Ugh, In A Good Way

It’s not unlike any other morning. How about you?

The living and dining rooms are bare, however. … that’s different. Painters are coming in soon to re-do all the walls and ceilings after decades of living created fades and fancies on their facades. Maintaining credibility has finally been too much. The ceiling, whimsically swirled in eggshell white, has been tarnished by water shenanigans lately and efforts to repair have been futile. I’m not the patch-and-persevere guy around here as most household fixes don’t last more than the time it takes me to find all the tools needed to do the job. Holes and cracks will, finally, meet their match. Professionals, within a few hours hence, will drop their wares.

The furnace still hums away as I sit only feet away from rooms so eagerly awaiting their refreshing, colorful rehabilitation. My office will not receive such treatment. As most go, paperwork, miscellaneous trinkets, and unknowns sit and pile around, preventing me from knowing whether or not this wonderful space needs a re-do or not. The ceiling drops down elegantly with forty-two, 2×2-foot squares that don’t require paint … just a quick trip to the local people-jammed box store to overpay for a replacement should one need replacing- (which explains why these above my head as I type are still the originals from two decades ago) …

Beside, to my left,…a reliable cup of tea. Generic green tea. The Clif bar already consumed, I sat down not knowing, really, anything. It was 3:30 in the morning – the usual time to roll out, wide awake, and begin to think about things.

I wound my way through misplaced furniture, packed boxes, and downed pictures – all repositioned in preparation for the non-Dougs to begin their work in a few hours. The walls have shadowed memories where the pictures hung. Curtains and drapes – so much a tapestry of life lived here – are not hanging in front of the big picture windows now. Little reminders on brads and nails no longer delicately dangle between sashes and sills. Quiet, in a very different way. I’m used to the furnace at 3:00 a.m. … not the starkness of change.

Ugh. In a good way, of course.

We need to change things up sometimes. A new, fresh coat of paint even when the furniture doesn’t want to move, or paintings in our life – so used to being on the wall – don’t want to come down. Material, window bandaged cloaks that have hidden our sunshine for so many years need to be removed to allow new experiences into our rooms. Every piece, every knickknack our hands must touch to move gives us opportunity to reevaluate its importance and look forward to having it by our side again .. or not. Affecting change, touching something other than the physical items before us … Ugh. In a good way, of course.

I’ve been working with someone. It has been a very different experience for me. The absoluteness of her ability to change my perspective on my musical life is a journey unlike any I’ve taken before. It hasn’t been about the lyrics, meters, and various other dots strewn about on lines and spaces. The depth of her passion for life and music in the midst of a life-threating illness brings me forward in my own life to a place where boxes in the middle of a living room are, well, kinda insignificant right now.

Yesterday we had our first rehearsal for a planned concert in the fall. I don’t think she’d mind me saying it’s “planned” with the caveat that all things “go as planned with her health”. So far, the new coats of paint in my musical life are: “Landslide”, “How High The Moon”, “I’ve Got The World On A String”, and “All or Nothing At All” with more cans to open. I sat, secondarily, behind the piano as she sang so gracefully in her uniquely qualified lower voice. We matched styles and colors as one painter would take to a canvas for the first time. I’m so honored to accompany her on this journey toward whatever the unknowns have in store.

All of our living rooms have these moments when the old ideas and “things” have to come down. Memories, of course, can stay, but the material stick-arounds need to go and be replaced with new, fresh things. Ideas on how to think, or what our lives mean, sometimes need re-evaluating, too.

My friend will continue to splash a new coat of paint on my thoughts as we rehearse, and when we talk to each other about … life. Her perspective being significantly different than mine – a 7 years older male. I don’t know what it’s like living in a room with a most likely time-certain terminal disease. I do know how to say, “F*ck Cancer!”, because my mom died from it, however, and every time I meet someone who is pushing their way through, I want to scream, “Ugh!!” … and not in a good way this time.

For now, the painters are only a few hours away and I must begin to think about the day ahead. The living and dining rooms will begin their transformation as boxes, painting, and trinkets remain dormant for the next week or so.

Please don’t continue to be stagnant in your life. Move some of life’s boxes and invite in some sunshine by taking down the shadow makers. Your living space is for just that … to LIVE. Give it a fresh, new coat of colors.

My tea mug is empty now. Thank you for being here. This morning turned out to be different after all.

Mirror Words

If walking in to my special cafe was only this: a casual sit down almost every morning after entering a little after 8 o’clock on weekdays has been my norm. They closed on Saturdays due to the pandemic changing walk-about folks in town … less of them strolling about in our little town.

Never just that. I always need something to capture my imagination or bring out the silly sense of bravery I need to sustain me during the coming hours of the day. My dear friend across from me shifted her stressful self slightly to the left. As I ashamedly slouched in the early morning deep red vinyl bench … this image Kilroy’d itself in the beautiful, beveled glass hanging gracefully – for nearly a century – on the wall. How many reflections? How many men, women, and children examined their lives during the early morning cold, snowy minutes in February … in Hollidaysburg, PA.

I did. Slightly scrutinizing the items on my daily agenda before snapping this picture above, that is. It didn’t take much time to deep dive into a twenty-minute self-discovery because the image in the mirror amused my egg-consuming self. As I began dipping the daily under or overly toasted rye toast into those fried eggs, the mirror resemblance above didn’t go away. I couldn’t allow it. Basic words attached themselves to the depiction staring back at me. Mirror words? Yes. But slightly more meaningful since it seemed I was silently talking to myself.

Maybe it was in my eyes? I don’t really know. I look tired. This isn’t about me, though.

You never know when life looks back at you … suddenly. Moments – like early morning look backs in a very familiar town’s cafe – jump back in your face suddenly when friends shift slightly. Movements by others across from you, during comfortable conversations, can turn in heartbeats. Familiar words and places abruptly change. We know. Boy, do we know, right?

I know. This week, friends of friends lost a loved one. I didn’t know the young man who passed away suddenly days ago. He lived out of state, but was closely connected to a local family and, by extension, to a close friend of mine. She was sitting with me when the news of his passing pinged on her phone a few days after I sat in the comfortable morning booth. She’s a different friend than the one across from me the other day. Different place, change of scenery and seating accommodations, but a life-sudden look back for her that sent an unexpected chill down her spine. There was no mirror. Just two friends eating turkey subs beside a surprisingly warm high-top table for two near a large window facing out into another cold, winter day.

She was momentarily dazed – as expected. I would have expected nothing less, not even knowing the man who passed away. The text came in instantly – as news does these days – through her texting service, I believe, so I respected the moment’s demands and sat silently for a few seconds – perhaps a minute or two – until she respectfully replied back. Mere words, yet meaningful to those receiving on the other end. Folks in shock – as she was making a connection.

My friend Rick W., a fellow musician, posted the following on Facebook:

“Yes, you have all heard this many times. But, sometimes repetition drives the thought home. Life is indeed fragile, and can be over as quickly as one turns a light off. Embrace, love, be thankful for your family and friends, and most importantly, give yourself a hug because you truly deserve it!”

The death of the young man inspired Rick to type those words due to his close association with the family. HIS look back. His mere words that are not just those meant for his reflecting back on us. Helping us to remember one who is suddenly no longer here. A Covid death among the many.

One man no longer here I never knew. One man – out of state – who is, now, joined to me because I have a habit of walking into a favorite, old cafe where so many have gone before me. Tired eyes looking back at me I’ve seen so many times before … and always with a message of hope in some weirdly shaped glass bottle washing up from the ocean of our experiences. Glass from a mirror with mere words meaning so much more as each day passes.

We have hope that these reflections keep the memories of those gone suddenly are still alive in our memories. They changed our lives while they were here. Yes, an overused cliché. Yes, admittedly in my early morning brain, I could come up with better words perhaps, but there aren’t any. Life is precious.

I have a few in my life that make the moments very special. They are here. Now. No words are really necessary to express how special they are.

As I look back at myself – looking at myself looking at myself – it’s just a silly picture. A casual sit down almost every morning after entering a little after 8 o’clock on weekdays is my reality.

For years upon years, the morning ritual of a bathroom mirror reflection has been so commonplace for ALL of us. We forget how special our lookbacks can be. It takes that special little shift to the left of a friend for us to realize how special our lives are … not only to us, but also to those who call us friends.

But, these are just mirror words. Go live. Find your eyes and take a picture. Sit back and enjoy a few minutes of the joy that is your life. The now.

The Simple Act of Sitting

Rosa Parks. December 1st, 1955. James Blake. Browder vs. Gayle. Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Stay put, young man …”

It would take a pretty large, generational twist-tie to bind all those together. Together they are, however, in my mind as I sit here in my concession trailer one day after the inauguration of the century … arguably. A swearing in of not only a new President, but a new way of thinking about how things are in America, makes one stop, sit, and wonder where we were and where we’re headed.

A close decade before I was born, Rosa Parks was asked to move from her seat. She refused. As we know, this led to the Montgomery bus boycott, then on to a landmark ruling 11 months later. Bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and life changed for her after that. Her act of defiance became a symbol of the racial segregation movement and the likes of Martin Luther King and his contemporaries stood by her efforts. She worked tirelessly for the cause and, upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor at the Capitol.

In 2005, I started my business. One of many endeavors in my life. An experience that will never, ever, change the face of America like Rosa Park’s stand … while sitting. Here I sit, today, making a difference to some, I hope.

Growing up a white, middle income family male child, I didn’t get pushed around by racial inequality, poverty, or discrimination. Closest I can recall was a six-inch taller bully on the 6th grade playground – minutes later sitting across from me in the principal’s office. We shared a swift dose of discipline at the end of a wooden plank, by no fault of my own, explained away with the words, “I need to make sure I punish the right boy, so both of you are going to get spanked!”. For the record, I defended myself minutes earlier and make no excuses for the attempt. He was a bully and I rewarded him for his efforts.

At home? Different story. One can’t retaliate quite as easily and spanking at the behest of, “Stay put, young man!” had a different tone. Discipline was tough. I sat when told. As long as orders were obeyed … even if beyond my understanding … life seemed to be o.k. .

Seemed to be, anyway. I didn’t know what was going on with life in my dad’s adult world at the time. Only later – as I pathed my way through difficulty when mom died – did I even begin to understand. Yes, over three decades into adulthood, I started to “get it”. Too many push-throughs stack on one’s shoulders and when the stress of one more thing – like the disobedience of a child-imp tiptoeing up to the line – piles on, a dad can lose his cool. My intentions aside, he had his reasons for discipline. I couldn’t question them at the time. Now, I can … and the answers are easy to accept as long as there are deep mugs of warm chamomile tea available at my beckoning call.

That’s where I was, in a proverbial nutshell – without taking up too much of your time. Again, an uneventful beginning decade-point-five of life compared to Ms. Parks. My birth was 10 years removed from her beautiful 1955 sit, stay, and take a stand. Mom – and the universe – decided to pop me out the year after Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech … in the year of a Beatles arrival at JFK airport, LBJ presidency, and … the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination. A very large ink shadow of Rosa Park’s influence filled the pen of President Johnson on July 2nd when he signed it into law, I suspect. Months later, I was born.

Where we were back then, right? Where we are now, right? Where you are now compared to your early years? Where are we headed?

Certainly, if we compare ourselves to Rosa Parks, JFK, LBJ, or perhaps the Beatles, we’ll be disappointed. Can we change the world like they did? I doubt it. This isn’t to say we can’t try. Don’t give up on anything or anyone – especially yourself.

Yesterday, I noticed the picture of a young girl with the words, “There was a little girl in California who was bussed to school.”:

This is our Vice-President. You can argue about the process, but this is now. Kamala Harris is our black, female, 2nd in-charge behind the President of the United State of America. Tell me, 65 years later after Rosa Parks warmed that cold bus seat, this picture doesn’t send chills up your backbone. She stood on the steps of the Capitol and took the oath of office. I don’t agree with some of her policies – most assuredly don’t – but, I stand with the 200,000 flags firmly planted on the mall … supporting her and President Biden as an American.

She didn’t give up. Whatever the path was, she did it. Joe Biden, with faults galore, did it. They are really fault-filled humans, of course. They’re politicians to the core, admittedly. Oh, and Donald Trump was, too … I guess. He found a way to the presidency as well. Agree, disagree on policy – I understand.

We’ve a lot to do here in America. The Covid crisis isn’t going away. Economic recovery is months – if not a few years – away and the emotional strain on all of us has been draining. This is what has been on my mind as I sit here. Simply sitting here.

Rosa sat there. Her thoughts as a 40-year old woman being told to move? I want her resolve and determination to seep into all of our consciousnesses and help us to see this straightforward, uncomplicated act of sitting created a movement lasting well beyond her years. Change happened. She saw it coming through those glasses.

Activism is good and healthy .. in the right way. Storming the Capitol and/or burning down businesses isn’t the path forward and is why change happened January 20th, 2021. Election fraud, ballot discrepancy, 5 state voter mis-counting, … I don’t make any claims as to what was true or not because I don’t know what I don’t know. America was tired, worn out, and weary – tired of all the bickering and divisiveness over classless, leadership from both sides of the aisle. As usually happens from the swinging populous pendulum, we’re all-in Democratically led now. If it doesn’t work, in four years they’ll be voted out.

We have to trust ourselves. The system, well … continue to challenge it. But, do it responsibly. Park yourself on a bench and think things through before doing anything. Sometimes the simple act of sitting can change the world more than lighting a match under kindling soaked with fake tears.

Here I sit. Mildly uncomfortable. Inside this concession trailer is warm, however, compared to the 42-degree day outside. This metal chair under my posterior is getting aggravatingly annoying so I must conclude, hoping a customer saunters up to my window soon. One person trading money for my product and service at this point would make a difference.

I guess that’s the point of life. One person making a difference in the life of another. Just that some sit on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Inspired by Claudette Colvin who was arrested nine months prior for refusing to leave a bus under similar circumstances, Rosa Parks became one of many iconic images for change. Large, monumental change most of us will not facilitate by ourselves – one by one. We will make a difference in the lives of those we talk to about their kids, jobs, favorite sports teams, … and, of course, pets, food, & rainbows.

One at a time is wonderful. This is how we manage our way through the pile-ons. Like dad. Normal, day-at-a-time walkabouts we need to survive as Americans right now. We can do this. Rosa is right here with us, sitting by our side.

Sensational Swashbuckling, 2021

2020 was not, for sure. 1954 – the backdrop year of this surprisingly wonderful film – was for a few characters … especially Bengy Stone, who was assigned the unenviable task of looking after swashbuckling matinee idol Alan Swann. Thirty-six years removed from the previous pandemic (in movie time) and directed by Richard Benjamin thirty-nine years behind this current masking society (in real time), “My Favorite Year” is close to my favorite slice of time so far in 2021.

I first met Richard Benjamin during a Tonight Show re-run a few nights ago. He was, in a word, delightful. His appearance came a few months prior to the release of this film, of course … as all appearances by actors and directors dutifully promoting their wares – sitting to the right of the King of Late Night – did at the time. One mention of Peter O’Toole is all it took for me to begin Netflixing my way through movie queues soon thereafter. A few dollars later, there it was. A movie, previously unknown to me, now beginning as a young Mark Linn-Baker carries a cardboard cutout of Alan Swann through the heavy pedestrian traffic of NYC toward 30 Rockefeller Center. A New York City full of life, energy, and humor.

Bengy is who you would expect him to be – a young, energetic fellow who has quirky, humble comedic tilts in his personality. As a writer among others supporting a one hour t.v. Comedy Hour, he’s under pressure to be funny, yet sympathetic to the bigger egos in the room. None bigger than the soon to be inserted Mr. Swann who, we are quick to learn, has a leaning toward wine and women, – both of which cause highly predictable delays in morning arrivals. This being the case, Bengy volunteers to be a swashbuckler’s man-nanny for the week, guaranteeing safe travels within the city and promptness at all rehearsals.

As with all movies that keep our attention and are entertaining, there are sub-plots and curves here. A small romance, a mafia tie-in that culminates in a “hit” at the end, and charming individual character flaws all come together to make this movie really fun to watch.

Obviously, I’m not a professional movie reviewer. I wouldn’t even qualify to carry the briefcases of Siskel & Ebert from their limo to the Oscars if they were alive today. How to accurately convey the pleasure I got out of watching a thirty-nine year old movie without giving away most of the surprise? I don’t know. Peter O’Toole was wonderful. The story wasn’t campy or overplayed by anyone. The premise wasn’t too far reaching … it could actually be true and believable should an actor relay such a story in an autobiography.

What I kept thinking after the movie credits was: How ironic the title.

Nine days into 2021, and I’ll go back to my first line … 2020 was not, for sure. Maybe I simply needed a 1 1/2 hour hero to jump out of the screen and save me from the bad news of last year. A surprise visitor. Someone different with a message I hadn’t heard in a while – even if it was a fantasy. A swashbuckler slaying all the badness one by one.

I related so well to Bengy. Maybe that’s it. Trying to get through with a bit of quirkiness, dealing with egos much greater than I … making it work, somehow.

That’s what most of us are doing. We don’t have a say beyond our own words. Too many have platforms and audiences greater than ours … probably.

I can’t say 1954 was my favorite. Pre-birth years don’t qualify. Now, 1982 does have significance – it set me on my life’s journey after high school. Not my favorite, though. Up to now, I don’t have one, really. Should I?

Should you? When Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo wrote the story for My Favorite Year, I wonder if 1954 was theirs? Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, the Oscar Mayer hotdog car was patented, and Rock Around the Clock was recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets that same year. If you were to write a movie, what year would you pick?

Tell you what year I wouldn’t pick. 2020. Unless the horror genre is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend it for you either. The only advice I will give you is: find a few moments aside to watch this movie. Yes, it’s 39 years old. Sure, there are better “made” movies that will sparkle your special-effects fantasies. However, for a refreshing start to your 2021, sit back and go back sixty-seven years to a NYC full of life, liberty, happiness, joy, …. and most of all – humanity.

As Siskel & Ebert would lovingly say, “See you at the movies!”

Lady, Luck and Me

This is a lady on Lady.

I had the pleasure of seeing them trot by at a local event last Saturday night. It was a late night corn maze and there wasn’t much business to be placed inside freshly purchased buns, unfortunately. Blame it on rescheduled trick-or-treat plans, cold weather, or Covid fatigue … any number of possibilities … it was simply a slow night. A really. Slow. Night.

Local isn’t really honest. Bedford county is 35 minutes due south from Blair, my home county, and more rural. I set up in a field of worn grass next to a wooded, rather scary, tree-bone graveyard off a well traveled route between two small towns. The folks were banjo friendly in a Nicholson kind of banjo-picking way. Nice, but looked at my hot dawg, northern self like I just stepped off a yankee canoe.

Charles, the folkman in charge of the entire event, was kindly nice and welcoming, however. His gentle demeanor didn’t represent a gruff, wheat stick between the teeth personality as he led my efforts to set up and prepare for the crowds anticipated arrival (not). In fairness – even with over 20 years’ experience running the corn maze and haunted woods – he couldn’t know the effect of Covid or rescheduled trick-or-treat night in the surrounding communities. With that, it was a grueling 4 hours in the cold with little to show except food waste, spent propane, mud in worn tires, and a late night of travel back to a more familiar Blair county.

There was a positive. Meeting the lady … and Lady. In my horse petting haste, I neglected to harness the rider’s name: the lady on Lady. The lady was a very nice person who filled my ears with wonderful information as I ran my cold hands over Lady’s still head a little above her nostrils. This looked to be the only place where she didn’t have a costume part draped over her. Bless her heart. She stood still in silence. Only the white, warm steam rose from the end of her exhales. There was no other movement except my hand – which she seemed to enjoy.

I was told she was a quarter horse. From what I can gather, American Quarter Horses get their name by being quick sprinters – in races of a quarter mile or less. It is one of the most popular breeds in the country and I can see why. I believe we had more of a connection between us than I had with some of the kind kin folk in those parts. Lady didn’t talk much. Heck, she didn’t talk at all. I asked her twice, “Are you a wonderful horse, Lady?”, and she nodded her head in agreement … twice – both times I asked. Don’t tell me we didn’t make a love connection, ’cause we did!

I’m not lonely. Don’t look at this the wrong way. Very seldom do I get to be around large animals, let alone really nice ones, OR ones I have time to pet while freezing my petunias off. Those of you around horses all day long won’t find this encounter of mine wonderful. I get it. For the same reason, I wouldn’t find your writing about an encounter with the most magnificent hot dawg exciting. It’s all what we’ve done, who is with us, perhaps, and possibly what large animal is involved that makes for an interesting life to one vs. another.

The lady’s outfit was interesting to me … especially the way she posed for my picture. It had a middle-eastern flare. Play around with this picture, adding the Abbasid Palace in the background, and it would make for a wonderful picture (although, with apologies to the culture, I’m not sure women are allowed to ride horses). The combination kept my eyes busy most of the evening because there wasn’t much else to do. Lady and the lady rode gently by every 20 minutes or so and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Lady belongs to Charles. He owns four horses. The lady is kind enough to saddle up and ride Lady during these corn maze and haunted woods events to entertain the crowds. Crowds, evidently, that show up only on the nights I’m not there.

That said, some really nice folks did arrive. I can’t say there weren’t. Those who did stop to buy a hamburger, or two, discussed pleasantries with me as I suffered my way around a steamy grill. Charles bought three – yes, three – sausage sandwiches that totaled up to most of my sales. Stuffed in among these slid a few dawg sales and maybe ten sodas. Not a very good night by any standard.

Doesn’t matter much because I try to always find a good nugget … something to stabilize the bad.

And, out of the stable came Lady. She was a few minutes within a few hours. This time became a sliver of my life. A cold guy petting a warm, friendly horse. Not much, by some standards, I humbly admit, but in the midst of a crazy later-mid life, I’ll take what I can get.

We should spend more time looking for these smaller moments that matter. The big ones just aren’t often enough and are fleeting, anyway. I believe “Lady luck” reigned me in Saturday night … if only for a little bit. Worth the drive down south over the county line. I’m not much for banjo playing, however, I may get a hankerin’ for some more soon. Lady may need some Doug affirmations again.

Vote or Veto

“VOTE on/by Tuesday. If not, you’ve switched your constitutionally guaranteed vows…to a VETO of everything fought and died for over time.”

Something as simple as voting. It’s no more complicated as taking the E and L out of vowel to make another word sounding almost the same.

The process, however, could be a bit more involved, according to what I see on the news. You know. I know.

When I write “vote”, it means to pull a lever, fill in a bubble, or turn a knobby-thingy. The getting there is not included in my letters or words, nor is distancing, masking, ballot mailing, USPS rules, chads (is this a thing anymore?), drop boxes, signature matching, etc … I’m simply picturing you standing or sitting at a booth exercising your constitutionally guaranteed right. Period.

As of this date, November 1st, record-breaking numbers of Americans have pre-voted. I’m waiting until Tuesday because I like to do it in person, alone, in a booth. The ladies who greet me are pleasant and know me by name. I get free stuff (pamphlets) distanced safely – even before Covid – handed to me prior to entering the polling door. I like that. Humans taking a pro-active stance in the process. Sometimes there are mints on a table. I get to sign in. Most times I’ll see a neighbor, or two … or three.

I will not – ever – veto my vote. Especially now, when the vows are so easily switched.

You shouldn’t either. Do the best you can to vote. Please.

There Are Bones About It

This wonderful boney poker game is on display in a local neighbor’s yard. I’ve driven by at least ten times but haven’t been able to stop. Due to cars behind me occupied by drivers with impatience coursing through their veins, opportunities to take this picture have been rare – save one. Today was the day. I grabbed carpe diem by the ankles of its Latin legs and tackled it to the pavement.

What fascinates me the most here is a passerby – whether by car or foot – cannot, by any means, determine the gender or political leanings of either the four players or the dealer. Yes, THIS is my take-a-way from the hard work and imagination of a neighbor I don’t know. No player uncomfortably seated or unhappily handed has the slightest poker tell as to his/her liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Don’t Give a Sh*t agenda.

This isn’t a normal Halloween season. Every opinion, FB post, family meal, and/or spooky social commentary is sitting around a political or Covid table. Make no bones about it. Even I can’t drive by fabulous femurs without first figuring a way through this maze of viral thoughts and political posturings.

It’s where we are. It’s the hand we’ve, strangely enough, dealt to ourselves.

Today is October 31st and the t.v. in front of my 7 a.m. eyes is broadcasting prognosticating pretty polling predictions that may – or may not – come true next Tuesday. I’m weary from the deluge of information. Steve Kornacki, analyst usually seen on MSNBC, is quite fascinating. He presents state-by-state stats, digs into data, and creates charts I used to find artistic, colorful, and pleasing. Being Saturday morning, I don’t expect to see him until Monday … a few days into a new month, past this Halloween day, and in the midst of a barrage of election, bad-to-the-bone, 24-7 broadcasting.

This isn’t to fault them. I guess we need to be informed voters. But, how much is too much? If you don’t know Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden’s life and times by now, right? We need to know results over coffee on the 4th. That’s all we require at this point from our media. Who won … and who lost. Turning on my smart phone or the t.v. next Wednesday at, say, 7:12 a.m. – exactly 4 days from now – to see a President Trump or Biden – would be just fine by me.

… and it isn’t just the President-to-be.

It’s all in the cards we’ve been dealt and are holding – and, by extension, have allowed our representatives to play our hands. We voted in the senators who will lose, or retain, their seats, because of performance. The down-ballots are important, too. There are more than a handful of Republican senators who are in marginal to major danger of losing their seats because of their proximity to President Trump’s policies and personality. Thinking the ace-high flushes they held last year would be gold, they called a bet against the straight flushes held by their opponents …. and are in trouble. Jamie Harrison has a great chance against Lindsey Graham in S.C. He had a 17% chance in March and, now, is in a statistical tie with a guy who needs to go. According to Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks election forecasts, ” … other Republican senators who could lose their seats to Democrats after Election Day are: Arizona’s Martha McSally, Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Maine’s Susan Collins, Montana’s Steve Daines, and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis.”

These are scary times that surpass even the gallows of the eeriest of medieval Halloweens. A once-in-a-century health crisis with a national case record of 99,000 just yesterday. We are not carving our pandemic pumpkins properly. They’re ugly. Everything is a mess.

Apparently the mail is messed up with (R) judges changing the rules while ballots have already been sent under a previously agreed upon, publicly posted, set of guidelines. Some states are allowing ballots to be counted after Nov. 3rd, some aren’t. All this gleaned from the news I’m frustrated with, anyway.

Today we walk through the last day of the 10th month of 2020. Three years, two-hundred, eighty-four days into the Trump presidency and here we are – holding the hand we dealt to ourselves. This is either to our fault or merit. I’ll let that decision up to you. I have election-weary.

After I vote in person, I’ll be changing my party affiliation. Make no bones about it. I haven’t changed who I am at all. What’s changed is who I choose to represent me going forward. There are no perfect systems or people, but there are expectations that can be strived for and I want those I vote for to at least try to get there on my (and our collective) behalf instead of feeding their own self-interests.

When I do eventually leave this earth and sit my boney self around a poker table with my friends, I want to leave this place better than the way I left it. I can’t do this alone. Any national policy worth dreaming up requires help from a person in politics and the news to help circulate the message. Can’t coat this fact with any less sugar than that.

For today, Halloween 2020, masks are more important than ever. Sugared candy IS important for socially distanced kiddos if you can somehow swing it for them. Wash your hands frequently in person (and from the news the next few days) … the former is for the safety of your neighbors and the latter for your peace of mind.

If we play our cards well, all this can turn the tables around. There are bones sitting about that require a sane, but fun, game of who has what. We make our bets on the future and hope for the best based upon what we know now. That’s all we can do.

You’re doing good and I’m glad you’re sitting here with me. Flesh and all. Happy halloween.

The Fall of (a) Man

It almost happened this morning. Dew not try this at home, I say. The hustle of time combined with an early morning mist – atop the carpet of leaves covering my porch steps – was a slippery soul waiting for my arrival. Fortunately, a past experience grabbed a hurried back collar by the neck of time. I was lucky.

A few years back, not so much. I’m still creaking along with a dislocated/injured disc from flapping down on these same steps. A sunny, less wet day … yet in the same uncontrolled, fast-paced, inattentive manner I approached the descent … and missed. Thinking all was fine (male trait), I went on my way. A bit sore, but hoping the pain would subside – which it sort-of did after a few days, I lived my life quite contently believing a quasi-sore back was just age. Male being male, right?

Uhm, not so much. After months + years of this, I had tests done … and … well, I have the bad news, bad back, issues to this day. Still living with it and that is what saved me from sure slippery this morning. Alarm bells rang, mindful memories magnified, and I stopped momentarily to think through the situation. “Wet leaves + Steps + Doug in a hurry = Hospital” … An equation nobody needs to figure out right now.

All this to say that picture above is the pile at the bottom of the stairs. A pile I most likely would have landed in had a tumble occurred only a few short hours ago. Certainly a Genesis-ical chapter to define rest of my life had it happened. The fall of this man in a season of unsure events and unpredictable happenings … for possibly all of us as well as I think through the past 10 months of 2020.

Welcome to the near end of 2020 – an end we are looking forward to as a group of 325 million loving, caring, crying, compassionate people. We’ve tripped over societal problems, stomped on issues long since ignored, slid on slippery slopes of ignorance and bigotry, stood on patriotism and pride, walked happily in the steps of heroes, and tred lightly through a pandemic’s science and political maze of unknowns … all the while, we survived and, sadly, at the time of this writing, 225,212 Americans have not.

I am not taking any sides here. I am, however, looking forward to the end of a political fall season guaranteed not to end on November 3rd. It’s been a side-stepping, two-step dance of ridiculousness the past few months. Our feet are calloused and legs pretty sore from carrying both liberal and conservative crosses across party plank floors … over and over on idealistic shoulders. The most decisive thing about November 4th? … it will be the day after November 3rd. The fall of 2020.

I didn’t go down this morning so, hopefully, the ten weeks remaining will be upbeat and pleasant. I’ll vote … and wait. I’ll keep masking, social distancing, and washing my hands all the time as recommended by the CDC. You dew what you dew, ok?

Take steps to be the best you you can be – and don’t take the steps ahead that are dangerous. I need you to be here for all of us. It’s a challenging time to be alive. One life, like yours, is too valuable to leave to chance, so watch your step.

I did. Leaves (0) + Doug (1) = One happy day. Now, that’s math I can live with.

A Bear, Tim, and Harry

As the joke goes: A bear walks into a bar, places his arms on the counter, and says, “I’d like to …….. order a beer.” The bartender asks, “Why the long paws?”

This is a pun-unpleasantry I’ve read over and over during my years delving into books and magazines attracting my fancy. I love word play.

Granted, there are jokes – like this one – so over-used and worn I’d rather they never be spoken out loud again. Alas, however, I will most likely see it reappear in printed form, or, orally – both irritatingly so. Human nature dictates it. Bad jokes don’t die.

I can explain why this joke has been unbearably attached to my brain lately. Writing has been on pause lately and it’s as irritating to me as hearing a grizzled mammal swing open a tavern door – not that I even know what that sounds like. I don’t drink or frequent watering holes let alone hang out with alcoholic bears that talk.

Life is busy. That’s my excuse and I don’t appreciate it sometimes. Gosh, that sounds so ungrateful, doesn’t it? I’m healthy – save a few mid-fifty issues – and shouldn’t be complaining. My business is hectic with go-here’s and do that’s at odd hours with expenses due a few days before incomes. My legs beg for reclination time above my torso instead of continuously supporting a creaky, cranky back. This is 19/7 with 5 hours melted in for sleep.

At this very moment, I’m sitting in my wind-sheltered van waiting for customers to visit a welcoming food cart. It’s 55-degrees outside. Inside, I’m drinking a peach iced tea … hoping to wash down the rather kind ham and cheese hoagie I hastily purchased from the grocery store earlier. That was my noon breakfast. Life in the food truck fast-lane.

Yesterday was 70-degrees and sunny. Up is down with the weather in late October here in western-Pa. The small crack I must leave open in the door allows a cool breeze to flow in while there’s no sun to be found. Such a contrast from yesterday and the day before when we had even better weather. Close to 80-degrees and incredible skies. The day started out with this:

A soupy mess. I took this picture that morning hoping to write of the fog settling in my brain. A mist of quasi-frustration continuing into today …. a day when I actually have the time to write.

Those of us who love to write, but get off schedule because of life’s more important have to’s, eventually find time to put words down. We have to. Silence can stay silent only so long.

During my few minutes here, I’ve waited on two customers. Folks I didn’t see out of my peripheral vision for a few seconds as a result of this very breaking of my silence. They were very understanding. I blamed my inattention on you, my readers. I had to. It’s because of you – and my days long absence from this wonderful space – awareness was not paid.

… and, of course, that is mild sarcasm topped with a spoonful of thankfulness. No matter the circumstances in life, I am grateful. Yes, busy-ness is so closely tied to business. Life is to be lived out and outlived. We need to get every drop of yum extracted from the years we have.

My 7th grade Geography teacher said it best: “More than the years of your life … is the life in your years”. I don’t know if he came up with that or not, but it stuck. Mr. Hooper … what a guy.

A bear walks into a bar with his friend Tim, the termite. Tim asks “Is the Bar Tender?”. Tim has a friend, Harry the horse. The bartender asks Harry, “Why the long face?” ….Want me to continue?

I can’t. I just can’t. Maybe next time. For now, we’ll hit the pause button. Until we meet again.

Letters and Emojis

As one who spends some of his time typing words into the internet space, I’m going to state an unpopular opinion: We’re spending too much time here.

Why do I say that? Just today I need to clear up an issue with a great friend … and can’t via text. As I write this very minute, the problem at hand is unresolved. It’s not a matter of life or death, rather, a personal uncomfortableness – an unease – I can’t resolve without personal connectivity … a phone call or something other than 1’s and 0’s over the w-w-web.

Secondarily, I expressed an opinion on Facebook two days ago. That should be an “enough said” sentence, but after 100 comments and counting, I must continue.

It concerned the vacancy left by RBG’s death and the political fallout since – specifically, ACB’s nomination to the aforementioned seat. You’d think I typed in the worst offensive words possible about everyone’s mothers based upon the comments dripping underneath my eloquently phrased opinion. Again, no real conversation – just texts back and forth with veiled insults and an occasional “fact” in quotes, questioning sources, attaching descriptive connectors to humans in public office, and scripting personal narratives to public internet spaces.

Beings being 2-dimensional. I’m not enjoying any of it right now. Resolutions are really difficult at the end of two solitary thumbs when one has to wait moments – possibly hours – for a response (with no guarantee of one even coming).

Where are we now? Trying to interpret 26 letters and a bunch of emojis now is like looking through a dimly lit lantern’s glow at a wall of hieroglyphics … symbols we can’t really get a handle on. It’s a cave of our own doing. That’s where we find ourselves. A simple 👋 now can’t mean “hi”, anymore, without questioning the motive … is it sarcastic? Does it require a 👋 in return? I don’t know anymore without, at a minimum, looking the waver in the eye. At best, seeing them in person.

Look, I know the technology wave carried us into this cave. It was unavoidable, I guess. So many good things have happened because blips and beeps carry information across thousands of miles in nanoseconds. Lives are saved everyday with medical advances. Kids are learning more – by fifth grade – than I knew when I slid across the stage picking up my diploma. Access to information is … un-freakin-google-believable.

Still, all that can’t replace a person on the other end of a breathable space. Someone to help resolve a rather minor issue we need when that problem pokes itself out from the normalness that is life. A normal we really can’t be, by the way, spending almost all our time face down in a text. This isn’t the way life was intended to be.

You and me. Eye to eye is the absolute best. If not, at least voice to voice. For personal relationships and problem resolutions, it’s a deaf echo chamber cave of emojis and letters. As a way of communicating a momentary frustration in a blog on a cold, rainy Friday in October? Absolutely!

As to problem #1, I’m sure this little hiccup in my life will begin to work itself out once the iron of time plugs in and begins to iron out the wrinkles. The 3-D books I’ve read and really smart people in my life I’ve listened to guarantee it.

The now is now, however, and for what it’s worth, I do feel a bit better venting – even if it’s just letters and emojis.

Concern #2: The whole Facebook thing will do what it does and life moves forward for everyone involved. That space made Mark Z. a bazillionaire – which is more money than I’ll ever see. His money and notoriety slip him in a envelope and send him off to destinations unknown to me.

And so it goes. My opinion remains the same. We spend too much time. Here. Call me sometime and we’ll talk it over. I’d love to hear your opinion.