Saturday, November 19, 2016

So... About That Unicorn.

I know there were a lot of people who would have voted for the unicorn this election. That surefire, guaranteed win that was Bernie Sanders. And trust me - Hillary has been a walking national controversy since before Bill took his crooked pecker to the Oral Office. I would have loved to vote for someone other than her, but not because of the controversies. Despite all the noise and debunked scandals, Hillary is inarguably brilliant and has a track record of public service. So what if it's not impeccable? She was fully qualified to be president. My initial opposition to Hillary was simply the fact that I don't like the concept of family dynasties in the presidency. The Bush family cemented it for me - Shrub's personal vendetta to finish his daddy's war at all costs, using whatever excuse he could to re-engage in Iraq, was ten bridges too far for me. So going into this cycle, I was looking for an alternative. The pickins were slim from the git go. Martin O'Malley was a nice enough guy, but I can picture him considering The Carpenters "acid rock". Bernie looked intriguing, drew big crowds, and was getting the young voter involved. But as the campaign season wore on, it became clear that Bernie had a very limited message set in his stump speech. And even less detail on how he would accomplish his very aggressive, very PROgressive, agenda. He was a "low ceiling" candidate, as the experts would say. Reflect on this: Republicans left him alone, focusing on Hillary. Why? Simple. They wanted to run against him, not Hillary. They figured that, despite all the controversies, Hillary would bring name recognition, and more importantly, a relationship with the Obama administration that could be leveraged by the '08 & '12 "Obama coalition", which had already beaten the last two Republican candidates (each of which must have been considered stronger than Trump, when it became clear that the nomination was his to lose). In the end, it didn't matter. But that doesn't mean that Bernie would've done better. He would've just lost differently.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Out Of The Closet

I recently came out of the closet. It was a difficult thing for me and my family, but there were recent events that forced my hand. I didn't want to do it, but it's actually a relief now that it's over. I am a liberal American. I know what you're thinking: this guy is shitting on people who've had to deal with the very serious issue of coming out as gay, lesbian, trans, questioning... and I apologize. It was a lazy way to get you to start reading. But since you're still reading... I came out publicly as a liberal on election night 2016. I had to do it, for a lot of reasons. First, because the middle part of our country is so stupid that they thought that Trump would be their best bet to make America buy cheap hats with a fascist slogan on the front (made in China). Second, because within hours of this shitshow of a "victory", I had tons of my social media friends posting right-wing bullshit, considering WorldNutDaily, Breitbart, RedState, as mainstream media. And asking their liberal friends to "be kind". And to "come together" in this time of fucking "unity". I came out because it bothers the ever loving fuck out of me that these assholes only look for "unity" or fucking "kindness" when their dude wins the election. Were these assholes looking for unity and kindness when Barack Obama was elected in 2008? No. They were already planning for his presidency to be one term, and pledging to de-legitimize his election. The fucking "tea party" was nothing more than a bunch of racist assholes, who immediately started the process of primarying people IN THEIR OWN FUCKING PARTY for even remotely suggesting that they would be something close to "loyal oppostion" - politics-speak for the party out of power duly expressing their disagreement with the majority, but pledging to work within the government structure to come to compromise where possible. These no-dicks said fuck that - he's a nigger, a Muslim, a socialist, a fascist (ironic), he doesn't represent my America (where we apparently hit the pause button in the 1950's). I never had a social media "friend" reach out to me looking for unity when comics showed a fucking watermelon patch on the fucking White House lawn. But they damn sure did two days ago when protests broke out in major cities across the country as their tiny-handed, intellectual lightweight business failure of a candidate (who took a tax loss that may or may not be legal to ensure that he HASN'T CONTRIBUTED A FUCKING DIME TO OUR COUNTRY IN ALMOST TWO DECADES) planned to visit the White House to initiate the peaceful transition of power. Obama has not been the perfect president. No president can be. When you're elected to that singular office, you represent 330+ million people. Some of those people are not going to be pleased on any given day. You make so many decisions, some of them are going to be wrong. My impression of Obama is different than every other person in this country. As is yours. But here's how my experience with 44 began: On election night 2008, I was in northern Virginia, after wrapping up a small software convention at the University of Maryland. A libertarian co-worker and I went out for a very nice dinner in Georgetown (corporate credit card), and then cabbed it back to the hotel. I was glued to my phone the entire time (Blackberry Curve 8330), and as votes started coming in, I was looking forward to celebrating in my hotel room. With alcohol. We got back to the hotel, and decided to have a nightcap in the lobby bar. Obviously, all TVs were tuned to election coverage, and I was pretty much in mixed company. Corporate suits, DC drones, and tourists in that bar were either enjoying the moment or despondent. My co-worker retired to his room, and I sat alone at my table with a final drink as Obama was declared the winner. I looked around the bar, and the response was politely subdued. Some tables were smiling and patting each other on the back, while others were huddled in quiet conversation. I looked behind the bar, and for the first time I realized that everyone working was black. And then I looked around me and saw that every single person they were serving was white. I finished my drink and asked for my check. As I was settling my tab, I looked back behind the bar and saw several of the staff looking at the TVs and smiling. Small, slight smiles, but powerful. I signed my bill, and at the bottom I wrote YES WE CAN! My server came and picked up my tab, and I headed for the elevator. As I was waiting, that server came up to me and almost sheepishly said simply "thank you - it's an important night". I shook his hand and agreed with him, and went to bed, feeling pretty good about my country. Seven plus years later, thanks to the tireless efforts of fucknuggets on the right (Mitch McConnell should burn in hell, even though I don't believe in it), the importance of that night has been effectively wiped away. Racism is not only at an all-time high, it's an election criteria. Obstructionism succeeded. The man who questioned Obama's legitimacy will succeed him in the most important and powerful position in our country. The man who won a primary by bullying his opponents, and who won the general election despite some of the most despicable rhetoric ever recorded, will assume the position of "most powerful person in the world". But it will all be better if we're just kind to each other in fucking unity. I'm writing again because I was silent this past seven years as I watched our democracy get raped by people who care more about themselves and their election possibilities than their country. And to the LGBTQ community I disparaged at the beginning of this post: You're fucked in a Trump presidency. And Pence hates you. I'm sorry I was silent. Next post: why Bernie Sanders would have been slaughtered by Trump in this election.

Back from the Dead

I haven't posted here in almost seven years. There are a lot of reasons why, but the primary reason is that I completely forgot that I had created this blog. Now, I'm thinking that an online journal might not be a bad idea. This has been the shittiest week I've had in a while. It's the culmination of the shittiest six months I've had since at least 2011. So we might as well go ahead and open some wounds. My mom died of COPD at the end of January 2010. She suffered through serious breathing problems, leading to multiple hospitalizations, for the last four months. When you told her to stop smoking, she would flip you off. As her lungs turned to stone, she spent more and more time in the hospital. The last time, the hospitalist recommended hospice care - there was nothing else medically they could do for her. She went back to her little apartment she shared with my dad, waited for hospice to come and bring her a hospital bed and medication the next day, welcomed the family over that afternoon, talked story with us, hugged us all, and then died that night. We never asked any questions, because why ask? Went out on her own terms. After my mom died, during the summer of 2010, my dad helped me run a baseball clinic for little guys - 8, 9 & 10 year olds in our area. We had a blast as we worked at different stations, coached the kids during scrimmages, made new friends, and felt like we were doing something good for the kids in our neighborhood. One day after practice I noticed that he was a little slow back to his bag and water bottle on the bench. Had a hard time bending over to collect his stuff, so I helped him. Asked him if he was feeling OK. He said he'd been feeling some "back pain" the past few weeks. Over the next few months, I watched my dad deteriorate as his kidneys started shutting down and his bone cancer continued to spread. I didn't know about these conditions because he had ignored the diagnoses while taking care of my mom. He decided to try dialysis to see if he could get back to a sort of normal life (we still, at this point, didn't know about the bone cancer - but he did). After a few rounds he'd had enough, and entered the hospital right after the fourth of July 2011. He died on August 10, 2011. So... that's what I've been doing for the last few years. Everyone loses their parents, and it sucks. That's exactly why I'm writing today, the day after we buried my mother in law. She was an old-school dustbowl transplant whose father had a cotton farm in Corcoran - she picked cotton before and after school, and eventually moved to "the big city" of Fresno. She was no-nonsense, completely independent, and incredibly kind and giving. Her passing has been devastating to our family, but her courage is a source of strength. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer about six months ago, after battling the disease 15 years ago and being cancer-free for over a decade. She chose to go the chemo route, then radical bilateral mastectomy. She went through six rounds of chemo, almost died after the first and third rounds, and was planning on visiting the doc to schedule surgery. But the cumulative effect of the chemo, as well as severely reduced kidney function (there's those damned kidneys again), put her into a tailspin she couldn't recover from. She actually asked permission to stop fighting - like a woman with her life and strength needed permission. She died peacefully in hospice last Sunday. So this resurrection of the blog has focused on death. That's odd. Not sure if it's ironic, but it is odd. I needed to get it out. I promise: my next post will definitely not be about the death of parents. It will be about the death of our political system. KF

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A White Christmas

Happy post-Christmas to anyone who might accidentally happen by this blog... It's been a very reflective holiday season for me, seeing that it's our family's first Christmas without our matriarch. My mom died on January 31, 2010, so everything that's happened this year has been "the first time since..."

One of the great things that my parents instilled upon me was a respect for things that happened before I was born. For as long as I can remember, I watched movies in black and white - movies that resounded with my parents, not me. A generation I could never identify with has finally connected with the movie "White Christmas". I started watching it during the Christmas season of 2009, when my mother was dying of COPD. It sounds silly to state outright that a 55 year-old movie would create a connection, but this particular film did the trick. I've always enjoyed Bing Crosby, and one of my favorite movies of all time is "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" with Danny Kaye, but "White Christmas" brings the two of them together, along with Rosemary Clooney (George's aunt) as well as Vera Ellen, a stellar dancer from that iconic era. Add to the star power the post-WWII euphoria, as well as the all-too-familiar issue of what to do with our retired military, and you have an absolutely fantastic movie.

Of course, like many lovable movies, "White Christmas" has its oversimplified plot (think "Three's Company" meets "M*A*S*H*"), but the sweetness of the post-WWII mindset makes this movie as worthy an addition to your holiday movie must-see as A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and A Miracle on 34th Street. I realize that this is a little late for a movie review, but it's worth thinking about for the New Year's doldrums, as well as planning for next year.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Death of Eras

Sitting here reflecting upon the events of June 25, 2009 - the early morning passing of Farrah Fawcett and the afternoon death of Michael Jackson - I'm compelled to review moments of impact in my life. I have decided that there have been five significant "deaths" in my life to this point (in chronological order):

1. The death of Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. I was twelve years old, moving from Fresno to San Diego literally a day after my sixth grade graduation, when we heard the news that Munson had died in the crash of a private airplane. I wasn't a Yankees fan, but as a fan of fellow catcher Johnny Bench (and a budding baseball fan in general), I knew of him. His death marked the first time I realized that our sports heroes were mortal.

2. The death of "Tutu". I was a 21 year-old high school graduate with one semester of junior college under my belt, working at a bank, wondering if I'd ever earn more than $7 an hour. One day my grandmother went into the hospital for renal bypass surgery, and she never came out. I got the news of her death at around 2:00 in the morning, and stayed awake the rest of the night thinking about my own mortality. Her death marked the first time that I took control of my destiny, and less than a week later I was trying out for a college baseball team despite never having played for a high school team. I made the team, earned a scholarship to a four-year school, and ended up with a degree.

3. The death of "Showtime". On November 7, 1991, I was working an afternoon shift at Kinney Shoes at the Windward Mall in Kaneohe, Hawaii. A co-worker who knew that I was a Lakers fan came into the store with the news that Magic Johnson had announced that he was HIV positive, and that he was retiring from basketball. I was a Lakers fan BECAUSE of Magic, and his announcement marked the death of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time - and the first time I realized that our sports heroes are not perfect.

4. The death of American infallibility. On September 11, 2001, our lives changed forever. And in the months following that tragedy, America changed forever. We traded reason for revenge and integrity for "interrogation". The towers crashing down marked the first time I realized that others would think so low of us that they would attack us on our own soil, and the first time I realized we would sell our position in the world for the personal gain of our leaders.

5. The death of youth. There have been other celebrity deaths throughout my life, but I cannot remember a more impactful day than June 25, 2009. On the same day, in a span of eight hours, an angel and an icon passed away.

The first poster of a woman I ever had in my bedroom was arguably the most famous image of a woman of its time: the 1976 poster of Farrah Fawcett, which brought the concept of "sexy" to the mainstream.

I was never a fan of the music of Michael Jackson, but he was always a presence in my life: I was five years old when "I'll be There" was released. "Thriller", the best-selling album of all time, was released when I was fifteen, and so many of the songs on that album provided the background music of my youth. Jackson introduced me to an entirely new way to experience music through videos, and even his later, more eccentric (and potentially perverted or criminal) behavior was part of my life experience.

Today I mourn not just the death of two more celebrities, but of a part of my youth. And as such, today is the first time I've realized that I am not as young as I would like to think. RIP Farrah, RIP Michael, RIP Youth.

Friday, February 27, 2009

MP Kelly

The day began with a very short flight from Lansing, Michigan, to Chicago. I sat next to a soldier in full desert winter camouflage, with “MP” on the sleeve. She could not have been more than nineteen.

I tried engaging her in conversation, but the best I could get from her were a few one-word answers, and no eye contact. She was headed to Afghanistan. She is stationed at Bagram. She had been on leave. She was originally deployed in September. The morale of the troops is good.

I thought that maybe members of the military were being instructed to keep conversation with civilians to a minimum due to the conflicting opinions on the war in Afghanistan and the troop reduction in Iraq, so I decided to leave her alone. It was only at the end of the flight, when I thanked her for her service and told her that I hoped she stayed safe, that she finally looked at me.

She was crying.

I don't know if she was sad to be leaving home again, or afraid of what lay ahead of her, but as she turned to thank me, I looked into the eyes of a teenaged girl. In the span of 30 minutes, as the miles rolled by below us, the stoic face of battle that is ingrained as one endures the transformation from “person” to “soldier” had fallen away, exposing the very real emotions of the actual human being beneath it.

Many of us forget that there’s a real person behind the war mask. Just as the solider is conditioned to pack away their humanity as part of their indoctrination into the military, society has obliged by focusing more on the uniform than the person – it is easier, that way, for the civilian to reconcile the death of a soldier – it is much less emotional if we simply reduce that soldier to a uniform.

Here’s a perfect example: a couple of years ago, my wife, the kids and I visited our friend, a Lt. Colonel in the Marines, and his family. He was in the middle of a stateside deployment and teaching weapons systems at Quantico, Virginia. He has been deployed to Iraq twice, and may deploy yet again to the Middle East. He and his family gave us the full tour of Washington, D.C., including Arlington National Cemetery, where we were awestruck to see so many famous names: JFK. Robert Kennedy. William Howard Taft. The Unknown Soldier. The list goes on and on.

Honestly, the tour of Arlington felt similar to a trip to another historic tourist attraction – I was reminded of my frequent visits to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, whose seriousness has been sanitized thanks to the passage of time – at least until we made it to the newer part of the cemetery. There we saw simple, obviously fresh graves with small index cards indicating name, rank, branch of military, date and location of death – some within the past two or three weeks. Still, though more emotionally compelling than some of the older graves and tombs, there was still that familiar, and almost comfortable, level of detachment.

That all changed when I heard the sobbing of my friend’s wife behind me. In a slightly older section, from a year or so before, she was standing in front of the headstone of a man whose military career had paralleled her husband’s – a friend and neighbor whose family had grown along with her own, and whose wife and daughters, about the same age as her own, were now without their husband and father due to a mortar round that happened to find his office in a green zone outside of Baghdad.

That sobbing brought the cold reality of war into focus, and for the first time, after about two hours of wandering through a history of American military death, I finally felt the emotion – a glimpse of the human inside the uniform.

Were I quick enough this morning, I would have remembered that moment, and thanked MP Kelly for reminding me that very courageous, very human people protect our country.

And I hope that one day soon MP Kelly will take that short flight again, this time from Chicago to Lansing, and happily reunite with those in her life who are no doubt so very proud of her service to her country.