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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I have a confession to make. It’s one I’ve toyed with making for many years but never got up the gumption to just out with it. But of late, my life has been laid open – or perhaps more precisely, flayed – as I’ve struggled to define my own personal narrative. Over the course of the last couple of years, through deaths and assaults against loved ones, struggles with understanding relationships with friends, missteps, learning moments and yes, the occasional small victory, I’ve come to know things about myself that I had never before grasped. Or at least, had never encouraged myself to understand.

I’ve tired of moving forward only to slip back. I have decided to try to ratchet my forward progress so that ground, once covered, need not be trod again. The best way I know to install this anti-slip device in my journey is through being honest with those who know me best. Or at least, know of me. So fasten seat belts because I intend here and now to expose to you a secret I’ve kept all these years.

Ready? Here goes:

I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye.

Now, you might be tempted to think this is a twisted joke, building you up for the great reveal only to have it be inconsequential. But I promise you, to me this is no small matter.

You see, the story of myself as writer and therefore presumably a reader of worthwhile literature has always rested on an unspoken assumption. Writers know writing, yes? Great writing. Writing by the seminal authors of our literary history. Writing that has shaped our lives, both individually and as a society. The assumption is that those who would have us take their own written work seriously have educated and informed ourselves through broad and deep immersion in the works of the masters, the classics of literature and commentary.

Yeah, well… For me, not so much.

I don’t know Holden Caulfield except as a reference made by others that I understand – or presume to, anyway – only in the context of the conversation of the moment. And this is not the only ‘great character’ of literature with whom my acquaintance is largely imaginary.

I have never read most of the authors, playwrights or poets that connoisseurs of great writing would recognize as worthy of acclaim. If there is truly a literary canon of the American experience, my knowledge of it is at best anecdotal. I have failed utterly to educate myself in the approved literary framework of required reading for writers of my day and age.

I am currently reading through some books I picked up at a conference. The one on my nightstand as I type this is Breakfast with Neruda by Laura Moe. I’m two-thirds through it and found it hard to put down this morning so I could get on with my own writing. And I do NOT apologize for choosing this book over one from the approved list. I’m enjoying it immensely.

I have read several Farley Mowats but very little of Hemingway. Okay, enjoyed Old Man and the Sea but not so much that I felt compelled to go in search of a Hemingway anthology. Maybe it’s the whole hard-drinking, risk-taking manly Papa thing that turns me off. I was never really drawn to Hemingway. But Mowat – there’s a guy who engages my mind. Never Cry Wolf was a delightful and fascinating introduction and it led me to several others, in particular Grey Seas Under. While other writers focused on battleships and bomber streams, Mowat told me about The War through the saga of salvage tugs. Yes, tug boats. Brilliant. But alas, not mentioned on any canonical registry.

My least favorite had-to-read-for-a-class book of all time has to be The Great Gatsby, the uninteresting story of unlikable characters in an ultimately fruitless search for a theme. I did enjoy a few of Fitzgerald’s short stories, read for the same class – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button comes to mind. But a master? Not for me. He always seemed to be writing for New York reviewers and not for, you know, readers.

I’m a nutter for Amy Tan, although admittedly her books take me a while to get through. But then, I’ve shared that affinity in an earlier missive.

My point here is that I tend to emotionally cower when I speak of writing and writers with folks who might recognize me as non-cognoscenti. I live in fear of the disdain sure to follow my response to the simple question, “What have you read lately?” Because while I won’t lie, I also don’t want to admit that my intake is less, well, high-toned than the interrogator might expect. Which is why it always feels like interrogation.

I recently attended a writers’ conference. Loved the content and the people but I have to say I spent the whole two days feeling like an impostor constantly on the verge of being found out. After all, I can’t quote lengthy passages from recognized gurus, nor was I familiar with the works of most of the people there. Every session included at least one casual reference to the works of an author I was presumed to know and love. But for the most part, I understood the references only in the context of the presentation and so, can’t be certain I understood them at all.

I will soon be submitting a major piece of writing to a professional editor for review. I have to tell you, this might be one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. Because so much of my self-image is wrapped up in my sense of myself as having something worthwhile to say and being competent in communicating that message through my writing. And this is a smart woman who’s been doing this for a couple of decades. I’m afraid she’ll find me out.

She might identify me as an impostor.

And if she does, if I’m forced to face the house of cards that my self-image might well be, what then? What can I do at my age to undo the damage of years spent reading non-literary literature? I’m sure I don’t know.

Two weeks from right now as I write this, I will submit myself to examination by a Person Who Knows Real Writing. And I am haunted by that dream we all have of coming to class - or a business meeting, or a wedding, or, or - woefully unprepared. Except in my case, I fear it's not merely a dream.

Can’t wait. Dread the day. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

In memorium

The bird eventually left the safety of the piano to make a mad dash for the Great Outdoors. Unfortunately, his navigation was faulty, taking him on a path that terminated when his beak came into contact with the kitchen window at full (might I say, breakneck...ahem!) speed.

There will be no service.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Best laid plans

So, I am now working to deadline on Da Book and in order to reduce sidetracks, I shut down my Facebook account, cleared the decks as to work travel for the next several weeks and planned a nice, full day of editing for today.

You know what they say about plans.

The current distraction involves a small bird that flew in the back door and has taken up residency under the piano, the better to avoid any interaction with the dogs, who are driving me to distraction with their whining and pawing at said pianoforte.

Since I am not likely to be able to catch-and-release the bird without Mary’s help and she is currently at her sister’s watching football, I guess there’s nothing for it but to wait for her to return. Meanwhile, I am not about to move the piano, thus potentially setting off another mad flurry of bird and dogs around the mid-level of the house.

Zoey the Small and Annoying is doing her best Lassie impression, wearing a path up and down the stairs, trying to get me to follow her to the scene of the musical bird sanctuary. Cleo, the Smaller and Annoyinger follows close on her heels, trying to act dog-like. It’s a difficult mien for a Chihuahua to pull off so mostly, she just looks like something caught on Zoey’s foot, following along in jerks and jags everywhere Zoey goes.

Up the stairs, bark-and-sniff, down to office, stare at Dad, up, bark-and-sniff, down, bark at Dad.

Yeah, I’ll get some editing done. You betcha.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Twitter status

Today I was asked a question I did not entirely understand. One of my bus buddies asked me my ‘Twitter status.’ And of course, I gave that most erudite of responses, “What?”

I could have saved face, I suppose by allowing my friend to go on believing the problem was one of bus noise or unclear pronunciation.  But no, I couldn’t take the easy way out. For one thing, it would not have been honest and for another, she would merely have repeated the question and little would have been gained by my coyness. And anyway, she’s someone I like well enough to be straight with her.

So the next few lines went something like this:

“I don’t know what that means,” said I.


“Twitter status.”

“You don’t know what Twitter means?” So now, maybe it was becoming a problem of misunderstanding rather than ignorance on my part but too late, because heads were turning.

“I know what Twitter means, I guess.”

And now, the younger-somethings in the next two rows were making knowing faces to each other. “Old Fudd alert!” I could hear them thinking. (Which may well be a valid assessment but was, in my estimation, totally beside the point.)

She stared at me, backed up by a rapidly forming rogues’ gallery of what I can only assume were Twitter cognoscenti. I could have gone back to my reading or gotten off at the next stop or pretended to give up my seat to someone more in need of butt compression so I could move to another part of the bus.

I could have. But of course, you know I didn’t.

“I don’t know my Twitter status,” I admitted. I felt this was a perfectly reasonable response, and was not at all prepared for the next comment, delivered in a particularly snarky tone by a young (expletive deleted) a couple rows away.

“We do!”

Which sent several of his cohort into gales of laughter. Even my erstwhile (I’m reconsidering) friend couldn’t hide a knowing smirk.

Now, I know when I’ve been had. So I let it go and did, finally go back to my reading, hoping the matter could be closed, if not forgotten. The coup de grace was delivered by a young lady who I’m sure was trying to let me off the hook.

“My grandfather doesn’t use it either.”

She even patted my shoulder.

Please kill me. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

And on a more pleasant note...

I listen to music while I write (or try to).

Just listened to Yo Yo Ma playing the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.
Is there any piece of music more evocative or any rendering of it more sublime?

Please, no!

What is it that makes some men think they’re allowed to act this way?

Please note that I say some men. It’s not all men; if it was, then Larry and Joe and Steve and I would act as atrociously as do Donald and Billy.

I was raised by a mother and older sisters who never, ever would have allowed me to even glance curiously down that path, much less turn and run joyously along it. Who raised these monsters?

Donald seeks to excuse it as normal by referring to ‘locker room humor.’ I admit that the locker rooms I shared during the days of dressing out for gym class did reflect the curiosity and yes, braggadocio of young males not yet competent to control their hormones and frantic to be seen as manly. But even in that setting, the tone was different. It was more like “I wish I could…” or at most “I’d like to…” but never, NEVER “Grab them by the XXXXX. You can do anything.”

Perhaps these guys inhabited different locker rooms than my friends and me. Or perhaps, oh, what the hell… Truth is, I can’t imagine from what suppurating pustule these guys emerged.

Please don’t think this latest revelation changed my thinking about Donald in any way. He had long since shown himself for what he is. I’ve been shocked and horrified by the crowds of people who seem to blithely accept, even celebrate his bigoted, narcissistic excesses. But even if you allow for ignorance – perhaps that guy grinning and waving behind Donald has never known anyone with a disability or has grown up in a mystical town without a racial divide or has never met a person struggling with their gender identity – even if you allow for the fact that each and all of us have some built in centrism that allows us to see others as Other, I’m not sure how you avoid the message this time.

If you are the son of a mother, brother of a sister or father of a daughter, then surely, finally you can see where Donald’s message takes us. His entire approach to life and living begins and ends with ‘Me.’  He believes not only that he can do or say anything, but that his primacy is so obvious, that he is so clearly anointed that the rest of us are somehow irrelevant except as some demented Greek chorus.

I can’t imagine what went wrong in his formative years that allowed him to embrace a world view in which everything and everyone around him is a tool, a toy, a stage prop. And I can’t imagine that this horrific man-child might actually be anointed leader of our land.  

It is no longer about this tax plan or that, or even which jurists should occupy the federal bench. I wish it was. Our deliberations should be about such things. I truly, longingly wish we had a real decision before us. Sadly, we do not. The choice now is binary – we are or we are not who we pretend to be.

“Grab them by the XXXXX. You can do anything.”

If we allow this guy to be elected, we will have to consider that perhaps he can, indeed, do anything. And that we will do nothing to stop him.

Please, no. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Adventures in Writerland

I spent this weekend past communing with the muse, so to speak, in the form of attending my first ever writers’ conference, Write On The Sound in Edmonds. It was quite a positive experience, as evidenced by the fact that at least once during each session I found myself torn between the desire to stay and hear more and the need to get someplace quiet where I could start applying some of what I had learned. For me, this is the best form of cognitive dissonance and I enjoyed it even as it threatened to drive me bonkers. I felt like the kid at Halloween who has stumbled upon the house hidden at the end of the cul-de-sac where the lady lets you take as much as you want – should I cherry pick or go for volume?

I will be some time processing the writerly lessons I’ve learned and so will refrain from an attempt to enumerate them here and now. But as you might surmise, the weekend was chock full of opportunities for noticing, of which I shamelessly availed myself.

Do you detect a list in the making? Good, because here for your reading enjoyment, I offer my (incomplete – sorry I didn’t write everything down) list of things I noticed over two days in Writerland.

Trees in the central courtyard, observed while waiting for a session to start:

·         The maple with leaves just turning – I could spend my writing life describing them and ultimately prove unequal to the task.

·         Another deciduous tree, windblown so that over time all the growth has been to one side, in profile suggesting the classic banshee with arms extended in the chase or perhaps a young child reaching for the solace of mother or even a timid or superstitious person fleeing (what?)

·         Folks arriving for the conference, representing both individuals and archetypes but each and all sort of writerly in affect (or was this just a projection on my part?), and many seeming to carry questions: Do I belong in the company of REAL writers? Will I be found wanting by myself or others? Will they understand my work? Will they even take an interest?

·         Or, in some cases: Are they worthy of me? Are they teachable?

·         But mostly, probably: These are my people? Yes? Please!?!

Folks aggregating in the rooms and halls: old friends catching up; rounds and rounds of from-where-do-I-know-yous; newbies casting furtive glances or sometimes studying in frank appraisal; the greeters; the leave-me-alone-I’m-just-here-to-listeners. And thankfully, mostly just people being friendly and reassuring each other we were in the right place and running with the right crowd.

The view of the Sound while realizing I showed up wa-a-a-ay too early on the first day:

·         Clouds spanning the passage between two distant land masses (Point No Point and Whidbey Island, methinks?)

·         Auto traffic heading for the ferry dock while beyond, the ferry heads in to meet them

·         People walking on the sidewalk below, never stopping but never scurrying

·         Overcast with breaks of pale blue – it will pour rain later but just now, tranquil skies

·         Brilliant white chalk cliffs which I will realize later were just sun glare on landslid (Slid land? Landslided?)  bluffs – I like the  white chalk imagery better and may use it sometime, who’s gonna know?

Writer/presenters generously stumbling over themselves to engage and bring us the best advice because in the end, they are readers, too and so desperately want us, each and all, to write well and often.

A young presenter who starts out in ‘deliver the paper’ mode, even rebuffs a couple of audience questions (nerves?), heading for a crash-and-burn, then seems to just sort of unlock, hits her stride (perhaps buoyed by the positive vibe in a room in which every person is rooting for her to be comfortable and interesting) and ends up providing quite a bit of usable advice.

Questions from the audience reveal that this truly is a gathering of writers, not just wish-we-were writers or want-to-be-seen-as writers. Writers. People who write. And I’m one (Really? Yes! Well... Oh, shut up!)

One  should never be the guy who volunteers to read your final two paragraphs out loud because the silence at the end seems to confirm worst fears but then, wait, here comes a woman to tell you it resonated (RESONATED! THE SECRET TALISMAN!) so maybe you’ve found an audience and if it’s only one, still, it’s one. (Yahoo!)

One should always be the guy who volunteers to read…

Stop to talk to the guy who corrals you after the last session when you’re mostly desperate to find a restroom because it will turn out to be a truly nice conversation with someone who is also a writer.

Did I say, ‘also?’

Wow! Imagine that!

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.