As the hours, weeks and years tick by, I often find myself looking back at my life and how it has played out so far. True, this exercise is very meaningless, as there’s nothing you can do about anything that ever happened to you.
Still, it’s fun to do a little mental masturbation at times, if for no other reason than to see some patterns in your life, tiny threads that have tied it all together.
For instance, I have always loved game shows, so much so, that I nearly tried out to be a Jeopardy contestant. As my friends all know, I can be pretty trivial at times. I know a little about a lot and a lot about a little, but rarely is it expressed in the form of a question.
I have loved game shows since I was a kid. I would watch them all, from the ribald Match Game to What’s My Line? I even went through my Price Is Right stage, back when Bob Barker was the MC.
I guess that’s why I see parts of my life in game show terms. I have, unwittingly, been a part of one game show or another for most of my adult life. No, I wasn’t playing Jeopardy or even Concentration. I guess you could say I played the Dating Game a lot, but never with much success. The same seems to be true of the Newlywed Game.
But Let’s Make a Deal? I’ve been on it more times than I can count, and always with less than stellar results.
It’s not that I don’t understand the game. After all, it’s pretty straight forward. Hold on to what you have or trade it in for what’s in the box Jay is holding or what’s behind the curtain lovely Carol Merrill is standing in front of. If you’re good enough at the game, you get to be in the final round, where you can win cash and valuable prizes.
The first time I played Let’s Make a Deal, I didn’t have much at stake. I had traded in living with my mom for living with Heather in a $250 a month apartment overlooking Renton. See? I told you I didn’t have much at stake. To top it all off I was very young and didn’t really understand all the rules. I found out the hard way that choosing the box that Jay was holding, the one with the other woman in it, was not a good decision. I not only lost the round, but the entire game.
Along with that, I lost a Schwinn Continental, a lovely stereo system, a cool case of faux weapons I built, a box of miscellaneous nuts and bolts that my father kept, and some valuable art; well, valuable to me.
I did, however, end up with a car in the deal, albeit a 1972 Pinto Wagon, loaded to the gills with everything I could stuff into it. Looking back, I think it was a ZONK!
I promised myself that the next time I played the game I would be smarter about it. This time I was up against Sharon, who thankfully, was one never to play games. In the pot this time on Let’s Make a Deal was a new house in Port Orchard, a hot tub, a new car, a business we ran together, some nice power tools and computers, and oh, my son.
I had this thing in the bag, I thought. But once again, I couldn’t resist putting it on on the line for the box that Jay was holding. Damn! Another other woman! My only consolation prize was a one-way vacation to Florida to live with a complete stranger.
Bad choice all around . Lost big time this time.
Well, third time’s a charm, I thought to myself. You can’t possibly lose three times on Let’s Make a Deal. I had nothing really to lose again, anyway. I was already down two cars, a house, a hot tub and some power tools. So why not roll the ol’ life dice again and see what happens.
Unfortunately, life had brought in a ringer this time. She not only knew all the rules, she made new ones up as she went along. The game was rigged from the get-go, only I didn’t know it.
Still, I gave it a shot. I even caught on to some of the rules over time. I had somehow managed to rack up some new prizes too, including a shiny new home, all the furnishings and an acre of land to call my own.
To my credit, I didn’t even fall for the girl in the box that Jay was holding this time. In fact, I turned a blind eye to every box that came my way. There was no way I was losing a vacation home in Florida along with another new car.
Well, there was a way. It turned out that weren’t on the Newlywed Game or even Let’s Make a Deal this time around. Completely unknown to me, I was now a contestant on a new show called Judge & Jury. Michelle was the Judge and Jury, I was its only daily contestant.
I would find myself on the show without warning. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a line of questions would be asked about things that happlened weeks, months or even years ago. I had moments to answer. I was always wrong. I thought it was all in the past. But now, Judge & Jury would regularly bring it all up again. It was kind of like being on a twisted version of This is Your Life where every bad thing is you ever did is brought up The only thing missing was my kindergarten teacher walking in to our home to remind the members of the audience of the time I ate paste.
Long story short. I lost. I lost another house (yes, two). Acreage. A car. The new car. The brand new miter saw I had just bought to replace the one I lost previously, and… and…
As a consolation prize, I ended up with a one-way trip back to Seattle, which really was the best thing I’ve ever won. I ended up with a new car and a new house there. And best of all, a lovely new wife who doesn’t know what it’s like to play games.
I almost forgot. I ended up with a 2004 Saturn VUE in the deal. It belonged to the host of Judge & Jury.
Originally, I thought it was just another ZONK! But it’s been a pretty good consolation prize too. But its days are numbered. It’s the last memory of my game show years, which now are but a distant past. Thankfully, my game show days are over.
So, you just never know. One day soon I may be doing my best Jay impression, pointing to what’s behind Curtain #3 and see if there are any takers. Hopefully it won’t be a a ZONK?
In the Emerald City, sewing a car-sized curtain like a madman,
Once upon a time there was a man who was called before the King. In order to make him sound even more important than he really was, he told the King that he had a son who could spin bald-faced lies into plausible policy with ease.
The King said to the man that this was indeed an art that pleased him to no end. “If your son is as clever as you say,” the King said, “have him visit my big white castle tomorrow and I will put him to the test.”
When the boy was brought to the King he was placed in a room that was quite full of unfinished edicts. The King said, “Now set to work. If you haven’t turned these edicts into plausible policy by morning I will send you to the Land of Maralago from which you will never return.”
The boy was frightened at the thought of spending eternity in the land of swamps and alligators. But did not know what to do, for he had never spun such lies into policy before. He began to weep.
Suddenly, the door opened. And standing there was a little man. He said, “Why are you crying Steve?”
“Alas,” answered the boy, “I do not know how to make lies into policy the people will believe. The King says I will die in the morning if I don’t deliver.”
“What will you give me if I do this for you?” said the little man with a wry laugh.
“A lot of nice write ups in my blog,” said Steve.
The little man seated himself at the desk and began to whir and whir, churning out edicts at a lightning pace. On and on he went through the night until all the parchments had been filled in with shiny new policies on immigration, homeland security, coal mines and banking.
At daybreak, the King saw all the neatly folded papers, ready for dissemination. But he grew greedy. He commanded the little boy to stay in the room and ordered more and more parchments and quills to be delivered.
That night, the little boy weeped once more. Again the door opened and the little man with equally small hands appeared. “What will you give me to help you?” the man asked.
“I will tell all my friends how wonderful you are and tell them to support you if you ever run for office,” the boy replied, figuring that there was little chance the man could ever amount to anything.
Again, the little man went right to work, writing in a flurry throughout the night, turning paper into plausible policy at a furious pace. In the morning, the King returned. He was quite pleased at all the work he no longer had to do himself and commanded the boy to do his bidding one more time.
That night, the boy again found himself in the room with the little queer man.
“I have nothing left to give you but my soul,” said the boy.
“Then promise me,” said the little man. “If I become King someday, you will surrender your soul to me.”
After seeing the polls, the little boy felt quite confident that this would never happen.
“Deal,” he replied.
The little man went right to work again. This time, the room was so full of new policies that the King could not even get through the door.
As a reward, he made the little boy his close confidante and Court Jester. The little boy was quite happy, given his new power with the King.
But word began to spread that the King was not really so kingly as he said he was; that all his new policies had not been written by him, but by another.
Knowing that the boy and the boy alone knew the truth, the King condemned him to die in three day’s time.
That night, the little man reappeared in the dungeon. He told the boy that he could make himself King and spare the boy, and even give him back his soul.
All the boy had to do was tell him his name.
When his best friend visited him the next day, he pleaded with him to find out the little man’s name. Later, when the little man returned, the boy started with lots of names, beginning with some that began with four letters. But they were all wrong. The little man just laughed and danced as the little boy tried in vain to say his name. “I will return on the morrow to give you one last chance.”
The boy was doomed. On the next day, his friend returned. He had not been able to find out the little man’s name, but he had come across a large gathering of people in the shire cheering. He said that he was pretty sure that they were listening to a little man who was shouting –
“I am here, women and men,
to make this kingdom great again,
Make me your choice for this kingly game,
Trumpelstiltskin is my name.”
You can imagine how happy the boy was to hear this. Shortly before he was to be executed, the little man returned.
“And what is my name, lad?” the little man said.
“Conrad?” the boy replied. “Joe? Doug? Hmm. Perhaps it’s Trumpelstitskin.”
“Who told you that?” the little man demanded, as he flew into deep rage, such a rage that he turned orange instead of red. “The devil has told you that! Or was it someone from the CIA? A leak perhaps? Or was it that evil witch down the lane, Hillaria?”
He stomped his feet again and again and again saying that he wanted the man’s soul and desperately wanted to be King. He stomped so hard and so often that the very ground upon which he stood tore open and he fell into a great pit of despair, never to be seen again.
Hey, it’s a fairy tale. You know, those alternate facts for kids. If these stories were true, then the witch in the woods would have dined royally on roasted Handsel with a side of Gretel gravy that night.
In the Emerald City, tapping my heels three times but going absolutely nowhere,
It’s time for Mardi Gras. I admit that I have never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, largely because I have faithfully lived by the mantra, “Don’t go anyplace where people are crazier than you.”
Though I haven’t been to the Big Easy this time of year, it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate Mardi Gras. Maybe it’s the Catholic in me. Or maybe it’s because once you visit New Orleans, it sticks with you.
I have been there a couple of times. I really love strolling through the French Quarter, eating Beignets until I get sick, getting a muffuletta at the Central or stopping by one of the seemingly endless waystations that serve up frozen, boozy slush drinks.
And while I’ve never been to New Orleans proper for Mardi Gras, I have been to Mardis Gras elsewhere. Yes, New Orleans gets all the press for their take on this annual celebration of debauchery before the start of Lent, but Mardi Gras actually happens all along the Gulf Coast.
I know this because I was invited to be part of the entertainment at Mardi Gras in Port Arthur. That’s in Texas, hardly where one would think Mardi Gras should be. Oh sure, you should find it not far across the state line in Lake Charles. That’s Louisiana. That makes sense. But Texas?
Well, the good people of Port Arthur will tell you that they invented Mardi Gras there. I don’t really want to delve into the history books to look all this up for you to confirm it, so I will just go with it, even if it is an alternate fact. Regardless of the truth of the claim, they do put on one helluva Mardi Gras celebration, complete with black tie balls, parades, food, booze and celebrities.Mardi Gras is a pretty mobile celebration; it ports well to other environs. While it can be damned hard to find
Mardi Gras is a pretty mobile celebration; it ports well to other environs. While it can be damned hard to find Olive Salad in Washington State, a key ingredient of muffalettas, you can still have a pretty fair fais do-do up this way, if you use just a bit of imagination.
I know this because my entire house is festooned right now in purple, yellow and gold, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Over the weekend there was the scent of beans and rice as I swung into the Mardi Gras mode. A Bourbon Street street sign hangs above the bar and a lamp post, albeit one in cardboard, is the first thing you see coming through the front door.
Cajun music wafts from the Loft and I couldn’t help but try out the Hurricane mix so that I could get the portions of rum and mix correct before guests came over. Anything in the name of science.
True, my Party Gras’ers aren’t due for another two weeks, but you can never get into the Mardi Gras mood too early.
This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten into the spirit either. Before I ever went to Texas for my first actual Mardi Gras, I would throw a party every once in a while. It doesn’t take a lot of work. Whip up some Jumbalaya, order up some Hurricane mix, open a dry mix of red beans and rice and make some cornbread for good measure.
I admit that I’ve gone overboard on more than one occasion in the past. One year, I decided to make a centerpiece for Mardi Gras. It started out simple enough. An old box, some foam core… wait! It needs lights inside. How can anyone have a party in a darkened bar.
Oh, and there has to be music. True to form, I couldn’t let any detail go, including adding an old tape deck to the back of the building, hidden by the bar that lined the back wall. Add in some revelers along the railing and voila! – the Bayou Barn was born.
Yeah, I overdo it sometimes. But as I said, I really like Mardi Gras.
I have promised my wife that I won’t overdo it this year. I agreed to start small. But still, I couldn’t resist figuring out how to have a bead throw from the Loft of the house. My poor Halloween skeleton ended up filling in for the drunk reveler down on the “street” and it took a few adjustments to finally make it so he could catch beads. It is even more challenging, given that there are crepe paper streamers cascading off the balcony and across the
street, um, living room.
I admit that this all this Mardi Gras stuff is a lot easier these days. Back in the day, I had to figure out how to get CDs of cajun music In Washington and put together a good mix manually. Nowadays, I just select a channel from Apple Music and it does all the song selection for me. On Amazon, I can order up King Cake and Hurricane mix to my heart’s delight. They even have Olive Salad if I really need a muffuletta fix.
To some of my Northwest friends, it all seems a bit mysterious. I mean, I wasn’t born in the south. Sure, years ago we had a Fat Tuesday celebration in Seattle, but it was terminated by the city after a few years because it ended up blocking all the streets in Pioneer Square with revelers.
But no matter. This annual escape from the winter doldrums is alive and well at Tortuga Key, our own little fiefdom a half hour to the north of party-pooper Seattle. There, the unmistakable aroma of roux is already wafting through the house. Masks are in the making, the menu is all planned and we’re ready to let the good times roll come Feb. 25.
Yes, Fat Tuesday is Feb. 28. But who really wants to party it up on a work night? It’s true that I love Mardi Gras, but I’m old enough to know which side my bread is buttered. It’s the side opposite the Olive Salad, ya’ll! Geesh, do I have to do everything? Where is Justin Wilson when I need him?
Oh, here he is:
Now, if that don’t put you in the mood, nothing will. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
In the Emerald City, sourcing mudbugs,
The world seems to be filled with blame these days. I regularly hear the chorus of “oh, whoa is me, life is so unfair” out there.
I guess that’s because it’s the easiest thing to do; blame others for all your problems in life. There are those white folks who blame the Hispanics or the blacks for their problems. Others blame the illegal immigrants or Muslims. Old blame the young. The young blame the old. Democrats blame the Republicans, the Republicans the Democrats.
But the sad truth is, the blame lies not in others, but in ourselves. It’s is a hard pill to swallow, I know. Certainly, I have been choking on this bitter pill for the better part of three decades now. Whenever things went awry in life, I’d blame someone else, anyone else.
Of course, I readily took credit for any good fortune that came my way. I credited that to talent, perseverance, drive and skill. When good things happened, it was because I made it happen.
But the bad? It was never my fault. How could it be? I was always a victim, not the instigator.
As we all know, or come to know, life is made up of a constant stream of choices. Little things like what we’re going to wear to work or what we’re going to have for lunch. And the big things, like who we are going to marry, what job we’ll take and where we will live.
What’s funny about these choices – large or small – is that they can quickly send us spiraling down a rabbit hole out of control, as things seem to go from bad to worse. As they do, we make more choices in a desperate attempt to avoid bottoming out. The bottom may actually be the place we actually need to go, but we’re too frightened to go there so we go into damage control mode, trying to avoid the inevitable by any means possible.
I use my Florida experience a lot in my RobZerrvations, but it is a classic example of this principle in action.
My marriage in Seattle was going through a rough period. Instead of picking up the pieces of my life and moving on, I chose to the emergency exit, abandoning all I knew to be with someone I barely knew.
Wait, I haven’t gotten to the rabbit hole part yet. I actually knew quite quickly that this whole Florida idea was a bad decision from the get-go. But since I had already decided to take this road, I was going to stay on it come hell or high water. One bad decision (marry the stranger) was followed by another (stay in Florida after it all came crashing down).
I was afraid to take a headfirst dive into the rabbit hole that was awaiting me. Instead, I chose to live in a house of mirrors rather hit bottom, admit my mistake and move back to Seattle, tail between my legs, admitting to my friends that it was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life.
This refusal to head down the rabbit hole led to my first thoughts of suicide. Brief as they were, it made me realize that I was afraid of bottoming out. I was like a swimmer who was floundering in an undertow. I fought the desire to go with the flow, fighting instead to stay afloat at all costs, but eventually thinking that drowning may not be so bad after all.
Up until that time I had been blaming everyone but myself for this comedy of errors. I certainly blamed the stranger I had given up my life to be with. And to think there was a time when I boldly proclaimed that I could never imagine life without her in it.
And now here I am, trying to imagine a time when we were ever together, even a single event that wasn’t pure torture or a total waste of time and spirit. It’s all because I finally took the blame for the whole string of events, the entire sad comedy of errors, played by a total fool.
I admit that it’s hard to look in the mirror and see only yourself, realizing that you’re clearly to blame for your misfortune or the disastrous turn of events unfolding before your eyes. It would be far easier to stay on the blame train express and let it keep chugging on down the line.
But this brings no resolution. Until you accept the fact that every action in your life has a an inevitable result, good or bad, you can’t move forward. It’s the old definition of insanity – you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result: That brick wall refuses to crumble and fall.
Believe me, blaming this or that on some exterior force is a total waste of energy and spirit because it doesn’t change a thing.
Case in point: Blaming other countries or immigrants for the fact that your job is no longer relevant. Really? Perhaps you just weren’t paying attention at where the jobs were going and didn’t make the jump to learn something new when the first round of layoffs started happening or the mill across town closed down because of a damned spotted owl.
This is not delivered without sympathy. I have been there several times over the years. I’ve had to reinvent myself and my life time and time again. At the age of 54, I had to start over completely, giving up another house, a car and a livelihood. I had to move 3,000 miles back home at the cost of almost $7,000, tuck that tail between my legs, re-enter the working world of bosses and long commutes, and eat a lot of crow with friends who had every right to say “I told you so,” but chose not to.
Sure, you can go ahead and blame the others or the entire world for your problems. But if you do it around me, know that my nodding head and my look of concern may be bogus, because I may be doing everything I can to keep from blurting out, “But did you ever think of taking the blame for your situation?”
We are all ultimately responsible for our own actions good and bad. Be a grown up. Own up to them. Admit that you may have made mistakes or chose the wrong path. Life has a funny way of forgiving the fool who admits the errors of his ways and seeks guidance. I, my friend, am the poster child of proof!
In the Emerald City, no longer trapped in that house of mirrors with the burned out Exit sign,
I have been watching these commercials lately about the little blue pill. You know the one. It has senior women running for their very lives at The Villages in Florida, that swinging senior singles community that has the highest level of sexually transmitted diseases in the nation.
A new era has unfolded as old men, once stripped of their virility, pop a little blue pill and for the next four hours, become the cock of the walk, literally. Hundreds, nay, thousands of horny, sex crazed old men living out the movie Cocoon like it was a documentary.
I’m not really sure when sex became so important that we all decided that modern medicine had to make everyone’s flag fly at full mast for four hours. There’s something to be said for cuddling and intimacy. O.K., so I’m making that up. I am not done sowing my oats. I’m just not so sure that taking a pill every day just to feel attractive or virile really works for me.
Perhaps I am still haunted by my past. At the behest of one former ex, I actually took one of these pills for a test drive. I admit that I was very concerned about the side effects, which included blindness. My mother used to warn me about that when I was young, but I don’t think it had to do with a blue pill or a girlfriend.
Still, I can be a real pleaser at times, so I gave in. I took the pill. Later that night, I awoke with a huge headache. A side effect, I thought. O.K., I can live with it. I opened my eyes and reached for the aspirin bottle on the bedstand. It was then that I noticed a second side effect. I had gone blind! Oh, my god! For a little toss in the sack, I had traded in my eyesight.
I looked around the room. I couldn’t see anything. It was then that I began to rightfully panic. I then moved into a full freakout mode. The insignificant other, startled by my cries of fear and terror, awoke and turned on the light.
I felt like a complete idiot. I hadn’t gone blind. She just kept the room exceedingly dark, to the point where you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I guess I had never noticed that before.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did try another pill several years earlier when I was in Floriduh. My future-ex guilted me into taking it to increase my ability to please her and let me tell you, it did get a rise out of me, but not in a good way.
The drug was called Inagya, I think. Her family gets it from Belize by the case. I had never heard of it before, but being the please I am, I thought I would give it a shot.
I took the pill. Hmm, it didn’t seem to work. The flag was still at half mast. Maybe there’s a delayed response, I thought.
As I waited for the magic to happen my future-ex asked me if I would take the garbage out. I usually ignored such requests. But this time, I did it without a peep. I packed all the garbage in the house out to the street.
“Wow!” I thought. What the hell happened?
It was then that I realized the Inagya wasn’t for the mainmast. It was designed to make her seem more agreeable. Instead of hearing the usual incessant bitching and whining, I heard what I can only describe as an angel singing soothing suggestions that I gladly complied to without another thought.
Gadzooks! I had been doped. And duped.
By now, the pill had taken its full effect and the Wicked Witch started looking a bit more like a storybook princess. Not quite a Jasmine, but a Fiona at twilight. That’s pretty powerful stuff, I thought, unable to do anything about this trance I was in.
Eventually, the Inagya wore off. It turned out it was only good for about four hours and every time the effects wore off, I would go through withdrawals that became more and more horrific. I would end up with horrible hallucinations where I thought I was living in a manufactured home on a horse pasture and every once in a while, this Hispanic man would wander through the yard, whacking down bushes with his ever-present machete. Worse, they were all Republicans and under the influence of this powerful drug, I was beginning to believe what they said on FOX News.
Scary stuff. It was then that I decided I would only pretend to take the Inagya.
She wised up to this ploy, for I returned unexpectedly to my euphoric state the next day. Her voice was had become music to my ears rather than the usual fingernails on a chalkboard.
Dammit. She had drugged me somehow. It must have been in that glass of Florida orange juice she brought to me in bed this morning. I had been roofied without knowing it.
The rest of that day is something of a blur still. I do vaguely remember doing the dishes, then cleaning the bathroom, shampooing the carpet, repainting the house, detailing her car and cleaning out the garage, all without a singular remark or protest.
Man, she must have emptied that bottle of Inagya on me in a final attempt to bring me back in line.
Thankfully, she had indeed emptied the bottle. Several days later, everything was back as it should have been. She was back to being a bitchy wife and I was back to being a husband in hell. Yes, we were typical Americans once again.
She pleaded with me to renew my prescription, but alas, it all fell on deaf ears.
As the drug left my system I came to realize that this was hardly a way for any man to live, having to be drugged every four hours so he could tolerate being with his significant other. My days of Inagya were a thing of the past.
Eventually, I moved on to greener pastures, one that didn’t have a resident nag.
Perhaps that’s why I’m so wary of taking pills these days. You never know what the side effects are. One moment you’re all happy and the next moment you wake up doing a Helen Keller. I am just thankful that I could see the light… once someone turned it on.
In the Emerald City, enjoying being in a Katatonic state, in more ways than one,
I used to love the television show Time Tunnel. Every week, Tony and Doug would be transported to another place and time, while all the time, the Time Tunnel team was trying desperately to retrieve them from the vortex of time and space, usually against all odds.
It was good fodder for a young boy. To think that you could be whisked away to an alternate world, one where you could change history.
Of course, Tony and Doug never could manage to change the course of history, nor should they have. A single change in one tumbler of time, no matter how small, could change things significantly with the passage of time. In such a world Elvis could be still alive and you dead or Hitler could have won the war.
Das wäre wirklich den grössten zu saugen.
Sorry, I was momentarily sucked into that alternate possibility.
Still, I can’t help but feel as if I am in one of those alternate worlds right now. Now, I’m not going to get all politicky on you. I think you know by now where I stand. It should be as clear as mud. That’s because I stand in the middle of the pack. I am neither liberal or conservative. I was not a fan of either major candidate running for president this last time around, but as an American, I have to live with the results. It’s the way things work. Some presidents are great, some are so-so, and some are downright lousy. I’ve seen all three types during my lifetime, so I’m not one of those who pretends that this president or that will be our downfall or salvation. The republic has been around a long time and if it can survive the likes of Franklin Pierce (wasn’t he a character on MASH?) and Jimmy Carter, I think it can survive just about anything.
Well, there is one thing: Putting the media on trial.
I’ve been watching the new guy prepare for office. He’s made mistakes, sure. Some his choices aren’t really emptying the swamp; rather, he is just filling the swamp with bloated cash whores. All the high-fiving white guys are packing into the pool quite tightly, to the point that the water is overflowing and spilling down the Capital steps. So what’s new?
What is new is that these guys are turning us all against the media. Now, let me be the first to say here: the media is not perfect. I was a journalism major in college. I grew up in the All the President’s Men era. I know that the media doesn’t always get it right. I know reporters ultimately answer to their bosses, just as we all do, and bosses in the media tend to have left and right leaning tendencies, again, as we all do.
But here’s the danger. Since our country was founded, in fact, before it was founded, the media has played a central role in keeping politicians honest. They are the ones that out the scandals, like the Iran Contra Scandal, the Tea Pot Dome Scandal, and of course, the biggy, Watergate, which was so big that it didn’t even need the word Scandal behind it.
If we start to believe what the politicos want us to believe – that all the legitimate media ever does is lie and fabricate fake news – then where does that leave us, the average voter? While we should always vet information reported by a single news agency, we should realize that when several reputable news organizations report on something, chances are fairly good, if not absolute, that there is indeed something flinky going on here.
The lifeblood of a political reporter’s life is his or her sources. These are people deep inside the government who are typically just an average Joe going about his business in the government. To keep their job, they have to remain off the grid. Remember Deep Throat? These folks want the government to continue on, not because they have some deep, dark hidden agenda, but because they want to keep getting a paycheck. Moreover, they feel they have a responsibility to their friends and families, who are also called voters.
I have seen this first hand because for the last five years I have worked for the government. I have met an amazing number of public servants who just want to do what’s right and help taxpayers make their way in this world, whether it’s helping them renew their driver’s licenses, get a place to live or find a job.
When elected officials come along who aren’t interested in these things, but rather, want to do something that benefits themselves and their rich buddies and not the public, these rank and file workers get a little pissed. And if they remain pissed long enough, they will start telling others. First their wives, then their friends, and finally reporters.
So here’s the big point here. In this country the media is known as the Fourth Estate. The executive, legislative and judicial branches are the first, second and third respectively. As that fourth entity, it is the media’s job to keep the elected officials honest. It is their job to question what we are all told is the truth, whether it’s something about Russian interference about our election process, what sexual favors an intern was performing on the president in the Oval Office, or that someone wants to fly in the face of tradition and not share his tax returns because he says “there’s nothing interesting in them.”
Let us decide. Let the media continue to bring these issues to light and let us, the public, make those decisions about who is telling the truth and who is not. Remember, you work for us, we don’t work for you. Just like I don’t take a news story at face value – no matter who wrote it – I also won’t take an elected official’s version of the truth at face value either. I have a responsibility to find the truth and question those elected to serve me. That is my right and my responsibility as a taxpayer, as a voter and as an American.
To vilify the media and dismiss their reports, saying they aren’t to be trusted or a bogus, is to leave the fox in charge of watching the henhouse. We all saw how well that worked with the Nixon and Clinton administrations.
Let the media continue to ask the tough questions and let’s continue to search for the truth. Our democracy depends on us to do this difficult work, for if we don’t, we may wake up one morning to a knock on the door, asking us for our papers.
In the Emerald City, trying to find a good nom de plume for when I am labeled a dissident,
It’s the day after New Years. The tree and all the decorations have been returned to the garage. The Christmas music is over. The holiday baking, done. Today, it’s 27 degrees outside, with a predicted high of 33.
My friends in Florida still think I am nuts for leaving all that fun in the sun, trading in shorts and sandals weather for wooly mittens and a Goretex jacket.
First, let me say I am not a big fan, or even a minor fan, of biting cold winters and waist deep snow.
I talked to my daughter who lives in Michigan these days and they have 30″ of the white stuff and it’s below zero a lot. Now that’s batshit crazy! In Seattle, that would be national news.
I confess that I really missed this when I lived in Florida. Yes, it’s cute getting the puddle of water memes of the Florida Snowman from my friends. But something always seemed odd to me about the Christmas season in Florida, because, well, it wasn’t Christmasy.
Yes, there were all the trappings of Christmas present. In Key West, I remember in particular the snowglobe in someone’s front yard with fake snow blowing around inside as an inflated Santa waved to passersby. The candy canes were indeed hung along Duval with care, but it just never said that Santa would soon be there.
Now, I’m not dinging Florida. It was really wonderful in many ways during my eight years there (Remember, writer. I can make darned near anything sound legit).
But I always missed the seasons and have come to realize that yes, indeed, I am a Man for All Seasons.
No, I’m not crazy about harsh winter weather, but winters here are pretty darned mild compared to the rest of the country. It’s mostly 40 to 50 degrees around here from November to February, and when the weather does dip into the 20s or 30s for a week, like now, it’s something of an aberration. Winter weather tends to stay where it’s supposed to; in the mountains and in Eastern Washington.
But I digress. Back to winter. While it is winter now, it’s not my favorite season by any stretch. I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark. We just passed the Solstice, so the days are already getting longer, but it will be another six months before it starts getting dark around 10:30, something we all live for here.
Given my lack of love for Florida’s weather, you can probably guess that summer isn’t really my favorite season either. Summer starts after the 4th of July here. No, I’m not joking. Then it lasts until about mid-September, something we call Indian Summer. The weather is still pretty mild; so much so that most homes don’t have air-conditioning.
When the sunny days do arrive, I can safely say that this is one of the most spectacular and beautiful places to live. It is heaven. That said, on a sunny day it is the most beautiful place in the world.
And, in a brilliant piece of engineering, locals are wired in reverse. In Florida, and I assume other sunny
In Florida, and I assume other sunny climes, when it rains, everyone’s plans are ruined because they expected another sunny day. Here, we expect cloudy and rainy days almost all the time, so when the sun does comes out, which is more often than I will admit to someone looking to move here, we all head out to go sailing, play on the beach, water ski, hike around our resident volcanoes and just generally enjoy life to the fullest.
I know people in summery locales can do this anytime they want, except the volcano part. But I found this to be somewhat boring. Because it was always an option, I never bothered. I lived a scant 500 feet from the empty beaches in Vero Beach and I can count on two hands the number of times I went out there on my own to enjoy the beach.
Why? Because it was always there. “Tomorrow” I would say. In the four years back in my homeland, I have been to the beach more times than I can count. That’s because it’s not always beach weather here, so I have to be mindful of those times when I can enjoy a sunny afternoon or evening beachside so I can enjoy it to its fullest.
The best times of the year for me here are spring and fall. Spring is always amazing, especially in my new yard, for everything comes to life and suddenly my yard is alive with flora and fauna, most of which I can’t even name. It’s an amazing transformation.
The same can be said for fall. This was my first fall here. The creek rages wildly on occasion as the autumn rains arrive and the leaves begin to fall. The leaves are certainly not something I love about fall. I’ve never had to rake leaves before and I already know that I will never like it.
But I do love the fact that the hot summer days of Indian Summer (mid September) start to give way to the crisp chill of fall. The air turns a bit nippy and you get to pull out your fall clothes instead of just wearing your summer clothes again, over and over and over… Plus, you get to buy barbecues and patio furniture for pennies on the dollar since everything in the stores is seasonal so there are corresponding season-ending sales you won’t find in the land of endless sunshine.
And then Halloween arrives. The leaves are falling now, it’s just a bit colder and darker out; it seems as if the Headless Horseman is going to make a turn in the Park n’ Ride lot at any moment and head right for you. It’s another change of a season, another year passing, another chance to look forward to the coming of a new year, a new season of renewal and growth, and eventually summer days and long summer nights.
Yes, I am a Man for Four Seasons and proud to say so. I am lucky enough to live in a world where I don’t have to own a snow shovel, let alone a snow blower. I can look out at the wintery weather without cursing it, and I can welcome a warm summer day without feeling like I’m in a twisted version of the movie Groundhog Day, waking up to the same day over and over again, not knowing how to move on with the seasons I so love.
In the Emerald City, appreciating the arrival of boot and mitten season,
Increasingly, we seem to be living in a post-truth world. We seem to refuse to believe the most basic of absolute facts in favor of the wildest of fantasies. To bolster our belief in the absurd, the crazy and often times manipulative, we drink the Kool Aid of faux-news sites and clickbait on Facebook and share it as if it is written on stone tablets sent from above.
To paraphrase from one of my favorite movies, the American people aren’t drinking the sand they find in the desert to quench their thirst; they drink it because they just don’t know any better.
There was a time not so long ago that we could all instantly tell that a snake oil salesman was trying to sell us something. We knew it was a scam and that the guy knocking on our door was a huckster. We were savvy consumers, the type that could go to a used car dealership and know, almost instinctively, that the car the salesman was trying his darndest to sell us was the biggest lemon on the lot.
We knew fact from fiction. And if we didn’t, we knew how to do our research. We would pour over publications like Consumer Reports before we bought a stereo or a car. We read endless reviews in newspapers and magazines before we’d see a movie. We were voracious consumers of the truth.
The truth was so important that we rallied in the streets to end an unjust war, we demanded the resignation of a President who lied to us to our faces, and long before most of us were born, we brought shame to a U.S. Senator for who accused ordinary citizens of being Communists.
Now we readily share anything that comes across vaguely as a news source, whether it’s Briebert, Fox News, OccupyDemocrats.com or SupremePatriot.com. We don’t even bother to check the accuracy quickly on Google. We just mindlessly and all too willingly pass it along, as if it is a long held fact, when in fact, it could have been created specifically to misinform and worse, brainwash.
We have become lazy, feasting on the fat of faux news that others with obvious agendas foist on us daily. No longer do we dine on digestible, yet often complex news. We were weened on 60-second stories on the evening news. We are a sound-bite culture and now we are raising a meme-minded culture who are our children.
We have stopped being smart consumers. We have let others dumb us down. Snake oil salesmen who have a talented web designer who can make even the stupidest, most vile, most fact-void stories seem real. And we willingly pass these right along to our friends, this faux news, poorly crafted photos retouched in Photoshop and sound bites that have been edited to deceive, not inform.
I admit, I am a bit spoiled. Before I ever pass on an item, I check the source first. At the very least I will Google the “news” to see if reputable news organizations have picked the story up as well. I don’t care what their angle is. I was a journalism major, so I know there’s no such thing as objective news reporting. All reporters work for news outlets who make their money selling advertising. Their publishers all have a point of view, be it liberal, conservative, alt right or just plain crazy.
I learned long ago how to be a smart consumer of the news. It started long before I went to college to be a journalist. It started when I was young, almost living in the library, checking out a big stack of books every 28 days and reading up on dozens of subjects. I learned to cross-check what I read with other sources, and then I discovered the references in the back, which quoted original source material.
Wow! What a revelation! Today, I do the same. I always check for original source material. For example, there’s a bunch of whackos who are trying to claim that the southern states didn’t secede because of the slavery issue. Wrong! Don’t believe me? Read the text of the original documents. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Without going into too much science, your brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined, what is fact and what is fiction. If you immerse yourself long enough in fiction and fakery, it will become real to you, just as an insane person lives in a fantasy world that to him, looks entirely real.
Now, I don’t really care if you decide to take this course in your life. Sink into the depths of fantasy, revel in the fantastic, become mired in the fakery; just don’t take us with you. Spend an extra minute or two and return to your days in school when your teacher asked you where you got your facts. Quoting from Mad Magazine got you an ‘F’, remember? The same if you quoted a fact from Batman, though truth be told, the cartoonists back in those days had a better education than 90% of the people on Facebook.
I’ve lost a lot of friends this year. It’s not who they voted for. I could, quite frankly, care less what your politics are. I do, however, care if you spread lies masked as truth, fiction wrapped up as fact, links to websites that have as much foundation in journalism as the Swami of Pastrami had in the Dark Arts.
It’s fun to be entertained by these things. I admit it. But I can instantly tell that The Onion is not a real news site. It’s hilarious parody, but if you quote it as real news, I will first take you to task, and next, I will smite your ass on Facebook and then promptly unfriend you in the most public way since you need to be fanny-slapped for your outright stupidity.
Please don’t spread your sh** around the barn. The animals are loose already and no one needs to be stepping in your crap, especially when it’s being sold as snake oil. I ain’t buying. Too smart.
In the Emerald City, damned glad I learned critical thinking and research in my school days (thanks Dr. Kruegel and Mr. Eaton),
Well, it’s almost the end of the year and in the spirit of the holiday season, I’ve decided to give away a lot of topics that really didn’t warrant a thousand words. Now, It’s not that a thousand words are somehow magical. It’s not like the heavens will suddenly open up and swallow me whole if I came up a couple words short. But it seems to be the number of words I usually suck up exploring a topic.
Of course, I’d like to think about having an inexhaustible supply of words. I guess all writers do. At one time, I mused that we all were born with a finite number of words. We are given lots of an’s, the’s, and or’s, of course, but a lot fewer uses of words like beleaguered, disingenuous and fugacious. I like to reason that this is why we are eventually reduced to a stream of ums, uhs, and swear words as we age, since we seem to have been given an inexhaustible supply of those.
I even wanted to write a book like that. A book where I would eventually run out of words, using up my life’s remaining allowance, finishing with a stream of leftover a’s and and’s as its closing sentences.
I never wrote it of course. It was simply too daunting, trying to keep track of the available words and never using them again once I thought my quota had been exhausted.
Well, there’s the first clearance sale item. An idea that is still awaiting the world to welcome it, if only someone could figure it out.
Let’s move on to some other sale items:
The Second Amendment: Sorry, you’re not going to find me taking either side on this one. That’s what Supreme Courts and self-serving rights groups are for. But following the most recent spate of shootings, my son put his finger on a good idea: require a background check for the purchase of bulletproof vests for anyone who isn’t in law enforcement. Yes, I hear that hunters use them, which is itself kind of sad, but for argument’s sake, they too have to go through a background check. When someone sees you have a hunting license, great, here’s your vest. Now, to be fair, you don’t get one with the stopping power of the ones the police have. That just doesn’t make sense. They should be able to take you out, you shouldn’t be able to take them out. But as my son so wryly noted, bulletproof vests are often a sign someone is planning to do some mass shooting and it’s definitely not included anywhere in the Second Amendment. Taking offers on this one.
Regrets: I could start off by saying that this is something I regret not writing about, but that kind of defeats the purpose here. Rather, I have discovered that having regrets, let alone wallowing in them, is a total waste of time. You can’t take what happened back and you certainly can’t change it, so why continue to revel in it and relive it over and over? It just sucks up valuable time and keeps you from moving forward with your life. What happened, happened. You can tell yourself any story about it you’d like, but chances are pretty good that 1) it never happened the way you like to think it did and 2) no one really gives a sh** anymore anyway.
The Perfect Crime: I have thought long and hard about this one. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to put it on sale, not that I would ever do it, but because it could cause a rash of very embarrassing robberies. Here’s the deal. The perfect time to rob a guy of his wallet is when he’s standing in front of the urinal. His mind is elsewhere, he’s defenseless and once you take his wallet, he’s going to find it difficult to run after you, at least immediately. What’s more, he’s probably not going to want to report it since the cops will be telling that story in the precinct for weeks and months to come.
A College Education: I didn’t need to go to college. I don’t think a lot of us did. It’s hard to tell my son that he should go to college when I simply went there because I didn’t want to get a real job. No one has ever asked me to prove I went to college (go Huskies!), and nowadays I could have just scanned a friend’s diploma and added my own name to it in Photoshop. Alternately, and even still occasionally, I wished I had it tattooed on my ass so when someone asked to see my B.A., I could show them right there and then. I’ll let this one go cheap too.
Unfounded Fear: Yes, I’ve touched on this a time or too, but all those fears seemed pretty founded at the time. What I’ve come to realize is that 95% of what I feared would happen never did. Instead, it was most often those things I never could have dreamed of and I’ve managed to deal with each relatively fine. If only I had known how little we can really control in our lives, I would have had a lot more fun and a lot less worry. This one is free to anyone who needs it. And if you still have unfounded fears, I highly recommend the God Jar. Write each down on a piece of paper, put them in the jar and let God handle them for you. They probably aren’t going to happen anyway.
Package Shaving: No, this isn’t about being well-groomed downstairs. Rather, it’s about the practice of companies that continue to reduce the size of packages while keeping the price the same. You know, the 16 oz. bag of coffee that is now 12 oz. or your favorite chips that are now measured in grams, like anyone outside of a drug dealer knows what a gram is.
I only wish this shaving practice would reduce the calories as well. My ever expanding waistline tells me this isn’t so. I knew I shouldn’t have bought that second bag of Cheetos in a fit of self-righteousness.
In the Emerald City, lightening the load with a quick sale,
The elections are done. The unrest is not. For some reason, many of us can’t accept an outcome that doesn’t match our expectations. Instead, we once again bitch that we were ripped off, that the other side stole the election, blah, blah blah, blah blah!
Don’t try to justify it all to me. I’ve seen the popular vote. And I know that the Electoral College ultimately decides, and as we all seem to know, the outcome is pretty certain.
I’m not asking you to just get over it either (I probably won’t.) And I’m not judging you if you want to just stew about it for the next four or eight years (I people probably will be too). Protest is a natural part of our democracy, and I celebrate the right to peacefully protest as much as I do the right to vote and the right of free speech, since RobZerrvations seems to be the epitome of free speech.
But there’s something that runs much deeper here. We are indeed a divided country, but not in ways that most people think. It’s not the white men against every person of color. It’s not even Democrat vs. Republicans.
I saw this coming some months back. In my job, I work with a lot of rural counties in Washington State. There is a huge have/have not divide between urban and rural in Washington. Eastern Washington is heavily conservative and the urban centers in the west are heavily liberal. There are pockets elsewhere of both conservatives and liberals, but the divide we see most at the state level and certainly the electorate level is between Eastern and Western Washington.
This recent election tells the same story nationwide. If you look at the numbers, and I’m not talking about the popular vote, the divide is daunting and alarming.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the data. You can read an interesting article about this in The Atlantic or this one today in The Seattle Times, but there are other sources that confirm the data points and the resulting extrapolations.
There are 3,100 counties in America. Obama won handily in 86 of the 100 largest urban counties in the 2012 election, but only won 600 of the remaining 3,000 counties. He was fortunate that he had 12 million more votes in those 100 urban counties, because he lost by seven million in the rural counties.
Fast forward to this election. Clinton won the 100 urban counties by 12.6 million votes and counting, but she won only 420 counties in the rural parts of the U.S. Trump trounced Clinton in the other 2,580 counties by 11.5 million votes.
On CBS Sunday Morning a couple Sundays ago, they had a piece on people living in McDowell County, West Virginia, smack dab in coal country. At one time, the population was around 100,000. Today, the county only has about 19,000 residents. They voted 4 to 1 against Hillary.
This has been a traditional Democratic stronghold, going all the way back to Kennedy. But over the years, the Democratic party has increasingly pursued an increasingly liberal agenda, which doesn’t resonate in small communities that are economically challenged and often poor.
Remember back in the sixties when the Democrats were all about the poor? This time around, it was all about the middle class, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, gay rights, abortion… I could go on. The party forgot about the rural poor.
People in rural communities want to share in all the economic wealth of the urban centers are enjoying. But they don’t necessarily want to buy urban liberalism.
I can’t say I blame them. Part of the charm of rural life is that it hasn’t changed much over decades or even centuries. People can still leave their doors unlocked at night, everyone knows their neighbors by first name and chances are very good that if your children go out to play, they won’t be snatched by a pervert. The pace of life is slow and predictable, something a lot of my urban friends wish they had as they sit in miles of Puget Sound traffic, look at huge condo projects going up across the street where quaint bungalows used to be, and freak out when their kids are three minutes late in answering a text.
Sadly, creating economic vitality in rural areas is not easy. Employers want a qualified workforce but you can’t get the training you need until you know what an employer needs. Regulations have killed a lot of these communities as wekk. A good example lies in Skamania County here in Washington.
A state-of-the-art mill lies dormant there. Until 2008, workers at the mill made veneer. But regulations on timber harvests and a complex, burdensome review process has created a shortage of logs. The mill needs 15 million feet more of timber to open. Without it, it sits idle and the region’s economy continues to suffer.
I could name many more towns, just here in Washington State. These communities can’t grow without jobs and companies want vibrant communities to do business in, not ghost towns. The residents of these towns, traditionally Democratic strongholds, are angry and they are taking their anger out on the liberal agenda they see foisted on them by urban centers.
Now, I’m not saying this is what cost the election. But if you listen to people in small towns, especially those who have a history of supporting the Democrats, they have lost hope. They feel ignored. They feel that they are no longer important or relevant and that they have taken a back seat to the urban money-making machines. The result: they are angry, dispossessed and lashing out.
This divide will continue until someone pays attention to the economic disparity that exists nationwide. As I said, it’s not all about whites and minorities. The numbers don’t support that. Rather, it’s about a historic shift to urban centers, the decline of once thriving rural communities and age-old resentment by the have-nots of the haves.
Bitch all you like, but if you’re liberal, you need to realize that things are going to get worse, not better. And until the poor, the dispossessed rural folks have hope, you will hear their voices loud and clear at the polls.
So, go ahead and stop by Starbucks on your way to your protest rally in downtown Seattle or Portland. Continue to delude yourself that you were somehow wronged. Blame the supposed uneducated white men in small towns if you like. Continue to believe that you’re the smart one and that all these people are idiots, or worse, continue to marginalize them as being somehow less of a person than you are because they didn’t see the world through your urban eyes.
America is already great for many of us; we’re the lucky ones. But, there are those who are losing hope that their tomorrow will even come, let alone show any signs of greatness. And believe me, they are pissed!
In the Emerald City, thankful that I came from where I did, as I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to be poor,