Saturday, August 29, 2020

The year of living dangerously

Winter was notable for the political theater of a groundless impeachment, and spring turned surreal when North Carolina's feckless governor forbade indoor gatherings of more than 10 people beginning at 5:00 pm on St. Patrick's Day, but the front end of 2020 turned out to be a warm-up act for everything since. 

It's been a summer of "chemo and covid," as we sometimes say around here -- but the chemotherapy is almost done, and my sweetheart is a total trouper who always has gumption enough to refer to her treatment days as "healing days." Doxorubicin is a helluva drug.

Naturally, there were no vacations to speak of. My "road trip" was a two-day "there and back" to Lexington, Kentucky early in July, transporting a young adult and an even younger Ball Python, not to mention "mice on ice" in case the snake got hungry.

Uncle Jim hangs his hat just on the other side of the RDU airport most of the year, but I haven't seen him since we watched the movie Richard Jewell together, in lieu of the Ford vs. Ferrari he thought we were going to see (they're both good movies, and he was a sport about it). The last film I saw in a movie theater was this year's nifty remake of The Call of the Wild, and Lisa wore a winter coat to that screening. 

My son and I are now housemates. We make do without air conditioning while we listen to video game mayhem or the rising and falling susurration of the cicadas that marks Carolina this time of year. Fireflies still twinkle at dusk, and sometimes through moonrise. Going to work for me means booting up a computer on the dining room table. Going to work for him means pulling on a grocery store uniform, now that food service is moribund.

Daughter scrapes by in an apartment one town over with a boyfriend whom I haven't yet met. She's a surprisingly philosophical nanny. I still smile about our Fathers' Day picnic together, when each child drove separately to the park we'd chosen for that event. We were masked except when partaking from a bucket of Popeye's Chicken or the fixings that go with it. Lisa the Wonderful saved all the energy she could muster to help make the day special, as she so often does.

We shelved Disney World dreams indefinitely. Trips to the grocery store or the coffee shop with the drive-up window became events.The jovial former pastor of my parish retired with none of the fanfare he would have been feted with in normal times. 

Closer to home, Lisa and I watched house sparrows fledge from a nest built into a wreath on the front door. We also spent anxious nights on a bad weekend awaiting the return of a runaway teenager. 

But unforeseen developments can help with perspective if you let them (as writer Joel D. Hirst has done), and I'm getting better at finding grace in big things (the kid returned safely) and small ones (there are sometimes affogatos for dessert). Carrying a camera around helps.

"Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude," as Mr. Jack Khoury used to say to his high school students, dramatically enunciating all three syllables for each of those words, and looking a little cooler than a pudgy middle-aged guy with a comb-over and black plastic eyeglass frames should have been able to.

In a season sorely lacking live musical performance, it sure was fun to see my old harmonica teacher fit to bust about his sons and their sibling band, "The Brothers Gage." 

Those chip-off-the-old block teenagers made it to the semifinals of "America's Got Talent," and performed on air for that show's celebrity judges, including the estimable Mr. Simon Cowell, before he broke his back. Watching their national debut was a treat.

I almost signed up for an intensive songwriting workshop taught over three days by Mr. Jonathan Byrd of local band Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys, but next spring's HVAC replacement project and current adventures in cosigning for student loans have stronger claims on my bank account. Sallie Mae has no patience for people who fall behind in loan payments -- which I knew but Thomas now does, too.

Summer Olympics were canceled and outdoor exercise turned solo for most people, yet the Camp Gladiator trainers who were most effective in person still bring their A-game to "virtual" workouts. Andy, Bree, Lizzie, and Amy rock.

Other Gladiator coaches do, too, but those four still lead workouts at times I can actually make, and what I did this summer was earn a limited edition "Better Together" t-shirt. Grinding out burpees, bear crawls, and "Johnny Cs" still seems like a better idea than strolling past boarded-up shops in downtown Raleigh.

The men's prayer group of which I'm part (we pray the rosary, yo!) continues meeting weekly, though none of us realized back in February that we might not again see the inside of Panera Bread anytime soon. We didn't know that a beloved neighborhood pub would go belly-up, either. 

I miss the pub more than the bakery. At least Zoom video makes it possible for prayer peeps now living in other states to rejoin our fellowship when their schedules permit. Lord knows there's no shortage of things to pray for and about, especially in an election year.

Mom's slowing down, yet relatively healthy for her age. Da's sneaking up on 83, but the calendar can see him coming from darn near the horizon. Although he tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus almost a month ago, he's been blessedly symptom-free of that. His recurring leg and head wounds are of more concern to my siblings and I, not least because the vascular specialist Da had an appointment with would not see him after the covid-19 diagnosis came back while Da was in the man's waiting room. What a weenie. 

"Assisted living," like "safetyism," ain't what it's cracked up to be.Two phone calls ago, Da described his extra-special-super-lockdown as "wretched, miserable, and lonely." He agreed that he is woefully short of minions. Thank goodness my flight attendant sister is just as feisty as he is, and not averse to rattling the cages that need rattling in Arizona. My brother -- he of the background in academic negotiation -- backs her up.

Echoing what the rabbi said

Sister Dede brings the fire

Rabbi and lawyer Dov Fischer wrote perceptively about the contrast between the just-concluded RNC 2020 and the DNC "virtual convention" of the week before:

"As an overriding general feeling, the Republicans were so much more live and alive, while the Democrats seemed so much more taped and tapped out."

You know there's something to that analysis -- and Melissa Mackenzie's concurrence with it -- when you see the usual suspects in high dudgeon, as the following snips show:

The general rule for me is that if the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times all dismiss something as crass or deceitful, it's probably honest and dangerous to their shared ideology. When the mainstream media doth protest too much, then you know the speech they're protesting was over the target.
President Trump's team has the enviable luxury of support from Kristi Noem, Hershel Walker, Rick Grennell, Pam Bondi, Daniel Cameron, Maximo Alvarez, Lou Holtz, and Sister Deidre Byrne. That lineup is by no means exhaustive, but it's solid.  
People who insist that POTUS is an amoral clown either haven't been paying attention or are stuck in a time warp. When Herschel Walker says that he (Hershel) is a good judge of character, I believe him. Unlike Nikki Haley, he hasn't tried to position himself as a moderate. And I notice that in this case, he also agrees with Sister Byrne. That's game, set, and match for DJT in the character reference department, as far as I'm concerned, even before you get to the existential questions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Like children playing gotcha

Two nights into the Republican National Convention, it's plain to see that progressive commentary about anything even vaguely Trumpian can't be trusted. Sadly, that pattern won't change over the remaining two nights of the convention.

I was particularly amused to see that the lead news item at The Daily Beast this morning has nothing to do with the case that senior adviser Larry Kudlow made for the economic policy he helped POTUS advance. Instead, editors there breathlessly noted that "Trump Adviser Larry Kudlow Refers to Coronavirus Pandemic in Past Tense." Sheesh. God forbid anyone should refer to the pandemic in past tense until every American has been vaccinated against the Wuhun coronavirus, perhaps?

Meanwhile, almost every speech at the convention so far has been better than I had expected it to be. With the exception of First Lady Melania Trump's impressively heartfelt talk last night, the addresses have also been shorter than standard convention fare, also -- and that's a smart move.

Night One luminaries included Maximo Alvarez, Hershel Walker, Andrew Pollack, Jim Jordan, Natalie Harp, Tim Scott, and Kim Klacik. I'd never even heard of three of them before, but all were wonderful. A golden thread-- knowledge of history-- linked each of their different speeches. 

Night Two (i.e., last night) brought the aforementioned home run from Melania Trump, plus great stuff from Abby Johnson, Pam Bondi, Daniel Cameron, Larry Kudlow, Rand Paul, and a Maine lobsterman named Jason Joyce. Even Covington Catholic High School alumnus Nick Sandmann, young as he is, was well worth hearing.

Two of the speeches last night might even be called life-changing. Abby Johnson described abortion as it has never been described in prime time before, and Jon Ponder's story of redemption through faith put a human face on the criminal justice reform that is one of this administration's under-reported achievements. (Speaking of which, I keep up with current events more than the average bear, but I knew nothing about the "Right to Try" legislation signed into law in May 2018 until Natalie Harp mentioned it earlier this week. WRAL, you let me down!) 

The RNC so far has been putting on a clinic in effective political outreach, both to its base and to any "undecideds". Stories alleging that this administration has a vested interest in being "divisive" are misleading at best.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Yahoo needs editors

The screen grab is from Yahoo yesterday. Malapropism though this is, it almost fits the context, because Penn's penchant might well affect any pension he has.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

A soundtrack life

Driving through a lightning storm the other night was entertaining. It came with a smattering of rain, but not so much that I had to keep the windshield wipers agitated for 35 miles, so that was good. The car radio kept me company, although I bopped back and forth between two different stations, as is my habit:

  • Ray Charles, You Win Again
  • Aerosmith, Sweet Emotion
  • Green Day, Basket Case
  • AC/DC, Highway to Hell
  • Commodores, Night Shift
  • Huey Lewis and the News, Power of Love
Bonus track: Jefferson Starship, Miracles

On the way to chemotherapy early the next morning, Lisa and I had a chance to sing along with Simon & Garfunkel while they were singing "Mrs. Robionson." 

And Lisa passed her chemo test, which meant she could actually receive treatment. Intimidating as that toxic cocktail of chemicals is, that it was successfully administered means we're one big step closer to finishing her 20-week treatment regimen (not counting surgery).

Sweetheart is winning her fight against cancer smack in the middle of covid-19, and for that we are profoundly grateful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The man is not also a malady

 I had some fun debunking the idea that "Trumpism" is an actual condition that people suffer from. The same piece has a few thoughts on which Republicans might become party standard-bearers after Donald Trump leaves politics.

This news item from Neo about Trump's recent use of executive orders seems related. POTUS created a payroll tax holiday and mandated the continuation of enhanced unemployment benefits.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Kudos to grammarians at Pep Boys

"We go further to help you go farther" seems to be their new slogan. The distinction between those two adjectives is often missed, but those purveyors of after-market automotive equipment did not miss it. Well played!

UPDATE: I'm also partial to mondegreens.