Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Sad Response to a Passionate Person I Admire

 I guarantee you if some weirdo is following me in the rain, in the dark, I'm going to use whatever means I can to protect myself. I'm not going to wait for him to jump me, I'm going to scratch and claw, use my keys, whatever I have to do to get this guy to realize he's chosen the wrong person to follow! Trayvon did NOTHING wrong! GZ should have NEVER gotten out of his damn car. It's Neighborhood WATCH, not Neighborhood Pursue and Provoke. It doesn't make me feel one bit sorry for GZ that he will have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life wondering when that guy behind him is going to pounce. That's what he did to Trayvon and now it's his turn to see what it feels like! Get good and used to it George!

      Or... you could call the cops and tell them you are being followed as you go to a convenient safe place, like the one just around the corner where you are staying.  By initiating violent contact with your follower, YOU are breaking the law, and escalating the "following" to a death battle, which, dependent upon the skills and armament of the person you attack, might result in your death.  Both participants in this incident made bad decisions.  I agree with the president that the death was unnecessary.  Of course I agree with your using "whatever means you can to protect yourself", if you have no choice.  In Trayvon's case, he had options.
What I'm not understanding is people's emotional attachment to a verdict in this case in stark contrast to the evidence.  Zimmerman had a legal right, if not a commitment, to report people he did not know acting suspiciously in the neighborhood.  He thought malingering in the rain was suspicious.  He had a right to follow to ascertain the location of the person he'd reported.  He had a right to carry a gun.  Since he'd been responsible for the arrest of several people committing crimes in the neighborhood, that's a reasonable precaution.  He had a right, when attacked, to defend himself.  He had a right, when feeling that his life was threatened, to use deadly force.
The police did not charge him for a reason.  They could not prove he broke any laws, and not for lack of trying.  He willingly gave and passed three lie detector tests.  The timeline supported his story.  His injuries supported his story. Witnesses provided little clarity.  Forensics backed him up.
Only when the media cherry-picked info to create a sensation (deny it?) did the public attach themselves to what they imagined had taken place.  The police chief lost his job and the district attorney were replaced, not for mishandling the case based on evidence, but because a lynch mob wave of public opinion demanded it.
No grand jury decided if the case should have been brought.  The appointed special prosecutor explained after the trial that they knew a conviction would be very difficult, but that they saw their job as making sure George and Trayvon got their day in court.  "We did that."  It's my opinion, for what it's worth, that the trial was staged to get the real evidence in the case to the public in order to dim some of the hype.  And yet here we are, with people who obviously didn't pay attention to the trial still screaming for justice, and racial agendas still being exploited though the case didn't involve any.
      The media duped us pretrial, and most are still allowing it.  The presentation of Trayvon as an innocent child was false. The reasons he was suspended from school were hidden. There is no evidence George is a racist.  Trayvon used the only racist terms in the incident when describing his follower to his girlfriend. George's injuries were ignored.  Voice "experts", willing for the press to testify whose voice was yelling for help, disappeared for the trial.  Partial text was "picked" from the 911 calls to implicate George as a profiler, when he was actually answering questions from the dispatcher about the person he was reporting.  The prosecution's final argument was widely distributed, while the defense barely got any media exposure.
     And now that the verdict is in, all we are seeing is the negative response to it.  Admittedly, I'm not watching FOX or MSNBC, but the mainstream folks and the browser news are mostly still pumping racial tension.  The image I'm seeing a lot reverses the skin color of Trayvon and George (still using that picture of Trayvon from when he was twelve), asking if the outcome would have been different.  And while we can't know, I believe nothing would have changed, except perhaps the amount of attention the case received.
Some black leaders are recommending boycotting Florida because of stand your ground laws, even though that law played no part in the case, and a boycott would hurt the poor and minorities as much (probably more) as Anglos who believe in Stand Your Ground.

Gene Simmons, Tebow, and Links We Hate

      Gene Simmons offered Tim Tebow a job. He knows a valuable brand when he sees one. He suggests "journalists" who persecute Tebow for his faith should be held accountable, as would others who criticize Jews or others based only on faith. Gene is being celebrated for his courage in speaking out. I'll give him credit for taking advantage of a PR opportunity using an obvious stance. 
      Very few people dislike Tim Tebow as a person, as a Christian, or as a competitor on the football field. And he throws a football in the top tenth of a percent of those folks who throw footballs. Unfortunately, that's not good enough to start in the NFL. Time to move on, with a marketer like Gene Simmons if that's what it takes to excel without compromising his (TB) faith and ideals. I've followed Tebow a bit, because he played for the Broncos, and because he's a human interest magnet, but I've never seen a story which persecuted him because he's a Christian, or read any story accusing him of being overbearing or condemning while representing his faith. He seems to preach by example. But then, I didn't search too hard. I'm sure that if you dig, you can find an extreme wingnut to represent ANY point of view that shocks you. Very good livings are made from the reaction to extremists intentionally publishing over-the-top articles in search of publicity. It works. Well intentioned folks share links to posts they abhor, aiming (I believe) for reasonable (similar thinking) people to ridicule and shout the offender down. The trap they enter, of course, is that they are promoting the site with the views they hate.

      An example I laughed about (but couldn't share) was the link to a wacko preacher site suggesting parents promoting family values should not send their daughters to college. Every incensed responder who shared his post was a degreed professional with a feminist perspective, surely learned, or at least promoted, by Women's Studies programs in school. I am one of the views counted on this guy's site due to their vitriol, and I can picture him grinning toothily at the irony.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Did you know that Arizona brand watermelon fruit drink, Skittles, and cough syrup make "Lean", a drug that makes people paranoid and violent?  I didn't.
Did you know that a school would admit that they would list "appropriated" jewelry in a student locker as found property rather than stolen in order to avoid inflated crime stats? I didn't.
Did you know that self defense courses teach that when you are followed, you should call 911 and find the nearest safe place?  And if those options are unavailable, to choose the best place for you to physically confront an attacker, turn your phone video on, yell for help, and, as a last resort, confront verbally before physically?  I didn't, but it makes sense, and might save a life.
Did you know that in legal lingo, the term "pursue" implies an intent to capture, where "follow" inplies no such thing?  That "stalking" is a pattern of repeated behavior?  That's helpful in that using the same terms lets people discuss events more truthfully.
Did you know that ninety five percent of liars are reliably exposed by new polygraph techniques?
Do you know that Stand Your Ground laws have no racial language or implied preference in them?  Perhaps discussion of the laws is warranted, but not based on race.
Have you heard who a boycott of Florida by performers and conventions would harm, and how many dollars might be involved?
Have you seen an interview with the "retired" Sanford police chief?  Seems his story might generate some interest.
Are you aware the extent to which we are all followed, online, by cameras public and private, by car license readers, financial records, and facial recognition devices?  Have you seen any interviews with loss prevention specialists, whether they profile and why, or how they follow safely?  Might make an interesting journalistic foray.
Do you understand why no news groups are approaching these topics? I don't.  Journalism is SUPPOSED to find the truth and expose it.  Where are the journalists? I now know where I can find information marketers.  They duped us, criminally, in the Martin/Zimmerman story.  I'm looking back, searching for a news source that had a reserved, more sceptical less sensational approach.  Maybe BBC?  While boycotting, perhaps we should quit rewarding NBC and the AP For forcefeeding us crap.
A year ago, on this site, I asked people to keep an open mind in this story because the details were sketchy, and folks had a gut-felt reaction to the appearance of a great injustice based on racial profiling, a stand-your-ground justified murder, and police turning a blind eye.  Feelings were running so strong that, just for reserved judgement, I was verbally confronted, even attacked.  Big deal.  I have a life.
But I've watched the events unfold.  And because my vacation time was uncrowded, I streamed and watched the trial.  I tried to consider the evidence as though I were a juror.  And now, I'm having a hard time believing anyone is still asking for Justice for Trayon, based on the trial.  I'm having trouble understanding why anyone is still trumping this killing, the reluctance to arrest, or the verdict as racially motivated.  I looked into SYG, and don't see what the fuss is about there, either.  I feel confident that every logical point accusing Zimmerman has been answered, with several of them not presenting him in the best light, but he's no murderer.
There is a lot of heated discussion.  Logic doesn't play in them much.  But a few points that seem to confuse folks:
(1) Zimmerman was armed because he had been responsible for reporting folks who were subsequently arrested and released.  Understandable.  Zimmerman admits to being a wannabe cop, in that it is/was his chosen profession.  He knew well the limitations of neighborhood watch, and acted accordingly within the law.  An actual cop would have questioned Martin at first contact, and would have deployed his weapon at the first sign of confrontation.
(2) When Zimmerman was asked if he was following the person he reported, the dispatcher told him "We don't need you to do that." That is different than the police ordering him away. With the responders minutes away, he lost sight of the person he had reported.  Attempting to locate is different than pursuing with intent to contact, and grounds for attack.  Comparing Martin's right to self defense to Zimmerman being pummeled is ludicrous.
(3)  There is NO evidence that anything Zimmerman did was racially motivated.  Martin was not on trial, but his words and actions suggest his own racial issues.
(4) The police did not avoid grilling Zimmerman.  Their efforts to implicate him in a crime were amply demonstrated in the trial.  They did not arrest him because his story checked out.  Period.
(5) The appointed special prosecutor tactfully stated that the trial was a response to public pressure by stating their job "was to make sure Martin and Zimmerman got their day in court.  We did that."  I thought that the attorneys for the state actually did a pretty credible job considering they had little but minor inconsistencies and emotion to work with.  Tough job.
And so, I'm embarrassed for those who press ahead with the protests against racism using this case.  I'm sad for those who emotionally reacted to a sound bite and have yet to wake to the facts, in particular those still spewing venom.  I'm shocked at those supporting threats against Zimmerman and his family, proving that violent hate knows no melanin levels. I agree that it's time to have a national talk about race, but this time a two way discussion.
I wrote, when Obama was elected, that I didn't want a president who would feel the need to pander to any special interest groups.  But that is exactly what he and Holder are doing by interjecting themselves into the discussion of this case.  The president was almost apologist in saying that black people see this case through a "racial filter."  He said that Martin could have been him when young.  He described the feeling of being followed in a department store, and watching a lady clutch her purse in an elevator with him.
Well, Mr. President, perhaps it's time for a leader stronger than you to honestly approach the reasons you may have been profiled.  You said very tactfully that "African Americans are disproportionally involved in the judicial system."  The racial filter would interpret that statement as "blacks are unfairly persecuted."  But I believe you understand that blacks are disproportionally criminals.  Department store loss prevention personnel, rewarded for stops and value recovered, will racially profile because it works.  I'm glad you didn't attack when followed.  Zimmerman, while there's no evidence of it, could be justified for profiling Martin based on the skin color of ALL of the thugs involved in crimes he'd reported in his neighborhood.  You, Mr President, are classified as black, while Mr. Zimmerman is conveniently white to his accusers, both of you sharing the same amount of anglo heritage.  There is a VERY good reason that lady clutches her purse, and tries to get away.  Approach the reasons why black society is disproportionately dysfunctional, Mr. President, then whine about profiling with impunity.  I'm not discounting the contribution of black individuals to our culture, wealth, leadership, and progress.   But:

"I'm old enough to remember when most of the people propogating racial hate were white."  Thomas  Sowell

Friday, July 19, 2013


Did anybody here actually look at the evidence in the case?  GZ had authority to watch and report. That's what neighborhood watch does. He was celebrated for reporting past activity, which resulted in arrests.  Hence, he carried a gun.  He saw a person he didn't know and watched, deemed him suspicious, and called the cops.  He followed, though the dispatcher told him, "we don't need you to do that."  He didn't describe the person he was following until asked by the dispatcher.  GZ described being attacked, hurt, yelling for help, and feeling he had no choice but to fire his weapon, only after having his head slammed into the pavement several times.  He called and reported the incident.  He was interrogated, given polygraphs, and released, based on a lack of evidence that he broke any laws.  
Then the media, selling papers and internet views, cherry picked text and photos in a way that portrayed the incident as a race based murder of a profiled innocent child by a white wannabe cop, and people hungering for just such a story jumped on the bandwagon, screaming for justice and the end of oppression.  All the usual race baiters and reactionaries (both sides) weighed in. Sadly, even the president interjected.  Unfortunately, that is as far as many of the most vocal pursued the truth, which was slowly released over the next year and through the trial.  It was a month before we heard of GZ's injuries.  More recent photos of TM were released.  GZ and TM both had past run-ins with authorities, and TM's suspensions from school for theft, drug residue, and violence came to light.  His website pics holding a gun and describing fights were published.  TM's girlfriend described their conversation as containing the only racist term of the incident.  GZ was portrayed as a "wannabe" white cop, which was true in that he did wish to follow that career path, and is as anglo, DNA-wise, as president Obama.  TM was portayed in some circles as an innocent, and others as a wannabe thug.  We'll never know how that would have played out.  
Based on public outcry, GZ was charged, and tried by an appointed special prosecutor.  The jury found what the investigating police did, that there was insufficient evidence to convict, even of manslaughter.  
What did I miss?  That GZ's wife lied about the amount of money in their defense fund? That TM was wearing a hoodie? That on a rainy night, ear witnesses couldn't identify who was yelling, or who was beating who? That forensic evidence and time lines supported nearly every facet of GZ's version of the story?  
I feel badly for the prosecutor who was tasked to stir enough emotion to overcome actual evidence for a conviction, though I thought he did a credible job, while crossing some ethical lines for which he should be accountable.  
Now we're seeing the tweets that threaten Zimmerman's life.  We're seeing celebrity athletes suggest the jury kill themselves.  We're seeing the hate groups and the anti-hate groups ramping all their passion into media events sure to sell like tabloids at Wal-Mart. But the reaction I was most interested in was a website that photo-shopped different colored skin onto the faces of GZ and TM, asking how things would be different.  Now it's my turn to speculate. I believe if Trayvon were white or hispanic, we'd never have heard of this case.  I can't know Zimmerman's mind, but I doubt he would have hesitated reporting a white or hispanic figure the same way he did Trayvon, and I suspect out of fear he'd have shot anybody pummeling him, no matter their race.  I can't see into Trayvon's soul either, and I wonder if he'd have responded differently to a black person following him, instead of a "creepy ass cracker." (his term)  Might he have responded with words, rather than fists? 
One more point.  I keep hearing that Trayvon did nothing wrong to deserve being followed.  The next time you are in your favorite department store, see if you can spot the security guy. They profile, and follow.  You are followed, on cameras everywhere, at your ATM, on-line by marketers and the NSA, by police in patrol cars, and by just plain nosy normal citizens.  It peeves me, too.  But as much as I dislike being watched, I can't punch the guy at Wal Mart.  It's wrong, illegal, and he might be packing. 

I feel badly for the police chief who lost his job for mishandling the case.  Did he?
I feel badly for GZ.  He was not being paid for taking on the liability he did.  He made decisions that put him in a position of risk, and is paying the price.  He will always be looking over his shoulder, because hate knows no melanin level.
I feel badly for Travon, because his own bad decision killed him.  Most of us make immature decisions when we're seventeen, and most of us get the chance to recover from them.  
I feel badly for people of race in America, because the facts and feelings of opression are still so strong that solidarity trumps truth.  Don't get me wrong; there's no denying prejudice exists, profiling is common, economic opportunity is still unbalanced.  But I wonder if personal accountability and community support are more important than divisive rallies and threats of violence. What worked in the past may not be as effective in what most see as a better, if not perfect, world.  I'm still looking for the leader, black or otherwise, who has the wisdom and charisma not to have to pander to any block vote, extreme PAC, or corporation.  
I feel badly for our system of justice, badly damaged by the OJ trial.  After all this time, folks still roll their eyes at any verdict that involves race and press.  Media trials are expensive, divisive, and patently unfair.  The acquitted can be subjected to double jeopardy civil action. Judges and juries can be manipulated by the press.  Public opinion trumps valid jurisprudence.  "Winning" trumps justice. 
I feel badly that people expect a payoff after every incident.  Trayvon's parents lost their child, and no amount of dollars can bring him back.  The homeowner's association "settled" for over a million dollars, probably weighing the cost against litigation.  It could be argued, now that more facts have surfaced, that a troubled teenager was brought into the community, who attacked a legitimate neighborhood representative, resulting in his own death and the devalution of GZ's life and neighborhood properties.  I'm not advocating the parents and girlfriend are liable or guilty of anything, but enriching them sends the wrong message, in my opinion.  It would be different if the HOA were to reach out, offering support with funeral expenses, meeting places, meals, etc. as a gesture of community support for one of their own.  To those who would suggest I'm blaming the victim, I'd offer that there are multiple victims here, and dying in the act of making poor decisions, possibly criminal ones, should not qualify you or your family for a payday.  Settlements like the one paid to Trayvon's parents create more victims, whether the check is written by the HOA, an insurance company, or the government.  We all pay, and perhaps we need to better understand that, no matter the size of the pooled fund, the cost is real, and affects each of us more than we know.  
I feel badly that so many are so willing to act based on what they "feel" must have happened that resulted in the death of Trayvon, instead of what the jury saw and felt they could act upon.  It's true Trayvon is unable to tell his side of the story.  It's also true that the police and the prosecution could not disprove the version told by GZ and the other evidence. That so much emphasis was placed on the street sign and arm placement inconsistencies tells me that actual incriminating evidence did not exist.  The special prosecutor assigned to the case told the real story; "It was our job to make sure that George Zimmerman got his day in court. We did that."  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Before the Verdict

       A year ago, before almost ANY of the facts in the case were known, I asked here if there was any possibility that George Zimmerman acted lawfully and responsibly considering his neighborhood watch duties, had been attacked, and fired his weapon as a last resort.  At the time, all we knew was what the press was promoting, that a black kid had been profiled, stalked, and murdered; and that law enforcement was reluctant to charge the shooter.  My concern was that we as a society are quick to believe and act based on sound bite narrative fed by folks selling internet views and TV ratings.  This story provided all the right emotional buttons to push, and sold like funnel cakes at a diet camp.  Even the Prez jumped in.  For asking folks to keep their passion AND an open mind, I was attacked in print.  
       This was BEFORE we saw pictures of Trayvon that were less than five years old and learned that he was suspended from school for violence and drug problems.  We hadn't seen him on his website with a handgun. We hadn't been shown the broken nose and cuts on the back of GZ's head.  We didn't know that an eyewitness saw TM doing a beatdown on GZ (another didn't).  We weren't aware that GZ passed three lie detector tests when grilled about his version of the events, and responded with relief when cops tried to dupe him by lying that they had videotape.  The truth is, GZ wasn't charged by Sanford police because they didn't have evidence to charge him for actually breaking any laws!
       Complain about the laws that exist if you like, but his weapon was legal, as was the shadowing under the auspices of Neighborhood Watch, and shooting an attacker when feeling your life is threatened is a right protected by statute.  I wonder about the wisdom and liability of carrying a handgun, but if one were involved in a neighborhood watch on properties with frequent criminal activities, and you'd reported several events that ended in arrests, concealed carry might weigh differently for you.  As to the profiling/stalking, we only have GZ's version, but the time lines and evidence support his description, and nothing anyone has come up with comes close to warranting being attacked. To those who doubt GZ thought his life was threatened, I can only suggest that you have probably never been in that situation, or that there is plenty of documentation of deaths occurring without any more in the way of weapons than fists and a concrete curb.
      I've heard some chatter about GW as a "wannabe cop" who was over zealous and over confident because of his perceived authority and the fact he carried a gun.  Could be.  But a jury, and anyone judging without knowing his mind, can't use that presumption.  He admitted to law enforcement as his chosen career path, and using the neighborhood watch as a resume padder.  There is no crime there.
      The issue for the jury now, as I see it, is whether GZ was negligent in putting himself in a position where he might be attacked and have to use his weapon.  Did he NEED to exit his car after reporting a suspicious person?  Did he TRY (or have the opportunity) to defuse the situation by identifying himself as neighborhood watch and make himself less threatening?  Did the life threat he perceived validate pulling the trigger?
      After a special prosecutor was assigned in response to public outcry, second degree murder charges were brought.  GZ opened a website for a legal defense fund, and got a good response.  The government,  seeing an opportunity, raised bail.  GZ's wife lied about their assets (stupid), and a judge was angered.  Irrelevant sideshow, but media gold.
       And now, those of us interested enough to actually look at some evidence and listen to some arguments are left wondering about our legal system once again.  I'm writing before the verdict is announced because it doesn't matter much to me whether there is a conviction on the manslaughter charge.  You can easily argue that GZ made decisions that would land him in jail.  The second degree murder charge was trumped pandering, and the third degree was an act of desperation.  Manslaughter should have been the original charge, and the state should have to prove the crime they charge instead of negotiating and settling after the evidence is presented.  GZ's life has changed whichever direction the jury goes, and an appeals court is likely to toss a guilty verdict anyway when things calm down.  I'll trust the jury to do the best they can with a difficult decision, and assume their motives are pure.

Notes and Lessons Learned:

1: Whether you are a cop, or a security guard, a neighborhood watch, or just a regular citizen who chooses to carry a weapon, understand that a situation may develop in a heartbeat which can change lives, yours included.  Train, prepare, be ready for that day when you are in that place and have to make that split second decision, then be accountable.

2:  If you are a prideful teenager (or immature adult) bent on showing you'll take no crap from anybody by offering or providing a beatdown when you are insulted, disrespected, or feel threatened; understand that the person you attack may actually be trained or equipped to defend themselves.  Your road rage or temper flare may be all it takes to set off a chain of events that gets you killed.

3: We, the people, are easily controlled.  One might think that research and fact checking in the information age might allow a generation of free thinkers and logical decision makers.  Not yet.  More than any recent example, the way the general public responded to the way the media chose to rewrite the story of George and Trayvon exposes how willing we are to ignore facts and possibilities that don't match the story we want emotionally told.  And public opinion, not the courts, not the constitution, is where cases are tried today, and power controlled.

4: Tragically, Trayvon is dead, George's life is ruined, a police chief lost his career for making correct decisions, our judicial system is proving again to be a sham, and our nation is more politically and racially divided than ever.

5:  Speaking of race (notice please, I hadn't), there is no doubt in MY mind that if both of these men had been black, we'd never heard of this case.  Had Trayvon not been portrayed as an innocent black child victim, and Zimmerman a predatory racist, we'd never heard of this case. The president is represented as black, and Zimmerman is white, even though they have the same amount of minority blood, and until we quit using division, guilt, history, and hate to decide court cases in public opinion and in our own minds, there will be no justice, and no progress as a civilization.  No part of this tragedy is relevant to melanin amounts, slavery, gangs, or civil rights.  The only victims are the direct participants in the incident.  If you rushed to judgement when first hearing about this story, and especially if after looking at all of the evidence you are still only emotionally attached to a point of view, perhaps it's time to look at your REAL motivation.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ticket to Ride

        Recently, a young couple was run down by a man driving a red midsized SUV in Anchorage at 5a.m.  The press has everyone looking.  I'm often in Anchorage that early, and lately I've been driving the Jeep.  If I were 5'6" and black, I'd be SO screwed.
       My old rule for motorcycle rides dictated a minimum of 50 ambient degrees.  Sometimes rules just need to get off their high horses and bend.
       Vikki curses traffic engineers who choose roundabouts and different routes than she'd prefer.  "Controlling jerks!" she'll say.  Exactly why they draw a paycheck.
       I'm thinking my motorcycle has plenty of power to pull a little trailer with a canoe. Only the fear of showing up in a "redneck" video is holding me back. A friend says the measure of a man is the number of spark plugs he owns. He has quite a motorcycle collection, several cars, and all the requisite Alaska toys and tools. One of our new guys has a forty year airplane obsession. He says he'll match spark plugs with anyone. Radial engines with multiple cylinders, multiple plugs per cylinder. He wins.

       To my friend who earned a speeding ticket - Shame on you for getting caught, but occasionally the law of averages coincides with the law of the land. I'm fortunate not to have a faster car, straighter roads, or interested police. Do the time.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


       Two chairs facing the fireworks at midnight. A little table with a candle and flowers. The dog we'd thought to comfort but didn't need to, who ignored the booms, but loved the snack tray and the late night hubbub. Folks parked precariously all over the neighborhood, hooting and laughing for their friends. The sky too light for fireworks, too dim for easy navigation. It used to be that ephemeral art like sidewalk chalk, snow sculptures, live music, and fireworks could only exist as memories, but now I can watch the show I just watched online from many angles, reviewed from many perspectives, but I won't, because the show in my memory was more about the love I'm with than the splatters of light over the spruce trees.

Friday, June 28, 2013

- The person playing the speech therapist for the AFLAC duck just said "axtresses" in an interview.  Made me spit a little coffee back in the cup.  One of the commenters on the site made notice of the "need for a black character actress as the speech therapist because the main character (duck) in the long running ad campaign is so very white."

- NFL fan reacting to the arrest of a player for murder - "Our team has a killer tight end we'd trade 'em if the price was right. What? What'd I say?"

- Just read a critique of the lynch mob mentality of our media frenzied society.  Don't worry, Paula Dean.  If Bill Clinton can recover from HIS faux pas, so can you.

       I'm not a fan of profanity.  I use it for emphasis occasionally.  But the effect is dampened by the common use  in most people's everyday usage.  When I suggested to a coworker that his language should be filtered around children and those who might be offended, he said "F 'em.  That's the way people talk today.  Get used to it."  
       I AM used to it.  Doesn't make me like it.  Profanity is discourteous and uncivil.  That's why it exists.  For shock value.  If you want the words to scream, throw in a few syllables of rude.  But if you become callous and common with it's use, the value is lost.  I worked with a Lt in the fire dept that used 'fuck' so frequently that we could play drinking games.  In one minute (timed without his knowledge) of rapid fire monologue, we counted twenty three instances.  My bet had been on a higher number.  When we pointed it out to him, he said "Shit (1), that's the way I fuckin' talk.  Fuckin' nobody even fuckin' hears it anymore."  He's right.  None of the people attuned to the way he spoke reacted to it.  But not everybody felt  that way, and he was offended when a new employee was offended.  We'd tried to tell him it was bound to happen.  Of course, in the real world, the fire department took the easy route and moved the probie to a different shift, and HE was gently ostracized for having manners and expecting them from others, rather than the old leutenant being disciplined.  
       Perhaps the lesson learned is that words are just noise unless you attach meaning to them, and connotations like 'hateful' and 'rude' are diminished with over-exposure.  It's the REACTION to the word that gives it power, and everybody knows that the best way to get a two year old to quit using words they've heard is to ignore them.  So.  Perhaps we should look more at people's intent when they use words like nigger, fag, honky, redskin, cracker, boy, and bitch.  Look more into why a person is compelled to use them, and to what effect. You cannot legislate language.  By giving words independent status in a category legally defined as "hate", you give them power that perhaps they don't deserve.
       I knew a very old woman, now passed, that referred to native americans as indians, and african-americans as niggers.  There was no hate in this woman. She'd forgiven those who'd offended her, and wasted no time trying to set others off.  Several people tried to suggest to her that she might be offending folks with the "hate" labels she used.  She had the same reaction as the fire Leutenant.  "Sorry.  They'll have to excuse me or get over it. I hope they can be that strong. Let them know I don't mean anything by it. But I don't have the energy to worry about it, or the energy to change how I speak."  Most people just raised an eyebrow and cut her some slack because she was old.
       I do think there are words that are charged.  I do think language can be hateful, and demeaning, and cruel.  I also think people should be civil, and generally cooperative, and open about racial divides and history.  Hatemongers of all races SHOULD be drowned out by civility, and words that offend should reflect on their user.  But the problem with criminalizing words, is that their meanings, their usage, their commonality, their connoted power, change.  The reaction to the intent of a categorized "hate" word has to be measured against it's context, the desired effect of it's user, and the agenda of the responder.
      If it's the word you wish would disappear, ignore it.  If it's the individual you're reacting to, then another path might be appropriate, or might not.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Farmers Market

Born in the desert where tomatos grow,
Parked in the arctic where that just aint so,
You can't know,
How I miss them.

Stores in Alaska carry globes of red,
Travel tomatos, that's what we're fed,
Disappointment instead
Of  'mater blissdom.  

Short is the season, uncommon the gift,
To worry, and nurture, til gently you lift
A gem from the vine. But I'm miffed.
Not my wisdom.

So we journ to the tables of those who are able,
Dazed at the spectacle, amazed at the labels,
Shedding our gold 'til we're feeling unstable,
Still coulda kissed 'em.

Memories flood like the juicy, seedy, tangy, flavor of a just picked vine ripened tomato.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ado De Nada

       As the story was told, a man we know was confronted by another customer in a store for bringing his dog in with him.  The man we know assured the other fellow that the store policy allowed dogs.  Adamant, the other fellow insisted that the dog be removed.  The guy we know said no.
       The guy we don't know complained to the manager, who explained the dogs-ARE-allowed-policy.  In my mind, as someone who wasn't there, that should have been all there was to tell.
       But as the story was related by people who also weren't there, the guy we know went over to where the manager was talking to the no-dog-guy, and a REAL confrontation began, resulting in the other guy intimidated, and the guy we know being celebrated as a defender of things that matter, like wives, and dogs, and intimidation.
       The story bothered me more than it should've, and when I told the only person I can tell that it bothered me, it bothered her more that it bothered me than the actual story bothered her, because she knows the guy we know as part of a group of people she thinks I don't know well enough to criticize.  She is right.  But the story would bother me even if we didn't know the guy she knows better.  And so, rather than read the stuff about the people she knows in order to know them better, I'm better off not knowing, because she never hears me when I think they are wonderful, but only when I'm bothered.  So, I'm letting it go to avoid more conflict whether or not I'm right, because from what I hear from mature adults, that's the right choice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keep It Movin' - When Taste No Longer Matters

       At the risk of providing WAY too much info and insight, I was wondering about poop.  Like, what determines how long the body retains the nutrients (and other stuff) that we take in?  For instance, I'd swear the brightly colored carne adovada remnants hung about for three days while whole kernels from last night's roasted ears were machine gunned after twelve hours.  (I've really got to focus on chewing.)  Are there sorter cells in our digestive systems that handle prospective waste material, pass or fail?  I'm picturing tiny horn-rimmed glasses, rubber gloves, and inspector tags; "Nope, Nope.  Keep it movin'!  Wait! We could use a bit of that."
       Or when something altogether unwelcome is introduced, red buttons being pushed and growly warnings and brilliant strobes activated - "Evacuate! Evacuate!".  Rising whoop-whoop emergency alarms sent to the brain - "PooOOP! PooOOP!"
       Or when the inspector cells take a holiday, and their workload gets backed up...
Anyway.  Just wondering who or what's accountable.  Go back to your BBQs and remember to chew.
Thanks for listening to me think, but don't score the quality.  I'm on vacation.

To Want Him, Or To Be Him?

I've told the new guys at work to set their standards high, but not LW high. LW is a contract retread employed for thirty years, retired, and rehired until we can get some folks trained. One of LW's favorite phrases is "All the girls want me, all the guys want to BE me." I decided a while back to help build the legend in his mind, so I've been telling everyone about the inevitable disappointment of comparing one's self to him in any arena. "It's better," I say, "to just do the best you can, and know you've worked alongside the great one."
We have an excellent director who is openly gay, and I've never heard anyone joke about her before LW the other morning. He somberly shook his head and commented to nobody in particular, "It must be so confusing for her. She doesn't know whether to want me, or want to BE me."
Now, we all busted out laughing as he shook his head compassionately as he left the room, but I wondered later how a slightly different audience would have responded to the joke. Sexual preference is a protected category, and any reference could land you in HR discipline. I suspect that our manager would laugh along, because the joke is as much about LW, their relative positions in the organization, and his Fonzie-like self promotion than anything else, and we've heard the want-me-BE-me line for so long. But I know there are those who would perceive an attack, and relish the opportunity to escalate it.
LW can afford to take a risk for a laugh, and that adds to the humor. I may not want to BE him, but I wouldn't mind being in the employment position he occupies now. The cliche is "It's a great gig, if you can get it!"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Quit Drinking

       Congratulations to me. I quit drinking last night. I fully expect to quit tonight as well. It's been so dry, a beer is pretty darn tasty at the end of the day, but more than one seems weighty. Tough to justify the calorie math for even one, though. I'll just have to cut back on food that's not beer.

       My Alaska thoughts of the week: Folks wishing to partake in after-dark activities this weekend may have to wait a month. - Lots of folks are taking advantage of the abnormal amount of sunshine, exposing lots of skin as if it were California. Interesting mix of milky, burned, and bug bit, but hey. - We had another bear mauling. A genius got drunk at a church picnic and threw meat at a bear. We're not sure whether he threw the meat in self defense or just to taunt, but it didn't turn out well, except maybe for the boozy church, whose congregation is likely to triple. - I woke to a buzzing near my ear, and, in that half sleep phase where our minds are most creative, I invented a room laser that patrolled the ceiling of sleeping rooms, and a net that swept living spaces when no one was there. I considered training terriers to snap up the pests, and vaccuums that target movement. Just before I drifted off, the idea came for robotic hands that operate like the "Clapper", a light switch that operates remotely by clapping your hands, but MY clapper hands would track and destroy skeeters. I woke with a bite on my foot AND a mosquito carcass on the top sheet. Call CSI.

My work joke of the week: Only an engineer would call a horse spherical to make the math easier.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Touched by a Visitor

Today we had two sets of visitors to the bunker where I work.  Staff from a senator's office dropped by.  They got the VIP treatment from corporate lackeys and a nickel tour from me.  My boss came in afterward and told me what a fine job I'd done keeping the presentation simple.  I shrugged and explained that they work in Washington!  She shook her finger at me as she left.

The other visitor was a former pipeline technician who retired outside before I even started.  He is visiting family here and called wondering if anyone he knew might be around.  Our lead was hired when the pipeline was built, and was excited to see his old friend, telling us stories about him even before he was cleared by security to visit.  All the stories were tragic.  He was burned in an accident, and lived afterward in pain.  He lost a child to disease when she was two.  He lost his wonderful wife of twenty years to cancer.  He lost the only job he'd ever had when station automation affected headcount.  He lived alone, and his Alaskan friends lost track of him until his name was in the corporate newsletter, which described his stroke and slow rehabilitation, and suggested folks contact him if they wished, while they could.
The man was a joy.  He was thrilled to see the new control room, bragging on how far the company had come.  He hugged his old coworker with vigor.  He slurred his speech a bit, and moved stiffly, but his smile was huge and free, and his aura was all positive.  He asked relevant technical questions and whistled at how things had changed.  He told us of his concerns when he worked for the pipeline, and nodded at the fixes, grimaced at the things that hadn't been fixed.  He still cares, and feels pride and responsibility for the pipeline.

After half an hour, I felt comfortable enough to ask him the question I couldn't help but ask.  "How do you do it?  After all you've been through, all you're GOING through, how can you be so positive, so alive?"

He looked at me like I was an alien, Then scolded my boss with a glance for talking about him.  Then he scratched his beard with one hand and put the other on my shoulder.  "You know, I accomplished everything I dreamed of as a kid.  I lived somewhere fun and beautiful, I was around a lot of interesting people, and I was loved.  Now every day is gravy."

He told old pipeline stories for an hour or so, and I could swear my coworker was bleary-eyed after escorting him out the Get-Smart doors to the gate.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An Allegory For My Missionary Friend

       Not that long ago, an idealistic young man, frustrated with a lack of awesomeness in his ordinary life, came to Alaska and, armed with a small rifle and a bag of rice, found a remote location and settled in to learn more about himself.  He kept a journal of his thoughts and activities through a long winter as he slowly starved to death.  A movie was made, portraying him as an hero of sorts, struggling to define the terms of his own life. He saw himself as a seeker, an explorer, a radical missionary for independence.  He is viewed somewhat differently here.  The folks who found him, the folks who removed his body, and most of the folks who paid to clean up his mess think of him as a fool whose grandiosity of thought outweighed his food cache.  There is empathy here too, for nearly every dreaming newcomer to this country came not altogether prepared. The main difference between him and some of them is that they survived, perhaps because they understood up front that the world can treat naivete harshly, in spite of whether one is driven, passionate, confident, or even superior in their conviction. The risk he took was not entirely his own, and the one thing that could have saved him was contact with the ordinary society he disdained until it was too late.
      There will always be a group of people who will cheer you for putting all your chips in no matter the hand, and there are forces in the arena that aren't playing a game.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dear Nora: On Lifting your Head

Dear Nora:
      I hope you are aware that they are sharing and celebrating that you are lifting your head.  No bubble bursting intended, but head lifting, while a valuable skill, is neither rare and unique, nor party worthy.  Almost everyone I know can do this.  It's somewhat akin to birthdays, in my mind; Cake and balloon animals as rewards for simple survival.  You are, therefore we eat cake.  Put that way, I like it better.
      Don't worry, I won't Grinch your birthday parties.   I understand that birthdays are a celebration of the person, letting them know they are valued and supported by friends and family. Birthdays are tradition, people expect them, and there is value in that I suppose.  There are worse things to suffer through.  You've a distance to travel before YOU have to deal with that first candle on a cupcake, but call me with questions. I have extensive experience with birthdays, and a fondness for fire and cake.  
     Well it's obvious, Nora, that your parents wish you to be someone who holds her self up, but have you discussed in depth what else it is they wish you to be?  Have they even approached with you their definition of a successful human?   It may surprise you how little guidance many receive at the critical phases of their development, perhaps because many parents haven't explored those topics themselves.  Ask, but don't be surprised, when dealing with adults, at some of the vague things they'll say to avoid the question:
     " Be yourself" - It is quite impossible to be someone else.  You may model and wish to be like someone else, but an Elvis impersonator is not Elvis.  That you would emulate others, even your parents, doesn't make you a bad person, in fact it's rather expected to a point. You need a base knowledge of traditional behaviors just to function in society, and you need enough craziness to stay sane.  (Warning - Too much individuality can be so annoying to others they'll lock you up!  Too little is cause for anti-depressive drugs and locking YOURSELF up!)  Your job is to strike your own balance.   It's OK to cast yourself in the mold of those you respect , but only if their influence doesn't restrict your own growth.
     "Be the best at what you do" - The limiting factor here is that necessarily, you're compared to all others.  There are nearly seven billion people on the planet. Fortunately, not everybody is doing the same thing, so that narrows the field some. To prove you're the best, you have to continually measure. Often the measuring takes resources from what it is you actually do, and the rules of measure are always changing. Competition limits cooperation, and one great joy (of mine, anyway) is learning and growing with others. I won't deny that it's a competitive world, Nora.  There is only so much world for all those people.  I can only submit that many of the best in any field are supremely talented, have wonderful teachers, and are driven more by a passion for their work than judgement of their relative worth.  If you make up your mind to love what you do, and keep getting better at it, maybe even innovative at it, then you are successful; Maybe even gaining recognition and money along the way if that's what you're into.
    "Be all you can be" - I like this one better, in that it suggests growth, but it also implies limitations.  Adults use only 10% of their brains, and even you aren't doing much better.  Obviously, "all you can be" isn't finite.  No matter what you achieve, how far you stretch, you can and should ask yourself for a little more.  That doesn't mean you won't have setbacks, or won't ever change paths.  If you settle for "Well, that's all I can be", you might be right.
      Notice Nora, all the mention of growth. I'm not talking of the stretching of your body, measured by marks on the door frame. (Misc note: Magic marker takes a long time to wear off your scalp.)  I'm describing the growth of your mind.  I think that's the secret of a successful life.  I don't know that all things that happen TO you make you stronger, but I'm pretty sure they offer ways to learn and grow, then to make informed decisions with consequences from which you learn and grow, from which you'll find OTHER opportunities to learn and grow, etc, until you don't anymore.
       If you would ask me for advice (you didn't) about choosing the person you would decide to be, I would suggest, and am asking you now, to please don't NOT be.  As long as you are trying (growing), the process of you defining you is alive.  YOU are a positive work in progress, no matter what mistakes you'll make, or obstacles you find.  The best way to find your way is to keep looking, even when it's really well hidden, or even when you think you've found it. Unless you choose to hide from your own potential, you are a success.
      So.  I propose that you and I forego each other's birthday parties, and get together at random intervals and discuss what we've learned since our last growth party.  As long as we are developing, challenging ourselves, and not NOT being, everybody gets extra helpings of bacon and fireworks.  What?  Oh, trust me.  You'll like them.
      And now that I think of it, your parents were just celebrating a phase of your growth with your pictures.  They look at you, and hold their heads high.  I guess I learned something today.  Wish me a happy growth-day! To you as well.
      I'll think a thought, record it, and stuff it in a bottle just for you.  You do the same.  K

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


      Benson jumps up, and cocks his head, listening.  It's the quiet of the morning, the semi-dark still before the valley wakes.  I open the window.  It's brisk, not frigid, almost Spring.  Clouds have moved in.  The air is heavy.  Benson snuffs.  Whatever he hears, I can't, at first.  Maybe, I think, there is a bear in the neighborhood, or a moose.  Perhaps a neighbor is returning late from the bars, singing badly.  But then, from the direction of the river a mile distant, a single moan.  I know wolves follow the  trails between the coastal forest and the mountains behind the house, but I've never heard them before. Ben's ears are raised, intent.  Another voice in the distance joins in, and the first becomes louder, more soulful.
      Across the Glenn, folks have lost pets off their porches, even people have been circled and threatened.  One incident led to a thinning of the pack, shooting them from helicopters on base.
      Several wolves are in the song now, and "haunting" doesn't describe the feeling I'm feeling.  There is emotion in the sound, character and timber in the voices, hollow reverb as the echo bounces around the canyon.  I shiver.  Since breakup's begun I haven't used the woodstove, but it's stoked and ready to go. I'll be lighting it.  As if they know when to join in, seemingly every dog in Eagle River except mine starts to yap and yowl, drowning out the wolves. After a minute, it's silent again.  I close the window, sidestep down the stairs and light a fire, much to the delight of poor, deaf, oblivious old rat terrier, more aware of the comforting promise of a striking match than any link to her ancestry.  Ben stares at the window for a while, then settles in front of the fire, soon whiffling and whimpering in his dream.  Some say that Anchorage is a nice place, not far from Alaska.  This morning it's NOT far.  Not far at all.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dear Nora - Fashion and Body Image

Dear Nora:
       Please notice that without exception, adjectives used to describe your appearance are positive:  Cute, adorable, pretty, awwww, etc.   Except for the occasional "looks like Dad", which is usually meant in a good way, there will be little criticism of your appearance for at least a year or two.  But then folks will start to notice the brand of the footie you choose, whether your ears are pierced or tattooed (people still DO that), if your body is properly proportioned, your eyes set apart by a nose from a catalogue, and the length of your fingers and lashes. (Be glad your not a boy.)
       Here's what I suggest: Keep your body in the condition that allows your brain to function it's best (listen to it), and ignore standards set by others as to roundness or lankiness, BMI, height/weight, uber-condition or sexiness.  Dedicate time to activities that keep your body strong, without abusing or neglecting it.  Eat some of everything, and not too much of anything.  Avoid violent sports, and wear a helmet.  (Sorry, off topic.)
       The body your soul wears now is the gift you were given.  Be grateful for it, even if sometimes it seems flawed (and it will). You could do worse.  Wait until you see what some folks deal with without letting it kill their spirit.  Your grandmother curses every time she needs a step stool to access the top shelf, but at times her bigger friends wished for her smaller frame.  There is no perfect body, no matter what airbrush artists believe.  You can sculpt yours naturally to some extent, and artificially even more (reference my tattoo letter), but my preference for you is to to be confident and comfortable in your own skin, which, I'm guessing, is quite beautiful.
       By the way, never trust the "honest" opinion about your looks from older close relatives.  Their judgement is glazed by their agenda; your promise and your happiness.  Always consult a sister, or a jealous true friend, if you think your eyebrows are bushy or you don't wish to go to prom with an inappropriate stain.
      Speaking of clothes, in case you're not already aware, they're required.  It takes a strong and dedicated person indeed to go through life without them. (There are careers and occasions that allow you to "slip into something more comfortable" occasionally, but that's another letter.)  The bad news is that the rules for wearing them are myriad and fluid.  Nobody has ever learned them.  Everybody laughs at their yearbooks.
       Now I'm no 'fashionista' (why are you laughing?), but I do have a guideline that might help; Learn the classical rules of fashion and operate within them, except where it's more fun not to.  For instance, 'Winnie the Pooh goes on the OUTside' is a dictum of long standing, to which, in my old age I've added, "except on Thursdays", unless, of course, the Winnie decal is uncomfortable.  When uncomfortable clothes are worn, they are called costumes, and are used only for short duration and for specific purpose. If costumes serve a utilitarian function, like a weather shield, or carrying weapons or tools, they become "gear", but can be costumes nonetheless.  Costumes are sometimes necessary, for professional functions, etc., but view them as means to an end.  When choosing between a bunny suit (fun) and a formal gown to wear to an awards ceremony (you'll have plenty), consider whether acting an idiot or furthering the career you've chosen is really the more fun.  I've always struggled with that.
      I've also struggled with body paint, including makeup.  I can't help you there.  Some folks use up huge parts of their lives with it.  Some allow others to poke holes in their body's protective layers just to decorate themselves.  There is a kazillion dollar industry selling nail paints, and face cake, and hair whitener, and tissue siphoners, and pre-destroyed jeans, and gear to pretend they're someone they're not.  I have no doubt you'll be involved to some extent. All I ask is that you think before you allow someone to advertise on your rear end, that you value the resources you dedicate to fashion, and you have fun establishing your own confident, purposeful, comfortable and healthy style.
       Meanwhile, I'll type a tale.  You do the same.  K

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hilda's - Part Two

       "What, people with nut cancer don't get haircuts?", snorted Combover.
       We'd just learned that Buzz' brother was in the hospital with testicular cancer.  The consensus was clear.  Being in the process of losing one of your balls was a poor excuse for not taking your chair at Hilda's barber shop every other Saturday, as per routine.  When it's your turn for abuse, better to show up for it.  The coward.  Of course, his brother and the rest didn't cut him any slack just because he was absent.
       "I bet he never says 'I'd give my left nut' for anything again", said Flattop.  "No matter which side he's losing.  Which side IS he losing?"
       "I dunno", said Buzz.  If I survive this haircut, I'll text him and find out."
       "Quit talking", said Linda between trimmer strokes. "The fat on your neck keeps rolling."
       "Either way", said Combover. "That phrase is done."
       "So what next?", asked Hathair. "Does he get chemo? Lose his hair?"  Everybody laughed. Linda gasped.  Evidently, hair loss was mostly a moot issue for Buzz' brother.  Linda pretty much trimmed his eyebrows, shaved his neck, and massaged his shoulders extra, charged full price.  One of her favorite customers.
       "Maybe he'll get radiation", Buzz said.  "Most heat he'll have felt down there since his wife died!"
       "You don't know that", Linda scolded.
       "Unless you've got something to share", Buzz continued, "I'm pretty sure.  He lived for that woman."
       Flattop got solemn.  "Do you think he's ba.., um, uh, got enough fight in him to beat it?  If it gets bad?"
       Combover started laughing, "Ballsy enough?  Were you gonna say BALLSY ENOUGH?"
       Flattop shook his head, laughing.  Buzz shook his, too.  "He's pretty tough.  Kicked the shit out of me our whole lives.  But I dunno...  Lance Armstrong beat it, I guess."
      "Lance Armstrong was on steroids and had a bicycle seat jogglin' his nuggets twenty hours a day", offered Flattop with anger and conviction.  "He deserved it.  What was your brother riding? What drugs did HE take?"  Whoa.  Maybe some issues there.
      "Technically", said Mophead, who'd snuck in while I wasn't paying attention, "Lance didn't take steroids."  We all glared at him. Even Linda. He wilted.
      "Well hopefully", Buzz continued mercifully, "he'll just be off his nut, it won't have spread, and we'll fish this summer like we'd planned".  Linda was removing the last of the hot cream with straight razor, and she thumped him to hold still.
      "Not once in forty years in this God forsaken place,"whined Combover, "have I fished the way I'd planned all winter.  A few good trips, sure, but something always comes up, keeps me busy not fishin'."
       Hathair cleared his throat, like he does when he has something important to say.  "Life comes up.  The time you should be fishing just happens to coincide with the same time things are growing, and the house can be painted without frost, and folks come up from Outside, and twenty two hours of light isn't even enough for all the stuff that you've got to do...  Life comes up, and you cancel fishing, and then your wife dies, and then you get nut cancer."
        Linda fired up the vibrator and ran her hands over Buzz' shoulders.  We waited.  He handed her a bill, let out a big sigh.  "Listen, when you assholes are voting on whether I'm gay after I leave, take into consideration that I worked with only men for thirty two years, and I love my wife AND my brother. Seeya next time."  Then a parting shot for Mophead, who had no idea what we were talking about, "Who gives a fuck what KIND of cheater drugs he took.  Jeesus." Then he left.
        Flattop was already settling into the chair, and Combover had the broom, but there wasn't enough hair to sweep.  "Nope", said Hathair.  "Don't think so", said Combover. "Prolly not", from Flattop.
       "I don't know", I said.  "Those are the ones that'll fool you."

Hilda's - Part One

       It was a one chair shop on Saturday, because the two male barbers had bailed.  The owner who inherited the shop doesn't work Saturdays, period.  The other guy thought he might be coming down with what his wife had.  That left Linda, working her second job with a sore back, and a stack of cranky guys.
       Understand that this shop used to belong to Hilda, a true Alaskan character.  She was a wild bawdy bombshell who famously shot-gunned (and killed) her soon-to-be ex-husband's Cadillac and stopped conversation at bars by leaning across billiards tables in short skirts, winning much more money there than she lost.  As she and her legend aged, she ran a barber shop and told stories, remembering with her older mostly retired military customers, and entertaining the rest of us.  If a youngster couldn't sit still, she'd box his ears, and point to the dusty stuffed animals mounted there.  "You wanna be next?"
       Hilda died last year.  We all miss her.
       Now, Linda will carry the conversation when it lags, but this day it was animated.  Other than griping about her coworkers and her back, she didn't participate much.  Considering the topics, and the situation, that must have taken some lip biting.
       When I came in, four older guys had skeptical looks, while the mother of a teenager and the guy in the chair talked about pyramids.  If I'd been busy, I'd have left, like a half dozen that peeked in after me.  But this was the last of my to-do-today list, and Hilda's is one place I don't mind waiting.  Pyramid guy was evidently supporting the mother of the teenager, who'd introduced the topic to a mildly hostile cross-armed audience.
       "Believe me, the math supports the power of the pyramid", he said, glancing nervously from face to face in the room.  "Modern critics didn't take into account the limestone siding, the math is perfect!", he almost pleaded.  "Actually", he leaned confidingly toward the mom, "I built a pyramid sauna. In my yard. You can FEEL the energy."
       Linda cut the motor on the massager. Pyramid guy looked disappointed, handed her a bill, and walked over to the mom, talked in hushed tones like everybody couldn't hear about how he appreciated her research and to keep it up.  He hugged her and left.
       As the teen walked to the chair, the guy with the buzz cut, arms still crossed, asked the room about pyramid guy; "Gay?"
       "Yup", said combover.
       "Yessirree!", said flattop enthusiastically.
       "Ah-hah", mumbled hat hair.
       They all looked at me.  "Don't care", I replied without returning their glance.  The kid in the chair was grinning.  Mom said nothing.
       Linda broke the silence.  "Where's your brother?"  To the kid.
       Mom answered before he could, unaware she was breaking barbershop etiquette, "He's getting ready for the PROM!!"  Then she proceeded to tell us how HE had been asked by HER, and how he'd had no clue about what to wear or how to act, that the girl had insisted he take a dance class with her, and how he was shocked at how much this was all going to cost, and how he'd been embarrassed having to meet her folks, and how now he was all stressed out getting ready.
       "And he didn't need a haircut?", asked Linda.  producing a welcome but uncomfortable silence.
       Finally, hat hair pipes up, "You don't get a five dollar haircut for prom."
       Linda waves her scissors, "Mister, if you think you're getting a haircut for five bucks, you're in the wrong place!"
       From Buzz, "He didn't say what you charged, just what it's worth".  The kid is smirking again.
       "Anyway", Mom spins back up, "They're meeting a bunch of friends.  The prom is at the railroad depot. A wonderful venue. I've been there. Today's proms are more about getting together with your friends and having a good time. Not so much about romance."
       Linda didn't flinch, but the rest of the room could have won a medal in synchronized chuckling.
      " Oh come on!", Mom chided.  "This girl chose him because he's a nice kid, and he's tall enough she can wear heels.  That's all."
      Silence.  Mom looked like she wanted to put her hands over her son's ears when she half whispered, "It's not about SEX!"
      Nothing.  The kid's grin is almost audible, it's so big.
      Linda, "Well he IS a really nice boy."
      Combover leans forward.  "I raised two spectacular daughters. They chose their prospective husbands in 8th grade, and they're still grooming them. Really nice boys.  I'm pretty sure their proms involved some romance.  I'm not sure about sex.  I didn't ask."
      Mom is wide eyed, throwing money at Linda and ushering her younger son away from our influence. As they get to the door, Buzz asks again, "Whaddaya think? Gay?"
      Mom keeps walking, pushing the buttons on her key fob, escaping.  The kid turns in the door to hear our response.
      "Huh uh."
      I hesitated.  The boy raised his eyebrows, waiting.  "I'm concerned for the brother, though."
      The boy gave us a thumbs up, then ran to open the door for his mother.
      Buzz creaked into the chair and Linda wrapped him in her Marilyn Monroe cloak and took his glasses while flat-top found the broom and swept up the hair from the last few cuts.
      "Where's YOUR brother?", Linda asked Buzz.  Nobody answered for him.
      "He's laid up at Mercy.  Cancer in one of his nuts.  No proms for him for a while, I guess."                  
      We all laughed, and then we didn't.
      "Sorry", was all Linda said.
      "I'll tell him we were talking about him at Hilda's", said Buzz.  "He'll like that."



       The lab happily gulps anything I toss to him, including a fish oil capsule. The rat terrier lets it hit the floor, approaches carefully, eyes it from two sides, smells it, then looks at me as if to ascertain my intent. No wonder she's lived so long. She could use the lab as a food tester, but she'd starve.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beauty Hurts

       She had traffic stopping good looks, walking across the WalMart parking lot.  Unfortunately, the new black Camaro didn't stop, and ran into the Volvo in front of it. She didn't flinch, but kept walking into the store like this happened every day.  Two crew cuts got out of the cars, shook hands and laughed together.
       She was in the checkout line in front of me, and the teenage cashier was obviously intimidated by her, couldn't speak even though company policy requires it.
       Now I am of the firm belief that even beautiful people have personalities; deserve the common courtesy of a hello. For the checker's sake I decided to tease her a little.
       "You know that accident in the parking lot was your fault."
       She turned her head to me.  I thought I saw a flash of anger. Gawd, she WAS stunning.
       "Do you think you could tone it down a little?  You know, gain a few pounds, drag a couple of kids around, dress frumpier?  Public safety issue and all..."
       The anger in her eyes was replaced by a profound sadness, and tears welled up there.  She almost whispered, "I wish... sometimes."  She held my gaze for a full second, then turned back to pay for her groceries.  The cashier was staring at me like I was an ogre.  I was feeling like one.
        I should have told her my attempted compliment was badly timed, obviously. I should have asked if she was OK.  I should have reassured her that whatever was troubling her would pass. I should have offered to help, if I could.  But when she looked into my eyes, and I saw that hurt, that vulnerability, I froze like the teenager before me.  I choked out a "Sorry", and she gave me a half smile and a no-worries wave of forgiveness as she left.
        The checker asked if I knew who that was. I said "Nope", and left.  Thinking back after I got reoriented, I think he was about to tell me she was someone recognizable to a more informed person.
        If you had told me four hours ago that I could ever again be shaken by a look from any woman, a girl really, I'd have asked to share your drugs.  But I will never forget those eyes.

Benson Earns His Kibble

I'm tossing a toy for the dog that just shredded newspaper all over the house to protest being left home alone during the day all week.  There's a Dodger game on my earbud, and the force of a "wubba" launch flips the bud out of my ear into the wet leafy grass.  Dammit.  I look without moving my feet.  Don't find it.  I turn up the sound.  Traffic noise, no hope.  I plant a stick and search systematically for ten minutes in the rain.  Nope.  Then the light bulb over my head lights up. (Doesn't happen much anymore.)  I stick my finger into my ear, get it good and waxy, get Benson to sniff it, and pretend to throw something into the grass, telling him to "Bring it!". It took him all of fifteen seconds to find it, twenty feet away from where I'd stood.  He wouldn't pick it up (can't blame him), but he smiled and wagged his tail, snuffling in the grass around it.  Good dog.  It's just newspaper, not the couch, and he's right about being left with all that responsibility.

Dear Nora: Compromise

Dear Nora:
       I assume you are feeling pretty good about yourself.  You should be.  Things are going pretty much your way.  You raise your voice, folks don't ask, they jump.  They are quick learners.
       So, rock star, I'm glad you are the confident ruler of your world.  But, as you are probably becoming aware, the world at large is large indeed (It'll seem small later), and controlling the chaos there has proved exceedingly difficult for the generations that came before you.  Without a doubt, you have skills, but I'm going to suggest a couple of compromises that may help you avoid un-winnable battles others have fought.
       Language:  You may already be experiencing problems with English.  We all struggle with it.  There are other lingos, but few are much better, and NONE could match the fluid beauty and structure of the language you will develop on your own over the next year or so.  That's a given.  The sad conundrum though, is that change is difficult for people older than you, and convincing the greater world to adapt to your obviously improved tongue is a task of monumental proportion.  Some very talented folks have tried, some dedicating their entire lives to the task, to minuscule effect.  Then you have those, some in your own extended family, who spread and teach English dogma, and might resist your well intended efforts to improve it.  Your talent and the internet might be the force that changes the world, but I'd suggest that unless this is the purpose to which you are called to the exclusion of all else, give it up,  just enjoy sounds and words, and become expert in the languages that surround you.  But don't ever buy into the idea that language is static.  It is constantly evolving, to the point I can't understand folks your parent's age half the time.  So play with it. You can only make it better.  I don't even want to talk about spelling.
       Pooping:  It's an unintended but necessary consequence of eating.  Both are natural, positive functions, and distinctly satisfying.  Some time past, as our culture became more "civilized",  people started telling other people what to eat and where to poop, even attaching taboos and guilt, which has messed up many a mind for life, I'll tell you.  Don't ever buy into that c$@p.
       At some point, a hineywrap fad started, where some very good salesman convinced folks it was better to capture kid's poop against their skin to avoid scooping piles.  Bad call.  Kids protested, and now cream tube wielding parents chase unhappy kids around day and night, fighting the dual battles of diaper rash and only partially filled landfills.  Eventually, parents wear down, and start reading wistfully about toilet training.  When your time comes, use the pot. It's not as scary as it looks, and I'm not aware of one person who hasn't come around to it sooner or later in one form or another.  That's one convention history seems to have gotten right.  I enjoy mine.
       I hope my tips prove useful.  Feel free to use or discard them according to what makes sense.  I'll keep tossing my opinions out there.  You do the same.  K

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All Things Grass

Batching it for dinner. Mrs. Grass soup doesn't have a flavor egg anymore. Where's the magic? I'm done with all things grass. It's not my fault if you are too young to know the golden flavor egg. Look it up. I'm not happy.

Nora: The Big Outside

Dear Nora:
       So you had an exposure to the big outside.  And you took Dad and Charlie along. Probably wise first time out.  What did you think?  Unlike anything you've ever seen, right?  That's what it's really all about, setting your fears aside and challenging your inside to experience as much outside as you can.
       The next bit of your life (all of it) will find a few challenges, none of which will present much difficulty for you if you remember one of my keys; stay curious.  The arbitrary milestones folks assign to the very young happen quite naturally and easily if you are curious.  You'll hold your head up because the view is better.  You'll scoot and eventually walk because you NEED to taste or touch something.  You'll imitate sounds and eventually speech because it's fun, AND because of the reactions you'll get.  (Words will freak them out at first; use with caution!)  Just remember to ignore timelines.  There are millions of things to learn.  Adults only a understand a small number of them, and your priorities and pace are your own, at least for now.
       I mentioned fears.  Fears are ideas that stop your growth. There will be setbacks.  You'll crawl into a wall, or fall down, or run into somebody who doesn't care about your progress.  Those are challenges, and they are sometimes painful.  But they only become fears if you allow them to stop you from exploring different ways to overcome them.  Stay curious, in spite of setbacks.  Humans weren't built to hide in their cribs.  Get out and live a little, even if it hurts once in a while.
       Now, I don't mean to imply that there are no risks in the world.  Between disease, animals, diseased human animals, age, gravity, and your own distracted brain, there are plenty of safety issues over which you have little control.  For now, that is Charlie and your Dad's business, and they take it seriously.  Later, when you (and they) are more confident, you won't want bodyguards.  Be aware of danger, define the risk, listen to your gut, train yourself to react.  (Sorry, this little lecture follows news of innocent people being hurt.  It happens.)  But don't let random dangers keep you from your marathon.
       You have a miracle brain.  It's true.  And you may be more in touch with all parts of it than you'll ever be.  One dirty trick of life is that the more you gather experience, the more focused you're brain becomes on functional purposes, losing versatility.  You will learn more in a minute today than I will in a month.  It boggles my mind.  And sometimes it is hard to be patient with boggled minds.  But that's what I'm asking you to do.  Whenever you have difficulty understanding the behavior of anyone over the age of about four, try to remember they may be out of touch with part of their brain, and be tolerant.  Help them if you can.
       I'll be in touch.  You do the same.  K

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dear Nora: Choices

Dear Nora:
       Now that you have established yourself, there are some preliminary choices you need to consider. Like what college you'll attend, your political party, a religious affiliation (or not), the professional sports teams you follow, and what shoes to wear.  The culture you were born into is one of extreme categorization (sorry, it's true).  When you pick a category and claim allegiance, like minded cohorts will begin opening doors.  All of your information will come from radical preferred sources, and you'll be expected to think and act like the group acts.
       People will judge you first on your looks (shoes), then on your association with groups.  Slap an Oakland Raider sticker on your stroller next time through the mall and watch the reaction if you doubt it's true.  So don't take these decisions lightly.  But no worries, you can change groups.  Members of Congress do it all the time.
       There are state colleges, prestige colleges, party colleges, nerd colleges, art colleges, God colleges, and lots more.  They pretty much all teach the same things, but people in groups look at the initials on the piece of paper with a prejudiced view.  If what you want to do in life depends on your class rank amongst snoots, then by all means, borrow the two hundred grand.  Otherwise, pick a place with a program that excites you, a pretty campus, and a social setting where you'll make friends for life.  For now you can just pick a school with a mascot that resembles a character on your crib mobile.
       When you choose a political party (doesn't matter which), the important thing to remember is to never compromise.  Loyalty to your politics outweighs any feigned concern for the country as a whole.  Gray area discussions are not allowed.  Independent thinking is holding our country back.  I'm not saying it's right, it just is.
       You probably should just attend the church your folks go to for a while.  Saves on fuel.  Plus you learn in detail the rituals and traditions of a faith that you can enjoy, and when you need it, fall back on.  Don't ever forget, though, that there are branches within every religion who do things differently, and lots of people in entirely different religions across the world, and good people who have no faith at all.  And all of those groups are more similar than some would have you know.
       Now Nora, I've known a few people who refused to let their associations define them.  It didn't matter to them if people thought their shoes were cool, or they went to an uppity school, or if political or religious leaders ranted in their behalf.  They were too busy with their life work.  That doesn't mean they weren't fun, or thinking, or involved; they just weren't followers of patterned thought.  It's a consideration.
       As for me, like most of America, I just want to be associated with a winner, whether or not I am one.  For a few years there, most of the groups I gave my heart to were losing, and it was difficult.  The Denver Broncos alone made me a shameful recluse, and it was too much work to swap loyalties. (I was close)
       Anyway, text me a list when you gather your affiliations.  I'll stock up on t-shirts and bumper stickers, because I'm a big follower of yours.  Periodically, I'll record a thought.  You do the same. K

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dear Nora: At a Week

Dear Nora:
       I understand that you've handled everything they've thrown at you like it was a stroll in the park.  Way to go.  You'll get an actual stroll in the park soon.  You'll like it there.  It is to wild nature like Charlie to a wolf, but as an intro course, it'll do.
       Rumor has it you don't like a wet diaper.  I'm pretty sure nobody does.  But good for you, listening to the messages your body is sending.  There is something to that metaphor, the body as a temple. You don't worship the temple itself, but that is the place your spirit is active and renewed.  Let the temple ruin and you'll suffer, distracted from the things you were put here to accomplish.  Some think a body is just a bag of water and chemicals, but it's the bag only you were given, the bag where the inner you lives, and it's a pretty wonderful bag, no matter what the fashion magazines say.  By design, you'll feel what it needs.  Don't ignore it.  Some kids live with so much filth and pain they quit complaining about it.  Don't ever compromise there.  Make sure your body is taken care of. (Said the guy with no neck)
       I wrote today to tell you something you may already know. You're gifted.  Now I don't mean that in the way schools will later describe you; advanced in the knowledge and skills schools measure.  And I don't mean you are some sort of prodigy or intellectual giant. (You might be. Who knows.  And who knows if that's more gift or burden?)  What I mean by gifted, is that you have special talents (I believe we are all born with them), and  nothing to hinder you revealing them.  You are healthy.  Your DNA, with a few exceptions, is sound.  You are safe, for now. You are loved. You are not born into poverty, or arrogance and wealthy privilege.  You have extended family.  The society you'll know, while not perfect, is better than most, with values and traditions, as well as challenges.  Did I say you were loved?
       And now the bad news.  Since you are gifted, there will be expectations.  Part of the excitement of a newborn is the potential for the development of a person of unique value; someone who can make a difference in the world, make it a better place, maybe fix some of the problems we couldn't.  You represent hope.  That's a lot of pressure, even though nobody can clearly define that "person of value" for you, or show you a sure way to get there, as it should be.
       You'll pretty much decide your own course, and in your case there's nothing stopping you.  Some of us spend our whole lives just trying to figure it out.  Trust me, the bar setters will have high standards for you.  Ignore them.  Blow right past them.  Don't allow yourself to be limited.  Be that Marine commercial.
       Once again though, you have an edge. You share a home with accomplished difference makers.  Understanding what drives them can help you.  Wherever that leads, know I'm cheering you on.
       Now and again, I'll set paper to pen.  You do the same.  Go team Nora! K

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Promise Kept

 The baby cruised through gestation and was born normally and she's fine.  Better than fine.  She kept her promise.  Of course she did.  People in that family always do.  And now I can admit that I was terrified that she might not.  All the disappointment and doctors and drugs and moods and embryos in glass...  Then the announcement and celebration ten minutes pregnant... And the documentation, baby bump photos, research and friends sharing advice...  The nursery build, the showers, the photo shoot, the sonograms.  I suppose there are warriors and worriers, and I'm more the latter,  but I couldn't keep from the edge of my mind the fear there might be a problem, and the devastation that could follow.  But as she graduated trimester to trimester my confidence grew, and now that she's home and swaddled, I'm hoping my reticence didn't scare or offend anyone.  Someday I'll thank her, just for showing up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Practical Thermodynamic Weight Loss

      Two folks discussing the best way to lose weight and remain happy, healthy humans.  Exercise and portion control with supplements wins the day.  However, the old calories-in-vs-calories-out cliche ruffles feathers, and the debate heats up.  I've been in this discussion, and it is silly, in a way.  I hear my own words spoken a different day, "Everything you eat is burned, stored or passed.  It's simple physics."  And from the other side, "But people metabolize at different rates.  Some store fat more efficiently", yada yada.  All true of course, but irrelevant to the starving argument.
      They both turn to me.  Dangit. I knew this would happen.
      "Well", I say, "Real world observation shows that, without exception, malnourished individuals lose tissue mass.  But I'm not sure they're all that happy about it!"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dear Nora - A Modeling Career?

Dear Nora:
       Folklore describes the loss of a bit of life energy whenever a human image is captured on paper or in a box.  Some would say that putting a camera on every corner (and in satellites) produces a soul-less society.  I don't know if that's true.  But I can relate that cameras have gradually come to record major parts of my life, even being inserted into an orifice or two, and with every incident playback and viewed image, I feel diminished. 
       I wasn't too distressed seeing the first grainy photos of your cute face pressed up against the glass pane of the womb, only curious that there seemed to BE a glass pane in the womb. 
      Then you and your folks decided to do that pregnant photo shoot.  There you were, pushed out front in some poses that weren't perhaps suitable for all audiences.  I don't know if you had input into the tone and content of the session, or retain editing rights and control of the release of the material, but this early in your career I suggest being conservative to avoid regrettable images that might dictate your path.
      Of course, at your coming out party, there were lots of photos with family, etc.  Even those pics should be limited to ten thousand or so, and should require a waiver. 
      Then, lo and behold, the hospital is using your picture on it's promotional billboards around town.  Hundreds of thousands of folks will know who you are.  Congrats to your agent.  Some say that "any press is good press", but I can assure you from personal experience that is not always the case. (Not talking about it.)  But from the images I've seen, you're safe, and the hospital made a good investment.  You ARE getting paid, right?  You can count on photographers, ad-men, and "friends" in the industry wanting a piece of your success, but insist that bits of your soul come with a price.  Your "life energy" is boundless now, but you won't be young and perfect forever with clamorers at your door.  Work it. 
      Anyway, congrats at your achievements. I'll drop a note here and there.  You do the same. K

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dear Nora: Happy Birthday

Dear Nora:
     Happy Birthday.  I'd sing but they say my voice should be perfectly pitched.  But really, it sounds like your birthday WAS happy.  Good job.  The labels I spoke of earlier, the ones people will assign to you because of the way you came; seem to be all positive.  "She sure didn't wait around!", and "Wow. Once she made up her mind...", and "She knows what she wants (food), and she's GOING for it!".
     Not to spoil your pride rock moment, but you may have noticed those around you are winding down some.  The adrenaline rush will have a rebound.  They, like you, have been through some changes in the last few days.  In a perfect world, you'd all have a quiet week to just recoup and adjust, but that's not the way of things.  There will be a parade of well wishers and tribute payers, people who really want to get to know you and people who just like to hug babies.  It's all good.  They're all good.  Buy into the entertainment value and network a little.
     Heads up, though.  Your Mom may be in for a chemical mood storm in a couple of days.  It affects some Moms pretty bad.  Do what you can to help her through it.  You've got some pretty powerful tools at your disposal.  Try this:  Look as far into her eyes as you possibly can, and report back to me what you see there.     Sometimes you have to stare, or squint, or really focus, but what you'll find is magical.  And the more you search, the quicker and more thoroughly she'll heal.  I've seen it.
     Forgive your folks if they lapse for a moment here and there, forgetting that your needs come first.  Nobody is 24/7 totally on task strong. I'm guessing that your household won't need much reminding, but when they do, be gentle.
     Well, on your second day, try and experience something entirely different.  Know that I'm thinking of you and yours, and that I'd be right there with you instead of sitting here all hermitty comfy, watching the snow build with a hot breakfast in my belly and my feet on a warm dog, except that there are serious, serious deeds here needing tending.  Ahem.
     I'll write now and then.  You do the same.  K