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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dark December

December again. The awful holidays. The short days and long nights that hit me so stupid hard every time they roll around. No matter how much better things are (and they are so very much better), December seems able to take the wind out of my sails. It's like a weight.

I've wished most of my life that I could hibernate from Halloween till New Years. But the world doesn't work that way so I just have to get through it one more time...

I don't even really know why it does this to me. Just somewhere along the line it all went dark. The buying, doing, going, worrying, decorating...all of it just wore me out. I stopped being able to generate the required and expected happiness and anticipation. I can't buy my way out of it like I'm supposed to. I wish that 12 months interest free was enough but I can't do it. It feels like trying to buy your way into heaven. The artificial joy everyone seems so desperate to display, I can't find.

The delusion of seasonal goodwill only makes it worse. Everywhere the hating goes on like any other day or any other season. The 'holidays' are just another excuse to be outraged by something...a Christmas song becomes a nasty meme...people are trampled and fights break out over shopping...families fall apart over politics at dinner...everyone is offended over almost everything. Everywhere are symbols of peace but there is no peace to be found. Intolerance is the standard when someone isn't 'us'.  In the name of the Christian holiday...everything Christendom says it stands for is demeaned. 

It all comes together to make me sad. I know better than some that the world is what you make of it and most times, I can see the good out there somewhere. But December is black and clouds the view. 

Somehow, the lights go out around Thanksgiving and never came back on till the madness passes and the last payment is made. I know I've written about this before. Maybe it'll never change.

Maybe I'll never change.

It was better I guess when the kids were small. They'd tumble out to a tree and presents just like I did when I was little. They'd rip and shred in the living room then disappear to un-box and assemble the goodies. With luck, we remembered the batteries...

I hope they have happy memories of those years. I tried really hard to make it fun. I tried but I'm not sure how I did. They're both off on their own now and I don't see or hear from them much and nobody mentions it. I can only hope it was all ok. I don't know that I'll ever know.

I do know that I've written about traditions a time or two as well. I've been told that I should create new traditions if the old ones make me unhappy. I guess that makes sense but I don't know what to do about it. Some things don't seem to change. What would I create? Something I'd do at a certain time of year to remind me how much that time of year hurts? Color me skeptical. I mostly wish it would all go away...not turn into something else. I can't understand why.

All I know is that December kicks me hard every time the calendar flips over from November. I wish it would stop. I wish I could make it stop. Maybe next year...

...one more time.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Remembering 1918

Once again, we find ourselves turning away from the world in a misguided echo of the time when Archduke Ferdinand took his fateful ride in Sarajevo.

Nationalism was the rage then as now. Britain hid in ‘Splendid isolation’, “Non-intervention; no European police system; every nation for itself, and God for us all...”

Germany sought it’s ‘Place in the sun’ no matter what the cost.

Alliances came and went all over the Europe. Weaponry, particularly battleships were the ultimate expression of national prestige. Everyone not ‘us’ was ‘them’ and so irrelevant. Everyone smelled the money.

Sound familiar?

The empires of Europe did almost nothing to avoid the horror on the horizon. Some actively encouraged the conflict. None of them thought they could lose. It was a grand adventure. People all over the Continent celebrated the outbreak of war. 

Nationalism masqueraded as patriotism everywhere and what it brought about was an estimated 12 million dead. In the name of nationalistic fervor, almost a whole generation was wiped out. 

The glory and romantic notion of the noble cavalry charge degraded into the trenches, machine guns and misery for the fighting men while the generals lived in commandeered chateaus and dined on fine china. It was a defeat of every human decency yet conceived. 

I find it significant that the President of France remembered the Armistice that stilled the guns along the front in 1918 this way:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.” 

Emmanuel Macron - President of France
November 11, 2018, Paris

We’re at that crossroads of 1914 again. But we live in an interconnected world now more than ever. No moral country can afford to be an island unto itself, especially today. 

No nation, least of all ours; one filled mostly with people who’s heritage is everywhere except here can have the luxury of turning away from everything outside our border. We who are from so many places should lead the world, not hide from it. 

The echos from a century ago are plain. May we this time go down the ‘road less traveled by’ and so make all the difference. 

All the difference in the world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

59 And Counting

A little while ago was my 59th birthday. On the day it showed up, I was pretty much ignoring it and went to work as usual when the phone rang at 0200. Just another day. Holidays and birthdays and everydays are what you miss when crew management lights up your cell to go again.

Then I turned my phone on when I got to the other end of the railroad...

Out of the blue, lots of people popped up on my notifications saying 'Happy Birthday'. People I hadn't heard from in..well...a long time. I know...they get a push reminding them that it's somebody's birthday but still...just to drop in and post is saying something.

I was frankly a little surprised. I've been shying away from social media for a while now after some less-than-cheerful experiences. A respite seemed in order since I sort of felt overwhelmed by it. I often can't process the constant input and output that it demands and the attention it screams for. It's also sometimes an ugly, unhappy place for something that's supposed to be 'social'. Over time, I've weeded out most of the rabid partisans of any stripe but there's still the occasional screamer or hyper-ventilated conspiracy theorist that pops up. I'm getting to those.

I should just not think about it but my ADHD self takes it too personally. If someone is posting it...they must know that I'm reading it. It kinda takes away from the good wishes when they call me a snowflake; sheep; socialist; bleeding heart; etc. every day except one.

You can say, "Well I wasn't really talking about you" but if you shout insults in a crowed room, you can bet there's going to be some confusion over who it's intended for. I know...just ignore it. But if this is how we say what we want to say these days, doesn't it make sense to buckshot a little less? 

There's a thousand and one platforms where you can opinionate and guess what? Unless you're a George Takei or Kanye West...hardly anyone is listening anyway. I know nobody is reading this but me. So why antagonize the ones who really are paying attention? Our circle of friends may look bigger because we have hundreds of 'friends' and 'followers' but if most of them signed off tomorrow, how many would you really miss?

 I'll never be a new world man I guess. 

And yet, I'm really grateful so many people took the time to wish me a Happy Birthday...there's hope. The best gift for me would be that everyone remember that it should be more than once a year that you wish others happiness. Just a thought for my 59th...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Another on Religion

Reading the news this week...I know...I should quit doing that. But amid all the (nowadays) normal Trump noise and the usual insanity that permeate the daily cycle...here we go with yet another investigation into the Catholic church.

This one caught my attention because even though it's an absolute nightmare, it's not surprising. The church has been down this road before and will be again.

Seems to me that nobody should be looking at a DC pizza joint or haunting 4chan searching for child abusers and traffickers...they're right down the street at the vestry.

How many times do these 'revelations' have to come out? This go-round it reaches back to the '40s and involves possibly thousands of victims? 300 priests in Pennsylvania alone? Some at it so long they've retired or died. And this is what's called a religion? It's more like a predator meat market.

Tell me about how 'they're not all bad' and I'll tell you about turning a blind eye to madness. To make the excuse that the 'good' ones don't know what's happening in their ranks is ridiculous.

Think about it...just as a rough estimate...take 50 states with say...half that many per state comes out to 7500 practicing molesters and pornographers. All with perfect hunting grounds and the protection of one of the most powerful and influential organisations in the world. You can even get promoted if a whiff of your indiscretions gets out. What a deal! Don't tell me they don't know.

And still they have the gall to preach morality. They espouse celibacy and abstinence while raping children. They wring their hands over the 'moral outrage' of LBGT while colluding to hide their own immorality. They exclude women and decry the crime of birth control while they bleed their parish children of innocence. They dare to sit in pious judgment of others while they feed their own personal demons. Their absolute power has corrupted absolutely.  They bury the evidence and protect the guilty in a twisted parody of the Mob. Over and over again.

In truth, the Catholic Church is no better than any criminal enterprise at its core. They do some good to cover up the fact that they destroy lives and do irreparable harm to the most vulnerable of those they profess to protect. All you need is some good PR and a few 'donations' to grease the skids. 

Hell, even Pablo Escobar knew that if you do a little 'public service', your corrupt and evil organization will be better tolerated and harder to indict. Run a soup kitchen, give away a tiny fraction of the take, smile for the cameras. Pay the right people and threaten the rest and the wheels keep on turning. The church continues to be immeasurably wealthy and powerful while 'the least of these' are used and abused. It makes me feel like throwing up.

The leader of the church, Pope Francis issued a letter yesterday to Catholics around the world condemning the “crime” of priestly sexual abuse and cover-up and demanding accountability.

Francis wrote: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

That you did. Your 'church' has overseen more devastation and horror in the name of your faith over the centuries than any other in history. You demand from your followers that which you yourselves cannot or will not do. You preach chastity, charity and forgiveness while you indulge in sex with children, sit on a misers hoard that can't even be counted and pronounce judgment on anyone who dares to question your authority. How do you look in the mirror and call yourselves men of God? How dare you call yourselves holy? How much evil can you hide? 

A Catholic poet once wrote, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"

Perhaps your parishioners...particularly the children...should do just that. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Other Wayward Sons

This place is (by a long reach) named after a song from long ago when I was still a big-haired, high school-hating farm kid. Back then almost everything I heard was on a badly distorting AM radio bolted to a tractor fender or a dusty cassette deck in the cow barn. Most of it just faded away or became background music at the grocery store but a few songs got under the sunburn and stayed for the duration. 'Carry On Wayward Son' was one of them. Yeah, it wasn't particularly good or especially meaningful as songs go but it stuck just the same. Sometimes odd things mean something to someone and there's no explaining it. But I know I always felt like I was Wayward in ways I couldn't understand and so here we are.

One of my sons graduated from college last week. The other one is working and doing that adult thing with the best of them. They're off and rolling. Now I find myself asking the questions parents of every generation have asked...When did they grow up, stop being the boys and become men?

I look at them and wonder...as every father does I suppose...how did all this happen? I'm in the same fix as anyone that's ever turned their kids loose on the world. You wonder if you did it right. They didn't come with an instruction manual. Two small people just showed up and took over being everything. From the day they came home to the day they leave to lead lives of their own, they print memories and feelings on me every day. I'm ecstatic that they are who they are. They're the proudest thing in my life. They became absolutely wonderful people without much help from me sometimes.

I was gone so much of their young lives that I sometimes wonder if I even had much to do with raising them but they did good for being basically single-parented. I know...nobody ever wishes they'd spent more time at work and less time with their family. I feel it very much but reality really does suck and you have to work unless you're born loaded. Somehow...it worked out for them.

And now they're young men and the world is ahead. They'll have their own songs stuck in their heads I hope. It makes me smile to think of it.

They'll be Wayward in their own way and somehow...it'll all be okay. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I Need A Ride...

What is it about 'social media' that makes people so unsocial? I'm pretty unhappy this morning after yesterday's adventures in 'keeping in touch'. Turns out it's no more social out there than it ever was. The keyboards are humming with invective. Parsed by vacation pics and recipes is a veritable feast of forwards, rumors and internet outrage generators. I guess I'm supposed to be angry at someone or something all the time. I can't do it. 

I made the mistake of venturing back out into the 'social' world because I thought I might catch up with some of my old crew from the team and maybe even a rink-rat or two. I don't actually hate Fb per se but I got weary and wary so I put it on the back burner. I used it a lot for the team and have quite a few real-world friends that I can't keep in touch with any other way. It's useful at times but then there's days...

Like I said, I've been running pretty light on it for a bit while I sorted out my personal life so I kind of held my nose and dipped my toes back in. Foolishly I posted some photos and ride maps. 

Shortly thereafter, I got called out for failing to notify anyone that I was going for a Monday ride with my sweetheart, ridiculed for a post and indirectly called a Nazi sympathizer and a liberal snowflake. These are the friends I haven't blocked.

The one about the ride alone blew up into over 20 posts...most of which got deleted when it became apparent I was too naive to get the tone as intended. Turns out I'm snark-impaired. One woman apologized which was nice (and accepted) but the genii doesn't go back in the bottle well.

As for the one about being a Nazi...that came from a meme that wasn't directly addressed to me but since the friend posting it has to know or hope that I'll read it, it counts. You see, I have a fairly liberal slant so a post comparing liberals to Nazis hits pretty close. Aside from being a blatant violation of Godwin's Law, it just wasn't true...particularly about me. If anyone was trying to persuade me to change my viewpoint, a Third Reich reference is a poor place to start. If anyone cared. Apparently they don't.

I get that on your page, you can post whatever you want. You can offend to your hearts content and go for all the shock value the platform standards will allow. Or you can not. You can put up kitten pics or tell the world what you had for lunch (oh wait...that's Twitter). If you're going the personal opinion route though, it pays to remember the old saying about opinions and assholes...everyone has them but nobody wants to see yours. Everyone does love kitten pics. Just an observation...

I also understand that I don't have to look. If I'm "offended" (which became a derogatory term in itself somehow), I can just block you. Believe me...I have and I will. It seems a little ridiculous though with my privacy settings being what they are that I have to scrub my newsfeed every day. These are from people I want to be in contact with. Why does it often feel like the day I opened up an 18" sewer main and found out exactly where it was plugged? I don't dump stuff because I disagree. I flush it because it's awful. Some of it the junk that shows up has been around since I had a PS-1. Some of it is so bad that it isn't even wrong. A fair share is not only insulting but it insults your intelligence reading it. I want to talk to people, not read all-caps 'scary' rumors, phishing forwards and flat earth conspiracy bullshit. At some point doesn't it make sense to stop abusing the people who are allegedly your friends? The ones you want to hear what you have to say? The ones who don't always agree?

After all, your argument is not really much of an argument if you're preaching to the choir. That's not a debate, that's a pep rally. Yes you'll be pretty safe in that mirrored bubble you end up with...where everyone nods and forwards 'amen' but trust me in this...a bubble isn't that much different from a cell and mirrors are all black on the inside. If you stare long into the abyss...

Come out and play and I'll happily argue and debate all day long but I'm not going to be berated because I disagree. And at least do a cursory search before you come at me with something that 'the mainstream media will never tell'. Who knows...come armed with facts instead of insults and you might change my mind. I might change yours. What a concept.

Just remember that in my world, your point is automatically invalid as soon as you resort to terms like 'snowflake', 'cuck', 'lib (or anything else) tard". You give up your high ground when you call people by racial or sexual or economic snarl words. And if there's even a passing reference to infowars or any of that ilk as actual facts...we're done.

The point is, and I know this has been said a million times...why would you say something online that if it was said in person, could end a friendship, demolish Thanksgiving dinner or start a bar fight? You know who's going to see what you post. Maybe you don't care who it hurts. Maybe it doesn't even matter if it's true. Maybe it's easier to buckshot some snarky, mean thing than engage. Maybe if you shut down everything except what you want to see and hear, your opinion becomes your truth.

Maybe that's where we are. But that's not social...it's sociopathic.

And yes...I need a ride.

Friday, March 2, 2018

February Down

It's been an anniversary of sorts this week. Even though I still can't go into it much, it's enough that I got through another February. 

Almost everybody just wants to get through February and I'm no different. That's probably why it's the shortest month. It's stuck between coming down off the holidays in January and the first hint of spring somewhere in March. It's the hangover, late payment, pothole, frozen pipe month. If your furnace is going to give out or your car is going to quit, it'll be in February. You just want it to be over with and think about warmer, brighter days. It's even more than that to me.

The month is about endings and beginnings around the Home. My old familiar life ended forever in a February. Full stop. Reboot. Then like the seasons, everything started all over again.

It's still ongoing. In a few years, I should be able to blog it all but for now...

February will always be like a moonless 3:00 am to me. The darkest and loneliest hour. The deepest, most desolate part of the night before the sunrise. That time when it's coldest and quietest and the world seems to hold it's breath. When it's so still that you can almost hear hope fading and sometimes promises slip away like whispers.

That's how it was that one February when everything changed. But I found out that if you can hold on just a little while longer, dawn will slowly sneak over the horizon and day will always come again. It may seem like it'll never get there. It may be cloudy and gray when it does but if you can just hang on one more hour, even one more minute, there will be light again. The dark loses some of its power and life finds the way back into the world.

If you just don't close your eyes in that last few minutes before daybreak, you'll finally see a glow in the east and suddenly feel like you can live again. You'll find your bearings with the light even when you thought you were completely lost. I should know...I've seen the darkness fade out often enough and I swear it's the hardest time of all

But then ever so slowly, the night lifts up from the horizon and the hills get left behind by the stars. It's still cold in the morning this time of year and in my world, the workday is only partly over when the sun comes up. But that's how February is. Endings and beginnings. And still putting one foot in front of the other knowing that better days are coming. 

One of these years I've got a story to tell but until I can, I'm happy to have another February down. It's March now and the snow is falling hard but yesterday the air smelled a little of spring and promises. Winter is fading like the dark after a long night. February down for another year.

Somehow it makes me think once again of hope.