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Aug. 2nd, 2016

"...He's dead, I'm crippled, you're lost..." --Richard Burton in "The Longest Day."

The scariest thing happened to me yesterday.

I got lost. I don’t mean allegorically or professionally or something abstract. I mean lost in the realest sense – I didn’t physically know where I was.

Well, sure I knew I was in Bellingham WA and TBK was in the passenger seat and we had cell phones with GPS and it’s not like we’d be found dead in a desert or lost in some stereotypical bad neighborhood like the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation.  But hear me out.

I have a very, very good sense of direction. I always know which way is (generally) north.  Let me drive around a town for an hour or so or show me a general map and I can find shit. I know X road is which side of the interstate, which goes in a general direction and I’m good. Besides -- we’ve driven all over this damn town for three weeks.

But it didn’t work yesterday -- and maybe for the first time in my life. That’s what scared me. I knew where we were and then we took a different turn and went through a neighborhood and up and down a few streets and some steep hills and goddamned if I had no clue how to get to anywhere.  Kim was working the phone and we got back to I-5 and things were fine but we got to the highway and I’da swore we were headed south when we were actually headed north. Most discombobulating experience of my life and, even though we were back to normal in a few minutes, the impression of all this was deep and definite. It made me question my self-confidence – and that’s something no one wants. I don’t mind being wrong (I’m good at that), but I DO mind simply not knowing.

We’ve spent the past week on a fast jaunt back to San Diego to make a bankruptcy court appearance and then returning as quickly (and cheaply) as possible. We had hoped to put this off until late August or maybe Labor Day, when we could handle it all on our own. But our attorney advised otherwise and we had to crowdfund the trip. Thanks to friends and family, we raised the money and now we’re clear of travel obligations for awhile.  I cannot possibly express adequate thanks to those who helped us.

This trip, along with yesterday’s experience and observation of some of our neighbors, has given me tremendous insight into the Trump situation and why the orange sumbitch has appeal.

The 1970s comedy group The Firesign Theater had a political routine in which the slogan was, “give them a light, and they’ll  follow it anywhere.” Ronald Reagan (thanks to the late Lee Atwater and others) certainly knew that and it has been tragically yet effectively imposed again these days by the Trumpster. Folks who feel they’ve been too long in the wilderness will follow pretty much anyone who promises a way out, especially if they can blame someone else for putting them there.
Our temporary move to a more rural area has been beneficial in a variety of ways. We’ve both had our younger-day experiences of going back to Mother Earth and it’s fun to do it again for a minute or two. But we know it’s only temporary.
It’s not temporary for those out here who honestly and, sometimes with reason, feel they’ve been left behind and screwed by an urban elite, immigrants and a gubmint out of goddamned control.  Their day-to-day rules have changed significantly (often with reason) over the past decade and, godddammit, they went their fucking lives back. Trump promises a quick and permanent solution and you can bet this is why they’re lining up.

These folks aren’t dumb. But the past decade or so has seen a demographic and economic shitstorm in this country they cannot control nor really even influence In any meaningful way. Back in 2010, they voted the GOP back into control in Congress and in state legislatures and in governors mansions but things  haven’t really improved much.  Matter of fact, they’ve gotten even worse because there is no longer even a pretense of civility. Hate speech is now seen as protected speech and too few are willing to call it out for what it is. We just accept it as part of a New Normal, along with periodic terror attacks and mass shootings. Meh.

I’ve lived most of my adult life in an urban or suburban setting and the past 15 years or so in areas where my lily-white ass was definitely in the minority. This has been by design and it’s where I’m most comfortable – a place where languages, colors and experiences are highly diverse. But I have to remind myself that is certainly not how I was raised. It has taken decades of living in various places with different populations and attitudes to bring me to where I am.

That’s not the Trump crowd, which longs for a national greatness that never really was . Or what greatness we had was silently offset by darknesses such as Jim Crow or an Asian war or our Harvest of Shame, overt sexism in the workplace and it was okay to beat up on gays. When our modern day “Make America Great Again” folks start talking, it’s pretty clear they want to bring ALL that shit back again.

But our demographics and economics have changed and we can’t go back and that’s why they’re mad and scared and lining up behind a guy who really can’t build the wall, restore manufacturing and coal mining jobs or really do any of the shit he says he’ll do. He’s their Custer, and they’d rather go down in their own personal Little Big Horn.

It’s a shame, really. But it’s damn sure interesting to watch.

Jul. 14th, 2016

"...for the purposes of commerce...." --Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis

We arrived  here in the PNW six days ago and it has been mostly glorious. We've taken the time to cruise around a bit and get to know both the more urban areas nearby (Bellingham and Sedro-Woolley/Burlington) and there's plenty of reason for optimism.

It appears I'll be finding work quickly. Had the executive director been at the place I interviewed yesterday, I am sure an offer would have been extended. I have an interview tomorrow at another senior living facility and have also gotten very positive feedback from a couple of other places. There are also some things TBK can do and she's applied a series of spots. We're out of money, but we've been able to contribute some food and some income won't be long. I've made some bread and some butter to help things along.

For the time being, we're on a blow-up queen mattress in Stu and Lily's basement. With its cinderblock walls and concrete floor, it's akin to living inside the Maginot Line. All we need is a cannon poking out at the nasty Boche nearby. But, that said, Kim has made it delightfully homey and we're very comfortable. Stu and Lily have done a great job making the space as useful as possible, with a chest of drawers, adequate lighting and (thankfully) a working toilet. There's a comfy couch and we've added our own furniture to make a great temporary space.

"Temporary" is the operative word. We've determined we'll be much more comfortable in an environment that's a little more urban. While it is indeed lovely out here, getting to anyplace requires driving -- meaning the cost of gasoline. While much cheaper than Southern California, driving 50 miles or so to and from work every day is gonna run up expenses pretty fast. The idea of moving here, aside from family reasons, was to lower our cost of living. Additionally, I'm not getting any younger. As much as I enjoy helping Stu cut wood and whatnot, I am more comfortable closer to help if something goes wrong.

If we had the money, we'd be moving tomorrow. There seems to have been a sense we might move into the basement and never leave -- an idea we certainly did not foster. As sweet and welcoming as Stu and Lily have been, it is abundantly clear Lily's mom does not want us here and she has done nothing to hide her contempt. This pretty much scotches the idea of us eventually building a cabin or something on this property. We had planned to be here as briefly as possible, then look at possibly building something here down the line. But with that off the table, we are even more in a hurry to get into our own place  The situation also makes us wonder just how often we'll be seeing this new granddaughter. We're clueless as to what brought all this on, but it's tragic Stu and Lily are caught in the middle. We just keep our heads low.

That said, I still plan on putting a little rootstock into the ground next year and on working with Stu to brew some beer. This basement is the ideal spot for wine storage and has plenty of room for brewing. I'll be cutting and splitting wood between now and winter and it's good to work up that kinda sweat again. This truly is gorgeous property and there's a never-ending list of things that need doing. Once I get into a routine with work and gin up a little income, I can start holding up my end of that list and we'll have a little fun.

Thomas Jefferson's lengthy instructions to Meriwether Lewis at the outset of the first US expedition out this way included the line, "As it is impossible for us to forsee in what manner you will be perceived by those people, whether with hospitality or with hostility, so it is impossible to prescribe the exact degree of preserverence with which you are to pursue your journey."  Jefferson was, of course, referring to the Native Americans. But we're learning some of the same lessons ourselves these days in the same general part of the world.

There is so damn much potential for us in this wilderness so immense. We can't wait to get at it.

Jun. 12th, 2016

"..You might as well question why we breathe.." Victor Laszlo in "Casablanca."

This morning saw the intersection of gay rights, gun rights and terrorism in this nation and, predictably, we've erupted in political arguments while over a hundred families prepare to dispose of their dead or hold vigils hoping for recovery. At least in the physical sense.

The enormity of all this is only beginning to settle in on me. Beyond Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino and tragically too many others, what happened in Orlando this morning symbolized a national ill more than 200 years in the making -- namely that our Second Amendment needs serious adjustment. While the rest of our Bill Of Rights has been subject to tweaking and adjustment by subsequent amendments and/or Supreme Court rulings, that "shall not be infringed" clause creates lots of problems. It's long past time to deal with it.

But we won't. We'll get the usual litany of NRA defensiveness until the public indignation dies down. And, as I've noted here before, more gun laws aren't the answer. We could ban AR-15s tomorrow and it'd just make every garage and basement into a DIY gunsmithing shop. A new and worse Prohibition. We're much too far around that bend.

What disturbs me much more is the element mainstreaming the kind of hate, fear and intolerance that led to today's attack. We can make fun of Donald Trump as much as we want and I honestly think our even currently addled electorate is smart enough to reject him. But the fact is, even when he's defeated, his constituency isn't going away. A simple look at tweets actually supporting today's shootings shows just how large this moronic subculture is.

This is why it's incumbent on all of us who believe in a greater, larger, more inclusive humanity to take advantage of every opportunity to speak up, clearly and loudly, in support of each other. It's also just as important to be just as clear and loud in opposition to ignorance. Maybe it'll make someone think for once.

This isn't a political issue. We're not discussing economic theory, foreign policy or What Gubmint Oughta Damn Do And Not Do. We're discussing common decency -- an idea that seems to not be in the lexicon of surprisingly too many. Anymore, "decency" is a sign of weakness -- just like "compromise" and "common ground."

There will always be idiots of various stripes among us. We cannot ever fully prepare ourselves for all eventualities. Our very existence as a free society makes us a threat to the unenlightened and leaves us open to attacks such as the one we endured in Orlando this morning. I frankly think we have already surrendered too much freedom to the cause of national security.

...but our best offense is bitching like a Gabor sister when some asshole tries to get a hate on. Sit down, motherfucker. You have no idea what this country is all about.

Jun. 1st, 2016

"...gotta get myself back to that place...." Gary P. Nunn

TBK and I have been gradually adjusting to a new reality we know too little about. We simply won't know what awaits us up in Washington until we're there, and that's the biggest part of the allure. Our day-off cruisings have been to find clothing we know we'll use and to prognosticate about stuff we might do, need, want or use. It has been a delightful exercise, even if much of it might prove mistaken or useless.

We've spent the past decade in urban and suburban environments. But we both have pretty good experience in rural living and our kitchen experiences have us more than ready to do stuff literally from the ground and smokehouse up. Kim spent over a decade on 20 acres in rural northern Missouri and my family had the farm north of Dallas, While our experience in WA won't allow for livestock (too many predators), we can damn sure grow, age, can, cure, smoke, ferment and do otherwise. I'm told some trees need to come down and stuff needs repair and installation and, well, there's things that need doing that I haven't done in some 15 or 20 years.

Good. I can also build a damn good fence.

There's all kinds of stuff we can do but just haven't done in awhile. But beyond that, there's stuff we want to do that we didn't used to have the equipment to do. But now we do -- or at least we know where to get it. Cheese forms, butter storage, sausage-making -- all kinds of stuff. And we'll have time to do it. Well, at least over the long term. First things first, like actually moving up there.

We want to help as much as we can, yet be as invisible as possible. We don't know the household rules nor do we want to change them. This truly is virgin territory and we'll be treading as lightfly as possible. But I suppose that's the case for all of us, and it'll all work out.

I'm curious about the smells when I walk outside. At the house where I was raised, it was oaky and chlorine. At the farm, it was cowshit and hay. At the cottage in PA, it's wild dill. In New Orleans, it was river, jasmine and asphalt. Here, depending on neighborhood, it's either horseshit and cactus or frijoles and tortillas. Smells are the most important, no matter where you live.

Years ago, a trip to the feed/seed store was a weekly event. We mostly grew our own hay, bought some cow cake as a treat for the livestock and tightened low spots in the fence as just part of How It Was. That's not been the case in, oh, more than four decades and that time is done and gone and this is a different part of the world anyway. It's okay.

But I've got a chance to do a little of it again -- plus learn a whole lot more. That's what kicks ass.

May. 29th, 2016

"...as long as the world keeps a-turnin’ I just keep a-turnin’ too..." -- Bob Dylan

My supervisor asked me today what I'll be doing when we move north -- as in, "what kinda job? You gonna still be cooking or what?"

I have no freaking clue. This is the glory of it -- the greatest of the several blank slates. You just jump off and you land where and how you land. If life so far has taught me one thing above all else, it's that the landing never hurts as bad as you think it will. You get up, dust yourself off and keep moving.

Granted, we're not throwing all caution to the wind. Part of accidental good fortune is having something of a backup plan and a little financial flexibility. George Strait sang, "In money or love or all the above, have a little more than what you show." We'll get there fine -- the questions are what we do afterward.

I've always been one of those types more comfortable with change and uncertainty than with stability, much to the consternation of two wives (though both kinda got and get it but only to a point). I'm not sure if it's genetic or simply because that's how I started my career (radio) by going where the job was. While I love certain aspects of a permanent home, there's a particular part of this recalcitrant soul that will likely always be wondering about and only too curious to find out What and Where's Next. Maybe this'll change. But let's be honest....

I can cook, I can write, I can manage, I can do a million things and, really, my attitude is I'll do what I want to do. My only requirements are it be 1) part-time (I'll be penalized by Social Security above a certain income until I'm 66) and 2) low stress. And by that I mean artificial stress. I'm used to Real Stress, as in: when I write an urgent and I know it'll be read verbatim on CNN within 90 seconds. When I'm live on-air in the radio lede about the 2000 presidential election in Florida. When it's Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans and I'm running the kitchen in a bar on St. Charles Ave. I know this kinda shit and I got it. I'm talking about some bullshit manager showing up to gripe about the color of my pants (which actually happened to me in a BACK OF THE HOUSE POSITION at Cheesecake Factory. They suck, in addition to being grossly overpriced, because their daily food waste is an epic tragedy). All I'm saying is don't try to tell me shit matters when it really doesn't.

Ultimately, we'll find where and how we need to be. Back to the original point, this is pretty much as free as I can remember being in a long, long time. There's challenge and adventure for sure and more opportunity for bad decisions and life ain't shit without them. I've made plenty of good life decisions and plenty of bad ones, but no one can ever say I've shied away from making one. God help the poor mofo who simply can't. Or, worse, won't.

Lucky and glad I made it this far, since too many of my contemporaries and classmates haven't. Others are battling some health issues I've so far avoided and I hope I have half the class they do, if I face the same fight.

I'm not putting it on cruise control. But I'm damn sure being more selective about when I hit the gas.

 .

May. 17th, 2016

"...he did not know he could not fly, so he did..." -- Guy Clark

Had to nod to Guy Clark's death this morning. He and Billy Joe Shaver have written so much of my life, along with a few others like Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Chris LeDoux. Songwriting is a serious gift and we each have our favorites. I'd also have to nod to Holland/Dozier/Holland from Motown, Bob Seger and Brian Wilson. And, of course, Bob Wills.

We took some more steps toward our upcoming move today, with a trip to the library. Kim picked up some books about growing mushrooms, herbs and other stuff. I also got a book about viniculture -- making serious wines at home. I'm pretty sure I'll start out with one of those make-your-own-wine kits to get more familiar. But, as previously mentioned, the plan is to plant and grow our own grapes. I've been going over the extension-service stuff about all this, but I won't be able to really get an idea until we're actually up in Whatcom County and getting a close-up view of what's possible. There are questions about available sunshine, soil composition and so forth. Turns out Washington state is one of the few areas of the world where local rootstock is more resistant to things like nematodes and phyolloxera, meaning we might be able to go without grafted stock. We'll see. Whatever happens, we're enjoying the mental exercise and the talking about potential.

I also checked out a copy of Don Quixote and I've been simply riveted to it much of the day. It's comical and yet serious -- and there is so much of the Quixote/Panza back-and-forth in my daily mind. It is one thing to be crazy, yet another to embrace and be comfortable with it. To see victory in what others view as defeat, purity in whoredom, windmills as giants, cardboard as armor and, ultimately, to still stand despite the assaults and strike honest blows against (even misconstrued) tyranny. My frail, skinny horse is a proud steed, my lance constantly broken and my self-conversation is overly optimistic and sometimes delusional, supported by friends, family and some acquaintances often too caring to laugh out loud or too afraid of what I might do to really say much. I've made a life of such and it's good to know it's at least some 500 years old.

Sobering is http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/10/goodbye-middle-class-51-percent-of-all-american-workers-make-less-than-30000-dollars-a-year.html (sorry --still learning the updated platform). While our income will improve and expenses decline once we move and things fall into place (at least that's the design), the overall situation remains the same -- cobbling together a living and being independent. There are so many questions about a place, an attitude and a climate we do not know. Hence the enthusiam and impatience.

I had a brief exchange this evening on Facebook with a Trump supporter. It ended cordially enough after he initially hurled insults I ignored. I've come to the conclusion we'll see a lot of Trump supporters the same way we see folks who go to Denny's. No one PLANS to go to Denny's. You wind up at Denny's. My fear is our whole damned country will wind up at Denny's, no matter who we choose at the top of the ticket. While those choices are bad enough, the real rot is in far too many of our state legislatures. There's some seriously crazy mofos out there who'd ditch everything Hamilton, Madison and Jay advocated in The Federalist Papers and replace it with the Articles of Confederation or (worse) what they think Jesus wants. Well, Jesus ain't in your damn legislature. Or, if he is, he's likely a Democrat from a lower-income urban district.

We're optimistic. We're hopeful. We're clueless and we're ready. We're just....... waiting.
 

May. 15th, 2016

"...I'm about to lose control and I think I like it...." -- The Pointer Sisters

Those of you who know me reasonably well are familiar with this. Always another windmill ripe for tilting. This week I plan to begin re-reading Don Quixote to refamiliarize myself with some of the finer points.

In six weeks, roughly some 45 days and in some four pay periods, I will stop full-time work. We will put this sometimes tired show on the road and move north. Like way north. Like from a county that borders Mexico to one that borders Canada. Stu and Lily are pregnant with the first grandchild and we are sure we can "help" by being a constant nearby aggravation when this wunderfraulein is born in early August.

Facetiousness aside, this can't come at a better time. I'm at my best with self-created blank slates and this one is seriously needed. Given the circumstances, we've done about as well as we can here in Southern California (and we're grateful for the help and encouragement from friends and family). But it's simply Time To Go.

I frankly have no idea what I'll be doing in 90 days (if anything). I know I'll have to be looking for part-time work, but I don't know what I'll want to do or what might be available.I've spent some three decades as a writer and reporter. I've got another decade or so in various parts of food service, from restaurant ownership to grocery store to senior living. Do I wanna do any of these? I've got expertise in wine/beer/liquor, some library science and a few other things. Hell -- I dunno. Maybe I'll be a quiet (for the moment) insurrectionist in a Wal-Mart.

The glory is in the Not Knowing. And, at least in the very short-term right now, Not Caring. If my life had a goddamned motto, it'd be "It'll All Work Itself Out." (No, Kristen, that's not my epitaph -- that would instead come from Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers").

For now, at least, I'm lucky to be healthy. Any issues I have (far as I know) are the usual gamut of Old Guy Shit like a little arthritis and some cataract issues. It's okay -- I'm not usually interested in driving at night anyway. I have friends and some family who face tremendously larger issues daily and I simply cannot imagine. I only hope that if I face the same stuff that I can do it with half the grace and courage they have.

This will be a grand adventure -- perhaps the grandest of all so far. Potentially, there is the opportunity to create something of the Family Compound we Gieseckes have joked about over the years. Maybe and maybe not. But I'll be goddamned if I'll pass up the chance to contribute to making it work. No matter what, we're gonna laugh like hell and have stories to tell. Life ain't worth it if you don't get that.

"Too far and too high and too deep ain't too much to be. Just an old five-and-dimer is all I intended to be."

May. 10th, 2016

"...Great googalooga, can't you hear me talking to ya..." --The Temptations

...and the band played on.

The only social media I use anymore are Facebook and the times I post in here. I glance into Tumblr from time to time to catch up with a couple of folks, but I stay out of Snapchat, Twitter and the rest because it's simply overload. I've also refined my Facebooking so it's the rare day when I see something from a "friend" that offends me because 1) I'm an adult and I don't get offended easily and 2) an asshole is an asshole no matter what the political stripe and I eliminate assholes pretty quickly. Life is too short.

I also don't subscribe to any feeds that are clearly biased one way or the other (DailyKos, Patriotnews, etc) because I don't like echo chambers. I spent 32 years in the news business, so I stick to the AP, AFP, the BBC, NPR, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and a few local stations for my news. If you feel that's "corporate media" and they're hiding the "real" news, I feel bad for you.

A few days ago, I heard some morose Republican nabob saying on NPR he likely wouldn't vote this year because he can't go Trump but he also can't quite go Hillary. I honestly understand why he can't go Trump and I feel for my Republican friends these days. Their party has been hijacked by hypernationalists (it's their own fault, but that's another discussion). The fact is honest conservatism in the vein of Buckley and Burke left the GOP some years ago. There is a place for it and it will return (perhaps with another name), but is sadly out of fashion these days.

Of course, there are third-party options for those who find themselves in a political wilderness. You can go Green, Libertarian, American Independent or whatever. Or you can do what I've done for a couple of decades (and we're now the largest political group) -- go "No Party." It keeps us out of a lot of primaries (and, for the life of me, I can't understand why some feel they're being "denied the right to vote" in a primary. You chose "no party." Sit down and STFU). But I'm comfortable there, okay? I've never been big on identifying with a group. Fergodsakes, even admitting I like bourbon and cigars tends to stereotype me. I have long hair and a beard. I am nearly 62 and will partially retire this summer. Some days I like jeans and flipflops, while others I like a tweed jacket and a button-down. Seems nearly everything we do anymore groups us into some kinda goddamned corral, so it's nice being "no party." At least on paper, I'm a fucking loose cannon (which is, actually, pretty close to the truth).

What bends me out of shape is the widening and increasingly vehement gap between the Hillaryites and Bernieons. I use those names because their spat reminds me of some Old Testament confrontation described in, say, Numbers or Deuteronomy, with slings and spears and lots of folks being smote. Much like in the so-called Old Covenant, there's lots of allegory and a ton of exaggerated crap, outright falsehoods, plenty of Casablancaesque pearl-clutching about gambling in this establishment and, ultimately, some folks have talked themselves into such a snit they say they're just not gonna vote if their candidate isn't the Democratic nominee.

Y'all. That's stupid. I'm not saying YOU'RE stupid. I'm saying deciding to not vote is stupid, and I don't care if you're anti-Trump or Never Hillary or Bernie Sanders Is Your Crazy Communist Uncle.

As mentioned in my last post, I have a Bernie sticker on my car. I like a lot of what he stands for and what he wants to do and his vision for the future of this country. I'm glad he's still in the race and I'm seriously looking forward to how all this plays out in the convention this July. But if Hillary's the nominee, I'm a goddamned disciple through the general election. Here's why....

It has to start somewhere.

Like the Bernieons, I know Hillary's in bed with Wall Street and the one percent she's now a part of. I don't like the idea of voting for a lesser evil. I realize she's not trusted and has a high disapproval rating and, honestly, she's earned it. Bring up a Hillary negative and I'll pretty much buy in. But, historically, we've bought into a lot worse to get some pretty damned good stuff.

In order to secure votes for the New Deal, FDR turned a blind eye as Southern legislators hardened Jim Crow into an even worse system that began in Reconstruction. We're still dealing with that every freaking day. Even though he had a house in Warm Springs GA and saw up close how legalized bigotry kept people in conditions little above slavery, he was getting approval of Social Security and other programs that benefit everyone regardless of race or color. LBJ fought a similar battle over Medicaid and Medicare and the Civil Rights Act -- sometimes tamping down his personal liberalism (and, at the same time, bigotry)  to buy compromise and advance a larger agenda in the face of terribly right-wing opposition.

I think pretty much everyone with any political knowlege at all will agree LBJ and FDR were pretty much the ultimate DC insiders, just like Hillary. Roosevelt was certainly a one-percenter with a swank law office in Manhattan and the resources to buy the absolute best medical science had to deal with his polio (though, now, some experts think that wasn't his real issue). While Johnson's background was hardscrabble, he quickly adapted to political reality and became a master arm-twister once he gained a little power. Both nodded, thanks to their experience, to the political realities of the day.

I'm not going to say the Bernie folks need to just get practical and accept reality and vote for Hillary to keep someone even worse out of office. If Bernie supporters (like me) were all that damn practical, he wouldn't have gained his huge traction in the first place. His personality is ill-suited to the White House, "compromise" is little-used in his vocabulary and he has no constituency (except Sen. Elizabeth Warren) in the entire US Congress. He has spent his entire political life on the fringe and his message has not changed. This is what we admire in politics, particularly when we feel the same way about ourselves, both personally and politically. While Walt Kelly's "Pogo" found the enemy and it is us, we have found the enemy and it is Them -- the oligarchy, the uberrich, the bigots, the religious nuts, the hedge fund managers and all those others who have subverted the public good in the name of personal and corporate profit. Our health care system sucks, our infrastructure has crumbled and we're reduced to a fucking gig economy. Burn down the goddamned mission.

The Trumpsters are equally as frustrated, but they're blaming immigrants and minorities and want to Make American White Again. Sorry dudes (and I literally mean dudes) -- demographics and the truth say otherwise. I'll reserve my thoughts on that for a later post. But just as Bob Dylan sang, "you gotta serve somebody," we all agree we gotta blame somebody.

It has to start somewhere. It won't unless we elect folks who see long-term. Getting There is a messy process, but one that requires us to make choices. When we refuse to vote, we put those choices in the hands of someone else. Saying, "well, if it's not MY candidate, then I just won't vote" is as childish as some of the seniors I serve each day. It serves no one, no cause and only identifies you as a selfish prima donna.

Take a stand that means something. Be willing to work for it. Defend your choice. Be willing to admit your choice was wrong. But don't fail to make one. Particularly this year.

May. 4th, 2016

"...what if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?..." -- Neil Young

Today's the anniversary of the 1970 killing of four students and wounding of nine more by the Ohio National Guard during an anti-war protest at Kent State. There are still some folks who say they deserved it. Ultimately, there were no convictions and the general concensus was the Guardsmen were justified in feeling threatened.

I was around 16 at the time -- only a couple of years younger than the shootees and shooters. I was, frankly, unimpressed either way. Having been raised in Dallas when JFK was killed, onto nightly coverage of the war in Vietnam, the killings of RFK and MLK, the Soviet crackdown on the Czechs, seeing the Watts riots on TV and a few other things, I was kinda bulletproof when it came to whatever was the latest round of drama in the Dallas Morning News or whatever it was Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were saying on the TV (or, sometimes, Frank Reynolds -- Walter Cronkite was considered a little too "liberal" in our house). I admired the intrepid overseas escapdes of a Peter Jennings or a Peter Arnett (then with the AP, where I later worked and whom I later met), but I generally distanced myself from the news.

Fast-forward about two years and I was a serious news junkie (thanks to a brief sports and then news experience at KLIF in Dallas) and I'm a freshman at TCU and knocking on the doors of Ft. Worth radio stations and then anchoring news at a couple of small stations and here we go to a 32-year career.

These are three paragraphs to explain how quickly things can change. What was dramatic and nation-changing in 1970 had virtually no effect on dumbass me at the time. But in about 24 months, things no one else noticed had incredible effects on this bespectacled stutterer. In short, I started growing up and paying attention.

Two years ago, we could not have imagined where we are today in the presidential contest. But while I see plenty of folks paying attention, I don't see a whole lot of them growing the hell up. We're in a hell of a shape right now, ain't we? On the right, we've got a guy who glorifies crude, crass and excess. On the left, there's Uncle Yankee Big Glasses (kinda a political Harry Caray) and that helmet-haired substitute teacher you can't believe is actually a mom (we had one of those when I was in school. If you went to high school with me, you know who it was too).

Anyway, my opinion is any registered voter who even considers voting for Donald Trump needs to simply say no. Vote Libertarian. Vote Green. Vote for yourself (like I did in 1984). Write in Foghorn Leghorn (or any other member of the Louisiana/Mississippi/Florida/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama/Texas/Oklahoma Legislature). Any of those options are going to keep support away from the absolute worst serious presidential candidate this nation Has. Ever. Seen. Period. Especially if you have a vagina (natural or surgically created) and/or you have even a possible faint possibility of melanin in your skin.The idea of this jackleg getting anywhere near even some of the levers and swtiches of this country is too awful to even imagine.

On the other hand....

One time my (ex)wife and I were redoing our back yard and drove my pickup outside of Tallahassee to get a literal truckload of horseshit to spread on the yard as mulch. It was early fall and a crisp morning and so this half-ton of horseshit was literally steaming as it was loaded into the bed of the truck. It continued to steam as we headed back to town and decided we had to stop at Target to get a few items. So I parked the truck as far away from the door as possible so the stench wouldn't permeate the store. I was downwind and everything. Good idea, right?

Yes and no. The smell didn't hit the store, but everyone coming outside could easily recognize the bigass truck full of steaming shit. So it is with the Democratic presidential race.

I have a Bernie sticker on my car, indicating I support the generalities of what he's saying and trying to do. I think we need more democratic socialism in this country. We need single-payer health care, like most other civilized nations. Student debt is a serious issue and I think we honestly are an oligarchy anymore. But the fact of the matter is it'll take a lot more than just a public scold in the White House to change that. It'll take a couple of generations of legislative mellowing and gradual economic and attitudinal change. I think we'll get there eventually, but I don't know if the Bernie step is the right step just now.

On the other hand, Hillary. I'm trying to come up with a Democratic candidate with this number of both postives and negatives. Her time as First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State over more than two decades make her maybe the single Most Qualified Candidate Ever. No one I can find has this unique set of experiences in the publie eye. I mean, hell -- even John Quincy Adams and George H. W. Bush couldn't list "First Lady" on a resume.

But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayum. I agree the Benghazi stuff and the personal computer server thing and the Whitewater crapola are all bullshit. But the fact is there's enough stink to make even old dogs perk up. Maybe she should have kicked Bill to the curb. But I'm not in that relationship, so I dunno. Her ties to Wall Street are only slightly less "fuck me now" than Mitt Romney or, well, Donald Trump.

But there are those maybe three Supreme Court justices the next president is likely to appoint. And there needs to be a Senate to approve them. And Hillary is smart enough and has the resources enough (thanks to her obscene speaking fees) to contribute to the Senate campaigns to make it happen.

Granted, the Trump nomination might screw the down-ticket enough to give the Ds Senate control anyway. I'm sure it'll help in the House. We'll see.

Historically, the last huge, wholesale change this country has made in its government was in 1932. While 1964 was significant, it was FDR's first term that ensured only real social revolution this country had seen since Lincoln was elected. I think the stakes are every bit as high this time. I don't think the changes will be as quick or dramatic. But, in the long term, this election is the most important in over a century when it concerns how our grandchildren will view and be viewed by the world.

I'm embarrassed to present myself as an American these days, largely because of the set of potential leaders we're showing the world. But, historically, we've been led by more dumbasses than heroes. We somehow stumble through anyway.

E pluribus unum. Sed difficilius est quod unum.

Mar. 4th, 2016

"...but don't, no, don't go try to get yourself elected..." -- David Crosby

Here's why revolutions happen:

In my experience, most rents are due on the 1st and late by the 5th. This hadn't been a problem here, since I was paid on the 5th and the 20th. But with renewal under a new management company, rent is now due on the 1st and late by the 3rd, Depending on weekend and holiday placement, this could also work. Our bank will cover our rent check, but charge a $35 overdraft fee if the check hits on the wrong day. Still workable, if a pain in the ass.
...but now, with a new payroll firm at work, paydays have moved (with less than a week's notice) to the 7th and the 22nd. In short, my employer has just increased my rent $100 a month (the late-payment fee). We don't have the monetary flexibility to simply start paying rent on the 22nd, meaning I'll look like a rent scofflaw despite the fact we've been faithful and on-time rent-payers for nearly two years.
We're moving out in a month or so anyway and, like a lot of folks, we'll make it all work with the help of friends and family. We're lucky in that we have a whole new Next Thing we're anticipating this summer. It'll be glorious.
...but shit like this is why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders resonate. I suppose the main difference between the two is in who to blame. Trump's folks piss down, blaming immigrants, minorities and whomever is easy to step on. Sanders' folks piss up, blaming Wall Street and Da Man. But, really, pissing up has gravitational and political limits that are quickly becoming evident.
We're an oligarchy, but our domestic politics don't recognize it yet. The rest of the world does. It's the new American Exceptionalism: everyone sees it but us.
I have no idea how all this is going to burn itself out between now and whomever the hell we inaugurate in January. But I can pretty much guarantee the most appropriate label applied to our newly elected Chief Executive will be "inadequate."
....and we can blame ourselves.

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