Turn That D### Thing Off

Alright, folks, look…

This is just getting really ridiculous.

I sit in my shuttle van five days a week, watching in the morning as employees walk into their office building, their heads down and their eyes firmly fixed on…wait for it…their smartphones.

So many of them walk right into my path, I could run them right over and they would never know what hit ’em; they are that oblivious to anything other than what is on their smartphone screens. Or they could walk right into a brick wall, totally unaware of its existence until impact.

And they certainly don’t acknowledge the presence of other people, let alone actually speak to any of them.

And it always leaves me wondering the same thing: What the devil is so crucial that you can’t even afford to not take your eyes off that phone for the two to four minutes you spend walking from your car into the office? Do you really have to look at it every bloody second?

I submit, ladies and gentlemen, if you do, you have a serious problem.

Full disclosure: Apparently, so do I, only with my tablet. My wife accuses me of being addicted to it, and she may very well be right.

I know we all like to keep up with the latest news, weather, sports, friends’ Facebook posts, emails, Trump tweets (good lord, why?), etc. And modern technology is a wonderful thing…

…except for sucking the life out of us all.

Where this is leading, folks, is: I’m gonna unplug for awhile, and try to reconnect with family, friends, nature, books, and move the smartphone and tablet to a lower priority in my life. So, this will be my last post for the near future. I recommend you try to do the same, and rediscover life, and the world around you, and try to remember back to those primitive, pre-computer-in-your-hands days.

We’ll meet again down the road, I promise. Hopefully, I’ll be a little healthier when we do.

‘Til then, I wish you all well. Much love to you. ❤️

 

So Long, Caped Crusader

 

You can keep your Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer and George Clooney and Christian Bale and Ben Affleck.

Give me the late, great Adam West as Batman every time.

West passed away recently, at the age of 88, from leukemia. Batman, based on the comic book series of the same name, was a television series that aired in the late 1960’s. And, I don’t mean, in the afternoon, when the kids got home from school. This was a primetime TV series, two nights a week!

It was basically the same every time. Some nefarious criminal would show up in Gotham City, be it the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman (mmm-mmmm, Julie Newmar…), or any number of oddball baddies. Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara, knowing they were inadequate for the task at hand, would call Batman on his Batphone, discreetly located in plain sight in millionaire Bruce Wayne’s study.

Bruce would take the call, upon being notified surreptitiously by his faithful butler, Alfred, “It’s the Batphone, sir.” And Bruce and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson (who was never referred to any other way) would head down to the underground Bat Cave upon Bruce’s exhortation, “To the Bat Poles!”

(I was always amazed at how these guys could change from their street clothes to their crimefighting uniforms on the way down the poles! Maybe, those things could be used as wife poles; it could cut way down on the time it takes for wives to get ready to go out. Just sayin’…)

Anyway, off they would go, Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, to the commisioner’s office, in their superbad Batmobile. Once Commissioner Gordon brought them up to speed, and Chief O’Hara applied some appropriate curses, begorrah, then began the cat-and-mouse (or bat-and-mouse, if you prefer) game between the good guys and bad guys, culminating in a climatic fight scene.

(The fight scenes were great, because the sound effects were depicted graphically onscreen. POW! BAM! BIFF! SOCK! OOOOF! YEOWWW! That was cool.)

And then there was the dialogue. You had to grow a little older to fully appreciate just how tongue-in-cheek it was. But, it was delivered in all earnestness by the cast, which makes it so freakin’ funny when you go back and watch those shows later.

Have you figured out by now just how unashamedly corny this show was? You could almost taste the butter and salt when you watched it. But we kids loved it. Batman and Robin were our heroes. It really was a comic book come to life.

And at the center of it all was the square-jawed, supremely moral presence of Adam West. He fit the part perfectly, which turned out to be a liability for him after the Batman series ended. West found himself getting typecast in several roles following that, to his aggravation. Eventually, though, he made his peace with it. From all accounts, he was a very nice man, which should surprise no one.

To a younger generation, he’s known as the voice of the town mayor on the animated series Family Guy, but I know nothing of that. To me, Adam West was, is, and shall forever be the Caped Crusader.

Rest In Peace, Adam. The citizens of Gotham City are safe, thanks to you. 

 

 

The Weekend I Was Cool

 

I spent this weekend celebrating my high school class’ 40-year anniversary.

You heard me. Forty years.

(I know some of you geezers out there got that beat, but forget you. This is my story.)

I have to say, it was a lot of fun. The celebration lasted over the course of two nights. The first night featured an informal gathering at a bar with an outdoor courtyard, where a band played and we all tried to hear each other over the band, with mixed results. I SAID, WITH MIXED RESULTS!

And, obviously, seeing these folks for the first time since graduation was a bit of a shock to the system. Granted, some of them hadn’t changed much, if at all, but many of them had changed significantly. We were all walking up to each other, hesitantly, and saying something like, “I may have known you back then. Who are you?”

The second night was the official reunion, which featured (thank goodness) name tags! (Of course, many of us had to put on our glasses to read them.)  There was a buffet of hors’d’ouvres, a cash bar (which appeared to be doing very good business), another band and a dance floor, which many of us, yours truly included, made good use of throughout the evening.

And we all spent the time talking, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing, taking pictures and reminiscing. And I had a GREAT time!

Which, if I’m being honest, surprised me somewhat. Maybe I should explain:

 

High school, for me, was not always a pleasant experience. (Admittedly, I know it wasn’t for many other people.) I actually think it goes back to junior high, when cliques began forming among the students. You know how there’s always a certain group that you would just kill to be a part of, but you were pretty certain there was no way that was happening? A group that was just popular with everybody at school. The cool group.

I mean, yeah, there were some people I liked who liked me, and we hung out a lot together, but I still wanted to be part of that group. You know how it is. The desire for acceptance in your teen years is very strong.

So, I felt like I didn’t belong with those cool kids.

Well, as I found out this weekend, time is a great equalizer.

 

I had only been to one class reunion previously. My 10-year one. It was awful. Ten years after graduation, and people still gravitated to their old cliques, and I felt those old feelings of alienation. I swore I would never go to another reunion.

Then I got an email from my best friend from back then, saying he was flying into town for our 40-year reunion, and asking if I was going to be there.

Well, truthfully, I didn’t even know about it until I got his email. I knew, of course, that this was our 40-year anniversary, so I figured there was going to be a reunion sometime; I just didn’t know it would be this weekend!

So I thought about it, and I figured, well, maybe now, we’re all far enough away from the experience that I wouldn’t feel like that, again.

And, even though a little voice asked,  “But what if you do?”, I decided to go anyway.

And, amazingly, I found myself talking and laughing with people I wouldn’t have dared approach in school. We weren’t kids in cliques anymore; we were grownups, with families and bills and jobs and prescription medications. We were equals.

And I loved every minute of it. I’ll never, ever forget it.

Lawrence D. Bell High School, Class of 1977 Blue Raiders, it was an absolute blast! Thanks to everyone who contributed their time and effort to making these events as special as they were. The rest of us appreciate it more than you could know.

I wish you all continued happiness and blessings. And love.

Space Invader

 

Once upon a time, Izzy, my spoiled rotten cat, was content simply to lie up on the back of our couch, like so:

 

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Lately, however, that no longer seems to be good enough. If my or my wife’s spot on the couch is vacant, she has no problem with taking up residence there:

 

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Notice, she has the remote handy, in case she feels like binge-watching.

All this, of course, is just to drive home the point that this is her and Lizzy’s house, and we are merely the caretakers.

But, we’re good with that.

Letter From a Caring Friend

 

In therapy, I’m learning about self-compassion, the concept of treating yourself in times of pain and suffering as a compassionate, caring friend would. One of the self-compassion exercises is to write a letter to yourself from a caring friend, imagining what that person would say to you when you’re down, instead of what you usually say to yourself.

This is the letter I wrote. I want to share it, in case any of you want to write your own letter. And, if you want to learn more about this treatment, visit http://www.self-compassion.org.

 

Dear You,

First of all, I want you to know, I love you. No matter what. I need you to know that.

I’ve seen you suffering for a long time, now. It breaks my heart, and I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. If I could take all your pain away right now, I would do it.

You give yourself a lot of grief when you make a mistake. Any mistake. I know you think it diminishes you as a person in the eyes of others. You feel stupid. You feel like you can’t help but screw up, and you will always screw up, so you’re hopeless.

And you hurt. You hurt so much, you can feel it in your body. Sometimes, it even makes you wonder if maybe, everyone would just be better off without you around.

I’m really sorry that this is your life. I just want you to feel my embrace right now. I have my arms around you, and I’m sending all the love and compassion in me right into you.

Feel it. It’s warm. It’s comforting. It’s enveloping. You’re wrapped in it. Stay in it. As long as you need.

Listen to me: You’re a person of value. There are people in your life who love you. Think about them. Look at their faces. Listen to each of them telling you they love you.

Does that make you feel good? Stay in that moment. They don’t care about the mistakes you make. They care about you. They love you so much. Immerse yourself in that love. You love them, right? Well, it goes both ways. Trust me.

Their love is a soft, warm blanket. Cover yourself with it. Burrow down into it. Feel its warmth. Spend some time there.

This blanket is available for you anytime you need it.

And, next time you make a mistake, just remember: we all make them. We all make ’em! And usually, they’re the same ones, over and over. That’s called, being human. So, ease up on yourself; treat yourself nice. No name-calling. No beating yourself up. You’re still the same caring, loving, funny, good person you were before you made the mistake.

Always remember: you’re fine just as you are. I accept you, and I love you, just as you are. Feel my embrace, one more time, and take it with you everywhere.

And Walk in Love.

Your good friend,

Me

A Simple Request

 

James…earn this……..earn it.

Captain John Miller’s (Tom Hanks) last words to Private James Ryan (Matt Damon)

Saving Private Ryan, 1998

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Monday is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember all American servicemen and servicewomen who have laid down their lives in defense of the freedom we all hold dear.

Did they all have to die? Did they all even have to go fight?

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I’m sure we each have our own answers to those questions. For what it’s worth, my answer to both is no. I won’t offer any reasons; those of you who agree with me need none, and those of you who don’t are likely not interested in any.

But, if I could make just one request, lest the significance of the day get lost in all the barbecues and picnics and lake expeditions and huge blowout sales…

I would ask that every American who reads this, at some point on Memorial Day, observe a moment of silence in remembrance of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in the colors of the United States Armed Forces.

And, may we all, like Private Ryan, earn that sacrifice every day of our lives.

Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day.

Manchester United

From The Guardian, 5/23/2017:

“At least 22 people, including children, have been killed and 59 injured in a suicide bombing at a crowded pop concert in Manchester, the most deadly attack in Britain in a decade.”

People of Manchester, UK:

The world cries with you.

The world mourns with you.

The world stands in solidarity with you.

You are in our hearts.

UPDATE: The second victim identified was an eight year old girl.

An eight year old girl.

When will it stop?, a passenger on my shuttle asked me this morning, perhaps rhetorically.

When the world stops, I guess.

Google Doodle Dandy

 

So, if you get on Google today, you’ll notice the “Google doodle”, an occasional alteration of the regular, iconic, multi-color logo. The Google doodle is used to honor special events and people.

Today, the doodle is a drawing of Richard Oakes, who would have been 75 years old today.

It’s okay; I didn’t know who it was, either.

Mr. Oakes, who grew up on a Mohawk reservation, was an influential activist for Native American rights in the 1960’s and early ’70’s, until he was shot and killed in 1972.

Give yourself a little history lesson today. Look up Richard Oakes and read about his life and efforts toward advancing social justice. In an era when peaceful protest is increasingly viewed by some as a “terrorist act”(!!), take some inspiration from what he accomplished with it.

Oh, and next time you see a Google doodle, tap or click on it. Never know what you might learn!

The Pretense of Ignorance

This blogger makes his point very well. It’s worth your consideration.

Note To My White Self

In 1965, the United States Congress passed legislation requiring all cigarette packaging to contain the following warning – “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema and May Complicate Pregnancy.”  While part of a larger effort to reduce smoking, there is compelling evidence that these warnings contributed to the 59% decrease in smoking that has occurred since 1965.  Millions of lives were lengthened and billions of dollars in health costs avoided because we used political force and legal regulation to destroy the pretense of ignorance.  People could continue to smoke, but they could no longer pretend they didn’t know it caused cancer.

Publicly proclaiming a truth matters.  Humans have a strong inclination to avoid negative information, especially when that information reminds us of an ugly truth.  Being repeatedly reminded of something we would rather ignore makes it difficult for us to sustain a delusion.  Indeed, studies have shown…

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My Old School

 
College football teams should make news headlines for winning games and competing for national championships.

Not for this.

According to Phillip Erickson, of the Waco Tribune-Herald, “Baylor University on Tuesday night was served with a seventh Title IX lawsuit, which alleges as many as eight football players drugged a student and took turns raping her in 2012.”

This, mind you, is on the heels of a nine-month investigation by Pepper Hamilton, LLP, of Philadelphia, into allegations of sexual assault at Baylor.

Where I went to college.

Erickson’s report is chock full of vile, repugnant details, but let me just bring up a couple for your consideration:

“According to the suit, the football team had a system of hazing freshman recruits by having them bring freshman females to parties to be drugged and gang-raped, “or in the words of the football players, ‘trains’ would be run on the girls.””

Let that soak in a minute. Part of a freshman football player’s initiation to the team involved being part of a gang rape. With a woman that he brought!

Has the gravity of that hit you yet?

Let’s continue:

“Considered a bonding experience by the players, according to the suit, the rapes also were photographed and videotaped, and the plaintiff confirmed that at least one 21-second videotape of two Baylor students being gang- raped by football players had circulated.”

A bonding experience!!

Guys, you really feel closer as teammates after raping a drugged woman together?

The report goes on to say the alleged victim and her mother met with an assistant coach from the team, gave him the names of the players involved, and never heard from him again. She was subsequently harassed by several players via text messages, discouraged by the school from taking any action, required to still attend classes with two of the players, and burglarized by members of the football team. (The items were later returned with the understanding no charges would be filed.)

Oh, and there was this:

The head football coach, Art Briles, had this to say after learning the names of the players involved: “Those are some bad dudes…why was she around those guys?” (italics mine)

Hear that, ladies? That’s why this girl was gang raped; she was around the wrong people! Never mind that she was brought to them! Even around males of questionable character, it still must be her fault somehow.

(Ladies, does that surprise you? I think I know the answer.)

 

Erickson’s report also describes the total institutional failure of the university in handling this incident, references another lawsuit, alleging 52 acts of rape (fiftytwo!) by no fewer than 31 players, and updates the status of some of the players in the legal system. There is no update on the victim, other than as the plaintiff in this lawsuit. To the school’s credit, it has taken, and is taking, important steps to assure a safer environment there for all its female students. Perhaps someday, I can look on my alma mater with pride again.

But not today. Definitely not today.

How did it ever come to this?, you wonder.

Well, the fact is, my brothers, it all comes down to how we view and treat women. Period.

I honestly don’t know how but, guys, we have got to have a major attitude adjustment in this matter.

We have got to understand, women aren’t just sex toys. They’re not college hazing props, or a “bonding experience.” They’re not a bunch of filthy sluts, just waiting for a much deserved pounding.

They’re people, guys. They’re human beings. They are entitled to respect, and dignity, and equality.

And, none of them – I mean, none of them! – ever “asks for it.”

So, fellas, let’s hold each other accountable. You hear one of your buddies talking $#!t about a woman, call him on it. Yeah, you’ll probably catch all kinds of grief for it, but this is the time for, to borrow a movie title, A Few Good Men.

Change has to start somewhere, guys. Look in your heart and start there.