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Oct. 17th, 2017

"...memories appear in the strangest of places..." -- Willie Nelson

I had a thought today, while rummaging around. It's amazing how some things come back to you (to quote The Firesign Theater) like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist ("Nick! You're such a tool!").

My maternal grandmother died when I was nine (in 1963) in La Grange TX -- a delightful town that was and remains a bucolic little spot along the Colorado River, just north of I-10 about halfway between Houston and San Antonio. My dad and his brother were raised on a farm just outside of town, but decided to move their mom into town after her husband died in 1948.I don't know how she felt about it because I wasn't around at the time. All I knew is I loved visiting her small house, which still stands on the south side of town. I visited there about seven years ago.

Anyway, I was nine and my sister was seven. It was August and we made a hurried drive from Dallas down to La Grange at night (I remember the drive, since we passed a massive house fire in the dark and I was watching bug-eyed from the back of the Plymouth station wagon). Mom was driving, since dad was already in La Grange, and I'd never seen mom drive for that long before. I knew it was big shit and I was frankly scared they'd make me see my dead grandmother.

Grandmother's tiny two-bedroom house was full with other relatives, so we took a room at a little motel (that also still exists) a couple blocks away. We arrived late and my sister and I crashed while mom and dad and the other adults did Adult Things. We were awakened the next morning for breakfast at a cafe and all the adults were red-eyed from crying or fatigue or drinking (or likely all three). It was clear there was still a lot of Adulting to do, since all the conversations remained hushed and tight-lipped. My cousins, who were a few years older, weren't joking around like they usually did. It was weird.

After breakfast, our folks pulled us aside and told us they had stuff to do and my sister and I were gonna have to simply handle ourselves for awhile. We could stay in the motel room if we wanted, but whatever we did we had to stay together. Dad gave me a little money and a key to the motel room -- one of those keys with the old-school plastic "drop in any mailbox" tags in case it got found by the side of the road or you drove off with it. They told us that if we left, we had to be back at the motel room at one in the afternoon because there was other stuff to do. Then they left.

We were hung about halfway between my grandmother's house and downtown La Grange -- about four or five blocks either way. I knew it wouldn't be any fun at grandmother's house, so we opted to walk downtown. I'd walked around that old square many times with my dad, so I knew Schroeder (Rexall!) Drug and the grocery store where my dad had his first job and the ornate Fayette County Courthouse. On the way, we dropped into a gas station that had Houston Colt .45s (now the Astros) booklets with player bios (Rusty Staub!). We wandered all over, into the drug store with its lunch counter, the grocery, a hardware store and all kinds of spots. I bought a Sgt. Rock comic book. My sister started whining. We got some candy. I think we lapped the square two or three times until I saw a clock and it was time to head back and we returned to the room with about 20 minutes to cool off from the window-unit a/c.

The funeral was the next day. I saw a dead person for the first time and was kinda impressed. I also saw plenty of relatives even older than my grandmother -- including a great uncle who'd lost a leg in World War I. Lots of German accents and pats on my head and being finally released out into my grandmother's back yard to play with the chickens. My cousin had brought a jug of ice water from San Antonio and we agreed City Water was much better than country water. We drank RCs, which my cousin referred to as "soda water." We watched the chickens and ate fried chicken, which made me pause to look at the drumstick in my hand.

What brought all this to mind was looking at our housemate's two boys, who are about the same age my sister and I were in 1963. They're good kids -- raised well and curious and as self-controlled as you could expect any kids that age to be. We live in a town about the same size with, from what I can tell, pretty much the same overall values and a similar downtown in many ways. But I can guarandamntee if these two boys were simply turned loose for three or so hours with a few bucks to wander around downtown under their own administration that their mom would be dragged into the police station to face, if not a series of charges, at least to explain herself and be shamed for being a poor damn parent.

Ain't right. But it's just how things are anymore. Maybe there are some towns where a nine- and seven-year-old can wander around pretty much on their own these days. But while I see kids cruising on their bikes, they're older than we were when turned loose the same way.

I mourn for innocence lost and yet not lost at all -- just shifted. Our Internet brings hard-core porn and other Very Adult things into our homes for fuh-ree yet I know young people in their 20s who are nearly incapable of life away from their parents. I don't blame a particular generation for this, since there have always been helicopter parents and every generation is blamed by the previous ones for being lazy, ungrateful and spoiled. I don't know the answer(s) and I cannot offer solutions. My own parenting days are done and I'm very proud of how my kids have turned out. They each had their backsliding and immaturities along the way, as did I. I'm also proud of their generation, which so far seems much truer to itself than mine has turned out.

I understand how things are, if I agree or not. But I wish these boys and all the other kids could have the freedom I did at their age. I am quite sure most would live up to what's expected to get along and behave mostly responsibly. We adults, in our litiguous and scared society, have taken it away from them and from ourselves. Life is full of hard floors and sharp corners and we pad things for too long. I'm reminded of this each week when we watch our granddaughter, who is a very busy and active 15 months. I will not let her get into a situation where she will injure herself simply because she's 15 months old. But neither will I stop her from learning a rough lesson, like trying to stand up underneath a coffee table. I'll drag her out once, but after that she'll just have to bang her head. That's life, in both fact and allegory.

I think one of the major differences between then and now is what would have happened had my sister and I misbehaved or gotten caught doing something we shouldn't while walking around downtown La Grange. It wouldn't have been our parents who got in trouble. It would have been us (or specifically me, since I was In Charge). Other adults would have stepped in, treated us as the misbehaving children we were, and solved the problem. Our parents would have been absolved because they had Adult Shit to do and my sister and I would have been expected to just grow the fuck up.

A shame no one will do this to our president.

Oct. 10th, 2017

"...we are men of action. Lies do not become us..." -- Westley in The Princess Bride

I am writing reluctantly. TBK says I need to anyway. She's right. But there is no Muse anymore, or at least has not been for months. I do so only in hopes of staying in touch with what used to be a delightful habit and a calling. "Write every day!" is what they say but, really, they don't know.

On the one hand, we're in a delightful situation. We split a big duplex with co-workers who are great roommates in what I call The Socialist Experiment. We all bring what we can to the table (sometimes literally) and we are essentially three generations of experience and attitude. We are near our families without daily intrusions of such (this is important). We love seeing our granddaughter (pretty much) every week and being so close to Stu and Lily but without interfering or being a daily or hourly incursion. I'd hate that and they would too. The best parents tromp out their own space indepedent of in-laws and grandparents. We're close if needed, but far enough away.

We both remain part-time at The Woolley Market -- a wonderful spot to be, where we both can cook and I'm in charge of beer and wine and TBK gets well-deserved huge kudos for her tremendous food and the crew is spectacular. We love our little town on the edge of the Northern Cascades......

But goddammit.

I just wrote three paragraphs on how stupid our president is and another three on the absolute stupidity of his dwindling number of supporters. But I deleted them because no one cares. I refuse to rant anymore. Thanks to two decades of gerrymandering, the co-opting of our national system by the NRA and other rich white-boy lobbying groups and the sheer ineptness of any sort of organized opposition, I figure my best course of action is to simply play it out on a local level. That's always been the best appoach anyway, if John Adams can serve as a guide.

We're in serious times these days, with a mentally ill president, a theocratic VP and a Congressional leadership ignorant of public benefit and terrified of lobbyist abandonment. Our wages are stagnant, despite record low unemployment, our environment more imperiled than at any point in five decades and our infrastructure continues to crumble. Puerto Rico is an afterthought and our president now wants to conduct an IQ danceoff with the Secretary of State while keeping a close eye on who's standing up for the national anthem at some stadium somewhere.

Oh, and the rest of the civilized world laughs at us. Except Poland and a few other newly nationalist outfits with little to show but plenty of white faces and closed borders.

The problem is it's only going  to get worse. There's a whole cadre of folks thinking what we have now ain't far enough. They're the ones who think my daughter and granddaughter oughta be grateful just to have some goddamned man take notice they exist. These are the really scary mofos who see our current issues as only their beginning. They're the ones pushing denial of reproductive rights and all sorts of related crap that would resubjugate an entire gender. I'll not go into what they want for anyone who's not a card-carrying white boy. These Neanderthals hate the idea of being a minority.

What bothers me most of all is having to refight and re-encounter the old bullshit. We fought this crap in the mid '60s though the mid '70s and these days folks who never lived it are trying to bring back some bogus Better Days that Never Were. It's simply not true.

My life is pretty damned good these days in so many ways. I'm enjoying it.

While I can.

Aug. 15th, 2017

"...you know how you sound, Mr. Blaine?..." --Victor Laszlo in 'Casablanca'

We tried to watch TV news Saturday evening to get a sense of what was happening in Charlottesville, but all we got was the inane panel punditry that passes itself off as broadcast journalism anymore. I spent some three decades in that business and briefly wondered what icons like Murrow, Cronkite, Frank Reynolds and even KRLD's Alex Burton would have said. But they're all gone and so is the era of historical perspective with certain agreed-upon truths. Tried again Monday to see if maybe we could see TBK's daughter in the protest outside Trump Tower, but same result. This is why my only TV news watching anymore is spotty at best. It's not "fake" news (which so far I've seen just as unpleasant truths for the president), but more along the lines of flaccid pushback from an industry worried about audience erosion. Maybe if they got a journalistic hard-on, they could recover some of that. Glad I left.

Anyway, our sad excuse for a president again revealed his true self today and everyone's wagging their head about what a terrible guy he is, like this wasn't clear as Bombay Dry Gin three decades ago. Or even a year ago, when his rallies were lame excuses for racism and violence. But I log on every day see otherwise outwardly decent folks defending him in the "not all Trump voters" way. One of the memes implies judging all Trump voters by street Nazis is the same as judging all Muslims by ISIS.

Well, no.

I want to follow this by saying, "Dumbass." But I won't.

What the hell.

Dumbass.

It's the wrong word, since I have some otherwise very smart friends who voted for Donald Trump. Some are now very sorry they did. But it's also the right word because some are still making excuses for this sorry son of a bitch and that's what I don't get.

Since Day One of the campaign, this jackleg has encouraged violence and bigotry at literally every rally he has held. He has brought advocates of such into the White House and given them actual offices and titles and credibility. His Cabinet consists of halfwits or Goldman-Sachs oligarchs or those who would enforce a 1958 social code.

This isn't a political argument. We can talk all day about economic policy, health care, foreign affairs, gun or reproductive rights, the church/state divide, etc. I don't agree with Paul Ryan. But I also don't think he's a freaking sociopath. Mitch McConnell might be another matter. But at least he can admit defeat.

What I'm talking about here is being a decent human being. As in, "don't be a dick." As in, "we're all in this together." As in, "let's all just get along." But anymore this seems a foreign concept when some feel genetically superior and get encouragement from, as intoned in joint sessions of Congress, "the prrrresident of the United States." Listen -- I have plenty of politically conservative friends who I argue with on virtually any topic. But they couldn't pull the lever for this ningnong because it was clear he was and remains insane. No, he wasn't the only choice.

Those who voted for the president either recognized and encouraged the obvious bigotry and racism or they were willing to overlook it in pursuit of something else maybe grander and greater (or "her emails." Christ. Give me a freaking break). But, for the life of me, no one who still supports this lousy excuse for an administration can tell me what it is. Except they're afraid of something -- and that's simply a euphemism for bigotry and racism. It's worse when cloaked behind religion, which brings up our bobblehead vice-president. At least Trump cuts his own vile path. Mike Pence hasn't had an independent thought since, well.... oh, wait. His wife might be watching. Ain't happening.

I have to laugh at those who use the term "anti-fascist" and so forth to describe the pushback against the far right. To call "antifa" is to acknowledge there is indeed a "fa," which would be fascism -- as in the very thing we fought a damn war against 75 years ago. But it seems too many of my damn generation has either forgotten it or mis-studied it or simply doesn't care anymore. I got mine so fuck you, right?

...and that's the point. A particular cadre of society wants to recreate a mythical used-to-be that never really was. It seems the path toward that end includes a fear or rejection of anyone and anything that isn't or wasn't, um...... Wait. I'm not a racist. I don't advocate violence. What happens at these rallies "isn't who we are."

Well, yes it is. You opened the door and blocked it in place. The movement to "stir things up" in Washington kicked over an anthill that will sully our nation's international standing for a generation, if it ever recovers. If we ever become a true nation again. It's the politically motivated abdication of humanity that bothers me.

Nice work.

Dumbass.

Feb. 14th, 2017

"....in a land that's known as Freedom, how can such a thing be fair?" -- Graham Nash

I'm not usually one to just shut the world out with earbuds. I spent much of the earlier part of my adulthood wearing headphones at work every day -- jacking the sound of daily life to earbleed level while I broadcast it to the rest of the world. It has left me largely but functionally deaf, much to the usual delight of my kids and two wives and to the bewilderment of too many co-workers, who think I'm ignoring them. Sorry. I just don't hear shit anymore. At least I can still see.

...but this morning I was looking out the window at work and there's some Old Dude around my age trudging down the sidewalk, his earbuds ensconsed, hands jammed in quilted vest pockets, eyes focused clear and unafraid straight ahead and his mind is clearly focused on whatever the hell it is he's gotta face.

Or escape.

I had to wonder what was playing in those earbuds. When we lived in Southern California for a coupla years recently, I'd walk to work nearly every day and crank whatever fit the mood. The range stretched from The Beach Boys to Mana to whatever, but it was always for purely recreational purposes. The beat extended a stride, improved the cardio, reduced the boredom and made a good day even better.

...but it's stopped being recreational anymore. It's either to reinforce or as a defense mechanism. And things are happening so fast, we can't decide (to borrow a phrase from my dad) whether to shit or go blind.

For a brief while a few years ago, I contributed regularly to The Huffington Post. Given events since this past Jan. 20th, I thought I'd go back to it. I drew up a piece, complete with all kinds of hyperlinks, two weeks ago. The usual process is write a piece on Day One, it's edited on Day Two and published on Day Three. But it didn't happen this time because the relevence of my piece had vanished within three hours of its submission -- not because what I wrote had inaccuracies but because the bizarreness I'd written about had been superceded by even more weird, outrageous and wrongheaded events than I'd cited. Literally, my noontime observations of incivility and untruth were (rightfully) cast aside as not extreme enough before 4pm.

So here we are. I don't spend much time with earbuds these days, mainly because we've developed a day-to-day that's very pleasant, reinforcing and uplifting. We're surrounded by good, supportive friends and family. Our life is so sweet and good in so many ways right now. But that's only for our limited, personal and selfish outlook.

Without earbuds, every day and virtually every hour, my mind hears Bob Dylan. Woody Guthrie. Pete Seeger. Stephen Stills. Paul Simon. Joan Baez. Tish Hinojosa. David Crosby. Their words and music are disturbing, discomforting and, these days, very, very accurate. Demons we fought two and three generations ago are these days reincarnated, strengthened and bolstered by the blind and ignorant. It's only fitting music equally as old be brought to bear, since it won out before.

My g-g-generation has produced three presidents -- the current 70-year-old toddler, the dullwitted frat boy and the well-liked but inveterate womanizer who gave us private prisons and welfare "reform" - and the latter is by far the best of the lot. Hell of a legacy from the "Greatest" Generation (don't get me started). The sad thing is Gens X and Y are sucking wind and the Millennials are simply underwhelmed by politics and who can fucking blame them?

But I refuse, dammit. I refuse to stand down. I'm getting older, but this gives me something of a license Be A Dick if need be. And, despite the politically flatulent reputation of too many of my contemporaries lately, I will not retreat from our original goals of inclusion, empowerment and common brotherhood.

Resist. Every. Fucking. Day. Resist.

Jan. 25th, 2017

"...something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear..." -- Stephen Stills

Well, actually, it's getting clearer by the day and almost by the hour. There's no longer any need to look at plainly biased Websites or fake news posts. The Real News folks (Reuters, the BBC, the folks at my alma mater the AP) are simply reporting the real and incessant vomit of the Trump administration's New Order.

My parents' generation fought and won the war to save democracy. My g-g-generation (with assistance from GenX) talked a good game in the '70s but actually took the money and insulated ourselves from the negatives (like them uppity Brown/Gay/Otherwise Different People) and fucked it up. Big-time. Bone spurs got us out of Vietnam but never kept us off the tennis court. As a group, we can't wait to criticize our offspring millennials for being lazy, entitled and otherwise unworthy but, actually, that's simply bullshit. We talked them into a load of crap and now, generationally, they're horribly in debt, underemployed and, can't blame them, were a bit underenthused about what we offered them in the past election. The hope is they will come up with better ideas, but I can't blame them if they just don't care.

I'm not one for hyperbole, but that's what we now have in the White House. Here's a guy who ran a campaign on extreme hyperbole and that's what we have as a president. Did he make YUGE promises? Bigly! Is he keeping them? Every goddamned day. And those of us who voted against him are gasping like a fish suddenly tossed into the boat. Lemme tell you what's gonna happen....

This first week of the Trump administration is only a small taste. We're seeing a fair amount of resistance by some federal agencies to the overarching information clampdown. But it's gonna peter out and those running it are going to either run out of gas or get turned in or otherwise have their resources taken away. Net neutrality will be a thing of the past and, unless you toe a line, you won't get Internet access beyond playing Pong and posting cat photos. Since Trump will be choosing those who ask questions at his news conferences, "facts" will be at best fuzzy and at worst meaningless. Foreign news operations will have to agree to scripts approved by the White House press office or they simply won't get access.

But there's also another scenario, and it's also happening. Namely, it's those who voted for him will be the very ones who kick his orange ass out. For every individual thing they voted for to "make America great again," there will be two things to seriously piss them off. You wanna kill Obamacare? Fine. Your health care is now up to you. There are mandatory paycheck deductions for "health savings accounts," which aren't nearly enough to cover a broken wrist, much less a heart attack. The unchecked (and, actually, emboldened) private sector colludes to set drug prices even higher than they are now. Good luck with that.

Life also begins at conception (by law, introduced Monday) and you no longer have access to any form of birth control to fend it off. Oh, and (as ruled by an Oklahoma judge this past week), some nimrod shooting his load into your daughter's mouth while she's drunk and unconcious is legally okay. Roe vs. Wade is a gone pecan, leaving the unacceptably pregnant as (like when I was adopted in the 1950s) social pariahs and "damaged goods" dying while performing or getting some back-alley butcher to perform the procedure. Is this what these folks voted for?

For every veteran we want to honor as a hero, there are two more dead or on the street because the already starved (by our Congress) VA will be gutted by a hiring freeze (ordered yesterday). And, speaking of scripts, announcements of scientific discoveries will have to undergo political review and approval (announced today). Government employees who voted for Hillary should be fired (as advocated this week by Newt Gingrich).

Part of me wants to think we're better than this -- that our Body Politic is educated, decent and generally mature enough to get past our current struggles and that those who brought this most offensive and repugnant president to the White House will suffer enough buyers remorse to eventually turn against the monster they've installed. That somehow, before it all goes too far, this moral eunuch will not prevail.

...but I'm an Old White Guy. I can afford to be a little more optimistic and comfortable because I AM one of these mofos. I am only worried, concerned and, occasionally, mortified. I do not have a vagina, brown skin, an orientation other than heterosexual or genitalia other than male. I identify as agnostic, which these days puts me a little less than Christian but waaaaaaay above anything else -- particularly Muslim.

There's lots of joking these days about the Hollywood elite who said they'd leave the country if Trump was elected. But the fact is there's now plenty of us non-elites considering our options and doing what we can to ensure we have an escape plan. What had been an academic exercise 90 days ago is now a hell of a lot more realistic, particularly given events of the past five days.

The old 1960s bumper sticker said, "America -- Love It Or Leave It." Fact is a lot of us don't love the America we see right now -- and even optimists like me don't see it changing much in the next four years. It's not because we lost an election. It's because common decency, equality and a sense of inclusiveness lost as well.
  

Jan. 17th, 2017

"...but soon. And for the rest of your life...." -- Rick Blaine in 'Casablanca.'

I'm not much on epiphanies. I've had a few and they've usually turned out well. A-ha moments are the magic we each hope and live for, sometimes found at work, other times making love and sometimes just hanging around. Sometimes they're loud and stand-up and sometimes they sneak up whisper and fade away, leaving the inspiration and nothing else. Those are the best.

I'll be 63 this coming June. It ain't old but it's damn sure old enough to push on some shit you feel you're overdue to do, y'know? When we moved up here last summer, we had some general plans to do stuff. Those plans are still generally in place, but priorities have adjusted due to Real Life circumstances -- none of which are negative. You just do what you gottta do.

I'll be getting a passport and an expanded driver license, the goal of both to again expand my horizons as quickly as possible. Not that we can do it financially, but I will at least be able to go the few miles up to Canada at will and to take advantage of any other international opportunity that might present. Not only this, but my reading will expand and I'll become a much more social person. I've voluntarily withdrawn for far too long. "Social" media makes us much too unsocial. I can't speak or act for others, but I can damn sure do what I can to make myself available.

I started college in Rome, then progressively worked myself up through Florence and Geneva through Paris and Brussels to London's Westfield College. But I haven't left this country since the mid-70s and, given what's going on these days, getting reacquainted with those elsewhere seems like a damn good idea. Not that I want to move, but Mark Twain was right when he said (not his words, but summarizing) travel is the best antidote to being an asshole. Even an overnight 50 miles away can refresh. It's time I made that kinda thing a priority again.

All this kinda revealed itself to me this afternoon, after a nap with a dream about having a beer or two with friends in a long-forgotten bar in Dallas. I can't remember the name of the place on or near Knox, but the dream brought back a too-long-gone feeling of wonder and opportunity. It all starts with being in the Here And Now, and we were able to enjoy a little of that this afternoon. As sweet as things are here, I wanna do that in more places.

I'm one who believes vacation is where you make it. We're not able to afford much distance these days. But I can damn sure make sure the roads and opportunities are open and enjoy the tremendous stuff offered around here. It's all in the attitude.

"...but soon. And for the rest of your life..." - Rick Blaine in 'Casablanca.'

I'm not much on epiphanies. I've had a few and they've usually turned out well. A-ha moments are the magic we each hope and live for, sometimes found at work, other times making love and sometimes just hanging around. Sometimes they're loud and stand-up and sometimes they sneak up whisper and fade away, leaving the inspiration and nothing else. Those are the best.

I'll be 63 this coming June. It ain't old but it's damn sure old enough to push on some shit you feel you're overdue to do, y'know? When we moved up here last summer, we had some general plans to do stuff. Those plans are still generally in place, but priorities have adjusted due to Real Life circumstances -- none of which are negative. You just do what you gottta do.

I'll be getting a passport and an expanded driver license, the goal of both to again expand my horizons as quickly as possible. Not that we can do it financially, but I will at least be able to go the few miles up to Canada at will and to take advantage of any other international opportunity that might present. Not only this, but my reading will expand and I'll become a much more social person. I've voluntarily withdrawn for far too long. "Social" media makes us much too unsocial. I can't speak or act for others, but I can damn sure do what I can to make myself available.

I started college in Rome, then progressively worked myself up through Florence and Geneva through Paris and Brussels to London's Westfield College. But I haven't left this country since the mid-70s and, given what's going on these days, getting reacquainted with those elsewhere seems like a damn good idea. Not that I want to move, but Mark Twain was right when he said (not his words, but summarizing) travel is the best antidote to being an asshole. Even an overnight 50 miles away can refresh. It's time I made that kinda thing a priority again.

All this kinda revealed itself to me this afternoon, after a nap with a dream about having a beer or two with friends in a long-forgotten bar in Dallas. I can't remember the name of the place on or near Knox, but the dream brought back a too-long-gone feeling of wonder and opportunity. It all starts with being in the Here And Now, and we were able to enjoy a little of that this afternoon. As sweet as things are here, I wanna do that in more places.

I'm one who believes vacation is where you make it. We're not able to afford much distance these days. But I can damn sure make sure the roads and opportunities are open and enjoy the tremendous stuff offered around here. It's all in the attitude.

Jan. 8th, 2017

"...let the good times roll..." --Louis Jordan

Today has really been the first chance I've had in the past couple of weeks to stop and rediberate and consolidate all that's been going on around here lately. I've now reached the point where I don't have a full day off anymore, so it has made for something of an odd partial retirement.

One thing I've arranged, though, is to take the day off on Friday, January 20th. Not sure what we're gonna do, but I can guarantee I'm going to spend Inauguration Day with nice folks in a pretty place. While I plan to continue speaking out against the new administration, I figure I'll focus on something else that particular day. Call it my own personal protest.

We're in a good place, personally and physically. We can walk to anything we need, the jobs are good and we're involved with great people and enterprises. I've been a little surprised we haven't spent more time with Stu and Lily and Tallulah, but it's heavy season on the mountain and we've had plenty to do ourselves. TBK has been taking on more at The Woolley Market and they've been giving us a fair amount of freedom. It appears I'll also be taking over the beer and wine. In addition, we're also talking about a new evening menu at Liberty Bistro. I have a part-time job, a part part-time job and I'm putting in some volunteer hours helping Kim. While it's only about 25 hours of paid time each week, it works out to at least a little work every day. It's okay -- it's just not what I thought I'd be doing.

This is a part of the world very conducive to reflection, and I've been taking advantage of it. We spent the first few months up here getting our financial feet under us, then getting into our own place. Now we begin the new year looking forward to actually accomplishing some of the things we've talked about.  I'm still looking forward to doing some brewing and winemaking. I'd hoped to do some fishing during the fall, but that can wait until later in the year. I still want to nail down a banger pickup. In the coming week or so, I want to start some cheesemaking experiments at the shop. While we don't have a full kitchen at the apartment, we have two great commercial ones to play in. The rest of it will get filled in as we go along.

The older I get, the more small things become big and vice-versa. My most prized Christmas gift is a jar of hand cream (very manly, I might add). The biggest thrill of the past month has been seeing my tiny granddaughter smile on Christmas Eve (and so glad I got a photo to put on my phone). Our move the entire length of I-5 from Mexico to Canada has been a pretty small step to get so much in return. This is a beautiful part of the world -- not only because of the mountains and trees and farms and rivers, but also because of the opportunities that just seem to appear.

We came in to possession of used Weber charcoal grill this week, so tonight I'm going to grill a steak for the first time in a year or so. It's another one of those small things that is a big deal, and I don't care if it's cold and rainy outside. One of the great things about Being A Giesecke is we know how to make An Event out of pretty much anything, and tonight's another example.

I refuse to buy into the fear so many are facing as we head into the new year. There's indeed plenty to be afraid of and concerned about and I certainly will not just go quietly. But I think the unpleasant is best faced from a foundation of hope and contentment rather than fear and uncertainty. One thing this move has reinforced on me is that while I can't always control what happens, I'm damn sure in charge of how I react to it. Happiness is definitely a choice.

We start 2017 with pretty much all of us in good situations, and TBK and I are finally getting into a position to fully be a part of things again. It has been a long road, but worth ever bump in every mile. It's gonna be a pretty sweet year.

Jan. 3rd, 2017

"...Courage is grace under pressure..." Ernest Hemingway

...so our "draining the swamp" has actually been a case of throwing whole chickens to the alligators, encouraging the snakes to multiply and bringing in more non-native vegetation. If you've lived in Florida or Louisiana (as I have for roughly half my life), you know how all this works and it ain't pretty. Unless you have a rich, old and white penis, you're pretty much fucked.

The operative word here is "rich," since just having a white penis ain't gonna be enough anymore when your Medicare is privatized and Medicaid expansion is gone. The comical thing is all these folks can't wait to dump Obamacare but they'll be keeping half of it and have no idea what to do with the rest of it. They're giving themselves at least two years to come up with another idea but, gee -- by then it'll be midterm elections and we don't wanna piss off TOO many voters, do we? Demographics are catching up in a big hurry.

I'm no Democrat and I'm a former Republican. I've maintained no-party or independent status since 1984, since the list of Alley-Oops in both parties is legendary. These days I'd probably identify most as a Democratic Socialist, though I'm not sure how sustainable or practical it would be in actual governance in this country. It works in much of Europe, but comparisons to, say, Sweden or even Great Britain don't really work. Our national debt is An Issue, our defense spending needs serious adjustment, our infrastructure is a mess and, most importantly, too many of us still can't seem to understand there are serious, glaring, out-loud, obnoxious and grossly screwed-up problems with race relations and income disparity.

I've lived most of the past 15 years in places where white, non-Hispanic males like me were (and are now even moreso) in the minority. Now I find myself in a place where the white population is at 86 percent (2010), down from nearly 92 percent in 2000. I am in no way saying I know what it's like to be an oppressed minority. That would be an obtuse and hilarious lie -- the kind our Dumbass-elect tweets almost daily. My point is I've been lucky enough to live in places with very diverse populations and participate in their strengths. While we're enjoying where we are, I miss the multiple influences and languages and, even more, a general curiosity about them. In some, sadly, there's an animosity. This exists pretty much everywhere to a degree, but it still saddens me. Our issue is each constituency thinks another is getting a better deal. Each is wrong, except for the folks so rich they don't care. Hello new Cabinet.

Speaking of a lack of curiosity, there is a apparently no reason to be curious anymore when truth no longer exists. When The Washington Post and The New York Times are "corporate media" not to be trusted and NPR is National Propaganda Radio and Brietbart's former chief is literally in the White House and even Snopes is held suspect and video verification is disputed, there is no common floor to build from. When no one can agree a sky is blue or seeds germinate in dirt or fossils are more than 6,000 years old, we've lost so many basics that a lack of agreement in our legislative bodies is a relatively minor issue. It's one thing to disagree on gun control or reproductive rights, but quite another to question basic biology and paleontology. Or, worse, to keep fighting over whose fairy tale should be supreme. I'm not saying there's no Supreme Being, but I'm saying it's a damn poor one if it can't arbitrate this kinda shit. As a species, we've been pretty sorry at selecting deities.

What disappoints, scares and yet inspires me most is the threat all those poses to women, the LGBTQ folks and, really, any minority you can name. This is the last gasp of the good ol' boys and it'll be a loud and long one. The effects will be real but only temporary as demographics take over. Stay resolute, noisy and compassionate. You have more allies than you know.    .
I hold out some hope as we enter a new year. Republican majorities in both houses of Congress are actually smaller than they were before the election, despite gross gerrymandering in the House. Our Dumbass-elect lost the popular vote by about 2.8 million, enforcing the reality there is no mandate. These are actually things to build on. The one thing I can't get past is those who voted for our Dumbass-elect despite his spoken misogyny and racism. You premeditated a vote with the Klan. Other issues were apparently bigger than equal humanity for someone else. Explain that. You can't.

I'm not anti-Republican, since (as mentioned) I used to be one. Many of my friends are. But I most certainly am anti-stupid and the GOP seems to holding a serious lead in that race these days -- as evidenced by most recent Cabinet selections. It'll be a delight in the coming year or so to watch so much of this disintegrate like the bad Italian government it is.

Dec. 16th, 2016

"..give them a light and they'll follow it anywhere.." -- The Firesign Theater

There's actually of shard of light today in what has been mostly a rather bleak political landscape over the past five weeks or so. It's that a true religious freedom bill (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1150) is actually going to the president's desk AND its sponsor is a Republican. God only knows (see what I did there?) if it's going to be rescinded at some point, but at least it's an indication not everyone to the right of Hillary Clinton has lost their damn minds. Lately it's been hard to tell.

Actually, perusual of various conservative sites lately has brought indication not everyone's a Klan-loving troglodyte. I say this somewhat facetiously, since I know it's not true -- but far too often the Trumpists and similar boneheads shout them down or denigrate them as RINOs when actually they're just trying to be a voice of reason. What really troubles me is a lot of the Republicans who originally worked against Trump and loudly worried about his outbursts of racism, sexism and other disturbing traits now seem to be okay with them because they now have a chance to repeal Obamacare, wreck public schools, deregulate an industry or take any number of other steps. In short, having power is more important than, oh, ten decades of social progress, ensuring basic human rights or simply being a decent human being.  They are basically saying, "we'll side with the Klan as long as we can privatize Medicare." It's wrong.

It's difficult to get a handle on how things are going to be because so damn much is in play right now and it all changes literally by the day. The cast is so new and so bizarre and largely so inexperienced, untested and, in some cases, completely unsuited and outright incompetent as to make observer's jaws clank to the floor like in in a Tex Avery cartoon. Or, worse, the spectre of some of these goons with real power is simply terrifying to anyone without a white penis.

Overseas, pretty much everything is up in the air and/or on hold because the new team is still being assembled (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/12/15/trumps-team-of-rivals-riven-by-distrust/?utm_campaign=Brookings+Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=39357986) and because no one has been actually installed. And even that installation is shaping up as a real battle (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-tillison-pick-20161214-story.html). I agree with a friend that the only thing we know for sure these days is Inauguration Day is Jan. 20. Until then, everything is potentially in play.

As mentioned, there are right-side voices of reason out there on education (https://edexcellence.net/articles/the-innovation-infatuation), replacing Obamacare (http://townhallreview.com/2016/12/chen-repeal-deliver/) and other topics, but you have to look for them these days. I'll continue to point them out as part of an effort to understand and stay engaged with friends who actually are the "compassionate conservatives."

I've been unpleasantly surprised too often over the past several months.

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