Category Archives: Political

Homemade Fig Newtons

A snack idea turned into monster memories and a response to a scary post

Can prunes be an adequate substitute for the leftover Halloween candy in my freezer?

We tried to get rid of it, the bags of miniature Snickers and 3 Musketeers. Brian was handing out so much candy per customer that it prompted one observant kid to ask whether we had had very many trick-or-treaters. Sounding even more grown up was the young woman who told us to stay warm as I stood there in the doorway wrapped in a comforter. Enjoying what was left of unrestricted youth, the teen was roaming the neighborhood with her friends on the one night that a random stranger might be welcomed. Trick-or-treat for as long as you can.

Eventually, we might circle back to the fun it was to put on a wig. College bars. Parties. You’re back to deciding what to be. A Potluck? Now you have to decide what to bring. So, there you are, Little Red Riding Hood with your tater-tot casserole and cold feet because those are the shoes that go with that outfit. You came with Doug. He’s a wolf. Of course, he is. He brought a bag of pretzels. We hate Doug. Then those parties you somewhat dreaded – parties that required overcoming barriers, psychological barriers, just to leave the house – these parties will be something to miss while you’re either supervising your own monsters or cooing over the costumes of other people’s kids.

“What a beautiful princess you are!”

“What a scary ghost!”

A lollypop and a bacon strip – a pair for some reason – came to our door the year I started to write this post, 2019. The bacon worried – and probably hoped – that he might offend a vegetarian. He was itching for something, an encounter that would cue the statement churning in his head, a belief in search of context. What exactly did he want to say all puffed up like that? A skeleton – first the meat and now the bones – carried a ten-gallon pumpkin for her stash. Her mother was quick to tell me that “She picked it out!” We laughed. Smart kid. Brian has robbed a baby of the fun of dropping something into his bucket of candy. So, he gives the boy another chocolate “for the hand.” Held in the arms of his father, the boy’s little arm swings around like a boom. His candy lands with a pleasing crinkle. You can see this on the baby’s face. He did that. Did we see? Yes. We saw. You did that! Good for you, kid!

It’s amazing what can be understood and between whom. A baby. A man. A politically incorrect slab of meat.

Or is it dumbfounding what is confused?

A Facebook post about a left-wing global warming conspiracy brings me down. It is liked and shared without question, replacing the discussion we might have had.

This is from my Facebook feed.

The guy who posted this used to be a friend of mine. We were part of the same weekly dinner group. At some point we lost touch, only to reconnect on social media. There I can see that things are going well for my old friend. Girlfriends. Dogs. Skiing. Lots of pictures in beautiful places. Nature. There is God. Crusaders are mixed with A Course in Miracles – something I associate with Marianne Williamson who endorsed Dennis Kucinich for president for ’04 and who herself ran for the office in 2020 as a peace candidate. What I remember about Williamson’s take on The Course was that one can be centered in love or fear. The idea prepared me to deal with those who have made an art out of scaring people, be they salespeople, politicians or someone who thinks they are closer to God than I am. Anyway, the contradiction reminded me of Stu.

Stu was a gay sergeant in the U.S. Air Force before Bill Clinton’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He had married his beard who was stationed somewhere far away. Marry a lesbian and live with your lover. It was a fairly common survival tactic in the military, or so was my understanding back then. (More recently I heard a similar story. A lesbian Mormon approached a bachelor friend to suggest a marriage that would be arranged to help her pass in that world. I can’t remember what he was supposed to get out of the deal. Reluctant sex? Money? The casting off of stigmas that we invent? I’m so sorry that this person can’t just be who she is – openly – without fear of punishment.) Well, I suppose it’s naive and possibly insulting (for that I am sorry), but I was floored to learn that this gay man who took a wife for show was a Republican. “They’re called Log Cabin Republicans,” he told me.

I never knew my old dinner party friend as a particularly religious guy, though not without some belief in a higher power, a sense of mystery behind the curtain so to speak. And now here he is lauding the late Reverend Billy Graham. It’s just another thing that separates us: A religious leader who defended the death penalty instead of seeking mercy for the condemned; and a belief that pollution that could be prevented isn’t contributing to the shrinking polar icecaps.

Why is it taking me so long to finish this post? When did a first draft appear? November? 2019. That was pre-Covid-19. Remember when we used to say pre-9-11?

You’ll have to deal with the leftover candy, unless of course you’re the sort to turn off the lights and hide until eight-thirty when the little monsters go in for the night for their baths and bedtime stories. Was it not for Brian, who knows what I would do? I almost skipped it last year. But eventually I joined him on the porch. I had been washing windows and putting up lights to cheer up the place for the coming winter. It will be dark at four-thirty before you know it. So, I was tired and it was hard to get off the couch. Hard not to just doze off to the sound of Brian greeting the kids and their parents who carry babies dressed like bunny rabbits and nudge superheroes forward, often reminding the likes of Spider-Man to say thank you. Soon they’ll be wandering the streets with their friends unsupervised and without costumes or gloves or hats because this is what freedom looks like to a child.

Now it’s another kind of mask. The face coverings that are supposed to fend off real monsters have been politicized. They stand in as cheap knock-offs of fundamental human rights. It’s a misplaced grudge, of course. But it’s hard to get people to talk about the dread caught in their stomach, a feeling that they might end up on the street because a layoff is looming and they’re behind on the rent. And even if your investments might give you a sense of security, deep down you worry because you don’t really understand how the stock market works. It’s hard to get people to talk about how they have really been screwed by the system where something as basic as affordable health care is not assured. How can you relax when you know that something that started as a cough could sink you for life? And if you’re lucky enough to have a job, it might be a soul-sucking one, the kind of work where you put your time in until you can retire without going broke. But those are big rocks to move. It is easier to complain about how wearing a mask is impinging upon your freedom.

When my old dinner friend thinks of me, he remembers how I hated flies. One of the rare times we actually exchanged words on Facebook, he recalled how I had lost my mind the time they had overtaken the house where I lived. They dotted the white cathedral ceilings in the kitchen as if someone had flung a box of raisins into its frosted underside. “Guilty as charged!” I said. This has not changed… Nor has my objection to the death penalty. At what age is a child aware of lethal injections that are administered by doctors, sanctioned by the state and defended by men with Bibles? Whatever it is, it is too young to be burdened by such sad things. Whatever age it is, that’s when I knew that I was against it. Was she always that way? Yes. I was always that way. Is she still that way? Yes. We ask these things of people we used to know. We wonder if we ever knew them.

There is but a trickle of kids this Halloween night and Brian and I wonder if we should give up on our ritual of sitting on the porch with our big bowls of candy, making a game out of giving away the perfect amount to each kid so that we neither run out of treats too early or end up with a surplus. It’s a game we never win. The lulls between monsters give us a chance to reminisce. I try to remember what it was like to trick-or-treat when I was a kid. Pillow cases for bags. Being out in the dark with Matt and Amy. Ginger? Who was in charge? My dad? Yes. He must have been there. Or was it one of the “big kids” taking us from house to house dressed as clowns and witches – costumes my mother made – and – one year for some reason – really fat baseball players with painted mustaches? Or were we kids on the loose? Unsupervised. Free.

How does one respond to a long-debunked conspiracy theory? I could post a quick “Really?”, by which I would mean, “Are you frickin’ kidding me?” It’s hard to find the words that are both kind and truthful. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This is a thing. Besides, even the smart-and-carefully-crafted-to-be-kind rebuttal is sharpened by pixels. Plus, if I am to believe the things that I am reading about this or the podcasts that are addressing the subject, it’s very difficult to talk someone out of a conspiracy theory for which they’ve already made the non-refundable down payment. It’s hard to abandon the sunk costs, even if that just means the hours someone has spent with their face in a YouTube channel.

Don’t respond. What good will come of it? Talk about fig newtons.

I can see my dad inspecting the candy that is spread out on the kitchen counter. He is protecting me. These days I try to protect him with advice like, “Don’t click on suspicious links!” He already knows this, but I warn him anyway. We both know that he is a target for scams because he is old. Why doesn’t anyone do anything about this? Why are parasites an acceptable feature of our society? Once just hours after my parents ordered a new iPhone that was to be delivered by Fed-Ex, a suspicious call was triggered. My dad knew enough to hang up. He even called Apple. Yep, it’s a scam. They were fully aware of it. I never got the full story. What was the point? How exactly did the voice on the other end of the line intend to separate my dad from his money? How did they know that he had just purchased a phone? Instead, I was stuck on a single question. When are we going to realize that we can design the world as we wish and that we need not tolerate predators that see our loved ones as easy marks? Instead, we stand around as if there is nothing to be done. We re-elect incumbents on every level of government who have failed to stop this bullshit. Impotent, we are left to rebel against the common good with a lie about a medical condition that prevents us from wearing a mask for the ten minutes it takes to buy a jug of milk. It’s pathetic.

With Covid-19 heading into another peak worse than the previous ones, now I worry more about organic viruses than the ones that infect my parents’ computer.

By the time I was in the third grade, we lived in Tehran where the locals would have been confused by tiny Frankensteins at the door. That must be why I have memories of the Halloween parties that replaced the trick-or-treating. Bobbing for apples wasn’t for me and the cake walks weren’t as exciting as tromping around the neighborhood wrapped in the smell of night. My mother made a jack-o-lantern cake for one of these occasions. I wanted to keep it. But alas it was for some other kid to win.  These must have been squadron parties, military families entertaining their kids in a foreign country. At one such party, Santa Claus gave me a camel. Who arranged for this? A lowly one-striper? An administrative assistant? I want to thank you. I still have that camel. But that’s Christmas. We’re talking about Halloween.

So, Brian and I are on the porch handing out candy. He would be content to read between customers, but he lets me sit there with him. He’s mostly cooperative when I ask him questions about what he remembers about trick-or-treating. But he does not remember how old he was when he stopped. I couldn’t say either. He marks his place and puts down his book. You can read, I say. He won’t do this until I leave or pick up my own book. I ask him how the book is going. Then business picks up. One kid. Two. Three at a time. Four. Talk of bagging it next year fades.

Of course, we didn’t know what next year would bring. It’s 2020. The department of health is advising against a traditional Halloween.

Let it go. Just let it go. But I can’t.

There was a stretch when it seemed like some parents were opting for house parties instead of trick-or-treating. It was safer. Warmer. Maybe, but mainly safer. It’s better to eat pizza and watch a scary movie than to worry about razor blades in your candy. Now the neighborhood listserv is abuzz with talk about how “goodie bags” can be safely distributed to the kiddos who are desperate for the kind of fun that cannot be replaced with musical chairs and party favors. That want something real. We all do.

The Facebook meme that has me torqued complains that Dr. Elaine Curry “gets no media coverage.”  Tucker Carlson seemed to like her. I know this because I watched the interview on YouTube. And now an algorithm has pegged me for a nut. But maybe I could be convinced that global warming is a hoax, if only I were to watch all of those suggested videos. Well, even as he interviews her, Tucker seems uninterested in what Curry has to say. He has is own agenda to push and he uses her to do it. In a cursory search, I did not find an example of Curry using that word – hoax. Her issue is actually more interesting than 44 blurry words on a meme. But why look any further? Two grainy photographs – a woman and a girl – are somehow enough.

Have my Internet wanderings triggered the right-wing political mail I’ve been getting? If this is how the Republicans are spending their money, I suppose there is some hope in that.

So now there’s candy in the freezer. Brian gave up sweets a long time ago and I have never had much of a sweet tooth. And yet this afternoon a candy bar did sound good. Did I say there was candy in the freezer? What would be the harm?

It turns out that rampant candy tampering was never a thing. It used to be that calling out a hoax cleared the air. Made us less afraid, assuming you were willing to accept the good news. Imagine that! Refusing to accept the good news. Instead we cling to the thing that keeps us in a perpetual state of fear and mistrust. Why are we so comfortable there when we could assume the best of people? What would Marianne Williamson with her love-versus-fear-based perspective say about that? In any case, hoax is just another word that has lost its meaning.

Curry’s issue seems to be that mainstream academia has sidelined her for presenting data that does not support the theory that burning fossil fuels is a driver of the climate crisis. She’s also cranky about the claims that there is almost perfect consensus of the scientific community on this issue. Skeptical Science refutes this along with several other of her statements.

I want the snappy response that will definitively win – and more importantly end – this argument. I want this even though smarter people than me (and you my old friend) have ended it several times only to see conspiracy theories resurrect like the zombies at my door, lies that will not die because it is so damn easy to click share and to repeat what we have heard from behind the fortress of a keyboard. I can’t stay with you here, pretending to believe in monsters under the bed. There are plenty of real monsters. If you listen, you will hear them knocking. Answer the door. Instead, you hide. You’re in the house. Except for the glow of the television, it is dark. But those pesky kids persist. They ring the doorbell anyway. So, you turn up the volume and those the giant heads pound the message even louder. They pound it so hard that you’ve lost sight of a truth that used to be yours and a common sense that seemed – but wasn’t – intractable. You have been robbed. But instead you just figured that you must have spent that twenty dollars. You just can’t remember where. 

You seem paranoid. I’m afraid that it is contagious.

I tell myself to drop it.

Too much work.

Too dangerous.

Write about Fig Newtons.

What happened to you, friend?

What happened to me?

Would it have made a difference were we still eating dinner together?

If your chest is tightening, if you think I am lost, corrupted or brainwashed, I understand. You call me names, I’ve seen them on the Internet, in my Facebook feed and elsewhere. But before that, there were the businessmen who used to come into Paddy O’Neil’s where I was a cocktail waitress. Tom, a big guy in a suit, was a known tipper. I think he was a lawyer because he wasn’t a doctor and in my mind, those were the people with money. But he could have been anything. Regardless of where Tom sat – your section, mine – the alpha waitress would usually claim his table that would be stuffed with more suits who were loose with their money. So, it was unusual that I would ever have to deal with him, but sometimes I did.  He was a scotch man and I brought him the usual, a double Dewar’s on the rocks. When I was new on the job, the first time I heard him order it – dubdersrox – I asked him to repeat it. He did and it didn’t help. I didn’t know my scotches. I still don’t. In any case, most of our exchanges have long been forgotten except for this summation. “You’re a bleeding heart!” he said. At the time it hurt. Today, I would have said, You’re damn right. What led to this, I do not remember. Maybe he was extolling the virtues of Billy Graham and I just couldn’t help myself and confessed that I couldn’t make sense of his lack of compassion. Or maybe he saw me wince when he made a comment about the lazy Indians who pass out drunk in the park. I wouldn’t have been able to resist hinting at the irony, the idea that some of these suits might drive home inebriated that very night, as if inebriation were somehow classier than a bum who smelled of dirty socks. Or maybe I just asked a question that challenged an assumption and instead of taking it seriously, it was easier to slap a label on me. Or maybe you can just tell that kind of thing about a person.

I am reminded of Dr. Elaine Ingham She is a soil scientist. Like Curry, she too complained about how the university system pushed conventional wisdom. In her lecture at the Oxford Real Farming Conference she introduced herself in part this way:

Yes, I do have the academic alphabet soup after my name. So undergraduate, masters, PhD… I am currently the president of Soil Food Web, a company I started after I ran smack into my university, Oregon State university’s absolute dedication to Monsanto…

Her approach appealed to me. It made sense to me in the same way that I’ve always been opposed to the death penalty on a gut level.  Without being a soil scientist myself, it seemed reasonable to suggest that a cycle of tilling and fertilizing and applying pesticides was eroding the soil and harming the very microbes that make it possible to grow the stuff. So, I am not unsympathetic to the suggestion that unpopular ideas can be shushed by the establishment or that a minority voice might actually be right, while the majority presses for conforming to bad science. Galileo was accused of heresy because he made the case for a heliocentric solar system (what did they call it before it was the “solar” system?) as opposed to one that revolved around Earth. So, there are two examples.

But this hardly means that I should concede that the climate crisis is a hoax because someone’s research didn’t warrant priority funding. Brian and I talked about this a lot. The way we choose our scientific pursuits is not perfect. It might even be unfair. But it’s a little too convenient to claim that whenever the consensus doesn’t swing your way it means that there is a conspiracy.

Brian thinks that climate change denial is rooted in the question about how we can transition to a green economy without wreaking havoc on the economy as it operates today. He’s probably right. But it’s hard for me to understand. It’s kind of like people who might vote for Trump because their 401-k was doing well the last time they checked. Or what about Stu, who married a woman just so that he wouldn’t be hassled by anyone who might notice that he was gay? How did he set aside this reality when he voted for the clowns who would have been happy to slam the closet door on his face? And lock it shut? And he did this for what? The perception that Republicans are fiscally responsible? They are not. Morally superior? Give me a frickin’ break! No wonder depression has a grip on this country. We’re constantly setting aside our values to guard our dog bones, and they are bones. That’s what you get when money rules a system.

We all have our cognitive dissonance. I voted for Joe Biden.

Likewise, most climate change deniers – those people who are smarter than a collaboration of international scientist – are the same people who will be the first to avail themselves to modern medicine be it LASIK surgery, an artificial joint, or a treatment for cancer that would have killed their grandparents. They’ll jump on an airplane without a care in the world, embrace nuclear energy and fill their homes with gadgets: handheld devices that are essentially an extension of their brains, GPS systems that rely on satellites in space, or robots that vacuum their floors. But when it comes to a warning that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are dangerously high, they’re good with brushing it off as a hoax because it’s not economically viable?

Of course, it is beyond ironic that this Facebook meme is presented as an example of “media manipulation”.  Our current president will go down in history as having invented the idea of accusing people of your own crimes. But it’s an old trick and it’s certainly being used here. A deceptive message warning us about deceptive messages? Maybe that could have been my snappy response to my friend’s ignorant post.

This year, the year when Covid-19 emerged, for Halloween we sat on the lawn with our neighbors instead of waiting for the monsters to knock. Trick-or-treaters marched by to take their goodie bags from the tables that lined the sidewalk at a safe distance. It was windy. Gusty at times. It occurs to me that we are sitting under a maple that is dying and loosing its branches. Maybe we should think about moving? We don’t. The women are wrapped in blankets. Every year the blankets.

A block over, “It’s hoppin’!” There are bon fires. But I’m not sure they had anything to do with the firetruck that went by.

The neighbor’s kid is dressed like Trump. Backlit by street lamps, we can see a stick figure inside a blow-up costume that is wearing a diaper. His brother is dressed like the grim reaper. I don’t think this was on purpose. They are accompanied by the headless horseman who doesn’t have a pumpkin to carry or a horse to ride. So maybe he was just headless? When it’s time to go inside, the brothers have to walk their friend home. So a baby Donald Trump and his brother the grim reaper escorted this decapitated body down the street.

I tried to find the clip that solidified my dislike for Reverend Billy Graham. It seems like it was something on Larry King. A woman in Texas was going to be executed that night, always midnight for some reason, a strange custom when you think about it. I couldn’t find it. Instead, I discovered that the man had evolved. He actually seemed humble when talking about how he might have been wrong to condemn the gays. Elderly now, he seemed comfortable with reflection. And I was surprised to learn that he was – eventually – on the right side of the Civil Rights movement. That was something, wasn’t it? Of course, religious extremists didn’t like the Reverend’s change of heart. How easily they turn on you.

How easily they turn on you, indeed.

If only we could just be who we are, without fear of punishment.

Sometimes cold. Usually. Sometime after moving to South Dakota, I would associate Halloween with blizzards. It was probably the weather more than my age that determined when it was time to stop tick-or-treating.

Homemade Fig Newtons
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack
 
Ingredients
  • 5 prunes, chopped
  • Saltines or other cracker
  • Walnuts, 1 handful, chopped
  • Maple syrup
  • Peanut butter
Instructions
  1. Spread finely chopped prunes/prune paste on a cracker.
  2. Sprinkle the above with crushed walnuts or another nut you like. Pecans would be good.
  3. Drizzle the above with maple syrup.
  4. On a separate cracker, spread a dab of peanut butter. Use this to make a sandwich with the first cracker with prunes etc.

How To Give a Cat a Pill

Reflections on a post Covid-19 World

We didn’t want to traumatize our cat, Wilson, by dragging her to the veterinarian again. We were just there. She seemed comfortable enough. Mostly, she seemed like her kitten self. But weight loss became concerning. So Brian consulted with someone who said there was a chance that she had a treatable condition. For example, cats her age can often have thyroid problems. It turns out that she does. The condition might be masking other issues. But for now, we are treating this and we’ll see what a follow-up appointment reveals.

Initially, I had imagined prying open her mouth, placing a pill as deep as possible and then clamping her mouth shut again until she swallowed. Brian had to do something like this with his previous cat, Pashnick. Both of these cats, by the way, are named after baseball players. This is Brian’s doing. In the case of Wilson, her name has given people the impression that she is a boy. “He… I’m sorry, she…” says the vet.

When I first met Wilson, I assumed that Brian named her after the volley ball in the Tom Hanks movie Castaway. That’s when he told me about Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson. He was an American Major League Baseball player in the 1920’s and ’30s. Our cat was named after this guy because not long after Brian had rescued her from the animal shelter, she developed kennel cough. So back to the shelter she went until she recovered.

My little cat is often herding me to the purniture where she likes to be brushed while she monitors traffic, takes note of the squirrels, dogs, birds and other beasts.

I love that cat. My little bird. Chicken. Rabbit. Goat. Tiny horse. Sister. Always my girl.

Well, I was relieved to hear that forcing meds down Wilson’s throat wasn’t going to become part of our daily life. The medicine comes in different forms. There are pills, which can be hidden in “pill pockets”, there is a powder that is mixed in water and there is a gel that can be applied to the ears, though it is not as effective. We started with the pill.

As for the pill pockets, pink tablets a little bigger than a cooked lentil are pressed into a cat treat that has the consistency of cookie dough. At the vet, they had two flavors, peanut butter and chicken. I chose peanut butter but the receptionist – after I asked for a second opinion – steered me toward the chicken. She’s a cat… of course, of course… This is probably a good example of why I am not – or at least do not consider myself to be – a very good gift giver. Last year for Christmas I gave Brian a drawing of Sasquatch getting a haircut. I had to explain it to him, which is never good.

So I head home with the chicken flavored cookie dough. I’m on foot and get there by way of University Avenue, which is beyond my house. It was a nice day and I needed the sun. I needed the exercise. Mainly I wanted to slow things down with a private rebellion against an expected pace of life. We often don’t walk because it’s not efficient. So we get fat and then spend money on a gym membership. Well, little did I know that it wouldn’t be long after this that taking a simple walk would be loaded with the sub-context of our “new reality”. Is that what we’re calling it? What are we calling it?

Wilson takes the pill. I’m relieved that she’s going to make this easy. She sticks to the schedule, which is impressive given that she – as far as I know – does not tell time and does not have an appreciation for what’s at stake. The vet calls and I give him the report. My pride is obvious. But after a while, I have to start “repackaging” the pills because she has figured out how to eat around them. I tell her that she’s naughty, but she doesn’t care. A dog would have cared. She’ll eat that thing when she feels like it, which is more like once every day and a half versus twice a day. Still, it’s something. So, at first, I think I should just take what I can get. But then the intervals between “cooperating” continue to stretch. I worry. We should try something else. What if she does like peanut butter after all?

There is something about being focused on my little cat that helps me tune out the nonsense about Easter being the deadline for normal. Brian tells me about the moron – the Lieutenant Governor of Texas – who floats the idea that old people should be ready to die for the cause. Brian is outraged. Outraged. I want to record him for a podcast that doesn’t exist. The show would be called Two People & a Cat. Unlike QuOTeD, it would be casual, just the two of us checking in with updates and comments about what comes into this house, whether it be the newspaper or an infuriating Facebook post, a call or the common cold… or so we hope… He declines, but I’m sure that he is expressing something that needs to be said. These bastards should be ashamed. Not politely corrected or politically handled, but called out and shut down with the strong arm of shame. Why add to the noise? That’s probably what he’s thinking and he would be right, I suppose. So, I ask Brian if the cat pooped today. It’s a good sign when she does. She did and this is something to celebrate even though the turds are smaller than usual.

And just like that our world gets too small for idiots.

I just want my little cat to take her medicine. It seems to be helping. The vomiting has mostly stopped. I want her to gain weight. The vet said it would take a while. I want her to feel good and it seems like she mostly does. She’s old, but she still bosses me. She herds me from the kitchen where I am chopping onions to her perch by the window upstairs. There she expects to be brushed with much attention being paid to her tiny chin. This will mean I’ll have to wash my hands again.

I’m so tired of washing my hands! Were it pre-Covid-19, my condition would be diagnosable. But I am determined that I will not get sick, so I wash my hands all day like a crazy person. Get the mail. Wash my hands. Read the paper. Wash my hands. Wave to the neighbor across the street. Wash my hands.

Wilson moves me from my comfy chair where I am drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper to the couch because she wants to sit there… together. In the office now, she interrupts me mid-sentence to remind me that it’s time for a break, time to get up from my desk and stretch my legs. Her timing can be terrible, but I cannot say no to those big bright green eyes that I miss and fret about the second she’s acting like she’s under the weather. Besides, she is right to suggest that we take time to enjoy the simple things… such as massaging the legs of a tabby. Maybe she had a premonition and she was trying to prepare me for what was to come.

Even though she is frail, she is still easy to purr. Even though she is old, she’s finding new routines and is learning new tricks, like spitting pills back into her dish. Hanging out with Brian and me in the evening is new. Wilson has taken to snoozing on the ottoman between our feet or stretched out next to us on the couch so that I can rub her chest and kiss the top of her head. These days we have to be careful to be a lot more gentle when giving Wilson “the treatment”. On the other hand, it has been a while since the three of us have piled on the bed the way we sometimes would at the end of the day before dinner. Brian would say, “Are you happy? Everybody is together just like you like it.” And I would say, “I love it when everybody is together.” And Wilson would purr.

Sleeping on the afghan that my sister made is also new. Until recently Wilson would normally sleep overnight in the basement on the blue office chair. This is a chair that she and Brian will fight over when they are not fighting over the prime real estate in the sun room. Brian doesn’t have the heart to give a sleeping cat the boot. But the second she leaves, he will slip into the sunny spot on the guestroom bed where he’ll read for hours. Eventually, Wilson will find a sliver next to him. There is no room for me there. With Brian home now – because of the thing – it’s funny to see them negotiate routines like a newly retired couple that isn’t used to stretches of concentrated togetherness. I’m surprised they don’t fight over the remote, but they mostly enjoy the same programs. They both miss baseball, that’s for sure.

There’s always the 24-hour news cycle that we mostly avoid.

Notice that the guy who is suggesting that we fuel the economy with cadavers isn’t living paycheck to paycheck. He’s not going to work when he’s sick because he doesn’t have paid time off or health insurance. He’s not trying to figure out how to make the rent. Nor is he keeping anyone alive, which used to be the distinction of medical professionals but now we know better. He’s not bagging your groceries or doing a double-shift at a cereal factory or disinfecting your office so that you don’t get sick. He’s not risking his life for anything let alone the noble duty of selling you a roll of toilet paper. While this guy is by no means immune to Covid-19, nor is he on the front lines of it. In a sense, he is a chicken hawk. He says get back to work. Bok! Bok! Get back to the morning rush hour. Bok! Bok! Back to polluting at the normal lucrative levels. Bok! Bok! Back to buying stuff because you are bored. Bok! Bok! Back to over-scheduled tots. Bok! Bok! Overtime. Bok! Bok! Lunch at your desk. Bok! Bok! Back to a pace that makes enough money to subsidize private airplanes. Bok! Bok! And no more heroism for lowlifes! Bok! Bok! Remember! You’re just the janitor. Bok! Bok! You’re just some hump stocking shelves at a chain. And once the specter of wiping our ass with a page from the Sear’s catalogue has finally lifted, there will be no more bonuses for you. So don’t get any big ideas. We will get back to normal.

I have no solutions. I don’t know what to do about the massive unemployment and the businesses that are not going to survive this crisis. But I do know that when someone thinks nothing of publicly suggesting that the only way through this problem is to ask the most vulnerable of us to die for the Dow, you have to wonder what is said in private. What slippery slope had ever emboldened this kind of brazenness? Could it be that we had passively agreed to the idea that sacrificing the poor or the environment for our portfolios was just the way it worked and is to be grieved no more than the rabbit falling prey to the fox? “What is there to do?”, we ask. But now that grandma is being dragged to the alter of Wall Street, could it be time to start asking questions about the Frankenstein of a system that we have created that cannot be paused and that requires a steady dose of bailouts just to keep it lumbering along?

Maybe we could start with this.

Why is normal normal? Why is normal fragile? Do we even like normal?

Then…

How can we shape the new normal? Someone will. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas with his broken moral compass will be there. Congress and there corporate sponsors will be there. Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow will be there every night preaching about what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s possible. Will you be there? How do you be there? How are we supposed to show up?

Just keep asking questions.

Should “normal” be the goal? What would it mean to actually value the real – I can see it, touch it, understand it – work of the economy? What can we do to make sure that anyone who needs medical help can get it – in the first place – without being financially ruined? Why not continue to live with the drastic reduction in traffic and its associated stress, noise, pollution and – I am assuming – accidents. Did we not just prove (again) that working from home works? Who decides the pace of our lives? And in conjunction with these things, would a reexamination of a global economy help prepare us for the next virus, be it an actual virus or something that mimics one, a peak oil tremor, for example? Might our renewed appreciation for our connections to each other be carried forward? Could it be that the singular enemy of a virus is like the imagined alien invasion that brings humanity together for the common good? What are we capable of doing? What do we want to do?

What do we want to do?

The system’s weaknesses are in full display. And the predicament in which we find ourselves – that place where there is pain in every answer for our problems – should be a wake-up call. We should be asking ourselves a lot of questions.

For example…

Is there a better way to organize ourselves? While it can be hard – and even threatening – to imagine a more resilient economic system, we can still imagine aliens. We can see that the solar system is vast and there is much yet to be discovered. Is there life out there? Maybe. Lets send a robot light years away to learn something. But try to imagine a different economic system? Try to re-imagine something we totally made up in the first place? People get antsy. Why is that?

A while back, the vet suggested these teeth cleaners for cats. Wilson has great teeth, but because we were adding wet food to her diet, the vet suggested that we mix in some of these things with her dry food. Well, Wilson really likes them. When I was a kid, we had a dog that used to pick out the buttered pieces of popcorn. It’s like that. Well, because she’s been having various issues – excessive barfing being one of them – Brian stopped giving her those things. But, I found a new use for them.

Desperate to get her to take her medicine on a more regular schedule, I came up with this idea. I cut one of those teeth cleaners she likes so much in half. Then I used the “cookie dough” to attach a pill in the middle. So far she has taken six out of six of them on time. I have my fingers crossed that this good behavior will continue.

The truth is, my cat is at the end of her life. Time is precious. Is it reasonable to hope for another good year? Two? We would be lucky. This winter when it seemed like we should be bracing ourselves, I was hoping for another season. I wanted her to have another chance to enjoy the spring when we can open the windows.

She’s doing her job. She’s making the best of it. She’s taking her medicine.

Now if only we can figure out a way to take our own medicine.

I can hear Wilson at her dish and I assume that she is eating her “treat” as she has been doing. But when I check I find a half-chewed tablet in the bowl.

Six out of seven.

I have a talk with her, but she doesn’t care. A dog would. I “repackage” the pill and hope for the best. I’ll take what I can get.

I wash my hands.

Again.

It’s a nice day.

So, I open a window.

Making modified “pill pockets” for my cat.
Cut the teeth cleaner / dry cat food in half by gently sawing with a serrated knife.
Avoid touching the pills.
Greenies Pill Pockets has a dog on the package, but Wilson doesn’t mind.
Pick up a pill with the “cookie dough” / pill pocket goo. Then join with one of the teeth cleaner halves.
Half teeth cleaner, half pill pocket goo, and a pill in the middle.
Make a few ahead of time and store in something to keep it from drying out.

A Train Full of Optimists

I’m hiding.

The Democratic debates are on the television downstairs. Brian and his Tuesday night baseball buddy are talking back to the candidates who cannot hear them.

“You tell ’em Bernie!”

In 2012 I was in a bar with a ragtag group of organizers. The day before we were to get shovels in the ground, we learned that the Minnesota Department of Transportation was putting the kibosh on the community garden that we had been planning over the previous year. Up to that point, we had been working with City officials who were thrilled to see a neglected patch of land be cleaned up and put to good use. Between monthly meetings, we had scoped out possible locations. We tested the soil. We staked plots. We mulched paths. We brought in compost. We drafted gardener contracts. We advertised. We held a lottery. It might not seem like much, but it was a lot of work to get our initial thirty families that would be eager to grow their own tomatoes.

Then here come the MnDOT lawyers. It turns out the that the City did not have jurisdiction over the right-of-way between Cleveland and Prior Avenue, just north of Gilbert in Saint Paul. This is the frontage road to Interstate 94. And unlike the forward thinking City officials, MnDOT could only think of getting sued. News of their objections took the air out of me. Fortunately my co-organizers had a different response.

Tanner’s approach was simply to accept that getting the garden operational just might take more time than we had planned. His approach was patience. Steadiness. And Jeff said that we would just shame MnDOT into doing the right thing. He was confident about this. He had no doubt that we would have a garden because the objections to it were obviously ridiculous. Watching these two guys was a good lesson for someone who was apt to concede victory to the bureaucrats. I felt pretty hopeless.

It’s how the Democratic debates make me feel. Defeated well before the final buzzer.

When I see that Senator Amy Klobuchar appears to have consulted a stylist – upping her game from her last debate with a new do and better make-up – I want to be happy for her. She looks great. I want to sympathize. I would not survive the kind of scrutiny a candidate has to endure, especially – I’m sorry, but it’s true – a woman. I want to be at peace in a Joseph Campbell kind of way and be in awe of it all, grateful to anyone who would offer themselves for a job like that. Instead, my stomach churns, stirred by a faint recognition of manipulation.

I wasn’t going to last the night with Brian and Fran in the living room flipping between the debate and the ballgame.

Across the street about a block down from my house there is a lawn sign, “2020 – Any Functioning Adult.” On Facebook this gets 80 zillion “likes”. I was amused at first too. But it’s not so funny when I realize that this is the language of the utterly defeated. It’s 2003 all over again. We were punished by George W. Bush. So at the anti-war marches that preceded the invasion of Iraq, among the homemade protest signs you could find “2004 – Anybody but Bush” written on scraps of cardboard with black Sharpies. During that same election year where Senator John Kerry was the Democratic nominee, there was a website called “John Kerry is a douche bag, but I’m voting for him anyway.” (By the way, don’t try to find it. I landed on a site that looked Chinese and quite spammy.) Well, we saw where that kind of big dreaming got us.

Downstairs Brian is going on about the Supreme Court.

When Senator Elizabeth Warren was in town, Tanner the garden organizer went to see her. At least that is what I gathered from a Facebook post where he is standing next to the candidate in front of a huge flag. The big smile on his face makes me feel like so much is possible. Thank goodness our future does not depend on my limitations. In the meantime, Sue is working for Senator Bernie Sanders (That sounds pretentious. He’s just Bernie. Right?) at the State Fair. When Brian and I stopped by to say hello to her, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party booth felt like home and not home, like revisiting the house of my childhood where strangers now live. We met Sue and her family on the the 2004 Minnesota for Kucinich Campaign and I had once spent a lot of time in that booth for the campaign and later as a member of the DFL Progressive Caucus of which I was a founding member. Sue and her husband Greg are still at it. They still believe. Somehow, they still think that showing up matters.

Patient. Steady.

Brian is now swearing at the television.

I wish I was the sort that could carry the day with unshakeable optimism. Somehow I get myself to the train. I’m a good worker bee. I have a spin on the ball. I’m focused. I care. I do good work. I have something to contribute. But apparently it is not a belief that the Bernie Sanders and the Elizabeth Warrens will not be crushed by the talking heads on CNN that are openly pushing for what they would call a moderate Democrat and what I would call a Republican candidate. Five seconds of watching David Axelrod pat us all on the head and warn Democrats not to nominate anyone who can be “framed as a socialist” puts me back at the table at that bar feeling doomed. Except this time I am hiding. This time I am alone with no one to tell me to put my head down and work, to be patient.

Brian is laughing. It sounds like Bernie is letting someone have it.

When Klobuchar scolds the Liberals for giving the Republicans (the ones who are actually running for the Republican nomination) their talking points when they explain how to pay for a health care system that does not treat Senators like royalty and the poor without dignity – she is essentially saying that she is a Republican. Sanders is right. Grow up. It’s going to cost money to ensure that everyone has access to good health care. There will be a tax. Those with the resources to pay more will pay more. Those with less will pay less. A tax will replace premiums. More money will go toward actual health care. Less will go into the pockets of executives. Boo hoo.

“The more this man talks, the less I like him. He’s really an ass hole.” Who is this, Brian? I don’t want to know. I feel agitated and shut the door.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing to admit that I feel depressed when I hear the Republican-Democrats tell me why we cannot have health care for every American. Klobuchar flatly said that universal health care is not possible. She called Medicare-for-all a pipe dream. A pipe dream! I wonder if she’s taking the George Lakoff “strict parent” approach. She might as well have been wagging her finger.

“If it’s worth having, it’s worth paying for. So buck up! Don’t be cheap, you shithead!” How’s that for strict parent?

“She’s in favor of it as long as it doesn’t cost rich people money.” I know this rant well but Brian cannot resist giving me another rendition of it when he comes upstairs. It makes me wonder. What else can’t be done because it costs rich people money? Are the Republican-Democrats conceding bank regulations? What about global warming? What mitigation efforts are no-starters? If Republican-Democrats refuse to do anything that will cost rich people money, forget about affordable pharmaceuticals. Forget about election reform. Forget about anything that will actually make a difference. In the 2016 election Sanders wanted to talk about economic justice while Hillary Clinton wanted to stick to social issues. It’s a tell. Be suspicious of anyone who changes the subject away from the hard conversations about “who will pay for it” to who gets what right. It’s like when Senator Kamala Harris changed the subject to women’s reproductive rights in the middle of a debate about why Americans are loosing their homes because of a dysfunctional health care system. It is so not the point.

My biggest fear is that the Democrats are going to be stupid. Well-meaning people are going to watch too much CNN or MSNBC or whatever and they are going to wrongly conclude that what they really want is not “electable.” Despite what they can see – wild grassroots support for the “extreme left”, as the talking heads would put it – they’ll give us another Hillary Clinton.

And they will lose.

Again.

Because calling what the majority of Americans desperately want a “pipe dream” is another kind of talking point.

Who will they blame this time? Ralph Nader? Those damn Bernie supporters who never got over a sham of an endorsement process? The Russians? The youth who will not be indoctrinated? Anyone who says no thanks to a candidate who can’t even imagine – imagine! – a just health care system in the richest nation in the world let alone ask Jeff Bezos to chip in for it? By the way, he along with a couple of other billionaires are getting into the insurance business.

Brian and Fran are now openly laughing. It could be the playoffs. But it’s probably something Senator Cory Booker said. (Note: It turns out that it was former Vice President Joe Biden. It could have been anyone.)

Somehow we got the garden established. Thanks to a timely article in the newspaper, it went as Jeff said it would. The Department was basically shamed into doing the right thing.

Perhaps our politicians can be shamed into doing the right thing too…

…holding a corrupt and dangerous President accountable… Are there any Republican-Republicans who are sober enough to put aside a hold-power-at-all-cost strategy to understand the gravity of the situation and then take the appropriate action?

…treating health care as a human right… even if it means costing rich people money.

The last time I checked, the garden had around 100 plots. It looks like they built a second shed.

I wish I could be confident about this. I wish I could say that universal health care is a certainty because the objections to it are obviously ridiculous. But until I am there, I will be happy to get on a train full of optimists.

Why is America? A, B, C…

I’m writing another piece that has gotten a out of hand. It started as a simple observation, but then it led me down the Internet rabbit hole. I got there by looking for thoughts about why America is divided. I used those exact terms in a Google search. Before I could finish my query, Google’s autocomplete function generated this:

Hmmm. I tried a and then b and c. This would take just a second.

You know where this is going, right? I couldn’t stop.

Are we obsessed with being better than everyone else or what? Sure, we’re fat. But dammit, tell me why we’re better than shithole Canada!

Since these Google search suggestions are partly based on the keywords that other people have used, capturing them feels a bit like taking snapshots of strangers. It’s historically interesting. What would I find a year from now?

Again, greatness contrasted with failure.

It’s depressing to think that we are fascinated with serial killers (which goes to a question asked under d). We are certainly fascinated with crime. I cringe whenever another true crime podcast is flung out into the universe. Stop. Just stop.

If you want to know more about how the Google autocomplete function works, read this.

Of course these suggested keywords are based on the input of millions of people. Millions? I think so, right? Anyway, a lot of people. But it’s funny to imagine that one person searched for all of these random things. What’s going on with North Korea? And oh by the way, why the heck is Howard Stern working as a talent show judge?

It appears that we are worried about our debt. In the meantime let’s cut taxes and raise spending. Thanks Congress. Thanks a lot.

Al Jazeera has not been in front of me for a long time. I appreciate this random reminder, Google. After reading why their American branch shut down two years after the fact, I popped over to Twitter to follow them there. What? There’s more to care about than recycled Trump scandals? Quick! Somebody tell Wolf Blizer!

Well that’s nice.

A student could use this exercise to come up with research topics. In fact, some of these search queries definitely give me the sense that a student – sometimes a very young student – is at the other end.

The polarization that I was seeking to understand when I first began my search is evident here. We wonder why we are liberal but more conservative than Europe. We are not religious but we are religious. We are great. We are not great. Buried in the noise are more serious and focused questions. Why is the middle class shrinking? Why are we losing small farms? Why are we in debt?

These serious questions are obvious to me, but you might not agree. Or we might agree on what questions are worth consideration but cling stubbornly to third-party talking points as we try to address them. How do we get past being right at the expense of facts and critical thinking?

To be fair, what else starts with the letter o?

Exactly. Why?

Yeah, there isn’t much here.

Better. Richer. I like to imagine the people who are posing these questions. It could be the basis of a humorous video project. Did an eight year old boy say this or a grown man or an old man a man who used to be a boy?

Search engines must have caught up with our keywords that are full of articles and prepositions. Remember Ask Jeeves?

Who’s more patriotic? Someone who wants to know why America is the greatest or why it’s the best?

See “not on the metric system” above. Our measurement system has been a question ever since I was a kid. (Correction: Since the 18th Century!). There was talk but no action. It’s a case study in what happens when Congress passes voluntary laws, which you can read about here. I imagine there were lobbyists involved. Truthfully, I’m glad we didn’t join the modern world on this one. Even at the age of nine, I felt adverse to change and threatened as an American. I mainly didn’t want the hassle of learning a new system, not that I had exactly mastered a ruler or could have estimated how far it was to Bob’s house. But I do know what 80°f feels like. Please don’t mess with the temp.

Okay. This has been a big distraction. Damn you Google!

Superheroes and wars. That’s what jumping out at me. America. Superheroes. Wars.

As my president would say, sad.

It’s kind of like q. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I include it as to present a complete idea. I can’t imagine that z is going to be much better.

And I was right. Screw you New Zealand!

Of course it didn’t end here. I tried a few examples starting with “Why is Trump…” I was surprised. At first glance his killing net neutrality appeared to be a more prominent concern than the more obvious headlines: Russians. Porn stars. Tweets. The letter j gave me a chuckle.

Drawing the Line at Amazon’s Creepy Tracking System

Brian has his eye on a book. He says I might want to read it too. I don’t remember what it is.

His irritation with the suggestion that he doesn’t buy this book from Amazon was visible. Who can blame him? With me it’s always something.

In the Star Tribune there was an article about how Amazon has a patent for a device that tracks its warehouse employees. Where are they? Where are their hands? What? He can’t find the dildo bin? Give that dumbass a zap. Nudge him three feet to the left. Literally. Efficiently. Ship it stat!

This device can track bathroom breaks. The article didn’t say whether it also scheduled doctor’s appointments based on how loose or solid a poop was or how long it took to evacuate or whether there was blood or the wrong kind of bacteria in it. But wouldn’t that be a good idea? I might get on board if we could tie apocalyptic surveillance to a better healthcare system.

Instead, I’m bugging Brian. Poor guy.

Warehouse employees, huh? What about corporate? Don’t be stupid. Executives do not need to be monitored like a Level III sex offender. They’re naturally productive. Everybody knows this. Suits do not waste time. And no one is going to cheat the system from a private office.

I read:

“Max Crawford, a former Amazon warehouse worker in Britain, said in a phone interview, ‘After a year working on the floor, I felt like I had become a version of the robots I was working with.’” (Yeginsu)

“Repulsive”, I think. I put the paper down and then warm up my coffee for the tenth time.

But we’re sort of trapped aren’t we? I looked all over this town and couldn’t find litmus paper anywhere. Nobody had it and most retail employees didn’t even know what it was (if only I could have administered a shock – low-level of course – that would have prompted 8th grade science memories). I was desperate and resorted to Amazon. Yes. A person can be desperate for litmus paper. It was a paint job. There were chemicals. That’s all you need to know. In any case, I do hope that nobody was zapped in the nuts over filling my stupid order.

Tracking devices aside, in 2013 Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian documented the utterly depressing life in an Amazon warehouse. What more is there to know? And yet complete disengagement seems impossible. Why?

People have done harder things on principle.

In their 70s, my parents became vegetarians. While driving to San Antonio they saw a feedlot. That was it. “We’re vegetarians now,” my dad said. “I don’t want to be a part of that.”

Brian will tell you that boycotts don’t work. I’m not sure. Either way Amazon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and neither is beef. And yet organic and humanely raised meat is a growing market. In part I credit a “quiet turning away” not unlike what my parents did in the face of something they could not stomach. I’d be stunned if they ever chained themselves to anything or otherwise got themselves arrested just to make a point. They’re not professionals. And that’s the beauty of it. Because these fairly conservative Midwesterners are not alone. So while this turning away might have been understated, it is potentially massive, reaching far beyond the usual suspects.

Industry notices. Industry responds. Whether this response is born out of real listening and concern or a strategic quelling of a rumbling from beneath is another issue. But it is some measurement of the impact of our choices. Any time we see a corporation appeal to our better nature – whether it be a concern for the environment (“Clean Coal!”), our health (“No saturated fats in these fries!”), the critters (“Free range, baby!”) or each other (“Buy this petroleum jelly and we’ll help some poor people!”) – we are indeed seeing a reflection of our own power. We did that. Not them.

If only all moral lines could be as viscerally shocking as an animal in distress.

In a Sun Magazine newsletter that was touting Sy Safransky book, it warned Many Alarm Clocks won’t be easy to find in most bookstores, nor will it be available from Amazon, because we all have to draw a line somewhere.“ This was three years ago and it stuck with me; standing for something matters. Still, while it gave me pause to consider the oddity of a writer who dared to eschew a bookselling giant, I did not feel compelled to put my foot down where Amazon was concerned. It’s kind of like putting off a colonoscopy. I’m afraid to look too closely. It’s going to be unpleasant. What if it’s bad news? I don’t want to hear something that requires further action.

So where do I draw the line?

Where do you draw the line?

When do we quietly (or not so quietly) turn away from that which isn’t good for people and toward something that is?

Are we really so trapped?

Even if we can’t orchestrate an effective boycott, let’s keep these questions in front of us. Of course we secretly hope never to have cause to take a stand. That’s just a pain in the butt and by contrast Amazon is so damn convenient.

I suspect if ever the downfall of our society is examined, “convenience” is going to be found at the heart of it.

When searching for an article about the horrible working conditions in an Amazon warehouse, an ad for how great it is to work there popped up.

Yeginsu, Ceylan. “If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon Has a Patent for It.)” New York Times, 1 February 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html.

My week as an Amazon insider
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work

The Yes Men

Beyond the Golden Parachute

On the cutting edge: MN4K Takes a break from a tie dye t-shirt fundraiser to protest our shitty media

102_0216
Sarah and another supporter whose name I don’t know.
102_0217
I still refer to Sue (pictured) and Greg and their two kids as “the amazing Skogs.”
102_0220
Lou and Donna. Those light blue signs that you can’t read from a car still make me laugh. Only Faith Kidder knows why.
102_0223
Dan and Jed. Dan’s sign is so Dan. “Courage Minnesota!”

It was December 2003. It was freezing cold. My toes hurt. And yes, the Deaniacs – mean spirited though they might have been – had speculated correctly. We were the type that would spend a Saturday afternoon on a tie dye fundraiser that would net a couple hundred tops. We said yes to just about anything as long as you were willing to “make it happen.” This is how you get stuff like “Coatless for Kucinich.” It’s not for us to say where to direct one’s passions.

On this day, we said yes to freezing our asses off because Ted Koppel/ABC had made the decision to exclude the non-viable Dennis Kucinich from a nationally televised debate. We protested KSTP or “big media” as we liked to call it. Nobody cared. Nothing went viral.

I had somehow dragged my friend Lou along. It wasn’t the first nor would be the last time he would move from my sphere of theater friends to the political group. The last time we saw one another was at a precinct caucus in my new neighborhood several years ago. Our state representative rallied the troops.

“Give yourselves a big hand! We all know you could be doing something else!”

The akward self-congratulatory smattering of applause would make way for political maneuvering, with those who understood Robert’s Rules of Order having an edge over the newcomers. With a packed governor’s race at stake, campaigners vied to dominate the district convention rules committees. Not unlike the first precinct caucus I had attended as a Kucinich supporter, it made my stomach hurt.

I haven’t been to a precinct caucus since.

I watch plenty of garbage television shows but the local news hasn’t been one of them since I was in high school. So boycotting something Ralph Nader aptly refered to as “Murder, Sports & Weather” or whatever it is that I’m supposed to do given the most recent offense shouldn’t be too hard.

Faith Kidder, the lead coordinator of MN4K back when we were freezing our asses off, used to insist that we put things in terms of what we wanted and not in terms of what we didn’t want. It could be annoying. She once interrupted me to suggest that I say “situation” instead of “problem.”

“So a person doesn’t have a drinking ‘problem?'” I challenged. “They have a drinking ‘situation?'”

We could butt heads. But we laughed a lot. This was no exception.

With Faith’s predominate attitude in mind, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we completely pulled our energy out of the crap that doesn’t work and put it elsewhere. Find an independent news source that you like and support it. Then forget about the rest of it. Besides, KSTP was never a serious news source anyway, was it?