Sunday, December 05, 2021

I Was Bob Dole's Wingman - In Memory of Bob Dole

 "Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep. At his death, at age 98, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years," according to a statement from his family.

I hated Bob Dole. I loved Bob Dole. A staunch conservative, he defended the criminal Nixon till the end. He fought for the people of Kansas, including the farmers and the hungry, as a good liberal should. He was uncompromising, and he knew when to compromise. None of these are contradictions. Bob Dole was a great American.

I had the honor of meeting Senator Dole in about 1997 or '98, not too long after his final run for president in '96. I was in Washington, DC, at a conference for nonprofit folks working on issues of hunger and food insecurity. After the first long day of sessions, there was an evening reception and into the midst of it all walked a familiar face, as casually as anybody else in attendance.

Others came up to greet him and awkwardly tried to reach out with their right hands for a proper handshake and failed to understand when he responded with this left (good) hand. When it was my turn, I somehow had the presence of mind to reach out with my left. I think he appreciated that, because I was swept along with him into the next conversation.

Bob and I were then in a group of several of college interns, mostly female, who were working the conference. Rather than talk about food policy, Bob wanted to know what universities everybody attended, and how were their football teams doing. I guess I was still fresh enough out of college (grad school, at least) to participate and chat with the young women and my new best bud, Bob. If neither of us were married, we might have gotten lucky.

Before too long, however, Bob went home to his wife, Elizabeth, and I went up to my room (alone) to call my wife, Leslie, and tell her who I'd been hanging out with.

There was a time in America, not all that long ago it seems, when political opponents weren't seen as the enemy. We could disagree, grumble, and fight, and still find common ground to stand on. There was a time when somebody with a different position than ours could still earn our respect for standing up for what they believed was right. Not every difference was considered proof of evil intent, and it rarely was.

Senator Bob Dole died early this morning. May his memory be for a blessing.

Friday, May 28, 2021

In Memory of J.D. Chandler

My good old friend, John, known professionally as J.D. Chandler, passed yesterday, while in the hospital following his fifth heart attack.

We met in Jr. High School, 1975. John and Crazy Tom were budding film-makers, and they asked Dave and I, future rock stars, to create a soundtrack for their upcoming epic of the Spanish Civil War, The Unknown Soldier. It would take me several more years to catch the Hemingway reference there.

John and Tom would come by my house where Dave and I would set up in the garage and play our latest addition to the soundtrack. We'd ask how the script was coming, and if there were any pages we could see so we'd know what kind of a groove we were looking for. "Any day now," was always the answer. "Any day now."

At one of these garage sessions, my brother Miles stopped in to listen. After everybody had gone home, Miles asked who that older kid with the full beard was, somebody's older brother? No, just our friend John, fourteen like the rest of us.

After Dave moved out of town I joined with John and Tom in the film making and we created Ogilvy Cinema Productions. A Quiet Place to Live was the first major production under John's direction, and filming commenced in a room at the Vagabond Hotel rented for the project. The star was Shelly, who would be the star of nearly all of Ogilvy's productions, and my on-and-off sometime girlfriend through much of High School. But we met in a room at the Vagabond on Ventura Boulevard.

Other Ogilvy films directed by John in that period included Dismembered - a ripped from the headlines story of a jilted wife who dismembers her wayward husband, stuffs him into a trash bag or two, and takes him for a cross-country road trip - and Today is Friday - from Ernest Hemingway's one act play of the crucifixion (I played 1st Roman Soldier). 

Our final major Ogilvy effort, co-directed by John, Tom, and I, was Road Time - a documentary about the Small World Band, a San Diego group ready to burst out of the local scene and hit the big time (and, coincidentally, my brother, Steve's band). Our vision was to make a film that would book-end nicely with Martin Scorsese's Last Waltz, about the Band giving up the road and going their separate ways.

For John's eighteenth birthday we arranged to see eighteen films. We started with some early matinees of current releases, cheated a bit with a mid-day showing of that year's Oscar Nominated Shorts at the Nuart just to boost our numbers, and finished with the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Tiffany on Sunset. It was a fairly typical Saturday for us in those days.

Not to even begin to talk about all the concerts: The Kinks, Warren Zevon, The Kinks, Arlo Guthrie, The Kinks, Tim Curry, The Kinks, Flo and Eddie, The Kinks...

Then, just like that, our teenage years were over, some were off to college, others to work, John entered the Army, and Tom was in protective state custody. 

Not that the good times ended, they just slowed down a bit.

There was the time that we were all gathered at Bill's place just outside the Cal Poly SLO campus for a bout of heavy drinking, but were disturbed by the noise of traffic outside with horns blaring and people screaming. John, always one to take control of a situation, went out and, though he was barely able to stand, somehow got on top of a mail box or a trash can and began directing traffic and cleared up the situation in no time.

There's the story of the Morro Four (John, Dave, Bill, and I) and our arrest and trial for endangering the Peregrine Falcons nesting on Morro Rock while on our way to visit Tom (in protective state custody).

There was the time that John was stationed at DLI (Defense Language Institute) but on leave down in L.A. At the end of the visit he said it was time for me to drop him at the Greyhound bus station. I refused. He said it was either that or take him to DLI. I weighed the options: 20 minutes to North Hollywood or seven hours to Monterey? The answer was clear: one never turns down the opportunity for a road trip. We kidnapped Dave and Bill from their respective dorms along the way.

Visits back and forth slowed down as life and all the complications it brings came upon us, but we were never out of touch for very long.

The Morro Four held a reunion many years later in Reno, with a horseback ride along the Truckee River and visits to Virginia City (where you can see Mark Twain's commode) and some of the locations from The Misfits.

In 2010, John and I made a trip together to Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor on December 7 (and go back on the 8th), crash every beach-side hotel bar in Honolulu, and still get up for the free Ukulele lessons each morning.

My wife, Leslie, and I visited John in Portland probably three or four times in the last decade and enjoyed his walking tours of Portland's most notorious murders, burials, and hauntings (view my videos of John's Portland tours here...).

John had succeeded as a writer, finding his niche in the lesser known - some might say seedy - history of the Portland area, publishing several books on the subject. Like me, he also continued the film bug with occasional short videos to YouTube, and he did a bit with Podcasts and blogging as well. He'd just recently picked up a guitar and was finally starting to learn that as well. I was looking forward to jamming with him on my next trip up.

And then, earlier this week, he posted to Facebook that he was in the hospital following his fifth heart attack. Last night his sister-in-law posted that he had passed that morning.

Of course, it had to be in a week when I was re-reading the short stories of Ernest Hemingway, and right in the middle of The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Farewell J.D. Chandler. He loved my Nana's knishes. May your memory be for a blessing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Swizzle Stick Inheritance

So, I've created a new website to share photos of my swizzle stick collection. Except that it's not my collection; it's my late parents' collection. Yes, the swizzle sticks were my inheritance. That was my choice.

After my parents had each passed, it was time to start cleaning out the house. My brothers and our wives gathered to start dividing things up, and one of the first things I said was, "I need the swizzle sticks."

I remember, as a small child, being fascinated by the designs and colors and shapes, and how these little pieces of plastic were somehow representative of memories of places and activities of past years. And they were just fun to play with.

Now, looking through them, it brings back those memories, but also keeps alive the memories of where my parents traveled, where they ate (and drank), and the lives they lived. It keeps their memories fresh and alive. And they're good for stirring my drinks.

Enough already with the introduction. Here's the links you need:

Friday, July 10, 2020

Why I Unfriended You on Facebook

This afternoon I was called out for un-friending somebody over a Facebook post I found to be racist in a gas lighting, passive-aggressive sort of way.

Just to be clear: I do not un-friend for differences of opinion. I value hearing different points of view. I enjoy a debate. Racism is not debatable. Both sides do not have equally valid points to consider. There’s good and there’s evil, and this is one place I draw the line. If you support racism I will assume you are a racist and out you go.

Here’s the response I sent to the person in question:

If your post were simply to honor Officer Anthony Dia, who was killed in Toledo on July 4, I would have wept with you. But your post didn’t even mention his name. Did you even bother to find out his name?

A meme honoring Officer Dia would tell his name and his story without the passive aggressive references to street memorials, protests, NBA/NFL stars, etc. Honoring Officer Dia was clearly not the point here.

The point of the meme (whether your intended point or not) is to make a comparison between this awful murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, and shame anybody who doesn’t share this meme as a means of defending and/or denying the systemic racist violence that makes BLM necessary.

But the worst part: your chosen words in sharing this meme were, “All lives matter.” At one time, this phrase could have been taken as a positive one, and your meaning would have been appreciated. But it’s popularity these last few years has been in response to BLM, as a means of silencing protesters, and demeaning their message.

You’ve not been living under a rock. You surely know this. You’re a smart person. You surely know that “Black lives matter” doesn’t mean “only Black lives.” It means that a large portion of our citizenry has been told over and over that their lives don’t matter, and they’re standing up to that (and many of us are standing with them).

Responding to cries of Black Lives Matter with “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” is a repudiation. It’s saying Black lives really don’t matter. It’s simply telling Black people, “Shut up and get back in your place.” It's saying that those murdered by official police violence deserved what they got.

Denying racism in the face of overwhelming evidence and testimony is itself racism.

Responding to racism with “we’ve all got problems” is to support a racist system, and is also racism.

I didn’t “condemn every cop” as you claim. I said nothing about Officer Dia (frankly, you didn’t say anything about him either).

I unfriended you because I’m tired and depressed and I thought it would be easier to say “goodbye” than to have to explain your racist post to you. I guess I was wrong.

 - - - - - - - - - -

For the record, here's Officer Dia’s story: Fallen officer's letter: 'I hope I died with bravery' - Please read it and take a moment to honor him properly. May his memory be a blessing.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Reflections on a Week of Action in a Life of Action

I've never been one to shy away from a good protest. I've been going to protests and rallies and marches and sit-ins and vigils and celebrations for a very long time. I've walked, I've shouted, I've sat silently holding a candle, I've signed petitions, I've passed petitions, I've written letters, I've written blogs, I've made phone calls, I've knocked on doors.

In High School, in the late '70s, it was mostly anti-Nuke and No War in Central America. Then No War for Oil, No More Wars for Oil, Not Yet Another War for Oil... Clean Air & Water, Gay Pride, No On 8, Occupy, Overturn Citizens United, Women's Rights, Memorial for the Pulse, Memorial for the Tree of Life, No Kids in Cages. I'm sure I've missed a few here, even from just the last few years.

This last week has felt a bit different. How do you protest in a pandemic? How do you go out when you're supposed to stay in? How do you shout when you're winded from the non-stop horrors? But then again, how do you not? How do you remain silent following the murders of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, and Auhmaud Arbery (and so many more), and just say, "I'm doing the pandemic now. I'll get with you later"?

I took my cues this week from the Movement for Black Lives "Week of Action" website. Each day had a demand, and suggested actions for each day broken down by Safe (yes, you can do it from home, during a pandemic), Medium, or High Risk. I've taken actions each day - some private (such as donations, petitions), some public (social media), and some truly public: yesterday, I did join a rally and march with hundreds of my neighbors.

Today (Saturday)'s theme is Making Meaning from Crisis. This reflections blog is part of my action for the day.

Now I've written this part before, but let me say it again: My life has been probably 98% privilege. I've had my share of incidents with anti-Semites - a lost job (or maybe two), a bloody nose (or maybe three) - but these are rare. In school days, long ago, my preference for longer hair and lack of skill or interest in sports led to a certain amount of anti-gay bullying (despite my not being gay).

But overall, my life has been one of middle-class, white privilege. I've driven away from traffic stops with only a warning and never thought "this is how I die" when I was being pulled over. When shop owners have kept an extra close eye on me I've had the luxury of thinking "what a paranoid ass" instead of "what a racist."

But I also know that justice cannot exist, that all lives will not matter, until we all stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors - even in a damned pandemic - and say loudly Black Lives Matter! And say their names: George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Auhmaud Arbery...

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

Here we are, once again, at our annual day of memory for America's fallen soldiers, the men and women who never made it home, having given the last full measure of devotion for our country.

Memorial Day honors the dead, but its placement in mid-spring, and as a symbolic signal of the coming summer, is also about life. Most any veteran will tell you that we remember those who passed to be grateful for what they have given us: for the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.

Which brings us to 2020, and the uncertainty and despair that so many are feeling now, as our country, and the world, are in the grips of the Coronavirus pandemic.

What has a pandemic to do with a war memorial? It was the President himself who called the fight against Coronavirus "Our big war" back in March. And now, the American death toll from that war is likely to pass 100,000 by the end of this sacred day.

So, this Memorial Day, these 100,000, who perished due to COVID-19, are the "soldiers" I want to honor, and keep in my heart and mind.

Like the dead from any war, we can -- and will -- argue now and into the future whether they died for a noble cause or were the victims of the hubris and folly of inept leadership. But not for today.

For today, I ask that we just remember these 100,000, remain hopeful for the coming summer, and pray that we don't soon lose 100,000 more.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Schadenfreude is Dead

Yet another casualty of the Trump administration, schadenfreude has died in its sleep. There will be no pleasure taken from its passing. Schadenfreude will be buried next to irony in a private ceremony.

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, I've struggled to not be political in my postings and sharings on Facebook and elsewhere.

Partly because I'm trying to survive and remain positive.

Partly because I'm tired. I've been blogging and shouting and warning here since 2001, including a multi-year "Carnival of the Decline of American Democracy." I've also been ranting on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube off-and-on since before any of them became popular. In 1996 I ran as a protest candidate for Mayor of Sacramento. I've attended hundreds - maybe thousands - of marches, sit-ins, rallies, and whatever else you've got since the 1970s. Making noise about politics is what I do. Or did. I'm tired.

Partly because of the noise. Once everybody else started blogging and vlogging and tweeting and sharing every meme they could get their cursor on, it was no longer necessary. I didn't have to nudge people to be active, the "Like" system did it for me. At least, it did for a while, except:

Partly because of the gaslighting. I'm tired of fighting against an algorithm that says one person's off-the-cuff, illogical opinion is equal to another person's well-reasoned, factually proven information. (Or greater than it, if it gets enough Likes.)

And, to a large part, as much as I loathe Donald Trump, I actually wanted, and hoped for, the moment to make the man, and to witness some actual leadership from the White House. I so wanted, and as an American citizen, needed to be proven wrong about Trump.

But these last few days made me give up on that as well.

A couple of days ago, the "good" Trump dutifully read off the notes that he supported the individual state Governors in their decision of when to remove restrictions and shelter-in-place orders, and gave a set of criteria to help them in their decisions (an abridged version of the guidelines issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom days earlier).

Then, hours later, the real Trump got on Twitter and told his followers to LIBERATE Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia. And the LIBERATE! message spread, and armed protestors violated the social distancing protocols and have taken to the streets in cities nationwide, in close proximity to each other, to demand an end to the state trying to save their lives. Because: fuck science. Because their president told them to.

Yes, there are some on "my side" who are posting things like, "Good, it'll kill off the morons, and leave the smart folks alone." But they're missing a bit of the science as well. COVID-19 just looks for a host to travel with. It doesn't care where it lands or who they voted for.

These LIBERATORS will bring it to the market. They'll bring it to their families. They'll bring it to their neighbors. And they'll bring it to our over-crowded hospitals. And people will die who did not go to LIBERATE their state capital.

So, no. I cannot take pleasure in their risking their health or their life. And not just because it risks my own. But because I don't want any unneccessary deaths. Even these stupid, ridiculous assholes.

I don't need them to die just to prove me right.

Logic is dead. Irony is dead. And now schadenfreude is dead. All casualties of Trump's assault on science, facts, and the American people. Isn't that enough?

Anyway, I made a little meme of my own:

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