Days Like This

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It has been loathsome. The day, I mean.

Here’s why: My neice had to put her beloved family dog down. It’s been hell trying to explain death to her two kids, both under nine years of age. Her eyes, she says, are a study in red, puffiness. I can imagine.

Another family member  is married to a textbook psychopath.   And a cruel.  conniving one with annoyingly enabling parents to make matters worse.  More on that marital debacle as it unravels.   And it will.

And still another  member is awaiting word on the specific diagnosis of “the C-word” of a particular  family member. She is distraught by this. She also had surgery for the first time a few days ago and she’s dealing with pain and the rigors of post surgical depression. Not a terribly common complication, but not unheard of either. She’ll be 66. Mortality.  Pain. I get it.

My mother fell earlier. Rather, she says she slipped on a renegade slice of turkey that had fallen on the floor as she was making a sandwich.    She and the slice of turkey lied  there for about an hour. She wasn’t hurt, just helpless. She’s 87 and a smidge frail, namely because of her fibromyalgia, which she won’t do anything about.

The drug designed for this ailment, Lyrica, scares her. She swears the side affects of “this dope” as she calls it, include running naked down major thoroughfares, shouting in Esperanto while waving a Nazi flag.   She took a Lyrica…in promotional Nazi running, but her fall concerns her.   Getting upmby herself wasn’t an option.  She wasn’t wearing her “I’ve fallen snd I can’t get up” alert pendant.  It’s ugly and cumbersome, she says.   As is the terrazzo tile on her kitchen floor, now that she was up close and personal with it for about an hour.

Mother says her fall concerns her.  She’s now leary  of going on our Central European cruise this summer. I’m very close to telling her that she’s probably right. I don’t want to say a word to her, because I want her to go for a number of reasons.   I assured her that there isn’t, nor will there ever be a renegade slice of  deli meat on the floor of this stunning  boutique river boat.

I also don’t want her to go for just as many reasons.  Her safety.

I’m torn.

Beyond that, my MS is flaring just enough be annoying. I ache. My memory is shot. I’ve got a tingling tight thumb, a weird rash and acid reflux.

Reflux after drinking water.   Water.

I hate days like this.

On The Evolution That Is Aging

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I’ll turn 59 soon.   This birthday has prompted an existential crisis on the level of a Kafka short story.   Fifty nine is such an off, non-seminal birthday, but then again, I’ve never been this old before.   My mother will turn 88 in June.   She finds my birthday trepidation amusing.  She can’t console me, so the best she can offer is that she reminds me to be grateful I’m not 87….yet.

She might have told me something similar 30 years ago when I was was turning 28 and she was a well established 57 year old.    It didn’t mean a hell of a lot then, either.   My mother and have always had an interesting relationship.    It will devastate me when she’s gone.    She devastated me repeatedly during her life.

Mother’s aging and cognitive issues helped make 2017 the traumatic year it was, personally….the loss of several close friends, diagnosis of a chronic illness…other things.  As a result, I’ve aged quite a bit.   The year etched lines in my face with a chisel, it drained what little blond I had left in my hair.   If I were to lie down and a drone flew overhead, the operator would mistake me for a graying, overhead view of tributaries.

I also have all the embarrassing age-related maladies of which Madison Avenue ad wizards remind us on certain TV networks.   Burning, itching, leaking, not leaking enough, bloating, elastic waistbands, comfy shoes and plastic underwear….all marvelous  representations  of fear and self loathing in the time of Geritol.

I’d like to say I pushed  a reset button in 2017.   I suppose I did, but nothing has happened.

I used to deliver hot meals for senior citizens as part of a local Meals On Wheels program.     Twice a week, I brought meals and to those who wanted it, a little company;  some were hungrier for that then food.    Others didn’t seem to take much interest in either.   Those were the ones who seemed so dissappointed at this stage of life., as if it has sneaked up on them.   I didn’t get it then.  I do now.

I’m not being pessimistic.  They weren’t  being pessimistic .  It’s just part of the aging process for many.  Golden years tarnish.   My grandmother said it…my mother echoes that thought, my body is proving them both true.

I cant remember her name, but she lived in small, brick track home which had seen better days.   The neighborhood had seen better days, the houses looked alike, but hers was always easy to pick out.   Neighboring homes had yards littered with toys, bikes, mismatched lawn furniture and plants that needed last rites.   Hardly posh, but still most homes had signs of life.   I recognized  her house by how vacant it looked.

I knocked on the door and it always took a moment or two, but I could hear her slowly shuffling towards the door.    She’d open it, never with a smile, but always in one of two caftans she always wore.     She didn’t speak much, but over the years my weekly appeances at her front door wore her down a bit, I suppose.  I remember our first real conversation of any substance.  She saw me limping once.   I have a bad knee and ankle (car accident in 1991) and she asked me about it.  I explained my injuries and she shared with that her husband had a bum leg too, but he’d  been gone for more than a decade…

she paused….

and her grown kids and their kids had lives of their own and and living in cities requiring air travel to visit.     “Too expensive”, she assured me.

She’d take the food and I’d come back a few days later.  Sometimes, we’d talk, usually  we didn’t.   She lived alone in a threadbare house that would have been cramped for one person.  She looked miserable.

My situation was and is diametrically  opposite than  hers, yet I get that isolation that I think she felt forced  forced her to live with.   What I hated is that she seemed to have little recourse or the desire to fix her dilemma.   All I know is that I swore my later years be different.

Four years have passed since I made that proclamation.

Today, the UPS man delivered things I didn’t need and I answered the door in one of two caftans  I wear.    I shouted ‘thank you’ as he walked across the yard and I was struck by the realization that that had been the first time I’d spoken to another human being in two days.

I wondered if he recognized my house by how vacant the front yard looks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roseanne’s Reboot

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I watched it.

It’s familiar , yet not at all.  Everybody is older and they look like older versions of what a tor/characters I remember, yet their voices have aged more than anything else.    The original Becky comes across just as angry as she was as a teen and God love her, she still can’t act.   Sarah Gilbert or the writers or both bring Darlene back sans her edge,.  I blame Sara Gilbert alone for the loss of Darlene’s distinguishable timbered voice.

Did D.J. Even speak???   And the youngest kid, the Uber blond baby she had towztd the was barely acknowledged.

Admittedly, I laughed at loud at Dan’s waking up with a CPAP mask and I chuckled when he and Roseanne laundry-listed their  meds and the corresponding ailments each scrip treats.   It was all so relatable.

Laurie Metcalf reprises her role as Roseanne’s sister, Jackie.   Here,  Metcalf continues to channel Don Knotta as Barney Fife.      She’s perfectly absurd, making her comedy gold every second she’s on camera.

The  Connors are still in Landford, still in the same house with no locks on the front or back doors.    They’re still struggling for money.  They raised blue collar kids pretty much in the same socio-economic situation.    Darlene lived in Chicago where she had two kids….one or both may be David’s.

Unless it as during a potty break, I don’t think Becky mentioned anything about Mark.   The actor who played him OD’d decades.

DJ was in the military which is where he met his wife.  Seeks still not n active duty and he has their daughter whose name escapes me.

Jackie is a certified life coach.    I’d uh…..double check the credibility of the licensing institution, thank you very much!

As for the rest?    Well, I’m decidedly NOT an apologist for being a Trump supporter, nor do I care to be lectured to by the politically curated.    And I feel the loudest ones who hate Trump for  reasons of which they’re completely unaware, at the ones who will rag this Roseanne and her character since both support Trump.   Well, I’m ragging all who rag Trump with the most ridiculous reasons…the lowest hanging fruit of racism, Russian collusion, sexism… sexual assault…in other worse, THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION.

I don’t need all the working class hero bullshit or be told why blue collar types are clodpated idiots for casting a Trump ballot.    I don’t watch Blackish because I loathe  the weekly  history, civics and anthropology lesson relentlessly shoves down our throats.   It comes across so judgemental.   I once liked that show, but it lost me.

Like Roseanne  will…IF….if it cuts back on all the social shark-jumping, and social force feeding.    It remind of the fall 1975, when perpetual guest star and TV hack, Ken Berry appeared on the last season of The Brady Bunch, as a neighbor hoping to turn his lowly family into a ethnic Neapolitan ice cream cone by adopting a Black kid and his Asian and White friends.

Please..

Look,  I know racism of ALL kinds is very real and in too many cases, it’s man’s  nost fatal flaw.  I know about phobias and all the divides, but please, can’t we just have a little break from harping on the issues???       I’ve lived too long now to get upset over the size of your carbon footprint, how Hollywood your issues are or emote at all over the length of your “do-goodery” resume.

Back to Roseanne, the trans-fashioned grandson  and the black grandchild were really too, too forced, as well as suffering from horrific to non-existent character development.

And so Roseanne writers here we are:  please give Dan more relevant things to say.   Imbue him with more riveting  emotions  (including the ability to at least pretend he can actually suffer through eight more episodes) and enough already  with the mortuary slab make-up.

I’ll probably be back next week.   But I make no promises after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I Was Wrong About Austin

The Austin bomber, that is….but not the city of Austin, with its carefully lunatic fringe in the heart of whatever is the mainstream of the moment.

The bomber turned out to be Mark Conditt, an obviously confused, 23-year-old kid, homeschooled, a community college drop out and recently,  unemployed.   Conditt, it appears, had no real life experiences in his scant, two plus decades on this Earth.    He left a rambling  25-minute audio message on his phone, admitting that he did was the bomber and verified a specific bombing signature that only the Feds knew.  If he explained why he did it, I didn’t hear that part of his confession.    Either authorities know why he did it and for some forensic reason,  aren’t saying or they genuinely don’t know.   In the the tape,  Conditt called himself a psychopath, blithely admitting he was unmoved by what he did or the end results of his actions.

I’m sorry two people died.  Hate this reality.  It’s awful that others were hurt, some  horrifically maimed.   One can scream and rally en mass for  gun control.  We can ban AR-15s and make buying a gun harder than  running for President, but all actions are moot until we do something about the distorted motivation of those who pull the triggers.   We, as a society,  have to do something about mental illness and whatever isssues this kid had.  He obviously had antisocial pathologies he couldn’t handle.  He was ill, very ill, under the guise of being sweet,  helpful, quiet and unassuming and some members of the media pounced on that like it made his action a soupçon less evil.  I’m always more mistrusting of the quiet, calm ones who seem as though they couldn’t hurt a flea.  It’s been my experience that they use their quiet time to plot ways to hurt many fleas.     Yet here we are more than a week later and the public seems to have lost interest in the case, almost overnight.  I don’t know…maybe he wasn’t the killer we, the public, wanted him to be.  There were no international connections to radical or political or terrorist cells,  no allegiance pledged, no ridiculous lengthy manifestos siding with the more societal aspects of  hula hoops and burlap.  He was a lowly white kid who was bat shit crazy.

And it’s reported that no one suspected a thing.   No one recognized his lunacy.  No one one saw any bomb tinkering.   How?  Somebody had to have known something,   He had roommates, he babbled a bit in house flipping with his father.    He punctuated  his intolerance, his confusion, his failure at life with murder and bombs meant to kill and wound and drive home a sick point that remains unclear.

Simplest of terms?    He was an evil kid with distorted realities, oddly savvy about the mechanisms of death,  but clueless about life.  He probably didn’t know how to even contemplate asking a chick out for a date, but he could construct a deadly bomb with a relatively intricate trip line.

That duality of both—what was present and what was absent in the mind of this  killer, is scary as hell.

 

Moving On…

The weeklong  mayhem that a one Mr. Mark Anthony Conditt,  age 23, created in Austin is over.   He offed himself earlier this morning, detonating one of his bombs as the Feds were moving in.   He left behind a 25 minute audio recording explaining he in fact built the bombs, even offering details that only the bomb maker would know.

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Why did he do it?    Why did he kill two people, maim three others and keep shoppers with money to swear  off Amazon for days?    Investigators aren’t offering specifics, only generalities.   He was home schooled,  which might or might not have contributed to his current state of “darkness” .  No one is saying how socialized he might  have been.  His people skills In Social situations might have been daunting for such a sheltered kid.

The Austin Assistant Chief of Police said his confession conveyed things typical of a young man facing “challenges” in his life.   He was unemployed, had some community college courses under his belt….he was last enrolled in school, taking classes in government  in 2012.   It looks as though he’d been helping his father flip a house in a north Austin suburb.

Well, whatever he was or wasn’t doing, he obviously wasn’t happy with his seemingly lackluster life,  so intends to go out in the blaze of glory he wouldn’t let his his life experience, so he’d construct seven bombs with some degree of sophistication and when all the blown bits of plastique settled, he’d killed two people, wounded four others and terrorized most of the Central, part of the Texas Hill Country before becoming his own third and final fatality with his seventh bomb,

Omce again, mental illness, the  ugly, degenerate step-child enters stage left.   And the salient point is proven—guns are tragically a easier to use, more expeditious way of killing people.   You grab a gun, load it and go,   With bombs you must research, learn…shop for  components to make non lethal prototypes, then when you have that down, you need to tske it one step further: it must be sanitized  for DNA.     The you arm It, then translort d safety by carto the places you though about leaving,  it to incur the most terror when it exploded.  Thats’s a lengthy process, good only for the most patient kind of murderer.

So, the fear that gripped Austin, now returns to some degree of “normalcy”:  being way too over crowded, forced to endure  traffic, trying to hard to be hip and cool 24/7, along with whiney city managers who fingerpoint and assess blame on everyone and everything, cause they’ll likely  accuse that  awful, dreadful  President Trump of somehow causing this …or that it’s some delayed affect from the Teapot Dome scandal.

Glad things are ok in Austin once again, but I hope the city has learned a lesson,   I would hope Austin would see this as a second chance.  a chance  to be less forced, less pretentious, less like it is and more like it was; when you could actually walk down The Drag or on Congress and run into real human beings and not rude, arrogant, soul-stealing one-sided political assholes.

 

 

 

Sad News, Bad News

For Christmas, my niece gave me tickets to see The Mavericks with portly, but terribly cute lead singer, Raul Malo.    I’ve had a crush on this talented man for years and was elated to see him in the flesh, but there was one drawback:  the concert was in Austin.

I can’t reminisce about my college days in the late 70’s and early 80’s without Austin bounding to the forefront of every memory.    The city played a key role in my early 20’s.   But that was then.   It was a time when Austin, by virtue of the University of Texas, it being the hub of Texas state government and its role in the burgeoning technology sector, was a wonderfully diverse place.  Naturally diverse.   Back then, it didn’t need to pay a PR firm a million bucks to come up with the trite slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”.   Back then, weirdness was organic.  .   It was what Sustin did best.   It was at a time when Austin didn’t have to try so hard.

I left after graduation.   I never really went back and on the few occasions I did, I didn’t recognize the place.  And when my niece and I travelled to Austin a few weeks ago, we arrived and were met by a city in what I deem to be in utter chaos.   It was cramped and crowded.  There was a large homeless encampment in a parking lot across under the freeway, from the Austin Police Department.   Some might say, ‘well, if you have to put homeless people somewhere….’

Austin is a Liberal haven, considered by many to be a vivid, blue oasis in the middle of a very red state.   Perhaps it always leaned left but I don’t remember it being this vociferously liberal.   I used to be more Liberal myself.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t notice.

Political atmosphere not withstanding, returning was a sad homecoming for me.  We got to the concert and it was great, but Austin is an exercise in overcoming claustrophobia.  We couldn’t wait to leave the theater and the teeming humanity cramped within it.

And while there’s no love lost for the city that has become the municipal cluster fuck I feel it currently is, I hate hearing about the bombings there.   Tragic, fatal and so destructive.  Why?   The criminal mind flummoxes me.

I was a broadcast journalist for the more than three decades and while I’m no criminal profiler by any means, I have often been able get a feel for who and what’s behind certain crimes.   But not this time.   The dots aren’t just not connecting,  they feel elusive.    Now, my general contractor is convinced the culprit is a  disgruntled, middle-aged white guy.    Then again, he‘s from Boston….a red blooded, ball bustin’ Southie to be exact .   He thinks everyone is a disgruntled, middle-aged white guy.

If I had to admit it, the bomber is probably a disgruntled white guy,  I’d have to go the route of the stereotype.   Ok, if Imdo that, then I also have to say that also means he’s neat, tidy.  Wears metal frame glasss, short graying hair.  Thin, angular face.  Doesn’t smile much, but one wouldn’t think him perpetually dour, either.   It would make sense to all if he was in the military with experience in bombs and so forth,  but that’s us, well me actually, trying to make sense of the senseless.   He has a detached backyard workshop which nobody knows is as fortified and sound proofed as it is.    He lives alone…maybe a decades old divorce on his permanent record, little to no cyber footprint, very few visitors so no one would be aware of his lifestyle or the fact that he tinkers in his workship late at night.   And early in the morning.   And during his lunch hours.

His motive?   My contractor went for the hackneyed one:   he’s an Austin native, pissed at the way the city has changed culturally, politically.   Maybe, but that seems too obvious.  Not only that, the randomness of the victims seems too intentional.  Additionally, news of the exceleration  of bombings and found devices as of late Tuesday evening, is nothing short of harrowing.  People everywhere, not just in Austin are terrified.  They can’t look at a brown paper packages without their lives flashing before their eyes.  But then again, isn’t that logically, probably part of the plan?  The intention?   It’s terrorism.   Pure and simple.

The Feds are being very withholding about information.   That’s also telling.

This is just a hunch,  but I can’t shake a certain “what if’ feeling.   If asked, I might suggest someone look into Austin’s political subculture.  What if this bomber…or bombers, are (for lack of a better phrase) “criminally nostalgic”  and hoping to make radically salient political and social points via a redux version of The Weather Underground?

Permit me to refresh your memory.  Harken back to the crazy 60’s and the Vietnam war.  The Weather  Underground (aka The Weathermen) was a militant, radical left-wing organization founded 1969 on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.   Anybody remember a cat named Bill Ayers and his relationship, such as it was, to President Obama?    Ayers was a founding member of a faction called Students for a Democratic Society, a self-described communist revolutionary group with the intent to overthrow imperialism.   Thry conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings (including police stations, the US Capitol Building, and the Pentagon) during the 1960s and 1970s in response to US involvement in the Vietnam War.   They rioted, assisted in jail breaks and in 1970, issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government, claiming it had been exploiting other nations by waging war as a means of solidifying America as a greater nation.

Most bombings were preceded by evacuation warnings.  Unlike the Austin bombings,  there were no fatalities, but lots of property destruction.  The Austin bombings at this point, seem exclusively aimed at killing and maiming.  So yes, the MO’s are different, at least based on what little info the Feds are releasing, but given today’s political and social upheaval and Austin’s vast hipster climate, I don’t think considering that these bombings might be the work of a subversive group, molded straight out of the radical past, is too far removed from the realm of possibilities.

This is going to sound flippant and it’s not my intention, but if you have a generation of young people who don man buns and knit caps in 96 degree weather, and who are desperately  trying to return LPs and turntables back to their audio glory of 40-plus years ago, I mean, why not put this possibility on the investigative radar???

Just a thought.

 

 

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Fate?

The new year vow I made  to myself since 2018 was still a week from becoming a calendar reality, is that this will be a year for experiencing things.   Why 2018?  Well, why not?  But maybe it’s because it’s a year closer to my destiny, which sounds a bit deep on level and absolutely stupid on another.

I used to feel quite certain that my destiny, fate, etc., was absolutely etched in stone, and the etching was done eons ago.   I suppose when I was younger and fuled by youth and all her caprices,  I felt a comfort in this belief.   Perhaps, I felt that no matter how much I screwed  up my journey, my destination was a given.

Was I ever that arrogant?

Yes.

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One of the glories of living in the center in a state as large as Texas, is that I can drive more than six hours in any direction and still be in Texas, with hours to go before I reach a an international border or four state lines.   This is a big state, so yeah, there’s  a lot to discover in your own backyard when your own backyard yard is this vast.   I’m ashamed to admit it, it but there are communities all around me, that are as alien to me as rural Uzbekistan.   But I intend to change that as I go somewhat gracefully into my twilight years.

Part of that effort took me to a resort west of Austin in recent.   Let me preface this with the fact that I’m hardly a stranger to Austin.  I went to college there and called it home for seven years.  When I graduated, I placed my life squarely in fate’s hands which after a few detours, dropped me in Houston and kept me there for 23 years.  I left Houston six years ago and moved to the Texas Hill Country, near the center of the state.

This ordinarily lovely, quiet spa/resort is a haven for families during Spring Break.   That’s when it goes from haven to God’s uterus.    I made reservations at this place as a secluded quiet “get away from it all” kind of place for  my niece and her two school aged kids who are enjoying a week off from school FOR Spring Break.   We chose the last weekend, thinking families would have considered it time to return home.  Color me clueless

So, I tried to make the best of my temporary chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese world by hitting the bar and the spa part of this resort.     The bar?  Over priced and overcrowded.   Apparently, I wasn’t the only one seeking solace from snotty noses.

The spa?   Overpriced as well, but I’m a sucker for a scalp massage.

My masseuse was a younger woman, age 38, divorced from an absolute tyrant based on her comments, but he’d given her a beautiful young daughter who is obviously the light of this woman’s life.      In between shoulder blade kneading, I learned that she came from a loveless family with a mother who was a real life, Simon Legree.  As she took my hamstrings to task, I learned that she lost a two dear friends to suicide.

By the time she laid her hands on my scalp it was time to discuss her lowly existence in a cramped Austin apartment…one of which mother completely disapproved.   As for her father?   I don’t know… I ran out of body parts.

I’m being flippant, but to be honest, the snippets she offered  about her life moved me.  These sessions are usually quiet, but once she started talking she couldn’t stop.  She vowed to love her daughter in ways she wasn’t loved.  She encouraged her daughter, never threatened her, as she had been.    I didn’t get the feeling she was trolling for tips.  I asked the questions (once a reporter, always a reporter) and she felt compelled to roll with them…en mass.    I listened, envisioning a life I never had, but could so easily relate to,  cramped apartments and all.

I dressed, thanked her and wished her luck.

I walked out of  her station that smelled like teal and clean linen, bathed in candlelight and sounds of Yanni on a continuous loop.    After I paid the bill, I  started crying.  Partly because of fee charged and partly because I felt uncharacteristically emotional.    I don’t think it was because of anything my technician said…or didn’t say.  It was a decent massage, nothing to write home about and not worth the amount I paid for it.  Yet, it was special.

The two hour drive was uneventful,  but the tears flowed again when I got home.  Did the massage release physical and emotional toxins?

Maybe it did and maybe…she needed to talk.   She needed to shout as loud as a quiet spa environment would let her.   She needed to say things, even in hushed tones; she needed to hear herself  say things; a release of her own toxins.

Fate, I guess you could say, put us in each others’ path.    She spoke and I listened.   She’s needed to speak and I guess I needed to listen.

You know,  life’s pathways and how they intersect…and all that.