris for 37 years. I would imagine that if much of your life has been lived in the cesspool that is Washington politics, that alone is an amazing feat. Mr. Schumer too was not born into wealth, having grown up in very working class Brooklyn where he attended public schools. At age 17  he scored a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT test, outscoring me by a whopping 240 points. Gotta give him props for that!

Nancy Pelosi was born in Maryland to an Italian family who didn't speak English, making her a second generation immigrant. It is an impressive climb from having foreign language speaking parents to being the first female Speaker of the House. Name another country where this is possible? In addition, she has somehow managed to stay married to the same man for 54 years while raising five children, and being blessed with eight grandchildren. Well done, Nancy.

Nothing that I have just written changes my view of these three people as politicians. Listening to any of them on television will still be, both now and for all eternity, like listening to screeching cats. But, learning just a little of their background, getting just a glimpse of their life stories, has changed how I think about them. They seem more human to me now, more, dare I say, like me?

One of my favorite old Warner Brothers cartoons from back in the day was the one which featured the wolf and the sheep dog. Each morning you would see them walking along together to work, each carrying a lunch box, making small talk. Soon, they would arrive at a time clock hanging on the trunk of a tree where they both would clock in. The rest of the cartoon was a series of attempts by the wolf to steal one of the sheep in the field which the sheepdog was there to protect. Each wiley attempt at subterfuge by the wolf was met with crafty violence by the stalwart sheepdog. The last attempt by the wolf was always the most daring and just about the time that the sheepdog was about to swing that fist of justice at him...the whistle would blow. The sheepdog and the wolf would freeze in place, acknowledge the end of the work day, grab their empty lunch boxes and walk home together, side by side..."How are the kids, Ralph?" the sheepdog would ask. "Growing like weeds, Sam." the wolf would answer.

Perhaps asking our politicians to be more like Ralph and Sam is asking too much. But maybe if we all learned how to separate the political from the personal, we would get along better. Maybe if we could find it within ourselves to find the good in others, a middle ground could be found. But, suppose the other side refuses to return that good will? Doesn't matter. I'm not responsible for the other side. I'm just responsible for myself.

"Go thee therefore, and do likewise."