The gratitude of a turkey

The gratitude of a turkey

There was a point in time where we would use the word turkey as a poking fun kind of derogatory term, sort of like saying goofball instead of Butterball.  I am a witness to this, as I have been called a turkey on occasion.  The difference between me and a Thanksgiving turkey is that the Thanksgiving turkey you have to stuff, not necessary for me, because I’m already full of myself. (Some people would say that I’m full of other things as well).  I was born in Germany, almost 67 years ago under the banner of the Hessian Eagle.  After I came to America I found out that I now have to share my birthday with a turkey.  I guess it could have been worse; I could have been born on Christmas and have to deal with two bags of coal.  But the coincidence of my birthday with a significant national holiday really isn’t all that bad, there’s a positive side to this.  A national holiday where everyone spends time giving thanks seems apropos for my own personal celebration.  For me, this day is a moment for me to reflect on who I am, what I was brought in to this world to do, what I have done this year to meet those expectations put forth by the universe in general.  Thanksgiving and my birthday are both days for reflection and gratitude and grace.

I have some friends who actually start out on November 1 with a daily listing of gratitude, the other 67% start on the Sunday before, and a few slackers and strays who do it on Thursday and there’s always the 2 or 3 who think about it on Friday.  I’m somewhere in the middle of all of that, a point from which I’m probably at least in the politically and socially acceptable range.  So this year, since I had a moment to think, because today was a half day of school here at Camp Happy Acres, I can share my thoughts with you.

Probably the first thing that I should acknowledge is that I have the freedom to put up this post, I don’t have to clear it with government censors, or be afraid that I might have an accidental suicide for expressing my viewpoints and beliefs.  Of course, before that, I should truly be thankful that I’m here and alive, thankful for my mother’s strength and endurance that brought me forth, and that she chose well and I had a mother and a father to raise me.  I’m thankful that I live in a society where my speech is free and that there are platforms that are free where I can share that speech.  Thankful that I’m surrounded by people that care, not about me, but about my brothers and sisters.  I am thankful for all of those people who took the time to mould me, to empower me, to teach me.  And in turn, I’m thankful for the opportunity to carry that which they gave me and deliver it to yet another generation.  I have to surely say how grateful I am for that next generation, a generation that I helped shape and teach, who in turn gave me another generation who have filled my heart with joy and who I have also had the opportunity to teach, and in both cases, not just teach but to show.  I am thankful that I was given the tools and the abilities to help shape the future.

And now, being of sound mind (a relative concept) and I do solemnly affirm that I’m grateful for what I have been given and accordingly do swear (something I do quite often) to do my best to continue to provide reason enough for you to be thankful for me, and I will continue to seek out ways to increase the likelihood of that happening. But in the meantime, I will continue to be thankful, to be grateful for all of you who tolerate me, who support me, who follow the same path that I do, a path that I’m grateful that I don’t have to walk alone.

The view from the dumpster–Used bagels without a schmear of stimulus

The view from the dumpster—Used bagels without a schmear of stimulus

If you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted any updates on my dumpster finds or any discussions about dumpsters in general.  It’s not because I’ve stopped looking, I still do it every day.  But as I have already taught you, a dumpster is a tool of modern archaeology; it tells the tale of the society that surrounds it.  As we go through troubling and uncertain times, especially in dealing with the Pandemic, the resulting economic impact, the slow-down or lock-down on our abilities to go about living our normal consumer driven, wasteful, throwaway society lives that is reflected in the dumpster. 

Not only do I watch dumpsters and trash cans and recycling bins, I also watch sites like Freecycle, Marketplace and Craig’s list.  Even those sites are showing changes, showing indicators. Today, I saw a post on Freecycle for “4 pumpkin bagels from Giant Foods”.  My first thought was that pumpkin bagels approach sacrilege; to me it’s like pineapple on a pizza, go ahead blast me for that, but this guy has 4 bagels he wants to get rid of, think about that.  To me, the best scenario would be to compost them, before they’re baked and offered to the general public.  Most likely, someone will take them off of his hands, because they are truly pumpkin fanatics or they are hungry.  On Freecycle, it has become common for people to offer up excess food and even for people to post that they need food as well as other assistance.  I have met one of the families that put up a post of desperation.  I delivered food to them, friends of mine sent along gift cards as well as clothing.  But I met them, and to me and all of the rest of the world, they looked just like you and me, I couldn’t tell that they were hungry and suffering, they looked just like us, but that is an assumption, because you, my reader also look just like us, and I don’t know what you’re going through.

But back to the dumpsters, what I see is mostly garbage (within the true definition of the term).  Now the idea of dumpsters being low in material should gladden my heart, it should make me sing and dance for joy; I tried that, that’s how I get the vultures to leave so I can check the dumpsters.  It would almost seem that people have learned the 3 R’s of recycling and that resulted in a reduction in the volume of waste.  But we all know better, humans don’t learn anything that quickly, it’s a slow repetitive process which upon its completion you have to repeat over and over again.  I’m pretty sure that people that believe the earth is flat put nothing in the recycling bins, preferring instead to simply allow their cats to push it over the edge.  In examining the bags in the dumpster, I found that the mixture in the bags included a variety of putrescible matter right along with bottles and cans that should have been recycled.  There was no change there.  I did see a significant increase in carry out containers and packaging, due to all of the food service locations being forced to offer carryout or go out of business.  There was still garbage in the recycling containers, that hadn’t changed.  So it’s not a moment of pride, it’s a continuation of disappointment in our society’s inherent failure to recognize problems and issues that affect us all but don’t appear to affect us individually because some have chosen not to see.

What is different is the absence of material goods, of consumer products, of hard goods, items that truly didn’t belong in the dumpster, but ended up in there because it was a convenient way to get rid of them.  In the past, in these very same dumpsters I have been able to find a continuous supply of vacuum cleaners, mixers, blenders, dishes, pots and pans, kitchen appliances, computers, electronics, radios and televisions, etc. etc. etc.  But now, nothing, in the last month, I have returned with virtually nothing.  It’s not that they’re being good; it’s that they are being frugal, they are in self-preservation mode. The arrogance of throw it away has been replaced with—it has to last for a little while longer.  It is the illustration of one of the most basic unstated principals of economics, a principal that actually should be named “the duh factor”—People with no money, can’t spend any money.  That then means that whatever they have has to last until things change.  Part of this is driven by fear.  Fear in a world of uncertainty, in a world of not knowing what will happen tomorrow, a world adrift without leadership or guidance.  Fear of not knowing what will happen next.  The unemployed, the under-employed, the homeless or about to be homeless are unable to do anything more than survive, trying to live to see tomorrow.  A new toaster or microwave is not a priority when they are uncertain if they will have a roof over their head, a place to live while they starve to death.  That’s what I see in the dumpsters, nothing, which is a reflection of what a significant number of our neighbors and friends have right now, nothing.  Or as they used to say in Merry old England, “not a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of”. 

The dumpster has told the story, but I would really like to see the sequel, where nothing goes in that doesn’t belong there, and that our people have the ability to become consumers again while also becoming responsible consumers while stimulating our economy and encouraging the chasing arrows to catch up to themselves.  But none of this will happen without stimulus, financial stimulus, economic stimulus as well as mental, spiritual and emotional stimulus, all of which are needed and can only be provided by strong leadership.  It is time that we step aside from all else and focus on recycling and restarting our economy which can only be done by supporting our people.

Fiddling with tradition

Fiddling with tradition on the roof

“Dear God, you made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor but it’s no great honor, either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”  “We stay because this is our home… And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word… Tradition. “

Some of my favorite lines from “Fiddler on the Roof”, ageless and priceless, glorious in their simplicity, and have been a part of my memories for a very long time.  The very idea of me having memories for a very long time is part of the reason that I’m writing this, not so much because of memories, but simply because I’ve been around for a long time, a very long time, the anniversary of which I will sort of celebrate next week, or at least acknowledge it.  When I was young, my parents would give me presents, when I got older and truly understood the events that led to my arrival, my birthday was celebrated by me giving my mother flowers and thanking her, that was the tradition, one that sadly is missing one of its participants and now is just a memory, a happy memory.

For almost all of us, we’re in a time of year that is full of traditions.  With multiple holidays and Holy days upon us between now and the beginning of a new year, we all face our own and our family’s traditions as well as those of various religions and heritages.  These are the memories and the beliefs that are interwoven in the fabric of our own lives and being.  These traditions are more than simply celebrating, they are a function of recognizing who we are, they are an opportunity to share with those present and those passed.  The constant repetition of those traditional events and activities are a constant reminder of our connection to each other, they are the assurance of continuity, of security, they are the norm and routine in our lives, they are the cosmic connection and the genetic memories; they are the tribal swaddling that comforts all.

We are living through a pandemic, a time of turbulence, a time of economic uncertainty, a time of political uncertainty, a time of uncertainty for our global environment, a time when all of the foundational concepts of our society are reeling and unsteady with a constant barrage of assaults against them.  We are living in a time where the very institutions that we have created to protect us, to guide us and to deliver us from evil are all on perilous ground.  No matter where you turn, nothing is as it should be and nothing is comforting, we are all living in fear and many in despair.  We live by our faith and our beliefs that this too shall pass, and it likely will, but there will be a cost and there will be scars.  And much of that cost and those scars will be inflicted upon our children.  Children who look to us, the adults to maintain their safety and their security, children who look up to us to maintain traditions.  

Many years ago I started to ask people for birthday presents, you know like socks and underwear and stuff.  As the years progressed I asked for gifts to various specific charities, and then, I started to simply ask for donations to the favorite charity of your choice.  Along comes Facebook, steals the idea and allows everyone to add a charity fundraising drive to their birthday celebration.  I’m thinking that Zuckerberg owes me a little for that idea, but I’m not holding my breath.  For me, this has become a tradition, my own tradition that I share with my community. 

As we come to the end of this year, a year that has taken a toll on most of us, emotionally and financially and as my birthday approaches, I have to maintain tradition and ask for gifts.  In this time where we are all trying to do what we can, I’m reminded of that first quote from “Fiddler on the Roof” about the fact that there are many poor people and that I’m certainly no exception, if I were a rich man a lot of things would be easier, but I’m not.  And now I have to reach out to all of my stressed and strained friends and remind them of yet another tradition.  We are approaching Christmas.  Our community has worked to ensure that our people don’t go hungry, that we feed their bodies; we are working to ensure that there are safe places to keep those bodies.  But I’m asking that you help feed the souls and the confidence of our children by helping maintain their traditions.  I’m asking that you all do what you can to assist the great Claus, a being that Dr. Fauci has assured us is immune to Covid 19 and is absolutely incapable of spreading it.  I ask that you help put smiles on the faces of the innocents and that you not limit that the simply the youngest but also include the tweens and the teens. 

I ask that in observance of my birthday, this year that you help keep traditions alive and vibrant and that you reinforce the concept of hope while you share your love.

The legacy of covid man

Covid Man has left us with a legacy of smiles, and a challenge

Elvis has left the building.  A couple of months ago, some may remember, I put up a picture of what I titled “Covid Man”.  It truly was a lot of fun.  The container that is the base was handcrafted by some unknown person with fairly decent skills.  When I first discovered it, lonely, upset, and cast aside, in a dumpster, I looked at it and thought that somebody had crafted a vessel to hold a ‘Suffering Bastard” or a “Mai Tai” or some other fru-fru drink with an umbrella and a little plastic cutlass spearing a piece of fruit.  The quality of the restaurant being gauged by a direct relationship to the type and quantity of fruit, a single maraschino cherry usually meant pick up a pack of Tums on the way home.  So I rescued my little buddy, brought him home and gave him a bath.  And then, he would sit on the deck and we would have conversations over coffee and a cigarette.  Luckily for me, he had quit smoking and caffeine just runs right through him.  He had a face that only his creator could love, or maybe his creator is the one that turned against him.  Maybe his color wasn’t right, or the nose was too big, or the lips had just a little too much sneer, or the eyes reflected too much on what he was seeing.  Whatever it was, he was cast aside and no longer worthy, no longer able to fulfill his duty as he was designed to do.

But I liked him and kept him and promised him a new and better home, where he would be appreciated for what he is, as he is, nothing more and certainly nothing less.  At some point, I came up with an idea; I took my friend and rudely shoved a masonry bit up his nether region and turned him into a planter.  And thus after a long period of darkness, thus Covid Man was created.  He was filled with premium potting mix and lots starts of Tradescanthia.  And there he was, a creation, not mine alone, but collaboration with an unknown artist and an unknown intent.  My intent was quite clear, taking a moment to poke fun, to laugh in defiance, to face down the fear that grips all of us.  And away we went, and everyone had a good chuckle, there were smiles, there were some that did try to call the guys with the butterfly nets to see if they would pick me up.  But overall it was just simply fun.

Eventually, I put him up on Marketplace to find him a new home, to arrange for an adoption, as I had promised him.  For weeks people would ask questions and comment and compliment, total strangers joining in on the fun.  I let the listing expire; I assumed that if nobody adopted my poor lonely friend, then by default he would remain with me.  I put him near a window, gave him supplemental lighting via LED grow lights and watered him on schedule, just last week I even gave him a quick hit of MiracleGro to make him feel better.  I’m pretty sure he liked that, his hair grew and even started to flower.  This morning, someone messaged me and asked if my friend was still available.  I was forced to answer that indeed he was, and the fellow asking also made an offer.  I told him that I would accept that offer only if he promised to give him a good home.  Which made the buyer laugh, assure me that indeed he would and stated that he loved plants and that he definitely loved quirky.  Having sworn his oath of fielty, he is now the proud parent of Covid Man. 

Now that he’s gone, I will miss him, he will take his place among my memories.  But this little lump of clay, that was turned and shaped and made by an artist, gave that artist a moment of joy in the creation, I took him and added to him and shared with you and it gave many a smile, a moment of laughter and happiness.  A little pile of clay that has now moved on to share joy in his new home, a little pile of clay, an inanimate object that has provided through his sale additional monies that allow us to help our neighbors with Christmas, or food or the other necessities of life in a grey and uncertain world.  A little pile of clay did all of that.  How wonderful would it be if the living piles of clay could follow that example?   

Confessing my imperfection

Confessing my imperfection

Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.  Obviously, my sense of humor is perfect.  Those of you who actually read what I write already know that my command of the English language is good and sometimes even gooder, but it’s not perfect.  Of course we do have to acknowledge that neither English nor American is near perfect either.  I’m six foot tall, pretty much average, but a few pounds beyond perfect, my hands and feet are of average size and so is everything else, not perfection but satisfactory, or so I’ve been told.  I have a warm smile, and now that my teeth have either been fixed or replaced, it’s easier to display (if you could see beyond my mask) but those teeth are still not perfect. 

When I was in school, my grades were adequate, good enough, not great and definitely not perfect.  I squeaked by on good enough before I learned that “good enough” was the enemy of greatness.  When I joined the workforce, I did my duty; I gave more than what was expected and certainly far more than what was paid for.  But I was proud of what I was doing, happy to do it.  But there were people around me, my peers, and people of my rank until I rose above them who would admonish me to slow down, to chill out and not be so gung-ho.  I was good and I daresay even great, and when they challenged my actions in the performance of my duties, I fought them as well as the guys that I was paid to fight.  In time they had poisoned the well where I drew my water, that cool sweet fresh water that sustained me in my efforts.  They had effectively cut Samson’s locks so that he would be more like them instead of pursuing a path to greatness and possibly perfection.  Time has proven me right, they are now all scattered to the wind, some of them are back to being ashes, but that which we had started is now mediocre at best.  And I learned that there truly is no such thing as perfection when it comes to man, only the opportunity to follow the path in that direction and do all that you can do. 

I was late to service today because of my own time management failures, which may be nothing more than a euphemism for being too slow and lazy to get up to speed this morning.  I did catch part of it and maybe the part that I caught was sufficient, maybe that was the part I needed to hear, and to reflect on.  I didn’t take notes, and my memory is less than perfect in some aspects, I was actually still taking on my infusion of coffee, so I will have to paraphrase the best that I can and where I can’t of course I can just make shit up and you won’t know the difference.  Basically he wanted us in a silent moment to reflect within on some basic questions, he gave a list of questions with more words than what I could deal with, and the list of questions got longer and more difficult and I was already working on the first couple of questions in my head.  That is a problem on its own, I can usually tolerate one or two discussions in there at a time, but when an outsider throws more stuff into the fray, it really can create chaos.

All of his questions dealt with how we treat others.  How we dealt with people, who are different than we are how we dealt with someone mistreating one of our brothers and sisters because they were different, whether or not we had ever participated in that mistreatment, and in general who we were in regards to our relationships with those around us that are different, different by way of pigmentation, orientation, religious affiliation, I added party affiliation to the list, place of origin, mental capacity and financial or economic status would be others to add to the list of those who are different, no questions about perfection simply different.  I was standing in a room full of plants and flowers, constant reminders of the beauty and grace in creation, a mix of all types of plants, all different species ranging from cacti to orchids, from philodendrons to tradescantia, all living in harmony.  As he was preparing to go to prayer, and I was fading away from his discussion the last thing that I heard was a quote from Romans—“Let nothing put out the fire in your heart”. 

And within myself, within that heart that only I can reach and within the confines of my own mind where the voices will only allow me to lie to the outsiders by offering a proper façade, but will not allow me to lie to myself, within there where truth is absolute, but not necessarily shared outside of the realms of my own heart and mind, I did my best to answer those questions.  I could continue to function in that fashion, working to convince myself of my own approach to greatness on the way to perfection with no repercussions, from the outside world.  But truly, if I hold it all in, then I can’t show anyone else, or guide anyone else, or honestly promote all of the tenets of today’s sermon.  By omission, I would be lying, I would be one of those, the ones that tell you how to live and profess their own innocence along with their own perfections, without ever admitting their own flaws and complicity in the failures of our society.

But for me, having to face my own failures and lack of perfection I have to say that there have been times that I’ve called a spade a spade, there have been times where I have told unkind jokes about our Jewish friends, I have gotten accolades for my casting aspersions against the gays, I have grabbed ass and made suggestive comments, I have on many occasions failed to be a model of propriety and have failed to display Christian values, or even simple human decency.  I take no pride in any of that.  The mere fact that it was the common practice at the time means nothing more than those who I was surrounded by were wrong, and I was complicit in tolerating the wrongness of it all.  There is no escaping the fact that I aided and abetted, either by direct action or by failing to oppose those actions.

But, that was a long time ago, and I have grown and learned, from my mistakes.  There have been times where I stood with a challenged individual who was being denied service, times where I had to stand up and deny members of the Klan, times where I had to fight against superiors for the rights of others, and there were times where I would do right on one side and not the other.  But that was long ago, and as I have aged, I have become smarter; I have been influenced by others who showed me the errors of my ways without ever knowing that I had erred.  I started to follow people who did not ask, but only showed how things need to be done.  I went so far as to marry a conscience and whenever I feel myself slipping, I can ask her.  I don’t ask for forgiveness, I’m beyond that, I asked only that we look at where I am today, how I learned from those mistakes, and the most important part is that as I share the error of my ways that you, one or any or all of you learn from me, at least to the point where you can honestly look into your own hearts and minds.

Perfection is a concept that will escape me, even if I was graded on a curve, but it’s still a pathway and a goal, it has bumps and it has choices where the paths split and repeatedly split again, there are many paths and many ways to get there, but for most of us, following that path and doing all that we can to stay true is the best we can do.  As humans, that may be all that we can do, simply doing our best, being honest with ourselves, being open to improvement and letting nothing extinguish the flames in our hearts, let that fire burn pure and true.  Let that fire be the light that guides us and shines on for others to follow.

Laugh, don’t cry, just laugh

Laugh, don’t cry, just laugh

Recently, I’ve had to spend some quality time visiting the Doctors my daughter works with.  No real need to worry, nobody found a wooden stake.  But apparently getting older isn’t quite as much fun as we were told about.  As a matter of fact I believe that some people withheld critical information.  But, I had some issues so I had to go in to see the Doctor.  I checked in, I sat and waited to be called.  A nice young lady in blue scrubs came out for me and escorted me to the little room and asked a bunch of questions.  Pretty much all the same ones that I’ve answered before, I obliged her and answered them yet again.  She was doing her job, she was proper, polite and quick and then she was out of there.  My daughter came to join me in the little room and said that I had intimidated the hell out of poor what’s her name, who apparently knew my relationship.  And apparently everyone in the practice knows because my daughter delights in telling everyone when I’m in the building, to the point where she gets giggly and tells me that she loves me in front of all of her co-workers, but at home she says “what’s for dinner?” 

When Doctor B came in, he looked at me and said “Hello my friend, it’s good to see you again, how are you?” and I said “I’m here again, I’m here to find out how I am, and since you’re the Doctor you have to tell me”.  So Doctor B and I did the usual back and forth, reviewed the MRI as he rattled off all of the various technical terms for your ass is old and parts are wearing out. Duh, I knew that, I’m here to have you fix it.  Then he threw in the concept of Pseudo-gout, and I thought to myself “crap, I can’t even get real gout”.  His recommendation was to cut back on red meat, which for me is no big deal since I already have, and to cut back on beer.  Now, those are fighting words, but I let him slide.  But to be sure, he did yet another referral; I declined his offer of pain killers since their market value has depreciated significantly.  He left and my daughter and I walked out into the hallway.  And there in front of the young lady I had already terrorized and several of her co-workers my daughter turns to me and repeated that she loved me and that she would not tell my wife about the issue with the beer.  I responded to her in my deep voice and best stage projection “I know you won’t tell, because I know where all of your stashes are”.  As I looked around the hall at the quickly assembled audience there were a number of suppressed smirks.  And in my mind, I said “there, I do have a sense of humor”.

As I was tossing around in my head a simple idea of what I wanted to write about you have to view it as a large cavernous hall with a handful of players all trying to play volleyball with a medicine ball with no clue as to where the goal is.  What had come to mind is an old adage from my time as a yute, an adage that was attributed to the Jews.  It had to do with why they laugh in the face of all that they had to deal with.  But I didn’t want to go all out on that, a 50 year old memory so I decided to research first to avoid being offensive.  I certainly am capable of being offensive without any effort, but I do try to avoid it.  I never actually found any references to support my memories, and of course it’s possible that Google hasn’t caught up to translating the clay tablets from when I was a young boy.  It’s also possible that it was told to me and misattributed.  But the concept really is the same regardless of source.  As I did this research, I learned a lot about some conflicts between the Talmud and the Torah on that subject, not an area I was prepared to enter, Ms. Maisel where are you?   Oy vey, I’m in trouble here and the audience is getting surly.  I’m a gentile in the temple. 

As I remember the adage, regardless of who said it, or who contrived it, laughter is the best medicine, and at times you simply have to laugh to keep from crying.  When you have had enough of the bully pushing you around, you stand there at laugh at him and his pathetic displays of aggression; he becomes so confused that he forgets what he’s supposed to be doing to intimidate you.  Goliath towered over David, and was so unprepared to deal with the little man ignoring him and laughing at him that he dropped his guard and David dropped him. 

This last year, which is almost over, has strained and drained many of us, and this year, has already shown us that it intends to procreate and give us even more to deal with.  We are concerned about our fellow man (and woman, and they, and them), we are concerned about the well being of our children in a contrived and rapidly created safe educational program, and we have fears for our friends who have excessive amounts of melanin, we worry about people eating (a jewish grandmothers worst nightmare), we worry about those we love and our own personal abilities to meet all of the challenges of a world that cares little about the lesser of us.  A world where the most pathetic would claim superiority while they’re knuckles drag along the ground and they complement their inferiority by strapping themselves with weapons to offset their personal deficiencies. And none of this is humorous, but these are the bullies that we need to stand up to and laugh at.  We’ve seen worse, we’ve seen bigger, we’ve seen too much over too many years, in a collective history, and these petty bullies that confront us now, they are funny, they are amusing and they will slink back under their rocks when the bright light of laughter at their pathetic antics blinds them.

While we can all appreciate the humor of Jewish comedians, and there are many, we don’t live with them every day.  We live every day in our own worlds with our own issues and problems, our own concerns and our own fears.  What we need to do is to look into our own lives and find the humor, not necessarily the gut splitting jokes that we have all heard, not necessarily even jokes, or even humor for that matter.  But let’s look around at that goofy cat falling off of the table, or our kid finger-painting with fresh material from his diaper; let’s look at that squirrel that I saw today at Lowe’s hardware running back and forth between all of the trees on sale, or even the squirrel from Pascagoula, let’s look at all of the little things in our lives that bring us smiles, that cause us to laugh, that make us happy.  The antics of our children, or our pets, or even our politicians, the foible of our co-workers, the memes on Facebook, whatever it is that put’s a smile on our face.  Let’s focus on those, let’s use those to bring us back to a point of happiness, use those points to regenerate and reinvigorate our spirits.  Use that happiness, that laughter that moment of humanity to give us strength.

Without that strength, we are unable to help others.  We need that to have the energy to pull others up; we need that strength to be able to stand and to walk with our sisters and brothers.  We need that strength to be able to face adversity and laugh at it.

Laugh, laugh until it hurts, laugh to keep from crying, laugh because you know the true folly and know your own strength.   And then gather that strength to help others to laugh, to live, to enjoy life thumbing our noses at the face of adversity.

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

I’m sitting here pretending to be doing stuff so everybody leaves me alone.  The problem is that our internet is out, again.  So I figured I could sit here and write posts to be published at a later time, a time to be determined by some unseen force beyond my control.  The representatives of said force having just left here a few minutes ago with everything fixed, a fix that lasted all of 15 minutes.  And here we are, no internet, no TV, no home phone service (not that it matters), no classroom tomorrow, no business being transacted.  It literally feels like we have been abandoned to the dark ages, cutoff from the rest of the world.  This is so frustrating, I’m sitting here bitching and complaining and nobody can hear me.  I feel like a sadist beating a masochist. 

I remember having telephone service through Bell Telephone or AT&T, for many years before the advent of VOIP or having to watch TV with an antenna, or watching a movie via a VCR.  And I remember that those services rarely failed, outages and issues were corrected immediately, usually without an appointment.  Their failure rate was negligible outside of a catastrophic event.  And now, since we live in the future, the era of technology, the stuff that science fiction books wrote about, now that we have arrived, we’re frequently sitting in the dark.  Forced to actually talk to those people we see roaming the hallways in our house.  When you call to tell them you have a problem, you are forced to deal with a piece of technology designed to frustrate you and encourage you to hang up.  It’s a piece of technology gone rogue, protecting other bits and bytes of high tech and advanced systems from your petty human needs.  If you have a full bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes you can outwait them, only to be told that they will have to schedule a tech to fix the issue, how’s next Thursday look for you?

We have become condition to instant gratification, high speed communication, next day or even same day delivery, access to all of the information in the world at the push of a few buttons, it’s a massive operation with a global span and all designed to make our lives better, when it works.  When it doesn’t work, we realize that there are no backup systems, there are no alternatives.  Yes, you can use your mobile phone to order your pizza and ask Siri questions, you can still look up information and order your latte from Starbucks, you can order your groceries and even conduct most business from your phone.  But unless you have some very mad skills, you couldn’t write this post to Facebook.  But you do have to ask yourself this simple question, why can I do it on my phone and not from my desktop or laptop?  Why does this system work, but not the one that’s hardwired to my house?

I realize that not having direct internet access is not the end of the world; we have a president that can rule this country via a cell phone that can connect to Twitter.  But tomorrow, my kids have to go to school using a system that was already marginal, flaky and shaky at best, a system that will not work without the internet.  A system in place to protect the health and well being of children and staff, which has failed.  And since the system has failed, the kids will face the consequences, for them, tomorrow is a cyber snow day.  But ultimately they will have to make up the work, whenever they can get back on line, and whenever I can get online, jump through all of the nonsensical hoops, indicate which classes they have missed and what they have done to correct a problem that they did not create.

Our internet backbone is referred to as the Super Highway, likened to the Interstate System, something that was created by President Eisenhower (I’d tell you when but I can’t get on Google).  Our Interstate System works fine, with an occasional crash here and there, but there’s always in short order all of the necessary emergency service personnel on scene to fix the problem, clean up, reroute, get it back to full operation is their mantra.  We don’t have that with the internet, that super highway is a dirt road in Alabama running through a cotton field. 

What we have now, is a super highway that is a patchwork of roads and dirt paths, lined with bandits and toll booth operators, whose idea of service is purely dictated by the collection of revenue.  Now, in our country, at the time of our greatest need and reliance on a baling wire and duct tape infrastructure, we are being failed by a system that doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about our needs as long as we pay the bill on time.

Reese’s, Kit-Kats and humming with the choir

Reese’s, Kit-Kats and humming with the choir

It would appear that the liquor stores in Howard County sold out on Champagne yesterday.  I’m simply going to guess that Howard County trends towards the blue side.  I’ve been watching all of the various people celebrate and announce repeatedly how history had been made by Ms. Harris, how our Democracy had been saved.  And I have seen comments from the right, the red side saying that they aren’t going to recognize the new President, or give him any more respect than we gave the current occupant of the White House.  So once again, the Reds are on one side, the Blues are on the other side, and we are still divided.  All of us waving the same flag, a flag that is red, white and blue, but neither side is willing to even approach that white side, the common threads that run through our flag and through our nation.  I have to tell you that to me all of this noise, all of the banter and the back and forth and the failure to present a coherent argument and certainly not a civil discussion sounds far too much like my kids.  Which is a bit surprising, because they were raised to be better than that, but they are still human and they still have moments of regression.  Unfortunately, it’s our job as adults to teach them the right way, a better way, one where everybody is happy and everybody wins.  Yes, there are only 4 Reese’s cups left, but there are plenty of Kit-Kats, and if you present that properly and wait a few minutes, one of them will say, I really would rather have a Kit-Kat.  I’ve watched that phenomenon more than once, the one that chose the Kit-Kat was lying, they don’t really like them but they recognized that the argument was petty, that there would be no winner, and there would be no peace until this is resolved.

Of course a lot of these arguments and sometimes vicious discussions I see on Facebook.  Understand that the 3000+ friends that I have are a cross section of not just the major parties but the minor ones, these cyber friends include many different religions and atheists, they include old fat white dudes, latinos, natives, people of color, people of various sexual orientations, and many differ from my own beliefs and orientation and heritage.  But I know that they are all children of God, and have been taught that she never makes a mistake and I have become tolerant and accepting.  And I read their comments and thoughts, I see their viewpoints, I ignore the vitriol to the best of my ability.  I won’t tolerate the hatred, the vicious attacks, the prejudice and certainly don’t tolerate a call for violence.  Nor do I tolerate disruption and lawlessness purely for the pleasure of inflicting harm on others and the absence of justifiable cause.

As I watch Facebook, attend church services on Facebook (a Covid thing), I see all of the attacks, the bitterness and the disputes, the incessant fighting often without reason, I see the ones toeing the party line or the line that they believe that their friends want to hear them say.  I’m mindful of the fact that most people who have friends on Facebook tend to align with those who believe the way they do.  In essence, we have millions of people around the world all grouped together in various breakout rooms (that’s a Covid thing that teachers use) to support and pat each other’s asses, all of them spending their efforts on preaching to the choir.  What an absolute waste of time.  What a waste of a tool that could and should be used for the benefit of all in our society.  What would happen if those various groups stopped abusing a valuable tool to tell each other how much they hate and despise the others with differing viewpoints, how much the red hates the blue, how much the blue hates the red and where nobody gives a damn about the white.

We should be using this tool to further discussions, not to attack each other which means none of us gets the Reese’s and we all have to eat the Kit-Kats but instead, we should use this tool to attack the problem, there simply aren’t enough Reese’s available.  We need to use this tool to be constructive, identify the problem, and collectively voice our thoughts on how to fix the problems.  Tearing each other down gets us absolutely nothing, tearing others down in a closed scenario where all think the same way gets us kudos from our compatriots but goes nowhere.  Let’s use the tools that we were given to hear each other out, to work together to solve the problems that cause our unhappiness.  Let me be the first to say my point of view, I’ve been a Republican for 48 years.  I despise Donald Trump and have held that position for several decades.  But let me also say that there were points that candidate Trump made in the 2016 election that should not be forgotten.  There were valid points that should have been addressed, which he failed to do, or at least failed to do correctly.  But now, as we move forward, we have to remember those points that were valid, and act upon them within our system.

There are issues presented by the Democrats, the left side, the blue side that must also be considered.  But, attacking the Dems or the Repubs for their viewpoint is not constructive.  We need to focus on attacking the problems, the issues, not the personalities, not the scenarios issued by spin, by bots, by outsiders, but by each and every one of us who represent the voices of the people.  We need to hear all of the voices to see how to blend them together to make a choir.  And with that choir we need to make a joyous noise, it is called a joyous noise because they heard me sing, noise that all of us can sing along with or as in my case, at least hum along with the tune.

The longest day ever, ended today

The longest day ever, ended today

When you look at the top of a distant mountain and think how far away it is, how long the trek, how difficult it will be to get there, think of this day.

When you are faced with obstacles that are daunting and seem impossible, think of this day.

When you feel that you are alone and that nobody else is there to support you or your position, think of this day.

When you continuously find yourself in a dark place, a bleak place with no possible way out, think of this day.

When you have tried to live facing a growing wave of hatred and bigotry, think of this day.

We have all endured an endless attack on the dignity of our country and its institutions, the absence of compassion, a lack of leadership.  We have watched horrified as an out of control incompetent failure has thumbed his nose at law and order, has raided not only our treasury but taken food out of the mouths of our children, robbed the future of a clean and safe environment, brought us to the precipice of isolation by excluding our allies while prostrating himself before our foes in exchange for pieces of silver.  We have endured lies covered up by lies, told with no subtlety and with impunity, because those we sent to protect us, the checks and balances in our system abdicated in favor of being the payee and gleefully broke the balance beam on the scales of justice.  And with every day, we faced another atrocity, another rent in the fabric of our society, another stain that won’t easily come clean, another lie, another gift of our national treasures to the those who pillage and plunder, another day of sinking deeper and deeper into a morass.  We watched as what we thought were our friends and our neighbors, the people who sat next to us in the pews showed us who they were.  We learned that followers of failed and erroneous concepts could freely take their sheets and flags out of storage while they terrorized a nation with the blessings of its President, we saw that our religious organizations would turn against the teachings of the Christ and follow a man who would break all of the commandments for his own pleasures, simply to be able to elevate their own sectarian cause with the political advantage given by bowing to Caligula.  

We have seen and dealt with so much that is contrary to the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of life, a right that should not be limited to those who are lacking in melanin, who don’t have a penis.  We have dealt with the two faced approach to our revered military, wherein we love them and cherish them, but would allow others to put a bounty on their head without even a whisper of protest.  We have dealt with assaults on the most basic of rights of all free men (which marginally includes women and people of color) to cast a vote, and those assaults still continue and will continue unless sweeping changes are made.  We have watched the erosion of professional leadership, the value of higher education, the value of professionals, the value and importance of science, by a buffoon who would have a witch doctor and a charlatan as his medical and spiritual advisors.  We have denigrated the value of public servants, the very people that actually do run the country, the people that take the Congressional mandates as approved by the President and turn them into reality.  We have watched a country demand in its leadership by suitable opinion demand that we protect a fetus, while at the same time housing children in cages, taking away food supplemental aid and financial support during a pandemic, demanding that our children be sacrificed by opening schools against medical advice for the benefit of the corporate sponsors.

And all of that is my short list, but what we have seen and what we have had to deal with is at best mind boggling and numbing, with no help, no heroes, no support from those most able to be all of that, who chose instead to side with the money and the promise, while knowing that the promises are worthless and his money is not his, simply betting on the come.  And yet we returned them to office, but their turn will come, they will face the reckoning.

And as you read this list, I would ask that you add your own thoughts to this list, and that you think about how we got here, and that you work towards preventing this from happening again, and as you look into the future, think of this day.

Too many tricks and stolen treats

Too many tricks and stolen treats

My little buddy, Oliver came to me this morning and wished me a Happy Halloween.  I thanked him, but I knew he had something to say, as 8 year olds always have something to say, followed by saying even more.  If you’re good, you can extrapolate and understand about 30% of the conversation.  Oliver confided in me that he believed that ‘trick or treating’ was pretty much off the table for tonight.  I took a very long sip of my coffee, which was a bit on the hot side, and it burned me, but I needed that brief moment to get myself together for what I thought would be an unpleasant conversation.  Nobody really likes to have to deal with breaking an 8 year olds heart.  That is rough, but now we had to have the conversation about Halloween, trick or treating, and the failures of our systems.  I would rather have told him that his dog is ugly that would have been easier.  In fact I know he would simply laugh at that and remind me that he doesn’t have a dog, the ugly one is actually my dog.

So we proceeded to have our conversation, in which I burnt my mouth several more times.  He had come to tell me that he understood that this year; there would be no costumes, no bags of candy, no giggling and squealing with friends around the neighborhood.  He was happy to be going to a church event where they were doing a movie night, and hot dogs and S’mores and even more.  I explained to him that he truly isn’t going to miss out on the bags full of candy, because in our house we always have some.  That in itself is peculiar because the kids don’t really eat that much candy, but there are always snacks and treats, fruit and crackers, cheese and nuts, always what they like, not the candy that they really don’t eat.  But of course, I understand the thrill of the hunt, I was young once, I remember trick or treating at the Flintstone’s house.  But my little guy was dealing with this, standing tall, expanding to his full 4 foot, 1 inch stature and said it was ok.  He understood Covid-19 and the impact associated with it and his responsibility to be a good person, better than many people who are well over 8 years old but can’t quite manage to act their age.

I had at first thought that I was being petitioned as an elder to open my grimoire and find a spell to cast.  But that’s not what happened; I was hearing instead a statement of support and understanding.   For me it was as explosive as “Little Boy”, putting forth a statement for all to hear.  My wife and daughter took all of the kids and painted them up appropriately, used whatever props were available to send them off to enjoy this kids holiday.  Oliver was smiling and happy, knowing that nothing could stand in the way, that whatever came up, his village was ready for it.  He was content knowing that although it was different, it was still going to be fun.

Children actually like a constant in their lives; they will tell you that they hate school, but taking away that schedule, that regimentation that they know is a normal part of life, rock their world.  Children have 4 holidays per year that they look forward to, which are a part of their world as they envision it, holidays that truly celebrate children, holidays where children are spoiled and reminded that they are appreciated.  Halloween is certainly high on the list, and Christmas, Christmas they day we celebrate the birth of a child by spoiling our children, Easter when we celebrate the renewal of life by spoiling our children, and of course the biggest one of all is their birth days, when we spoil them again.  These are milestones in the lives of children; these are the days that they are acknowledged for being the special gifts in our lives.  My children are willing and ready to forego all of the extras associated with these holidays, and offering instead to help others with theirs.  My children know the deal, there’s no art in it, and they understand that we have been facing a pandemic, an economic freefall, as well as environmental disasters.  They know that our society is in turmoil, that there are those who have and those who have not, and those who don’t give a damn.  They know that there are hungry people, and children who may be friends of theirs that are doing without, because of a systematic failure to care.  They know this already, even Oliver as the youngest knows this, and even Oliver has stood on the street corner holding his sign.

Children are resilient, they will survive what our society has done to them by its failure to act, but they are not ignorant, nor do they have issues with their memories.  They will remember those who stole their Halloween candy, those who made their friends cry because Santa couldn’t make the stop, they will remember the people in their village that went hungry, while others ate at a table with too few seats.  This they will not forget.  They will not forget the failures of zoom, the attitudes of teachers, the lack of compassion, the absolute disconnect of our society to take care of our people, the theft of the pleasures of youth and the quiet enjoyment that they were promised.

I have to tell you that I’m proud of my little buddy, and his siblings, and his friends.  And I have to warn you that you need not fear ghouls and goblins on this Halloween eve, but you need to fear all of those who you have failed, by your failures to act, by your failures to protect our village.  Fear those who’s memories will last and who will ultimately take your place as you become nothing more than a mere specter of what you thought you were.  Be afraid, be very afraid of the children of the Covid, for they will extract their due.