Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wasted on the Young

The odors that drift into my nose when I walk along the sand and broken shell that form the beach by the bay are mixtures of ecstacy and horror. They recall the sweet stench of adolescence and petroleum distillates and salt air that seemed somehow natural when I was a teen. The pelicans gliding inches above the water early in the morning and the sense of an intimate, private relationship with nature as the sun begins to lighten the sky with pink and orange and brilliant blue tints bring my youth into vivid focus.

I remember fishing and shrimping and sailing in those waters. I remember the delight of walking home, carying a stringer heavy with the huge flounder I caught the night before after an all-night fishing expedition on Oso Pier. And I recall the night that the speckled trout were so thick in the waters below that my friends and I each took home at least forty or fifty big ones. And I remember driving to Padre Island, when I was in my late teens, going miles down the utterly deserted beach to stake my claim to my private fishing area where I knew no one else would come. It was the desolation of the beach at daybreak and sunset that I craved.

Just a quick trip to my hometown made me homesick, thirty-six years later. I want to go home again. I missed out on so much because I was so young. Youth is wasted, wasted I tell you, on the young!

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Long, Long Time

The economy is in a massive tailspin. I have mixed feelings...while I'd like to punish the bastards who caused this fiasco, I don't want to do it at the expense of all of us. I'm ready to retire, but that's not bloody likely for a long, long while.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Now...About Palin

I got back home last night, but I'm leaving again today for another meeting, this time in Corpus Christi, TX. It's a short trip; I come back on Tuesday afternoon. I'll have Wednesday and most of the day Thursday to catch up on work I've missed since I left town last Tuesday. Then, another obligation...manning a trade show booth with a member of my staff, Friday through Sunday.

And then maybe I'll relax for awhile...but, not long, as I have another client board meeting coming up the weekend of October 25, so I have to prepare for that and then experience it in all its joy and excitement.

This morning, clothes are in the washer as I pack for my trip...don't know what I would have done if I had kept to the original schedule, which would have gotten me home about noon today before my outbound 3:00 pm flight.

No time for our normal Sunday lunch wanderings today. Typically, we'd look for a character-laden dive where we could get something unusual but tasty. Today, though, we'll eat in...BLTs, which I love more than life itself, made even better with the addition (on mine, anyway) of jalapeños.

Now...about Palin. I watched SNL last night, only because I wanted to see Tina Fey's mockery of the Vice Presidential nominee. It was hysterical. But it was nothing compared to the real thing; I watched a video this morning of the Couric interview and laughed until I cried. Republicans are calling for her replacement and I fully understand why. If she doesn't get some serious training between now and Thursday's debate, she's going to be the most incredible embarrassment the world has ever seen.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

I'm not one to go gah-gah over movie stars. Actors just don't impress me, at least not any more than anyone else impresses me. So when a famous actor dies, I generally don't get teary-eyed. I didn't KNOW them, for god's sake!

Today, it was different. It wasn't just an actor who died, it was Paul Newman. He seemed so genuinely real to me that I always felt that his acting was no act; he was revealing part of himself. I wasn't a nut-case fan; I didn't have to see a movie just because he was in it, I never tried to meet him, I never even thought about trying to get an autograph. But I did consider him to be a very special actor and I have always held him in high regard, both for his acting and for his humanitarian efforts.

Earlier today, when I sat at a bar in the Fort Lauderdale airport, drinking a beer while waiting for my flight, I fought back tears as I read of his death. He was a fine actor and a fine human being.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bad Beach to the Bone

Club Nikki in Miami is a huge rip-off, in my humble opinion. $76 per person for a fucking bad hamburger and two drink tickets for beer or wine. That included transportation from and back to Trump International. Big deal. For that kind of money, I would have expected the waitstaff to take turns being guests' companions or otherwise fulfilling their fantasies. Miami appears, in general, to be overwhelmed by its own trendiness. I heartily recommend staying away from the city...Beach and City, proper...unless you don't mind being overcharged for underperforming services. Spend you money, instead, funding my retirement. I will be money well-spent

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Error: Your Desire Could Not Be Processed

Today screamed by like an atomic clock on nuclear steroids. I woke up at 5:30 to the hotel wake-up call and haven't stopped for long since. It's 9:30 pm now and I just got back to my room half an hour ago.

Granted, the last four hours were spent at a reception where I drank too much white wine and ate too many helpings of made to order Chinese stir-fry, but the day still seemed like a blur.

After spending quite alot of time and energy logging in to my computer at the office and downloading files and updated data, I participated in a couple of high-stress meetings that I would just as soon have avoided. But, of course, had I done that, I wouldn't have had a reason to be here and would not have the client. You adjust your priorities when the need arises.

It occurred to me during a conversation at the reception, that I have failed to communicate, in the least, with the panelists I enlisted to participate in a conversation about emergency preparedness for businesses for which I will serve as moderator. That's a great example of how not to prepare for an emergency; put off all your communication about what's next.

So, I spent a bit of time talking to one guy, saying in effect, "I don't want this to seem rehearsed; I won't ask any really tough or embarrassing questions, I just want the responses to seem unrehearsed. This is going to be a real dialog, not a canned presentation." Right. It will be that, indeed. I haven't spoken to the other two panelists. Have I lost my interest in this, or what?

The thing is, the topic is really of interest to me. Why haven't I prepared to moderate the session? I don't know. I really don't know.

A woman I saw tonight said she had heard that I planned to retire soon. What a wonderful wish. I don't know who told her and she "didn't recall" where she heard it. Maybe I'm being weeded out. Oh, such desire.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If I Were Thinner, I'd Have a Taller Face

I just looked at my visitor stats and discovered that, during the past three days, I've had a huge (compared to my "normal") number of people visit this blog. But they don't comment. Maybe they don't like what they see. Maybe they don't like me.

Maybe they think I'm charismatic and dangerous. Maybe they think I've gone bat-shit nutso and need to be watched to keep me from hurting other bloggers when I throw blogsplats all over the Internet. Or maybe they work for the government and are collecting data for use in the arraignment.

It could be they heard that I was on the verge of something and came to see...only to find that I'm actually off the verge of not much and there's nothing on which to focus.

It's entirely possible they stumbled across the blog and scrambled as fast as they could to leave. But there are some who come back over and over and over. And they scare me and make me consider curling into a little ball in the corner. But I can't do that, because "little" is something I'm not, though I would like to be. And "ball," well that's just not appropriate for mixed-up companies. "Corner," though, is sometimes how I feel, but with a "d" added on. That's much like "cage," but also with a "d" added on. As in a lion.

I've heard people talk about someone being like a "caged lion." But I've never heard anyone described "like a caged muskrat." And I wonder why that is.

But back to the issue at hand. There are these people, see, who are looking in on me. And I think that's great, except they don't say anything to me.

Maybe they don't want to embarrass me by saying something like, "Hey, I stopped by your blog and I found it irrelevant and a waste of my time. I kept coming back, hoping it would get better, but it just doesn't. Frankly, it's a piece of whale caca and shouldn't be allowed on the Internet tubes. Why don't you put us out of our misery by breaking your fingers?"

That would be OK. I don't mind being embarrassed in that way. A way I don't want to be embarrassed by would be for someone to stop by the blog and say "I saw you eating leftovers from several tables in a fast-food restaurant last night and I captured it on video and now it's on YouTube.com and your life as a compulsive eater of half-eaten fast-food meals left by strangers is on public view for everyone to see." Fortunately, no one has left such a message. Which goes to my point. People tend not to leave messages. Except for Nicole and Kathy and Teresa and, on rare occasion, Ellie and Phil. But they're not the ones who visit and leave unannounced.

But, ultimately, it's your decision. If you don't want to leave messages, comments, or accusations, I'll just have to live with it. After all, there's nothing much I can do to force you to say rude and unflattering things to me.

A Vague Uneasiness

As I write this very brief post, I'm staring out a set of large sliding glass doors, looking at the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean outside my hotel. From this vantage point, there are only grey, cloud-blemished skies streaked with darker grey lines with white linen edges and endless expanses of grey-green water, its surface deceptively smooth in the aggregate but I can feel it seething with anger just beneath the surface.

The vastness of the sky and the sea envelopes me like thick wax, making it impossible for me to stretch or turn or move away. I'm transfixed by the mere size of what I see.

I'd compare it to glancing outdoors for a moment, only to see, but not feel, the entire sun's surface just a few feet away. The sky and the ocean are huge beyond words and thoughts. Whoever could have been so silly and unwise to think we could ever tame them? Why would we ever want to?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Caused the Financial Markets Crisis

Thanks to C. Corax, a visitor to The New Dharma Bums, for sounding the alert about this very funny, ugly video that says volumes about the current financial crisis:

Lazy Day, After All

I had every intention, and a deep need, to go to my office today. I still need to go. I didn't. I played Sunday hooky and didn't get near the place. Sometimes, you've just gotta say "to hell with it," and leave work at the office and let it sit and stew.

We ate at the Angry Dog for lunch, where I had a hard time reading the draft beer board.

After lunch, we spent a few minutes looking at some of the other options for action in the neighborhood, then changed gears completely and went to the mall.


So, about my upcoming trips.

I leave early Tuesday morning for a flight to Fort Lauderdale. My meeting is actually in Sunny Isles Beach, FL, which is code for Miami. We're meeting in a nice hotel, but it's a good 15 miles north of South Beach, where many of the movers and shakers among the group wanted to be. Their desire to be in South Beach was made impossible by a series of logistical factors, including but not limited to expense and unavailability of hotels with sufficient meeting space.

I'll have two nights...maybe just one...free. The remainder of my time is rigidly choreographed between board meetings, educational sessions, command-performance social events, and the like. My role calls for someone who's very outgoing, genial, and deeply social; I play the part, but would not get the Oscar.

My favorite part of every day while attending this sort of event is the time in the evening I can get away from the crowds and return to my hotel room. That's usually later than I'd like, and after I've politely declined invitations to go to the area's trendiest bars and hippest nightspots. During my last trip to Miami, I was roped into having drinks at the Delano Hotel. I have to admit it was an interesting experience, but play-acting the jet-setter lifestyle gets very old, very fast.

Fortunately for me, the group of people I'll be with, while very big on partying and being in the midst of the scene, are for the most part intelligent and fun to be around...as fun to be around as any large group of people can be.

The meeting ends next Saturday, late enough that I cannot get a flight back until the next day. And the next day I arrive back in Dallas just two and a half hours before I have to catch another flight, at another airport, to another coastal city, this one in South Texas. Once I arrive there, I scramble to attend the opening night festivities of the conference, spend the next day and a half attending meetings and visiting with colleagues on issues relevant to our businesses, and then zip back home.

Back here, I'll spend the next day preparing for a trade show that begins Thursday in Fort Worth and lasts through Sunday. Standing in a booth for six hours a day, three days in a row, is not good for my feet nor for my back, but I'll live through it.

Somewhere in the midst of all this activity, I have to have some furniture delivered to the house. That, and get a cup of coffee.


It's Sunday. I knew the weekend wouldn't last. Instead of enjoying a day away from the office, puttering about or taking a leisurely (if expensive) drive, we'll be spending it at the office. I have to prepare for a client meeting later this week and my wife has to spend time updating financial records. My next few weekends are shot, too; client meeting next weekend, followed by another quick trip, followed by another weekend trade show. If I'd wanted to work retail hours, I would have gone into retail.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nice Desk

It has been HOURS since I last slept. As in, more than 18 hours. I'm getting tired. I think I may have to go to bed soon.

In response to one this morning's posts, Nicole suggested that I'm far too into news and, that it will crush me. Sorry, Nicole, but I'm of the opinion that responsible people MUST pay attention to the news so they know what is going on around them and, in the USA, who is trying to lie to them in order to keep the public off the backs of public servants. But Nicole did not mention my prize (which would be an indication that she read all the way to the end of the post), so she does not get immunity from seeing a naked picture of me. KathyR, on the other hand, expressed her heartfelt appreciation for that immunity. At least that's the way I see it.

Lunch today was OK, but the PLACE was fantastic, a real neighborhood joint that caters to an incredibly diverse customer base. The Goldrush Cafe is in the Lakewood District of Dallas, an area I'd like to live in if I wanted to live in Dallas. Following lunch, we went across the street to a consignment store, where we found a fabulous desk and hutch and a great end table, both of which we decided we could not live without. We are not über-consumers; our spur of the moment decision to spend upward of $700 was exceedingly rare. But considering the fact that the two pieces are probably worth $1,800, I think it was a wise choice. Except, of course, that we don't really have the money to spend. Which is why credit cards are good. Except we don't like buying on credit. Oh well. We also decided to take some of our other furniture to the consignment store, so we may not spend near so much, in the long run.

That's it for now. Good night.

Sister of Mercy

A favorite piece of music, as used in the film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

All the News that's Fit to be Tied

So, now I've made coffee. It's less than an hour since my last post and I've been keeping myself busy with emptying the dishwasher, drying dishes the dishwasher opted not to dry, and reading the latest issue of The Texas Observer. But now, with coffee comfortably in hand, I'll become less productive and will ramble on about what interests me and then wander the web.

I find my recent internet political reading habits interesting (well, I guess I would). Though I read several blogs, I increasingly tend to avoid political diatribes from people who, like me, have long since made up their minds that George Bush and anyone who holds views even remotely like his must be kept out of the White House at all costs. Similarly, I avoid reading political rants from right-wing nutjobs who would support a ticket featuring Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Il, just as long as it were Republican. Instead, I find myself gravitating toward people who actually speak truth or who, at least, report what they believe to be true and have evidence to substantiate their beliefs.

The reason I find this interesting is that once, not so very long ago, I realized that I was seeking out political perspectives from people who shared my philosopies and avoided sources I considered wrong-headed. Then I heard a Republican strategist convey a message that really resonated with me: we should seek out news for information, not affirmation. Bingo! That's right! But I had been seeking affirmation in my reading, even in my news. And I knew, instantly, that was not only stupid, it was dangerous. And so I changed.

Fortunately, my newfound wisdom did not push me to read "the other side" so much as it persuaded me to seek out sources of news and information I believed I could trust to be unbiased or, at least, could give me another, and probably uncomfortable, perspective.

Now, instead of reading belief-affirming blogs from left-leaning politicos, I tend to listen to Gwen Ifill grill her guests of Washington Week. Now, some people will say she and her program conspire to form the epitome of biased media. I think that's BS. The fact that she's a Black woman who probably understands issues like racism and sexism far better than most of us does not make her biased. When I watch her program and hear her, and her guests, be utterly forthright about both Republican and Democratic actions on issues of the day, I sometimes get upset that they don't a position on the matter. But that's not why they are on the air; they are on the air to inform, not affirm, my opinions.

PBS and NPR, in general, are sources of information I trust far more than I do any of the major networks and certainly more than I trust CNN or FOX. While PBS may appear to some to have a liberal bias, I can count on PBS to give perspective on issues; I can count on FOX and CNN to stake out positions and try to bring me around to their points of view.

It's more comfortable, in the short run, to listen to or read "news" and information resources that reflect one's views of the world. It makes one feel good. But it's a little like selecting a doctor on the basis of his reputation for delivering only good news. You'd really rather not be told you have a life-threatening disease, but you need to know it if you're to have an opportunity to fight it.

I don't put my irrevocable trust in PBS and NPR. I seek out other sources, as well, so I can get a different perspective. Occasionally, as hard as it is, I do watch CNN political rants from people like Glenn Beck; if nothing else, listening to him makes it clear that a person can be utterly and totally consumed by a very, very stupid and self-serving world-view. And I regularly go directly to sources of news and opinions that never find their way into American mainstream media. I regularly read online newspapers from other countries just to get a perspective I simply cannot get from American media, even good, unbiased American media. It's amazing how much one can learn about different perspectives by reading, for example, Venezuelan media. While I don't pretend that foreign media are pure and unbiased, I can get a sense of what drives international perceptions of the U.S. by reading what they say. And, unfortunately, I sometimes come to the conclusion that American media are not giving us even close to the full story; not even the best American media.

Obviously, I do read liberal and progressive media (like The Texas Observer), but that publication does not pretend to be completely unbiased. What it does, though, is present clear facts and information about why its politics are liberal. And it is a truly informative read.

Alright, if anyone reads this far, you deserve something special for your perserverance. I'm not going to show you a naked picture of myself, in gratitude for your willingness to put up with me to the end.

The Sound of Water in the Pipes

Life is now back to normal. It's Saturday morning, not quite 4:30, and I'm awake. I haven't made coffee yet, and may not for some time; there's a chance I'll go back to bed and try to get a little more sleep.

I hear, or maybe feel more than hear, the sound of the water in the pipes as the sprinklers outside do their duty and water the lawn. It's too dark now to see them, but I can sense, somehow, that they're on. It's funny, at this hour, not knowing whether it's actually a noise I hear or a vibration I feel.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Books without Authors

Sometimes, I think people are like books. All it takes to read them is a set of eyes. Other times, I reject that perspective out of hand; people are complex beings whose lives cannot be understood without being the person you wish to understand. And even then, there's no assurance.

I need look no farther than myself to know that I cannot be read like a book. I cannot be understood, no matter how much a person might try. I cannot even understand myself. An outsider has no chance.

And sometimes, depending on my mood, I don't wish to be understood. Not now, not ever, not by anyone. I'm satisfied being a conundrum.

Other times, I want so desperately to be understood I can taste the salt on my tongue as my tears betray my stoicism about life.

I have no choice, as it turns out. Someday, someone will understand, like it or not. Someday, my veil of privacy will be lifted like a sheet from a body in a makeshift morgue. And someday someone will conclude there's no understanding of a person's mind, that complex beast that hides beneath the scalp like the last yellow-bellied woodpeck hides in the thickest forests.

We think we know so much, but we know so very, very little.

I Saw What I Saw

Today's light was feeble and drawn, though not like the dull gloom of an overcast day. It was as if the sun were ill or peaking from behind celestial curtains the color of old tea stains on worn beige sheets. It shone from clear skies, but the sun's light lacked its usual bursting grin. The sky was blue, but it was dull and listless and the sun didn't quite seem to be in the same dimension as the sky. They were two dimensional and delicate and they looked oddly artificial.

I'm having trouble describing what, to some, may have been utterly imperceptible. How does one explain an almost invisible variation in the way the sun not only looks, but feels? If no one else sees it, is it really there to see? If no one else experiences it, was there anything to experience? I may be crazy, but I say "yes," but with my obligatory warning not to believe any such thing.

Can a boiling, gaseous ball of white hot light experience something akin to a human emotion? Can it somehow perceive the universe around it and its place in that universe and the fact that its time is limited? My brain and my beliefs argue firmly and with conviction against such an impossibility. I don't believe it. It's nonsense, just like the nonsense in which we humans routinely engage when we attribute human characteristics and human frailties to trees or the wind or our own idols.

I may have been the only one to notice that the sun was showing signs of age today, but that's not my problem and it's not my fault. I saw what I saw.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Good news. Sister in Houston allows she has water and electricity now. The worst is behind her. Her tales of the generosity of churches and pastors and even FEMA give me pause; I should not be so judgmental about churches. It's their preaching, much more than their deeds, that I abhor. I think their actions often speak far louder than their words, and for that I'm grateful.

Chatter in the World

Dark night tonight. I haven't been outside in quite awhile, but from where I'm sitting I don't see any stars. All I see are shadows and faint outlines of trees and shrubs and fences. It's a little odd, feeling like I'm in a cocoon in here, protected from the world outside but, at the same time, cut off from its warmth and humanity.

It's sad, somehow, to sit alone in a semi-dark room, knowing a television is on somewhere deep in the background, not feeling connected to anyone nor anything that cares.

Tonight just feels odd and sad and distant. I don't know why. There's chatter in the world, but I'm not part of it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mother Nature's Wrath

Memory and time can tend to expand and enhance experience and to make memories unreliable. As I read about and watched people explain their recent experiencs with Hurricane Ike, I came to realize that my memories of the hurricanes in my youth have been enhanced over time.

What memory told me was horrible was, in the harsh light of inquest, in fact less horrific than I thought it was. Yes, the building shook and yes, windows shattered and yes, it was uncomfortable and taxing and stressful. But when I see what people experienced in Ike, the horror of my experience years ago is dwarfed.

I heard people describe going back to the sites of their homes to find nothing but debris. No walls, no roof, no appliances, no houses next door, nothing but debris. What they lost was not simply a lifestyle that can be rebuilt. They lost a life that cannot be reconstructed without a universal commitment by all of their neighbors and friends and family members...and many of their neighbors and friends and family members are too tired, too shocked, too worn out to even consider rebuilding, at least not yet.

It's only a few days after the devastation and I'm hearing stories of people who have given up. They don't want to try to fight Mother Nature's wrath again. They don't want to run again, they don't want to try to escape the furies of the wind and water ever again. They have no money, no homes, no transportation; they have nothing. And they have been beaten down one too many times to consider rubbing the dust and salt and tears from their eyes and starting anew.

My loss as a chiild was nothing. My parents' loss was catastrophic, but their recovery was spectacular. But even they might have just turned and walked away had they witnessed the horror that so many people along the upper Texas coast have been witnessing the last few days.

Storms like Ike don't have to leave death in their wake to have done irreparable damage. They need only leave broken hearts and broken wills to have crushed communities beyond repair.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Biblical Plan...

I just read a post from a fellow blogger that sent me over the edge. In a nutshell, she has decided that the man she loves should adopt her child and he agrees. The father of the child has long since disappeared. She has been advised by an imbecile in the military (her husband is in the military) that the birth father (from 8-9 years ago) must be given the opportunity to object. Yes, the birth father who disappeared AGES ago. There's more. It involves bureaucracy of monumentally stupid proportions.

This kind of shit makes me furious. I start turning deeply Libertarian when I hear this sort of crap, whereby the State decides it has a role to play in the lives of people who are perfectly capable of handling their own. I'm actually very much a democratic, progressive guy, but I have large veins of libertarian ore running through me. Similarly, I have some small, fragile veins of republican financial conservatism running through me, as well. But right now, the libertarian veins are like thick, rich, dark ore. I can't fucking STAND the state trying to run people's private lives! The church and the state hade better keep themselves out of our bedrooms and our living rooms or I will personally start a goddamned insurrection of biblical proportions!

There, I've said it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sacred Smoke

I just read something that I found surprising and, in some ways, stunning. It was an article about how patients should feel comfortable seeking out doctors who share their religious views. There was nothing mentioned about the doctors' knowledge or skills; I assume those are considered a "given." But their religious beliefs could have a bearing on a patient's outcome. Right. Well, OK, it's possible; especially if some highly religious doctors tend to administer poisons to their not-so-religious patients.

I can't quite fathom how someone could put more conviction in the power of a physician's religious beliefs than in his or her medical training and skill and intellect.

My astonishment is, no doubt, due in part to my own view of religion as bizarre fantasy. I try not to let others' religious beliefs color my perceptions of people, but I'm not always successful. For example, Sarah Palin's magical thinking is not funny, it's deeply disturbing in someone who is potentially so close to a position of unearned and overwhelming power. I don't want God to be on our side, and I don't want to be on God's side; I want to avoid the fucking war in the first place!

My car, the Bastard with 172,000+ miles on it, is still rolling along. The next time I take it to a garage, maybe I should insist on a mechanic who will set old tires alight so my car can bask in the sacred smoke that will give it a long, long life.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good News

Good news from Houston and environs: my sister and two brothers and my niece and her husband, all of whom were in the path of Ike, are well. Nothing more serious than being without power and without running water, both of which could be nasty for the long-haul, but not too bad for the short-term.

Despite a grey and dreary overcast here in Dallas, with leaky skies and blustery winds, it's a pretty nice day.


I awoke this morning just after 2:30 am. I don't know why I woke up then, but I suspect it had something to do with a dream I had. My memory of the dream isn't clear, but it had something to do with mastering a new way of breathing while I sleep, a new way of breathing that makes it easier to noiselessly fill my lungs with air and feel cool and relaxed as I lay in bed. There was more, but I don't recall what.

The moment I looked at the clock, I knew I couldn't go back to sleep right away. Last night's forecasts had predicted that Hurricane Ike would go ashore sometime areound 2:00 am, so I had to get up to watch the news to see what I could learn. I learned only that it had gone ashore near Galveston and that it was, indeed, a powerful storm, though not a category 3 storm. The concerns remained, at 2:30 am, the size of the storm surge. No one could say how bad it had been at 2:30 am because it was dark and the reporters had left the areas that had been subject to mandatory evacuation. I still don't know how bad the storm surge was; I don't know if we'll know for several hours yet.

I washed dishes, putzed around the kitchen, and skipped between television news channels after my original focus on the news. And then I read a few blogs and found that nothing on the internet was of particular interest. I get distracted by the moment and lose interest in everything but the focus on the moment, I suppose.

I went back to bed at 5:30, but didn't sleep much and got up again just after 8:00 am. Coffee and cereal and more television. It's coming up on 10:00 am and television news sees fit to cover high school football news, so I assume the world has not fallen apart on the Gulf Coast. Right, I can always depend on the media to get priorities straight.

I'm hungry. I feel like having a searingly hot, spicy breakfast that will cause my head to sweat and my tongue to cry for mercy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

One of my brothers and a sister live in Houston and another brother lives north of Huntsville (60 miles north of Houston). So, all of them are in the potential path of Hurricane Ike. This is nerve-wracking, of course. I'd rather they were all up here in Dallas right now, but it's a bit late to start the trip, since tens of thousands of others are in the midst of making the same trip and the traffic is, I suspect, horrific.

I have an almost pathological fear of hurricanes. When I was in high school, Hurricane Celia ripped through Corpus Christi, destroying my parents' house while they, and several of the "kids" were in it. I experienced panic then, when the roof blew off the house and the windows starting shattering all around us and the water poured over us like a firehose was trained on us. I insisted that we hold a mattress over us to protect us from the collapsing ceiling and roof. I was wet-the-pants-crazy with fear, mostly fear that my family would be hurt and I wouldn't know what to do to help them.

So, I hate hurricanes and I hate it when my family or friends face the onslaught of winds, tides, tornadoes, and other hurricane-induced calamaties.

My family's experience with Hurricane Celia was eye-opening. It revealed how some people are genuinely good to the core, while some have no good even in that thinnest of veneers that causes most others to call them human. Unfortunately, the largest group, during our encounter with Celia, were from the latter group. Boy scouts, builders, ice salesmen, school janitors...I have bad and unhappy stories to tell about all of them. And I have happier stories to tell about people who didn't skip a beat in offering help of the most fundamental kinds.

I'm worried, yes. I am concerned about the storm, not only for my family, but for all the people who stand to be harmed by it, either physically or emotionally or financially or all three.

But, just like I'd never suggest people who live in earthquake zones to move out, I won't make a similar suggestion to people in harm's way. You live where you have to, need to, can live.

Good luck to everyone with this monster storm heading our way. Ike, back off of my family and friends.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fat Pacifists

The knee-in-the-balls, knife-in-the-gut season has started. This year, in a twist, we're going to engage in vivisection and hysterectomies with only pigskin between the teeth as anesthesia.

Ellie is planning to go to Mexico when things get ugly. BB plans an insurrection which will lead to succession of the northern states. I'm planning on getting out of Dodge, too, and may join the successionist movement that BB will lead. But to prepare for all of this, I'm going to have to suspend my sense of morality for awhile.

In advance of this utter collapse of modern greed-based democracy, I'll need some serious money. Which means, of course, I'll need to engage in some big-money robbery, probably including banks, casinos, and gas stations, auto dealerships, and Republican dinner parties. Of course my booty will have a limited life-span, due to the direction of the insurrection, but I'll have a hell of a time in the interim.

Since I'll be suspending my morality for awhile, I figure this will be the perfect time to engage in my life-long interest in high-stakes blood-letting. Translate that into I'll be killin' a passle of people who need killin'. So, nasty politicians, rude waiters, and toll-booth collectors, beware. I'm kidding, of course. Of course.

God damn McCain. God damn Obama. God damn elections. Where the hell is Buddha when you need a nice, fat pacifist?

Monday, September 8, 2008

American Geezolo

An elderly sister-in-law, who lives in Boston, turned 55 today. I asked her via email how it felt to be 55, since I could have no way of knowing how it feels to be so old. She responded that it didn't feel good and that I wouldn't like it. So, when I turn 55 next month, I'm going to try to avoid noticing. Actually, you'd never know she is 55; she behaves like a 30-year-old. That's probably why I like her.

A brother turns 60 tomorrow. He won't communicate with me, so I can't ask him how it feels to turn 60. But maybe I'll wish him a happy birthday nonetheless.

None of this matters, of course. If the populace of the United States of America behaves as I'm afraid they will in November, it won't matter how old I am. I'm going to run away; I'll leave the U.S.A. for destinations unknown. While I still have a chance. I could go to Iceland and live off of puffins I catch in nets. Or to the Pacific coast of Mexico and live off of fish I catch on hooks. Or to Russia and live off caviar I catch in the back of long black limousines filled with vodka and rich, seductive Russian women looking for excitement with an American Geezolo.

Where the hell did that come from?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today was a bit of a bitch. And then it got hinky.

International Rock Flipping Day

Today is International Rock Flipping Day. One of the organizers experienced a personal loss yesterday and I'm posting this entry as a tribute to that person who has done so much to make so many people take an interest in nature. I'm no competition to people like the organizers and their expert photographer and entymologist friends, but I wanted to make my contribution nonetheless. So, here is my rock...though I can't tell whether anything was under it!

Borderline Memories

There's something missing in the memories of my youth. There's quite alot missing, actually. I have only the most skeletal memories of my early years in Brownsville, Texas, where I was born and lived until the age of five.

I'm not even sure my memories are truly memories; it's more likely that they are artifacts of photos I have seen of that time in my life.

There are pictures of Ginger, our Staffordshire Terrier who, I'm told, was hyper-protective of our family and a cold-blooded killer of cats that made the mistake of entering our yard. Poor Ginger's death at the sharp claws of a cat who tore open the stitches from a fresh surgery of some kind, then, was ironic. But are those my memories, or are they artificial imprints of things I was told later on?

I do remember, albeit very, very vaguely, that one of my sisters somehow ran into a low-hanging branch of a big mesquite tree during what memory tells me was a rainstorm. The blood and the angst I remember were not from photos; they're either the real thing or they were manufactured from a recounting of the event in later years, when I was old enough to be regaled with stories of my youth.

There is the photo of me as a towheaded five-year-old, standing erect and wearing my red-striped shirt, shorts, and straw hat, that gives me a glimpse of our dusty yard and a dog house in desperate need of paint.

One memory I know did not arise from photos or stories is of me crying and pleading to go with my father, who was leaving on one of his weekly trips around south Texas to sell lumber to lumberyards. Petra, our sometimes maid, restrained me and comforted me as my father walked out to his car, which was parked in front of the house. I don't remember much else about that scene, but now that I think about it I remember another aspect of Petra. She used to make leche quemada, a sweet dessert made of condensed milk and sugar and not much else, boiled on a stove top until it was thick and a rich beige color.

Somehow, when I read books that describe a dust-swept life along the border or see films about migrants living in tiny cardboard shacks along the river, I feel as thought I know that life and I have experienced that life. My emotional connection to the people who lived, or who live, along the border, people who have struggled to eke out survival from an unforgiving land and an unforgiving people, is strong but completely without a rational basis. When I read stories about Mexicans who carved out a life along the north side of the border, working hard just to put food on the table and an inadequate roof over their heads, I feel a kinship with them.

While I've searched my memory for recollections of desolate life along the Texas-Mexico border, down along the Rio Grande, anything that would help explain that emotional connection I feel for border life, I can't find it.

So, I suppose I'll continue to wonder why I feel this strong sense of connection with the border of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream

I read a review in The Texas Observer (August 8 edition) of Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream, by Sam Quinones. Based on the review, I will buy the book.

If you live in Texas, or if you've ever lived in Texas, or if you've never lived in Texas but have considered it, or if you've never lived in Texas and don't plan to, get a subscription to The Texas Observer. You will make me happy and you will be delighted to support an exceptionally good progressive publication at the amazingly low annual subscription fee of $32. You can subscribe online at http://www.texasobserver.org/subscribe.php.

If you do nothing else, though, read the review.

Deep End

Well, yes, I can go off the deep end. Just in case you were wondering. And, yes, I usually come back to the air for surface. For example, here I am on a Saturday morning, sipping a cup of strong black coffee, looking out the window into the backyard, and thinking to myself, "This isn't half-bad. Today's a good day."

The sunlight, greenery, natural stone, and flowering crepe-myrtle trees I see beforfe me contribute to my mood. But I couldn't have achieved my mood without me. So I offer myself congratulations. And I humbly accept them.

As much as the idea does not cause me to jump up and down with glee, I do have to go to my office later today to take care of some mundane things like hanging photos and plaques, attaching mail "pouches" to the wall, putting boxes full of papers into file cabinets, and the like. My office move continues in slow-motion.

Let's see, before I go, let me record for posterity some of the things I learned while wandering aimlessly around the internet this morning:

OK, time for a late breakfast. Or maybe not.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What Would You Advise?

What I'm about to describe isn't necessarily a real scenario. And it isn't necessarily my scenario. But it's a scenario that deserves more than flip answers. I ask you, if you choose to comment, that you try to understand that this could be real. So don't treat it as unimportant or trivial. If it's real, it's not trivial. It is so goddamned NOT trivial.

Let's assume you run a small business.

You have commitments to your clients and customers, your staff, and your suppliers. Because the company is your livelihood, you have commitments to your spouse with regard to managing the company effectively and ensuring that it brings in enough revenue to provide a decent salary and, if you're lucky, to cover your health insurance. You have obligations to your staff to provide, to the extent you can, health insurance and vacation and time off.

You have commitments, too, to your landlord, the company that holds the lease on your photocopier, the company with which you have contracted for local and long distance telephone service, your insurance company...you get the idea. You have a boatload of commitments.

Now, let's assume your business is a professional services firm that, while not rocket science to operate, is not a easy "market" because prospective buyers would be paralyzed at having to learn what, to them, seems exceptionally complex and very, very high tier. So, selling the business is a long-term prospect that may never work.

Finally, let's assume that, as owner of the company, you have burned out. Totally. Completely. You wake up dreading the trip to the office. When you get to the office you procrastinate to an extraordinary degree. You dislike what you are doing and you dislike your clients and, yes, you dislike many of your staff. You don't like what you're doing. But you're trapped and you don't know how to get out.

Getting out from under this morass of leaden boxes and agonizing interactions seems impossible.

Now, with all of that as a backdrop, what do you do? Who do you disappoint? Who do you let down? Who do you write off? Who do you abandon?

Yes, of course, you long to load your clothes into a van, hit the road, and work in national parks and diners to get by. You envision yourself doing what you didn't do as a new college graduate. But you know that's more of a dream, an impossible dream, today than it was 30 years ago.

How do you react to this environment that strangles you and chokes you and causes you to seek the solace of a bathroom with a fan so your sobs and tears and choking cough don't become the center of attention?

Do you buck up, get a grip, and soldier on? Do you actually abandon your responsibilities and hope for understanding? Do you try to get through the worst of it by taking a few days off and hoping the respite will enable you to cope, knowing that, eventually, a solution will present itself?

Again, bear in mind that this scenario might well be manufacturered...from the ground up. But you don't know whether it is or it isn't. Assuming that it isn't, what advice would you give to the business owner?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

That Long, Sweet Kiss

I've polished off the Seagram's 7 Crown and am now working on the Johnny Walker Red. Don't worry, I only had about an ounce of Seagram's and two tiny little airplane bottles of Johnny Walker (one of which is still unopened, but beckoning me seductively), so I'm safe. I had to drink something after listening to McCain tonight. My concern was that I felt much of what he said was good. Of course, his "smile-on-demand" demeanor held that thought in check, but I have to admit, his speech-writer is very, very good.

It's really unfortunate that what he said is so contrary to the way he behaves. But my fear is that people will believe what he says, rather than evaluate what he does.

I have friends who are on the edge of psychosis over this election. Some may have gone over the edge. I've been teetering off and on.

My biggest concern about this election is that the only two candidates in the running are, in my opinion, "unelectable." That is, they should NOT be elected. Regardless of their rhetoric, they are empty suits and have both lied repeatedly to bolster their own ratings. Once upon a time, when I wrote in a different blog, I wrote what I believed my "ideal" candidate would look like. Here's what I said:

No matter who is elected, the only way we're going to get out from under the horrendous debt that Bush & company have left us with will be for everyone to shoulder part of the responsibility. I believe we'd have an ideal candidate if we could find one who could effectively articulate and successfully promote the pursuit of these strategic issues (and by selecting the best combination of the following as appropriate):

  • Increased taxes, with more burden at high income levels, but with increasingly escalated shared burdens at all levels above 2 times poverty level

  • Cost cutting/efficiency measures at all levels of federal, state, and local government

  • Economic stiumuli for business and consumers

  • Incentives to business to spend money in the U.S.

  • Disincentives to consumers to spend money on foreign goods, but not so strong as to create unreasonable barriers to imports

  • Dramatic restructuring of the health care industry to reduce costs

  • Threats of nationalizing the pharmaceutical industry if obscene profits are not reigned in

  • Threats of nationalizing the oil and petrochemical industries if obscene profits are not reigned in

  • Universal health insurance coverage for everyone

  • Strong disincentives for both corporate and individual welfare, while providing a strong safety net for individuals and families who need assistance

  • Very strong disincentives for exclusive reliance on personal vehicles for transportation

  • Some measure of protection against the disincentives above for trucking and related industries, provided those industries step up to the plate to reduce fuel consumption, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, etc.

  • A nationwide conversation to reach some degree of consensus on a clear articulation of the responsibilities of each of the following: Federal government, state government, municipal government, businesses, church and community groups, families, and individuals

  • Clear articulation and institutionalization of the premise that the U.S. will never again engage in preemptive military action nor attack another nation, unprovoked

  • A strong global presence and international dialogue, without the arrogance of pretending we're the biggest and best and without the selfishness of insisting that we will support nothing that is not strictly in our self-interests.

I'm an incurable romantic. I long for that long, sweet kiss. Hah! Never happen!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Republicans Annoy Me More Than I Annoy Them

Tonight, I've let myself do something that makes my blood pressure rise. I've let myself listen to people who I desperately want to believe are smart yet disagree with me on fundamental issues. I've tried my best to believe these people are smart. I want to simply disagree with their philosophies. I want that! But goddamn it, they won't let me believe that! They INSIST on saying things so remarkably stupid that I can't believe, in my heart of hearts, that they believe it and, so, must be liars and manipulators. But then I think more deeply and realize they are just idiots. They're not devious and deceitful. They're stupid and, consequently, very, very dangerous.

Meg Whitman, former CEO of ebay, spoke tonight at the RNC Convention. This woman ran a Fortune 500 company (but she's gone...hmm). Yet she apparently cannot understand the concept of supply and demand. She babbled on that McCain would open up drilling off our coasts, cut taxes, cut the price of gasoline, reduce our energy consumption, and save our planet. Hmmm. Cut the price of gasoline and reduce energy consumption. Is she stupid? Yes, Virginia, I'm afraid their is a stupid female ex-CEO, one who doesn't "get" the law of supply an demand. She doesn't understand that cutting gas prices will INCREASE consumption. She doesn't understand that cutting taxes will REDUCE the money available to the government to spend. She is an imbecile. Perhaps she should be euthanized for the common good; I'm not recommending it, see, I'm just suggesting it as an option that might be considered.

Listening to the people speak tonight at the RNC, I got angry that somewhere along the line, our schools have let pathologically stupid people out into the general population. No child left behind? Hey, wait, maybe we SHOULD have left some of them behind. They're frighteningly dumb.

We cannot elect McCain. If we elect McCain, I guarantee that, in 36 months, I'm going to be an ex-resident of the USA.

I know, I know, my alter-ego recently posted that I don't automatically consider Republicans to be rotten to the core. Call me psychotic. Tonight's speeches made up my mind.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Role of the Media

I've been listening, off and on, tonight to the Republican National Convention. I damn near scream at about half the words I hear, but I have to remind myself of the words of a very wise Republican strategist a few years ago that, when translated to the real world, have a great deal of wisdom. His words were, in a nutshell:

The job of the media is not to manage, but to inform, public opinion.

Simple, yes? But the media, love 'em a I do, sometimes does seem to try to manage public opinion. I heard at the Democratic Convention, and I heard it tonight at the Republican Convention, media representatives either support or argue against the political positions of their guests. That's not their job!

Even if it's PBS, which I trust much more than other media outlets, I get livid when I sense that the media has an agenda. Goddamn it, I don't need instructions, I need information!

My Refrigerator is Called Satanica

I bought a refrigerator today. I paid a lot of money for it. Much more than I think refrigerators are worth. This one looks just like new, except for a huge, triangular gash low on its left side. The damage has pierced the metal, exposing the dim mustard yellow of the solid insulation.

But I don't mind. My expensive refrigerator was much cheaper than it would have been in a retail store. I bought mine in a "damaged ampliances" outlet store, a Sears outlet. So I have a warranty. My little office kitchen will be just the place for the refrigerator. I will have to have a name for the refrigerator. (I always name my corporate physical assets.) She shall be called Santanica.

My lateral file cabinet is Horace. Horace was treated to a new set of keys today, so he locks and unlocks easily and is very happy now. My desk is Hermione. Hermione is a huge solid hardwood piece whose surface is two-toned, with a lightly colored top and darker, harder perimter. She is big-boned and strong. She is the epitome of hardwood beauty, to me.

My chair, before he died, was Granger. His temporary replacement, a chair discarded by someone I work with, is called Lechuga; the woman who discarded it is Hispanic and she enjoys leafy vegetables.

Granger's death was hard. He was not quite nine years old. He could have had a long, leathery life if I hadn't mistreated him along the way.

I won't tell you all the names of all the assets in my office, at least not tonight. But later, if you'll bear with me, I'll tell you things you don't necessarily want to know. But you must know them, if you are to know my story.

I'm Springer Kneeblood. I'm glad you stopped by to see what I have to share with you today.