A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Author: fifteenkey (Page 2 of 94)

Will I cry when I retire?

Last night, Beth, Kyle, and I were binging, “Grace and Frankie,” our latest after a run out of COVID lockdown of “Schitt’s Creek” (3X), “Downton Abbey,” and “The Komiskey Method,” among others. One thing I like about “G&F” and “Komiskey” is the perspective of older characters played by legends including Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Alan Arkin, and Michael Douglas. I can relate. To the “older” part. In one scene last night, Sol, played by Sam Waterson is trying to convince an older administrative assistant that “the time has come” for her to retire. She ends up turning the conversation on him with a revelation that “the time had come” for him, too. When Sol got home, there was a symbolic ground-level shot of his worn leather brief-bag hitting the floor, and his husband, Robert (Martin Sheen) asking what’s wrong. Weeping, Sol told Robert he had retired.

Beth and I glanced at each other as we often do when a scene or even a line in these shows strike a chord. “I wonder if we’ll cry,” I asked. “I don’t know.” I suppose the circumstances will participate in that outcome. Will our retirement be voluntary or involuntary? Being shown the door might produce the 5 stages of grief along with an opening of the tear ducts, yet even a willing departure will likely carry old brief-bags of emotion, starting with wrestling the question, “Who am I now?”

Well, that begs the question, “Who am I now, now?” Well, I’m a father, mother, grand-father (but not, “Grandpa”), friend, lover, future husband, brother, son, cousin, uncle, chef, writer, comedian, mentor, counselor, thinker, observer, inquisitor, star-gazer, meditator, empath. Certainly, I’m otherwise positive and negative characteristics depending on who you ask. It’s odd, though. Nowhere in there did I mention, “Director, Learning & Community Technology,” my current job title, even though I’ve spent 50-60 hours a week being that guy or some variation of him for the last near-forty years.

OK, so maybe I won’t cry about not attending meetings, answering emails, writing user stories, or designing a web experience, but I may cry about a big part of my existence now being behind me and not nearly as much time ahead. But not today. Not right now. Right now, I’m going to be a few of those things in the list above and be them while grateful for the privilege of experiencing this wonderful life.

Passage of Time

Slim Pickins shouting, “Somebody’s gotta go back and get a shitload of dimes” at a tollbooth in the middle of the open desert may be my favorite line and scene from Mel Brooks’ 1974 slapstick comedy, “Blazing Saddles.” Two things I didn’t remember from the film are the liberal use of the n-word and that some of the Western scenes were filmed at Old Tucson in, uh, Tucson. The latter fact hit me just before the credits began rolling. I thought the scene looked familiar so I looked it up and my recollection was correct. In fact, I’d been on that perch (1) many times in college (when I absolutely should not have been) and last in 2016 when I snapped this pic from atop it looking down at the old film location. I will say it was much easier navigating that hill as a drunk 20 year-old even if it was in the dark.

This morning, as I looked at the picture I took last night, the markers of time in it intrigued me. Time is a trip.

  1. The peak overlooking Old Tucson and just above Gates Pass behind it is part of the Tucson Mountains, formed from volcanic eruptions during the Triassic-Jurassic period -190-200 million years ago. Most of my time spent there was more recently.
  2. The leaded glass cabinet and fireplace in my home were built with it in 1930.
  3. The Yamaha HTR-5640 home theater receiver was purchased in 2003 and before I kept track of all spending in Quicken. I’m guessing it was in the $299 range, but now I see it on Amazon for $19,999.00 so… Inflation. It still works and I’ve been able to add Roku to it, so yeah…
  4. After spending the first 17 years of my career with NEC, I displayed some brand loyalty by laying out $3,175.00 for a 42″ plasma HDTV on January 14, 2006. Today, one can pick up a similar-sized unit for under $200.
  5. I’m not sure when the low coffee table that holds the TV was made. I’m thinking the 60’s, but I picked it up at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $58,36 on December 26, 2012.
  6. 1 of 3 (Google) Nest wi-fi points purchased August 19, 2020 for $299. Highly recommended. One is in the basement where the Fios signal comes into the house. One is above the TV to aid my cable-free streaming, and one is in my home-office listening to me type right now…
  7. Monochrome photo with my daughter, Megan on her wedding day, August 24, 2020. I’m not going to mention what that cost, but having your daughter say, “it was the best day of my life?” Priceless.

“My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of
thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”
– Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman in “Blazing Saddles”

My Trump-supporting friends and family

We’re 30 days from the Presidential Election and despite over 20,000 lies, raging narcissistic adolescent behavior, and proactive mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s contributed to over 200,000 deaths, Donald Trump is still polling nationally above 40%. How can that be? To answer, “who the fuck are these people,” I’m going to build some anonymous profiles of the people I know who to this day support the worst President in American history.

The Evangelicals
They say they don’t like Trump and his antics, but they LOVE Mike Pence and think it’s god’s plan to have him ascend to the presidency. Oh, and the abortion thing. I would not want to go through life claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus but not actually following the teachings of Jesus. Oh, and Melania Trump said, “Who gives a fuck about Christmas?” Imagine if Michelle Obama had said that. Whoa.

The Boston Herald / Howie Carr fans
These blue-collar folks have been reading the Boston Herald for years and simply absorbed the conservative bent of the paper and some of its Trump-loving writers like Howie Carr. The foundation of their politics is that black people in Boston all are on Welfare and drive Cadillacs so they don’t want their taxes paying for that. They also were sounding the alarm bells like Paul Revere when “the Caravan” was hyped to be headed North from Central America. So yeah, they believe in all forms of racist fiction.

The Tradesman
Again, a blue-collar guy with a raging hate for Barack Obama and of course, Hillary Clinton. He’s also triggered at the letters “BLM,” so that may be a hint of where he’s coming from.

The Old Man
I recall a conversation about politics with him around 2010. He knows the issues and his big one is immigration.  He looks the other way on the Trump three ring shitshow because Trump is tough on his key issue. Before I departed Facebook, I recall the “kids in cages” controversy was raging. I do think the old man had some empathy for their plight, but added, “their parents shouldn’t have brought them.

The Mom
No, not my biological mom. My brother from another mother’s mother. I don’t think she’s really into politics, but she’s incredibly supportive of her boys, including me, and two of them are red hats.

The Boys
Again, I think it’s the immigration thing and maybe taxes with my brothers from another mama. Mostly they just enjoy talking shit.

I grew up with many of the people portrayed in the profiles here and I know racism was alive and well back in the 1970’s in the Melrose-Wakefield (MA) area. Sadly, I think some of that lingers though I’ve never heard any of the people profiled here utter anything racist. Not that I recall, anyway. It’s been a long time, but I can recall moments from those days in these Jason Isbell lyrics.

I’m a white man looking in a black man’s eyes
Wishing I’d never been one of the guys
Who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke
Oh, the times ain’t forgotten

White Man’s World

Aside from the god-fearin’ and my second mom, a couple of themes that thread through all these MAGA boys are the tough guy thing and ballbusting. They fucking LOVE when Trump disrespects his opponents and anyone who dares disagree with him and they totally buy his tough-guy act. One other thing they have in common with Trump… They’ll never admit to being wrong.

Holding steady at 42.5.

“A vacation from my (pandemic) problems”

If you’ve seen “What About Bob?,” you’re familiar with Bob Wiley’s vacation idea while struggling with mental illness. 2020 is a year of if not insanity, then surely uncertainty, and that was the operative word describing the possibility of a proper vacation this Summer. I’m grateful that my employment has been uninterrupted by the current crisis, but it’s been, you know, work, and after a very intense few months helping customers manage through the crisis in the Kronos Community, I needed some time.

In late June, I booked this place (It looks far batter than it really is.) in West Falmouth for my family and kept a close watch on the COVID-19 reports from the state and I monitored Falmouth posts on Twitter. The situation seemed relatively safe, so I let 2 refund deadlines pass and we arrived on July 20th for a 3-night stay. Given the risky Russian Roulette of being in public during a deadly pandemic, I set low expectations with three simple experiences for the respite:

  • One day at the beach
  • One (rainy) ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway
  • One dinner (out) harbor-side and the Flying Bridge

We had a lovely dinner, and in one day completed a 15 mile morning round-trip bike ride to Woods Hole and the afternoon at Old Silver Beach. My old joints enjoyed the cool buoyant water and simply being together with Kyle, Beth, Megan, Mike, Maddie, Aza, and Luca recharged me. Megan captured the vibe better than I can with an Instagram post.

Stay healthy. Baby steps, peeps.

Black Like Me

I’m off Facebook again, and hopefully this time for good. In response to a “Black Lives Matter” piece I posted, a “Facebook Friend” replied:

fuck you
had any black people over for dinner lately?

Another “friend” posted a BLM opposition piece authored by, of course, a black man as if that one opinion renders the movement illegitimate.

I deactivated my account.

I mean, I guess there are black conservatives besides Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas, but why? Considering Trump’s Republican party today, I wonder, what specific policies do any of his supporters uh, support? You know, other than the racist ones like “the wall” and defending the Confederate legacy of slavery.

Life is too short, and I can’t spend any more time debating those “fine people.” All I can do is try to evolve myself.

The answer to the Facebook question posed to me is “No, I have not had any black people over for dinner lately.” I don’t have any black friends. I grew up in a white town and pre-pandemic, worked in a very white office. I do have an African-American work acquaintance who I had hallway chats with back a building ago. While we did have some lengthy conversations over the years, race was never a topic.

Just a shade over 20 years ago, I was tasked with hiring my replacement when the New England office I worked in was being relocated to California. I was offered a generous package to move but declined for family reasons. I flew out to interview candidates with the instruction to bring only the worthy ones to the boss for a second interview. Hiring your own replacement is akin to approving a life-partner for your child. No one is likely to be good enough. After passing on a few candidates that I knew were not a good fit I interviewed a black man. He had a great resume and as we spoke, I could tell his broad skillset would be a key to success and we just connected. Feeling good about his potential for the role, I introduced him to the boss. About 15 minutes later they emerged along with a look from the boss that said, “are you kidding?” Since the boss didn’t cite any specific reasons the gentleman wasn’t right for the job, I assumed the reason. I believed the candidate was just like me in terms of skills and experience – a great fit, but he didn’t get the job. Later in the day, I said, “fuck it” and brought the boss an unqualified used car-salesman type just for fun. At the end of the day, I told my soon to be former boss that he needed to find my replacement himself, and he did.

13 years earlier during my interview, he and I had a pleasant conversation about cars and family. I got the job. I’m not sure whether a black candidate like me would have. If not for the white privilege that kept doors open for me, I’m not quite sure where I’d be. As for the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s not dismissive of other lives. It simply asks for fairness for black lives – in getting a job, a house, another breath in this life. It’s not too much to ask.

“The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

(Not) Going to a ROCK SHOW

HAL, you’re not going to believe this one.

These pandemic days, anyone I follow on Social Media that’s a music fan is lamenting the sidelining of the ROCK SHOW. I sure am. On June 5th, pal Dave and I missed our first show of the pandammit when Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (and David Crosby) had to cancel at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in the Big Apple. Oh, and we also had sweet seats to see the Evil Empire at the Death Star in the Bronx Saturday afternoon! The show is now scheduled for the same week in 2021. Not sure if the MLB schedule will cooperate or even exist. Interestingly, Ticketmaster offered a refund or the 2021 show. No word from the Yanks on my $350 sitting in their savings account.

There are times that I simply must attend a live show for the bombardment of music I love. Not just the sound, but the physical pounding of amplified sound waves, the dazzling lights, the emotional contorted faces of performers and fans, the smell of stale beer, and the taste of bourbon. A live show penetrates my soul. It sucks to miss it. Somewhere in some thread, a post read, “whoever you last saw live in concert you have to spend the pandemic with.” I was happy to reply, “Jenny Lewis.” In fact, Ms. Lewis performed the last two shows I attended, and they were fantastic.

I’ve traveled to see some shows – mostly just drives. NYC, Northampton, MA, Portland, ME, and of course, Boston, an hour away. I did fly out to see Mr. Isbell and band at Red Rocks Amphitheater in 2017. That was an all-timer and I highly recommend seeing your favorite band there.  My college buddy, Phil has trekked the globe to see the Stones, and he’s flown here to see the Drive-By Truckers with yours truly. Except we didn’t see them. In February of 2017, Phil jetted in from San Jose so we could dine at Abe & Louie’s Thursday night, then see the Sharks play the Bruins, and finally the Truckers ROCK SHOW on Friday evening. The steaks and wine were top shelf, and Phil’s team lost, but mother nature dumped a good two feet of snow in Boston that night and the Truckers had to postpone to Sunday. Neither of us saw that show.

Back on January 10th this year, Phil contacted me again with news the DBT’s had an upcoming show. How did I miss that? Phil wanted to fly out again in an effort to finally see the band. I jumped on the website to look at tickets and unfortunately, the pickin’s were slim. I wrote back with a promise to find tickets, but it never came to fruition and unfortunately, we missed that show, too.

In March just before the pandemic really took hold, I bought a new laptop. It’s a sweet Lenovo Yoga that doubles as a tablet that I use while I’m ellipticaling. It’s pretty sweet. The first night I had it the excitement of a new toy gripped me. I sat on the couch, set up preferences, loaded up software, and then logged into Gmail. I thought it a good time to clean out the email box so I worked backwards from early March cleaning out a lot of the old stuff that had been lingering. Then I saw this one from Nov 21, 2019 at 10:04 AM from customerservice@ticketstoday.com:

I had purchased first-row tickets in the balcony in November and completely spaced it. Sorry, Phil.

This year sucks.

“A place to indulge my narcissism…”

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic I rejoined Facebook after about a year away. Like any undisciplined human, I just couldn’t not post about politics and at some point, realized…

Nobody cares what you think.

That got me thinking about why I post content like that:

  • I care about the world we’re creating today and leaving for younger and future generations tomorrow. (Note: It’s not going well.)
  • I’m virtue signaling about how “informed” and “morally right” I am on worldly issues.
  • I’m certain my DNA contains a few strands of troll. (2)

Which brings me to this oft-ignored blog and why it’s still here. From the start, it’s been aptly sub-titled, “A place to indulge my narcissism…” Contributions here have waned over the years, but I keep paying the annual hosting fees for an occasional story. Why? In a way, it’s like a dusty old journal that my 19-month old grandson may turn the pages on someday. He or his older sisters might care what I thought. This place has documented parts of my journey over the past 16 years and has been therapeutic.

Hey, it could be worse. In another time and place I might have been ranting to strangers on a street corner.

Tuesday’s Gone

On Tuesday, it’ll have been two years since Beth, Kyle, and I departed for two weeks in London and Paris.

If we were leaving this week, the trip would not be happening, and we would have missed the once in a lifetime opportunity to see some American Idiot steal 2 mugs from a Starbucks at Montmartre. On Tuesday, no trips of a lifetime will commence, weddings won’t happen, no funerals either, the music has died, and there’ll be no Stanley Cup Playoff games.

So how are you doing? What have you missed or will be missing? I know friends who have children in the graduating class of 2020. We’ll mail your diploma, kid. Weddings seem mostly off, but that goes for divorces, too. Imagine being one of those couples. Oh, and note to self, don’t die. Well, not if you want guests. I just heard COVID-19 took a cousin of mine. His brother wrote, “We can’t do anything for him right now but will have some sort of celebration of life later in the summer when this clears up.”

“…later in the summer when this clears up.”

Yeah, I’m thinking not.

I have tickets to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and David Crosby in NYC on June 5th, followed by a ballgame at Yankee Stadium the next day, but those aren’t happening. I have no idea when I’ll be willing to engage in large dense crowds like that, but it won’t be before we have either a vaccine that prevents COVID-19 infection or an anti-viral that stops it. Without that, going out in public is like playing Russian Roulette. Yeah, the odds of catching a bullet are low, but if you do it could be game over.

I took myself out of play in early March and have been very cautious. I’ll continue to be, though it’s easier for me than most. I still have a job and can work from home. I’m very fortunate. Some people have neither the time nor privilege to binge-watch Netflix or write blog posts. They’re in bread lines. Still, the “Liberate whereverthefuck” crowd infuriates me. Sure, liberate the FoxNews-watching stiffs to go back out there to get the economy going again. The dead from that right-wing promotion will receive the usual “thoughts and prayers” from the folks who suck dry the collection plates of capitalism. Fuck that.

“He who fights and runs away
May live to fight another day;
But he who is battle slain
Can never rise to fight again.”

― Oliver Goldsmith

Life is Short(er than Ever)

A CNBC report from July of 2019 describes a US life expectancy decline during 2017-2019 for 3 primary reasons:

  • A rise in drug overdoses
  • An increase in liver disease
  • A rise in suicide rates

The article goes on, “The last three years represent the longest consecutive decline in the American lifespan at birth since the period between 1915 and 1918, which included World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic, events that killed many millions worldwide.”

I recall hearing about this morbid trend and thinking the causes were too circuitous from my existence to worry. Well, 2 of the 3, anyway. Then COVID-19 showed up and mortality became “number one with a bullet” on the list of life’s concerns.  In other words, number one and still rising. Number one with a vengeance.

So, with impermanence now center stage, I find myself shorter than ever on patience for people’s bullshit. Specifically, “people” and their “bullshit” fall into several buckets:

  • Trump supporters (friends, family, social media trolls). He’s a horrible person and you support him. Connect those dots while you’re out there liberating America.
  • People who make unironic statements like, “My God is bigger than coronvirus, you’ll see.” (I left the misspelling in for authenticity.) Yeah, this guy thought his God was big, too.
  • Bullies who prey on those lower on the food chain.
  • Those who repeatedly declare “I’m done” to go along with other disparagements, only to later suggest, “You should reconsider the ease by which you shove people away.” Nah, I’m good. You’re done, remember?

Which brings me to, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It doesn’t mean indifference. Author Mark Manson says that we have a limited number of fucks to give in our lives. And with life now  shorter than ever, use them wisely on the people who matter.

Bern’d Out

Where to begin in this masked surreality we’re living? Let’s start with how much more I look forward to the dream state these days. It’s an 8-hour stretch (more or less) during which I don’t have to think about living through a deadly pandemic. Waking hours are long and stressful, yet I have it WAY easier than most. Work has been crazy, but I’m thankful to still have it. It’s been an interesting journey from “I wish I could just work from home” to “it would be nice to see the peeps in the office.” Videoconferencing has become a welcome daily activity and most now opt for their cameras to be on. It seems that before this pandemic, we, well I, really undervalued the importance of human contact. Not that the video meeting thing has escaped the noxious air completely, we’ve had our share of audio and video glitches, but people are much more patient with the hiccups. In my privileged world at least, people are being a little more empathetic with each other. The digital humanity is welcomed, even if there are occasional and hilarious fails. I experienced one this week, and it’s the highlight of my pandemic work from home experience to date. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, Forrest.

In less fun news, Bernie dropped out. He was my candidate in 2016, and although I did financially support him this year, my giving was mostly to Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get past the misogyny of white men enough to win some primaries. They seem to require a white guy, no matter how corrupt (Trump) or blasé (Biden). I knew Bernie and Liz were long shots, but I wanted their progressive voices in the campaign to move the Democratic party left, and they have. Biden, now the presumptive nominee – unless a “draft-Cuomo” wave occurs, moved left this week proposing to lower the age for Medicare to 60 and to forgive student loan debt for millions of middle-class borrowers. I like both proposals, but worry about what seems an obvious cognitive decline in Biden. He’s struggling now, and I’m not confident he’ll be able to string a coherent sentence together by November. I wouldn’t be upset if the Democrats changed course and went with Andrew Cuomo. During this crisis, he’s proven to be two things Donald Trump isn’t. A leader and a human being.

What else? Oh, after a year away, I went back on Facebook to keep up with people I might not otherwise be able to. Hey, we are in a pandemic. The Facebook experience has changed – from the interface to the interpersonal. It seems not many give a damn about the state of the country with a dimwitted orange crime boss at the head of it. Maybe people just want Facebook to be a light escape. I don’t know. I think the devolution of our country into a gerrymandered Republican authoritarian state is worth caring about, but that discussion is not for everyone. I don’t even get pushback from my MAGA friends. Oh, wait. I blasted them into the unfriended regions of I don’t give a fuck about your cut and paste opinions the last time I was on Facebook. I sometimes stalk their pages to see what kind of lunacy they’re posting. Same old FoxNews regurgitated lies. Just like their Messiah Trump, they’ll never ever admit to being wrong and now in a most deadly way.

Anyway, back to Bernie and saving the country from these fucking “COVID-19 is a hoax but I’m going to dump some stocks based on the classified intelligence briefing I received on it and oh, by the way, go stand in line at 5 polling places (down from 180 in Milwaukee) to vote in the pandemic anyway” Republicans, I’m “Blue no matter who.” Yeah, Biden wasn’t my first, second, third, four… Fuck, I only preferred him over Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bloomberg, and Marianne Williamson, although if she wasn’t so “woo-woo” I’d prefer her policy positions over Biden’s. So yeah, even though I’m pissed that Bernie was done in mostly by the Democratic establishment and the mainstream media that supports it, I’ll be voting for Biden and so should every other Bernie supporter. I think this quote sums up the choice for the “Bernie or Bust” crowd:

“You can curse the darkness or you can light a candle. I’m getting a fucking welding torch. Okay?” – James Carville

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