Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Remembering Carrie Fisher

2016, that horrible, horrible dumpster fire of a year, is not done with us yet, apparently.  Today we lost Carrie Fisher, who suffered a heart attack on an airplane over the Christmas holiday.  Today it was announced that she had died.  Today it seems like the entire world is mourning Princess Leia. Maybe it's because of the success of the first stand-alone Star Wars movie, "Rogue One."  Maybe it's just because Carrie was such a memorable icon, whether in her white dress and buns or her metal bikini and ponytail.

When I think of Carrie, though, I don't think of "Star Wars."  I think of "The Blues Brothers."

See, back during my acting career (such as it was) I got to work as an extra on the Chicago set of "The Blues Brothers."  I was in the crowd during the finale's concert, and I was in the crowd dodging the cars during the chase scene in the mall.  I got to meet most of the principal actors at the craft table.  John Belushi kept mostly to himself.  Dan Aykroyd was very nice and very genial, always making sure that the little guys were doing OK.  And Carrie was simply hilarious.  She always had a story, and seemed to always be laughing.  While I did not meet her formally, like I did with Dan, I was usually in the group she was telling stories to in between takes.  There were a fair number of "Star Wars" nerds among the extras even then, and Carrie was always willing to oblige with a story, usually one at her expense.

I do remember that Dan gave her the Heimlich Maneuver one day when she was choking, and I heard that they became engaged shortly afterwards.  I can't speak to the truth of the second part, but I know he saved her from choking.  I also found out long afterwards that part of the craft budget went towards the purchase of cocaine for the principal actors.  I couldn't say who indulged, but I'm sure most of my readers have their own opinions.

My favorite words from Carrie herself:

So in respect for her wishes, let me say that today Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

One of my daughter's Tumblr friends, who blogs under the name "princess-slay-ya" had this to say, and God, do I wish I had written it myself (but be warned, some language is not safe for kids/work) --

"It's hard to imagine moving foward without Carrie Fisher, but her legacy will remain even if she is not physically with us.  She was someone who went through shit in life and still came out of it a princess.  We all may never star in one of the most famous movies of all time, or be award-winning authors, or help write one of the most famous Star Wars movies of all time, or be able to tweet with emojis in witty and hilarious ways, but we can all still be like Carrie.  She survived, she thrived, she owned who she was.  She was just as much of a rebel as Leia is.

"We can carry on with Carrie's legacy by loving ourselves and fighting for ourselves and being the kind of people that Carrie would be proud of.  Whether it be writing that story you've been dying to tell, or looking in the mirror and saying, 'this is my body and I fucking love it!' or just simply getting up in the morning again and again and keep moving forward.  She would want to know that she is survived by a legacy of boys and girls who give no fucks and who fight for themselves and who were inspired by everything Carrie gave to the world.

"May the Force be with you."

I would like to end with this Tweet from K O'Shea:  "Fight on the front lines.  Strangle fascists with the chains they would have you wear.  Be a motherfuckin' general."

And as for 2016 -- I hope you die, and it hurts, and you suffer while you die.  For Carrie, and for Richard Adams, whom you also took from us today.  Burn in Hell, 2016.  You abomination.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Giving Update

Just a quick update for our holiday giving project:  See the previous blog entry for details on who and how you too can donate, to causes that may be under threat with the incoming Trump administration. So far my family and friends have really, really come through.  There are no presents under our tree.  There are no stockings hung on our mantle.  And if there were, they would remain empty.  But my family and my friends have, to date, donated over $2,200.00 to the NAACP Legad Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, etc., etc.

I could not be more proud of my family and my friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Holiday Giving

I have been going back and forth as to whether or not to share this with the world.  Here goes nothing.  I hope I won't have to disable comments.  I post this not to offend anyone, or to initiate any arguments, political or otherwise.  I'm sharing because this is what my family decided as a group to do this year, and I believe it may be of use to others.

This year we sent out variations on the following message, and I'd like to share it publicly now:

"Dear Family and Friends,

"Megan, Olivia and I want to try something different this holiday season.  To say that the election this year was a disappointment would be a huge understatement.  We honestly believe that this is a dark time in our lives, politically speaking.  So we are asking all of our friends and family members that might be sympathetic to the mess that our country is in to please do this for us:  instead of giving us stuff for the holidays, we would like you to take every penny that you would have spent on us and instead donate it to one of the causes that are going to be under siege with a Trump presidency.

"I know we have tried to do this in the past, to unplug the "Christmas Machine," but it somehow always got away from us.  But this year we are going to ask you all to please forego ANY holiday giving to us.  No little tokens. No “just a little something to open.”  No stocking stuffers.  Nothing.  Take every cent you might have spent on gifts of stuff and instead give that money to something truly worthy.  (Kids are, of course, exempt; we are happy to get something for the kids!)

"Last Week Tonight, John Oliver’s show on HBO, had some excellent suggestions and we are sharing them with you below.  This is the complete list of John Oliver’s recommended charities, but feel free to find your own.  You know what the issues are.  And if you have a preference on a charity to which you would like us to donate in your name, please let us know.  We'd love donations to the Trevor Project or the Trans Lifeline.

"An article on John Oliver can be found at  https://www.inverse.com/article/23698-john-oliver-donate-trump-list-president

"The Trevor Project, for LGBTQ youth:  https://give.thetrevorproject.org/checkout/donation?eid=63307

"The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, for immigrant rights:  http://www.maldef.org/ways_to_donate/index.html

"Planned Parenthood, for women’s reproductive health:  https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2;jsessionid=FA6641A45265C5F542940F5929F82A7B.app259b?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1&s_src=Evergreen_c3_PPNonDirected_shorturl

"The Center for Reproductive Rights, also for women’s reproductive health:  https://www.reproductiverights.org

"Natural Resources Defense Council, if you care about climate change:  https://www.nrdc.org

"The International Refugee Assistance Project, for refugees from ISIS and other world tragedies:  http://www.refugeerights.org/donate/

"The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to fight racism:  http://www.naacpldf.org

"The Trans Lifeline, a suicide and help line for trans youth:  http://www.translifeline.org/donate

"We all believe that is truly one of those times when like-minded people need to band together, walk the walk, and put our money not only where our mouths are, but where it will do the very most good for the most people.  It’s up to us to shine as much light as we can in these dark times.

"To better days (and holidays) in the future.  And know that we love you all.

"Always, Megan, Tom and Olivia"

So that's it.  If nothing else, I hope the links are useful for any charitable giving you might want to do.  And have the happiest of holidays, from my family to yours.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


So it's the morning after the 2016 US election.  Trump won.  Dear God in Heaven, Trump won.  We can look forward to four years minimum of misogyny, homophobia, isolationism, racism and God only knows what else.

The main reason voters are citing is that they wanted "change."  They wanted an outsider who would come in and "shake things up."

To which I say, be careful what you wish for.

After the mess he inherited when he assumed office in January 2009, President Obama has been steadily, quietly and determinedly reducing the national debt and rebuilding the economy.  Unemployment is at an historic low.  And he has not gotten one iota of credit for it from the people who voted Trump last night.

I remember reading some years ago about something that I thought was the most peculiar thing I'd ever heard of.  Apparently there is a segment of the Japanese population, usually the older folks, who are literally incapable of hearing Japanese if it's being spoken by a Westerner.  The idea that only Japanese people can speak this beautiful, complex language is so deeply ingrained that even the most fluent of Western speakers is heard as gibberish.  They just can't get their minds around the idea.

I wonder if the same thing isn't going on here.

I wonder if there isn't so much white anger and fear bubbling below the surface that some people simply cannot accept the idea of a black leader making things better.  Which Obama has done, in the face of hatred, obstructionism and deep, deep partisanship.  My sister, who testified before Congress in Obama's first year in 2009, overheard two Congressmen saying to one another that "this guy gets NOTHING."  Anecdotal, but certainly arguable in the light of ensuing events, what with unfilled appointments, executive action having to be taken over legislation, and all the other political crap we've had to deal with for eight years.  I think that some people have their heads so deeply in the sand that they simply cannot see how much better things are than they were eight years ago.  There is a whole cycle of memes to be found that start, "if Obama were white...."  I think there is a lot of truth to be found there.

Which is why we find ourselves as Americans witnessing our first black President turning over the keys to the White House to the first candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

My heart is broken today, and I don't know if it will ever be mended.  I'm nearing the end of my days, but I fear for the world my daughter now will have to live in, in an America divided by hate; an America that seems to say it's OK to treat women and minorities badly; an America that turns a blind eye to global warming until it's too late to reverse it; an America that I truly believe will find itself feared and shunned by the rest of the world.

Monday, October 10, 2016

One Month to Go...

So last night was the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I'm not going to go there, apart from saying that I honestly and truly believe that Trump is a misogynist and a narcissistic psychopath who has no business representing or leading the United States of America.  So that's my politics out of the way.

No, this is about the aftermath, particularly about the idiot woman being interviewed on NPR this morning who is insisting that Trump's comments about women, specifically that "when you're a celebrity you can do whatever you want; walk right up to them and grab them by the p***y," this so-called "locker room talk," is just something that "all men do."

This absolutely not something all men do.

Not at all.

This is an insult to me and to all those who try to go through life respectful of women, of people.  I would never, never, ever engage in this kind of talk, nor would I tolerate it from others.

That Trump is being given a free pass for this, and by a woman, is mind-boggling.  I don't get it.  I don't understand.  Is it a matter of face?  Is it that right-wingers are so invested in this blatantly unqualified candidate that they feel compelled to justify their support of him, no matter what?  What is it going to take for people like her, like Chris Christie, like Rudy Giulani, to say, "Nope.  I'm sorry; this was a huge mistake, and I owe you all a huge apology."  Or at least to publicly state that in view of recent events and remarks made by this candidate they can longer justify their support for his candidacy.  That's a nice phrase, in bland politicalese, but it still lets them off the hook.  A hook on which they were willing to gladly impale themselves upon, but never mind.

Please.  Vote this November.  Turn out in numbers sufficient to send a message to this creep without a conscience AND to all of his ignorant supporters that America will not tolerate him or his message.

Not now.  Not ever.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Best of the Best

Sorry things have been quiet.  I've been laid up after foot surgery a few weeks ago, and I'm terribly behind with my comics.  I'll be on crutches and unable to drive for at least three more weeks, so my lovely wife and daughter surprised me yesterday by making a run to my local comics shop and picking up the books that were waiting in my subscription box.  (Side note:  If you live in Central Pennsylvania, the absolute best LCS is Comix Connection.  Tell 'em Box 35 sent you.)

I've really been enjoying what DC has been doing with their REBIRTH event.  They really seem to be trying hard to put the best of everything in their history back into play in their books.  Clearly, I am a fan of all things Green Lantern, and DC is indeed doing a fantastic job with the whole Green Lantern mythos.

But the book that literally brought me to tears is one that you can still run out and find:  Wonder Woman #4.  This is Wonder Woman's 75th "birthday" and DC is pulling out all the stops, especially since Gal Gadot stole the Batman V Superman movie as Wonder Woman this past summer.  Unlike some of the other books, Wonder Woman is coming out every two weeks with an alternating story line.  Odd numbered books tell the story of what Wonder Woman is up to now, and it's a pretty good story about her search for her lost homeland.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, or as writer Gail Simone calls her, "Dark Swordy."

But the real gem is what's going on in the even-numbered books:  "Wonder Woman Year One" as written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by the incomparable Nicola Scott.  Nicola Scott is an Australian artist whose work I first saw when she began illustrating DC's Birds of Prey book in 2007. Birds of Prey was bring written at that time by one of my favorite writers, Gail Simone, who I have mentioned in this column before, and the combination of Simone's writing and Scott's art made BoP the book I absolutely had to read first when it came out.  They also knocked it out of the park with Secret Six in 2008-09.  (One of my most prized possessions is an autographed script from Gail Simone of an issue of Secret Six from during their run together.)  The point is that I've been familiar with Scott's artwork for almost ten years, and it has always been fantastic.

Recently she and Greg Rucka have been doing an independent comic called Black Magick which I also cannot recommend highly enough.  Every now and then I find something that I love so much that I start handing out to anyone and everyone I know who will stand still long enough to take it from me.  One of these things is the novel Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  I must have given away dozens of copies over the years.  Another of these is Black Magick.  I've pretty much cleaned out my local comics store so that I can do this.  It's a police procedural featuring a practicing Wiccan detective, and it's brilliant.

Wonder Woman Year One, however, has taken things to an entirely new and higher level.

Part Two of the story, which makes up issue #4 of the new series, details the meeting of Princess Diana and Steve Trevor and the decision of the Amazons to send an emissary to the outer world, an emissary who is chosen by a competition of all the Amazons to find their best.  Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, wins the competition and agrees to give up her immortality to become the Amazon ambassador to our world.

The artwork is heartbreakingly beautiful.

I am not exaggerating.  I was, quite literally, moved to tears, not once, but twice.  Once when Diana has to reveal to Steve that he is the only survivor of the crash that brought him to their island, and again when I turned the page to see the two-page spread that encompasses and condenses the Amazon Contest.  DC is printing the book on good quality paper and all of the subtle line work and coloring is presented in the best possible light.

I was unable to get permission to reproduce any of the artwork in time for this writing, but a sanctioned preview of the issue can be found here at the Diamond Comics Distributors PREVIEWS website.

I know that when I get around to plugging popular culture and comics, I get enthusiastic and trot out clichés like, "run, don't walk, to your local shop and pick up a copy of YADDAYADDA now!"  So all I can tell you is that the latest run of Wonder Woman is the proverbial Real Deal, and whether or not you like comics, or read comics, or give a hoot about comics, you are doing yourself a real disservice by not picking up the Year One issues and reading them.

And you might want to grab a few issues of Black Magick while you're there.  Either way, you won't be sorry.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Alienating Everybody

Just a brief entry to let you all know that this week I managed to alienate the remaining members of my family, at least those about whom I care a great deal.

My sister made a very public post supporting Olympic athlete Michael Phelps' practice of cupping.  Cupping is the Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment where they put hot cups on your Qi Meridian points and as the cups cool, physics causes the flesh under the cups to get sucked up into the cup.  It's like the opposite of massage and is the reason Phelps swam with those big purple bruises all over his back and shoulders.  (No, he did not wrestle with a giant squid.  Although that would have been cool.)

Sadly, cupping is also COMPLETE BULLSHIT.  It has no medicinal value, and may do irreparable harm.  Those purple marks were bruises, and indicative of damaged tissue, which is never good.  I told my sister so in no uncertain terms, although I did so privately and not in her public forum.  (She is a well-know vegan chef and proponent of whole foods diets.)  Pretty sure she's majorly pissed off at me, regardless.

Secondly, my beloved aunt, the last living member of the generation before mine, sent me a long and detailed email about how it is the good Christian's duty to vote Trump this fall.  To which I replied, "Oh, HELL, no!"  I also may have said something to the effect that I would never, never, never give my vote to that narcissistic psychopath and would do everything in my power to see that he never gets to the White House.  So I'm pretty sure she's pissed off at me as well.

And you know what?

I'd do it again.

Cupping IS bullshit, and Trump IS completely unqualified and possibly dangerous.

Sorry, family.

Monday, July 25, 2016

United Airlines Service Is Terrible

"Fly the Friendly Skies," my @$$.

I am just back from a two-week vacation in Venice, Italy.  It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime.  We have been planning it for over a year.  A villa was rented along with friends and family, plans were made, reservations for museums and historic sites made, etc.  Last March I had our travel agent book our airline tickets.  Now in case I haven't mentioned it before, I am a tall person.  I am 6'5" tall, and I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and therefore I do not fold up easily or comfortably.  And if I hate one thing about air travel, it is when I have the head of the person in front of me in my lap for most of the trip.  So I instructed our travel agent to either get us Business Class seats or, if those were unavailable, bulkhead seats in Economy Plus.  We had tons of time and lots of notice, and our agent booked us with United Airlines.  It was great.  We had a direct flight to Marco Polo Internation Airport in Venice -- no changes, no layovers.  Although we were not able to get Business class reservations, we did -- for a hefty extra fee -- reserve two bulkhead seats in row 16. Confirmed.  I still have the e-ticket, and if it didn't have other personal information on it, I would share it with you right here.  "Seats 16 A/B ECONOMY PLUS BULKHEAD--CONFIRMED."

We try to be good travelers.  We pack our liquids properly; we have our electronic devices charged and ready to be shown to TSA agents; in short, we waste nobody's time including our own.  So we arrived at the airport three hours before our flight was scheduled.  And that's when the vacation started to go to hell.

United no longer has as many human agents for baggage check-in as they once did.  They now use electronic kiosks which scan either your e-ticket or your passport.  We scanned our passports, checked our one bag, and the machine spit out our seat assignments.  They were not together.  They were not even in Economy Plus.  They were in Coach.

I had brought all the necessary receipts, so I found a human, and showed them that I had paid extra for bulkhead seats, and had seat confirmation.  They treated me like a shoplifter.  Eventually a supervisor deigned to actually look on his terminal and saw that we had indeed paid for Economy Plus.  He found us two seats in Economy Plus, but they were not together.  And they were not bulkhead.  His suggestion was to "contact United customer service when you get back."

SERIOUSLY??!?!??!  When I get back?  I paid for these f--king seats TODAY, pal!

He DID do us the "favor" of arranging for us to sit together on the trip home.  In Plus.  But not at the bulkhead.  Not at the seats for which I still have the piece of paper telling me were confirmed.

We decided we would have better luck with the gate agent.  The first agent told us he'd look into it, but never touched his keyboard.  You know how sometimes when you're dealing with someone, you get a vibe that they have absolutely no interest or intention of helping you?  This guy was giving it off in waves.  After twenty minutes, we asked him again.  He said he was still looking into it.  He must have been using his psychic abilities, because he never looked at his terminal.  A second agent, a blonde woman, showed up.  We asked her.  Same crap, different person.  She was looking into it for us.  Again, using a crystal ball perhaps, but not her computer terminal.  Another twenty minutes, another agent. We asked her.  She actually tried to use the computer, but her password didn't work.  It was rapidly descending into absurdity.

Finally, our angel of mercy, a middle-aged woman named Martha Green, came over to the gate.  We told her our story from scratch.  She couldn't help with the bulkhead seats, she said, but she was able to get us seated together.  She did it in less than two minutes.  All it took was finding a solo passenger, and switching him with my wife.  She paged the guy to tell him about his new seat and when he didn't show up, she gave his new boarding pass to the lady at the gate and said simply, "When Mr. XXXXXX shows up, give him this."

So we left for Venice (two hours late, but that was a whole 'nother clusterf--k) but what should have been a joyous departure full of anticipation was instead full of anger and resentment.  And of course, I had some a-hole fully reclined in my lap for the trip, albeit with a bit more room thanks to our Plus seating.  And we had the same problem for the return trip looming over us for the entirety of our vacation.  (And indeed, on the trip home I once again had a short woman in front of me who felt the need to fully recline her seat for the entire 9-hour flight.  Awful.)

Our travel agent is trying to get us a refund of the bonus we paid for the seats we never got.  She did get the United agent she spoke with to admit that there was no earthly reason for us to have been bumped from our bulkhead seats.

United, if you are reading this (ha!) all I can tell you is that I don't want any coupons or miles, because I plan to never use your airline again if I can possibly avoid it.  I don't want any crappy merchandise with your logo on it, because I don't want to advertise anything but your lousy service.  I might accept free first class tickets to any destination you serve, but I think I'll see that only if hell freezes over.

No, what I really want is an apology.  And your assurance that the next poor slob who tries to reserve himself some comfort in advance isn't bumped because of greed, or stupidity, or to accommodate a friend of someone on the crew, or to butter up a loyal 100,000 mile United customer.  I don't know how it happened, and I don't care.

United, you effing OWE ME AN APOLOGY.

Friday, July 8, 2016

First Jobs In The Theatah (Plus Propmaking in the Stone Age!)

Before I have to disappear for a while thanks to some upcoming surgery, I wanted to at least get this out there.  So -- Chapter 3 in my story, for what it's worth.

After graduating with a 5-year degree in Drama, it was time to look for paying work.  At that time there was a massive "cattle call" style audition for something called the South East Theater Conference, or SETC.  Mostly it was used to help cast the giant "outdoor dramas" that were more popular back then than they are now.  Shows like "The Trail of Tears" and "The Book of Job" which ran all summer long in outdoor theaters, largely as tourist attractions.  But there were also dinner theaters and regional theaters doing casting as well.  I ultimately accepted an intern position at a dinner theater in Lexington, KY, which was supposed to offer room, board, a very small salary and a chance to learn the trade by working with more experienced professionals.  Sadly, it was grossly misrepresented and the interns were essentially slave labor.  Or at least indentured labor.  I did not learn anything new, but in fairness I was given the chance to put what I had learned at U.Va. into practice.  I did stage lighting, sound, prop creation, scenery building, and so forth.  The "room" turned out to be a cot in the basement of the owner's dad.  The "board" was dinner theater leftovers.  Luckily my sanity was saved by the fact that my roommate at U.Va. also took the same internship and we were thrown into it together.  I learned how to make props and dress sets on the cheap, by borrowing and scrounging and exchanging ad space in the programs for something essential (like, say, an antique candlestick telephone or a vintage lava lamp.)  I mostly wanted to perform, though; not intern as a stagehand, so I was always auditioning and lobbying for a chance to audition.  The owner was very reluctant to lose his cheap labor force, though, and resisted mightily.  I finally got a decent speaking part in "Fiddler On The Roof" and when the show closed, I was dismissed.  Not for anything wrong that I had done; hell, I taught them more about props and sound than they ever taught me.  I think the owner was just tired of having me try out instead of working in the shop.

I did leave them with some great stuff that I had learned how to do.  I built a vacuform machine for things like door moldings and set trimmings.  (A vacuform machine is basically a wooden frame that holds a sheet of thin plastic which you soften using heat.  Underneath this frame you place a mold of whatever you want to duplicate.  The top frame fits snugly over the bottom frame -- the one with the mold -- and is connected to a vacuum cleaner.  You put the softened plastic over the mold while sucking out the air and bam! instant mold.)

 A basic home-made vacuform machine.

 Photo courtesy of Punished Props: A vacuform machine with the mold in place, and with the molded softened plastic.  You can turn out as many copies of the mold as you need to make.

Another neat trick I left them with:  Making a bell with instant urethane moulding foam.  Instant foam is a two-ingredient product: you add Ingredient One to Ingredient Two and you get a growing mass of insulation-type foam.  If you place Ingredient One in a cup and add Ingredient Two to the center, it will "boil over" the rim of the cup and form the shape of a bell when it hardens.  It's versatile stuff, and in the days before EVA foam carving, it was used for a ton of different things.  Here's an incredibly boring video about it from the manufacturer:  

When I was actively making props, urethane foam and light woods like balsa were the tools I most often used.  Today's propmakers are doing insanely creative things with materials we never dreamed of using.  Things like floor mats and a moldable material called Worbla are de rigeur work materials for props and armor, and being from another age, I have almost no experience with them.  About the only props I've made recently are a lightsaber hilt (from leftover plumbing materials) and a steampunk style Doctor Who sonic screwdriver.

My homemade lighsaber.  Yoda is not losing any sleep.

And that's pretty much it.  About ten years into my career as an actor, I was still working children's theater and dinner theater.  It was fun and rewarding, and for the most part paid the bills, but then I began getting more and more sick from Crohn's Disease.  I also began having other autoimmune-disease related problems that have since been diagnosed as things like rheumatoid arthritis and some weird neurological degeneration thing similar to ALS that affects my sensory nerves more than my motor nerves and has caused peripheral neuropathy.  When I collapsed on stage during a performance and turned out to need a transfusion of 11 pints of blood thanks to an internal hemorrhage (thanks to Crohn's) I knew I had to seriously start looking at my life.  I didn't think I could continue to live out of my suitcase as an itinerant performer any more.

I basically decided to look at things I loved.  I knew I didn't want to do anything that would directly or indirectly harm the environment, and I knew I loved books and reading.  I knew that my favorite work-study job back in college had been at the library.  So I learned to become a librarian.  I eventually met my wife, had a kid, and stayed in the library business a lot longer than I would have been able to stay an actor.  Ultimately I had to quit that job, too, because of poor health. 

Which brings me to today.  I am effectively disabled thanks to autoimmune disease.  I find it difficult to leave the house most days because I am chained to the plumbing, so to speak, but thanks to the internet I don't feel as trapped as I certainly would have a generation ago.  I have a wife and a daughter whom I love very much, and to whom I dedicate these scribbles.

For what it's worth to you, that's my story.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Another Interruption

Once again, I find myself interrupting my (admittedly) sketchy attempt at autobiography to write about tragedy and stupidity.  Britain has voted to leave the European Union.

This is perhaps the stupidest thing Britain has done since Neville Chamberlain came home with that infamous non-aggression "piece of paper" from Herr Hitler.

It leaves me depressed for the future of my own country.  If Britain, a nation I have always admired for a variety of reasons ranging from pop culture to high art, can behave with such ignorance, then anything is possible, even the stringing together of the words "President" and "Trump."  This is the same kind of isolationist idiocy that has some people in my country clamoring for a giant wall to keep immigrants out, to close borders to an entire faith, and to turn our backs on those poor bastards who are simply fleeing horror and turmoil in search of a better life for their children.

It is a knee-jerk reaction to troubled times and it will bring nothing but trouble.  My understanding is that weather (of all things) may have been a factor:  the weather across Britain was bad and so only the more passionate, those who wanted to leave, bothered to show up at the polls.  And with what result?  The British pound is already at a 31-year low as of this writing, and the results were only finalized a few hours ago.  It is all part of this same idiotic movement to "take our country back" when in fact there was nothing wrong with the country in the first place.  It is, in short, STUPID.  As stupid as electing a racist, misogynist, jingoist blowhard with bad hair will be if America follows suit in November.  I hope that, if nothing else, we take the British vote as an object lesson in the importance of showing up to vote.

We shall see.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Some Adventures In College Theatre (Plus Leonard Nimoy!)

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.  (Well, not really; I never can keep any kind of a schedule with this blog, but this is the sequel to the earlier post "My Story, FWIW.")  Have fun.

In college I abandoned any ideas that I or my family had about me practicing law and began thinking in earnest of a career in the theatre.  I took my first acting class under an amazing teacher named Robert "Buzz" McLaughlin and actually began to feel like this could be a thing for me.  I auditioned for everything, from major productions down to workshops but never got a nibble.  The reason most often given to me was that I was too damned tall.  I am 6'5" (or was; I've shrunk some as I've gotten older) and at the time the Drama building (Minor Hall!  Appropriately named!) was one of the shabbiest buildings on campus.  The theater was a converted lecture hall and it was essentially a shoebox on its side.  If you were over six feet tall, you looked like you were hitting your head on the lights.  And it was a damned shame, because that school put on some amazing productions in that tiny space.  But I plugged away, and kept taking classes.  The voice and rhetoric teacher, Art Greene -- who is the voice of William T. Sherman in Ken Burns' "Civil War" documentary -- helped me get rid of my New Joisey accent, Lois Garren taught me how to move, and LaVahn Hoh taught me how to build props and scenery.

And then we got a new building.

And when I say a new building, it was a brand spanking new building, with two state of the art theaters -- one traditional proscenium stage, and one big experimental black box with flexible seating.  A lot of thought and planning went into how best to open the building.  The Powers That Be decided that the first play would be presented in the big black box theater and that it would be "Of Mice And Men" by John Steinbeck.  A play with a role in it that nobody could tell me I was too tall or too big to play: the huge (and hugely tragic) Lennie.  I auditioned, and it was the most agonizing process I ever experienced; nothing I went through professionally ever even came close.  There were more callbacks for this show than ever before in the history of the department.  There are eight male roles in the play, and the director kept calling back nine actors, including me and one other big guy.  It didn't take a genius to figure out where he was having trouble making a decision.

The director was a guy who went on to become a great mentor and friend to me, but at the time he didn't know me from Adam.  At the third or fourth callback, he had with him as advisors the two acting teachers, Buzz McLaughlin and another professor who never seemed to have much use for me.  He never cast me in anything, and was never warm or even civil in my years at U.Va.  Again, I didn't need to be an Einstein to figure out that Buzz was rooting for me and the other prof was rooting for the other big guy, and the poor director just couldn't figure out what would work best.

The day they posted the final cast list I remember just standing there looking at my name in complete disbelief, for a really, really long time.  I thought it had to be some kind of mistake.  I had been cast as Lennie.

I nearly did not make it onto the stage.  About halfway through the rehearsal process I had my first major attack of Crohn's Disease and had to be hospitalized.  Luckily I did NOT need surgery, that time anyway, and was able to get back to the show.  It went very well.  The play was staged sort of in the round, with audience on either side.  (The technical description is "alley" staging.)  People were inches away from the actors and the immediacy was very powerful for those of us on stage.  The show ended in a standing ovation after every performance, which I never got to hear, because I was temporarily deafened by the gunshot that kills Lennie at the ending.  We had borrowed the Colt six shooter from the local county sheriff (even though the script calls for a Luger) and an unwadded blank was shot off a couple of inches from the back of my head each night -- so close that I could see the flame from the barrel shoot past both my ears.  I look back on it and shudder, because if we had ever slipped up and used anything other than unwadded blanks, I would have been killed.  But people loved the show, I survived, and the new drama building was off to a great start.

I went on to do several more major productions, including one of my favorites, the Gestapo Major in Kurt Vonnegut's "Happy Birthday, Wanda June!"  That show was U.Va.'s entry in the Kennedy Center national college drama competition.  I was starting to build my resumé.

And like the other drama majors, when I wasn't in a show, I worked on it, learning to build props, paint, make scenery, and so forth.  Meanwhile, I was doing other things, like working as a disk jockey at the college FM station, and also working on getting guest lecturers with the Speakers' Union.  Now, I had been involved in Star Trek fandom since the show ended in 1969.  I was one of the Trekkies who helped organize the first Star Trek con in New York City in 1972.  My dream was to bring in a cast member for our speaker's program.  We found out that Leonard Nimoy was available and somehow we made it happen.  He came and addressed a crowd of thousands in our basketball arena, showed the Spock's Wedding episode ("Amok Time") and fielded questions for over an hour.  I made my first prop for this, a phaser.  I remember that it was fairly screen accurate, it did light up, and it did feebly make a sort of phaser-ish sound with the cheapo sound board that I had cannibalized from some kid's toy.  I actually got to use it during Nimoy's presentation when some guy cosplaying as a Klingon stood up.  Nimoy laughed his butt off.  Afterwards some of the speaker's committee went out for a beer with Leonard, me included.  I was on cloud 9.  Or at least Omicron Ceti Alpha 3.

Those were fun times.  But before I knew it, though, it was time for graduation and the dreaded Real World....

Friday, June 17, 2016


A few weeks ago, the presumed Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, did something pretty awful.  (Well, he's always doing something awful, but this was awful even for him.)  He made reference to Senator John McCain in a speech, saying that McCain was "not a war hero" because during the VietNam war, McCain "allowed himself to be captured."

Remember, if you will, that Donald Trump's military experience consists of whatever he may have learned at a military-type academy for troubled rich kids.  He probably learned how to march in step, make his bed and peel potatoes and not a whole hell of a lot else.

I felt pretty bad for Senator McCain.  I thought that it was a terrible, horrible thing to say about another human being; that Trump was completely clueless about how his remarks would feel to a man who spent years in a grim captivity by an unsympathetic enemy.  The fact that these remarks came from a man who was ostensibly the leader of his party must have made them sting all the more.

Cut to today.  After today, I wouldn't piss on Senator McCain if he was on fire.

We are currently in the aftermath of a horrible mass killing.  Some demented dirtbag who will not be named by me killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a club for LGBTQ people.  It was a Latin Night party at a gay club in the theme park capital of the world, which, as John Oliver said on his program, is proof of the greatness of America -- that we have Latin Night at a gay club in the theme park capital of the world.

The country is grieving.  The LGBTQ community feels threatened.  Terrible things are being said by the Christian Right, one preacher in San Diego going so far as to say that Orlando was now safer because 49 pedophiles had been killed.  Liberals want gun controls restored so that we no longer sell semiautomatic weapons, weapons which have no purpose other than the murder of as many people as possible in as short a time as possible.  Conservatives are stinging over the threat to their gun rights and to their notions of traditional morality, whatever the hell that is.

And then Senator McCain comes out with this filth:

McCain Says President Obama Responsible for Orlando Killings

Go ahead.  Click on the link.  According to the Washington Post article, McCain said in a speech that President Obama is directly responsible for the 49 deaths because the Islamic State came about on his watch as President.  This is an ugly, hideous, horrible, awful thing to dump on another human being.  It is also obviously untrue.  If anyone other than the actual murderer bears any responsibility, one might argue that the blame falls squarely on all of the congresspeople who allowed the ban on assault weapons to lapse back in 2005 -- years before Obama became President.  But you, Senator, were squarely in your seat representing Arizona, and you let it happen.

I blame you, and all your do-nothing cronies who are too afraid to give up the tens of thousands of dollars in blood money that you receive from the NRA.  I frankly consider your remarks to be treasonous.  They are certainly poisonous, and unfair.

It's time for you to retire, Senator McCain.  And maybe to have your head examined.  You may have been a hero once, sir, but no longer.

No longer.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tonight, I Am In Despair

Early this morning, a deeply disturbed man took an automatic weapon and some other instruments of murder into a gay club in Orlando, Florida, and embarked upon what is to date the worst mass killing in the history of our nation.  I will not name him.  I also will not engage in listing the other "top" mass killings.  I do not believe that any of them deserve so much as the merest footnote of a mention in history.  They need to remain in utter anonymity.

The reasons for this morning's tragedy are all snarled up in hatred.  Hatred for the other, for the different, for those who disagree with someone else's notions of morality or propriety; of what is or is not sacred; of what is or is not "right" and whose deity is the "only" deity.  We know from the killer's own father that he was recently "set off" by the sight of a gay couple kissing.  We know that he called 9-1-1 to declaim his allegiance to the Islamic State, whose repugnant philosphies degrade women, gays, lesbians, and transgender people; a "state" who calls for the deaths of all whom they deem different or who subscribe to any beliefs not theirs.

As I said, tonight I am in despair.  As a so-called child of the 1960's, I once had hopes of a world of universal peace and tolerance; a world which would someday see the triumph of the Golden Rule and the ideals of "Star Trek" (yes, "Star Trek") which say that we are greater because of the infinite diversity in infinite combinations of all people.

Instead, I find myself living in a society which is increasingly divisive.  I remember that in the past, on the day after a presidential election, the two sides shook hands and got on with the nation's business.  Now I live in a country where disagreement leads to paralysis.  I go (or I should say "went" because I have resigned my membership) to a church which destroyed itself because the congregation disagreed over whether or not to buy a property in a neighborhood that was not very nice.  I can think of no situation these days where when the votes are counted, the losing side shakes hands, accepts the results, makes the best of it, and gets on with life.

Like any parent, I fear for my child in this horrible society.  It's a society where my daughter cannot go out alone safely; where she must be paranoid about what she drinks and eats if she wants to be safe; where she has to hide behind headphones and books to escape harassment on public transportation.  Any father these days fears for his daughter's safety.  But when you add to this the fact that my daughter identifies as bisexual, and that she is in a relationship with a transgender female, I transcend fear into utter terror.

Tonight on the Tony awards, Frank Langella said, "When something bad happens, you have three choices: you can let it define you, you can let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you."  He meant it as a message of hope and solidarity.  But while I refuse to let this tragedy define me, I fear that it will destroy me, because I can take no strength from living in a country which utterly, absolutely, and completely refuses to acknowledge the danger and the damage caused by the insane permission of the sale and use of automatic weapons with large magazines.  These weapons serve no purpose other than the killing of human beings.  They are not used for sport, or for any other purpose.  All they do, despite protestations to the contrary, is kill as many people as possible.  And we have no political will whatsoever to end this.  If the murder of dozens of elementary school children could not galvanize us into action, the deaths of fifty-some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people certainly will not.

Earlier I spoke of the repugnant philosophies of the Islamic State.  The philosophies of so-called gun rights activists are no less repugnant.  The philosophies of Christian extremists who are already expressing the repellent idea that those gay clubgoers somehow deserved to be murdered are also no less repugnant.  The hatred and misogyny are overwheming.  They are fueling and fueled by in all too many cases religious belief and the idea that "my god is the only god, and anyone who believes differently needs to die."  Moreover, that to die in the process of killing for this idiocy will somehow grant favored status in the next life.

I cannot believe in a next life.  I cannot believe in any god.  I cannot bear to hear even the survivors thank a nonexistent "invisible friend" for their "miraculous" escape, because the implication is that those who did not survive were somehow not deserving of the miracle.  Not one of the victims of the latest tragedy, or any of the tragedies, deserved what happened to them.  I am trying desperately not to let this latest horror define me, but I feel no strength.  Only despair.

Friday, June 3, 2016

My Story, FWIW

So one of my friends wants to know a little bit about my past history.  I thought it might be nice to do that here, since I can edit and use actual punctuation and stuff, as opposed to on, say, Facebook, where an accidental bump of the "Enter" key puts all of your mistakes on the record forever. Plus the other two people who actually read this might find it interesting.

I did not grow up in a very functional home, so much so that I knew I wanted out at a very early age.  I started delivering papers when I was 10.  I started doing under-the-table child labor at a local plant when I was 12 or 13.  I always had a part-time job during school and a full-time job in the summer.  For the four years of high school I worked at a local supermarket and by the time I was a senior I was head cashier, in the retail workers' union, and making almost as much as my dad thanks to union overtime for working double shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.  All of this is by way of saying that starting at age 10 I began socking money away so that I could get away once I graduated from high school.

I got into a good school, the University of Virginia, with a decent scholarship and had what I thought was enough money to support myself.  Imagine my surprise when, the day before I left New Jersey for Virginia, I went to the bank to withdraw my money and found most of it gone.  My parents had been taking money out all along, just about as fast as I was putting it in.  From age 10.  I was expecting to withdraw close to $7,000.00.  My balance was $23.11.  Not a number you forget.

On a side note, this explained why I was forbidden to go to my prom.  I would have had to make a withdrawal for tickets, tuxedo, limo and flowers and would have discovered the loss before my parents were prepared to have me do so.

So I got to college with very little money.  At my high school graduation I had been awarded the Drama Scholarship, a whopping $400.00, which I still had -- thank my lucky stars I never deposited that check -- but otherwise very few funds.  I had to find a work-study job, fast, to buy books. Then I found out that my parents had not bought my meal ticket so that I could be on the food plan.  They used the money to make a mortgage payment.  Again, as with my bank account, they never told me.  I lived on care packages from my grandmother and -- literally -- scraps for that first year.  I was not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week or I would lose my scholarship, so I learned the true meaning of living paycheck to paycheck.

Somehow I got through that first year.  I stayed in Virginia, found a good summer job waiting tables, and kept my own damn money from then on.

Believe it or not, my family still held onto this fantasy that I was going to major in something pre-law-ish, go to law school, and become a rich lawyer who would then take care of them financially for the rest of their lives.  I did sort of buy into that myself, for a while, deciding to major in history, but that was before discovering the Drama Department.

You might have noticed I made mention of a high school drama scholarship a little earlier.  My activities in drama were a major source of contention and strife all through high school.  My father was dead set against any involvement, probably because he thought it would somehow "make me gay" (although the word "gay" was not in common use back in 1967.)  I was forced to drop out of the first play I was cast in so that I could try out for the baseball team.  Now I need to go on record with this:  I do not have the sports gene.  I don't enjoy watching them.  I am no good at playing them.  I rarely know what to say about them because I don't follow either college or professional anything.  So you can imagine how my tryout for the baseball team went.  I missed out on a chance to be in my first play for nothing.

But I stuck with it.  Eventually I was cast in other plays, and got bigger and bigger and parts.  I was very nearly president of the drama society when I was a senior, and played major roles in both the fall and spring productions.  So when I got to University, you can be damned sure that my liberal arts class requirements were going to be covered by classes from the Drama Department.  And they were. More on this soon....

Friday, April 22, 2016

Can't Take Credit

I can't take credit for this quote, but I can tell you that I agree with its sentiment wholeheartedly:  With regard to all the phoney transgender bathroom controversy bullshit, I personally grew up in a house with just two unisex bathrooms, and we all turned out OK.

THIS IS NOT AN ISSUE, PEOPLE.  Like Bill Maher just said, if you look like a guy, use the men's room; if you look like a woman, use the women's room, and if you're a big guy with a beard wearing a dress, hold it until you get home.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Stupidest Thing Yet

I live in a state -- Pennsylvania, to be specific -- which has draconian alcohol laws.  There are no private liquor stores.  Until recently, you could not purchase beer or wine in a supermarket.  There are still precious few supermarkets which actually offer beer; wine is still not available.  You cannot simply buy a six-pack in Pennsylvania.  You can only buy beer by the case.  I personally don't necessarily WANT a case of any one beer.  I'd like to mix things up.  But until the state loosened up a tiny bit on the grocery store thing, if I wanted a Blue Moon tonight and a Guinness tomorrow, I needed to purchase a case of each.  And find someplace to store them.  I am told that the rationale for this was to reduce alcohol consumption.

How forcing me to purchase a case of beer instead of a six-pack reduces my alcohol consumption remains a mystery.

Still, as I said, a few chosen grocery stores have been selected to try selling beer, by the six-pack, and I am lucky enough to have one of these stores a couple of miles from my home.  Today I did my grocery shopping and afterwards thought it might be nice to have a couple of beers waiting in the fridge for my wife and I for her day off work later in the week.

I was in line at the "Beer Garden" behind a couple of women who were buying a couple of six-packs. Here's a stupid thing:  the grocery is obliged under Pennsylvania law to card everyone who makes a beer purchase.  Everyone.  Even those of us like myself who are clearly more than old enough to legally buy beer.  So one of the women in front of me asked the other to hold onto both six-packs while she got her ID out.  Here's a stupider thing:  the clerk refused to serve them.  Apparently ALSO under the experimental grocery beer law, the clerk can only accept ID from the person who is holding the beer.  If another person touches the beer while in line and the clerk sees it, the clerk must card that person as well.  Moreover, if the person who touched the beer is not the person purchasing the beer, the beer cannot be sold.

Got all that?

Now finally, the stupidest thing:  The ladies really wanted to get their beer while they were at the store.  The clerk had to walk them back to the shelves, watch them put the beer back, and watch the person who was going to be carded then pick the beer back up and walk it over to the register.  You still with me?  They had to be escorted back to the shelves, put the beer back like naughty kindergarteners, and be watched while only one of them picked the beer back up and carried it back to the cash register.

All while I was waiting in line to be served, along with seven or eight other (equally incredulous) people.

Luckily they got it right the first time and only the person who was paying for the beer and being carded touched the beer this time.  A huge moral crisis was apparently averted.

There has been a movement for some time here promoting the privatization of liquor stores.  Up until today, I was against it -- I think the state does a pretty good job with selection and service, and my home state of New Jersey, which has private stores, has a pretty seedy bunch of them retailing liquor. The PA State Stores have a little class, at least.

However, after today, I'm no longer quite as sure as I was.  It was so effing STUPID.  And I hate stupid.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

OK, What The F∂∆§ Is Wrong With People?!?

Seriously, is it Donald Trump bringing out the worst and most petty aspects of people's personalities, or what??  I know that as a society, civility and politeness continue to drastically decline, but come on.

(I swear, next thing you know, Trump will want to try to kill Superman.)

Yesterday at the grocery store, an older woman had her cart parked diagonally across the center of the aisle while she sorted through her coupons.  She had to have known that nobody could get past her in any direction.  She simply had to.  In fact, if I were to hazard a guess, I would have to say that she had studied the situation beforehand and calculated the positioning that would cause maximum inconvenience to others.  Nobody who is allowed to drive and purchase groceries could be that otherwise oblivious.  It had to have been her little grab at power over others in order to feel better about her own life.  Which must be sad, but that didn't get me past her any more quickly.  I waited patiently for at least two minutes.  Which, as you know, is a damned long time to be standing in the aisle of a grocery store.  I know she saw me.  I know she knew I was there.  Eye contact was made.  Finally I had no choice but to ask her, as politely as I could, if she could please move her cart a little so that I could pass.  Now normally when this happens -- and it seems to happen around here a LOT -- the other party pretends that they have only now seen me for the first time and, oh goodness, here, let me get out of your way.  I guess they got their little frisson of power and it sufficed.  This time, though, the hag gave me a dirty, dirty look, as though I were somehow the bad guy here.

And that's when I lost it.

I said, and not quietly, "Listen, lady, you're the one blocking the aisle here, not me, so you can stick your dirty look.  If you have to count your coupons, at least pull over to the side a little so that others can use the store.  I am not the villain here."  And then I may have called her cheap bitch as I swung past.  Too much, I know, but I was fed up.

Today, at a different grocery store, my wife was just starting to back out of her parking space when another car stopped right behind her, preventing her exit.  The man stayed behind the wheel while the woman hopped out, popped the trunk, and began some lengthy arcane rearranging of whatever bags or baggage were in there.  Again, I KNOW THEY SAW US.  I know that they saw that we were just about to leave, that they blocked us, and that they were continuing to block us.  Finally, after the requisite two minutes -- and again, I am not exaggerating here; we actually waited two full minutes, which if you sit and try to hold your breath for it you will realize is quite a long time indeed -- we tapped the horn.  And got the same dirty look.  Like we were in the wrong.  Like we were the ones inconveniencing them.  I wanted to hop out of the car and give them both a piece of my mind, but my wife, a kinder and more patient soul than I, laid a restraining hand on my arm and said, "Let them have their moment of power."

I see this crap more and more, and I am getting well and truly fed up with it.  People who see that you are waiting for their parking space in a busy shopping center and suddenly have to engage in more checklists than an F-14 pilot before they get on their way.  Many times they will not leave their space until you have driven off in disgust.  Like they have somehow "won" by keeping you from parking in "their" space.  It's worse if the two parties involved are different races.  Doesn't matter which; all seem equally guilty in my experience.

People who cut you off in traffic when there are hundreds of yards of free space right behind you.  Because waiting that extra four seconds would apparently kill them.  Or people who race past you on the wrong side of the road to get to a left turn lane that they will then sit at, because God forbid they should wait and do it safely instead of risking a pointless head-on collision.  Or the "dieselers" who have their pickup trucks rigged to blow thick black smoke when they pass a Prius.  Or the ever-popular drag race at a red light.  Or the charming phenomenon of "man-spreading."  What the serious hell, people?

(Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?)
(See above caption....)

We are not living our lives on a point system.  You don't "win" because you were successfully mean to someone.  I realize that our society is long past the point where living according to the Golden Rule is a thing that the majority of us do...but we're all crowded onto the Earth together.  Could you at least try to be a little nicer?

That's all I ask.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Change One Thing

Recently I briefly posted a link on my Facebook page to an older entry here, the one about why I hate the changeover to Daylight Saving Time so much.  (More on that shortly.)  I took the link down after an acquaintance told me to "get a grip."  She scolded me that there are so many more important things that negatively impact "her life, her family, her country."  Honestly, my first reaction was pretty extreme, in that I wanted to slap her across her face.  Hard.

Hey, if you don't like what someone puts up on the Internet, just move on.  There's no need to scold, or to start flame wars, or to troll someone.  If you can't say something nice, keep quiet.  Or was Mommy too busy doing something else to teach you that basic lesson?  Just vote with your feet, walk away, and keep your opinion to yourself.  Don't scold me like you're my mom.  I'm 63.  My mom died, 35 years ago from ovarian cancer at the age of 48.  How's that for a negative impact on a life?

Or this:  it happens that one of the people dearest to me in the world now walks (if one can call it that) on one leg because she lost the other one in a car accident.  She had the accident when a distracted driver slammed into her on the Monday following the time change.  One of the 17% more accidents we have on average because of DST.  I mention this only to illustrate the point that if one doesn't know the entire story, maybe find out before climbing up on that high horse and telling someone to "get a grip."

In any event, I took the link down, but not because someone went all bitchy on me.  I took it down because in a very real sense, I had already said everything I could say on the subject.  And I didn't do it nearly as well, or as amusingly as John Oliver did in his HBO show,  Last Week Tonight:

Yes, there are many awful things plaguing our society and our individual lives.  There are unspeakable tragedies, from infant deaths to suicide.  There is the irreparable damage done to our environment by fracking and by greed.  There is the travesty of a viable presidential candidacy by one Donald J. Trump.

None of which I can fix.  None of which I can do one goddamned thing about.

Switching back and forth to and from Daylight Saving Time is STUPID.  We do it blindly because everybody else does, and because we human primates are a bunch of greedy, stupid chimps who like to follow blindly along.  (See reference to Donald J. Trump, above.)  No, I can't fix Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  All the picketing and protesting is not going to change corporate greed and get the oil companies to stop fracking.  I can't fix greed, and I sure as hell can't fix ovarian cancer.

But I can urge people to try to stop doing one stupid thing.  That's all.  Just one stupid thing.  This stupid thing does not save energy.  It has nothing to do with helping farmers.  What it does do, it increases the risk of heart attack by 25%, increases time lost at work, and increases traffic accidents dramatically, all because it's UNNECESSARY, SELF -IMPOSED JET LAG.

When you see somebody doing something that is not only stupid but harmful, you say something.  That's what Mommy taught me.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Feel Better Soon

Pretty lame words, on the face of it.

I have a friend, one of my best friends in the world, who is having a rough time of it right now.  We've known each other for over 15 years, and each of us has been heard to describe the other as "my brother from another mother."  It was one of those friendships that was immediate.  The more we discovered about each other, the more we realized how very much alike we are.  Same eclectic pop culture tastes.  Same books and authors loved.  About our only major difference is that he is a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, while I have always loathed football.  Apart from that, though, we are the two peas in the proverbial pod.

I'll call him "Dan."

Dan went to San Francisco to visit daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren for the Christmas holidays.  He was going to come back to work after Christmas weekend while his wife stayed on to help with child care.  The daycare out in Frisco closes for the week of Christmas/New Year, but their parents' jobs do not, so Dan's wife was going to help out as a live-in nanny-granny.

Just before he was due to travel home, right after returning from a tour of Alcatraz, Dan suffered what he later called a "small stroke."  He lost speech for about 20 minutes, but recovered.  He was hospitalized and spent two days in hospital out there.  The doctors pronounced him well enough to travel and he flew home as scheduled so that he could resume work on the Monday after Christmas.  I learned all this when he called me to ask if he could rely on me to pick him up at the airport, should he not feel up to driving home from the airport in Baltimore.  I, of course, said yes.  Dan called me when he arrived home to let me know that he felt well enough to make the trip alone.  He sounded fine.  A couple of days later, on the 30th of December, he called me again to ask me for my doctor's phone number.  His own doctor was not returning his calls.  Again, Dan sounded fine.  He saw my doctor, spent a couple of hours with him, and my doctor also thought he was OK, even though the circumstances were somewhat worrying.

Then on New Year's Eve we got a panicked call from Dan's wife, still in California.  She had tried to reach him several times, and when she finally got hold of him, he sounded "off" to her on the phone.  She asked us to go over to their home and check on him.  We ran right over.  We found Dan disoriented, having trouble finding the word he was looking for, and generally not himself.  We got him to the ER, and that's where I spent New Year's Eve.

Ultimately it was decided to admit Dan.  He's been in the hospital ever since.  It was determined after testing that he had suffered at least six or seven strokes since returning home.  They also discovered that he was a previously undiagnosed insulin-dependent diabetic.  We also learned that in between his doctor visit here and his New Year's Eve crisis he had been involved in a fender-bender in a parking lot a couple of miles from his house, and after he was ticketed by local law enforcement, he decided to walk home rather than risk driving.  None of his friends knew about this until afterwards, nor did he call any of us for assistance.

Dan is currently in hospital while the doctors attempt to determine where the blood clots are coming from that are causing his strokes.  He is having extreme difficulty with names and finding words.  He may or may not recognize friends.  And his right hand isn't "working right," as he puts it.  All of which is extremely frustrating for him.  Right now he's mostly agitated and angry, but I'm afraid that depression isn't too far away.

I feel pretty depressed myself.  I tell myself that there isn't anything more I could have done, that I couldn't possibly have known the extent of the problem, but all that leaves me with is the hope that he will "feel better soon."

If you are over 50 and not regularly seeing a physician, start seeing one.  If you smoke, quit.  If you drink, cut back.  There are people who care about you, and who want you to be around for a long, long, long time ... without the emptiness of hoping that you might "feel better soon."