Monthly Archives: May 2016

I don’t like America. (Before you get angry, please read…)

Thanks to JD Rhoades, who is wrong about everything politically but writes very well (you should buy his books), for reminding me about this. Seriously. thanks tons, dude. 

Full disclosure: I used to drink Bud Select. I also used to drink Bud Light. And before the cheapskates took over Busch Gardens, I’d take more than my allotted two free beers at the tasting place.

Alas, no more. For one thing, I’ve become a beer snob. I like sampling interesting beers. The guy who would have proudly turned his nose a fruit beer rejoiced the other day at finding an out-of-season set of Shock Top Strawbanero beer (owned, sadly, by Anheuser-Busch…bastards).

Still, I’m not a fan. And that’s before considering how they renamed Budweiser to America for the summer.

Really.

It’s hard, honestly, to figure out where to start with this.

First, if you exempt Lite beer from Miller, PBR, Piel’s Real Draft, and Tuborg Gold, there’s very little I want to drink less than I want to drink Budw…err, America. (Genny Cream is in a class by itself.)

Worse than, umm, America

Second, without even being a beer snob, I’m hard pressed to find a more cynical, poorly conceived attempt to leverage this country to pad corporate profits than this. And that includes every damned professional sports team suddenly deciding to replace their team colors with camo of one sort or another. (Yeah, a portion of the proceeds go to blah, blah, blah…don’t care.)

For the record, Bud isn’t even an American beer any more. Anheuser-Busch is owned by InBev, which was formed when a Belgian company merged with a Brazilian company.

On a related note, Anheuser-Busch has been getting its clock cleaned by craft beers, which resulted in this horrible commercial.

When your market share is getting hammered by people who make a better product and you’ve tried ridiculing them–and that doesn’t work–what’s left?

You could, you know, make a better product.

Or you could cynically wrap your product in the flag and pander to peoples’ love of the country.

When I go to Google images and search for ‘Budweiser pandering’ this is the first image returned. Go figure.

So they’ll drink your crappy beer and send their money to a company owned overseas.

Personally, I’d rather enjoy a nice Russian Imperial Stout brewed by people who live in the same area code as me.


This country is *not* going to hell

I’m not excited with any of the major choices available in the upcoming Presidential election. It’s kind of like voting among dysentery, malaria, and having to listen to Dick Vitale yelling non-stop for the next SIXTY YEARS, BAYYYYYYBEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

It’s Dickie V! In your head! In your ears! In your dreams for three generations, babyyyyyyyyy!!!!!

was considering voting libertarian. And then this happened…

A while back Rebecca Romijn did a spoof commercial for the Hand Bra–her hands were the bra. Toward the end, she said coming soon for men, the hand cup. Then she got a look and said, “Eww. Oh, gross. No one will like that.” This is why.

Fat Bastard. Libertarian. For President.

Ever since I was old enough to remember, the country was going to hell. Watergate and the damned hippies would be the end of us. Then Jimmy Carter came damn close to getting his ass kicked by a bunny rabbit–and gave birth to the Misery Index.

Then Reagan wanted, desperately wanted–was sexually lustful–for nuclear war. Then there was the Bush Family Evil Empire. Then Clinton and Bimbo eruptions and his desire to eliminate everything that kept us safe. Then George Dumbya Lush (That’s still funny, that word play. And super original, too.) And then Obummer. (More high-larity.)

And now we get to pick between Biff Tannen, Hitlery, and that crabby guy down the road who yelled at you for being on his lawn.

And turn down that damned Rock and Roll music, too!

And yet, in spite of all of this, here we are. If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you have a better existence than 99.99999999% of all the people who have lived since God told Dick Clark and Eve to be fertile and multiply. And 99.9% of all the people living today.

Simply put, we’ve had constitutional crises before. This country has survived a difficult birthing process. Then we ditched the entire government for another government. We had a sequel to the war for independence–the war where the White House was burned. A Civil War. A difficult reconstruction period. Two World Wars. A seemingly endless procession of economic downturns. Teapot Dome. Watergate. Whitewatergate. Iron-Contra. Bill Clinton’s libido. And the fashion disaster that was the 1970s.

The people who created this country expected people like Donald Trump. I mean, if we survived James Buchanan, we can survive Trump. Or Hillary. Or Crabby Bernie.

This country is not going to hell. If you want that, look at Haiti. Look at Venezuela. Look at any number of countries in south Saharan Africa. And let’s not forget North Korea or <insert name of Islamic Republic here>.

So yes, our Presidential choices suck. It’ll be hard to figure out who to vote for. But we’ll survive it. We’ve survived far worse.


Not a Republican any more

Melissa Gilbert may very well be the worst person alive. (Considering the fact that there are dozens of New York Yankees alive, I doubt it.)

(Just saying.)

But she’s Half-Pint, the adorable, if annoying, precious breakout star of Little House on the Prairie. She also showed guts by competing in Dancing with the Stars with a concussion, among other things.

I told them, “I will kick Nellie Oleson’s ass.”

Like many people in her field (acting), she’s also a Democrat. More to the point, she’s running for Congress in Michigan this year. Or she was running. She had to drop out for health reasons–she needs back surgery. As a child, she worked with a broken back on Little House and needed spinal surgery in 2003. And then, after the DWTS accident, she also had a balcony collapse on her head at a house she was renting.

The response of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee announced the decision with glee, calling it “another high-profile embarrassment for the DCCC.” They paired the story with the following picture.

I’ll never be a Democrat. I disagree with too many of their platform planks. There are too-many high-profile Democrats who are schmucks. I thought that was more or less an affliction associated with people, though, and not a specific party.

And then the Republicans, the party that kind-of, sort-of represents me, decided to run the dumpster-fire article and picture. And they decided to support tax breaks for sending jobs–including one I used to hold–overseas. And they decided to forget that the First Amendment allows people freedom to disagree with them on religious terms and the fourteen amendment means we don’t disallow consenting adults to enter into legal contracts based on their choice of what other consenting adults they sleep with.

Over time, I’ve become politically eclectic. I like to consider that progress. My opinion of a political candidate isn’t based primarily on the letter after their name.

It’s based on a lot of other things–like whether they celebrate a back injury that causes someone to have to drop out of a race.

In fairness, part of my reaction is that, at least based on things I’ve seen, I like Melissa Gilbert. That’s the public Melissa Gilbert. She could be a total shrew when she’s not performing.

But it doesn’t matter. When your opponents make hay by telling everyone that every single member of your party is a heartless, soulless, greedy schmuck, don’t give them proof that they’re right!

Then again, this is the party that things it’s perfectly appropriate to condemn journalists for asking hard questions, then imply that they’re only pushing back because they’re on their period. It’s the party that things it’s appropriate to threaten convention delegates with the publication of their identity and room numbers if they don’t vote for a specific candidate.

Maybe they are schmucks.

I can’t align myself with schmucks.

Maybe I really will vote for Charles Barkley.


The long game

I’m still sorting through last year, which is odd because we’re almost halfway through this year. But it wasn’t that long ago that I had champagne ready, not to usher in the unwritten book that is 2016, but to celebrate the demise of 2015.

Here’s to you, 2015. You bastard.

You don’t go through a series of awful, scary events and emerge out the other side unchanged.

But we’re in impatient bunch–after all, we have technology. We can order food and it comes in half an hour or less. We can order practically anything from Amazon and get it in one to two days. We should be able to process whatever stuff happens and move on. After all, the next thing–be it a new relationship, a new phase in life, a new deliverable–demands immediate attention.

As people, though, we don’t work that way.

Perspective isn’t something you can rush with an innovative new methodology that radically decreases cycle time and increases throughput.

It takes time to come to terms.

In the last ten years, as our ability to measure things has increased, and technology has made it possible for us to become a nation of ADD-addled, instant-gratific–hey, look, a shiny thing.

Anyway, our most basic elements, our souls, if you will, don’t work that way. Upheavals take time. And some upheavals never become settled in your life.

That’s how we’re built.

If you believe in the soul, it’s a fragile and beautiful thing. You can’t just rub dirt on it and go play.

Everything happens in its own time. And the things that might roll of your back might bring me to my knees–not because I’m weak, but because there are other things about me that make that part of my soul more vulnerable than most. It could be a lot of things building up. It could be an old scar that’s never healed.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t get better by calling it weak and demanding it get better.

It takes time. And thought. And pain. And consideration.

Because we aren’t cell phones. We aren’t Excel. We aren’t machines.

We’re people, which means we’re messy and erratic and don’t run based on an algorithm or a project plan.

And that’s a beautiful and maddening thing.


Things I wish I could tell younger me, Part I

My wife and I have a post-church tradition that’s sprung up over the past couple years: we go someplace together after service. Usually it’s Panera, but sometimes it’s Starbucks or someplace else. Today, we went to McDonald’s. She ordered a Sausage McMuffin and hashbrown. I ordered a chicken biscuit. It took about half an hour to get said items.

I still wonder how this is possible, considering there were about ten people working there. Basically, the entire operation broke down. Nothing came out. It was like one of those episodes of Hell’s Kitchen where Gordon Ramsay starts throwing things and swearing at people.

There was a guy there with his kid. The kid was maybe eleven. And they screwed up the order multiple times. At one point, he got bacon that was essentially raw. Another time, after they finally delivered the kid’s breakfast sandwich, it turned out to be a double cheeseburger–definitely not what the kid ordered.

The guy was angry, which I get. And when my son was eleven, I’d have been spitting nails, too. I’d have done a lot of the same things the guy did, minus the eff this and G-D that.

As someone whose kids aren’t going with me to McDonald’s any more, I look at that guy and see an opportunity to teach a lesson–an opportunity I missed hundreds of times.

Simple fact: Yes, it’s supposed to be fast food. Yes, I could have raised the chicken myself and made a biscuit in less time. Yes, it’s really annoying to be standing around doing nothing in front of the counter and seeing people do the same behind the counter.

More important simple fact: I’ve had weeks where I couldn’t walk across the living room without resting–and still worked a full week-plus. I’ve had weeks where people I was close to died. I’ve had weeks where I didn’t run to death, but neither would I have run away from it. If that’s the worst thing that happens to me this week, it’ll be an amazing week.

Death, playing electric football.

 

The lesson I wish I could go back to fifteen-years-ago-me and convey is that the folks at McDonald’s have the power to make me wait too long for mediocre food. I have a far bigger power: the power to understand it doesn’t really affect me, to save my anger for the stuff that does. And even then, to use the anger as a catalyst for change.

Then again, there’s a decent chance I may need to tell fifteen-days-from-now-me the same thing.

For the moment, though, it feels good to keep that out of the list of things that hork me off.


Clothing choices, teenagers, and cause and effect

I’ve seen this picture a number of times on my Facebook feed recently and it’s bothered me.

I don’t know the specifics around this particular note–and neither do you. As a result, I can only talk in generalities.

That said, many years ago, an attractive woman I worked for wore what amounted to a see-through shirt to work a few times. On one hand, as a heterosexual guy, it was a wonderful shirt. On the other hand, she was my boss. She was a woman I worked with. It was a professional environment, and it made me extremely uncomfortable.

As an adult, I managed my discomfort, remained professional, and generally went out of my way to not interact with her on those days.

When I was in junior high school, the art teacher wore a tie-dyed t-shirt one day with no bra. It was junior high school, so word got around. I don’t remember what we did in art that day, but years later, I remember the teacher’s name and I still remember what the shirt looked like. Most of the boys managed, but there was a lot of staring.

Put another way, there’s a reason we don’t let people vote until 18. There’s a reason we don’t let them drive until they’re 15 or 16.

Teenagers are still figuring things out at that age. And one of the hardest things to figure out is sexual attraction. There are certain aspects of your body that are still new, in terms of how they work and how they make you feel. To quote the great philosopher Ray Barone, “When you’re fourteen, the world is a very confusing and sexy place.”

If the sign is to be taken seriously, then the problem with the see-through shirt at work wasn’t the shirt, it was me noticing the shirt, being distracted by it. And if someone were to say something about the shirt, it would be body-shaming this woman. I still remember the shirt and trust me, there was nothing for her to be ashamed about.

This sign isn’t about a teenage boy groping someone. It’s not about boys saying crude things to girls. Taken at face value, it’s about a girl who maybe wore something provocative to school and was asked to change it. If that’s the case, then you aren’t teaching her that her body is an object, you’re teaching her that you have to interact with people and actions have effects on people.

This would be okay, too, right?

(All of this assumes that the principal isn’t going around and measuring hemlines and their distance for your knee.)

Because according to the sign if the girls were to show up with super-tight yoga pants and a see-through shirt, and if boys were distracted, they’re in the wrong and saying that’s inappropriate is body shaming.

I suspect it’s not that simple.


A debt in heaven

“I have a big debt to pay in heaven, I hope, when I get there, because the Lord has been so gracious to me, all my life.” — Vin Scully

At first glance, who has a bigger debt to pay in heaven than Vin Scully? Here’s a guy who’s been paid for 67 years to go to baseball games and sit there and tell a friend about what’s happening. The friend, of course, is whoever’s pulled up a chair and tuned in to watch whatever game he happens to be calling.

Here’s a guy who had a skating race against Jackie Robinson.

But lest you think this man whose debt to God is so great has had an easy, trouble-free life:

  • His first wife died at the age of 35 of an accidental overdose.
  • His son died at age 33 in a helicopter crash.
  • He lost two close friends and colleges, Don Drysdale (56) and Jerry Doggett (80).
  • After years as one of CBS’s lead NFL play-by-play men, he lost a plum job–John Madden’s partner–to Pat Summerall.

In short, his life has been marked by many of the same troubles that plague people who don’t get paid for watching baseball games for 67 years.

High fly ball into right field. She is….gone! (Followed by a minute of silence.) — Best call ever.

This is the man who has a big debt to pay in heaven.

Which makes me think:

  • I have never once missed a meal because of lack of money.
  • I have never slept outside a shelter because of lack of money.
  • I have never lacked for medical care that I need.
  • I have been surrounded throughout my life by people who love me.
  • My grandmother had a bar in her cellar and a house in the Adirondacks. My other grandmother snuck me money when my dad was actively not noticing.

Indian Lake, it’s the scene you should make with your little ones.

  • I’ve gotten to experience the 1980 Miracle on Ice, This Week in Baseball, the 1981 game between the Chargers and Dolphins, the 1986 and 2015 Mets, the last day of the 2011 baseball season, the entire runs of The Rockford FilesCheers,  Magmun, PI, Firefly, Castle, and LOST, I got to experience Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and I’ve read every Spenser novel.

  • I get to do laundry inside. Without physical labor. In my own house.
  • I have a house. And a car. And a painting of Ebbets Field on my wall.
  • I got to see both of my children born, and they’re both creating a magnificent life for themselves.
  • My daughter bought me a real Hawaiian shirt from Hawaii. My son gave me a Jackie Robinson replica jersey.

Got it, which is very cool!

  • I married someone who loves me and who’s pretty good at, ahem, marital stuff. (Though, having written this, I may never experience it again.)
  • I have a long-term, trusted small group.
  • I’ve experience the craft beer revolution, and adult root beer. I’ve had Russian Imperial Stout.

  • From the first day on a regular job to the last moment of my work today (May 20), I’ve worked with amazing people.
  • I’ve completed four Tough Mudders and run 17 miles in one workout–and survived Insanity.

I paid money to do this.

  • I’ve recovered from what may be a disease that leaves many people bedridden and destitute. And I ran eight miles in one instance since then.
  • I’m not dead yet.

As the man says, “Look at my life. My dreams come true.”

It’s a hell of a way to live, thinking that you have a debt, you hope, to pay in heaven because the Lord has been so gracious all your life.

Although I’m an old man, kind of, it’s a great thing to learn.

 


Senator Sanders needs to speak out about some of his followers

Full disclosure: I will not be voting for Donald Trump. I find it reprehensible that people associated with his campaign would threaten to publish the hotel rooms of delegates. No doubt, after something bad happened at the Republican convention, the campaign would be shocked, SHOCKED, I SAY, if something bad happened.

I’m no great fan of Secretary Clinton’s either. Right now my tastes run somewhere between a third party and “Oh, God, oh, God, we’re all gonna die.”

So it was with great interest that I read an editorial from the Sacramento Bee about the Bernie Sanders campaign.

But before we get to that, please watch this, the very first West Wing scene featuring Martin Sheen as President Bartlet. Please watch it all the way through. Martin Sheen was very presidential in this role and the show was outstanding.

In the scene, President Bartlet throws a religious leader out of the White House for not condemning people who support him and agree with his political stances. It seems that those people decided to threaten the President’s granddaughter–Annie–because of a political disagreement.

And threatening peoples’ grandchildren is bad, mkay?

According to the Sacramento Bee, after supporters of Senator Sanders were upset at the results from the Nevada Democratic convention, they became unruly. That’s nothing new. As the article points out, they’ve disrupted things before, primarily rallies for Hillary Clinton. In this case, they went beyond that, including threatening the grandchildren of state Democratic party chair Roberta Lange.

Rather than denouncing this behavior, Senator Sanders’ campaign says that “had no role in encouraging the activity that the party is complaining about.” While that may be–and probably is–true, it would be easy enough for Senator Sanders speak out forcefully against the worst of the behavior.

He should denounce these people. He should do it publicly.

It doesn’t matter what Senator Sanders’ politics are–the people threatening children are his supporters. While he may not have encouraged their activities, he can easily put a stop to it with one simple statement–stop it.

S-T-O-P. New word. I-T.

I wasn’t going to vote for Senator Sanders. I disagree with his politics. That said, of the three major candidates, he was the one I might trust with the keys to my house.

No more. Don’t give me no lines; I’ll keep my keys to myself.

If Senator Sanders wants to distance himself from Trump and Secretary Clinton, the best way would be to tell his supports that he doesn’t accept threats against children in his name.


Earning love

There’s a group of guys I meet with Saturday mornings. We talk about God stuff, and sometimes baseball. And sometimes we talk about the innate attraction of yoga pants–particularly in relation to the God stuff. Given the whole passage about plucking out of eyeballs, it seems appropriate from time to time.

Of late, a theme with me has been peace, performance, and God. I’ve referenced it here, too.

It all started years ago for me, listening to a guy named Steve Brown. I remember him saying that love in exchange for performance isn’t really love. It’s pay.

Don’t get me wrong; we need performance. We are driven by performance, competition, and achievement, sometimes to our best…

And sometimes to our worst…

But what if the ability to compete and perform remained and the compulsion were gone? How would that change life?

How much peace would we attain, from the inside out, if we knew that we could compete, go out and take chances and be wild and reckless and amazing, and it would all be okay?

How much would the world be different if we stopped trying to earn love?

I’m the last person to write with authority on this topic. I’ve been trying to earn love for as long as I can remember. Overall, the results have been less-than-inspiring.

So why write this? As the great philosopher once said, “Only Nixon could go to China.”

Since I’m hip-deep in the God stuff lately, here goes…the coolest part of the whole Jesus story, if you buy it, is that what Jesus did removes the need for us to earn love. In the story, when Jesus died, the curtain in the temple, the thing that kept the riff-raff away from God because of unworthiness, was torn from top to bottom–from the part nearest God, to the part nearest us. If you believe in the story, it’s a very physical manifestation of an incredibly accepting love, a desire for us to approach the Almighty.

It’s odd then, that for whatever reason, God has chosen to let us go here, where we can look for him and find only traces of him. Where the best taste of his love comes from each other (or not). For the most part, we’re what we’ve got. Maybe part of the reason we’re here, in an imperfect world, is to understand love by reaching across the brokenness to give love to each other.

How much better would we be together if we stopped trying to earn love and acceptance and started manufacturing it?

With apologies to another philosopher, that’s what I want to imagine, not no religion, but no need to earn love.

I don’t want to imagine a world without pain or loss or fear–that’s not achievable. I want to imagine a world where we are God to each other. Not in a horrible, Old Testament, angry, judgmental way. But in the way that Jesus cared for the people he encountered.

I want to imagine a world where we’re free to wipe each other’s tears, to touch and hug each other, to just sit in a room with each other when it’s the best thing to do. Free or pretense and posturing.

There’s <JohnFacendaVoice>a time for achievement, a time for purpose, a time for glory</JohnFacendaVoice>.

And then there’s a time for what’s important.

 


On Christian Hypocrisy

A guy I worked with in Phoenix came to work one Monday morning horribly sore. He’d spent the weekend with a pick axe, breaking up the soil in the back yard. Because I’d spent exactly a nanosecond in the desert southwest, I didn’t understand. When the soil is baked over thousands of hot Arizona summers, you don’t just run out back with the roto-tiller the way you do back east.

Since I had that conversation, my heart has gone from desert-hard to back-east pliable. Time and experience have pick-axed me to the point where something can grow there.

Still, when our message at church was “Why are there so many hypocrites in the church?”, my first thought was the guy in the mirror.

To be honest, I’ve been forgiven a lot and my heart isn’t the arid piece of baked rock it used to be. I try, with varying degrees of success, to look beyond the surface and accept people as children of God–and when I miss badly enough, I’m humble enough to hear the whisper that says “You know that’s my child, too.”

Put a different way, I don’t think I’m what society thinks of when they consider the concept of Christian hypocrisy.

I’ve been forgiven a lot of things. I know how blessed I am just to do things like get in the car and go to the store and buy food to eat. I haven’t always been able to do that. I know that when I damn other people I’m damning myself first.

My hypocrisy is far more subtle, and maybe more damaging. I’ve been through some things now. I was out of work for almost two years. Last year, during the hardest project I’ve ever worked on, I was beset with something that sapped my strength and brain-power. Then, when I couldn’t take it any more, I went on partial disability–and was promptly denied my insurance claim. While this happened, the system we implemented and I supported blew up with all the splendor of the July 4 finale (if it included a couple nuclear warheads).

All that and more happened, and here I am.

You’d think that if anyone would get the concept that God is looking out for me, I’d be the guy.

I’m not. I’m too small and too selfish and too worried about what might happen. To be clear, I was out of work for two years and looking at being unable to work for the rest of my life maybe. And here I am.

My hypocrisy is soft and small and it leads me to do things that aren’t as noteworthy as angrily condemning them, whoever they happen to be.

My hypocrisy is the kind that makes difficult days just a little harder. It makes you want that therapeutic glass of wine just a little more. It’s borne of fear, not hate.

More to the point, I know better.

So I’m sorry for my hypocrisy. I’m sorry for being small while you were hurting. I’m sorry for being self-absorbed when you were afraid or tired. I’m sorry for missing the mountain of crap in your life because I couldn’t see past my own mountain.

God, as written in the Bible, is pretty clear about a lot of things. He tells us not to worry, specifically about what we’ll eat or drink or wear. He tells us this because he’s set us down here to be Him to each other. And it’s really, really hard to mimic perfect love when you’re worried about what you’re going to lose.

For me, that’s the really toxic Christian hypocrisy.

It’s not attractive to other people to believe in a God whose followers claim is mighty, but don’t really believe it.

And my faith, such as it is, has been an enormous help to me. It’s changed the ground of my heart. The pity is, my own insecurities mask those changes.