Melancholy in the Waning Hours of Parenthood…

My son, Me, My daughter

My son, Me, My daughter

In less than six hours from now, I will no longer, technically, have kids.

My youngest child will turn 18 and will legally become an adult.  Yes, I will always be a “parent” (my “children” will vouch for this) but I can no longer accurately describe them as “kids”…they’ve become adults.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I find myself filled with melancholy right now.  My brain is awash in all the things I could have, should have done…

Was I the best parent I could have been? Absolutely not…I failed on many occasions, sometimes on an epic scale. Do I wish I could go back and do things differently…be a different parent…be a different person…you’re damn right I do. My “kids” deserve the best and I failed them in that.

What I can say is that I tried. Yes, I failed at times to achieve perfection, but I did the best I knew how to do at the moment I was in at those points in my life.

During their lives, these guys lost their older brother after five years of suffering, watched their father lose his career on the fire department as the result of the disease of alcoholism, waited for their dad while he did 39 days in jail (I cannot imagine many scenarios more crushing than calling your child from jail and awaiting the automated voice that tells your child they are receiving a call from the city jail), see their parents through an acrimonious divorce, see their mother remarry a man that they hated, and struggled to find themselves in the midst of these challenges.

And find themselves they did. Both “kids” have matured into exceptional human beings. Kind, caring, ambitious, intelligent citizens of their communities. One at George Washington University pursuing her passion to change the world and another embarking on his dreams at the University of Oregon.

Lest this digress into an exercise in self-flagellation, I will admit to this: I turned it around.

I set an example.

I got sober and I worked hard. I devoted my life to their emotional and intellectual well-being. I didn’t have the financial resources to give them half of what they deserved, but I can unequivocally say I gave them my heart and soul and am guided by an overriding desire to model the axiom that if you get knocked down…no matter how far…you can get back up and succeed.

Every year since they were pre-teens, I write them a letter. Here’s the letter I’ll be presenting to my son in his eighteenth birthday tomorrow, the day he becomes a man:

 

Dear (son),

I have no idea if you save these, but if you don’t, please save this one. It contains the keys to a happy, rewarding life. That’s a big claim, I know. But it’s true. And it’s deceptively simple. Here are the keys:

 

  1. Fear is the root of all negativity in your life; find a power greater than yourself to place your faith upon.
  2. The key to genuine happiness is getting out of your own head. Put others needs ahead of your own. Service to others is the only way to achieve true happiness.
  3. Be disciplined. There are no shortcuts. Work hard and you WILL be rewarded.
  4. Life isn’t fair. If you are counting on this, you will be constantly disappointed. See #3 for the corollary to this.
  5. Be on time. Be trustworthy. Be respectful of all people regardless of their station in life. These three things will give you a HUGE advantage in your professional career.
  6. Be humble. No matter how successful you become, remember #2. Humility will pay dividends in your life. Karma is real…I lived it.
  7. Have fun. Surround yourself with positive people.
  8. Keep your side of the street clean and let God handle the rest.
  9. Own up to and admit your mistakes, no matter the cost.
  10.  Do good things and good things will happen to you.

 

If you strive to do these 10 simple things in your life, you will find success beyond measure.  Good luck son…I am always here for you!

 

I love you,

Dad


Eloquence Personified…RIP

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“To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movement of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”

–Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera


TWC=FML

1024px-2011-01-28_Time_Warner_Cable_building_entrance

My first clue that Time Warner Cable lacked a corporate soul should have been their logo. When my kids were younger they loved a mind-numbingly silly Anime called “Naruto”. The title character wore a headband with same logo as TWC…just upside down. Ominous imagery indeed when your corporate logo is the upside down version of a violent Japanese fantasy.

TWC entered the legions of corporate bad citizens for me when they blacked-out two of my local channels that just happened to be carrying my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers.

I cancelled my long-time service with them and switched to Verizon; a superior customer service experience to-date.

Here’s the deal: if I could live without cable altogether…I would. I maintain a debt to these service providers because I’m not yet technologically savvy enough to figure out how to watch sports on television without cable. I find just about everything else on TV completely worthless. This from a kid (I’m 53 now) that used to memorize the TV Guide as a child. It was my third parent. My father was in the industry. I majored in Telecommunications a lifetime ago.

I hate TV…and I hate Time Warner for their latest stunt–their latest schoolyard bully move…

TWC has seen fit to strong-arm the Dodgers into an exclusive contract. In other words, if you don’t subscribe to TWC…you don’t see the regularly scheduled Dodger games we enjoyed last year.  Apparently TWC is counting on Dodger fans to demand that their providers pay TWC to carry their channel.

I fail to see the difference between a bully extorting lunch money from a skinny kid and the corporate crap TWC is pulling. I will NEVER participate in any activity that gives them so much as a dime. That said…I’m screwed this year and so are a lot of other loyal Dodger fans.  I’m not going to get strong-armed into going back to them and I suspect a lot of people feel the same way. The Dodgers are not without blame in this PR train wreck either. They are at serious risk of alienating a large percentage of their fan base. This simply isn’t right.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy in this orgy of corporate opulence is the absence of Vin Scully in my life.

Every Spring, one of the simple pleasures in my life has been the literal goose bumps I get hearing Vin say “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

It goes without saying that Vin Scully is a living legend. And for me and thousands of others, we are separated from this national treasure by the obscenity of corporate greed.

Vin Scully will live on in the memory of myself and my children for the remainder of our lives. The pathetic pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of what is right will be once again forgotten and chalked up to the failure of yet another corrupt corporation.

I’m hoping against hope this will change this year…I’m not holding my breath.

We’re with you in spirit Vin…but we long for the golden vibrato of your soothing call…


Higher Education…a Family Affair

Lillis_Complex_(University_of_Oregon)

 

Greetings from Eugene, Oregon. My son and I have just completed “Duck Days”, otherwise known at the University of Oregon’s sales pitch to students and parents attempting to get them to enroll. Trust me, you didn’t need to. One foot on this historic campus and we were done.

My son was officially “accepted” here last fall, but wanted to (wisely) wait until he had heard from a few other colleges before committing. It wasn’t too long after we had crossed over the California/Oregon border that I think his commitment was cemented. I could go on and on about what the last 48 hours have been like for us, but suffice it to say it’s been epic.

And then this: while we are awaiting the welcome remarks yesterday from the President of Admissions, my phone rings…it’s my daughter who is a sophomore at George Washington University in DC. She announces that she has been chosen as only one of four students to receive a fully paid scholarship opportunity to go to Israel and study this Spring. To say I was blown away and infused with pride would be a tragic understatement. To be on the majestic campus of U of O with my son and then to receive this mind-blowing news from my daughter was almost too much to comprehend.

Oh and this: I was officially accepted into the Honors Transfer program for UCLA at the community college that I attend. I’m 53 years old. I’m stoked…

I desperately wanted my kids to go to college and I was the only one in my immediate family to lack a degree.

I’ve been on the wrong side of Karma most of my life. I’ve turned my life around and am realizing the sweet nectar of the right side of the Karma. It tastes good…


Sochi 2014: What We (I) Learned

sochi-2014-logo-4

High/Lowlights:

  • USA  Men’s Hockey teased the hell out of us with a dominant offensive performance in the early rounds…only to choke on both sides of the ice in their last two, critical games.
  • USA Women’s Hockey suffered one of the single-most heartbreaking defeats I have ever witnessed. After being less than four minutes from gold against their bitter rival, Canada, the ladies gave up two goals and fell in overtime. Hard to watch.
  • Bode Miller is human but still has game. Ted Ligety is unnaturally good in the slalom…what a ride.
  • Mikaela Shiffrin will be around for a while. What a combination of intellect, natural skill, and sheer muscle memory.
  • Skeleton, Luge, and Bobsled remains way cool.
  • Gracie Gold was not.
  • Yuna Kim is as graceful and humble as a superstar gets.
  • Putin remains a tool.
  • Bob Costas…where do I begin. The master of self-aggrandizement leveraged his pink-eye into a national “thing”. What the hell? Oh, and then he continued his entirely inappropriate political rants during the “games”. For the record, I generally agree with his views, I just despise listening to them interrupt why I’m here in the first place: to watch men and women who have dedicated their lives to competition. It’s not all about you Bob.
  • Oh, and Bob…one other thing…we don’t button the bottom button of a sportcoat…c’mon buddy, step it up.
  • Johnny Weir’s false eyelashes…the guy is a fashion freak but a remarkably astute commentator.
  • Which brings me to the commercials:
    • Cadillac: The dude that casually glorifies the “superior” American work ethic. This one has received some criticism for advancing an obscene commercial ethic. I, again, generally agree with that criticism. The pursuit of “stuff” is at times obscene. But on this one, it’s get’s a pass for genuine swag factor and score. (ten point style deduction though for allowing the actor to…yes…button the bottom button on that nice suit…when he turns back to camera, the vent separates…the entire reason we never do that. A critical stylistic error here and a severe indictment of the ad agency that produced the spot).
    • McDonalds: The McCafe spot. I don’t think I’ve EVER been creeped out as much by a piece of television. A woman, who later turns out to be a McDonalds employee, offers a McCafe something-or -other to women “having a bad day”. Except her bizarre head tilt and nasally “enjoy” brings this to the level of Texas Chainsaw Massacre creepiness. Don’t believe me? Watch it once. Experience nightmares for a lifetime. You’ve been warned.
    • Chevy Equinox: Here’s the dude that apparently has an epic night with his “bros” and then decides to check with “Siri” to see if he has any messages in the car with his wife. A dumbass like this deserves to get busted by Siri for pulling a bonehead move like this. Mancard revoked.

Summary: I spend way too much time watching TV and way too little time studying for my Western Civ and English class…thank God these thing only come around every four years…


The Myth of Democracy and the Demise of the Fourth Estate

Our system of government is based on a concept of checks & balances between branches of government. Executive, legislative, and judicial. A fourth “branch” or “fourth estate” has historically been the informal final arbiter of truth within this system.

Journalism had enjoyed a reputation of objectivity for some years. Think Murrow, Cronkite, and the unsung heroes of truth that trudged the wires for AP and UPI. Broadcast journalism was the first to fall (the “Eyewitness News” model) and the line between truth and “message” became blurred.

NPR and PBS were my last hopes. NPR has increasingly come under fire for some administrative personnel decisions (Juan Williams) but for my money, continues to provide generally objective, thoughtful content.

Then PBS. Another stalwart of objective journalism. The PBS Newshour and Frontline are, in my opinion, unmatched for in-depth editorial content. Other news organizations such as Al Jazeera and BBC also continue to produce top quality content.

Now this.

I read this article from David Sirota and another piece of me died. To summarize, PBS is launching a two-year series called “The Pension Peril”. The series promotes cuts to public employee pensions (disclaimer: I am a former county employee who is not receiving a public pension and is adamantly opposed to exorbitant public pensions).

Here’s the poison pill: the series financed by, as the article states “former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.”

Et tu PBS? Your argument that you retain editorial control over content is a shameful expression of crap clearly designed to save face in light of the disclosure of your masters.

That the PBS Newshour promotes the series sickens me. When I think PBS, I think objectivity, truth, integrity.

Whether it is an economic reality forcing this funding or not matters little. They’ve entered the partisan arena inhabited by subjective “news” organizations such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

I have no argument with balance. The MSNBC counter to Fox and their ilk. What I have issue with is the demise of the Fourth Estate…

Of truth…

Of integrity…

Of the myth of democracy…


Personal Responsibility—this post brought to you by Bud Light!

24 hours have passed since the overdose death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the lines have been drawn. On the one hand, folks like me (and the AMA and the Supreme Court) arguing the disease model of alcoholism and addiction.

On the other hand, the vast majority of society calling Hoffman a loser, a weakling, a junkie and a man of terrible moral character. He simply made the wrong choices. It was his choice to put that needle in his arm. His death is his responsibility.

They’re only partially right. Once Hoffman was introduced to the disease model of addiction through treatment, he had a responsibility to A) admit that he had a disease and B) treat that disease. For twenty some years, he chose B.

But he then suffered from a medical issue that required a prescription for opiates. Inside his brain, the synapses that had long forgotten the omnipotent pleasure of that neurotransmitter dopamine, were gloriously reawakened. And it killed him. At some point, the seductive allure of that overwhelming feeling of pleasure, of wellness, predictably overtook his commitment to treatment. Opiate (heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin) addicts are often “taken out” by the prescriptions of well-meaning physicians. They often return quickly to their opiate of choice and often die. I know of several people this has happened to. Often people, like Hoffman, who had long periods of drug abstinence.

So yeah, at the end of the day, he had a choice…throw himself headlong into his recovery, or fall victim to the chemical orgy taking place in his brain. It’s a battle borne out of the disease of addiction…that is too often lost.

Back to personal responsibility. I’ve been reading a lot of comments about his choices…his choice to slam heroin in the first place. I’m going to step out on a limb here and venture a guess that Hoffman’s first experience with mind-altering chemicals wasn’t with heroin. In fact, it was probably tobacco, or caffeine, or the most addictive drug–alcohol.

Alcohol is a mind-altering substance just like heroin. And it’s legal. And it’s deadly. And it’s abuse has filled our prisons in record numbers.

Yesterday’s Superbowl was chock full of advertisements aimed at promoting our ingestion of this mind-altering chemical…all the while being urged to “drink responsibly”.

What a joke.

To the alcoholic, there is no such thing. They MUST drink. It’s what defines the disease of alcoholism. That LEGAL substance, that we are constantly encouraged to consume, is the foundation of the disease.

How is heroin different? Or Vicodin? Or cocaine. Or marijuana? They are all mind-altering substances that are classified as illegal substances that act in our brains, on the cellular level, in the same exact manner as the legal substance alcohol.

But hey, he was just a junkie. He had a choice.

Drink responsibly…and continue to keep your head buried in the sand. They’re just junkies after all.


It’s Pretty Simple Really…

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

We love to express shock and sadness when one of our icons dies of the disease of addiction. I did it here when Cory Monteith died.

It sucks. And it will continue. It’s pretty simple really. Until we…collectively…are willing to recognize facts: that alcoholism and addiction are a DISEASE, not a moral failing, not a weakness of character, these deaths will continue.

We like to laugh at those suffering. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Amanda Bynes. Or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Or Dennis Rodman.

Do we treat them as if they had a chronic, progressive and fatal DISEASE. Of course we don’t. We use them as comedic fodder.

And when a guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman spends his morning slamming Heroin instead of picking up his kids, we self-righteously feign shock and outrage.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of living in a society that refuses to call this illness what it is: a DISEASE.

So, you’ve got cancer, and all your friends are talking behind your back about what a loser you are or a weakling. Come on man, you can beat this cancer, just get some radiation and be done with it.

Oh, did you hear about Suzie, the diabetic? I saw her buying a pack of candy at the store the other day. If only she’d wise up and start taking her Insulin.

Yeah…it’s what we do to our sick in this country. We jail them, we criticize them and we let them die. Because it’s easier for us to judge them than to help them. To offer a compassionate word or a sign of recognition that they are fighting a demon much bigger than all of us. A demon that no one can handle without treatment.

So in our ignorance, we continue to contribute to a culture of death. When we could have been funding more treatment centers and community outreach programs. Or stepping up and voting out the Neanderthal politicians in the pocket of the prison industrial complex that profit off the suffering of the disenfranchised masses.

It makes me sick to my stomach. Rest in peace Mr. Hoffman. Here’s hoping your death will make a difference…


Judgment Day…or Richard Sherman: Part Deux

So almost a week has passed since Richard Sherman’s ill-advised diatribe with Erin Andrews post-NFC Championship game.

Within 24 hours I posted my thoughts on that verbal missive.  One blog reader seemed to share some of my concerns, and another felt it necessary to fire up the ol’ keyboard  and launch an attack, apparently before finishing my post.

WordPress troll “Joe” (look up the definition of the word ‘troll’ Joe before launching another salvo) engaged in a classic attack on my post accusing me of judging Sherman.  The offense comes in two parts: 1) Blatantly judging me while first telling me “I’m not judging any of you” and 2) Spewing scripture in my general direction while “not judging”.

Joe is right. I judged the fuck out of Sherman. Webster defines that as “to form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought”. It’s my blog…it’s my opinion. Breaking news:  I get to judge. We all are free to form an opinion, even internet trolls like Joe. I would find this world pretty lame if we all lived Stepford lives and made no judgments.

I normally don’t respond to posts like Joe’s. I usually just let these posts speak for themselves, but I wanted to continue to judge Sherman and I didn’t want it to sound like capitulation to the bible thumping Joe’s of the world.

Here’s the deal: Sherman is starting to grow on me. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the Seahawks, but after watching Sherman thoughtfully answering questions about the incident and his life, and reading some of his words, I find him to be what I suspected (and so “judged”) in my original post. He appears to be an educated, thoughtful, and sensitive young man. I really like how he’s handled himself in the aftermath of his outburst.

No Joe, I’m not perfect and I do my best to live my life serving others first. I believe in Karma. I also believe in calling out ignorance when I see it. No hard feelings buddy but don’t come on my blog and shove a bible verse in my face and then tell me how to live my life.

Judge on fellow bloggers…judge on…


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