Six years, seems like yesterday

March 31, 2016

Six years ago, March 31, 2010, I started this blog.  I was reminded of that this morning on Facebook.  After writing an introduction to my blog and who I was and what this blog was to be about, I have written on a number of subjects. But let’s revisit 2010, shall we?

This inspiration for me to start a blog came from an old high school friend who was doing a late-night blog about being unemployed at nearly 50 and facing uncertainty in an economic downturn that none of us had ever experienced in our lifetimes. He would write about how he would go on interview after interview and seemingly be on the verge of that elusive job, but he would come up short.

Well, I’m relieved to say he found a job a few months later and his daughter is in college now.  He stopped writing as frequently as he was and is doing well.

Others, well, I’m not sure about. I’ve reconnected with friends who seem to come and go, the ones who’ve stayed with me, I am grateful for, the ones who aren’t in my sphere of influence anymore, they’re ok, I presume.

Over the last six years, I have written about many things, mostly the way I see the world.  Six years ago, I was 51. I am now 57. I am still very passionate about the things that matter to me. My family, my friends, my beliefs, my causes, disappointments and small victories.  In these last six years, I have become a surrogate father to a friend’s daughter. She is going to be 17 a week from Saturday and I am proud of her. My niece had three kids, now she has four. My nephew was deployed in Afghanistan back then, he now has two kids of his own, plus a step-son. My youngest niece, 17, is a good kid.

My dad, already in the throes of dementia in 2010, is now in full Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home.  My mother is still around, she is getting up there in years as well.  As someone told me recently, getting old isn’t for wimps.

All in all, I have a good life. I live in the same place I have for the past 10 years, in the same development for 12.  I am mostly retired from sport, although I keep a keen eye on the goings on. I contribute to society in small (and sometimes big) ways. I contribute to the Michigan Humane Society, Amnesty International, support my local public broadcasting station and would do more, but hey…

I am never bored, but do get lonely. I have led a solitary life for most of my time on this planet, so I’m used to it. I will never forget the heartaches I have endured, though. I am still angry and disappointed at what happened to me many years ago, even decades. Yet somehow, I don’t feel bitterness anymore, I feel sad for the people and institutions that let me down.  I get angry sometimes, but the passage of time has made me realize that I put myself in those situations and allowed others to dictate terms.  I have walked away from so many things in my life and allowed others to be “happy” at my expense. But in the end, that’s their loss, not mine. I just go on my way and survive.

In short, I have had a mostly fun experience doing this.  For those people who read my blogs, thank you. I hope that I have given you a fresh perspective and insight into my life and the challenges we all face at some point in time. Looking forward to many more years.

Donald Trump, seriously

February 25, 2016

A few weeks ago, I was out to lunch with a friend of mine. He told me of his 93-year-old rich Aunt (hey, everyone should have one of those) who lives in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. She has met the Libidinous yammering yam known as Donald J. Trump. He relayed the story she told him to me “She said ‘his children are smart, polite and well-mannered. He is a boorish, mean egotist.'” He then said something that sent proverbial shivers down my spine. “He’s not in this to play the game. He’s in it to win.”

Yes, apparently, he is.  Which of course, many of us have known for quite some time. He talks about “Making America Great Again.” One guy at a rally actually said, “He’s going to make America great again, it’s on his hat.” Of course, that brings to mind this:

Which of course comes after winning the first three primaries and taking a sizeable lead in delegates in the process, is now scaring the living shit out of the GOP big wigs, including the obvious anagram himself, Reince Priebus, stammering on one of the Sunday bullshit shows “I think that if you look at all these exit polls on both sides of the aisle, I think people are just sick and tired of—of politics in general, sick and tired of Washington, DC, and I think just actually sick and tired of—of all the—both parties. So I mean I—I think it’s just a general feeling out there that’s real. I wouldn’t deny it. But, obviously, all these, uh, folks are fighting to be the nominee and spokesperson of our party, um, and we’re going to be there to support whoever that nominee is.”

No, Reince, people are sick and tired of being fed the same slop every two years (yes, every two, because you will have Governor’s races in 2018, along with your friendly Congressman or woman and even though everybody hates Congress, they’ll vote them back in, just like they always do). People are sick and tired of being tossed aside in an economy that’s been rigged against them for the past 35 years. In short, they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.

So, along comes this bombastic jerk who pumps into the zeitgeist of 2016 and makes fun of everyone and everything. Bernie Sanders is trying his best to run on that same theme, but as Charles Pierce at put it the other day, Sanders “has failed the most superficial test of American “populism”—its targets are “Wall Street” and “billionaires,” vague categories of people with whom most Americans have little or no contact. This is opposed to He, Trump, who tells his audience that the problem is “Mexicans” and “Muslims.” People may not know who’s on the board of Citigroup, but they know they have to hit “1” for English. They may not know a billionaire, but they see women in hijabs at the mall. The Sanders campaign gives them targets for their anger. The Trump campaign gives them enemies, and that makes all the difference. ”

Yes, apparently, it does.  Here is man who has never held public office, never sat in on a policy meeting, yet is the overwhelming choice of the GOP to be their nominee for President of the United States. Of America. At least Reagan was a governor and understood the way government works. Whenever he’s pressed on an issue, he makes an insult or says, “we have people working on that.”

“Enemies.” America has always needed an enemy.  From King George VI, to the Mexicans to the Native Americans to the Germans, Japanese, Chinese, North Koreans, Vietnamese and the USSR, to faceless ones like Al Qaeda and ISIL, we have always needed enemies. But the Trump candacity has internalized it. Oh sure, there are threats looming, but don’t worry, The Donald will take care of that. A Wall along the southern border, that Mexico will pay for? Kicking out 11 million illegals? When the current President has deported more than the last five Presidents combined? Making fun of disabled people? Hey, everyone does it, right?  Kicking out Muslims? Really? Most just live their lives, go about their daily lives. They’re not terrorists. Yet we don’t call the Bundy’s terrorists, which is exactly what they are. Just like the kid who shot up Sandy Hook or Timothy McVeigh.

Last July, I wrote how Trump was irrelevant. But he has turned out to be very relevant. Jeb! (who still a Bush) said “you can’t insult your way to the Presidency, Donald.” Well, apparently you can. At least in 2016.

Here’s the truth: Donald Trump could win the Presidency. Then, we’d be the laughingstock of the world. But his campaign has shown America at its’ worst. A Xenophobic, racist, untoward, nonplussed country that couldn’t tell you what the Bill of Rights are, but knows what Kanye West and Taylor Swift are fighting about. It has show us that a petty, small man could become President in 270 days, because a Black man put his hand on the Bible.

The reality of Alzheimer’s

November 11, 2015

It was somewhere in Texas, around 2005 or 06, that my dad pulled over to the side of the road and said to my step-mother, “I can’t do this anymore.” He never drove again. It was 2009 when, standing in the driveway of my sister’s house, that I finally realized he had dementia. I last saw him walk in August, 2011. A month later, he was in the hospital, felled by a series of mini-strokes. Still, six days after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom, you could carry on a lucid conversation with him. Three months later, in December of 2011, he was put into a nursing home, where, nearly four years on, he still lives. Lives, might be the wrong word, exists is a better one.

This is a collage of pictures my step-mother made for the staff at the nursing home. They love him and we love them for taking very good care of him.  This was my dad, before Alzheimer’s robbed him of his abilities. It is a slow decent, it just doesn’t happen overnight.


The reason for this posting is the shit-storm that has been going on between George Will and Bill O’Reilly about O’Reilly’s book “Killing Reagan.”  There are a number of hypothesis about Reagan’s descent into dementia and Alzheimer’s, but O’Reilly puts forth the theory that the assassination attempt in March of 1981 exasperated his symptoms and almost caused his staff to forcibly remove him from office shortly into his second term. But this isn’t about Will, the pompous twit that he is, or O’Reilly, that blowhard who is still pissed off about getting fired by CBS 30 years ago.  Nor is this about Reagan, whom I found to be totally lacking in credibility even before becoming President.

It is about Alzheimer’s and its effects on not only the person afflicted with it, but the family and those around them. Friends, neighbors and total strangers. Since 1968, my dad has lived in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with my step-mother, Ann, a farmer’s daughter from Manitoba.  I had just turned 10 when they got married.  I was attending boarding school in North Dakota at the time and would until 1974, when my mother remarried and my step-father said “you’re going to ‘normal school.'” Whatever that was.

My dad wasn’t much of a father.  But he did teach me how to be loyal. An intangible trait, perhaps, but it has served me well in my 57 years. After all, his best friend was a man of dubious character for many years.  I have many friends of dubious character. But I’m loyal to them.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel affliction. It takes away your cognitive skills and then your essence. In the first months following his paralysis, he could carry on a conversation, he knew who you were and where he was. Early on, he asked Ann, “when are we going home?”  Since then, his cognition has gone down to the point of where he talks very little and there are days when he says nothing.

Alzheimer’s knows what its’ doing. As us Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers get older, it will happen to us, too.  That we have spent billions on pills like Viagra, yet Alzheimer’s research is a fraction of that, is, to pardon the expression, mind-blowing.  Which is exactly what Alzheimer’s does, it blows up your mind and scatters it to the four winds.

Someone once said “getting old isn’t for wimps.” There’s a lot of truth to that statement.  But no one, not my dad, grandfather, Sargent Shriver or Ronald Reagan, should spend their final years in a descending fog into nothingness, not remembering spouses, children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Will and Bill O’s sniping over Reagan’s condition does a grand disservice to us all, because it mocks those of us who have to live with it every damn day.

There is one more picture I’d like to share with you. It is a picture taken by my niece, Bianca, of my dad and his great-granddaughter, Dalis…She is looking at him and he is looking at my niece, who took the picture. It is a picture of a 16-month-old girl who will grow up hearing stories of her grandpa Ric and hopefully will live in a world where Alzheimer’s is a thing of the and Dalis

The stench of Russ Thomas

November 6, 2015

Source: The stench of Russ Thomas

The Irrelevancy of Donald Trump

July 19, 2015

We, on what media likes to call the professional left, often make fun of the GOP and their gaffes and pandering to the madness that has afflicted them since 1980 (but really since 1968). But yesterday, in Iowa, might have been the day the madness reached its nadir or somehow continues unabated. It might be the day the clowns exit the car or the double down and drive it off the proverbial cliff.

This is a fork in the road of their own making.  They can, if they are smart, pull back from the brink and become the Party of Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, or they can continue on the path towards oblivion first started by Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Yesterday, in Iowa, Donald J. Trump, a carnival barker, legend-in-his own-mind, said this about John McCain, who spent five years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam.   “He is not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

He then went on to say this on his Facebook post:

“I am not a fan of John McCain because he has done so little for our Veterans and he should know better than anybody what the Veterans need, especially in regards to the VA. He is yet another all talk, no action politician who spends too much time on television and not enough time doing his job and helping the Vets. He is also allowing our military to decrease substantially in size and strength, something which should never be allowed to happen.

Furthermore, he was extremely disrespectful to the thousands upon thousands of people, many of whom happen to be his constituents, that came to listen to me speak about illegal immigration in Phoenix last week by calling them “crazies”.

These were not “crazies”—these were great American citizens.

I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.

I want to strengthen our military and take care of our Veterans. I want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN especially for those that serve to protect our freedom. I am fighting for our Veterans!”

Yes, OK, Elmer. By disparaging and disrespecting them?  Especially John McCain, who spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton? Who is more disabled then many who have been that way their whole lives?  A man, who just seven years ago, you supported for President? As another writer of my acquaintance, Barry Friedman, put it on his Facebook page yesterday “Donald Trump has done what John McCain could not do. Get liberals to start defending John McCain again. Bravo, Trump. Your douchebaggery is astonishingly cruel, astonishingly hypocritical, you who did your military service at Wharton School of Finance in Pennsylvania.”

Yes, son of Fred, not surprisingly, gets the silver medal when in comes to draft deferments during Vietnam.  Little Donnie-boy got four. The winner and still champion is Richard Cheney. Up until yesterday, Trump was leading the Republican polls and almost a sure bet to be on the stage in Cleveland on August 6, when the first debate takes place.

That we are even talking about this guy is amazing. He is not a serious candidate, but he is, or was, until the outrageous statement he made yesterday, a serious threat to mount a third-party run, which does seem highly unlikely now.  Sixteen months away and we’re already knee deep in the brown stuff.

This all started when McCain condemned Trumps speech in Phoenix last week, saying it brought out the “crazies.” Excuse me, Uncle Fester, but you probably forgot that you were the one who unleashed Sarah Palin on America.  But yes, Trump’s anti-immigration speeches since “declaring” as a candidate a month ago and a magazine saying he was taking up Nixon’s mantle of speaking to “the Silent Majority” or the fictitious, coming-unglued newscaster Howard Beale of “Network,” (“I’m mad as hell and i’m not going to take it anymore!!!”) struck a nerve among those who want to blame the “other,” – Jews, blacks, women, Mexicans, hippies, – there’s always someone else to blame for something here in the United States.

There are some in the GOP who said he was a Democratic plant, based on his previous support for Democrats and his personal relationship with the presumed frontrunner, Hilary Clinton.  Trump is neither. The owner of a mansion and yacht, who puts his name on everything, but never his money, is nothing but a huge phony and loudmouth. There are serious issues and maybe Trump’s sound and fury signifying nothing and the backlash it’s produced might spell a turning point for the Republicans. Do they, in their quick commendation in the wake of yesterday’s comments, seek to isolate and make Trump a non-factor, or do they continue to hope he goes away on his own. Which he won’t.

We’ve heard this kind of talk before, but nothing’s ever changed. The GOP still plays to the fear and longing of those who hate more than those who accept.  Maybe now, it might. Otherwise, they will go the same way of their ideological predecessor’s, the Whigs.  Which bring me to the end of this post with a reference from two iconic characters, basically summing up the pickle the Party of St. Ronnie is in:

McCoy: Spock, you haven’t changed a bit. You’re just as warm and sociable as ever. 

Spock: Nor have you, doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates.

The Unraveling Continues

June 21, 2015

It is time to stop pretending that we are the United States of America. It is time we stop deluding ourselves that we are United in anything.  After the events of Wednesday in South Carolina, it has never been more clear to me that we will never, ever get past a certain point, never stop the “us against them” rhetoric, that the rationale behind this was somehow not political, that, once again, it’s too soon to talk about race, guns, religion.

It is time to stop thinking that anything will get resolved. Ever.  It is time that we understand that. Because nothing ever gets “resolved.” Nothing.  This 21-year-old who went into a church, sat quietly for an hour and then slaughtered nine people, wanted to start a race war.

Somewhere, in Corcoran State Prison in California, prisoner number B33920, smiles.

That this atrocity happened in a black church, a historic church that has survived for nearly 200 years in a state which still hoists the Confederate flag on its state capital in Columbia. South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union following the election of Lincoln and the last to be re-admitted in 1876, in a compromise that gave the Presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for Union (Northern) troops to leave the south.

Nothing will ever be resolved because that’s the way it happens in this country.  We never get around to resolving the important things, like race, poverty and injustice. Why?  Because every time we try, someone pulls out a gun and starts shooting.  On Thursday, I wrote ” They keep yapping on the TV about how “they don’t know what motivated (him).” Bullshit. They know exactly what motivated him. He even said to the woman he let survive, “There’s too many of you. You’re taking over this country. You’re raping our women. This has to stop.” That he cited the Trayvon Martin murder as “justification” for this is just outlandish.

What this person did was premeditated and planned. Granted, he might be as delusional as prisoner B33920, but he went in there with intent and carried it out.  He did it because there are cowards in this country who react in horror and the next moment try and explain away the motivation behind it.  A “lone wolf,” “a deranged fan,” “drifter,” “disheveled loner,” a “radical hippie.” This person is none, none of those.

This was not an “accident” as Rick Perry asserted yesterday. Then what was it, Governor? A spokesman says he “misspoke.”  Of course he did. Just like Joni Ernst said last year. The chorus at False News is already saying it’s too soon to talk about this.  But we have to, we need to in order to move the needle.

But we won’t. Because we don’t know how to talk to each other. And we don’t have the time. I have to pay my bills, plan a trip, take my kid to practice, the list of excuses masquerading as reasons are as long as my arm. We don’t make the time.

Please don’t tell me this has nothing to do with the guy in the White House, because it does. To deny it is to deny reality.

It is too bad that George Carlin isn’t around to speak the truth. Or Robin Williams or Richard Pryor.  First of all George would be having so much fun right now, as would Richard. Carlin predicted this before he died.

The unraveling continues, unabated.  And yes, we can trace this back to History’s Yard Waste. Old tanned, rested and ready. Nixon and his “Southern Strategy.” Maybe even Goldwater.  Funny thing, though, both of those would never be nominated in today’s GOP.

A huge first step would be taking down the flag of sedition and treason.  The south says this isn’t about slavery, but, if you read the various secession declarations, those state’s who made up the Confederacy (and their ancestors) are liars, plain and simple.

Here is a sample. From Alabama: “And as it is the desire and purpose of the people of Alabama to meet the slaveholding States of the South, who may approve such purpose, in order to frame a provisional as well as a permanent Government upon the principles of the Constitution of the United States.”

The original sin of this nation continues.  This was well-thought-out, well planned.  There isn’t anything post-racial about America. As Pryor once asked “How long will this bullshit go on?”

Forty years later, the better question might be “When will this bullshit stop?”

Oh, prisoner B33920’s name? Charlie Manson.

Stupid Should Hurt

June 12, 2015

I don’t get it. I really don’t. How people can say things like what Nevada Congressman Cresent Hardy said at a Libertarian rally in Las Vegas recently, essentially saying that people with disabilities are a drain on society.

I’ve heard it before.  All my damned life.  I have kicked and screamed and yelled and challenged people to try and live on what I receive each month. I have been shunned by a society that doesn’t want me, have any need for my talents or insight, but they get to call me a “freeloader.”


There are a million reasons why I’m angry.  But this asshole just doesn’t get it.

I never asked to be born, let alone with Cerebral Palsy.  Yet somehow, I managed against very long odds, to carve out a life for myself. Granted, it’s not the life I envisioned or wanted, but it’s a life. It is said that life happens when your planning other things, but when you’re wearing braces at five and getting purposely locked in a bathroom and thrown on the floor at nine, you pretty much know what your life is going to be like.

I understand how people look at me and assume certain things.  The names I have been called are too numerous to recount. I have been called cynical. To me that’s a compliment.  It might mean I am not anyone’s cup of tea, but at this point in my life, I don’t give a shit.

These people are lacking empathy.  This guy can’t even count.  It’s just that his worldview is so narrow that he can’t see the bigger picture.  Well, here it is, asshole:  We all have a disability. Yours is being a Rethuglican.  Who hates people with disabilities.  I’ll tell you what dumbass, you come to my house and tell me i’m a “drain on society,” and you’ll get my 30-year-old javelin shoved up your ass.

I have a bumper sticker on the back of my chair.  It says, simply “Not a Republican.” This, is yet another reason why. Here is a picture of me when I was nearly 10. Those braces hurt. A lot. Now, tell me how I’m a drain on society, Mr. Congressman?10458352_10154291750005578_2428510650537870333_n

Not much has changed

May 20, 2015

Yesterday, while looking at something else I found this:

That is was nearly 20 years ago isn’t the point. The point is that it’s only gotten worse.

Taken at face value, you could say the same things today that Mr. Hertsgaard was saying in 1996, like this…

“That is the oldest canard, I think. This idea of a liberal bias is now, twenty almost thirty years old. Nixon started talking about that with Pat Buchanan as his speechwriter.

You know, first of all, who do they work for? They work for the biggest corporations in the country…..not exactly inclined to tearing down the established order. But more importantly, look at the coverage. And that’s really, I think the most persuasive proof that this idea of a liberal press is really poppycock.”

Ah yes, good old Pat Buchanan, of the vile Buchanan’s.

On Bob Woodward, who, even 20 years ago, had lost his credibility in the journalism community.

Here’s a guy who made history, with Carl Bernstein. History. Very few journalists ever do that. And made history in a very grand and noble fashion…. the best of what journalism’ is supposed to be about. And, as you say, inspired an awful lot of people… set off a whole revolution within the Press.

And now you look and it’s 25 years later, and he’s basically become a stenographer to power. And “The Choice” is not the first book, where you see this coming. His book on the Gulf War also was very insider. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong about writing an insider book, but it is extremely limited.

And essentially what he does, he’s kind of like a tour guide to the White House. And you get enormous, enormously interesting detail of who’s sitting where and who said what. But no critical distance. And obviously Watergate had quite a bit of critical distance. And unfortunately, he seems to have lost that interest.

He says, if you ask him “What is journalism about?” He says, “It’s about ‘the truth.'” There are very few journalists in Washington who could get away with saying something quite so self-important: “The Truth.” But it’s quite right. That’s what we’re supposed to be about. I think that his truth, though, is a very narrow vision of things. Why? Because it is told in the words and from the perspective of the power-wielders, and with no view from outside the wall.

And that’s really I think in a nutshell, the problem with so much of the coverage in Washington. Is that the habits of mind that inform it, the sympathies that inform it, are all with the people at the top. And not with the people outside the Palace.

And that’s who we journalists are supposed to writing for. We’re not supposed to be writing for the powerful. We’re supposed to be writing for the citizens of this democracy, who rely upon us to tell them what’s going on here because they can’t be here themselves. They have jobs, they have kids, they have all these things they’re supposed to be doing. We as journalists are their surrogate to tell them what’s going on in their government, in their democracy.”

And it’s only gotten worse.  If you read the complete transcript, you’ll find he takes on the “nightly news” (which isn’t really “the news”) and you can replace Brokaw, Jennings and Rather with the current three and they’re still just actors.  But Hertsgaard saves his best arrows for the Sunday morning gobshite meanderings…

“I think that they are the most over-rated things. The only people who pay attention to that, to those shows on Sunday mornings, are here in Washington. You know, and the occasional political junkie out in the country.

That’s again something that’s very important inside the Palace Court because you can go to the cocktail party and these people watch the weekend shows — the Georgetown set and the journalists, they all take that stuff seriously. On the other hand, because the Press takes it seriously, those shows often do end up helping to set the agenda for the news of the week.”

Earlier this year, Chuck Todd, the caretaker at what used to be “Meet the Press,” let the cat out of the bag when he actually told the truth, as opposed to what he normally does, in a exchange with comedian Lewis Black, who asked him, point blank, why don’t you call these people out on their lies? “Because they wouldn’t come back on our shows.” That, right there, is the modern day “press” in a nutshell.

Keep in mind, this was 1996, the year FOX News was founded.  As the above video states, “How long has this been going on?” But I think the bigger question remains, in the immortal words of Richard Pryor, “How long will this bullshit go on?”

We, the people, have the power to change that. We can change it by demanding it.  “Let’s remember here the public airways are ours. They belong to the people of this country,” argues the interviewee, “They don’t belong to NBC and CBS. And in theory, we could very well say to them, as the 1934 Communications Act originally implied, that, “Look, if you want to be able to make hundreds of millions of dollars of profit every year, well then,you have to give something back to the community. And one of the things you can give to the community is not just 22 minutes of happy talk news every night, but 30 minutes or 60 minutes and you can’t sell ads.” There is nothing technological about television that keeps it from doing a good job. That is the pursuit of profit speaking. Not the requirements of the television technology.”

Once again, I say, this is why we can’t have nice things anymore.

What Really Matters

May 8, 2015

Lets see, I’m supposed to give a crap about Bruce Jenner “transitioning,” Tom Brokaw’s cancer, Savannah Guthrie’s return to Australia and some Kardashian doing something. Also, whether Tom Brady is the ass we’ve always known him to be, or just a victim of circumstance.

I just…don’t. These people have more money than they know what to do with and in the meantime, the shitheads in Washington want to cut my benefits and Medicaid? Or end it altogether?  For what? What the heck did I do to deserve this? Answer me that, all you people who will feel it eventually, too.

Look Tom, we all get old, we all get sick and we all die of something.  Not all of us have the resources at our disposal to go to the Mayo Clinic or Sloan-Kettering or have the best Dr.’s on speed dial.  Or have a daughter who’s a top Doctor in San Francisco.  It just goes to show the difference between the haves and have-nots.

Nor do I really care about Bruce Jenner or his step-daughters or his transitioning. There are millions who do this every damn day, but do they get an interview with Diane Sawyer?  Jenner’s moment of glory came in 1976.  Why are we still paying attention to him? Because he married OJ Simpson’s best friend’s widow? Or that he’s a “reality” TV “star”?  Or that he has a cadre of step-children that Agnes Nixon couldn’t have thought up in her wildest “All My Children” stories? Is that why we pay attention to a has-been?

No, we pay attention because we are told to. That, even in the 700-channel, a niche for everyone, world of info-tainment, where the news is skewered and no-one believes anything anymore, unless the hear it from this place or that place, when we are told to watch something, most do.

You want to know what I care about? My family. The people who look after me, my friends.  I care about their kids and problems. Sure I know rich people, but the majority of folks I know are just living day-to-day. None of us are promised anything beyond this moment.  These are the people i’m supposed to care about, not the others.

I happened to watch the Brokaw “special” and was nonplussed by it. People get cancer every day. One thing I do know, is that you never survive cancer. It always comes back.  Life is too short to worry about other people’s dilemmas and problems.

Take care of yourself and look after those around you. Pay attention to what is going on in the world and hear your friends and family when they need you.  I have been reminded of that in more ways than one this week.  And not from Tom Brokaw, Savannah Guthrie or Bruce Jenner, either.

Riots and Memories

April 29, 2015

History repeats itself…

In the summer of 1967, I was eight years old. My parents were still married and both sets of my grandparents were still alive.  I had just returned from a two-week stay at Camp Grace Bentley on Lake Huron.  It was a weekend.

It had been a hot summer. We lived in Redford. 19720 MacArthur.  But our mailing address was Detroit.  My sister was at my grandparents house in Detroit and Finkell and Wyoming. Wisconsin Street, a beautiful, tree-lined street just south of the Lodge Freeway. They had lived in that house since 1935. They were my mother’s parents. My sister was seven and the apple of my grandfather’s eye.  It was July 23rd. Just another night in the fourth-largest city in America.  It was a Saturday night, the Motortown Review was playing at the Fox Theater. Martha Reeves and the Vandella’s were out with their new single, “Jimmy Mack.” Motown was cracking out the hits like the Big Three were cracking out cars.  Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had a hit record too, “CC Rider/Jenny Take a Ride.”

You could hear those songs on Keener 13 or the Big 8, CKLW “The Motor City.” Even though the station was across the border, in Windsor, its 50,000 watt, clear-channel signal meant you could hear it from Maine to the Great Plains, from Hudson’s Bay to Key West.  People from California with powerful radios sets could pull it in. It was the fourth rated station in Cleveland, just on the other side of Lake Erie. It came to be known as the “Summer of Love.”

Except it wasn’t.  Two years earlier, some eight months after Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, the Watts section of Los Angeles broke out in riots.  Then Harlem, Cleveland, Chicago, Wichita, San Francisco and Oakland.  But they said it “couldn’t happen here.” Well, it did.

Police raided a Blind Pig, celebrating the coming home of a family member from Vietnam.  Several people were arrested. Then someone threw a Molotov cocktail and a kid threw a brick. Then, by daybreak on that Sunday morning, crowds began gathering.  At the beginning, “there was equal opportunity rioting,”  remembered the late Neal Shine. The Tigers, in the heat of the last true pennant race, played a doubleheader against the Yankees. One of the New York writers, looking out beyond left field, remarked “your city is burning down.” After the games were complete, the legendary radio announcer for the Tigers, Ernie Harwell, was given a police escort down Michigan Avenue to the Dearborn border and a cop told him “the city’s in bad shape.”

That, it turned out, was an understatement. Five days later, forty-three people were dead (actually, 44, a National Guardsman was killed when his commander mistook him for a sniper, but was never recorded), property destroyed, lives ruined, a city changed forever.  My grandparents came to stay with us in our small house on MacArthur, “only for a while.”

Nothing would ever be the same, it never is after something like that happens.  I have no idea what happened to the people who were arrested following the riots but I know the story. The Tigers were supposed to host the Orioles the next three games. They didn’t. The series was shifted to – Baltimore.

What happened in Baltimore over the last two weeks is still under investigation. No one can answer how Freddie Gray went into a police car, arrested for seemingly nothing except being black, came out of the police car paralyzed and died a week later. No one knows what sparked the rioting that has turned the city into 1967 Detroit all over again.  But, then again, we do know.

If you are a black man, you are marked.  Marked and doomed.  Unless you are very lucky.  In the 1990’s it was revealed that crack cocaine was designed to eradicate black men from America.  If you are black, you have probably spent time in court, jail or prison.  I am no fan of Fox News, but Shepard Smith told it better than anyone on Monday:

“I also don’t know where we are. We’ve got a major American city that has decades of turmoil within this neighborhood,” Smith said. “Decades! You’ve heard the stories from Doug McKelway a little while ago of people being arrested for nothing, a violent crackdown for years and years, of them feeling powerless and hopeless and nobody listening to what they were saying. One quarter of the youth locked up. Clearly there is a big problem. Then all of a sudden an African-American man is taken into a vehicle and he comes out of it and dies. And you get nothing from authorities except a suspension. And those who would do harm take an opportunity to do harm. And here we are. But it is what has happened between all of that and today that has led to this. There is no escaping that reality.”

White America has always seen colors.  Of course, the voices from the canaries, like Donny Trump, millionaire, and Bill-O-the-Clown weighed in, attacking President Obama for not doing enough.  Trump, who’s “thinking about running” for President (for the thousandth time), said “Our African-American President should go to Baltimore.”

The President didn’t go to Baltimore.  Instead, he did his best President Johnson (“Law and order have broken down in Detroit, Michigan. Rioting and looting have nothing to do with Civil Rights.”) calling the rioters and looters “thugs.” Which, to some, is the new epithet for the N-word. But it goes much deeper than that. A young girl put it bluntly, via NBC:

“I really feel like nobody cares about us, nobody cares about me,” the 10th-grader said in between tears at Empowerment Temple AME Church. “It’s so hard to get through school…I want to make my mother and grandmother proud of me.”

You know what missing? Her father.  Yes, a black man, who probably is in a Maryland prison, or in a prison somewhere.  This is what gets to the crux of the matter. After the 1967 riots, black men were taken in to training and each was given an alarm clock. They had no idea how to use it.  A civic organization called Focus: Hope, was formed to bring both blacks and whites together and provide job training for low-income Detroiters.  It is still around, nearly 50 years later. But people’s memories are still long and the city still divided. A city, that, in 1960, was 85% white and a population of nearly 1.8 million is now a shell of its former self: 83% African-American and maybe 700,000 living within its 125 square miles.

Baltimore, a medium sized city in a much more concentrated area, faces an uncertain future, as do many other American cities.  The aftermath of what happened will be talked about and debated, yet life goes on in the neighborhoods where nothing ever really changes. The TV trucks will eventually go away, the programs designed to help the people who need it will fall woefully short and another generation will lose out to racism and hate, distrust and disillusion, drugs, arrests and death. There will be a Focus: Hope-like organization in Baltimore to spring up to try and help those who need it. Some will succeed, others won’t.

It sucks. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, there was talk that America was “post-racial.” And then, of course, it never happened. People started calling him names and saying how he wasn’t American, wasn’t born here, was a secret Muslim, that he was rounding up all the young people to “re-educate” them. The “Tea-party” started.  People started wearing Gadsen shirts and buying flags saying “don’t tread on me,” without knowing the history behind it. They started pulling out obscure names from the past, like Bill Ayres and Saul Alinsky – “Who the fuck is Saul Alinsky?” Bill Maher asked.

Today, a baseball game will be played in Baltimore. With no people in the stadium.  An old college professor of mine, Walt Schneider, once predicted this would happen.  Thirty-three years ago.  The Orioles will then play Tampa starting Thursday.  In Tampa, as the home team. Camden Yards is usually sold out, while The Rays fail to get 15,000 fans a night.  Surreal is too mild a word to use at this point.

My grandparents never moved back to their house. Six weeks after the riots, my parents and I took a ride to Jamestown, North Dakota, where I would spend the majority of the next seven years of my life.  Far away from home. My parents got divorced before my first year was over.  My dad moved to Canada and got remarried. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Richard Nixon, history’s yard waste, got elected President.  My grandmother got sick and died in 1968. The Tigers lost the 1967 pennant on the last day of the season, but in 1968, they won the World Series, providing the city with a fleeting hope that maybe things would get better. Jerry Green, the great Detroit News sports columnist, said to then-owner John Fetzer, following the Tigers improbable come-from-behind victory over St. Louis, “You might just have saved the city.” They didn’t.

Things change, yet nothing changes.  Just the names and faces.  A blind pig, an arrest of a man for seemingly nothing. A rock is thrown, police over-react, people over-react.  Wash, rinse, repeat. Nothing is ever learned.