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,
I used to waste a lot of time. I mean, really waste it. After all, back when I was in my 20s, I had a lot of time to kill. Time seemed infinite back then, so I would mire myself in wishes without making them so, drama that had no possible resolution, inexcusable errors of judgment that sent me back into the dark ages a time or two, and dead-end relationships which never held the promise of ever leading anywhere.
I can wish all I want to have that time back. But, as we all know, wishing doesn’t make it so and there’s no way to turn back the clock to even capture a second, let alone a minute or two of it.
This isn’t, of course, some insipid tome about regret. I only have one regret as we all know, and while it sucked eight years of my life away, it was something I had to go through in order to pull my head out of my ass and realize that the grass is never greener on the other side.
As of late, however, I have been noticing that time is now limited. Somewhere in my 40s I passed the halfway mark of a normal lifespan, and I am now cascading down the slippery slope of the other side of the bell curve that marks one’s life. I mean, even if I make it to, say, 85, that’s only 27 years from now.
That seems like a long time still, but when you break it down, it’s not.
There’s a song by Cheryl Wheeler called 75 Septembers that puts it all perspective. It’s all about how you only get ‘X’ of any particular day in your life, the ‘X’ being the years you are here. Have a listen.
Think about that for a moment. If you live to be 75, you get 75 Septembers. Put another way, you get 75 Christmases or any other date on the calendar. That’s it. 75.
So, using that logic, I have only 17of any particular day left if I make it to 75, 22 if I hit 80 and 27 if I manage to hit 85.
One could argue that that is indeed a long time. But as those of us who have hit their 50s know all too well, time plays that funny tricks on you where it speeds up, or at least, appears to speed up.
For example, it seems like only yesterday that I came back to Seattle. But it’s been 4 1/2 years already. My how time flies.
So, what’s the point of all this? Well, there’s no magic message to give you. It’s just a realization that time is damned shorter than you think it is and there’s really no time to do anything that doesn’t bring you happiness and joy.
Indulging in the bullshit of a presidential election that by any measure is nuts or spending time pleasing others as you become more miserable about doing so, is pointless. We only have so much time on this rock and it’s fleeting at best.
My brother only got 24 Septembers. My father, 56. I’m blessed to still be here, chalking up more Septembers on the calendar than they got to. But still, I know that the numbers game is running against me, which makes it more imperative with each passing moment that I make the most of every day, week, month and year, as I only have ‘X’ of them left.
It’s funny when this hits you. As I said, I used to spend a lot of time doing things that didn’t really jazz me. At times I did things just to please others, like period camping or letting a nut-job, suicidal exhibitionist stay in my house. And then there were those times when I let the drama of others become my drama, taking in their wayward souls in some useless and certainly pointless attempt to fix them.
God, speaking of a waste of time. If only I had the perspective I have now. I wouldn’t have wasted a minute on any of it because it was all bullshit. Hell, most of the time I didn’t even get a thank you for taking the time, my time, to reach out and help.
Lessons learned, I guess. Which leads me to the real lesson here. Your time is extremely valuable. You can use it wisely or you can fritter it away on distractions and dead ends. You can spend it all hating your neighbors or an entire race. You can fret about national politics or the fact that your job sucks.
It’s all for naught in the end. It’s all a waste of time.
It reminds me of the five things people who are dying say they regret towards the end. We should tack these up on our refrigerators to remind us of what is truly important about the time we have left here.
The Five Things People Who Are Dying Say They Regret:
- I wish I’d have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Powerful stuff. I can safely say that I am doing a lot better than I used to in making sure none of these are my regrets when it comes time to check out. I admit that in my younger days (which ended last week, by the way), I indulged in several of these. I have withheld my true feelings, lived a life others wanted me to live and sacrificed happiness for what I falsely thought was the greater good.
Yes, there are still few more things on the workbench, but I have begun to work on them too. With another September recently come and gone, I want to make sure that I make the next one a doozy. Time really is fleeting, and it’s a waste of time to waste the time on things that don’t add up to a hill of beans in the end.
In the Emerald City, making a list and checking it twice,
The current election cycle, hell, the state of America at large for that matter, is all our fault. Why? Because we have forgotten a fundamental truth about what drives us.
No, this is not about economic wealth or the lack thereof. It’s not a racial divide or even the lies of politicians that is causing all this ruckus. It’s not being rich or poor, living on the right or wrong side of the tracks, being an evangelical Christian or an atheist, or being one of a seemingly endless choice of sexualities or genders.
We have forgotten that we are storytelling machines. It is in our DNA to tell stories. Almost 60% of our day is spent telling stories, either to ourselves or to others. These stories help us understand the world around us, how we fit into that world, and who we are as individuals.
In the beginning of the human race, stories were told by tribal leaders. They were oral traditions, designed to keep a community on the same page. These stories told us about what happens when we venture out at night alone, or what happens when we don’t all work together to tend to the harvest.
Stories are guide points for civilizations. They help keep us on that proverbial same page.
Before the advent of the Internet, there were people who helped us do that. These book and newspaper editors were stalwarts defenders of storytelling. Yes, they decided to some extent what we should consume, but in doing so, they helped us stay together as a civilization.
Everyone read the same bestseller or classic or a book highly recommended by a trusted friend. We subscribed to trusted publications like Look, Life, Time and Newsweek. We voraciously consumed knowledge because it taught us – these stories – about us. It gave us context for fitting into, and contributing to, an increasingly changing and challenging world. And it kept us relevant in it.
To some extent, television did the same thing. In the United States, we even became more homogenous. Certainly, the Boomers became more so, for the stories we consumed were common to all of us. We only needed to mention a few words about a TV show and others would nod in agreement or add their own two cents to the discussion. We were all on the same page as we continued to share stories.
In many cases, these stories helped shape our world, such as the nightly broadcasts. We saw the horrors of the Vietnam War, watched a president resign in disgrace and wept a collective tear when the Challenger exploded.
Yes, we were often divided on the issues, but we continued to have a shared sense of destiny. Truth was the rule, not the exception, and we engaged in open dialogue, sharing views about the world, culled from our vast individual resources. We became a collective, rather than separate, mind.
The Internet is changing our stories and ourselves. Increasingly, we are tuning out stories that cause us to question our belief system, our faith, our values or politics, because doing so requires us to question ourselves.
Rather than do all that difficult work, we have the option to select our own narrative. We can choose to tune out actual facts and instead live in a world where others spoon feed us what they want us to know, whether they are indeed actual facts or twists of reality to the point where everything is a conspiracy carried out by others.
Yes, the others. Those evil-doers that drive the plot lines in fiction are now becoming real to us. They are the ones seeking to control the media, bring us all to personal ruin, destroy the country we love, undermine our freedom, take away all our rights. After all, isn’t that what makes fiction so wonderful? A classic antagonist?
Of course, in these works of fiction, the good guy always triumphs. And when he or she does, we revel in the fact that we triumph as well because we can see ourselves in that individual. We lived through all those dangers, right by their side, and emerged unscathed. In the process, we learned just a little more about who we are as a person.
Sadly, we are increasingly confusing fact from fiction in this world of ours and there’s a good reason.
Recent studies using MRIs have clearly shown that the human brain can’t tell fact from fiction. The brain registers it all the same, whether something is true or not. Before I go on with this, let’s clarify something. I’m not talking about facts with varying degrees of truth. I’m talking about absolute, verified, simple truths. Like the earth is round. Or Washington was the first president.
The goal of these studies was to find out if we have a built in B.S. Meter. Unfortunately, we don’t.
The only thing allowing us to tell fact from fiction, truth from bald face lie, are the stories we have been told and tell every day. Our entire understanding of the world, based on everything we have learned to date, is what lets us know what is true and what is not.
And there’s the rub. The Internet allows us to sink into a world of our own making, surrounded by all the sunshine and lollipops we need to exist in this world. Reality, truth and facts aren’t relevant in this made up world. We don’t have to engage in the truly hard work of deciding what is real and what is not. Of discerning fact from fiction. Or even, determining what is right and what is wrong, often at the most basic moral level.
Rather than live in a difficult world with competing belief systems and honest, and often uncomfortable dialogue, we revel in the false security of our own homogenous world. Not a homogenous society, mind you. But a homogenous world of a few or even just one.
We eventually sink into our own madness, a madness where our own version of truth is all that matters, regardless of whether it is considered madness from an objective standpoint. Everyone else becomes the crazy ones as we live in the false world of our own stories and the stories of others who are “smart” enough to see the world as we do. We become the Charles Mansons and Unabombers of the world.
This is the true danger to our society and to our republic. It’s the slithering and slinking into a world, our own world, where facts and truth no longer matter. Where lies and deceits are so widespread, so often told, they become the new reality.
Gee, where have we seen that before?
In the Emerald City, refusing to believe that our better days are behind us or that the current snake oil salesmen have the easy answers,
I admit that I have a pretty old car. It’s a 2004, in fact, a Saturn VUE. Yes, it’s true. They don’t make Saturns anymore, but in my defense, I didn’t pick the car.
It was a consolation prize of sorts. I guess my ex-whatever felt I should get a consolation prize for putting up with her in that joke of a marriage we had. While I’ve lost a house or two in other competitions, I’ve never ‘won’ a car in the end.
That said, I have never been attached to the Black Widow as it’s come to be called. I called it this because 1) it’s black, and 2) I used to tell people it was my wife’s car, until she died in a horrific accident, leaving me all alone in the world. Frankly, it was a better story than telling a first date that I had divorced, again. The whole widow thing was far more empathetic and far less pathetic.
But, the time had finally come to take the car in and get a new one. Now, “new” is a relative term for me. I’ve never owned a new car. I’ve always had a used car. It may have been gently used, as in the case of the Black Widow, or it may have already been on its last legs when I arrived on the lot.
I think the term pigeon is the word they use for me at car lots. I know nothing about cars except that they hate me. But it was time for the Widow to go, so off to the used car lot I went.
If you live in the north end of Seattle, then you know that Aurora Avenue excels at two things: hookers and car lots. I think both are pretty similar pursuits. Both provide a service for a price, both rely on bottom feeders to handle the delicate negotiations, and chances are good that you’re going to walk away disappointed and always poorer for the experience.
I thought I knew all the lots up and down Aurora. But a new one was lit up brightly near Harvey’s Tavern. A spotlight cleared a pathway in the night sky, as if the star of Bethlehem was guiding the faithful to this particular spot on earth.
The VUE seemed almost too willing to pull into the lot. By the time I had popped the latch on the door, the salesman was on me.
“Need a car, do you?” he said, taking me by the arm. “Nice American car, a beautiful American car. They don’t make them like this anymore. All the jobs have gone to Mexico. The Mexicans have taken our jobs and given us crappy cars.”
“Now, what can I help you with?” he said, brushing the hair from his face.
“I’m looking for a car, I guess. This one has seen better days.”
“Right you are, my friend. I’ll tell you what. I will show you some beautiful cars. Beautiful. Stunning cars. Made in America. By Americans. Not unsavory immigrants.”
He led me to a row of four-door sedans, all in muted colors.
“Beautiful cars. And not too showy.”
“You mean conservative?” I said with a smile.
“Nothing wrong with being conservative, my friend. These are real beauties. Low miles, one owner. Little lady drove it only to church and back. Never over 20 miles an hour. Can you believe that? Never over 20 miles an hour.”
“Why, no, no I can’t,” I replied. “I know you’re trying to sell me something here, but I really think it’s an over-do in the lying department.”
“Look,” he said. “Don’t let a little thing like the truth get in the way of our relationship. I want to make you great again. I want you to enjoy the feeling of driving a great car, an American car. Not one of those two-bit import jobs, the ones that are flooding in from overseas.”
“Can I take it for a test drive?” I asked.
“Drive? You think you need to take this thing for a spin to make a good decision? I know spin. Spin is a bad thing my friend. Don’t trust it!”
“What kind of media does it have?” I asked.
“Media? Don’t ever trust the media. They are always out to get you. Media.”
“I’m talking about a CD player, Pandora? An iPhone connection. Internet?”
“The Internet,” he said. “Let me tell you something about the Internet. Our government plans to give it away to the United Nations. They want to give our Internet away.”
“Well, I don’t really know anything about that. I just want to know if I can listen to… just forget it. Let’s talk terms instead. Are your terms liberal?
He looked at me as if I had just shot his puppy.
“Liberal? There’s no one liberal around here. We don’t even use the ‘L’ word on this lot.”
I could tell I was getting nowhere with this guy. By now we were deep into the back lot. It had grown dark by now and I really couldn’t see the way back to my car.
“Where’s the entrance?” I said. “I should really be going.”
“Don’t be in such a rush, friend. We haven’t found you the car of your dreams. I promised you an amazing car. A beautiful car. And I always keep all of my promises.”
He was starting to freak me out. He had tightened his grip on me as we continued to roam through the aisles of deals he had for me.”
“Great deals. Best deals ever. You won’t believe the deals I have for you.”
I finally found a cute little car near a huge wall at the back of the lot.
“I like this one,” I said.
He leaped in front of it. “You don’t want this car,” he said. “It’s foreign. It’s untrustworthy. It could even blow up on you as you roll on down the highway. I would never trust a foreign make. I doubt there are even papers on it. Foreigners never seem to have papers.”
He steered me back to the American makes.
“This one,” he finally said. “A nice Ford. Made in the good old USA.”
“Um, Fords are made in Mexico, these days,” I replied. “If you want American these days, you need to buy a Toyota.”
I could see he had lost all patience with me.
“Get off my lot, you, you, commie son of a bitch. Get out of here before I call the cops. And I know cops. I have cop friends.”
I ran for it as he began to dial his phone.
A couple weeks later I drove by his lot again. He was gone. All that was left was a sign that said, “Future Home of Lynnwood Toyota.”
I heard from a friend that the dealer had moved out of town in the dark of night. He opened up another company a short time later. In El Paso. Seems he got a hefty incentive package from the city to open a manufacturing plant making kitchen gadgets. Something about Making America Grate Again.
In the Emerald City, still driving my American-made car,
I used to be one of the most pessimistic people on this planet. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I could have won the Lottery and still found something to bitch about. I could find something wrong about everything.
As I look back at this part of my life, I like to see myself looking a bit like Joe Btfsplk. For those of you who aren’t comic strip fans, he was a character in Lil’ Abner comics who walked around with a dark rain cloud perpetually over his head.
To be fair, Joe’s cloud was a symbol of the misfortune that followed him everywhere. For me, the cloud represents my uncanny ability to find doom and gloom where others only experienced sunny days.
I can only imagine how taxing I must have been to be around then. Not only was I a bit of a doom and gloomer, but I could inject worry into nearly everyone. I could get others to worry about things that couldn’t possibly ever happen, but my sales job was so good, so thorough, that it sounded entirely plausible.
I suppose it was my own unhappiness that made me so dour. As they say, misery loves company and I was as miserable as anyone could be. So why not share that misery amongst the masses?
And then this turning point came. I’d like to say it was the anti-depressants I was on, but I don’t think that’s the case. Nor was it an absence of disasters in my own life. They were actually thick as thieves at the time, from a car that taunted me at every turn with a new mechanical problem to a failing marriage where I was the only who seemed to notice or care that it was going down the dumper.
Perhaps that low point is what finally gave me hope. Maybe reaching the bottom left me nowhere to go. Or maybe it really was the Xanax that was finally kicking in at the right time as I imagined my own doom and gloom scenarios in breathtaking Cinemascope.
I will never truly know. But what I do know is that I gained hope then. I had one of those moments like the Grinch had as he stood on Mt. Crumpit. My shriveled heart grew in size that day, for I began to fill with unbridled hope about the future.
Not just my future. But the future of everyone and the future of the world at large.
I know a lot of people seem to be losing hope. I’m not really sure why. We’ve survived the Great Recession, we’re not all standing in soup lines, we are seeing amazing innovations arriving daily, and even some once fatal diseases are being beaten back by new research and treatments.
Yes, I know that we have a racial divide. I know children go hungry at night in our country. I know the middle class is getting squeezed on all sides. And I certainly know that tens of thousands of Americans are homeless.
And yet, I have almost unbridled hope. I am still amazed that we could, in just eight short years – the term of a single re-elected president – go from knowing next to nothing about space exploration to putting a man on the moon.
We have the same power in us to solve the greatest problems our world faces today. We have the power to eradicate starvation and disease around the world. We are on the precipice of finding a cure for cancer, and we are learning to harness information at levels no one can even imagine, connecting one another in a single chain of knowledge, know-how and ideation.
What is there not to be hopeful about? As I said, we do have our problems. Being hopeful doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye toward them and pretend they aren’t there or aren’t important. They are.
But hope lets us all believe as individuals and as a nation that we can fix every problem if we only muster the desire and collective spirit to tackle it like we did the moon.
Nearly a half million people worked on that singular problem. When Kennedy made the promise to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth, we had a total of 15 minutes in spaceflight to our credit – suborbital at that.
But we rose to the challenge in a time when computers took up entire buildings and calculations had to be done on a slide rule. We didn’t know anything about docking, maneuvering, spacewalks – nothing.
And yet we landed on the moon just eight years later.
I like to think that our better days, like those days, are ahead of us, not behind us. But we’re not going to do anything great while reveling in pessimism and longing for the good old days.
We really need to get off our collective butts. We have to remember that this is the world we are leaving behind to our children and grandchildren. That we (and I can only speak for the Boomers here, my generation) were the ones who were going to make the world a better place to live, we were going to eliminate pollution, in racial harmony and make wars a distant memory.
I hope we haven’t given up on all this. I hope we’re not becoming a society of old and bitter men and women, ones resigned to leaving a world behind where none of our promises were made true, where things are actually worse than they were, all because we lost sight of our bold vision and hope, embracing hopelessness and despair in their place.
I for one will continue to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. I will continue to try to convince you of it as well. Hope is the light that flames the candle of our hearts, minds and souls. We can’t let it be extinguished, at least not without a fight. We must fight the good fight until the end. And if we do only one thing with our lives, it’s to leave our children and our children’s children with the hope we once had, hope that the future is brighter than the past.
In the Emerald City, lighting the next candle and passing it down,
I went to see Uncle Bonsai last week. For those newbies to Seattle, and for those who have never been part of the music scene here back in the 80s, Uncle Bonsai is a singer/songwriter trio that writes hilarious songs, such as “Cheerleaders on Drugs” and an entire suite dedicated to the life of poor, hapless Doug.
Trust me, you have to see or hear it to believe it. OK, take a moment to hear and see it. I’ll wait.
One of the songs they do is an apology for all the songs they’ve written in the past.
As I listened to the song, I thought long and hard about apologies. Yes, over the years I’ve apologized for many things, usually for unintentional hurt I’ve delivered with a knock out punch of words, which are always my weapon of choice.
In my younger days, I used them to wound, often with lethality. These days, I am softer in my choice of words, as I’ve learned the secrets of their super powers.
I readily confess that many of these past apologies have been hollow; born out of a desire to make peace as quickly as possible after saying something that while true, inflicted unnecessary levels of harm.
But still, I think it’s important to apologize for some things now that I’m getting older, so here it goes.
To Mrs. Hacker, my high school journalism teacher. I apologize that my initial RobZerrvations seemed a bit weak to you and that I was driven to plagiarize obscure works of other humorists from library books. And yes, I held my breath when the Seattle Post Intelligencer posted that one on shaving. I thought I would go to jail.
To my brothers, I apologize for not having a spine earlier, so that you never tried to manipulate me in the years before we stopped talking. I also apologize that I haven’t spoken to you all these years since, but that sex with an alien thing and all the right-winger nonsense freaks me out. I still think we had different parents.
To my ex (first), I apologize for wanting to see your breasts, even though you had mono. I deserved that three months in bed recuperating, unable to walk. If only I had known that I would see a lot of other breasts over my lifetime, I may not have snuck you out of the house that day to play “you remove your top, I’ll remove mine.”
I apologize to Jasper, my dog, for making him endure 84 hours in a Windstar so that I could run away from home and join the circus, that circus being my life in Florida, you know, the one with Horse Face. I know you hated car rides Jasper, but you did get to see Mt. Rushmore, albeit from the floor of the mini van. Oh, an additional apology to Horse Face, for liking the nickname my friends gave her a little too much.
I apologize to my daughter for those years as a Seafair Pirate when her birthday often took a back seat to a parade. I wished I would have found out earlier how much I hated parades. I would have ruined fewer birthdays for you. Still, it wasn’t my fault that your birthday fell in the middle of Seafair. If I would have already been a pirate when you were conceived, I would have chosen the timing of your conception better.
I must apologize to the people who now live in the home I grew up in. I really do know where all the bodies are buried and if you find yourself overrun with ghosts of hamsters, kittens, cats, turtles and a Guinea Pig, you have me to blame. I’d be happy to point out where their remains are buried. The bird in the saltine cracker can is particularly easy to find, if you have a metal detector.
I also apologize to all the women whose hearts I broke along the way. I really didn’t love myself back then and was incapable of understanding the gravity of being charming to the point where you may have fallen for me. In most cases, I did enjoy our time together and have fond memories of much of it. Still, there are other times I would just rather forget (see Horse Face above).
O.K, so I guess that was only a half apology.
I apologize to my step-whatevers for stealing your mother away. She was a good catch and I couldn’t really her slip by. My apology isn’t so much for marrying your mom, but for giving you the impression that I am some kind of dick because of it. I guess you just don’t get me, or haven’t taken the time to see that I make your mom really, really happy.
I apologize to the pirates of the world, the ones I meet on a regular basis but don’t necessarily spend much time with. It’s not that I’m judging you. I just have really high, and some would say unrealistic, expectations about how you should be; if you dress like a pirate but aren’t really one at your core. I’m sure you’re a nice person, even if you’re not really a pirate. I just don’t have a lot of time for you these days, and as such, have to pick and choose.
I must apologize to Bernie for puking in the back of his brand new car the night I learned to drink wine. Of course, I have to apologize to Faith for hooking her nose with the anchor on my chain and to the housekeeping staff in the Caymans who had to clean up all the blood on the carpet.
I apologize to the Seafair Pirates for… nah, forget that one. The mutiny was well worth it. I should have taken more of you with me and really gutted you, you swine.
Oh, I need to apologize to Bob Core for hitting him over the head with the Tonka Toy and being more concerned about the bent truck than my bent friend. But it was a really great truck and you did have a pretty hard head.
I also need to apologize to Lori Burton, the Hermiston Watermelon, for that horrible bruise I caused trying to feel you up. Anatomy wasn’t really my strong point when I was 17 and I didn’t know how all the, uh, pieces of the puzzle in the lower 48 fit together. I hope it’s healed by now.
Well, that’s it for the apologies. If I didn’t apologize to you, it may be because I didn’t know I wronged you, forgot I wronged you, or simply don’t give a rat’s ass how it all played out. I will let you decided which is which.
Quite frankly, I’m pretty wiped out after all this apologizing. Sorry.
In the Emerald City, sorry I said I was sorry just now,