An original poem for these times

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This photo was taken a few years ago at Duck Harbor Beach in Wellfleet, Mass.

I have found great comfort over the past few years from reading poetry. The way I see it, there are hundreds of poets, and thousands of works that they’ve created—who knows how many there are, even?—and even if I can only make sense of a small fraction of them, I’m still better off than I was before.

A poetry group I’ve been taking part in over the past few weeks has even inspired me to dabble in creating new work of my own. Art is a peaceful and enduring form of protest, after all, and there’s so much going on that’s worthy of a stanza or two.

But that wasn’t on my mind last Saturday morning, as I laid in bed knowing that the day was going on and I would have to force myself to get up and be a part of it.

So I got up to brew myself a pot of coffee, with the poetry assignment was sitting at the front of my brain. I decided that Love was maybe the best muse of all, and every great expression of language has love at its core, so that was going to be what I wrote about.

I then put pen to paper, tweaked a word or two along the way, and by the time the coffee was finished brewing I had a new poem on my hands. It’s definitely not the best that has ever been written, but it really doesn’t have to be that, either. It came from my heart through my brain and out onto a sheet of scratch paper, and now I can type it out to have it breathe on the internet forever. So here goes:

Acting Out Love 

I love so many things in life

Or at least that’s what I say.

I love drinking coffee and sleeping in late

And I love seeing shades of gray

 

But these are just material things

That I know don’t love me back.

Perhaps loving a living thing, instead

will carry a far more powerful whack

 

Loving a dog, or a child, or even a friend

Ay, there’s a far more productive act.

And to love someone you do not kmow

Requires a heart that’s supremely intact

 

Sharing the words “I love you”

Is an awkward or foolish thing to do.

But acting out this timeless feeling

Means the world to someone and, perhaps, to you.

Sleeping and coffee make an appearance, but they aren’t what the poem is really about. The world needs love in these crazy times of anger and distrust, and if a few words scribbled on a sheet of paper can address this need, then it was a few moments well spent.

 

 

Here’s what I want for my birthday this year

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One of the best things about joining Facebook is that once a year, on your birthday, you hear from dozens of people, from just about every stage in your life. And all of them want to celebrate the day you were born, in one way or another.

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Facebook makes it easy, too. Not only do they ask you to provide your birthday in the first place, but they also put a little gray reminder box in the top of your feed each day. It’s enough to make you feel like a jerk for not wishing someone that your friends with a happy birthday. It’s somewhat akin saying “No, I didn’t forget about your birthday. I just didn’t feel like doing anything about it.”

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My birthday is coming around the corner, in a week and a half. And rather than having everyone—or anyone at all, really—take 30 seconds out of their day to wish me well, I have a specific request, instead. It would mean far more to me than any short greeting ever would.

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You see, my birthday falls on June 14, also known as Flag Day. It’s also the birthday of the U.S. Army, which I never served in but have a great amount of respect for. So find someone who served in the Army and wish them a happy birthday on June 14, instead of me. They will most likely appreciate the gesture.

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But I went through most of my life, blissfully unaware that I also share a birthday with Donald Trump. I can’t think of a single person, living or dead, that I want less to do with than him. And yet, there it is. So if anyone presents him with a cake and sings “Happy Birthday” I don’t want to think about it, especially not on my own birthday.

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There’s no round number being celebrating this year, and the recent death of an old classmate of mine is a reminder that every single birthday from here on out is an accomplishment unto itself, and the start of still another trip around the sun, aboard this crazy blue marble that I call home.

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So this year, here’s what I want from everyone, from my brothers and sister to the students that I once taught in the classroom, and everyone else in between (and don’t worry, all of you mean a whole lot to me! I just had to put the fenceposts down somewhere.)

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Find a picture of Barack Obama. I have offered a few here, but any picture or image of him will do. Share that image on Facebook or any other social media platform, and say that you either miss his presidency or that you look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail this fall, and in Washington, DC next year for the Biden Inauguration. Twitter users trolled Trump in this fashion back in 2019, so why not do it again, on the final birthday that he will spend in the White House? A going away reminder, I guess you could call it.

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Nothing gets under Trump’s skin more than Barack Obama, as he’s proven time and again. And nothing would make me feel better on my own birthday than to provoke Donald Trump on his. So thanks in advance, my Facebook friends. This is your ten-day notice.

America’s troubled days

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I took this picture on a beach in Evanston, Illinois a number of years ago. It was a cold and windy day, with the wind whipping in off of Lake Michigan and not another soul around me. The red sign on the empty lifeguard’s chair reminded me that I was on my own.

But that day passed, and the sun came out again and life continued on. If only things could be that way in the post-COVID, post-rioting America that we’ll see at some point in the future. But for now, we’re in the thick of both fights.

On the day that Donald Trump was sworn in as president, I found a way to avoid the television and judged a middle school science fair, instead. I knew that he didn’t have any words that I wanted to hear. And indeed, he spoke of “American carnage” to the very people he was about to lead.

The term “American carnage” seems to fit this moment perfectly. A virus that arrived on our shores has taken 105,000 American lives, and counting. There truly is no end in sight. Whenever the vaccine comes, hopefully we can move beyond social distancing and the need to wear masks in public. But Trump’s February prediction that it would miraculously disappear when the warm weather arrives obviously hasn’t come to pass.

On top of this catastrophic virus is now the worst civil unrest that has happened in my lifetime. For the first time in my life last night, I was subjected to a mandatory curfew. It was warranted, because people who were ostenstibly mourning the murder of George Floyd in broad daylight on the streets of an American city turned into a rampaging mob, instead. So much for re-opening the American economy anytime soon.

The mayors and governors, local police and National Guard, are doing their best to deal with this unrest, but centuries of injustice and generations of hurt have been unleashed. As Malcom X once noted, in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the chickens have come home to roost. And so many places in this country, including in my city, now resemble a war zone more than anything else. It’s American carnage, of another sort.

Through all of this, the leader who spoke of “American carnage” on day one of his presidency has been powerless to address these threats. He gave himself a “ten out of ten” when it came to addressing the coronavirus threat, and took no responsibility for anything that has happened, although a Columbia University study found otherwise. Likewise, he called protestors in the streets THUGS (a racial code word, and in all caps, to boot) and threatened to unleash dogs and weapons against anyone who would seek to do him harm. Once again, as we’ve seen throughout his presidency, Trump looks out for Number 1 only. The proverbial lifeguard of this nation has abdicated his post, leaving all of us to fend for ourselves.

What can such a man say to calm this nation’s troubles? To protect the nation that he was elected to lead? It’s  painfully apparent that he doesn’t have any inspirational words, nor does he want them. Should he make any public announcement on the issue, it will be to congratulate himself and make threats against those who imperil his re-election in November. That will be the make-or-break moment for this country. Either Trump will be made into Donald I, king of the nation formerly known as the United States of America, or he will be denied the validation he so desperately craves?

Will the lifeguard’s chair that currently sits empty be turned into King Donald’s throne on November 3? I sure hope not. But for now, it appears that there’s a lot more American carnage ahead.

The root as a metaphor

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With all of the troubled times that are happening in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, it helps to have a point of reference to draw on. Similes are good because they can take an everyday idea and make it relevant to a particular circumstance. “Cold as ice” works because, well, everyone knows what ice feels like.

Metaphors are even better, because instead of comparing one thing to something else, you are saying they are the same thing. Saying “Racism is poison to society” means it’s not “like” poison, but that it can actually be deadly. It’s like taking out the middleman, in a linguistic sense.

I say all this because I found myself in the backyard of my house yesterday afternoon. There was some assorted overgrowth that I wanted to cut back, before the inevitable growth that the summertime always brings. There was a smallish tree in the alleyway, and I used a pruning saw to take most of it down. All that remained was about six inches of a very short tree-trunk looking growth coming up from the ground.

Rather than call it a day with that small victory in hand, I understood that it was not over yet. It might take one year or five years or maybe even longer than that, but whatever I had cut off was bound to grow back someday, since it grew there once before, didn’t it?

So I decided, with pruning saw in hand, to go after the root of the tree itself. The only way to eliminate dandelions at this time of year is to pull them up from the ground, root and all. So the same approach was warranted with this tree that I wanted to get rid of. So I started sawing away at the root.

After about three minutes or so, I realized this was not going to be as easy as I first thought. I could make out a line where the saw had cut, and could see some sawdust coming up from the root. But there was no sign of victory quite yet.

When the saw appeared to have reached its limit, I went to get a gardening tool with a sharp surface on one side. The angle of the root was tricky, and a chain link fence older than I am prevented too many solid blows from being landed on the root.

The next step was to grab a heavy, flat rock with a point at the end that was laying in the garden. After landing a series of sharp blows at the place where I had been cutting, the root didn’t appear to be any closer to breaking apart.

For the next half hout I used the saw, and the gardening tool, and the rock, and even tried kicking at the root a number of times. I sweated and I swore and gave up more than once, deciding that it was a fool’s errand to begin with. What did I care if there was a short little stump in my alley, anyway?

And that’s when it hit me what the word rooted means. It means dug in and entrenched, so familiar in its surroundings that it’s been a long time since it wasn’t actually there. And the more time and growth that a root has had in the same space, the more difficult it becomes to take it out, once and for all.

The root, after all, is literally on its own turf. This root made it clear that my intentions alone weren’t going to be enough to sever it. My hard work—at angles which my back found less than agreeable—weren’t going to be enough to get it out, either. And as appealing as giving up felt in that moment, it would mean that the root had won. And I could not allow that to happen.

George Floyd’s being pinned to the ground and then suffocated by a police officer’s maneuver felt like a root. An imposing, entrenched root that was defying my efforts to, literally, root it out. Racism and the devaluing of people based on their skin color has existed for generation upon generation in this country. It’s even written into our Constitution, where a black person was once counted as only a fraction of what a white person was.

The officer with his knee on George Floyd’s neck didn’t invent the idea of a black man being valued as something lesser than himself. He was merely the latest manifestation—the outer layer—of a mindset that allowed Africans to be transported across the Atlantic Ocean and sold in a marketplace as though they were cattle. Racism is the deepest and most pernicious root that this nation has to offer. But once that root is engaged, its complete destruction can be the only acceptable outcome.

When the root in my alley finally cracked, revealing its size as two or three times bigger than I had originally imagined, I felt a sense of satisfaction that is hard to describe. I had taken on a mostly hidden foe and emerged victorious. But it was a hard fight, and one I probably would have passed on if the full size of the root had been clear to me from the beginning.

The root is an effective metaphor for my thinking about racism in this country, and perhaps in many other countries, as well. It will put up a fight, and expects to defeat the efforts of those who seek to take it out. Giving up appears, at all times, to be the easiest way to admit defeat. But winning the battle feels oh so good in the end.

The battle against racism seems to have begun anew, in Minneapolis and other places around the country. I’m not condoning—not now, and not ever—breaking widows and setting fires in the name of  vengeance. We can’t descend into chaos and anarchy, not as long as we’re in possession of thousands of nuclear weapons that could end all life on this planet. But the point can be made that digging up a root is hard work, which tests the commitment and the ingenuity of those seeking to destroy it. But it’s an effort that must go forward, if “All men are created equal” is ever going to have the meaning that it should.

There’s a war out in the streets

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The death of George Floyd is an American tragedy. The image of a white police officer putting his knee on the neck of a black man—until that man’s life has been literally snuffed out—is painful to watch. Like every right-thinking person in this country, I am saddened for this man and his family an friends, and for the community that has suffered a similar loss, over and over again stretching all the way back to the birth of this nation and even before that.

The rage that has taken over the streets of Minneapolis, and other cities, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder (and it can’t be called anything but that) must be addressed. Arresting one of the officers is a start, but the announcement that charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter feel terribly insufficient to the terrible crime that was committed . The other officers who stood by and allowed this to be done are guilty as well, and the loss of their jobs must not be the end of the punishment that is given to them. Much more needs to be done, including a trial of each of these officers, in full and clear view of the people of the Minnesota and the United States of America.

None of this will bring back what was stolen from George Floyd, for the supposed crime of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. But what can be done, must be done. And all of us will be riveted on this case, as the justice system (hopefully) does what it is supposed to do.

Donald Trump’s outright refusal to utter George Floyd’s name in person, or to take any questions at the end of his supposed “press conference” at the White House this afternoon, is entirely in keeping with his cowardly demeanor. He faked bone spurs to avoid serving in Vietnam as a young man, and now—with the power and the responsibility to address this issue head on—he walked away, instead. That’s simply unforgivable.

The president’s job, in a nutshell, is to lead this nation. And scapegoating China and the “previous administrations” (read: Barack Obama) for the current pandemic does nothing to accomplish this. Nothing whatsoever.

Pointing a finger at China, and throwing some bellicose language their way, is akin to ignoring an infection and hoping it will go away on its own. Trump tried that approach with COVID-19, and it failed miserably. But this infection, this stain upon our history that almost everyone agrees is the “original sin” that America has committed, won’t simply go away. It took an awful civil war to finally end the practice, but the legacy it left behind is something that all of us—white, black, and every shade in between—live with every day of our lives. And the smoking ruins of Minneapolis are a powerful reminder that we, as a nation, haven’t made much progress on settling this account.

The “but I never owned any slaves” dodge that I’ve heard so many white people use rings hollow to me, because the happenstance of where and when we were born might be the only reason why that’s true. Anyone whose lineage on American soil goes back to 1860 and before is descended, with almost zero exceptions, from people who either willingly owned slaves, or were content to keep any reservations they may have had about this “peculiar institution” to themselves.

Unless we know of an ancestor who fought and shed blood on the Union side during the Civil War, or who spoke out and acted out in favor of the Abolitionist cause or the Civil Rights movement, and then lived with the aftermath of this opposition, we’re all complicit with the long American tradition of devaluing Black Americans. And smashing out the windows of a police car doesn’t count as settling this score, either. In fact, this behavior only makes things worse.

Is writing a blog post going to do anything to right these injustices? Of course not, but it’s all that I can do, at least until Election Day comes around. Peaceful, nonviolent protest is all that we have until then. I can promise that mayhem in the streets will be broadcast into the homes of fearful white Americans, who will instinctively turn to who they perceive as the strongman who can quell all this dissent. And Trump has spent his entire term in office building up the image of himself as a strongman.

He’s anything but strong, and everyone who watches his actions knows this to be true. But the violence will help him politically, and he’ll continue stoking fears of black and brown people, along with “Radical Left” white people like the mayor of Minneapolis. And, I suppose, people like me.

So call me Radical Left, or whatever other name Donald Trump wants you to use. But understand that I know what has been done to George Floyd, and to black and brown people across the totality of America’s existence, is wrong, and that November 3 is an opportunity for all of us to address these in an orderly and peaceful manner. And I, for one, am not going to be deterred.

(NOTE: The title for this post comes from an old Sammy Hagar song. Have a listen, if you’re so inclined. I think it fits in well with the tenor of this moment.)

Indifference is not an option

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Three months ago, there wasn’t a single death from COVID-19 in this country. The first death was reported on February 29 (Leap Day, how ironic is that?), and it made some news but only in a glancing fashion, because it happened far away in Washington state.

But it couldn’t come here, right?

As everyone now knows, it did come here. All fifty states have now lost people to this virus, with New York bearing the brunt of the carnage. And carnage is an appropriate word, because it’s the equivalent of suffering a 9/11 event every day for over a month. And the end is nowhere in sight, either.

When an article from an online source was posted to Facebook today—noting the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19—there was somebody who remarked “so what?” And I called him out on this, which doesn’t change a damn thing or give the author of that comment the empathy that he so clearly lacks. But there are so many people now suffering from the loss of an important person in their lives. For anyone to dismiss these deaths, on any level, is simply wrong.

The number of losses from the virus has spiraled ever upward, throughout March and April and now into May. The misleading comparisons to influenza have fallen apart by now, and never should have been offered in the first place. 61,000 deaths (spread out over a 12 month period) is always going to be the number that was once laid down as a marker, one which the coronavirus could not hope to match. But nobody throws that number around anymore. We’re far beyond that figure.

When I read through the names that were printed on the front page of the New York Times over the weekend, one of the names stopped me cold. It was on the left hand side of the page, below the fold. The name escapes me right now, but everything else about this man—his age, his home town, and the description of him as a husband and father—matched me to a T. And I had to catch my breath, realizing that the luck of the draw favored me in a way that it did not favor him.

I didn’t know this man personally, or any of the other names that actually stretched out from the front page and across three more pages as well, but that does not mean that I have been unaffected by the spread of this virus. Far from it.  One hundered thousand people, from all walks of life, were here with us on New Year’s Day, and now they’re gone.

And the people who have been lost is one terrible thing. But another, and far more insidious, loss has been absorbed by the people they left behind. The restrictions of social distancing mean that large funerals are now a thing of the past. Small services are now the best we can do, and many people are concerned about even doing that much. The grieving process has been upended, and that will linger on with the ones who must carry on without those we have lost.

And it’s not just the ones who have died from COVID-19, either. Nobody who has died, for any reason, has been given what we might consider a proper send-off over the past three months. That only spreads out the misery even further. So the 100,000 deaths, as horrible as that number is, doesn’t begin to tell the story of the toll that this virus has taken on our country.

So let’s not, even for a moment, act that this is not a tragedy of immense proportions. The cover of today’s USA Today, as shown above, gives a sense of just how large the death toll  has been.

America is now suffering from more cases, and more deaths—and thus more misery—than any nation on earth. The ones who would downplay this or put up any sign of indifference to it are doing it for one reason: they believe it allows Donald Trump to escape any responsibility for what has occurred. And they are wrong in this.

The words I have written in this space will be nothing, when compared with the cosmic reckoning that must surely await these COVID deniers someday. There’s a tremendous loss that they have disgracefully chosen to ignore.

A message to my younger self

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When I found this picture in a box of old photos a few days ago, I knew right away it was going on my blog. I’m 22 years old in this moment, fresh out of college and ready for whatever Life throws at me.

The much older man who is sharing this image from the past is here to tell him: Everything’s gonna be all right.

The scary parts about marriage and kids and owning a house one day, all of that is going to happen. But they aren’t as scary as you think.

You’ll see some parts of the world you’ve only read about, before this picture was taken.

You’ll work in a variety of jobs in a range of different fields, but they’ll mostly be engaging and provide you with some sense of fulfillment.

And maybe the best part is you’ve already accomplished your one goal in life. So everything from this point on is all just gravy, anyway.

Are you going to conquer the world? No, but you aren’t really interested in that anyway. And believe it or not, someone who does conquer the world is a person you won’t think too highly of. It sounds crazy, but you’ll see.

You have no idea what an SUV or a minivan is, but in time you’ll own one of each. And a hybrid car is something your 1990s mind won’t be able to understand, but you’ll own a couple of those, too.

And the internet? Where to begin with that? It will be a few more years before you hear anything about it, but it will forever upend the world you’re living in. In some ways that will be good, and in other ways not so much. But it will give you an opprtunity to share some old pictures like this one, and do some musing on life and family and the state of the world in general. And you’ll enjoy doing that—whenever you can find some time to do it—so that’s something to look forward to in the future.

Yes, young man, life will be an interesting ride in the years ahead. But you’ll find all that out for yourself. Just keep on smiling, and make sure to enjoy it at all times.

Some advice for the Class of 2020

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Pick one goal in your life. Just one.

Don’t think about what your parents want, or society wants, or even what your friends want.

Make it something that will make you feel happy. Proud of yourself, even.

And then, go out and accomplish your goal.

Spend a month, or a year, or even twenty years (or more) if you need to.

There is no timeline for achieving success, on your own terms.

Once you reach this goal, whatever it is, remember how good that feels.

Remind yourself, whenever things aren’t going so well, that you reached that one goal you set.

Understand that success breeds confidence, and without confidence you’re lost.

Now choose your goal and start chasing it.

Good luck!

 

 

 

Working through the grief

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“Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really.”  – Agnes Sligh Turnbull

One of the things I’ve been doing during the COVID-19 lockdown is finding interesting quotes from people, about all manner of things. I send an email every morning to sign in for work, and I’ve become very fond of hunting for quotes to share with them, whether in an old copy of Barltlett’s Familiar Quotations, a volume of poetry that may be laying around the house, or even an Internet search for whatever topic strikes my fancy on that day.

There are some usual sources that can always be turned to in a pinch. Not surprisingly, Lincoln is always good for a timely or an interesting quote. The same goes for Emerson, Thoreau, and even Carl Sandburg. But sometimes I have found really deep pearls of wisdom from sources I never though possible, or even from someone I have never heard of before. Such is the case with the writer quoted above. She wrote something for publication in seven different decades, from the 1920s all the way up to the 1980s, when she was in her 90s. So there’s no doubt that she could string a few words together in a compelling fashion. And her words about dogs are very comforting to me right now.

My dog Dooney left us just over two weeks ago, and I’m still struggling with this loss. Many people are suffering from losses these days,  and their losses are compounded by the reality that grieving—at least in a traditional sense—is not permitted right now. So on one level I feel selfish for trying to put a dog on the same level as anyone’s father, brother, friend, or neighbor.

But in a larger sense, as Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, writing is one form of grief that doesn’t run afoul of social distancing guidelines. I can express my grief, and throw these thoughts out to the whole wide world, and perhaps someone will read the words and understand. A treasured companion of mine for over ten years is gone, and a container of his ashes is all that I have left of him. I can’t change that, so I’ll just have to do what I can to get along without him.

Even losses that have nothing at all to do with COVID-19 are being treated the same way in these times. “Death doesn’t discriminate” as a line from the musical Hamilton goes. (See, I really can’t help it with quotations sometimes.) That has to be beyond frustrating for someone like my friend George, who recently lost his mother. We’ve all been to funerals before, and we know that wakes and funeral processions and words of condolence uttered at the graveside can be a powerful reminder of how much the now-departed person was loved and appreciated. And few, if any, such services are carried out for a dog or a cat or any other type of companion animal. I know the limitations of what I’m trying to say here. But there are many, many people who would show up and offer support, if only they were allowed to do so. And that, too, is a feeling of sadness for untold numbers of people.

The coronavirus has cut a vicious swath through our world, whether we have loved ones who were taken away by the virus or not. I’m very sorry for their losses, and I hope that they can somehow find a way to work through them.

Going back to Lincoln, at least in some sense, here is a poem that he committed to memory, and recited for his friends on several occasions. It’s called “Mortality” by William Knox, a Scottish poet who, ironically enough, died at the very young age of 36.

The Irony of Abraham Lincoln's Favorite Poem – The Log Cabin Sage

These words comforted Lincoln—who knew something about personal loss—and my hope is that they can provide comfort for others, too. Whatever it takes is exactly what all of us need right now.

Teach them how to say goodbye

 

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While the COVID-19 disaster grinds on, with no real ending in sight, everything seems to be getting harder. Although there’s been lots of songs written in the past about Hard Times, none of them could ever foresee the world we’re in right now.

33 million Americans have now applied for unemployment benefits, and the unemployment rate today is higher than it’s ever been before. And the truth is, a considerable percentage of those jobs are probably gone for good. When businesses and restaurants shut down because they can’t bring in customers, everyone loses. The customers lose a place where they could go and spend their money, but the owners and employees of the business lose a lot more than that.

But the people who owned or worked in a restaurant or other business can still go and share their talents someplace else. The building where the business operated can find another tenant to come in. And the customers of the place, the regulars and the one-timers alike, can find some other place that will meet their needs. Some of the best businesses I’ve ever been to have already shut down, or will do so by the time all this is over, whenever that may be.

But life is another story. When a person dies, or even a loved animal companion, there’s a hole in the lives of everyone who is left behind. I wrote about this with my dog Dooney, who was put down two weeks ago. The arrival of his cremated remains earlier this week served as still another reminder that life with him, as much as I enjoyed it, is never coming back.

While trying to process this loss, I learned this week of the sudden passing of a classmate of mine, Jerry D. Lemmon II. I had spent thirteen years as a classmate of Jerry’s, in elementary school and high school, and am providing a picture of he and I, along with a nun and about two dozen other six year-olds, to prove that we went back a very long way. And for the record, he’s on the far right side of the top row, standing next to the nun who was our teacher.

In the years since Jerry and I graduated from high school together, he went his way in life and I went mine. It’s hard for an 18 year-old to understand this, but the majority of the people you go to school with will effectively disappear, once that school bond has been severed.

Facebook has since provided us all with a new avenue for keeping in touch with one another, and that’s something previous generations didn’t have. They have built a very large and successful business by linking us together in ways that weren’t possible at the beginning of this century.

But even with this innovation, an old-fashioned class reunion is still the best way to share a few moments with old classmates. I’ve been to one class reunion, for my 25th anniversary of high school graduation a number of years ago. I saw Jerry there and we spoke for probably a minute, at the most. We weren’t really friends in school, and reunions aren’t meant for making friendships where they didn’t exist before. But it was good to know, after a quarter century had gone by, that he and I were both out there somewhere in the world, doing our respective things. Or, as The Big Lebowski phrased it, abiding.

2020 has, in just a few short months, brought a level of death and disruption that none of us have seen before. And despite the recent calls that we should all venture back out into a literally untested society, where the coronavirus could be lurking in any number of places, we haven’t yet seen how all of this will end up. Until there’s a vaccine, these losses will continue to mount.

COVID-19 didn’t kill my dog, nor did it kill my classmate, so far as I know. But in a society already dealing with so much loss, the cause of these deaths is secondary to the fact that they’re now gone. Who or what will be the next thing to go away from any of us? That we can’t know, and the uncertainty of it is something we can’t change, either.

A large part of the reason I write this blog is to recognize and act upon the mortality of us all. There will come a time I’m not here anymore, and I don’t get to select the date and method of this ending. So while I’m still here, and have a means for doing so, I’m creating a time capsule here on the internet.

It’s not possible or practical to put everything and everybody into this time capsule, but my old classmate Jerry, by virtue of his sudden passing at an early age, is now a part of it. So too are all of my classmates shown above, whether they want to be or not. I may not ever have the occasion to write about any of them by name, but whoever reads this post, at whatever point in the future that will happen, will be able to see their faces and know that they were all here on this planet.

May each of us appreciate the people and things we have in our lives, today and every day that we can.

 

 

Farewell, my sweet boy

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In these COVID-19 days, there’s so much loss and disruption going on that it feels overwhelming. Much of this comes from the virus, of course, but the things that happened before the virus took hold continue happening, too. Such was the case today when I said goodbye to my beloved schnoodle, Dooney.

My family brought Dooney home from a rescue shelter in the summer of 2009. For the entire decade of the 2010s (or whatever we’re going to call them) we all lived together, under the same roof and at one address. I don’t doubt that it will be the happiest uninterrupted stretch that I’ll ever know in my lifetime. And Dooney was the oil that made our family unit run the way it did. Whatever disagreements or hardships we encountered, all of us agreed that our dog was what we called “the best boy in Illinois.”

One of the reasons I have enjoyed writing a blog so much is that it allows me to capture moments and feelings that are otherwise terribly fleeting. I recently came upon a passage written by Nathaniel Hawthorne about the “transitoriness of all things.” It’s a bit of a clunky phrase, but it’s also unalterably true.

As much as we might like to, none of us can stop time and freeze things just as they are. The worst situations in life, along with the very best ones, will eventually give way to something else. The planet keeps on spinning, either way.

I went through my media files as I began writing this post, knowing very well that images of my dog Dooney lay hidden away inside. And I’m sharing the ones I found here, to appreciate and remember the years we shared together.

I recommend that anyone who has never read “Eulogy of the Dog” before click on the link, to see if their own experiences line up with what George Vest once told a Missouri jury. It captures my thoughts in this moment perfectly.

Goodbye and thanks for everything, boy. I won’t ever forget all the happiness you brought to me and the ones I love.

FU Coronavirus (Part 2)

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I’ve been thinking about the Michael Jordan Era in Chicago a lot lately. It technically started when the Bulls drafted him out of college in 1984, but for many years it didn’t happen because, well, the team just wasn’t any good. But the team slowly got better over time, and the hated Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons finally moved aside and then it was time to rock and roll.

Gary Glitter’s song Rock and Roll Part 2 was undeniably a part of the experience inside the Chicago Stadium during the Jordan Era. Nobody went there to hear that song, of course, but when it would come over the loudspeakers during a timeout, everybody knew the melody, and everybody shouted out “HEY!” when the time came. And the crowd inside the Stadium rocked along with the music and enjoyed being alive.

I was a part of that thriving, singing mass of humanity just one time, in February of 1993. The Chicago Bulls were the two-time defending NBA champions on that date, still a few months away from the epic showdown with the New York Knicks which cleared the way for what was, in my mind, the most satisfying of the six NBA titles they ultimately won.

Bulls tickets, in those days, were impossible to get. The official stated capacity for a basketball game at the Chicago Stadium at the time was 18,676, with the vast majority of those being season tickets in the hands of people who could afford to have them. The Bulls were the best show in town back then, maybe even the best show anywhere.

The man at the center of it all, of course, was Michael Jordan. If I live long enough to have grandkids (which is still a few years away, I hope) I will tell them at every opportunity that I saw Michael Jordan play basketball at the old Chicago Stadium. They will roll their eyes, of course, but I’ll tell the story anyway.

I somehow got my hands on a standing room ticket which cost (appropriately enough) $23. I stood in the highest reaches of the Stadium for hours on end and had an experience that I can’t quite think of a parallel for. Personal experiences like marriage and childbirth, as incredible as they are, happen on an individual level. There are a few people around, but not a lot. And outdoor experiences like concerts and a Cubs victory rally are also great, but having the open sky above tamps down some of the vibe.

Put 18,676 people together in an indoor space, and get them rocking along to Michael Jordan’s basketball artistry and Gary Glitter’s music, and you’ve really got something special. I’ve spent 27 more years on this earth, hoping to find something that electric, and I haven’t yet done it. I don’t know if I ever will, either.

The Madhouse on Madison wasn’t big enough for the Bulls’ party, so it was torn down in 1994 and the United Center was built across the street. It seats upwards of 20,000 for basketball games, and a few thousand more for concerts. I’ve been to both at the UC, and while the extra capacity is good for the bottom line, the intimacy of the old Stadium just isn’t there anymore.

There’s a generation of people who never had the chance to experience what I did at the Chicago Stadium on a February night back in 1993. And the ones who were in their prime years at the time are getting older now, and some have undoubtedly died off. As Journey once sang, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.

In the NBA, Kobe and Shaq and Lebron and all the rest have come on the scene, creating whatever magic and memories they can for their fans and the teams they play for. But anyone who ever packed into the old Chicago Stadium to watch Michael Jordan play in the 1980s and early 1990s knows what a unique experience that was.

The news that the United States has just passed 18,676 deaths due to COVID-19, as of the day I’m typing this out in April of 2020, gave me pause. Many people, unless they’ve been inside a concert hall or professional sports arena or maybe a megachurch, have never been part of a throng of humanity that large. And I’m exempting outdoor arenas from this category because, as I’ve said, the open sky changes the experience.

A throng of 18,676 souls, from all walks of life and from every conceivable group that humanity divides itself into, has been taken away by a virus that we can’t see. And there’s no end in sight either, since more than 2,000 Americans, in all but a small handful of states, left us just yesterday.

Donald Trump, who bears more responsibility for these deaths than anyone else, drew a line in the sand at 100,000 deaths, or maybe even more than that. Any death toll under that amount, in his eyes, is a testament to his great leadership. But, as always, he’s full of shit for saying that.

I’ve been in a crowd of almost 19,000 people before, and I know the enormous personal scale that a crowd that size has. To lose that many people in less than two months time is a severe blow, not only for the families of the afflicted, but to all of us as a society. It’s a national catastrophe, and most certainly not a testament to whatever leadership Trump thinks he is providing.

I mourn for those we have lost, and for all those we still will lose in this moment of great national (and global) peril. And a final death toll of under 100,000 Americans will not entitle Donald Trump to crow about anything, although he most certainly will do that. He goes wherever he wants to go, and dares anyone to stop him. And so far, no one has.

I’m not a religious person in any conventional sense (more of a Thomas Paine-styled freethinker, actually), but I am praying that America gets it right in November of this year. The alternative is simply too much to contemplate.

Some People Ain’t Kind

RIP to John Prine. I’m only now discovering his music, and that’s certainly my loss for waiting so long. But those who were in the know about these things are mourning his loss today. It’s such a tragedy that a virus that was officially written off long ago was what finally did him in.

His music stands as his legacy, and we must keep it alive. I nominate the above song, as a microcosm of the thinking that got us to where we are today. Maybe John Prine mentions “some cowboy from Texas” at the end of this song, but “some jerk from New York” would work just as well.

Thank you for the songs, and the insights into who we are.

Put another dime in the jukebox, baby

The losses to COVID-19 continue to pile up, now exceeding 43,000 deaths worldwide, and over 4,000 in the United States. I put in a link so that the total can be tracked in real time, but it’s going to be an awfully big number by the time it is all over. Awfully bigger, I should say.

Everyone who has been lost was someone’s son or daughter, someone’s friend or neighbor, and perhaps someone’s source of support and/or inspiration. Most of them are people whom we won’t know as an individual, but as human beings on planet earth in 2020 we will all feel their passing in one way or another.

I read a piece today that stated we are at a crossroads in this moment, and I believe that’s an apt metaphor. Or to put it in terms of Star Wars, Uncle Owen’s farm on Tatooine has been wiped out and we, like Luke Skywalker in the movie, don’t have the option of returning to life as we once knew it. We can only move forward toward an uncertain new reality.

Maybe it’s ironic that I’m using a Star Wars reference, since Andrew Jack was just announced as a casualty of the coronavirus. Songwriter John Prine has been afflicted by the virus, and he’s hopefully going to pull through. But Joe Diffie was not so fortunate, nor was Terrence McNally, nor was Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the song “I love Rock and Roll.”

Am I citing these cases to suggest that “famous” people, or people in the Arts, are somehow more consequential than others? No, at least not intentionally. I’m just trying to point out that everyone, whether well-known or unknown, touches the lives of others, and thus leaves a legacy behind. It doesn’t have to be a song or a play or a movie role. It might be raising a child that does things to help others out, or planting a tree that continues to grow for years into the future, or maintaining a house that was opened up to others in a time of need.

The point is that everyone has something to offer, whether we know about it or not. I’ve written millions of words in my lifetime, on this blog and in a thousand other formats, and it heartens me to know that people might encounter them one day and have no idea who wrote them, but still be impacted by them, all the same.

The title of this post really doesn’t have much to do with the topic I’m writing about, other than to show how a phrase that once originated in someone’s head will live on forever, or at least for as long as somebody sings along with Joan Jett. Everyone has done, or will yet do, something that will live on after they have left the planet. And that’s worth remembering and celebrating in these dark times that we’re all going through.

Baseball is Life (and Happy Birthday Dina)

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The Coronavirus has taken the game of baseball from us in 2020, perhaps for as long as the entire season. And, truth be told, the game had been dwindling in interest to me, at least since November 3, 2016. When you spend practically your whole life waiting for something, and then it happens, well, where do you go from there?

But be that as it may, I have a friend on Facebook who’s even a bigger fan of the game than I am. And so, on the occasion of her birthday today, I went through the images in my draft folder on WordPress and selected some ones that she might like.

Happy birthday, Dina. May we once again hear the sounds and enjoy the sights of the best game ever invented by humanity.

The New York Groove

 

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To get through this Coronavirus shutdown, I’ve pulled out a box of old pictures, and am pulling out a few of them to post on Instagram and tell the story about the shot. An exercise in narcissim, to be sure, but we must do what we can in these unprecedented times. And writing is maybe the only thing I would say I can reliably do. Writing well may be another story, of course, but as long as I’m having fun I’ll just keep on doing it.

The first picture I posted was of my two girls on a ferris wheel inside of the Toys R Us store in New York City. It, like all other Toys R Us stores, is gone now, but that experience, and the trip that surrounded it, was among my favorites. Neither of my daughters was a teenager, and neither had a smartphone yet. I had no idea at the time how good of a time that really was.

Most of the pictures from that trip were digital, and the trip came just days after I began writing this blog. Some of the shots may have been used in other posts, but my photos file in WordPress has many images I’ve uploaded but never got around to writing about. So here’s about two dozen images, as a memory from a moment in time in a world that now seems very far in the past.

Here’s hoping that NYC weathers the current storm without too much further damage, and returns to its vibrant self in short order. The USA, and the world itself, needs the Big Apple more than it might realize under normal conditions. And these are the times, as Thomas Paine once wrote, that try men’s souls. Nobody knows this better than New York right now.

New York is the one city that Chicago has always had a thing about (that whole Second City syndrome and all), and there’s certainly something to that. Times Square alone is on a grand scale that few–if any–can match. It’s a great place to visit, and I’m happy to report my family made a return visit there on a brutally hot weekend in 2019. But I don’t know if living there is something I could do, and fortunately I’ve never had to find out.

But New York is in my heart right now, as I think about the images of a deserted Times Square I saw online earlier today. The city is taking a hard punch right now, and anyone there (or anywhere else in this nation) will always remember the events of March, 2020.

So I’m posting these here to remind myself, and anyone else who stumbles upon this post, of what New York City was, and will be again some day soon. It’s up to you, New York, and we’re all pulling for you to make it through.

The Gambler and the Bungler

I was sad to hear that Kenny Rogers died at age 81, even though I’ve never been a fan of Country music. The Gambler was an engaging story of doing what you can, while you can. The best that we can hope for is to die in our sleep.

A few years ago I would have posted a story of his death on Facebook, in the rather strange hope of informing somebody of what they hadn’t yet learned. Here’s the way that virtual conversation might have played out:

ME: “Hey, did you hear that Kenny Rogers died?”

FB: “Oh, you mean that guy who sang songs that we heard on the radio nearly 40 years ago, before MTV came along changed everything about music?”

ME: “I guess so, yeah”

FB: “No, some of us didn’t know that. Oh, well.”

And now that Facebook is out of my life, I can’t even do that stupid little thing anymore. I still have my account, and I post things to Instagram, which Facebook owns anyway. So I haven’t completely closed that book, but I just don’t read from it anymore. And I don’t miss it, either.

So who will read this little post of mine, since all the social media accounts I would have posted it to are now out of my life? I don’t know, nor does it even matter. I say what I say in this little space and if nobody ever sees it, well, it felt good to say it, anyway.

I went online looking for a picture of Donald Trump with Kenny Rogers, intending to call it “The Gambler and the Bungler.” But when I found the clip above, I realized that Kenny Rogers and the way he saw the world are the reason why we got Trump in the White House. Not the only reason, but a small part of it.

In 2016, Trump spoke to the fears that Rogers claimed everyone has. He exploited those fears, and rode them all the way to where he is now. And for supporting Trump in this process, I can’t truly mourn the passing of Kenny Rogers.

The Gambler may have finally broken even, but the Bungler is still at the table, blustering his way through a situation that none of us deserve, especially those of us who could see through his bullshit.

FU Coronavirus (Part 1)

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My blog was birthed in a bolt of inspiration at a garage sale back in 2011. Or maybe it was a yard sale. Here’s the first post I ever wrote, and it turns out it was a garage sale. But the point was I went out of my way, spent a little money, and wanted to tell the world about it. And over the next seven years, I came back to it whenever I had a thought in my head and a few moments of time to push it out.

In the early days of doing this, I wrote that I wanted to put one million words into cyberspace via this blog. I even had a spreadsheet with the date of a post, its title, and the word count, both of the individual post and the running total for the blog itself. I made it to at least a half million words before that idea went the way of so many other ideas I’ve had in life. So perhaps if I get back to doing this, and one day make an attempt to total up all the words I have written, the million number will have already been achieved. As Nelson Mandela once said, and Bernie Sanders later requoted, it only seems impossible until it’s done.

The forced quarantined that’s about to happen in my home state due to COVID-19 seems like an opportunity to start writing once again. I really did enjoy doing it, as it was an extension of something I’ve been doing all my life.

I tell people that sometimes I’ve had “Writer”—or some variation thereof—in my job title, but I’ve never had a job anywhere that I didn’t do a fair amount of writing, in one form or another. Well, there was a time I literally worked at the Gates of Hell (no lie) scaring people at Halloween, but other than that I’ve always been writing something. And the blog lets me throw ideas out into digital perpetuity on the internet, so why not do it?

The virus is going to do what it does, and there will be a terrible price paid as a result. I heard a story on the radio this morning as I was driving into work about a man who was about my age (whatever that number may be) and also a father who just died from “the rona” (as I’ve taken to calling it). A family member told a story about how he always enjoyed having cafe con leche.

Every person we lose to this virus will have a cafe con leche of their own, and family members who are left with the sadness of knowing that cafe con leche, or whatever else that thing they once enjoyed was, will never again have the same meaning it did when that person was still alive. The numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths will undoubtedly be large and regrettable, but it’s the specific and individualized losses that are already giving me pause.

I always put an image with the posts I write, and here I’m using a cafe con leche  image that I took in the Little Havana section of Miami a numbr of years ago. Here’s to all the victims of coronavirus, and all the little pleasures that will disappear when they do. I won’t personally know any of them (I HOPE!!!!!), but I will mourn their departure, all the same.

To one million words….and beyond!

 

We must do better than this

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When I see the story of two African American men arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks, waiting for a friend to arrive, it’s a troubling moment. They know, and I know, and everybody who lives in America in 2018 knows that this only happened to them because of their skin color. Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, it was the color of these two men’s skin that landed them in police custody. The content of their character had nothing to do with what happened to them.

The manager of the store somehow determined that calling the police was the right course of action to take in this situation. This should have never been a situation to begin with, but since it became one we need to sort through its ramifications. It’s not my intention to blame the police in this, either. It was the decision to call the police that led to this story in the first place.

Firing the store manager is the obvious first step to take. Whatever lapse of judgment was committed can never be allowed to happen again. No amount of remorse or retraining or unpaid suspension time can undo the toxic views this person carries around inside of him or her. We all make mistakes, but this is one that must not be repeated.

Public businesses like Starbucks provide washroom facilities for their customers. But access to these facilities–which I believe is what gave rise to the incident in Philadelphia–must not be predicated on skin color. There’s not a business around that would deny a white guy like me the ability to use their washroom. There’s no valid reason for denying the same courtesy to anyone else, either.

Starbucks will likely develop and implement guidelines over access to facilities in the wake of this incident. It’s surely leading to the type of backlash that isn’t good for the company’s well-maintained public image. But even more importantly, it’s a chance to examine who we are as people. I like clean bathrooms as much as anyone else, but I’m not comfortable with telling anyone that they can’t use washroom facilities, particularly when skin color appears to be the determining factor in the equation.

We must do the right thing here. All of us.

Why I’m taking a knee today

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If you wanted to be somebody at my high school (which no longer exists, by the way) you had to be on the football team. There were other sports teams and activities, but the attention that was given to the football team made many of my classmates put in the time and effort that were needed to suit up and play a game on Friday nights in the fall.

American society has put football–and particularly the NFL–on an exceedingly high platform. The athletes who play the game at this level have made enormous sacrifices to be where they are, including the newly-understood risks to their mental health and well-being. The players live lives the rest of us can hardly imagine, and when their time on the field is over, many of them painfully wither away. All the fame and adulation given to them today won’t  restore what’s being lost underneath their helmets.

So if a player at that level of the game wants to use their notoriety to bring attention to causes or issues they believe in, who among us is qualified to say they can’t? The act of taking a knee during the National Anthem–which many players are poised to do–is only disrespect to those who want to see it as such.

When Donald Trump went to a rally in Alabama and called players taking a knee in this manner “disrespectful” and labelled them as “sons of bitches,” he scored some cheap, racially-motivated points. But he also set off a firestorm that America doesn’t need, especially not now. Houston needs rebuilding, the Florida Keys need rebuilding, and Puerto Rico needs basically everything: Power, water, you name it. But rather than address those issues, Trump decided to ride the racist wave one more time. It’s not surprising, and it’s not leadership, either.

Last night, I went out to dinner with my wife and youngest daughter to a Thai and Chinese restaurant in Chicago. At the end of the meal, there were three fortune cookies brought out, and the one I opened up read as follows: “People are waiting to take cues from you. Lead them well.” If only Donald Trump could have such wisdom and insight as my fortune cookie did last night.

Let’s do what we can to help Americans in need, and not let a dictator wannabe set the tone on what patriotism looks like.

In defiance of Donald Trump–who took multiple draft deferments to fight in Vietnam and has wrongly impugned the actions and character of his predecessor, Barack Obama– I’m reviving my blog today in order to take a knee. I love this country, and even though I was never a football player, I did play one onstage once. I was 15 at the time, and the man I am today is grateful that whatever physical concerns I may have, potentially having CTE is not among them.

Whatever is said or written about the actions of these players today will be a distraction from the profound needs of many Americans right now. Donald Trump can’t see that, but I’m hopeful that others will. Think of this blog post as my attempt to live up to what a fortune cookie told me to do last night.

 

Broken eggs and the end of my blog

 

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Today’s the first time I’ve put anything into this space since June 11, which represents a span of dormancy that never would have happened in the first six years I wrote this blog. At one point I was averaging ten posts a week, and sometimes five or six posts would erupt from my mind in the very same day. I had things I wanted to say, and was glad to finally have an outlet for them on the Internet.

In my experience, many blogs take a similar arc to mine. The person who starts them opens up with a burst of energy and creativity, only to have their interests dulled over time. Life changes, and priorities get reshuffled to the point that the blog isn’t so important anymore. I had managed to avoid that fate as of June 11, 2017. I even wondered how many more years I would keep my individual soap box going. It turns out–as I’m shutting this down the moment I finish writing this–that the number is smaller than I ever would have guessed.

Abraham Lincoln has been one of my most significant muses when it comes to stories for my blog. I’ve always admired how he came from nowhere, and left a mark on the world that those with superior advantages and opportunities never will. The greatness of this man is beyond our ability to fully grasp it, but I find it encouraging that some have continued to try.

I picked up a couple of books the other day at the annual Newberry Library book fair in Chicago. In one of those books, a collection of essays about Lincoln by historian James McPherson, I learned a small nugget about Lincoln that I didn’t know. When it came to waging the Civil War, McPherson said, Lincoln often used the analogy that broken eggs cannot be mended. As I read that line, it seemed like an appropriate metaphor to bring down the curtain on my little corner of the online world.

How many posts did I throw out into the world? Over 1,500, and I stopped counting a long time ago.

How many words were contained in those posts? My initial goal was to put a million words out into cyberspace, and I’ll just imagine that between the actual posts themselves, the keywords I attached to the posts, the responses I typed out to those who left a comment about something I had written, and the drafts that were started but never saw the light of day, I made the million word plateau somewhere along the way.

How much sleep did I lose out on? Quite a lot, I would suppose. It’s probably better if I never find out for certain.

In typing out this valedictory post on a perfect summer afternoon here in my beloved Chicago, my desire to write a blog now feels like broken eggs. Rather than letting BlueBattingHelmet fade away into nothingness, I’m taking one final stab at putting some words out there, for anyone who may be interested in reading them in the future.

I had a lot of fun doing this, but now it’s time to go on to something else. As Prince sang in a song that I heard in a pet store earlier today, “Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” The teenager that I was when I first heard this song would agree, and so do I.

And with that,

 

6 years, and how many more?

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Six years ago, I had a story to tell.

Actually, I had already told the story, just as I had a hundred times before, by sitting down in front of a computer and typing away. Most of the stories I had told before never saw the light of day. I had either abandoned them halfway through, or maybe saved them onto a disk, but that was about it.

But this story was different. It hit on some of my favorite writing muses: childhood, the Chicago Cubs, and finding something new. When I finished typing it up, I decided that this story had to live on. So I started a blog and named it after the object of my story. And six years later, I’m still writing it. I daresay that many blogs have come and gone since then, but mine has somehow endured.

None of the posts that I’ve created here (there’s at least 1,500 of them, but I stopped keeping track a long time ago) would ever win any writing awards. In fact, most of them don’t mean anything to anyone other than me. But maybe that’s the beauty of creating a series of words and ideas and images over the past six years of my life. For all of recorded human history, it was not possible–until the early years of this century–to create an enduring testament of one’s own life. Somebody could have written a diary, of course, but the ability to share that diary with anyone–much less the entire world–didn’t exist. What would Hemingway’s blog have looked like? Or Thoreau’s? We’ll never know. But those of us with internet access and the inclination to share a few thoughts with anyone who cares to read them have an opportunity that is really pretty amazing.

My Facebook profile lists this blog as my place of employment. And that’s ironic, because I’ve never made a dime off of any of this. Monetizing a blog is possible, and some have been very successful with it. But as for me, sharing a thought or two with people I’ll never meet is reason enough to keep on doing this.

I’ve never stayed in the same place professionally for six years, and I’m not sure that I ever will, either. But I could keep doing this for as long as I’m able to sit in front of a computer and type. However long that will be is still an open question, but I’m looking forward to telling more stories in the days and months (and hopefully even years) ahead.

An indefensible act

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By removing the United States from the Paris Agreement–which every other nation in the world save for Syria and Nicaragua has signed onto–Donald Trump has declared war on the planet that all of us inhabit. He clearly doesn’t care about my children, shown above on the rim of the Grand Canyon and in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. They don’t matter to him, nor do millions of other children around the world, who rightly consider this world of ours as their birthright.

This planet is my home, and I won’t keep silent as Trump attempts to ruin it by his actions. Laughing at Trump–which once seemed like it would have been enough–isn’t the answer. Scoffing at Trump hasn’t worked either, not as long as he has a sycophantic army of supporters who seem oblivious to the harm he is doing. But we all must speak out, to raise our voices in protest of this diabolical act.