The place to come to wag more and bark less...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seeing the Goods For The Trees

It was in the mid-80s today, nothing like the mid-90s we had last week. Still, it takes only one day like today to realize how good we had it before it got hot like last week which, I suppose, many said was “killing us…”

How soon we forget the heat, though. Put two or more days like this together and we’ll soon think fall is on its way. Chances are, a few months later we’ll be “freezing to death.”

Still, that “killer” heat of only a few days ago seems like a distant memory now. But true memories go much farther back. Some, long forgotten from my early youth, were among these this afternoon.

While watching a movie about a young artist seeking mentorship from an old and accomplished, classically-trained Russian painter, a distant memory flickered back to life for me. This memory, in fact, inspires me even today, despite its somewhat subordinate status among all the others.

Art is art, I reasoned, and inspiration is inspiration, no matter the medium. I believe any good artist, any good person, can recognize and appreciate inspiration from wherever it comes.

Even so, the movie’s “Formula,” as I learned to call it in college film class, was of a simple variety. The  accomplished old man, the Russian painter, his lifetime of experience behind him is looking his mortality in the eye. He’s anything but seeking a protégé.

The younger man deifies him nonetheless and, though he’s from a different generation,  he shares the old man’s values towards art, etc., etc,.

Eventually, they realize their shared love for the act of painting wins out, the end.

This particular film, a so-called B Movie whose name I do not remember and is irrelevant anyway, is set in a large, old farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania. This is where my ancient memory surfaces.

Having grown up in suburban Pennsylvania in the 1970s, I saw a world that was very different than the suburban world it is now.

Though it’s been decades since I’ve been to my hometown, I needn’t see it as it is today to know this.

As a kid, I considered people who are of my age now to be “old-timers” and, like a kid, largely disregarded their perspectives. Then, I was too busy making my own perspectives, soaking up the world around me, to consider anyone else’s.

To be sure, however, I was likelier to disregard old-timers than anyone because I knew they could not relate to me. I could just feel it. As the saying goes “If I have to explain, you probably wouldn’t get it anyway,” and this aptly summed it up.

Today, I cannot be surprised if young people look upon me as I once looked upon older people then. Their world is, as I once claimed my own to be, a very different world. And I am not asking anybody for an explanation of that world, for not only would I not “get it anyway,” but I’m also unlikely to care; I had my crack at life and, for better or worse, it’s behind me now.

I may be too old to understand the younger generation as it is today. But I do know something to be true they do not, or probably have not yet contemplated.

Simply stated, each generation changes their world to fit their understanding of it, just as the generation that follows will do with their world. Likewise, the previous generation had changed their perceptions to fit their world and it’s from that point of view that they’ll make their decisions as adults.

From grandparents to parents to kids to grandkids, etc. this cycle continues. Throughout time immemorial, this cycle hasn’t been just a generational prerogative, but a generational imperative.

The social mechanisms by which we reflect upon our pasts evolve, just as cave drawings eventually became today’s digital video, and horse drawn buggy’s have become electric cars.

The physical landscapes that become icons of our lives slowly change too and,  barring catastrophic natural events like earthquakes and fires and floods, some of these settings will survive from one generation to the next.

Those tiny, rural towns I remember from the Pennsylvania of my youth are among these. Though I’m sure their numbers are dwindling, as evolution would have it anyway, they’ll always find life among my memories. Take this one, for example:

It was perhaps around age 9 or 10 that I remember traveling in the back of a Volkswagen Beetle to a small town called California, Pennsylvania.

Up front were my parents, while I shared the back seat with my cocker spaniel. Like good air circulation, space in that car was at a premium.

Given my young age and the size of my pet, it mattered little. It was one of the few advantages I had-that any kid has. For, beyond that, we almost always find ourselves at the whim of our environment.

Even though the day I found myself in that car may have been cool, the sun shining in the window, and the car’s lack of a/c made it feel mercilessly hot back there anyway.

Factor in my nine year old inability to understand time and distance and, to a kid like me, a trip like that might feel hotter than hell and lasting forever.

Chances are, mom and dad knew the trip was only an hour long max and the fresh country air filled cool, and were probably unable to understand my discomfort. One of the many advantages of being “the adult,” which I quickly learned to grumble about in later years.

As I’ve said, the mantra of the younger generation could well be “if I had to explain, you probably wouldn’t understand,” and this couldn’t have been more true to me then.

Once in that little town, located not far from the steel mills yet with a pastoral setting that made it feel like a universe away, small-town America prevailed.

Located on an austere, wide river, one would never guess the town oversaw a virtual waterborne highway for much of the natural resources barged along to the steel mills located a mere mile or so downriver.        

The aptly-named town of California, Pennsylvania might as well have been the state of California 3000 miles away to the west, for it was a world unto itself.

The streets were wide and made of poured cement, not paved asphalt. The yards as well were larger, with room for sidewalks instead of being extensions of grassy front yards that ended where they met the street, as in my neighborhood.

Perhaps most important for something I’ve still never – and hope I will never lose an eye for. That is, old and majestic trees, probably a hundred years old or more, and clear blue skies that revealed views of billowing clouds unhindered by smog.

One thing that’s for certain, though, is that when you’re only 3 feet tall, you can feel the heat radiating up from the sidewalk far more than adults.

I remember the car being parked a few blocks outside of the main part of town. Compared to my suburban frame of reference, the term “main part of town” was something of an overstatement.

Still, parked only a couple of blocks outside of town, the walk in seemed to take forever. Things I would relish now, like quaint storefronts and eateries, maybe even a winery or brewpub, of course, held no interest for me the, and still doesn’t, really.

What did matter however, was the store that sold ice cream. Though I don’t recall if it was when we arrived into town or when we were leaving that we visited the ice cream store.

But I do remember, however, eating it as fast as I could, before it could melt. As a rule, I ate ice cream as quickly as possible anyway, even without siblings with whom to compete. But that day’s heat made my haste that much more essential.

Ever since, I have always gravitated toward small towns and, in particular, ice cream, fudge brownie, taffy shops and the like. Even though I no longer consume such foods. it’s the quaintness of such places that leads me to seek them out.

Though this memory is but a tiny part of what’s shaped me into the person I am today, it will always stand as an essential memory of my days back then. That, in itself, is reason enough for me to seek out such places now, and I do.

Just like the magnificent trees and the blue skies I found as a kid in rural Pennsylvania, I still seek out those things wherever I go.

To me, such things are not only the essence of my youth, but the essence of what still keeps me young.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Embracing It-Moving Forward from the Past

Embracing It

In his book Excuses Begone, Dr. Wayne Dyer addresses the concept that past excuses to avoid reaching your potential as a human being number into the zillions (my term). However, these can be generalized as having one of two origins. In essence, he boils it down to Nature versus Nurture.

This document isn’t meant to be a summary of this book that focuses on overcoming the very human habit of creating excuses that limit us. Rather, this is just a collection of some notes on the subject that stood out as I listened to the Audible presentation.

As an amputee, for example, I could use my inability to both hold a book and smoothly turn pages as an excuse to not read, or to rarely do so. But Audible and Kindle Books provide a wonderful solution to an otherwise daunting problem.

The same could be said for the act of writing itself; a pen and paper have proven too unwieldy for me to use as I once did, while still a member of the two-armed fraternity of people.

But I have the great good fortune to live in a world where voice recognition is both widely available and highly accurate. Even if I still had both arms, I’m inclined to believe I’d use VR anyway; it’s easier for me to organize and navigate all the separate documents I’ve got going at once.

That’s no mean feat for someone who is dealing with an extensive history of traumatic brain injury (TBI). But enough about me-let’s get back into my notes on this book.

First, one overarching excuse people make for not fully realizing their productive self identifies their limitations as being genetic. No kidding.

Sometimes, people believe they have a gene that wires them to think a certain way. To them, this must be true. Why else would their parents, and their parents parents, etc. have always thought that way? They believe their self-limiting thinking is inherited and, given all the evidence that supports this, the idea seems solid enough.

The other rationale Dyer believes people have for their thinking holding them back and keeping them from reaching their full potential is because they say they’ve always thought that way. Therefore, it can never change.

To Dr. Wayne, the solution for this is an easy one. He simply says that such thinking “is just a thought, and a thought can be changed.” Sounds overly simple, but I know this to be true firsthand, as I’ll explain below.

I don’t know about your limiting thought patterns but I can confidently say that my self-limiting thinking is not born of the first excuse – it’s not hereditary.

Rather, it’s rooted in the second excuse, though in a most interesting way.

The mindset my parents had, which became mine as well, was rooted in fear, guilt and shame. It’s a mindset they have to this day. And it’s also what I consider the biggest obstacle to our having a positive dialogue to this day. Or any dialogue, for that matter as I don’t find their thinking to be so much self-limiting as downright crippling.

While I knew the mindset I grew up with was incongruent with my own beliefs, I had to adopt them to for lack of any other suitable thought processes to guide me.

Upon college graduation and my subsequent release into the world as an adult, I find myself lacking an identity. More on this below, also.

Dr. Wayne begins Chapter 3 with a brief description of the thought processes he had regarding smoking in his younger years. It was a habit he wanted to give up and he listed an extensive – and quite impressive, at that – list of reasons for doing so.

His reasons for wanting to quit were considerable, but so was the list of ways he was tied to the habit, which overwhelmed him at first.

Yellow teeth, stinky fingers, messy ash cleanup, the cost of lighter fluid or lighters, the chronic cough it gave him and the knowledge that he was exhaling toxic air after each puff were all good reasons to quit.

But how to avoid this habit in the face of all of these learned behaviors was the question.

After contemplating this perplexing scenario for a while, the answer dawned on him: just quit smoking!

It took me back to my own smoking habit during college. My habit began suddenly at some point, during my sophomore year I believe, and lasted until the beginning of my junior year.

It always coincided with attending classes on weekdays, and drinking and smoking with friends on weekend nights. Somehow it seemed appropriate to smoke as we vented our collective spleens about the state of things in our world.

Perhaps we fancied ourselves modern day poets, documenting our experiences in a slurry of iambic pentameter. I cannot recall, and something tells me it’s better that way. It’s a past time that’s best left in the past.

Still, I do remember often expressing my thoughts then with a sarcastic tone that struggled to also have a backhanded, funny element. In those days, the glass was always half-empty, not half-full.

Being angry at our perceived lot in life, such as we saw it then may have come naturally, but it wasn’t conducive to following the healthy path that could lead us to our authentic destiny.

Though I wouldn’t have guessed it then, some of my old buddies from those days would never emerge from the safety of that cocoon to spread the beautiful wings that lay just beneath that tough-guy façade.

It was, I think, what they’d consider the highlight of their lives. The sarcastic world they spoke of did, in fact become their reality. Their thoughts never changed, so neither did they.

Our state of affairs at that time seemed funny to us, but in an apprehensive way, like so much nervous laughter. We thought we had all the answers even though we knew we didn’t, but we had our whole lives ahead of us and figured we might as well take a deep breath before we had to embrace the future.

Anyway, at the end of that school year, I transferred to another campus to complete my studies. Just as quickly as it began, my smoking habit ceased. It simply didn’t serve me anymore and, because my world and the people in it changed, I changed to fit in.

As a social chameleon, uncomfortable with the idea of making waves and being the center of attention, I adopted whatever status quo seemed appropriate at the time.

This in mind, my thinking leads me to believe that I am well-suited to identifying and overcoming my own past negative and self defeating habits.

It seems that embracing my past instead of coming from that old familiar place of guilt and shame about it will allow me to begin living life knowing that, just as I quit smoking, I can also confidently quit my old behavioral habits.

Here’s a thought I had while listening to that same chapter:

While considering what Dr. Dyer thinks of as memes, or the thoughts we learned by mimicking those around us, I realize that growing up I did not share those memes that existed in my family.

I was not the overbearing son of a gun that my father still is today, not was I the fear driven creature that my mother still is today.

However, because the memes I surrounded myself with in college weren’t compatible with my thinking either, I clung to the only ones I knew: those from childhood.

As an adult, I found myself in a world where I had no authentic traits to call my own, and I did not know where to begin finding them. That stage of my life where I tried on new social clothing, so to speak, I realized, must continue.

A mentor was what I needed, but was too unaware to be aware of it. By then, I’d already had a few good ones, though I failed to recognize their potential importance to my life.

A high school teacher, for example, was just a guy I thought I got along with well. In the absence of a positive father, I merely fed off good vibes from fatherly figures wherever I found them.

But I know better now.

The social chameleon in me tried on many outfits: a drinker and smoker, a frat brother and social recluse, then later a triathlete, a hockey player and extreme skier, a mountain biker and competitive road bicyclist, racing other men in my age group, not to mention a father, husband, and more.

In my thirties, I think it was, I realized that all of those above activities, without exception, were all based on individual merit. Except for hockey and road bicycle racing, none were team sports

In short, the well-oiled social chameleon in me hid the fact that I had a powerfully introverted side I’d always been in touch with but failed to recognize for a long time.

I wasn’t a team player, but that was (and still is) okay. My true self had gravitated toward my real nature right under my nose and continued developing without my even realizing it!

Still, I didn’t have an identity to speak of, and I looked upon my developing authentic self as a novelty. I didn’t recognize it for the true revelation it is. So the struggle continued.

Though my efforts were worthwhile, ultimately I found they never would serve me. I was convinced of it, even if I had to nearly kill myself in the process.

That nearly happened, too. I had a bicycle accident with a car one evening while on a tough road bicycle training ride, alone, of course. But even that wasn’t enough to open my eyes to the real me that I know is in there.

I’d been without an identity for so long I was simply scared to settle down and adopt one. I had to create an identity from scratch. Still do.

I made more mistakes than I’d enjoyed successes and, as a 51-year-old man, I still really have no authentic identity. That’s what I’m still struggling with now.

I am a writer, and a good one at that. But I feel I remain in a world surrounded by people with behaviors I am convinced will never serve me. With the exception of times like now, when I can freely articulate my feelings on this subject, I feel lost. It’s why I’m so fulfilled by writing for this blog.

End of this day’s book notes 📝

Some additional thoughts, inspired by listening to this book today:

After college, when I was married, and then a father for four years, I was still in search of an authentic identity.

Even though I was a college graduate, a father, a husband, a son in law, with those and so many other socially defined titles, I remained tied to my childhood identity, i.e. somebody’s son.

In effect, this was a concession of all my responsibilities and decision-making to people whose mindset was not congruent with my own.

But such was my desire to have an identity that I willingly handed back the keys to my life to toxic people from whom kindness was rare.

Eventually, I divorced and, though it seems counterintuitive, I returned to the home I grew up in to temporarily live once again.

This last fact, my inability to break my bond with my abusive parents and toxic family setting despite having every means to do so is probably a function of the abusive environment it had been for me.

But this doesn’t mean I didn’t have some extraordinary thoughts in so doing.

For example, having been a paperboy in my neighborhood for years, I had a mental image of the homes as they were then.

Prior to that, I delivered newspapers in the neighborhood adjacent to my own, to which I rode my bicycle six days a week in all weather to do my work.

That made two separate neighborhoods with which I have a mental image, plus all the places in between my home and the other neighborhood I delivered papers in.

The reason these particular years are important to me is straightforward: I spent a great deal of my time as a kid confined it home, grounded by my parents for having scored poorly at school.

I understand now that the abuse that went on in my childhood home was something my parents were afraid it would get out the word of it would get out, and they finally have to answer to it.

Therefore, my poor academic performance was something they could count on because, to me, school was the sanctuary, I’ve safe place where I could spend time during the day without fear of retribution by my parents.

Maybe I was just an overly sensitive kid, but I was unable to separate the intense emotions I associated with my abusive home and my school responsibilities.

I believe I thought that, even if there was held to pay – and they’re always was Dash I’d avoid any additional pressure from external sources , Even in school.

But that’s where the paper routes came in. Even though I was grounded in the daytime. Delivering the morning paper was the only time I was allowed out of the house.

During the school year, I was back in time to eat breakfast and go to school. I never had to see my father, whose work schedule I knew well. I could time my comings and goings to coincide with his absences so I could avoid seeing him.

 The same was true during summer vacation from school. But, since I didn’t have to make it home to get ready for school, I would linger as I did my paper route.

Often, I would stop at a favorite quiet place the top the hill where I could imagine the world stretching out before me.

In reality, it was really just a convenience store parking lot and major street intersection in my hometown. I was there early every morning, watching the people below me begin their day.

My day had already started and, in a rare way, I felt ahead of the world. I had just done something productive for others who wouldn’t conceive of me as the loser I often felt like at home.
No bad grades, no screaming or crying or terror or anything bad mattered then. It was one of those wonderful times when I knew – I could just feel – that my life as it was then would not last forever.

My imagination then was every bit as active as it is now. Those quiet, early-morning moments were something I treasured greatly and still do. They live on in the early morning dog walks I have with the love of my life, Sophie, a nine-year-old Belgian shepherd.

I had a best friend up the street, one who was always there on those occasions when I was free to leave the house to go have fun. He had a morning paper route as well, so our schedules always coincided.
We often walked to the nearby mall, where a video arcade was located. We spent much of our change from tips we earned delivering papers there, but also got to know our way around all of the stores.

So from our neighborhood to the mall, we knew every street in shortcut like the back of our hands. And there were plenty of them.

That was a stage of my life that seemed as if it could go on forever. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. The violence at home was something I had excepted as normal by then and was blissfully ignorant of anything different.

One thing that never changed about that, however, was that no matter how good things may have been on occasion, everything was outweighed by those nightmarish times when my father was angry and my mother wouldn’t stop him.

At any rate, once I return home as an adult after all the real-world adult responsibilities have overwhelmed me and let me to do so, I was in for a major surprise.

In the eight or so years I’ve been gone from the home I grew up in, many things had changed. My detailed knowledge of the whole place meant that I was hyper aware of every little change that had occurred there in my absence.

Because I was so emotionally tied to the place – a fact I’m only now beginning to recognize - each change, no matter how small was a loss that needed to be grieved.

My memory is very state dependent so, as soon as I returned to the area, I remembered exactly how things looked exactly as they were years earlier.

Houses were painted differently, some sporting new additions or paved driveways instead of gravel, or shrubs and trees were none had existed before.

The grocery store down the street that I had worked at stocking shelves at night as an undergraduate, was closed and in its place stood a franchised pet supply store.

I couldn’t believe what had happened to the home I once had. Now, of course, I realize that the neighborhood had been changing gradually all along, but because I was there to see it and to live it, I hadn’t noticed.

The biggest change, the one that inspired me to write this segment was of a path that led into the woods between my neighborhood and the mall where my friend and I visited many times. It was located, appropriately enough, where Iroquois Street dead-ended.

Many of us have a mental image of the location that inspired Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Dark and tunnel-like, and wide enough to wait to ride a horse through.

Depending upon how you looked at it, the trailhead could look like a nightmarish abyss or welcoming arms, open wide and waiting for a hug. It was always for me, it was always the latter and night or day, I was never afraid to go in there.

Many times we’d traveled through there, anticipating a new high score on a video game or indulging in some carefree browsing at some of our favorite stores: The record shop, the hobby shop where we gawked at model trains and rockets, slot cars, and other plastic and balsa wood models.

Eventually, girls became our favorite thing to gawk at, though we had limited success in getting their attention. We were in that awkward stage, our voices changing and right in the middle of that growth spurt that would likely indicate our adult stature.

My friend remained blessed with his baby face while I struggled with the most visible and insidious scourge any libidinous teenager might have-acne.

Something I didn’t realize then what is that many of my female contemporaries did not have the luxury of living as close to the mall as we did. Therefore, going there was a pretty big deal.

That said, the choice between looking at make up, hair stylists and clothes and shoes was an easy one for them; we never stood a chance!        

Something we could do that no teenage girl we were aware of good match was our consumption of mall food. Anything from ice cream to burgers and fries to baked pretzels to popcorn, frozen cokes, chewing gum (we always had some on hand), and so much more I ate with impunity.

It was one of the few pros about having acne – I never had to worry about getting pimples from eating junk food! I never put on weight either, given my morning bicycle rides throughout my paper route.

But that path through the woods was there for it all, the figurative river that ran through it. No matter what, it held a nonjudgmental, unconditional even Divine energy to it.

The darkness of that trail at night was nothing compared to the uncertainty I might find waiting when I walked through the front door when I got home.

This shortcut through the woods was like that, even spooky sometimes. But because I saw it all year round, in fall when the leaves changed then fell, in winter under snow and then in the spring when it came back to life again I didn’t fear it.

In fact, that sleepy hollow was a welcoming place for me, a sanctuary. Interestingly, it was a big trail that could only have been made over time by many people walking through there. But I don’t recall seeing anybody else except my friend.

Though I never gave it much thought then, there must have been quite a lot of foot traffic along that trail before we became regulars on it.

But the trail always stood alone and, since my friend and I knew everyone in the neighborhood, we were unaware of anyone else who may have traveled that wooded trail, ever. If anybody would know such things, it’d be us.

Since the trail was such a fixture in my life at the time when I was pondering my high school years and beyond, I took it’s presence for granted. Especially given my view of it as a sanctuary, even though I didn’t think of it as such then.

It was among the most significant places in my life, and someplace I’d love to experience one more time. It was the feeling I had when I return to the neighborhood as an adult.

So imagine my surprise when, not even ten years later, I returned to that very spot, expecting to see that natural wonder that have meant so much to me.

Instead, The trail that I had meant so much to me have been reclaimed by nature. There was no trace of it whatsoever; where the asphalt ended, the woods began, end of story.

As it turns out, the natural wonder I’d thought of as “my shortcut” became defunct upon the opening of a light rail station that led to the mall from downtown Pittsburgh.

A set of twin boys who lived on that street that we merely considered nuisances back in our heyday had graduated high school by the time I returned and were off doing their own thing.

For the first time there I felt a strange sense of apprehension, a mild feeling of danger, perhaps. It was as if someone was looking over my shoulder, watching me, and there was.

It was my angels coming to visit me, to comfort me and to let me know that, even though an old path had naturally closed, new ones were destined to open. My job, then, was to open my eyes and open my mind and find them.

In the end, I went back to my old neighborhood seeking a sense of stability from the old days, dysfunctional though they were.

Stability was there, all right, I just didn’t recognize it then. All the changes I found proved quite a distracting shock to me. Now, however, I can appreciate it for it’s true significance.

That trail through the woods is definitely one place whose loss I have grieved. And, though I’ll never visit that place again, I will be following my joy on a new trail to another, happier place.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

One More Red Nightmare (á la King Crimson)

As we all know, the American President takes an oath to uphold the US Constitution and to act in the best interests of all Americans when being sworn into office. Assuming the president has actually read and retained what’s in the Constitution, of course.

US Senators and House Representatives swear their loyalty upon taking the oath of office as well. This they each do for a reason, the merits of which are never more pertinent than they are now.

For those recently unable but are now willing to be brought up to date in only a few minutes I recommend this recent article by the New York Times, found online at:

It contains excerpts from a White House interview with the current president. It’s lengthy but it needn’t be read in its entirety. In fact, a few paragraphs may be all most people can stomach.

No matter how far you make it through the article, you will find enough evidence as to the president’s state of mind, and his general inability to hold a thought long enough for it to travel from his brain to his mouth.

This is nothing new of course, and I am not attempting humor in saying so. My words have all been said before by others elsewhere.

Those conflicting, confusing and often contradictory statements the president makes, sometimes from one sentence to the next are well documented. The president’s only real consistency is his inconsistency.

No place is this more evident than in this Times article. Other than the conspicuous absence of all but one of his presidential aides, what’s special here is the line of questioning on a broad number of special sensitive subjects.

The questions are uninterrupted and Trump’s responses are uninhibited. Subjects include Russia, personal finances, the 2016 election, zero Senate productivity, take your pick.

Reporters have him alone, and are dead to rights in their shrewd, sometimes sly choice of questions. None, really, involve policy for we know he’s a dud in that department.

They ask questions for which we’d all like – and deserve- to have answered. Trump’s about as transparent in his fibbing as a guilty grade school boy, albeit one with access to the launch codes.

Few straight answers are given, but that’s all part of who Trump is-crooked!

If you already have an idea as to what you might expect then congratulations! You are one step ahead of the game.    

With those oaths taken by elected officials to serve the American interests and uphold the Constitution in mind, I’ve made some observations here I hope are accurate.

I am hoping, for instance, that the apparent gridlock in the Senate on healthcare reform is not just bipartisan posturing. It’s widely known that the current state of healthcare in America is stable enough to last into the foreseeable future.

All senators, I’m sure, are well aware of this. The lack of a repeal-and-replace bill is not catastrophic, except perhaps to hard-line Republicans hungry for a win, all else be damned.

Similarly, I firmly believe Hillary Clinton was well aware of the daunting if not unscrupulously acquired resources of her opponent in the 2016 election.

I also believe she knew that, wrong though it was, she could become a martyr to the system. In her political life, she’d faced worse, but this could prove to be pretty damn close.

Still, giving up her place in history as the first female American president to a selfish codger in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s would be particularly hard.

His chronic misogyny and debasing of women would only be salt in her wounds, for she already knew one American president like him. Things with that one didn’t turn out very well for her, either.

So, all that said, I wonder if it’s possible – how far fetched would it be – to think that both GOP and democratic representatives and senators would put their party’s interests aside in order to address our problematic president?

How? By fighting the good fight as they currently are doing. Stonewalling the president despite their own agendas in order to deprive Trump of any real legislative victories.

The delusions of grandeur Trump indulges in about his being the Best, Greatest, Most This or That President ever are clear to everyone but Trump.

It’s clear that, despite all evidence to the contrary, up is down, dark is light, on is off and so on. The reality is finally asserting itself to those who truly do govern this nation: Trump’s gotta go.

He’s not even capable of being a figurehead, quietly sitting in the Oval Office and posing for photo ops when necessary while the sausage grinders do their thing unencumbered by a normal human being.

That’s one hell of a reality check, and it goes far beyond saying “Oh, well, that’s who we’ve elected,” or more accurately “Be careful what you wish for, America, even if you don’t think it could happen to us.”

I don’t believe it’s that far-fetched to think that the American republic – our homeland itself – is at stake here. The president is both inappropriately friendly yet equally secretive with Russia.

The man’s singular ambition – wealth – is clear enough for the rest of us to see, as is his blindness to anything else. If there’s nothing in it for him, it’s pointless.

What’s more, like excellent healthcare coverage or anything else for that matter, all the money in the world means nothing if  you’ve been on the receiving end of a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

But Trump would be too busy counting his millions to even see it coming.

Think of it this way: If we Americans continue to find ourselves betrayed by a president who myopically pursues wealth above all – while Congress stands by, saying nothing – our entire nation could become a mere footnote in the history books of one of the greatest authoritarian regimes ever-Putin’s.

Because the president’s will is so Tiffany-twisted around everything the Russian leader says, America has gone from a global superpower to a laughing stock in only six months’ time. There’s no sign that will change, either.

Party lines and personal agendas aside, our elected representatives, by virtue of their ability to stonewall currently unwarranted legislation will prevent enabling – not empowering –  the president. They can single-handedly cease feeding the delusions spilling out of the White House with even the tiniest morsel of real-life success.

If Congress is to remain true to the oath they took upon entering office, then they’ve a responsibility to put a stop to Trump’s bumbling before we reach the tipping point whereby we, America, concedes our leadership roles, one by one in the eyes of the world.

A tactic as simple as stonewalling may well be enough. Knowing the president’s infantile thought processes, I see him as likely to just pout, whine, throw a tantrum or two, and then just give up and walk away out of frustration.

Fox and Friends could be on soon back in the White House presidential bedroom and what could be better than retiring in front of a TV, watching people who both worship him and agree with every conspiracy theory imaginable after a long day of President-ing. It’s not easy being the king.

Back in the real world, Trump’s having to make the choice between remaining president and divulging his tax returns was a simple one; the latter is not an option.

Amid shouts of “Crooked Hillary is responsible,” and “Obama left me with a mess,” Trump will up and quit (more about that in a second).

With Trump gone, all that will remain is to clean up the few appointees he’s made, all of whom have substantial conflicts of interest with their respective departments.

Anyone with Russian ties, including the vice president should not be considered as a viable replacement. This trickles downhill from the vice president to the attorney general to family members, up to but not including the new FBI director, Christopher Wray.

In my mind, the politically neutral Wray can be trusted and should rightly assume the presidency until a suitable replacement can be confirmed by Congress.

It will be a history making event to be sure, but just about everything regarding this administration has been an unprecedented fiasco. What, besides our planet and our freedoms do we have to lose?

The silver lining in all this lies in the fact that our democracy will prevail and the systems of checks and balances created 240 years ago, but only recently tested to the limit, will have succeeded as it was designed to by the Constitution’s original framers.

That knowledge alone will bring all Americans together, with an unprecedented level of confidence not seen in at least six months.

Now, Trump’s downfall is imminent. Americans will finally decide enough is enough and pressure our elected officials to make it happen. We’ll let them know it’s okay to delay actual legislative work until this very threat to our democracy is, as Senator Bernie Sanders put it “exposed for the fraud he is.”

But Trump will have to save face and somehow spin the entire situation in his favor. Here’s what I believe Trump thinks will happen:

Trump may believe that being president is just like everything else that’s been handed to him on a silver platter.

Since he didn’t actually win the presidency he won’t feel any sense of true ownership of the idea unless, of course, it serves him somehow. Each passing day is proof of this.

When Trump’s had enough: That’s all folks!, Lights out!, c’est la vie!, easy come, easy go!, etc., he’ll think it’s over, just because he says so.

He’ll instinctively turn his back and walk away from the presidency because he thinks it’s become too “unfair” or “wrong” or “fake/phony.”

Going back to golfing and the Old Boys locker room to brag about beating Crooked Hillary in 2016 will-and has always been-his fallback. It will, I’m afraid, be the only real evidence of foresight he’ll have shown as president.

I don’t believe the American people, many of whom he’s slighted and all of whom he’s betrayed, will allow Trump to escape unscathed. Many will not see him as an ex-president.

Rather, he will have been exactly what he’s always been – a fraud, one who happened to have found a way to become elected president through illicit means.

Trump, I think, will be exposed, as will his sycophantic army of self important buffoons, tax returns and all.

The story will be covered only in general terms by the great papers, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Denver Post, etc. that broke the story in the first place. Anything further would be beneath the dignity of these publications to print.

Instead, the lurid details would be reserved for publications with which Trump is best known and most comfortable.

Like the revelations of his campaign advisers’ illicit meetings with Russian interests, sensationalist details will leak out drip by precious drip.

But Trump will not bitch about “leakers” this time, for his face will make the front page for as long as the Enquirer can milk it, and then some.

He’ll eat up the attention like the beautiful Syrian Missile Cake he enjoyed while sending 59 Tomahawks to Syria without interrupting dessert at a Trump-branded property.

And he’ll get to say ad nauseum “Buy Ivanka’s fashion clothing!” without having to rely on Kellyanne Conway to say it instead.

And speaking of, perhaps she and Steve Bannon will make a love connection and, as Bruce Springsteen puts it “…disappear down Flamingo Lane.”

The exposés will make screaming headlines on the cover of the National Inquirer throughout supermarkets all across America.

They will provide unprecedented sales figures, of the sort Trump himself lives for. There will be no fact checkers to second-guess his outlandish claims and, in fact, such wild statements will be encouraged by the editorial staff.

Meanwhile, gleeful tabloid publishers newly awash in unprecedented sums of cash will redefine the term “hand over fist” in ways they’d only dreamed of.

All those previous covers of the National Enquirer blaring headlines about Donald and Marla that were so 80’s will seem bland by comparison.

Perhaps these front page headlines will become the latest framed curiosities adorning the walls of his country clubs.

Only then will Donald Trump, the greatest legend in his own mind ever, believe me, will be left to fade away into obscurity, where he belongs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blog Stew - with Real Avocados 🥑 🥑 July 18, 2017

Evidently, the desperation in Senator Mitch McConnell’s anxiety-ridden mind these days is contagious. Getting something, anything down is something Ol’ Mitch is unlikely to ever get. But I'm no Mitch McConnell. Since I don't need a House majority to do anything, I've made a unilateral Executive Decision to write something, anything down here. Still, a little explanation for my recent absence from this page is in order. After all, eleven days is a long time for a creative mind like mine to be lurking in God-knows-where.

It’s not for lack of interest or because I don’t feel like writing anymore or because I’m out playing golf, any of which are typical reasons Donald Trump uses when he plays hooky.

Rather, I’m in the midst of two other projects now and this blog, to which I love contributing, has temporarily taken a backseat.

For now, I’m best described sometimes as "sharp as a bowling ball," or pretty much as articulate and diplomatic as the president himself. "Look. I’m here, you’re here and neither of us have any idea what I am about to say.  All you know is that you are in for something great, I can tell you that. Believe me."

Which does, in fact, sound just like something the president would say. But he’s an easy target and, as something of a news junkie lately I’d hate to riddle any of my writing with satirical and morbid-but-often-true cathartic cheap shots directed at our poor excuse of a president, I can tell you that. Believe me.

But I will anyway. It’s a great way to blow off some steam from the harsh reality of American politics, aka “outright vitriol” and warm up my writing for the writing I’ll do later.

And, speaking of warming up, it was 105 degrees in my thirty foot mobile command center, which I’ve dubbed The Leisure Seeker, after a fun novel about aging by the same name.

So stick around, won’t you? This could be a fun way for you to kill a little time when you quite likely should be doing something else, like your laundry or vacuuming or even doing some writing of your own.

This last one is how I came to enjoy The Leisure Seeker in the first placeAfter all, I reasoned, just reading work I like is a sufficient warmup for my own writing if I focus enough on each and every word.

But I’ve never been a very good liar, not nearly good enough to one day become president (ouch!), so I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy reading for its own sake. Hopefully, that’s the very reason you are here right now. If so, I want you to know I appreciate your time and invite you to stay ‘til the end.

Speaking of lousy liars, the president’s son revealed one major genetic difference with his elder namesake, Donald, Sr. when displaying a weak succession of stories, each one worse than the previous story about an illicit meeting he and his father’s campaign advisers had in June, 2016.

It seems the meeting was with Russkies who came bearing gifts for his dad. Actually, they claimed to be bearing dirt, the kind that, if a little water were added, would turn into mud they could readily sling at the Clinton campaign.

But Don Jr’s not the Teflon Don his father is, and his guilty expression conjured up images of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Except this “kid” is a 39 year old father of two who met with officials from a government hostile to the US in an attempt to collude with them to ensure the outcome of his father's presidential campaign.

There probably wasn’t a cookie jar anywhere in sight, and I highly doubt cookies or milk were served at this meeting, either. But it brings me to an esoteric point I'll try to explain. Don't worry, I'm not going to get all serious on you.

For some reason, I feel as if I’ve been bestowed with the gift of seeing how people may have acted as kids just by looking into their eyes as they talk.

It’s a big part of what makes me a news junkie, I think, for watching people recount their version of things-anything-offers a glimpse into their human side.

Perhaps it’s because I am seeking to become more aware of my own humanity and watching others offers me a baseline of comparison. Okay, so I did get all serious on you, but like Don Jr. said of his controversial meeting, it was only for a minute and it didn't make any sense. But I'm back now.

My observations are nothing if not fun, and given the heaviness of the news headlines lately a little fun is worth it’s weight. Like my mental image of Don Jr.’s face as he fibbed toon camera he ultra-sympathetic Sean Hannity of Fox News.

The Trumps make no secret of their heavy dependence upon Fox TV News which, I believe, they liken to a sort of invisible shield, picking up where their legal counsel leaves off, defending their wanton wrongdoing and placating their notoriously fragile egos.

But I’ve noticed that if I put aside the gravity, the true and utter seriousness of the infractions with which Don Jr's clearly complicit, I can see something else.

Don Jr’s nodding head symbolized not his certainty that he wasn’t lying, but his uncertainty as to what his lying might mean this time.

For once, his father wasn’t there to protect him from himself, and he had no weight of his own to throw around to get him out of his predicament. He was only compounding his guilt, as he found himself standing on completely unknown ground.

In the absence of anything else, Don Jr fell back on the default setting he’d learned while growing up. It was time for the Break Only In Event Of Emergency solution which simply meant to keep denying everything.

I don’t mean this to sound quite so serious any more than I’d imply this is a circumstance worthy of levity. In fact, it’s the sheer seriousness of it all that chiseled away Don Jr’s confident façade, complete with $2000 suit, silk tie, etc. until I could see nothing left but a scared little boy.

His hand was caught in the cookie jar, all right, and though little boys might fear a spanking, this scared little boy had no idea what he was in for this time.

In the sudden absence of a man nearing middle age I saw a nervous schoolboy, standing as if at the head of the class, palms sweaty and paper in hand.

Flash back thirty years and there the boy stands, nervously reading: “What I would do if I were elected president, by Donald J Trump, Jr.”

Quite an image, to be sure and, if I recall correctly it was Don Jr who, on the eve his father clinched the nomination exhorted about how much of a rush politics brought.

I also recall thinking that his take on things then was a lot like what I’d expect from someone who’d just tried skydiving or a zip line through the jungle and survived to tell the tale. The novelty this poor little rich boy felt would wear off and it’d be on to the next exciting adventure for him.

Not so far his more predictable father, and I say this with tongue in cheek, of course; there is nothing predictable about the senior Trump.

As we all are painfully aware, Mr. Trump should’ve stuck to doing what he does best, pretending to be a truck driver.

An adroit and skillful statesman never has been and never will be Trump hallmarks; such traits are not compatible with anyone who relies as heavily on bullying as Trump does.

The current Republican inability to pass sweeping healthcare reform, which is a nightmare in the making for me and over 20+ million other Americans is a laughable yet telling statement on Trump’s inability to lead the country.

Though the bill is dead in the water now, many of us still might have reason to fear for the future of our healthcare.

But with Trump somehow conspicuously out of the White House, no American would have to also face the indignity of being represented by the emotional and intellectual equivalent of a pouty third grader who has to go to bed early because it’s a school night.

But trump’s wannabe oligarch ambitions have required some creative subterfuge on the part of disobedient subjects who insist on contradicting his highness’ whims.

Like so many unruly schoolchildren, contrary leaders all across the country are dusting off their grade school “Oops-I-forgot-my-homework” CYA  game. A few cases in point:

Pull out of the Paris Climate Accord? “Go ahead, smart guy,” an army of state governors and major city mayors think, we’ll circumvent the White House by contacting the other sovereign nations still in the accord and pledge to uphold it anyway.

This may reflect poorly on these lower level political leaders but not nearly as much as it does on Trump which, of course, means everything to him. Something tells me that, if he’s able to pull his head out of the sand trap on one of his golf courses Trump will have us back in the Paris Accord in no time.

How about Trump’s esteemed Ban on Muslims? Or his tiresome yet persistent attempts to roll back Obama-era ecological protections, financial caveats and social legislation? Or pursue any self-interest he sees fit no matter what much it flies in the face of common sense?

Then, as if by way of explanation Trump, who proclaimed himself the anti-establishment candidate now, as president merely tweets “that’s politics!”

But Trump sure has provided plenty of grist for the late night humor mills. His  chronic insecurity has led to a strange propensity for creating demeaning nicknames for everyone who earns his disfavor. That’s a lot of nicknames.

As fate would have it, there are a lot of comedy writers who are willing to match him stride for stride in that department. Because he’s made it clear that nothing’s sacred to him, he’s become fair game himself.

So has his family (the Russian ones, too), his non-family advisers (both of them), his few cabinet members (quality not quantity) and, my favorite, his legal team. Well, those who are willing to risk being disbarred and engage in anonymous, late-night email battles laced with profanity and ending, finally, with the word? “Bro.” On a school night, no less.

Perhaps all those wily comedy writers are every bit as insecure as Trump is. However, as he’s so fond of saying “I’m president and you’re not.”
That makes him, not the comedy writers the visible one.

The comics themselves sometimes find they’re on the front line, trapped somewhere between giving the people what we want-like his head on a platter-and his eggshell-fragile ego.

Not all comics, like Kathy Griffin who was recently seen holding a likeness of Trump’s bloodied, severed head are as easily intimidated and destroyed with the stroke of your executive pen, the same one he is still holding as he sits at his desk, waiting for a healthcare bill that will never come.

Thanks to Donald Trump St, however, I’m finding some women quite attractive I’d never have guessed I would before. For example, I’ve become a card-carrying, lifelong member of the Kathy Griffin Fan Club.

Now, she’s no “Low IQ Mika” as you might say but, after some thought I’ve decided I would donate every penny of my meager income to help her resume her career if she’d only agree to love me forever. All because I can’t stand Donald Trump.

Or Rachel Maddow, who is absolutely spellbinding with her witty articulation of Trump’s latest foibles. Even though it’s said that the camera makes a person look taller, something tells me I’ve still got at least a foot on her.

But, unlike me, she’s still got both her arms, so I figure that evens things out. Do you think she’d agree? Well, to quote former FBI Director Jim Comey “Lordy, I sure hope so…”

Anyway, the reason I said I wouldn’t likely ever be attracted to these women ever before is because, had it not been for our current, illustrious chief executive I’d never had occasion to watch their shows or hear of their work. Goodie for me, and maybe lucky for them, I guess.

In closing, I’d simply like to say that, though I’m not desperate to create content for this or any blog, I’ve felt a little remiss for not posting sooner.

However, it’s been so dang hot- 105 degrees today- and it promises to continue as such that indoor cooking, save for this blog stew is not permitted.

This blog, then, will not have regularly scheduled postings, but impromptu entries as weather permits.

Thank you for joining me-have a wonderful night!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

An old familiar feeling rears its ugly head.

Today was a watershed day, a day when I took a new old mindset, one I've had for nearly five years now, and replaced it with a new, new mindset.

In a word, I'm talking about pain.

And when it comes to pain, I usually need look no further than my mountain bike. Let me be direct: I am not a mountain biker. In fact, I can't stand mountain biking.

Today I hit the ground-the asphalt, that is, with a force unlike any I've had since my accident with a car back in 2012.

Of course, back then I was knocked senseless for a long, long time. It wasn't like that today. Worst part? It was completely avoidable; I had a puncture in my front tire that slowly but surely softened it up.

When I came off the trail at ride’s end, I thought I'd ask a fellow who was stretching out before his trail run. I saw no one else was there to do it, and he seemed nice enough to take a moment for me.

As I passed him, I sharply turned to go back, but guess what? The front tire gave way. I looked down at it just in time to see it crinkle up at the sidewall and wash out.

Bang! Just like that, I fell flat on my stomach and chest, with my left shoulder taking much of the brunt of the impact.

During that fall to the ground, I'd had that nanosecond to realize that a sudden impact with the ground was inevitable, and that it was going to hurt. Just how much it would hurt was TBD. But I wasn't worried; I'd know in a moment or so.

Sure enough, when I hit the pavement it did hurt. Imagine that! At first, I just lay there. What the hell else could I do except to prepare to assess the damage.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I remembered a nagging thought that sometimes got into my head: When a human body hits the ground it's the body that gives, not the ground.

So much for thinking happy thoughts. Then I realized two additional things: First, someone had witnessed the crash and, if I didn't move soon he might understandably think I am dead.

Second, I remembered that I'm on a blood thinner and that I'd better have a look at my legs right quick. My knees and shins were most certainly scraped up, and were actually already scraped from another (equally avoidable) crash two days prior.

Nothing like scraping scabbed-over skin, I always say. Expecting the worst, I looked with trepidation at my legs. The fact that I could stand was a good thing I thought, for it meant they were at least still attached.

Somehow I expected more blood, given the violence of the crash. But to the young man who was warming up for his trail run I was a hospital case. “Want me to call 911?” he asked.

“Sonofabitch” was all I said in response, “all I wanted was a goddamn picture or two…” as if that explained everything.

Then I regained my composure somewhat and said “I apologize for being so vulgar...but this fucking hurts!”, then we both laughed and he knew I was okay.

“I'm on a blood thinner,” I said, “and any cut looks worse than it really is.” Then I mentioned how much of a drag sleeping that night was going to be. I'd have sticky wounds covered with triple-a ointment that would adhere to the sheets, likely to break open and begin bleeding again.

But that actually didn't matter, as my shoulder-which had been surprisingly pain free all day as I iced it suddenly took on an evil life of it's own.

The pain was so great that I knew immediately I wasn't going to sleep a wink that night. That realization came early, too, about 12:30 a.m.

Throughout the night I heard myself uttering sounds I'd never heard come out of me or any living thing before. I tried to limit the number of times I glanced at the clock, for I know nothing elongates time more than clock-watching.

The pain transcended “acute”. It was what I could only call profound pain, the kind that made me wonder in my painful yet sleepy haze if it wouldn't have been better to have met my maker all those years ago, in my major crash.

Mercifully, the morning finally came. I heard my next door neighbor leave for work and knew I'd have plenty of room to pull my RV out and head to the hospital.

The x-rays showed nothing was broken, that all the moving parts were fine. The pain I was experiencing was simply nerve pain unlike any I'd ever felt.

I left with a muscle relaxer from the pharmacy-the best seventy-seven cents I've ever spent-and went back to the RV and promptly fell asleep. Slowly but surely, the pain subsided, and I never felt better.

Still, I will always hate mountain biking, with good reason. Case in point.

I can't wait for my next ride. It's just too bad it has to be on my mountain bike again.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sympathy for the devil?

Many times I have made entries into this blog about the president, Donald Trump.

In them, I represented my thoughts on all of his negative shenanigans. I mentioned how I saw in him someone in emboldened with audacity unlike any we've seen since Nixon.

His daughter I imagine to be self-important and arrogant, armed with a sense of superiority and a “What's in it for me?” mentality. His two elder sons transcend even that, though their facade of machismo is clearly a put-on, awkward display of young guys who were doing their best to emulate their father.

The youngest son just seems confused much of the time, though lately he seems to be doing better in his public appearances, waving on cue and with a certain sense of purpose now. I say “Good for him,” because he must've felt caught in a whirlwind enough prior to his father's presidency, let alone in front of throngs of people.

The daughter, a deified being probably most of her life is fairly transparent now.  Despite her “do-gooding” plans to make the world a better place, never mind the constant faucet of cyber bullying that is her father and the overworked sweatshop employees who make her self-labeled “Ivanka” clothing line, the hypocrisy is easy to see.

It's the oldest two sons that concern me most, for it appears they've been groomed in the manner of their father. Could they have been pitted against each other since day one, hoping to earn their father's approval?

Quite likely, and therein lies the trouble; their father's approval, like his approach to the presidency, is a nebulous, ever changing thing, and it's equally likely that it's always been that way, by design.

His father likes people trying to cater to his whims, be it an FBI Director whose loyalty he's seeking to the boys who have, at least in name, been entrusted with running their father's true love, his business empire.

But in all seriousness, I still see two boys struggling to win their father's acceptance, for I see in their eyes a look of doubt. It's not a gaze that demonstrates the doubt of a sudden, embarrassing moment. Rather it's the look of a lifetime of doubt, of trying yet never quite achieving the holy grail that their father has dangled before them since forever.

It's a look I find scary, to the point where imagining them both in crisp SS uniforms, replete with the Nazi armband and hat that displays superiority over anyone who's not equally and conspicuously garbed.

The icy coldness in the eyes of his son-in-law Jared Kushner personifies the Nazi prototype. Condemning hundreds of men, women and children to a horrible death in a gas chamber and the torture of hundreds more could easily be seen as all in a day’s work to him.

Kushner could, in fact be the standard by which Trump measures his sons, and a bitter rivalry imprisons them all through which no possibility of productive cooperation exists.

Regardless, it's Trump himself who is the subject of my comments today. In dropping all the people who kowtow to him, and all of his sycophants vying for his approval, each of them starving for Trump’s attention no matter what they might have to say to get it Trump is more readily visible as someone with a serious internal struggle.

In saying this, I don't mean to say “He acts and behaves like a grade school kid because of  X.”

No, I'm not coming from that place now at all. If you're looking to read that sort of thing, I refer you to any of a number of outright cathartic expressions of my frustration with him.

Rather, in see in the elder Trump today a look in his eyes that's reminiscent of the look in his own sons. It's very, very worn, maybe to a point where many of us can also see it but refute it, lest it become an admission that our own self-doubt is visible, too.

But, as Trump himself is fond of saying, he's the president and we're not. The look in Trump’s eyes is important when you consider the caliber of people with whom he must consort on an international level.

Do you see doubt in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau Angela Merkel or others?

Perhaps, but they don't have what Trump has when it comes to his self-doubt; an overwhelming amount of invectives directed to people he believes exist solely to impugn and belittle him. He calls it “Fake news.”

Trump is wholly unable to mask his fearful, inner presence with an outer persona that exudes confidence and, yes, congeniality. What went wrong with him then, that leads him to act impulsively and then stand behind whatever train wreck he's just created?

Well, I believe there are two reasons for this. First, Trump is an only child. As such, he had to bear the full weight of his father's attention, and it wasn't always the confidence-building experience that a young boy needs to become a balanced person.

That is, someone who could be counted on to assume some degree of accountability for his actions. Trump’s penchant for directing blame for his own actions toward others is an indication that his past involved considerable scapegoating by his own father, by design.

Further, Trump learned early on that true Love is based upon the bedrock of CYA in whatever form is necessary, for he might later be required to come up with an explanation for his actions.

All the bankruptcies are prime evidence of this, as is his necessity for having a personal attorney on retainer at all times, ready to spin away any blame by Trump for anything and, in fact, he should be suing you for damages.

It's a strategy that's worked for him all his life, in the private sector. Life as an elected public official, which is what the presidency is at its very core, would never settle for such behavior.

It's a big reason why Trump lamented in an interview in January that he “misses his old life,” and that he “didn't think being president would be this hard.”

His statements are born out of the inner doubt he's never been able to shake. The wounded child inside wants to fight back, but the adult part of his thinking asserts that it'd be futile to do so, for he'd then be exposed as for what he is-merely human.

It's what happens, I believe, when a young person is taught the ways of the world and then is left on his own to assimilate and interpret what he sees. The lenses of a child, then, are not sharp enough to really distinguish wrong from right, good from bad, or even inside from outside.

But an outsider is what Trump has both always been and what he fancies himself now, and the wealth in which he's always been endowed has enabled his thinking to include, even require kowtowing sycophants who reinforce the notion that he never does wrong and, perhaps most important, that he's always right.

To phrase it in terms that Trump himself is fond of using, “Sad!” I truly feel sorry for this scared old man who's found himself in charge of such an important operation- running the US government. I wish him the inner peace he's always wanted but still has yet to find.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

An Intimate Peek Inside Family Scapegoating

The following post was written with the simple idea of preparing some notes in anticipation of the EMDR therapy I plan to begin this month.

It's a highly intimate look at my past, something I hadn't intended to share. But knowing that my story isn't unique, that others have walked a similar path before me and that others will follow, it might have some relevance to you or someone you love.

Simply point, I am the scapegoat of my immediate and extended

There is no consulting them or talking with them about anything that's happened long ago, not even to find out if our memories of certain times are remotely similar. The denial, guilt and shame run too deep and too strong, and doing so would imply that something did, indeed happen.

For me, it's not a case of if something happened, but what it was.

I am the oldest of four, and seven years older than my next sibling, a sister. There's a total of fourteen years between myself and my youngest sibling. There were, of course, no witnesses to what happened before they were born.

Given my position as firstborn, and that my parents were around age 21 when I was born, there was a great deal they had yet to do and to learn before really being capable of starting a family.

Career, marital commitment, and numerous other basics needed to be established before a child should have been interjected into the mix.

The Catholic religion also figured heavily into my upbringing.

I knew my father's parents, and his siblings. His father was the patriarch, a native Mexican understandable that the same dynamicdEnglish. His mother was an emotionally distant person who never seemed to let her feelings show.

If my grandfather was anything like my own father, it'd be understandable that the same dynamic existed for me. Sucking the very energy out of me was my father's specialty, and he must've learned how to do it from someone.

I remember my grandmother as always having a cigarette in her mouth, flipping tortillas on an open flame on the stove. I always wondered how she did that without burning her fingers. To me, the sight of it was so scary that it's still the most prominent memory, besides the cigarette I have of her.
She was of decidedly European descent, as evidenced by that generation's identity-food. Stuffed cabbage and the like was not a mainstay of many Hispanic menus, I'd think, but there she was, cooking Mexican food for my grandfather.

My mental image of my mother's mother, on the rare times I saw her, was always that of a physical mess that belied the person beneath. Her hair was usually a tangled mess, and she had sort of wild-eyed, absent gaze. I knew from an early age that she "wasn't all there,"whatever that meant to a kid my age.

My insecure father, who had a cruel and demeaning nickname for just about everyone, simply referred to my mother's mother as "cuckoo" or the like, with never a protest from my mother.

This was how and where I learned to relate to family.

My mother spoke little of her mother, at least that I recall, given that she was from the city and we lived in the suburbs. She had her reasons for this.

My mother, if she truly was raised by a cuckoo, understandably wanted to leave her own childhood behind. But I know from my own experience that it takes more than geographic distance.

Whatever traumas my mother endured as a kid went unresolved, and she is in a state of denial about them to this day.

I've come to see, based on years of watching her as I grew up, that my mother is what any reasonable person would also consider "cuckoo.”

Both of my parents are in their early 70s.

It's understandable then, that since my parents were at an age when they had yet to come to terms with their own youthful traumas, that I would serve as a reminder to them of how they once were.

Back then, in the blue collar house in which I grew up in a white collar neighborhood, the idea of childhood trauma was not something people addressed, even though most of us dealt with it.

Plus, both my parents believed that, because they bought a home in a lily white suburban, they would identify with people who "had money."

They believed affluence was contagious, and that becoming wealthy would happen just by “rubbing shoulders” with the right people.

This became evident as my oldest younger sister was encouraged to meet and marry an engineer because they associated someone with an engineering degree as someone who would "have money."

Though I didn't realize it then, my being good at English with an interest also in the arts was a shameful curse, as were my abysmal grades in math and lack of interest in the sciences.

Their myopic template in mind, my parents sent the ongoing, largely unspoken message to me that I was someone, at least in their eyes, who would never "have money." They truly believed timagehaving money" is the measure of success.

Therefore, given that I never excelled at math, I never took a place in their mind as someone who would be successful. It was inconceivable to them.

In that sense, I suppose they were, like me, counting down the days until I turned eighteen and became old enough to leave the house for good. Then they'd be free to focus their energies on my siblings, in the hope that one of them would be a "success."

As it turned out, my oldest younger sister married an engineer who, by all appearances, is a salesman with an engineering background. In the eyes of my parents and, I suppose, my sister too, their long-held beliefs are vindicated by this.

“Why,” they wonder still, couldn't I fill that mold, too, and just listen to them and “get with the program?” But “the program” is a nebulous term for something that doesn't exist and, perhaps other than laying the groundwork for future scapegoating, serves no purpose.

By my definition, my sister’s family is neither successful nor happy. In being so superficial, they are not living a genuine life. But, my sister's first true love and, I believe her only real marriage, is that of her own reflection in the mirror.

Sounds harsh, maybe, but my strongest memory of her is just that; staring incessantly into the mirror, a look of intense admiration on her face as she used a curling iron to sculpt her hair into the "big hair" style of the 80's.  life is as sincere as can be. In the absence of any reason to think otherwise, superficiality is all that's ever mattered.

But even after only a brief glimpse of her on social media, I can tell my sister is the dominant partner, her husband the meek, claymation father/husband type.

They have two girls who are obviously clones of each other, products of my sister's idea of what a little girl should be like, and the cycle of codependence likely continues.

My little brother never went to college, and lives somewhere in Texas, with a woman who has a child – or children - of her own. Though I've never met him as an adult, I believe he lives an enigmatic life, well away from the mighty stress he must've had all his young life to live up to his father's expectations.

By my parent's definition as I knew it, he would not be a "financial success." But because he resembles my father's side of the family, he had my father's approval all along, a mini-me, if you will, of someone my father could mold into a perfect clone of himself. The "get with the program" directive never applied to him, for he was like my father, and my father could never admit that perhaps he might fall short of his own "program."

And though my dad never seemed to like his own father, he nicknamed my little brother "Mexican Mike." My ex-wife saw him on Facebook and said that he looks like a bodybuilder, so I'm inclined to believe the voice resonating inside his head is my father's, repeatedly encouraging my brother to maintain that image of "Mexican Mike."

Being Mexican Mike was my brother's "program."

Being a physical specimen is, in my dad's eyes, and in my dad's mind based on his youth, a "success" in itself.

My baby sister, an accomplished athlete who earned a scholarship playing volleyball in college, also had my dad's support all along.

Her college attendance coincided with my father's retirement from the steel mills of Pittsburgh, which were closing down for good in the 90's.

My father had been paying into his retirement through his steelworkers union, so in this since he considered himself "successful."

The same is true of my mother in her teacher's union. She worked in that capacity for many years after my father retired. I don't believe that my mother ever forgot my father's cheating on her, and their marriage was distant at best, but most likely cold.

In this regard, I believe the relationship I had with my own mother could be defined as the same way. I had witnessed firsthand the problems they had early on in their marriage.

In fact, I can recall my mother getting me out of the car and taking me by the hand to confront my father red-handed with "the other woman."

She evidently learned of their clandestine meeting and, like I witnessed her doing many times thereafter in different stressful situations, she rushed headlong into the breach as if knowing she'd come out unscathed.

.Regarding the other woman, my mother must've wanted to take proof that her husband, the man she was cheating with, was also a father.

As if my father had nothing to do with his infidelity. But placing blame on others for things that were their responsibility was an ongoing theme with them.

Like me; I wasn't a poor student or bad this or that because of their positive guidance, I simply refused to “get with the program.” After all, they moved us to a white collar neighborhood; what more could I require?

I see now that, despite the toll it took on their marriage, my parents were never that close anyway.

My mother actually blamed my father's infidelity, for instance, on his love interest, rather than her inability to be the intimate partner my father needed.

In so many words, in my father's eyes, his unspoken thought of my mother was that she was just a stubborn bitch. To my mother, my father was a selfish, childlike kid, stuck in his teenage mindset, who only wanted to get buzzed and get laid by any woman he found attractive.

The great level of insecurity they both held allowed for this, and is a strong reflection of the parental role models they'd had.

What's more, their stubborn belief in the church's mandate to stay married at all costs no matter how much hell it creates for all involved merely cemented their limited view of each other.

These governing dynamics, at first, did not include my mother. But my father's Catholic religion, which she adopted however, dictated that marriage is a lifetime institution and that, no matter what happened, a couple would remain together forever.

But that was back when the masses took for gospel everything a bunch of celibate grown men in robes -with an eye for little boys, no less.

Turning a blind eye to pedophilia and sodomy of young boys also became a running theme with my father, and led me to a greater understanding of him later.

If he could turn the other cheek, as it were, to a priest in his own parish molesting altar boys, one of whom was a friend of mine then, in his mind, no indignity would have been too great to perpetrate on me. As a kid, I was too young to see this; as an adult, it became painfully obvious.

There were at least two other prominent examples of such abusive behavior by priests, four if you include the pope’s second in command recently found responsible for multiple counts of molesting young boys.

This knowledge is cold comfort to me, knowing that if it came down to it and I were molested by a priest, my parents would side with their church and likely ask me what I did to cause it.

As a married couple, my parents epitomized the phrase "for better or for worse," with the latter dictating most of their lives, even today.

As an adult, I'm aware of this because I carried these traits of both juvenile selfishness and a pious inability to be close to others.

Neither of these traits are conducive to healthy relationships of any kind. Other adults, most of whom are blissfully ignorant of such things between each other, aren't readily affected by such things.

But a kid looking up to his parents for guidance is a sponge, soaking in the behaviors and beliefs of his elders. They, in turn stand a strong chance of replicating these behaviors for their kids, etc.

Despite the modeling I acquired from my parents, never was I given the benefit of the doubt for any trouble I encountered. All kids, as part of the process of life eventually encounter trouble: With the teacher, the neighbor, the bus driver, etc.

However, I was given little latitude in making such mistakes, and I made some good ones. Anything, any problems, up to and including the dissolution of both of my marriages to a recent wrongful accusation of assault in the desert in order to save my service dog's life were automatically my own doing. No questions were asked because, in their minds, I would never be a "success" and it was only a matter of time until problems beset me again, thus validating their myopia.

I have never expected nor received an apology from either of them for their behavior regarding the harsh lessons I learned from them in the form of very physical punishments.

For my part, as an older adult I sometimes feel profound guilt and regret for how I have treated the countless others who inexplicably received my close friendship one day, and the next day my total indifference t

I have literally, like the flip of a switch, turned my back and walked away from relationships without looking back. No amount of closeness with others mattered in this regard.

In fact, the closer I was to people, the more likely I was to turn my back and walk away for good.

This, I believe, is a function of having been punished by way of being grounded so often as a kid, sometimes for months at a time, like school summer vacation.

At such times I was literally deprived of any contact with friends or peers or anyone outside of my home under the fear of physical retribution – beating – by my father.

My mother stood by and watched while all this happened, never saying a word on my defense. She only admonished me further.

The basis for it all was, unsurprisingly, my failure to “get with the program.”

The closest thing I ever saw to my father's ability to care for another living thing was when he showed up at my house five years ago, right after I nearly died in my bicycle accident.

He had with him a toy-sized Jack Russell terrier and carried it everywhere in an oh-so-gentle way, as if it were a fragile basket of eggs.

Like a little girl with a Barbie doll, he gently set it down on the couch and proceeded to lovingly and meticulously clothe it in a little sweater. He buttoned it up slowly, as if he had so much love inside of him that he had to direct it toward something, somehow.

But it didn't fool anyone and it reflected so poorly on him. Despite my wife's knowledge of my violent past with him, it was my father's last attempt at covering up what he'd done to me as a kid.

His transparency was something my wife picked up on immediately, and it told her everything she needed to know about my past, including the audacity he’d shown with his little performance with the tiny dog.

"I don't know why you ever even talk to those people," she told me a few years afterward.

I know why, though; it's because I know I'm a good person and somehow have a distorted belief that I can - and still need to  earn their approval so as to vindicate myself.

All of my thinking along these lines, however, merely furthers their deep-seated guilt and strengthens my role in the family as scapegoat.

Like the catholic bishop accused of molesting altar boys ex post facto, my parents claim they're too old to be confronted with such thoughts that shouldn't bother them any longer.

But, like the altar boys who've been violated, I haven't been subordinated so completely by them that I'll-like them-deny it ever happened let alone forget about it.

To that effect, now that neither of my parents are sexual beings, driven by their hormones, they both have taken an asexual, outright condescending view of me.

The stress of their having to maintain a pretense of being physically aroused by each other, like a great weight, has been lifted.

They've survived their marriage, albeit a stormy one, and now feel free to sit back and judge others. It's the perfect time to direct those ever-available scapegoating energies.

I bought into their way of thinking of myself that way and sometimes still do.
Because of the toxicity of my own thinking at my age, I do not have a dialogue with them.

And though I could never articulate what exactly was wrong with my parental relationship all along, I have not had a dialogue with them for decades now.
Whatever happened then was enough to push me away from them for my own safety forever.

My absence from their lives, of course, made it easy for them to vilify me and place me in the role of scapegoat.
Essentially, whatever they did wrong became my fault.

Just like the sociopathic kid in the desert who accused me of assault when I stood up for my right to not have my service dog on a leash because I only have one arm, what he did wrong also became my fault.

Further, the young kid's transparency via the lies he concocted to further vilify me in the eyes of the law make my own parent's motives much easier to see.

Both situations are injustices, but on a relative scale, these injustices aren't as bad as those others face.
I'm not the only person who fails to “get with the program.”

But that's no comfort to me, given that the greatest injustice I face now is in my own lack of self-worth, self-confidence, and inability to believe that I'll ever be successful.

My goal of EMDR treatment, then, is to finally put a face and a name on my past traumas so that I may finally be able to create an identity for myself and to move forward down the path I was meant to follow all along.

Out of respect for myself and for those who may be or have already experienced emotional and physical abuse and/or scapegoating in their family, I am making my own story available for review by anyone who's compelled to read it.

Given my belief that EMDR holds the key to my healing, I will keep this blog updated on my progress as it occurs.