end of year whine

Once again my lack of attention to this website has caused me little pangs of guilt that have finally spurred me into action. It has been a year since the publication of my book Too High to Go to Woodstock: recollections on my life and times. My recollections of this year have been mostly positive and even upbeat, and one theme that has been a constant over this year is that of change. This time of the year brings many, especially media sources, the desire to reflect and recount the major stories and events of the past year. Enough! Rehashing the old stuff gets old. So no rehashing here. Well, just one: CUBS WIN, CUBS WIN! The World Series at last!

Another annoying aspect that comes with the end of a year is that of looking ahead. Looking forward to positive changes is a reasonable objective, but the outcomes do not necessarily follow the best laid plans. Most often any change I faced was tinged with fear or regret, usually accompanied by a stubborn refusal to accept the inevitable. Many of my old “recollections” were simple. NO! I want this moment, day, activity and/or feeling to last forever.

Yet, something has changed. There is an air of excitement about the possibility of doing things differently or of doing different things. I am eager to make changes, but when things don’t go fast enough or go the way I want them to, exasperation and frustration set in.

As I drifted off to sleep last night with my windows open, I heard an owl hoot, a very common sound near my house. I was reminded of the essay “Listening for Owls” by Scott Russell Sanders, and how my new attitude about change has been brought about because I am listening to my inner owl (okay-corny).  It may be no coincidence that Sanders lives in Indiana, but my longing to return to the scene of so many of the so-called crimes described in my memoir, is kind of weird considering that most of my life was spent trying to get out, to run from that Midwestern state. That owl last night echoed my thoughts and the mantra that has run through my consciousness this past year: I want to go home! Whiney? Maybe, but as I stirred awake this morning, roused by the distant call of a rooster, my first thought (who knows why it popped into my head?) was of a little sing-song nursery rhyme/ditty I heard as a child and one that seems appropriate to the season:

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Please put a penny in an old man’s hat;

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.


This doesn’t seem connected to anything else I’ve just written, and I’m not even sure who’s the “you” that God will bless. But…I actually do have a ha’penny, so do I still get a blessing or do I have to look for an old man with a hat?


So I guess I am looking ahead, expectantly, desiring the outcome I want but aware that expectations are not always met.

Dead Set

The Lesser of the Dead
From the Smithsonian Magazine, February 2012: An article by Owen Edwards on Mummies from King Tut to other, lesser mummies, notes that one poor dude’s mummification put him in the category of lesser mummies. The author of the article quotes Lana Troy who said: “He’s a good mummy for the time he comes from-a time of quick, budget-priced mummies.”
And for the Future-Dead
What a legacy to leave to the ancestral groups of mummies that follow. I can hear the ads for funeral services now: “Don’t let your loved one meet the Gods as a lesser mummy! We provide mummy upgrade services at affordable rates for everyone from pyramid builders to sacrificed virgins to kings.

The language of hate

Honoring MLK?

January has drawn to a close and now that the obligatory homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. has subsided, I consider the words “Keep Hatin’” that I saw plastered in large letters across the back window of a pickup truck, a message that reverberated loud and clear from the supposedly liberal bastion of Gainesville, Florida. In his final speech on April 3rd, 1968, Dr. King focused on the struggle against inequality and regarded the threats made against him, concluding in part: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.” There is no mountaintop in sight here, yet the mountainous barrier that blocks freedom from inequality and oppression has not been scaled here or anywhere across this country.

Around America the month of pretending to care about Black history is just beginning, and now after the holiday that celebrates MLK is over, the MLK boulevards, streets and avenues across the country can be forgotten, once again hidden beneath the litter and debris of life. But as I thought about the Keep Hatin’ message, I remembered the words written by Tony Morrison in the slim volume The Noble Lecture In Literature, 1993. Morrison speaks of how “Oppressive language does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux language of mindless media; …it must be rejected, altered and exposed.” (16)

It is unfortunate that I am not surprised at the hate and the closed-mindedness of those who boldly declare their hatred to the world, and I am conscious about how my own bumper sticker: “Do you keep hearing crazy voices? Turn off Fox News.” might appear offensive to some, yet it is apparent that others don’t worry how their boldly plastered opinions appear to others. It is ironic that many of these displays are on vehicles that appear to be owned by the very people who would be assisted by the policies they object to. A rattletrap car filling up with gas that proclaims distaste for “Obamacare” seems to be owned by a person who could really benefit by the cheaper cost of medical insurance and who apparently doesn’t mind the insurance companies telling him what medical care he can get but who doesn’t want the government to tell him what to do. The driver who wants to Keep Hatin’ and the one who, with even larger letters on the back of his truck declares: “Obama Sucks” may in fact be underpaid workers struggling to make payments on those huge trucks and to buy gas. It is people like these who will fight against the unions and the raising of the minimum wage that would benefit them as well.

I am not surprised, but I am disturbed because these messages reflect how easy it is not to think for oneself, to allow another, be it a politician, a religious leader, an educator, the media, or a friend to think for you. Martin Luther King saw oppression and today advocates for the oppressed continue the climb to the mountaintop, but the fact remains that so many people would prefer to hide behind the façade of language that limits knowledge and that keeps the barriers in place for those facing oppression, whether racial, sexual orientation, poverty or any of the other ways people are oppressed.

February is here with Valentine’s Day as a day to declare love to one another. So how do we go from Hatin’ to Lovin’? No, I don’t love everyone and I even hate some people, not because they’re different or have different beliefs but because they tend not to think for themselves. For many in America it seems easier to maintain the status quo of an old system that is no longer valid in today’s world. Yet when people allow others to tell them what to think, then it is without their knowledge that they will be as oppressed as those they want to Keep Hatin’.


My Three Rules for Living:

  1. Pay Attention
  2. Be Kind
  3. Don’t be an Asshole

Unicorns-? Rainbows-0

Not long ago I walked out of a Target Store and as I stepped out from under the overhang I saw a vibrant rainbow arching over the expansive parking lot. Excitedly I looked around to exclaim at its beauty until I noticed that not one of the at least two dozen people in front of the store had seen it. Even though some shoppers were facing east towards this spectacular exhibit in the sky, every one of them was looking down at a cell phone-maybe at a video of a rainbow!

My first thought was to point the colorful hues out to them, but I got the sense that they wouldn’t care to be distracted from the important business of texting or playing games on their electronic devices. As I watched the people coming and going from the parking lot and the other stores next to Target, I was amazed that not even the kids walking with their parents paused to look up at the very predominant colors framing the parking lot.

I stopped on the way to my car to wonder in part at the unmistakable sight of the rainbow, but more to continue to watch and wonder how it was possible that not one other person noticed it. Finally as I put my bags in the car and got out my own cell phone to take a picture, a woman in a car near mine asked me if I saw the rainbow. I didn’t see who spoke but was so happy to have another person notice the rainbow that I could have hugged her just as an expression of a shared humanity in wondering.

Had a Unicorn with a horn appeared from pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no doubt no one would have noticed that either, even if the Unicorn prodded unobserving people in the ass with its Unicorn horn. The response probably would have been to complain of being disturbed from the important task of “selfing” or texting LOL to a BFF. WTF Asshole, wake up and smell the Unicorn!

This got me thinking about an incident that occurred recently at the University of Florida when a male frat boy taunted a black female pedestrian with slurs of a racial and sexual nature. His behavior was inexcusable and that he felt entitled to treat this woman in this way is a sad statement of the entitled culture to which he appears to belong. What got me thinking, though, was my experience with the rainbow because, though unfortunately I’m not surprised at his ignorance and his appalling treatment of the woman, I was completely amazed by the fact that he noticed anything at all. Based on my observations of the people of the rainbow, I know that very few people will bother to lift their head enough to take their eyes off of whatever device has them in a trance. Surrounded as this boy most likely is by like-minded, or maybe more to the point, non-minded people, it is a wonder that he or any of his frat-boy brothers’ can function in society in which looking beyond a cell phone or thinking is possible. The rainbows and unicorns and women of color, or not of color that are part of a larger picture don’t have to exist in the small world picture created by technology. Just don’t “Friend” it or “Google” it and change the definition on Wikipedia. With every thought and idea compressed into a tiny screen the world of this boy and so many others will continue to shrink. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new evolutionary process by which those of our species who are so absorbed in technological devices may themselves become as small and limited as the technology they need to survive. What will these cell-phone-size-brain people do when confronted with the inevitable “Fatal Error!”? Like lemmings they’ll probably follow one another into oblivion, but I’ll be oblivious because I’ll be looking at the rainbow and waiting for the Unicorn.

Corny? You bet. But paying attention has its rewards.