Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Clonazepam and zombies

Kaka drawing. "The Thinker," 1913
5 a.m. Coffee black, no riff raff as I sit in the kitchen, hands in detatched-like motion. I’m wearing a bathrobe, black T-shirt, socks and plaid lounge pants. I guess I could live in lounge pants and drink beer all day if I weren’t so wired with chaotic motivation.

Soon I’m in my car. The radio in my mind starts signaling premonitions of perdition at the worksite. I’m contemplating creation, worrying over what I’ll invent today. What if I endure the stress of achieving something and risk losing my grounding under onrushing vanity? “God, please don’t let me get past myself.”

What would I do without a job to bring needed balance and a sort of terrorism to my life? There’s a moment when I die a little after entering the parking lot across the street from the old building I work in. It’s said to be haunted, as unaccounted for slamming and voices coming from the attic have been reported late at night by employees burning the midnight oil.

Ignition still running, heat on, I pray in a desperate voice much like Jimmy Stewart did in that scene at the bar in It’s a Wonderful Life. “Please God, you know I can’t let anyone down.”

P/C Production capacity

I'm the only one in my department, the others taking time off and it all rests on me.  Veronica sits at her desk near mine but she’s of a different department. I play a YouTube video of a horrible song. I’d heard about 30 seconds of on NPR’s Marketplace as I turned left on Fifth Avenue.

“Let’s get physical, physical.” Veronica laughs and unable to take it anymore, I delete the whole thing. It was gross, all those men in the plastic looking gym, their junk hanging out for all to see.

I look at lists, jot tasks on pink Sticky notes, check email, charge my Android phone, study designs.

Sometimes when I feel lots of pressure, I recite the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing…”

And sometimes I sing. Loudly and bad on purpose.

“Umm, have you ever heard Meatloaf’s 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell?” I ask Veronica, thinking maybe she hasn’t because she’s young. In her early 30s, I’d guess.

“Of course,” she says.


“Perhaps others heard me,” I say.

“We heard you way over here,” Erika in graphic design says jovially.

“When I die,” I say, “they can play this song at my funeral.”

Piano keys. Later I beat my hands lightly against the desk as the song plays quietly. Sing a few words. “You Cath-o-lic girls start much too late…You got a brand new soul, mmm, and a cross of gold.”

Pope Francis is in the news as he often is. (Mom told me when she was a kid, J. Edgar Hoover was always in the newspaper.) Veronica tells me she’s Catholic, but not a practicing Catholic.

“Neat,” I say. “Lots of history in the Catholic Church.”

“Lots of shit in the Catholic Church,” she says.

Then I get lost in work, feeling thrills and agony, not losing myself. I’m told I have grace and good customer relations.

Zombie show

I think what a good thing it was that I took my medication this morning. Clonazepam is a benzodiazepine, a psychoactive class of drugs with amnestic, sedative and hypnotic qualities. It is not Xanax, but is of the Xanax family. One thing I really like is how Clonazepam was mentioned in that zombie show, The Walking Dead. I watch it Sunday nights with Maria and her family, much like we used to gather to watch Breaking Bad.

Sometimes when driving home to Maria, Max and Gabby, the song pops into my head. “..cuz all I want to do is cash my check and drive right home to you,” the theme song to the early ‘00s sitcom, King of Queens, as sung by Billy Vera, a working musician since the ‘60s who also had a hit in the ‘80s with “At this Moment” from the sitcom Family Ties, as regarded the romance between Alex and Ellen before Tracy Pollan was replaced with the wooden Courtney Cox, one of many jump the shark plot lines to befall the NBC comedy, which aired Thursday nights following The Cosby Show.

Back home and I focus as my son, Max, tells me about the report he did on the pyramids.

“The Egyptian pyramids were bigger than the Mesoamerican pyramids,” he says. “The Pyramid of the Sun is on the Street of the Dead in Mexico. The Aztecs started building it in around 100 AD. They think it was a temple for some god, but it’s a mystery.”

It could set the mind reeling.

Bill Murray, 1982. First Letterman appearance. "The new Newton John thing."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

(7:45 a.m.)

Still dark here in the living room as I sit here, sipping coffee. It's my favorite mug, the one with pictures of my two kids on it. Christmas tree is resplendent - blue, green, red, golden lights. I heard my kids, Max and Gabby, get up this morning, stirring around.

"Guys, we'll wait 'till Mom gets up to open gifts."

"We know that," they say.

"Let's not wait Mom up because she was up late last night, wrapping gifts and making cheesecake."

Kids are getting older. Max turned 13 in September. They can wait. Heck, I think I hear Max in his room, communicating with friends on Minecraft right now. Gabby sat on the floor, looking at the tree and presents for a long time, but now she's probably reading a book. She always puts on her glasses & looks a bit like the librarian her mother once was when she reads.


Gifts open now. Maria making homemade waffles.

My friend, Joy, is a psychologist and she likes to bake. She has all kinds of helpful hints for managing holiday season stress. Kids are overstimulated this time of year, she says, and thinking back to the highs I got as a child, I believe it. "It's okay to feel sad," she told me. "This time of year tends to inspire a lot of self-reflection and sometimes that can take you to a dark place."

For me, it was somewhere around November 2011. My old journalism instructor and adviser Les Anderson had recently died. He was kind of like a dad to us all. Definitely our best friend. Sadness swiftly altered into a temporary high as I saw friends I hadn't been with in a while, felt a rage of nostalgia and got lost in the intoxication of my own creativity - I had improved remarkably in 20 years. (Possibly.) Then euphoria alchemized into what seemed a dark irreversible hell. The concrete basement of our old house was said to be haunted, as was my own personal library - the room where my son said he had seen a mysterious character he named "Plaid-pants man" materialize and diminish with the atoms.

I'm sure Ebenezer Scrooge felt a wave of depression as the Ghost of Christmas Past took him to all those scenes where he effed up in life. Anyone would. I can just see him, knowing what's going to happen, saying, "No don't go there" and when it's over - "You're stupid! Couldn't you see? It was right in front of your eyes all the time."

I'd say I'm cautiously happy right now. Moderately all right may be a better description. Sure I was pissed when my drama queen of a daughter complained about standing in the "cold," ringing bells for the Salvation Army. "Go in with Mom and go shopping then," I said. Later, Maria and I both talked to the kids about how it wouldn't hurt them to think about people less fortunate and give some to others

But I'm happy with Max and Gabby this morning. They were appreciative of all their Christmas presents even though, to me, the presents under the tree didn't look too plentiful. I've actually been in living rooms on Christmas Day, seen kids get a shitload of presents and when they asked if there were more and told that was it, they exclaimed, "Darn!"

When I was ringing the bell outside Walmart, a fellow came up to me. "How much do you get paid for this?" he asked.

"I don't."

"You mean you volunteer for this?" he said, disbelief all over his face and up and down his light voice.

He shook my hand. Firmly.

"You're a rich man," he said.

I'll be damned. Imagine that. Me, J.Guy - a rich man?

I heard singer/songwriter Nick Lowe interviewed on Fresh Air with Teri Gross a couple of nights ago as I drove the dark highway. He wrote this song for a Christmas album he recently recorded and I really liked it. It's the kind of song Johnny Cash would've done.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Somewhere this moment in the big sanctuary of a Big Church, my wife, kids & in-laws are are at a candle light service celebrating the Dear Savior's birth. I couldn't join them because some new developments in my job kept me working longer than I had anticipated. This work involved a twenty-something man who stabbed another twenty-something man to death. The fight had to do with some kind of romantic entanglement and I don't know specific details. The District Attorney said he's filed more cases this year than in all his 16 years as a prosecutor. "Merry Christmas," he said.

Jukebox played Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," followed by Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." I view this song by Satchmo as appropriate for Christmas. It's full of hope for a --

better world. My favorite line is about the babies. "They'll learn much more than I'll ever know." I've always found it interesting how this song was released the same year Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" came out. Both sides of a world in perpetual motion.

Then U2's version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Nobody will ever top Darlene Love, but this is good and don't we need all the good things we can get? Like a short, aglow Christmas tree inside a lonely window. If it's there, I think the lights are like hope and hope can exist in tiny windows, just as it can in the church. I picture my family now with the glorious display - "Carol of the Bells" playing. I think of the lit up sacks lining the driveways of the Ridgewood District tonight in my hometown, Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) in the early '70s.

In those days, my family had celebrated on Christmas Eve night at my grandma Mac's house. Then we would open presents at home on Christmas morning. They say every family has Christmas traditions (at least those in America who celebrate Christmas) and this was ours. Anyhow, at Grandma & Grandpa's house, it became a tradition every year to take a picture of the kids (siblings, cousins) sitting around the Christmas tree. This started around Christmas, 1974. I always thought it was neat how the grandparents always had a real life Christmas tree. My family had a fake one, but then the old people were always more rustic. No air conditioning, clothes hung on a clothes line (in the garage during winter).

Lately, my mom has been thinking her mother is still alive and I don't correct her. "She's not doing so well," she says, concern in her voice. "Grandma - she's doing great," I say. "She's quite healthy. Back to her effervescent self." "Really," Mom says, smiling as if she's relieved. "I'm happy to hear that."

I told the nursing director at the facility where Mom lives that the old guy with the whitish gray beard who came to see her was most likely her brother, just like she told them.

Sitting here at Leroy's, the dive bar near the Chinese laundry, frat houses and public radio station in the district outside Wichita State University. Shocker game last night was too much for some people like myself, prone to anxiety - 80-79 in overtime. I was at home. Made it there around 8 p.m. Watched the Heat Miser from the 1974 Christmas special, The Year Without a Santa Claus. "Dad loves this stuff," my wife, Maria, told our daughter Gabby. Max, our son, was in his room, playing Mario Party.

There's a small Christmas tree in the window of Leroy's, underneath the ancient neon Schlitz sign. Lights give me hope, make me think of seeing my family and whatever is out there for the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Parody Letter 2014

(Later on, we'll perspire as we dream by the fire.)                   Dec. 20, 2014

Dear _______,

Ho! Ho! Ho! I'm Santa Claus & I better not have seen your name on the naughty list this year. Okay, it's not really Santa Claus, it's me, J. Guy. Sorry I tricked you, but I get so full of Christmas spirit this time of year & this year, we're going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny Kaye. Please be good children, have sweet dreams of sugar plums & toy soldiers & always remember what my mother told me when I was a little boy, 8-years-old: "If you don't straighten up, you're gonna get reindeer shit in your stocking."

Oh my, and what music am I listening to now? "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker Suite. Little ballerina pas de deux of the sugar plum fairy who came and hit the streets looking for soul food and a place to eat. My favorite part is Tchaikovsky's line about "all the colored girls go doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo."

It's been a busy year, having reached the milestone of my 200th blog and working as a foreign correspondent covering the "situation" in Syria for which I won the Holbrook-Grayson Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my appearance on Fresh Air with Teri Gross, but I talked to Teri about it at Pope Francis's mission, backstage at the Patti Smith concert. Teri and I are good.

The Guy family hung out with our friend, Kirk Cameron at the Duggar Family wedding. It was so beautiful the way Ben and Jessica reserved their first kiss for the altar. Cockadoodie on all those dirty bird liberals who said the picture looked like "Christian porn." What did JimBob mean when he said he shot a quiverfull inside Michelle's clown car?

Our son, Max, is thriving as a Boy Scout, diligently working to earn merit badges and helping little old ladies across the street. Also, he's quite adept at killing Nazis, while playing Call of Duty. He is now employed as a paper boy, for which he is earning rave reviews. While spending a bit of his paycheck on games, the bulk of it, he puts away in the bank "for college" as he aspires to develop video games, much like the pot smokers from the brilliant film comedy, Grandma's Boy.

Gabby, our strong-willed little girl, begs us to visit our Humanitarian/Filmmaker friends in California, the Kennys, so we can go to Disneyland again. Gabby has mild asthma and during one nighttime attack said, "I'm Big Wheezy." Her new nickname - Big Wheezy, which would be a good name, should she ever embark on a career with the Mafia. Gabby keeps little drawings and stories in book she wrote entitled, "crap i made." Also, Gabby has learned how to pick the door lock when her mom is on the toilet.

And speaking of her mom, my lovely wife, Maria, got enraged a bit while Christmas shopping at JCPenney. A woman with a "smoker's face" cut her off in line with her shopping cart and Marie got more irate than a Tea Partier staring at a black baby Jesus. Sitting behind the wheel of our family Santa Fe, Maria waited. The woman exited the front door. "YOU OLD BITCH!!" Maria shouted and sped off. I was mortified. "Would Santa Claus do that?" I asked. I do hope the YouTube video doesn't ruin Maria's chances of being appointed to a vacant seat on city council.

Earlier this year while the children were on spring break, we took a family vacation to Philadelphia and visited Maria's cousins - the twins, Dennis and DeAndra. They own a lovely Irish establishment called Paddy's Pub. There was a water stain image of the Virgin Mary and a woman known as "The Waitress."

Maria & me

And in other family news, there is Maria's uncle Bart. You see, Uncle Bart weighs around 375 pounds and his prodigious buttocks have left severe indentations on couches & recliners, some of which have broken under the weight of his corpulence. Anyhow, he'd pass these gross old man farts & we'd always laugh about the long trail these bursts of intestinal gas had to travel to exit the sphincter feature of his body. But it's not funny anymore. Uncle Bart had a disease of the colon this year and since your colon is related to farting, one musn't laugh. Uncle Bart had Hirschsprung Disease, a condition of blockage in which the nerves needed to allow passage of bowel contents are missing. We were afraid Uncle Bart would die like that guy in the episode of The Sopranos, who had a heart attack while sitting on the crapper of the Bada Bing Club. The good news is Uncle Bart is doing much better since the surgery. He endured insensitive fat shaming from his doctor, but he is on a gluten free diet now, which can majorly decrease the odor and frequency of one's intestinal gasses.

Also in the family, Maria's grandpa's cousin died, much like a drowning rat would if it fell into an uncovered bat of Christmas pudding sauce.

Mom, Max, me, Gabby

Peace, joy & remember I Am America and so can YOU

J. Guy

P.S. I remember Christmas as a little child circa 1972 watching a children's TV Christmas special about the little drummer boy. It was nice and he bore a resemblance to Damien, the demon child from The Omen.

Well, it had to happen sometime. Our good friend Dave Letterman is retiring & Darlene Love's annual performances of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on the Letterman show will be a thing of the past. Here's a good place to end it. Thank you, Dave, Darlene, Paul & everybody.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Suck decade

So my buddy, Tim, must've been high, drunk on Miller Lite or something & he was screwin' off on his iphone from an undisclosed location in Amsterdam or some place of that nature. Shares some shithole of a YouTube music video (circa 1985) on the stupid Facebook. The nasty little man with a guitar pops out of the TV and kicks the cigarette out of the couch sitting loser's hand. Yup, this is good. Oh look, open the fridge and the band of minuscule men are rock'n like you can still rock in America - oh yeah, all right - "Might as well go for a soda, nobody drowns & nobody dies."

What in the hell? Some anti-drug song like that old lady, that "Just Say No" astrology consulting old chick would like?

I hate the 1980s. I think it was a shit decade. Worst of the 20th century.

In an alternative universe, the hostages would've been released early and Jimmy Carter would've been elected to a second term, the solar panels would've remained on the White House roof, MTV would've never been invented and the Minnesota-bred suburban-violently young-sloshed & pissed-bastardly-magnificent Replacements would be heralded as the greatest musical act of the decade.

But we don't live in that world. Never did. The whole godforsaken decade started with my favorite rockstar getting killed and my least favorite "great communicator" getting elected President.

Hall & Oates had a string of hits in 1982. Fuck Hall & Oates.
Anyhow, that's when I had to grow up. I was born when I was born and living my teen years in that ghetto of a decade was my lot in life. My dad got to have adolescence in the '50s, Mom in the early '60s. They had American Graffiti. I didn't even get Dazed and Confused.

There's a sort of plasticity, a phony, non-real quality to the '80s. The social consciousness of 20 years earlier wasn't just out of style in the '80s, it was repudiated, looked down upon, as if it were not only naive, but stupid to be concerned about poverty, nuclear weapons, racism, the "greenhouse effect," or women's rights. Making a contribution was about selling your soul to the corporation. College wasn't about debate and enriching one's self intellectually, but a step-ladder toward buying a Porsche. Instead of a President who looked like a movie star and inspired young people with world transformative ideals, you had a real life movie star President (albeit, a B-lister) winning the affections of would-be Alex P. Keatons by promulgating shallow ideas about greed, wealth, self interest above all others, imperialism and faux "morning in America" patriotism.

Pop culture was a reflection of that fictive conservative chic quality. Pop songs about materialism. MTV image trumping musical substance. Vacuous pop songs all around, the most glaring monstrosities released in the worst year of my life - 1982. Big hair bands that were an ersatz version of '70s hard rock. Movies and TV shows that glorified the lives of yuppies.

I said 1982 was the worst year of my life. I remember one day in seventh grade, I dared sit at the "popular kids" table. This guy - the kind of guy who liked to nickname his dick and trash all the girls he claimed to be banging - told me, "Get out. Take a hike." A girl was sitting there, watching, saying nothing and to this day I can't conjecture whether she approved or not. "Okay, I'll leave." Shit like that, you remember the rest of your life. Any time I had a bad day in junior high or high school, which was often, that son of a whore was always in the mix somewhere. I understand he's a devoted family man now, a good Christian. All reformed. He actually had the audacity to send me a facebook friend request and that'll never happen. It's okay, God'll forgive him.

Am I just projecting my own inner turmoil on an entire period? I concede that may be some of it, but for the most part, I'd say it was just coincidence that the worst year in my life happened to also be the worst year in the history of pop culture.

If you want to go down to the heart and soul, the deepest core of the '80s, I don't think it's Michael Jackson,  the Berlin Wall coming down, MTV, Reagan, Big Hair bands or any of that.

I think it's Rick Astley.

"Never gonna give you up, never gonna say goodbye." Ever been rickrolled? Sounds dirty and it is in a banal, joyless and de-evolutionary sort of way. It's vapid, devoid of soul, disposable, suffused with synthesizers and in its own way, fascist and evil. Rick  Astley, D-list, flash in the pan, nothing but a big annoying voice like grunt  huffing from within a rectally planted microchip lost in moussed, protuberant hair.

Rick (shitting) Astley. The decade deserves no better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

U.S. 23rd infantry. 37 mm gun in action. France, 1918.

There's a scene in the movie, Born on the Fourth of July, that really sticks with me. It's early in the movie when Ron Kovic is a boy watching veterans in a Fourth of July parade. He stares into the eyes of an old man wearing his World War I uniform, a sad look on his face. I've always wondered what kind of life shattering experiences from youth must have haunted this man in his old age. There have been millions of people with such stories. PTSD wasn't invented after the Vietnam War. I'm sure it's existed since war began. Thousands of years since primitive man started fighting with sticks and stones. The weapons are now multiple times more potent and lethal. Young men and women a generation younger than me are now coming home irreparably damaged from war.

It's interesting that Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is also the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut. He was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. Vonnegut was imprisoned in an underground meat locker, which spared his life during people who survived the Allied fire bombing of the historic city of Dresden. During the tumultuous '60s, he would go on to incorporate the horrific event  in his novel, Slaughter House Five.

I've thought about war a lot this year with it being the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 100th anniversary of the first world war. I've read Cornelius Ryan's journalistic account of the D-Day invasion, The Longest Day and I hope to at least start reading Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August about the start of World War I.

It must have seemed like Armageddon.

Lately, I've been thinking about a quote from former President, Commander-in-Chief and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. It's something he said upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002. 
War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.

I'm tired of seeing the world devastated by war, tired of seeing lives shattered and shortened. It's a crime that there are impoverished, homeless, jobless, drug addicted veterans in this country. They shouldn't be so removed. On the whole, Americans don't have enough skin in the game. War is a crime, a murderer. Hopefully, one day - I'm sure I'll never live to see it - America and the world will give it up.

I talked to a couple of Korean War veterans last week who recently went on the Kansas Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. They recalled crowds applauding them at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. A boy about 8-years-old and smiling from ear to ear eagerly shook their hands.

"I sure hope he never has to go to war," one of the old men said.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Show me that smile again

"Do you wanna go see the Duggars in Wichita?" Maria asked me with sarcasm in her voice.

"Who the hell are they?" I said. I figured they were probably famous people, but I'm not up on pop culture much, post-1999.

A few months back, I was at Leroy's a little dive bar in the neighborhood surrounding Wichita State University's old colonial red buildings, a Chinese laundry and local public radio station, KMUW. We were sitting at an old wooden table bearing the knife cuts of decades long past, pouring Pabst Blue Ribbon from the pitcher into our long beer glasses, laughing and enjoying life. There was my friend, Noah, me, my brother, Jimmy, and Jemma, his ex-girlfriend. (She's now just a friend, a family friend, really.)

"I had such a crush on him when I was in third grade," Jemma said, referring to Kirk Cameron. Somehow, we'd stumbled on the topic of banal '80s pop culture. It's not hard to do when you mix middle age and alcohol.

"Show me that smile again," I sing out badly on purpose. "Don't waste another minute on your cryin' --"

"See what you started," Jimmy said to Jemma.

"We're nowhere near the end," I continued, always proud to show off my ability to sing all the words to forgotten TV sitcoms. "The best is ready to begin." (Voice growing louder, people staring and laughing.) "As long as we've got each other, we got the world spinnin' right in our hands, baby you and me, we gotta be - the luckiest dreamers The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreamin'. 
As long as we keep on givin' we can take anything that comes our way Baby, rain or shine, all the time
We got each other Sharin' the laughter and love."

I thought about it this past week when I stumbled online upon Cameron's quote about how he took his daughters to the wedding of Virgin Bride Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald (he got permission from her dad, Jim Bob, to marry her; I saw the YouTube video) so the girls could see a couple who "reserve their first kiss for the altar."

Around this time, I discovered, via facebook, Dan Savage's article on the whole Duggar-virginity-Quiverfull-Rick Santorum-esque thing. Dan Savage? Didn't know who he was either. Found out he's a gay advice columnist for an alternative Seattle paper, The Stranger, and he used to live in Madison, Wisconsin where my old newspaper pal, Kathy, went to school.

My wife, Maria, read the article from under her bed sheets, on her phone. "It was funny," she said, but she didn't like his recurring use of the words, "fuck first."

He did pound it in a little thick, I believe, but his initial tweet, which provoked controversy (good Christian fb commenters struck back - "cocksucker") was funny. Referring to the labyrinth of Old Testament-like rules that govern the Quiverfull movement's standards on courtship and marriage, Savage tweeted, "I suppose #Fuck first isn't one of the rules." 

I researched the Quiverfull Movement and I'm telling you, it's more control than I'd ever want over my daughter's vagina. Or my wife's, for that matter. It's a Christian extremist patriarchal cult based on a gross distortion of Psalm 157 and I understand it's rocking the evangelical world, much like big womanly butts are now popular in the evil, secular pop culture world.

Mind goes back? How did Kirk Cameron go from being a curious teen looking for answers in spirituality to a religious fanatic who thinks a couple shouldn't even kiss before exchanging wedding vows? Growing Pains was a littler looser, family oriented, yet slightly more base and realistic than the buttoned down Cosby Show. Cameron, as teenage mischief maker and walking hormone, Mike Seaver, was a kid I could relate to except for the fact that I wasn't a teenage heart throb with my face all over Tiger Beat and third grade girls having crushes on me. When Mike Seaver's little brother, Ben, yelled, "Mom, Mike put my underwear on the roof" -- that was my family.

He's not Mike Seaver anymore, just a growing pain in the ass. Accosting people on the street with his radical Christian buddy and telling them they're going to hell for feeling lust. Hanging out with that radical-right revisionist historian David Barton and equating Darwin to Hitler.

Like Cameron, I'm now forty-something and I'm wise to the ways of the world. I know the dating-sex-co-habitating-marriage world is replete with heartache, hang-ups, disease and anxiety, but that's part of life, part of a journey in which we get to experience a few of life's beautiful highs. Locking the women in your family away in some totalitarian, taliban-like society that never lets in the sun isn't the way.

Sorry we have to grow up, lose innocence, some of us getting left behind, some dead and some living, nostalgia breathing joy and sadness upon us, but that's life. All the kisses and reruns, bedrooms, growing pains and soda pop of life.

Back at the bar.

"Well the world don't move to the beat of just one drum," I sang. 

"Don't push it," Noah said.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Moonshine, teabillies and inbreeding

7:30 p.m.

Dead silence. Darkness except for a single light bulb shining dimly over my early '60s model Royal typewriter, paper nestled blankly inside. I'm sitting here at the kitchen table, a glass of Jim Beam and Coke to my side. Jim Beam - distilled in Clermont, Kentucky by seven generations of the Beam family, ceasing for a brief moment during Prohibition as if stopping to pee at a pit stop. Wife and kids are gone. At her mother's, I guess. Loneliness is palpable at such moments when I feel like Don Draper in the last episode of season 3 from Madmen, sitting solo on a stairstep, children's noise only a dream, Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, it's All Right" rolling over the closing credits.

5:32 a.m.

I walked into my job at the paper company at 8 a.m., the morning after the mid-term elections. "Well, what do you think, Matt?" I said to my supervisor, resignation in my voice. He turned his chair away from the computer in his cluttered office. "I think they can all go fuck themselves," he said, then proceeded into a long diatribe as Matt is prone to do.

"I'm gonna move my family out of Kansas so my kids can get an education," Matt said. Pictures of smiling boys, ages 3 and 4, dotted the wall behind his desk. His Iowa Hawkeyes jacket laid on plastic-cushioned chair beside the trash can.

"All they saw was the R." Scorn filled his face as if written with a permanent marker. Matt's wavy hair is receding. He wears humongous Dwight Schrute glasses. His head is considerably smaller than Dwight Schrute's, babyish fat hanging over his cheeks so that when his mouth is closed - that familiar horizontal line - his sense of righteous indignation is accentuated by characteristic jowls. How many times have I seen that look?

"Just because a guy went to a strip club 16 years ago."

"Do you really think it carried that much weight," I asked.

"Yes, I do because it's all they fucking care about."

Election night jitters

Maria and I sat on the couch, eating leftover meatloaf as we'd been doing all week. Gabby was at the far end of the couch, playing with Pinterest and Max was in his room, playing wii. We don't have cable, the antenna is for shit and therefore we were spared all the campaign commercials, Netflix, Hulu and those kinds of things being our resources. All our news was coming from our phones.

"Davis is winning!" I posted on Suzanne's facebook wall. I've known Suzanne since 7th grade.

"You're kidding," she answered back.

"No, that's what they're showing. Of course, I won't be convinced until it's confirmed. I'll believe it when I see it."

I was smart to be cautious, to keep my enthusiasm in check.

When Maria told me, sadly, that Brownback had moved ahead, there was no going back. Just a short time later she said, "Davis is about to give his concession speech." Gabby was disappointed, having internalized her parents' distaste for Pastor Brownback.

"It'll be okay, Jeff," Maria said, her hand warmly over mine.


"It's not like they have your salvation in their pockets or something."

Kentucky bourbon

News reporting Mitch McConell had clearly won Kentucky. A day later a right-wing friend of mine whom I've known since 7th grade would post on fb: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell. I like the sound of that." And a bunch of jerks would robotically press "like."

"What's wrong with these people?" I posted from my phone to Suzanne as the news of McConell's victory speech arrived. "Is it the moonshine? Too much fucK ing inbreeding?"

Driving down the highway. Morning. NPR in my car.

"I'd enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConell," Pres. Obama said.

Me, I'd have to be shitfaced beyond recognition. But Barrack Obama has more class, more social graces than I do. Besides, he can say it, knowing it'll never happen. He was being conciliatory and still the right-wing whackos would be littering social media. "Unbelievable!!!" "Arrogant socialist." "Half-breed Muslim communist." "Narcist (sic)" "How can a dictator be humble?"

No, I wouldn't want to drink with that turtle head. McConell - little head emergent as vacation-esque ground hogging.

I say bye to Maria in the morning. "Thanks little girl." Life will still go on, believe me. And I can still pray before I walk into the old building for another work day. I mean - yeah, I do pray, not to this repressive, Republican god they created (Maria says I don't fit in much with church people), but to someone like your dad, you know, oh and I never prayed to God about the damn election. I figure He's above all that fray.

just - wasn't there some pop song in the '60s - Burt Bacharach or something? God Give Me Strength

"You even snuck a country song in there," Johnny Cash said to Neil Diamond when he was a guest on The Johnny Cash Show, referring to a track from Diamond's Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show album. Kentucky moonshine, no teeth. That's what ol' Neil was singin' about.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Politics, religion and free tampons

Last Saturday, I arrived home from Wichita where I'd had my Suzuki car repaired at Firestone. It
was approximately 1:46 p.m.

"So what are your plans today?" Maria said to me as I ate leftover meatloaf warmed in the
microwave. "I know you have something up your sleeve."

I told her I planned to vote early. All Longmont County voters could put in advance ballots at
Our Blessed Virgin Catholic Church in nearby Dovedale until 4 p.m. "Wanna come with me?" I

"Yeah, but I gotta take a shower first."

While Maria was showering, I did last minute research on the internet about the candidates &
issues so I could make informed votes. Of course, where Pastor Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach
were concerned, I didn't need to do any research. It was clear where I stood on Mr. Onward
Christian Soldiers.

But the two Kansas Supreme Court judges who people wanted to remove for the way they ruled on
the Carr Brothers - I had to research them. I wasn't going to be like all those hotheads who
voted solely on being pissed about something they knew little about. Law is an intricately
technical area.

Maria and I took the kids - Max & Gabby - with us when we voted. Two years ago, they "voted"
with their schoolmates for president. Shortly before the school election, Max, who I think knew
I was for Obama, said, "I think I'm voting for the other guy 'cuz I'm sick of portions." Both my
kids had heard that Michelle Obama was behind their school lunches being served in smaller

When we went to vote, the poll worker made a big deal about my name on the voter list being listed as Jeff, while my driver's license said Jeffrey. Wasn't sure if I'd get to vote, but I made it.

The real star of this experience was Our Blessed Virgin Catholic Church, an Ivory colored cathedral. I was raised Baptist so this is a world I've just been a guest in a few times. I loved the brutal, poignancy of the painting at the head of the sanctuary - a pained, sorrowful Jesus Christ on the cross. Catholics don't mess around. Suburban white bred Protestants, on the other hand, will give the kiddos candy crosses with their chocolate Easter bunnies.


Maria and I completed voting. We had to pee. The lavatories were rough carved stone structures of Romanesque quality. Stall doors encrusted and painted with dark evocations of St. Thomas of Aquinas hues. I could only imagine Vatican City. All of it, the Roman in Roman Catholic.

"This is nice," I said to Max who stood back against the wall as I pissed between the partitions.

"I don't think so," Max responded.

"Come on, this restroom - I can hardly call it that - rivals the restroom at Von Marr," I said as I washed up at the marble sink, referring to Wichita's clothing store with its hand crafted ties and tailored suits.

Back in the Santa Fe, Maria brought out the hand sanitizer she'd acquired. "There was a row of them on the counter of the ladies room," she said. "They were stacked. Free maxi-pads, tampons."

"Let's go to Goodwill," she said and I moved the SUV gently along the spacious and vacant parking lot, just thinking.

Gov. Brownback converted from that liberal Methodist church to join the Baptists, then converted to Catholicism. Like his conservative Catholic buddy, Rick Santorum, (the right-winger who nearly puked at Irish Catholic JFK's speech on the separation of church and state), Brownback crosses the divide, fitting in as much with jokey, sterile white evangelicals as comfortably as he does with pre-Second Vatican Council Catholicism.

He's been linked with the secretive Opus Dei  cult as naturally as he's been connected with The Family on Washington D.C.'s C Street - you know the place where the leader has cited Stalin and Hitler in relation to Christian power.

You'd think Pope Francis would be on Brownback's Enemies List. Gay? "Who am I to judge?" Evolution? "God doesn't have a magic wand." The environment? Yes, there is climate change. Next, he'll be playing guitar and singing, "The Times, They Are - a Changin.'

We went to Goodwill where Max and I sauntered to the used book section that unlocked politics, theology, philosophy - somewhere by this rough scuffed tile floor - world.

Vote like your country's on fire

The first election of any kind that I can remember was the 1976 presidential election. I was in second grade and there was no question who I was voting for in my school's mock elections. Grandpa Guy was making Jimmy Carter donkeys to sell in his woodshop.

"Be a Democrat all your life," the old man told me. I can still hear his high-volume, sawtoothed voice.

Voting was a given with people of that generation. I've read how college educated people are more likely to vote, but it wasn't like that with the old crowd who saw the Depression and World War II. My grandma Mac only had an eighth grade education, but for her, not to vote would have been unconscionable. She worked at the old Ben Franklin store in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 then). When an 18 year old girl Grandma worked with and trained, said she didn't think she would vote, Grandma told her, "Honey, you not only owe it to your country. You owe it to yourself."

I had a 1976 bicentennial book full of pictures of the presidents that my Dad gave me. He'd gotten it at the bank for free, along with a car visor calendar. Grandma Mac pointed to the picture of FDR and said, "That's my favorite president." What? I thought. Not George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Today, I'd have to concur with Grandma Mac about the importance of voting. I study candidates from both parties, but I'm a registered Democrat, which Grandpa Guy would like. (Maria is unaffiliated.)
In the past six years, I've seen voting become a more urgent need than ever and that urgency has reached an apex this mid-term election year.

Ten years ago, the folksy public radio personality Garrison Keillor, in his book, Homegrown Democrat, wrote, "This is a year for passion." That is all the more true right this moment. The acceptable thing for me to say is, "It doesn't matter who you vote for as long as you vote." But it's never been more important that Democrats get out and vote. Mobilized Republicans have had that mastered into a swift art for more than 30 years and Democrats have to work hard to roll back the damage these Reagan worshipers have done - corporate carte blanche, massive economic disparity, increased poverty and decreased safety nets, endless wars, institutional racism, a breakdown in that safe wall separating church and state and hate-filled toxicity.

Here in Kansas, we have to kick that autocratic, oleaginous corporate jerking theocrat out of the governor's mansion. The secretary of state - let him go deer hunting with Ted Nugent and Jesus (I mean, their own personal Republican Jesus).

This battle is being played out in governor and senator races all over the country. Experts are predicting a Republican controlled Senate will be the aftermath. Think of what that would be like. These are people who would let the debt ceiling collapse and impeach the president on dubious, trumped up charges.

Right-wingers, with the help of a conservative Supreme Court, are negating constitutionally guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties, leaving thousands of people who would vote to protect the peoples interests - and not the corporations - disenfranchised.

We need egalitarian-minded voters more than ever today. If you haven't been kicked off the registries, I hope you make your voice heard. If we need more single women and African Americans voting to achieve Democratic victories, I say bring us more single women and African Americans.

I remember a picture I saw of an 89-year-old World War II veteran, his walker in front of him, a sign around his neck: "Main Street not Wall Street," it said.

Defending what FDR gave him.

Right-wingers want to keep women from voting, same as they do, birth control. It's been a long, hard fight. I hope women and minorities make it out.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shut down Brownbackistan

Bible thumpers in the state board of education trying to strike evolution from science textbooks for crackpot  psuedo-science about the earth being 6,000 years old. State representatives emailing crude racial caricatures of the Obama family. That's the kind of thing my home state of Kansas has been known for in recent years.

This is the state where Rick Santorum - Rick fucking Santorum - won the Kansas caucus in 2012, while trying to become (mother of God) President of the U.S. Santorum - imagine if that name does enter the dictionary as a slang for gay sex?

Another state embarrassment? Have you watched the freaking Daily Show lately? It's Pastor Sam Brownback. Come on, the guy's buddies with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the loyal American who's flirted with the idea of secession and used to go shooting at a rifle range with the word, "nigger" on its sign. Brownback was the only governor to attend Perry's prayer spectacle a few years back when he was trying to be (holy Stonewall Jackson) president of this Evangelical Christian Nation. From the pulpit, the gentle spoken Sam read quotations from Martin Luther King, Jr. and I was like, "C'mon, who are you kidding?"

Brownback's first action as Kansas governor was to disband the state arts commission, leaving Kansas as the only state without an arts commission. (It's since been brought back.) But I wasn't surprised. Hard core conservatives, on the whole, don't like art anyway, Dubya's paintings of Putin and Poppy Bush, notwithstanding.

There's a warmth, a congeniality to Brownback's personality that Thomas Frank described as almost "(Bill) Clintonesque" in his 2003 book, What's the Matter with Kansas? True, Brownback doesn't project the slimeball smug arrogance of Fox "News" heads, but make no mistake, he is a scorched earth radical.

It's unprecedented for a Kansas governor to oust members of his own party as Brownback has done. It was a massacre. Those bad Republican senators, those RINOS who differed with Brownback on cuts to taxes, education and social services - they got their heads chopped off by the Brownback Machine. The Koch Brothers, who have backed Brother Sam for around 20 years, put their money behind getting the liberal commie bastards - calling themselves Republicans - ousted in the primaries by hardcore conservatives.

Dick Kelsey, an evangelical preacher-senator, pro-life with high ratings from the NRA. Liberal pussy. Wouldn't play ball with Sam and got his ass thrown on Brownback's Enemies List - you know, like Tricky Dick Nixon had - and got his ass handed back to him in the primaries.

I would think a good leader would welcome dissenting viewpoints so he could look at issues from all sides and make informed decisions. You know, that's how Abraham Lincoln did it.

But Brownback is an ideological purist, a True Believer. He says his experiment in Kansas is going to work, given time, and I think he believes his own bullshit.

He turned down free money from the Federal Government to expand Medicaid to cover the people who made too much to qualify for the program, yet not enough to qualify for the Affordable Care Act. A true pragmatist wouldn't care where the money came from, wouldn't consider it tainted. If it helped raise all ships, he would take advantage.

But not Brownback. Between 79,000 and 150,000 Kansans have been denied healthcare coverage, but at least the simon pure Sam Brownback hasn't dirtied his hands with the federal government and that nasty Obamacare that needs to be repealed even though it was voted on fair and square.

Not expanding Medicaid will cost Kansas hospitals between $2.6 billion between 2013 and 2022, according to an Urban Institute report. But listen to Brownback and the Tea Party. They know best about fiscal policy. They're true conservative Republicans.

In 2010, Brownback campaigned on reducing poverty in Kansas, which seems like a lot of cheap talk now since he's done his damndest to keep the poor down.

He let a federal grant expire - again, turning down free money - that would have kept foodstamps available to unemployed people without dependent children. An estimated 20,000 Kansans were thrown off the program. Brownback wanted to give the filthy freeloaders the incentive to find jobs.

TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) was drastically reduced and accessibility for the poorest of the poor has become a lot more complicated.

Remove the safety net from the least of these and spend $1.8 billion in tax breaks and incentives for businesses. Eliminate income taxes for 100,000 Kansas businesses. No other state in history has taken such a radical move.

Then there's the slashing of education funding so drastic, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled it in violation of the state constitutional requirement for adequate education funding. One would think Brownback would have more respect for the state constitution. After all, he's so intent on upholding the state's gay marriage ban.

But then Brownback signed into law a bill passed by the legislature, saying firearms are immune from federal legislation - a law deemed unconstitutional by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Brownback and his right-wing friends have destroyed a more than 100 year tradition of moderate, progressive Republican policy in Kansas, pandering to their government hating, ammosexual, "fag bashing," "family values" teavangelical army of Christian Sharia zealots.

Democratic candidate for governor - Paul Davis

But hey, it's the rough and tumble world of politics and Christian Sam has no problem going down the sewer to attack Democratic challenger Paul Davis for being in a strip club 16 years ago. Hell, all I want to know is whether the lap dance girl was good looking.

Shameless? He connected Davis to the Carr brothers. (Davis knew one of the victims.) All I could think of when I saw the ad was "Willy Horton."

I'm sure Brownback would dismiss me as part of "the left" or "liberal media." He was on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) getting interviewed by pseudo-journalist David Brody, who has his balls in the white sheet of the Republican Jesus. Does the "mainstream media" want to "craft a narrative" and play "out to get you?" he asked.

In a dead heat race, the media is now reporting Brownback to be ahead of Davis. Obviously, the Koch brothers have been going balls out in these final days before the election. I'd like to be able to say they're not going to be able to buy this election, that David will beat Goliath, but we won't know until Nov. 4. Between 15,000 and 20,000 voters - many of whom would vote for Davis - are being disenfranchised by the Kris Kobach Crackdown. And it's happening all across the country - brown, back and liberal voters getting shut out. If Republicans can't win fairly, they'll cheat and when the election's stolen, they'll call it a "mandate."

 Kris Kobach & Ted Nugent
On today's date in 1948, Pres. Harry Truman proved all the experts wrong and beat all the odds to win the presidential election. Imagine seeing history repeat itself in all these hot races around the country, in which the "liberal media" is predicting massive Republican wins. Unfortunately, the only history being repeated so far is Joe McCarthy and Jim Crow.

I'd like to see Paul Davis win the governorship in Kansas and the totally cool Wendy Davis (no relation) take it in Texas, but things aren't looking good for her. The majority of Texans, it appears, support the candidate who pals around with that diaper shitting, racist, ammo-fanatic Ted Nugent. I wish it was all Willie Nelson and Austin City Limits down there, but it's not.

There's not much hope for Texas, but I'd like to see Kansans live up to their strong history and send Brownback packing. Maybe that will give him incentive to find a new job. Hell, he'd just get hired by Fox "News" anyway.

I didn't get around to mentioning the people from Brownback's own party (the old school Republicans he screwed over) who are trying to shut him down. But you can see it in this hilarious clip from Jon Stewart's Daily Show.

Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" review

4:50 p.m.

I'm less than two hours away from taking my kids trick or treating as I write this so I better get crackin'. Well, with Halloween, I thought this year I would review some great literary or film horror - something like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Stephen King's Carrie. It turns out I'm critiquing something else -

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

This 1966 comedy-mystery-slight horror movie played last weekend at the historic Augusta Theater in Augusta, Kan. And when I say comedy, it's the right word. The great Wikipedia calls the film a "comedy drama." Horse manure. Comedy drama? What does the writer of that article think this film is? An episode of Louie or Orange is the New Black. Any movie with a title like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is going to be straight comedy or at least attempt to be.

9:10 p.m.

What makes this movie? Who steals it? Owns it? Two words: Don Knotts.

Here, Knotts plays the nervous, twitchy, high-energy, bug-eyed character he honed on The Steve Allen Show in the 1950s and brought to perfection in the '60s with the role of his life - Deputy Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show.

In The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Knotts plays Luther Beggs, a typesetter at a small town newspaper, the
Courier-Express, who wants to move up to reporter. At the beginning of the movie, Beggs thinks he's on to a hot story when he witnesses what appears to be a murder. He frantically runs to the police station and while he's recounting his story, the supposed victim walks in. He was the town drunk and had just been hit over the head by his irate wife.

The next morning, Beggs arrives at the breakfast table of the boarding house where he lives, and finds reporter Oliver Weaver (Skip Homeier) making fun of him to the old ladies who live there. On top of that, Luther has a crush on Alma Parker (Joan Stanley - she was Playboy's Miss November in 1958), who seems to be Oliver's girlfriend.

But Luther finds a way to regain his dignity. Kelsey (Liam Redmond), the Irish janitor at the paper, convinces Luther to write a small piece about the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Simmons murder. According to town legend, Mr. Simmons murdered his wife, Mrs. Simmons, then played the pipe organ and leaped to his death from the window of the organ loft. It's rumored that the organ keys still have blood stains and the ghost of Simmons plays the organ at midnight.

After his article appears, the paper's editor George Beckett (Dick Sargent - Yes, that's the second Darin from Bewitched) has the hot idea of having Luther spend the night in the haunted house and report what happens. When the nervous Luther stays in the cobweb-filled house, he discovers a hidden stairway that leads to the organ loft. Luther goes up to find the bloody organ keys seemingly playing by themselves, at midnight.

When Luther's frightened account of the event appears in the paper, sales go up and Luther becomes a town celebrity. However, his new status is threatened when Nicholas Simmons (Phillip Ober), the nephew of the dead couple, denounces Luther's story as fake and sues him for libel.

On this score, I have to deduct a few points from the movie. I'm a journalist. I took communication law in college and I know you can't - according to press law - libel dead people. And someone can't sue for libel on behalf of other people. But it's part of the story and it leads to Luther's conflict - proving his innocence as the evidence is stacked against him.

I won't tell how this film ends, but it's a light-hearted comedy from the '60s. Draw your own conclusion, hopefully as you're watching the movie. I found that you can watch The Ghost and Mr. Chicken for free on the internet, but that doesn't compare to the experience of watching the old movie on the big screen in an old fashioned movie theater. If you don't have that opportunity, I say at least watch the film on a big screen TV.

The idea for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken sprang from a 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Barney went to a haunted house. For the movie, Knotts brought in director Alan Rafkin and writers, Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbam - all of whom had worked on The Andy Griffith Show.

Their influence - along with Knott's comic acumen - show in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. While the movie setting and characters don't rise to the hyper-nostalgic level of small town endearment that made The Andy Griffith Show irresistible, it does share similarities with the TV series.

The story takes place in a small town - Rachel, Kan. - not much different than Mayberry, N.C. and the ladies of the town's Psychic Occult Society project the kind of comic hyperbole expressed in characters from the The Andy Griffith Show. Like the TV show, the movie celebrates rural life without being cornball.

Sure the movie's no work of art, but it was better than I expected. It gave me some laughs and its family entertainment. So much of what my wife and I like, we have to watch when the kids aren't around. It's nice and refreshing to see something safe. There's a gentleness to the film, an innocence that avoids treacly sentimentality by standing on its own simplicity.

If your family is like mine and you like to watch old cheesy movies on Sunday afternoons - or on Saturday nights at old fashioned movie theaters - this would be a good one to check out.

Gateway films

Phillip Ober had a small role in the film comedy, but he acted in some tremendous '50s drama and suspense films - From Here to Eternity and Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Also in the courtroom scene from The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, you will notice - if you watched TV at all during the '70s - that the part of Luther's old elementary school teacher is played by Ellen Corby - Grandma Esther Walton from the Depression set, The Waltons. Corby received an Oscar nomination for her role as Aunt Trina in the 1948 comedy, I Remember Mama. I think it would be cool to see what she was like when she was young.

Other gateways

I saw one of the minor characters in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and thought - "Mrs. Kravits! Bewitched." Yup. That was actress Sandra Gould (AKA Gladys Kravitz) right there with future Darin, Dick Sargent.

Here's where the gateway grows thick and abundant. The various actors and actresses in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken had numerous roles in TV shows from the '50s and '60s.  To watch them all would be to ride the enchanted TV Land highway to bliss - a generation really. I say watch all you can fit in: I Love Lucy, I Married Joan, Perry Mason, Playhouse 90, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeanie, Star Trek...

Lastly, I will mention that Vic Mizzy, who wrote the film's musical score, "The Haunted Organ" (it sounded a little like the Doors) also wrote the theme songs to The Adams Family and Green Acres. Ah, TV Land.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coming around to marriage equality

Twenty-five years ago while I was watching Donahue on TV, there was a group of gay men on the show, saying they wished they could get married. I laughed and made fun of them. In 1989, the question of gay marriage seemed inconceivable. Such an idea seemed to have come from outer space. Nothing like that would ever happen in America, I thought.

Nowadays, I respect the rights of LGBT people. Like most Americans, I've gradually come around to that view.

I remember in the '90s reading something in Newsweek about a Virginia judge taking a 3-year-old child away from a woman because she lived with a lesbian partner and giving custody to the little girl's grandmother. Today, being a parent, I look at such a gross violation of parental rights as horrific. I'm ashamed to admit this, but when I first read the article, I thought it was a good thing.

Now, it's obvious that gays are just as capable of being good parents as straight people. It doesn't matter if a kid has two parents of the same gender. All that matters is that the child is loved and cared for.

It's become increasingly easier for me to defend LGBT people over the years as I've seen prejudice, violence and hatred waged against them. It pains me to hear about gay and lesbian teens getting disowned by their parents and bullied mercilessly by their peers. The worst thing is the stories of kids taking their own lives.

I've been put off by the hostile anti-gay rhetoric coming from "family values" politicians and sanctimonious religious leaders over the years. When the people of my home state, Kansas, voted on a state constitutional ban on same sex marriage, I was one of the few to vote against it. I believe a constitutional amendment should expand freedom, not restrict it.

Now that state ban is standing on shakier constitutional ground every day. Right-wingers stubbornly defend legalized discrimination, but they've already lost the war. Same sex marriage is going to be legal in Kansas and all over the United States eventually. Ted Cruz and all these other gasbags railing against it are going to look stupid in 40 years.

They object to same sex marriage because they feel homosexuality is sinful in the eyes of God. They can believe that, they have freedom of religion. But that argument is legally invalid. For good historical reasons, we have separation of church and state in this country.

Yes, I once thought gay marriage was an outlandish concept. I've had to think about it since then, however, and today I'm able to see things from their perspective. If gays want to marry they should have that right.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Boathouse sweep

Sitting here at the ol' typewriter just bleedin' to write something. Neil Young's groundbreaking 1972 album, Harvest on my turntable. "Are you ready for the country?" Before that - Billy Joel's The Stranger. You can't get more American than that on this or any other 4th of July.

On a hot day back in the 1970s, an 8-year-old version of me felt like such a big kid, taking the punk to light bottle rockets, Roman candles and such. I was with my cousin Jed on our grandma's lawn somewhere near the water pump and her garden, an old, still glowing rosebush in it.

I think of director Barry Levinson's film, Avalon as the old man with the Eastern European accent reaches back into his mind to recall the first time he saw America after coming off the ship on Ellis Island. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, he said, the fireworks bursting outside his gracile, young frame.

July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, "The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America...It ought to be celebrated with pomp and parade, with Shews, Games, sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

And so it was - July 2. I was working my side job at the Wichita Boathouse - built in the 1920s and overlooking the Arkansas River - where I was to sweep, mop and thoroughly clean every inch of the place. Normally such a job would have taken four to five hours, but I had my helpers by my side - wife, Maria; son, Max; daughter, Gabby.

Two of us taking the downstairs, two more upstairs. We'd give the hardwood floors a shine as lit up as the angles here in this swank house of ghosts, the tap-tap-tapping of shoes upon the dance floor, dixieland bands at weddings and young women being given in marriage to men long long ago.

Weddings. Family reunions. Quincieras. Barmitzvas. Batmitizvas.

All over time and time gone.

Gabby   my daughter, looking so like a queen. Even when pushing a broom and wearing summer shorts, she looked regal. I thought about our trip to California when she was 5, how she said she wanted to be a "magic princess." I thought about the ghosts of fathers dancing with their daughters upon this floor, the veranda behind and sun fading over the waters of the river.

I dropped my broom, ran over, picked her up and sent her arms and feet a-swayin' and the summer winds blew outside like boats receding into time.

All the booze that must've flowed here.

I was high on thoughts of it all when Maria said, after close inspections, that we were done. Then it became dusk and we all ran past the columns and pillars out the wide-stretched doors when I realized I'd forgotten something, ran back to the cash register and grabbed my paperback copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, pages soiled with red, blue, black and green ink where I had underlined passages. Little notes I'd scrawled to the side. The Great Gatsby - in my view, the Great American Novel. Hunter S. Thompson taught himself how to write, copying and typing typing typing the book on to paper. Anyhow, I bought the old paperback 25 years ago at the old Waldenbooks in Wichita's Towne East Mall.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was named after a distant ancestor, Francis Scott Key. He wrote The Star Spangled Banner and when you put it all together -well, you can't get more American than that. We saw the tattered flag from the War of 1812 at the Smithsonian when Max was 7 and Gabby was 4.

Back on the green grass with the family, the feeling of dusk and that first loud boom followed by springs and showers of light. (The city of Wichita holds its fireworks show on July 2. ) We drew closer to the riverbanks and I remembered standing there some 20 years before with Denyse, my best friend Steve, his sister Briana and Michelle. Late that night, we'd find ourselves in a field by Stanpipe Road outside the town of Rushing Waters, Kan. (pop. 1,000), drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

It's 4th of July as I sit here bleeding at my typewriter. It's a good life.