Reverence

Summer Sunday mornings on Horseshoe Lake were quieter than most.  There were no chain saws running, no motorboats save the rare fisherman. The Senness kids were in town, at church with their parents and grandparents.  The Brandt kids next door wouldn’t be coming out from town until after Sunday dinner, and if the Holm kids were around on a given weekend, they just preferred to sleep in until their grandma whipped up one of her extraordinary brunch breakfasts.  Even the loons usually seemed to be taking the day.  The other denizens of the west side of Horseshoe were elderly, and either sleeping in or sitting quietly on their respective porches, sipping coffee.

Summer Sunday mornings on Horseshoe Lake were quieter than most, at least until Lila started playing hymns on her old pump organ. 

As devout and G-d fearing as Lila Andren was, we did not go to church. She and organized religion had had a falling-out, and for the last forty years of her life, save the stray wedding or funeral, she never set in a church. 

But her faith was among the strongest I have ever known.

The brownish-gray pump organ had been found and refurbished by her husband Ivar, a large, gruff exterior/teddy bear interior of a Swedish immigrant. A retired plumber, Ivar had rescued the old organ from a long-defunct church and brought it to a guy in Brainerd who brought the musical innards back to life, while Ivar himself tackled refinishing the wood of the organ and its matching bench. 

The finished product was about the same length as a standard upright piano, and just a tad longer than Ivar and Lila’s couch, and they placed it smack-dab against the back of the couch, facing due east, with a view out the large bank of picture windows.

The morning sun, rising over the jack pines on Huxtable Point and shining through those windows, turned that living room into as pure a chapel as I could have ever sat in.

Though I rarely did, able as I was to hear Lila’s playing and singing quite clearly from my bedroom in the basement just below. 

I reveled in waking up on summer mornings with the sun piercing through open windows, the breeze bringing the scent of pine, the smell of the lake through screened windows I never closed. Sunday mornings brought the added soundtrack of pump-organ music, and classic Christian hymns.   Mostly she played, sometimes she sung – in English, and on rare occasions German, her native tongue.  Lila had left Austria for America shortly after Hitler came to power.  Among her belongings from that trek were an old Bible and a couple of piano books and hymnals.

Ivar and Lila once had a small upright piano, but it didn’t get played much.  Ivar tracking down and revitalizing that pump organ, with all its hand knobs and foot bellows, seemed to awake some dormant part of Lila.  She dove into playing hymns on Sunday mornings with a fervor, and her voice was not the typical higher-pitched woman’s but more of a gravely baritone – though she could hit the high notes when needed. 

I could lay there in bed and her every note played, every word sung drifting in through the window – with the added backbeat of her feet working the foot bellows through the floor just above.  Well into her seventies, she was in great shape – had to be, to work that old organ.

Not only was I able to enjoy those Sunday morning hymn fests, but much of the west side of Horseshoe Lake did as well.  That old pump organ, built to fill an old church with the music of faith, was a bit overpowering for a modest, Minnesota lake home living room. 

On days when Lila was really cranking them out, I could not even come upstairs, as it was too loud even for my pre-teen ears.  If I went out, I simply used the front door of the walkout basement, and would head for the dock.  There I could sit, watch the new day unfurl, hear Lila playing and singing just as clearly as if I had been sitting in church.

It may have been as close to G-d as I could get here on earth, though I was too young to appreciate those moments for what they really were at the time. 

Snippets of hymn lyrics come back to me from time-to-time, in moments logical and odd. To this day, I still prefer a classic set of hymns to contemporary church music.  For my money, any church could flip-flop Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art every Sunday and we’d all be the better for it.

One of the hymns that always strikes a chord with me because Lila almost always played it is Great is Thy Faithfulness, which includes these lyrics:

‘Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me’

‘Morning by morning new mercies I see’ may be the perfect description of how my summers at Horseshoe Lake came to shape who I am today.  When you are eight, ten, fifteen years old and the daily sunrise is your alarm clock, the lapping of lake water on a shore and the call of loons and herons your snooze alarms, you carry that with you, see life in a different way.

My faith today is strong, I believe in large part because I didn’t spend much time in church as a youth, but I lived my summers in an ecclesiastical place, and time, and way.  I was fortunate.

Play on, Lila.

Great is thy faithfulness.  And mine.

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Dear Dad

June 16, 2019

Dear Dad

How ya been? So, here we are. Father’s Day again. You must’ve liked Father’s Day because you sure saved a lot of crap I gave you for it.  Found it all after you died. The polished rock cuff links with matching tie bar are just as fashionable as they ever were. Granite was always stylishly classic.  Not so much the figurine of the drunk guy on the cast iron bar stool. There sure was a lot of oddball junk in the cigar boxes in your dresser drawer. You didn’t even smoke cigars!  Good thing I was an only child, right?

You’ve missed thirty-two Fathers Days.  A lot of stuff happened in those thirty-two years, but you know that I’m sure. I think.

I don’t know how much of the mythology and Hollywood see-all-and-watch-over-those-of-us-still-on-earth from your perch in heaven I believe.  I still don’t totally not believe in ghosts thanks to you and mom teaching me to be open minded.  Actually, you never really said that that I can recall, but you did tell me to be skeptical but not dismissive of other ideas and other people’s ways of looking at things.  That’s different from being open minded, I think. So ‘maybe’ on ghosts and signs. Still ‘no’ on sushi.

How in the hell are things in heaven?   That should make you laugh or at least cock a bemused eyebrow. Ha.

Don’t know if you know this, but a part of me is pretty sure you do.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on your old turf in Highland Park. No, we don’t live in St. Paul but we are right across the river in south Minneapolis – a brief jaunt (less than a mile) over the Ford Bridge. We moved back home last fall and to be honest I wasn’t even thinking much about the proximity to St.Paul and I sure wasn’t thinking about the fact you used to live there, in that part of it. Even going there to shop a few times a week I didn’t think about it.  Until I started driving through Highland Park every day to get to work.

I spent the last half of the school year substituting at a high school over by the river and I was a few days into my new commute when I realized I was making a turn on Cleveland Avenue, a block from where you used to live. It only looked vaguely familiar to me until I recalled driving down Cleveland some years ago after I found some old correspondence of yours with that address.  Weird but cool. One day on the way home I took a slight detour from Montreal Street and went by your old address on Cleveland. I knew from originally discovering the letters and the neighborhood some years ago that the building you lived in was gone but considering the age of the one that replaced it you were probably one of the last tenants there. There are still enough homes and apartments of a certain vintage that the neighborhood would probably look somewhat familiar to you.

As the school year rolled on it was kind of cool to think about rolling through your old ‘hood every morning. Did a little research too. From the apartment on Cleveland you probably went downtown via Montreal to West Seventh.  Maybe you drove that route and maybe you took the bus down Montreal and transferred to the streetcar on West Seventh.  I drove that route every morning.

Getting this teaching gig for a half a year and driving through Highland Park everyday to get there is not exactly Moses seeing a bush-on-fire level ‘sign’ – more the universe gently tapping my shoulder and clearing it’s throat.  Maybe it’s just my long lack of faith in something as dubious as coincidence.  Which brings me to the lamp.

One day after work I stopped at an old hardware store on Randolph Avenue – the description of the place on Google even says ‘old school neighborhood hardware store’ – as I had an old lamp that belonged to Amy’s grandmother that needed to be rewired and they proudly offer that service.  Some of your old letters that I have were addressed to you on Randolph Avenue and when I double checked I had to smile, figuring that maybe you even hit S & S Hardware to get a key made or something, as your home apartment for a time  was right down the street. No burning bush at the corner of Randolph and Fairview, but S & S does carry a full line of gardening tools. So there’s that. 

Once the weather warmed up and I could drive around with the windows down I took a few afternoon detours through Highland Park on my way home. I’ve driven some of the streets you used to travel and seen some of the places you lived in the years before you met and married mom and before I came along. Even walked the neighborhood extensively one Saturday while waiting for some work to be done on my car.  For all of its contemporary touches and new development the residential sections of Highland Park would still be familiarto you, I think. More colorful paint jobs perhaps, but it mostly retains enough of the 1950s look and vibe that you would probably feel at home.  Cecil’s Deli is still there, dad.  I have been in there just once – the day I walked around waiting for my car – but I haven’t eaten there yet.  I figure that needs to be a time when I can just sit and soak it in. It sits right where it was, five blocks from your place on Cleveland. Still all things Kosher.  With your affinity for corned beef, pastrami, real cheesecake, and (allegedly) speaking Yiddish, it is hard to imagine that you didn’t hit Cecil’s at least once in a while.

As I have driven those Highland Park streets I’ve wondered more about some of the mysteries you left behind that I have spent years trying to unravel – and more importantly why the secrets you kept about your life needed to be secret. Years of digging up clues and piecing together the puzzle have pretty well explained most of it (at least crcumstantially) and at least now I get it. Mostly.  For the record, the story I have pieced together offers me a comforting, ‘ahh-ha’  perspective and some times I find it all laugh-out-loud funny. Figures, as I inherited your rather quirked sense of humor.

But dad, the real kicker came just a few weeks ago.

I had a wedding to officiate on Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul. I had not been to Raspberry Island for decades and what I didn’t realize until I started driving there that the access point was on the river flats across the Mississippi from downtown St. Paul. Truth is, I didn’t realize exactly where I was until after the wedding, as I was leaving Raspberry Island and saw the sign for the West Side Flats condos. I immediately pulled into the parking lot across from the brand spanking new complex.  Their advertising says they offer ‘style, practicality, and luxury’ – words that I am sure you never heard as a ragamuffin kid running the streets of St. Paul’s old River Flats.  The condos and other new development have rendered the Jewish ghetto that used to flood out every spring to nothing more than wispy memories and photos in historical center archives.  ‘Urban renewal’ in the 1960s started the process, but what it is today…

So while none of these reminders falls into burning bush territory, there aint no urban Smokey Bear gonna shut this escapade down now. So to speak.  You would enjoy certain aspects of modern vernacular.

Gotta close this out, dad.  Heading down to Rochester for the annual seafood boil my son-in-law throws. It is the first year all of us will be together for Father’s Day in a lot of years and I’ll surely be thinking about you.  You would love them all, dad and I know that would be reciprocated. My wife, daughter, sons, son-in-law, grandson all have rich and full lives they are very cool people. Amy, Lindsay, Willi, Sam, Brad, Felix are all something to behold in their own unique ways and even though you only met one of them, they sure miss you and your presence.  But they at least have me which is kind of you, lite – so that’s something.

Thinking about you today dad, even not roaming the streets of St. Paul. Miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

Mazel tov.

Love,

Mark

It’s All the Rage

A few years back, prompted by the writings of my erstwhile high school seniors at the time, I coined a new phrase for a phenomenon I never knew existed. Two-plus years later, the spectacle I envisioned then came back to my classroom (an entirely different locale and temperament than where the original story occurred) via a conversation amongst some of my new crop of students – sophomores. The phrase?

‘Sprite Rage.’

It all started with a simple start of class, ‘Do Now’ writing prompt. When my students come in, there is a prompt up on the classroom smart board that they are to ponder for a moment, and then quietly write on in their journals for ten minutes. Sometimes I post a simple statement or quotation as a brain jump-start, or it could be a multiple-part question, sometimes it is something visual. I sometimes post a visual along with an idea. Usually the prompts relate in some way to whatever we happen to be working on in class, though some days they are just (meant to be) thought-provoking or just a humorous day starter.

This particular day was simply meant to prompt some creativity, a chance to write something whimsical, and a bit of a break from what we had been working on in class.

As we transition from the daily ‘Do Now’ into the meat of the day, I replace the writing prompt on the screen with the daily agenda, which my students are supposed to copy down. While this is going on, I collect the notebooks and invite students to verbally share their responses to the Do Now prompt.

Sharing is a hit-or-miss proposition with my students, truly feast-or-famine. Mostly, we starve, as even my best writers usually eschew sharing their work out loud.

The main reason I chose the picture below with no caption was that we had been in a bit of a sharing dry spell and I thought they could not only have fun writing on the prompt, but also be willing to share verbally – have some fun with it.

I present, just as shown in class, seemingly felonious Ronald:
ronaldmcdonaldstatuearrest
A few more of my students than usual did have some fun writing on the visual, though a significant number of my street-smart, street-life-isn’t-funny, urban teens saw the event portrayed a less than humorous – some to the point where they refused to write at all about what some of their classmates saw as amusing, though not uproarious.

There was precious little whimsy to be found in the day’s writing.

Ronald McDonald getting arrested was apparently not all that funny to my students – even if it is just a statue of him, and he really wasn’t getting arrested.

The ‘why’ to all of this is what got me.

I may have become a bit jaded after six years of teaching in New Orleans, as the visceral vehemence with which some of my students approached this one did not strike me as all that unusual. At least at first.

Who knew?

My rather over-the-top third period group of thirty-three students saw at least six of them tell essentially the same story in different ways. Once one student shared their story, two others wanted to give their take on the situation portrayed. My fourth period group of twenty-five had roughly the same ratio of similar takes on the same theme, though only one felt compelled to share his out loud.

The situation my students saw (with some notable variations) in this picture was that of Ronald McDonald being arrested after either confronting and/or assaulting a restaurant customer for the apparently commonplace-but-much-frowned-upon practice that I have now coined:

Sprite Rage.

Apparently, Sprite Rage occurs when a restaurant customer orders water to drink, but when getting a water cup,subsequently goes to the fountain dispenser and puts Sprite in it, not water.

The first kid who shared his version of Vigilante Ronald told it humorously, but with a fair amount of physical violence. The offender, in this kid’s version of the prompt Screenshot (38)response, was an “old lady who should have known better” and Ronald took care of her after jumping over the counter, leading to his arrest.

His work was cartoonish, but with some serious and very violent overtones. This prompted a girl in the class to share her version of Ronald and a soda scofflaw; hers lacked any humorous subtlety and while there was less physical violence, Ronald apparently can have quite the mouth on him when provoked.

I chuckled warily in response to both versions of the story. “Ohhhhh-kay, anybody else have a take on this one that they want to share?”

Two more students imparted their perspectives on customer’s pilfering of pop, and Ronald’s subsequent arrest-inducing response.

“Seriously? Is ‘Sprite Rage’ really such a big deal?” I was asking only semi-rhetorically, though; I was curious to see how much of a big deal this really was to my students.

“Mr. Lucker! Why you laughing?”

I started picking up notebooks. “Because I think it’s funny.” 

Uh-oh.

“You never seen that?!” The kids eyes showed great surprise, as did his tone of voice.

“Seen people putting Sprite into a water cup? Yeah, I’ve seen that, but I’ve never seen anybody get all bent-out-of-shape about it…”

The resulting tumult was instant and incredulous.

“WHAT??!”

“Mr. Lucker! You serious?!”

“Mr. Lucker, where you been?”

“I work at McDonalds, Mr. Lucker; we got to do that all the time! My manager jumps over Vintage-1970S-4-Tap-Coca-Cola-Diet-Coke-Spritethe counter yelling at people when he sees ‘em doing it!”

“Oh, man, that happens all the time, Mr. Lucker!”

“Mr.Lucker, man, don’t you ever eat at McDonalds?”

“I do, but I have never experienced ‘Sprite Rage.’” I continued picking up notebooks, more slowly.

There was a pause.

“Mr. Lucker – why you call it that?”

“Because that’s what y’all are telling me. If somebody at McDonalds gets a water cup and puts Sprite in it, somebody goes off on ’em. It sounds to me like road rage, only in McDonalds, not in cars.”

A pause. Quizzical looks were exchanged, multiple frowns swept my class.

“It aint funny, man. I seen people get beat up for that s***!”

“I’ve seen other customers beat up people for that!”

“Seriously?” Now it was my turn to be incredulous, though I should know better by now.

Nods of approval came from all corners of my classroom

“Seriously?” I repeated. It was all I could think of. I stopped and stared at them. Had it been April first I would have felt like I was being punked, but there had been no time for coordination, or even jumping on a lets-jerk-Mr.Lucker’s-chain-today bandwagon. This was purely spontaneous, and heartfelt.

Struck a nerve, I did, with one of the most innocuous of intended-to-be-humorous visual writing prompts.

Interestingly, Sprite Rage seems to be a very commonplace shared experience amongst my students, and the circumstances don’t change much: In all but one case, the stories they wrote usually portrayed older women as the pop-for-water perpetrators and resulting recipients of Ronald’s (to me) overzealous response.

Calling Dr. Phil.

As my students completed their agendas and I finished picking up the notebooks, the daily writing coup de grâce was delivered solemnly, with conviction, by a kid who normally writes a fair amount but generally doesn’t say much in class:
burgerkinyoudaman
“I’ve seen it happen at Burger King, too.”

Apparently, I need to get out more often.

When I do, I’ll play it safe…and just order a shake.

In/on the joke

I wrote my last Dad Joke this week.

No, I am not jumping on the Dad Joke wagon, and I have not given up Dad Jokes for Lent graphica few days early. I have not tired of Dad Jokes nor do I think that there is an over-abundance of them contributing to global warming and that I need to reduce my Dad Joke footprint.

No, I simply wrote my last Dad Joke today.

Or, more accurately, I wrote the last Dad Joke that will be attributed to me.

On a brand-new baseball.

For now tucked away in a box with five other brand new, autographed-by-me baseballs.

One of my kids (or grandkids, great grandkids, great-great grandkids, or some combination thereof) will read said joke, off of said baseball, at my memorial service – some (very hopefully) forty, fifty years or more down the road from today.

Because that is the way it is laid out in my dead file; the red file folder with all of the details I want taken care of at my passing. Quotations to use in the program, songs to be played, that sort of thing.  Along with the instructions for distributing the baseballs.

The ones I autographed, including the two with my final Dad Joke. The half-dozen baseball - Rawlingsautographed baseballs (total) with my ashes inside. My family, long aware of this plan, has grudgingly said agreed that they will do their best to adhere to my wishes – though occasional requests for someone to take the lead on this little project of mine has yet to result in any enthusiastic volunteers.

Why baseballs?

The obvious answer is, of course, that I am a huge baseball fan.  Those that know me all know this, and my baseball-cum-urns will serve a two-fold purpose: not only can they displayed like any regular piece of sports memorabilia, but they will still be usable baseballs. Years after I am gone, when my grandkids, great-grandkids, and great-great-grandkids get together someone will always be able to say, “Hey! Let’s go outside and play catch with grandpa!”

And they will still be able to.

I actually purchased the baseballs about two years ago, along with the hole-saw attachment so whoever handles such things at the funeral place can drill out a hole in each ball, insert the ashes, then put the previously drilled out plug back in with some sort of sealant. (The hole-saw is secured in the box with the autographed balls.) But until recently, I just had not gotten around to getting the autographing done, and packing away the baseballs all nice and neat for storage – in part, because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to write on the balls, and because I have been busy and just hadn’t gotten around to it.

We relocated back to my hometown of Minneapolis last fall, and this winter, while trying to organize my basement office space, I had the package of balls and decided now was as good a time as any to get them prepped, so I could hand them off to one of my sons for safekeeping.

I had them sitting out next to my desk for a few days, and while I had narrowed down baseball-ed3my phraseology to a select few ideas, I wasn’t totally sold on whether I should say the same thing on each one, or if I should go in a more creative direction.  Then, as these things tend to do, inspiration came from out of the blue.

I was on my laptop, reading about my hometown Minnesota Twins going through spring training down in Florida.  There was a humorous sidebar story about a Twins broadcaster, and then, bingo…there it was!  It just popped into my head; the needed line for two of the six baseballs.  The perfect punchline; short, sweet, on point…definitely me.

I finally had it: my last Dad Joke.

I thought about it for a bit, just to make sure it was THE line. I ran it through my head, then out loud, using different inflections, sticking the emphasis in different places.  Yep, I realized I had nailed it.

Later that evening, I signed the baseballs, adding the LDJ (Last dad Joke) to two of them, then gently secured them back in their tissue paper wrappers, putting each one back in its box, then placed all six baseballs and the hole saw in a larger box, slapping a big sign on the front, and sealed it all securely with packing tape.

Finished.

Bringing the box upstairs, I informed my wife and two sons that the baseballs I had long mentioned were ready to be placed in the safekeeping of one of them.  All three of them looked at me warily, my wife reiterating her long-held position on the topic; “Don’t look at me.”

Fortunately, my twenty-year-old son Sam acquiesced. “Why not? I’ll just put it in my closet and leave it there when I move out.”  His succinct, immediate repsonse seemed to edge toward surrender more than cheerful agreement, but I think when the time comes he will probably take it with him. We’ll see.

It is a nice feeling to finally have that little project done. Something else I can check off  popcornmy bucket (of popcorn) list.

Yeah, that one just came to me as I was typing this.

So, I wrote my last Dad Joke today.

To paraphrase the great comedian and baseball fan Rip Taylor, “They’ll LAAAauugh!”rip

 

 

 

#baseball #dadsashesinabaseball #deadfile #baseballliferanddeather

High-def Resolutions

FACT: A majority of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.
FACT: A majority of those same Americans break, abandon, ignore, postpone, or modify-beyond-reasonable-recognition those same resolves-to-self-betterment pledges within the first two-to-three weeks of the new year.
FACT: Statistics don’t lie, and the figures I quoted above are polygraph certified.

As I type this, we are roughly forty-three percent of the way through the month of January, or about three-point-six-percent of our way through the year. It is way too early january-2019-calendar_lito abandon plans and goals; you have plenty of time to snap out of your ‘I already blew it’ doldrums and get your 2019 (and life in general) on the track you want it to be on.

The basic problem with resolutions (and resolving in general) as I see it is twofold: lack of follow through and support for setting/meeting any goals that may have been set is certainly the main culprit, but just as big an issue is a basic fact: just how grounded in reality and real life are your goals?

The solution to the busted resolution problem also has two key components: realistic expectations… and Post-It notes.

Yeah, those ubiquitous sticky-squares can make your life so much easier by allowing you to post basic, to-the-point reminders in the places where they will be easily visible, posit1.jpgthereby doing you the most good. You can slap those suckers on dang near anything, and the good ones will stay stuck there.

Think of them as pulp-based Jiminy Crickets.

The second part of the keep-the-resolution equation is basic self-improvement book/class/system/TED talk: SMART goals.  That is, your goals/resolutions should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

For this project, the goals should also be simple, so add another S, and the ‘time-bound’ part can be more flexible being as self-improvement of this type is more an ongoing thing, in varying Interludes. So, we’ll go with SSMARTI.

Yep. Set some SSMARTI Goals for yourself.

Today is that day! You still have over fifty-percent of January left to pull off a full reboot – heck, over ninety-five percent of the year still lies in front of you!

But enough with the statistics.  Let’s get real with some genuine, reality based, SMARM goals. Eh, resolutions. I won’t pretend to be some sort of self-improvement guru; I simply present here my personal examples of life-betterment for 2019 as simply a template for you to use and/or modify as you see fit.

Start by printing out my list, then tack it to your refrigerator or at your desk (or any suitable location) as a reference for when you use it as a guide to start making your Post its. (I recommend a darker color version; the pastels are way old school, and the yellow postit2_liones, in particular, remind too many people of legal pads, micromanaging bosses, and work in general.)  Oh, and if you attach a Post-It to a bulletin board, do not also stick a tack in it. That sort of redundancy kills any of the self-improvement-coolness vibe you’ll want to nurture.

Think of this entire exercise as a potential-for-many-paper-cuts-Fitbit. It can be done. You have plenty of time to get on/back on a new year/new you track.  Below is my list to use as your SSMARTI template. You can be a SSMARTI, too.

Here we go:

My Personal Resolves for a Better Me, 2019

(with footnotes)

More gut, less data

Less microwave, more crock pot

Make love, not war

More poetry (reading it, writing it)

chocolateLess chocolate…eh. Who am I kidding?

More hiking

More passion, less whining

More doing, less complaining

More compassion, less condemnation

Less La-Z-Boy, more chaise lounge ***

More peanut butter-and- jelly sandwiches.  With different jellies. Maybe even different nut butters (keeping them ALL chunky, however)

Challenge the status quo

More spirituality

2019-01-13More Bukowski and Kerouac

Write some Bukowski and Kerouac

Sip (not drink) more whiskey

More maraschino cherries

Quote Dylan and Sinatra more often

Camping!

Less salt, more cilantro

Beer

kickball.jpgMore blogging, less graffiti

Play kickball with grown-ups

Play more cards

Fewer emails, more notes and greetings cards

Walk the dogs more frequently ^^^

Honor an urgedrama

Make more whoopee, make less drama

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

More instinct, less planning/second guessing

More podcasts, less TV

More reading

Moderated hedonism °°°

More coffee/beer/lunch/dinner with friends

Make more friends to have coffee/beer/lunch/dinner with

Try different places for friends/coffee/beer/lunch/dinner

dsjjwp6uiae9e8yTry different coffees and beers

Try harder

Try harder more often

Try.

Always try.

Here is to a successful 93.4% of the year 2019 you have remaining.

*** Goes more to locale; deck, backyard, dock, beach, etc.
^^^ Post-it notes should not be stuck to dogs proper
°°° This may possibly conflict with anything related to poetry, chocolate, or whiskey

#resolutionsredux  #reboot2019

Lexiconvenience*

(* lexiconvenience noun  lex·i·con- ve·nience  \ˈlek-sə-ˌkän- ˈvēn-yən(t)s
language made to fit personal preference) 

I need a new word for euphemism.

As the world gets progressively weirder, and as I try to maintain some sense of dignity and self-control in my communications with others – both written and verbal – all the good euphemisms seem to be losing their luster from overuse – especially the ones people use euphemism-ed2to avoid to whole insensitivity-to-deity issue: gadgadzooksgosh; geejeepersjeez.

Aside from their overuse, they lack etymological ‘oomph’ – unless you are currently starring in a production of Grease.

Before you offer up new, non-offensive, not oblique suggestions, keep in mind that euphemisms are not exactly synonyms – although the major disparagements of our language are showing a fair amount of wear-and-tear as well; moron, idiot, nitwit, halfwit, imbecile, twit, dolt, nimrod, et al, are repetitively redundant in an accelerated manner as never before seen.

Personally, I blame Facebook and Twitter, though the case could certainly be made that we are living in different times – the Age of the Buffoons, perhaps.

Doesn’t have the same pleasing lilt to it as ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ does it?  Since we seem to be living in a time that is just the opposite realm of intellectual renewal, 235bff49638c63dfa6d69b1a5bb587ab945db2d8maybe my first euphemistic recalculation can be something along the lines of ‘The Age of Fried Filaments’.

Eh, rather clunky.  And too obscure, as younger folks used to curly bulbs will be as clueless as they are filamentless.

I do have a personal euphemism that I coined a few years back, but it hasn’t really caught on in any major way: “Son-of-a-Bisquick-pancake!” I find S.O.B.P. a catchy little euphemism good for all sorts of occasions, and with a tweak to a syllabic inflection here-or-there, you can punch it up to convey a wide range of emphasis and meanings. Starting out with a hard, guttural “SON-OF-A…’” will get attention more quickly than a wistful, musing, ‘I’ll be a son of a…’ – the euphemistic equivalent of a Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey “Well whattaya know about that.”bisquick-4ed

‘Son-of-a-Bisquick-pancake!’ perfectly fits the definition of euphemism, too.  As is my wont, I turn to my friends at Merriam-Webster:

‘Euphemisms can take different forms, but they all involve substituting a word or phrase considered to be less offensive than another.

The substituted word might, for example, be viewed as a less coarse choice, as when dang or darn is used instead of damn or damned.’

“Damn, Skippy!”

That is another personal, flexible euphemism I like to use, and it usually hits its mark because, as I have gleefully discovered, if you say it with a bit of a chuckle, it gets a laugh, but when you add in a disapproving look and an edgier inflection, not a lot of people find skippythe applied moniker ‘Skippy’ to be one of subjective endearment.

“Damn, Skippy! Lighten up!”

As sometimes happens, though, doing my homework results in some different perspectives that don’t always fit my narrative thesis.  As the fine folks at M-W reminded me, ‘a euphemism may also consist of an indirect softening phrase that is substituted for the straightforward naming of something unpalatable: people being “let go” rather than “fired”; civilians killed in war described as “collateral damage…”

Ugh.

Damn, Skippy! That’s just watering stuff down to make things seem peachier than they really are, and I don’t think we need to go down that road.  As it stands, the idea of making something all soft-and-sweet-and-vague in this age of chaos and uncertainty is already being expanded by the absurdity of ‘alternative facts’ – which is not a euphemism for alternative-facts‘opinion’ it is just plain wrong from a grammatical and practical standpoint.

And that last statement is an English teacher fact, though this next one is my opinion: ‘alternative fact’ is the purest and unspoiled of oxymorons – a complete and contradictory abomination of language and rational thought. Though not being totally comfortable with the medical origins of the word ‘moron’ maybe I should opt for something more neutral; oxyclod? oxydolt? Oxydunce, perhaps.

This is the point where you, dear reader, gets to say to me, “Damn, Skippy! Step back!”

Son-of-a-Bisquick pancake!  You really did.

Santa Fidelis

“‘Twas a Wednesday before Christmas, and all through the mall
tho no children were present, this day topped them all…”

Some twenty-five years ago, I decided to pick up a few extra holiday dollars by taking a part-time job as a shopping mall Santa in suburban Minneapolis. As I was neither the natural size, age or type (nor naturally hirsute enough for the role) I wore a roll of foam rubber beneath my suit, silver nylon beard on my chin, and ended up working mostly the mall’s lower-traffic hours – late morning, midday.

On a very quiet Wednesday afternoon in early December, I was sitting there in my big Santa chair chatting with my college-student, elf-for-the-day Susie, and grad-school student/photographer,  brookdaleholiday2Jen. They, like me, were simply making some extra holiday cash; we were Santaland rookies, all. This particular day, we hadn’t taken a picture in an hour or so, though we did a lot of waving and yelling ‘Merry Christmas’ to assorted passers-by. As the three of us chatted about school stuff, I looked down the nearly deserted mall and saw a sight that was interesting, but not really of the season: walking towards us down the center of the mall was a tall, young, U.S. Marine, in full dress blues; alongside  him was a petite, simply dressed woman, maybe forty-five, fifty years old.

It quickly became obvious they were indeed headed right for us.

Elf Susie walked cheerfully back to the gate of Santa Land to greet the pair, and I straightened up in my throne and smoothed out my beard – although I wasn’t sure why as I didn’t see any kids. I watched the young Marine, who glanced around nervously, while the woman spoke to Susie.brookdaleholiday1

“O.K. Santa! This young man is next!” chirped Susie merrily, as she swung open the little white picket gate for the youthful Jarhead to pass, as Jen took her spot behind the camera. The Marine walked up to me and I greeted him with my usual “Ho-ho-ho” shtick, to which he replied quickly, coming to crisp, serious attention, “Merry Christmas, sir.”

Their story was short, sweet, uncomplicated. Unless you are a twenty-year-old Marine having his picture taken on Santa’s lap.

The young man was an only child, U.S.M.C. Corporal home on leave, and his widowed mother was very proud of his recent accomplishments: a marksmanship award, three ribbons and a training award. Having her only son home for the holidays was a huge thrill, and, per what the young Marine told me, and what his mother shared with Susie and Jen, she wanted only one other thing in the world for Christmas: nice pictures of her son in full dress blues.

With Santa Claus.

The young Marine told the young women  – and then me – he said had no idea why this particular setting was so important to her, but it was. So thus began a suddenly interesting Wednesday afternoon, just the five of us: Susie, Jen, proud mom, Santa…and the Marine.

This was in the days before digital photography; our pictures were the time-consuming, one-shot-at-a time, Polaroid-you-stick-in-a-cardboard-frame variety – and the young man’s mother wanted nine of them to send out to relatives all over the country. My arm around his waist, the young Marine sat awkwardly but patiently at attention on the arm of Santa’s throne, glancing around nervously.

After the first picture was snapped, he staged whispered to me, while staring directly at the camera, “I’m really sorry about this, sir.”

I smiled, quietly chuckled “ho-ho-ho” as Jen readied the next shot. “Sorry about what?” I asked, robustly Santa-like.

brookdaleholiday4“About doing this, sir. It’s my mother’s idea. I’m a little…uncomfortable.”

“Ho-ho-ho!” I bellowed.

I didn’t much look the part without help, but I could sure play it.

The scene played out, the Marine finally getting comfortable enough to lean into my shoulder a little bit, as Jen continued to focus and shoot, reminding us to smile – which the Marine did only slightly less uncomfortable with each shot. We sat there, his mother beaming with pride while chatting with Susie the Elf, me ho-ho-ho-ing-it-up, trying to help the guy out with his discomfort. After a few shots, I whispered to the young Marine.“O.K., I know this feels silly, but it’s making your mom really happy.”

He glanced at his mother, smiled slightly. “Yes, sir.”

He was loosening up a little, though that was countered a bit as by now as a small crowd was gathering, eyes wide; guess it’s not every day you see a Marine sitting on Santa’s lap. He smiled self-consciously. I made more Santa-small talk while Jen snapped away. “Grow up around here? Afraid you’re going to see somebody you know?” I inquired.

“Yes, sir,’ he said, staying focused on the camera, “I graduated from Park Center.” which was a high school within walking distance of the mall.  I nodded, ho-ho-hoed some more, asked him a few more questions, reminded him a couple more times about how his mother was smiling, talked sports with the young man, while Jen finished getting all of the pictures to the mom’s satisfaction.

It took fourteen shots to get the nine pictures the Marine’s mom wanted (I saved a couple of the botched extras for a time; they were wonderful.). As his mom was paying Jen and newly Marine-smitten Susie (from the fevered looks on many of the women in the crowd, she wasn’t the only one) finished sliding each picture into its candy-cane-and-reindeer-motif cardboard frame, the young Marine stood up, turned toward me, started to salute but then stuck out his hand to shake mine.

“Thank you, Santa, sir.” He said crisply, with just a hint of relief, in what I believe was proper-holiday-Marine-etiquette for the situation.

Then, bag of pictures in hand, proud mother and dutiful, loving son walked off, arm-in-arm back down the mall, as the smiling crowd quickly dispersed.

To my understanding, the young man was probably breaking protocol by wearing his dress blues in such a setting. But in the years since, I’ve gotten the opportunity to tell this story to more than a few Marines to not one objection. Younger Jarheads tend to dressbluehatlook at me quizzically, apparently pondering the obvious ‘what ifs’ if their own situations. Older Corpsmen mostly nod, smiling proudly.

All have agreed at my story punchline: it’s a pretty unique take on ‘Semper Fi’

As for me, every year around this time I read newspaper or magazine articles about mall Santas, the at times heartbreaking requests they get, the funny things kids say, that sort of thing, and I invariably think of twenty-minutes on a long-ago afternoon in a quiet, suburban Minneapolis mall.  Sometimes in conversation, someone will start talking about the best Christmas they ever had, or the favorite present they ever received.

I can always take things in a slightly different direction – with the story of one of the best Christmas presents I ever had a small part in giving.

brookdaleholiday3

The Christmas Pageant

Where are they now?  Every year around this time…I do wonder.

Speaking of wonder…

Nearly thirty years ago, I was involved with a small, urban Minneapolis Lutheran church. We were an aging congregation with only about fifteen kids (including toddlers)  in our Sunday school on a regular basis; this included three kids from one family – one of whom was fourteen and confined to a wheelchair due to Multiple Sclerosis.

What we lacked in group size we more than made up for in spirit.

When it came time to put together our annual Christmas program (the traditional Joseph & Mary story) we had very few options for Mary, as most of the girls participating were only seven or eight. Except for Sheri, our 14-year-old girl with MS, who desperately wanted to be involved with the program, which we said we would definitely make happen in some form.

Sheri was certainly capable of taking on Mary; she was vivacious, articulate, had a great speaking voice…but her wheelchair was problematic. The role required Mary to enter from the rear of the church and make her way to the front during the opening narration. Admittedly, much of this was set up by tradition and for dramatic effect, and we certainly had other options, but limited maneuvering room. While we had a ramp up the one step in front of the pulpit area (or ‘stage’) there wasn’t a lot of room for extras like a motorized wheelchair to turn or do much once you were up there.

My friend Mark Knutson and I were in charge of the youth committee, and we had given the idea some thought. When the full committee met to put together the program, the first item of business brought up was a request from Sheri and her mom to get her involved in the program, which Barb, the woman directing the program was nervous about.  One of the other women on the committee suggested Sheri would make a great Mary, noting that her motorized chair made that impractical, adding “Maybe she could sit off to the side and narrate”.

As a writer, the idea of the story being told first-person intrigued me.

Mark had a better idea.“What if we made Sheri our Mary, and disguised her wheelchair to look like a donkey”?  he proposed to surprised looks around the table. “We could cover her with blankets, and my brother-in-law is an artist, and I can get him to paint a couple of plywood donkeys that we could mount on the sides of the chair”.

After a few moments and some surprised looks,  Barb asked, “Do you think anybody would mind?”

Mark and I looked at each other and shrugged. “Who cares if they do?” And just like that, the decision was unanimously accepted. Yes, it really was that quick, that simple.

The evening of the pageant, it was hard to tell who was more excited; Sheri or her mom and dad. At least until the audience – including all four of Sheri’s grandparents – showed up. The grandparents sat in the front row, beaming with joy, as it was the first opportunity that Sheri had been given to truly participate in something like this in a major way. Mark and I had better-than-front-row-seats to it all – our own roles in the pageant: we were costumed as manger oxen, wearing homemade, long-snouted masks and kneeling in the small choir pen off to the side of the pulpit. We were there for pseudo-authentic manger atmosphere,  but also with hidden scripts handy to prompt any of our frequently forgetful young actors.

Our Mary needed no such assistance.

Sheri did a fabulous job, and between the plywood donkey cutouts, and the blankets we laid over them and Sheri, in her motorized wheelchair, it truly looked like Mary slowly moving through our candle-lit, church-aisle Bethlehem on her donkey led by Joseph; an incredibly Christmasmoving moment I remember vividly. It was a small space; looking out at the audience from behind oxen masks from our choir-manger, I could see people wide-eyed, some dabbing their eyes.  Holy Communion Church also had great acoustics; you could hear the gasps and murmurs of awe.

By the time the program drew to a close, tears were running down a lot of faces.

Sheri’s family was so grateful, expressing their thanks repeatedly for us ‘taking a chance’ and ‘letting’ Sheri be involved. We told everyone the truth; Sheri was our first choice and only logical option. As I added with a smile, to hearty laughter from Sheri and her family, “The fact that she came with her own donkey…was just a bonus”.

‘And a little child shall lead them.

 

One year later

11/18/17

One year ago I was still living in New Orleans – enjoying the weekend that started our week-long Thanksgiving break from school. I was a bit reflective, as it was going to be our last Thanksgiving in Louisiana and I had big plans focused on preparing for our move back home to Minnesota at the end of the school year.

John Lennon was right: ‘Life is what happens while you’re making other plans’.

The Sunday morning before turkey day was pretty typical get up at five, feed the dogs, enjoy good weekend coffee, check out Facebook, and online news outlets, get some writing done, all before heading to the French Quarter for church.

All was routine until nine-oh-five. In the intervening 8,763 hours (as I write this) a lot has changed:

We are back home in Minnesota as planned – wiser, happier, none the worse for wear. Well, maybe a little extra wear and tear. Well earned, I might add.

Later today, we will drive an hour to my daughter and son-in-law’s house to help celebrate my grandson’s seventh birthday. First time in six years this event will have us as real-life, not Skyped-in, participants.
On Friday, I received a thumbs-up on all that I am doing from my new doctor here in Minneapolis.

Over the passed year, I have learned to lead a healthier lifestyle, and I mostly stick with it. I learned much of what I know of such things from the staff at my cardiac rehab unit in New Orleans, where I was something of a rock star due to my A. regular attendance and B. the fact that in twelve weeks of grueling, challenging, but fun work I was the only member of my group to never fall off a treadmill (or any other piece of workout equipment) and/or get stopped in the middle of some sort of activity because my heart monitor was going bonkers.

I learned a lot from the four women running that rehab unit, and miss them tremendously. I am pretty sure they miss me, too or at least the different twist I brought to the proceedings. I am fairly certain I am still their only patient to regularly and repeatedly have this exchange in cardiac rehab:

“So, am I cleared to get back on my pogo stick yet?”
“No. And before you ask again, pogo stick is not considered appropriate aerobic exercise for rehab.”

Yeah, they miss me, too.

I have learned a lot over the last 365 days. On a Sunday very much like this one, yet nothing at all like this one, life changed for me. Here is how it all went down, as I recorded it then.

Tuesday, 11/21/17

Listen to your body

On Sunday, I had a heart attack. By Monday, I had learned a lot about a number of things; first and foremost, pay attention and listen to your body.

A synopsis.

Sunday morning, just past nine. I was working on my laptop, and checking the time, as I was going to get dressed, and be out the door just after nine thirty to go to church. I was just wrapping up what I was typing, noting that it was 9:05, and I felt a weird pain behind my breastbone.

This is not an unusual area of pain/discomfort for me, as I have a touch of arthritis on an upper rib, and sometimes, especially when I have been physically active, the tendons and muscles running across the are become inflamed. I can usually massage out the resulting muscle knot with my fingers, and sometimes throw on an ice pack.

But this was different.

It was not an intense pain, but it was steady, and noticeably different. I cannot describe exactly how it was that much different, but I knew it was out of the norm. I figured I would let it go for a few minutes and see, but then I felt two pin-pricks on each side of my jaw. That, I knew was not right, even though they lasted just a few seconds and were not radiating to/from anywhere. Then, I felt the same sensation is each shoulder, and even though it lasted only a second or two, and was again not radiating, I knew I should get into the hospital.

I woke up my wife, who had dozed off while reading, and told her I needed to get to the ER. We quickly got dressed, informed our son Sam about what was going on, and got in the car for the fifteen-minute drive to the hospital. While getting dressed, I felt a minor wave of nausea, so quickly popped in a TUMS.

The drive was fine, until the last few minutes, when the pain in my chest intensified a bit; not tremendously, but enough so that it was noticeable. I was not, at this point in great pain, but I knew something was way off.

Two minutes later, we pull up to the Oschner ER door, Amy goes to park the car. It was a blustery fall morning, cool and windy, but when I got out of the car and stood up, I felt flushed. When I walked in through the automatic doors, the desk staff commented on the cold wind blowing in. I walked up to the desk, gave them my info and insurance card, and they had me go sit down. I still felt off, but was not in appreciable pain. The clock on the wall said 9:45.

Then a young triage doc named Lance called my name, had me sit and took my BP. He looked at the reading, then immediately ushered me into a room about ten feet away, where he hooked me up to an EKG. he asked how long I had been having this pain, and I said, “It started just after nine” to which Lance responded, “And you came right here?” We finished, he walked me out and told me to take a seat in the waiting area. Amy had just walked in from parking the car, so this all (BP, EKG) happened very quickly. Lance said he would be right back, and I took the chair next to Amy.

By now I was very warm, and as I sat next too Amy, the pain started to intensify – actually, the pressure in my chest started to intensify, which led to pain all throughout my torso. A few minutes later Lance reappeared with a wheelchair, and said “Mr. Lucker, let’s go.” By now I was feeling rotten; chest pressure, I was hot, starting to become nauseous. As Lance started picking up speed with the wheelchair, it was like being on a carnival ride; I was relieved because the rushing air was cooling, but my nausea was getting worse. It seemed like a reasonable trade-off. Lance then turned sharply into a big exam room, and I counted at least eight people there, including a blonde woman who immediately introduced herself and said, “Mr. Lucker, Hi, I’m doctor —-, and we’re going to get you taken care of.” I unfortunately can’t remember her name, but she was incredible.

It was just like on TV. the doctor who had introduced herself was obviously the maestro, directing the crazy medical symphony; directing some staff members, asking for various stats from others, and talking to me directly, pointedly, calmly. One of the first things she asked was the same series of questions I got from Lance, with almost the same response: “How long have you been having this chest pain?” and “And you came right in to the ER? That’s good.”

This pattern repeated itself, but with variations once the catheter lab guys and cardiac surgeons got involved: “How many hours ago did the chest pain start?” followed by obvious surprise when I replied, “about nine this morning” – every time the question was asked an answered, the doctor would glance at the clock, then verify my response with something along the lines of, “So just in the last hour or so?” to which I kept responding, “Yes.”

At least six times that I remember, I went through this routine with a doctor – and that was just between my arrival in the ER, a trip to the exam room, and then being wheeled into the cath lab; a bit more than an hour, all told. Over the next day or so, I had the same conversation over and over, with other doctors and technicians, and all four of my stellar ICU nurses.

The response was always one of surprise, and clarification was always sought, accompanied by a glance at whatever clock or watch was handy. Turns out, I am something of an anomaly.

I listened to my body.

What I have come to learn from the excellent doctors and nurses who have been caring for me is that most people in my situation do not listen to their own bodies, and wait – sometimes too long – to take their situation seriously and seek medical attention.

I know this, because I asked, noting my surprise that doctors kept phrasing the question in terms of hours; “How many hours were you having this pain before you came in?” and seeing their surprise when I replied, “about forty-five minutes before I got here.”

I listened to my body.

The medical professional said that most people wait – either because of denial or fear. A quick bit of research on what the pros told me was easily confirmed; one NIH study I quickly found showed that 69% of heart attack patients had delayed seeking treatment for their symptoms. This quote from the NIH study: ‘The most important causes of having delay were: “hoping the symptoms to alleviate spontaneously”, “attributing the symptoms to other problems other than heart problems”, and “disregarding the symptoms”.’

I listened to my body.

I cannot imagine what would have happened had I not. Had I waited, or just blown everything off, or headed to St. Marks, the worst part would have hit somewhere else other than the ER. I would not have been two minutes away from a team of professionals, one of who immediately placed a nitroglycerin pill under my tongue and told me to hold it there. Had I not been in the Oschner ER when this episode escalated…?

I listened to my body.

Most people, faced with similar circumstances when it comes to their heart, apparently do not.

I am not writing or sharing this just to share my story; there are much better, more amusing, more curious parts of it to tell from a storytelling standpoint. I am sharing this because I was very fortunate, in large part because I realized that something wasn’t anywhere near right – even though I really didn’t feel ‘all that bad’ at the time.

I listened to my body.

Oh, and ignoring or downplaying heart symptoms is not just a stubborn-male attribute. One of the more interesting statistics I found when doing some basic research? Women are more likely than men to delay treatment.

Thankfully, I listened to my body.

I hope this encourages you to listen to yours, too.

Peace,

Mark

Self reckoning

For the record, I was never a fan of Judge Kavanagh as a SCOTUS nominee; far too conservative for me. I also need to note that as a young man, I was once a volunteer at a women’s shelter and have a unique perspective on issues regarding sexual assault. As an English teacher, I am all about context – and transparency. That being said, this is my perspective, one I have thought about seriously before sharing. If you disagree, that is fine. I don’t wish to engage in a back-and-forth on this; it is simply a commentary.  I just want to share a different perspective.

Most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

Yes, I said and mean ‘most’.  I understand that many will see that as hyperbole, and I also understand that it is a broad brush to paint an entire generation with, but I also believe it. I stand by the statement above: most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

High school, college, in their twenties – most heterosexual men of my generation have, at some point in time, gone too far with a woman, physically or verbally. I am comfortable saying that most men of my generation have at some point pushed beyond whatever boundaries there may have been in place, with varying degrees of consequences (if any) for themselves.

Not so the females involved.

I can say this based on a variety of tangible and intangible factors including, but not limited to

  • Well documented, reliable statistics
  • The glorification of such male ‘exploits’ in popular culture (music, movies, television)
  • The personal experiences of most yes, (that word again) of the women I know who are roughly the same age and demographic, plus the experiences of many of the younger women I know
  • My own, personal experiences with girls and women

Statistically, even just scratching the surface the numbers are grim: one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, one in three women experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Nearly eighty-percent of women report getting catcalled, or whistled at, or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature.

When you break things down statistically, in all categories those numbers are much higher for women of color, and also those women on the lower ends of the socio-economic scale.

My personal experience with women I know would seem to roughly parallel those statistics, so I have little reason to doubt their veracity.  The scary thing is, that is just amongst women I know who have spoken (publicly or privately) about these issues.  I am quite certain that there are many women I know who have not shared their experiences with me.

The raw numbers alone are sobering.

Here is why I believe that most males of my generation have their judge Kavanagh moment: If I know this many victims, I must, percentage-wise, also know roughly this many perpetrators.

Myself included.

As men, if we are being honest with ourselves we must acknowledge our complicity in the problem here, how pervasive the ‘boys-will-be-boys’ mentality has influenced us. Gentlemen, who among us could, under oath, swear that we had never gone too far in some respect?  How many of us have never made a crude sexual comment or request directly to a girl or woman?  How many of us, in the heat of a moment, failed to heed the request of a to a girl or woman to ‘stop’ or ‘wait a minute’ or even ignored a flat-out ‘no’ – at least the first time such a protestation was made – even in the most seemingly benign of situations?

Looking back on my life as honestly as possible, I can certainly think of at least a few instances where I crossed some sort of line with coercion, ignoring signs or statements,  or simply not stopping something when asked the first time. And those are just scattered situations where I am thinking of.

People – women – who have known me at various stages in my life may have different takes.

I am just six years older than judge Kavanagh; it is reasonable to say that we are of the same generation. His testimony the other day about his youthful drinking habits did not shock me, as I believe that what he was describing was, while not necessarily typical behavior was certainly not an anomaly. Nor I would guess, was it seen so by most members of the senate committee (and the US. Senate as a whole) because they too had their youthful indiscretions in regards to a lot of things – beer, and drinking in general. Not uncommon.

They seem oblivious because they are; most of the committee members hail from a generation older than Judge Kavanaugh or myself.  News flash: wink-wink, boys-will-be-boys is learned behavior. Look at the people on that panel through that lens and all of this grotesque spectacle makes a lot more sense.

While there has been some rather pointed scorn, ridicule, and satire leveled on Kavanagh for all of his thirty-odd mentions of his like for beer, one thought keeps coming back to me in regards to the entire situation as most on both sides seem to agree: there was a lot of teenage partying and shenanigans going on…but little or no sexual stuff.

I call bullshit on that entire concept.

Somehow, I am expected to believe that a bunch of teenagers and college students, with their not-fully-developed prefrontal and frontal cortexes could regularly add copious amounts of alcohol to their social interactions, and yet still have the capacity to know where to draw the line in terms of sexual activity with any veracity at all?

Bullshit.

Men of my age, I have a question: how many of us have a story or two that we still tell (either humorously or as a cautionary tale) about some youthful indiscretion – sexual or otherwise?  How many of those incidents involve alcohol use (yours or by peers that sucked you into their orbit) and how many occurred stone-cold sober?  How many of your stories that involve youthful drinking would probably not have happened at all was it not for alcohol-fueled judgment?

Can’t break that down into percentages?  Try the math on this one: how many of those stories you know tell – gleefully or ruefully – were a direct result of you being an idiot teenager with a not fully developed brain? If you want to say ‘100%’ I’m good with that.

The fact that so many of the players in this drama (on all sides) are so blasé about the drinking culture that is being arduously rehashed over and over and won’t or don’t make the connection between the drinking and its links to other inappropriate behavior speaks to their privilege and their age; “Hey, it’s just we did back then.”

Thus, most males of my generation have their judge Kavanaugh moment.

Most females of my generation have their judge Kavanagh moment, but from a far different perspective – as victims. They unfortunately also have their Dr. Ford moment.  In many cases, multiple such moments.

Where does this leave me?  Having been a teenager of roughly the same vintage as Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, understanding the problematic nature of the pervasiveness of boys-will-be-boys culture, having shepherded three children of my own through their teen years and been an observer of multiple nieces and nephews spanning the same, plus ten years of teaching high school English, I say this with confidence:  to me, Dr. Ford’s accusations and recollections are credible and believable, Judge Kavanaugh’s denials about the incidents and chummy culture of his youthful times are not.

You want me to believe that teenaged drinking started and ended with just drinking?

Bullshit.

Overall, we need to look at the big picture here as a country, and address some hard issues: does youthful indiscretion preclude one from public service as an adult?  Hopefully not, or the candidate pool then becomes very small. The bigger question to me is, was this teenaged behavior something someone grows out of, or did it set a pattern that carried on into adulthood?  There has to be a distinction there.  Most crucial is this: can the accused person not see or acknowledge how their behavior impacted others, or how it may retroactively be seen in a different light?

To not see this all-in logical context – teenagers and drinking can, and often does, lead to other misbehavior – I think requires a special sort of denial. To think that a group of teens drinking excessively or on a regular basis always knew where to draw the line defies logic.

Most males of my generation have their Judge Kavanaugh moment.

The bottom line for me is Dr. Ford’s accusations and recollections are credible and believable, Judge Kavanaugh’s denials about the incidents and culture of his youthful times are not.