Category Archives: Writing

Here’s to you Mom…

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Transitions are tough. Change seems to be the primary cause of fear and unrest in our world. But change and transitions are a fundamental fabric of our being.

My mother died this morning at 10 a.m.

Josephine was born in 1922. She married my father and had three children. I was the youngest…the mistake.

My father died in 1989. My father was my mom’s world. My ex-wife and I invited my mom to live with us after my dad’s death and she became part of my new family…she was Grandma to my step kids and to my two new little ones. It gave her life. It rejuvenated her spirit and passion. It also was a blessing beyond measure to have her around my kids at a particularly challenging phase of my life.

I divorced my wife and my mom went to live with my older brother. He and his wife earned their saints wings for the years they took mom in. She could be difficult. She feared change.

My mom and I had a complex relationship, as all parents/children do. It created a lot of guilt for me as she grew older that I resented her worldview and bitterness. I wanted her to be different. I wanted her to be happy. And I was angry at her because she wasn’t.

I loved my mom.

I found out she died this morning while riding my bike. I had just passed a convalescent home that had been the source of guilt for me every time I rode by (i felt guilt that I didn’t have the financial means or stable enough lifestyle that I could prevent her also from being in a convalescent home). As I passed I had the unwavering feeling that she had died.

The phone rang 5 minutes later. It was my brother…

I spent the rest of the ride cycling through tears. I prayed SO hard that mom and dad are reunited. She deserved that. She deserved peace.

Transitions are hard. I’m okay with my mom’s passing. It’s what happens. I just hope she can feel the warmth of my dad’s hand in hers after so many years apart…

 

 


I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 


A “Coarse” Correction…

Well it’s certainly not the outcome I’d hoped for. Nor expected. In fact, in my wildest dreams I didn’t think this clown would be elected president. I thought we were better than that…actually I still do (see below). Before I get to the heart of the matter though, I have to say, I’m not ENTIRELY surprised. Since the advent of “hate” style politics championed by Ronald Reagan, through the advent of Faux News and the unbridled partisan vitriol of Karl Rove and the like, we have seen a burgeoning class of disaffected, generally poorly educated, voters that feel as if the system needs to change. I agree. It does. But electing a misogynistic, racist, sexual predator with absolutely no qualifications did not seem to be the way to do it…or was it?

I am very angry at those that voted for this change. By voting for the candidate of the KKK you have effectively endorsed the antithesis of every principle that our nation was founded on. I am most sad today for those young men and woman who so bravely sacrificed their lives…that today a reality show clown will be their commander-in-chief.

But despite all this there are silver linings. The majority voted against this hatred. And although the electoral college will elect Trump, perhaps the next four years is our wake up call. If it is not…if it does inspire you to take action and correct this mess we find ourselves in…well then, we deserve this.

I for one plan to take action. I will NOT let this country go down in flames unchallenged. I have often disagreed with Michael Moore, but his insight on this election, and specifically the pathos that carried Trump to victory is startling.

And Moore provides his own call to action. One that I personally plan on implementing. Now:

Morning After To-Do List:
1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They have failed us miserably.
2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn’t let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on. Those same bloviators will now tell us we must “heal the divide” and “come together.” They will pull more hooey like that out of their ass in the days to come. Turn them off.
3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.
4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked”. What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. YEARS of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise. He was never a joke. Treating him as one only strengthened him. He is both a creature and a creation of the media and the media will never own that.
5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!” The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want. You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen (see: #1 above).

Let’s try to get this all done by noon today.
— Michael Moore

Thank you Mr. Moore…let’s get on this folks…before this “coarse” correction becomes a way of life.


The Threat of Idiocracy

Exactly ten years ago—in 2006—filmmaker Mike Judge released a movie called Idiocracy. The movie, a satirical comedy, tells the tale of an America of the future, a nation of anti-intellectuals—idiots—governed by former professional wrestler President Camacho. The outlandish plot and dystopian vision of America was heralded by some as a nascent vision of our future … our distant future. However, the presidential aspirations of Donald Trump and the response to it,  may have fast-forwarded this notion: “Trump’s blatantly anti-intellectual, boorish persona is so over the top, it has drawn multiple comparisons to that of pro-wrestler-turned-president Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Mike Judge’s eerily prescient satire, 2006’s Idiocracy” (Perry). In fact, no less than the author of the screenplay weighed in last February with this tweet: “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary” (Cohen).

When businessman and reality television personality Donald Trump announced he was entering the 2016 presidential contest, a majority of political pundits gave Mr. Trump very little chance of winning the nomination of the Republican Party—much less winning the presidency. Today, as the nation stands at the precipice of Mr. Trump as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, it is instructive to look back into history and compare the tactics of other destructive demagogues who shared the same vitriol being spewed by Mr. Trump during his march on Pennsylvania Avenue. Has our republic devolved to the point where we as a nation are ready to elect a man who can, arguably, be described as non-presidential? And ultimately, what has been (and will be) the effect of a Trump presidency on our republic? The answers are clear: A Donald Trump presidency would be a dangerous step back in our nation’s history and must not be allowed to come to fruition.

The ascendancy of the Trump phenomenon has surprised some politicos and pundits. The brash nature of the man and his lack of political experience, on the surface, make him a weak candidate for responsible political office, much less as leader of the free world. The rhetoric of Mr. Trump and been vitriolic and at times dangerous. Examples include his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country and his promise to pay the legal fees of any supporter who attacks protestors at his campaign rallies.  However, this type of invective speech doesn’t occur in a vacuum—there is a receptive audience for it, as his growing base of support shows: “There is a lot of anger in the electorate, which Trump’s victory reflects” (Davidson).

It is precisely this anger and perceived disenfranchisement that Mr. Trump skillfully exploits. There is a large segment of the population that is, generally, uneducated—and frankly afraid—afraid that the government will come for their guns, their churches, and their livelihoods. These are fears that have no foundation in rational discourse, fears that are flamed by demagogues like Mr. Trump who are motivated less by conviction and more by sheer ego. In his book The Art of the Deal, Mr. Trump unabashedly rants about his deal-making prowess, often at the expense of the means necessary to attain the ends: “I wasn’t satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement. I was out to build something monumental—something worth a big effort” (Blair).  This brash, devil-may-care attitude has struck a chord. President Obama’s former campaign manager David Axelrod said “Donald Trump has a phenomenal sense of his audience” (Chotiner).

In the 1950s there was a similar audience, an audience that feared the encroachment of communism and the rise of the Soviet Union. And there was a man then too—a Senator from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy—who also had a clear sense of his audience. Sen. McCarthy skillfully exploited the fears of the era to fuel his rise to prominence within the US Senate, and his place on the national stage. His tactics led to the creation of the word McCarthyism; “Today, McCarthyism is used to describe any public accusation of disloyalty without real proof” (Fitzgerald 84). Ironically (or predictably to some), Mr. Trump has called for a wall to be constructed to keep out what he describes as Mexican drug runners and rapists’. Furthermore, he has advocated denying Muslims entry into the US based on their religious faith alone. At no time has Mr. Trump provided any real evidence to back up his claims; and the media has been generally unwilling to effectively challenge him on this inflammatory rhetoric—just as the media was unwilling to do so in the incipient stages of McCarthyism.

The similarities between Mr. Trump and Sen. McCarthy are obvious and frightening. In my lifetime, I never imagined I would see the rise of a personality so deeply entwined with the hatred and vitriol of McCarthy. As the son of parents who witnessed this destruction first-hand, I feel an obligation to sound the klaxon and remind my fellow citizens of the parallels being played out in our current political arena. I was merely a child during the successive presidential campaigns of Governor George Wallace of Alabama, but I have distinct memories of my parents expressing their feelings of anger and disappointment that such a racist individual—an unapologetic segregationist—could advance as far as he did each time. I am clearly not alone in my concern:

Trump is increasingly more George Wallace than Ronald Reagan; his outbursts against establishment politics and undocumented immigrants have few limits. Trump’s raw message particularly resonates with those Americans who have stomached a decade of economic loss and social displacement. It is an American paradox that billionaire Trump so effectively channels George Wallace’s blue-collar, everyman appeal and message. (Williams)

In fact, the line between Mr. Trump and Governor Wallace is short indeed:

“I love that he’s talking in everybody else’s language. He’s not trying to be politically correct”…THAT response is simply an update from one of Mr. Wallace’s 1968 followers…”He tells it like it is and if it offends some government bureaucrats and loudmouth civil rights agitators, so what? He’s standing up and fighting for real Americans.” (Carter)

 These soundbites are irresistible to the ratings-hungry news media and further advance the ill-informed and racist’s views of the speaker. But to the blue-collar workers, struggling to make ends meet and seeing their jobs in danger of being shipped overseas, this rhetoric feeds into their paranoia and gives them an icon to rally around… just as Gov. George Wallace did in the 60s and early 70s. This is their president. This is the individual telling them what they want to hear—rationality and facts be damned. That Trump has no political experience is a bonus to them—he’s an outsider. That he is not presidential at all is even better—he’s one of us.

It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office and subsequently being Commander in Chief of the world’s largest military force. This is the man who has participated in Wrestlemania events (an activity hardly considered to be statesman-like behavior). This is the man that has encouraged physical violence at his campaign rallies. This is the man who consistently spews racist views. Yes, this could be our next president. While character is not specifically mentioned as a qualification for being president in our Constitution, common sense, a sense of decorum, and downright decency should be qualities the voter considers when electing a president. Consider the following statements from candidate Trump: “Listen, you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent! … This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop…Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it!” (Bailey). Presidential language and sentiment indeed—FDR, Eisenhower, and even Republican stalwart Ronald Reagan would surely blanch at the possibility of this man sharing their throne in the Oval Office.

In addition to the national disgrace that would be a Trump presidency as the result of his actions and rhetoric, it’s wise to consider the psychology of the man hoping to have his finger on the nuclear button. Is the man so recklessly and childishly calling on his followers to assault those peaceful demonstrators who disagree with him, able to maturely control our armed forces—indeed have to power to annihilate our planet? “When he lost, he would say he won; when he won, he would say he won more. A psychologist might call such behavior narcissistic, egotistical, and, no doubt, a sign of hidden insecurity” (Blair). However, a proper clinical diagnosis can certainly not be made based purely upon the rhetoric of a political candidate. As many Trump supporters will eagerly claim, Mr. Trump is not, in fact, a racist, a misogynist, or any of the other titles that seem to fit him so well. They claim that Mr. Trump is a brilliant political strategist with his finger on the pulse of the population. And they may be right: “For all his theatrics, Trump has caused a stampede in the Republican Party and he’s done this using a classic, class-based divide-and-rule strategy” (Trubowitz).

In the context of today’s media free-for-all climate, it is certain that many voters are influenced by broadcast media outlets such as Fox and MSNBC. Neither of these networks can be, arguably, described as unbiased sources of information. In 1987, when the FCC Fairness Doctrine (a requirement that broadcast news be honest and balanced) was gutted, the landscape of the so-called news media took on an entirely different meaning. News producers were now free to openly cultivate what they had surreptitiously sought for years—ratings—and the resultant advertising revenue that followed. “If it bleeds it leads” was the cry of the media now, and sensationalism was the order of the day. Candidate Trump is the logical extension of this denigration of the fourth estate. A man with reality-show credentials and a personality larger than life, Trump exploits the media in an unaffected manner like no other candidate. The louder, more boorish his behavior, the bigger the rating and the more electoral support he gains. Trump is well known for his sophomoric Twitter rants; and now, scholarly research has shown it to be quite effective: “We…evaluated the effects of Trump’s tweeting activity on the growth of his followers…the more he tweeted the faster his follower camp grew. Lastly, we measured the effects of two Trump-initiated controversies. Based on our data, neither one is hurting his campaign” (Wang et al. 4).

Similarly: “Trump’s supporters have continuously ranked among the most intolerant and least educated of voters—a point punctuated by Trump’s triumphant assertion, after winning this week’s Nevada caucus, that he loves ‘the poorly educated” (Perry). So the question arises: is it the man or is the man simply tapping into a nascent and dangerous ideology? Is America ready for a leader who expounds the virtues of intolerance? Regardless of the source, this homogenization of hatred must not be allowed to continue. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, renowned 20th century psychologist Karl Popper agrees: “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal…” (qtd. in Hedges 1). Analyzed from this perspective, the blatant hate-speech and racist vitriol transcend the musings of a petulant man-child and indeed contributes to a damaging dialogue that slowly, but consistently, tears away at the fabric of rational public discourse.

This kind of negative discourse, the factions described by Hamilton et al in The Federalist Papers, are immune from the remedies described by our founding fathers. The safety net, the opposition mounted from rational members of society, is gradually being thwarted by the fear-mongering likes of Mr. Trump and some evangelical Christians:

…the myth peddled by the Christian Right about the American heartland: that here alone are family values and piety cherished, nurtured and protected. The so-called red states, which vote Republican and have large evangelical populations, have higher rates of murder, illegitimacy and teenage births than the so-called blue states… (Hedges 46)

These are the folks that our forefathers envisioned rising up against factions. Instead, they are being led down a path of fear and redemption by a presidential candidate that is far from presidential.

While the conventional political wisdom holds that Mr. Trump is unlikely to win the presidential election, the broader concern should be the effect his rise and his candidacy is having on our electorate. Movements like this don’t happen in a vacuum and there may well be long term effects from its success. While touted by conservatives as a great president, Ronald Reagan’s social and economic polices arguably set into motion destructive patterns within our society that remain today. It is also likely that the success of the Trump campaign and the resultant nearly complete lack of critical coverage by the major broadcast news organizations will be setting the plate for the next Trump … or McCarthy … or Wallace:

But there are striking similarities between Mr. Trump and George C. Wallace…The connections between the two — their rhetoric and their ability to fire up crowds — give us a better sense of what Trumpism will mean once he is gone from the campaign stage. After all, political losers as well as winners can shape the future. (Carter)

The damage done to the Republican Party will be the most immediate concern. Their lack of cohesiveness, not only in Congress, but in fielding effective countermeasures against one of their own is astonishing. This is a party in crisis; Mr. Trump has hijacked the party and the so-called Trump Train is racing full speed ahead into a chasm that will be very difficult for them escape: “The consequences for America and the world—if he wins, of course, but maybe even if he loses—are unknowable and perhaps unimaginable. The degree to which…he will also permanently deform American politics can only be speculated upon, but his primary victory will, decades from now, likely be seen as one of the defining events of 21st-century America” (Chotiner).

Perhaps another troubling sidebar to Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been the nearly widespread lack of critical coverage among the major broadcast new organizations. With the exception of partisan stalwarts Fox and MSNBC, the big three (ABC, NBC, CBS) as well as CNN have been generally easy on the candidate. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Mr. Trump’s rise in the era of Murrow and Cronkite. It simply wouldn’t happen. So that begs the question of whether we have entered, in the days after the repeal of the FCC Fairness Doctrine, an era of free-for-all politics. Will our political process be reduced to shouting matches and ad hominem attacks? Will our fourth estate complete their death knell and encourage this behavior to boost their stock prices? We may already be there: “And yet when people look back…a generation from now, our larger cultural response—at least as seen through our television media—will seem incomprehensible…there was hardly a whimper…the media have spent so long domesticating Trump that his victory no longer appeared momentous. He is the new normal” (Chotiner).

But is this paradigm shift unhealthy? Some would argue that this form of rhetorical democracy is vital: “Civility is often the camouflage for hiding challenges to the big-government faction… the First Amendment does not protect merely decorous or genteel speech, but as the political rhetoric of American history shows, all manner of speech no matter how rude or uncivil” (Thornton). There is no question that the principles of rhetorical democracy must be protected and unlike Popper, I’m not advocating imprisonment of those merely expressing intolerance through speech. However, it is clear that the American political landscape has been changed by the Trump candidacy—our discourse has become not only uncivil, but it has pandered to our collective base instincts—our lowest common denominator is now enjoying an ascendancy heretofore rationally unimagined. It remains to be seen what the lasting effects of Mr. Trump’s candidacy will be; but it is incumbent upon all those who share a stake in the political system to think critically about what is happening and exercise lasting vigilance.

History has shown that our nation has survived the destructive likes of Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace. The parallels between those divisive figures and Mr. Trump have been well documented. Likewise, the crude and boorish behavior of candidate Trump has been on display throughout the current election cycle, and yet his appeal has grown exponentially. This begs the question of the effect the “Trump Factor” will have on our country and the electorate in general. A resounding, crushing defeat of Mr. Trump in the general presidential election will go a long way towards reclaiming not only the gravitas of the presidency, but will help send a message that appealing to the lowest common denominator is not the road to the White House. Maybe we can suspend the advent of Idiocracy for at least another generation.

Works Cited

Bailey, Jason. “Who Said It: Presidential Hopeful Donald Trump or ‘Idiocracy’ President       Camacho?” Flavorwire. Flavorpill Media, 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 06 May 2016.

Blair, Gwenda. Donald Trump: The Candidate. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Google Books. Alphabet, Inc. Web. 06 May 2016.

Carter, Dan T. “What Donald Trump Owes George Wallace.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Jan. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Chotiner, Isaac. “Donald Trump Is TV’s New Normal. That’s Insane.” Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 03 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Cohen, Etan (etanjc). “I never expected #idiocracy to become a documentary.” 24 Feb. 2016, 9:27 a.m. Tweet.

Davidson, Amy. “Why Cruz, and the G.O.P., Lost to Trump.” The New Yorker. Conde Nast,  04 May 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Fitzgerald, Brian. McCarthyism: The Red Scare. Minneapolis: White-Thomson Publishing Ltd., 2007. Print.

Hedges, Chris. American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

Idiocracy.  Dir. Mike Judge. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2006. Film.

Perry, Tod. “Idiocracy Writer Admits He May Have Predicted the Future.” GOOD Magazine. GOOD Worldwide Inc., 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016.

Thornton, Bruce S. “Here’s Mud in Your Eye: Politics in Democracies Have Always Been Rough and Tumble, and We’re Better off Because of It.” Hoover Digest 1 (2016): 29+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 May 2016.

Trubowitz, Peter. “How the “Trump Factor” Came to Dominate the 2016 Election.” LSE Research Online. LSE Research Online, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016

Trump, Donald and Schwartz, Tony. The Art of the Deal. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987. Print.

Wang, Yu, Jiebo Luo, Richard Niemi, and Yuncheng Lee. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter. “To Follow or Not to Follow: Analyzing the Growth Patterns of the Trumpists on Twitter  (2016): 1-4. Google Scholar. Web. 6 May 2016.

Williams, Victor. “Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and a Disrupted Electoral College: High Unfavorable Ratings, Multi-Candidate General Election Ballots, and Pursuing the ‘Art of the Deal’ with Free-Agent Electors in December 2016”. Social Science Research Network. Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc., 4 Dec. 2015. Web. 6 May 2016.

 

 


A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


Skool Daze….

I’ve ruefully neglected this blog for the last several months.

I just finished 2.5 years at a community college (no really, I took my last final less than an hour ago) while in pursuit of a transfer to UCLA and the ever popular Bachelor of Arts in English.

To date (today), I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Um…pretty sure that ends this week when grades are released.

I’m 54 years young, work full-time and have been carrying just under a full-time schedule in school. This year, in order to satisfy the requirements of the Honors Transfer Program I’m in, I needed to take Elementary and Intermediate Algebra (all the basic Algebra leading into Stats, Calc, etc.) as well as Spanish I and II.

Two distinct languages to learn. Two VERY hard classes for me. Although I’m an English major, I triaged my time and concentrated primarily on Algebra. I’ve always suffered from major math anxiety, but through a ton of hard work, have actually learned to enjoy math this year.

Well right up until last Saturday when I had to take my final that would release me to UC level math (I need to take Honors Stats next Fall)…

Thank God I walked into that exam with a 96% because after the first problem, all the formulas in my head magically disappeared behind a veil of clinical panic.

I simply couldn’t remember simple formulas after I saw a problem I specifically decided NOT to study for…certain it wouldn’t be on the final.

I could go on and on about my anxiety and depression after the test, but suffice it to say I pulled my head out of my ass and put things in perspective.

What I did learn is my ego has carried my through this 4.0 journey and as with all things pride, I needed a knock upside the head. Time to quit relying on my ability to “see” the answer during these tests and actually put in more hard work than I have been willing to exert.

At the end of the day, if I do that, I will excel. If I don’t, I’ll continue to ride this tenuous GPA right into the ground.

So hello blog world. I’m back for at least the summer on a semi-regular basis to hone my writing and try desperately to forget logarithms and rational equations…

Goodbye 4.0…hello humility.


Mid-Term Malaise…or How I Found Courage in the Gallows of Boredom

No, this post isn’t about the midterm elections this week, although I do have a whopper brewing in my head vis-a-vis my utter disappointment with the incumbent president’s performance.

This is about the space I find myself currently in.

Sheer boredom. Malaise. Mind numbing…nothingness.

I’m just slightly halfway through my fall semester at college. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I’m slogging through core class requirements as I muddle my way towards my final two years at UCLA.

I worked 88 hours the last two weeks while studying for two exams in my Spanish and Algebra class respectively.

I have no life.

I have no time to blog/write anything other than vapid responses into the lamest online Spanish software ever created. Software that the instructor admits is inferior and responds to our concerns with “it’s not my problem, it’s your problem”.

Welcome to junior college.

This sucks…

I had an extraordinarily rare day off today that I spent getting a flat fixed, driving to my old college to begin the academic renewal process for an “F” I received 29 years ago in a Poli Sci class; and riding my bike 20 miles. I then spent well over 5 hours grinding through my Spanish exam and homework.

And it hit me.

Courage isn’t what happens when you are facing an immediate threat. Courage is borne out of the little things.

The willingness to persist when giving up would be so much simpler; when you can find a hundred reasons to rationalize your decision.

Courage is faith. Being willing to put one foot in front of the other when you can’t see the finish line. When you’re not even entirely sure where that finish line is and what it will look like.

I walked into the middle of a physical altercation the other day outside my apartment. A fight was in progress and I was in the midst of it before I was even sure what it was. I responded forcefully and decisively and defused the situation. Not because I have courage, but because it was reflexive, muscle memory gained in a previous lifetime.

Courage is simply not giving up when you’re not entirely sure what the outcome will be. But you know you’re doing the right thing, despite the sheer pedestrian nature of the task. And the long hours. And the absence of a social life.

It’s a quality problem to have. As tough as this road is right now, I know how fortunate I am to be on this path.

So to all those erstwhile meek students out there, grinding out those core classes, quietly tolerating those professors who are phoning it in while they collect their checks…I salute you.

In your own redundant ways, you’re displaying a great deal of courage.


Selfies Are Tough With Tears in Your Eyes…

Sean Newport
A little over two years I birthed this blog while I was on leave from work after hip replacement surgery. My first and second posts concerned the reality that my first-born was off to college. She’s now a successful college junior in D.C. I made sure to memorialize our last moments together with a (sort of) selfie of her and I together. Actually, the man taking the picture was my son.

My son. The man that less than a half an hour ago I kissed and embraced very hard as I said goodbye to him. My youngest begins his collegiate journey tomorrow. I meant to take a selfie to continue the tradition but a couple of things happened.

At some point in the evening after our awesome “guys” dinner at a local steak house and our post-feast visit to Starbucks, I needed him to go. Not because I wanted him to go but because the reality was starting to set in. And so were the tears. And the lump in my throat that is still present.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t about me at all…it is. The empty nest just showed up at my door and for the first time in my life, I have no genetic family within driving distance. But it’s so much more…

It’s the sadness of physically parting with my best friend. My son. My little guy who is now bigger than me.

It’s the joy of and excitement shared of watching him embark on what I am absolutely certain will be a wonderful experience at a Division I school and the promise of a bright future as he studies Biology and Pre-Med.

It’s the sadness of seeing the sands of time fall in front of my eyes. Each grain hitting the sand pile like a hammer on marble. It was acutely present tonight.

It’s the joy of accomplishment. My son and daughter are each talented and unique individuals who have set off on their own paths with enthusiasm and discipline. Four eyes on the prize for sure…

It’s the sadness of loss. Of saying goodbye to a man that means more to me than I could ever express in words. To a young man that carries my hopes and dreams for him along with his own.

So…any selfie I took tonight would have been smeared through the eyes of a proud father…

I miss you already buddy. Vaya con dios my son…


How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

IMG_0474

My fourth semester of the “Return to College Tour” starts tomorrow so I thought I’d share a few thoughts regarding the last few months.

When I finished the last semester I posted a blog stating I would use this summer break from school to hone my craft…blog-wise.

Ok, so that didn’t happen. What happened was that I realized life happens. And when life happens, I tend to get sucked into the vortex of drama that daily life can be.  To whit:

I moved back to the City of Los Angeles for the first time in 35 years.

I transferred jobs…to a more high-stress, high-return sales environment. So far so good. The challenge being to not get swept up in the upward shift in income as I will again need to downsize in 2017 when I enroll at UCLA.

And as always, people can be counted on to do the wrong thing. I’m currently mired in a landlord-tenant dispute with my old landlord (I’ll spare you the details, suffice it to say they are sticking me to the tune of several hundred dollars despite the oral assurances of their representative)…so yeah, that’s pretty fun.

And oh yeah, when I moved, as I was pulling in front of my new apartment complex, my nice shiny Penske rental truck saw fit to take the front bumper off a parked car. More fun.

At the end of the day though, I’m loving life. Although the next three semesters of school are core classes for the transfer to UCLA and have nothing to do with writing, I suspect the discipline needed to maintain my GPA will lend itself to actually doing some creative writing, aka my blog. We shall see…

Finally, I’m frankly staying as busy as I can to avoid the sense of impending doom I’m experiencing with the loss of my youngest child to the University of Oregon. My new Duck is also my best friend (he’s the handsome one in the photo above) and I am really sad that I won’t be able to see him as much as I do now. Of course, this is tempered by my immense sense of pride and love I have for him. I am incredibly excited to watch his journey, just as I have marveled at the journey of my now college-junior daughter on the east coast. But there is a special bond between father and son and I’m already hurting…the good kind.

So, much like every other chapter of my life, my best laid plans got waylaid. Life got in the way.

And it’s a good life.

*Note to self: quit making plans. Just do the footwork and let the results take care of themselves…

 


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