Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cousin Love

Today it is Katherine writing.   

My cousin Margaret gave Franny and I the pillow in the photo at a lovely gathering Franny hosted to honor Mom after Mom died earlier this month.  That cutie with the Shirley Temple locks is me and the jump-suited kiddo is my little brother Chuck.  Mom is proudly and happily showing us off to somebody.  Margaret found the photo (a bit of a miracle in that) and made two pillows like this in just days.  Margaret loves me.  I love Margaret.  Sometimes I think it borders on worship.  Both ways.  I was one of those lucky people who found lots of cousin love in my life. 

Margaret Ellen takes center stage in the number of wonderful cousin relationships I've had.  Mom's sister lived in Independence Missouri and Aunt Bonnie and her family vacationed at our house or nearby each summer until they eventually moved out here.  Margaret Ellen had about 4 years on me.  I still don't know or care about the exact difference in our age.  I do know that her birthday is the day after the 4th of July and I never forget that, but I rarely get her contacted on time.  She never forgets me.

When Margaret Ellen and her two big brothers visited each year my world turned upside down and all around.  Though I was a constant part of a neighborhood tribe of kids who went to my school, Margaret Ellen and her big brothers were more adult, funnier, and sarcastic.  They made me laugh in ways I didn't know were possible.  I laughed over things they said like I laughed when I read certain books or overheard certain adult conversations.  They were teaching me satire (bless their hearts) and teaching me how to deal with all the slings and arrows growing up was going to hand me.

They taught me practical things as well.  Rog taught me the power of a smirk.  He also taught me that the easiest money in the world for a kid was babysitting if you just liked the kids a little bit and paid attention a little bit.  He was, to this day, one of the best babysitters I ever knew.  Franny was better, but she even lesson-planned and helped one girl improve her reading skills.  

Margaret Ellen was the champ though.  She taught me how to be a teenage girl and how to deal with troubles.  My mom wanted me to grow up looking and acting like June Allison in the movies at that time.  Annette Funicello was my goal.  Margaret Ellen was Sandra Dee and so full of laughter and joy and love that she would take time after school to hang out with me in her garage and teach me several of the most practical things I've ever learned.

Margaret knew that cards and playing solitaire were ways to occupy lonely times and keep bad thoughts away by simply looking at cards rather than thoughts.  She was almost explicit about this.  She told me I would need to know about cards and solitaire and the sooner the better.  She started with shuffling.  I still shuffle cards the way she taught me.  I still play the games of solitaire she taught me when I actually play solitaire.  I can''t imagine playing solitaire on a machine.   Without detailing the instances,  there have been small and large disillusionments for me that shuffling cards and simply playing solitaire have helped heal.  Distraction is a good thing sometimes.

Margaret knew that there are hair and nail things I would need to learn.  If she had worn lots of make-up, she would have helped me there too.  She didn't wear much make-up that I remember.  My memory of her in this late-50's and early 60's is a sense of Sandra Dee laughter and innocence mixed with something really sultry and sexy that I certainly couldn't identify back then.  I thought she might have been sneaky.  Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was sexy and isn't that a little bit sneaky anyway?

I learned how to roll my hair in curlers.  I learned what happened to your hair if you used these weird pink things called "Spoolies" and what happened if you used rollers the size of orange juice cans.  I learned how many darn coats of nail polish it took to make your nails look decent and that mine would never look decent if I kept biting my nails.  I stopped biting my nails.  I learned that I wished I could pick my own clothes and shoes like Margaret Ellen did.  I learned to be a bit of a rebel.  A closet rebel, but a rebel still.

I learned how to dance.  She and I danced and danced in her garage.  It was the only exposure in my life to music other than Frank Sinatra or Steve and Edie or Mom's classical piano practicing (believe me it was great, but I was a kid and Chopin's etudes were way beyond my piano skills in playing ability or appreciation at that time).  Margaret Ellen's music danced by itself.  I would later be a star in Martha Graham's Ballroom Dance Class.  I credit Margaret Ellen.

I am sure there were more lessons then, but those I remember.  When I headed to college, Margaret Ellen became Maggie and a new life with a Rock and Roll manager would take over a life that didn't work out as hoped with a first husband.  Maggie was still my beloved cousin though and when I started living in Denver after my four years in Fort Collins, we became friends.  We went out drinking and I learned about taking risks and being silly as a grown-up.  I have never been able to be quite as silly as I can with Margaret or in front of classroom full of students.  Strangely I am not that silly in real life, but give me a room full of sophomores and I can tap dance or melt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz.  I would do it for my cousin too.  

After a goodly round of risk-taking lessons and lessons about dealing with the hazards of life you cannot control, you find me now.  I have watched and loved Maggie become Margaret now with a happy life that shows in the comfort in her soul.  Margaret has faced more difficulties than anyone I know and she has never wallowed in anything.  She deals with things.  She practices mercy more than anyone I know.  She laughs.  She moves on.  It is rare to find someone with these abilities.  

The last years watching Mom become somebody she was not and not really knowing what to do with this, I let Margaret be my inner guide.  You just keep trying.  You laugh.  You have mercy.  Mercy always.  Margaret is a church-goer and has been off and on her whole life.  She embodies the kind of Christianity I believe in when I do believe.  Mostly I believe in people rather than any particular religious dogma.  I believe people are good and that they laugh at you and with you and love you more often than not.  

Margaret is a huge part in my belief that almost all disillusionment can be conquered with a deck of cards, some perfect nail polish,  and some dancing.  With laughter and mercy, too, I can always move on.  

Cousins are a treasure and I have been blessed.  Justin Mitchell was and is another guide to my life.  The Mitchell cousins I played with in Aunt June's big and scary house full of secret passages and everything Victorian still fill me with joyful memories that have lasted throughout my life.  Stormy, Connie, Kathleen--they were teachers too.  I have a new cousin Jan on the Mitchell side too.  How I wish I had known her long ago.  

I feel badly for Franny.   Her brothers were older and had packs of cousins their own ages.   Franny grew up when her cousins were too young or too old or too far away.  She tried to play the loving cousin to my brother's kids, but her joyful lessons about wearing sweatshirts untucked and the fun of going down alpine slides at WinterPark didn't ever quite play out as planned.  Franny knew she was missing something.  One of the joys of my life is that our grandkids have cousins and plenty of them.

Last week we watched Chris's kids at his house.  We met Franny and the girls at the Wildlife Experience near Parker.  We were walking to the entry and Willa started running towards us with her arms wide open towards us.  It reminded me of Breck shampoo commercials in the 60's--I mean this was perfect.  Here was our grand girl running as fast as she could towards us with her arms open for us to catch her.  She went right by us.  It was Brooklyn she was happy to see.  Cousin love.  Happy.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

It's All Horse Piss And Rotted Straw

It is a long standing tradition in Katherine's extended family to have a Derby Day Party when the Kentucky Derby runs.  We all show up at Jennifer and Joe's house, place our bets on the race, and drink a lot of beer.  After the race, we adjourn to a makeshift race track marked off in blue painter's tape where the younger ones are given impressive wooden horses and little dickeys with the number of the horse to wear over their torsos.  Then we place bets in twenty-five cent increments.  Then the race proctors, I guess you'd call them, roll three dice and call out the results.  "Number One move forward.  A double Three moves up two."  At the end of the race, the proctors figure out the results and pay off the winners.  Those races take up the rest of the afternoon.

This has never been one of my favorite get-togethers.  There is always the chance that not enough kids will be in attendance and I might have to grab a horse and a dickey.  Not something I want to do at this stage in my life.  The dice horse race is something Kathie's parents discovered on a cruise one year and we have been racing for quarters ever since.  I guess those are the kinds of things folks do to entertain themselves on a cruise.  Right there is yet another in a long list of reasons why I would rather die than go on one.

Even though Derby Day has never been something I looked forward to, Franny used to love it.  She loved "riding" the horses and cousin Roger would somehow always see to it that Franny went home with lots of cash.  She would regularly score fifty bucks or more.  She used to take her friends to Derby Day as well.  They also went home big winners.

Well, now it is Willa's turn to look forward to Derby Day.  Last year was her first and her mount won the first race.  She has been chomping at the bit, so to speak, to get back up in the saddle ever since.

I picked Willa up at school last Friday and we were talking about the upcoming weekend.  "Tomorrow's Derby Day!" she called out through a huge smile.  It was clear to her, if last year was any indication, that she was going to ride her horse to one victory after another and it was a joy to see the anticipation on her face.

Yesterday was the big day.  Usually, all the ladies in the family wear elaborate hats for the occasion in the spirit of Churchill Downs, so this year Willa walked through the door in a straw hat with a flower attached and a lovely summer dress.  The smile that started in my car the day before had not gotten any smaller.  Even better, there was a little girl there Willa's age and they spent all the time during the Derby and leading up to the cruise ship races chasing each other around Joe's big back yard.

It wasn't too long before the little ones were given their horses and their dickeys (how do you spell that?).  Willa was riding the number four horse.  She proudly came over and showed us her mount and fairly shivered at the thought of lining up for the first race.  Her face was so full of excitement that I cried a little.

The race FINALLY came.  Number One jumped out to a big lead.  Number Two was close behind followed by Three and Six.  By the time the race was drawing to a close, there were five kids in dickeys holding five wooden horses gathered around the finish line.  Number Four, Willa's horse, was still at the starting gate (I could have told her that four is a rotten number in a dice game).  Her smile was still bravely plastered on her face, but it was clear that it wouldn't take much for her to break into tears.  All that anticipation, all that joy, shot down in flames.

"Remember what we talked about yesterday," I told her.  "When you lose, just snap your fingers and say 'You can't win 'em all."  Her smile got a little wider, but her eyes were glistening.  All in all, it was a beautiful moment, one I won't soon forget.

James Joyce's "Araby" is my favorite short story.  To my way of thinking, it ranks with the first act of THE TEMPEST as the most perfect piece of writing I know.  It is about a boy who spends every waking moment day dreaming about the big fair--Araby--that he is going to attend that evening.  He imagines all the things he will see, the prizes he will win, the girl he'll see there.  When it comes time to go, there always seems to be something that postpones his departure.  A new chore needs to be done.  Dinner lasts forever.  There's always something.

When he finally makes it to Araby, the stalls are clearing out, the midway is almost deserted, there are no prizes to be won, no girl to meet.  Everything that had been building up in the poor little kid for that entire day had been pulled out from under him.

Disgusted with the situation, but more disgusted with his stupid dreams, he bitterly sees the fair and his anticipation for what they were.

"It's all horse piss and rotted straw."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

With Reverence and Love: My Mom Just Died--Gonna Eat Some Toast

THIS IS KATHERINE.  Mom had a stroke during breakfast on April 23rd and died yesterday afternoon.  Franny and I were with her.  The journey that Franny and I have traveled for the last ten days has taught us both so much.  With reverence and love for Mom, I want to talk about all we have learned during this passage and try to explain how the title of this post came to be.  Wait for it.

Mom had Alzheimer's and my journey to this place really began almost three years ago when it was clear Mom had lost time and paranoid worries about thieves entering her apartment had become a part of my life on a regular basis.  Mom couldn't tell what day it was or read any kind of clock although it took me far too much time to figure this out.  I began to figure out her calendar of appointments and would call her to get ready for bridge or her hair-do or outings with her friend George.

At the same time I was being Mom's social secretary, I also became the middle man between Mom and the police department.  Mom's jewelry and money and even worse, her Nelson Eddy DVD collection were vanishing and she would call the police.  Once I discovered she was hiding things and then forgetting where she hid them, I convinced her to call me instead of the cops.  I learned her hiding places and teased her constantly about our game and that I was on to her--I knew her best hiding places.  In the daytime, she would laugh and we began hunting together.  Things must have been a nightmare of confusion for her at night.

I remember when Chuck and I had to confront her about all this.  I took her car keys and even though it was a family decision, she aimed her wrath at me--if you knew Mom then you knew her belief in cars and driving dominated her thinking even when her mind was, well, her mind.  Chuck and I started taking her to doctors.  The worst was the first where I was alone with Mom for the appointment and she had to complete a cognitive test.  When she couldn't draw the face of clock from memory and then could not even copy one right in front of her, I knew my mom was really gone.

I have been losing Mom for three years and a new and different Mom emerged over and over again.  The latest version was a happy lady.  She had a huge romantic fantasy that controlled her life.  Mom believed in love and marriage even more than she believed in cars and driving.  Her life was informed by the movies she watched and dreamt about when she was a little girl.  For Mom, being in love and being a wife, was the meaning of it all.  With Dad gone, and then her realistic mind retreating daily, Mom created George, fell in love with him, planned an inordinate number of weddings with him, and stalked him at her assisted living place.

George is connected to reality though and my weekly visits with Mom made me and the Sunrise staff where she lived about the only folks who knew what kept driving her on and keeping her, well, focused.  There are two real human Georges and a series of movies that Mom's fantasy were based upon.  I came to love the blend of the three Mom was so enamored of--I could understand why he curled her toes the way he did.

The first George lived at the same apartment complex Mom did when she was still on her own and they were good, good friends.  They went to dinner together everyday and most breakfasts.  They went to movies and concerts and Mom just loved hanging out with him.  He was smart and funny and he thought Mom was a looker.

The second George lives at Sunrise where Mom did.  I think Jay Gatsby would look like him if he had survived until his late 80's.  This George is tall and slim and Mom thought he was the best looking man in the place.  She was right.  This George, however, had a mind like Mom's.  He had one phrase he repeated over and over again--"And what are you up to today?"  I can't tell you how many times during any one visit he would ask me that.  I can understand why Mom planted a new personality on him.

The last piece of Mom's mythical George was Nelson Eddy from the old movies.  Mom loved Nelson Eddy as a kid and collected his DVD's to watch and then watched them over and over again.  She made me watch them too.  You have to be pretty old to know about Nelson Eddy.  He was the guy who played the Canadian Mountie in the movies and sang "Sweet Mystery of Life at Last I've Found You."

The George I came to know had the mind of the first George, the body of the second George, and the talents and traveling needs of Nelson Eddy.  When Mom couldn't find George, she let me know he had a fine singing voice and was busy doing concerts around the country.   When Mom could see the real George at her place, she ate meals with him and would wait in various spots at Sunrise (her place) in case he might walk by.  This George likes to walk around the outside of the building several times a day and the path went beneath Mom's window.  She sat there often waiting for George to walk by.  There was a point when I asked Mom's caretaker if Mom was bothering George with her stalking and Maryann laughed--George pretty much was meeting Mom for the first time every time he saw her.  This was a pretty big relief for me.

Since all Mom's thoughts of love always led to marriage, it didn't take long before I would get calls about finding her wedding dress or her telling me I needed to pull the weeds in our backyard because she wanted to have the wedding there.  I learned that there is no talking someone with Alzheimer's out of their thoughts so I would tell her the dress was at my house and the weeds were pulled and she would relax and go back to her wedding planning.

The staff at Sunrise learned Mom's fantasy and chipped in.  Mom assigned Lindsey, the activities director and self-proclaimed non-musical person, the job of playing the guitar and singing at the ceremony.  Janet, her daily dresser, was going to be her flower girl.  The wedding grew in size.  Venues changed.  My jobs increased and decreased with her moods.  Her love of George and her upcoming marriage to George was the light that guided her the last years of her life.  She never lost Dad, but finding romance was what she wanted in the end.

Yesterday, the staff at Sunrise visited Mom off and on throughout the day.  They loved Mom.  Mom would sing "Tea for Two" and "Strike Up the Band" as she walked down the halls.  She never got mean as some Alzheimer's patients do.  She just fell crazy in love with mythical George.  Staff members cried and hugged her and said good-bye and Franny and I cried each and every time to see how much they loved her.

The most moving moment was when Lindsay brought in her motorcycle speaker and played "The Wedding March" for Mom only hours before she died.  Lindsey played "Tea for Two" for her as well.  It was as real a wedding as I have ever seen.

Mom's actual passing was profound and cosmic and will stay with Franny and I forever.  Teena (my sister-in-law), Franny and I spent hours and hours and hours with Mom the last days.  At this time, it was just Franny and I.  Mom had lingered far longer than our hospice nurse felt possible.  We had all given her permission to go and said our good-byes.  All the physical signs that hospice warned us of had happened and she was still here.  She was working so hard to breathe.

Franny and I had returned to see Mom after a long morning with her.  Teena had been with us, but she needed to take care of some things.  Franny and I somehow knew we needed to go back.  We did and Franny began reading another one of Mom's travel journals to her.  On a whim and with a pure understanding of Mom's need to ALWAYS BE ON TIME, Franny looked at Mom and told her that she shouldn't be late.  Folks were waiting for her.  It was 3:00 then and Franny told Mom she needed to leave at 3:30.

Franny read about a trip Mom and Dad were taking to Tahoe and with Mom's penchant for detail we had heard about various important bathroom stops and lots of chicken fried steak.  We would stop and laugh or talk about some detail and then remind Mom how much time she had before she would be late.  I remember telling her she had to leave in six minutes.  I noticed her still-working right eye was crying.

Just before 3:30, the hospice nurse (God bless Leslie) arrived and we childishly told her that we had given Mom a deadline and I asked about Mom crying.  Leslie told us she was probably saying good-bye and Franny and I grabbed our purses and started planning a time for our next visit.  Franny decided to go check Mom's tears and kiss her good-bye one more time and Mom gasped and that was the last real breath.  Franny and I dropped our purses by the bathroom door and hugged each other as we walked back to Mom.  We watched her pass.  It was profound, involved physical changes that can't really be put into words, and made us cry even more when we both thought we had couldn't cry any more than we already had.

As Mom traveled this journey she saw "the light," "church doors," and "the face of god."  She reached for and saw Dad, her nephew Rog, and her father.  She drove a wonderful new car she hadn't ever seen before.  Franny and I were changed and will change more from having lived this passage with Mom.  We will be forever grateful.

When I was a young teacher, we had spring end-of-the-year picnics where there was copious celebrating.  There was one such party when we all started talking about funny country western song titles.  The winning title was provided by Ken Weaver who taught Special Ed and coached our tennis team.  He knew about "My Dog Just Died--Gonna Eat Some Toast" and even brought in the record to play the next fall.  It's a title I made a lot of fun of during my teaching career.  I always imagined this country yokel whose dog had died and then the jerk just went and had toast.  I was wrong.  It was a great title and I wish I could find the words to the whole song in case the rest is just as profound.

Franny and I have lived the last ten days outside the world of normalcy.  No meal has been normal.  No sleep has been normal.  Our jobs have not been normal because we have not been normal.  Franny's relationship with her husband and girls and my relationship with Jim have not been normal.    I can't think of any truly normal thing I have done during this time.

This morning I rose, picked up my drawings (I do wee meditative drawings each morning) and made a pot of tea.  I found some bread and made some toast.  I drew my pictures, drank my tea, and ate my toast with reverence and love for Mom and for normalcy.  That old country western song wasn't making fun of a jerk.  That song was showing the huge love and reverence involved in the shift from death to a return to a normal world.  My mom just died--gonna eat some toast.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Message Clear

I was in the middle of teaching my fourth hour APEs (AP English) when our principal (name withheld) barged into my room and slapped a piece of paper on my podium.  "What is the meaning of this?" he asked.

The paper contained a phone message from an outraged Catholic youth minister concerning a poem by Edwin Morgan, "Message Clear."  It seemed, according to the message the youth  minister left with our principal, that two of my students came to the parish offices to show him the poem.  They were "extremely disturbed."

So was our principal.  This was, after all, his first year at good ol' GMHS and he had heard disturbing things about me from the powers that be.  And here I was, just as promised by outgoing administrators, distributing inappropriate material.

Don't worry.  There is a point to all this.  Let me explain.  "Message Clear", in the jargon of insufferable AP Literature teachers, is one of the truly great examples of Technopaegnia, poems whose shape informs content and theme and whose theme and content inform shape.  "Buffalo Bill" by e.e. cummings is a great example.  In "Message Clear", Morgan takes the line from John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life." and typographically places it at the bottom of one of those old univac computer cards, the kinds with the chads hanging all over the place from a grid of square holes waiting to be punched out.  Above the final line filter different phrases that can be made from that one declaration.  Of course, all the letters maintain their place hovering above the final sentence.  The result is this increasingly thrilling accumulation of one liners all combining in the final, "I am the resurrection and the life."

So, there are individual lines like,
"i am ra
i am thoth
i am erect
i am erection

It was the "i am erect" line that fired the imagination of the youth minister and compelled him to grab the phone and call for my head.  My principal, not particularly skilled in the parsing of poetry, was only partially mollified when I told him that it was a poem taken from an actual AP test.  "Oh, ahem, well, that's okay then."  (I lied about the test, but it would have made a great question.)

The next day in class, furious, I explained the concern of the youth minister.  He didn't think it appropriate to suggest Jesus had an erection.  I explained to him and to my students that if Jesus was who he claimed to be, he certainly had an erection or two.  After all, that homespun cloth was really itchy.  I'm sure if the youth minister had been there, his outrage would have been renewed, but hey, "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."

Outside of my life as a newspaper sponsor, that was the only time I came close to being censored.  I couldn't help think about all that when I read the coverage on the whole student art controversy in DPS.  As part of a public school art show at the city's Webb building, a jury of evaluators chose a Kunsmiller sophomore's work for display.  It depicted a police officer wearing a KKK hood pointing a gun at a hoodie wearing toddler whose hands are up.  As a backdrop, the confederate flag usurps the stars and stripes fading into the background.

It is a powerful piece.  Timely.  Well executed.  Centered around a single idea.  Evocative.  It is all those things.  By anyone's standards, it is a work of art.  Of course, it caused a firestorm of responses from all ends of the political spectrum.  The sophomore wisely chose to have the piece taken down.  At least that's the story.

I have a variety of reactions to all of this.  First of all, I would like to applaud DPS in general and Kunsmiller's principal in particular for standing up for this student's expression.  After all, as Denver attorney Daniel Recht said, "a juvenile has the very same first amendment rights as an adult."  I shudder to think how some of my old principals would have treated the same situation.

I like the ultimate reaction of Denver police and the mayor.  "It was a teachable moment," the mayor said.  But from what I've read, the mayor came away with the bigger learning spurt.

My main reaction is to the supplementary article written by Post art critic Ray Mark Rinaldi.  His thesis is that teaching art to kids "can be tricky."  You have to encourage their free expression, but then you have to deal with their output.  That's hardly shocking information, but then he goes on to suggest the special responsibilities a teacher must take on when dealing with high school kids.

For instance, Rinaldi says that adults have "free rein to express themselves, and they live with the consequences, good and bad."  But he goes on to say that 10th graders don't really know how their work will be taken by the public.  I don't know about Mr. Rinaldi, but I spent most of my career working with 10th graders.  They know exactly how their work will be taken by the public.  That's the whole point.

Rinaldi goes on to ask if a 10th grader would really want to offend police officers.  Is this a trick question?

I'm sad that the piece in question has been taken down, but it has served its purpose as art.  There has been a dialogue, a "teachable moment."  After thirty-five years in the classroom, it has always been my experience that all the best "teachable moments" came from kids.  Mr. Rinaldi take note.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Barbarians Are At The Gate

The most irksome thing happening today is the media's tendency to do our thinking for us.  News outlets latch onto newsworthy moments--for obvious reasons only those moments when a public figure can be exposed as incompetent, hypocritical, or just plain stupid--and those moments end up defining that individual.

The Broncos' new quarterback, Mark Sanchez, is a case in point.  He was the fifth overall draft pick four or five years ago.  He led the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championship games.  His idiot coach decided to take Tim Tebow from the Broncos and Sanchez found himself in a QB controversy that never should have happened.  Then, of course, he did the famous "butt fumble" and that has defined him.  Mark Sanchez?  Ah, the Butt Fumble.  He has better numbers than either Manning or Osweiler put up last year.  On paper he is every bit as good as Kaepernick, clearly better than Osweiler, and a safer gamble than any potential draft pick.

But he is the Butt Fumbler and he always will be.

It is all about conventional wisdom and my experience and my reading has convinced me that conventional wisdom is anything but wise.  It is mean spirited and lazy, settling for media generated sound bites that mean nothing.

Hillary Clinton?  Her husband's pathetic infidelities and backroom blowjobs must have been her fault.  She lied about Benghazi even though fully seven commissions, all led by Republicans, have exonerated her.  Makes no difference.  In order to fulfill the media generated narrative, she must have lied.  Facts and logic don't count.

Politicians?  They all lie.  They all make promises they can't keep.  They are all bought and paid for.  All they care about is getting reelected.  They are the cause of all our problems.

Every time I walk into the men's lockerroom at the Y I hear people talking about the evil of politicians.  People are actually going to vote for Trump even though Politifact has rated almost 80% of what he has said in this political season as outright lies.  Their rationalization?  All politicians lie, so even though Trump supporters ostensibly like him because he "tells it like it is" and he's going to change the way our government works,  they forgive him for acting just like all the other politicians they distrust.

These people say they like to make up their own minds, but that's bullshit.  The media and the shrill message of Donald Trump that the media is eating up has done the thinking for them.

There is an article in today's Post exploring the reasons why there are so many Trump supporters in Colorado.  In the course of interviewing a bunch of old white folks, we hear some puzzling answers.  One transplanted New Yorker said that Trump was different than the usual politicians in Washington, "They are all wearing the same clothes when they are in there," he said.  "Republican or Democrat.  At the end of the day it's all about what are we going to do for each other."

Really?  I haven't noticed that much cooperation in Congress.  The guy goes on to say about Trump that "now we have someone looking out for us."

A lady said, "My husband and I can't remember an election when we didn't vote for the lesser of two evils.  Finally, we have someone who is standing up for the people instead of the establishment."

I suppose, as long as "the people" are not from Mexico or the Middle East or poor and living on welfare or Black or LGBT, I suppose that is a true statement.

Another guy said, in an expression that I have come to despise more than any other, that Trump "thinks outside the box."  If we actually tried to trace the scatter-shot trajectory of Trump's musings, we would have to agree that no box would be able to accommodate the Donald's "thoughts."

Another guy said, "I hope he doesn't put up with anybody's bull.  I hope he tells China where to go, tells Mexico where to go."  I'm skeptical.  I think both China and Mexico are too big to relocate.

Finally, and here is the real reason why these people who, given the life styles on display in the accompanying art, have nothing to be so angry about are supporting Trump.  "Yeah, we want to take our country back."

Back?  Back from who?  Back from uppity Black people who have the temerity to occupy the White House?  Back from LGBT types who have the nerve to want wedding licenses?  Back from parents who want their children to walk the streets without getting shot?

In the same issue of the Post there appeared the following headlines:  Russia Will Pull Bulk Of Military From Syria;  Bill On Hiring Passes Hurdle;  US Stocks Close Nearly Unchanged.  And buried somewhere inside is the information that Colorado's unemployment  rate is at 3.5% and falling.  Of course, all those angry white guys don't look that far into the paper and they certainly won't read anything that might run counter to their thinking.

I can see why there are a lot of angry people in the country.  Income inequality is a  stultifying reality.  Wages for blue collar workers have remained stagnant.  We still have to deal with racism.  But what I don't see is what all those folks spouting bile about evil politicians have to be angry about.  They need to face the fact that they will never "take back" their world of White Privilege and cozy little certainties about how one should live one's life.  Those days are gone.  The barbarians are at the gates.  And you know what?  Those barbarians are us.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Old People Playing Croquet!

One shudders at the thought

There I am resting up before reentering the fray on the croquet court at Meadowood.  Notice I am wearing whites.  I had to buy them at the pro shop (yes, a croquet pro shop) just for the occasion.  I had to make sure the white shirt I purchased had a collar.  People in tee shirts need not apply.  Now, usually I wear a sleeveless wife-beating shirt when I play a round ("quiver"?) of croquet.  I like the way my triceps look when I do one of those between the leg shots.  Of course, the mallet has to be the right weight and balance.

A good Jenny Lake friend of ours has his own mallet.  I don't think he plays professionally, but he does have, I suspect, a special croquet playing shirt with an insignia.

I had my own pool cue once.  I loved opening its case and screwing the two pieces together.  My opponents were impressed.

I'll bet it's the same with croquet mallets.  Except the carrying case would have to have a little bulge at one end or the other to accommodate the mallet head.  Imagine pulling out your hand carved mallet, the two part shaft a miracle of engravings and notches, like a back woods' tally stick.  You'd walk around, assess the condition of the court, the heft and smoothness of the balls, test for wind conditions.

I mention all this because of an alarming item in today's Post.  It seems that kids at Graland Country Day School are going out and playing croquet with old people!  It's all part of a science course they're taking which evidently includes a unit about Alzheimer's.  Playing croquet with old people (They bus them in from local memory care centers.) apparently gives junior high types special insight into dementia.

Here.  Just look at this quote if you don't think the Great Alzheimer's Croquet Experiment is a good idea:  "Small groups of students gathered around each senior and showed them how to play, occasionally helping by kicking a ball through a wicket."

I just don't think it is right to teach old people how to cheat at this late stage in the game.  I remember a time Kathie and I played a round of croquet with Joe and Carol Monaco at Jenny Lake.  On Wednesdays on the lawn at Jenny they have Wickets and Wine, an opportunity to meet other guests, get loaded on some pretty good vin ordinaire, and play croquet.  I mean what else are we doing?  Anyway, we were playing with Joe and Carol.  The length of the grass threw me off my game, but Kathie and I still had a commanding lead when Carol started furtively kicking her ball through random wickets.  It was an outrage.  If she had been at Meadowood, the pro in the golf shoes and knickers would have thrown her unceremoniously out.

So there you have it.  If perfectly cogent middle aged (well, upper middle aged) people can shamelessly cheat with a mallet in their hand, what do you think will happen when seriously old people start playing.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to go there.

Friday, March 4, 2016


4 March 20

That's our cabin at Jenny Lake Lodge.  It was built in the mid-1800's and moved to its current spot around 1952, or so.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, but it makes me happy to think we'll be there in a few months.


Maine's lobster season is going to be too early and too small because all along Maine's coast temperatures have risen 2 to 3 degrees higher than usual.  This is the straw that broke the camel's back.  Rising sea levels is one thing, but lobster prices?  Please.


South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard (R) vetoed a bill that would restrict transgender students' access to public school bathrooms and locker rooms.  There are a lot of these so called "bathroom bills" going around the country and it is a little surprising that in South Dakota, at least, sanity would prevail.  The cool thing is that Daugaard cited what should ordinarily be the conservative position on such bills as his reason for the veto.  Local schools, he explained, are doing and should be able to continue doing a fine job dealing with any problems caused by transgender students.  I'm sure there are just thousands of them in the Dakotas.  Isn't that the whole point of conservatism, to keep federal government out of the way of state government and state government out of the way of local control etc.?  South Dakota conservatives, of which there are many, are ironically bummed.  The motivation for bathroom bills is to legislate morality from the top down.  Doesn't sound all that conservative to me.


I don't need to elaborate here, but I find it interesting that establishment Republicans from Romney on down the line are attacking everything about Trump.  To listen to them talk, electing Trump would be an unmitigated disaster for the country (Read: Republican Party).  Then, as soon as they get the dirt out of their mouths, they quickly assure everyone that, should Trump get the nomination, they will support him.  So does that mean that EVERYTHING they say is bullshit?


I've seen SPOTLIGHT three times now.  I think about it all the time.  It is one of those rare films that never lets up.  The narrative builds without a lapse from beginning to end.  I also think it might be one of the best examples of ensemble acting I've ever seen on film.  I even like it better than ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and that's saying a lot.

If you don't know about it, SPOTLIGHT is about a Boston Globe investigative team blowing the lid off the sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese.  I keep thinking about the victims and how their lives, unless they brought a preternatural amount of strength to their molestations, were ruined.

My mother, after all this started coming out years ago, asked me if Father Sanger ever molested me!  I gave her question the respect it deserved and laughed at the suggestion, but I wonder if I was extraordinarily lucky.

According to the research, priests involved in this scandal (6% of all priests supposedly) preyed on the children of poor families without a father.  That was me!  I spent more time with Father Sanger than my own family.  I helped him chase mice out of the church.  We built a little shrine together.  He took me on skiing trips where we spent the night.  He truly was a father to me.

When I went to Regis, I was surrounded by priests of all sorts.  I loved hanging out with them.  I'd sit in the campus coffee shop till all hours arguing with them about religion or politics or football.  I went with them to a local bar where we continued the conversations and they would help me score drinks that I was too young to have.  The way I think, talk, write, the values I have, they all come from those encounters.  And in all that time nothing untoward ever happened to me or anyone else I knew.

I'm just so thankful that was my experience.