Writing

Karma; I’m Now a Believer

The World: Hey Michael, Karma called looking for you.

Me: Crap! What did she want?

The World: I don’t know, but she was really pissed!

Me: What did you tell her?

The World: I told her right where to find you.

Me: Why would you do that? You’re not still mad about the…

The World: Uh huh, I told you I would get…

Me: Seriously?, Gawd…

Writing

What I learned From the Playground Bully

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During my childhood, the playground bully was a staple; usually ruling recess with an iron fist.  While I went to great lengths to avoid his and at times her attention, some days it was my turn in the barrel and that was the accepted reality of the times.

The bully’s of my youth were usually larger, meaner and more comfortable with confrontation than I was at the time. Their reputation usually preceded them with anecdotal stories which were relayed from student to student and thus the bully became larger than life. That was the playground. That was life. We survived and moved on.

As I look back, I realized that the bully’s of my childhood and the people who confronted those bully’s, taught me volumes about existing in the real world beyond the playground.

1. Size Matters: You don’t run your mouth to someone twice your size and expect to walk away unscathed.

2. I learned very early to think strategically: To get from A to B required a plan of action in order to avoid a confrontation, especially when I knew they were looking for me.

3. You learn to think quickly and measure your words: Every utterance had the potential to either provoke or calm the situation.

4. You learned diplomacy and the ability to reason your way out of trouble: I learned the importance of “engage brain before mouth”. I also learned how to reason with the bully, which rarely worked but was worth trying.

5. I learned team work: When the bully would go too far and it became time to end his reign, I learned early that by joining with others and confronting the bully, he would ultimately cave and run.

6. I learned to respect bravery: Every once in a while, someone would say “no” and square off with the bully. Win or lose, I admired the one who was brave enough to say “no more”. Their singular action usually started a chain reaction, in which a group formed and drove the bully away.

7. I learned compassion: I also learned why they were a bully. Their home life was a struggle and they were generally unhappy and acting out. I also learned that most bully’s would rather have friends than enemies.

8. I learned to choose a side: Either you were part of the bully’s circle or you weren’t. I learned the value of compromising with those who disagree. Everyone has their own problems, wants and desires and you learned, to whatever degree, how far you were willing to tolerate their position . The bully affected us all: either you were with him, which made life easier, or you were against him. Either way, you chose.

9 I learned to adapt and to cope: The playground  was your world now.  It’s not like you can just leave, so you learned to make it work.

10. You learned who you DIDN’T want to be like in life: In the presence of a bully, who you are, is defined relatively quickly. I wanted to be the one who “stood up”.

I remember two pivotal events in my life that formed a core belief that I still live by to this day.

The first occurred when I was about 10 years old during a Boy Scout meeting at a park. We were surrounded by eucalyptus trees when we heard the sound of a boy screaming for help. We spotted a large tree house and saw older boys hitting him with belts. I was stunned at the cruelty. My next door neighbor, Renée, immediately went to the tree, climbed it and the older boys began suffering her wrath and were jumping out of the tree in all directions, running for their lives. She then returned with the greatful boy who was without a shirt and covered with welts. She was my hero. We all just stood there with our mouths open, including the other adults; she didn’t fail to act, she took charge.

The next event occurred two years later in junior high school. I was wearing a religious shirt that said “Only He can prevent eternal fire” with a picture of Smoky the Bear on the front. I really liked that shirt but an older kid, who enjoyed picking on 7th graders, didn’t. He grabbed my collar and stretched it almost to the point of tearing the shirt. I was furious and attacked him. At 5’ 6” and maybe 120 lbs, I was no real threat but I did everything but chew his ear off and he actually fled never to bother me again.

Those two events changed me forever; I learned to never underestimate the sheer awesome will and power of a Parent in defense of a child, whether it’s her’s or not. I also learned to never, ever tolerate a bully. You either step-up or you sit down and shut up. Dante reserved the anteroom of hell for those who can’t decide which.

The Playgrounds of my youth were a microcosm of the outside world. After high school, I felt generally ready and prepared for the harsh realities of adult life.

In an bizarre way, we owe a twisted debt of gratitude to the school bully. Unintentionally, they contributed to the overall social development of the students they encountered. Sadly, I do recognize, however, that while some were able to overcome the bully’s existence, others, tragically were not and took their own lives.

Bully’s are a reality of life. They cannot be legislated away nor can they be ignored. I feel our best course is to explore the reason why children become bully’s and try and effect a change on that level.

 

 

Writing

The Modern Prometheus; Trump, Bolton and The Political Experiment That Haunts Me

About 5 years ago, I was watching one of the TV news channels, when this bitter sounding man began speaking about world conflict. He was providing critical analysis about the way in which America was influencing the world politically, and he didn’t seem very happy about the way it was currently being conducted. I remember being surprised at how quickly I developed a dislike for him. He was antagonistic, argumentative and seemed itching for a fight with whomever would give him the opportunity. I also remember that I didn’t like his mustache, it made him look “dated” and old, but it did seem to complete his overall persona as a grouchy old curmudgeon.

Over the following years, I would see him return to the news channels, usually as a guest commentator giving his personal views on the world situation, and without exception, he would scare the hell out of me each time. Ultimately, I concluded that he was the harbinger of World War III and that I was very thankful he was only a commentator and had no “real” power or authority. I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God this guy is not in charge of anything, he’d land us in the middle of a war”. “This guy’s” name is John Robert Bolton and he was America’s ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush.

And so it went until last week when President Trump made the same John R. Bolton the National Security Advisor-designate, effective April 9th, 2018. This is about as real as it gets and to me, this is a problem. Barring a brief moment of sanity by President Trump, John Bolton will begin scaring me to death on a daily basis on April 9th.

It’s a fine thing to be bold and resolute in your convictions, provided you temper that passion with patience and a desire for peace. I have observed neither quality in Mr. Bolton. For that matter, I don’t see those qualities in President Trump either.

President Trump (who I voted for) is acting like a petulant child as he conducts America’s business; hiring and firing as if our government was his personal TV game show. His behavior, while initially tolerable, has become grotesque. This unorthodox political experiment has created a monster of sorts.

Electing Donald Trump and taking a break from the “usual politics” initially sounded like a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunately, it has been disappointing and is quickly becoming intolerable. I’m afraid that our attempt to breathe “new life” into an antiquated and dying political system has resulted in a Frankensteinian outcome that we neither expected nor desired. I, for one, will not make the same mistake twice.

 

 

Writing

A Man Falls Into a Hole…

“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”

Aaron Sorkin

Writing

Words to live by

The next time you’re facing a question of value; should I buy the quality shoes or spend the extra money for the better “this or that?” Remember this: If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet. Translation; You’re worth it!

Writing

I Used To Be A Parent…

To be a parent to a child, I had no idea what to do. No handbook to guide me, so of course, one became two. Then two became three as my sanity waned. When three became five, sanity then ran away; it’s face now on a poster, wanted for escape.

All grown up, they’ve since moved away. They’re chasing their dreams in the most excellent of ways. We cherish the moments when they call or come stay, but we seem more like friends, than parents these days.

Oh, and sanity called me just the other day, to say hello and see if I’m ok. But at the mention of grandchildren, sanity groaned in pain, then just like old times, hung up and fled; as some things don’t  change.

To be a friend to my children, I have no idea what to do. No handbook to guide me…

 

Writing

Today, I’m Nero; Let it Burn.

It’s early in the morning and I’d like to turn on the TV. Ultimately though, that would lead to the national news and their dreaded panels or the local news where I would learn whose tractor flipped over or how the local chess team did. Other than that, it’s commercials about erectile dysfunction, Flo selling insurance or someone reminding me of how I should be feeling about an issue, which is frustrating and annoying. Keeping an opinion to yourself, is apparently a “cop out” in today’s world.

I get it though, we are in trouble. As a society, we’ve actually ground to a halt; paralyzed. The media, the people, the politicians; it’s either “this way or that”. Compromising, which used to be an act of meeting in the middle, is now seen as “giving in”; failing to get your way or “selling out” your cause. We are inundated daily with opinions and being forced to choose a side; and that side had better agree with the “popular” position or you will suffer certain backlash from their group. Well today, I’ll be Nero while Rome burns. If me not engaging in this mess matters that much, then burn baby,  burn, we’ll rebuild again tomorrow.

I don’t feel like turning on the TV or fighting with those who disagree with whatever position I have or don’t have and I definitely don’t care whether the chess team won or lost. Today, I don’t want to hear your opinion and tomorrow’s not looking too good either. However, erectile dysfunction is something to ponder, as I am getting older, so I might need to watch that commercial again.

No, I think I’ll just read a good book this morning and watch the sunrise. We’re still allowed to do that, right?

 

Writing

Learning English? Good Luck! Grammar, Homophones & Slang

The English language has gone “off the rails”. It’s like a code. My heart goes out to all who are brave enough to try.

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Writing

Democrat or Republican; We Should “Listen” to the Writings of Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin, a great American writer, producer and actor, offers a few provoking thoughts that we should all reflect upon. I feel that we have lost our way with regard to politics, and are desperately in need of a compass. Here are two “clips” from his writings.

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours”.

I read this as having simple respect for those whose opinion is different than our own. Politics brings out great passion in us and alternatively, bitter frustration when our opinions are dismissed. The ability to compromise seems all but lost, sadly.

And lastly,
“I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me”.

Bill Clinton was my President as was Bush, Obama and today, Donald Trump. I lean towards Republican regarding fiscal issues and towards Democrat on social issues. I may not like the one who holds the office, but I do respect the Office. Would you want to be President? Could you please everybody? Being President of the United States used to be considered one of the highest achievements that we could ever aspire to reach. Today, not so much. Simple respect, if not for the person, then do it for what the position was intended to be: the Protector of all that we Americans hold dear; Human Dignity, Personal Liberty and the Freedom of Choice, especially every two and four years.

 

Aging, Writing

Of Fathers and Sons

Recently, I came across a picture of my father and me.  It was the last time I saw him.  It was around 2012.  Even then unfortunately, I knew how this story would end.IMG_9901

My father’s demons were his everyday companion, always ready and eager to steal from him any joy or happiness that he might find.  They had arrived early in his life and they were with him until the end.  That end came a year ago this October and he died in the worst way.  He was alone.

Life had been cruel to him this last couple of years.  My sister passed away and he began to unravel.  He made choices that drove people away, choices that ultimately ended his life.  His family lovingly tried, some more than others, to save him from himself.  Ultimately the choice was his and he was tired.  His demons and the alcohol were unrelenting.

I wasn’t always there for him.  I didn’t want to be. Though I was his only son, I was most likely also one of his many demons.  He desperately wanted our relationship to be different.  A father and his son, but his drinking was getting worse and I was unwilling to endure his temper, his pain, his life.  We were different and it was easier to stay away.  I was not part of the loving family that surrounded him, my Aunt, Uncles, Cousins, Step-Mother and Sisters were.  In the end, I was hundreds of miles away when my Step Sister told me that he was gone.

I now find myself reflecting on the last 10 years of our relationship.   It is filled with distance and quick phone calls.  He was always there for me but I was not for him. I made that choice.  I’ll live with that choice.  I accept that I could not have saved him, but it would have eased my conscience to have tried.   I am thankful for those that did what I was unwilling to do.

I have his laugh and I miss him.  I am slowly learning to appreciate what I once resented.  He made mistakes, he was human and he was my father.   In the end, we failed each other, him early and me later.   He is gone now and his demons with him.  He now lives peacefully in the memory of those who knew him and those who loved him.