Monday, October 2, 2017

Something Big

So, Oct. 2, 2017, is a shit day.

I'm sick. So sick I didn't go to work. I went to sleep last night about 10.

Sleep was awful. I woke up at 5:20 and checked my phone. Saw the alerts about Las Vegas. I'm officially tired of all this winning.

And now we learn Tom Petty has died.

***

Almost exactly 36 years ago -- Sept. 23, 1981 -- I saw Petty at Reunion Arena in Dallas with my brother and one of my best friends. It was a great show.

The concert was six hours away from our college town. We drove in that Wednesday, saw the show, came back the next day. Killed Chuck's car on the return trip, a hilarious story in its own right.

The next day, four of us were in another car, headed for Jackson, Miss., via New Orleans. Steed's car had only one cassette in it ... "Damn The Torpedoes." We wore it out.

***

I'm kind of burying the lede here. "The Waiting" is a song that literally changed my life.

When I met M, we were living a country apart. As we fell for each other -- and yes, I know this is cheesy, but bear with -- we did typical young couple things, like have touchstones.

One was Tom Petty's "The Waiting." Because when you're in a long-distance relationship, there's a lot of waiting. The song fit our situation. (BTW: We have two coffee mugs now with lyrics from this song on them.)

When we finally met face-to-face, it was fraught with tension. What if it didn't work?

It seemed like it might not.

We got into an argument. To blow off steam, she was on roller blades, I was on my bike, and we rode along the beach. Together, but apart. (This is my interpretation, maybe hers is different.) There was a lot of concern. It didn't seem like we were going to be able to accomplish this massive thing of our relationship. We lived 3,000 miles apart. There was the age thing. Different -- WILDLY different -- backgrounds.

We stopped for a moment, at Redondo Pier. Frustrated. Pessimistic.

***

Music is a soundtrack. I think all of us have songs that take us back to certain times, situations.

There were some shit bars at the pier. One of them had a live band. In the distance, we heard them play the opening notes of "The Waiting."

I'll never forget the look on M's face when that happened. Never.

It was kind of an epiphany. The story's so corny no one would ever pitch it to a Hollywood studio. But it really happened.

***

We were in LA and wanted to catch a show of his at the Hollywood Bowl. We drove right by it as the show got going but decided not to go. They were in Boston a couple of months ago and we passed again. Regrettable. My brother saw him a few months back, said it was a great show.

Thanks for everything, Tom.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Old School

Well, I guess it was time.

I hadn't been to a HS reunion before. Got close once: For the 10th, I'd pledged to go with one of my oldest friends. The day before, we scouted the location in case we wanted to make a quick escape. I'm not kidding ... we went to the hotel ballroom where it was going to be held, found all the exits in case we needed to high-tail it outta there.

The day of, we were on the way over. I remember it exactly. We were at a stoplight overlooking White Rock at Mockingbird and Buckner. I looked over at D, and we just knew.

His HS experience was worse than mine, apparently. When I was in HS I was on a varsity athletic team, involved in some student organizations, was on the newspaper staff ... I didn't feel like I was one of the "cool" kids but also didn't feel I was with the outcasts. I liked having a foot in both worlds but identified less with the popular people.

I had typical HS-age issues. Was more unsure than sure, used occasional bravado to mask the insecurities. But never really felt like I was "special" or one of the Chosen Ones. Honestly, I just felt like I was an unremarkable person then.

So it took me a while to feel like I could expose myself to that again. But, at this stage in life, what did that matter? That was a long time ago.

I asked D to go and was a little surprised he opted out. Maybe I should have? But enough of those old acquaintances that I gave a damn about wanted me to go, so go I went.

It was harder than I thought it would be. There were a handful of people I wanted to see, but barely 15 percent of my graduating class showed up. Our senior class was big, so honestly, some of those people I just didn't remember ... not because they weren't good people, it's just impossible to have relationships with almost 1,000 people.

Additionally ... time the avenger. I didn't recognize a lot of people. Most people, in fact. And for me, I felt it would be awkward and invasive to walk up to folks, peer at the sticker with their name affixed to their chest, and say ... what?

"Nope, don't remember you." I think that would be uncomfortable for them as well as for me. I would never willingly make someone feel uncomfortable in that setting.

"Wait, *you're* so-and-so? When did you get so ... bald?"

Now, I would never say that, but ... after the event, I saw some posts IDing people and they were completely unrecognizable. I'm sure I was too ... I don't have that "David Cassidy" hair I used to have, but I do have an additional hundred pounds. Anybody want some?

I'm also an odd duck compared to the majority of people from back there as far as their political views. I consider myself left of center, but not "crazy librul" because to me wanting equality and peace aren't crazy ideas.

There was one guy there who is a stone RWNJ. He just is. I avoided him as much as I could but he veered close to our table once and I just wanted the seconds to elapse swiftly so it would be over. The political world is so fraught right now, I welcomed the idea of a few hours away from that.

But honestly, I just didn't know what to do. One guy I wasn't super close with, but lived nearby, I knew him a long time, and we were on the team together and we sweated together, bled together, shared that special camaraderie of a team ... I ventured to engage with him, and after less than two minutes of small talk, he was done with me and basically turned his back. He couldn't even feign interest in learning anything about what time had wrought.

It was disappointing, though not entirely surprising. He was always kind of aloof and an odd duck, but it was almost like memories of a cold and distant relative ... couldn't you put aside your ego for a moment? Nope. He wanted to go back to his Circle of Adulation, where there were willing supplicants.

It kind of triggered me a little, I think. All those old HS-era fears and longing for approval flicked me upside the head.

It had happened with another teammate about 15 or so years ago. This person had become a coach and I was covering their game. Afterward I approached him but stood a respectful distance away while he spoke to someone else. We made eye contact and maybe he didn't recognize me, but as the minutes ticked away and glances were exchanged, it seemed he just had no interest in reconnecting. He never motioned me over. I left.

I've thought back on that and on the weekend: Should I have been more bold in seeking out people? Perhaps, although the original issues remain. To me it is respectful to give people the space they may want to approach a middle ground. I simply will not force myself on someone.

I was fortunate to be able to visit with a few people who meant a lot to me then; although I wished I could have spent more time with them. They were able to navigate this situation much better than I did. I envy that. They were able to circulate and dive into it, I guess. I didn't really know how.

I carry a great sadness about all of this. We all just want to be accepted. Despite my running in some "in-crowd" circles in HS, I felt that was someone else's perception. I didn't play football to sit at the front of the auditorium at pep rallies ... I played because I loved the game. I wasn't that great at it; I was a lot better playing on the front green at Gaston than I was on the field at Forester.

I wasn't on newspaper to see my name in print, I was on it because I loved journalism, as more than 25 years in this cursed business will painfully attest.

There was a slide show during the event showing old images from the neighborhood and yearbooks. It was a delight to see those fresh young people so full of life and so ... hopeful. But that experience wasn't everyone's. It wasn't D's experience, and truthfully, it wasn't always mine. And it's possible it wasn't those of the more than 80 percent who didn't show up. It wasn't always a happy time. A lot of people grappled with the stereotypical worries and tribulations of being a teenager. Am I OK?

It's an enduring question. Sometimes it's still a concern.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What's new

I haven't written since mom died. I mean to. I want to. It's just very hard to do it. She was my staunchest advocate her whole life. Missing her is the hardest thing I've ever had to overcome.

Something interesting happened during this time. The day she died, someone sent me a letter. It has opened a door to a part of my life that now will be explored. There will likely be more about this at some point as well.

Beyond the personal, I've felt a great deal of worry and concern about our collective fate given that we all now are apparently under the control of Vladimir Putin. That doesn't seem a situation that will end well.

Seriously: I just hope we all live through it.

Sigh.

Life is a crazy beautiful mess. It saddens me there are people who don't accept this and instead are motivated by greed, fear, hatred, shallowness and many other strange behaviors that are inherently inhuman. Some people don't want to see to it that other people have a fair shake. Never thought that'd be the predominant thought in this country. The country has an ugly side I thought we were growing away from. But enough, with the aid of selfish political ideologues, foreign intermediaries, traitorous government representatives and just a dash of dumbasses, have managed to hijack the country.

And I don't think anyone can fly the plane.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No no no no no no no no no

No no no no.

I can't stop what's happening. No one can. It's going to hurt.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Perspective

It's always worth having.

Life is still a work in progress. I learn something every day. I've changed, I'm better. But still far away from what I should be.

It's almost 2 a.m. on an early fall Friday. I feel like we live somewhat falsely sometimes. You're one person at work, one person with your people ... another person with yourself. And being compartmentalized like that means no one sees the "full you." Perhaps you don't even show yourself?

Why?

Fear is one of the worst concepts. It's one reason why old-time religion bothered me: I don't want to be "God-fearing" because I don't want to think of God as something to be feared. We have too much fear and worry.

I read a story tonight about a young man who drove recklessly and killed a 8-year-old girl who was riding her bicycle. Her cousin, 12, was injured. They were playing in the street during a summer birthday party; many family members saw the children run down and the driver flee the scene.

The survivor had a concussion, a broken leg, and severe trauma. The family is emotionally devastated.

The driver entered a guilty plea today and will receive sentencing a few hours from now. It's expected he'll actually catch a break, earning perhaps a 10-year sentence. That seems a little light given the loss, despite his shows of remorse.

Everyone in that story is way worse off than I am. So here's my perspective:

* People are going to be selfish sometimes -- just like I am. I should probably just try and deal with it and rise above.
* Stop whining about stupid things in your life. Is some situation *really* egregious? It's probably not. And it's certainly not like the tragedy with that little girl's family. So maybe my problems are inconsequential.
* Just ... chill. This is easier said than done. But, you have to find a peace with yourself. You need to be better at some things? Then do it. You can't miracle your ass up there.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Found in Translation

I was born in Texas in 1959.

Sometimes I think about what that world must have been like. It was just 14 years after the end of WWII, less than 20 years before it all started.

The "enemy" then was communism, but there were plenty of nearby "enemies." The language I grew up around was vile, but I didn't know that at the time. It was taught.

I heard black people called the following: Niggers. Coons. Jigaboos. Negros. Colored People.

I heard Hispanic people called the following: Wetbacks. Spics. Greasers. Mexicans.

I heard Asians called the following: Chinks. Gooks. Slanties.

I heard gay people called the following: Homos. Fags/Faggots. Queers.

I heard women called the following: Bitches. Cunts. Whores. Sluts. Broads.

One of today's big enemies are Muslims. They weren't then high on the "hated" hierarchy, but there were still some epithets allocated: Ragheads. Arabs. Camel jockeys. Sand niggers.

The worst thing I ever heard about white people was "rednecks." Later, cracker came along, or honky. None of those seemed as remotely offensive as what the previous ones were.

I think about these poisons that were casually placed around my existence as a child, and it saddens me, but it also makes me deeply ashamed that this racism and hate was so prevalent and relatively unchallenged.

And I think about these vulgarities in the context of a man who wants to "Make America Great Again." Great for who?

I remember watching news footage of blacks being chased down the streets by angry mobs -- some of whom were law enforcement. Beaten. Assaulted by dogs. Spat upon. Murdered. Do blacks want that "Great America" again? No.

I remember Hispanics grouped as only "Mexicans" (I was in Texas) and characterized as mooches who were only good for menial jobs in fields, restaurant kitchens, or yardwork (charitably characterized as "gardening"). One presidential candidate broadly characterizes these people as "rapists."

When I look back at all that rampant ugliness, I think about the people in my life now, some of whom didn't have those horrible things on easy display. Do I want my black friends to live in a world where those things are back in vogue? Of course not. But their struggle isn't even over. Despite a black president, blacks are gunned down by whites on a daily basis. Urban blacks are born into worlds where the odds are stacked against them in the womb. Economic disparity favors white men, substantially.

As bad as things are now, it was worse then. "Make America Great Again?" This is as good for so-called "minorities" as it's ever been. No one wants to go back a single day.

Gays can get married in 50 states. It used to be that coming out of the closet marginalized these people who were only guilty of following their hearts and nature. Homophobia, like racism, is alive and well. But at least today, these communities have gotten to share at least a little of America's promise. Do they want to go back? Only if they're given the same respect and rights as white men have always had.

One presidential candidate doesn't want to share those dignities with them. His campaign slogan can be translated as this: "When I was a young white boy, niggers/spics/gooks/fags/bitches/ragheads knew their place, and it was behind us. We were the bosses. Make America Great Again."

I thought he was going to be usurped at the RNC, and replaced by Mitt -- who might have won. Thank the old gods and the new gods that the racists at the controls let it play out so that their demagogue could be put at the top of their ticket. Because their dark heart has now been exposed.

But the fight isn't ever. I don't like the two-party system and hope for its ruination, but in 2016, this is the hand we've been dealt. And there's only one way to play it.

America's always been great. It's why we've made the progress we have. The next step is to give women more of a say in how this country is run. Ann Richards, Wendy Davis, Amy Klobuchar, Gabby Giffords before (sadly), Liz Warren would be great leaders.

Hillary Clinton isn't the best choice -- but in 2016, she's the only choice. Keep America Great.



Friday, April 22, 2016

Me & Prince

MTV first let me know who this weird guy with the androgynous look and the badass guitar-playing was.

"Controversy" was the song, and it was in heavy rotation back in the early days of MTV.

I was instantly a fan. I remember telling someone during my brief time as a college radio DJ that Prince would be a much bigger star than Michael Jackson.

Commercially, that didn't turn out to be the case. Prince sold more than 100 million albums, the King of Pop more than 7 times that.

I don't care. To me, Prince was always better than Jackson. He was a great musician, a great singer, and wrote incredible songs.

Michael Jackson was a great singer and performer. End of story.

Prince was prolific, but I didn't really follow his career after 1990. I don't know why that was. At one time I owned most of his stuff; 8 albums. That turned out to be not even a fifth of his career portfolio.

To me, Prince's best release was probably "Sign o' the Times" -- most people will pick "Purple Rain" and that's a good argument, as is "1999."

I first heard Purple Rain not long after it was released in late June of 1984. I was living in Midland, Texas. I was 25.

25.

Anyway, Midland was (probably still is) a racially divided town in those days, and the black folks had their side of town, and the Mexicans theirs, and ...

I worked with a guy named Wendell Smith. Absolute great guy. Crazy to think his infant daughter is now an adult.

Wendell was a baller, and I played a lot in those days. (25). I was lucky enough to get an invitation to play in his "Sunday League" -- his brothers and friends played pickup games all Sunday afternoon in the back yard of his mother's house.

The court was hard, packed West Texas dirt. The uneven rims were supported by wobbly posts and sported homemade plywood backboards. And ... pretty sure they weren't 10 feet. And totally sure they were of different heights independently. Not exactly regulation.

It was like going to heaven. Purifying.

So Wendell lets me come play. I'm super excited, because these guys were fun, and they were GOOD. Wendell was a gunner. His younger brother was kind of an animal on the boards.

He's the one who brought a boom box (so 80s!) out as we warmed up. That yard was baking under a summer sun but we were young bucks in those days and loved it. He popped in a cassette (!) of "Purple Rain." The movie came out a month later.

This day was well over 30 years ago, and I'll always remember it. The music, playing ball, the sun.

I was young and pretty. Prince was cool ... and hot. Life stretched out ahead like an endless highway.

That last two memories of Prince are his weird set a year or so ago on a Chris Rock-hosted SNL. Because Prince, he was allowed to subvert the typical two-song (one before Update, one at about 12:45 a.m.) show standard. Instead he played an odd, four-song continuous medley that wasn't musically memorable but was ... Prince doing Prince things.

And I remember his epic performance at halftime of the 2007 Super Bowl. Singing "Purple Rain" as it poured down was unforgettable.

Prince is gone at 57. Farewell, sweet Prince.