Monday, October 2, 2017

"Terrorist" - official designation of a shooter or bomber who is one or more of the following: 
1. Dark-skinned
2. Born or living in a foreign country
3. A follower of a non-Christian religion
"Lone Wolf" - official designation of a shooter or bomber who is one or more of the following:
1. White
2. Born and living in America
3. A Christian
It's much easier for politicians and talking heads to ramp up fear, and the subsequent donations and Federal dollars, when the bad guy fits the "Terrorist" description. They immediately leap into (in)action, giving speeches about the need to increase military spending, tightening our borders, deportation, building walls, oh, and the need to further loosen gun laws.
They have no idea how to react when the murderer falls into the second category - that person could live next door, could be a relative, could be a voter. Calling them a "Lone Wolf" is a convenient, and cowardly, way to dismiss their actions as little more than an anomaly. A Lone Wolf isn't part of a larger organization out to get America. A Lone Wolf is crazy, (as if the other shooters are perfectly same). More investigation is focused on "Why" they committed this horrible act. Fingers will be pointed for political gain, and nothing will be done to prevent the next shooting, because there will be a next shooting.
Even if the shooter left a detailed explanation, speculation will abound - frightened, angry, and apathetic citizens will project rationalizations onto the shooter as a way to confirm their own existing biases. The shooter will eventually become the poster child for everything each person who speaks about him hates the most. Many others will search far and wide for a tangible evil to blame this on, without looking directly confronting the truth that surrounds them. These "Lone Wolves" are our neighbors. Our friends. Our relatives. And the reason they kill is simple - because America doesn't stop them. Because they can.
Billions upon billions of thoughts and prayers have done nothing to end the slaughter. The "Greatest Country in the World" should be able to stop its innocent citizens from becoming random victims of another's target practice.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


The Cynic in me thinks it won't matter, but the Optimist in me holds out hope that this is what will finally open some eyes.
Oh, sorry.
The Airhead in me forgot to mention the theme of this post.
McCain is a selfish, heartless asshole. As is every other Republican who has been eagerly waiting to eliminate affordable health care for millions of needy Americans. A sizable number of whom are represented by the very politicians who will be ruining their lives. Yet, these charlatans continue to win elections by manipulating, (and often times fueling), the hates and fears of their base. And that base, for the most part, believes every word they are told. By pretending to be Christians and patriots, while actively exhibiting neither behavior, these predatory scumbags have made rich, comfortable lives for themselves and their friends at the expense of everyone else. When their constituents complain, the blame for their troubles is redirected elsewhere: to liberals, gays, people of color, foreigners, "urban elites", atheists, abortionists, etc. They manage to get away with these lies because that base never really bothers to check the facts. And unfortunately, when they do try to check, the lies are supported by the inescapable pervasiveness of fake news. Ironically, if they do happen to stumble upon the truth, they process that as fake news, because it doesn't conform to their preexisting bias, and listen to the propaganda.
But I'm preaching to the choir. You already know this. Which brings me back to the beginning of this post ~ Republicans have not been shy as of late about publicly exposing their true agendas in public. Much like the inflated arrogance of a comic book villain who never gets caught, and eventually decides it's not worth the bother to put on the mask that disguises his real identity, they too, have convinced themselves they are invulnerable. It's that brazen level of contempt for others that may finally do them in. When those in need finally reach the apex of anger and desperation after losing their health care, those who cast the deciding votes will have no more wedge issues to hide behind. They will not be able to talk themselves out of it using the old bromide of blaming it on the Democrats either, since they are on record as the ones working feverishly to kill it, yet not passing a suitable replacement. This could be what turns all that red to purple. Or even, (dare we suggest?), true blue.
At least, that's what I hope. But then that cynical voice keeps insisting that these voters will never, ever, gain the awareness to see how they are being deceived. Such an about-face would be a concession to their own gullibility, and I don't see that happening on a large scale. Modern day Republicans could rob their constituents at gunpoint in broad daylight, then blame it on the Democrats, and the victim would believe it.
It's a shame how many of these folks fall in line at the sight of a bible, but never bother to open it and read the warnings about false prophets and self-righteousness.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


I had an existential breakdown at a restaurant the other day. No, that’s not the name of a dish I ordered. Although, if that were an item served at restaurants, it wouldn’t be on the menu. It would delivered to your table unexpectedly like an amuse-bouche, if, say, the chef was a sadist who knew your most profound psychological vulnerabilities. But I digress.

An existential breakdown is really the worst of all the major breakdowns, because it affects you at your deepest level. Why am I here?  Not specifically “here”, (although maybe. Who knows?), but more in the grander sense of “Here”. Life itself. What is your purpose? You think you know, but far too often, you spend the bulk of your life developing skills for a particular goal that for one reason or another never comes to fruition, all because reality and aspiration never coalesce. For example, let's say you play basketball in high school. You’re six three and score 30 points a game. You dream of playing in the NBA, but you don’t get scouted for a scholarship. So you go to a junior college as a walk-on. But you start shrinking. Literally. Five inches a year. By your senior year, you’re four foot eight. Now you’re too short to even play video game basketball. There is a height requirement if you read the fine print. What do you do? That was you’re life’s dream. All your focus went into that dream. And now it’s gone. That, and twenty inches. After years and years of dreaming for a happy ending, you instead are the butt of a cruel joke. Even though you may not relate to that example, it is a all-too-common of an occurrence. And the reason why so many people seem lost.

There are some people who never breakdown. Everything comes easy to them. They know exactly what they want, and they get it. I hate those people. I do. I want to kill them. Metaphorically. Don’t worry, I’m incapable of committing such an act ~ even as a fantasy. In the darkest moments of my past, when the thought of murder may have tip-toed into my mind as a possible solution to a crisis, some innate sense of morality always prevented me from even imagining the scenario. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve closed my eyes and mentally placed myself, weapon in hand, in front of an adversary, only to toss it aside and instead take the person to court. If you’re wondering, I’ve never lost a case. Retribution is meted out by the legal system, and my conscious is clear.

Besides, do you know how difficult it is to metaphorically kidnap and torture someone? Indirectly, or course, because even within the context of a literary device, it’s advised to stay as far removed from your subject as possible. The last thing you want to do is have an existential breakdown based on the way you’re handling your original existential breakdown. Making that mistake could suck you into the Vortex of Existential Crisis, and once you’re trapped in that, forget it. There's no escape. You start questioning EVERYTHING, probing for esoteric meaning to the most innocuous events.

“Why did I order coffee?” (This is when I was in that restaurant). “Do I really need coffee? I’m not sleepy. Am I a caffeine addict? Was I compelled by a chemical urge to order it? Should I seek help? If there are twelve-step groups for caffeine addicts, what refreshments would they put out for the members? Speaking of refreshments, why did I say I was interested in the special? Blue cheese soup and a gyro? That doesn’t go with coffee at all. In fact, in doesn’t even go with each other. It’s actually quite disgusting. Am I disgusting? Is my soul disgusting? Is that why I’m alone in this restaurant? Could this be the best life has to offer me? A disgusting man eating disgusting food? How did I get here? Is there a possible pathway out?”

At that very moment, your server approaches your table with your plate of disgust. “Would you like anything else?”

It feels like the first time you've truly contemplated that question. “Yes”, you shout. "I do! My god, have I been suppressing my actual desires all my life?”

Your waitress’ silence leads to a new, and extremely deep subcategory of questions. Rather than privately speculating, you cut to the chase and ask her directly, addressing her by name, hoping that this simple touch of personalization will reveal a greater truth. 

“Are you truly capable of enhancing the lives of others, Madison? Or were you just being rhetorical? Because if you are so capable, I don’t want this! I want something else!”

She quickly glances down to her chest. “Madison is the name of the restaurant. I’m Penelope. My nameplate fell off. Anyway, I was only asking you if you wanted more…”

“More! Yes! I DO want more! Oh, it feels good to say that out loud! Thank you!”

Penelope smiles awkwardly, refills your coffee and walks away. Which makes you wonder, “Why did she leave? I didn’t tell her what I wanted more of in life. I have a list I carry with me, it’s just a matter of digging through my wallet and finding it. I just updated my Top Ten last week, so I know it’s there.” You absently reach out for your coffee, and a small wave generated by the movement of the cup splashes out on your hand. Just enough to cause a small verbal reaction, but not enough to leave lasting pain.

“Is that what she’s trying to tell me?” you think. “That no matter what my choice, I’m going to get burned? Who wants to live in a world as dismal as that? Or perhaps, the coffee symbolic of what she can provide for me? She did fill it all the way to the rim. There’s not even room for cream and sugar. Wait… is that the message? The cup is an extension of myself, and the coffee is life. So, fill it to the top! And don’t worry about needing room for cream and sugar, because they aren’t essential to the mix. Is she telling me there is no need to dilute and over-sweeten my life? Stop looking to alter what I have in front of me, and experience it pure, and at full strength? To take life as it comes, and enjoy every sip for as long as it lasts?”

“Oh, Penelope! My darling Penelope! You’ve given me the answer that’s eluded me for my entire life, even though it’s always been right there, in my grasp, but unrecognizable! I cannot wait to savor every moment that presents itself to me in life!”

In the midst of your jubilation, she walks back and hands you the check.

“No!” you shout. “It’s not my time to go! I want to stay! You promised me more!”


Without saying another word, she takes back the check, rips it up, and hands you a menu. A second chance. All of the choices are right in front of you. All you have to do is pick what you want. But, what if you pick the wrong thing? Should you ask her for suggestions? In your peripheral vision, you see Penelope lead a man to the booth next to you. She offers him a menu, but he declines, saying he knows exactly what he wants. God, I hate people like that.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Have you ever, seemingly out of nowhere, thought of a person you knew 10, 20, 30, years ago, and Googled their name? And find out they’re dead? Then open the link and see there’s still an open investigation? They’re calling it a possible homicide ~ vehicular manslaughter ~ and the police are looking to question you? You think, “How is this possible? It must be some kind of joke.” Then you scroll down and see an ad for a site called, “This Is No Joke.” You open that link and see it’s an ad for a company called “Got Them”, which is a service that creates elaborate online hoaxes to pull on your friends. So now you’re convinced it’s a joke. Then you realize, “I have Ad Blocker. Plus! I shouldn’t be seeing ads.”

Just then, someone starts knocking on the front door. You peek outside. It’s the police. A LOT of police. Now slowly, like a heavy morning fog lifting from the street, a series of events begins to unfold in your mind. It hasn’t been decades since I last saw him. I ran into him a few weeks ago, didn’t I? Is that possible? Something about all of this doesn’t feel right, but you can’t quite put all the pieces together just yet.

Now the police are pounding on the door, calling your name and shouting that they have your picture. Which sends you in a panic. Why? Who knows? Something about names today has been slightly unnerving. You run out the back door, because for whatever reason, the police in your town never seem to cover the back exits. You hop fences, running frantically between buildings and down alleys, trying not to be seen. Finally, you reach a busy street. There’s a cab sitting right there at the curb. You’ve mostly been using Uber the past year, and have been seriously thinking of switching to Lyft, because you haven’t been pleased with Uber’s business practices lately. Not only that, Douglas in his brown Nissan Sentra is six minutes away, and you don’t have time, so you cave, and jump in the taxi.

“Where to?” the cabbie asks.

“Anywhere,” you answer.

“Anywhere it is… Mister Egan.”

How does he know my name? And that voice. It sounds so familiar. You look in the rear view mirror to have a peek. That’s his face! The person you just Googled! He’s not dead!

“The police think I killed you! We need to tell them you’re alive!”

“Oh, you’d love that, wouldn’t you?” he sneers.

“Yeah,” you tell him. “I kinda would.”

“You don’t remember, do you?”

“What in particular?” you ask. Because you literally have no idea what he’s talking about.

“Three weeks ago. You were out bar hopping with your friends. I picked you up in this very cab and drove you five miles, and you ignored me the entire trip.”

“I probably didn’t recognize you.”

“I introduced myself!”

“I must not have heard you.”

“You laughed! Just like high school. We were in every class together for four years, and you never said hello to me.”

“Come on! I was drunk!”

“In high school?”

“That night!” you exclaim. “And yeah, in high school, too.”

“I’ve been waiting thirty years for this moment,” he mumbles to himself.

“Were we really in every class together?”

He steps on the gas and weaves through traffic, as your limp body bounces like a rag doll in the backseat. You finally manage to take hold of the door handle, but you can’t open it.

“Only I can unlock the doors,” he laughs.

Luckily, there’s no Plexiglas partition separating driver and passenger, so you put your hands on the top of the front seat and vault yourself over. He tries fighting you off, but you manage to reach across him to the door lock switch, and open the passenger door. You know it’s stupid, but you jump out anyway. There’s no oncoming traffic, so you tuck and roll until you slam to a painful stop at the curb. He kicks the brakes and makes a wild U-turn. The thought pops into your head: he’s going to run you over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve seen this moment countless times in movies and TV shows, and always wondered what would be your final thought when you knew the end was seconds away. Would it be a memory of a woman you loved? Would you think back to a particularly happy time as a child? Or instead, would regrets overwhelm your senses, and run a list of maybes and what-ifs through your mind? In all of those instances, you never once considered those last seconds would be used trying to remember the full roster of every class you had in high school.

The world is moving in slow motion. You can see his maniacal grin as he directs the cab toward you. You won’t even have time to get all the way through the third row of junior Spanish. But before he can reach you, a bus rams into him on the passenger side. He’s ejected from the taxi and thrown to the street.

A witness runs up to you. “I think that guy’s dead.”

“I hope so,” you say.

“I saw the whole thing,” the witness says. “What you did? That’s vehicular homicide.” Then he takes your picture and calls the police.

Just before passing out, you quietly wonder if any of this would be an appropriate story to tell at his wake.


     Life is so boring sometimes. The same damn thing, day in and day out. Mind numbingly dull. Tedious. Mundane. Nothing interesting ever happens ~ it’s always the same dreary slog. Which is very depressing. Boring and depressing. 

     So what do you do? You go to the doctor. She asks what’s wrong, and you’re like, “Thanks for listening to the setup, doc.” You tell her directly, you’re bored and depressed. She asks if any of your friends or family have noticed any change in you. You tell her you have no friends and hate your family. So she gives you pills. You take them every day, and after a few weeks you feel slightly better. You still don't have friends, or a likable family, but neither seem to matter so much anymore. However, you’re still bored. And now, you’re putting on weight.

     So, you go to your doctor. Doctor tells you to go on a diet. Now, you’re eating salads. But you’re still bored because there’s nothing exciting about lettuce. Lettuce is little more than green, chewy water. Not even the cool kind, like the green, chewy water in Olympic swimming pools. Just pieces. Stupid little pieces. The lettuce not only bores the hell out of you, it makes you feel tired. Listless. You’re finding out that green, chewy water doesn’t deliver that needed much of an energy boost.
     So, you tell your doctor. Doctor says she knows just the thing for you ~ external stimulation. You think about it for a moment. Sure, she might be a little older than you, but why not give it a try? You ask her if it’s covered by your insurance. She says she doesn’t understand. But you do. That’s not really her field of expertise. Who really understands how insurance works? Not even the president. You figure, the hell with it. She can send a bill, and you’ll file for a reimbursement later. So, you start to undress. She calmly asks you what you’re doing. 

     You tell her. “Preparing for your external stimulation.”

     She says, “I think you may have misunderstood me.”

     Not the first time a woman’s ever told you that while you’re unzipping. She clarifies. “I meant, you should go out. Try new things. Go to a museum. Or the zoo.”

     “The zoo?”

     “Yes. Bring a friend.”

     “I don’t have friends.”

     “Make some.”

     So, the next morning, you take your pills. Squeeze into your newly tight clothes. Put some green, chewy water in a Zip-lock bag for lunch, and go to the zoo. You get there, and what do you see? Animals in cages. Looking as bored as you. Walking around and eating grass ~ which is just another type of green, chewy water. The zoo, it turns out, is even more depressing. Then you remember the doctor told you to make friends, so you talk to a couple people as they walk past. Ask them if they’d like to hang out later. Maybe have a couple drinks. But after a while, their teachers get freaked out by your overtures, and rush all the kids back to the school buses.

     So, now you’re banned from the zoo for life. Then the realization hits you ~ life. What’s that, another 50 years, give or take? At this very moment, there are animals in the zoo that will outlive your lifetime ban. Which means, decades and decades of tortoises telling the same story about you getting kicked out. Over and over again. And laughing. You wonder if it’s worth the risk to sneak back inside and confront the tortoises. If not now, maybe in fifteen years, or so, when things have cooled down. You decide against it. Why do you care what these particular tortoises think about you? It’s not like their information is going to get very far. So, you step back and reflect on it all. You wonder if anyone is really having fun, or if they’re all lying about it. Just to screw with you. What if everyone in the entire world is just like you ~ trying anything, but hopelessly failing, all in desperate attempts to keep them from being bored out of their frigging minds? And if that’s true, how many other stories do the tortoises have?

     So, you go to the doctor. You did what she said, but nothing worked. Except now, you know the tortoises are laughing at you, and you’re fairly certain the world is conspiring to keep you from ever being happy. She smiles and gives you more pills. The cycle continues. Wake up. Pills. Tight clothes. Lettuce. More pills. More sleep. 

     Nothing interesting ever happens.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thank you for visiting my blog! I really do appreciate you taking the time to read my stories and articles.
If you like what you've read, and have a little extra time, it would mean a great deal to me if you visited Amazon and took a peek at my novel "Get Happy".
The full description, along with the first dozen or so pages, are available to read by simply clicking this link. It is available for purchase in paperback, and for your Kindle. If you happen to be a Kindle Unlimited member, it's free!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hello! My friend's mother makes $78 an hour working from home on her computer! Last month she earned over $50,000! Most of the time she doesn't even have to work ~ her website generates the money for her! That sounds pretty amazing, right?
Well, not to my friend. He is politely asking that you stop visiting his mother's website and giving her money. He says it only encourages her immodest behavior. True, she's an adult, and her personal conduct shouldn't be influenced by an easily embarrassed son, but she's already been kicked out of nine assisted living facilities, and the only in-home "nurses" who he interviewed turned out to not be nurses at all. His life has become incredibly challenging.
So, won't you please help my friend, and leer at pictures of somebody else's mother? He thanks you.
Also, if you've read this, you must send me $5. I'll tell you why later.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

                                    GUNS. AGAIN.                              

Another day, another senseless incident of gun violence. This time, a reporter and a member of her news crew were murdered on-air by a disgruntled former employee.
When will we ever have an honest conversation about our obsession with guns?
Seeing how the right to bear arms is written in our Constitution, it would be a tough sell to get rid of all our guns. (Oh, and the crybabies at the NRA and various gun lobbies would naturally have something to say, as well).
I have, however, been a proponent of a buy-back program which would rid us of the excess, while maintaining the current Castle Doctrine laws ~ citizens would be allowed to keep a certain amount of guns in their house to protect against intruders. A concept that rarely ever plays out in real life ~ studies show that when guns are kept in the house, they are overwhelmingly used against others who live within the house ~ domestic abuse, suicide, or "accidental" firings.
My plan would be as follows:
1. Set a number of guns each person is allowed to own.
2. A government buy-back program for all legal guns that surpass that amount, as well as any illegal guns.
3. Gun owners would have to register and insure all guns, and go through a licensing process similar to driving a car. 
4. Create a national data base similar to car owners for gun owners.
5. Gun owners would not be allowed to take their guns outside their homes unless they are: A. Selling the gun. B. Having the gun repaired. C. Going to a gun range. D. Chasing an intruder who is/was in the act of committing a crime inside the house.
6. Gun owners would be allowed to visit a gun range once a month, but they must record their activity online with the data base ~ once from home before they leave, again when they enter and leave the gun range, then finally when back home.
7. While in transit to and from the range, all guns must have the safeties on, be secured in a locked box, and stored in the trunk at all times.
8. If any of the above rules are broken, stiff monetary fines will be assessed, and gun privileges will be suspended for a predetermined length of time.
9. If a gun is used outside the home in commission of a crime, heavier monetary fines will be instilled, your gun rights will be removed forever, and you will serve a mandatory prison term.
As far as I can tell, the only way to make this work is to treat guns like cars, and scare the owners with hefty fines that would severely damage their personal finances. Only the treat of potential bankruptcy and prison will force people to be accountable.
And no, these measures will not stop "everyone" ~ society will always have a small amount of people who are going to break the law no matter what ~ but these rules will drastically drop the number of murders, suicides, and other fatalities in the country.
For those of you who still insist that "people" kill, and not "guns", I ask you to honestly imagine a scenario where there is a mass murder using a knife, bat, pipe, or other implement. One such incident did occur in China, I believe, a few  years back. "ONE" incident. Not a series of weekly events as we see in this country. Guns can kill a large number of people ~ instantly, and from a distance ~ where other such weapons cannot. A victim also has a greater chance of protecting themselves, whether it be fighting back, fleeing the scene, or merely locking a door and calling the police.
The nation has a problem that needs to be honestly addressed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

In Search Of A New Cold War

A thought just now occurred to me.
Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union, the GOP has been desperately searching for a new enemy in their hopes to recreate a modern-day Cold War state, which is the ideal environment for them. The Cold War allowed them to build up the military industrial state. Trillions were spent on defense and assorted weaponry. That glut of spending made many private citizens, as well as many politicians, very very wealthy. But that cannot continue without an enemy to shove in the face of America in order to justify their spending binges.
Iran turned out to be something of a bust.
The government of Afghanistan is too chaotic and backwards to be a major threat.
China? More friend than foe nowadays. And possibly more powerful.
North Korea? As far as security threats go, they are more of a petulant child who might act out by taking a pair of scissors to your leather couch.
Terrorists? Yes, but they don't necessarily belong to a country, and that's what the GOP needs ~ a physical country to be against. Terrorism as an idea is too abstract for their purposes.
No, they need an enemy that is more concrete. I believe the average GOP voter has become a little too jaded about the idea of terrorism. Fear of one particular enemy has a limited shelf-life, and once you approach the expiration date, you need to find a new product to scare your constituents, or the money supply starts to run out.
So, why not make the country to fear America itself?
And who within America are we afraid of? The mentally ill. Those crazy people who's main goal is to kill other Americans, while in the process, scaring liberals into thinking that all guns should be eliminated from society.
What can be scarier than that phone call telling you not to go in the basement?
So, Mr. and Mrs. America (subtle same-sex marriage shout-out), you are not safe! The idea of the mentally ill trying to kill you is not just a creeping specter ~ it's a chilling reality! And even if they don't get you, they WILL get your guns! So, one way or another, you are in dire trouble! Save yourself! Save America! Buy guns and vote Republican!

Please visit my page ~ Spotlight On Hypocrisy

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review of "Get Happy"

A new review was just written today for "Get Happy", and I wanted to share it with everyone:

Marie DaBlond rated it 5 of 5 stars
Daryl Gleason has hit rock bottom. In fact, he’s chiseled a hole in the rock bottom and has fallen through that. He can’t remember the last time he was -if he ever was- happy.
Daryl and his loquacious canine sidekick, Steve, embark on a fantastic cross-country journey to find the cure for Daryl’s perpetual morose apathy. Chancing upon a horde of unique and sometimes wacky characters along the way, Daryl takes away some new change in perspective from each encounter, even as his dilemma touches the lives of those he meets.
Love, loss, learning to accept gifts and reject pain, and finding your own voice are concepts beautifully and hilariously explored in “Get Happy”.

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble

Please visit the page and read the sample chapters, then download a copy today!

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Race

I'm a little worried.

Not about the slight shift in the polls after the Presidential debate, although there is reason enough to be concerned about that matter. No, what worries me more is where we are as a country. How did we get to this point? Why did we get to this point? And more importantly, where do we go from here?

Hate, in all it's virulent manifestations, has always existed, whether we admit to personally witnessing it or not. To hide your head in the white sands of ignorance and pretend that it does not exist because some right-leaning talking head once proclaimed that we now live in a "post-racial society" is more than naive. It is enabling the culture to grow unchecked by your unwillingness to face the truth that lives all around you. Perhaps though, the problem is less not wanting to look, but more not knowing how to see.

The neighborhood where I grew up in the 70's was, at the time, the last unintegrated area of  Chicago, and the white inhabitants intended to keep it that way. Being a kid, 7, 8, 9 years old, I really didn't know any better. I didn't watch the news, and if I did happen to catch a glimpse of a story about a race riot, it meant very little to me. Those activities were nothing I could personally relate to, since I never viewed them on any level with my own eyes.

That's not in any way meant to suggest that I was unaware of "them". Blacks. Although, blacks wasn't the word of choice around my house. The N-word was tossed around with such casual frequency by my father and other family members that I wouldn't be surprised to open my baby book and read that it was one of the first words I uttered.

In my defense, I did not know any better. If you're told as a child that Vic Damone is the greatest singer in the world, then you believe in the lone magnificence that is Vic Damone, because that is what your parents told you. For a long stretch of your early life, especially back in the days that preceded the internet and satellite television, your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends were your only credible news source. They informed you of a worldview that was not broadcast anywhere else. You learned of subjects that your school neglected to teach. What to eat, what to wear, pet or no pet, Pepsi or Coke, etc. And weighing even heavier than the subject matter was the commentary on the subjects themselves. What to think. Until the time when you are exposed to a wider range of ideas, and become sophisticated enough to make a valued decision on your own, your parents opinions are your opinions, too.

I'm ashamed to admit that I lived in a shadow of ignorance for as long as I did. I heard all of the jokes and thought nothing of them. They were as prevalent as the standard issue Polish/Italian/Irish jokes of the day ~ to an 8 year old, nothing more and nothing less. When they were repeated around home, school, or elsewhere, no one intervened to enlighten our under-developed minds of the inherent ugliness and hatred that clung to every punchline, or to warn us that with each laugh, we were laying the foundation to a possible future of blind hatred and corroded morals. We would stand under the flag as it waved proudly over the school's door, and cruelly dismiss and marginalize a segment of the country's population by repeating the crude jokes that were overheard, and in some cases, told to us directly, by the adults in our lives, without ever knowing just how wrong and unintentionally hateful we were.

If you've ever seen the original "Blues Brothers", then you are familiar with the scene in the park where they encounter members of the Illinois Nazi party. That idea did not randomly form in the imagination of Dan Aykroyd. It was all too true. The park was Marquette Park, on the southwest side, and the Nazis were an actual hate group with an office in the neighborhood. They would boastfully strut around town wearing Nazi uniforms, not just at parades or events, either ~ I remember seeing a man in full regalia shopping at a nearby grocery store. They were considered so commonplace in the area, that I recall being handed fliers, while in the playground during school hours, warning us of the Black Menace that was plaguing the city. The missives were as racist as you could imagine, but filled with cartoons and jokes to attract interest from us stupid kids. Why pass up the chance to cultivate a future generation of hatemongers?

One of the biggest purveyors of these sick notions was my own father. But as much as he so willingly proclaimed to anyone who would listen about how much he hated, hated, blacks, (again, I use a placeholder word here), I slowly began to notice a disconnect between his words and his actions ~ he would watch, and seemingly enjoy, black people on television. Sammy Davis Jr., Redd Foxx, Flip Wilson, and Nipsey Russell would all make him laugh, while Walter Payton and other black athletes made him cheer. Something in my young mind found this puzzling, so I asked him why he didn't seem to dislike these black people as much as the other ones I constantly heard him complaining about. What made them so different?

He replied without a moments deliberation. "There are good ones and bad ones. These are the good ones."

The response was so swift and effortless, as if he was absently answering to the question of "Fries or baked potato?", to finish out his dinner order.

For quite some time I struggled with the concept of good ones and bad ones, because as a white boy, I had heard, read, and seen my fair share of bad ones who wore the same color skin that covered my body. And if it's true that there are good ones and bad one within a race, is that in itself enough to cripple and destroy the entire race? Are we all to be judged by the worst examples of people our own color? If so, then the entire white race was just as guilty of everything we accused the black race of being. My father and his sublime bigotry provided me with an unintentional lesson in race relations.

Even though my thoughts were reaching in new directions, the neighborhood was still all white, and my friends were all white. Certainly not their fault ~ you can't blame someone for being white, just for acting white, and at this ripe age, that's really all many of us knew how to do. I was not yet old enough to drive, so that impaired me from experiencing any interactive diversity on my own. City buses were available as a mode of transportation, but you couldn't step on to one without hearing the words of your parents ringing through your head ~ "Be careful. Don't go too far away from the neighborhood. It's dangerous." As open-minded as I was, or rather, wanted to be, a fear persisted inside, one that was implanted in me as a child and could not easily be shaken off. You tried to see the world with a new set of eyes, but were continually haunted by those foundational teachings, as repulsive and wrong as they were. If the adults were attempting to create a human Pavlov's Dogs of Intolerance, they succeeded.

It wasn't until 1979 when I was 16 and working at a movie theater in the local shopping mall that I came into daily contact with African Americans. I know, sad, isn't it? Slowly, that inner fear which would unexpectedly grip me from time to time began to erode, because guess what? I realized that black people weren't any different from the white people I knew ~ some very nice, some not so nice, and a whole lot more residing between the two extremes. How could my father, and so many others like him, hate this entire group of people? Why did they hate them? It was making less and less sense to me, and I began to see my fellow white people in a new light. A light that was exposing flaws I had not previously seen. Or chosen to see.

The turning point for me occurred one day while working at the cinema. For the first time, an African American had recently been hired as an usher ~ not because of a sudden desire to compensate for years of inequality, but rather because our theater had a weekend softball team, and in his lust for wanting to crush teams from other theaters, our assistant manager tried to hire as many burly guys who applied for summer jobs as he could. Enter this African American teen, who, for the sake of this story, I will call Dave. Dave was a nice guy, kind of funny, but for the most part, kept to himself.

One day, after walking out of the theater where I just made my rounds, I entered the lobby where Dave was working as the ticket taker. For the sake of clarity, the cinema had three theaters, each with its own separate entrance, not like now, where a moviegoer would find one entrance that funnels into twelve or more separate theaters. What I found though, when walking into the lobby, was not Dave standing at the door, but rather backed into the concession counter by five white kids, all his age, but half his size. They were threatening him, throwing out the N-word, and telling him he didn't belong there. I don't know what the hell came over me, because I had never considered taking a stand against racial prejudice at any point previously in my life, but the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of Dave, telling those five white kids to get the fuck out of my theater, or I'd personally kick all of their asses. The truth is, I wasn't a big guy, and would have undoubtedly lost miserably. But there was something in my fury that spoke to them, and they left without further incident, other than calling me a n**r lover and kicking the glass entry doors, that is. I felt good about what had just happened, but then Dave opened his mouth and ruined all my self-satisfaction.

He said, "Thank you."

I was suddenly struck with a horrifying epiphany. The reason Dave kept to himself wasn't because of his personality, it was because of his geography. The mall was on the outskirts of the still all-white neighborhood in which I lived, so even though people his color came regularly to shop at the mall, he was fully aware that he was outnumbered and unwanted. Looking back on this, it was incredibly brave of him, given the time and place, to even submit an application. I can't think of one white kid who would have done the same in an all-black neighborhood. In that instant, all of the comments, all of the behaviors, I encountered over years manifested into this single moment, and I saw the world differently for the first time. There wasn't black and white. There weren't good ones and bad ones. There were just people. People who wanted to live normal lives like everyone else, but were at times scared to death by the inescapable clamps of racism. Dave was as big as any two of them, and could have knocked them senseless with exerting very little effort, but because of where he was in space and time, he was unable to stand up for himself. He needed the help of a skinny white kid with a  big mouth, and that made me feel sick inside.

That was over thirty years ago, and I've never forgotten it. I wonder how many other Daves there are in the world ~ nice normal people who are weighed down by fear, and the invisible anchor of a diseased and antiquated philosophy. I thought we had progressed beyond that point in those subsequent years. Perhaps I was too hopeful, or gullible, but I actually believed that, at the very least, the success of "The Cosby Show", Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, and other African Americans in the mainstream of America might relax some old prejudices and open even more eyes, but the truth is, it was always there, boiling just below the surface like a toxic oil, bubbling up from the ground occasionally, but usually plugged up in time to make any real mess.

Pardon the cliche, but 9/11 changed all that. After we were attacked, a group of powerful people realized that they could advance their own personal agendas as long as they continued exploiting our fear. Initially it was the fear of being attacked again, but it soon morphed into a fear of "others". People who weren't like "us". Once that sentiment was allowed to grow, the earth opened up and all of that lingering racism exploded, finally culminated with the extremism of the Tea Party.

So this is where we are, in an America where racism is once again the accepted norm. A place where people openly ridicule our President's skin color, a land where chairs representing Obama are hung from trees. A country where influential people claim he was not born in America and demand to see his birth certificate. (John McCain was born in the Panama Canal, but I don't remember one Democrat of any color making an equal fuss.) The most powerful country in the world, but one where a chunk of society is willing to pretend they believe the lies of the rich, white, male candidate simply so they can vote the black male candidate out of office.

Right now, the country is similar to a relapsing alcoholic ~ sober for a long time, but now binge drinking with no intention to stop. So, where do we go from here? The good news is that I don't believe it's entirely hopeless, but we are in desperate need of an intervention. We need leaders, people of authority to step in show us our disgusting behavior. Not leaders like politicians and celebrities, but community leaders, people we know personally who have actual influence over our lives. It needs to start small. Do not look the other way when someone you know behaves inappropriately. Show them how they are wrong. Humanize the issue. How would they like it if they, or someone they loved, were treated in the same manner? And if they once were, then they should know better than to repeat the cycle of hate. It will take more than just seeing the problem, the offenders will need to establish better habits. It's one thing to accept the problem, you have to want to repair it. Since it's our collective problem as a country, are were willing to take it on?

It's not easy. There's a lot to be fixed, and that's what has me worried. For better or worse, we all have to live together for as long as we're alive. Why live in hate and fear? If you say you are a Christian, then act like it. If you say you are a patriotic American, then act like that. But whatever you do, do not pretend it doesn't exist and look the other way, because eventually, the other way will circle around back to you. Apathy kills. Take a stand, for yourself and everyone else.

Thank you.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rolled by the Right About the Role of Government

One of the most important aspects of our country is that we allocate and spend money on taking care of the less fortunate, whether they are in that position terminally, or temporarily. I am willing to bet that there are very few poor people who wish to remain that way, and regardless of the fantasies that the right wing tries to proliferate, no one is getting rich, or basking in a life of luxury, from receiving Federal aid. The numbers vary, depending on the program, but the average annual amount of Federal aid received by a person living in poverty is nominal at best. In many cases, it's barely enough to scrape by. For the most part, the poor want to work, but have trouble finding jobs, because of the economy, lack of training, etc. Even when they do find work, they must negotiate and pay for day care, work clothes, transportation, and every other expense that comes with having a job.

Sure, there are a number of welfare cheats in the world, but compare the amount of money taken from the government by those people to the amount of money siphoned off by big business each year through tax breaks and incentives ~ billions that have led to no trickle down in jobs, but rather, a huge off-shore cash hoard in the trillions that don't earn a dime for American banks. And that's not even accounting for the no-accounts like Romney and his buddies that pay less than their fair share of taxes, or no taxes at all.

Blaming the poor is just another straw man, another distraction, designed to keep us from realizing their main objective, that they are they are the ones who are really robbing us blind. And with our full permission!

It's standard bagger/winger subterfuge ~ falsely blame someone else for behaving in the exact same manner that you are in order to take away focus and diminish the severity of your actions.

As a country, as a society, we can't turn our backs on people in need. But we can stop the perpetuation of greed by those who don't need any more of our money.

Don't sacrifice the needs of the less fortunate for the fortunes of those who don't need it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Get Happy - The Novel Idea

It all started with a barking dog, and ended with a self-published novel.

Everything in the middle is kind of a blur.

I have a neighbor who keeps her dog in the backyard, (several neighbors actually, but let's stick to the topic), and this poor thing barks all day, every day. Talking to the neighbor about it didn't help. Neither did complaining to Animal Control. It seemed that no matter what steps were being taken, this dog insisted on barking. And one day I wondered if perhaps there was a reason for it. Was the dog trying to say something? And even if it was, what would it matter? No one could understand it, given the obvious language gap.

At the time, I was slogging through an unfulfilling career of writing screenplays for a couple of small budget production companies. The drill was as follows:
They would tell me what kind of film they wanted.
I would pitch a story idea.
They would LOVE it.
I would write it.
They would suggest changes to it.
I would rewrite it.
They would LOVE it.
I would get hopeful.
They would then take a pass (Hollywood lingo for, "No, thanks").
A week later, we'd go back to the beginning and start all over again.

I was increasingly becoming more and more fed up with the process as time wore on, and was not in the least bit shy about expressing my displeasure with my friends and family. Then, within a two day span, and independent of each other, two different people told me I should write a novel. I wrote one once, a long time ago, but didn't go out of my way to sell it. I'm not even sure why ~ it was pretty good, seeing that it was my first attempt at such an endeavor. But at the time, I didn't think of myself as a novelist, and let the manuscript lie dormant in a drawer.

But the more I thought about this recent suggestion, the more it made sense ~ I could write what I wanted, and have complete control. If people didn't like what they read, it would be because of me, and only me, and not because of fifty random changes made by ten random producers. This would be wholly and solely MY work. I fell in love with the idea, and saw it as a creative challenge to myself.

But what to write? My first novel was too dated by now, so I couldn't pull it out of mothballs and rework it. Besides, I wanted to write something new. I looked at some of the ideas I had collected for possible screenplays, but none of them appealed to me in this new format.

Then while I was brainstorming, that damn dog started to bark. And don't ask me how, but something clicked. A brand new story popped into my head, and I started writing. Now, a few years later, I have a finished novel.

Please check it out if you have a chance. Currently, it's available as an e-book on Amazon, and there are a few sample chapters on the site for you to browse through.

While it's fun, and personally satisfying, being a self-published author, it's tough getting the word out about your work. For that I require the help of as many friends, both new and old, that I can get.

Thanks for your support, and most of all, I hope you like the book.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hump Days and Bump Days

It doesn't matter how positive your outlook usually is. It doesn't matter how hopeful you are for your future. And please, don't tell me how you've successfully embraced your inner chi and can clearly picture yourself achieving your stated goal some time in the near future, because that too, is insignificant to a plain and simple fact of human nature: Every once in a while, you will feel defeated. Regardless of how long you've had a run of "happy vibe days", you will, suddenly and without warning, have a bad day. Encounter a problem. Hit a bump in the road. Get a snag in your mental nylons. (Yes, you have mental nylons. Everybody does. Hope that didn't bum you out.)

You could be zooming through your week, experiencing nothing but happiness after amazing happiness ~ kicking ass at work and charming the hell out of everyone you meet. Maybe you even found a twenty dollar bill in that old pair of pants you finally just fit back into for the first time in over two years! What's that? You're up for a promotion? And that annoying neighbor who was throwing loud parties every other night just sold his house to an old woman who likes to go to bed at 8:30 pm? Fantastic!


Well, there's always a "then...", isn't there? "Then..." could be anything. Something could have unexpectedly broken, either down, up, or out, (perhaps all three at once), and your immediate response is to blame yourself for not being prepared for it, and/or not being able to fix it.

Maybe you ran into or heard about an friend/acquaintance/co-worker who's had an even more impressive string of good days, and it depresses you ~ for a few reasons. One, that it's not happening to you. Two, that it COULD have been happening to you, but you chose to do something different. Three, it would be wrong to kill them.

These kind of bumps are part of the Human Experience, or at least they should be. If you walk away from this essay with only one lesson, let it be that it's best to avoid people who never experience self-doubt. Why? Because they are the type of people who will insist that they are always right, or, they are liars.

The bottom line is, it's okay to doubt ourselves, because when we do that, we are in essence questioning our choices, and that's a good thing. "Am I an idiot because I don't know how to fix our plumbing issues, or is it perfectly okay to hire someone else to do the job because I can't know everything, and am sort of good at other things that a plumber might not be?" (Full disclosure ~ we are currently having a minor plumbing issue at the house. Now, back to the story...)

The problems with bumps are that bigger problems often result as a consequence of the bumps. We doubt ourselves and then wind up doing something very stupid as a form of subconscious punishment. We give the bump of doubt more weight than all of the positives that have come and gone over a much longer span of time. At the risk of sounding like a speaker at a self-help seminar, don't let that happen to yourself. We're better than that. When you have a bump, when you are absorbed in self-deprecating doubt, realize that we all go through that every now and again. And most importantly, stand up for yourself. Be the defending attorney rather than the prosecutor.  

Even the very best baseball and basketball teams lose a few games every season. (Yes, I know about the '72 Dolphins, but unless you expect your lifespan to be the equivalent of a fourteen game football season, they do not adequately fit into my metaphor). We are all going to lose a few. We are all going to hit a slump. Part of the success of a person is measured in how they overcome their own personal hardships.

But you all knew that already, didn't you?

Excuse me while I go call a plumber.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

$20,000 x 1,000,000

(I originally posted this on Facebook, but thought I should include it here, as well.)

For those of you who are, or ever were, married, please consider for a moment how much money the total endeavor cost you and your spouse. From beginning to end. Just to touch on the highlights, there was:
The rings, (bride and groom, engagement and wedding). The invitations. The bridal gown. The tuxedo. The shoes! The flowers. The hair and makeup costs. The rehearsal dinner. Gifts for the bridal party. The limo. The church, (or other venue). The reception hall. The photographer. The DJ. The food and drinks. The hotel rooms. The honeymoon, (hotel, airfare, food, etc.). New clothes for the honeymoon....
Add to that the cost of gas, stamps, food and drinks during the planning, and the dozens of other things I missed, and it quickly adds up to often times astoundingly high numbers.
Now, take the estimated total cost of ONE wedding, (to be safe, let's lowball it at $20,000), and multiply it by hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, over the course of a couple years. If your calculator works like mine, it will arrive at $20 BILLION! Isn't that amazing? And that's just the expenses of the couple getting married! Toss in the cost of the dresses and tuxedos for the people who stood up in the wedding, hotel and airfare for people coming in from out of town, along with all the money spent by all the other guests, and the numbers are astronomic!
That is the amount of money that could be added to our economy over the next few years if gay marriage were legalized.

Complain all you want about the sanctity of marriage being destroyed, (which I personally think to be bullshit), but while married heterosexual couples are out having affairs and getting divorced, (and thereby destroying the sanctity of marriage), the money generated from these loving people being allowed to marry each other could help many, many Americans in need.
It's that simple.

Now let's talk about pot...