Friday, October 14, 2011

Song Saturday - October Surprise 1978


Normally the term "October Surprise" refers to a dramatic political event timed to sway voters that first week in November.  My favorite October Surprise was the dramatic entry of my son on the 15th of October, 1978.  We had him pencilled in the appointment book for December, but apparently he had other ideas.  Not the last time, just the first time.

1978 was a mixed bag.  There were three popes that year, Annie Hall won Best Movie at the Oscars causing women everywhere to start raiding men's wardrobes, the Camp David Accords were signed and still Jimmy Carter was underappreciated, and the damn Yankees won the World Series.  Some things remain predictable.  What is unpredictable is what makes life interesting.

Orange Crush Days in Denver
So, today, I take time to remember that very first, very intense unpredictable experience with my son and all the days since.  It is a relationship unique and wonderful, born in urgency, nurtured over time, maturing even now.  He was only 3 lbs 14 oz at birth, but he has always been living large in my mind.

Surrounded by Love

We made it through scrapes and skateboards and tongue piercings and tattoos and soccer and Little League and Cub Scouts and moves and divorce and he survived and emerged wiser than I in some respects.  A loving son to his dad and then stepson to Tim, a great companion, a loyal friend.  Not much more I could want.

Tim cuts his hair

Always a Hat Fancier

I don't take too much credit for who he is today.  He has always been a well-formed, well-defined person who has the enviable talent of knowing no strangers. 
The Rolling Office

We have had goofy times and tender times and they all blur together as one sensation of overwhelming Yes.  On the day of Tim's death, my toughest day, I dialed his number, said only "help" three times and hung up.  I had no doubt he would be there when I needed him most and he was.  Rock steady.

This year's birthday is especially sweet - he is engaged and so very happy.  So, even though he is on the other coast tonight, all is right in my personal universe.  My sole wish for him was always to find his happiness on his path.  The future indeed looks bright.

A bright future - Sweeter

A special Song Saturday birthday wish...

No. 83 from the Top 100 in 1978
Whenever I Call You Friend
Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks
Happy Birthday, baby.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Song Saturday - When October Goes

Reflection.  There's not a year that goes by that I don't linger and listen to this song when the calendar page turns to October.

Barry Manilow was one of Tim's guilty pleasures, although he was not the type to feel guilty about his choices.  This song embraces the poignancy of this time of the year for me - my favorite season and memories of my favorite guy, all in one brilliant Johnny Mercer lyric paired with a beautiful minor key melody from Manilow.

September in my hometown still evinces summer -- the heat of the valley, the trees still desperately clinging to their green facade, people in sleeveless shirts and shorts listening to that last summer concert in the downtown square or cruising the Farmer's Market.

October signals the cycle of change and preparation.  The initiation of autumn, rather than the end of the year, is my time of deepest reflection and planning.

I notice the avenues of trees and watch for them to put on their finest colors and then slowly undress.  I wait for that first full moon that breaks through the naked branches.  I try to anticipate November, our birthdays month, and gauge if another year down the road of grieving and loss has moved me farther along the path to release.  He'd surely tell me, "get on with it."  He did.  I think I'm almost there. The leaves will drop; the rains will come. I will still hate to see October go.

I should be over it now, I know.  
It doesn't matter much how old I grow.
I hate to see October go.

Art: Maxfield Parrish - "Dream October"

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spirit in the Sky

I'm posting Song Saturday on Friday on the off chance the world is ending.  Of course I know it won't because the Mayans have pointed us to 2012 and I haven't finished my spring cleaning

The billboard around town has been touting this harder than a studio gearing up for the Oscars. To believe it, the faithful will be snatched up and the rest of us will be left here to endure a hellish experience - the selection of a credible GOP presidential nominee.  I guess the most memorable ascendant experience I had was witnessing from afar Hunter Thompson's ash launch.

Both big fans of his writing, especially his trenchant analysis of American politics, Tim had spent time with him in the 80's in San Francisco.  Those were the days of Hunter's stint with the Mitchell Brothers and the 1984 Democratic Convention which nominated Walter Mondale (running the spectrum from titillating to boring). 

Our trip was eventful - Tom Petty concert at Red Rocks, I-70 closed due to rockslides, side trip to the Broadmoor, Rocky Mountain National Park and Hall of Fame for Figure Skating.  When I-70 was finally opened, we zipped through and were on the down side of the continental divide narrowly missing a small plane near Vail that skipped off the freeway in front of us before coming to a rest by the side of the road.  Typical of the strange brew that seemed to be our travelling companion, most particularly on that trip.

It was not unusual that John Kerry walked by in a baseball cap on his way into the Woody Creek Tavern.  No entourage, just a lone figure who was recently a Presidential nominee.  He looked down - I remembered the swiftboating.

That night, the tower with the peyote fist started glowing then spinning and then came the fireworks and the launch of his ashes.  Going out with a bang.  To the strains of Spirit in the Sky and Mr. Tambourine Man. Tim's comment:  "I can smell the bastard."  Said in love, yes.

I won't forget watching the spectacle that 
August night from our selected spot on
the side of the opposite mountain.  Another memorable vacation.  They always were.

It must be Saturday somewhere and I am still typing.  Another much-hyped non-event like Y2K.  
Ho-hum.  Another day, another dollar to extract from believers to fill the coffers anew.  Another day, another way to explain why Jesus didn't come this time.
No doubt it's Obama's fault.

For your listening pleasure:  Norman Greenbaum's
Spirit in the Sky - love the fuzztone opener.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Leon Russell - Still Performing at the Speed of Light

Sometimes the messy threads of life unravel and re-form into a great big bow.  Sometimes you unknowingly attach to something that lasts, permeating your consciousness with such force that even a slight nod to that memory brings a special kind of bliss.  Those moments suspend time, destroying momentarily its linear power. 

Leon Russell's music is one such thread in my life.  College years - blasting his first solo album down the halls of my old dorm and out the windows toward the banks of the Fox River on a spring day.  Wearing down those grooves - repeated playings - joyous movement.  Innocent times, good times.   I moved those vinyl albums faithfully through the years because I couldn't imagine parting with them.  Old friends those songs.

I didn't sense he had stepped off the big stage because I often returned to those tunes.  By the time I met Tim, technology had advanced and, sharing our love of Leon and Tim's chronic need to downsize, we eventually ditched the bulky albums and stereo for replacement CD's and hand-selected mixes great for road trips of our own.  Good times, not as innocent times.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heaven on Their Minds

These days, whenever Easter completes its calendar roving and suddenly is upon us, my thoughts go to 2007.  Tim's last Easter...the one after the terminal diagnosis...the one that had children and grandchildren gathered around for what we knew was the last Easter.

Having shared the Catholic kid experience, our conversations often delved into spiritual questions and dilemnas - his well-developed and thought out, mine predictably impressionistic.  Left brain/right brain activation, trying to find the bridge.

Sharing the catechist's experience, we could speak in catholic shorthand.  So today, I want to drop some of Tim here with two samplings from his last Easter season blogs.  By this point, the oxygen wasn't flowing to his brain adequately, typing his blogs was difficult, (the thick, heavy finger effects) and the frustrations of trying to express himself  were acknowledged, shared, and then he moved on. 

Tim did not meditate on the Good Friday or Easter themes - the day that took him far into thought and sometimes was the hardest was Holy Thursday...particularly the story of Jesus alone in the Garden of Gethsemene wrestling with the soul and the demons.  I wish he had been able to write it out before he got ill.  What follows is a brief glimpse...what he shared with me were the thoughts about dualities, self-doubt and an assortment of deeper topics that continually challenged me to keep up.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tectonic Forces

Tectonic forces:  forces originating beneath the surface that alter the surface configuration of the earth as a result of tectonic plate movement. 

We are all connected these days.
Global economies, global social networks, global environments, global networks.

So, when a tremendous force such as the recent earthquake in Japan and resulting tsunamis occur, the shockwaves reverberate, gather energy and reach around the Ring of Fire which encircles the Pacific Ocean.  At some point, the energy dissipates, but the landscape is never the same.  Neither is the sense of security for that generation.  People have short memories.

The TeaPartee movement also seems to be generating its own misshapen energy force and as this disparate group of the disaffected, the nihilists, the anti-governmental wing, the older conservatives, the racists (yes, there I said it) and the fearful emerged and coalesced without leadership following the election of Obama, that vacuum of leadership was ripe for the taking.

The recent events in Madison and other statehouses to privatize (eg, monetize) governmental functions is the result of leadership filling that vacuum behind the scenes.  The end goal is commerce and power; the losers are the vaporizing middle class and the already downtrodden.  The aftershocks are about to commence.  Strap in and speak up.  Yes, most states are in a boatload of troubles that will require draconian measures to right the ships of state.  But there must be a rational way to make it through these economic tsunamis without destroying the middle class or turning a service model into a commerce giveaway (no-bid contracts, cronyism etc).

Even if recalls and elections turn out the scoundrels, the damage may have already be done.  Be careful when you invoke the tectonic forces.  The landscape may never be the same and may be altered in ways you never intended.

Today's Song Saturday pick:  
That Man in Black and "Ring of Fire;" some forces never die or fade away.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fatwa: The Anti-Vagina Monologues

Fatwa:  A legal pronouncement in Islam, issued by a religious law specialist on a specific issue.

Substitute certain legislators and judges for Islamic law specialists and you may sense that the current right wing agenda includes legal prohibitions with Jesusland evangelical underpinnings targeting any sense of progress and personal control for American women.
The one-sided monologue goes like this:

Limbaugh the Loud labels modern women as 'feminazis'   Apparently, the frequent groom has more trouble living with women than lambasting them.  This might have remained a private embarrassment, save for the platform of a radio broadcast deep from the bunker that allows him to act out his issues M-F for a lot of money.  Perhaps that will pay for lessons in achieving success in personal relationships.  The Dittohead Nation absorbs, but does not talk back.

Legislators cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which serves as a primary health care center and educating organization not just for women, but also men.  Apparently, the agenda can't tolerate access to contraception, routine gynecological exams and information about avoiding risky sexual behavior that can lead to sexually transmitted diseases. 

The right promotes and funds female politicians like Sarah Palin.  Some might argue that she, having not come close to holding the second most powerful job in the world, is still a feminist role model.  Although I might argue that the freedom of control and choice and an equitable chance to succeed in whatever path one chooses is a feminist credo, she doesn't make my feminist cut.    I see Palin as a thin-skinned mean girl who winks her way along, causing right wing columnists to see "starbursts" when she speaks on the teevee.  She's gone rogue only because she's a throwback to the days when women were seen as useful window dressing and being attractive was the primary measure of success.  However, she shows no inclination of wanting to master literacy, basic human communication skills or most any job she's won along the way by pretending to know what she's talking about (Governing - It's so hard).  Being a flavor of the month in politics is about as far as she'll get unless the mad rule the earth, but it won't stop her from grifting a hefty nest egg along the way.  Had she wanted to enlarge her limited intelligence, she could have been a contender.  She seems content to be the lipstick on the pig, carefully applied but staying within the ghostwritten party lines.  

The law of the land on abortion rights is being eroded by legislative and court maneuvers that deny not only the spirit but the intent of the ruling by removing funding for programs or supporting prohibitive edicts against siting clinics or citing 'free speech' to organizations that trespass on privacy, use harassment and stalking tactics and generally intimidate clients and providers.

Legislators are trying to redefine rape.  Perhaps they need to be reminded to invoke Reagan - Nancy, that is - and understand the meaning of Just Say No when adult words or behaviors invoke this mantra.  It's pretty easy to understand rape if you can fall into the Reagan vernacular.  Rape of minors should be self-evident as never a matter of choice, but an exercise of power over the most vulnerable.  Seems pretty simple to me - so what am I missing?

Little covered in the move to bust the unions is that they, along with the reforms that produced the civil service, have served to help women in the workplace.  In the public sector, anyone who holds a defined job title is paid equally whether male or female.  There are protections and grievance procedures that have served women struggling for pay equity or access to non-traditional jobs.  From there, it's ability and dealing with the normal workplace politics that may move one ahead, but the female foot got in the door.

Lastly, on the highest court in the land, we have a judge whose idea of a come-on was once cited as mentioning a pubic hair on a coke can.  Clarence Thomas, please use your vote to leave my uterus alone.

There are many men who do not support the above agenda, but there are too many men and, sadly, women who are ideologically opposed to women's strides and would like to impose their religious dogma by nailing their 95 Theses right through our freed reproductive organs.
It's time to misbehave again, cuz "You Don't Own Me" and we've come too far to go back.

courtesy of Leslie Gore - even then we knew better

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Taking It To the Street

The gloves are off in Wisconsin.  The naked ambition of the 'conservative' agenda is on full display and the Wisconsin hibernation season is abruptly ended.  People are massing in the streets - they sense the desperate moments are here.  

Soon, the TeaPartiers will be there, organizing against their own interests, unknowingly complicit in the attempted destruction of the American middle class.  Joe the Plumber will grab a mike and another 15 minutes of unwarranted fame to be the mouthpiece of hidden vultures who wouldn't let him in the back door, much less the front door, without a security screen and a background investigation. Another useful idiot who will do the dirty work of fronting for this generation's robber barons.  Mission accomplished. 

The Fox Network will crank the propaganda into overdrive until people's heads vibrate with a few well-chosen talking points repeated endlessly by their unfair and unbalanced talking heads as if it were apocalypse now (hello, Glen). In the process, teachers, nurses, secretaries, firefighters, police officers, road maintenance workers, sanitation workers, accounting clerks will be vilified as responsible for the imbalance in the economy.  You can almost hear the chattering class gearing up in the distance.

Confession:  I am a public employee.  I work with other public employees and have for decades.  As a management employee, I am not in a formal union now (but have been previously).  We are an informal collective bargaining group.  We function as a union and our representatives have many meetings to reach a memorandum of understanding on our working conditions.  It's called negotiating.  It means give and take.  It means reaching mutually agreeable settlement in light of current conditions.  It's not what is happening in Wisconsin.  What is happening there is a unilateral assault on unions and, by extension, the political party they historically support.

I've tried to write my way out of this, but words are failing me.  The bad apples in the public sector (see Bell, California) have most certainly tainted people's thoughts about public employees.  That lingering taint is the fertilizer for those who would blame unions and public pensions for the current economic meltdown.  Granted, times change and it's necessary to revisit wages and benefits in light of current realities.  That's what negotiations are expressly able to do.  But the scale of the Bell corruption does not compare to the ginormous ripoff of the credit default swap scam courtesy of Wall Street or the housing bubble or the cost of two wars that were never funded the old-fashioned way (with tax increases).

So, while the truly greedy continue unabated by any new regulation, picking on the dozing middle class appeared to be as easy as gathering the low hanging fruit.  At least that what's they thought until Wisconsin.  The intensity of this current political theater, with the teabag brigade approaching, will be compelling and tense.  The last act may dictate an historic sea change one way or the other in this country.  Stay tuned and stay safe.

PS - This year, after months of considering the current economic climate, my group took a 5% cut requested by upper management.  Our group chose the method of reduction - options included increased contributions to pension, increased contributions to health insurance costs, or pay cut.  That's called negotiating - a practice the governor of Wisconsin is not willing to even discuss. 

Photo Credit:  AP Photo - Racine, Wisconsin 
Tune:  Michael McDonald - a favorite from the Doobie era