Wednesday, July 20, 2016

B Smart, America.

This week's Republican National Convention has reminded me that watching political conventions on television is a bit like having dinner at McDonald's.  You know you shouldn't, but everything looks just appealing enough to dive in.  Then, an hour later, after a few crummy speeches, the horsemeat IED detonates in your lower intestine forcing you to spend the rest of the evening nursing your tummy ache of regret.  At the Clown Show in Cleveland this week, we have heard much more about stopping Hillary Clinton than we have about why we should elect Donald Trump.  Some speakers barely uttered his name.  When the Dems get Silly in Philly next week it will be more about how to dump Trump than the electability of Hillary Clinton.   This is what we are left with?  Two parties distracting us from their flawed candidates by demonizing the other?

America, I believe the phrase you are looking for is "Viable Alternative."  Sick of voting for the lesser of two evils, we seek another option.  But who?  Bernie's been beaten.   The roster of Republicans was Shock and Awful.   Gary Johnson is kinda boring.  Jed Bartlett is a fictional character.  (I know, it makes me sad, too.)  I don't want to say I told you so, but I think it's time you get cozy with the truth.  There is but one man for the job.   He is thinner (barely) than Taft!  He is more paranoid than Nixon!  He can leap nothing in a single bound!  It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ME!  Search for your feelings, Luke America, you know it to be true.  I'm your guy.  I tried to tell you to force a brokered convention in Cleveland.  Now we have to do it the hard way. 

If I criticize the current candidates for bashing others more than promoting themselves, then I guess I should lay out my platform.  With a limited campaign budget, there will be no grandiose, bloated, arena-filling, televised convention.  We'll probably just push together a few tables in the side room of the local Denny's.  Until then you can read my platform planks. (Not including the plank the two-party system is currently forcing America to walk.  Dad jokes!)   I have previously told you here, here, and here a few reasons why I am this nation's next best chance.  But I am not simply about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and foxy red pants.  Here are a few more reasons:

*Love who you love.  Marry who you want to marry.  If you don't want to issue a marriage license to a couple of dudes, then you don't get to work for that part of the government.  See you stocking my grocer's freezer, Kim Davis.

*Three words: Surgeon General Pikachu.  That dude (dudette?) has done more for child fitness than anyone in the last forty years.

*Feel free to own a bazooka, but you can only buy it after passing a stricter (or any) background check.  There's no reason you can't wait a couple weeks for ownership of your arsenal. 

*There will be an official National Sandwich.  I'm currently thinking cheesesteak, but am accepting suggestions.

*Smoke all the weed you'd like.  In your own home.  And don't drive under the influence.  Pot is not for me, but if you want to sit in your underwear all day burning tree and gobbling Doritos, what do I care?

*Goodbye church tax breaks.

*Goodbye Pittsburgh Penguins.

*We're gonna shelve this drone program.  We can not continue to indiscriminately drop bombs on innocent people.  I read an interesting article questioning whether Turkey would be justified in sending a drone over Pennsylvania to kill the cleric they say fomented the recent coup attempt.  Think about it, that is not much different than what we do.

*Dr Teeth and The Electric Mayhem will be my house band for all press conferences and televised addresses from the Oval Office.

(There's more, but the future First Lady and I need to put the kid to bed.  Tweet me more potential platform planks @Hailey4America.  Use #EverForward)

In conclusion, we have each candidate telling us why the other is bad instead of selling themselves.  Why?  Because they both stink.  So, rather than holding YOUR nose in the voting booth this November, follow THE Nose.  Write in The Big B.  Write in me, Bryan Hailey.  How could you possibly regret it?

#Hailey4America #EverForward #FollowTheNose

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Not Yet a Yogi, But Plenty of Boo Boos

For the last two years, meditation has been one of my tools to combat my anxiety disorder.  It helps me relax, get out of my head when I need to, and prepares my body to better respond when anxiety hits.  Recently, I decided yoga was the next logical progression in getting healthier in mind, body, and spirit.  I have toyed with the idea for years, encouraged by many friends to give it a go.  Figuring it was time to shed the extra of My Two Dad(bod)s, I finally got off my ample duff and dove into some beginner videos. 

So far, the yoga is fun, productive, and completely kicking my ass.  I had no illusions that it would be easy.  After all I'm about as flexible as a brick.   After my first session, I laid on the floor feeling that rewarding, "good" tired feeling which comes with expending effort.  The same tired I would feel after an afternoon of pick-up basketball.  The next morning, however, I felt like I had been in a street brawl. I'm using muscles that likely haven't been activated since I last played ice hockey a decade ago.  Little muscles that the next day say, "Hey, f%&ker, remember me?"  Little muscles that I should have been nicer to all these years.  Little muscles that were so neglected they nearly put me in traction last year simply for loading the dishwasher.  My elbow hurt for days.  My lower back laughed at me.  My surgically repaired knee barked its displeasure.  But by sticking with it, I am slowly whipping them all into line.  Of course, making progress is not the same as getting easier.  I still don't look great in my skin tight yoga pants.  (Let that image settle in.  You're welcome.  Do I really wear yoga tights?  Wouldn't you like to know.)  When the teacher instructs me to tuck my chin, I still have ask which one.  Many of the poses still present great challenges.  Humorous challenges.  I-could-probably-sell-tickets challenges.  Grace watches me practice with much amusement.  I laugh at myself trying some of this stuff.  It's like playing a demented game of Hokey Pokey.  Put your whole self in, put your whole self out, put your whole self in, trying not to quake or pout...

My favorite moment, so far, occurred while I was home alone, fortunately.  I was attempting a tree pose for the first time.  A tree pose includes balancing on one leg while tucking the bottom of the opposite foot against the thigh of the first leg, then stretching your arms skyward.  My first attempt went swell.  Much better than I anticipated.  Then I switched legs.  I lost my balance as I reached for the sky, but didn't want to bail on the pose, thinking that I could pull it together.  Instead I ended up hopping across the living room on one foot, like some sort of ill flamingo, nearly crashing into the couch and end table.  That, kids, is why you start practicing in the privacy of your own home.  I can only imagine the squeals of laughter had my girls been home.

As my practice deepens, my fitness improves, and my mind calms, I hope to shake loose a little enlightenment.  I could use it. I question everything right now.  I talk to my friends who have similar questions.  Are we good role models for our kids?  Are we saving enough money?  What the hell is happening in the world?  Do I have a job or a career?  Does that even matter?  When did Guns n' Roses become Classic Rock?  Call it our Gen-Xistential Crisis. 

For decades (holy shit!), I have wondered what I want to be when I grow up.  I always thought it would one day pop into my head.  I ponder. I ruminate on it.  I pray about it.  I talk to people.  I know dazzling entrepreneurs and people who knew what they wanted to be early on and went after it.  And I know a host of us stuck in neutral, convinced we were put here to do something different/better/more productive, but unable to pinpoint it.  Now, we wonder if we are trapped between the safety of our day jobs and the risk of taking the leap if we ever figure out where to jump.  We wonder if we are wasting our time and talents working for faceless corporations, municipalities, even families that give a hoot about little more than the bottom line.  As resources are stretched thin, we are asked to trust the system, to do more with less.  Lack of support and common sense from CEOs and superintendents tilts the scales towards ejecting and finding something new.  I'm convinced, were we to band together, we could save the world, or, at the very least,  put together a kick-ass fantasy football league.  Hopefully, when an idea strikes, I will be ready for action.  Until then I head back to the mat to breathe deep, seek inspiration, and play the weirdest game of solo Twister I've ever played.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Endurance Race

There's somethin' wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
We're seein' things in a different way
And God knows it ain't his
It sure ain't no surprise
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
There's somethin' wrong with the world today
The light bulb's gettin dim
There's meltdown in the sky
If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you're a better man than I
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'

So, maybe the great philosophers of Aerosmith are not the most esteemed guides we can seek, but these lyrics kept popping in my head this morning.  This song, Livin' on the Edge, was inspired by the  Rodney King riots of 1992.  According to Songfacts.com, the "song talks about how the world is a crazy place, but people remain stuck in their routines and refuse to change."  I graduated high school in 1992.  This time, this era, all the nutty things that have happened in the nearly twenty-five (holy crap!) years since, are my framework for viewing the world.  I read history, I explore the past, but we can only truly understand what we witness, what we live through, what we experience.  And what I see is in the last quarter-century not much has changed in Big Picture America.

O.J., 9/11, perpetual war, mass shootings, the Pulse massacre, the politics of personal destruction, police shootings, the New York Yankees, pseudoscience, internet bullies, decades of voting for the perceived lesser of two evils.  This list is as tragic as it is incomplete.  Today, the news gets worse every time we log on.  New horrific events occur too quickly to comment on the most recent horrific event.  Respect for others has dwindled.  Violence drowns out the voices of reason.  Too often, we see each other as a meme or a statistic.  A data point in an argument we hope to win.  I know young couples who wonder whether bringing a child into the current climate is a wise decision.  We are weary with worry.  We are discouraged  when a new gut punch seems to lurk around every corner. 

So, what do we do?  We could pack it in.  We could shutter our windows, crawl under the covers, and hope for the best.  Or we can absorb each punch, take a knee, catch our collective breath, then stand up to be counted.  For we endure.  And when we endure, America endures.  From dumping tea in Boston Harbor to saving the world in World War II to landing on the Moon, we endure.  Through Rebellion, slavery, Depression, segregation, assassinations, and war, we endure.  America endures.  It has not been easy, and never will be.  We are not yet close to where we want to be.  Our endurance requires constant vigilance.  A vigilance that requires listening to our neighbor, showing compassion, and sometimes quieting our ego.  A vigilance that requires learning how others live, not thinking we know their experience.  Seeking knowledge, wondering, asking questions.  Truly arguing and debating, not shouting the loudest.  I would tell the young couple to raise a family because, though the shadows loom large, there is hope and light.  Enough of us care.  Enough of us were raised right.  Enough of us are compassionate. Enough of us know violence is not the way.  Enough of us are ready to answer this fundamental question- Why do the things that should bring us together too often drive us further apart?

In the song printed above, Steven Tyler laments, "You can't help yourself from fallin'."  Sure we can.  We don't need an orange, poofy-wigged celebri-tycoon-itican telling us to make America great again.  America is great right now.  I see it in my little sphere every day.  I see it in the volunteers growing community gardens, literally providing nourishment to their neighbors.  I see it in those delivering blankets to the homeless on cold winter days.  I see it in social workers who dutifully open the next case file.  And teachers who far exceed their mandate, giving their own time, money, and love.  And someone who stands up to a cyberbullies.  We should celebrate the creators and innovators in our hometowns, in our little piece of the world.  Together, we  can positively influence our own corners of the country. It sounds desperately hopeful and na├»ve, maybe I'm just a boob behind a keyboard spouting empty rhetoric, but I know by working to change all the little pictures, we can actually change the Big Picture.  I know this because as We endure, so too does America.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Shit Happens Doctrine

Nearly two weeks after the Pulse nightclub massacre, I still don't know what to write.  I am unsure of exactly what I want to say or how to say it.  This attack stirs so many emotions within.  Probably because it hits three of the big ol' hot topics we like to argue about: Gays, Guns, and God.  As we mourn the forty-nine victims, most of us are seeking places to channel our outrage.  An act so heinous, so awful, sends us searching for understanding.  We want to know why, we want to know how, and we want to know how we stop it from happening again.  We lash out in frustration, looking for someone to hold responsible, looking for an easy solution.  We blame the NRA, homophobes, politicians, preachers, and Muslims.  Everyone has an angle.  Everyone wants his or her brand of justice.  We "like" memes, post links, and yell at the idiots on television.   Of course, there is no simple answer.  Not one we want to hear anyway.

Of the three big "G" issues involved, Gays is by far the easiest for me to reconcile.  I've written about my feelings on homosexuality before.  Love who you love. The real tragedy is that many homosexuals live in great fear every day, not just on mornings after events like Pulse.  Sadly, fearing ridicule and judgement seems on the low end of a spectrum that runs all the way to being afraid of being murdered because you were born differently.  Some want to celebrate America as this beautiful melting pot, but only if they can control the ingredients.

That brings me to Guns.  The big "G" with which I struggle the most.  I don't struggle with my personal feelings about guns; I abhor them.  I think most of our gun violence directly correlates to a fetishist attitude that guns are awesome and necessary.  An attitude that leads to casual behavior and an ambivalence towards the real repercussions guns carry.  Whether a country fella carries because it makes him tough or an inner city gang banger carries so he looks hard, the gun culture is a foolish exercise that is swallowing us up.  To the responsible gun owners who shoot only for hunting and sport, that keep your guns secured when not in use, that don't carry on your hip like some sort of Barney badass, I applaud and thank you.  Unfortunately, we don't hear enough about you.  Frankly, the dipshits who can't be trusted with their guns are becoming far too prominent.  Toddlers pulling unsecured pistols from purses, idiots brandishing weapons in church to de-escalate a dispute (good thinking!), Chicago men killing each other at a staggering rate - it's enough to make you go crazy.  I know, I know, I know-guns don't kill people, people kill people.  Really, though, it's people with guns that kill people.  Introducing a gun into a dispute can send it from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.  Guns have one function: destroy the target.  That is why I hate them.  Too often the ramifications are only thought of after the trigger has been pulled.  My store stocks thirty-nine gun magazines on the newsstand.  Granted, that's fewer than the knitting/crocheting section, but Granny is unlikely to wield a half-finished scarf as a murder weapon.  The magazines glorify violence and stoke fear.  They make guns seem like the best solution.  When we celebrate guns, they become mainstream.  When guns become mainstream, we become less vigilant with their use.  When guns are normalized, when the destructive power is made casual, guns seem like the best solution.  So, yeah, I'm not a fan personally.

You know what, though?  I don't make the rules.  That is where I struggle with Guns with a capital "G".  My personal wish that guns would not be fetishized, celebrated and carried in grocery stores at some point intersects with my belief in the Second Amendment.  I don't pretend to have all the answers.  I'm not advocating taking guns away from most gun owners.  Just because I don't think you need an armory in your home, doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to have one.  However, something has to give.  If I have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to legally drive (operate a potentially dangerous death machine), you can jump through some bureaucratic hoops to purchase a gun (a potentially dangerous death machine).  Let's close the gun show loopholes.  Let's have mandatory background checks and waiting (cooling off) periods.  Let's require safety courses.  Let's strike a balance between restricting criminals/the mentally ill from purchasing guns and upholding the second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.  The tired argument that usually follows is that criminals will always find a way to get guns.  True.  Maybe, though, we can limit the criminals that do.  Maybe we can save a life by restricting someone with a history of domestic abuse from purchasing a gun.  Maybe we can use common sense to help.  Maybe, instead of clinging to divisive soundbites and old rhetoric, we can find the middle ground. 

I used my third "G", God, mostly because I like alliteration.  In relation to the Pulse massacre, I mostly mean the holy war between ISIS and the West.  While I am much more likely to die by handgun violence, I am more frightened of ISIS.  Domestic attacks done in their name really are terror inducing.  Terror has come to our shores in a fashion we are not accustomed to.  Our enemy is incredibly difficult to fight because he is incredibly difficult to find.  We have gone from fighting an army "over there" to fighting terrorists trained "over there" to the guy from "here", the guy walking next to you at Disney World, wanting you dead.   No longer is ISIS recruiting American jihadists to come train at their camps before going forth to destroy.  Now, with only an internet connection and a Twitter feed, they recruit American citizens to attack other American citizens.  ISIS seemingly says, "Go kill a bunch of your neighbors.  We don't really care how you do it, whatever works best for you,  just make sure you tag us in the Instagram so we can take credit!"  How in the heck are we supposed to combat that?

I don't have a good answer on what we should do, but I know a few things we shouldn't be doing.  We shouldn't be dropping indiscriminate bombs.  Unless we are willing to turn the desert into a sheet of glass, we are not going stop the ISIS that way.  We shouldn't use attacks like Pulse as cover to close our borders and be bigots towards all Muslims.  We shouldn't consent to unfounded, generalized wire taps, email searches, and other government overreach.  We shouldn't continue to play the World's policeman, alienating in the process.  We have neither the stomach, nor budget for perpetual war.  We can not continue to incite the very hate that fuels our enemies.  

We may be the lone superpower, but in the Middle East, the United States, just a kid at 200 plus years old, is meddling in affairs that have existed far longer.  It has taken me a long time to come to the realization that maybe the world is just the way it is.  Maybe only time can heal.  Maybe slow tectonic shifts beyond our control are the only forces of change.  Whether across the globe, or in our own backyard, we can not fix everything.  Maybe some things are not to be fixed.  Maybe to live in a free(ish) and open society we must realize that sometimes awful things will happen.  Call it the Shit Happens Doctrine.  I know it sounds callous on the surface.  I know it is of little consolation to the victims of the Pulse attack, or San Bernadino, or Oklahoma City.  It would be of no consolation to me were my family involved.  I don't like it one bit.  I simply fear that no amount of restriction, no amount of legislation, no amount of aggression will ever make us "safe" enough. 

There are, however, things we can do outside of government intervention on any of these three Gs.  We can show empathy.  Maybe we make an effort to know our neighbors whether they be white, black, gay, or Muslim.  We can further educate about the dangers of guns.  I will continue to rail against the fetishists, or, as my friend calls them, "ammosexuals", asking them to stop celebrating the gun culture that takes us on a road to nowhere.   We can demand our preachers and imams promote peace instead of division.  We can set aside the politics of fear.  We can maybe, just maybe, invest a little faith in each other.  Perhaps, together, we can highlight the humanity in Humanity.

  




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Droning on and on...

I spent part of my Memorial Day taking my daughter, Grace, to War Memorial services honoring local servicemen killed in the line of duty.   Even though most of the ceremony was probably lost on the seven-year-old, I felt it was important to attempt teaching her respect for the sacrifices of men and women who serve.  As I watched our veterans, so many left crooked and bent by time and battle, I thought a great deal about the human toll of war.  Several other recent events- President Obama's trip to Hiroshima, the D-Day anniversary, even the passing of Muhammad Ali- leave me trying to somehow tabulate that cost.  Our war dead pay the steepest possible price; every veteran who once donned a uniform deserves our gratitude.  That is not debatable.  I wonder, however, if we think enough of the ravaging we do on foreign soil.  Specifically, I wonder if we pay enough attention to the Bushbama Drone Strike program.

I say Bushbama because the program initiated by President George W. Bush (approximately 50 strikes) has been seemingly "perfected" by President Barack Obama (approximately 500 strikes and counting).  For the record, I voted for each of these men once.  This isn't a Republican/Democrat beef; my only agenda is regard for civilian lives.  This won't even be an argument about nation building, regime change, meddling, or generally sticking Uncle Sam's nose where it may not belong.  No, this is simply a question of methodology.

When discussing things of global import such as these, I have sometimes been treated like I just don't get it, like I can't understand the magnitude.  If we are talking about women, what currently constitutes a reception in the NFL, or the enduring popularity of Kanye West then I would agree with you, I don't understand.  But I think I grasp this concept okay.  Using unmanned aircraft in place of pilots and ground troops to kill terrorists? Good.  Killing hundreds of civilians in the process?  Bad.   When I hear presidential candidates suggest "carpet bombing" or torturing and killing terrorists' families I pray those statements are more neglectful rhetoric than proposed doctrine.  I ask them, and the defenders of the Bushbama program, what is an acceptable number of civilian casualties?  What is acceptable collateral damage?  Remember, one man's collateral damage is another man's sweet child.  In this nation, so many fight to end abortion, to abolish the death penalty, to preserve life.  Shouldn't we voice equal outrage at the taking of innocent lives abroad? 

When signing the guestbook at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial President Obama wrote, "We have known the agony of war.  Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons."  I know our drones don't carry nuclear payloads, but President Obama's administration, his military, and his CIA continue to kill innocents alongside terrorists.  Perhaps, in his words, he could "find the courage" to reign in the drone program as currently constructed, because I assure you the collateral civilians below know full well the agony of war.  I suspect the whine of a neighborhood-destroying drone overhead is a perfect recruitment poster for ISIS, fomenting hatred and creating more of the very villains we seek (rightfully so) to destroy.

It is said that sometimes the ends justify the means.  But if the means are immoral, just what ends are we protecting?  What are we fighting to preserve?  America, lone superpower, global titan, should reach out with its giant hand outstretched, not with clenched fist raining indiscriminate fire from the sky. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Vampire Weekend

It is usually not a good thing when your wife, very early in the morning, calls up to you from the kitchen asking you to, "Please come down here now."  Her tone suggested not alarm, but at least a sense of urgency.  I immediately scrolled through my memory bank for scenes from the night before.  Had I left the lid off the peanut butter?  Forgotten to flush in the guest bathroom?  Uh-oh, maybe it was the cat.

 Let me back up a step here.  Three days prior, on Memorial Day, our eighteen-year-old cat had some health issues.  Like maybe end-of-life health issues.  Vomiting, labored breathing, and lethargy led to a trip to the animal  hospital.*   There she was subjected to diagnostics and treatments more befitting Colonel Steve Austin.  Luckily, the bill came in at (barely) less than six million dollars  and Mama Cat returned home, perhaps not better/faster/stronger, but, to Amanda's and our daughter Grace's great relief, healthier than Monday morning.  Forgive me for thinking of our two cats in terms of $$$$$; I'm just a little jaded by years of eye surgeries, specially formulated senior cat food, and a visit to a kitty orthodontist. (Yes, that's a thing.  No, we did not go all in to get the kitty dentures.)   Our cats feel more like mail order brides - we pay a lot for companionship.  So when I heard Amanda calling from the first floor, I wondered if Mama had suffered an expensive setback.

Fortunately, Mama was okay.  Instead, upon entering the kitchen, I found three animals.  Our two cats and the dead bat they had apparently killed overnight.  Yes, a bat.  Winged demon of the night.  Purveyor of nightmares.  Flying rodent.   In other words, not a guest I want in our breakfast nook.  I guess the vets really were miracle workers.  Two days earlier, this cat could barely breathe on her own, now she is Mama Cat: Vampire Hunter.  I promptly scooped up the rug on which the bat was laid out placing it gently (alright, with a slight thud) in the outside garbage.  I am not squeamish, but I am, as I may have written about a time or two, a giant germophobe.  I panicked a little, wondering exactly what the dark beast hand landed on while in the house.  Did it play around in the fruit bowl?  With no air traffic controller awake to tell him, "Negative Ghostrider, the pattern is full", did he buzz the toaster and drop guano bombs in the bread slots?  With my mind racing, I ignored more important questions.  Amanda brought me back from the brink momentarily, then pushed me right over.  "I'm curious how he got in here," she wondered aloud, "and we need to think about rabies."  RABIES?!?!  Suddenly, I heard nothing but the insistent belch of a submarine dive horn.  Yes, indeed, we should think about rabies.  I don't want rabies.  I don't want our cats to be rabid.  Methinks that would make them more annoying than usual.  Of course, that would be about my luck to have the cat gingerly and expensively nursed back to health only to be felled by rabies days later. 

What's that you say? Shouldn't the cats be fine because they are up to date on their rabies vaccinations?  Not so fast, my friend.  Our cats our indoor cats only.  Assuming there was minimal risk, we gambled figured there was no rush to get their most recent shots.  The vaccinations have lapsed by a bit.  Only a problem when the outdoors comes inside like it did this week.  Genius.
 
To ward off the hypochondria, I set about figuring out what steps we needed to take to make sure our family is safe.  The health department told me we are not in an emergency situation; we can afford to get test results back on the bat before proceeding.  I fished the deceased bat out of the garbage so he could be shipped off to Baltimore for testing.  Then I made the terrible mistake of jumping on the Googles.  I read stories of humans contracting rabies because it is possible that you can be bitten without feeling it.  Seems suspect to me, yet if it's on the internet it must be true.  True enough, anyway, to plant the seeds of hypochondriac hysteria in my brain.   I managed to steer clear of reading about symptoms of rabies in humans, otherwise I would feel all of them within minutes.   The health department informed me we would have test results by today or possibly not until Monday.  If the bat is rabid, we learn the protocol of what happens next.  Thus begins our weekend of waiting.  If you need me, I'll be over here expecting my salivary glands to kick into overdrive, or my face to melt off, or whatever other horrible things I imagine happen as you grow rabid.  In the meantime, please pass the Count Chocula.  

*Holiday rates may apply.


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Enemy Among Us

Friends, we are in danger.  Dark forces assemble at the gates.  The enemy looms above, threatening to overshadow all that is good.  An enemy so sinister it can destroy what is most important to you.  This is a call to arms, a call to prepare yourself.  What foe lurks nearby?  An unchecked Obama making it unsafe to pee in public?  Hardly.  A Trump presidency? Nope.  I told you how to thwart that months ago.  No, it is a simpler menace, more insidious because it hides in plain sight.  A peril both universal and personal: Beware the "tyranny of the everyday grind."  I wish I had coined the phrase; I only heard it on the radio.  It was sort of a throwaway line from the host as he told a story, but it resonated with me.  This is a phrase I love and hate at the same time.  I love it for its sharp descriptiveness and hate it because I have felt the weight of its oppression. 

The "Everyday Grind", sadly, is not the name of my daily televised hip-hop dance program.  (Tell me  you wouldn't watch that!)  No, the Everyday Grind is the trap of the routines and patterns of living we fall into.  The Grind has many faces; it is different for everyone.  Maybe it is banging your head against the wall at a job you hate.  Maybe it is playing chauffeur for overscheduled children.  Maybe taking a spouse for granted.  It is not always something inherently negative that grinds us up.  Perhaps it is a career we enjoy, but to which we dedicate too much time.  Perhaps spending every waking moment with a new love until we feel smothered.  Perhaps the unfulfilled boredom of retirement.  If we are not careful, if we don't pay close enough attention, the monotony slowly builds, piling up until it topples us over and pins us down.  Being mired in the mundane, swept up by repetition, can leave us in poor health physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If you don't think the emotional part is a thing, then this post is for you.  To combat the Grind, to break out of the SAME THING day after day, you must find an outlet.  Go running.  Get shitfaced with old friends.  Crank the knob on your amp and blow away the neighbors with a jam session.  Find some way to turn the page, if only for a few hours.  Find an escape; your health depends on it.

For me, the escape is the beach.  Warmed by the sun and rocked to sleep by the lullaby of breaking waves, my troubles are carried away on a balmy ocean breeze.  What is it about the sea that calls to us?  Is it the unbroken horizon, abundant with possibility, stoking our adventurous spirit?  Is it the healing waters ready to wash us clean?  Is it the delicate balance of powerful beauty and complex mystery, at once life-giving and capable of destruction?  When we head to the coast  we are able to, literally and figuratively, shed our real world constraints.  I race to the ocean seeking renewal.  I never fail to be soothed by the steady, constant rhythm of surf meeting shoreline.

I beg you to find a way to avoid the stale muck of the mundane.  Remember life is to be lived, not endured, not tolerated, not muddled through.  Find your outlet, find a getaway.  And if you can't think of anything, come join me "down the ocean" for some sand, surf and sun.