Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

The last gifts have been wrapped and put under the tree. My son and my wife have both gone to bed, and I sit here early on this Christmas morning and ponder what it is I truly want this year.

For most of the run up to this Christmas I have been dreading the day and its arrival. Now that it is here, however, I am at last ready for it. I am ready for the anticipation and the joy in my son's face when he opens a package to find something he asked for as well as the disappointment he will no doubt express when he doesn't get everything he asked for.

There will probably be a few packages under the tree with my name on them, but I have already received the best Christmas gifts I have ever been given - an opportunity for redemption, a chance to redeem my life and live it as it always should have been lived. Not in fear or guilt but in love and joy.

What made that gift possible was a possibly even greater gift - the gift of one person to another. One person who could easily have treated me with resentment and even hatred but instead showed kindness and compassion. She gave of herself and of her self. In the process, she pointed the way to my self and helped to set me on the road to wholeness.

Heidi, mere words of thanks do not seem adequate. You rose above your own cares to offer me encouragement and friendship. That gift is beyond measure. I truly believe you were sent by God to help me find my way out of the wilderness. For that, I will always be grateful.

My wish for everyone this Christmas and in the new year to come is that each of you will find such a friend. They are hard to come by, but when you do find such a friend you are truly rich beyond compare. This Christmas, I count myself amongst the richest men on Earth. I have a family that loves me and a friend who encourages me and allows me to be more than I have ever been. I am truly blessed.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Steps Forward . . .

My first week of therapy is now behind me; today was my fourth session in just eight days. It has been quite a roller coaster ride already, and I feel as if I am enrolled in an intensive crash course designed to explore the psyche.

Oddly enough, I measure how good a session was not by whether I feel better afterward but by whether I cried during the session. Today I cried.

Monday I did not cry, and I viewed the session as a bit of a setback. My therapist (it still seems odd to me to use that phrase) said she sensed me teetering on the verge of closing off again from my feelings. I knew it as well. I was retreating back into myself.

But as my friend reminded me, we had discussed the probability that there would be times when these reversals would occur. And I had already concluded in my own mind that on any given day it did not matter whether I moved forward or backward as long as I kept moving and did not stand still. For to stand still is to stagnate and to stagnate is to die.

I think my biggest challenge in the early going is not to expect too much out of these sessions and also not to expect too little. I have always tended to do one of two things in my dealings with the world around me: set myself up for disappointment by creating impossible expectations or protect myself from disappointment by setting my expectations so low that I am willing to settle for nothing.

My expectations or at least my hopes started out high because I looked at this latest attempt at therapy (having tried a few times in my 20s) as a fight for my life. Not so much whether I live or die but whether I truly live or merely exist. I tempered those expectations by remembering how many years I have lived in pain, in fear, and in loneliness: hurt by the crimes against my youth, afraid of what I'll find inside me or what others won't, alone because I could not get close to others and could not seem to let others in.

As I have relayed some of the events of my youth and their effects on me to my therapist, the tears have flowed freely. But the telling and the crying take a lot of energy, so on Monday I pulled back a little. Whether to give myself a rest, to protect myself in my vulnerability, or for some other reason, I do not know.

What I do know is that today I cried again. The things I talked about, the feelings they stirred in me hurt deeply. But the tears felt good. I was hurt but I was alive. So today's was a good session.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thoughts on Therapy

Yesterday, I began what promises to be a long journey toward better self-awareness, self understanding, and perhaps most importantly, self forgiveness and self love. I started therapy.

The first visit, an assessment, I was told, was painful and covered a lot of ground and a lot of feelings: feelings of abandonment, of failure, of hopelessness, even of dying. So much for small talk.

I have come to see this as my journey back to life, and I know it will not be an easy one. As my wife has said, there may be times when I take one step forward and two steps back. I know that and I think I am ready for it. As long as I keep moving, then the journey will continue. It is only in stopping that danger lies for it means I have retreated to the familiar, even comfortable status quo because it is pain I know.

It is said that without pain we cannot know joy. As I bring the pain of my youth and my adult life into the light and hold onto that in hopes I will one day know the joy.

A friend of mine sent me a picture of her and her boyfriend smiling and embracing life. They are my model for they have shown me what happiness looks like and what is truly possible. I hope one day to return a picture of me and my family smiling back at them. May it be so.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Random Thoughts

I've always had a hard time making friends. I suspect that is because I see a friend as someone more than a person to talk sports or politics or music with. To me, a friend has always been someone with whom you could share your deepest hopes and fears and dreams, even more than perhaps you can with your spouse.

I am at present lucky enough to have such a friend. How long the friendship will last, given the intensity of the things we sometimes talk about, I won't try to guess. She may decide the friendship needs to end in order to preserve her own sanity, and who could blame her? Certainly not I.

Tomorrow, I begin the journey of a lifetime as I begin what may be weeks, months, or more likely years of therapy to help me dig up and expose to the light issues that date back to my childhood. My friend has been a support and encouragement in this process that lead to my decision to seek help.

As I told her, for too long I have been treading water, and I am now starting to get tired. Therapy is my chance at a life preserver before I get too tired to grab it. While there are no guarantees in therapy, I am certain I am lost without it. I look at this as the fight of my life and for my life. My friend believes I can make it, and I am very appreciative of that belief in me.

For too long, my life has been nothing more than going through the motions. For some time to come, it will be a day by day process, but with the help and support of my family and of my dear friend, I can come out on the other side and one day walk in the light instead of hiding in the darkness.

Be well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Slippin' Into Darkness

The title of the old War song seems appropriate these days, as that is what I feel is happening to my life.

I don't know how to explain it except that it feels a bit like walking in a fog with limited visibility. Each step must be planned and taken carefully lest you slip and completely lose your balance. That is my life at present.

I have been unable to explain to my wife or my son what is going on. I don't really know how. So we dance this uncomfortable dance of trying not to say or do the wrong thing, dancing to a tune none can hear.

Instead, I have burdened the one true friend I feel can understand these things to the point where if she were to tell me should could no longer be my friend I would understand and probably tell her she is doing the right thing. Assuming, of course, I could stop crying long enough to get the words out.

Crying has been one of the more interesting and frightening aspects of this descent. I have never been a very emotional person, always saying what I thought was the right thing but never really feeling anything. I had all but assumed I could not feel, I had buried things away for so long.

But in the last two weeks I have cried, more than I have in the last 20 years, I suspect. Two boxes of tissues in two days. If I'm not at rock bottom yet, I can see it from where I wallow.

And when I am not crying, I'm nearly comatose. I look in the mirror and I see the epitome of what they used to call Buster Keaton, "The Great Stone Face". Only sadder.

I am now in full-blown survival mode as I try to get from one day to the next until my first of what i suspect will be many sessions of professional help. To those who are standing by me, thank you. I'm sorry for what I have put you through. If God believes in me, perhaps things will one day be a little brighter. Until then, I struggle to find my way through the darkness and the shadows.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 52nd birthday. With apologies to Charles Dickens, it is the best of birthdays; it is the worst of birthdays.

The best: I have a friend who has helped me try to reconnect with my inner self, which has been closed and shuttered for so long. I have a family that loves me. And I am lucky enough to have a decent job in these job economic times.

The worst: The realization that I am a self-destructive individual who tries to sabotage everything worthwhile in his life (including, I fear, said friendship) because of a deep-seated feeling that I do not deserve anything good in my life and a long held sense of worthlessness.

I am supposed to go out tonight with friends to celebrate my birthday, and I worry about which side I will show them. Will I be able to show them a happy side? Or, as I fear, will they see the way I feel: like a car dangerously close to being out of control whose brakes have already failed as a steep downhill approaches?

Right now, I have no clue. When I don't feel like crying I feel, in the words of Pink Floyd, "comfortably numb".

Because of that up and down, part of me feels there are better days ahead. Another part, however, senses that the worst is still to come. Then the fight truly begins. God give me strength.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Birthday Gift

In two days, I mark my 52nd birthday. (Celebrate seems a bit too strong a word at the moment.) My wife has asked me what I want for my birthday, and I can think of no thing I need or desire, except that which is currently out of the financial realm of possibility. Plus, a motorhome would not fit easily into a box.

Actually, I have probably already received the best birthday gift I have ever been given - the gift of another person's friendship. Given the circumstances under which we met (as explained in an earlier post), it is surprising that we became friends. The speed at which we became friends is perhaps even more surprising.

Today, I got the news from my friend that she will be leaving the company for which we both work January 2 to take another, hopefully more lucrative job. It is sooner than I would hope for, although I certainly understand and support her reasons. Thankfully, it is a little later than I was afraid of. I believe we will remain friends, although the circumstances will change as I will no longer have the instant gratification of being able to pick up the phone and call her as we are both working. That may be a good thing, at least for her.

For several years in the 1990s, I was in the habit of throwing my own birthday party, cooking dinner for those who came, and giving them presents rather than receiving them. In the spirit of that somewhat short-lived tradition, I want to give a present to my newest and deepest friend. It has been some time since I tried my hand at poetry, so I hope it will not offend or come across as too cheesy.

Ode To A Friend

When inner darkness threatens to engulf
That which beats within me
You bring much needed sunlight
And shine it on my icy soul.
Your understanding countenance
Rekindles the fading spark inside
And breathes new fire into dying embers
Saved from myself again.

I am rescued from despair's dark depths.
Your kind thought, verbally caresses
Restoring in me the strength
To do battle once more and face the coming day.
You selflessly give the greatest gift,
Accepting me, warts and all, this unholy, ungodly mess
And show me my better, most possible self.

Whether Philia or Agape or some of both, I do not know.
You hold me tender in your thoughts and words
And I am washed clean by my tears
Raised up by your kindness
You honor me more than I deserve
This crowning achievement made possible
By a gentle heart I can never hope to repay.

My meager gift so sparse compared
To all that you have given
But I give it freely, gratefully, with thanks.
For what special tribute, far-reaching accolade
Do I wax so freely and without abandon?
No more and certainly no less than this -
You called me friend.

This badge of honor I most proudly wear
Today and all of my tomorrows
Until that which flows within runs to dust.
This gift you offer me I now offer back
and call you friend.
To be so much and nothing else, it is enough.
For I am rich beyond compare.

Happy birthday to me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The True $pirit of Chri$tma$

The temporary insanity know as the Christmas shopping season is upon us. The day known as Black Friday in the retail world came and went with better than expected sales and just one minor disruption: a man's death.

A temporary worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart was trampled to death, not because he refused to honor a rain check or a competitor's ad but because he could not open the store's doors and get out of the way fast enough to avoid dozens of crazed shoppers trying to be the first ones to save 25-percent on next year's "Oh, I forgot we even had this" item.

Wal-Mart will rightly come in for its share of criticism and condemnation for not anticipating and properly preparing for this type of situation . Based on the events of the last several Christmas shopping seasons, any responsible retailer could have foreseen that it was only a matter of time before someone was killed.

In fact, several other retailers, such as best Buy, did foresee this possibility and were prepared appropriately. Wal-Mart, however, rolled back common sense when they rolled back prices for the start of the shopping season.

But the blame is not Wal-Mart's alone. We as consumers are as much to blame. Our need to always have the latest and greatest whatchamacallit fuels these shopping frenzies and increases the likelihood each year that such tragedies can occur until this year one finally did.

For a number of years it has been all over but the shouting. Now it is official. We have truly lost the meaning and perhaps as importantly the spirit of Christmas. The holiday is at last best marked with "Merry Xmas" rather than "Merry Christmas".

Christmas, of course, began as a day to mark and celebrate the birth of Christ. But even atheists celebrated the season as one in which to promote peace on earth and goodwill toward humanity. The Christmas season was a time when we each stopped to reflect on our better sides and on our hopes for a better world.

Now, all of that seems gone. A man has died. Unlike the first Christmas-related fatality two-thousand years ago, this death will not be followed by a resurrection.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Lonely versus Being Alone

I sit here typing in the middle of a deserted campground - deserted save for me, my wife, and my son - the three of us in our tent trailer, the only inhabitants of this state park campground. As I sit and type, I realize I am lonely.

I was often lonely when I was single, so I always equated the feeling of loneliness with being alone. Yet I am not alone here. Still, I feel lonely. A sense of melancholy hangs over me as I realize how little I fit in with those around me even when there is no one around me. This feeling was eased a little when a couple other campers set up in this campground, but it did not go away entirely.

For instance, what does it say about me when the person I see as my best friend, the person with whom I feel the greatest sense of connection in the outside world is someone who lives more than 300 miles away in another state and is someone I may never actually see again? Whatever it says, I can't imagine it is all that good.

When I was single, I always had the excuse of being alone to explain my loneliness. There was some comfort in that because it created the sense that I could end my loneliness simply by being around other people.

That is how I have always dealt with that loneliness - by putting myself in a setting where I could surround myself with others. Yet I never really made a connection with any of them or them with me. I was still lonely, and I still felt alone.

I managed to escape that feeling or at least delude myself that I had escaped it after my marriage. I was busy enough trying to be a decent husband and later a decent father that I rarely had time to feel lonely or alone.

Lately, though, that has changed. I changed jobs and have yet to make any friends in my new position aside from the aforementioned friend in another state. Part of that is the new workplace itself. Everyone is usually very busy, and that makes it hard to make a connection. The other part of it is somewhat geographical. I sit all but alone in my area of the department. The nearest people to me are almost all managers.

The third part of it is something lacking in me. I am not by nature an extremely warm or outgoing person. As a result, people do not tend to gravitate to me. At times, I suspect I come off as cold or aloof.

At other times, I may come across as too needy because I do recognize this giant hole in my life. For whatever reason, there are times when my wife and son are unable to fill this gap. Because of that, I think I end up distancing myself from them and making my problem worse.

Some might label this depression, and perhaps they are right. Perhaps it is the feeling of growing old and not having accomplished anything I thought I would. Or perhaps it is simply the onset of the holiday season and realizing that again this year we will not see friends or family over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Perhaps it is all of the above.

After all of that, perhaps there is no real difference between feeling lonely and feeling alone, merely scale. (The physicality of being alone is another matter.) And right now, the scale tips way out of balance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

It is that time of year once again when young and old alike gorge themselves on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, whether it be turkey or ham (in our case, turkey), with all the trimmings. Then, they'll collapse on the sofa to watch the traditional Thanksgiving football blowout and watch a bunch of other overstuffed men run around and get exercise for them.

Despite recent economic events, we are lucky to live in a country where so many of us have reason to be thankful. I invite you to take some time on Thanksgiving to make a mental list of those things for which you are thankful and then give silent thanks for each of them. Here's my list:

I am thankful for my family, first and foremost. They ground me and give me sanctuary from the emotional storms in which I sometimes find myself.

I am thankful that I live in an area that lends itself to outdoor activity and that I have the ability and desire to enjoy such activity, whether it be camping, bike riding, or snowshoeing. In fact, we will be camping over Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for new friends, old friends, and lost friends. Each has been an important part of my journey. I remember lost friends fondly even as I mourn their loss. I cherish the people who are part of my life now and hope they will remain a part of my life for years to come. I relish the new friends I have made or will make and pray I will not abuse or squander the gift they have given me.

Yet I know that there are also those who will struggle to find something this Thanksgiving for which they are thankful. I hope you will join me in saying a kind word or in thinking a good thought for them as you sit down to your holiday meal this year.

May you find plenty for which to be thankful this year. May you have even more for which to be thankful in the year to come. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Requiem For A Friend

I cried for a friend last night. Those tears did not come because I had received news that some tragedy occurred. In a sense, my tears were tears of anticipated grief. First, some history.

This friend and I are co-workers, separated by some 340 miles. The circumstances of our friendship are potentially the stuff of soap operas. You see, in essence, I was hired to take her place with her in the awkward role of training her replacement. I had, just a little earlier, escaped a similar fate when my previous position was outsourced.

She had every right to be angry, bitter, resentful, insert your adjective here. But she was none of those things. Instead, she was kind, helpful, supportive, and encouraging. Her demeanor was everything you would want from a trainer.

Her position had been moved here as part of a consolidation, and because she had a life where she lived, she was understandably reluctant to move. I had been in a similar type of position years earlier, and having to move is not fun, so I sympathized.

In fact, I felt guilty for, in essence, taking her job, not because of anything she said or did but because of everything she said or did. I began to feel as if a cruel trick had been played on her. Through it all, she remained supportive and helpful, and a mutual respect developed.

My training required her to make visits to my location, so we did meet twice. Both visits were friendly, and we developed a comfort level around each other. But a friendship had not yet begun to develop.

That began to occur, I think, after she returned to her home. As the new kid on the block, I had questions about the work, and I would ask them: over the phone, through instant messaging, via e-mail. After a while, we began to talk about other things: politics, music, feelings, life.

The odd thing about our budding friendship is that, for the most part, it has developed through e-mail. Perhaps that isn't such a surprise given the electronic age in which we live. In some ways, it is the 21st Century equivalent of having a pen pal.

In some sense, that may make it easier to sustain the friendship when she and I no longer have work as a common footing. Yet the same thing that may make it easier to keep the friendship alive may also make it easy to let it die. One day, one of us may decide to no longer answer the e-mail of the other. I certainly don't intend to let that happen, but who can say with certainty what the future holds. Something could happen to one or the other of us, and the remaining friend may be completely in the dark.

This sounds fatalistic, I know, but it is based on my past attempts to sustain relationships long distance. Life tends to get in the way. In my past career in journalism, I lost every friend I had because of moving to a new job in a new city. Because I make friends with great difficulty, each loss was very painful. To this day, I remember each of them with a mixture of good and bad feelings.

Yet I persisted, and I will continue to persist. I do not meet people easily, but I know I need them in my life. I hope this friendship lasts. I want it to last. It may not, but I will enjoy each moment of it while I do have it.

I am not a wise man, but I have finally learned one thing in my time here. The one thing worse than losing a friend is never having had the friend to begin with. Here's to you, my friend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cell Phones & Bathrooms: A "Sound" Combination?

A few months ago, the group I work with moved into a new building. Right away, I noticed something that struck me as being somewhat odd. Almost every time I would walk into the restroom, I would encounter someone carrying on a business conversation on the cell phone - right there in the bathroom.

Many times, they would be pacing across the floor. It was almost as if there were waiting to enter a bathroom stall and thought to themselves "Well, I might as well call back this client while I'm waiting."

Now, I know there are many people who like to sing in the shower because of the acoustics. In fact, I'm one of them. Rumor has it that several well known songs were recorded in a bathroom for that very reason.

Yes, the acoustical qualities of a bathroom can make even a somewhat mediocre singer sound better. But do business calls sound better, more authoritative, more informed because one end of the conversation takes place in the men's room?

Perhaps it's a consequence of our always connected society. Even some hourly workers keep cell phones with them at all times, for fear of missing out on something. Or perhaps it's to show how popular they are. Not having a cell phone myself, I'm not sure of the reasoning.

Then again, maybe it is an extension of our growing need to be able to multitask. (That's all the picture I am going to draw for you; you will need to do the rest.) So many employment ads list the ability to multitask as either a desired charactistic of the successful applicant or an outright requirement.

Fine. But couldn't that ability to multitask be demonstrated in a more classy manner? Say, something like putting on makeup and driving at the same time? Sorry, I can't answer that. I have to go to the bathroom and take an important call.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Search for Fleeting Moments of Happiness

Of late, I have come to the conclusion that life is a somewhat mundane event, punctuated on occasion by what I call "fleeting moments of happiness." The number of these "fleeting moments" is what leads a person to decide whether his or her life is a happy one.

Such moments can range from the religious, such as First Communion or Bar Mitzvah (did you know there is a web site to help one plan a successful Bar Mitzvah?), to the emotional and possibly physical, such as a first date, a marriage, or the birth of a child. These punctuation marks in a life are what is remembered when that life ends.

I have also come to believe that successful people have more such "fleeting moments" than those who are not successful and are, in fact, capable of creating their own such moments. Such success can take many forms: abundant wealth, freedom to pursue and fulfill one's desires, a happy marriage. The list can go on.

Those fleeting moments are further punctuated by brief flashes: A memorable sunrise or sunset, a spectacular view, perhaps a wedding anniversary or a promotion at work.

The past few days have been a bit rough and have led me to search for my own "fleeting moments of happiness," to list them and consider the balance sheet. The list is not that long and contains nothing from my childhood.

There was the day I was baptized at the age of 28. A year later, I started building my own house through the sweat equity program of the Federal housing Authority (and lost the same house a few months later when I lost my job). There was the day I got married and the day a few years later when my son was born.

There have been a few memorable camping trips, including a visit to Redwoods National Park, which perhaps left feeling as close to God as I have in the last 20 years. Still, those moments seem fleeting indeed.

Thinking about such things led me to ask a philosophical question: Why are some people happy and others not? What can parents who come from an unhappy childhood do to ensure that there own children grow up somewhat happy? For that matter, what can adults who come from unhappy childhoods do to make their adult lives happier, and at what point does it become too late?

As I write this, another question occurs to me. If the world is constantly trying to achieve a state of equilibrium, then doesn't every happy person have to be balanced by an equally unhappy person? The way I feel some days, there must be one ecstatic person somewhere in this world. You're welcome.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Fresh Start

For several months now, I have left this blog to languish, forgotten in the recesses of my disjointed mind. Now that the election is over and, as President-Elect Obama said "Change has come," I felt perhaps it was time to revisit this blog. In the spirit of the new President's message, change is coming to this blog.

Or should I say change is what came to this blog before now. My original intent for this blog was to provide a literal outlet for my mental meanderings. However, the heat of the summer's Presidential primaries led me to focus almost solely on politics. Now that the election is over, I can refocus or perhaps unfocus and return to my original intentions.

And so, I return intent on making this blog what I always wanted it to be: the random thoughts of a somewhat random man. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to write about the things that strike me as odd, contradictory, funny, perplexing, even confusing. In doing so, I will try to make this blog live up to the title I have given it and perhaps one person, after reading something I have written, will scratch his or her head and ask "Where the heck did that come from?" The blog title will then say it all.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Random Thoughts

My apologies for not having posted in the last few weeks. Allergies have been kicking my butt, not to mention the demands and needs of everyday life as well as the need and desire to get out camping again. Now on to some capsule thoughts.

Half a solution better than none? The Democrats' rules committee has decided how Florida and Michigan should be resolved: seat all of the delegates and give each one half a vote. How's that for half a solution? Hillary wins a moral victory, and Barack keeps most of his lead in delegates. Personally, I think the party should have stuck to its guns and kept the delegations out for breaking the rules. There were ways for moving up the primaries according to the rules, and neither state used them.

Obama leaves church. Barack Obama has decided to leave the church he has called his spiritual home for the past 20 years. Having left a church or two in my time, I know how hard a decision this can be. I also thought he made the right decision in choosing to leave while also showing his integrity and loyalty by resisting the earlier calls for him to leave.

To pod or not to pod. I've been reading a lot of late about podcasting and debating whether to try my hand at it. I'm intrigued by it, and it seems a way to get back to broadcasting of a sort, a field I worked in for a time many moons ago. The questions for me are: what type of podcast to do (I have several ideas), where to host it (also several ideas), and do I have the discipline and the passion to do this? For me, that is probably the biggest question.

My problem is that I am interested in a great many things, but I tend to drift from interest to interest, never staying focused for any length of time. That was part of the reason for the name of this blog; I thought I would be roaming from subject to subject more than I have thus far. Perhaps once the election is over.

One last random thought: if you are a father, as I am, a Happy Father's Day on June 15. If you have a father, pay him a visit. If your father is deceased, remember the good things about him. None of us is perfect, and most of us try to do the best we can whenever we can.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Speaks, Will Anyone Listen?

Former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards has finally come down off the fence. (It must have hurt sitting up there for so long. I hope there weren't too many splinters.) Edwards today did what many thought he would do if he ever decided to endorse a candidate. He announced his support for Barack Obama.

Several weeks ago, such an endorsement probably would have meant something. Now, though, who know whether it really means anything at all. It almost smacks of posturing and has me at least wondering, John, why did it take you so long? I can't be the only one wondering.

John, could you not see that Barack Obama's campaign offers at least the hope of change while Hillary Clinton's campaign smells like more of the same smoke-filled, backroom deals that have given politics a bad name? It seems to me the choice would have been an easy one to make. Or was it simply the desire to be or at least feel like a kingmaker that created the delay? Who knows?

What does seem clear is that, at this late stage of the campaign, John Edwards' annointing of Barack Obama as the best choice and hope for the Democratic Party in 2008 will likely have little effect on the vote in the remaining primaries. Where it could and should have an impact is in terms of Democratic super delegates and their decisions of whom to support. The trickle of super delegates moving to Obama has turned into a steady stream and could soon become a flood.

With the weight of such a party power as John Edwards now behind Obama, the rest of the party leadership should have less trouble now telling Hillary Clinton it's time to call her driver and have him take her home.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Democratic Divide

Tomorrow is primary election day in Indiana and North Carolina. A number of the pundits forecast a split, with Hillary Clinton winning Indiana and Barack Obama taking North Carolina. Me, I hope against hope for an Obama sweep.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I am an Obama supporter and have been since the number of candidates dwindled to two (perhaps even before that). Second, regardless of the bright face the Democratic Party leadership paints on this drawn-out race, the increasingly bitter contest between Clinton and Obama is anything but good for the party. It is great fodder for conservative talk radio and the mainstream media, but as far as adding anything of substance to the political canvas, this battle has all the appeal of an episode of Jerry Springer.

The party says this battle has brought new voters into the process and has reinvigorated the political process. They are right - to a point. And that point has been passed. As this race becomes increasingly bitter, increasingly nasty, those same new and excited voters are in danger of becoming disgusted and appalled at the notion that a candidate of ideals and a candidate of change, as many have perceived Barack Obama to be, cannot succeed against a political machine that attempts to appeal to the lowest common denominator and it willing to use any tactic, any trick to win and, if necessary, steal the nomination.

Where Barack Obama has shown himself to be a man of ideals, loyal to the party rules but willing to say the unpopular thing because it needs to be said, Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be an opportunist, loyal only to herself and willing to say whatever she thinks will attract votes. Millions of Americans have already seen through this and have given Obama a lead in pledged delegates. Hopefully, a majority of voters in both Indiana and North Carolina will do likewise on Tuesday and send the message to Hillary Clinton that it is time for her to end her campaign - while the Democrats can still win the White House.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wright Message, Wrong Words?

I just got the chance to watch the Bill Moyers Journal program featuring Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and I have to say it was very interesting. Wright certainly did not come off looking or sounding like the fanatic he has been made out to be by the mainstream press and one Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Speaking as a middle-aged white man, I have to say that Wright made some very valid points regarding the treatment of minorities in this country, both in the Moyers interview and in the extended sermon clips that were aired on that program. His unfortunate choice of words does not diminish the validity of his message.

He is also correct when he notes that the victors are the ones who write the histories. As a result, we are able to emphasize the Nazi atrocities committed against the Jewish during World War II because the Nazis lost the war while downplaying our own actions in this country against Native Americans in the 19th Century because we won.

I have always thought that we needed to look at ourselves and our actions before we condemn others. I do not say we should not speak out against oppression, but we should not do so from a position of moral superiority as a self-appointed arbiter of right and wrong. Instead, we should speak from a position of humility, pointing out these things while also recognizing our own shortcomings in such areas. The idea is one of helping others to learn from our mistakes and missteps.

Leading from a position of power ultimately brings resentment, even hatred. Leading from a position of humility should ultimately bring understanding and respect. I know which I would prefer if it were my country being led.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Will Barack finally win "a big state"?

In a few hours, the polls will open and voting in the Pennsylvania Democratic Presidential primary will be underway. Barack Obama will hope to pull the upset and deliver the knockout punch that at long last brings the candidacy of Hillary Clinton to a merciful end.

Hopefully, after this primary, Hillary will display a level of class she has thus far not shown and drop out of the race. If she really cares, as she says, about ensuring that a Democrat is back in the White House, this is what she will do. Don't bet on it.

Clinton says she wants everyone to have a chance to have their voices heard in this process. To which I say, what a crock! If the tables were turned and Barack Obama were behind in the popular vote and the delegate count, Hillary Clinton would be leading the pack in calling for Obama to get out of the race because he was hurting the party. She certainly wouldn't be concerned that some people did not have the chance to have their say. Besides, they can have their say in November when their say will carry even more weight.

If, as a few brave souls have predicted, Obama does actually win in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton should graciously leave the race and make good on her oft-repeated pledge to do everything in her power to help elect the Democratic nominee. If grace and class do not dictate her actions, perhaps a well placed smack upside the head would work. It always worked with me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Road to Nowhere

(With apologies to the Talking Heads) This entry's title reflects both my current camping plans and where I see the U.S. going in Iraq. Right now, between my wife's lingering cold and the demands of her job, we aren't looking at doing any camping until Memorial Day weekend. (sob) I'm better now.

As for Iraq, why is it that anyone who questions the war and the effectiveness of the Bush foreign policy is tarred and feathered as someone who does not support the troops? Personally, I oppose the war and always have, but I support the troops. They are in a thankless position, fighting a war that cannot be won, not without bankrupting either the American economy or what is left of our reputation as a world leader. It seems as if we have moved from being a bastion of freedom to being merely another colonial power seeking to impose our will in the Middle East.

The increased American military presence merely props up an unpopular Iraqi government (Gee, that sounds familiar. Remember the Shah or Iran or, dare I say the name, Saddam?) while not requiring the various factions to seek some middle ground. (Can you say diplomacy? I knew that you could.) What leadership!

With our invasion and subsequent occupancy of Iraq, America has forever forfeited any right to take the moral high ground in any argument. We no longer have standing to complain about the ongoing atrocities in Darfur or the Chinese oppression in Tibet. The suggestion that President Bush should seriously consider skipping the Opening Ceremonies of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing is laughable and is about as likely as Bush proposing his own impeachment. It ain't gonna happen and would be meaningless if it did.

Instead, it is more likely that if and when American troops finally come home from Iraq our presence there will be remembered as Generation X's Vietnam. Right now, the only real differences between the two are that fewer American soldiers have died thus far in Iraq (thankfully) and those soldiers have not yet spent as much time in Iraq. The latter is destined to change. Hopefully the former will not follow suit.

Ah, for the simplicity and innocence of camping.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So much to say, so much to say, so much to say

First off, apologies to Dave Matthews for borrowing a line from one of his songs for the title of this entry. Also, apologies to anyone whi may have read this blog and waited for the next entry.

Life has kind of taken precedence. And, there is just so much out there worth discussing, I couldn't decide. It was like being a kid in a toy store who is told he can get anything he wants. What to choose?

I have also been wrestling with a decision regarding the coming November election: how I would vote or even if I would vote. Right now, it depends.

If Barack Obama is able to secure the Democratic nomination for President, then he will get my vote. Despite every underhanded tactic tried by the Clinton mob, Obama has maintained his dignity and his poise and his cool. Quite frankly, those are all qualities we need in our next President. Hillary Clinton possesses none of those characteristics.

Thinking about it as I write this, Hillary Clinton reminds me a little of Richard Nixon. She appears willing to do anything to gain an advantage, even lie, cheat, or steal if necessary. She has changed her stand on so many issues during this campaign. I didn't think any one person could talk from so many different sides of their mouth.

First, she lobbied the super delegates to support her even though she was losing in the regular delegate count. Then, when many of those super delegates came out for Obama, she argued that they should not go against the will of the people. I honestly don't think she gives a damn about the will of any people except for herself and a few moneyed supporters.

The other day, in time to be sacreligious for Easter, key Clinton enforcer James Carville came out and likened former Clinton cabinet member Bill Richardson to Judas because he had the audacity to publicly support Obama. The suggestion is that Richardson will get his "30 pieces of silver" should Obama win the nomination. Even if that is true, how how is it any different from whatever Clinton is promising to those super delegates who publicly endorse her?

It is increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton, deep down, cares for no one other than Hillary Clinton. She has no interest in the Democrats winning back the White House. She is only interested in Hillary Clinton winning the White House. If she can't get the nomination, she is determined to make sure Obama doesn't win in November. Hillary Clinton's loyalties are to the Clinton political machine first and foremost. The Democratic party and America itself come in a distant second and third (or maybe third and fourth behind her richest supporters).

Earlier in the campaign, I was prepared to cast a reluctant vote for Hillary Clinton in order to prevent a continuation of the disastrous Bush policies. Now, though I am a loyal and lifelong Democrat, I can no more vote for Hillary Clinton than I can for John McCain. So I won't. She's an opportunist who calls herself a Democrat. If she loses the nomination, I would not be surprised to see her launch an independent campaign.

Hillary Clinton ought to be booted out of the Democratic Party for her and her husband's suggestions that of the three Presidential candidates remaining, only two of them are honorable and loyal Americans, and neither of them are named Barack Obama.

Well, she got part of it right. There are only two honorable and loyal Americans still in the race for President. But she's not one of them.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Please deposit 50-cents for three more minutes

If you are like me (and let's face it, who is?), you spent a portion of your Thursday evening watching the CNN-Univision Democratic debate featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I suspect, though, that most of you watching that debate paid little, if any, attention to the headlines scrolling across the bottom of your television screen. But I did.

And one of the tidbits that caught my attention was the one-line announcement that Southern Methodist University has been chosen as the future home for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. My first thought was what the heck are they going to put into it, a couple of comics and a Dick and Jane book? Then I thought, well they could put in all of the documents this administration never shared with the American people, such as the minutes from the closed-door meetings Dick Cheney had with representatives of the big energy companies or the details of the sweetheart deal that was given to Halliburton when America invaded Iraq. All heavily edited, of course.

It also occurred to me to wonder what Southern Methodist gets out of all of this. Then it hit me. The University must have a vacant and unused phone booth somewhere on campus and decided that, rather than remove it, why not make a few extra bucks from it? Maybe the University will even fix the phone.

If the library goes ahead, I think I can suggest the perfect design. First, it should somewhat resemble an inverted pyramid. This is to symbolize the concentration of wealth and tax breaks at the top that has occurred during the Bush years. Next, all the doors should only be on the right to signify Bush's conservative leanings.

There should be no windows, only stone walls to illustrate the lack of openness and honesty in this administration. Finally, all the hallways should lead to nowhere but a dead end in order to represent the policies and actions that have left America stuck in many respects in a corner or between a rock and a hard place.

Oh, it goes without saying that entire project should experience a 100-percent cost overrun in honor of the multi-trillion dollar debt incurred since Bush took office. I'm out of quarters, so that will do it for this call.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Declaration for 21st Century America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- From the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

Judging from some of the ongoing political discussion, these truths are not self-evident. All men (and women) are only created equal if the size of their bank account measures up. I don't begrudge a person getting rich, but how much is enough?

For one of the two political parties, it seems there is never enough. Nor does it seem that this party agrees with the Declaration of Independence's assertion regarding those pesky "unalienable rights." You know, those rights that are not to be taken away.

Each year, the gap between rich and poor widens and not only in terms of income. As the income gap grows, so, too, does the number of Americans with no health insurance: 47-million at last count. Yet only one political party seems ready to try something other than what the country is doing now.

The Democrats have proposed Universal Health Care while the Republicans say the marketplace should provide the solution. It hasn't done so yet; why think it will now? Private solutions, the G.O.P. insists. Those 47-million uninsured Americans are suddenly supposed to find the money they did not have before in order to pay for insurance?

Surely not even the Republicans believe all 47-million of these people are lazy deadbeats who could afford insurance if they would simply go out and get a job. Perhaps they would do well to remember those "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and to think about what they might actually mean.

The unalienable right to life as stated in the Declaration does not merely mean the right to keep breathing. In the context of the Declaration, it means something closer to the right to a decent quality of life. It seems to me that part of that quality of life should and must include health care.

Now to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is a person truly free or free to pursue happiness if the threat of catastrophic illness and exorbitant health care costs is hanging over their head?

Yet the Republicans argue that Universal Health Care, in the hands of the government is a wasteful and inefficient idea. Inefficient? Perhaps. But it seems to me that health is too important and too basic to be a for-profit concern.So, pardon me if I prefer inefficient yet fair to efficient and exclusionary, based on income and/or health.

Perhaps the answer is something in-between private enterprise and government-sponsored health care. I do believe the government needs to step up and step in to provide health insurance for those people who could not otherwise afford it: small business employees, the self-employed, low-income workers, and so forth. Higher-paid employees and other professionals, as well as upper-income Americans, would be free to pursue other insurance options.

Only by ensuring that all Americans have equal access to affordable health care can we ensure that America lives up to the preamble of its founding document and truly gives each and everyone of us the unalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

God's Eyes Were Watching Them

First, my apologies to Zora Neale Hurston for playing off the title of her classic novel. But I am a happy man tonight.

I learned that sometimes cheaters do get what they deserve. I finished watching Super Bowl XLII (42 for you non-Romans), and the New England Patriots, instead of taking another step toward NFL immortality, go down as the greatest team to not win the championship. It's a bit like being named Miss Congeniality at the Miss America pageant.

However, the Patriots should never have been allowed to get that close to a perfect season. That possibility should have been eliminated after the first game of the year, when the Patriots were found to have videotaped defensive signals of their opponent. Instead of forfeiting that game, the Patriots were slapped on the wrist, fined a few bucks and a draft choice not quite as good as the one they got to keep.

Actually, the team gets to choose whether to give up a first-round choice or a second and third-round pick. That's a bit like asking a convicted felon if they would rather do five years at Leavenworth or a month at summer camp.

The league, in the guise of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, caved to the wishes of the networks and possibly the owners. It's apparently okay to punish individual players but not entire teams. Now there is talk that the Patriots may have done something similar, videotaping the final practice of the St. Louis Rams prior to those two teams meeting in Super Bowl 36. The talk may or may not be true, but there is an old saying that "where there's smoke there's fire."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

And Then There Were Two

Two candidates dropped out of the beauty pageant that is the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations today, leaving two major candidates on the Democratic side and two or three candidates on the G.O.P. side, depending on how seriously you take the candidacy of Mike Huckabee.

Rudi Giuliani left the G.O.P. race, a move that came as no surprise after his "all or nothing" strategy in Florida netted him exactly that. Nothing. It's hard to see how he and his gimmicky one-page tax form will be missed.

Equally unsurprising but ultimately more disappointing to me was the departure of John Edwards from the Democratic race. He likely had no chance to win the nomination, but I would have liked to have seen him stay in the race at least through Super Tuesday.

One reason I am sorry Edwards is leaving the race is that, for me, he embodied the spirit, the passion, and the memory of JFK and perhaps even more so of Robert Kennedy. His idealism and commitment to the poor certainly seemed to me to evoke Bobby's memory and the idea that once existed for many that America could be a great and compassionate country for all of it citizens, not merely those who could afford to buy a Senate or House seat.

Edwards seemed from my perspective to be the first candidate, at least on the Democratic side, to express actual ideas rather than talking in sound bites. His idea of creating a "green infrastructure" to both reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide an economic boost through the new jobs such a philosophical shift would create was a marked departure from the same old "let's drill in Alaska" approach.

His notion of "one America", which perhaps an unattainable ideal, evoked the spirit of both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Moreso than any other candidate, his statements upheld the idea at the forefront of the Declaration of Independence that "all men", not merely those with power, connections, or money, "are created equal".

As the campaign progresses, I expect to draw upon the Declaration again to discuss the views of the different candidates. For now, I wish John Edwards and his valiant wife well. As he said in his announcement withdrawing from the race, "I'll be fine." As long as America has men and women like John Edwards to remind us of what we can and should aspire to, it will be fine as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's January, so that must mean . . . camping!

Since moving to Idaho, our family has rediscovered a love of camping. (Well, my son says he doesn't want to go, but when it's time to leave, he doesn't want to go home.) Last year, we got in 36 nights of camping, starting in March and wrapping up our season in September.

This year, we wanted to get an earlier start, and you can't start any earlier than January. So, over the weekend prior to Martin Luther King's birthday, that's what we did. (I'm sure we must be certifiable, but no one has filed papers yet - and - they have to catch us first!)

For our first camping trip of 2008, we went back to the site of our first trip of 2007, Woodhead Park in Hell's Canyon along the Idaho-Oregon border. We hooked up our trusty tent trailer to our Subaru Outback and made the three-hour drive. Along the way, we questioned our sanity, as the thermometer inside our car registered a less than tropical outside temperature of seven degrees at one point.

However, as you can see from the view across the reservoir from our campsite, the surroundings more than made up for the slightly chilly temperatures. Plus, the temperature warmed up some 25-degrees by the time we reached our destination.

On our first night in the campground, we shared the facility and the view with one other couple. On Sunday, the campground was all ours. In between, some three-inches of new snow fell, enough for my son and I to take a stab at making a snowman. During the weekend, we took dozens of pictures, some of which I will work on posting somewhere on line as I get time, and we ate some very good food, if I do say so myself.

I suspect we'll be back yet again and soon. I also hope this will be the start of a wonderful, jam-packed camping season. May your travels take you to equally wonderful destinations.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Over the coming months, I hope to show you around my world: the places I visit with my wife and son, as well as the places I visit in the recesses of my mind. Topics will likely range across the spectrum of my interests - from RVing and camping to political issues, hence the name of this blog.

As time goes on, I will try to hone my posts so they appeal to a more specific audience (once I have determined who that is). In the meantime, I hope the things I have to say will occasionally be of interest, even if they have you saying "that came from out of left field."

Thanks for taking the journey with me.