Friday, October 7, 2016


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?


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.


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.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


She's asleep now. She works so hard, and does so much.

Today I got up with the dogs. She doesn't get to sleep in often.

When we happened on that website, talking hockey ... of course, we couldn't know so much was ahead.

A spirited chat became an email exchange became phone numbers became hey what's going on here became ... everything.

Ten years ago today, the rest of the world had to acknowledge it.


If I've learned anything this past year, I've learned you have to kind of grab your own destiny as best you can, then hang on while life and reality buffets you about. Honey Badger don't care. Dad's gone. Mom is still here.

So are we. It hasn't always been easy. But it's always been worth fighting for.

Happy anniversary, M.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meathead Moment

Heading west on Summer Street, the street becomes one-way at Kingston, so you've got to turn left there.

In the mornings — actually, almost all the time — that intersection is clogged with pedestrians. Cars turning left must hope there are limited jaywalkers, because this is Boston, and fuck you, and so they go when they want.

Today I began to wedge through. A meathead mashed his beefy hook against my car.

I've had it with this shit from these people. Crammed on the brakes. As I got out, Meat was there to greet me. I think he may have been a little surprised that I was at least 8 inches taller than he was.

Our "discussion"consisted of him telling me he had the right-of-way. (From the state's RMV handbook: "Pedestrians must obey white and orange DON’T WALK and WALK signals.")

He cocked his right arm as if he was going to punch me. I hope it unnerved him I didn't flinch. Plus, he was so close to me and the car, he couldn't have gotten much behind it. My argument consisted of "Dude, you know you're wrong."

Which, he seemed to be stupid, so he probably DIDN'T know, but, he continued to maintain that he had the right-of-way. After 20-30 seconds of this, I lifted my left hand to push him back a bit. He grabbed my Boston Marathon hat off my head (team spirit!) and hurled it into Summer Street, then hied his ass east.

I sent him on his way with the words "Boston Strong, asshole!" and that was the end of the story. Since I was blocking an intersection, I didn't go fetch the hat. A shame; I liked that hat.

This is a highly representative example, in my experience, of the Boston meathead. This place is thickly settled with them.

Also: As with so many other things in this enlightened state, the fine for jaywalking is laughably stupid. It's ... one dollar. Two, after a fourth offense in a year. Hell, they don't even take away your walker's license.

Anyway, this may have been a "straw" moment. I've set a deadline of end of summer 2017 to leave this place. Life's too short to be surrounded by these cretins.

Friday, June 26, 2015


The only person who ever called my dad "Charles" was his mother.

She's been dead for more than 40 years, but if there's an afterlife, I imagine he's being called "Charles" again today.

Dad's probably also playing golf, drinking beer, singing country songs and telling bad jokes.

And laughing. The man liked to laugh.


So when someone's heading for death, you accept it, but when it happens it's still hard.

I went to Lubbock last month to say goodbye. I told him I'd be back to watch Texas Tech play Arkansas in September, but I had my doubts about whether I'd actually be making that trip.

When my brother called yesterday, I felt it.

I know this is hokey, but it happened. I woke up at 5 a.m. yesterday morning after dreaming a weird dream about my dad. Dad did some ... idiosyncratic things. So this dream, while a bit bizarre, was also somewhat plausible.

It was set somewhere out west, maybe in Texas, but someplace flat and open. He did like his plains.

I will always think of him driving an ugly-ass van, like an Aerostar, although I think it was actually a Chevy. In the dream he was in an ugly-ass SUV, like OJ's Bronco.

The back end was open and he was handing me brown paper bags of random things. Like... useless things. I remember one seeming to have moldy celery stalks. I kind of shook my head in the dream, like "Really, dad?" But he handed 'em to me and I put them in my car.

The sky looked wide open to the west. We were in a parking lot by a highway.

Have at it, interpreters. It seems pretty obvious.

When I woke up, I thought "Oh man, this isn't one of those 'omen' dreams, is it?"


Driving to work on the Pike after I got the news, there was a semi truck headed west with big green letters on white siding: MIDLAND.



When Curtis told me, I had a shiver run through my body. It wasn't a literal shivering sensation, and it wasn't cold. But it was ... something. I felt it.


I took the news pretty well, and the only time I really got shook was when I told Bailey.

Me and my dad had some issues, and I've feared similar connectedness issues developing with her. Without getting into too much detail about the troubled, estranged relationships divorced dads can have with their children, I'll just say I wanted to be more present in Bailey's life.

Which was made difficult by moving away, twice. The first time, I was chasing something unidentified. I think I was kind of running away. Fortunately I figured out that was not the best idea, but the second time I had to move away.

It was the right play in the big picture, but hard on us. I could have handled it better, and I wish I'd had more support, but I didn't. Since I was the adult, I have to bear that.

But today, our relationship has been improving for some time, and I'm thrilled about that.

In a way, it got stronger today. I didn't know how to talk to her about this. Her and my dad weren't super close, but still...

Anyway, I got choked up, she got choked up... the elephant in the room is that people move out of the earthly plane, and some day she'll be the one making the calls.

I don't want that to happen, obviously, for a very long time.


My mom and dad split when I was five. I barely remember their life together.

Now, his history as I know it...

He was born in BFOklahoma on Dec. 20, 1933. The first child of Beulah and some guy named Castleberry. (Yeah, it's complicated. Bear with... ) Beulah was a simple woman, from what I'm told she was something of an "old maid" when she got married. I remember she went to Church of Christ and was apparently a zealot, believing that worshipers at other churches were doomed to Hell.

She liked to watch pro wrestling on TV. She baked delicious homemade bread and apple butter. She was a sweet old woman who seemed to have no life outside of church and family.

My dad would go on to have two brothers and two sisters. The youngest was Ronnie. And he was the first to go. When Ronnie died, the family went to Cordell, Okla., to bury him. It was the first time I had been there in almost 30 years, since we buried Beulah around Thanksgiving in 1973.

Dad and his sibs wanted to reminisce. Cordell is frozen in time; nothing changes. We drove to an area that was sparsely occupied and walked down a road in an almost empty field. We passed a dilapidated old barn. My dad revealed that to the best of his knowledge ... he was born there.

Born. In. A. Barn.

In the Depression. In Oklahoma.

I don't know much about his childhood other than to know it can't have been all rosy. Shortly before he turned 8 came the Day of Infamy.

As the story was told to me, sometime in 1946 or 1947, his father told Beulah he was going to Oklahoma City to look for work. She never saw him again.


So my dad was 13 with four younger siblings and a mother who likely had only been a housewife. Women in those days were sometimes teachers, but in a town like Cordell there wasn't much economic activity. It must have been incredibly hard. Not to mention embarrassing. Hey, that's the poor family whose dad ran out on them! There are no secrets in a town that small.

I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been. I believe it shaped my father's emotional character in a way he could never fully overcome.

I wish I had better details and knowledge of his life then. Dad just never would open up very much about it. It's one of the things I never got to understand and enjoy. I would have loved to know more about him. But he was pretty emotionally closed off. When I went to see him last month, I'd hoped he would give me something real, but he didn't. The last night I spent with him, I waited for him to go there. I knew if I tried, he'd hem and haw. So I had to let him take the lead.

He watched stupid TV shows instead. So it remains in darkness.


An enduring legend of Chuck came from his senior year in high school, which would have been 1951 or '52. He and two friends had been in a horrible car accident prior to the start of the school year. Riding three abreast and returning home from Oklahoma City, the car rear-ended a big truck that was cloaked in night. Dad was on the right. The boy in the middle was killed instantly. Dad had severe injuries; he bore a foot-long scar in his thigh the rest of his life and was in a body cast for many months.

So basically, screwed again. A time that theoretically could have given him some respite from the difficult path handed to him by his shitty father was instead full of hardship.

Dad played baseball, but his season was effectively over. Although he delighted in telling a story about how he finally regained some mobility in time to dress for the last game of the season. In his only at-bat, he got a hold of one and it flew over the outfielder's head. There were no fences in those days so it just kept rolling, and so did he. By the time the ball got back in he gimpily beat the throw and had a home run.

Joy. He was mobbed, and a friend named Max Deutschendorf bear-hugged him as he scored. Max told me this story to confirm it when we were in Cordell for Ronnie's funeral. Max' nephew John changed his last name to Denver and became a pretty big pop star in the '70s.


Dad served in the Army but dodged trouble as Korea had wound down.

He was stationed at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. That was the place that eventually was most known for being where Elvis had his hair cut.

There he met a dark-haired civilian girl working in the secretarial pool.

Mom says their first date was to see a Doris Day movie, "Calamity Jane." Insert punchline here. The movie was released Nov. 4, 1953.

They were married Jan. 30, 1954. Whirlwind romance!

Knowing my grandfather, I somehow doubt he was thrilled by all of this.


My parents lived in Fort Smith, Ark. They were due to have a baby in 1955.

Dad loved the flat, arid plains. After getting out of the Army he took a job as a postal carrier in some wide expanse of road called Midland, Texas.

I came along in 1959, and Curtis joined the party in early 1962.

I remember Curtis coming home for the first time. It's my earliest memory. Then I remember ridiculous car trips from Midland to Fort Smith in the back of an ugly lime green Oldsmobile station wagon. That's almost 600 miles. My parents would leave after work on Friday and drive it, then turn around Sunday afternoon for the return.

The other main memory I have of my dad was a family vacation to Colorado. I remember him scaring me at Mesa Verde. And I remember getting a flat tire on Pike's Peak, and as he changed the tire, our little dog Toto got out and ran off. My dad chased to catch him but he never came back.

I just remembered them taking me to see "Bambi." That's the first movie I remember seeing, and the re-release was in 1966. So I guess they were split or almost split.


Dad began a long stretch of living in mobile homes. I guess that's an apt metaphor -- the ability to move on always there. He got married again, and again, and again, and again. The last one took, though -- he and Jo were married almost 40 years.

I don't even remember No. 2.

No. 3 was Ruth, and she was a sweetheart, great sense of humor, fun. Dad moved to Dallas in 66 or 67, and mom's job moved her there as well. So we at least had some interaction in his life, but for a long time, our visits to see dad were not memorable.

I wish I knew what he was going through in those days. Pop psychology time: I feel pretty sure that all of this was a result of his abandonment as a child. Some people feel abandoned; he WAS abandoned. Those issues manifest in some people with a chronic inability to develop deep connections. Sad to say I think this is what hurt our relationship and some of those issues hit me in life.

I don't know why dad and Ruth didn't last. I suppose I could ask her.

No. 4 was crazy. Her daughter was murdered with someone else and their bodies were dumped into a lake. That was weird but I never really knew much about that or her. They weren't together long. Dad met Jo and that was that.


I only remember seeing dad sad a couple of times. Once was at Beulah's funeral. The other time I was 12 or 13. We were in the car on Woodall Rogers, and I remember him telling me he didn't have any money to get me a birthday present. He cried.

I also only remember seeing him mad only a couple of times, and both of them wound up unintentionally hilarious.

The first time was when he lived in Howe, Texas. The community had an activity center with a pool and a gameroom with a pool table. Dad could shoot a little pool.

My brother and I were outside. Being jerks to each other. Somehow he splashed me with cold water and I started to chase him. He ran into the clubhouse and I pursued. When we got in he yelled "You boys stop that fighting!" He came after us with a pool cue then hit a wet spot on the floor and did the splits.

Everyone roared with laughter. The Russian judge gave him a 7.

The second time he got mad was on a golf course. He hated woods, so used a 1-iron. Off the tee he butchered the shot, and was not pleased. He chunked the 1, yelled "Fuck!" and it whirly-birded down the fairway. Not quite as far as his drive.

My brother and I wanted to laugh but we also decided to stifle. But I still laugh now when I think about it.


I remember scattered things we did when I was young. A Dallas Chaparrals game at Moody. A Black Hawks game or two. A Rangers game.

Dad became an insurance claims adjuster, and whenever there was a disaster somewhere, he'd be off to work in some remote location. It suited him. I guess he was something of a loner.

He loved to golf, and he was pretty good at it. He liked his Coors, and he was pretty good at that, too.

But as I got older, we didn't get closer. I guess in some ways I wrote him off, but I had to. He just didn't want to invest much in me.

It used to bother me a lot. Sometime in the 90s Curtis and I were driving out to Lubbock for a visit. Halfway there I told him I was going to confront dad about his distance. Curtis talked me out of it.

I would have loved for him to have been more interested in me. But I think he didn't know how to really commit to something so scary as deep emotion, even with his oldest son.


I was the same way for a long time. I got into relationships then kept them a little at arm's length. I never was all-in. Sometimes I was more committed than other times, but ever letting someone completely in? That didn't really happen. Even when it seemed at the time I was giving 100 percent, I actually didn't.

Because that IS scary. It is difficult to feel safe. That was the greatest sadness in dad's life. He was with Jo a long time, so maybe he was all-in there. I don't think he was. I think she might agree.

He never was all-in with me. But Jo got him to try harder, and in the last 10-15 years, he did. He'd call and chat usually once a week or two, which was more than he'd ever done before. But most of the time that convo didn't last very long, and never got too deep.

It was the best he could do. He tried, and I had to learn that that was enough. I lost my anger, though not my sadness, but appreciated that he at least knew that the effort was worth something. At least, it was to me.


I saved a handful of voice messages from dad. It will give me a chance to hear his voice again sometimes.

It's a shame he didn't have a happier life. Knowing a little bit about how people sabotage themselves, I think that some of the bad behavior he engaged in contributed to the heart attacks/bypasses/strokes he weathered.

Toward the end as his health deteriorated Jo said he had some hard looks on his face at times. I fear that may have been some regret, but when he had a few chances to cut some of that down, he passed on it. I am just speculating.

But I forgive you dad. I know you had a bad hand.

I hope I've learned some lessons. I don't want to regret anything. It's partly why I went back to school, to kill those 26 hours unfinished since 1983. Dad saw me walk, even though he hadn't really contributed anything other than motivation.


It's taken me days to get this down and I've tried not to leave anything out. I surely have forgotten things, maybe I'll add later. Few people will be terribly interested, but I had to do this now while the wound is still fresh.

I hated going out there last month knowing it was goodbye. I really hoped he'd open up a little, but he was true to himself to the end.

And now we go on without him.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shelter in Place

April 19, 2013, was one of the oddest days ever.

It started with a robocall from the police. The town of Belmont -- and surrounding communities Watertown, Cambridge and eventually every other one -- were advised to "Shelter in Place." I don't think I'd ever heard the term before.

The manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers was in full swing. A metro area of 4.5 million basically shut down.

The military presence on the streets of Watertown -- about 120 yards down the street -- looked like an occupation.

A florist caught terrorist Dylann Roof.


The chase for Bowlcut Boy (no more references to this murderer's actual name) began about 25 hours ago, after this redneck calmly mowed down nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

There was no shutdown of Charleston. No heavy-handed show of force. And when he was taken, his body wasn't riddled with bullets in a "shoot-first, ask-questions-later" cowboy up.

Curiously, few in the media are calling this guy a terrorist. But he is. To be called a terrorist or a thug, you pretty much have to be Muslim or black or worse, both.

Yet there are plenty of white terrorists, especially in this town. 

So the usual SOS went around today. We don't really even flinch any more when this happens. We've got a serious gun problem in this country -- it's too easy to get them, and the firepower is designed to mass murder. Hunters don't use automatic weapons.

Well, maybe shitty hunters do.

NB: It doesn't appear the shooter had an automatic. Nevertheless, mass shootings are way too common.

Along the Pike near Fenway is an electronic counter that tallies the American shooting deaths since Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012. A day or two ago it was already well past 78,000. After Charleston, 80,000 is coming up fast with a bullet.

The NRA terrorists have won. Nothing will change after this.


Off the top of my head, here is a list of places that are not safe:

A grade school. Or a high school. Or a college or a university. Or an Amish school. Or a university.
A church. Pick a religion.
A religious compound.
Private property.
A restaurant. Or a McDonald's
A movie theater.
A political function.
An Army base.
A Navy base.
A post office.
A community center.
A street.
A business.
police HQ. Way to go, Dallas!

Even a police HQ can get shot up. Think about that a second.

Want more gun violence? Clicky.

Of course, other places have proven to be unsafe, like:

An airplane.

An office tower.
A federal building.
A marathon.


Shelter in Place. Is even that safe any more?