Potential New TV Yum

HBO’s newest series features two of my faves from the way way back: Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins. And oh my god are they old! (This doesn’t exactly make me feel like a spring chicken.) But once I get over all that, I’m right back to reveling in just how much I love ’em.

The first episode introduced me to new favorites: Daniel Zovatto, Jerrika Hinton, Raymond Lee, and Sosie Bacon. I wasn’t sure why the baby sister character (Kristen) appealed to me so much until I saw her real name and realized WOW that’s Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon’s kid! No wonder. She definitely caught a great dose of the acting gene.

As for the other young members of the cast, I can’t claim any previous knowledge or recognition. No matter, I’m in love.

The premise of the show was irresistible—two eighties hippies chock full of grand ideals adopt children from around the world, perhaps in hopes of building a family that reflects the diversity and unity they believe the future holds.

Greg (Tim Robbins), has spent his life striving to bring positive change to the world … a world in which frequent mass shootings are now a thing and a reality TV president resides in the White House. Poor Greg, the philosopher, tends to throw up his hands a lot nowadays after yelling What’s The Fucking Point! Meanwhile, his lovely wife Audrey (Holly Hunter), the once free loving world changing hot coed who used to drop acid for enlightenment has become a middle-aged prudish control freak who can’t host a family get together without hiring an army of caterers. Neither of them realize just how much of a mess each of their kids are. Yet.

There’s Ramon, the gorgeous proud and out youngest son (and the show opener) who has possibly prophetic dreams and freaky hallucinations. Duc (pronounced Duke) a new-agey counselor and author plagued by memories of his early childhood prior to adoption that have left him pent up and confused. To say the least. Ashley, the eldest of the adopted children, who’s managed to acquire stylish dream job and perfect family but likes to stir up excitement on the side just for the hell of it. And last, but not least, the youngest of the family and the Bayer-Boatwright’s only biological child, Kristen who’s seventeen and outraged, or excited, about everything.

In the second episode we find out that Ramon has met the perfect guy which is awesome because he’s perfect, too; Greg and Duc are going off the deep end at separate ends of the pool, Kristen and Ashley are on the edge of major trouble. Meanwhile, Audrey is not giving up on trying to tell everyone what to do even though they never listen.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. I can’t wait to see if next time I can actually do this cast and their terrific show justice in a blog post. Are y’all watching tomorrow night?

 

 

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Up To Date Updates

Monday, January 22nd I made a trip to the ER that resulted in being admitted and kept in the hospital until the following Thursday. Being the impatient idiot that I’m famous for, I then rushed back to work on the 30th and ended up with a complication that left me on the couch until this past Saturday. I’m better now, but taking one more day at home before tiptoeing back to work tomorrow and hoping for the best. (I’ve only got one more vacation day left. Cross your fingers for me.)

Since being clear of the pain meds for a few days, I’ve been able to concentrate long enough to write an essay about what Dr. King’s movement means to me. You’ll find it here, along with a link to the unabridged version of the beautiful Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This is the first piece in a series I hope to write in honor of Black History Month, which will include an impressive list of women authors and activists I didn’t learn about during Black History Month in public school.

My work toward submitting individual pieces of Ramshackle Houses & Southern Parables, and No Voice of Her Own to lit mags has been delayed for obvious reasons, but I intend to pick that back up today. There are still some mid-February deadlines I can make.

Anyway, those are the updates. I’m alive and writing. Hope you’re the same. Go read my essay.

Embarrassing Drivel

Every experienced, published writer looks back at the early years, sighs, and tries to look earnestly at the latest wide-eyed interviewer before divulging what crap poetry they used to write. Crap, crap, drivel, embarrassing really. It’s a miracle they kept writing, that they eventually found success.

I am suspicious. This is suspect. Think about the sheer numbers. Every writer now comfy with a book deal and online presence blathers on and on about the dreadful, shockingly bad poems of their early years. Seriously? I would very much like to meet a writer, successful now, who’ll look me straight in the eye and declare that decades ago after finishing a draft they sat back in their chair and shouted out loud: I! AM! A FUCKING POET!

That’s the kind of people I want to hang out with in a writer’s group.

 

Completion of a Chapbook in a Mad Messy Dash: It’s Cold Outside, but I Have Coffee, a Lap Blanket, Fuzzy Socks, and Internet

By 5 a.m. it was confirmed that outdoor activities, such as driving to work, were out of the question for me. I sulked for about five minutes, then poured coffee and got on with completing the latest editing of Ramshackle Houses & Southern Parables to send back into the world.

Since embracing the fact that I want to be a writer (a poet, an essayist, a novelist …) I’ve devoured everything at hand written by writers about writing. And still, deliberately organized process fascinates me. Eludes me. Stumps me. While editing my pet project (again) this morning, and indulging in way too much coffee, I got distracted by the realization that I’m a mess. I approach writing the same way I approach everything else—swinging on the latest mood swing.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Natalie Goldberg, to name two of my favorites, aren’t really as strict as some others concerning the methods followed in completing a project. However, they both describe a certain dedication, a recognition of the necessity for daily work. Butt in the seat, regularly. That’s how they both say insight, inspiration, and good work finds them—when their butts are in the seat, and pens are in their hands. Many other writers go into great detail about putting together the project with the help of outlines, plotting out the format long before sitting down to tackle actually filling in the pages.

Their dedication to work structure and method are astounding. I can’t get a handle on it. I’m jealous. Similarly, I have several relatives and friends who insist on cleaning their kitchens immediately after dinner, and making their beds every single morning before leaving for work. They do it automatically years after embracing it’s the thing to do, the thing that makes the rest of their day go smoothly. I remain puzzled by the faithful frequency of these accomplishments. I’ve tried, promise. I’ve even written out schedules and set reminders on my phone. Pfft.

Truth is, I crave structure. I recognize that it would greatly improve my life. But.

Ramshackle  was my very first finished project. I decided I wanted to be a writer in 2009, the original version of this poetry collection was submitted to a contest in 2015. Total honesty? The only reason that collection got completed and submitted was because I got laid off from work and new I’d be unemployed for several months, so I had a talk with myself and said get over yourself, set a schedule, get it done in thirty days. And I did. The collection was shortlisted for a book award two months later.

It was a desperate situation. I got the work done, then rested on my laurels for two years before trying to send it out again. Another desperate situation arose. This time, a panic attack after realizing I’m an idiot. Back in 2015, with at least eight hours a day free to work on nothing but the poetry, was the first and last glint of structure I’ve experienced. I showered, walked the dog, ate breakfast, and put my butt in the seat every day by 8 a.m. Three weeks in, I looked like a demented hoarder half buried in printer paper and cigarette ashes. The structure kind of got set fire to by the last days of that month, and I was nutcase.

That version was fifty pages. The second, forty-eight, with a new title. The third is down to thirty pages. Between the 2017 and 2018 versions, I’ve spent seven months just THINKING about the changes. Refusing to allow myself to pen anything to paper. When not thinking it out, I would read pieces aloud to see which flowed into the next, and would mentally cut what didn’t work. I set myself a deadline for January 15th, and HEY! one of the mags I had in mind sent out notice their deadline was extended until the 16th. (I’m thinking that snow day turned out to be just for me.)

Anyway. Once I sat down with my coffee this morning, first thing apparent was two bad decisions during my thinking time. Over the weekend I’d typed out the table of contents and sipping my first cup of coffee I could clearly see three pieces were all wrong. I made the changes, polished up the title page, and OMG I almost forgot to edit the table of contents! Imagine if I hadn’t noticed that before submitting. How embarrassing!

Five cups in, I had the chapbook completed, read through two more times, then raced over to Submittable. An hour later, I had three individual pieces in another document to send to another lit mag. All in all, I did about six hours work between Saturday and today. Maybe a record for me, if you don’t count the seven months of thinking.

Is that the worst process you’ve ever heard of or what?

Will I ever get better? More productive? Drink less coffee? I don’t know. Despite this being my quickest and possibly finest finished project (the single project that is my total life’s work thus far), it was stressful. Messy.

I have another chapbook in the works, fifteen poems that need to be twenty-five poems. Cento, actually. And I know I’m in trouble because I keep getting distracted from finishing it. The idea for this particular project has been stewing around my life for three years now. THREE YEARS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Down The Bones: Listening to Natalie Goldberg Read Her First Book Has Been An Inspiration

Just shut up and write.

Goldberg’s simplification of what a writer must do is brilliant, and, embarrassing enough, quite necessary.  Writers! How ridiculous we can be, whining on and on about how difficult it is to find the time, to track down the muses, to hammer out a structure, to blah blah blah. Shut up already!

My favorite way to experience a book, as of late, is to hear the author read it. In this particular version found on Audible, Goldberg’s New York flavored accent is gorgeously calm—a result, no doubt, of decades of zen practice. The voice itself is enough, but couple it with the insight she shares and you’ve got near perfection. I wonder if she realized the possibilities at the outset of the reading project fourteen years after writing the book?

Throughout Writing Down the Bones Goldberg shares the sharp wisdom of her long-time zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi, along with her experiences as both a writing workshop leader and a writer. Regardless of just how terrific her own youthful wisdom seems, in response to an interview question at the end of the book she goes on to share what trouble there was with putting together all this information into book format.

There was everything in piles of notebooks, clear memories, a shining zen attitude, and she still couldn’t get it together without wrestling herself to the ground. It was reading another zen teacher’s book in which she finally found the desired, effective structure. Isn’t that something?

I listened to the bulk of the book with ear buds at work, slogging through data entry. The first stroke of inspiration came in the very first “session” in which Goldberg talks about her favorite way to write—she fills one notebook a month, using a favored ink pen. For the first time in a year, I went right out and bought myself nice pens and a notebook. That was December 30th, and I’ve written SOMETHING every single day since.

As it has happened before, my choices are all over the place. One day it’s a diary-like entry, another it’s a scene from one story I’ve struggled with, another is research on idiotic political current events, another it’s an off the cuff poem, and so on. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be listening to the book again, this time taking notes. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could actually blog about each bit of inspiration and share the results?

 

 

 

 

Fear & Loathing, Twitter, Self-Inflation, and the Demise of the Two-Party System

Narcissism cannot be sustained. Eventually the self-inflation mechanisms of the narcissist will fail. It is reasonable to conclude Trump’s decades of televised antics are proof of Narcissistic Personality Disorder—he certainly seems to go out of his way to exude the symptoms of a classic case—but in truth, such narcissism cannot be sustained.

What if this behavior is a guise? What if it’s more devious … and brilliant … than any average horrified American onlooker could imagine? What if the intent is not to bring the GOP to total power and destroy the party of liberal democrats as so many of our talking heads fear, what if it’s something else? What if the two-party system has lost its usefulness?

For the better part of the 20th century, the two-party system dominated while a couple other “independent” groups flailed into notice every now and then. Prior to WWI, the Democratic Party was associated with white “Christian” Confederate sympathizers, and the Republicans with socially-progressive reform. We sometimes hear the talking heads on political news shows speak of the tide turning with the turn of the century. Debatable as that topic is, I’ll hold off for now.

As the decades passed here in the U.S., one obvious trend emerged that is not debatable—presidential campaigns got more and more expensive. Regardless of the expense, a member of each major party was always standing for the election. Democrat vs. Republican. Every four years. That’s a lot of millions.

I’ve often wondered where that kind of money comes from. Sure, the average American tosses in a few bucks with their tax returns. The occasional upper-middle-class Joe might go to a fancy dinner thrown by a governor, rent a tux, get his picture taken, and it only costs him a few grand. All in all, average voting Americans contribute a respectable amount. But the real money, well, that comes from an entirely different set of folks. The kind of people that have their own private security staffs, their own airplanes. People that cannot fathom the reality most of us deal with—whether to go into debt for a new car, or deplete the savings account to keep the clunker going for another couple of years. The choice between paying off medical bills and decade-old student loans, or moving to a part of town where the kids don’t have to walk through metal detectors to get to class don’t come up.

The types of people who contribute substantial dollars to presidential campaigns don’t diddle over such things. They dial up their investment managers on encrypted phones while their private jet floats toward a night in Paris with global oil and gas buddies. These are not people who trouble themselves with religion unless it suits their momentary goals. These are not people who stay awake at night with concerns of racism, ageism, patriotism, liberalism, republicanism, socialism, communism, health care for the poor, bad cops, safe and legal immigration, or the tragic circumstances of our returned veterans. Make no mistake, though, these are the people behind all the decisions about all the things we worry about every single day.

What club does Trump belong to? The Clintons? The Obamas? Daddy and son Bush, etc., etc.? Whatever national good any politician has done since the turn of the century has not been out of the goodness of their heart for the benefit of “the people”. Any good change has piggybacked on an agenda financed by the deep pockets funding lobbyists who stalk and schmooze politicians in every corner of every capital of the U.S. Look at what it’s gotten them—we, the people, are down here in the real world fueled and fired up on all sorts of propaganda tearing each other apart. We’re taking a stand, drawing a line: Democrats vs. Republicans, good vs. evil, black vs. white. Or, we’re just trying to get through the week without the lights being cut off before we can pay the bill. The point is, we’re not looking at what’s really going on.

Will we be looking when the liberals and conservatives that aren’t in on the joke burn each other to the ground? When the divide between parties becomes wide enough for another to walk right through? And when that other party emerges amidst all the vitriol and disgust and spreading poverty, chews through the fat calves of Congress while we’re staggering under valid threats of world war and starvation, will they look like honest to goodness saviors tossing crumbs from their towers built on the vast inaccessible acreage of formerly protected federal lands? As they end public trade, as they take control of communication and global banks, will we be grateful enough to serve them?

Maybe that’s all a few decades in the future. Maybe it’s not.

Our two-party system hasn’t made impactful change in decades. Our independent and libertarian parties couldn’t scratch together enough money to buy a majority percentage in a pro sports team, so we can forget them affording a go at a long-term bid for presidency. It’s been so long since, as a nation, we’ve encountered a real civil servant, a genuine candidate for the people, we wouldn’t recognize one if he or she walked right up and bit us on the ass.  (Of course, a good civil servant wouldn’t do such a thing. I guess.)

Is it far out to suspect our current clown in chief of such a conspiracy? A true narcissist needs to please someone in order to keep them feeding his narcissism. Who would Trump seek to please? The poor? Bah. The middle class? No. The Caucasian hate mongers that call themselves Christians behind their multi-million-dollar pulpits? Not even them. What would a billionaire trade the shreds of his dignity for? Trillions? What is he doing when he’s not tweeting? Signing documents that we didn’t even know existed.

I’d wager that the Elites know every change accessible by Executive Order, even if we don’t. Heck, most of us don’t even know the ins and outs of the federal constitution, our individual state’s constitution. Who’s your State Representative? What laws have your state passed in the last decade that directly impact your job, health care, income tax, mortgage or rent? Why is your local law enforcement agency and public defense system bankrupt?

I don’t know a lot of the answers to these questions either, but I’m starting to pay closer attention.

(To be continued …)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Exploration of Richard Wilbur’s Work And How Poetry Is An Inevitable Expression Of Religious Assertions, Part One

We have lost a lot of greats since 2016. The most recent great who touched my poet’s soul and was among my list of favorite writers left us on October 14th. Upon hearing the news, I reached for the one book of his I own. Later on, I remembered this—a piece written for a poetry assignment back in 2014. Apparently Part Two is still in a notebook somewhere. If you haven’t yet read the poem referenced below, I encourage you to do so.

 

In a 1968 interview, Richard Wilbur said:

 … that poetry is essentially religious in its direction. I know a lot of people, poets, who are not consciously religious, but find themselves forever compromised by their habit of asserting the relevance of all things to each other. A poetry being a kind of truth-telling (it’s pretty hard to lie in poetry), I think that these people must be making, whether they like it or not, what are ultimately religious assertions.

Being a student of poetry, and still an overenthusiastic one if not wholly adequate, this is first what struck home for me. Early on, I developed the expectation of poetry to reveal sacred secrets—I believe poetry’s purpose is to demonstrate, celebrate, and even to evoke individual spiritual awakening. There is no need for a poet to sit down with that expectation from his/her work … it will happen.

As Wilbur touches on in this brief talk, poetry is a truth telling. A writer sits down with words and delves into their center … the writer mines a multitude of meanings and sensual impact and emotive qualities of each word, then combinations of those words in phrases, then the metaphorical weight of those phrases in relation to what is going on in that writer’s life, or memory, or some intellectual or emotional preoccupation.

Human beings simply cannot help “their habit of asserting the relevance of all things to each other”, and creative humans do this with their art. We categorize, define and redefine, poke and prod until the investigation of self becomes spiritual epiphany—the pursuit of language becomes the pursuit of truth, and the pursuit of truth always leads to the revelation of a universe so much greater than ourselves, then somehow, that vast universe turns back on itself to acknowledge the sovereignty of “I”, “me”, “we” .

We simultaneously categorize ourselves as mere human and a Creator’s holy vessels of inspired messages. We are dust and we are ALL. We are immortal and mortal. We are the very language that Earth and Heaven speak and, therefore, both will listen. Of course not every poem will move every reader to the ultimate awakening. Readers are as individual as the writers they read. Real beauty is discovered when one individual stumbles upon the other.

I found Mr. Wilbur quite by accident, running the opposite direction of anything that remotely resembled formalism; I tripped over him and all his billowing, breathless colors confined in the blank verse “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”. The narrator of this poem, I believe, is caught for a while in that half-dream state we have all experienced—that airy, floating, borderless place where we can observe in quiet astonishment as Heaven flutters among the most mundane Earthly things.

In these precious few moments the narrator saw souls (rather, representations of the human spirit) celebrating the freedom of being loosed from the weight of sinful desire, responsibility of labor, and that all-too human thing, worry. Those precious few moments end with the man who, irreparably human, yawning and waking, makes his Earthly preoccupations clear with a demand for order according to those preoccupations, and so “the soul descends once more in bitter love”.

My own definitions of the words “soul” (the very essence of our humanness that does indeed embody desire, intellect, and will; the very thing that tethers us to this world) and “spirit” (that bit of sovereignty imparted by God that may very well long to be free of the body and soul to reunite with the Creator) defy Mr. Wilbur’s usage. Nonetheless, his depiction of the “soul” does not hinder my enjoyment and understanding of this outstanding poem. In fact, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” does it all for my poet soul, and was the first to reveal that spiritual epiphany I had so long desired from poetry.

It is in Mr. Wilbur’s works that I am finally free to admire the simultaneous expression of ecstasy and discipline, of humanity and sovereignty.

 

 

RIP, Mr. Wilbur. Thank you for your words.

Poems, Privilege, and Untimely Kneeling

It is a rare thing, but once in a great while a poem will write itself. That’s the case with Generation Gap. All the stories my grandparents shared with me throughout my childhood built America for me. In my America fairness and equality cannot be assumed, but always hoped for, striven for. In my America, petty cruelty exists. Women will be shamed by men they do not know for reasons they cannot fathom. Children lacking a respectable surname will be presumed undeserving of respect.

Here in my America, societal rules rarely come written out, so even a kid who learned to read early won’t gain an advantage.

Whether it was intended, or not, my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather put together a narrative that helped me understand that America has been failing its purpose for quite a long time. And whether it was their intention, or not, they inspired me to learn the details of this nation’s purpose and expect it to one day become a reality. I cherish democracy, but I have never had the luxury of believing it to be without flaws.

The first time I read Let America Be America Again, by Langston Hughes, I thought of Mattie and JD. They knew injustice, prejudice, and inequality from  youth to old age. They knew these words to their bones without every laying eyes on the poem.

Mattie and JD learned the Pledge of Allegiance by heart. They knew the words and weight of the National Anthem, hummed God Bless America. Neither of them ever instilled within their children or grandchildren a distrust of their nation. Quite the opposite. (Wariness of bureaucrats, well, that’s another matter.)

My grandparents had a lot to hope for America’s future. To them, the flag was a symbol of that hope, and so were their grandchildren. Hope is a powerful thing. Nonetheless, even the power of hope without action cannot ensure a child thrives. And so the same applies to a nation.

We are indeed a nation of protesters and rebels, citizen journalists, citizen soldiers, informed voters. All, in my opinion,  something to be proud of. Injustices occur. Injustices will recur. History serves to prove Americans will eventually take a stand, and resistance to Americans who take the stand can get ugly. Violent. Embarrassing. But we persevere.

We’ve got a lot going on within the borders of this country right now. To be blunt, keeping up with all of it is exhausting. Disheartening. What’s most disheartening to me is just how off-track we can get when trying to make a valid point. Social media doesn’t help. There is a lot to enjoy about social media, and I have many types at my fingertips on a daily basis. But I knew we were in trouble that first morning I turned on the TV to find a national morning show REPORTING ON A TRENDING CAT VIDEO. What? High-earning, highly educated, experienced journalists just spent ten minutes of air time talking about a funny cat video, first shared on Facebook.

We’re doomed. Those were the words that played through my mind. We’re doomed.

Little did I suspect at the time that this nation would one day be subjected to a tweeting presidential candidate. It’s bad enough that a sometimes uninformed public has the ability to spread unverifiable news around the world in a matter of seconds, now we’ve got this guy to deal with. Surely our society hasn’t spiraled so out of control that Facebook likes and twitter feeds can influence voters to elect a deliberate antagonist for president.

Yeah.

Rather than a people passionately striving for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are we really becoming lustful for click baited online mudslinging? Instead of striding purposefully toward human equality and peace, are we really this far off the mark?

Following a series of recorded and posted instances of police brutality, parts of this nation lit up with anger and violence that was then recorded, posted, and shared all over the world. Everyone had an opinion, which of course, spurred more anger and violence. Though it is still shocking, massively shared videos that contained undeniable proof of police brutality were not always proof enough to get bad cops convicted.  Some cities spent millions equipping police officers’ uniforms with cameras, and still, video proof did not bring convictions.

Past instances of brutality not filmed, and not shared to social media, were rehashed. Old horror stories came to light. (Although, I think anyone who’s ever lived in a small town where the good-ole-boy network is uniformed and armed can attest that bad behavior has been a thing for decades, the general public was not fully aware.) Protests broke out locally, in capital cities; national news gave some coverage, and a few lawmakers attempted to speak out.  For the most part, though, social media did the reporting. Wild theories, baseless accusations, and knee jerk reactions were difficult to untangle from facts. And our legislative system kept on proving just how out of touch it is.

For a while, social media got distracted with the presidential race and the ensuing fiascoes. Then very quietly and without first being noticed by the national eye, in August of last year, a well paid professional athlete sat during the National Anthem. When finally noticed and asked what was up, he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color … To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

This season numerous players are showing their agreement with that statement by taking a knee during the National Anthem.  Not surprisingly, thousands, maybe millions, of Americans have taken to social media to complain about privileged millionaires disrespecting the flag. What other country can black kids grow up to become multimillionaire athletes? The divide is growing, and it seems that now social media’s consensus has become that it’s white Republicans that are offended by this protest while only broad-minded Democrats understand these are citizens exercising their constitutional rights.

Here’s the thing: They’re all right. And they’re all wrong.

While some may view such an opinion as hardcore nationalist nonsense, the truth of the matter is the average American takes offense to the flag being disrespected. Regardless of how far we progress, how far we get away from the assumed national morality so strongly promoted after WWII, that flag, that anthem, is HOPE. Remember what happened after 9/11? The flag flew from porches, car windows, apartment balconies, businesses, and churches.

You don’t mess with the flag.

The people who take issue with players taking a knee during the anthem, if asked, take no issue with protesting police brutality or racism. Violence for the sake of violence from those bound to serve and protect is unconscionable, and whether social media is trending with it or not, this nation is angry about the blatant disregard of blue-clad criminal activity. We can’t assume that the argument against protesting during the anthem only comes from white republicans plotting to have black people murdered in the streets. Such assumptions would be prejudice and racism in action.

My immediate concern–which precedes the backlash of Kaepernick’s sit down–is his deliberate choice to first antagonize, then to make a verbal statement.

When someone chooses to gain attention by challenging heartfelt beliefs (i.e., love of the flag), reactions will be emotional, and any emotional reaction can then be skewed to reinforce aspects of the challenger’s message. Kaepernick protested racism and police violence against citizens of color, therefore–according to ensuing statements made by his supporters–anyone who speaks out against his manner of  protest must be a racist supporter of killer cops.

This, my friends, is neither a logical conclusion, nor a fact.

Speaking of deliberate antagonism:

I would now like to make a plea to the presidential staff and White House officials. Come on, y’all. Someone there must have the influence and authority to determine what speeches are read, and whether they are read ON LIVE TV without benefit of editing. Personally, I’m not impressed if he is a business genius, or if he has the ability and gumption to clean up the national budget. Those are potential  pluses no one will ever pay attention to if he is allowed to continue mouthing off on twitter or on camera.

Our past presidents weren’t all paragons, we know. But at least JFK had the good sense to not televise his penchant for infidelity. Nixon didn’t exactly tell the public na, na, na-na I can do whatever I want, while in front of a bank of national news cameras. Read up on this stuff, will you? Good old fashioned American plainspeak is one thing, publicly poking every voting-age citizen with a stick is something else. Control your guy.

/plea

I have never had the luxury of believing democracy to be without flaws. I did, however, learn from people who had experienced the worst of human behavior that the worst does not have to be accepted as the norm.

It’s easy to sit here, not an African American, not an athlete with or without survivor’s remorse, and say there are a thousand and one ways African American athletes could protest away from the field.  Even so, I would like to point out that inner city/community programs could use your voice, your face, and your dollars to make a difference in the lives of kids who might one day find themselves the focus of a routine traffic stop.

Perhaps, redirecting your energies to local community outreach, speaking at law-enforcement events, joining in fundraisers for the children of brutality victims … perhaps, standing for the flag after helping a real person just might get the results you want.

This country, this flag and all our hopes for what it should mean are not the origin of our problems. This country is made up of soil and man-made borders; the flag is a symbol of all the best possibilities. That anthem is a poem about celebration of victory over oppressors.

The Walking Dead Keep On Walking

Every new season I wrestle with myself over whether to continue watching, and every year–though I hate myself for it–I go ahead and watch. Another season is bearing down, according to continuous facebook reminders yesterday, so I thought of this piece. Rick Struggles To Cope was written a while back for a prompt related to the third season. Here’s my take.

 

How To Cope: Chop Until The Screaming Stops

 

How does one cope with loss after loss after horror after horror in pursuit of one half of a half of a tenth of a percent of humankind’s preservation? Bludgeon a monster. Bludgeon another. Chop, chop. Shoot. Build something. Tear something down. Follow instinct: Hunted become hunter. Hunt for killers and for precious remains to bury. Keep moving.

Keep moving or regret and fear will do terrible things to tender psyches.

Rick is the leader, the father, the enforcer. He’s the guy with the ax, the hammer, the six shooter. He’s the guy responsible for the safety of his family. He cannot fathom a newborn life won by the sacrifice of a woman — that freckled bride he moved heaven and earth to keep alive. Everyone, every member of this tattered, nomadic community who’s followed Rick through rural post-apocalyptic Georgia bears witness to the moment his mind … breaks.

Is Rick a metaphor?

Meanwhile, not so far away from the prison where a redneck warrior and a nubile young couple join forces to defend fencing, daring to count blessings, one of their reluctant fair-haired friends (thought lost months before) is on the verge of learning not all monsters wear decayed flesh and shamble around in search of fresh flesh. Some monsters might drawl and swagger and hold the key to a room accessorized by an aquarium swimming with heads.

Some monsters have lonely smiles and keep a good supply of sipping whisky nearby.

It’s the enigmatic Michonne who reviles that swagger and drawl. Suspicion raises her fight or flight response. Or, maybe she’s just jealous; maybe she wants the blonde all to herself.

Is Michonne a metaphor?

Is the Governor really good at heart, another poor schmuck left alive to mourn the loss of real children and the real world?  Could be he just needs a little patience and trust from a smirky blonde (unfettered by sharp-edged friends) to make him feel all better.

Will the real monsters please stand up?

Observers of both sides of this story will undoubtedly wonder how Rick and Michonne might get on … if they ever cross paths. Would Rick and the Governor sip whisky and ponder the burden of losing everything?  Would they, in friendly familiar tones, verbally analyze the sensation of going completely mad?

Back at the prison, there will be possum for dinner. A kid who just killed his mom is reciting names. Lots of names. There’s a one-legged preacher vet standing by silent and wise, and a skinny little girl with the voice of an angel seems to be out of songs.

Rick is wandering in the dark all alone, talking to ghosts, in desperate need of a grave to visit: Here Lies Lori, My Beloved.

How does one cope?

A few miles down the road strangers drink lemonade and play twisted summer games. While an aquarium swims with heads. You’ll want to keep that ax handy, Rick.

Wrigleyville, 2016

Unfortunately, I cannot claim that my first experience at Wrigley Field was amazing. The chills that riddled my body were not caused by the famed ghosts of sports history, or child-like wonder. I was freezing to death. People laugh when I recount that night. It’s not at all funny.

The weather forecast for the evening seemed pleasant, but since my husband and I are accustomed to a southern climate, we bundled up just in case. At sunset, as we were walking to our seats in the upper deck when I realized my mistake in thinking fifty-five degrees with an east wind would be tolerable. Half an hour later, I realized that my brain possesses a deafening alarm in the event of a near death experience—it’s a terrible foghorn of a voice that repeats over and over, You’re Going To Die. You’re Going To Die.

Turns out, fifty-five degrees with a ten mile per hour east wind in Chicago is identical to twelve degrees with a twenty mile per hour north wind in Memphis. I was wearing pantyhose, yoga pants, jeans, a t-shirt, sweater, fleece coat, knit gloves, a scarf, socks and sneakers, and I was dying of exposure.

My husband felt sorry for me once he noticed my teeth were chattering and I’d turned a sick shade of blue, so he spent fifty bucks on a team logo blanket and wrapped it around my torso. The wind cut right through. When I was finally able to form words, they came out in a voice reminiscent of that demon in the original Exorcist—Feed Me Now I’m Starving. My dear husband brought back a fully dressed, freshly cooked hot dog and bottle of water. Somehow the dog was cold and the water warm.

I complained. Tim gifted me with his own knit cap and wandered off to explore the one place he had always longed to visit. This was our twenty-fifth anniversary trip and I sat there resigned to the fact he’d left me to die alone.

For all of one inning I tried to be a trooper, tried to cheer myself up. Maybe Tim would return with coffee and an arctic tent. But he didn’t, so I burrowed into the blanket. Maybe he’d at least notify my family and haul my body back to Tennessee for a dignified funeral. Huddling there, wondering if shivering would keep my blood flowing adequately, I blacked out for a while. It was only the clamor of Take Me Out To The Ballgame that inspired me to poke my head out of the blanket—thank God! The seventh-inning stretch! It’s almost over!

Tim returned just as half the stands were clearing out and asked if I wanted to leave. If my lips weren’t frozen shut, I would have kissed him. Turns out, the horror was not yet over.

We had arrived with a crowd of thousands that poured off the train platform onto Addison. I had marveled over the sight, the sunshine, the sounds of pure joy from children of all ages, souvenir and snack sellers, and oh my, the scents of food wafting out of all the surrounding pubs and restaurants were heavenly! (We had last eaten in Missouri, seven hours before boarding the train.)

There were no glorious sights on our return to the train, only a crushing hoard of large, blue-clad bodies. My chest tightened just watching from the sidewalk. Knowing I must look like a panic-stricken doe, I peered up at Tim and said, I can’t possibly go in there. He was exasperated with me, but I had just survived a near-fatal ballgame so I refused to die of a panic attack on a dirty train station floor.

We walked past the station, and hallelujah! A row of cabs sat idling along the curb one block down! There would be heat in a cab! I walked out onto the street, threw my arm up like all the New Yorkers I’d seen in TV shows and shouted YO! The cab driver was my Moses that night. I will forever revere him.

It wasn’t until our third visit (yes, I was a bit stunned to hear myself agreeing to return) that I finally got to experience the true magnificence of Wrigley. Our first day game on the bleachers the sun was bright and a breeze was at our backs. Everything was beautiful! We stayed the entire game, soaked up the love and exuberance of the crowd, and basked in glow of the first Cubs team every fan agreed just might make it!

With only a few exceptions, the cubbies were young. But all of them, even the thirty-something catcher they all referred to as Grandpa, played with the energy and blissful grins of little leaguers. Up in the bleachers, while I was falling in love with the game all over again, I fell in love with the locals. They sang and shouted and cussed and drank with a proficient abandon I found impressive.

Walking out of the park onto the sidewalk leading to Addison, complete strangers high-fived us. We all congratulated each other as the sound of Go Cubs Go still poured out of Murphy’s open doors. I don’t think the sky had ever been prettier, the air sweeter. We flowed with the crowd toward the train, and I was brave, confident. I was in my hometown away from home, and love inspired hope for more adventure.