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Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Life, Here and Now

One’s reach should always exceed one’s grasp.

It is entirely possible I misunderstood this adage for, say, the first forty years of my life. I now know that in common usage ‘reach exceeding grasp’ implies extending aspirations as far as possible - and then perhaps a bit further - in seeking the next idea, the perfect relationship, whatever. I readily admit this realization was rather slow in coming. And by slow, I mean glacial because for most of my life an impartial observer might have been forgiven for believing I was ignoring the concept entirely.

On the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology there is a long hallway known as “The Infinite Corridor.” Traversing it, one walks a perfectly straight line through several main buildings of the Institute, past windows and open doors and side corridors revealing a profusion of diverse departments and labs. Its decoration comprises – in addition to the inscriptions and statuary - a helter skelter assortment of announcements, maps, illustrations and other communications, the better to allow the traveler to find items and ideas of interest. The Infinite is at once highway, meeting space and constantly morphing informational kiosk, directing the traveler to repositories of brilliance that branch out along its tributary hallways and up and down stairways. The metaphor is extended by the twice per annum alignment of corridor to sun angle, a coincidence (or perhaps not) of architecture and the plane of the elliptic giving the impression that the light of knowledge and truth blasts in through the western portal and radiates down the length of the passage, illuminating all within.  

I was never destined for MIT except as parent of a student (are all daughters smarter than their fathers?) and anyway, no arrow-straight Infinite Corridor could have led me to Truth. This is not, I tell myself, due to an insufficiency of intelligence but rather, to an overabundance of curiosity. Not the steady and insatiable curiosity of the researcher who pulls at a single thread over a career dedicated to a well-defined discipline. I’ve never been attracted to provable answers so much as to the next interesting question. I am afraid my curiosity has always been of a more unruly sort.

I used to worry about this. It seemed to me that through the sheer dumb luck of having been born in a when / where that offered me unlimited access to learning, I might have capitalized on my good fortune by sallying forth in dogged pursuit of a great discovery or a special insight of profound import or even just personal wealth and stature. Alas, I never found reliable footing along any such path. Instead, I eschewed both the well-worn thoroughfare and the road less travelled in favor of simply taking off cross country. I stumbled from road to trail, mostly rambling sans itinerary and always intrigued by the things I saw along the way.  But enjoyable as this was, I worried that without a marked map my life seemed to have no point, no laudable raison d’etre.

I used to joke that a job was ‘the penance you do so they will give you the money you need to live your life.’ As a result of welcoming this thought into my mindset, it seems that over time I assembled quite the resume of penance jobs. I frequently found myself regretting the current situation, questioning whether my life did justice to the wealth of could-haves with which the accident of my birth had endowed me. And so I occasionally sought self-betterment in the form of sojourns in academia and I made a disconcerting number of career turns. Each of these attempts at improvement felt well-conceived at the time and each would ultimately meet its demise on the rocky shores of practicality. It bothered me greatly that I never seemed to find a respectable way forward and reach-versus-grasp felt like a personal condemnation.

As it turns out, I should have worried much less all those years about the wisdom and validity of my life course.  I was always reaching, just as the adage insisted I should. It’s just that my reach was never linear and certainly not always directed forward. My arms reached out in more of a sweeping – okay, make that, flailing - motion, touching without intending to the oddments that added to my knowledge but more importantly exposed me to unexpected ideas, different approaches, parallax views. I could not have predicted where or when the next learning would come, nor could I have identified in situ the great teachers in my life. The lesson asserts itself only over time.   

I recall the week before I reported for my stint in the Navy expounding for my friend’s father on my plans for a Life Well Lived - so much time in the service, then college followed by a brilliant career - laying out for him the roadmap I had drawn for myself. He grinned a bit as he told me that my best bet might be to try to make a good first decision, then see what life brought before making my next course correction. It turned out his was probably the best advice or at least the truest prediction of how my life would unfold that I would ever receive, although at the time I didn’t recognize it as such. I did enlist in the Navy, learned from that experience and long before my plan called for the next step, life happened. My friend’s father had been right. And although I didn’t exactly listen, I could not help hearing and his advice has stuck with me these many years.

My life has been about turning toward things I noticed in peripheral vision, my feet following where my eyes and ears had been invited. I sampled and touched and observed and I would have been hard pressed to confidently claim that I knew why. Why look at this or try that, why the fascination or the delight or dread? Why? It was compulsion, pure and simple, fueled and steered by the need to understand things that I could not have predicted would ever interest me.  It was curiosity without mindful direction but I believe this apparently random journey has served me well. In the end, I never attended an MIT but I have learned a few things.

I am married going on thirty years to my perfect mate, although she was not the person I would have thought to seek out. My current work is neither an amalgam of my earlier positions nor is it in line with any previous trajectory. But I love what I do in this, the sunset engagement of my career and finally, I finally have a job that is not penance. And of course, I find myself writing, which seems to be what I might have done all along had it not been necessary to collect so many decades of experience and insight before I would have something to say. I have become a writer, a seeker if the cliché may be forgiven, an explorer not so much of that which lies beyond but of what may be learned from each new here-and-now.

In the end, my grasp has exceeded anything for which I might ever have thought to reach. For all the twists and turns, stumbles, falls, and downright dead ends, this is my life and I regret none of it. Because circuitous as my path may have been, no other course could have led me here. My reach may not have taken me far but I happily report it seems to have taken me wide and sometimes, even deep. My travels have been about neither journey nor destination, and not so much about what lies on the other side of the hill but rather about viewing it from all sides. My attention has been taken rather than applied and the sights and sites I’ve come across have informed a life that I would not have given up for a king’s ransom. I never attended an MIT but I have learned. My resume does not reveal a career, per se, although there are evidences of affinity if not a logical progression to be found in reading it. At any point in my history, I am best defined by the here and now.

My life has brought me here, now. And this is where I would always have striven to be, had I known then what I know now. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Good people

Teaching at a conference this week. The folks in my sessions are so engaged, so thoughtful and full of thought that I'm a little ashamed to take my pay this week (which is not to say I won't cash the check).

Back soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A woman of her own creation

“Life is not about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.”
(For the record, I found this quote attributed to Carrie Davis in the Disability Sports USA Challenge Magazine for Summer, 2014.)

It was one of those ideas that had me pulling out my short term memory – er, pocket notebook –and writing it down, which happens frequently when I find someone stating a truth in a way I wish had sprung from my own mind.

Through three deaths in the family, a daughter’s long road to recovery after an assault, another daughter’s reconsideration of where she wants to go with her career, a dear friend’s restructuring of her living situation – you get the trend – this has been a time of deep and soulful thought about things that matter.  

Last night, I watched two theatrical performers talk passionately about their lives on the boards – one mostly recounting memories fond and not so fond and the other projecting a future based on hard won lessons. I found myself wondering how these two women, one my daughter and the other my sister’s lifelong friend, had found the courage to leap instead of shuffle, to seek their dreams, craft their own self-creations.

Yeah, all right, stumbles. Sure. But then standing back up and looking about for the next challenge. Gazing to the peaks rather than running for the tree line. One starting over and the other seeking a comfortable finish. Each taking charge of her direction even – or maybe, especially - when the outcome can’t be predicted. Too many unknowable factors, too many twists and turns but always, self-direction.

One made her life on Broadway and in touring companies and the other is still shaping hers, having spent several years as a Disney performer. And last night in my favorite Italian restaurant, I got to watch them interact, talking to and with and over each other. It was Dad Bliss to witness.

Mary C. made a life for herself that would have crushed a less self-directed woman. By a stroke of luck and phenomenal talent got her Equity card when cast by Tommy Tune in Nine and hasn’t looked back, except maybe to make sure the seams were straight.

Angela has reached a crossroads and chosen a next direction. Which is not to say her life plan is mapped out. As we’ve discussed here before, life is what happens. But she is nudging it in the next positive direction.

Last night she met a woman-of-her-own-creation. It was wonderful to watch. It was a night about creativity. And who among us couldn’t use a bit of that in our lives?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Comparative literature

Emma Lazarus, 1883:
“…and her name Mother of Exiles…
Keep your ancient lands, your storied pomp…
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Donald Trump, 2016:

“As a President… I would be very, very tough on the borders, and I would be not allowing certain people to come to this country without absolute perfect documentation… People are pouring across our borders unabated Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are committed by illegal immigrants.  This must be stopped and it must be stopped now. We’re going to build the wall, and we’re going to stop it. It’s going to end.” 

Friday, September 9, 2016

I haven't been abducted by aliens

I try not to bother you when I’ve little or nothing to say; at the same time, I don’t like to leave too much ‘dead air’ that might encourage people to think this little corner of the semi-literary world is no more. Today I’m caught between those two imperatives so I thought I’d just do a little catchup.

I’m a helper, it’s how I see myself. For a long time as a young adult, not so much. But lately – say, since becoming a dad – I can’t help when I see someone struggling wanting to jump in and make things right. Occasionally, my natural exuberance for all things helpful is misdirected. Such was the case this week when I insisted that Mary and I come and help out a friend post-surgery. I was deaf to the message being sent that my friend wanted nothing so much as to cocoon until past the worst of the painful recovery. It took Mary to remind me to just listen.

Okay, I get it now. So I am the pup who has retreated to behind the couch, tail wagging frantically and ever watchful for the vaguest invitation to re-engage. Sometimes puppies need to be taught that their loving approach becomes a burden when overdone. Message received.

Instead, Mary and I are taking a couple nights at a bed and breakfast out on the peninsula. We need the solitude and quiet time together after all the crapola of the past year-plus. Leaving the manse in the capable hands of One and significant other. Can’t wait to hit the road.

Two and significant other are settling into their place and jobs and life in Chicago. The new dog is working out famously.

Most of my writing energy is still focused on Da Book. The closer I get to final draft, the more I realize this character or that needs more of my attention, this or that transition is too abrupt or too elephantine. The beloved chore continues.

Love my work, and especially the people with whom it puts me in proximity.

All is well at Chez Me. More soon. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A letter to fathers regarding Brock Turner, Rapist and members of his tribe

Dear Dads:

Okay, between Facebook and conversation and postings herein some of you might think I’m going too far with the whole Brock Turner, Rapist thing. I can live with that.

If BROCK TURNER, RAPIST had admitted his wrongdoing, accepted the horrific nature of a sexual attack on anyone, much less a semi-comatose girl he’d lured away from any expectation of safety in numbers, had he told the truth from the beginning and not enlisted family and friends to petition the idiot jurist on his behalf, if he had not sat there looking tritely woebegone while his father spoke of ’20 minutes’ as though the blackness of soul that allowed him to attack that girl was just a passing thing, if he had hung his head and indicated true remorse and just taken his punishment…

…if he had done all of this and more, he might have done his time and slithered back into the nether regions from which he arose without his name becoming synonymous with filth.

He did none of those things. No full-throated apology, no acceptance of the magnitude of his guilt, no believable remorse, no expression of respect for his victim, nothing to indicate that he understood and was appropriately ashamed of his own actions.

He was able to pull off his obscene charade because our society protects perpetrators, not victims.

As long as colleges won’t stand up for victims of sexual assault on their campuses, cities and towns put the victims through more shaming than the perpetrators, society views perpetrators as misguided schoolboys rather than the monsters they are, as long as the Internet is filled with privacy-invading photos and videos of women and girls taken and posted by creepers with cell phones and no accountability, as long as we fail as a society to cure the gender apartheid that is a hateful feature of our culture, we will continue to spawn the likes of Brock Turner, Rapist.

What can be done? In the near term, very little, I’m afraid. This is a ship that will take a long time and a vast, concerted effort to bring about. But we can make a start. I have some suggestions:

If you are the father of a young woman whose sexual assault was ‘investigated’ in-house by the university with the predictable result that the perpetrator received barely a hand slap, please write a letter to the university president detailing why you can never recommend to another father sending his daughter to that school and provide a copy of the letter to the most vocal feminist reporter or columnist on the local newspaper.

When your friends make jokes, recount stories or make claims of prowess that you would be uncomfortable recounting in front of your daughters, cut them off, display your disdain loudly and pointedly and let them know that this is the reason they are no longer welcome in your house.

When a long-time friend posts inappropriate comments to young women on Facebook, cut him off like the dead appendage he is and let him know why. And then do some soul-searching about the people you may have harmed by your silence over forty-odd years of being identified with him. And ask for forgiveness. Theirs, not his.

When you see a young woman being ogled at the bus stop, intervene. You don’t have to make a scene but it can’t hurt to step between the young woman and the slug and stare the a-hole down. Turns out, it feels pretty good.

Speaking of ogling, when you encounter a young woman being subjected to wolf whistles and worse from the rogues’ gallery of construction workers, catch up to her and apologize on their behalf. You can’t cure stupid and it might be unwise to take a stand against a band of bullies but you can try to bring some balance to her experience in the moment.

Here’s the thing: Brock Turnerites are, one and all, cowards. There’s never been a rapist who didn’t cower in the shadows. And there’s never been a victim who would not have benefited from having someone stand between them and the darkness.

We can’t deal with the miscreants as they really deserve – they’d still get the wrist slaps and we’d all end up in prison. But we can strip away the shadows in which they hide by recognizing them for what they are and applying the label publicly.

Brock Turner, Rapist walked free the other day in part because of a failure of language.  He richly deserves to have titles indelibly applied to him that adequately describe him. Titles such as rapist, coward, scum, vermin, criminal, (expletive deleted). He should never be allowed to see his name in print without the modifier ‘Rapist’ attached. He should never be allowed to walk down the street without folks giving way – not as a courtesy but rather because it would disgust them to get any of him on them. He should never be allowed to escape language that accurately and adequately describes the blackness of his soul.

It does no good and perhaps some harm for women to post screeds about ‘white men’ as though we were some monolithic tribe of perpetrators. Point: the creeps don’t care and the non-creeps feel as assaulted as do you.

This is not a problem of men or a problem of women. It is a problem of our society that has let the canker grow. Time to cut it out. Leaving the victims to craft their own solution is cowardly, inhuman and ultimately, ineffective. We all need to be invested in curing this immense societal ill.

No ‘man’ should ever be able to make a woman feel trapped without an actual man stepping up in her defense.

There are more real dads in this country than Brock Turners. I just know it. And while we won’t turn the ship overnight and making a start means taking some uncomfortable stands, it’s the only thing that will make a difference in the long run. If we want to defend our daughters, we have to start with the men we know and demand of them respectful and respectable attitudes. And failing that, we need to expunge them from our social circles and make sure they know why. We cannot afford to let the cruel, sexist joke go unanswered or to allow the potential perpetrator to be emboldened by our silence. The time for our silence is long gone; in fact, never was there such a time.

Brock Turner, Rapist is a foul, wretched shadow of a human being who deserves our condemnation.

We all know Brock Turner, Rapists and potential Brock Turner, Rapists. Time to weed them out. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


There’s a young woman on the bus whose face is scarred from burns. Long since healed but still, there it is. I like to share smiles with her. She does a good, honest smile. I look around and people are averting eyes or even grimacing at this image of ‘beauty destroyed.’

Except it isn’t. Destroyed, that is. She’s lovely and even if she wasn’t in any classic sense, what of it? There is nothing ‘destroyed’ in this face or the person behind it.

There is an incredible calm about her as she climbs the steps, taps her pass on the reader, looks about for a seat and then walks and sits as though there was nothing unusual about a person with scars on the bus. Which of course, there isn’t.

Lots of bus riders have scars. Trust me, there are some scarred people to be found on the afternoon 212. People with demons, with fears and dreads and resentments and the whole plethora of burdens that twist the soul. Folks with memories they’d rather not have and habits they’d like to break and losses from which they’ll never fully recover. And they look away from this lovely girl whose scars are at least honest.

I looked away for too long. But then one day we caught each other’s eye. I like myself better when I just smile. I really like that she smiles back. At 63, a young woman’s smile can make my whole day.

Sometimes, she even smiles first. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Zaevion William Dobson

I've been hella busy this week and don't have a missive ready to post. I need a break. We all need a break, methinks.

Here's my suggestion: Turn off CNN. For twenty-four hours, don't think about Trump or Clinton or LePage.

Instead, if you need someone to read about, Google the young man whose name I've used as a title for this post. I guarantee he'll make you happier than any politician.

Sad, too.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Carl and Joe

(Written during a flight a few days ago)

I am astounded at the generosity of a friend who passed away last week. I can’t stop thinking about the most-of-three-days I spent chatting with him less than a month ago.

Joe was the second husband of my wife’s sister, a guy who came into her life after her children had been mostly raised. For each of them, the pairing was not so much about building a future but rather about settling into a life together after many of the lessons have been learned. And as far as Mary and I could tell, their settling in was natural, effortless, meant to be.

They had too few of those ‘here were are together and life is good’ years before the cancer made itself known. They should – if a normative can be applied to something as capricious as a person’s fate – they should have had those golden years that all seek but none are promised. But life is what happens, so Mary is in Florida as I type this, trying to help her sister cope.

The world without Joe is a lesser place, I can assure you. This was a man whose stepdaughter found in him, finally, a true ‘daddy.’ Whose son’s passing was mourned by a father who was born to the title. Whose love for his wife bordered on adoration.

This was a man whose approach to knowledge of his own impending mortality was to blog about it, so that the people he cared about and who cared about him could be reassured and comforted by the chronicle of his battle, without whining or self-pity.

Selfishly, Joe and I were brothers-in-law who made the annual Jonardi gatherings enjoyable for each other. Or so it was for me and I like to think, for him as well. I’ve always been uncomfortable at these yearly extravaganzas at which I felt an interloper but with Joe there, I had a friend, a brother in the strange world of family history that wasn’t mine and references I didn’t understand.

And toward the end, rather than cocoon or rage against his condition, he shared, honestly and without a hint of bitterness, his story that could only have one ending. His humor and decency and amazing knowledge and insight when I was last with him made me think about others who have displayed grace in the face of their own demise.  Gilda Radner’s It’s Always Something, Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture (and Robert Schultz’s, for that matter) come to mind.

It was with all this playing on my psyche that I picked up two books by Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, and his last book, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium. I read the first to sort of calibrate myself to his style, although it turned out not to have been necessary. It was a good book, but the style of writing was quite different from the later (last) one.

Sagan, knowing that his nine lives were sorely depleted and that his time was nigh, elected to have a conversation with us about the ideas that mattered to him and that he felt should matter to all of us. I am reading ‘Billions’ now and so far, it’s a glorious book, a wonderful journey through the mind of a man who devoted much of his professional life to understanding difficult concepts and then explaining them to the rest of us.

I hope to provide you with a book report some time soon. But even if not, please consider reading this book. Three chapters in, I’m already better off for having done so.

Both Carl and Joe chose to leave behind evidence of their love for this world and the people in it. And today, at 36,000 feet over (Montana?), I raise my orange juice in salute to them. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's not sacrifice

My whole life – at least my adult life, so that would be the last few days, anyway – I’ve read and heard frequent references to the sacrifices parents make on behalf of their children.

While I understand what people mean I’m not sure the characterization is apt, at least not for people who earn the right to be called Mom or Dad. The truth is, I think I’ve done okay as a parent and I don’t recall making any sacrifices.

Perhaps I just have a bad memory or perhaps I’m misconstruing the term but I don’t think so.

Mary and I entered into a pact early on that served us reasonably well throughout our child-rearing years. We would face what came at us while trying to tend in the direction of positive outcome. And when we had to make a choice between our comfort and our children’s well-being, we would opt in favor of the kids.  I know, that sounds very ‘well duh’ but really, that’s sort of how we planned our life as parents. We voiced nothing more or less philosophical than that.

So as the challenges came, as we knew they would, we just did what parents do. We had a white wing chair in which one of us spent most of the night every night for well over a year. Having a sick baby meant Mary and I were both able to recite the Nick At Nite rerun lineup and I’m pretty sure I memorized a couple episodes of The Donna Reed Show in their entirety. Came to hate a certain purple dinosaur but that may have just been a matter of druthers.

I recall some long periods of budgetary skinniness when we had to pony up for choir fees and tour costs.

Mary and I both volunteered for various and sundry kid-focused activities over the years. We’ve stood out in the cold with cookie-hawking Girl Scouts, chaperoned car washes, built scenery and a portable puppet theatre, provided refreshments, swept up after, you know how it goes.

Mary and I volunteered for most of Two’s high school volleyball games, Mary as scorer and yours truly as line judge. I can tell you now without fear of scarring my daughter too badly that I really hated that gig. I would much rather have watched the games and line judges are not well respected in high school volleyball circles.

More than one Christmas, Mary and I limited our largesse for each other in order to make sure the kids got their fave toys and yes, there was at least one Christmas Eve that found us frantically trying to find the favored toy of the year.

It’s not sacrifice. It’s something good, perhaps even mildly noble. But it’s not sacrifice. Because the whole point of being a parent is the creation and nurturing of something better than oneself.

And besides, how can it be sacrifice when you end up with these daughters? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

(Insert expletive)

Two deaths in the family, within the last 24 hours, of people I really care about.

Please take a few minutes to hug someone you love.

Dinner guests

I’m pretty sure I’ve done this one before but I’m too damn lazy to sort through six hundred-plus entries to find out. So, I’m just going to risk redundancy.

I was cross-commenting in Facebook with Cecille, a friend from high school days about a woman who runs the Safe Place for Kids in Baltimore and I mentioned this woman is someone with whom I’d like to have dinner. Which of course led me to thinking about how to round out the guest list, which of course, included the word ‘list’ and you can guess where this is going, right?

My perfect dinner gathering, not including the people who read this, who go without saying will be invited but will probably have to sit at the kids table, no offense intended:

·         Ericka Alston – She created the Penn North Safe Kids Zone, and you could spend 21 minutes in a lot worse way than watching her TED talk, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

·         Sheila - Because I think she and Ericka would drive the conversation even if no one else spoke.

·         Carl Sagan – For his humanity and intelligence and incredible insight.

·         Elie Wiesel – So we don’t forget
·         Chita Rivera – When I did a show with her we had some dead time waiting behind a set piece together for our entrance and she talked and talked about her daughter. Not about herself or her career on Broadway or politics or, or, or… Oh, and also for her jokes.

·         Sylvia Earle – The marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence. I could listen to her for hours.

·         Arland Williams, Jr. – He chose to save others at cost of his own life and had to have known he was doing so. I’ve wondered about him from time to time for thirty-four years.

·         Malala Yousafzai – Shot for daring to demand her right to an education, she has become a beacon for a generation.

Mary and I would serve, thus allowing us to eavesdrop. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Back home

I’m home for a week or so and taking a day completely off to rest and write.

Okay, I’ll do some cleaning and take shirts to cleaners and cook the pork roast for lunches in the coming week. But no work-work today, although I can’t promise for tomorrow. And no yard work or garage straightening. I’ll do whatImustandnomore because today is my day to be me.

Part of being me is spending some time with Daughter One. Spent some time talking about family and work gossip and that was wonderful but not necessary for my happiness. Just being in the same space with her is precious time. She’s a good head, as we used to say.

Night before last, I had dinner with Sheila and Karen and that was special in its own way. And I’m planning a road trip wit me bro in a month or two that will be fabulous.

But today, I’m alone with my stuff and my thoughts and the knowledge of my daughter close at hand.

My life is good. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cleo the Crafty

It’s been some time so I figured I’d catch you up on the dog-related doings at Chez McDermott.

Previously on the Canine Hour, Odin the Large and Lazy had passed on to that big doggy bed in the sky, and his absence had left Zoey the Small and Annoying confused and saddened. So, not long after the tragic event, Daughter One and I went to the local animal shelter to start perusing breeds and planning our next adoption. We made it about halfway down the line of cages before I could tell by the angelic glow surrounding One’s head that she had found The One.

I have also let you in on the fact that having lost a Great Dane / Black Lab mix, One elected to fill the void with none other than a Chihuahua, one of the five or six breeds concerning the adoption of which I had famously and - as it turns out, ineffectually - said, “Never!”  (Side note: When a father of daughters says ‘never,’ that translates roughly to ‘until the women in my life inform me otherwise.’)

Ahem, moving on…

So Cleo, as she came to be called set about winning the hearts of the humans of the house and gradually wormed her way into Zoey’s heart, as well. She really is a cute little thing, runs like a bandy-legged gazelle and loves nothing so much as to be in physical contact with one of her peeps, preferably in a position of repose on a convenient lap.

Lately, she has fallen into habits that are somewhat, shall we say, less cute. For a while, she decided that she was too dainty to go out in the rain so she took to conducting her fluid adjustment activities on the dining room rug. We humans were slow to figure out her subterfuge, which accounts for the fact that said rug is now rolled up outside, awaiting my next trip to the dump.

She is a master at pulling crapola out of any trash or recycling receptacle she comes across and has developed an acrobatic routine that involves leaping up, hooking front paws over the lip of the trash can, then leaning back so that her weight tips the can over, the better to access the contents, my dear. It is not unusual for me to come upstairs from my office to find the family room strewn with an assortment of discarded mail, wrappers of various descriptions, and the occasional used cotton swab. (I agree – ew!)

 We wondered why the lid to the dog food bin was repeatedly left askew until one day One came into the kitchen to discover a pair of itty bitty doggy legs sticking up over the rim, blissfully dancing to the rhythm of the munching sounds coming from inside.  Her latest skill involves burrowing her way into the forty-pound bag of kibble. For at least twenty years, through the various dogs and combinations of dogs the bag containing extra dog food has resided in the cubby behind the ready bin. Twenty years it went unmolested.

Until now. 

Until Cleo.

Now, I don’t want you to think we’re silly enough to leave her alone in the house so she can commit her burglaries unobserved. No-o-o-o! She does not require our absence in order to commence her perfidy. The brazen little monster carries out her criminal actions right in front of us! The other day I heard a rustling and went into the kitchen – barely around the corner from where I sat working in the dining room – to discover her doing her darnedest to chew a hole in the kibble bag, having already managed somehow to slide the bin out of her way.

So now our home décor includes a half empty bag of dog munch sitting on top of the sideboard. It won’t be there for long. We’ll find a more protected – and we hope out of sight – place to store it. And not entirely for reasons aesthetic.

Yesterday I came around the corner to discover a Chihuahua sitting in the hallway in front of the sideboard staring up at her erstwhile prize. Since she was entirely unconcerned at my presence, I was able to stand there and study her for a moment. And I saw the look on her little face.

This was not the forlorn countenance of a tiny animal recognizing defeat. No, what I saw there was a world class climber, dispassionately calculating the route for her free climb up the face of El Capitan.

Gawd help us. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016


I met Marsha on the bus. This is how I meet many of the ‘new people’ in my life these days. I spend almost an hour, usually with many of the same people.

I tend to be sort of cocooned, pulling out my book or my Nook and going into another world other than taking occasional glances outside to look at people or water or mountains, only emerging from my chrysalis stage at the last possible moment upon arrival at my stop. But every now and then, something spurs interaction in a less superficial way than the normal ‘excuse-me’ and ‘did you drop this’ sort of engagement.

I’d been riding the same morning bus with Marsha frequently since last time I made a routing change and other than nods and occasionally teaming up to help a newbie figure out their stop, we’d never spoken. But one morning we were standing next to each other in the queue and one of us commented on a particularly clueless set of riders the day before and it turns out Marsha is as much of a gabber as am I, so off we went.

She’s quite an interesting women. After spending x number of years serving as a crew member on private yachts and charters, she holds multiple certifications and now teaches at a maritime academy in Seattle. She has great stories of dealing with self-impressed sea dogs who consider themselves far too salty to accept guidance – or worse, grading and correction – by a ‘mere slip of a girl.’ Never mind that their sole path to qualifying for a higher paying job and more prestigious position in the maritime world passes through her evaluation of their grasp of the material. 

This is a woman who started her career working large private yachts for a captain who maintained about 50/50 gender division in his crews. She says she “kept my mouth shut and head down and just did the work,” and fortunately this guy was more interested in developing talent that checking out the local talent so under his tutelage she flourished.

She worked hard and was smart enough never to pass on an opportunity to learn or to assume more responsibility. And when she was ready to spend some time ashore, found a berth teaching other people what she had already learned.

She told me about dealing with gruff old duffs. And people who inexplicably ignored their lessons after ponying up several thousand dollars for the privilege. Go figure, but I’ve seen the same thing elsewhere. It kills me to have a class of twenty or so in a classroom in, say, Denver and realize that the guy who flew there from Hawaii or the gal from New Hampshire can’t be bothered to pay attention to the material. Marsha and I share that experience.

You might suppose that having both spent significant periods at sea – I was in the Navy during my formative years – we would spend our time together swapping yarns about exotic places or typhoons we’ve known and loved.

No, mostly we talk about teaching adults – actual or theoretical – in professional development courses. It’s shop talk between peers of a sort and I really enjoy our time together. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a truly nice person. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Difficult times

I am watching several young adults of my acquaintance go through some difficult times. Emotionally, financially, physically tough stuff. And I am finding it very difficult to hold in abeyance my natural tendency to step in and fix things. Not that I’m sure I could, if I tried.

What’s difficult is the not trying.

My mind is awhirl with dread if/then imaginings of what will come to pass should they not find their way. Not because the world is hard (it is) or because I am frustrated in the knowledge that all of them are so smart and insightful and good people who could own the world if only they understood how to make a start (I am).

They will. Find their paths and make a start, I mean. But knowing the sun will rise doesn’t make the night less foreboding.

It’s not my role as elder that binds this fear to me, not at all. If I looked at things entirely from where I now stand, I would be able to embrace the certainty of their success. I know now that if you just keep chugging, things eventually work out. But we are each a collection of points of view, each from a different age and situation, a different point in time. And each of those snapshots is laden with the feelings that accompanied the versions of ourselves they represent.

The snapshot from when I was their age is of a not very hopeful me. It is a picture of a ‘me’ who had lost the woman who I thought would be the one, of a ‘me’ feeling unloved and therefore unlovable. Of a ‘me’ with no particular career direction, whose attempt at college had been abortive, who didn’t respect himself and saw that lack of regard reflected in the eyes of those around him. A ‘me’ who – thanks to the tender ministrations of a drunk driver – could not be certain that the seizures would ever stop or the memory ever fully return.

I went through a shit-storm of self-doubt during what should have been years of defining and forging a trajectory. Instead, I simply kept colliding with myself. And I grew fatigued by the sheer effort of recovering from self-inflicted failures.

I did recover. A good woman and a caring family and a very few steadfast friends saw me through. I found my path and eventually my stumbling became a stride. Life does get better if you just keep on keeping on. Or to be more accurate, if you steadfastly refuse to finally give up. The dawn comes, the storm abates. Life becomes livable, then enjoyable, and eventually precious.

But you have to trust enough to make the start.

I wish I’d understood that sooner. I gave up much of fifteen years of my life. I can’t get it back.
So, I guess what I would say is simply this: today is your life. Yesterday is gone and next year is never promised.

Please, live today. It’s what you have. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton

Yes, I will mark your name on the ballot.

Please, please do not think for a minute that I am voting for you. As has often been the case in my life, I am voting pragmatically rather than hopefully.

You see, I know personally the truth behind only a couple of your claims but in both instances, you vastly overstated your advocacy for the downtrodden and your own achievements on their behalf. So I have to wonder about the rest.

So, I can’t trust you.

But the thing is, I think you’re even more of a pragmatist than am I. And while I’m willing to accept claims that you’re a hard worker, I don’t for a minute believe you will try to do it all yourself. And I view that as a compliment.

It’s important for a leader to realize they can’t know all, do all, adjudicate every argument. It’s important for a leader to rely on staff and advisers and subject matter experts. And from what I know of you, you will likely do that.

I believe you will lead a team that will bring some balance back to the Federal judiciary. And I believe you will listen to people on matters and issues about which you simply can’t ever know enough because no one person can know it all.

I’m glad we’re finally electing a woman. But make no mistake – there are other women I wish had been on the ballot. Still, a woman’s perspective is welcome, so please do remember that constituency.

BTW, you should really send a fruit basket to Donald Trump. He has given you the great gift of being allowed to run against a candidate for whom no thinking and caring person could ever vote. 

Ultimately, it is likely that fact that will land you in the White House.

I believe you’ll be elected. But don’t count on a second term. You have to actually earn that because next time around the Republicans will work very hard not to supply you with such an easy target as The Donald. If you do, if you actually earn this office I will more gladly vote for you next time around.

But you do need to earn it. Get busy.

Because I want so badly to be wrong about you. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Garage sale

We are holding a garage sale today.

Of course, my use of the first person plural is, shall we say, figurative. The truth is that Mary, One, and Boyfriend Of One are holding a garage sale whilst I sit in my comfortable office chair in my comfortable office, writing about said event. You see…

I don’t do garage sales.

I am happy to help find unused or used-to-near-extinction or ugly or even fugly items to offer for sale. I am willing to help move junk – er, make that fine vendables – out to the driveway. I offer wisdom as to how to set things up and I occasionally saunter outside to nod and make unsolicited comments to those doing the actual, you know, work. But I don’t actually take part in the selling phase of operations.

Why, you might ask? Simple…

I don’t do garage sales.

For one thing, I am uncomfortable with the whole haggling nature of these events. I would be sorely tempted to offer the whole shebang to the first prospective customer to arrive with an empty pickup truck for five dollars cash money on the sole and non-negotiable condition that they take it all, take it now, take it far away, never to return. This, however, is not Mary’s preferred sales technique and I’m fairly certain she would express her dismay in no uncertain terms.

Then there’s the customer who wants to purchase the lightly used Samsung tablet for twenty dollars. Yeah, that’ll happen! I’d sooner donate it to the school – hey, that’s an idea! (More frowns from my beloved.)

And there’s the wanderer who somehow makes it past the hanging tarp to explore my actual garage, which at this point contains nothing with which I’m willing to part. Except maybe the chipper. Yeah, I’d sell the chipper. It’s a pain to start and requires actual work to use. Now THAT you can have for twenty!

Let’s face it: I am neither interested in nor am I competent at the operation of garage sales. And that’s why…

I don’t do garage sales.

Glad my beloved does, though. Lots of junk moving in a satisfactory direction. That would be, out the door. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bird's eye view

Flying eastward over the Cascades on a recent morning, the combination of sun angle and my plane’s altitude provided the perfect moving postcard view of the terrain features. I found myself looking down from above the peaks and ridges with just the right shadowing to reveal every feature, nook, and also, cranny of this grand mountain range.

Now, before I start sounding too much like a travelogue, allow me to admit that my words do no justice to the quality of the view. That said, please believe that the view was worthy of a much better notice / describer than I and that I so wish each and all of you could have shared the experience.

I’m always a bit surprised and thrilled to my bones at the number and clarity of mountain-top lakes in this region. Yes, the ones nestled in lower valleys are lovely but the ones that catch my eye are the smaller, usually circular catchments right at the peaks.

One of the lakes I spot this morning is maybe a few hundred yards across, edged by the merest fringe of dirt before the old growth forest begins. The deep blue – not to mention the snow on the peaks around it – offers testimony to the frigidity of the water, even now in mid-July. I’d give anything to be on it in my kayak but fortunately, it is not accessible for such activities, given the density of forest, steepness of the slopes and lack of a road anywhere near. I say fortunately, because given easier access this gem would surely be spoiled by the incursions of the likes of moi with our boats and coolers and campfires.

Gawd, but I love where I live. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Understanding the inputs

I’ve had an odd combination of inputs of late.

My mother-in-law passed away. She was a good person and an important contributor to the life and lives of our little clan. She was a teacher to our daughters, helping them understand much more than how to crochet or reduce cherries for pie filling or make caplets. She was the center of her family and even in dying did much to pull her children together. We miss her and will continue to miss her.

The horror that is national politics is on all our minds today. And it goes beyond Trump and Clinton, although each of them in their own way represents the worst we have to offer in the realm of leadership. The worst aspect of our political torment is the enforced realization that the evil that inflicted us before the Sixties remains rampant. It would be simple to blame the hateful rhetoric on the likes of Cruz and Ryan and Limbaugh. But rhetoric requires an audience and the rabble standing with Trump are not of Trump’s creation.

A free press - so necessary to the maintenance of an informed electorate - itself depends for its validity on both competence and positive intent. Both attributes seem sadly lacking in the ‘journalists’ of today. I’ve nothing against advocacy but when advocacy is disguised as information we all suffer. So I watch the political falderal and I’m at a loss to determine the proper course. Not because I can’t trust this candidate or that but more because I can’t trust much of the ‘information’ I’m receiving about any of them.

My daughters are both going through changes in their lives that will alter their futures and by extension, Mary’s and mine. No judgment, no good or bad. But the future will diverge from the past.

I’m getting older and while I’ve long since accepted mortality, I can’t as readily accept the end of my ability to contribute. So, do I work harder or faster or both? And can I work harder or faster or both?

The passing of Elie Wiesel has affected me more than I would have imagined. I’m re-reading Night to try to understand exactly why. A wonderful, crucial human being but why is his passing so viscerally important to me? I hope to figure that out because I suspect that in this case, knowledge might bring wisdom.

Friends are going through, well, stuff and I hope for them. So much, so sincerely do I hope for each and all of them.

As our ability to gather data expands exponentially, our ability to absorb and understand what the data mean is steadily diminished. But how do we choose which data to try to understand? How do we conduct the triage?

DO we even know what success would look like? Do any of us truly recall Original Position?

I don’t have answers. But I have inputs and I like to think I’m starting to understand the questions.

For now, that will have to be enough. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dodging bullets

I went to the doctor today. To a specialist to find out if the ‘thing’ my GP was worried about was going to turn out to be malignant. 

Good news: Benign

Bad news: Everyone doesn’t get this reprieve.

Right on the heels of the WHEW!!!, I found myself thinking of the many people who received less desirable news from their practitioners.

Don’t get me wrong, no guilt here. I didn’t think why-me-and-not-them although I could have, since I haven’t always done the smart thing when it came to health management. But still, why them?

No answer. What is, is. What is not, is not. Is that it? It is. (With a nod to Daniel Keyes and Flowers for Algernon)

But still.

I was terrified, afraid even to tell Mary how afraid I was. The last two days were mental torture. Surely, one of these times – no, don’t go there.

Not this time.I am thinking tonight of the people who got bad news today.

I’m so sorry.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A disturbance in the Force

Elie Wiesel has died.

He was a hero to me, and the mentor I never met.

After surviving the holocaust, he spent a lifetime trying to convince men and women of goodwill to speak out because silence always favors the oppressor. And he reminded us that to be a bystander is to be part of the problem.

He judged an essay I wrote once and I have to say it was a peak experience to know he'd read my writing. And frightening beyond words.

He taught me as he taught the world. And he has died but he will never be gone.

Please read his trilogy. Do that for me.

But even if not, please read Night, the first of the three. Do that for yourself and for humankind. If you haven't read this book, you might be in danger of believing the Holocaust can't happen again, here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Browsing 101

I’ve been working on framing content, delivery and medium for a training project at work and it got me to thinking (yes, I know, a miracle – very funny!).  Anyhoo, during the week long drive with Homer (not his actual name) I was reminded that the challenge of providing teaching and training for folks living with certain types of disabilities is really no different from finding ways to effectively communicate with gen X, Y, Z, etc. It’s about directing their attention to things that matter. And that’s not always easily accomplished.

It has become emblematic of folks under 30 – well, now under 40, I suppose – that their lives revolve around information that comes to them through various electronic devices. Of course, through any channel or device from YouTube to one’s personal communicator, there are seemingly infinite applications vying for one’s attention at any given time. And many of these seem to be in the business of truncating communication. (I could get all snarky here about a certain candidate’s penchant for using Twitter but the problem there is not so much about compression as incomprehension, so…  let’s just move on, shall we?)

In order to ‘access the information,’ one must first know it is there and that it is potentially of interest.  Communicators of various stripes have understood this for many generations.  From bills posted on street corners to broadsheets with bold type headlines, we’ve understood the need to draw the audience in. Book dust covers, theatre marquees and billboards all play to this need. The book cover fulfills two functions – announcing content and inviting desire. We walk into the book store, pick up the book we came for and then browse our areas of interest for covers that might pique our interest. And there’s the dust cover, trying its hardest to make us pause and pick up this book.

‘Browsing’ has taken on a whole new meaning for the digitally directed generation. Which books or other content is presented for consideration is defined by algorithms set up to predict your preferences, in order to enhance success of the browsing session. (‘Success’ being a subjective term – for me, it means I find something of interest while for the algorithm setter-upper and the site host it means  that I might purchase the item I find of interest – these being very different but not necessary mutually exclusive definitions.) But there seems to be an inherent limitation in browsing as our children are coming to understand it.

When one’s browsing is directed, even in a well-intentioned way by an algorithm set up to drive sales, it will necessarily tend to lead us toward those ideas or products for which it assumes I’ll feel an affinity. This is why I get so many popups for sexual enhancers and sports crapola. The algorithms have figured out my gender and age and probably a zillion other characteristics and have tailored their marketing to me accordingly. (Joke’s on them if they think I’ll ever voluntarily view a professional sports event and Casanova I‘m not, but they keep trying.)

To be fair, this was already a problem with the traditional book store, since we tend to look for what we already know we like – novels or historical fiction, how-to or new age. Of course, in a book store we have to walk through the stacks to get to our chosen area, whereas computerized shopping takes us as efficiently as possible to an item we might actually, you know, pay for.

Okay, enough with the rant. Where is this going?

I recently spent a week in a car with a younger man who by date of birth could be my grandchild. This is a guy who is very much in sync with the modern digital milieu and I worried about how well we would engage when his attention was taken up with the world as defined within a two-inch-square screen.

Turns out I need not have worried – Homer is a very interested guy, curious about more than what’s trending and willing, even eager to get out and look.  I am delighted to report that he spent more time holding his camera than his cell phone. He did a lot of the driving and when I drove all day, a misplaced charging cord ensured that his cell phone use was foregone for hours at a time. But I sense that even had he been the passenger with a fully functional i-Thing for all seven days, he would not have spent much time texting or trolling.

He wondered about farm fields and crops, animals we saw, geologic formations and towns and all the stuff that you see on a road trip if you just look up. And he found things of interest at every turn, as did I. We joked about our stops at identified oddities such as the UFO Welcome Center, but we actually spent most of our time noticing and discussing more mundane – and infinitely more fascinating – sights. The incredible straightness of a farmer’s rows. Why cattle on a beef farm are counted in pairs.  The architecture of a town, the number of churches, the sense of welcome (or not) we got from the places we stopped...

Stuff. Interesting stuff. Stuff that no algorithm would likely have led us to.

We truly had a wonderful time and I yearn to know that other folks his age would stop texting long enough to understand what they’re seeing.  Windows may be old tech, but they are a vastly underutilized tool, methinks. (That’s windows, lower case w, of course.)

My buddy Sheila frequently posts pics of her world travels and she’s quite adept at capturing a sense of place. I wonder how many people these days ever just turn around and look. Clue: It’s about the place, not about the fact that you’re in front of it. Take a cue from Sheila and think about what you’re seeing.

And I also wonder:  when eyes, ears and the tactile sense are all engaged by an electronic device, how does the world around us compete for our attention? Because to me, it’s far better to be interested than interesting, and I’m not sure the selfie-takers get that.

Anyway, it was a wonderful trip.

And I’m an old Fudd. But then, you knew that. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

All fifty

As of last week, I’ve set foot in all fifty states. Doesn’t exactly make me unique but still, it was cool. (In case you care, these last two were Delaware and Rhode Island and I picked them up during the Kazoo Tour with Two’s amour.)

Still have some goin’ to do . I’ve been to Guam, the Marianas, Wake Island and American Samoa but not Puerto Rico, the Palmyra Atoll or the U.S. Virgins.

This sort-of milestone got me to thinking about some of my favorite sights and sites.

The Grand Canyon, of course, and Half Dome. Mt. Rainier from Paradise, Mt. St. Helens as a boy from the former Spirit Lake and much later of what’s left of it from the tourist viewing stand.

Fumaroles. If you’ve not been to Yellowstone, why not?

It’s the places that fewer people know about that tend to catch my fancy. Not because I feel proprietary about them but rather because in most cases, they were unplanned and frequently, unexpected. And so, especially pleasurable to experience.

The International Ice Carving Festival in Fairbanks is something to see. Try to be there the night before judging so you’ll get to gawk at the almost finished carvings and also the frantic last-touches process.

Both a moose calving (Alaska) and brown bear fishing (Montana) – the Discovery Channel is cool but in person, wow.

Virga backlighted by an incredible sunset in Wyoming or the Aurora Borealis from Chena Hot Springs – these two are in a dead heat.

The cemetery on a recent trip that made me think of Our Town.

The kazoo factory in Eden, NY.

A docent at the John Brown House on a slow day who was thrilled to have a couple of rump-weary travelers with whom to share a few minutes in friendly conversation.

The hill country of Texas – specifically, Fredericksburg.

Any fresh water lake, from its middle, seated in a kayak.

New parents taking their baby on a flight to see the grands for the first time are frequently priceless (but damn, they do carry a load of crap nowadays).

Farm country in Nebraska as seen from a section road.

The old guy in Oto, Iowa (pop: 108) who watched my every move while I drove slowly into town, stopped, got out and took a picture of the ‘veterans’ wall’ inscribed with the names of my Dad and two of his brothers, then – just as I turned to leave – raised his hand in a salute without changing expression.

The last orange stand on old Hwy 99 in the Central Valley.

Many of the sites along the Natchez Trace.

The World’s Largest Pheasant outside Huron, South Dakota.

The waters around Peaks Island and Great and Little Diamond in Casco Bay, Portland Maine (Again, from a kayak – due to a cancellation, I had the guide all to myself that day and it was glorious! His wife was supposed to be my guide but wanted to hang with a friend so to entice him to trade with her she made us a killer box lunch – total win all around!)

The UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Don’t believe me? Google it if you must, then apologize.

The Badlands. Can’t understand going to Rushmore and Crazy Horse but failing to drive the extra hour and see one of the truly remarkable natural sights on the continent.

“Winged Victory,” the memorial to fallen soldiers in Vancouver, B.C. – the one with the angel. It’ll make you tear up. I’m not a big statue guy but dang, this one got me. And yes, I know this Vancouver is in Canada. Go see it, anyway.

The Devil’s Backbone in Colorado. Very cool and walkable, even for an old coot like moi.

Herds of antelope and other critters on the road from Blackfoot Idaho to Grand Teton National Park.
And Marmots on Hurricane Ridge in Washington.

The same blue heron that’s nested in that one place on Lake Washington for years.

Cue Julie Andrews, because these are truly a few of my favorite things. The moral is, you gotta get off the interstates if you want to inside the states. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016


One of life’s greatest questions is ‘Why?’ Or at least, one of the questions most asked when folks find themselves in reflective mode.

For me, it is the most fascinating and yet paradoxically, unimportant of the Great Questions.

‘Why’ leads us on a search for that which is unknowable. The quest for an answer to ‘Why?’  is a fool’s errand but one for which many (most) of us can’t help saddling up and sallying forth. It compels us to seek that which explains all but for which there is ultimately no satisfactory answer.

I suppose you might wonder whether this is truly what I believe – it is – and if so, doesn’t that lead me inexorably to a bleak dead zone in which all things, all conditions or endeavors are ultimately pointless. I have been told by well-meaning people that I need to reconsider my citizenship in what they view as a land of hopelessness.

And yet, I maintain that I am one of the most hopeful people you could ever want to meet. I need not have a spiritual reason for all I do and see and experience. But those things and ideas I embrace must fit a cosmic structure which I find believable. And so, the search for a reason is (almost always) defeated by reason.

I do not claim to be incurious. I am driven to know how, for what purpose (no, not the same as why), when, where. A road trip with me is an adventure in noticing and wondering at that which is observed. I can drive a trip-mate wild with my constant, verbal contemplation of the purpose of a piece of machinery or the straightness of a farmer’s tilling.

I want to know everything I can about the farmer’s methods and equipment. But as to the origin of the farmer, I find myself utterly uninterested.

I simply don’t choose to explore questions for which there is no provable answer. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Road trip

I love road trips. No surprise there for anyone who knows me.

This one was special. I spent a week in a car and hotel rooms and diners with a young guy just starting out in life. And it was one of the best weeks of my life.

The purpose of the trip was to collect his ‘stuff’ from Miami and Boston and transport it and him to Chicago, where my daughter – his amour – awaited the big arrival. And as you can tell from my last post, we saw a few things along the way, some goofy and some magnificent.

By far the best part of the trip for me was just talking. Sharing. Discussing and agreeing (or sometimes, not), then talking some more.

I’ve never had many male friends and fairly recently said goodbye to one who turned out not to be the friend I thought he was. I’m just more comfortable in the company of women.

But now I think I’ve found a buddy.

It was a great trip. But more than that, it was a wonderful visit.

Thanks, Louis!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On the road again

Currently in Wauseon, OH.

Tomorrow, Chicago, then home.
-UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, SC
-Moses Cone Park in Boone NC
-Kazoo Factory
-Blue Ridge Parkway

Details soon

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dawn at SLC

Getting stuck overnight twice in two weeks doesn’t happen very often. Not to me, at least. But when your flight from Seattle to Salt Lake arrives twenty minutes after the last connector to Casper has departed and everything except your computers resides out of reach in a checked bag, it’s time to roll with the punches.

The airline provided a hotel and it was actually a decent overnight stay, friendly people, clean room. There was a drug store within walking distance where I found the essentials – toothpaste, etc.

I even found a clean shirt. Well, sort of… if you count a hoodie emblazoned with the logo of the local high school sports team.  Lovely. But given a choice between putting on a dirty shirt after my morning shower vs. acting as a sports billboard, I’ll swallow my pride. So, second day in the same shirt, until I get to my hotel in Casper. I’ll pawn the hoodie off on a family member.

Long story short, I now find myself watching the post-sunrise flurry of activity at the airport. And it’s actually sort of lovely. For those who’ve not been here, Salt Lake City sprawls across the alluvial fans of one mountain range with a view across a desolate valley to another mountain range. Lots to look at for a confirmed noticer.

Even better noticing is to be had in the terminal itself. A women just walked by totally oblivious to the people around her as she pantomimed her own private script. There’s a story there.

Clearly, it’s migration season for Mormons, as evidenced by the many small flocks of youngsters in suits and dresses, each proudly displaying a black badge identifying him or her as ‘Elder (insert name here)’. I mentioned this to Daughter Two, who in her response opined that perhaps the rapture requires TSA clearance.

It always amazes me how abruptly an airport goes from somnolence to frenzy as the people-shipping day begins.

I know this is blasphemy of a sort, since air travel has come to be a major pain in the caboose, but I have to admit I love spending an hour or two sitting out of the way watching a concourse come alive.

Gotta go now – the sun angle is just starting to reveal the folds in the mountains and I need to get back to my noticing. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

What do you say?

What do you say to a daughter, already dealing with the aftermath of violence against her body and soul, who learns that among the 38 so far identified, 3 were friends?

Really, what do you say?

What do you say to the woman whose son died this year but part of whose legacy lived on in the joy and community at this gathering place where he once worked, now forever linked to a historic mass murder?

What do you say to your wife, spending her last night ever alone in her mother’s house, who has so much else on her mind and now, this?

What do you say to the parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine who must have thought, ‘Surely, now action will be taken?’

What do you say to the parents and friends of the murdered and maimed when the news brings them tidings of hatred from ‘Christians’ spouting Leviticus?

What do you say to your friends among Muslims who are once again painted with an unfair brush? 

Or your friends among Christians who understand that the hateful mob from Westboro et al who don’t represent them will nonetheless be identified as Christians?

And what do you say to the many who believe in their hearts that access to firepower is a crucial right of citizenship?

…what do you say?

As I’ve shared before, the murderous intent is on the perpetrator. But access to obscene levels of firepower – that’s on all of us.

So…what do we say? 

Friday, June 10, 2016


I’d like to thank those of you who’ve expressed such kind thoughts on news of the passing of Mary’s mom.

This week’s news cycle is full of what to the world must seem like larger issues. Muhammad Ali passed and I view him as a great guy who will be sorely missed. Hillary Clinton has emerged as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, which presents a conundrum for many of us who don’t like to face voting for her (the lesser of two evils still being, you know, evil). An inconceivably light sentence for a despicable crime, college and high school graduations, changing weather, business news – all of these affect more than a few people.

But it is the few people whose concerns have occupied my thoughts this week. The six who have lost their mother, the few who have lost their sister, or their grandmother or mother-in-law.

I don’t have anything profound to say about Norma except that I liked her and she was a kind and caring friend to me. And goofy, in her own way.

Perhaps the most profound thing I can share about Norma with folks who never met her is that when she passed, all six of her adult children were in attendance. Because they couldn’t not be. Because she was and always had been Mom.

A body could do worse than to raise six kids who become the adults who made sure she was never alone these last months.

Goodonya, Queenie!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The blame game

                It’s easy to dislike and even ridicule the businessman-turned-politician whose name rhymes with dump (as in, take a…) and I admit I do dislike him.

                I dislike him for his ludicrous ‘birther’ campaign, for his baseless claims to superiority in all endeavors, for ridiculing a reporter for his disabilities, for his attitudes toward women, for “…my African-American…,” for cheer-leading the thugs who attend his rallies, then cringing behind his security folks when someone tries to return the favor.  His abject failure to present a single fully formed and intelligently expressed idea for making ‘America great again’ is laughable. His ‘…bleeding from…” comment displays not only his hatred of women but his incredibly bad taste.

                This guy’s ascendant candidacy is making us a laughing stock the world over. Serious people of good will can only view it as a failure of this country to make good on the promise of representative democracy.

                He represents everything I dislike about big-money politics. And he exposes the atrocious state of political reporting these days as reporters and pundits who prefer sensationalism over sober reflection and blather over insightful commentary grant him the most extensive free coverage since Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface.

                He is a buffoon, a bully and a bigot. But because he’s also a billionaire, he can buy a platform and as long as what he says is sufficiently outrageous, what passes for the press these days will continue to guarantee him as much publicity as he desires.  He has nothing real to say, which explains why so many of his pronouncements take place through a platform that limits comments to 140 characters.

                It’s fair to say I am not a big fan of this overblown nincompoop.

                It is also fair to say I don’t blame him for his fame or even for his standing in the primaries.

                I don’t blame him for the same reason I don’t blame a neighbor’s dog for crapping on my lawn. Crapping is a central skill for dogs and understanding appropriate social context or cultural rules of civility is not.

                This guy does what he is inclined to do, based on an upbringing and business climate that has encouraged him to believe that his way is by definition the right way.

                I don’t blame him and if he’s elected to the highest office in the land, I still won’t blame him.

                Should that happen, I blame us.