The Bus

Like every other day in his entire life, Tom woke up three minutes before sunrise, made coffee, urinated, brushed his teeth, showered, ate breakfast and groomed. Forty-seven minutes after sunrise, Tom dressed in his blue mechanics overhauls with his name emblazoned in a white oval over his left breast, walked out his front door, down the hill to his local bus stop.

Today would be different kind of day.

Today, unlike every other day, the sun was just a bit late, the above was pregnant with threatening clouds and below, a dense fog carried a smell of dead and rotting fish.

Through this horrid start of a most distasteful morning, Tom managed to smile as he waited for his bus at the corner of Lake and River, for no other reason than he liked to smile.

Tom looked to the East and he saw the dim morning running lights approach from under the bridge.  Despite the fog, the bus was still running on the best of time. Watching his bus approach, Tom began to organize his day at the office. Mr. McCracken’s harmonic balancer, Goldie’s bushing on her shifting column and what he knew would be a long, agonizing search for an electrical short in an old one-ton flatbed.

The double doors folded like an accordion, Tom flashed Gerry the driver his pass with a quick morning nod and preceded down the aisle to the middle of the bus, sitting in an empty row, half way to the rear. Tom paid his usual quick interest in the few others who populated this morning bus. He knew them all. Old Mrs. Thinner who was the first stop and always sat in the first row, right behind the doors, her small and antiquated purse held securely in her lap. Behind her, a businessman, tall, dark but not handsome. Well-dressed but lost in his own thoughts as he stared nowhere, ever, but out his window. Large Mrs. Wells always sat on the outer seat for obvious reasons and every day, she wore a different hat, of a different sort, of a different color. Tom had heard stories about her youthful days and he believed, she was once very young, thin and beautiful. Mrs. Wells would often talk with Mary, who was walking up the aisle now, taking a seat across from Mrs. Wells. Tom heard Mary’s stuttered hello, and still felt sorry for her. Mary stuttered as she spoke because Mary was slow. Mary had a multitude of deficiencies, a hobble, a slow mind, stuttered speech but one deficiency she did not possess was one of a wrongful soul. Mary was, for all her deficiencies, a beautiful person. As she waved at him, Tom remembered her father. Long ago, in another time and place, Tom and Mary’s father had been friends.

In about 90 seconds, the bus would turn in a Cul-de-sac and head back toward the bridge. It would stop first just in front of a small, yellow cape cod with tended hedges and Alice would board. Beautiful, beautiful Alice. In all the days of his life he had never seen anyone as beautiful as Alice. Tom was enthralled, smitten and forever and a day, including this day, speechless.

Just before the stop, a small curl, a wisp really, of a thought crossed his mind. The fog was thicker.

Mary boarded, the thought went the way of spent smoke and his heart was warm as he watched Alice take her seat two rows before him. Close enough so that he could smell her sweet perfume and he often thought, it was not perfume, that Alice just smelled sweet. That would not have surprised him.

Gerry’s voice boomed over the intercom, waking everyone from their thoughts, they were running a minute late because of the fog and Tom couldn’t remember ever hearing Gerry use the intercom before. A whole minute late. That had never happened before but on a day that was soon to be unlike any other day ever before, being a minute late would be about the most normal thing you could ask for.

Tom took in a deep breath of sweetness and turned to watch the river along which the route ran. He was not worried but was somewhat mystified by the darkness of the day and the thickness of the fog. Perhaps they were working together, Tom thought, to ruin what would otherwise be a naturally fine day. Not that it was dark as night, but it was dark as gray and the fog was getting worse, so much worse, that the condensation on the bus windows was in rivulets.

For a moment, Tom imagined he heard the slapping of waves. Not the crashing of waves upon a beach but the slapping of water against the hull of a small boat. Tom did not like the water, rather, did not like the open water.

Tom knew that soon they would pass under the bridge, take the left ramp and then travel up the old sledding hill and merge with the traffic passing over the river. Tom had traveled this route all his life.

This would not happen this morning.

Just before reaching the bridge, Tom grimaced, noticing the fog had grown thicker, the grey darker, raindrops starting to splatter heavily against the bus window. Suddenly, nothing was to be seen outside except the water which pounded his window. Suddenly, one half second after it had become wet and totally dark, the back of the bus fishtailed. Tom, like everyone else reached out in instinct, to brace their bodies. Tom also closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

The bus continued to swerve as it started to pass under the bridge, doing a complete three sixty as its forward momentum carried the bus under and through the bridge.

Everything was wrong!

Tom darted his eyes wide open, wider than ever before. Everything was in disarray. The sun was out, high and hot and as far and as wide as Tom could see, water! In all directions, water!

Tom turned to gauge the reactions of his fellow passengers, and like he, were most engulfed in silence. Unable to articulate what had just happened. Sweet Alice simply had placed fingers over open mouth in disbelief. Mrs. Wells stared evenly out her window, the suited businessman’s head was hung, his suit coat removed. Mary was engaged in a stuttered conversation with Gerry, the driver and Mrs. Thinner sat still clutching her purse in her lap.

There were no screams. Tom thought this odd, the lack of hysterics, of confusion. Then Tom understood, he had not screamed because there was simply no reason to scream. The disbelief was so strong that the sense of fear had been overwhelmed. No one had time to scream.

Tom understood they were in a bus, floating in the middle of an ocean on what was a very hot and bright day.

And they were sinking!

Working the gentle swaying and bobbing of the bus, Tom managed to find his sea legs, a memory from years past. From his standing position, he figured the water was up past the wheel wells, and rising. The strong rhythmic sound of waves slapping the bus were reminiscent of old memories as well, but memory and ocean waves were interrupted by the businessman who was in the wretched throes of sea sickness, making a mess over his seat.

Making his way down the aisle, he paused by Alice, who turned to look up to him.

“Are you alright, ma’am?”

“Do you know where we are, sir?”

Mrs. Wells answered, her voice raspy, deep, “We’re all dead and if we’re not, we’re going to be, soon ‘nuff.”

The stench of vomit struck Tom full force. The business man had made his way to stand behind him.

“How much time do you think we have?” he asked Tom.

Tom was quiet in his answer, “A half hour, maybe a bit more.” And then thought to place a hand on Alice’s shoulder, and a bit louder, managed a “We’ll be Okay, we’ll figure this out.”

The business man murmured “half hour, what I figured, as well.”

Tom left Alice with a slight turned smile and made his way to Mrs. Wells. Behind him, he heard the agitated business man’s voice lift loud, asking if anyone had any ides, if anyone had seen anything.

There were, of course, no replies to the dark business man’s questions.

Tom made eye contact with Mary as he was inquiring to Mrs. Wells well-being. Tom saw the concern written in her eyes and moved forward toward the front of their bobbing little bus.

“lo.. look”

Tom saw that the water had begun to flood the short, narrow stair well, seeping in easily under the accordion door.

“Gerry, is there anything on this bus that floats, anything we can hold onto?” Tom was already scanning the interior. Metal poles, metal seat frames, hard plastic seats bolted to the floor. All said and done, the interior was barren.

“It’s a fine thing I’m old and skinny” Mrs. Thinner said out of the blue. “No meat for the sharks and what meat there is, I’m too tough.” Tom saw she was smiling. Tom liked that, that she was smiling.

“We don’t know that there are any sharks in the water, ma’am” Tom replied.

Behind him, Mrs. Wells quickly wailed something about being a feast for fish.

“We are sinking, and fast” said Alice, “Look, the water is up over the stairwell.”  Her voiced, as pitched and yawing as the bus was.

Tom noticed that Gerry, the driver had positioned himself standing on one of the back seats and then it dawned on him, there was an emergency roof hatch. The business man, who had now tossed his suit jacket aside and lost his tie had moved to help Gerry, and in a matter of seconds, a stream of sunlight flooded a small interior space, and Tom hoped it was Gods fishing line, but he did know better.

Tom watched as the businessman worked his slim, masculine frame up into the hatch, his legs dangling momentarily, then disappearing up into the sunlight. Tom turned, quietly surprised to find Mary at his side, poised, she asked, “Uncle Tom, Mrs. Wells isn…, isn’t going to, to fit through that, that door, is.., is she?”

“She’ll fit Mary, she’ll fit.”

Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Thinner brushed patiently but brutishly past Tom and Mary in the aisle making their way to the back of the bus where Gerry waited to give a helping hand. Mrs. Thinner clutching her purse. Tom noticed Alice, was lost in a defiant stare, watching the water rise, up into the aisle, toward where she remained seated.

A hand shot back through the hatch, and then the man’s head, who simply with a raised voice, said, “next.”

Tom stepped in the opposite direction as Mary moved to the shaft of light.

“Are you Okay, Alice?”

“I’m… fine Tom. It is Tom, right?”

He nodded the answer, “We’re going to be okay, all of us.”

Alice turned to Tom and stared. Directly into his eyes, into his deep brown eyes and brushed his soul, “Tom, we are on a bus in the middle of an ocean and buses are not boats. Buses are heavy things and heavy things drown in the ocean.”

Tom smiled with the fact that her words were as direct as her stare, and he felt comfortable clasping a hand over one of hers as he kneeled next to her where she sat. “Alice, how is it one moment we are on a bus going about our lives and in an instant, a proverbial blink of an eye, we are adrift in a vast abyss of water. “ Reaching down, Tom dipped two fingers into the water rising in the aisle, then placed his fingers in his mouth, tasting the water, “Alice, it’s not an ocean, there’s no salt to the water.”

She stared at him for an eternity.

“Are you saying that we are, all of us, are dead and this is…”

“No… No Alice, I don’t know. Just don’t be so quick to give up, that’s all I’m saying.”

Beautiful Alice smiled, Tom’s heart warmed a degree, “Thank You Tom, I needed to hear that. Now let’s go tan on the roof.”

He helped her up and walked her toward the back of the bus, noticing Mrs. Thinner was gone and Mary’s legs disappearing up into the light. He wondered what that passage would bring him, but first, there was heavy and rotund Mrs. Wells.

Tom pretended not to notice the concern in Gerry’s look or the worry written over Mrs. Wells face as they helped Alice up through the hatch. All three of them knew it was going to be an impossible struggle.

Gerry was the first, “C’mon Mom.”

Tom’s soul dropped a million miles into the abyss of despair.

Mrs. Wells looked at her son and whispered, “I can’t… but you can and you will, do you understand me?”

Mary’s voice interrupted, “C… Come on, T… Tiffany.” her head hanging upside down in the bus, her arm extended and beckoning. Tom motioned up toward the hatch, “We’ll get you through”.

“Just watch where you boys put your hands, then again, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a man’s hand on me.” As she raised one wet leg to place a foot on a seat, to climb toward the hatch. Tom worked his way to one side, her son to the other. Mary, from above, reached out for her. Together they worked, struggled, rearranging Mrs. Wells in painful configurations.

She was bruised, scraped, and sore and perhaps even had been violated, but her legs finally disappeared up through the hatch, into the bright clean sky and open sun.

Gerry whispered a thank you, then breached the hatch. Tom took one last look, the bus was filled with clear, warm water just below his knees, and there was a straightforward awareness that it wouldn’t be much longer that they would all be floating in the ocean.

Crawling out, Tom felt the heat of the sun reflected on the roof and saw that everyone was setting centered, quietly.

“Now what?’ was on everyone’s mind. He saw it written in different ways, in varied expressions but it was the same question they all had as he joined them, sitting in the center of the bus, under a clear sky and bright sun, the bus tilted slightly toward the back, and rolling with the gentle waves. A strange, unique scene, of quietness and solitude, and Tom couldn’t help but wonder if they, including him, had already surrendered to what was their eventual fate. He knew the larger truth, there was nothing else simply to do except set there, and wait.

Mary’s question broke the deep thoughts, “Doe, does th, th, that look li, like a storm co, coming?

Tom followed the length of her pointed arm and looked behind him. He stood, carefully aware of the bobbing bus and uttered aloud, ‘Christ almighty’. Off on the horizon, the sky had turned to a deep purple and clouds had started forming and churning with streaks of lightning threading their way through the threatening skyscape.

“I don’t believe this crap.” the quiet businessman was now standing next to him and he wasn’t speaking to Tom as much as just making a statement. “Within the next thirty minutes we’re all going to be sleeping at the bottom of whatever this ocean is.” and he sat back down, let out a deep sigh, than laid out in a prone position, staring up at the darkening sky.

A raindrop fell against Tom’s forehead. And then another. A thunderclap followed and the sky overhead started to darken. The bus angled steeper, the front end was higher in the water, and everyone was starting to fight the pull of gravity that would lead them to their conclusions. The water around bus was noticeably more agitated, the wave crescents higher, more forceful, and the pitching, rolling and awing matched those of the waves in a strange foreboding symphony of nature.

Tom sat down and took off his shoes, his socks, and yelled to whoever would listen to take off anything that might weigh them down. Carefully he made his way back to Mary, and took her hand. Silently Alice joined them and the three noticed that mother and son were embraced. Tom looked over to the business man and couldn’t find him. The rain was driving harder, but it was clear, the man was gone.

The once bright sun was gone, replaced with strong winds, driving rain and streaks of horrific lightening threaded through the darkness backed by ear deafening thunder. The bus rolled to and from, and suddenly, violently, the front end was pitched near vertical and the remaining five passengers were tossed quietly, without human sound, without mercy into a dark and unforgiving place.

Tom had lost Alice’s hand before he hit the water, Mary’s soon afterward, and as he fought toward the surface, he wondered why he was doing so. Breaking the surface, he knew he was alone, knew he didn’t have, couldn’t waste the strength to call out to Mary, to Alice. Silently though, deep in his heart, he called out to God and in a strange turn of fate, God answered.

A loud, unforgiving bolt of lightning lit up the sky, and Tom saw the face of God written in the shadows of the clouds. For that split second, there lived an eternity, all held solid, honest and good, and Tom took his last breath and slipped into the comfort of the waves.

For that eternity, Tom floated free; of gravity, of all things human, of all things alive and then his mind grew heavy, his sight immersed in the few feet of water, his lungs filled with water, his thoughts were being pulled down…

An abrupt, sharp pain jolted his lungs and he hunched over on all fours and vomited in a coarse, hard and painful manner all the water that had filled his lungs. His eyes wide open in disbelief as he once more regurgitated the last of the ocean from his lungs and rolled over on the hard pavement, staring at the morning sky.

“You’re going to be alright, just try to stay calm.” Was a reassuring voice, and Tom wondered where the hell it was coming from. Glancing over, there was a person, a fireman, holding his hand, another checking his pulse. Managing to look around, the scene was organized chaos. The bus on its side, fire engines, ambulances and people carrying and cloaked in the bright yellows and oranges of medical and rescue gear. He worked to a half sit up, saw Mary with a blanket thrown about her, and she returned his look, with a broad smile.

A gentle hand on his shoulder turned his attention, and he looked into Alice’s deep, big eyes and wondered when she placed a slender forefinger to her lips, with a ‘shhhhhh…’

The Sun had come out to part the fog filled morning. Off in the near distant, Tom heard a man raise his voice in, asking some unseen other, “How the hell did the bus fill up with water?”

Alice smiled at him, not sure he understood, than he asked Alice if he knew where his shoes and socks were.

 

Trump, Racist?

Adolph Hitler believed in the Master Race, a belief founded in Joseph Arthur De Gobineau’s philosophy that distinct races who mixed, degenerated their cultures. Like Hitler, Donald Trump believes in the superiority of his genes. If environment plays any part in one’s belief, look no further than Donald Trump’s father. While there’s no valid evidence that Fred Trump was an active, and participating member of the Klu Klux Klan, he was arrested during a KKK rally, and Woody Guthrie was specific in his lyrics about old man Trump and his racial prejudice.

If a man’s actions are different than his words, the default is always to look to his actions to define ones’ character. In 1989, when 5 Black and Latino kids were charged with the brutal rape of a white woman, Donald Trump took out full page advertisements in leading New York papers, calling for their execution. Those five young adults were later to be found innocent, and to this day, Trump defends his actions, without apology.

Jumping to the recent past, in June of 2016, Trump claimed Mexico was sending us their ‘rapists’.

At face value, two incidents separated by twenty some years don’t make a person an outright racist. I’ve said, and done stupid things over the course of my lifetime to understand that. I have however, walked stupid actions back, and apologized as needed. I’ve tried to correct my wrongful assumptions.

Adding fuel to Racism charges is the fact that both he and his father were accused of racial discrimination as early as 1973, resulting in a settlement without admission of guilt. To continually make racial statements without apology, such as “they don’t look like Indians to me”, implying an American judge is biased due to his Mexican Heritage, along with attacking a gold star family, is fodder for defining the man’s character.

Trumps character is one based in abuse, of humiliation, divisiveness, and revenge and I can’t help but believe he takes great pride and pleasure in his character. Whether he is humiliating a disabled reporter, abusing a woman for her looks, implying he has the right to grope women, or simply seeking revenge toward one who disagrees with his own thoughts, nothing in his core character is unifying.

Indeed, in the last 24 hours, Trump has attacked the NFL, criticizing its owners for not disciplining their black players who kneel instead of stand during our anthem. It’s his personal opinion, but added to the thread of his character, I’m getting the drift.

Trump came full circle travelling from his Charlottesville comments to his NFL comments, in that his Charlottesville comments essentially claiming some white nationalists were good people and today, calling black NFL protestors sons of bitches.

All of this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Consider when Trump complemented those who assaulted a black protester during a campaign rally in Alabama. Perhaps we should let sink in, Trumps off the cuff remark that ‘Laziness is a trait of black people’, or his failure to outright condemn the white nationalists’ movement.

I watched the movie ‘Mother’ last night, an allegorical script about a mans need for adoration, and Trump came to mind. He’ll burn the world down around him to get that adoration from the few supporters he has left, that’s Trump. Fostering division to the delight of his base, encouraging hate to the gleeful screams of his fans, that’s Trump.

Finally, let’s not forget who Trump surrounded himself with in the early days of his administration. Bannon, Miller, Gorka, white nationalists! You are who you associate with. You are who your behavior dictates. Trump, Racist!

The Hoarding of the American Dream

We hoard people.Closet our elderly in nursing homes, minorities to the other side of the tracks, the working poor to apartment complexes. We box them up nice and pretty and say, this is your place, and if you don’t like it, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and solve your problems, but in the meantime, we’ll embroil and entangle your life in a social welfare system that won’t allow for you to buy the boots.

I am not a rich man, I live paycheck to paycheck, in an older middle class neighbor comprised of repetitive ramblers in a small town along the Mississippi. It’s kind of a bucolic life, peaceful and quiet, lights go out at 10, everyone works for a living. There are no minorities in my neighborhood, they’re relegated to the older homes, the ones with clapboard siding and showing their age. The poor are congregated in conglomerations of apartment complexes where drugs are dealt with occasional gun play. We have several retirement communities, well kept, maintained and full of the elderly who slip, fall, mandating a visit from someone who cares, if they have that someone.

The larger city across the Ol Miss ain’t any different, just on a larger scale.

Twenty some years ago, we lived in an apartment. With 3 little boys! That was a trip. Across the hall, a young banker and his schoolteacher wife. Down the hall, an auto mechanic with his family. All working to climb the ladder known as the American dream. Most of us succeeded for the most part. We still have Apartment complexes like that, and they even have minorities, people of color, living in them. Unfortunately, we also have complexes where drugs rampage through the occupants lives, where police calls are daily occurrences and the truth is, those people will only move from one complex to another. That is their life. There’s way too many of them. They are essentially a prison without escape.

At face value, retirement communities, nursing homes and independent living facilities are good ideas, good ideas where we relegate their care to strangers making minimum wage. The cost is outrageous, and for most, any assets they have are gone in a matter of months. My mothers rent is raised annually, can barely afford the home healthcare she needs, and she’s charged incessant fees for a toilet overflowing, a smoke alarm going off, or losing her keys, or a parking space, or a garage. It’s not that families don’t care, it’s that we don’t really have much of a choice, our hands our tied. We do the best we can.

I don’t have the answers, I don’t know if there are better choices out there. But I do know this, we segregate people in this country. We worry if an African American buys the house next door, the value of my house will go down, if a poor family moves in down the street, the neighborhood will degenerate.  And we don’t have the time, the money, the space, the emotional responsibility to take our elderly parents into our homes.

It just strikes me as wrong.

The Truth is, well… just the Truth.

For eight years Fox news and Republicans pummeled President Obama and his administration with misrepresentations, false facts, and outright lies. From his birthright and tan suits to Benghazi, the assault was staggering and unfair, with Mitch McConnell stating on the first day of Obama’s Presidency, his objective was to see ‘a one term Presidency’.

Suddenly, the shoe is on the other foot, Fox news is reeling in the ratings, and Conservatives are crying fake news at every opportunity. At face value, one could comprehend the cries of fake news, understand Trumps unending obsession because Conservatives understand the value of a lie. That’s what Fox taught. A lie ain’t all that bad if it supports you emotionally.

The thing is, the truth hurts. Call it fake news if you want, but the difference is, there’s a kernel of truth to what’s being said today. Not made up shit! Not outright lies, rather facts with a basis in truth. So if you have a problem with how our ‘liberal’ news media is portraying Trump, look in the mirror.

Rotgut & Water

Back in the day, I’d walk into the Velvet, the DutchRoom, Blue Ox or Lakeside, and on any given summer night I’d order a house whiskey and water. I was poor, a kid, but I liked my Whiskey. House Whiskey was cheap, rotgut whiskey.

Damn, now there was some good times!

As I got older, my finances improved and I started experimenting with better whiskeys, CC, Jack, Southern Comfort. One particular night, an old geezer, about my age now, slides onto the empty bar stool next to me, and says, ‘Ya know young man, a good whiskey is smooth, meant for shots, not to be mixed with H2O or some sweet water-piss, that’s how a man drinks’.

Now I don’t like to think when I drink, that’s why I drink. But I thought about this, and I thought, ‘you know, the old fuck might be right. Diluting the natural flavor of whiskey might be the wrong way to go’, so I did a shot, and I’ve never looked back. To this day, if I drink hard liquor, and I do, it’s always by the shot. And it’s usually only Tequila, btw!

Confederate statues, like diluted liquor, ain’t right! However, it’s a mans choice to drink how he sees fit, and likely so, it’s a communities choice to build, or remove those things which they see fit. Up here in the great Northland, we don’t build statues to those who were oppressive, to those who wanted to destroy this Nation, and then remake America in the spiting image of the South. So in my book, a Confederate statue is just like rotgut and water, not only offensive, it masks the reality of what that statue really represents to an awful lot of good people.

60

I lay flat on my back in some old pasture splotched with brown grass, a cows head is hung nearby, nibbling, and I’m watching a single, insignificant puff of a cloud wander about a lazy blue sky. Like smoke, the clouds journey is buffeted by the wind. East, West, North or South, the destination is the same, dissipation. A return to oblivion to begin anew.

Even the cow has similarities.

I smile with the thought, the irony. Of a cloud, a cow and a human, the path remains the same.

My hands are folded across my chest, a mosquito lights on a forearm, and begins to feast. I let it. Not because I don’t care, not because I’m not irritated, but because for this moment in time, I think it’s the right thing to do. To give sustenance to some lesser being derived from my personal suffering.

Gorged, full, filled, fat, the insect whines and buzzes off, probably toward the cow, I think. A bloodsucker is never satisfied.

I do not know how I came to be here. There was no direction, no manual, so signage along any path I ever traveled, so I stumbled, missed a turn here and there, wandered from time to time, to end up here. I have regrets, unlike the cow, although the cow may disagree. I wouldn’t know. Regrets only because nothing is preordained, no path laid out in stone. If life was concise, an arrow bent against this blue sky, I would have no regrets. I would not know the meaning of the word.

My thought is interrupted by the cow. A loud, lingering single word sound of base, tone, and reverberation. Perhaps the cow is talking to me, and I smile as I wonder what that damn animal would say. There would be no commonality, no foundation for words to speak with each other. Then I ponder, the cow might be the smart one.

I have never been the smart one. I think back to the desert, the jungle, the firepit, and ask if they were, indeed signs along my path, but settle upon acknowledgement they were nothing more than the mosquito, an intrusion. Intrusions, I perhaps, allowed. And if they were by chance, guideposts, they were as human signage often is, vague, offbeat and of little value. The map I’ve been looking for was bigger, laid out in the heavens, written by the hand of God. Intelligence is the ability to quiet the confusion, to discern the word of God from the voice of man. Perhaps it is the breath of the almighty that drives the cloud, than the cloud has no choice. The cloud has no choice, regardless.

My life has always been the world. That is what has meaning. What lies beyond the boundaries of my sphere is of little consequence, and lesser meaning. I have always explored my world. Turned every rock, listened to every bird song, sought answers to unknowable questions, and now I find myself wondering if those answers are to be found beyond the borders of my own private universe. As vast as my existence is, here in a field with a cloud, a cow and a bellicose bloodsucker, might there be more?

I do not want to grow old. I’m not afraid to grow old.

I’m afraid of not being able to take another walk down some ill-defined path, of passing through the door without the right answers, without the knowledge that allows that entrance to call out to me asking for my tome, to verify my life.

Is that what life is? To find meaning? To have meaning? To be able to claim when the far world reaches out, I have answers. I have knowledge. But what knowledge could I possess on my death, that old friends would care to hear? None, I suspect.

There is, I think, a larger question. I do not follow it, I don’t like the thread, the texture of the thought. For one who lies in a field with questionable associates, the question is sour. If I am that guide, that marker along your way, I have failed miserably. The cow wanders off without discourse, the cloud dissipates without direction, and the bloodsucker is justly swatted.

Surviving Trump

Christ, am I ever going to get a break from this imbecilic bully? Are any of us ever going to find our sanity again?

I’m tired of the 24/7 next level bullshit. Did I say next level? Hell, he’s skipped the next dozen rungs of the ladder and taken it to never before seen heights. Yea, we can point our fingers at the media, but the medias just taking his bullshit and fertilizing the America soil. I’m tired of it! I’m tired of Trump, and I just wish he’d go away, someplace where fire bakes brimstone.

Getting up in the morning, coffee in hand, reading the news is like standing in a shitstorm, mouth hung open, facing the wind. There’s no other way to say it.

For eight years I listened as Republicans fertilized our soil, spreading lie after lie about Obama. That was palpable, but I could deal with it, I knew what was going on. I guess in a way, they laid the foundation for Trump, and their refusal to recognize that adds to my Trumpfatigitis, cuz I know they could do something about it, but won’t, and it ain’t because they’re tired of slinging shit. Personally, I think Republicans are liking the show, revealing in it. They’re used to it, they spent so much time in the pigpen, it’s all they know. Shit!

I really don’t know if I can take another 7.5 years of this. That’s a lifetime, ‘specially for a geezer like me. Being old accounts for a lot of aches and pains, and I’ve rode a wild bike down the road of life, but I don’t deserve this shitstorm, nobody in this Nation does. Hell, nobody ever in existence does. Trump has taken my old mans pain and just beat me down, to the point where I’m like living in an alternate reality, where nothing is real. Living in a Salvador Dali world would be a blessing compared to this.

I don’t relish waking up every morning for the next seven plus years, and getting a mouthfull of shit. I got other things to do. Grandbabies in Hungary, an elderly mother, summertime firepits, tequila, YouTube videos, a little website. Christ, I skype with my son, it’s about Trump. I visit my mom, it’s about Trump. I set around my firepit with Friends, it’s about Trump. I do a vlog, and Trump has to show up. I drink tequila by the shotglass because of Trump. Shot after shot till I’m finally wandering about a Dali landscape, rejoicing in my escape.

And then I wake up to the shitstorm. Mouth agape, foul taste, and I’m just so fucking numb from it all. I’s only 9am, and I do a shot. And another. Now I’m ready for this alternative Universe.

I’d also bet what years I got left in this world, that I’m not fucking alone.

And don’t forget to stop by my website, robpaxton.me

 

Life Got you Down?

I want you to know, I understand. Your backs up against the wall, there’s no where to turn, no one to ask for help, you’re stressed to the max, and you don’t have an answer. You flutter into a restless sleep, and when you dream, your stress makes them weird. You’re days are spent praying to God for an answer that never seems to come. Personal relationships, work, financials, or all three, sometimes life just dumps on you. There are times you see it coming from a mile away and just refuse to believe it and when it impacts, you’re still bewildered, stunned by the gale force. There are times too, when you are unable to see that gale force  coming and when it hits, it changes everything in a passing, remarkable and memorable second, often in the most tragic of circumstance.

As if life’s demon has his foot in the small of your back, grinding your face into the dirt, and to make it worse, he’s laughing at you. You spend your days on the edge of tears and you begin to question, everything. You wonder what’s wrong with you, question where your friends are, and more than anything else, you wonder what the point is, of anything. Your favorite refrain is now, ‘why me?’.

There comes that time in all our lives where the pain and suffering seems overwhelming to overcome, you’re just too tired to fight, much less to stand, if not outwardly, certainly inwardly. Your soul aches behind every smile, wondering why you’re even bothering to force a smile.

Like I said, I understand!

Here’s a bigger revelation. Most people will understand, most have been there to some degree or another, and survived. In it’s way, suffrage and troubled waters go hand in hand as a rite of human passage. None of this makes it any easier for you, or anyone to bear their burden. It makes for us an easier way by our experience, to understand, but that doesn’t necessarily calm your waters.

There are things you can do. I’m not a self hep guru, a therapist. and some will say I’m the last person alive to give advice to anyone, and they might be right. But I do have experience in surviving my own personal ocean of troubled waters.

First and foremost, know that life is walked on a thin line between sorrow and happiness, that everyone walks in one direction today and the opposite direction tomorrow, all to different degrees. There’s a huge amount of truth that we are more alike than not. The biggest difference between you and I? How we look at things, our perception. That perception is based on genetics, our current environment, our education, our ego, self esteem and a lot of other factors.

The takeaway, perception can be changed. Some change their perception of the world around them by finding God or engaging in professional help. Some merely through friends or through books, some by grit and determination. Changing perspective on the world, in your life isn’t that hard once you decide to change it. Deciding to change is the hard part. People will argue that the decision is the easiest part, but ask yourself this, if you can’t follow through on a decision you’ve made, are you really committed to that decision?

But what the hell is perception? Well here’s a surprise. It’s not how you view the world and your life, perception is who you are as a person. So if you want to start walking a bit more on that thin line in the direction of happiness, it starts with you.

Start with that recognition, own the troubled ocean you’re drowning in. Once you own that perception, you can mold it by writing about it, by talking to others, by research, by sharing. By even, OMG, by asking for help. Asking for help and understanding can be humiliating, I get that, but what you’re not getting, is that asking for help, asking for a friend to listen, can be one of the most rewarding human experiences in the entire catalog of human experiences. It can be, and often is, the first step in an experience that is transformational.

It ain’t easy, it never is, and like I said, I understand.

Than again, maybe I don’t know nothing and I oughta just slap a piece of duct tape over my big mouth.

A Path Forward

Minnesota has a unique political history with the Democratic party. While many Democrats in Minnesota identify with Democrats, we’re known as the DFL. I grew up believing the principals of the Democrat Farmer Labor party, I still do.

In the early 1920s, the Farmer Labor movement became a powerful political force earning State legislative victories over Democrats and Republicans with their simple message. ‘Agrarian reform, protection of farmers and unions, public ownership of our natural resources, utilities, railroads and a belief in social security legislation’.

Ideals that benefited people’s lives. Ideologies that common folk could understand.

Not only was the Farmer-labor party successful in Minnesota’s legislative seats, from 1921 to 1944 this party elected 3 Governors, 4 United States Senators, and eight United States Representatives.

In 1944, with Hubert Humphry being instrumental, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party merged with the Democratic party becoming the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota.

Today’s Republican party have all but merged with the Tea Party, Libertarians, the Alt-right, and far right Evangelicals giving them a powerful, political voice that drowns out Democrats, Progressives and Liberals.

There’s a history lesson here, and we should learn from it.

Democrats should ask themselves, ‘Why are people who hold our values, our belief in unions, in our environment, in social justice, turning from us, and seeking representation in third parties such as the Progressives, the Green Party, the Independence party, and even Libertarians?’.

We should ask also ‘Why does America have one of the lowest voter turnouts of any modern nation?’.

I don’t have to parse the questions into a thousand data points to find the answer. It’s there, clear, concise.

People don’t vote, simply because there’s nothing to vote for. Nothing new, nothing challenging, nothing that speaks to their future. Not because they don’t care, not because they’re lazy, but because they have heard it all before, with no real-world results.

The Progressive party will continue to grow, as will the Green party, the Constitutional party, the many state Independent parties. So will the Tea Party in some form and fashion, and the Libertarian party, and as they grow, the Republican Party will grow, and become much more of a force than they are now.

At face value, the Democratic Party will claim that they echo the voice of Progressives, that they believe in public ownership of our natural resources, that the Party believes in our labor force, that corporations have grown too large, their influence too great, but if that were all true, Bernie Sanders would have been our nominee.

And here’s the rub, rank and file Democrats, believe in all those things. People in general believe all these issues. Yet, half our nation will not vote.

For the Democratic Party to become sustainable, they must do more than echo repeatedly their concern for issues. They must reach out to people with third party affiliations, bring them into leadership positions, incorporate some of their platforms into theirs, cut ties with corporate donors that contribute to both political parties, and they must learn how to message their belief systems beyond simply attacking Republicans.

While we live in a different world than those of the 1920s and the Farmer-Labor party, some things don’t change. The need to change, the ability to change, the desire to change are always with us.

Politics are, after all, always rooted in being local.

www.robpaxton.me

Return to Point Zero

In the March of 2009, President Obama convened a health summit compromised of doctors, insurers, drug companies, consumer advocates and lawmakers. That July, Democrats presented a thousand-page plan that would become the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Late fall, both house and Senate approved their own versions. The battle was on amid accusations of death panels, grossly high premiums and lost coverage.

Dislike Obamacare or not, we talked, we argued, we fought, we yelled, we screamed, we lied about Obamacare, but it somehow passed.

Is Obamacare perfect? No, a lot of concessions were made to make it law. Would it be a better bill without those concessions? Who knows?

The thing is though, before the ACA a lot of people were using the emergency room as a doctor’s office, premiums were skyrocketing, in some years, by double percentage points, while valuable benefits were being lost, college kids were dropped from their insurance plans, and if you had a pre-existing coverage, chances are, you couldn’t find affordable health care.

Right or wrong, something had to be done. I’ve always considered Obamacare the first step in rectifying our Nations ridiculous healthcare system. I’ve always believed that the ACA would be improved on; identifying problems, fixing problems, always a work in progress.

As I write this, today there are 13 powerful, white, male Republican Senators working in secret to craft a bill to replace the ACA. That’s all we know about it. No discussions, no negotiations, no leaks.

Contrary to belief, this is not how the ACA was passed. In fact, this is not how laws are made, not here in America. Perhaps in some small banana republics, but not in the United States of America. Common sense dictates that the bill has to be somewhat similar to the House bill, in cost and content, otherwise the process starts over.

So why the secrecy? Why are the voices of a multitude of people; women, minorities, doctors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies not allowed to speak to their concerns?

Democrat or Republican, as an American, this is not the democratic process, this is not the American way, this is not who we are, and it should make you mad as hell.

Will Americans wake up next week to find that many once again must visit the emergency room for a child’s cold, that their college student has no access to healthcare, to outrageous premiums, to decreasing benefits and if you have a pre-existing condition, you’re simply too much of a risk for coverage.

A return to point zero on the baseline, where our healthcare industry chugged along, making huge profits for some, and painful decisions for most, a huge step backward that benefits few, and is shamefully problematic for most.

Is this going to be the new standard in America. Bills formulated in secrecy, with out debate?

Are you really fine with that?

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