Tuesday, April 24, 2012


This month I turn 35.  It occurs to me that I should effect some significant changes in my life.  For one thing, I could be more hard-nosed and hard-hearted.  For another, I should cultivate optimism to the point where I'm deluded enough to believe in the wisdom of planning for the future.  You wouldn't know it from looking at my life -- a roof over my head, food on my plate, no arrest record, no kids, a healthy social life, less debt than your average 35 year-old American -- but I've never really been one to act like I'm expecting a future.  I didn't think much about college in high school, and spent most of my adult life simply placing one foot in front of the other, expecting nothing and hoping for the best.  I'm unambitious, and congenitally incapable of scheming and strategizing -- particularly in those ways that pit me against any one else's interests.  I've had low expectations since childhood, struggle more with not wanting than with a world that won't give me what I am told to think I want, and am keenly aware that, although from others' perspectives I seem to have had it rough, I have it really good.  At my worst, I excel at making it look like I don't have a care in the world.

But I want to trust the sense possessed by achievers; maybe they're on to something.  I should maybe start giving some thought to planning my life in advance, learn to assume I have a future.  Come up with an objective to be achieved within five years and work towards it.  Give myself goals to reach.  Be self-disciplined, rather than self-sabotaging.  Challenge myself.  Of course, once that's done I'll end up a hood ornament or recipient of a stray bullet or something...I may be naive of many facets of reality, but irony is well known to me.

Anyway, I should also take to heart what friends have said:  that I'm entitled, and should start acting like it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beware of Artists

"They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous." -- McCarthy-era poster.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Promise Deferred

Let's get over the reality that the Democratic party is centrist and corporatist, and that no president arising therefrom will forward a truly progressive agenda. I've heard from several people that they so loathe Obama they will abstain this election. They are disappointed, disillusioned, and disgusted.

I don't know why these otherwise very grown-up people held close to their breasts such fantastical expectations. Can't we maintain a healthy and warranted sense of cynicism and still make an effort? Although Obama is probably guaranteed re-election, I exhort the abovementioned to lump their broken-heartedness and go through the motions of voting for him again. Let's make this win stick.

People are still mourning Mr. Change's apparently unfulfilled campaign promises and are excoriating his concessions and failures. I myself am rather impressed at how he's kept it together. I think Bush's eyeblink disappearance down the collective memory hole glossed over the tremendous damage that idiot's administration (to use the word kindly) did to America. My assessment is that Obama has earned a passing grade in putting out a myriad fires, staving off disintegration, and preventing tragedy and drama. Yes, there's so much more he could have done, but he, as I expected, failed to overcome the mindset that demands cowering in the face of Republicans' fatuous potshots and childish asides. Democrats, I'm afraid, will always give the opposition too much credit -- they will never stop assuming the other side possesses legitimacy, cogency and relevancy, despite conservatives' wholesale unwillingness to touch base with the real world at all. The result: our infrastructure languishes, Social Security remains imperiled, the economy continues to teeter, and America is only momentarily secure against its own self-destructive excesses. But that's no reason to get passive aggressive and hand the reins over to people whose biggest issues are darker fellow humans and Planned Parenthood.

If I may make a re-election campaign promise on behalf of a president with whom I've been pretty much okay: Expect Obama as a lame duck to throw caution to the wind and truly implement a constellation of policies we can count on to preserve America for at least a couple more decades -- a pretty bold goal when one considers the context of modern human existence as a whole. When I look at the current White House from arm's length I see conservation of energy, an executive that has preserved much of its mandate since 2008 in anticipation of a second term during which it will do its damnedest to revitalize our economy, conserve our resources, take some possibly successful stabs at preventing collapse, and preserving the few civil liberties we haven't lost. Our way of life as Americans is ultimately doomed, but I still see hope in retaining some of it for longer than we have a right to.

I'm not optomistic about humanity's future, but I think the wonkish will be pleasantly surprised during the next four years, and I implore my fellow citizens to hold their noses and go through the motions with me at the polls this year. I'm not saying it will get better, but this is our best shot at preventing it from getting horribly worse very soon.

Gimlet eyes: did we ever think we were doing more than forestalling the inevitable and sticking fingers in dikes? Let's not throw our hands up in surrender prematurely.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Counting My Blessings

"If everyone else were jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you too?" -- My Mother.

There is no way around it: I am the product of a superlative mother. She was demonstrative during my childhood, mainly in how she worked her ass off to provide for our family. She started out stressing early literacy and potty training, and was pretty hands-off beyond that. She is the antithesis of overbearing. Rather, she cultivated in me independence and inner strength when I was very young. My brother and I were not born to validate her or act as foils in her personal psychodrama. She seriously devoted herself unselfishly to our best interests. I was almost never coddled, the exception being when I had the mumps. Then, she cradled my agony-ridden frame in her lap all night long, before leaving for work after having worked all day the day before. No more than two or three times did she find it necessary to resort to physical punishment. For the most part, she incentivized responsible behavior with candy and cash, and would on occasion play the guilt card.

Although highly communicative (I was her duty-bound listener for most of my childhood), she eschewed maudlin displays. My father would say he loved me. My mother would demonstrate it. My father would say how proud he was. My mother, on the other hand, was content to act as though she knew I was capable and intelligent -- she took my wit as a matter of course.

I can't imagine what it would be like to live as that woman on Dr. Phil who hated -- hated! -- her mother. I think of my friend "K," whose relationship with his mother to hear him describe it resembles nothing so much as that which exists between two alligators. And one twisted mess in particular, a man who briefly played my nemesis, exemplified spoiled son syndrome. The man had spent all his life under a mother who cleaned up after him, lied for him, and indulged him in every single way. The result was less a man than an unconscionable monster whom no one seems to be able to stand.

When I'm told by someone they think I'm a good person, I know precisely who to credit.

Of course, I have let my mother down. Though touched by artistic and musical talent herself, she completely lacks the artistic temperament, and despairs when she sees it in me. My flightiness, my space cadet moments, no doubt vex her sensible, level head to no end. And I'm pretty sure she's given up on teaching me the value of a dollar. Still, she taught me to value my mind. She is a highly intelligent woman who I'm glad to say is not disappointed in her eldest son's capacity for thought.

My mother and I don't bandy terms of endearment. Our bond is divinely animal. Words are for the mere quotidian. Without her saying it, or my having to ask, I know for a fact she would sacrifice her life to save mine. She wouldn't even wring her hands or debate self-interestedly. It would be a given.

How many people in this world are as fortunate as I am?