Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time is no longer on my side

It's that time of year again, when our thoughts approach the aptly named January - looking back, even as we look forward. I'm one of those persons whose birthdays occur mid-year, so it seems I end up with a semi-annual self-assessment schedule.
It gets kinda quiet here in the Building Operations Center during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day - the docs have sent home most of the patients they can send home, lots of staff are out on vacation time, and the rest of us are trying to keep a low profile, as it were. So here I sit, contemplating this blank screen between the occasional phone call for a broken TV or plugged toilet.
I am constantly amazed at what's taking place at my home on a daily basis. Between my kids, the neighbor kids, the kid we watch after school most days until early evening, my house is a maelstrom of running, thuds, screaming (both joyful and painful, often at the same time), strewn toys, swinging lightsabers and jump ropes, and at least one TV with Elmo running on it. As annoying and bothersome as it often can be, I am, at my core, happy about this. Happy that my children are well, that they have what they have, and that my home is a safe place to play. There's the paper-mache' shark on the top shelf from Sam's latest Animal Report, a pretty good rendition that is as much testament to Vicky's abilities -- artistic as well as her ability to keep Sam focused on getting good work done. A few nights ago, Vicky was wrapping presents on the Family Room floor, and Sam joined her to "help". I sat, a few feet away from them, and pretended not to just be awed by the glimpse of the young man that I was looking at. He's still 9, but there are flashes every now and then that make me immensly proud and horribly apprehensive (regarding my abilities to finish the job) of him at the same instant. My goal for him this year is for him to become more aware of his impact on this family, and on his world. He's got so much to offer, I want him to see some of it and enable him to start earning some of his own "character points."
Emma, the enigma. After an oh so long period of just grunting and pointing her way through life, she's showing an interest in communicating with us. The completion of a good sign or word is a time for joy, watching her try a few times, only to give up in frustration, pure hell. It's been so cute, the last week or so -she'll walk into the room and say, "Hi", nonchalantly as you please. We've made a game out of "Dadeeee", "Mama" has been a lot harder. Although the words "Angel" and "innocent" are often not descriptive of her at all, living with Emma has a way of bringing me around to what really matters more often than I care to admit. And that is Love.
Vicky gets it all done. I don't deserve her. That's all this Gump can say about that. I just try to keep up, or at least look busy.
I've got to crawl out of this hole. I'm not happy that my bass amp is behind the lawnmower in the garage. I think I still have a little light, I'm just at a loss as to where to let it shine (for all of you Sunday-schoolers out there). I'm trying to prepare myself for some 'leaps of faith' this year. I'm not sure just what that means, yet, but I know that something has to change. I really hope that it's more than just my attitude, I'm getting kinda tired of lemonade. I keep looking for jobs in the paper, but there's very little listed in either the "guru" or "maven" categories, these days. I'd like to write a book, but I don't know what I'd write about. "A Book about Nothing" has probably already been written. I thought about writing an expose on the rotten underbelly of the Church of the Nazarene, but there just isn't enough material. There are, believe it or not, lots and lots of books about what it's like to be the parent of a child with "special needs", "special gifts", whatever - even semi-celebrities - so there's no real "market edge" there for me, either. Fiction sounds like too much work. Scott Adams has the corner on workplace nonsense. I've thought about writing "inspirational" material - but then I wouldn't want to end up like William J. Bennet, my seedy lifestyle and habits ruining my success. I'd write about how to negotiate your way through the healthcare system, but I'll be damned if there is a way, and I work there. So, I remain in a quandary. There is the story about how I was peed on by a Hippopotamus, but that really isn't enough to build an entire book around. Sigh.
So, I'm looking forward for myself to exhibit some out-of-character behavior this year, hoping that perhaps it will be more-in-character behavior, but I'm not making any promises I can't keep. Hope springs eternal. Thanks for reading, perhaps I've spurred some ideas for your own blessings-counting/resolution planning session, soon. Get on with it.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lord of the Wardrobe, or Disney's not-Lion King

I had the opportunity to see “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” yesterday. For whatever reason, I really wasn’t in the mood for it. As this blog seems to be an exercise in selfishness, I’m going to say that the movie didn’t change my mood a whole lot. But it was nice.
We (and by that I don’t mean the ‘royal’ ‘we’, I mean our family unit) have watched several series’ of pictures, lately – the”Lord of the Rings”, “Star Wars”, “Back to the Future”, etc. I couldn’t help but think, while watching this movie that they’d just suited up a few hundred of the extras from Lord of the Rings for these battle scenes. Lewis and Tolkien were friends – perhaps Narnia is just over the mountains from the “Shire”. There wasn’t any mystery involved -- everyone’s been reading the book in anticipation of this release. It was rather more like seeing a play that you’ve seen three or four times before, looking to appreciate the performances as much as the play itself. The performances were fine, but none extraordinary, with the possible exception of the computer-generated lion. This story is Christian allegory, and the strongest imagery is embodied in that of Aslan. I shuddered in my seat, thinking what it might be like to actually stand before my Savior, one day, to be deemed worthy or not. To be forgiven. To hear him say, “What’s past is past.” That got my attention. The rest of it, again with the exception of Aslan’s “deep magic” disappearance at the end, and vague promise to return, was what has become pretty predictable fantasy fare. The “coronation” scene looked just like a “Star Wars” movie ending, or was that a “Star Trek” movie. . . or was it “Shrek II?” I am a believer in “archetypes” – and I certainly think that there’s no better introduction to them for young children than the writings of C.S. Lewis. Although I’m glad that Peter Jackson didn’t direct this picture - it would have taken two more hours to tell the story - there might have been a bit more passion, though. It is a well-crafted movie; my criticism is that, unfortunately, nearly all of the themes have been theatrically pounded into the ground at this point – which is truly too bad for this particular story.
To be fair, this was not made for me. There was certainly applause at the end, most of it, I think, from children in the audience. That it was picked up by religious groups and deemed worthy of their support speaks more to me about those waiting for permission, and those feeling a need to give it, than it does for the content. There’s as much religion in “The Wizard of Oz” as there is in this film, unless you’re already a believer. That’s the way Mr. Lewis wrote it, thank God (and thank you, Mr. Lewis). I won’t mind sitting through 6 or 7 more of these with my children, truly, as long as they enjoy them. There should be enough parental/authority death to deem them Disney-worthy, and I’m pretty sure that the Mouse will market what follows as effectively as they always have.
In the interest of journalism, Sam liked it very much. Emma fell asleep about the time the other three on-screen children fell through the back of the wardrobe, and snored through the credits. I only napped through what must have been the first expository section in the Beaver’s home. I tend to hold a special, personal value in those kid’s movies that I can sleep at; this film met that criteria too, minimally. I think it held Vicky’s interest, and, as she was holding Emma, she had nothing better to do. There’s little to dislike here, and talking animals and children who rule over dumber adults are always winners. To say that I’m quivering with anticipation for book 3 would be a bit of an understatement, but it’s a safe bet that, nap-worthy or not, it’ll still be a good time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Twas Twas

***I seem to be slipping into pseudo-Seussian rhyme, lately.
***My apologies for lines borrowed.

Twas’ a month before Christmas, and all through the land.
Not a creature was stirring, from fresh tryptophan.
The turkey carcass was not even cold, yet red and green ornaments glowed big and bold.
“Black Friday” arrived, shoppers formed at the doors
For early-bird sales, and fighting in stores.
Too early for spirit, the gift is the thing!
Without it, we’re hampered, true joy for to bring.
Soon news of “Black Monday” grew on the ‘net
Turned out was a marketing scam to forget.
As newspapers swelled with holiday ads,
Malls began filling with seekers of fads.

Three weeks before Christmas, and everyone’s tired
Checking on coupons that, just now, expired.
Grumpy and Sleepy are dwarves, they’re not elves,
People just arent’ really feeling ‘themselves’.
There’s parties, and candy, and White Elephants,
And all sorts of unexpected expense.
Hanging of lights, and dragging home trees,
Pulling down glittery gunk from the eaves.

Stringing, and plugging, and looking for lamps,
Fresh aches and pains, not to mention new cramps.

Two weeks to go, the stupor kicks in,
We’re on automatic, obtuse to the din.
Slogging from store to store, weary and worn,
Our only nutrition from stale Caramel Corn.
Stashing our purchases far out of sight,
Collapsing as evening turns into late night.
Fitfully sleeping with heads full of lists,
We should be so grateful, instead, we’re just pissed.

The day is approaching; few hours left to pack,
Our brains softly pounding from Yuletide’s Muzak.
Standing in line, wishing we knew him better,
Could Uncle Bob even want or need this sweater?
He has to get something, that says that we care,
But we really don't know, so we keep standing there.

Please don’t forget as we just settle in,
That Christmas was just the “down payment” for sin.
The first “Hallmark” gift, that just keeps on giving.
He soon came to die for our eternal living.
Bittersweet joy, as you look at your tree
Glimpse at Him hanging there for you and me.
But just for a moment, please don’t be depressed
To know what His Father did, then, doubly blessed.

For there is no greater gift to be sold,
No precious glittering thing to behold.
Than that of a life given, so pure and free,
To purchase redemption for you, and for me.
It’s been passed to us, by those, who often had less
Who understood gratitude and selflessness.
Our wealth leaves us without a need for such sharing
What’s harder, now, seems to be small acts of caring.

So all that I’m saying here, in this refrain,
Shouldn’t have taken this time to explain.
I’m having trouble, but I’m going to try,
To be a gentler, more sensitive guy.
At least for a few weeks, I’ll work on my “cheerier”
Instead of my usual sneer, fear, and “leerier”.
I never would slug you, in line for a toy,
But maybe a smile from me’d slip you some joy.
If you were to return a grin,we’d both be merrier,
The world would get friendlier, then, not just wary-er.

Then, and most certainly last, but not least.
Save your best cheer for the day of the feast.
Savor the giving, not getting, the most.
And a moment or two for the Heavenly Host.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night,
Please Please Please!, I am asking, with all of my might,
Let’s make it Christmas, and not Xmas Lite.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thanksgiving, 2005

Tis’ the season to be thankful
With a couple extra tankfuls
Driving hither ‘cross the counties,
Joining with our loved ones there.

Notice now, that vacant setting
Telling of those now abetting
Freedom – let’s not be forgetting
Those who stand for what we share.

As we gather, and we ponder,
Wealth of Laughter, Love, and Peace
Sacrifices made for others
Willing hands that never cease.

Sons and Daughters, Sisters , Brothers
Spread across this fragile land.
Gratitude and yearning prayer that
Others might soon understand
That there is pride in giving others
Value owed to every Man.

Human fabric, woven ever
Thread by thread, yet ending never,
Binding loved ones closer still.
Gratitude for those who serve us
Please Lord, let the Loom grow larger,
And our hopes and dreams fulfill.

Freedom’s price it seems, must always
Hurt at times when it should not.
It’s our price to pay, however,
For these things so dearly fought.
Having done this, they would want us
Carry on as if ‘twere not.

So, to pause on this occasion
Of a Nation’s Thankfulness
To you standing far from home,
We will truly do our best.
To remember, pray, and render
Thoughts of safety and success.

Thank You.
To the day that brings you home, safe, to us.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Timely, or "Stuck in a Moment"

Juxtapose this!
Tuesday night, witnessing once again the phenomenon of "The Larry Mullen Band", all "Love and Peace", "In the Name of Love" , hootin' and hollerin' and singing with 20,ooo of my closest friends about human rights and global debt relief and lifting the seat when you pee (sorry, I made that last one up). It really was a great time. One of the things I was anxious for 8 year-old Sam to see was an arena full of people singing. He seemed kinda engaged, but really got wide-eyed when Bono asked everyone to hold up their lit cellphones. As the mighty Hewson pointed out, "a real 21st century moment." We got home from Los Angeles at about 2 a.m.
Wednesday morning. Awoke to CNN and MSNBC and FOX jumping in and out of the 2+ hours of Rosa Parks' final funeral. A modern name that correctly ranks and resonates for America with those of Attucks, Paine, Tubman, Lincoln, Malcom X, and, of course, Rev. Martin Luther King. Rev. King was her inspiration for his non-violence, Malcom X for his resolve. A quiet, positive, consistent life defined by a moment of courage that galvanized a movement and altered the course of the world. The eulogies were amazing, as they should have been. Rosa's challenge remains:
How many moments do we miss, every day, to make a difference?
Bono spoke of the efforts of ONE, what it has accomplished, in large part due to his and some other high-profile efforts. It is a unique, timely, and overdue coalition that sets aside the petty partisanship that we are so self-indulgently langushing in in this country. It's easy to follow their lead.
Rosa Parks resolve was not temporal. She had had trouble with this particular bus driver, before. Her courage was the result of her internal consistency. "The Movement" had tried bus boycotts, before. This one worked because, as one person said yesterday, they would continue to walk to work in the rain "because of Rosa."
I don't think that Rosa could have known the impact of her decision, it could have just as easily passed into the Montgomery city records without notice. It made no difference to her.
At this moment, I'm not sure if I've ever been personally presented with a moment where doing the right thing meant breaking the law - the question is, would I do so? Do I have to? Probably not. Can I then, at least, stand up for the little things? Just think, if we all could, then perhaps we could change the world.
Not a bad moment to be stuck in.


I often wish and wonder what it’s like to be in someone else’s head. Not just the occasional “What were they thinking?”, but to truly be able to witness the same thing from someone else’s completely different frame of reference, and be able to compare perceptions with my own.
I was thinking about this on Halloween, watching Emma. She really got into the “swing” of things, this year. Adorable is not the word; she stole my heart yet again when she started twirling and preening from the moment Mom put on her pink skirt with the silver stars and tiara in her hair. This was special, and she knew it. It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of going from door to door, either – soon she was going up to the door, banging on it with her fist, and calling out “Trick or Treat” - it had to be – in her own inimitable way. Her excitement was palpable, and I began to wonder many things:
Does she remember last year?
Does she have any idea what we’re doing?
Would she think that she could knock on a neighbor’s door tomorrow and get candy?
What were (are) the associations that she’s making about all of this?
What makes it all so exciting? Our encouragement? That it’s all so different?
What will she remember?
Another thing that happens when we go Trick-or-Treating is the inevitable doggy at the door. Emma has not met a dog she doesn’t adore. She welcomes them, and is more than happy to trade saliva and kisses if they are not both restrained. I, on the other hand, traumatized as a very young child by two, shall we say, “little nippers”, am uncomfortable around nearly all canines. See the analogy? - same animal, completely different reaction. My combination of personal and parental fear of her getting hurt by a dog – I am truly dreading the day, and I hope it never happens – really kicks in at these moments. Watching her unabashedly giggling and cooing with her arms around a big dog’s neck, however, makes me want to buy two of them – but that moment passes, and rather quickly, with the memory of a teenage job I had mowing the lawn of a Great Dane owner. I am jealous of her abilities, always hoping that she never has that particular joy taken from her. I know that that’s the prayer of every parent, of course.
Part of the “sweet” of “Bittersweet” is to share pure joy, purely in the moment, innocent, uncluttered, focused happiness with Emma. The rest of us struggle harder and harder for these moments as we get older. It’s a gift she gives me nearly every day.
Now, it’s easy to contemplate the differences in perception between myself and one so differently-abled as she. It often causes me to ponder the differences that “the rest of us” bring to our situations. Aside from the layer upon layer of complexity that we seem to develop as we learn to distrust even our own thinking, how the background noise that I assume most of you reading this have running in your heads (if you don’t, then I really do have a problem) colors our everyday lives. I am not particularly proud to admit that I deal too often from the deck of sarcasm, and it’s become clear to me that it’s done some damage to my relationship with my Son. Damage, in that it clouds our communication, and I know now that it hasn’t helped our ability to live together. I realized, one day, that he didn’t deserve to have his young head screwed with this way; that it was pretty unfair of me. I’m trying to do better with that, and I hope I can make it up to him, somehow. I wasn’t able to see things through his eyes. I hope to live long enough to gain his forgiveness.
It is now one of those means of defense that I’ve inadvertently passed to the next generation, as it was passed to me. I can share the blame, but not the responsibility.
Living with Diversity requires more than accommodation. It requires empathy, understanding, fueled by desires that can only be kindled by unselfishness. That’s what makes it hard. That’s what takes effort, faith, and courage.
It all makes me wonder.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

FAQ to the Future

I worked in a TV repair shop for seven years. My tenure included watching consumer electronics (as well as watching TV!) move from the twilight of vacuum tubes to transistors to integrated circuits. I received enough on-the-job training to eventually become a fair technician. These days, I know enough to be willing to take the covers off stuff and either fix them or reduce them to landfill in a matter of moments.
Part of that education was the whole antenna/tuner thing. Remember TV’s with dials? The big one that went from Channel 2 to 13, along with the little one that went from 14 to 83? Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency! UHF Stations were usually low power, low self-esteem stations, where reception was wobbly at best – the world really ran on VHF. San Diego was and still is an area overwhelmed with cable subscription; the terrain assures that most consumers can’t get at least 2 channels, combined with our seeming need to have at least 40 channels of lowest-common-denominator programming at our fingertips. Electronic tuners and the reality of cable companies converting UHF stations to VHF numbers for their band had pretty much relegated UHF to the scrap heap, or at least that’s what I thought.
Sunday, we bought a new TV. A(n) HDTV capable TV. I hooked up the cable and DVD and stereo and such and went hunting for a(n) HDTV program. Imagine my dismay when it didn’t look nearly as good as it did in the store. Actually, I was smart enough to realize that I hadn’t yet tapped into the digital vein, just yet. I lacked knowledge. Little did I know what lay in store.
The internet, of course. There is more information – including an abundance of outdated information – than I ever wanted to know about HDTV. The salient point to this essay is that over-the-air HDTV stations are UHF STATIONS! The band seemingly allocated for obscurity in the early 20th century was now and is the platform of innovation and data packets. If only the parents of UHF were alive to see it (I have no idea who that might be, and I’m not sure how to Google that, nor am I compelled to know).
I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out. Alas, I could not find a suitable loop or even bow-tie antenna amidst the morass (we passed ‘clutter’ in 1998) that is my garage. What to do? As a TV and electronics tech for so many years, I a) Have thrown more of these away than you can imagine, and b) could not imagine even paying $1.49 for one at a local store – if I could find one. Bingo! I took a 75-300 ohm converter, and made a loop from terminal to terminal with a length of solder. I attached it to a length of cable, hooked it up, and, as my Mother would say, “Glory Be!” I was getting 4 or so crystal clear channels of HDTV. For FREE! Oh, Serendipity; joy unbound!
The bad news is that I am nestled up against a mountain that I’m confident that will prevent me from ever getting a signal from 2 network transmitters located 13.1 miles away on another peak on the other side (internet information – I was able to determine the exact latitude and longitude of my address, and plot it in relation to the transmitters up to 100 miles away – waaaay too much information). Couple this with the siren song of the independent film channel and a smattering of educational programming for the kids – a cable upgrade is inevitable – resistance is futile. But for now, I’m just tickled pink, happier than a clam at high tide, with my solder-loop antenna stuck to my hi-def TV. Who’d a thunk it?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Someone else is speaking my mind

Thanks to Tom at Unresolved References, an article that addresses this issue better than I could ever hope to.
The Abortion Debate that No One Wants to Have
Study this if you want to understand part of how it feels to be me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sorry, my Muse was Bruised

Man, I’ve been sick. Sick up and fed of being sick. It’s always an amazing feeling to me, as it was this morning, to wake up feeling better than I did when I went to bed, to gradually feel whatever this crud is oh so slowly leaving my body. As the old song goes, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. . .” Amen, sister.
I’m a wimp when it comes to being sick. I don’t wanna, I ain’t gonna; just leave me alone with my bed and my remote control. This, of course, eventually, after a while, makes me feel kinda guilty about all of the things I’m supposed to be doing – one of the sure indications that I’m getting better. I live with one of those people who never seem to do what I do – declare I’m sick, I’m going to bed, and then drop off the face of the earth for a few days. She just keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. I’m sure that it has a lot to do with her knowing that it won’t get done unless she does it, but I think it goes deeper than that. I do not know how she does it, but in the final analysis I don’t care. I yam what I yam – “just a spud boy who found his real tomato” (30 points for emailing me with the proper reference for that modified lyric).
I went to “the church of Springsteen” a couple of Sundays ago. I found myself on the bow of a houseboat, moored in a cove at Lake Mead, my coughing carcass jammed low into a canvas chair with his latest, “Devils and Dust” mostly gently playing in my headphones. It was one of those moments where the confluence of mood, fatigue, the desert fauna, a cool wind, and artistry brought me to tears more than once. Until the one song with the seemingly out-of place lyrics jerked my reverie back to wherever it is I usually live. One has to appreciate these moments when they occur, they are as fleeting as spring flowers in Death Valley. It’s also hard to describe to someone else, isn’t it? I’ve never been a true fan of ‘The Boss”, but these soft, straining songs reveal feelings beyond polish, beyond production, true experience. Honesty is the best policy. “Matomoros Banks” is my song of the year.

Even though we’ve been doing this for umpteen years now, and I always knew it, I used Google Earth to look around Lake Mead before we left, and was able to see how actually stinkin’ close our wilderness adventure is to Las Vegas. To explain, there is a significant mountain between eastern Las Vegas/Henderson and Lake Mead – getting to Echo Bay requires a 45 minute drive from Boulder City, around this mountain. It’s probably only about 20 miles, as the crow flies, from Echo Bay to the Strip. They are worlds apart, however, which only adds to the awe of it all. The bad news is that, at night, there is a pronounced glow to the West. The good news is that you can still see the Milky Way and shooting stars until you go to sleep. I woke up one night, looked out the window, and saw Mars and the little dipper. It’s so easy to forget that this stuff is always there – a reminder between REM states that to stop and wonder is still a wonderful thing. Whatever your opinion of Las Vegas as a technological triumph over the desert may be, the juxtaposition of it against this wilderness is never lost upon me. All this, of course, from my comfy chair down the hall from a working bathroom and shower, on a Man-made lake. Did I say I’m a wimp when it comes to camping, too? Yeah, probably.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Strength in the Things that Remain" - Bob Dylan

I have been pondering many small absurdities, lately. I just finished reading a post at,, that describes the (previously unkown to me) practice of intentional fakery in reference works to identify copyright theft. How ingeniously incongruous!

Labor Day Weekend was spent on a Cub Scout campout with Sam. It was somewhat of a milestone for old Dad, because it was now time to actually commit to the purchase of the required equipment – tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, etc. – I’m still working on the “Happy” part of “Happy Camper.” I managed to think of all but three items – sugar, for my tea (haven’t invested in the percolator for coffee, yet), bug spray (our camp was about 200 yards from the “lake” – I think “pond” when I see green water, blue means “lake” to me), and a fishing pole for Sam. I personally prefer dentistry to fishing but hey, it’s not about me. Unless, of course, you’re a mosquito. My legs and arms still look like I’ve been well, part of a control group in an experiment gone horribly wrong. Little Man Sam bore not one welt. I’m not sure what I was exuding, pheromonically I must have been either alluring or argumentative. Sam was just happy to be there, and I think the blood suckers honored that. Of particular note were the little flies that have an affinity for hovering near the opening to one’s ear canals – you know, the ones that send any sentient being screaming into the woods, which of course is quite counterproductive.
All of the requisite Boy Scout charms were evident – campfires, BB guns, archery, hiking in the dark. One of the things that the BSA is still allowed to do by our government is to “retire”, to ceremonially and respectfully burn a worn-out American Flag. It was no small measure of the caliber of the men at this evening campfire to see half of them come out of the audience when the call for veterans, active military, and Eagle Scouts to join the ceremony. These are all good fathers, and many have served us, as well. I’m not altogether sure I’m in the same category. I was humbled, just the same. To me, the Boy Scouts is pretty anachronistic, an institutional holdout against the onslaught of modern life in many of its forms. It is also, in my opinion, something not to be dismissed, either, a glimpse into some truths that will be eventually lost. There is much that I disagree with in the organization I’ve seen, but that, like fishing, is not what it’s about. It’s about providing time and life lessons for tomorrow’s Men. I’m most pleased when I see these guys teaching Sam about things I wasn’t exposed to, like fishing and using a compass, but otherwise just doing things in a way that doesn’t happen in suburban America. I remember my Grandfather teaching me how to bundle up twigs one day; in his brusque manner and insistence that I do such a small task well conveyed values that were both consistent with who he was, as well as an unspoken love in the investment of his attention that have obviously impacted me forever. These are the moments that make the itching, backaches and body odor worthwhile. Not my Grandpa’s, mine, that is.
Speaking of absurdities, the bathrooms/showers (I’m told they were cold showers, which to me are mutually exclusive terms) were divided into three sections. Boys 18 and under, Women, and Men 18 and older. It was just a reminder that nothing’s what it used to be, or should be, for that matter.Anyone got any used fishing gear for sale?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Take Me out to the Ballgame

Warning: This essay consists of whining and complaining, and items that are designed to annoy one’s conscience. Those who have already mastered correct thinking need not go any further.

"To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost."
- Gustave Flaubert

We went to a baseball game a Petco Park last night. I do not like Petco Park, for a number of selfish, inconsequential reasons. For those of you unfamiliar with San Diego, we citizens subsidized the installation of a wonderful baseball-only stadium in the heart of Downtown, which now solely belongs to a few millionaires. The majority of us now drive by the perfectly good former venue, Qualcomm Stadium (formerly San Diego Stadium), with the second-largest parking lot in the United States, to wend our way through construction zones and evening traffic to find parking somewhere near Petco Park. As our constitution dictates, the closer you get, the more you pay. We pulled into a lot a mere mile or so away, where a woman advised me that, for $10, we could park and someone would watch our car for 2 hours after the game. Wow. We got out, I handed her a bill, to receive the reply “A whole TEN?” This of course, indicated that some sort of tip was in order and I could probably expect some sort of minor damage resulting from my lack of proper downtown parking etiquette. This, gratefully, did not happen, but she was not there when we returned after the game, either. My guess is she didn’t get enough tips. It’s a little known fact that tipping is one of the things that drove the taller, smarter people West nearly two centuries ago, leaving most of the griping gladhanders in the Tri-State Area. Too bad they put in the Trans-Continental Railway.

“The rich get richer, the poor get the picture”
- Midnight Oil

One of the aspects of our vibrant, growing downtown – and it’s probably true for yours, too – is homeless people. I seldom go downtown, but when I do, it’s usually some sort of occasion – a fancy dinner, ballgame, sightseeing with visitors, or jury duty. On all but the latter, I’m on my best behavior to try and have a good time. This, by design, means that I will be spending what is euphemistically known as “discretionary income”. Therefore, the sight of my fellow men, women, and children curling up for the night under dirty blankets and sleeping bags tends to shoot my mood all to hell. The fact that I’m now feeling both ashamed and defensive as we stroll this gauntlet to the shiny venue with the perfect lawn; they are sentiments that haven’t dulled yet from my three whole visits there. I don’t even go down the mental road of circumstances, choices, “that’s just the way it is” (Bruce Hornsby), etc. much, this time. I just don’t like it.
I know I’m cheap. My grandparents slept under newspapers during the Great Depression, ok? But spending over $100 for three people to go to a baseball game is still too much, as far as I am concerned. Now this did include $35 for food – $3.50 for each fish taco, $7.00 for a chicken quesadilla, and 3 drinks (yes, we could’ve hauled food in, but one’s choices are limited when considering the hike in – it’s all cold by then – but then, so was the fish taco). The San Diego Padres use volunteer workers to man the counters, and then certain profits go to the charities that the volunteers represent – so I guess I can feel warm all over for that. Our seats, three rows from the top of the stadium (oops, park), were over $60. I particularly enjoyed the pre-game show, with a guided tour of one player’s home, including such items as the 60-inch plasma TV the Padres gave him last year, which is mounted on the patio wall in the back yard, near the putting green. OK, so now I know my place in the great universe – somewhere between his life and those lying on the sidewalk, outside. Ironies abound.
The game was what it is – watching the Western Division leaders play what looks like under .500 ball. They deserved to lose this game, and they did. A couple of great plays, too. The blessing and boon of baseball is that there is too much of it – plays become important only within context, to most of us. That there’s a lot of games means more of us get to see them, unlike say, football or golf. That there’s a lot of games means that some games don’t seem to um, command one’s attention like they probably should.
It’s hard to get into the game when there’s so many distractions, too, like the lousy sight line from our seats to home plate, where, if anyone in any of the 20 rows in front of us moved, was instantly obscured. Must I say that this was pretty constant? We had the distinct pleasure of sitting behind a large group; their socialization included constant seating changes and pleasant conversation. I think they had a wonderful time.
The game ended, and we made our way out into the night and the homeless-street-slalom back to our car.
My night ended, and I do mean ended, as we drove through the stoplights to the freeway home. Stopping at one intersection, I looked over to see a shape, under a blanket, in a cubbyhole at the corner. Parked next to the shape was an empty wheelchair. I turned to Vicky, who was looking with me, and said, “There has to be a better way.” She nodded. We drove home and got into bed.
It’s a great game. Or is it?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lost Wages, Gained Perspective

Been gone on the weeklong, family road-trip vacation. I’m going to make some observations, omitting of course, those pleasantries that accompany most road trips. Things like the proliferation of white plastic shopping bags that accumulate everything from wet bathing suits to half-empty packages of broken cookies, which, after 4 days on the road, make one’s vehicle testament to the reality that you are indeed living out of your car.
I don’t like Las Vegas. I’m too cheap to pay a valet, so it’s hiking through the casino, bags in hand, feeling like a hillbilly; Ellis Island with shiny lights and air conditioning. The smell of stale cigarettes. Hangdog expressions of boredom on what must be ‘regulars’. The sidewalks with their mottled, sun-baked stains of desiccated fluids of unknown origin. The weirdness that is Fremont Street – both attractive and repulsing at the same time, ala Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on New Year’s Eve.
My favorite Vegas experience this time – I’m up with Emma at 7:45 in the morning. We’ve already had breakfast, and I’ve pushed her stroller through the restaurant and arcade levels. I’m doing a slow circle around the casino floor when I spy a BMW convertible rotating slowly above some slot machines. I amble over and, with nothing better to do, am inspecting the rear disc brakes, grillwork, and suspension as they roll by, when I hear a voice: "You know, it’s not the fall that hurts, it’s the sudden stop at the end that gets you." I turn, startled, to see a fine member of the casino’s security force. "If a member of the Nevada gaming commission were here, you could be fined up to $500 – you can move through the casino, but you can’t stop." Thank you, very much. I’ve had a vision of standing in front of a judge, prosecutor explaining my intention to corrupt a 6-year old in diapers into a gaming prodigy. Before 8 in the morning. By someone who remembers every one of the 17 nickels he’s ever put in a slot machine. I’d ask for a jury trial, and 13 boxes of tissues – for the tears of laughter that would soon result. Book em, Dan-O! The poor guy was right, so I ambled on without external comment. He probably hates his job, too.
Changing gears, climates, and viewpoints, what is it that draws us to places like Bryce and Zion canyons? It’s easy to understand the science; The US Park Service does a wonderful job of explaining that with their maps, visitor centers, and programs. To say that Bryce Canyon is a place to see the process of erosion is akin to remarking that Michaelangelo knew how to paint ceilings. It was easier to point out, a little later, to Sam – after demanding that he shut off the Gamecube and look out the car window – that this was truly a unique place, by the fact that English-speaking Americans were in the minority at both locations. These are truly global treasures.

In these places, we can see the forces that we’ve gotten so good at manipulating, but not controlling, and we wonder at the cycle of upheaval and wearing down, as well as the beauty of how our earth is constructed. If you’ve been to places like the Grand Canyon, or Canyon de Chelle, you can appreciate how they appear in the midst of plain earth, almost wound-like. To this battered mind (and I mean the deep-fried, not beaten variety), it’s what makes these places spiritual – the confluence of life-giving water, wind, and fertile ground in the middle of desolation; stark colors and human-figured hoodoos rising from cool canyon floors. And the views. There are poets unlike myself to give verse to landscapes that reach multiples of miles, clouds displaying lightning and thunder, the smell of rain far away. Call it a sense of place, a sense of awe, the lack of oxygen at high altitude. A temporary change of perspective, clearing the senses, then back in the car to Elmo on the portable DVD and pizza for dinner.
Everything I’ve come to expect from the family vacation.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Just another Manic Wednesday

I worked in a TV repair shop for seven years. For nearly all of them, M*A*S*H re-runs were on at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There was always at least one TV on in the shop; there are certain shows that I have nearly committed to memory. I’ve been thinking of one, these last few days.
The main story revolves around a package that Col. Potter receives at the beginning of the episode. He’s mad and moody. Eventually, the main cast members are asked to assemble in his tent one evening.
Col. Potter was a veteran of WWI, and he and some buddies had found a cache of liquor in a French chateau where they were pinned down. They had formed a "tontine" – the only time I’ve heard that term used – wherein they would save the last bottle, and it would go to the last survivor of the bunch. Col. Potter is now the lone survivor. He’s been mourning for his lost comrades. His current circle of friends listen as he describes each one. Then the tone changes. "As much as I loved these friends, I love you even more," he says to those gathered around him. He asks them to join him in a toast to his departed buddies. The toast is, "Love and Friendship." I have to say that it’s a scene that moves me, just thinking about it. On those rare occasions when I choose to use it, it’s a toast that I can barely get out. Guess I’m just a sentimentalist. Big surprise.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, most likely because I’ve had the opportunity to rekindle some friendships that have been dormant for some 20-odd years. One of the things that I didn’t fully grasp until recently was that the relationships we build are "eternal" (scope of that word still yet to be fully realized by this larger-than-average, yet not-quite-ripe cranium). Some go stale, some go dormant, and some are forcefully terminated only to return via all of the complicated means available in this world. Six degrees of separation really isn’t that much. In fact, I’m considering having Kevin Bacon’s love child. The technology is here. But that is another story.
I don’t think it hits most of us until our mid to late 30’s is that the only thing that separates those octogenarians sitting at a park bench from the 6-year olds wildly to-and-fro-ing on the swings is time and the probability of a broken hip. As my mind begins to tick off a growing list of those things that I won’t do again, or can’t now, from piloting a plane (heart’s decertified) or climb the Matterhorn (too fat), to include riding that roller coaster or even trying kayaking, I feel a sense of loss of my own potential, but not desire.
So, here I sit, across the table from my Best Man. I see his face, which reflects my own subtle (but not really) maturation from my memory of our shiny, youthful foreheads as we stood on those church platforms half a generation ago. His eyes are the same, and the mannerisms, and the things that bound our intellects together oh so very long ago spark and sizzle and it’s as if nothing was ever any different. Rekindle is the right word, because there is a warmth between us that, sadly, I do not feel as often as I’d like. That we are both now staid members of our respective communities belie the sheer goofiness that we participated in adolescence, it provides a foundation for understanding each other’s current shenanigans.
I also got to spend some time with my "current" and geographically closer friends, recently. They mean so much to me in ways I can’t express, well, I just can’t express it. For reasons that could probably stand several years of expensive analysis (or that I could probably sum up in 3-4 paragraphs for you at a later time), I don’t have many friends. Let’s just leave it at that. The friends I do have, well, I like them a lot. Through the ebb and flow our our relationships, I feel like I’ve been taking more than I’ve been giving lately, I hope that I can edge the balance sheet back the other way, someday.
I hope the device of using someone else’s writing to set up what I’d like to say has worked for you – it’s part of the constant drama in my head. A little observation, a little humor, a little gratitude, a little confession, a little essay from me to you. Thanks to online community, there are some of you I’ve never been remotely physically close to. Some of you, I may never see again, this side of the veil. I may see a couple of you in a week or so. Thanks, today, for all of you.
Love and Friendship.
And no, I’m not drinking and blogging, but I am in the hospital. At work. Thanks for asking

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Happy Birthday, Emma or Mr. Maudlin rides again

I'm copying this post today from my favorite Down Syndrome Parent's Forum:
As far as I can tell, below is my first post on Downsyn, in July, 2000.
There is not a lot more that I can add to the tremendous amount of wisdom already posted in these preceding messages. Only to add that it seems to me that you are doing the right things - first, seeking the best for your child's health. Second, you are taking the courageous step of seeking information and help for what you are feeling. My advice to you is to read and re-read these messages for the faith, hope, comfort and courage that you will find in and around the words written. Faith and trust start with you.My daughter will be one year old this week. We did not know that she had DS until her birth. I have turned over and over in my mind what it would have been like to have had months to think about her with DS before she was actually present, and I honestly can't say if it would have been better or not. In the first hours and days of her life, I actually wished that her medical problems would take her life, and that we could be the brave parents experiencing a terrible loss, and then move on. The reality is that we lost the daughter that we wanted - she never existed. Yesterday, I arrived home from work to find Emma asleep in her crib. She slept through our dinner until nearly 8 o'clock. I was angry because I didn't get to spend hardly any time with her. In the midst of all of the things that worry, frighten, annoy, and grieve me, the best part of my life is when I get to hold and play with both of my kids. Emma's smile can melt the coldest steel. Sitting in my chair with her asleep on my chest brings me the greatest sense of peace and contentment that I have ever known. This message is getting long -- I am having to develop attributes that I never wanted to have - but I am a better person as a result.I have to address life quality issues at every turn - but I have become a source of strength and courage for others.My heart is broken - but it is through this that I am learning what really matters.Life is a gift - Love takes courage - God will bless your efforts if you trust him to.That's enough for me for one day.
Today is Emma’s sixth birthday. A lot has changed, and yet nothing has changed at all. Some things are not as clear to me as they seemed then, to be honest, seeing my own words prompts me to seek some of the strength I’ve been denying myself due to self-pity, lately.
My children are still my greatest source of strength. Emma was in asleep my lap, last night, and I just waited a little while before carrying her to bed (no small task, these days). She’s not so innocent, anymore; she’s a formidable presence in this world. We’re all struggling with getting her to new levels of communication and behavior; our (hers and ours) hardest work right now is to try, not to revert to what’s worked in the past. I am so proud of my son, Samuel. His compassion, watchfulness, and patience with all of us – I try desperately to not take for granted.
There are no adequate words for me to express my admiration for Vicky. She bears the brunt of the daily grind, the chasing, the doctors, the medicine, the bills, the angry guy that comes home every afternoon, the laundry, and the myriad of other things that don’t immediately come to mind. She’s an amazing Mom. She doesn’t let up. I don’t know how she does it.
So, the party’s on Saturday, there’ll be pictures, maybe an annual cake-video.
It’s appropriate that my first post began by acknowledging others here, some have gone on, some remain. I want to end this one the same way. You folks inspire, challenge, and make this world a better place, day by day, diaper by diaper, sign by sign. Some of you now move entire communities, having never thought yourselves capable of such things. One of the things I realized, that Dan Rather got booed for, and we just don’t talk about enough, is the need for courage. I find courage here, every day.
Thank you.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Had the special joy of going to the cinema for the second Sunday in a row, to the same mall where the Parking Structure elevator is still not working, meaning I get to bump the stroller down three flights of stairs again. But back to our movie.
Johnny Depp, once again succeeds in portraying a creep. Imagery and cgi wonders abound. Our hero lives in a completely unique hovel amidst rows and rows of moribund row houses. His other four competitors are so caricatured at the beginning that there is absolutely no suspense as to the outcome, even for someone like me who was completely unfamiliar with the story. Christopher Lee is perfect in his role as Father of the Creep. Oompah-Loompahs bring much-needed levity and music, as do a roomful of squirrels possessing a collective wisdom far beyond that of their owner. The fat kid's face looks like a baby's butt, it's so rotund and translucent, his blue eyes would have made any fuhrer proud. Major props also to the look of absolute focus on the face of Violet's mom. They should have been from Dallas, not Florida.The scene where candy gets teleported by TV, but gets smaller, wasn't too well thought out, either. Everybody knows that the camera adds ten pounds. I guess in the world of fantasy, anything can happen.
Oh, one other thing. I guess, in today's PG, PC world, it's o.k. to use the word "retard" (as uttered by the totally unlikeable video-game playing techno-nerd kid), but not "bastard" (you'll have to watch the movie). They both describe wrinkles in the human condition, shouldn't they get equal weight? After watching videos in the "Back to the Future" series with my kids, recently, this movie was stellar in terms of language, if not in respect for "diversity".More importantly, the kids loved it. It was serendipitous that my son and I had just concluded watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" the day before, it made one of the "in-jokes" pretty funny for him. The air conditioning was working fine, and I almost got a nap in the middle of it. The Squrrels woke me up.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fantastic 4 falls flat

I won't compete with Roger Ebert on this one - he says what's on my mind in this review. I had read, and agree that this is a movie best suited for 10 year-olds. I agree, just be sure and bring their game-boys along, so they can keep themselves occupied while the utterly idiotic, boring dialogue runs out. Sam put up the arm rests and laid down for a while during this movie - he should have been drawn in and kept interested. It was nice to see Michael Chiklis on the big screen - his eyes peering through his dirt-colored rubber suit do more acting than most of the combined cast of this turd. Blurry cgi effects only cement the feeling that it's not going to get any better before the film runs out. Emma signed twice to mom that she wanted to go potty, turns out she was really just commenting on the movie.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London 07/07/05

Dear Friends,
I personally share your shock, sorrow, and anger at this cowardly exhibit by those who seem intent upon their own destruction. Just as we will never forget 9/11, we remember and celebrate the resilience and resolve of Londoners through history in the face of tyranny and terror. My sincere desire is that these perpetrators are rounded up and at least removed from free society, where they enjoy what they seek to destroy.

Fetters in Twain

Sufficient time has passed, to the point where I don’t remember much visual detail, but the impressions are revived every now and again in broad, vivid emotional recollection. After 34 years, I am still unsure as to the timing of this wave, but it washes over me occasionally, and I am glad.
One of the things that we don’t really experience, here in the New World, is the phenomenon of ancient cities, destroyed and rebuilt on the resulting ruins, century upon century. Rome is such a city. I remember quipping to my friends, with all the cynicism that a 14-year old could muster, that Rome was “like Tijuana, the dirt was just 1400 years older.” It is true that youth is wasted upon the young. Reaching parts of old Rome requires descending from the modern city to excavated and preserved levels, which only adds to one’s sense of leaving current time as well as space. This stuff is way old, and it smells old as one leaves the light and heat of the day to descend into the streets of the Forum – yes, the original one – and then into Mamertine Prison.
My efforts to refresh my memory today tell me that there is no confirmation that Saints Paul and Peter were ever here; it still does not diminish the effect that it had upon me, as I’m sure it continues to have upon others. I was with a tour group of about 14 people, mostly teens with a few sponsors, including my parents. Our Father, who art in Temecula, had specifically requested this particular stop on our Roman Holiday.
This prison was initially created as a cistern, with two chambers. The lower one was originally only accessed via a hole in its roof – prisoners were lowered (or thrown) into the lower section. I clearly remember a large metal door that was shown to lead into the ancient sewer system, and was informed that some unfortunates that did not survive their incarceration were merely disposed of in this manner. Having endured what at that point seemed a lifetime of Sunday school lessons depicting Peter and Paul singing the doors of prisons open, those illustrations paled into oblivion. This was a serious place, and a cold, dank, dark hole where the only access to light and life was controlled by taunting soldiers above, in conditions not much better than one’s own. Gazing at the bricks, feeling the cold in the midst of what I knew was a hot Summer’s day a couple of centuries above me, in the silence found only in subterranean places or perhaps deep space – I think I got a sense of how cold, hungry, and utterly alone one could be. I am happy to say that that’s the closest I’ve ever been to incarceration, so far. Perhaps this memory is one reason why.
Then comes the moment that means so much to me. We held hands, in a circle within the cistern, and began to sing an old hymn. My initial 14-year old resistance to the “corny-ness” of the moment began to melt within me as the familiar words began to take on a gripping reality:
“Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I suffered in vain.
Then I received a glorious freedom,
Freedom that rent my fetters in twain.
Glorious Freedom, Wonderful Freedom!
No more in chains of sin I repine
Jesus the glorious Emancipator
Now and Forever, He shall be mine!"
I don’t remember leaving the prison. I really don’t remember anything else from that day. I do know that a lot of things came into clearer focus for me that day – what others had done for me, the power of faith. Increasingly, over the years, gratitude to my parents for providing such an opportunity for me, that enabling such experiences was a pretty important calling. That light can truly pierce the darkness, in all its forms, in the darkest of places. That’s a few of them. I suppose, in a sense, it’s given me a certain confidence that things are never quite that bad, that there’s a spirit available in the worst circumstances, that God will never “leave me or forsake me.” As I said, it’s a feeling I get every once in a while . . .

Friday, June 24, 2005

. . . And New Heroes Emerge

I have been witnessing a young woman and her husband sharing their lives as they've gone from one pre-natal diagnostic test to another, going from the possibility of trisomy 21 to the realization that their baby indeed has trisomy 18 - a condition that is more often fatal at or near birth. I have been speechless, watching events unfold, mostly because there have been others better equipped than I to support her. Today, she posted their decision. I cannot think of many situations more bittersweet than this, or people more heroic than these.
*husband* and i have decided that we're going to continue with this pregnancy as long as we can. as hard as it will be, this little guy is still our baby and we're going to do everything possible to get as much time with his as we can - even if it's only a few minutes. they'll be worth it.for those who pray, when you think of us, you can pray for the following:- that the pregnancy will go full term- that our son will be born alive- that we'd have a few days to spend with him- if it's not asking too much, that we'd be able to take him home for a bit and then to church to have him dedicated- that peter's family would be able to meet him and be there for the funeral (this is a lot to ask since his parents are missionaries in the middle east, his sister will be starting a job with a missions group in spain, his older brother and family are in southern california, and his younger brother is enrolled in the naval academy in maryland - my family is all in the country at least)we're not at the point that we've fully accepted this (and may never be), but we know that we can't change anything. the only thing we have any control over is our own attitudes. for me being sad, depressed and angry isn't good for the baby and he's the number one priority now.thanks for all the support i've received here.
If you pray, pray for strength for this couple. ". . . Love bears all things . . . "
I have two new heroes, today.

Another One Bites the Dust
At the Aerospace Museum in San Diego's Balboa park, you can see Mr. Cunningham's F-4, tilted on a stand behind a MIG fighter just like the ones he shot down. It's hard not to be moved by the display. The visual impact of that much hardware hurtling through the sky is as intimidating as hearing the rumbling sound track of "TOP GUN" was in the theater. Ace Cunningham claims to be a major inspiration for that story, and I have always seen his service to this country through that lens. My college roommate worked his way through ROTC and became an Air Force pilot and officer, in a time when I often kidded him about flying in planes "built by the lowest bidder". I even had the privelege, once, of taking him out to Miramar and seeing his own F-4 "Double Ugly" one day. I am proud to have known, through my parents, fighter and bomber pilots from WWII, these men have epitomized integrity to me.
I have been waiting for some time for this statement from Mr. Cunningham, and I will withhold final judgement until any investigation is complete, but calling this an "error in judgement" is tantamount to calling the captain of the Titanic "negligent". This transaction smells so bad even I can taste it. This should never have happened, period. And he knows it. And he knows that we all know it, too.
I still consider myself naive when it comes to politics, and I know that things do not always appear as they are. I saw an interview last year with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, these guys actually like and admire each other. In my opinion, posturing and saying outrageously partisan things is, like professional wrestling, an unnecessary but traditional part of the process. It rarely affects the outcome, but makes the job look so much harder.
Yesterdays' Reader is an example of a half-told story. I'm all for Congressmen doing due diligence, and I don't have any particular aversion to them staying at the Sheik's araby while doing so. But now, the odor of one transaction starts to permeate all of these situations. He becomes just another public servant putting his golden years before the reasons he became a public servant in the first place. He may think he's earned it, but he has done so at the expense of his reputation, and that of his office.
It has to be about more than not getting caught. It has to be about more than cashing in. Please.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I keep reading that there’s a huge slump in the numbers of people going to movies. These reports cite polls showing that people would rather watch DVD’s and pay-per-view at home. Well, DUH!
Let’s begin, as all things should, at home. Prying a family of four away from the obligations, video games, and other distractions at home has turned into quite a trick. The attainment of two little kids fully clothed with shoes on often seems like scaling K2 in scope and difficulty. Then there’s the gas, particularly wasted idling around the parking structures and lots of these megalopolis malls, where you meet the nicest people vying for that one open spot two rows over. It’s nice to know that so many people think I’m Number One!
Standing in line, trashed bathrooms, overpriced food-court food. I just love contact with my fellow Man.
With matinee prices starting at $8 a pop, that means $32 for my family to purchase tickets. What’s a movie without popcorn and a soda? Another $25 bucks or so, uh-huh. Put that up against 5$ for a DVD and another $8 for goodies at home, and we can pause it while you go potty or get a drink. And we do.
Now, my family is still trying to do our part, we see probably at least one movie a month as a family, but the sticker shock is becoming awe. It is pretty cool to see the look on Emma’s face during a movie like "Madagascar", where the big screen and sound seem to captivate her and make her wide-eyed. Last Saturday, we saw "Sharkboy and Lavagirl . . ." She fell asleep in the stroller (some people use strollers to smuggle in sodas and candy – In fact, I’m convinced that that’s how the first "dirty bomb" will be delivered, and I don’t mean a forgotten diaper) before the titles were over. I fell asleep about 20 minutes into it, myself, snorting myself awake a couple of times. Truly a movie aimed at youngsters – there was nothing there for anyone over (or apparently under) 8-12 years of age. That doesn’t mean that I had bad time – I’ll take a nap whenever I can get it. Sharkboy needs more acting lessons.
As for continuing to feel "not sorry" for movie executives, seems to me that DVD revenue’s gotta be pretty good, else they wouldna’ be so many of ‘em. The ever-narrowing gap between movie release and DVD release signals that maybe they’re not so discouraged, after all. They’ve even developed a new method of releasing the first DVD right away, and then releasing an "enhanced" version a couple of months later – with all the extras - so that the fan now has two copies of his or her favorites. You movie guys’s impoverishment is truly breakin’ my heart. And then there’s timing of release. "Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy", released a week or two before "Star Wars III" – there’s a bit of Gumpian Wisdom, ‘cept it didn’t work. You can’t see them, Forrest, for the Sith.
And just one other thing. Stop churning out crap. Pixar is successful because the story comes first. Sharkboy and Lavagirl needed 3-D – better to have objects coming from the screen, rather than being hurled at it. The glasses prevented anyone’s aim from being accurate enough to hit the screen. Besides, who in their right mind would throw jujubees at the screen, when they are about a quarter apiece?

Moving On

Anybody still here?
It’s been an interesting week here on lake Woe-Be-Gone. A few things have occurred since my latest rant and pity-party.
Unfortunately, this is going to take a little explanation. Some unnamed (although we know who it is) administrator has decided that it would be a good idea for the support departments to "flex" their hours up and down (it only means down) with the number of patients in the building. What this means for my department is that we are being asked, from pay period to pay period, to take time off from work. This time off can either be supplemented by one’s vacation pay, or taken without pay. The net effect is that I no longer have a full-time job. Combine that with the fact that the average pay "raise" is running at 2 percent, it represents a net (there’s that word again) loss for all of us. To this lovely recipe for morale, add the realization that none of our "sister" hospital support depts are "flexing", and you have one motivated bunch of mofos. Since we are all taking time off, that means we get to work the other shifts to accommodate our swing and graveyard (funny, they don’t call it that at the hospital) shifts, too. So I have a part-time job with variable shifts. Let’s move on.
About a month or so ago, my Director announced that some of us might be able to "flex" our hours over to the Biomed department - - do some work for them, and get paid out of their cost center. A few weeks went by where we’d already met our quota, but then there was a period looming with a huge deficit. So I put in for a week in Biomed. That was last week.
I also was given an opportunity to apply for a job. My haphazard attempts at resume-writing were assisted by a friend, and off it went. Hold that thought. . .
Last week was alright. I happily emptied out storerooms. Ironically, the stuff I was throwing into the dumpster was the very equipment I’d been hired to repair in 1986. Karma, anyone? I got to repair some equipment, and even troubleshot and fixed a few things. I delivered and picked up devices, and saw places in the building I hadn’t seen in several years. I swapped out a defibrillator in the Labor and Delivery recovery room, the room where Vicky got the news that Emma has Down Syndrome in, as she came out of the anesthesia. They’d wrapped her in a multi-colored blanket and given her a special cap. It’s a moment in time that is, shall we say, burned into my memory. Bittersweet. I inspected and tagged equipment, helped do a pre-inspection sweep in the lab, and saw the new surgical suite across the street.
I returned to the shop on Tuesday to find a phone message from my prospective employer. Thinking that returning the call would be a matter of setting up an appointment for an interview, I dialed away. It turned out to be a 20 minute Human Resources phone pre-interview, in full earshot of my shop-mates. She told me I’d hear something in a couple of days. It’ll be a week, tomorrow. Que Serah, Serah. Let’s move on.
My Dad had unscheduled gall bladder surgery on Friday. He’s fine; it was just a little bit unsettling for all of us.
It was the last week of school. Sam’s now a third grader, and we’ve got some grainy, hand-held video of Emma’s kindergarten graduation ceremonies. I’m proud of both of my kids.
So it was a good week. I came home from work on Monday, and Vicky asked "how did your day go?" "Pretty good." "Really?" It’s nice to surprise her every now and again. . .

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Achieving New Heights of Mediocrity

This blog was mentioned in the New York Daily News, yesterday. I wasn't really expecting it. A friend of mine, Tom had referred an email with several questions about blogging as a parent with a "disabled" child. I dutifully answered the questions; one of my points made there was, as Tom pointed out in his blog yesterday about the term used in the article - "Down Syndrome kids" as opposed to "kids with Down Syndrome" (they are people first!) - that this blog was about lots of stuff, being Emma's Dad was only part of it. I agree with Tom that this article was probably edited severely; there was nothing resembling the info that was asked for. At any rate, if you're here as a result, and are interested in stuff relating to being a parent of a "disabled" child (I'm not touching that one at the moment), you need to dig back a little ways. I've been (obviously) doing some different stuff, lately.
So, I got a message yesterday saying that my blog was often thought-provoking, but this person's first impression to many posts was that I should "stop whining and move on." I've thought a lot about this. I'm going to say publicly that this person has infinite credibility with me, and has earned the right to speak their mind, perhaps as no one else I know. This does not change my relationship with them one iota.
I guess it's time to state what I think should be obvious to anyone paying attention. I cannot move on. I'm stuck. I'm a middle-aged man with a seemingly fine intellect, a mind "all dressed up and nowhere to go." Four months after my happy life was kicked in the stomach, I entered a special circle of hell where I was (and still am) allowed to daily see the fruits of my previous career wither and die before my very eyes. I have participated in the Employee Assistance Plan. I have seen a psychologist. They all tell me that I'm coping very well, and, while I'm welcome to schedule another visit, they don't see any major problems. I guess they didn't want to hear me whine either. I have pursued just about every available angle in terms of finding suitable employment and support for myself and the 3 other people that depend upon me, to no avail. I have taken anti-depressants. I have spoken with my pastor, who looks across the table at me and says that he has no answers. I don't think anyone has the slightest idea of how very angry, powerless, and alone that I feel. If I'm whining here, it's because I have no where else to go.
But I am trying to move on. I've been slowly divesting myself of some of the things that have only served to magnify this anger. I'm trying to tell the truth. I think it is hard for others to understand. Part of the problem is that this becomes ultimately isolating. I think "polite society" was a major force, in the past, at making disabled people invisible. Although great strides have been made, I can't explain to you the emotional energy it takes, sometimes, just to sit in Taco Bell with my daughter, making inappropriate noises and just being herself, realizing that you are now the "floor show." Call it courage, call it stoicism, call it "making the best of it", but the energy this takes has had the practical effect of cutting my families' net output in half. I'm sure that many looking at us from the outside don't understand why we don't do more, but I'm also pretty sure that they really don't want to know why, and that is that it's just too hard. It hurts, over and over, and I increasingly don't feel like being a masochist, most days. If that's "copping out", my moccassins are size 9 1/2.
I love my wife, I love my children. We have a home together that "ain't exactly Ozzie 'n Harriet" (name that movie, now), but I'm happiest when we're together. We're working hard at trying to figure out what this all means. Some of the outcomes are surprising me. Some of them aren't where I'd necessarily want to go, and I don't know where we're headed, exactly, but the status quo 'ain't happening' for us.
I think that's what I'm trying to get to, friend, and why I'm doing both this blog and not writing you personally. I think I am moving on, although we both may not like what I'm becoming. You've stuck with me through a lot, so far, and I want to continue this journey with you. I need you more than you realize, and you'll never know the depth of my gratitude. Your message has prompted me, and I'll try not to whine. Perhaps one man's whine is another man's whiskey, or something like that. Besides, it's part of being a curmudgeon, and who, I ask you, who is going to take Any Rooney's place - he can't live forever, can he?

Monday, June 06, 2005

An Ancient Parable Draught #1

And verily it came to pass, that a yeast shortage came upon the land, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. "Give us this day, our Daily Bread", shouted the masses, but the priests could only offer Pop-Tarts and the promise of a brighter future. Even the chocolate frosted ones brought no solace, no comfort. Farmers released their aging swine into the streets; the lack of bread meant no ham sandwiches, or even SPAM sandwiches, and they kept procreating because they were, after all, pigs. Peanut farmers’ fields lay fallow, as baseball was not sufficient for them to reap and sow. Tomatoes ripened and then died on the vine, and cucumbers shriveled in lieu of pickeldom. Children cried out "Spaghetti, Again?" on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Two score and ten left them without ales, alas the beverage known as "Bud" only incited the masses to cry out obscenities and the names of their favorite sports teams. The pleas for peace from His Eminence, the newly elected Pope Porous V, the former Cardinal Dunkin were soon merely echoing in the halls of the Fatican. Matzoh and Foccacia tried to stem the tide, but soon the chants, of "No Yeast, No Peace!" and "All we are saying, is give Yeast a chance" soon drowned out those seeking calm and order. Cheese and crackers were no substitute for Heros and Heifenweizen.
Then, one day, when all seemed lost, a stranger appeared. He appeared to be a gypsy, a drifter who was not to be trusted. The first thing people noticed about him was the smell, a slightly fermented smell. That something was a rye, was evident to those with strong memories. "Who are you, they asked, their noses filling with nostalgia and want. "I am a visitor from – the Yeast (like you didn’t see that one coming), and I bear tidings of joy and prosperity to you. Take these seeds and sow them according to the ancient ways, and thou shalt be rewarded." All you must do is be kind to one another, feed the poor, and give everyone a home of their own. But in their selfishness, they set upon him, killed him, and took his stores. They immediately used the yeast to bake bread, make beer, and pretzels, and it was not long until, in their carbo-loaded drunkenness, the precious enzyme had been spent.
The skies grew dark, and the ground shook. The clouds parted to reveal God, herself, nicely attired in a Donna Karan original. "What you have done to the yeast of thieves, you have done unto me! From this day forth, it will come to you again, but to use yeast with anything less than temperance will bring obesity, insanity, and your heads will pound with the reverberations of a thousand hammers in the morning!" And so it was. Nothing had really changed, but there were more headaches.
The End.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I am an oversensitive doormat. I was raised to be the latter, the former is just an unhappy byproduct. There. I've said it. Hope you don't mind.
I was pressed for time this morning, and as I reached an intersection to make a right turn, I observed a woman crossing the street in my direction, requiring me to wait for her.
Now, this woman, probably a few years older than I, was clad in running gear, and yet here she was, walking across the street; I became instantly outraged (internally, of course - no horn honking or gesticulating from me, no sir). Why wasn't she RUNNING? I was convinced that she was doing this on purpose, to make me wait because she could. Which brings me to my current state of contemplation about how we are the way we are.
If you know me, then it's very possible that you know my father. Our Father, who art in Temecula, is one of my heroes. The older I get, the smarter he is. He has become, and remains, a Great Man. I love him dearly. Having said that, he is also, by both nature and desire, one who turns the other cheek ad nauseum. As my dear Mother would attest, he has turned martyrdom into an art form. All other family secrets and confessions aside, it is alas a mode that I have probably embraced, embodied, and employed to my detriment, as well as, I'm told, the detriment of those around me. I order a hamburger at Burger King the way it comes - their way is fine with me. If I find a chicken sandwich in the wrapper, I'm apt to see it as an indication from the Almighty that I've been eating too much beef, lately; usually preferring to eat it rather than put everyone through the hassle of a "do-over." It's often hard for others to see the value; they think it's spinelessness on my part. I think Dad would agree with me that it's more about being at peace than being "right" - but then you have to have this perspective to begin with. Having children, of course, changed everything. The way we raise children today means constantly making adjustments - and I don't necessarily want my children to be the way I am - they need to make their way in a world much different than mine is. What I'm working my way around to is that how we're changing has been the result of an insidious process, and perhaps we need to think about being more accommodating, some times with each other, particularly strangers. Which brings me back to this morning's runner.
See, the thing is, if the situation had been reversed, I'm pretty sure that I would have run across the intersection, or at least trotted, or in some way indicated that yes, I am holding you up, but making some sort of token (if not real) effort to both recognize your presence and get out of your way. It's politeness, it's recognition of your value, it's a positive rather than a negative moment in a negative world. I remember feeling put-upon when being taught that a gentleman opened a door for those around you, Ladies first, of course, but I've noticed that some people do, some people don't. The ones that don't open a door for me instantly lose all credibility, as far as I'm concerned. I seem to be drifting off-topic. And yet not. It's turned into a mark of character, to some extent.
I made the offhand joke, the other day, that this was all Burger King's fault. "Have it Your Way" has become a mantra, an expectation that has turned sideways into selfishness, and then reversed itself upon us to the point where we have to choose where there were no choices, before. Please apply this concept. Discuss with your inner self. Failure to demand one's own way or show deference to another is now a sign of weakness.
So, I'm confident that I'm going to inherit the earth. Of course, the selfish and the slipshod will have pretty much soiled it beyond recognition by the time I get it, but I'll be happy. I'll be happier if those folk are all gone by then, off to a planet more suited to their tastes.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A show about nothing

It's so very gratifying to realize that my generation is going to remembered and characterized by TV shows like the vapid "Friends" and "Seinfeld." I had the pleasure of watching an old rerun of "Gunsmoke" a few days ago. I remember begging to stay up to watch it as a child. It portrays a world where evil intrudes, moral dilemmas ensue, and right prevails in the end - with humor, grace, and a clear statement of what is right and what is wrong. When James Arness looks into the camera, he's looking me in the eye. When Doc Adams provides medical care for everyone, regardless of social status or ability to pay, the lesson is clear.
It is so much about nothing, these days. I guess I'm succumbing to the attitude of my age - squarely "middle-aged" now - seeing an ever-narrowing window of opportunities, combined with a growing desire for safety - it leads to simmering banality (which can actually be very nice with a good pinot grigio and sourdough toast). There was an old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood parody where the gentle man says, "The universe is entropying. Can you say 'Entropy', boys and girls?" I look at the paint peeling off my house, the back deck decaying, calling me to action, and feel unable and unwilling at the same time.
Multi-tasking tends to rob me of the joy of doing, the loss of the sense of time one gets when singularly focused on something. I'm doing one or two or more things, thinking about another 2-500 others as I work. It reaches a point of critical mass, and then something perfectly innocuous occurs, like Emma emptying a shelf full of something onto the floor, and I'm filled with anger at that one thing that sent the whole stage full of spinning plates to come crashing down. Losing one's train of thought can seem calamitous, and it's too easy to pin the blame on the most innocuous of targets. Like the poorly educated part-timer behind the counter at Wendy's who's fellow team member didn't read the instructions and put dill pickles on your Mediterranean Fish Sandwich instead of the bread-and-butter slices you asked for. We're blowing our mental gaskets at the weak points of our day, instead of focusing on the underlying pressure. The result of deferred maintenance, I fear.
It seems like there are those of us that are able to make great strides on a regular basis, but it's hard to point to anyone nearby that is. Part of the underlying pressure is that we're (I'm including you, now) missing the point that much of what we are doing is important - raising kids, keeping clothes, food and shelter coming, mowing the lawn (yes, I still do), making the occasional assymmetrical "thing" out of wood. I don't always "get it", but I can't quite explain the feeling, like I got last night, when Sam asked me to check his homework. A small, yet profound sense of accomplishment. Yet, while I'm doing this, I'm trying to copy a DVD onto my Pocket PC (Why? Because I can, of course), watching TV, thinking about GSA contracts . . . the moment faded much more quickly than it should have, or at least before I wanted it to.
Is it that so much has already been done, we need to make something out of nothing? I can make my own movies, I can record my own music, I can even publish on the internet to a worldwide audience - all things formerly reserved for various versions of the elite, via their intrinsic processes for those with talent and influence to dominate. Is it democracy or dilution? Am I empowered, or enslaved by the crush of information being pushed in my direction from every device imaginable? Yes and no. Several events have proven that information is power; they have also proven that that distorted information can power some pretty ugly machines - can you spell Schiavo? Now everyone can.
So, back to what I was talking about? Oh, that's right, nothing. Never mind.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Karma Chameleon

Yesterday, I was confronted with a malicious post on a forum for Down Syndrome parents, designed to attack one of our deepest fears – that of the sexual abuse of our children. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. Network TV even does it from time to time, exploiting the idea for the sake of drama, to sell Cialis and Crest. It’s almost a familiar emotional road to travel these days, from anger to wanting revenge to wanting mere justice to feeling mere pity and disgust for the adolescent punk, who, if there is any justice in this life, will probably sustain a C4 spinal injury when his ATV rolls over on him, leaving him with his thoughts of how cruel God was to him. Maybe I’m not quite through the "revenge" part, just yet.
It’s days like that one that just make playing with Emma before dinner, or holding her sleeping pj’d form in my arms for just a few extra minutes so much sweeter. I’m pretty sure that Nimrod hasn’t had a hug in a long time, and that is truly a crime – his parents (if he has any) have damaged him perhaps beyond relational repair. Whatever forces may someday drive my adult children to seek therapy, lack of love from their parents will not be one of them. I just hope Nimmy has his accident before he fathers any more of his kind. Crap, there I go again. Sorry.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Million Mourner March

I’ve been pondering what a million people in line looks like. The Vatican had to close the line to view Pope John Paul II’s remains Thursday, as the wait was already 12 hours, and preparations would need to be made for the funeral.
I’ve also been wondering why we, as a species, are compelled to “see it for ourselves.” For reasons unknown to me, I have never been fond of pressing groups of people or large gatherings, aside from church potlucks at the park in the summertime. This, of course, has more to do with the food than the fellowship.
However, I will subject myself to such torture, nearly always for the purposes of amusement, enduring the proximity for pleasuring the senses with music and rides on hydraulic monstrosities. Just as military service is pressed upon the young primarily because we older folk would simply desert, my willingness to wait for anything is diminishing as my age increases. I consider it one of the more normal aspects of my being.
Why is it that we are lured to the sights and sounds of rotating lights and sirens, when we should avoid them? Why am I compelled to identify the residue of forest creatures left on the expressway? Why do I want to see a band play, when I’ve already heard their music, can see video of their performances that allow me to see the pores on their foreheads, and eat bon-bons in my underwear while doing so?
Because it’s not the same, that’s why. There is the component of “I was there.” It goes beyond bragging rights, although that can be part of it. There is no substitute, yet, for being physically present when a unique event occurs.
I am a fan of Samuel Clemens, for reasons that, in my wildest dreams, would only flatter me. I have had occasion to visit his home in Hartford, CT. Oh, to be so wealthy to be able to express oneself in architecture and furnishings! There is even a handwritten note from him, addressed to burglars, in the basement. The value of this one-of-a-kind place is that it illustrates and gives presence to what is already a faded personality of great influence on the early 20th century.
I have stood at the base of Michaelangelo’s “David”. I have also stood at the base of a full-sized copy of “David” in a cemetery here in Southern California. To say that they are similar is correct. They are not the same. To tell you how they are different would be quite difficult. I’m sure that context has a lot to do with it, but it is much more than that. One is cast, the other creation.
I know that millions want to express their appreciation and gratitude for a life lived well, whose impact has truly been divine. It is also part of the culture of Catholicism. I, however, cannot easily fathom this depth of humanity. It is truly a wonder.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ennui and Me

Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom.
This word shares the same heritage with annoy, and that’s the way I like it. Annoyed boredom.
That’s me, today.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing one of the world’s greatest rock bands, twice in one week, last week. I live in a home that’s worth nearly a half a million dollars (insanely overvalued, to be sure), I have a wonderful family, food to eat, TV with 75 channels (2 or 3 with actual programming worth watching, and that includes John Wayne movies), and a persistent connection to the Internet. I have transportation, credit, and friends. Yet, still, I languish in a pit, dug with my own hands, swimming in self-pity; seemingly unable to even rent a ladder. I can’t seem to find my bootstraps. I fear they’ve rotted away.
I heard the greatest essay on PBS radio yesterday. The author read, "You are what you give." It was the basis of her belief system, annealed by caring for and watching her daughter die from a progressing disease. She talked not only of giving with no strings, but of giving with no thought whatsoever of the recipients’ attitude, gratitude, or lack thereof. She does it because it suits her. She is right. It is the Biblical Imperative, stripped of all of its trappings and baggage.
God, prompt me to give, to love, to at least hold my tongue, sometimes. To move beyond my circumstances, however comfortable they may be. To move beyond random acts of kindness, to random acts of love.
To do something.
"To love is to heal, to hurt is to steal . . ."
"She Moves In Mysterious Ways", U2

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


As well written a piece as my previous posted link is, still - -
I’ve changed my mind. And not because the courts are going this way. This whole topic has just injected itself (pun intended) into my thoughtstream because it is another example of when principles collide. A grey area.
Did it ever occur to you that even the spelling of grey (gray) is a grey area?
My precise point is that I don’t know, I can’t say what the level of true intimacy is/was between Michael and Terry Shiavo. Failing that, I’ve concluded that their right of privacy supercedes the government's (my) right to interfere. This same question can be used to support the opposite conclusion. However, that’s where I, as a citizen of this country, must place my trust in the court system. The courts have consistently sided with Michael, conservative and liberal judges alike.
I’ve also weighed this in light of my own circumstances. Agreed, I have been married (consciously) for a longer period of time, but I still think that I am far more aware of my wife’s true wishes than her family. I’m not casting aspersions at her family. I think she knows mine better than my family. The fact that he has consistently stood his ground, without wavering, even under criticism and the offers of millions of dollars to drop his suit, is barely relevant. I’ve somehow managed to place myself in his position, now aligned seemingly against the Congress of the United States. He must feel like the Chinese man, standing with his groceries in front of a tank.
Does this mean I’ve abandoned Terry? I don’t think so. I think it is part of recognizing the sanctity of marriage. It’s the "For worse" part. I think he’s proved his love and devotion to her, in the face of some pretty imposing forces. If my concept of marriage is correct, then I have willingly placed the responsibility of these decisions upon my wife's shoulders, and she upon mine, in the absence of any written directives. I wasn't thinking about this, earlier this week.
I think it stinks on ice, either way. I am completely clear on that.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Great Moral Argument

I wish I could write like this:
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal Opinion Page, March 18, 2005
An interesting twist on Terry Schiavo's life and influence on all of us. I particularly like the stories relating to Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.
Read it at your own moral peril.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Thatsa My Boy!

Samuel, my 8 year old son, won a "Write Across America" Dr. Seuss essay competition at school last week. We're pretty proud of him anyway, but this was fun. Below is his essay. The "payoff" comes at the end, the editorial "Note from author" . . .

The Sneetches
by Sam Goble
Once there were sneetches on the beaches. There were star-bellys and non star-bellys. The star-belly sneetches stars were in fact very small, you would think something that small would really not matter at all. But it really did, the star-belly sneetches thought they were better for no real reason at all. The star-belly sneetches didn't invite any, oh no, not one plain-belly sneetch to their frankfurter roasts or marshmallow toasts, year after year.
Then a stranger came to town in the most unusual of cars. "I am Sylvester McMonkey McBean! I have heard of your problems so just come to my star on machine it will put stars right on you bellies for just 3 dollars each." So they paid up and went straight into the machine and plopped out and then the ones that didn't have stars before bragged that they now had stars on their bellies. They couldn't tell each other (apart?) and that was just the problem. The ones that had stars before said that they were still the best sneetches on the beaches and Sylvester McMonkey McBean told them to take a trip through his star-off machine for 10 dollars each. They went through, plopped out and the ones that now had stars knew that having a star was now quite bad. In, out, in, out, in, out, stars on, stars off, stars on, stars off. In and out of the machine the sneetches went paying alllll their money over nothing. Then Sylvester McMonkey McBean packed up and left with all the money. I'm sure he at least had $1,000 by then and said, "You can't teach a sneetch." But then back at the sneetches beaches the star-bellies and non star-bellies were friends.
The End
Moral: The moral of this story is not to judge anyone by their looks.
*Note from author: I was wondering why the non star-bellies didn't make their own fun?
Dad's got nothing to add to that.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Thank you for Playing Double Jeopardy

Today, in the course of 5 minutes, I was informed of one woman going into labor, while another one reported the stillbirth of her child. It’s a train wreck in my heart. It’s, well, Bittersweet. It’s only 9 o’clock in the morning.
There have been a lot of big thoughts pounding around in my head lately. It seems that seeing movies isn’t helping that process much, lately, either. "I Heart Huckabees" gives very little in the way of comfort or guidance to those of us mired in our own existential morass. It made me feel like I was floating in a tepid bowl of wor wonton soup, bobbing up and down with pieces of philosophies. Unsettled. Jude Law needs a haircut. Not a bad movie. It’s destined to be some cult’s classic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the big "Why?" lately. I guess it comes with the news that there’s a new prenatal blood test that’s coming over the horizon. From what I read, there are fetal cells that make their way through the placental barrier into Mother’s bloodstream. These can now be identified, separated, and tested for lots of things. I became aware of this in the context of someone accusing the March of Dimes organization of an agenda of eugenics. It’s so hard to look at these things without some sort of agenda forming, some group with their feelings hurt, some moral issue to confuse the plodding of pure science toward our own self-destruction. Sorry – lost my head there for just a moment.
Anyway, it started what I’ve come to recognize as a circular process, a Mobius strip of questions that ultimately lead back to themselves, in, out and around in a never-ending loop. Let me see if I can drop you in - you can start just about anywhere:
Is my daughter defective? Genetically so? Societally so? If so, how defective does a human need to be to render them invaluable? Are they mutually exclusive properties? Should her condition be protected, suppressed, or eliminated altogether? (program note: The March of Dimes was created to fight Polio, when it was gone, it shifted to "improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.") Is Trisomy 21 a birth defect? Is it merely an affect? Should it be prevented? If so, then does that make my daughter a "mistake"? If so, then how should she be treated (by all of us)? If she’s got a birth affect, then, again, should it be prevented, or accepted, protected, embraced, or even revered, as I’m told some American Indian tribes have. It does not make sense to desire that my daughter was born with T21. As much as I love her, I will always miss what she cannot be. Furthermore, with the availability of these tests and abortion, to possess the selfish thoughts that question what might have been, otherwise. How defective am I? Did we make the right decisions?
Underlying all of this are the subtexts and rythms of religion, relationships, science, philosophy, and culture. Which leads me to the blood test.
Currently (as I understand it), a conclusive, prenatal diagnosis of T21 is via amniocentesis. This invasive procedure carries its own risk factors; as such it is often not used, and the knowledge remains inconclusive until birth. It only seems logical that this new test is going to lead to more abortions. I’m not here to debate that topic, it just thrusts me into the vortex, again.
Is my daughter going to be an anachronism, in her own time? Is that a bad thing? It certainly could be if she’s going to be an adult who’s self-aware enough to know that there will be no more like her, that her particular "configuration", if you will, has been eliminated. Can you see the emotional conundrum?
Now, I should ask polio and thalidomide survivors if they mind, I’d think not. I just can’t help but think that, somehow, T21 is different. I have a co-worker with CP who is productive, articulate, and as far as I can see, no less happy and involved in the human experience than I. Now, CP is usually an injury, but my point in bringing it up here is to involve the spectre of degree. How much defect is enough? How ya gonna know, prenatally, beyond the chromosome count? Is it better to be safe, than sorry? Should we even be sorry? Put another nickel in, here we go on another ride.
Like I said, I’ve had a lot on my mind. At least the rain has finally stopped for a while.