Shelby raced ahead of me, nose to the ground, following whatever scent attracted her attention. How her 3-month-old pointer nose could smell anything at that speed, I do not know, but she would stop and sniff when something especially glorious wafted into her nostrils. Shelby would then move off to follow the new scent, this time at a more deliberate pace, until she reached her destination, usually a pile of elk poop. Elk poop is more delicious than chicken, apparently. 

Shelby and I were walking land on the Colorado Plateau in eastern Arizona. I was looking to buy a 36-acre parcel for an off-the-grid ranch, a dream of mine for years. Now the right piece of property was available, I worked remotely anyway, and I was looking to do this before I got too old. Shelby, her first time away from brother Caleb, was enjoying time with daddy and learning how to be a dog. German Shorthair Pointers have a high energy level and she ran ahead of me, or in a perpendicular direction from time to time, but always returned to check in or to respond to my call, tongue lolling and a smile on her liver-colored face. A pocket full of dog food helped. I kneeled down, gave her her treat and told her how good she was. My reward was her happiness and her freely given puppy kisses before she bolted off again.

As I walked the land, I found an ancient pottery shard, not uncommon in that area, inhabited as it was by the Ancient Puebloan people and now, not far to the north and east, the Zuni. Shelby found something much more interesting, an intact mandible (lower jaw) of a young deer or elk. She ran to show me her new treasure, which I exchanged for more treats. Bleached in the sun, I surmised the jaw had been laying there for at least a year or two, perhaps the result of a mountain lion kill. 

In the Bible, names were often given to places to commemorate some significant event. Shelby therefore found the name of what I hoped to make my new home: Lehi, meaning jawbone in Hebrew, coming from Judges chapter 15 where Samson slew 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. I would build Lehi Ranch.

My favorite biblical place name is from Joshua chapter 5, Gibeath Haaraloth. This is the site where Joshua circumcised the people (presumably, just the men) prior to the conquest of the promised land. Gibeath Haaraloth means “hill of foreskins”, which I think would be a great name for a ranch, but it’s a little long and hard to pronounce. And Shelby already found the jaw, anyway. 

I think naming places after significant events is a tradition we should bring back. “Great Blowjob, Arizona” has a nice ring to it.

As it happened, I did not purchase that specific parcel, but rather another one near the hamlet of Concho, Arizona, which allegedly means “little valley” in the language of the Basque shepherds that tended sheep in the area in the 19th century. This land, at 6,400’ of elevation, is studded with junipers and a few pinions and sits upon a ridge with views to the red and white striped hills of the Colorado plateau to the north.

God made this land for ruminants; the elk, pronghorn, and mule deer. Pre-Colombian peoples, America’s first immigrants, made it home and left remnants of villages and pueblos, some nearly invisible on the vast landscape until you stumble across them. Not all are cataloged and fewer still have been professionally excavated.

More recently, cattle and their ranchers found the land suitable, making sure the land was legally stolen from the Navajo and White Mountain Apache who followed the Puebloans.

The term Ancient Puebloan refers to the myriad of groups who lived here long before the Spanish arrived. They include the Anasazi, Sinagua, and Hohokam, Mogollon, and Fremont. Their modern descendants include the Hopi and Zuni, although probably not the Navajo and Apache, who arrived later and tended to be more nomadic. In fact, the word “Anasazi” comes from the Navajo language and means “ancient enemy”. The current residents of the Hopi and Zuni pueblos do not favor the term, as they don’t see their forebears as anyone’s enemy and, after all, they were here first.

Into this landscape I will insert myself, a place where I hope to make my final home. It won’t be fancy or ornate, but functional and efficient; a blend of ancient and modern, a wood stove and high speed internet. Living as we do in an age of improving technology, we have the ability to live and work remotely in a way we couldn’t have even conceived a generation ago. I intend to fully take advantage.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Living in fear

I moved to Arizona in 2003. The first time I saw a rattlesnake I about shit myself. (S)he (I didn’t look that closely) was coiled up adjacent to our front door and we noticed it when a solicitor came by to sell us magazines or tell us to nuke the unborn gay whales for Jesus, I don’t remember which.

Since that time, I have seen many rattlers and many more have seen me. I respect them, but I no longer fear them. If you live in Arizona, rattlesnakes are part of the landscape.

It occurs to me that perhaps part of the problem we have with race in this country is we fear one another. Fear is a natural response to something or someone that can hurt you. Americans feared German soldiers in WW2 until they defeated them then they found, of all the cultures in Europe that they had encountered, it was the Germans they liked the best. (Stephen Ambrose also writes that they loved the Dutch, but the only Americans in Holland were two airborne divisions. Most Americans never were in Holland). Based in part on the news media, movies, television, and extremely limited personal experience, many White Americans fear African Americans. They may like an on individual Black person, but they fear Black people. They also, at least tacitly, believe that “white culture” is superior to “black culture”.

Now, maybe I am telling a White family secret, but few Whites will ever admit they feel this way. Even so, watch their blood pressure go up when they make a wrong turn into a predominantly Black neighborhood. They’ll be like me with my first rattlesnake. I’m no sociologist but I’ll call this “passive racism”, which I’ll define as “an irrational fear of a racial or ethnic group based upon ignorance”. Passive racists don’t actively hate or dislike Black people or Mexicans or Asians or anyone else. They just don’t think of them at all, except when some event or TV show or something forces them to. And direct interaction with more than a limited number of them at a time is highly threatening, in part from conditioning, but in larger part because fear is a natural human response to things or people you don’t understand.

And notice my effortless use of the word “them”. To most White people non whites ARE “them”, they are “other”. They are different from me, they want what I have, and I therefore must protect myself, my family, and my property from… them.

This form of (passive) racism elected Donald Trump, who based his whole campaign on fear of brown hoards coming from the south and as president sought to ban immigration from Muslim majority nations and other “shit hole” countries. He does it in the name of protecting Americans. He is ACTIVELY supported by a plurality (maybe a majority) of white Americans (I haven’t seen recent statistics but it may be a majority of White males).

As I look back on my youth, I see this is nothing new. Growing up in the 70’s, I knew few Black kids, even though I grew up in working class neighborhoods. De facto segregation existed. I do believe things have changed some and ironically, things have changed more in the south than in the north. But the South had the furthest to go. Still, the fact remains we live in a nation where comparatively few white people have daily significant interaction with people of color.

This is a problem. I’ll say this is the problem. It makes people easier to exploit. Ignorance is a passive poison. To take it, just do nothing. Ignorance of the daily experiences of African Americans also makes white people blind to injustices the AA community faces. Frankly, raising white kids, it never occurred to me to have “the talk” with them about interacting with police (at least beyond being respectful). But every Black parent in America has this talk with their kids, especially sons. This leads to a dichotomy in how we see our current racial strife. Too many whites don’t see the injustice. They only see rioting.

You may say, not without justification, that there are significant issues within the Black community. You wouldn’t be wrong but you would be irrelevant. To say that “black on black violence” is a problem is America is to state the obvious, but that is not what I’m talking about today and it really can’t be addressed until the relationship with law enforcement changes. When a population doesn’t trust those who are charged with protecting it, that population will limit its interaction with law enforcement to the greatest extent possible. Therefore violence by police against Black people is directly linked to other forms of violence. They cannot be separated. Effective policing is impossible in areas where the police are not trusted.

There are no easy solutions and change -real change- will be slow. But it will come. Leaders must rise and initiate meaningful dialog and action. We see today the results of a lack of leadership across the political spectrum, at least at the national level. Lack of leadership leads to mindless populism and will be the ruin of our country.

The late Jack Kemp (professional football player and congressman) it was said, had showered with more Black men than most White people had met. And until that changes, nothing else will. Until we learn to truly know one another, fear will win.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Alibi for my ignorance

“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”

Will Rogers said that roughly 100 years ago and it’s amazing how little things have changed. This is not to impugn the profession of journalism but to merely state the obvious. Facts, while stubborn, are often difficult to identify and we tend to hold most closely those opinions we falsely believe are objective truth. Journalists are no more immune to this than anyone else.

Nowhere is this more obvious than reporting on science and religion. This is largely due to a lack of journalists trained in either discipline. Networks and news organizations may have one reporter assigned to those areas who may or may not have advanced training. And there’s usually only a single voice, with few competing voices. Dr Sanjay Gupta of CNN is, by all appearances, a perfectly competent reporter and (I presume) physician, but one man cannot speak for an entire profession.

None of this terribly matters under most circumstances, but April 2020 is hardly most circumstances. For one thing, it’s 4/20 all month, a fact that has largely been ignored on social media. (I mean, honestly… this will not happen again for another 100 years!) Instead, we’ve been fixated on COVID-19 and a global pandemic. Of course, fixated does not mean informed and most of us know precious little. Were Rogers alive today, he might say, “all I know is what I read on Facebook”.

If we rely on media and ad hoc panels of “experts” convened on a studio set or via Skype, we might get the impression that there are a lot of knowns. To the contrary, the only things we know are what’s already happened. The rest fall somewhere between “almost certain” and “a definite maybe”.

And here’s the rub: science deals with ever changing data. We observe, assess, conclude, repeat. As often as not, we get new data to supersede or contradict the previous set. Research scientists are generally pretty good at this and are comfortable with the process. They generally report results with nuance and are willing to modify their previous conclusions in the light of a new set of results.

The media, on the other hand, while well meaning, are horrible at it. They don’t have time for nuance and many of them wouldn’t understand it if they did. The headline doesn’t have room for the fine print and the news reader, whose chief qualifications are they are good looking and articulate, reports on hard numbers they and the public understand. The number of cases. The body count. Possible conflicts of interest amongst decision makers. (Conspiracy theories are always interesting and interesting means ratings or web hits).

Print media is better, but not by much. Editors know attention spans are short, so a single article that takes 10 minutes to consume won’t be read, but two 5 minute articles will. Lost in the removed 5 minutes of content is much of the nuance, the details that reveal the hard facts are a bit softer than they first appear.

Thus, the public tend to distrust both the media and science. I don’t really believe it’s bad science as much as it’s bad reporting of science. And all we know is what we read in the papers. And that becomes the alibi for our ignorance.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scary times and desperate measures

This is the most frightening time I’ve experienced in my life.

Well, there was once when I was about 19 and got my truck stuck where my girlfriend and I had gone to park. We were miles from nowhere and an hour from home. I’d just gotten laid. Now I was fucked.

By and by, someone came along with four-wheel drive and a chain. He pulled us out and I skedattled her home. We were quite late but my concocted story was not questioned by her father. To this day I think we got away with it, unless he reads this, in which case I hope the statute of limitations on fatherly wrath has expired. We’re both grandparents now, anyway. We’re supposed to have mellowed.

But this is different.

I’m not afraid of a virus. I’m afraid of the people. Agent K in the movie Men in Black uttered one of the most prophetic lines in cinema history, when he said, “A person is smart. People are dumb scared animals.” Put a dozen Nobel laureates in a room and expose them to a virus and you collectively have a scared beast with an IQ of 2500.

If you want to understand where we are as a Race (using the Trekkian term for “species”) just look on social media. People are frightened. Some out of ignorance, but some who should know better are equally so. We post memes and links to websites with the latest information; some of it even reliable. We, depending upon our political bent, castigate either the president or the Democrats. We praise or criticize governors of states to which we have never been and whose names we didn’t know a week ago. (Does anyone outside California, beside me, know what Gavin Newsome did before he was The Gov?) And freaking all of us are epidemiologists and virologists.

I have to admit, I refuse to get caught up in the hysteria, even as I am social distancing, and staying away from my daughter who just returned from campus, with no known exposure, but hardly from a controlled environment. I’m doing my part because science is agnostic and apolitical. Slowing the spread is important.

Even so, eventually a glob of RNA inside a protein capsule no more than 125 nanometers across may cause fear-created chaos of the likes we have not seen since WWII. Not because the virus will wipe out humanity, but because people are *afraid* it will, at least metaphorically.

Simply put: SARS-CoV-2, the novel virus that causes COVID-19, is virulent as hell. Like most Coronaviruses, it seems pretty resistant in the environment, remaining viable for days under the right conditions. These factors make the virus highly infectious and very rapid to spread. But, thankfully, for all the chaos this tiny bastard has caused, its not terribly pathogenic. It seems (and it’s early yet) that most people don’t get very sick or sick at all. But, those that do, describe an exceptionally rapid onset and a *very* severe malaise. A sub-set of those, mostly elderly but *not all*, develop severe respiratory compromise. And a subset of those patients die, rarely, including young and healthy people.

SARS-CoV-2 (sudden acquired respiratory syndrome-Coronavirus-2) is therefore a terrorist virus. It can kill. It can cause havoc and instill fear. But it cannot win. It’s simply not strong enough.

But between now and this virus running its course or a vaccine being developed, a lot of feces can occur and it could very well be much worse than runs on toilet paper. This will stretch our medical resources to the breaking point. How bad it will get is unclear and largely depends upon how quickly the virus peaks. But as bad as it gets here in the US and other Western nations, places like India may be immeasurably worse.

What happens when the global economy just stops? In the US, what is essentially full employment could go to a staggering 30% unemployment in a matter of months. (For reference, unemployment at the height of the Depression was 20%, more or less.) That is, if government policies – globally- aren’t enacted to rationally and carefully get it going again, and quickly. (Of course, mention this fact and people act like you’re trying to kill grandma. You might as well have shot Bambi.)

For all FDR’s leadership qualities, historians and economists now recognize that some of his policies actually prolonged the Great Depression. This could easily happen in the 2020’s. This virus could, quite conceivably, trigger social unrest and upheaval that could topple governments and bring populists to power that make Donald Trump look like Ike.

That’s what I fear. Not the virus, but human-made policies that make a terrifying situation infinitely worse.

In my heart of hearts, I don’t think this is likely, at least not in the West. But in some other parts of the world? Sure. 10 times as many people could die from social unrest as from the virus. Will a severe outbreak in India lead to more sectarian and caste-based violence? It could and we need to be prepared.

How the West reacts to the global pandemic, with its presently rather xenophobic and inward focus, will be the challenge of our time. It will take Leadership to meet it and quite possibly prevent the Third World War.

For now, I won’t give into the virus or fear. But I will remain watchful. Societies are only knit together via a fabric of common interest and trust. It’s made of thread that, whether violently torn or merely frayed, can come unraveled slowly or in an instant.

Time will tell.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Squid pro quo

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”. The Romans used this phrase a lot when invading other countries; as in “how ‘bout you get on your knees and perform some quid pro quo and maybe we won’t cut off your heads.”

Knowing Donald Trump’s affinity for dictators, I’m quite sure he would have absolutely wet his pants over the Roman emperors. “That Nero, strong leader. Very strong. Nothing weak there. Loves his people. Believes in urban renewal.” And Trump could have been, well, Trump and grabbed all the women he wanted by their lady bits and bragged to Howardus Sternus that “they even let you.”

Of course, politics is all about quid pro quo. So is life in general. We daily make deals and decisions based upon self interest and the interests of our employers. Employment *itself* is a quid pro quo. The trouble comes when our personal self interests conflict with the moral or legal obligations that serve as guardrails to our conduct. Running into those guardrails gets us fired or in prison. Unless, of course, you’re rich and powerful. Then you often get to decide where those guardrails should be. You get to move them and if you’re Donald Trump you get to crash into and through them like you’re driving a carnival bumper car.

In point of fact, Trump has been practicing quid pro quo is whole life.

“Anyone can live in my apartments, so long as you’re white.”

“How bout you have sex with me and I’ll pay you to be quiet about it.”

“Donate to my foundation and I’ll use the money for my favorite cause: my own aggrandizement.”

“Why don’t you have a disability and I’ll publicly make fun of you.”

And the ultimate quid pro quo: “you White Evangelicals… you sell your souls to me and I will make America white again and appoint conservative judges.”

This Ukraine scandal isn’t hard to understand. The facts aren’t even in dispute. At the specific instruction of the POTUS, both the president’s attorney and employees of the United States requested a foreign government launch an investigation into the presidents perceived chief political rival. The basis for the investigation is dubious at best. In domestic law we would say there is no probable cause.

And to make sure Ukraine was listening, nearly half a billion dollars in already approved and appropriated military aid was temporarily frozen, just to show what we could do if we wanted to. Ukraine has no prayer against Russia without help from the US.

When career diplomats got in the way, they were removed and publicly defamed. When a career military officer raised red flags up the chain of command and refused to be silenced, he was publicly accused of having dual loyalties.

Supporters of the Administration claim the president has the authority to do what he’s done and that no crimes were committed. That’s false on its face. While the president’s powers are expansive, at the very least implied in the constitution is that they are used in the public interest.

The number one thing the Founders were worried about was *exactly* this scenario: A president using the machinery of government not for the public interest but for his own. That is the ultimate abuse of the power of the office. Whether it fits federal statutes about bribery or extortion is irrelevant. (His actions probably do, but that’s beside the point.) The framers of the Constitution understood “high crimes and misdemeanors” to be precisely the conduct in which the president engaged: Abuse of the expansive powers given the office of the president.

None of these facts are arguable. The only question is, do facts matter to enough Senators to see Trump convicted and removed from office. I rather doubt that to be the case, but stay tuned. There’s more to come in our next episode.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dear Trump-supporting Christian

Dear Christians Who Support Trump,

I get you more than you may realize. I’m one of you, which is to say a follower of Jesus. We may understand the meaning of that phrase differently, perhaps, but I consider Jesus to be the Logos, the Word, God incarnate. If we want to know what God is like, we need look no further than Jesus of Nazareth.

Which makes your support for Donald Trump all the more troubling. I presume, and correct me if I am wrong, it is because he is willing to check all the boxes that you’ve been wanting checked since we marched in Washington for Jesus in 1979 and rejoiced when Reagan was elected the following year. Forty years later, you can taste victory. Forty years later, I recognize how young, arrogant, and foolish I was.

You want to overrun Roe, so you want a conservative Supreme Court. Check.

You want someone who wants to return America to “traditional Judeo-Christian Values”. (I.e, MAGA). Check.

You want an end to “the homosexual agenda”. Check.

For all those things, you’re willing to overlook Trump’s various weaknesses. I won’t list them. You know them already and they don’t matter to you. Or you’re at least willing go overlook them in the name of the boxes.

But here’s the thing. Most of what you seek, Trump – indeed no president- can deliver and if you think he can, you either do not know the facts or the Constitution.

Let’s talk about abortion, as a case in point. Ever since Francis Schaffer and C. Everett Koop produced the film “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”, conservative Christians have been incensed over abortion. It’s a worthy debate to have. When does life begin? When does life become a “person”? When should it be subject to protection under the law? When does the life inside the mother have the same rights as she does? And, what about her rights? Does she have autonomy over her own body? All are important questions of philosophy and law. The problem is, we aren’t really debating them. We ignore the real questions.

It’s all come down to an argument over a single Supreme Court decision and two separate immovable opinions based upon world view and not Constitutional Law. One side immovably believes that human life begins at conception and is therefore entitled to protection under the law from that moment onward, the same as a human being after (s)he is born. The other side can not fathom this view. They believe- just as immovably and with equal emotional investment- that a collection of non-sentient cells can’t be a human being and treating it as such infringes upon the rights of the woman. There are differing opinions in the so-called “pro-choice” community as to when that fetus becomes a “person”, but those differences aren’t really relevant at the moment and are altogether meaningless to “pro-lifers”.

So, my Christian Trump-supporting friends, I get it. If Trump nominates enough pro life judges and justices, Roe can be overturned and abortion will be eliminated.

Except it won’t. Not by a long shot. In fact, overturning Roe (hear me now) WON’T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE.

Here’s why:

1. Prior to Roe, states could regulate abortion. Overturning Roe would merely return the matter to the states.

2. Abortion would undoubtedly be severely restricted or banned in many states. But, in those very conservative states, there are already very few abortion clinics and abortions compared to other states. The number of abortions in those states would drop, but as a percentage of the whole number nationally, the impact would be small.

3. The largest states with the most abortions are also the most liberal and would maintain unfettered access to abortion services. Some states have already preemptively passed such laws.

At the end of the day, overturning Roe would result in abortions being reduced, but not by a lot and certainly not a total victory. Not even close.

I hate to say it, Roe is a red herring and if I am correct, your whole reason for supporting Trump is a fallacy. Yes, he’s promised you (us) something (judges and justices) and has delivered. But his promises don’t matter because they won’t impact the issue about which we care. And to make matters worse, are his policies on care for life *after* it’s born. Immigration of suffering families with children, family separation at the border, et al. all are issues that don’t seem to matter to you. I’m going to call you out. You’re pro birth, not pro life.

You may push back and say a human life amendment could be passed that would enshrine the pro- life position in the constitution. Fair point. It could. But if you recall your high school civics class, a constitutional amendment requires 2/3’s of both houses to pass and 3/4 (or 38) states to ratify. The president is not part of the process. And if you think 2/3 of Congress will pass such an amendment and 38 states will ratify it, you are (and I use a technical medical term here) “nucking futs”.

There are undoubtedly other reasons you support Trump. That is your right, but we must drop all pretense of your support being based on moral issues of import to people of faith. Maybe you want lower taxes, thing climate change is a hoax, and that the Russians really just want to be our friends. Maybe you believe that a White America is a better America. Maybe you believe that a the country needs a businessman at the helm.

Or maybe…. you’re just hateful and spiteful and believe that God looks like you. When I was growing up in fundamentalist and evangelical circles, we were taught to beware of those creating God in our own image; never once considering the possibility it was *we* who were doing just that. If you believe in a God that condemns people to quite literally burn in Hell for all eternity (a concept that has more in common with the Greeks than the Hebrews), then it’s a very small intellectual leap to become that god of your own little universe. The Love Me or Else God becomes the Love Me or Else David, only giving that which is earned. That kind of love is not grace-full. It’s a mere business transaction.

So Trump Supporting Christian, I kinda get it. But I believe you are wrong. In one case (on abortion and Roe) objectively so. Math doesn’t lie. But if you strip that away, why do you still support him? That’s a question you need to answer for yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do kids play unorganized sports, anymore?

Baseball is a game in which the best fail 7 times out of 10. The best NFL quarterbacks *succeed* at that rate. Therein lies the pivotal distinction between baseball and football. That and the fact that baseball is played by normal sized human beings.

You could be siting on a plane next to an all star pitcher and you’d have no idea what he did for a living. Maybe a career in sales. Or software. But sit next to a 300 lb black man and every white person in America will think to themselves, “who does he play for”?

This is also the definition of white privilege. We assume a large black man or a buff young black man is an athlete. The best among us will silently chastise ourselves for so effortlessly falling into that stereotype. The worst will actually ask the man who he plays for, hoping maybe for an autograph.

Donald Trump would be that man. White men are leaders. Movers and shakers in finance and industry. Black men play ball and keep the white men entertained. I don’t actually believe Trump is racist in the sense that he dislikes African Americans, as such. I just don’t think he thinks about that community one way or the other. To the extent he thinks about them at all, he only knows they are Democrats and oppose him. They are “other”. They aren’t his people.

To men like that, White men are generals. Black men make good sergeants, like Louis Gosset, Jr., in An Officer and a Gentleman. They’re good fighters and swear a lot.

Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder once famously said that Blacks “lacked some of the natural abilities” to be good NFL quarterbacks. He went on to also explain why Blacks, in his opinion, weren’t good swimmers. I believe it was something about “sinking too fast”. His career sunk after that interview faster than one of his Black swimmers.

The World Series and an episode of NCIS got me thinking of baseball. My hometown Nationals got swept in DC to be on the verge of losing the Series. But in baseball there is always hope, especially when you have your two best pitchers rested and ready for games 6 and 7.

The NCIS episode featured a scene at the end where Gibbs was playing catch with a boy from across the street who was living with his single mom. Gibbs had bought the boy a new glove because he was using one that he wore on his throwing hand.

That scene tore me up. So many complex emotions came bursting forth at once. I still remember one time playing catch with my dad in the backyard of his mom’s. There may have been others, but I wasn’t raised by my dad so our times were fleeting.

When my girls were young they sometimes would play catch with me. As they got older I tried to get them to, to no avail. Living in a house full of girls who weren’t terribly interested in sports had its drawbacks. My dogs didn’t even want to play catch with me. (“Paging Dr. Rodney Dangerfield. Dr. Dangerfield to Psychiatry please.”)

Now I have a grandson. Maybe I’ll live long enough to play catch with him. Maybe he’ll want to.

I was smart, witty, and eager to please; traits that made me popular with teachers but also the target of bullies. The fact that I was tall, rail thin, and wore the wrong sneakers didn’t help. I’ve said it before: how I ever lost my virginity remains one of those mysteries of the universe.

I wanted to be a great athlete. I loved baseball. I loved basketball. I just wasn’t very good. We played a version of baseball we called “mushball” (pronounced “mooshball”). We had four guys from the apartments who would play ball. Two brothers, Kenny and Bobby, myself, and a fourth whom we would try to scrounge up from whoever was available. That’s all we had, so we played mushball, two to a side.

The game worked like this. With two players to a side we had a pitcher and one fielder. The batting team supplied the catcher, who also called balls and strikes. If the batted ball was caught by the fielder or the pitcher it was an out. Whether it was a single, double, triple or a homer in depended upon how far it traveled in the air. A homer had to be hit over the hedge at the end of the area in which we played.

Ah. Where we played was the Best Products parking lot on Parklawn Drive. There was an area where people rarely parked and we used that to play. Surprisingly no one ever gave us a hard time for playing there. This was the early 1970’s so no one cared. The fact that we played on a parking lot and only employed a single outfielder meant we pretty much had one “field”. Any ball hit to what would normally be left or right field, was foul.

Now the most important part. We used a tennis ball. This was actually the best part. First, a ball that hit a car wouldn’t do any damage. Second, on that pavement it bounced in a very satisfactory manner and was generally undamaged, whereas a baseball would not last a week during our summer. But the best reason for using a tennis ball: we could pitch it as hard as we wished and, as the catcher had no protective gear, no one was going to get hurt. That, and the batter’s life was not placed in peril. As pitchers, we weren’t exactly Greg Maddux. We really had no idea where that ball was going and the catcher regularly got plenty of exercise from having to run after a ball that got by him only to roll 25 yards and end up lodged under a car. Wrigley Field has its ivy. We had ‘68 Pontiacs and Plymouths.

Kenny and Bobby and I also collected baseball cards. I still have mine, but that’s for another blog post.

I did play pick up football in the fall. I actually held my own, even though I was so skinny they also used me to measure for first downs. Because I was tall and had a long stride, I developed a technique where I could decoy the quarterback while was as playing in the secondary. He would think my guy was open and would throw. In order to get the ball the required distance to the open receiver he had to throw on an arc and the ball would remain aloft for what seemed like days. Sometimes it would come down with bird poop on it from where they had roosted the night before. In the time the ball was in was in the air, I would quickly close on my receiver and performing geometry in my head worthy of Wile E. Coyote, I would step in front of the receiver for the interception. I would then get pummeled (touch football was for pussies) but it was worth it.

Do kids today still play games like these? Baseball with two on a side because that’s all you had? Pick up tackle football?

I played one year of little league baseball. I don’t recall my mom attending any games. She would have been at work. I got one hit all season. (Not that I had many at bats). Organized sports were expensive. But games with your friends were free, even if as organized as the Trump Foreign Policy.

Maybe I should start playing softball again. Find a 50 and over league. I enjoyed playing when we lived in NH. Anything to get off my increasingly lazy ass.

I would do anything to recapture some of the innocence of my childhood. It was not easy. It was at times quite lonely. But at times it was joyful and carefree when the most we had to worry about was not reaching under a recently parked (hot) car to retrieve an errant ball.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Guy’s List of the Best Love Songs of All-time

Love songs. The world is full of them. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one, although why you’d want to do such a thing, I don’t know.

I like cats and think they get a bum rap. Cats don’t need anyone. That way, they can’t get hurt.

But back to love songs. I was eating lunch the other day at a restaurant that had some saccharine love songs on the Musak. Think Barry Manilow. It was hideous. It was dripping with more sap than a March sugar maple.

Rock and Country are full of bad love songs, although country is at least more original. Roy Clark, one of the finest guitarists ever, sang one of my all-time favorites, Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone. And who can forget Rusty Ford’s, I Can’t Get Over You (Until You Get Out From Under Him)? If you’re going to sing about a broken heart in country music, you might as well laugh about it. Everyone else is.

I enjoy both Rock and Country, although I lean to older versions thereof. Very few modern artists interest me that much. For Rock, I lean alternative for the current stuff. Switchfoot and Florence and the Machine. For today’s country, meh. I like Kenny Chesney (great voice and a very underrated songwriter) and Dierks Bentley. Dierks Bentley is hot. For a guy. He’s one of those guys that even mostly straight dudes like me go, “yeah. I would.”

I keep getting sidetracked. Back to love songs. Men and women approach such songs differently. Guys don’t seek to imbue their love songs with existential angst over a lost lover. We’re like, “new sex!”

So here in no particular order is my Guys’ Top Ten All-Time List of Love Songs.

10. Lola, The Kinks

Any band that calls themselves The Kinks is all right with me, but aside from that, Lola earns a spot on this list because it describes a guy’s first sexual experience. With a tranny. What could be more heartfelt that the line, “I’m not the world’s most masculine man, but I know what I am and In bed I’m a man, and so is Lola.”?

9. Tube Snake Boogie, ZZ Top

If only for the lyric, “I’ve got a gal who lives on the hill. She won’t do it but her sister will”, ZZ Top, just a little ol band from Texas, gets the nod at #9.

8. Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen

Apparently Freddy Mercury was “left alone with big fat Franny”, who was “such a naughty nanny”. If true, the fact that this song describes abuse, doesn’t make him wrong.

7. You Shook Me All Night Long, AC/DC

Because of this song, every teenage boy in America knew the importance of a “clean motor”.

6. American Woman, The Guess Who

This is actually a Vietnam War protest song. (Really). The “American woman” spoken of is the Statue of Liberty. Still, when they sing “American woman, stay away from me, American woman, mama let me be” it kinda hits you right in the gut, ya know?

5. All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix

This isn’t a love song. In fact, I really have no idea what the hell this song’s about. No one does. Hendrix is so stoned while he’s recording the track that at one point, he badly flubs a line and just lets it go. Bob Dylan actually wrote it, so who knows what it means? Still, it’s one of my favorite songs ever and this is my list, so it’s here. Don’t like it? Make your own fucking list.

4. Can’t You See? The Marshall Tucker Band

If you haven’t figured it out yet, you’re really quite stupid. This list is tongue-in-cheek. But this song is really quite good and a true story of heartbreak.

“Can’t you see?

Can’t you see?

What that women, Lord, been doing to me?”


“gonna find me

a hole in the wall.

Gonna crawl inside and die.”

Who hasn’t felt that? For me, this feeling is like voting in Chicago. Early and often.

3. Collide, Kid Rock w/ Sheryl Crow

This song is probably obscure to most of you, but Kid Rock actually writes some excellent lyrics and this song is no exception. In fact, I think it’s one of his best.

“I’m no angel, you’re no saint. If we were we wouldn’t be in this place tonight.

“Lost and lonely, scared and confused, we both have a past and nothing to lose.”

2. Have a Cigar, Pink Floyd

It’s not on my list but it is on Bill Clinton’s.

But I think the best love song of all-time is one written by Jimmy Buffet (why isn’t it, “Jimmy Buff-aaay”? As in, “tonight’s $8.99 night at the Old Country Buffet”).

1. Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)?

“I really do appreciate the fact you’re sittin’ here.

Your voice sounds so wonderful,

But your face don’t look too clear.

So bar maid bring a pitcher,

Another round of brew.

Why don’t we get drunk and screw?”

Look. We’ve all been there. We’ve made pour decisions. And if you haven’t been there, you either have no pulse or you will.

Or you’re lying.

And, ladies, you’ve been there, too. Trust me. I know. We all have skeletons rattling for life. We may feel like Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, empty and just hoping we went out with a bang.

So there you have it. My own list of the best “love” songs of all-time. As my father, Lee Bledsoe (A Fine American), once said “Love is a long and slender thing.”

Ok, seriously now. Jesus, whom I consider kind of a Big Deal, said “greater love has no man, than that he lays down his life for his friends.” He said this shortly before doing just that. You don’t hear much about that in love songs. Love is sacrifice. It’s caring enough to give your all.

Love is not merely searching for your next orgasm. I’m not against orgasms. I’m rather fond of them myself. But after the bliss wears off, all that’s left is the sometimes hard work of love. I’m not an expert. I’m shallow and because my ancestors came from Northern Europe, I am, quite literally, a Neanderthal (although I am not very hairy; Neanderthals would have considered me something of a twink). But I do know this much. Jesus was right. What a wonderful world this would be if we each loved others enough to lay down our lives for them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Puppy breath

“I’m not sentimental,

This skin and bones is a rental,

And no one makes it out alive.”

— Switchfoot, “Where I Belong”

Life in all forms is to be celebrated. Don’t think so, then do what I did tonight. Play with an 8 week old pit bull puppy. You’ll be reminded what simple joy is.

Luna is a bundle of energy sufficient to power a warp engine. She’s the new younger sister to Loki, a powerful good natured pittie with a tongue that will give you a tonsillectomy if it gets a chance. Both dogs belong to my dear friend “Seattle” Sandy. I call her Seattle Sandy because, well, she’s from Seattle and to distinguish her from Sandy Bledsoe.

She has puppy breath! (Luna, not either Sandy, so far as I know). Puppy breath is God’s way of reminding us that life is a miracle. So is the smell of a baby’s hair. There is nothing like either and both smell like life to me, before it’s had a chance to get stale or cynical.

Babies and puppies aren’t cynical. They are full of wonder at the each new thing. They remind us that while we may not make it out alive, we are alive while we are here and we are wired to approach it with awe and amazement.

When we realize that our lives aren’t ours, that our “skin and bones is a rental” we become free to live in the moment. Life is free to become wondrous again and even the smell of a puppy’s breath elicits happiness. We can release the cynicism in which we are mired. We are free to love and give our lives for others. It is true, we may get hurt in the process, but giving that which I cannot hope to hold is no loss. The rental period ends eventually and my body will return from whence it came, I hope completely rusted and beat up with no gas in the tank. That will have been a full life.

In the meantime, the journey continues, now entering its 57th year. Where it will go, I have no idea. I just hope to live it in the moment and well. I hope to laugh, and make others at least smile. I will undoubtedly cry, but crying is like running a dishwasher for your emotions. They are cleaned and rinsed, even if it does leave spots on your glasses. Amidst the laughter and tears, I hope I can find a few puppies and find odd baby to smell. Come to think of it, maybe I should just stick to smelling my grandson, Elliot.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death and Cats

I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Not about how I am going to cause mine, but how I want mine handled. It seems I’ve been surrounded by death more lately. My friend James committed suicide. My aunt’s husband, Don, succumbing to lung cancer, and there are news stories of veterans who pass with no living relatives but who receive a send off from strangers worthy of a head of state.

One evening not long ago, I wrote down a list of songs I wanted played at my wake. It started with Skynyrd’s timeless Freebird.

“If I leave here tomorrow

Will you still remember me?

I must be traveling on now

There’s so many places I have to see.”

I always wonder why I’ve never heard that at any funerals. It’s always something cheesy and often religious, even if the deceased wasn’t. For many people, they should just play “Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone”.

James had a memorial service attended by at least 200. Don did not want a service of any kind, a decision also made by my late sister-in-law, Vicki.

I’ve finally decided I don’t want a service. Just let me be forgotten and don’t prolong the process by having a service. Don’t have me dressed up in a suit in an expensive casket. And for God’s sake do not have a viewing so people can come and stare mournfully at my earthy remains. Don’t have a viewing at all, but especially don’t have an open casket. If you in insist on doing so, at least have the undertaker extend my middle fingers as my hands lay across my chest and have them give me an erection.

The Egyptians buried their dead with things they’d need for the afterlife, like food and spears and cats. Not sure why the cats, but they had a thing for them. Maybe they ate them after they died. Anyway, don’t send me off with anything fancy. I just want to enter the next world with a hard on.

Burn my body and spread my ashes up along the Mogollon Rim. I don’t want a gravesite that no one visits or feels guilty about not doing so.

The ancient Judeans reused tombs. Once the body was decomposed the bones would be retrieved, the skeleton broken and placed in an Ossuary, literally a bone box. This was done so future archeologists would find them then become fabulously famous, if not wealthy, by selling them to the Museum and the university where the most famous archeologist of all, Indiana Jones, teaches.

I think this is a great custom and we should revive it, but put shit in there that will totally fuck with 39th century archeologists. Like cut off the top of my skull and leave a spoon in my ossuary to make them think that you ate ice cream out of my head in some bazaar Ben and Jerry’s ritual. Or maybe leave a prop from Men In Black so I end up on a future episode of Ancient Aliens.

What really matters most is I am ready. I’m tired. Some days I am just done. I rely completely upon God’s Grace. I can only humbly say, “Lord be gracious unto me, for I am a sinner.” No, “I tried.” No bargaining. No, weighing my life on a scale like God is Lady Liberty or something. God showed us His character in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible does not contain the phrase “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And it most certainly never says to “invite Jesus into your heart.” Those sound good over a hymn and an offering. Jesus simply bids us to “take up [our] cross daily and follow [him].”

What happens to us after we die, I do not know. I just know I am ready. And I don’t want a big stink made over me. Just know I endeavored to live a life that mattered. To live justly. Be merciful. And to walk humbly with God.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment