Atomic Fireballs, Seinfeld Skits and Spring Baseball

My doctor told me to watch my drinking, so I'm off to find a bar with a mirror | Weekend Ecard

Life comes at you strangely.

I wonder what would happen if we could slow the world’s spin by half? Seeing as how humankind ain’t a lab experiment, rather than provide a definitive answer to our what’s what, the manipulation is likely to create even more questions. And we have enough of those as it is.

So Imma mine some minutiae before supplying a few thoughts regarding the splendor that is spring baseball.

Retro Atomic Fireballs" Poster for Sale by tangerinespeedo | Redbubble

I tend to engage in brief skirmishes with candy these days. I have a fifteen-year chip for breaking its evil spirit many moons ago during Lent. When I went back to the sweet stuff after forty days, it just didn’t cocoa my puff in the same way.

The candy in my crib is scant these days. I mostly partake when I’m at work and I tend to dabble in the shit that never turned me on back when candy- specifically chocolate . . dark chocolate . . anything that rhymed with chocolate- was my crush. I’ll consider licorice and I’ll even go for sour, which I once considered an affront to common sense. And this past week, I did me some hot.

Enter the Atomic Fireball. At 3500 Scoville units, it musters the same kick as your average jalapeno, with a cinnamon finish that keeps the brush fire in your mouth interesting enough. But there’s some peligroso to this round mound of resound. The dubious deed occurred to me when I popped the candy marble- which measures almost an inch in diameter. This immediately triggered my worst case scenario list.

Top 5 Dumbest Ways to Punch Your Cosmic Ticket? N’kay . .

1- Being shot with a nail gun
2- Getting flattened by an air conditioner window unit
3- Death by birthday candle fire
4- Drowning in a puddle
5- Choking on hard candy

What makes these ignoble exits truly frightening is that if you happen to buy one of them, the collective reaction will most definitely include laughter. That luck, as Twain would say, is an ill gotten shower I want zero part of. So I’m officially on a forty-days plus forever diet when it comes to the hard stuff.

Laughing Jester - Wikidata

That Seinfeld skit I mentioned in the marquee came to me as I was discussing my mother’s recovery with someone. Me and my son have this neurotic habit of applying Seinfeld to the most ordinary situations. The skit goes something like this . . .

Jerry and George run into an old friend who fell out of touch. He explains the reason for his absence had to do with a ‘health scare’, leaving the boys to speculate on the matter. They come to learn their friend’s relative was the one with the health issue, after which they call him on it. Because he was obviously hijacking someone else’s health and using it for his own personal gain.

British artist Andy Brown captures essence of baseball through paintings | The Japan Times

You can have your March Madness©, with its never ending supply of brand coaches and felonious freshmen looking to turn their hot collegiate minute into a baller bank account. For my swing at the spring, baseball is where it’s at. Because in spite of the Manfredian Empire’s occupation of the game’s most sovereign qualities, poetry still reigns over the sport when push comes to glove.

What begins with a flicker in the spring, transforms to a raging fire in summer before getting tucked into bed by Longfellow’s pen in the fall. And across this three act production that spans three of the four seasons, there exists the very same magic I felt the first time I laid eyes on a big league diamond. The new curriculum doesn’t change the math when a pitcher is painting corners with the brushstrokes of a master painter. That harmonious mystery of two pounds worth of maple turning cowhide into one of Dante’s circles remains intact. And when nine innings become the page turning matters of life and death, you’re thankful for the chance to read it’s three-dimensional ending.

Spring is where every team has a chance, maybe not to win it all, but to do something that will convince the universe that old Abner Doubleday deserves a raise.

I’m there for that.

No Apologies

Kurt Cobain cardigan sells at auction for $334,000 - BBC News

To paraphrase Herman Melville, it was a pretty great fucking trip.

I cut the ties with my Kurt Cobain sweater jacket this week. No, it’s not the weathered cardigan made famous by the Nirvana front man on MTV’s Unplugged back in the Clintonian Era (for you kids playing along at home, that means thirty-years ago). Nah, Cobain’s iconic threads fetched a cool $334,000 pennyroyals at an auction in 2019, whereas my humble getup was gifted to Goodwill.

That beloved sweater spent a solid quarter century in the starting rotation for yours truly. In the time from there to here, it lived several lives while always coming up jackpot for me, because I was on the value added side of presentable whenever I heaved that jacket into place. It could heist a dress down day and make it seem so much cooler than it actually was.

Versatility is easy riding for most guys (me) when the very idea of clothes shopping resides in Dante’s cul-de-sac. My sweater jacket always spoke up for me and it never clapped back at another part of my ensemble. It jibed with just about anything, the way a righteous pair of Ray Bans can make the scene in any season, like all weather tires, and they’ll be cool and dependable in the doing. Both. The thing happened into my wardrobe at a time when sweater jackets weren’t simply a phase for me, they were a state of being. And it outlasted all of them.

Alas, this mohair masterpiece didn’t deserve to be relegated to the sidelines. Which is where it ended up over the last couple years. In my closet, alongside a couple pair of jeans I’ll never fit into again unless I were to simply stop eating, a ski jacket that I won’t fit into again unless I never stop eating and a couple of suit jackets that I keep in the event that someone either dies or gets married.

I couldn’t let my Tonto go to tatters without giving it the chance to live some more of the A side, after having spent the last couple years of its life in hiding. In what should’ve been its golden years, I would mostly break it out when I was lazing around the house, but it had been a hot minute since I took it out anywhere past the front porch. So yeah, I’m glad it’s going to get the chance to get back out there, even if that’s going to have to happen somewhere else. Because all that matters is that they’re can be a somewhere else for it now.

Alls I know is that I’m glad I came under its spell when I did, because it ended up being the accidental rock star in my fashion lineup. And while I could never carry a tune or play a lick? It never made me feel as if that mattered in the least. With its earnest fit and its humble pledge, the thing was Zen to my senses in all the ways that matter most.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.



The Funny Thing About Death

I never understood why people fear mortality.

What’s the point in being afraid of the inevitable? I mean, if you’re going to be afraid of bad company you can’t reschedule, be afraid of in-laws and the IRS. Leave the grim reaper out of it. He’s just doing his job, and business is good when you consider that mortality rates were up last year.

This thought occurred to me- death- whilst enjoying my every other day half hour run. Thirty minutes, three miles and change, the perfect Zen. Now, thinking about death is way different than being afraid to die. Thinking about death is something I do every day, several times a day. It usually pays a visit inside my lighter moments.

Of course, death isn’t all fun and games. There are certain methods of cosmic transportation that do not butter my bread. so a list of ways in which death would truly suck? Yeah, I just so happen to have such a list.

Ventilators- Nope.

Shark Attack- Sharks are majestic, but so is the St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I wouldn’t want to be impaled by one of its spires.

Plane Crash- Every time a plane crash happens, some aviation expert will let us know it’s far more likely we’ll die after slipping in the bathtub than die in a plane crash. Yeah but last time I looked, my bathtub wasn’t forty thousand feet above the ground.

Dying in the audience during “Live with Kelly Ripa and _____”- I would sooner hurtle to earth in a plane while hooked up to a ventilator, after which I survive the impact only to be devoured by sharks.

When my half hour run was in the books I decided to treat myself, which isn’t a regular occurrence for yours truly. The problem with this brilliant fucking idea is that I quit most of the stuff I used to treat myself to. Like painkillers, day drinking and smokes.

Meanwhile, mi mama is on the road to recovery after having tangoed with mortality a couple months ago. She lived to tell the tale, even if the telling is sometimes in the form of bitching and moaning about her physical therapy. So it was that I summoned a little Mickey Goldmill on the drive to her latest session and once she aced that shit? I treated her (us) to McDonalds.

McDonalds is truly every once in a while for me and it won’t be a regular occurrence for the old gal either, but in the moment it was a pretty brilliant fucking idea. Which got me thinking happier thoughts. And that’s when my list of ways to die that don’t suck quite so much came to me.

Because of course I have one . . .

Skydiving- The only problem is my intense fear of heights. In order for me to die while skydiving, I would have to be drugged and then thrown off a plane. But I’m willing to try it so long as the drugs are really, really good.

Competitive Eating Contest- It would serve me right to get strangled by a five-pound bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings. I’ve wasted enough time watching these marathon masticators do their thing while making light of it that I probably deserve such a fate, as long as caramelized onions are an accessory.

As breakfast for a Bengal tiger- I only romanticize such a thing because of Yann Martel, but it still counts. And besides, I would lose consciousness within thirty-seconds, tops. Sure it would be the longest thirty seconds of my life, but it sure as hell beats thirty minutes of Ripa.

An explosion in a distillery- I get to take it with me!

Being impaled by a spire from St. Patrick’s Cathedral- Alright, I thought about it some and yanno . . it would be a pretty cool way to buy the boat.

Yann Martel once wrote that death fell in love with the beauty of life, and that’s why it stalks it. And I think that if I’m willing to allow a Bengal tiger to macchiato my ass into the ever after, there’s gotta be some truth to that idea.

I betcha Ryan Seacrest would agree.





The Rundown

Welcome to the first Rundown of the year, which is made possible by the generous donations on the part of Wolf Blitzer, Jim Belushi and Carrot Top. And while I don’t have a Trump conviction to chew the fat on in this week’s episode, I do supply some thoughts on why we should stop talking about an ending to this farce until we actually have one. Plus! Are classified documents the new Facebook posts? . . . The human brain wins a round against AI . . and Curious George Santos past shows no signs of slowing down.

Let’s hit the ground running . . .

Defending national champion Georgia pounds TCU in college football title game - The San Diego Union-Tribune

We start with the top college football team in the land. The Georgia Bulldogs and coach Kirby Smart became the first team to repeat as champs since the Nick Saban led Alabama Crimson Tide a decade earlier. The Dawgs lost 15 players to the NFL last offseason (which is a dozen more than some actual NFL teams currently possess), and they didn’t miss a beat. They’re my choice to win it all again next season because the idea that a team not named the Tide three-peats is . . . wait for it . . peachy with me.

  • Aaron Rodgers makes an awful lot of noise for a guy who hasn’t played in a Super Bowl since the Obama administration. Hey man, just saying . . .
  • Lebron James is done winning titles. There, I said it.
  • Twenty-five days until pitchers and catchers.

Garage Storage Tips: 10 Things You Shouldn't Keep In Your Garage | The Lakeside Collection

Anything you can do, I can do dumber. Well, in Joe Biden’s case maybe not dumber since that would be damn near impossible. And sorry Gym Jordan, but as the Washington Post correctly pointed out, this isn’t a case of “Whatabout?”. But Joe’s classified docs turning up in his garage ain’t great optics. And it’s even worse news for those of us who wanted to be done with the other guy. Because the MAGA minions are going to use this fuel to fire up their fledgling run.

  • Speaking of the Mar of Lago, can the news outlets chill some with their Cannonball run coverage until the Federalis actually (hopefully) pull that lasso? As he showed us time and again, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
  • Now George Santos was a drag queen in Brazil too? Tell you what, if this cat told me I had a day to live, Imma buy me some green bananas. And a puppy.

And now for the We’re All Doomed! Photo of the Week! 

Displaying IMG_1339.jpg

I cut back on my egg intake last fall and really, not a minute too soon.

Exclusive: Who is Edward Tian? He wants to keep his GPTZero app free for users to take on ChatGPT | South China Morning Post

Princeton senior Edward Tion is dishing up the kind of smarts we need to be paying more attention to. He’s majoring in Computer Science with a minor in journalism, but his current passion is all about harnessing the increasingly powerful influence of artificial intelligence.

Like most college kids, Tion has used ChatGPT, which is basically an advanced chat bot that can write up everything from poetry to essays. While the results are still beset with factual inaccuracies and can be formulaic, the fact of the matter is the technology has improved greatly from its predecessors.

Tion got to thinking about the challenges associated with this tool. The online world is already an environment fraught with complications. What might a locked and loaded version of this AI mean to public discourse in the not too distant future? And what of the songs and poems and stories that once were the purview of the human soul? Might they too one day be replaced with an artificially enhanced reproduction?

The kid has developed an app called GPTZero that can distinguish between work done by humans and AI, and he’s getting lots of attention from journalists and educators alike. Tion doesn’t want to ban the software he’s working to identify. “It doesn’t make sense that we go into that future blindly,” he says. “Instead, you need to build the safeguards to enter that future.”

Amen to that.

  • Elon Musk exaggerated Tesla’s self-driving capabilities? I’m shocked I tell you! Shocked!
  • Netflix exceeded Wall Street expectations by adding 7.66 million subscribers during the fourth quarter. And they didn’t even need Tom Brady to do it.

A representation of vulnerability and security': Memorial honoring the Kings opens on Boston Common | WBUR News

Yeah, I have no idea either . . .

Lisa Marie Presley Dies after Possible Cardiac Arrest: What We Know

The untimely death of Lisa Marie Presley is still under investigation more than a week after her passing. Deferring a cause of death is not uncommon if the initial autopsy doesn’t provide an obvious answer. Lisa Marie’s end came much too soon and here’s hoping she finds peace on the other side.

  • The Menu starring Ralph Fiennes and Ana Taylor-Joy is great fun if you’re into cheeseburgers and dark comedy horror flicks. You’ll thank me for the tip.
  • I’m two days into my breakup with Amazon Prime and I feel better than I have in a long time. I’m even seeing a new streaming service- Paramount Plus- already!

Jay Withey: Buffalo hero breaks into school to rescue over 2 dozen people stranded in deadly blizzard | MEAWW

Jay Withey isn’t going to win an MVP. He’s never going to rush for 2,000 yards or throw 50 touchdown passes or lead the league in sacks. But all that stuff pales in comparison to what he did accomplish during the “storm of a generation” that ran roughshod over Buffalo.

On Christmas Eve, the 27 year-old mechanic rescued twenty-four people who were stranded in their cars. After which he led them to the Edge Academy school, breaking in so as to provide shelter for the group. And then he went and gathered up sustenance and blankets while they waited for help. He even wrote an apology letter to the school in which he promised to make things right. But here’s the thing. He had already made things right, twenty-four times over.

The school refused to press charges or take any money for the damages, and Whitley has become a global rock star thanks to his heroics. He’s gotten letters from as far away as Australia and he received a special delivery from former Bills great Thurman Thomas: Tickets to Super Bowl 57 in Glendale, Arizona. He’s hoping to watch his favorite team bring home a title.

If they follow this kid’s game plan, they just might do it.


A Flip Of The Cap To Immaturity

Stop Worrying About Athletes That Wear Their Cap Backwards - TOOATHLETIC  TAKES

As fashion statements go, the backwards facing cap is swimming in the same forgettable pool of misbegotten with mini-bowlers and parachute pants. Which means to say, it’s coo to sport the look if you’re dancing in your living room with the blinds drawn and you have no friends. Otherwise, it’s probably a good idea to keep your fashion (cap) forward.

I first pondered this otherwise completely innocuous topic after listening to sports talk personality Colin Cowherd riff about it a few years ago. Cowherd is the host of a national sports talk show and while he is fairly entertaining, if not completely predictable, when it comes to moving those chains, his Miguel de Cervantes really comes out to play when he questions the shit we normalize on the regular.

I had forgotten about Colin’s Cap Rule until running into a friend of mine recently. This fellow is an otherwise upstanding citizen in that he’s happily married with a very good job and he’s not a serial killer. Alas, nobody’s perfect and he proved it by donning a Philadelphia Eagles cap in reverse squat. I did my best not to appear disappointed in this turn of events because I figure the guy has earned the right to make a bad decision and he really doesn’t have the time to be a serial killer. But still . . .

A top five list of individuals who get a pass on the No Backward Cap Rule? N’kay . . .

1- Anyone under the age of 16: Because you might not have discovered things like sex and gainful employment yet so your ignorance is understandable.
2- College guys: Because you most likely have discovered sex and/or gainful employment by this point in your life but you have no blessed idea what to do with them yet.
3- Immigrants: You’re just trying to fit in, I get it. You get a pass unless or until you get your official papers, after which time you’re entirely responsible for your fashion crime
4- Baker Mayfield- Cowherd referenced the kid when calling out all backward cap wearing peeps because he has a running feud with him. So of course I want Baker to continue doing his thing in reverse, even if his fifteen minutes as an NFL starter have just about run out. Oh well, he can always sign with Miami in the offseason!
5- Women: In a reverse sexism plot twist, I find the fashion faux paus is infinitely more forgivable when the culprit possesses curls. It applies the same math as sports jersey wearing; which looks silly on a dude but quite fetching when a chica is doing that business.

There was a time many moons ago when I engaged in the backwards wearing cap look. It was a simpler time and a simpler me and thankfully that window was winnowed into a reality where I rarely if ever wear caps at all.

For the sake of complete transparency and because it would be helpful to be out front in the event I run for Senate, I must confess to having engaged in a cap crime. It was whilst making merry at a brewhouse with my pal Linds B, who took me out to celebrate my 51st birthday that I made the regrettable decision to flip the script in all caps. Applying a contextual application to my having reversed course on what I believe is a hard and fast rule is no excuse, but. . . I was several friendlies into deep blue seeing things and thus, my judgement was cloudier than Beijing on a bad air day. While I know this does not justify my actions, it’s not like I can go back and change things.

That would be redundant. 


We Never See It Coming

Back in the last breaths of the twentieth century, America met its future self.

The idea hit me like a Ball-peen hammer in a Mary Jane roll as I watched a documentary called Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 on Netflix recently. It’s a three-part saga/doc/horror story about the failed third installment of the Woodstock Music Festival which took place in late summer of 1999.

The monster-piece theater known as Woodstock ’99 was supposed to be the generational equivalent of its predecessor. I guess? The original had served as graduation day for baby boomers intent on leaving behind a decade of tumult with three days of peace, love and a hard pass on hygiene. For one long, glorious weekend in 1969, America’s youth were able to zeitgeist the fuck out of their generational identity, with a residual patina that only grew more iconic with each passing decade. The fraternal order of long-haired freaky people shed their fringe at that musical binge. By the ’80’s, their mainstream was showing as the counter culture that once took on the establishment, became them.

There are times when history should be accorded a fresh coat of paint, and on the face of it, a Woodstock concert to close out the millennium was inspired.  Problem was, it was toting thirty years worth of the devil’s own luck into a three day getaway in upstate New York. The other problem was that it wasn’t held inside the plush rolling hills of a small farm but on fields of concrete that belonged to a former Air Force Base, in 100 degree temps. Oh, and it featured a bottomless cup of rage music. And did I mention how only months earlier, America had entered the Columbine Era, where all life’s problems are solved with threats and violence?

It begged the question: What could go right?

Michael Lang’s attempt to make America groovy again was nothing more than a shell game, selling sunlight in the middle of summer. It was obvious the man had long since traded in his bellbottoms for the bottom line of a wholly corporate venture dressed in great music. He got lucky the first time around, when a peaceful storming of the gates forced him to turn Woodstock into a free concert on the fly. And while he got soaked in the moment, he recouped his money and then some over time as a result of the legendary festival.

By 1994, Lang was ready to cash in on the Woodstock franchise by sticking a price tag on everything. His cash grab got some play in the national newspapers but Woodstock ’94 was by most accounts, a huge success. This gave Lang and his pals all the springboard they would need for a trilogy in Rome, New York.

The attendees of Woodstock ’99, along with the generation it represented, are approaching middle age now. And from the looks of it, they’re carrying the souvenirs of Rome with them. Because there is a huge segment of their population that is every bit as pissed off and disconnected as they were almost a quarter of a century ago. And what’s worse, they’ve got friends of every age, race, color, creed and political affiliation.

They exist inside an age where debate and dialogue have been replaced with vitriolic shouting matches. Consensus has been lost to the cult of personality, where each side has been conned into believing in hashtags and celebrity politicians at the expense of unity. Rights are no longer a dynamic of commonality but rather, a con perpetrated by special interest groups and power hungry individuals. Movements have become branded efforts, devoid of soul and compassion.

We never saw it coming back when Rome was burning in that Air Force parking lot inside the last breaths of the millennium. We never imagined our allegiances could become so fractured, but that’s what happens when a nation stops taking on the challenges to its union collectively and starts taking sides instead.

Fast forward to the present, where the vacuum at the highest reaches of our political system has led to a disgraced ruler who hangs on to his power through fear while his opponents stumble in spite of the huge target he has provided them. He wins his crowd over with raging anthems while enraging his opponents into a lather until the whole damn country is one big mosh pit.

His place in the national consciousness is either portent for another implausible run or the blueprint for some future candidate who also doesn’t give a fig about democracy. Because if we keep barreling down this highway, sooner or later that seat in the high castle is going to be compromised to such a degree that all the Founding Fathers won’t be able to put it back together again.

It’s how Rome fell.

Both Sides

That’s a classic song by a classic artist. Joni Mitchell burst onto the music scene during my college days. Since then, her accolades include 10 Grammy Awards, induction into both the Rock & Roll and Songwriters halls of fame, a Kennedy Center honoree, and more – including being on Dale’s Mt. Rushmoor of Female Musicians (who sang and wrote their own songs).

“Both” is an interesting word – one that is on my ideas list for a future beach walk essay. Maybe I’ll draft it next winter at the beach – but I will leave those thoughts for another day. After all, I need the sand and surf to inspire my thoughts.

To me, Both Sides, Now is about perception – how we perceive something based on the situation. How something the same seems different. I think about it as two sides of a coin or two sides of a story.

Much of life is about both – then and now, past and present, before and after. Both sides are even about each of us looking back at something that happened to reflect. Maybe even realizing something totally different now than then – even both sides.

We can create a long list of events involving before-and-after thoughts, but that’s not exactly where I’m going. Anthony Mason of CBS News did this wonderful segment involving respect, will, grit, determination, appreciation, surprise, cheers and tears.

If you watched the story above, you understand my point. If you didn’t, watch below to see Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides, Now at the recent Newport Folk Festival. Joni – surrounded by friends – overcoming a stroke – and singing pretty darn good.

How I Learned Church

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As far as days of the week are concerned, Sunday is the difference. You can just feel a Sunday without much effort, in much the same way a singer can identify a pitch out of thin air. Whereas Michael Corleone’s first wife- the lovely Apollonia- easily confused the other six days of the week with their bunkmates, she always nailed the one day that was common language, from Sicily to Flatbush.

When I was ten years old, I was an awkward mess of buckteeth and bushy hair and the most geometrically absurd pair of glasses. I was shy, painfully so. If shyness had been a contest, my closet would’ve been full of blue ribbons. The safe haven for me came in the form of books and baseball and music. I could lock the rest of the great big world out of my room and daydream about a future time and place when I wouldn’t feel so out of place.

These love affairs in miniature gifted me liberty from my clumsy toiling through all the nascent lessons my too young self couldn’t yet grasp. My habits were the better chances, delivered from the mysterious belly of a universe whose plans for me were kept in escrow until I grew out of my sad little britches. And Sunday was when all my hopes and dreams came calling, in peaceful little drips.

I happened to be a fledgling explorer when it came to the religion of Café con leche. My method was equal parts a charming ignorance and an earnest deconstruction; I possessed a rudimentary blueprint that substituted espresso with Folgers and scalding hot milk with a cold, heavily sugared alternative. If you grow up with any kind of Latin influence, you understand your serving sizes when it comes to sugar as heaping and diabetic. It’s how I stayed honest enough to the recipe.

I’d tote the brimming mug back to my room and then get lost in the brilliant math of a morning after baseball box-score. I sipped at my Café and pored over the out of town scores before fixing on the exploits of my Yankees. Bucky, Willie and Blair more often than not took the collar and that was alright since defense was their bread and butter. Nettles and Chambliss and Rivers were always good for the rest of it. And then there was Reggie, who served as the front man for a band of talented miscreants. I imagined his murderously quick wrists turning on a hanging fastball inside his church as the congregation roared its approval.

It was during this time when I kinda felt as if Sunday had been created just so’s Lionel Richie could sing his love letter on the radio. I would listen closely to try and hear that intoxicating scratch as the stylus teased vinyl before diving in. In a world full of sophisticated complications, this was one I never got tired of knowing. My senses crushed on that sound.

They still do.

Of Kings and Queens and Kitchen Sinks

History of cats in Egypt

I like the idea of a spirit world.

Ancient Egyptians took the shit very seriously because to their way of thinking, a person’s life wasn’t finished when their expiration date came calling. They believed that the newly departed had an appointment with Osiris- the god of the deceased- and his 42 judges in a place called The Hall of Truth. If it was judged that the person on trial had lived a good life, they were permitted to enter Club Afterlife. Conversely, if the person was judged to have been a dick, they were tossed into the abyss and devoured by a monster. Not for nothing, but the Hall of Truth sounds way more fair minded than our Supreme Court. But that’s another thought for another post.

Anyways, the Egyptians believed that if you were greenlighted for the penthouse, it was all Gucci from there. Residents whose slippers were woven from clouds didn’t have to sweat any return trips to earth. They were gifted their favorite places and things for the rest of eternity without ever having to load up the car and fill the tank. There was however . . a however. Because let’s face it, there’s always a however. If an individual was called into the existential equivalent of jury duty, it meant their business on earth wasn’t quite finished or their peeps had dissed them in some way.

My daughter is convinced that we have a ghost and his name is Mr. Speaker. It makes sense, seeing as how the former furry ruler of House Lancaster loved the view from his perch and made sure that any visitors knew they had best leave their swords at the gate upon entering. It was his kingdom, they were just visiting. It would be sooooo Mr. Speaker to hold it against us for having replaced his precious crown with not one, but two members of royalty. And in the same calendar year to boot.

I elected Jack the 2nd and Wednesday the Only to the throne in the summer of 2020, whilst we were still writing songs about our dearly departed King Speaker. Truth is, I was in a very dark place after having lost Speaker months earlier and so when my sister sent me a video of a couple kittens she was fostering, I replied with “Sold!” And the rest has become a splendid history of two incredibly majestic rulers whose reign is akin to Carly Simon and James Taylor spilling musical gold onto a piece of vinyl.

Evidently, Mr. Speaker disagrees with this assessment.

“I think Speaker is inhabiting the kitchen,” My daughter informed me.

“What makes you say that?”

“You ever notice how Jack and Wednesday accompany each other into the kitchen? Or if it’s just one of them going in, they’ll usually wait for us?”

“You think Speaker’s haunting their asses?” I laughed.

“It’s something he would do,” She replied.

I conducted a thorough investigation of the area, making sure to cancel out insects, rodents and phroggers before reaching my conclusion that Mr. Speaker is in fact, haunting our kitchen.

Now here’s the thing. I could hold a séance in which I confess to the guy that he was such a hard act to follow, I had to double down! And not for nothing, but I honored his memory by naming one of them Jack (Since his full name was Mr. Jack Speaker)  He was a trusted confidante and loyal friend to my daughter. He was an expert wingman for yours truly. And as far as gangster chronicles go, the dude was legendary.

Eh . . . what’s the use? I know he would turn his nose up at such a gesture even if it happens to be completely true. He wouldn’t cease and desist even if I asked him nicely. What Mr. Speaker wants, he always gets. Even now. And it’s not as if the current regime is cutting back on food and water as a result. They’re just a tad bit more discretionary as to how they budget their time in the kitchen. And I think I need to follow their example if I’m being completely honest.

Besides . . .as far as I’m concerned, the spirit world just got a whole lot cooler.

The Slate Is Ours To Write

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Albert Camus

There’s this person I know, I’ll call them Sandy since that’s not their name but I wish to be respectful of their privacy. Their journey wasn’t an easy one. Not when you consider how many people still believe the world is supposed to subscribe to the notion that humankind must abide to a uniform script. There are still too many people who are willing to get ugly and mean in order to convey their narrow minded approach to everything and everyone else.

Sandy had a tough road to get here. Born a boy in a conservative Latin family and learning a different truth by adolescence, they hid the truth until it could no longer be hidden. For some, the truth is a liberator but for others such as Sandy, it is the beginning of an arduous journey fraught with complications, betrayal and abject hate.

I took all this into account when I was getting to know them because it’s how I would like to be understood. The golden rule isn’t some bullshit antiquity, it’s a real world solution that works wonders when applied with compassion and understanding. It’s how I learned that Sandy has the kind of personality that makes everybody’s day just a little brighter just by being in the room; smart as all get out, hard working and as genuine a human being as you’re ever going to meet. Sandy isn’t just a good person. Sandy is one of the best people I know, one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. If you want my slam dunk, that’s a fack jack seal of approval last word on this? I would have enlisted Sandy as a babysitter for my kids back in the day. And that list was reserved for immediate family and a Godmother, so there’s that.

We tend to forget how easy it can be. We’re so wrapped up in the daily mayhem that we lose sight of Camus’ best idea. The one that summons us to get moving to where the getting is good. It’s a place we all have access to if we just let it do its thing. The denomination that threads us together is what should count most of all. If we stopped separating each other as if we were aisles in a grocery store, we would understand ourselves as people. Different and very much the same. Both.

Maybe we don’t ever figure this out. Maybe we drown in our insolence, captive prisoners to the hostilities that are setting perpetual fires to an unkempt world. Maybe we are just too far gone to ever really get to the place where peace matters. Where the quiet of common sense matters. Where life reads like that favorite passage in a classic piece of literature that your brain can feed on in perpetuity. And maybe none of it matters in the end if we give a damn enough to spoil the wreckage with kindness.

If I never knew Sandy, I never write this post and I never feel as hopeful as I do in the moments that come at me from every direction with words that spill over with love and peace and a genuine belief in us. All of us. And it’s a tiny little stretch of real estate with quiet understandings. But its resonance moves the holy spirits that tend to our small mercies, even in the most desperate of times.

Admittedly, I can still be clumsy with pronouns. But I’m earnest and I’m open and I’m honest to this fact. After all, it ain’t hard work. It’s how a person chooses to live because it’s their life . . it’s their choice. My part is the least meeting most in a hug, and I do understand that it’s not everything, but it’s a lot more than nothing at all. And it still counts.

A lot more than we know.