Pump the brakes………

It’s the fall of 1972 and I’m taking a Greyhound bus from Washington, DC to Syracuse, NY. Sitting next to me is another student, from American University, an African American returning home for the holidays as I was. We hit it off and found that we had a lot in common and, as much as possible, were enjoying the ride. At a rest stop in Pennsylvania, we went into a diner to get some lunch and sat at the lunch counter. When the waitress came and took my order, she totally ignored my new friend, my traveling buddy, who was sitting right next to me. As she stepped away, he LOUDLY said, “hey, what am I? Black?” Her face was fluorescent as everyone in the diner stared at her. I said, “cancel my order” and we left, laughing as hard as I had laughed in a visit to Dangerfield’s later in life.

In college I had no real black friends. I knew many of the black athletes to say hello to and the only black student I had any regular contact with was Ron Gilliam, basketball superstar. We shot pool together in the student union quite often but, thinking back, never by anything preplanned. I didn’t have his number, he didn’t have mine. If we saw each other in the union, we connected and shot pool and had a great relationship over the table. Lots of trash talk. Lots of laughing. Literally, in the moment, I just Googled Ron to see where he was, what he was doing, and find that he passed away, heart attack, last June. Phew. Gut punch. Back in the day, matchups between Brockport and Buffalo State, led by the best athlete I have ever known, Randy Smith, required you to get to the gym hours before game time to get a seat. Ronnie could absolutely fill it up and it’s hard to guess what his stats would have been with a 3 point shot. RIP Ronnie.

So my intention when I started writing this post was to try and make some points about all the controversy in Virginia. Blackface. First, I have no standing to criticize anyone and, for sure, I could never be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. I did SO MANY things back in the day that would totally embarrass me today and rightfully so. Let’s face it, mix immaturity with alcohol and you do not get many memories that you would want public. But, I did student teach in an inner city high school in Washington, DC and that experience reinforced a feeling that I have had throughout my life. People are people. Doesn’t matter where you are born, we all want the same things. The kids that I met in DC were no different than the kids that I went to high school with. Except that the environment they grew up in was at the other end of the spectrum from places like my hometown.

When I look at, for example, the Governor of Virginia and his episode(s) of appearing in blackface, today I fully understand the outrage and historical significance of “blackface”. I believe people can evolve and move beyond dumb things done years ago. However, in Northam’s case, he absolutely appears clueless even after all these years. I think he had a very narrow window to avoid the conflict with immediate and heartfelt acceptance of what blackface means to the African-American population. But he didn’t. Instead he wavered, was wishy washy and, in my book, throw him out. That being said, Northam is not the story. The story is that we have a problem still with race in the US. It is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, it is a national problem. Whether or not Northam resigns is going to have zero impact other than for people to think that his resignation is some kind of progress. It would not be.

We all have work to do in being honest with ourselves and working harder to think outside our comfort zones which were constructed decades ago. That is one reason I have accepted assignments with LL Bean. The diversity is amazing and an educati0n in itself. Today, I think of one of my best friends who appeared at my apartment one Halloween as a pimp, in blackface. We all laughed and I know this man had no bad intent. He is a man of integrity and honor. But, today, I find myself thinking what if my friend Ronnie Gilliam had been at my apartment? How would I have reacted? How would my Halloween buddy have reacted. Heard a Willie Nelson song that I think we all need to take to heart. Look forward and try and make things better than they have been. All we can do. Listen to one of my faves.

Hey news organizations…..set a bar!

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about what a detriment the unwillingness of broadcast news organizations to establish standards to appear on their programs does to stop progress towards a fact based, informed electorate. The pseudo attempt at being fair winds up with one side making logical, fact based arguments while the other side just delivers talking points that wind up being essentially a free political ad.

I could put a list together of those that I consider the absolute worst offenders that still appear regularly and do nothing to advance an understanding of important issues but I’m sure most thinking, informed people have their own. Seeing them come on almost automatically induces projectile vomiting. Remember during the 2016 campaign the absurdity of Sean Spicer and Kelly Ann Conway? Personally, Sean Spicer’s “My Little Pony” defense of Melania Trump’s plagiarism should have been an instant disqualifier. Ditto for Conway’s statement, while working for Cruz, that “Donald Trump made his money on the backs of little people”. Seeya Kelly Ann, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

I’m putting in a link from one of my top offenders. A man who in my book long ago demonstrated that he doesn’t register on a credibility meter and yet, CNN repeatedly has him appear on their programming. Ask yourself (I’d love to ask whoever signed this man to be a contributor what kind of bar they utilize in their hiring process), would you pay a nickel for this man’s opinion. Credibility? Really?

Got It!

Got what? Well, a little better understanding of why I experience writer’s block. It’s like every morning when I get up I should be seeing Bill Murray sitting in the living room. While not exactly like Ground Hog Day, there are certainly aspects of Ground Hog Day in all our lives. Every day, every day, we are bombarded with stories that at any other time in our past would dominate the news for weeks that simply disappear in a day. Or, in an hour. Things that would have led to bipartisan disapproval in the past, such as “love” for the world’s most heinous dictator, or blatant conflicts of interest (remember when Jimmy Carter had to sell his family peanut farm), or well researched stories that document decades of tax cheating by a family…….on and on and on. The Ground Hog Day aspect is not that the days are perfect images of the day before,. the similarity is the bizarreness every day. The constant sensation of being on a surfboard and seeing something that interests you but the wave keeps moving and we lose sight of so many things.

So, how do we, at a time when we all carry in our pockets access to virtually all information in recorded history, lose sight and fail to string together events using logic and common sense? While there are many factors that lead to a relatively uninformed electorate, an overloaded and overwhelmed electorate, I put the bulk of the blame on cable news. A vehicle that should be a powerful tool to build an informed, thinking electorate instead becomes, too often, like elevator music. There is TOO MUCH AIRTIME to fill. Too many programs, in order to fill that air, have very low bars to vet guests and often appear indifferent to holding guests to any kind of standards. There is a fake air of civility that allows too many guests, knowing exactly how much time they have to fill, to duck questions and instead simply parrot a bunch of talking points without having to back them up.

Yesterday, I was watching Katy Tur interview Congressman Peter King and found myself, as happens too many times, sending a stream of WTFs at the screen. I like Katy Tur but GEEEEZUZ! As usual when a Republican apologist for Trump appears on TV, the talking point parrot appears and King was in usual form. But, here is where my frustration kicks in. King states there was “no collusion between the President OR HIS CAMPAIGN.” At that point, the unasked question should have been, “how would you define collusion?”. Let him answer and then ask, “what term would you apply to the campaign manager offering private briefings on the campaign to a Russian oligarch? Or, the same campaign manager providing internal polling data to a man with connections to Russian intelligence? Do you consider that normal politics? Did you not hear Putin in Helsinki saying that they supported Trump in 2016?”

The discussion then moved, after attacks on MSNBC by their “guest”, to the investigations of the SDNY. King dismissed them because Cohen and Gates are liars, which is true but the first question to be asked is, “are you saying that lifelong professional prosecutors have no corroboration to support their testimony?” “And, are you the only person left on earth who does not see trump as a pathological liar? A man who his own lawyer termed as incapable of speaking for five minutes without telling a lie?”

Needless to say, none of those questions, among a laundry list of questions which could have been asked, was asked and the “guest” was thanked for appearing. Really? Had he been asked what are valid questions he probably would have been miffed, taken umbrage, but, pardon my French, “fuck him”. If he was miffed, I would have told him to simply not come back. If I was a news director, I’d have a whole list, long as my arm, of people incapable of adding any value to a discussion. Talking point parrots who do the backstroke better than Mark Spitz in his prime. Set a bar. Publicize it and tell people upfront that they will no longer get away with skating and simply dodging and weaving for a defined period of time. Please, please, please can we move beyond just filling the airtime? Geezuz, I’d rather watch an hour of kitten and puppy pictures than see 10 seconds of Matt Schlapp again. Can we establish goals for an interview, the way a prosecutor establishes a line of questioning? The goal has to be to get to The Truth and what we are doing is far, far, far from being as effective as it can be.

Writer’s Block…..

First, I don’t term myself a “writer” necessarily and lately I find myself pulling over to the side of the road without reaching my destination. Right now, I have five partially completed posts and I find that the reality is that if I try and write something timely, the post is left in the dust as I have to leave it. When I come back, it’s like old news. Unfortunately, that’s the way our news cycles run today. Not just day to day but hour to hour stories disappear into the rearview mirror or, more aptly, into the muck. I’m starting some more generic posts, more historical (personal) with a clear beginning and ending in my head. I’ll become m0re disciplined on topical posts and I’m really developing more respect for people who can sit down and put together a cogent set of thoughts in one sitting. Back to work today after a day off to watch the Super Bowl. Three more weeks and I’m retired again and then will be able to find some focus, hopefully improved when I can get back out on the bike. Actually warm enough today. As my Dad used to say, “better days are coming” and I look forward to seeing my hummingbird friends return.

Snow shoveling and naps……

Geez, I have a growing list of topics that I intend to write about but I’m getting hijacked daily. Snow shoveling and naps. My assignment with LL Bean was supposed to end on 12/23 but was extended to 2/22. For me, that will be it no matter what they offer. I love the diversity of the workplace, get to listen to Pandora Radio the whole time I am “working” and get great discounts. But, the time is getting to be a burden.

Our winter has been a strange one. Every time it snows it has been the consistency of wedding cake frosting. Super wet and a snowblower will not throw it. Then, immediately, we have a hard freeze and the driveway becomes a sheet of ice. I have put at least 300 pounds of sand on the driveway so far and today, could not use the snowblower again because of the underlying ice. Very hard to shovel with that kind of footing and I did take one cartoon fall. You know the one. The fallee somehow winds up four feet in the air, is suspended for several seconds and then…..boom. Knocked the wind out of me but like the Ever Ready bunny I was able to finish.

Tomorrow I want to write about Chris Christie, a man I do not like, a man who should have never held an office higher than Secretary of Cookies and Snacks for a youth sports league. The disingenuousness of Republicans, the gas lighting, the ability (like an owl) to look the other way, the total suspension of logic and facts is unfortunately fueled and facilitated by our new programs and their 4 minute blocks., I also want to look at the opportunities for girls to compete in sports today that didn’t exist when I was in high school But, for now, off to Freeport.

So many topics…..

There are so many topics to write about, I’m technically retired, but my days whistle by. I’m working a temporary assignment for LL Bean that lasts until 2/22. Topic. LL Bean is very worthy of a post in so many ways. My daughter Kathryn just bought her first house and is in full freak out mode so I’m stopping there to get her washing machine going. Geesh, I have my bike set up on a stand in the den and haven’t had the time to string consecutive days together.

So, just a quick thought that relates to a couple of my biggest bitches………the near extinction of logic and news organizations that consistently give a platform to people who have zero interest in enlightening anyone and who are masters at using their air time as free political ads. So, for example, last week, the cartoon character of a lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was spewing nonsense about Michael Cohen’s father in law. Now, I have no illusions that I could ever be a news commentator. Well, I have no illusions that I could do it for more than one day anyway. What would I have said to Rudy that Jake Tapper didn’t? “Mr. Giuliani, when did Michael Cohen get married? Recently? Hasn’t Michael Cohen’s father in law been his father in law for all the years that Donald Trump employed him as his “personal lawyer”? If he felt that the father in law may have been affiliated with organized Ukrainian crime why then did he hire Michael Cohen? Isn’t this another example of Donald Trump’s ability to vet people he hires or might it just be that he chooses to surround himself with the likes of Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, on and on and on? “

New’s Directors should simply pull the plug on people who only spin and tell lies. Remember Sean Spicer and his My Little Pony defense of Melania Trump’s plaigerism? I would have told the RNC and Trump campaign that he was no longer credible and that they needed to send a realistic representative who was not a joke. Geezuz, establish some kind of bar. There is a whole list of people whose phoniness is epic and apparent. How about Kelly Ann Conway who, when working for Ted Cruz, said that Trump was a fraud who made his money on the back’s of little people.

OK, washing machine time. Hoping that my engineering ineptness doesn’t raise its ugly head. (Yes, I will bring my laptop and check on YouTube to bolster my deductive reasoning.) Wish me luck.

Goodbye Lucy……..

A shitty Saturday morning although the sun was shining. We’ve all had to do it, it hurts, it SERIOUSLY SUCKS………a one way trip to the vets for a beloved four legged friend. Lucy was unique. Like all the Corgis we have had, they came from a rescue, retired show dogs, except for Midge and Newman who were puppies when they were given to us by the woman who ran the shelter and bred Corgis as well.

When we got Lucy, she had been a champion and although only 4, was retired. She didn’t know how to be a dog but she adapted to the great outdoors quickly, was a friend to the cats, and settled in with her half sister Midge. Although she often did an imitation of a dumb dog, we soon learned that she was beyond smart. She was vibrant, funny, loyal, resilient and tough, tough, tough. Her last years were challenging. Hip dysplasia, cataracts, loss of hearing but she still danced at dinner time and, one way or another, met you at the door. Where once she would not let you carry her upstairs to bed, the last few months she waited at the bottom of the stairs and took the ride with no complaints and never, never a whimper. She had several massive tumors but again, I never heard her cry, occasionally a groan when she was sleeping. Just grabbed some pics to remember a loyal friend, a great dog. RIP Lucille.

The reality of the world today……..

I’m not that smart and I started seeing that the unequal distribution of wealth was accelerating and becoming structurally built in to, for sure, our politics 40 years ago. Clearly this is also a worldwide issue as well. It kind of points to the lunacy of the Republican tax cuts for the rich. When you wrap your mind around that reality, you can see how it influences, in fact drives, so many issues around the world and here at home today. Check this out and think about it.

Neeson or Trump?

Neeson or Trump? Trump or Neeson? This was my dilemma yesterday afternoon. Which path of inane time wasting should I avail myself on a snowy Saturday afternoon? None of my standard go to movies were available. No Bruce Willis or Denzel Washington. Shit! I opted for Liam Neeson, Commuter. One question I have is, has anyone ever had worse luck than Liam Neeson using public transportation? Geeezuz.

What? What did you say???!!! Tom Brady let the air out of footballs? Can he be impeached? Shit! Next you’ll tell me Donald Trump is the fucking President!

Let’s cut to the chase. Wow, this movie was bad. Beyond bad. Anyone involved in the production of this shitter should have been drummed out of the industry and I hope Liam Neeson had his salary direct deposited and didn’t have to sign his name to the back of a check. Unfortunately, the depths to which this movie sunk still present a higher bar than the every day world of the Trump Administration.

My advice to Democrats. As with poker, when you have chips and cards, you play aggressively. Democrats hold the cards. Trump owns the shutdown from the point he said, in the WH, on camera, that he was “proud to call for a shutdown” and that he would own it and not blame the Democrats. Democrats should blanket the news shows and remind everyone that, until Trump pulled the rug out from under “Missing” Mitch McConnell in December, there was a bipartisan deal in place to keep the government open and negotiate border security. Remind people that Democrats have continued to pass legislation to reopen government and negotiate border security. Then, push.

Start asking questions. If “The Wall” was such a concern of Republicans, why after two years of total Republican control of government haven’t they built a wall? Republicans never wanted it either. Call for a joint commission to discuss border security after government is reopened. Not just discuss it, dive deep into details of any changes to effect what everyone wants, border security and logical immigration laws. The foolishness of acting like border security is simply a matter of building a wall coast to coast needs to end. We need a plan. With timelines and priorities, options and costs. What about private citizens who are already gearing up for a fight against the use of eminent domain to seize their land?

Insanity every day. Gotta go. I got some footballs to deflate in Kansas City.

Dumb, dumb and dumber.

For sure as Americans we have all had a love affair with a car. I did but the bigger story is how often life has a way of sneaking up on you and reminding you of the heights of stupidity you have reached in your past. My car was a Belgium Racing Yellow Triumph TR6.

I had traveled to Rochester, NY for a job interview with Kodak and saw the car in a driveway with a For Sale sign on it. No chance I wasn’t going to stop and when I did, I found a car brought here from England by a relocated doctor who decided to sell. It had less than 3,000 miles on it, a removable hardtop, electric overdrive……..I put a deposit on it and when I got back home, got a bank loan OK-ed the same day. I cannot remember who drove me back to Rochester but I had the car parked in front of my parent’s house within 48 hours.

I loved that car and kept it washed and waxed, chrome polished, to the point that it hurt your eyes to look at it in bright sunlight. Nothing like a convertible in the summer and even today, when I see a TR6, or hear one, which is a rare occurrence, I still love the body style and remember vividly what a joy to drive it was. With the hardtop on, it looked like a 2 seater Mercedes and I drove it in winter too. It was rear wheel drive and the gas tank was right above the rear axle so if you kept the tank full, it would make any hill in my hometown during the winter. Honestly, I think if I had put a plow on it I could have pushed snow. Oh, the stories I could tell where my TR played an integral role but maybe those will come at a future date.

Now jump ahead a few years. I had two payments left to hold the title clear and found myself in the throes of love gone awry. Enough said. I decided to buy a new car one Saturday and drove to a local Nissan dealer to look at a 280ZX. I bought one and the dealer actually offered me $2,000 more in trade than I had paid for the TR6. I didn’t need to trade it and could have easily swung the Nissan but, in a universal sized brain fart, I traded it in. By the next day, I was feeling sick to my stomach at abandoning my old friend. On Monday morning, I called the dealer and said I wanted to buy the Triumph back. I was informed that the car didn’t sit on the lot for two hours as someone stopped and bought it almost as soon as they put it out. I was devastated but had no choice but to face up to my stupidity and move on.

A few more years. The 280ZX is long gone. I hated it. After a brief foray into racing go karts, I was now driving an El Camino which I had bought to haul the kart and parts, etc. It had gotten to far to drive to race and, honestly, I was not very good at it. I sold the kart and started looking for a sports car again. One day, I see an ad in the Syracuse paper for a ’76 Triumph TR6 with a factory hard top, electric overdrive………I immediately called and made an appointment to see the car. Now, the only blemish on my car had been a tiny dent, about the size of the head of a nail, in the rear bumper. I get to the house and the guy comes out and raises the garage door and…..BAM…..there is the tiny dent in the rear bumper. The car is now purple. Fucking PURPLE!!! I get the keys, get in the car, and it barely starts and runs like a $69 lawnmower. I back it out and the brakes screech. So, I pulled the car back in, got out and flipped the keys back to the guy as I say, “that was my car and you fucking ruined it.”

At the point I left, I knew that I had absolutely let down an old friend and I was almost physically sick as the world reinforced to me the height of my stupidity in getting rid of a car that I essentially owned outright. A classic. A treasure. Like all losses we have in life, you move on and although you certainly experience pangs of “I wish”, or “I shoulda”, life continued to roll along and I healed.

Now, roll ahead more than 20 years. I am with my son in Concord, Massachusetts picking up my daughter after a hockey tournament. We had parked and were walking to the hotel to meet Kathryn, we turn a corner and…….life delivers just one more swift kick in the ass. There sits the twin of my Belgium Racing Yellow Triumph TR6. Top down. My son raves, “Dad, look at that car! What kind of car is it???!!!!” Yup, life forces me to expose my idiocy to a son who, like all good sons, thinks his Dad is a combo of Archimedes, Newton and Plato. Instead, after explaining that I once owned that identical car, life left me feeling much more like Ralph Kramden. My son asks me why I got rid of it and my thoughts don’t match my words. Answer? Like Ralph, “BECAUSE I’M AN IDIOT!” Or, now, a Loonatic.