Saturday, June 24, 2017

Reckless words

You're not supposed to joke about assassinating the President.

I realize it's been two days since Johnny Depp made his distasteful joke and in the ever changing news and political cycles, that makes it old news. But over eight years, I called out the hatred hurled at Pres. Obama. The cruel, racist caricatures – I remember a Facebook image of Obama with a noose around his neck. And there were people who called for his assassination, as well. The severed head mentality aimed at Trump isn't cool either.

I could see wanting to kill someone like Adolph Hitler. But Trump, no matter how bad he is or how much people dislike him (and I don't like him one bit) is not Hitler.

Do I think Trump is a threat to a free press and civil liberties – basically democracy? Do I think he does unconstitutional things every day of his life? Yes. Do I think he colluded with Russia in rigging the election? Probably, but so far that hasn't been proven.

No, I don't think he's a good person and like anybody in America, I can criticize him all night long because criticism and threats aren't the same thing. One is “political speech,” which I learned in communication law class at WSU, is the most Constitutionally protected speech. The other, the courts recognize as “fighting words” – words that are threatening or likely to incite violence.

I don't think Depp meant his words to be threatening. I think it was stupid and reckless. But saying those words against Trump is just as bad as when people said that kind of thing against Obama. And anytime somebody says something like that, it has to be looked into by the Secret Service. In today's world, we don't know if words like that will drive someone to do something terrible. Words are powerful.

It's a thin line between Constitutionally protected hate speech and fighting words. I think when people let emotions overrule reason, lose their filter, don't put on the brakes, there's that danger of their words being a bridge to violence.

But we never learn. After the shooting that put GOP Congressman Steve Scalise in critical condition, there was talk of the two sides, Democrat and Republican, toning down the hostility and “coming together as Americans.” That lasted about two days.

Last week, you had Nebraska Democratic official Phil Montag saying, “I'm fucking glad he was shot...I wish he was fucking dead.” He was rightfully fired. Sure, he apologized. The whole “that's not me thing.” But it's just like when Republican congressional candidate (now Montana Congressman) Greg Gianforte apologized for beating up the reporter. Insisted he's not really like that. BS. I think that's exactly who they are.

I knew all the togetherness wouldn't last. I remember all the talk of Americans uniting after 9-11. That didn't last. And if 9-11 couldn't change people, I don't think anything will.

That doesn't mean we should stop trying.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

I haven't written about my mom in a few years so with Mother's Day today, it's time I re-visit her in this blog. A lot has changed since I first wrote about her six years ago. At that time, her dementia was just starting and was so slight she could actually hide it. In a few years, however, her condition advanced to the point where she was no longer safe at home. My siblings and I had to place her in a facility that caters to people with dementia/Alzheimer's.

But this person her caregivers see -- that isn't really my mother. What would she be like if she still had her mind? Well, she'd probably be on Social Media by now, but might still be using a flip phone. She'd still be reading self-help books. She'd be going out with her girlfriends, laughing and joking. Mom never did like bullies and obnoxious blowhards so, let me tell you, she wouldn't like Trump at all. We'd be on the phone to each other (because in this age of texting and FB messaging Mom would still be a phone talking addict), knocking the Orange Menace. She'd let it all fly when she talked to me because she'd abstain from getting into arguments with Trump lovers. Mom used to tell me what her parents told her and what I now tell my kids: "Never get into an argument with anybody over politics or religion." She'd likely be involved in both, still volunteering at her local precinct on Election Day (where she'd respect that law about keeping her strong-held opinions to herself). And she'd still be helping out at her church -- with Vacation Bible School, Church Council and Sunday School where she would enjoy getting into intellectual discussions about the Bible. She'd tell me about those discussions over the phone or when we saw each other in person. 

Mom was always excited whenever a new grandchild was on the way ("You mean I'm gonna be a grandma again"!), so she'd be thrilled with the recent birth of her first great-grandchild, buying her clothes and offering to watch her. It is what it is, though, and Mom doesn't know she has a great-granddaughter to the north and west in Kansas. She doesn't know she's a mother, doesn't even know what a mother is anymore. She no longer knows my name, but still recognizes my face when I visit her. I'll take that. A few days ago, I asked if she knew her own name, aware that there was a 50/50 chance on whether she'd remember.

Mom and me
"Victoria," she answered.

She was named Victoria Lou, after her two grandmothers. Her paternal grandmother, the one named Victoria, died in the 1930s -- years before Mom was born. The only memory she retained of her maternal grandmother, Lou, was of riding on a train from Colorado to Kansas at the age of 5 to attend her funeral.

Mom's parents had been married for 16 years before they had her. Her dad worked in oil fields, among other things, and her folks moved a lot -- living in Kansas, Colorado and Texas. They finally settled in Jett, Kan., which had a population of only 3,000 in the '50s. She remembered that her family first bought a television in 1954. She and a girlfriend at school used to talk about what they'd seen on The Red Skelton Show the night before.

As a kid, she thought the most beautiful building in the world was her hometown movie theatre, the Bijou. Built in 1935, it was the first building in the world to be entirely illuminated with neon lighting. It had Aztec designs on the double doors and European looking murals on the walls inside the movie room. She recalled her family taking her there to see The Ten Commandments and being dazzled by the special effects, which now look so primitive. She also remembered going with her friends to see a film about juvenile delinquency, Blackboard Jungle. The film, which introduced the revolutionary song, "Rock Around the Clock," would have been somewhat adult for a 10-year-old in the '50s. She raved about seeing the epic film, Giant, starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor -- two sex symbols of their day. It was James Dean's last film.

She had a slew of 45 records so I'm guessing music, TV and the movies must have been an escape from her miserable home life. People thought they were a nice little church going family, but they were what we today call a dysfunctional family. Mom thought she was in love with my dad when they started going out, but years later, she realized marriage had been a way out of her home situation. He was older, had been in the Army, had a cool car (a 1958 Pontiac Chieftain). A man of the world. They divorced when I was just a little boy in the early '70s, and knowing them later in life, it's hard to believe they were ever married to each other. But I guess individuals are different people when they're young.

Her second husband, my step-dad, was really the love of her life. But they were probably doomed from the start. Mom started acting manic and drinking more. I think their marriage could've been saved with counseling, but that wasn't as common then and there was more of a stigma about it than there is today. Today, fortunately, there are a lot more medications for anxiety and depression, but that kind of help wasn't there for Mom back then. There never were any "good old days."

I didn't hear the word "bi-polar" until 1990 when Mom told me she had recently been diagnosed with it. Also, around this time I found out her "secret" -- that she'd been sexually molested when she was a kid. Over and over again by someone her family had trusted. I wouldn't tell anybody about that if Mom wasn't eventually open, herself, about it. She really tried to help people who had been through effed up stuff like she had experienced.

My kids, daughter, Gabby, and son, Max, with Mom.
Between that time and the onset of her dementia, Mom really enjoyed the best years of her life. She seemed to have better peace of mind and she let go of any bitterness she'd had before in life. She was a forgiving person, even forgiving the man who violated her. Church was really big in her life. You really can't underestimate the power of faith. 

For a while after I placed her in the home, I continued to take Mom to church. But when I'd take her back to the facility, she'd get irate. It became more trouble than it was worth so I had to stop. She can't tell you anything about Jesus anymore, but groups do bring church services to her facility and I'm sure she gets something out of that, just as she enjoys the musicians who occasionally perform there.

She wouldn't have wanted to end up with dementia and living in a home, but she knew it was a possibility. Her dad had Alzheimer's. There's never enough time.

On Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. (Central time), for a couple of years in the late '60s, Mom, without fail, would watch The Monkees on NBC-TV. (The show fared well in the ratings, opposite Gilligan's Island on CBS.) That's how I like to think of Mom. Young, full of vitality, liking rock n' roll and all that good stuff. It's a good song, "Daydream Believer." Hopeful sounding.

And aren't we all in need of hope today?

                         "Daydream Believer" -- The Monkees

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meeting a fellow blogger

Rachel Held Evans

I  was at the Crossroads Church of All Saints and Sinners in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I laid my books on a plastic table in the adult Sunday School class while I refilled my coffee.

"Oh Rachel Held Evans," Sandy, the children's Sunday School teacher said when she saw Evans's book, Searching for Sunday lying in my spot. I returned to my spot and Sandy said, "Oh, it's Jeff," as if she were suddenly no longer surprised. I think she might've initially thought the book belonged to a more conservative member of the church. There is a mixture, which I think is great.

"I met her," I told Sandy and showed her where Rachel signed my book. "She was in Wichita this weekend."

For those who don't know her, Rachel Held Evans is a blogger and New York Times best selling author who writes about God and Christianity from the perspective of someone who questions and fights doubt. Born in 1981, she comes across from the viewpoint of a millennial, albeit one of the older ones. (I'm a Generation Xer.) She has been featured in the Washington Post, the BBC, NPR and been a guest on The Today Show and The View. Rachel makes appearances across the country. I saw her give a lecture Friday night at College Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita.

She's both loved and reviled. I don't go for labels such as "liberal Christian," or "conservative Christian." I'd like to say, simply, Rachel is Christian and Episcopalian. But in today's polarizing climate, I guess we have to make distinctions. There are people who take literally Paul's statement about how women should stay silent in church. To them, she is downright heretical

Rachel was born in the buckle of the Bible Belt in Alabama. Her father taught theology in a Christian college, her family attended an evangelical church and she and her younger sister attended a Christian school. As a child and through her teens, Rachel was "on fire" for Jesus. Every year, her school gave out a Best Christian Attitude award and Rachel contrived a strategy in which she would receive it.

Her family later moved to Dayton, Tenn. where her father was hired to teach at Bryan College, the evangelical school where Rachel would go on to get her degree in English and journalism.

Dayton is known as the town where the "Scopes Monkey Trial" took place in the 1920s. In the first so-called "Trial of the Century," high school science teacher John Scopes was put on trial for teaching the "heretical" science of evolution in the classroom. Today in Dayton, there is a statue of William Jennings Bryan, the famous orator who prosecuted Scopes.

Rachel began to have doubts and questions in college after she'd seen on TV, a Muslim woman in Afghanistan who had been persecuted and executed. Was this woman, who had suffered so much on Earth, going to hell for not accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Were Ghandi and Anne Frank in hell? Rachel couldn't accept the "God's ways are higher than Ours" idea.

She and her husband, Dan, made a painful separation from the evangelical church she had attended since childhood. The doubts and questions had been simmering in her mind for some time, but for her, the final straw came when a sign was posted in front of her church (as it was at nearly every other church in town) -- VOTE YES ON ONE. Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman."

Recently, Rachel tweeted, "Too many stories of LGBT people & their family/friends/allies getting treated like crap at their churches. Too. Many. Stories."

Meeting Rachel

I walked into the gymnasium of College Hill UMC. There were rows of fold-up chairs on both sides with a walking path down the middle, leading toward the lectern and microphone from which she would be speaking. People were standing in line to shake Rachel's hand.

"Hello Ms. Evans," I said, shaking her hand. (It was a petite hand.)

"Rachel," she said.

She was quite affable. Later, she got into a conversation with a fifty-ish couple sitting a few chairs from me. I tried to focus on reading her book and not listening in. After she left and made the rounds, talking to other people, I talked to the couple, told them I'd kept Rachel's first book, Evolving in Monkey Town, overdue at the library. Their names were Larry and Jenny. He was a Nazarene pastor. They had driven two-and-a-half hours from Oklahoma City to see Rachel Held Evans.

When she spoke to the audience, Rachel talked about "keeping the church weird" -- about maintaining the traditions of the sacraments -- communion, which Episcopalians call the Eucharist.

This is Christ's body, broken for you

Churches didn't have to market to young people by being hip -- the pastor wearing skinny jeans and T-shirts with Christian messages used ironically, the rock band, the fog machine, the coffee shops.

"I'm not saying, 'don't have a band,'" she said. "I love praise and worship music. I love coffee."

But if having those things isn't compatible with a church's personality, that church would be better off just being itself, she said.

"Millennials have been advertised to our whole lives," she said.

She had kind words for the evangelical church she'd grown up with and broken from.

"These are the people who first told me I'm a beloved child of God," she said.

She read from Searching for Sunday and talked about her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood in which she would separate from people while going through the "manner of womanliness" as commanded in the Old Testament.

Rachel said she has been invited to talk to teenage audiences and was worried about what she would say. "Teenage boys aren't my audience," she said. "I've written about menstruation."

A church cannot have social justice without Jesus and cannot have Jesus without social justice, she said. A church is wrong to quote Jesus's words about caring for "the least of these," then to turn its back on refugees.

Then there are the politics that have given Christianity such a bad name in America.

"The people who taught boys sexual morality supported a man for President who bragged about sexual assault," she said.

With all the problems, all the doubts, Rachel could just hang it up and not believe. I can hear the cynics saying belief in God is like believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But Rachel needed to connect with something divine and bigger than herself. She had to believe there is a just God in the universe. For me, I guess my reasons are selfish. I can't make it through life without a Higher Power. I've accepted that it's all right, not having all the answers. Rather than a severe father who sends people to eternal damnation, I choose to believe God is love.

After her presentation, I was like, the third person in line, to get books signed by Rachel. I had Searching For Sunday, which I'd bought at Wichita's Watermark Books and A Year of Biblical Womanhood. I'd peeled the .50 cent sticker off the cover of that one so she couldn't see I'd bought the book at a thrift store.

"We met earlier," she said. "What's your name again?"

"Jeff. And I'll tell you, Rachel, I was a mischief making kid. There was no way I was ever going to win a Best Christian Attitude award."

She laughed. "You've read my books."

She signed Searching For Sunday, then A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Personalized autograph

"I read about menstruation," I said, almost apologetically. "Of course, I'd first read about it in the Old Testament. I read the book, The Year of Living Biblically. Don't remember the fella's name."

"Oh, A.J. Jacobs," she said. I'm sure she knows him.

"Yeah, A.J. Jacobs. I just thought your book would be a good companion to that."

"Getting the woman's perspective."

I told her I'd been divorced for around a year. "I'm so sorry," she said.

"I could've never made it without my faith and belief in God."

Not one to pass up an opportunity, I told her I was a blogger too and handed her a manila envelope filled with print outs of five blog posts I'd written that somehow touched on faith.

"My blog isn't specifically a faith blog and it's not a political blog, but I'll write about those things if that's what's on my mind," I said. "I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you, would you be willing to write a guest piece on my blog?"

"Oh, you'll have to ask me that after my next book is finished," she said as if she were exhausted.

I wanted to get a selfie taken with her, but there was a long line of people behind me and I felt I should go on. I accepted that she might not have time to ever read my blog or respond to me on social media. Rachel communicates with thousands of people online.

"Keep in touch," she said as I walked out.

                                           Rachel Held Evans

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Out here in Kansas

                          First trailer for Out Here in Kansas

Last night, I finally made it out to see a documentary film that's been making the rounds in Kansas and has been entered in film festivals in this state as well as in Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri. The film is Out Here in Kansas and it marks the directorial debut of a good friend of mine and friend to this blog, Adam Knapp.

To summarize it succinctly, and as Adam might put it, the 30-minute documentary explores the often conflicting worlds of Christianity and homosexuality. But it's more than that. Adam captures the good, bad and ugly of the Kansas ethos as only a born and bred Kansas boy could do. The hard working-worship God-meat and potatoes ethic and red state stubbornness. But our world is changing.

People of LGBTQ persuasion are asserting their rights to be who they are and to enjoy the freedoms and legal protections others take for granted. As much as old school Kansans might want to live in denial and bring back the early ages, LGBTQ individuals are not going back to the closet. Adam doesn't steer away from the elephant in the room. He confronts it and does so using the clever story telling skills he honed in more than 20 years as a working journalist.

Adam is a long-time newspaper and online reporter. For around 20 years, he covered sports for The Wichita Eagle. His idea for the film sprang from two stories he had written about Burt Humburg, an All American football tackle who distinguished himself on the gridiron, first for Andover High School in the early '90s, then for Southwestern College, a small Methodist liberal arts school in Winfield, Kan. As a student athlete, Burt came to the realization that he was gay and came out to his coach, his fellow players and his mother.

Growing up, Burt and his family attended Central Christian Church in Wichita, then led by Pastor Joe Wright. The pastor was a calming presence on the Humburg family. He was there for them after their home was destroyed in the 1991 Andover tornado and he officiated over the funeral of Burt's father. He was strong influence and respected figure to Burt.

Pastor Joe would also lead the fight against same sex marriage when it came to a ballot referendum in Kansas in 2005, well before the federal Supreme Court would have the final word on the matter.

In the film's climax, Burt, now a physician in Iowa, and his former pastor have a debate. They cover such matters as scripture, religious legalism and most predominantly whether homosexuality is a lifestyle choice or a trait one is born with. The exchange, filmed in the studio of Wichita public TV station KPTS, took place for 90 minutes, but was whittled down to five minutes for Out Here in Kansas. In today's shouting, name-calling culture, it's a huge credit to these two men that they aired their differences in a civil, rational manner.

This guy is serious

It was around four or five years ago. Maria and I had bought a new sofa and were giving the old couch to Adam who was moving into a new place in Andover. It was a Friday night, and Adam, who was editor of the now defunct Andover American told me about the story he was working on for the next week. The woman working in his office as an ad rep would come up with the crackerjack headline, "The Doctor is Out."

"He came from this Christian fundamentalist family and he discovered he was gay," Adam said, while we sat, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon after moving the furniture in. I wound up staying all night at his house that night.

"The poor bastard," I responded.

It was both an inappropriate and appropriate response.

Inappropriate because when you meet Burt you'll find that he's no poor, pitiful character. This is a man who is secure in his own skin. He possesses admirable self-confidence.

Appropriate because Burt went through personal hell, coming to terms with his sexuality. He tried to pray the gay away as it's called, but there was no changing who he was.

Adam told me about Burt's connection with Pastor Joe.

"I thought how I'd love to be a fly on the wall in a debate between those two," Adam said. "Then I thought, 'I don't have to be a fly. I can get them together and make a film."

I'm ashamed to admit it now, but I thought it was just a momentary thing and he'd soon forget about it. A few weeks later, Adam, myself and former Eagle reporter Bud Norman (man, I loved his writing) were having a few beers at Kirby's Beer Store, a little dive bar behind Wichita State University. Adam's interest in making a film hadn't abated.

"I just ran into Pastor Joe yesterday and that's another sign that I have to make this film," he said.

This time I knew he was going to do it. This guy is serious, I thought.

Although he'd written a couple of screen plays, Adam plunged into this project, not knowing anything about film making. He was smart enough to surround himself with people who could help bring his vision into reality.

Burt Humburg, Pastor Joe Wright & Adam Knapp

Stellar directorial debut

There was a lot of hard work with fundraisers, driving across the country and tracking people down to get film footage, but Adam and his crew made it happen. Out Here in Kansas had its debut last Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day at Wichita night club, Roxy's Downtown. Local TV personality Sierra Scott was emcee for the event. I intended to make it -- after all, a film only has a world premiere once -- but, due to my work schedule, I couldn't be there. There have been several other showings in Wichita and other Kansas communities, but for one reason or another I always had to take a rain check.

Until last Wednesday night. At long last, I finally saw the film at WSU's Campus Activities Center Theatre. It was playing at our alma mater where we'd learned journalism at the Elliott School of Communication under Les Anderson.

Wichita radio personality and local legend Greg "the hitman" Williams introduced the film.

"My daughter was gay," Williams said. "And it's the hardest thing to say that word, 'was.' She committed suicide at the age of 29. I'll be grieving for the rest of my life."

It was the first time Williams had spoken publicly about his daughter's suicide.

Then it was time for the movie. It was riveting, you could almost feel the Kansas wind throughout. I liked how Adam put himself in the film as narrator. It reminded me of Michael Moore, who does the same thing. I also liked how he put his kids -- daughter Stellar and son Dallas -- in the film.

A lesser talent might've vilified Pastor Joe, but Adam and his crew humanized him. Adam merely presented both sides and let the story tell itself. If anything, Pastor Joe comes across as a good human being with a lot of love to give, but who is held back by Biblical legalism.

And Burt -- well he seemed to me like  a knock-you-on-your-ass guy who will be analytical about doing it.

I'd been told that my name was listed in the credits. I merely helped as a grip one day, but to be fair, it was during the filming of some key scenes. Anyway, I went in, waiting to catch my name, but I forgot to look. As the credits were rolling, my head was down as I contemplated the film's last scene. It was a surprise twist that brought the story full-circle. I didn't catch my name on the screen, but that just gives me an excuse to see the film again.

Jon Pic, Greg "the hitman" Williams, Adam Knapp, Danielle Johnson and Alicia Sanchez
After the film showing, Adam and Jon Pic, who produced the film, held a Q & A session with the audience. At one point, Adam talked about getting ready to film a scene in our hometown of Augusta, Kan. and getting into a conversation with this old lady about the film and how she said she didn't like "the gays." It was funny because I was with him during that conversation. It was the day I met Burt.

"She went to the church I went to as a kid," Adam said. Also, my childhood church.

When it was over, I turned around & talked to Adam's 16-year-old daughter, Stellar, who was sitting by a friend in the row behind me.

"I guess you've been to a lot of these things," I said and she nodded her head in a yes motion. "I'm chagrined to say this is my first time to see it. I'm late for the party."

There are plans to eventually put Out Here in Kansas online. I told Jon how cool it would be to see a DVD or Blue Ray of the film in our hometown library. That's something that will have to wait for after the film festivals and contests. Oh, and I've told Adam how cool it would be if the film were shown at the Augusta Theatre. The greatest movie house in the world!

As the film becomes more accessible, the out-of-state readers of this blog will get a chance to see it and know what I'm talking about.

I'm all for every artistic endeavor Adam takes on. He's supported this blog right smack from the beginning when I didn't have any other readers and didn't know what I would do with it. For that, I'll forever be in his debt.

I want you to know that Out Here in Kansas has its own blog where you can keep abreast of the film as well as people and events related to it. There's also a Facebook page, a Twitter site and you can find them on Instagram. I encourage you to follow these sites if you're not already. And if you haven't already, when you get a chance, you've gotta see this movie.

I'm sure you'll come away with something good.

                        Second trailer for Out Here in Kansas

Sunday, April 16, 2017


It was Good Friday. Afternoon. The 1970s. My cousin, Jed, and I were sitting at the table, painting Easter eggs in Grandma Mac's kitchen. We occasionally looked back through the living room passage way where her Admiral box TV, a black and white early '60s model with a big fat gold-colored round knob, was tuned to The Flintsones. Grandma was drinking coffee, made from a metal percolator on her gas stove, white as the kitchen walls. Jed and I were drinking Kool-aid from wooden cups with ice cubes inside that came from metal trays.

Earlier that afternoon, I'd cried like a baby when I dropped the Easter egg I'd painted on to the sidewalk, shattering it into a million little pieces. I had painted it in Mrs. Alley's kindergarten class at Hattie O' Mattfield Elementary in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s) My mom, sitting at the wheel of her fire brick colored Ford Pinto, tried to console me. "It wasn't a real egg. It was just an egg shell," she said. But that was all forgotten and I was happy again as I sat in my grandma's kitchen, applying colored dye to eggs. Somehow, the table conversation turned to my cousin explaining the Easter holiday to me. Jed was a month older than me, hence bigger, tougher and smarter. I deferred to him.

"You see, Jeff, Easter is when Jesus died," Jed said.

"No, Easter is when he arose," Grandma corrected.

"Oh yeah," Jed said. "Easter is when Jesus rose." from the grave

Years later, I would learn how Easter eggs, like the Easter bunny, originated in pagan fertility religions and were incorporated by the Christians. The eggs came to symbolize an empty tomb.

A couple of days after we painted the eggs, on Easter, Grandma would hide them outside and us kids would go looking all over her big yard for them. Later that Sunday, my siblings and I would do the same thing at my grandma and grandpa Guy's house in Marshallville, Kan. (pop. 700)

I guess it's significant to add that in those years of what the psychological experts call "middle childhood," I became a Christian. In Sunday school at the Bible Baptist Church when we sang "come into my heart, Lord Jesus," boy, I meant it. I was never any model kid and after a week of mischief at school and home, it seemed like I was always playing catch-up on Sunday mornings, but there was no doubt I was Baptist, I was Christian, I'd accepted Jesus into my heart and that was that.


Last Friday night I went for a couple of beers at Maggie O' Malley's Pub. Like such other city watering holes as the Monarch, the Anchor, Hopping Gnome and that little dive bar, Leroy's, across the street from my beloved WSU, Maggie's is a premiere Wichita alehouse. You should see the place on St. Patrick's Day. It gets wild, and Maggie takes to her iPhone 5S, calling cabs and uber drivers for patrons to impaired to drive, much like spitfire waitress Carla used to for Dr. Frasier Crane and the gang on TV's Cheers. And if a person is too impaired, she won't serve them anymore. I never drink too much when I'm out, at least not if I haven't secured a ride first. I lost my friend Dusty to a drunk driver.

"Okay, I shouldn't speak so profane and hateful especially on Good Friday," I said, while drinking a Guinness Stout.

(But hey, that's what I come to the bar for, right?)

"There's a guy out there in the ether. I've heard it said that in another world we might be friends and have a few beers together. Maybe go fishing. But this is the real world and I hate the motherf___ with every last fiber of my being."

Then after telling my friend, Janie, how I was mad as piss, I said I had an idea for a blog post.
"But I'll have to wait a few days after Easter to publish it 'cuz what I got on my mind ain't nothin' holy," I told her. I was almost bragging. Like I was going to spew out some lurid tale of sex and drugs.

"You know I'll read it," she said.

Janie has a special place in my heart because she's a big fan of this blog. In hindsight, her praise of me just makes me feel more guilty. Writing -- not even the praise you get from people, but the technical act, itself -- is ego food, a mood accelerator. A writer has to be careful not to live off that, to know there's more to life and to be straight in his, or her, mental health.

The next morning, I went on Maggie's Facebook page, said I felt better and that I didn't want to be a hater. I'm glad there's non-judgmental people at Maggie's. I made jokes that night to Maggie about how I'd have to do penance like saying Hail Marys, drinking Shirley Temples or something.

Maggie is fourth or fifth-generation Irish-American and a devout Catholic. Her ancestors settled in the East Coast, but through migration, as people are apt to do, she came to be born in the San Joaquin Valley of Northern California. She got an associate's degree in business from Bakersfield College and after living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she wound up owning a bar in Wichita, Kan. When she started brewing her own beer in the back of the bar, Maggie invited Father Kelly from the Wichita Catholic Diocese to say a blessing over the stainless steel vessel with the decorative copper. I wrote a 12-inch piece about the event freelance for the entertainment/lifestyle section of The Wichita Eagle.

The father sprinkled holy water over the vessel and bowed his head in prayer. "Our Father, we thank you for the blessings of this beer for the refreshment of our souls."

Help me in my weakness

My ex-wife, Maria, private messaged  me Saturday. It was in the 3 p.m. hour. She told me I needed to download the app to NewSpring, a non-traditional, megachurch on the east side of Wichita and listen to Senior Pastor Mark Hoover's Easter sermon. He gives about five sermons in a row to different crowds on Saturday afternoon/evenings and Sunday mornings.

Pastor Hoover talked about the Disciple Thomas, also known, probably unfairly, as Doubting Thomas because after Christ rose from the dead, the disciple said he wouldn't believe it until he touched the holes in his hands and on his side.

I'd stopped going to church by the time I was in junior high. My friend at school, Conner, used to try to get me to go back, but I didn't care for it at the time. If anyone led me back to God and the church, it was Maria.

She worked in the Jett Public Library when I met her. I used to hang out there all the time in those days. One day while there, I picked up a Bible -- I'm sure it was more for educational than spiritual reasons. Next, Maria walked by to stack books when she caught me sobbing in the back of the library. I told her how I'd read that verse, Mark 14:65.

Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

"How could anyone be so cruel?" I said.

"Come to church with me, Jeff," she said intently, looking deep in my eyes.

Maria has long forgotten about that exchange, but I remember it as vividly as if it happened 10 seconds ago.

Years later, I would feel like Judas Iscariot. Fighting these horrific, hellish temptations to cheat on my wife. I was driving in the 500 block of North Woodlawn in Wichita just before the Central intersection, telling it on my phone to my sportswriter friend, Seth. As always, he was calming.

"Well, you're a Christian, Jeff," he said.

Flash forward again to this weekend. I didn't feel like a Christian after I'd shown anger and hatred at Maggie's pub. It's not the way I want people to see me. I'd say I'm mostly a mild spirited person, but when I do lose my temper, it's pretty bad. It's one of my biggest downfalls. There's those verses in the Gospels about how a good tree bears good fruit, a bad tree bears bad fruit and how the world will know you're a Christ follower if you have love for people. I do love people, I really do. I'm really sorry I have these problems with anger and jealousy. I'll never stop striving to do better.

I received a text message from Maggie, Easter Sunday.

"You know you're forgiven," she said.

                                            Jesus -- Glen Campbell

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Black and white

Hi. I often dream about TV. This started when I was a little kid and had a dream about the Little Rascals. The dream was in black and white. There was a fire & Stimy was right behind it with a lighter.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Please don't challenge authority

Someone has removed videos, most of them being music videos, from the majority of blog posts from this, "Bane of My Existence." After a lot of careful thought, I've decided I concur with that action. My rationale for posting music videos was that they reflected the mood or theme of what I had written. I got that idea from watching such modern television classics as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Mad Men in which songs were used for that purpose.

But! There is one important difference between my blog and those shows. They paid for the use of that music. What? You think they dole out that shit for free? Take the episode of Mad Men in which Megan shared the Beatles' Revolver album with Don and told him to play "Tomorrow Never Knows." Matt Weiner and the team paid, like a gazillion dollars to use that. I mean, it was The Beatles for shit sake. This wasn't incense and peppermint crap, it was the foremost quartet of The Ages. So what kind of upstart do I think I am, inserting the Beatles, Stones or Sinatra? Sure I don't have the budget of a TV show produced on HBO, AMC or Showtime. I'm just a poor, struggling bastard with about five diehard fans.

But it doesn't matter.

Right is right and wrong is always wrong. If I was in violation of some copyright law, then it's only right that my (oh sorry, it was so arrogant of me to use that word, "my") videos be taken down. Removed. Prohibited. It's only the karma police, man. It's like my friend Kim who used to run a cafe where she occasionally featured live performances by musicians. But what if one of those musicians, in tuning their instruments, played a lick from Led Zeppelin? Uh-oh. That's when the copyright police come calling. "Well I guess I can't even sing Happy fuck'n birthday?" she said. That's right.

I rationalized my use of videos by saying, "Well, they're already on YouTube. And there's the capability to share videos on Blogger just as there is on Facebook and Twitter." But my silly, self-serving rationalizations don't matter. We should all respect authority and if some authoritarian force bars me from posting music on my site, it must serve a good purpose and like the 16th century philosopher Hobbes believed, authoritarian power is a good thing.

After all we need order in society. So far be it for me to ever challenge authority. I mean, that would be immoral and shit. Take marijuana, for example. Maybe they can get high all they want in Colorado, California or Washington state. But for what can only be good, sound reasons, the power structure in Kansas, in their wisdom, has deemed pot unfit to be legalized. So if you live in Kansas, please don't get your recreation from a joint, bong or illicit pipe. It's so unChristian. No, I don't smoke, I don't chew. I don't hang with those who do. And look at those whacked out states that legalized the evil weed. Washington, for example. You can also be a nudist there. Who wants to see your bare ass, anyway? Heck, I know a guy in Missouri who went to Facebook jail for posting a picture on the social media site of a naked guy running, his balls and schlong flopping in the breeze as he was chased by a pack of naked women.

My point is the same principle applies to the unauthorized use of music videos. And when you get right down to it, does music matter that much anyway? It's not everything. You can have culture without it. Do I really need it to bolster my writing? You didn't see Charles Dickens sticking music with his voluminous 19th century collection of novels. Is music all that great anyway? I once dated a girl who didn't like music. Except country-pop princess Patsy Cline. She liked her. But that was where it started and stopped. She didn't need a bunch of ear candy for her sustenance. So as you can see, it's a good thing I've turned over a new leaf and committed to no longer sharing music. It ain't that great anyway.

Okay, you got me. April Fool. I may get five days in the stockade for this, but here they are -- Radiohead. And by the way, let's not everyone get stoned.

                        "Nobody Does it Better" -- Radiohead

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Coming down

When I have writer's block, I can't do anything else. Read a book. Watch TV. I feel like such a blank person. But if anything brings me to my typewriter right now, it's you. You've supported this blog & I love you all & I never wanna let you down.

It's just so fucking hard, being a cog in this system. This secret society I write for. Only it's not me writing. It's like I'm out of my body & somebody else is writing. writing writing for my money paycheck I wish I was solving an unsolved murder. I wanna see my boy. my girl. my princess, I call her, but I'm stuck in this backwater. Oh it's a funky town especially here in a section called "the village" where i live with all the artists & dopers, people of all races.

I have the record player going. Sam Cooke. "Bring your sweet lovin', bring it on home to me." The turntable will spin and spin & the antenna on the fucking TV isn't right. And it's scrambled like so much of life. Oh, did I mention Sam Cooke? I liked him best when he sang gospel.

I remember the kitchen and the dining room table where we played Scattergories with the family. Her family. There was a den that I called my "man cave.' There was a red chair in that room & it was the most uncomfortable chair in the world, but I loved to sit in it because I called it my "thinking chair" just like the red chair on Blues Clues. When Max was learning to talk, he used to point to the TV when the dog came on the TV (my TV worked then) or when Elmo would come on. We used to play in the backyard. I remember when he started riding his bike with training wheels. The neighbor kid was a teenager who played loud rock n' roll in his garage. At first, he sucked. Then he started getting better & his friends joined him on drums & bass. There was a man in the neighborhood so serene he had a TV in every room. I was so afraid the other shoe would drop. It did, of course. Life humbles you that way.

When I see her with another man, it kills me. I've died inside a million times & then I die again. Noises I never knew I could make have come out of me.

If I could feel her body next to mine in bed, it would be so reassuring. To be with somebody, to be on top of her, inside her, then I exclaim "I love you, I love you" like I'm trying to prove it to her & I want to hold tight for life.

My lifeline now? God? He ain't gonna strike me with a disease like I asked him to. Sometime in the course of recent history, He invented what my son calls "Dad's happy pills" and I'm out now & the pharmacy hasn't refilled & the fucking pharmacy is closed.


When i'm blank, it's like i slipped off the world. I was always afraid of that when I was a kid. Those were apocalyptic times, particularly on Sunday nights when I dreaded school the next day. Now it's work. When I'd rock back & forth, my ex-wife called it "stimming."

Sometimes you're so alone, you don't want to check the "Donald Trump is Not My President" page on Facebook. Me, I'd just get more down.

Somebody mentioned Branson, Missouri today. I came to dislike that corny steal-your-money town with its tie dyed shirts and rebel flags sold in the same damn shops. But a picture came in my mind of how young she looked in a picture & she was so beautiful as she pushed our baby boy in a stroller & Mom was in the background (she went with us) and Mom still had her mind and it was such a lovely moment in my mind.

Imagine such a moment when none of that apocalyptic shit bothers me. And the sun is out & I feel -- not blank, but whole -- & the words, like Solomon Burke on my turntable right now, flow and flow with the peace of a still river. And it's just me and rock n' roll and love from the sun and no trees are dying. In fact, there's a garden all around. I remember a garden around an old farmhouse built in 1886. I think of volunteers right now. Volunteering for the house and making your world --- a little better. And as Teenage Fan Club sang on their 1991 Bandwagonesque album -- Jesus Christ is knocking at my door. It would have the feel like that, of words and connections and synapses and the Beach Boys and Big Star. But the picture would sadden me right now so I don't look. Like I don't read all the letters.

I don't know if I can go on some times & I feel like saying to somebody, "Tell my kids I love them." But haven't I loved so many, some who don't love me back anymore, all of it like i write here

& give to you now

                           "I'd Rather Go Blind" -- Etta James


Friday, February 3, 2017

Why they march

                               Photo from Deutsche Welle website

I've heard it said that the people marching in the streets are just mad about losing the presidential election. If that were all it was, if it were simply sour grapes, I'd say, "Get over it. You lost. You'll have another chance in four years." But, the disenchantment has grown far beyond that.

To be fair, the initial marches in November were over the election. The Electoral College disregarded the votes of nearly three million people and I think anger over that was justified. But if that's all it was, I think the protests would have died out by now. The reasons people continue to march in February is they're protesting misogyny, racism, xenophobia, antisemitism; threats to the First Amendment, the environment, education, national security, violation of international law and crimes against humanity and probably a few more things I've forgotten to mention.

The women's marches throughout the country (and world) around Inauguration Day were a response to a groper-in-chief who has called certain women "pigs," bragged about predatory behavior and been accused of sexual harassment or assault by several women, many of whom were afraid to come out before.

Racism is as natural to Trumpism as oxygen is to breathing. His racism was loud and clear years ago when he perpetuated the lie that Barack Obama wasn't born in America. His pick for attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, has a questionable past with regard to African Americans that rightly prevented his confirmation as a federal judge 30 years ago. Why do you think Trump would appoint him?

 The racism is more apparent in Trump's insulting of a federal judge for being of Mexican descent and his stereotyping all Mexicans as "rapists" and "criminals." His plan to build a wall at the U.S./Mexican border is a racist reaction to racist myths.

"You know my plans," Trump said after the election. He was referring to a Muslim registry, which echoes the Jewish registry under Hitler. I've read that most Americans are Islamophobic. If that's true, most Americans are wrong. Then there's the executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The United States should be a sanctuary for refugees escaping for their lives. That's the idea enshrined on the Statue of Liberty, but it seems this country is going to turn its back on people in need of asylum from terrorists, just as it did to Jews hoping to escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Trump didn't even mention Jews on International Holocaust Remembrance Day even though six million of them were killed in the Holocaust. Is it any surprise that his right hand man is antisemitic?

This guy, Steve Bannon, is trying to destroy the news media. "The media's the opposition party," he said. (Actually, he's trying to destroy more than that.) Trump, Bannon and the other acolytes lash out at the media for not reporting "alternative facts." I heard W. Bush's former press secretary Ari Fleischer on NPR and Meet the Press, talking about how the public's confidence in the media is at an all time low and lecturing the press on how it needs to be fair, accurate and neutral. Reporters have already been doing that. (Okay, so a reporter was mistaken about MLK's bust. He quickly apologized and corrected the report.) The right wing (Fox "News", talk radio, etc.) has been perpetuating the myth of a "liberal media conspiracy" for at least 25 years. People have heard it so much they now believe the lie. Now Trump and his nefarious team have declared war on press freedom.

They're about to make war on the environment too. Trump is out to destroy the EPA by appointing a fossil fuel shill and climate change denier to lead it.

He's out to destroy public education by appointing a public education foe to lead the Dept. of Education. He probably thinks an educated public would be a threat to his vested interests. The nation's founders thought education was imperative to democracy.

Trump's tweets alone threaten national security and raise the possibility of war. His combative rhetoric adds to the threat. It's scary to think that our brave men and women in the services may be put in harm's way because the bully-in-chief lacks any sense of self-restraint. Are we going to end up with more homeless and suicidal veterans in the coming years because The Narcissist made enemies?

                     "Little Failure" -- Moby and the Void Pacific Choir

It's not surprising that Trump wants to bring back torture. That's just his personality. Torture has been against international law since the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights was established in 1948. If this country engages in torture, we can no longer claim moral standing in the world. The experts will tell you torture doesn't work anyway and could imperil our security.

The threat to the republic exists within. Bannon, comparing himself to the early 20th century Russian communist revolutionary has called himself a "Leninist." In a statement that was borderline treasonous, Bannon said Lenin "wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment."

What it comes down to is people -- protesters in the street -- are trying to prevent a coup d'etat of our government. This isn't about political parties. This is a battle between fascism and democracy. Opposing Trump isn't a political stand, it's a moral one.

Naysayers can write off the entire protest movement because some have rioted and been foul mouthed. That does discredit their cause. As Dr. King said, a riot is "self-defeating." But the wrong actions of a few don't obliterate the peaceful actions of the majority or the moral truth of their urgent cause. The many people marching the streets and carrying signs love America and the freedom it professes to represent.

Don't ever tell me this massive resistance is over political parties or an election.

                                        "Knock the crap out of them."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thanks Obama

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually, you'll make progress."                                            
                                -- Barack Obama

Precious time is running out. Soon the camelot-like era of the Obama family in the White House will be over and a terrible scourge that a lot of bigoted people wanted will come to town. I'm sad it's ending, particularly in light of what's to come. I'll miss calm and reason. I'm dreading the Orange Psychopath.

For eight years, I've listened to critics bash Pres. Obama. After he was elected the first time, evangelicals called him the anti-Christ and said his election marked the end times. At Tea Party rallies, right-wing radicals paraded signs carrying crude racial caricatures of Obama and his family. People like Donald Trump perpetuated the lie that Obama wasn't born in the USA and this presidency was illegitimate. And it never ceased to amaze me that the detractors would call a Harvard educated Constitutional law professor an idiot.

I've had to look no further than my own family where my ex-father in law, a pugnacious, combative (like his hero, Trump), conflict loving man would always, without fail, go on a diatribe about how Obama was a Muslim (My father in law hates Muslims) and a traitor to the United States. I had to hear it every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every kid's birthday, every family gathering of any kind. Let me tell you, I don't miss that.

Obama was a tyrant, a dictator, a marxist, his critics said. He inflamed racial divisions, they claimed. Why? Because he occasionally talked about race and didn't treat it as an issue we should pretend doesn't exist? Funny how the people who lashed out at Pres. Obama were always bringing up his race. Their bigotry was not hidden. It was apparent from the time he was elected. Obama wasn't a "good negro" they could accept as Ben (Uncle Tom) Carson is. He had a mind of his own and didn't parrot the right-wing mindset that oppressed people who looked like him and conservatives hated him for it. 

Recently I saw on social media where the friend of a Facebook friend wrote, "This is what I think of Obama's presidency" and she posted an emoji of a dog taking a dump.

In a million years, could you ever picture Pres. Obama doing something like that? Taking a vulgar, juvenile gibe at someone he doesn't like or disagrees with. No you couldn't. It's not his style. Not in his nature. The 44th president is worthy of being called an adult. Like his wife, Michelle, and daughters -- Sasha and Malia -- Barack Obama embodies poise and grace. Unlike those who malign his character, Obama has reserve and self-control.

Having battled depression all my life, I'm in awe of people who exemplify good mental health. Probably what I admire most about Obama is that he's secure in his own skin. Pres. Obama has encountered unprecedented Congressional obstruction and profane hatred from unenlightened, uneducated members of the public. Yet he never stooped to their level, never lashed back. He didn't take their bait. You would never find midnight tweets from Obama making cheap retorts to anyone who dared to criticize him. He was unflappable, strong enough, he didn't need to respond in kind, resorting to cheap put-downs. He had a job to do. He had other fish to fry. Unlike his incoming successor, Obama had a thick skin. He accepted that criticism came with the job. It wasn't until the 2016 Democratic Convention that Michelle Obama revealed the secret.

"When they go low, we go high."

Indeed, Pres. Obama has been a good influence on me. When I've been tempted to strike back at people who have made cheap barbs at me, I've actually stopped and considered what Barack Obama would do. I showed restraint and that is in no small way the President's influence. He's a true leader.

I'm glad my kids got to grow up with Obama as president. They have seen the disposition of a world leader who walks and talks with grace and dignity, who represents the United States respectfully before the eyes of the world. I feel sorry for the kid in first grade whose presidential example will be a rude, crude, foul mouthed jerk with no filter, no ability to put the brakes on.

The sad reality is that one of our greatest presidents will be followed by the worst. It's been said quite accurately that Trump is a narcissistic, lying tyrant and racist. It's as obvious as the wind and the rain. Yet the misguided troglodytes riding the Trump Train will say those words apply to Obama who is as far from that description as you can get. But they are so blinded by hatred and willful ignorance they earnestly believe the unbelievable.  

Trump wants to build a wall at the U.S./Mexican border (nothing racist there) at taxpayer expense. It's metaphorical of the walls he has put up to divide America. He only speaks for the angry white person. Hispanics, African Americans, the disabled, Muslims, the media, he ridicules and vilifies. Trump is a demagogue, defined as a political leader who exploits prejudices rather than using rational argument. 

As president, Obama has endeavored to represent all Americans -- black, white, Republicans, Democrats, people of all faiths and people of no religious faith. Right-wingers, who by definition live in a world of oppression and discrimination, hate that Obama extended rights to LGBT people, but that's indicative of the President's charge to ensure all Americans -- and not just a privileged group -- are guaranteed their Constitutional rights. Unfortunately much of the white evangelical privileged group cry that their rights are threatened when others are given a share of the pie.

I became emotional when I watched Pres. Obama's farewell address. I didn't think I would, but I did. His galvanizing address was the complete antithesis of trumpism. Obama mentioned the contributions of immigrants, the right of all Americans to affordable healthcare (which he made possible through the Affordable Care Act), the right of all Americans -- and not just the one percent -- to economic opportunity ("our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity," he said) and he lauded the sacrifices of our military men and women. He talked about the challenge of climate change, which Trump and his choice for head of the EPA deny exists.

"Science and reason matter," Obama said to applause.

In my favorite quote from his speech, the President said: "For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s — (applause) — that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they're not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised. (Applause.)"

President Obama has the gift of oratory like Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan had. I'm sure it will be a while before we hear a President speaking in multi-syllabic words again. I knew Obama had a keen mind years ago when I read his book, The Audacity of Hope. Unfortunately, we're leaving behind an era of erudition, learning and self-growth and entering a new Dark Ages of "I don't read books." Trump's ascendancy to the presidency is the triumph of anti-intellectualism in America.

Unlike Pres. Obama, Trump's presidency, as Congressman John Lewis accurately noted, will be an illegitimate one. His election was hacked by the Russian government and helped along by the FBI's eleventh hour witch hunt of Hillary Clinton. There is credible evidence to suspect Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has dirt on Trump and is blackmailing him, ergo putting the sovereignty of the United States in peril.

I refuse to watch Trump's inauguration, and if I were in Washington D.C. right now I would boycott the event as many Democratic congressional leaders are doing. I imagine school children will watch the event in their classrooms, and I feel sorry for them. The first Presidential inauguration I remember seeing was that of Jimmy Carter when I was in second grade. It was 1977, and I was sitting on a rug in Mrs. Clark and Mr. Johnson's combined classroom, watching democracy at work on a small black and white television. As with Obama, we had an example of sterling character in Pres. Carter, not that of a vulgar, disuniting, loud mouth, inappropriate grabbing con man. It will be incumbent upon adults like myself to be good role models for our children. I'm sure many service people, teachers, community leaders and the like will, unlike the illegitimate president, show our children what real American heroes are.

I won't be around 50 years from now to see what the history books write about Obama. But my children and their children will be and I'm confident that history will look favorably upon him. I've read what today's history books say about the progressive leaders of the past and how they treat the McCarthyites, John Birchers and Dixiecrats. I can tell you, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich -- and yes, Trump -- are not going to fare well.

Years ago when Obama was campaigning in the 2008 election, he showed up in my neck of the woods, appearing at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., a town Obama has family ties to. I wish I'd taken that day off work. But I'm proud to say my mother was there, that she met Obama and shook his hand. Mom was a dyed in the wool Democrat. Today she's in an assisted living home for people with dementia and doesn't know who the President is anymore. I'm glad Mom had that opportunity before the onset of her disease formed.

I hope someday I have an opportunity to meet Obama. I'm sure he'll remain active and travel in his post-Presidential life. No doubt, he'll write books, and I think he would be a good candidate for the Supreme Court although I'm not so sure that will happen. There is one thing I am certain of, however. He will, like Jimmy Carter, continue to show good citizenship and stand for great things. 

We definitely haven't seen the last of him or his family. And remember, yes we can.

As I write this, it's in the news that George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are both in the hospital. The former President is in intensive care. Let's say a prayer for them and their families.