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Damned Failures!

Posted by admin on May 21, 2018 in Culture
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I am a Boomer. I used to be proud to be part of this generation. I mean, we are the majority of the country, or at least we were until those upstart Millennials came along. We were the generation that marched against an unjust war, fought for racial equality, embraced the women’s movement, got rid of our gas guzzlers and watched man walk on the moon.

We had so much potential. As a kid, I thought we would be the ones that finally got our arms around pollution and rid ourselves of our dependence on oil. I thought we would solve the homeless crisis and make sure that no child went hungry at night. I believed that we would not only give peace a chance, but make it the rule of the land. I thought we were the ones who would change the world.

Yes, we’ve made some inroads along the way. But I think our idealism has faded to a pragmatism that has turned us into spectators instead of activists. It’s almost like we’ve pulled out our collective rocking chairs and decided that we already did our part. We tried, we failed, so let’s just move on.

Maybe we just burned ourselves out in our youths. Maybe we tried so hard to change the world when we were in our teens and 20s that we don’t have any umph left in us. Or, perhaps, we simply sold out in the 80s and became the Yuppies we used to make fun of, consumed with power, status and possessions.

Just look at the McMansions springing up around us. Mid-century homes that were once big enough to hold families of five, six or even more, are being bulldozed to make way for 4,000 square foot houses for two, or maybe three, if the couple decides to accessorize their lives with a child.

This would be fine, of course, if we had managed to solve at least some of our problems. Instead, we live in a society that is crumbling around the edges, largely because we aren’t willing to fight for the future anymore, or worse, we’ve believe that’s the job of the X’ers and Millennials now. That somehow we did our time.

Recent events show that we obviously didn’t. Our society has become increasingly racists, separatist and worse, we can’t even protect our children or grandchildren in a school.

Over the weekend there was the horrible statistic that since the first of the year, more children have been killed in our schools than in battle. Let that sink in for a moment. I mean, I am nearly 60 and I have never seen this in my lifetime.

And yet, we are almost complacent about it. While children were dying and others were fighting for their lives over the weekend, we were posting about whether we heard Yanny or Laurel, like it was the most important thing we had to talk about.

Post after post. Mind numbing stupidity after stupidity.

We have become a sad people. We are failing as a generation because we don’t tackle the hard job of figuring out a way to protect kids from monsters who shoot up schools.

Now, before you jump on the pro-gun or anti-gun soapbox, spare me. Guns are forever part of our lives. They are, for better or worse, protected under the 2nd Amendment. Spare me the cheap shots on either side. They won’t bring these children back to life, and they aren’t going to save your child or grandchild the next time some disgruntled nut job decides to shoot up a school, a movie theater, mall or park.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. What I can tell you is that we have created these monsters. We have retreated into the safety of our own phones and social media to ponder the importance of Yanny and Laurel. We don’t talk to our neighbors anymore, or the person waiting for the bus, or even the cashier at the store. Hell, some of us barely talk to our kids.

We are an island nation. We’re all in it for ourselves and damn everyone else. I see it during my daily commute every day. The streets of Seattle are filled with Phone Zombies who stare blankly at their machines as they walk down the street. They have checked out of the world. We have checked out of the world.

And children are dying because of our failure. I heard one idiot official in Texas, yes, the Lieutenant Governor, who said we should have just one entrance/exit and arm all the teachers. Now there’s a solution. The monster waits by that entrance in a protected position (say around a corner) and plucks off the armed teachers and students as they obey the fire drill protocols. And this guy got elected.

Another guy got elected last year, too. Instead of leading the way in curbing this violence he posts about some spy thing in an election that happened two years ago already. Yes, I ordered flags at half-staff and offered the requisite thoughts and prayers.

Well, it’s time to can the thoughts and prayers crap. And the moments of silence. I have to agree with singer Kelly Clarkson who last night asked for moments of action instead of silence. How long are we going to stand for this violence against our children?

It’s time for tough conversations. Ones where we actually listen to each other, ones where we offer solutions instead of the same ol’ same ol’ blame game and retreats into self-righteousness. Children are dying. Elected officials aren’t stepping up at any level. It’s time for the Boomers to fight one last good fight.

We owe it to our parents. They put their lives on the line to stop Hitler and his evil axis from taking over the world. We can’t even stop a nut from shooting up a school. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with our generation?

Do we still have one more fight left in us? Or is the only thing we can seem to agree on these days is whether it was Yanny or Laurel?

In the Emerald City, wondering what became of my generation,

  • Robb

 

 
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Next Time. Maybe.

Posted by admin on May 14, 2018 in Life Lessons

My son turned 20 a couple days ago. For his birthday, we decided to take him to one of his favorite local restaurants. He was running a bit late, it was happy hour, and well, the beer finally got to me.

Not in a drunk kind of way, mind you, but in a bladder kind of way. Excusing myself, I sauntered off to the restroom. On the way, I made a note about one of my many imperfections, then dismissed it with a nonchalant utterance, “I’ll fix it the next time around.”

To some, that would be a very bold statement, to others, it would be nothing short of blasphemy.

Me? I find it nearly impossible to believe that this is the only time we get to exist. Now, I’m not sure where we go, but I think we have to take several trips around the universe before we’re evolved enough to go to that final, final destination.

Which means I get a couple more do-overs.

Hedging this bet, I am writing this RobZerrvation to let my next self know some things to avoid the next time around, things that would have made this life much more productive and often less painful.

So bear with me as I help out my future self.

Dear me,

If you’re reading this then 1) you died, 2) you got another turn, and 3) don’t blow it like you did the last one(s).

First things first. Convince your brother that he should take you somewhere on Labor Day weekend in 1972. Anywhere but Brewster, Washington. He doesn’t need to drown again on his next turn around.

Remember that you can’t help your dad. He had lots of demons. As a little boy, you can’t help him in his fight. Instead, try to be more understanding of his mental and health issues, don’t be such a turd, and try to ease his pain without building a ballfield in a cornfield in Iowa.

In high school, don’t fall for the girl who is selling Ojo de Dioses in the Spanish booth at the International Fair. You will meet a lot of girls in college that you would have loved to have dated if you hadn’t married your “high school sweetheart.” There will be lots of sweethearts, my boy. Lots. No need to be tied down at 20, at least in the married sort of way.

This, by the way, will solve the second faux pas automatically. Your family stopped talking to you over that whole hand in the other cookie jar thing. If you had avoided getting married, you couldn’t have had that affair, and you wouldn’t have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the intervening years getting crappy cars fixed because your brother would still be your mechanic.

I’m sure there are some other reasons you would have liked to have your brothers in your life – perhaps you could have gotten a crack at that 7,000-year-old alien your brother was having sex with, the one with the spaceship parked behind Mt. Si.

On second thought…

Assuming you still have children in your 20s, spend more time with them. Make sure they aren’t conceived nine months before the end of July. Seafair parade season and pirating always gave you a twisted view of priorities. Remember next time: your children first, your own childhood second.

I’d like to tell you not to move as much as you did. I mean, really, 26 times? But then, you are something of a gypsy and bon vivant. The change of scenery did you well at times, and you got rid of a lot of stuff you didn’t need in the process. Still, you really didn’t need to buy three miter saws in your lifetime. Next time, take the first one with you.

In the career department, well, you got something right. I mean, who gets to make stuff and get paid to do it for 33 years? You only did real work the first four years when you were in the mailroom. Not bad!

I would say that next time, you don’t want to run your own show for 20 years. Find a good state job earlier. I mean, you got into it later in life when you could have gone into public service much earlier. That pension is looking pretty good now. Just imagine what it would have been like after 20 or 30 years instead of six.

Now for the biggy. If you ever go pirating in Key West, don’t speak to any reporters. Don’t even give them a second glance. Definitely, do not invite them to your house for their birthday. And whatever you do, don’t be stupid enough to run away with them to Florida. Nothing comes of it. I mean nothing. 

I know you don’t want to hear that. You love to think that there was some purpose to your eight years in the Land of the Mouse. Yes, you met some lifelong friends there, but otherwise? Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Honestly, you could have faced your demons at home. You could have stayed in Seattle. Next time, if the opportunity presents itself, stick around. Move into an apartment if you have to, get a divorce again, but whatever you do, stay, don’t go.

And watch your email. Somewhere along the way you’re going to get an email application from a Red Handed Jill. She wants to join your pirate group. Last time around, this happened while you were in Florida. 

If you stay in Seattle this time, Red Handed Jill will be able to join your little performing troupe. You will get to meet her sooner. She will turn out to be the one you always dreamed of. If you play your cards right next time around, you will get to marry her earlier and get more years with her than you did this time around.

Her real name is Kat, by the way. You’ll like her. Trust me. And you’ll wonder why you ever spent time looking for happiness 3,000 miles away when she grew up right in your own backyard. She’s a Rainier Valley girl.

Remember, Peter Pan doesn’t always have to fly off to Neverland to find adventure. Especially when Red Handed Jill was there all along, waiting with a handful of pixie dust so you could soar together in ways you never, ever imagined.

  • Robb

 
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Party of One, Please!

Posted by admin on April 23, 2018 in Life Lessons

Life has been something of a red carpet ride over the last couple months. No, I haven’t been binge-watching Aladdin. I’m talking about the red carpet that stars walk down, the one where all the flashes of light are happening to the point where you almost go blind.

I’ve been having these flashes lately – no, not hot flashes. I’m talking about flashes of clarity, flashes of brilliance, and downright profundity.

Why, oh why doesn’t all of this happen earlier in life? It’s been so freeing, these flashes. Suddenly, new perspectives about life and its meaning are manifested, and I’ve been able to come to the realization that I’ve wasted a hell of a lot of time trying to fix others and convince them that they should see the world as I see it.

What a total waste of time. It’s not entirely my fault, though. Since we were all kids, we’ve been put into boxes so that we think we share some kind of magical DNA with others because of our proclivities. You know the boxes we are grouped in: the jocks, the popular kids, the dweebs, the parking lotters, the braniacs, etc.

So why wouldn’t we assume that life is like that?

As a result, I would try to point out the error of the ways of others, trying to elevate them a bit in their station in life. Maybe it was just a poor choice made along the way or some bad information they acted upon, or even a momentary disconnect from reality.

My reality. Not theirs.

 

I guess that’s what happens when we’re younger. We want everyone to have the same ride we’re having. But then, somewhere down the line, you come to realize that they can’t possibly go on your journey as they have their own journey to complete. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that we aren’t all in those convenient boxes our teachers, parents and society used put us in.

But then this day of reckoning arrives. You don’t ask for it. It just comes to you. It’s the day you finally realize that you can’t help everyone. Hell, you can’t even help those closest to you sometimes. You’re own sage wisdom and insights don’t mean diddly-squat to someone else because they can’t possibly see the world through your eyes.

There were times over the years when I tried to get people better jobs, jobs that were actually better than them. On many occasions, I tried to convince others that my view on politics, religion, relationships, and literally hundreds of other topics was the correct one and that their own views were based on some sort of flawed logic.

Mind you, the only flaw in the logic was that it wasn’t my logic.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that I don’t know jack-shit about much. As I’ve said to others, I know a lot about a little, but and very little about a lot.

I know very little about the life of others. I can’t possibly know. No one has the same journey. Everyone has different demons to face, mountains to climb and dreams to aspire to, and most important, everyone has their own reality.

 

Yes, reality.

On Facebook I see so many people telling others, “well, they don’t really know the truth.”.

Really? Whose truth? Yours? Or the real truth we hear so much about. The one that doesn’t exist.

When I first started out in my career in corporate communications, I had a sign on my office door that had three rules.

  • If it sounds good it must be true.
  • Perception is reality.
  • Truth is relative.

I’ve come to understand that the last two rules are actually quite true.

Stay with me now…

Facts are things that happen. They don’t have a positive or negative charge. They just are. These are things like the sky is blue, man walked on the moon and Tuesday follows Monday. Simple stuff.

But the truth? You have yours and I have mine. Rain falls, thunder claps. When I was a kid, I actually believed the angels were crying and God was angry. That was my truth. No one, not even my parents could convince me otherwise.

As I got older, the facts changed this truth and many other truths. But this is a very simple fact. Facts related to relationships, politics, religion and (fill in the blank here), aren’t so black and white. The facts are still there, but every person on earth has added their own emotions, experiences, knowledge and belief systems into those facts.

That’s how you end up with different truths. The facts are all the same, but your truth may not match mine on everything. We are, after all, unique. In the history of mankind, there has never been another you or another me. We are a one-off, not a mass production. We are a party of one.

All the many facts in our world, along with the various truths of others, end up in our Mental Cuisinart, whirring around to create our view of the world. For example, some people maintain we never landed on the moon. Yet, with a powerful enough telescope here on Earth, you can see the various descent stages still sitting on the surface, along with cool little wheel tracks left by the Lunar Rovers.

That reality, that fact, isn’t going to change some people’s views about landing on the moon. So why do you think your opinion, or your version of the truth, is going to magically sway them about something else?

 

As I surf the Internet these days, I see so much of the world trying to convince one side or the other that they are the only ones who are right.

Really? How full of yourself can you be to think that you’re the one who’s right? Well, truth be told – and in the interest of full disclosure this is my truth I am telling – you are the one who’s always right… but only right for you!

Eventually, you come to the stark realization that all that energy you’re expending, all those false lines in the sand that you’re drawing, all that “truth” you’re sharing, is for naught.

Few people want that flimflam elixir of truth you’re peddling from the back of your wagon. What they really want is your understanding, your compassion and empathy, and the recognition and appreciation that they aren’t you and can never be you. They are, just as we all are, a party of one.

In the Emerald City, waiting for that table for one back by the kitchen,

  • Robb

 
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Good Grief.

Posted by admin on April 9, 2018 in Life Lessons

I have finally reached the age when funerals are more common than births in my circle of friends. O.K., so I’ve been at this age for some time, but I so love being in denial. It keeps me young.

When I was 30, I even made light of the whole death thing. The theme of the party was Grim Reaper, inviting people to watch me put my first foot in the grave. If I use my limited math skills, that would mean that I’m supposed to put my other foot in this year. Ain’t gonna happen.

At least I like to think it’s going to happen. As of late, some people fairly close to me have been passing away, often unexpectedly, so who really knows? Life seems to pass by like you’re in the passenger seat of a car. When you look out the front life seems like it’s barely moving, but look out the side window doing 70 and everything just flies right by. Don’t even get me started on with the rearview mirror.

Which brings me to the tougher subject. Those who pass get, well, something of a pass. They don’t have to pick up the pieces of their life or yours. Those remaining get to do all the heavy lifting, working through all those shitty stages of grief while everyone blows sunshine up their butt telling them it will all get better.

Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you move through all the stages – even revisit a couple along the way in a cruel circle of life way – only to end up on the other side, still missing the person every day.

It’s that way with my brother. I’ve written a lot about his passing when he was only 24 and I was 14. Losing a loved one at that age is particularly hard, especially a bigger than life brother who was also your hero. I never got over it. I never will. I think about him almost daily. People still wonder why I don’t go to any activities on Labor Day weekend. That’s when he died. I hardly feel like celebrating.

The sad parts about grief are: 1) there’s no time limit and 2) someone didn’t have to die to feel the same sense of loss.

They say that divorce brings on the same sense of loss and sadness. Sure, the other person is still alive (though oft times we wish they weren’t). But the relationship itself has died, along with many of your biggest hopes and dreams. It’s as if you were in that car again and the Thelma to your Louise suddenly slams on the brakes, opens the door and says “Get out!” There you are, not knowing what happened or what to do next.

I’ve suffered other losses over the years, my father in 1981 and my mother more recently. My dad was only 57. My mother lived a very long life and I had a lot of time to adjust to the fact that she was going to die someday, but to this day I still have her phone number in my phone and more than once, have tried to call her. (Geez, I’m tearing up just typing this).

Such is grief. Just when you think you got it licked, it comes back around and whacks you upside the head.

Therapists and so-called experts say that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Yeah, right. Maybe in a cold, hard clinical setting. But in the real world of emotional upheaval, denial and anger along with that depression thing can be real doozies. And acceptance? Really? Why?

The truth of the matter is, life can really suck at times. And accepting that people or a relationship have died is damned hard, especially when you’re haunted by memories of the past.

With some people, those memories are grand and glorious. You want to wrap yourselves up in a blanket of them to get you through a cold night of reality.

But others, they aren’t so good. Especially when the other person is still living. You may not have moved on yet but they are still there, living an entirely new life, one that doesn’t have you in it.

How the hell do you move on from that easily? Since I’m something of an expert here, I will tell you that you don’t. It’s really easy when you’re the one moving on. There are no pieces to pick up.

But when you’re on the receiving end? It’s the worst. As I said, something or someone dies. And with that death, all your hopes and dreams for the future die too. One moment you’re rocketing down the road of life. The next, you’re standing on the side of the road, overwhelmed by all the baggage that got dumped on you.

It’s tough to move on either way. It’s hard to think that tomorrow will be better than today or that next year will be better than this one. Today sucks! So why shouldn’t tomorrow?

All we can really do is try our best to live in the moment we have. I still miss my brother, mother and father. Geez, I still miss my dog to the point where I can’t get a new one. I still grieve a little now and then. It doesn’t come in big waves like it used to. Now it’s just a little ripple once in a while. A ripple of sadness or moment of reflection that makes me wish things would have, could have, turned out differently.

It can’t or didn’t, of course. But that acceptance thing is a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I try my best to live in the moment these days, is it is all I’ve got. But some of my memories are still farm-fresh. And while I’d like to say that I’ve mastered those five stages of grief, every instance of loss offers up a new Rubik’s Cube of feelings that like to take their own time, surprising me and beguiling me with their endless twists and turns, causing me to wonder if I’ve really moved on at all.

Damn you death. Damn you divorce. Damn you grief.

In the Emerald City, putting all those emotional boxes back on the shelf for the day,

  • Robb

 

 
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It’s Not That Simple.

Posted by admin on March 26, 2018 in The Soapbox

There’s a lot of experts in this world of ours these days. I see them on TV, on LinkedIn, and of course, our favorite soapbox, Facebook. They seem to have all the answers. Some even pretend to be thought leaders, whatever the hell that means!

Lately, everyone seems to be an expert on gun violence. Those on the right think more guns in more hands is the answer, including arming teachers. Those on the left think we have too many guns and that’s why we’re violent. The right fires back (pardon the pun) that mental illness is the problem, while the left returns fire saying we have too many assault weapons and that’s the biggest problem.

Really? I wonder about this question a lot. We all want easy answers, but is the answer really too many guns or not enough guns? If only it could be that simple.

There have always been guns in our fair land. It’s part of the fabric of our society. In our earliest days, they freed us from tyranny, in pioneer times they fed families, and in the Wild West, they kept rowdy, lawless towns lawful.

Carrying a gun was normal back then, but notice, nobody broke into the local schoolhouse and shot it up. My guess is, there were people with mental problems back then, but they didn’t shoot students or schoolmarms.

I grew up in a house with a gun. We had a Walther P38 under my parent’s bed. It was always loaded. It was never locked up. My dad would show it to us four boys once in a while. We knew where it was, but we also knew never to touch it. If we did, we would rue the day. We wouldn’t be able to sit for weeks after our dad took a hand to us for such an incursion.

Which got me to thinking. If guns have been part of our culture for so long, and mental illness isn’t the root cause of all these shootings, perhaps video games and violent TV shows are to blame.

Well, I grew up on some pretty violent shows. I mean, people got shot every night on Dragnet, Rat Patrol, Get Smart and every wild West show, including, Wild Wild West, as if one Wild wasn’t enough to show how wild it really was back then.

My son, for his part, has been playing violent video games since he was 8. He should be a mass murderer by now. But he is one of the gentlest souls I know.

Yes, these are just two people in this world of ours. But if the logic is that violent TV or violent games cause people to be violent, then Parker and I should be out there shooting the world up. Yet, we are just the opposite.

So what has changed? Is it really the ready availability of guns? Are there really more mentally ill out there as a percentage of society than there was in Dodge City?

I think perhaps the biggest reason we see more violence now than in the past is the breakdown of our social networks.

First, the nuclear family is history. Mom and dad both have to work to keep a roof over everyone’s heads, so kids are latchkey. When I was a kid, my mom would greet me when I got home. She would ask me how my day went and I didn’t get a pass. I had to tell her. Plus, I wanted to tell her.

My family was far from perfect, but we all would gather around the dinner table regularly and talk about our days. My parents knew what was going on in our lives. They were interested. They gently poked and prodded where appropriate and if there was ever trouble in our lives, watch out! My mild-mannered mom and dad could really cause some whoop-ass on the perpetrator, principal or bully.

Today, parents seem to treat their kids like accessories. They are shuttled off to ball practice, ballet or whatever pursuit. Worse, they are set in front of the TV at a very young age to watch “age-appropriate” shows while their parents indulge in their adult lives, rather than spending quality time with their kids. They let the kids run on autopilot rather than teaching them the family’s values.

And there lies another problem. When I was a kid, we were taught about the importance of respecting others, the meaning of the Golden Rule, the sanctity of life, and most important, consequences. We knew from an early age that real life was very different from the one showed on television. If someone on Dragnet died, you might see them in a Twilight episode in another week or two. In real life, if someone died, they didn’t come back. We understood death and its place in life. We understood the sense of loss and the sense of grief. And we understood consequences, which in my family meant a whoopin’ or time in the corner.

But we don’t teach these things to our children anymore and we rarely hold them accountable in a meaningful way. Now, before you get on me about the fact that you do, I am talking about society in general. If you learn about any of these mass murderers, you start to find that they come from broken homes, faced some kind of personal trauma, or acted out for any number of reasons, such as being bullied.

I was bullied. But I didn’t turn into a mass murderer. My mom and dad taught me how to cope with the bad things in our world, with the personal defeats, the setbacks, and the fact that life itself isn’t fair, even under the best of circumstances. We weren’t mollycoddled. We were taught to be tough, strong and resilient, to never give up, to face our fears and to deal with the inequities and inequalities of life. And when all else failed, to have a sense of humor about this wild ride we call life.

I’m not trying to have the answer or be a thought leader here. But I think if we look at the present and think about what is truly different from our past, it may be the fact that we aren’t treasuring the family like we used to, social media has become our new parents, brothers and sisters, and that in the process, we’ve lost some of most of our humanity, which has kept us moving together as a society since we climbed out of the primordial ooze.

You be the judge. And while you’re rolling this around in your head, shut off the TV, turn off the smartphone and spend some time with your kids. Trust me, it will never hurt.

In the Emerald City, knowing that all is not lost, if we only have the courage to find the way,

  • Robb

 
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Make It Happen, Cap’n.

Posted by admin on March 12, 2018 in Life Lessons

We are all so blessed to be alive. If you don’t believe me, consider the alternative. As I grow older, more and more people I know are passing on to their next journey. Some are older than I, which softens the blow, while others are younger, hitting home the message that you better enjoy every stinking moment you have here because your moments are finite.

I admit that I had slipped into something of a malaise about life in the past year. I started to become a spectator in some areas of life rather than a participant. I think that’s natural as you go through life. Taking a pause lets you figure out where to go next.

But with fewer and fewer moments to go, long periods of spectating can become wasteful. None of us really knows when that final bell will ring. We close our eyes for a moment, only to find they are closed for good.

I certainly got the message recently. I awoke suddenly last week with a message pounding in my head. It said in no uncertain terms: “Stop waiting for something to happen. Make something happen instead!”

It woke me right out of a dead sleep. I couldn’t shake it. God was certainly giving me a lecture. When Kat finally woke up, I told her about this message I had been sent. Her eyes grew wide and she said, “I got the same message.”

Cue the spooky music.

I suppose this could all be because the wife of a dear friend passed the previous weekend. That certainly made the message make sense. But the added sense of immediacy was awe-inspiring, especially since Kat and I got the same message at the same time.

So, here’s the thing. We all get so immersed in things that absolutely don’t really matter in our lives. I will start with politics. For some, these are scary times. I get it. But to continually bitch about it in endless Facebook posts is a total waste of these moments. No one is listening anyway. If you have friends with the same viewpoints, you’re preaching to the proverbial choir. If you have friends with divergent viewpoints, they aren’t going to suddenly have an epiphany because of a meme you posted.

If you want to make the moments matter, go out and organize protests. Become an activist. Commit yourself to doorbelling or getting the vote out for candidates who align with your beliefs. Just stop wasting precious moments (and energy) bitching and whining.

The same, of course, could be true about life in general. In this hectic world of ours, we rarely stop long enough to soak in the miracle that we are here. Not just breathing and being alive, but knowing that we are. It’s said that we are the only creatures on Earth that have this conscious thought, that we know we exist.

While you’re rolling that around in your head, take an extra moment to realize how lucky we all are to have been born on this planet. It’s the Goldilocks of planets, folks. Not too warm, not too cold. Just right. And it’s freaking beautiful. Sure, we’ve done some damage to it, but again, if you want to fix that wrong, use your time to clean a beach rather than bitch all about plastic on Facebook. Do something to better the world. Talk is cheap, my friends. Action is everything.

 

In my own life, action means getting off my ass and getting my band out playing more. My band of pirates in one incarnation or another has been a central part of my life for the last 35 years. I have let it slide for a while, trying to keep other folks happy as well. That was the wrong course, so now its full speed ahead on the performing side, including making our first studio recording, which has been on the to-do list for, um, 35 years.

Life, as we all know, or at least should know, is damned short. Wasting a single moment doing anything that you don’t love or which isn’t aligned with who you are is a total waste of time. In the end, it doesn’t matter if other people don’t like you or bitch about you behind your back. Life is not a popularity contest. Life is about living every moment fully and unapologetically, moving to the beat of your own drummer. In the end, you are judged by what you did, not who you know.

With one exception. If you have someone who cares about you – the real you – not that fake person you show others, then spend every moment you can with them, appreciate these moments like they are the precious diamonds they are, and let these people know how much you appreciate the fact that they have chosen to spend their limited time with you.

I saw a movie recently that asked the question: “Who is on your boat?” The people that truly matter are the people you would take with you on an around the world cruise in a small sailboat. These are the people you trust, trust with your life. They are the ones who bring you all the joy, the laughter, the comradery, the love that makes life worth living.

My own crew in this regard is about seven people. This is my tribe. These are the people who make my moments count most. They are the ones that make life worth living.

If you find anyone who loves you – the real you with all your dents and dings – hold onto them for dear life. Let them know that you’re present in that moment, that you are there heart and soul; not distracted by the fact that your hairdresser messed up or the waitress forgot to put your dressing on the side.

Remind yourself that this moment is the only one that is guaranteed in life. The past is the past – let it go. The future is uncertain at best and at worst, a bit of a myth. Cling to now, cling to this moment and wring all the life out of each moment you can.

So when that when that final bell rings and you close your eyes and they don’t open again, you know that life was worth living and that you lived it fully.

In the Emerald City, enjoying the moment,

  • Robb

 
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Oh Tommy, Where Art Thou?

Posted by admin on March 5, 2018 in The Soapbox

Once again we’re back at each other’s throats about gun control. If you think this is an anti-gun or pro-gun RobZerrvation, think again. Blissfully in the middle of the political spectrum, I see all sides of the argument but adhere to none singularly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I own the gun they were actually referencing in the Constitution. Yes, a good ol’ flintlock. I guess you could say that I am a strict Constitutionalist when it comes to gun ownership. Give me three minutes and I’ll be able to protect the ol’ homestead, unless the flint fowls again because I really don’t like cleaning my guns.

And so lies my biggest reason for not having more than the two flintlocks. I would rather run a hot poker through my corneas than clean another damned gun.

But I digress.

So let me get to the point. We love to say that we can’t do something because it will run afoul of the Constitution. We wave that piece of paper all over the place when it suits our self-serving beliefs no matter how crazy they may be, and truth be told, in some parts of our wonderful country, someone is still looking for a loophole in that piece of paper that would allow us all to have slaves again.

That is the beauty and curse of the Constitution. It is wonderfully vague so that as time wore on and the country changed, the Constitution could change right along with it. Bully for our forefathers.

The current argument, of course, is about assault weapons and it’s most reviled poster child, the AR-15. Let’s be honest here. These things are killing machines. They were made to kill people. Their cousin, the M-16, was made for soldiers to kill the enemy, whoever they were at the moment. With a few changes, the M-16 got a makeover and voila!, we have the consumer version, the AR-15.

The funny thing about all this is that we’ve had this argument before. Long before there was an AR-15, the bad guys in our country had Thompson Machine Guns. Named after its inventor, good old John T. Thompson, these machine guns with the optional cylindrical drums could spray a room with 600 to 720 rounds a minute!!! Ever hear of the Valentine’s Day Massacre? Tommy gun heaven.

We’ve all seen tommy guns in gangster movies. There’s George Raff threatenin’ the coppers, then spraying the squad car with his trusty tommy gun. The tommy gun personified the era of the mobsters, Prohibition, Elliot Ness, Baby Face Nelson and Bonny and Clyde.

Eventually, the public got tired of all the killing and turned against tommy guns. Hearing the footsteps of change, Congressmen in different states started to ask why these things were still being sold. Texas went so far as to ban all fully automatic weapons in 1933. Yes, Texas. Don’t believe me? Read a history book. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along. He and ol’ J. Edgar Hoover expanded Washington’s law enforcement powers and in 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed.

And here’s the secret of that act’s effectiveness. It didn’t outlaw machine guns or sawed-off shotguns. No, instead it required them to be registered. They were also taxed, to the tune of $200 per machine gun or sawed-off shotgun, which is about $3,400 in today’s money.

To register, the owner had to show up, be photographed and fingerprinted. Now, what criminal would want to do that? Paying the tax was a cinch. But getting photographed and fingerprinted?

And here’s the simplicity of taxing the guns. If you were caught with an unregistered gun, say in the back of your car, you could be arrested. The FBI cleaned up the streets by arresting thugs with untaxed guns. Not illegal ones. But untaxed ones.

The courts upheld the law because it didn’t ban a single gun. The law only taxed these guns and required them to be registered.

Oh, I can hear the howls right now. Again, I’m not suggesting we tax all guns, or even tax assault rifles, if they are the ill that is threatening our safety. I really don’t care what we as a society decide collectively.

What I am saying, is that there are ways to get rid of the killing machines without banning them. There are ways to require them to be registered correctly. There are even technologies out there that will allow only the owner to use them in self-defense of their home or when they are out target practicing. We have smartphones. Why not smart guns?

And let’s live in the real world for just a moment here. Even if we were to ban sales of all assault rifles tomorrow and it was illegal to make any more, there are still tens and tens of thousands of assault rifles already in this country legally. They aren’t going to go away magically. And no one outside of a liberal nut job would think that any government agency is going to march in and take any gun away from someone who legally purchased it.

There are solutions available to us. We aren’t hopeless or helpless, especially if we let history be our guide. We have made substantive changes to our world and lived through it many times before.

At one time we got rid of all the alcohol, and then found out that was a stupid idea and brought it back a couple years later. But if you’re caught driving drunk today, the penalties can be steep.

We used to be able to drive without seatbelts or a helmet too. We used to be able to sell carved ivory we owned. Times change, we adapt. Somewhere in the center of all this hyperbole and puffery is sanity. We can find a good middle ground if we just stop long enough to take a deep breath, empty the chamber of our own self-righteousness and loathing of the other side, and figure out a plan that protects every American, keeps guns away from the bad people and punishes those that commit heinous crimes regardless of the weapon used.

The Declaration of Independence says that we all have certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness. No individual right in this country supersedes another’s. And I think we all can agree that we should all have the right to reasonably believe we won’t be killed at school, in a mall, at the theater or just walking down the street.

The lobbyists and special interests in this country don’t give a damn if we all kill one another. It’s up to each of us, our friends, our neighbors, our family, to make the tough choices that will keep our children and ourselves safe. To fail now is to fail our future generations and we’ve already done enough damage to this world already to fail again.

  • Robb

 

 
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A Leap Of Faith.

Posted by admin on February 26, 2018 in Life Lessons

It’s a brave person who steps off into the unknown, knowing that there’s no going back and no safety net to catch you if you fall. Such was the case with astronaut Ed White. He was the first American to step out of a spacecraft and go for a walk in the vast emptiness of space. It almost killed him, largely because no one knew what it would be like, so there was no way to train for the mission itself, except to make a lot of best guesses.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say. Ed White survived that first step, and I think we can all agree, it was a doozy.

Life often requires us to make these leaps of faith. While it’s easy to say things like “God has a plan” or “where God closes a door he opens a window,” it’s a lot harder to make that leap when you don’t know really where it leads to. Sure, it’s easy to put it in God’s hands, but as anyone who has taken a real leap of faith knows, we have to rely on ourselves to survive it.

I have certainly made my share of leaps over the years. Some of them were terribly ill-informed. Leaving my marriages like I did, doing the equivalent of making the other person make the choice for me, was a chicken’s way out. Still, it was a leap of faith. There was no secret plan in place. I left, not knowing where I would sleep that night, where I would live, what I would do or what would come next.  I simply stepped out into the abyss.

In the working world, I’ve only done this just once. It was my first real job. I knew my days there were numbered, so I resigned in the process of being fired, with no job prospects lined up. I simply stepped off into the abyss. Famously, I ended up in the Bay Area, living with a woman I had met in the Caribbean six months earlier, set on making a new life in California.

That lasted 30 days. By the time two weeks had passed, I had slipped into a depression, living in an ugly bathroom robe, rarely leaving the apartment. Then, one day, I knew it was time to come home.

It was the same story in Florida. I was living a lie there too. I didn’t belong there. I famously took an almost identical leap of faith and ran off to Florida with a girl I had met in Key West just months before. What is it with meeting girls from the South in the tropics that makes me lose my mind. The result was the same. One day, I knew it was time to come home.

That leap of faith was a costly one in more ways that one. It’s not cheap moving your stuff 3,000 miles across the country. It was an expensive lesson, this particular leap of faith.

But it did lead me directly to where I am today, settled into a nice house with a lovely wife and a great life. I can’t picture it being any better, except perhaps winning a little lottery money to pad the old retirement account.

I am finally through leaping by the way, which is a very good thing. Now that I am rock solid, my darling wife can take a leap of faith again. She certainly did that three years ago when she asked me to marry her. This three and out guy who didn’t seem like a very safe bet in the love and marriage department. But she took that leap anyway.

I think I can say that she doesn’t regret it. In fact, it’s what led her to her latest leap of faith.

In January, she left her job. After 12 years of unbridled loyalty, often through impossible working conditions, she just couldn’t take it anymore. Nothing she did seemed good enough for her bosses and the boom got lowered on her for things she didn’t even do, and worse, wasn’t even responsible for. Add in a couple of crazy, control-freak bosses, and you can imagine what it must have been like for her. Her own view of herself was shaken to its core.

I was wholeheartedly in favor of this particular leap of faith. Yes, it’s squeezing the family finances some, but sometimes you just need to step off the precipice and believe you will land on your feet. Of course, it helps that she’s a Kat.

I certainly know others in my life who have done the same. I always applaud their courage as it’s one of the toughest things to do. Everyone ideally wants a plan, or at least a backup plan if the first one doesn’t work out. I mean, it’s far easier to leave a job when you have a new one. The same could be said of a relationship, I suppose.

But stepping out on your own? Damned courageous.

Looking back, I have no regrets about my many leaps of faith. Some did turn out better than others. And while not all of them made me stronger, none managed to kill me. Like a cat with nine lives, I somehow made it through relatively intact.

It’s hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it’s far from ideal. But it’s far worse knowing that the familiar is actually a nightmare in disguise, that it is slowly killing you from the inside out. It can be a marriage, a friendship, a job – what have you. Regardless, it is simply not worth it to let what little precious time we have here on earth be wasted in a place that makes you feel like you’re a piece of sh**.

Whenever you face such a moment, remember your friend Robb, that guy who has lept time and time again and somehow made it to a better place. And if there’s no one else there to catch you, I will. Just let me know you’re about to leap first.

In the Emerald City, wary of those 12 Lords a Leaping,

  • Robb

 
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Well, Son Of A Gun.

Posted by admin on February 19, 2018 in The Soapbox

Another week, another senseless mass shooting followed by the usual call on one side for thoughts and prayers and on the other, gun control. In this case, a school was shot up by a kook and there are additional calls for arming teachers. Next week it could at a mall, movie theater or city park, so just who do we arm then? The usher? The Penney’s clerk? The professional dogwalker?

I get that we are all outraged by the seemingly nonstop senseless murdering going on. I think we all agree that no child should die at school. Quite frankly, no one should ever have to worry about being shot to death as they go about their day, no matter where they are.

But sadly, people are. In the race to bring some sense to the problem at hand, social media is flooded with inane, simplistic answers. I initially tried to bring some logic to this discussion, explaining that arming teachers is pointless, if for no other reason than we would almost immediately experience a teacher shortage because teachers want to teach, not police.

There are others who point to overly simplistic causality, such as violent video games, mental illness, or strangely, drugs. I would maintain that anyone who shoots others is mentally ill by default. Sane people don’t typically open fire on others.

I will also maintain that part of the problem is our shoddy parenting skills. Spare the rod and spoil the child is very true. I’m not saying that we should beat our kids. But in our effort to be their friend and to build up their self-esteem by awarding them participation trophies, we have coddled an entire generation of children who don’t know how to negotiate the difficulties of life.

In our effort to spare them the pain and agony of failure, we have protected them to the point that the slightest setback destroys them as individuals. Rather than teaching them to be resilient, we have taught them to be weak. Instead of teaching them the magic of the golden rule, the sanctity of life and ideals such as honesty, respect and love, we have created monsters who act out in the worst way when they finally snap.

tank-threequarterI obviously grew up in a different time. I guarded our yard with a Mattel Tommy Gun and in my teens, drove a tank to college. Famously, I sat in the back of Ed Eaton’s journalism class at Green River Community College and snapped together a World War II machine gun. Hearing the sound, Mr. Eaton simply turned nonchalantly to the room and said, “Robb, put the machine gun away” as the class laughed at my antics.

Today, that would set off a SWAT-level response at a school. The gun was plugged; it couldn’t shoot. And the idea of anyone shooting up a school was ludicrous in the aftermath of the Vietnam War when we watched daily as our dead brothers and cousins came back in caskets.

We understood the tremendous loss one feels when a loved one didn’t come home. If our own family members were lucky enough to make it home, we had friends whose relatives didn’t. I went to college with veterans who lost limbs or were bound to a wheelchair. I understood the painful fact that when people die, they don’t come back. And the loss of a loved one haunts you forever.

I know in my own family that my parents were all about tough love. When I became a parent, my mother said, “Use every weapon you have at your disposal with your kids. You are not their friend, you are their parent.”

My parents used to spank me. I spent a lot of time in the corner. I was sent to bed without dessert. I was told I couldn’t play with the neighbor kid who just knocked on our door. I wasn’t coddled. I was parented.

In school, I was the one who was bullied. I was punched a couple of times by other kids. I was dumped in the garbage can. I was made fun of. I was a nerd and worse, a band guy.

Yet, to this day, I haven’t punched another human being. I admit there were a few times I hit my older brothers, but I don’t think that really counts. Yes, I’ve been in tons of situations where I could have rightfully landed some blows, but I always found it better to use my words, my humor and my intellect to get out of these situations.

I don’t consider that weak. In fact, I’m damned proud of this ability to avoid violence. I wish kids today would learn the same skills. Perhaps we’d have fewer kids going off the rails and shooting up a school or a mall.

Unlike many out there on Facebook, I don’t have any easy answers. I can say that as of this moment, Kat and I have raised five kids who haven’t shot any place up. They are nice kids who care deeply about the world they live in and are pained by the violence happening around them, in part because two of our children are now parents themselves.

That said, I do believe many of the problems we are experiencing are due to the breakdown of the nuclear family. Latchkey kids can get into all sorts of mischief. My mother probably searched my room weekly when I was a teen. That doesn’t happen now. Many parents don’t even know what their kids are doing or who they are associating with. I always had to bring new friends home so my mom could look them in the eye and then, unknown to me, give them the eye, if you know what I mean.

We live in different times to be sure. TV and social media have become the new babysitters. We don’t have dinner at the table anymore. We don’t have family nights where we play games and talk. We just move around the house staring at our phones, living in our separate worlds, living together but apart, strangers to our own family.

Maybe this is the true problem, our increasingly self-imposed isolation from the real world. Maybe this is why we have so many modern day monsters.

In the Emerald City, wondering where we go from here,

  • Robb

 
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Idiot Lights For Everyone!

Posted by admin on February 5, 2018 in Randomalities

My car went on the blink last week. Literally. As you may recall, my Saturn VUE was a parting gift from my relationship in Florida. It has since been pressed into relatively light duty, driving about two miles to the transit center each day. It is a 2004, but still has only 108,000 miles on it.

On Sunday, I took it on a long road trip, if you can call driving to Ballard a road trip. Somewhere along the way, a light came on just above the gas gauge. It was an idiot light telling me to do something with something called an engine.

As I said before, I’m no mechanic. I’m the guy that goes out and looks at another guy’s new car and nods a lot as he shows it to me. Inevitably, he will pop the hood and ask me to admire what’s under it. This is how I learned where the engine was in your average car.

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to look up what this orange light meant on my car. My VUE wanted me to check the engine. So I walked out, popped the hood and looked inside. Yup, the engine was there all right. Check!

The light still didn’t go off though. Before you start yelling “check the gas cap” I did that too. It was locked on tight.

I resigned myself to the fact that it would have to take it to the shop to see what the mysterious code said. It seems Saturns have a lot of codes that the average code reader can’t read, so a light usually means a trip to the dealer.

That night, I began to wonder if in this technological world of ours, why can’t we have idiot lights for our bodies? I want my installed along my forehead, since that space is pretty useless anyway.

The idiot lights could be for all sorts of things. As in a car, we could have a light that comes on when our heart is misfiring or we’re about to stroke out. Another light could let us know that we’re out of alignment a bit and should see a chiropractor. A little headlight could come on to let us know that our eye prescription probably needs to be checked.

Handy, huh? You’d think with all this technology and big data where every bit and byte is analyzed and dissected, that some enterprising entrepreneur would come up with something like this.

Imagine how this would revolutionize healthcare. As you’re getting ready for work in the morning, a thermometer lights up on your forehead. You know you’ve got a fever. Next, a snowflake pops up and moments later, you get the chills. Your idiot lights told you were sick before you even knew it.

No more calling the doctor and saying you think you may be sick. Log on to your doctor’s office website and connect via video. All the nurse has to do is look at that row of idiot lights shining on your forehead to know what needs to be fixed.

You could go much further with the idiot lights, too. One could pop on to let you know you may have flat feet. A little door could come on if you left your fly open after going to the bathroom. A tread light could let you know that you have skidmarks as well.

By now, I can tell you’re getting pretty excited about this whole idea. How about a light that comes on when your fluids are low? You’d never have to wonder if dehydration is causing your hallucinations anymore. Your idiot light would do all the heavy lifting and let you know when it’s time to drink some fluids.

I’m sure some entrepreneur is reading this right now and nodding his head, thinking, “Yeah, we could do that!” People are willing to wear glasses that record every moment of their life and wear FitBits that report all sorts of data about their activities and even their heart rate, so why not connect up a bunch of idiot lights so you don’t even have to look at the data? When something’s wrong or needs attention, an idiot light pops on.

I for one would love this new technology. After all, I’m pretty tech-savvy. I usually glom onto the latest innovations and technologies, partly out of curiosity and partly because I want to know if they will actually improve the quality of my life.

They usually fall short, of course. Alexa still can’t understand the most mundane items to be added to my shopping list. Siri has a love-hate relationship with me regularly. Yesterday, when I asked her to call my wife, she started dialing the last wife, not the current one. I think she’s just jealous that she doesn’t have a significant technology in her life.

But the idiot lights thing. That shows promise. Eventually, other companies would get into the act and create a diagnostic gadget that would tell you want the error code meant. It would be able to tell you the difference between a heart attack and indigestion, or let you know that the wiper light only means that your glasses are dirty, not that you need a new prescription.

I would love to see the day when this all happens. Unfortunately, I have no idea how long I will be here since I don’t have an idiot light that could tell me. You know the one. The oldometer light that comes on when it’s time to head for that great junkyard in the sky.

Still wondering about the idiot light on my car? It went out all by itself, the day after I brushed all the leaves and nuts some squirrel had salted away under the hood. The vent it was blocking must’ve been important, I guess.

In the Emerald City, forever an idiot savant in more ways than one,

  • Robb

 

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