Thursday, June 22, 2017

Driving in the Left Lane

Have you ever asked a family member, friend or acquaintance about his or her driving abilities?  More to the point, has anyone ever responded in the negative?  I can't recall a single soul ever admitting that his driving abilities were sub-par.  Nevertheless, isn't it axiomatic that half of the drivers are below average?  For that matter, I may be one of them.  No, that couldn't be.  Could it?

Each driver holding a valid license has passed a driver's test (lo those many years ago for me), so we share the view that there is an underlying knowledge of the traffic laws, but then there are the unwritten rules of the road.   Do we on occasion roll through a Stop sign or dial in cruise control at five miles per hour above the posted limit?  Of course we do, which in its purest sense makes us scofflaws, though I make no admissions here against my own interests.  How then can we/I reconcile these shortcomings with those I am about to excoriate?  Hypocrisy?  I’d hate that for certain, but take a look and you be the judge and jury (and executioner if necessary).  Strap on your seatbelts.  Please.

The thing is, I have spent more hours than I can recall in the past decades driving from the Denver International Airport west to the majestic Rockies and the ski mountains nestled therein.  Regrettably I also have to make the return trip.  The drive generally ranges from an hour and a half to two hours, give or take, but I’ve done a fiver as well.  The Rocky Mountains are my happy place and have been so since I was a child.  However, getting from point A to point B and back is not at all smiles, all the time.  Why, you might ask?  Well, the answer is a simple one, i.e. some drivers in Colorado.  Notice that I don't impugn all resident Coloradans, only some drivers on Interstate 70.  It's a fine point.  More to follow.

Quite often I make the trek up to the mountains solo, meaning I have time to kill and the balls inside my head just bounce around.  In any event, during these frequent migrations I have concluded that a large percentage of drivers in fact do not understand the aforementioned rules of the road, encoded or otherwise.  Whether resulting from arrogance or ignorance, drivers constantly park themselves in the left lane of I-70 and absolutely refuse to pull to the right to allow passage of faster vehicles.  They do so irrespective of the length of a line of vehicles behind them.  They do so in white-out blizzards and when the sun shines brightly on dry pavement.  They do so in the light of day, at dusk as well as in the dark of night.  Nothing will dissuade them from their appointed mission.  Not a flick of the bright lights, a toot of the horn or a bit of gentle tailgating will cause them to take the hint.

 How about reading the Colorado statute which dictates:  “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle in the passing lane of a highway if the speed limit is sixty-five miles per hour or more unless such person is passing other motor vehicles that are in a non-passing lane or turning left, or unless the volume of traffic does not permit the motor vehicle to safely merge into a non-passing lane.”  IT’S THE LAW. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s only when the limit is at least 65 mph, but should the logic disappear if the limit it only 60 or 55?   It's as puzzling as it is maddening and I suspect enforcement is next to nil.  

The worst offenders?  In my unscientific poll, those who are runners-up to the most frequent Riders in the Left Lane Under the Posted Speed Limit are those driving (a) pickup trucks; (b) the estimable Toyota Prius, or; (c) those who come from warmer climes to ski and somehow believe that a nice rear-wheel drive sedan is just the ticket for winter mountain driving.  The winner and grand champion, however, is that ideal of the Colorado driver:  The one behind the wheel of--wait for it, wait—the Subaru.  And they are everywhere.

It appears that the glut of new residents who have migrated to Colorado over the past decade from hither and yon have all concluded that owning a four-wheel-drive Subaru is tantamount to being indestructible, with the ability to negotiate any amount of snow despite being four inches off the ground.  They seem to believe they can take their Subarus and leap tall buildings with a single bound.  But don't let’s forget about the moral superiority evidenced by this behavior as well.  Am I wrong?  Make no mistake, however, about my view of the Subaru vehicle in general.  All the way back in 1986, prior to the child explosion in our family, we owned a Subaru something or other wagon.  It wasn't my idea, but I had nothing against the car or the manufacturer.  In fact, while I never drove the wagon on a regular basis as it was the ‘first baby’ limo, I recall it being a nice ride overall.  That was then.  The same holds true today if I correctly read the reviews.  

However (and there is always a ‘however’ in life), the Colorado Subaru drivers on I-70?  Yeah, not so much.  The give the cars a bad name.  My universe of testing embodies those who travel that inestimable route from Denver to Vail and beyond.  This narrow sampling, however, leads to inescapable conclusions, i.e. that for reasons I cannot yet clinically determine (though I am working on an algorithm), Subaru drivers love the left lane of multi-lane highways in Colorado.  Why you ask? Not a clue.  I cannot fathom the reason other than what I have set out herein. 

So, my plea to those drivers I have impugned, following are a few suggestions to ponder:  (a)  read the Colorado law, and/or; (b) get past the moral superiority of determining the proper speed limit for the rest of us, and; (c) lose any other justifications for your left lane-leaning tendencies, and finally; (d)  move the hell over.  Please.  Before my head explodes.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Sartorial Splendor of Male Politicians

I concede the fact that I watch a de minimis amount of televised nonsense (e.g. Fox News, CNN and the like), but I do read various publications while holding them in my hands as well as online.  Surely I cannot be the sole American that notices the boring selections made by our elected male officials in their choice of neckties.  Seriously?  Take a look if you haven't and you will see that some purveyor of expensive silk cravats is selling scads of blue and red ties to the male political class.  Not blue or red striped ties or ones with a nice print, but solely blue and red, solid color ties.  Are we supposed to see these men as more patriotic for the choice of tie color?  Do their handlers and public relations flacks think we would turn on them if--god forbid--one of them wore a green one?  I must be missing something in this analysis.  Perhaps the chiefs of staff for these failed student council candidates have developed some sort of algorithm (no, not an Al Gore Rhythm) to determine what resonates best with the voters.  Frankly, I might vote for some guy wearing a yellow tie with a single windsor knot just because he's outside the mainstream.  What gives?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Courtesan By Any Other Name

Not that anyone is interested, but I've been a bit tied up with some medical nonsense and then overwhelmed by the entire Thanksgiving/shopping/Christmas marathon. Today, I took a deep breath. So, a belated Merry Christmas to all, political correctness be damned.

Speaking of political, hasn't this been a marvelous Autumn? I've so enjoyed the daily internecine squabbling by the members of the august United States Senate. Call me crazy (as I most likely am), but I truly thought someone, anyone would make a stand, take to the lectern and declare boldly that it was insanity to legislate wholesale changes to an entire nation's healthcare system without carefully considering the details.

Leave aside the fact that a law mandating insurance coverage is unconstitutional on its face, how is it that any of these sterling citizen/legislators can look at us with a straight face and assure us either the House or Senate bills is just what the doctor ordered? I admit that I allowed myself to believe that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was going to stand tall and buck his own party, slow down the runaway Obama train calculated now to save the next election cynical, I mean cycle. Alas, my dreams were sacrificed on the font of political opportunism. Weeks ago Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) started the leverage game and received $300 million extra for Medicaid subsidies in her home state. The scribes in the Senate are so contemptuous of us 'sheep' that they 'hid' the bribe in language so thinly-veiled that it remined one of gossamer. They needn't have bothered. Ms. Landrieu stood proudly and unabashedly aditted her scam. And I thought we got Louisiana back in 1803 with the Purchase. Apparently not.

Democratic Senators from Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming then demanded their own grease added to the proposed senate bill in order to assure their votes. So much pork was packed on that it makes a sty smell like ambrosia. Senator Nelson though, made a stand. He did so relative to some provisions relating to federal funding of abortion contained in the bill. I take no position on the abortion issue whether related to this bill or otherwise.

Senator Nelson, however, may have exceeded the shameless display by Senator Landrieu, if not in pure dollars, certainly in the measure of character. He got the hard-fought concession on the abortion language. That wasn't all. He also secured some $100 million in concessions and exemptions for the Nebraska-based Mutual of Omaha and Blue Cross/Blue Shield plus 100%--that's 100%--payment from the rest of us for Medicaid payments to Nebraskans.

Senator Nelson and his dispicable cronies stink of smoke and worse from their back-room dealing. I suppose we've known all along that most of these politicians are, by a more accurate appellation, whores. Now we know what they charge.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Decline and Fall

Over the past decade I've had numerous conversations with parents of our kids' friends on issues that did then and continue to affect the lives of the next generation. I try, I really do try not to moralize with other parents, but if I had a nickel for every time I've heard a parent say, "you have to pick your battles" I would have fewer worries about tuition payments. The phrase is a euphimism for "I'm too lazy to parent". Every day I have to steer our kids away from moral relativism, situational ethics. I hear weekly about parenting decisions that can only be driven by the desire for a child to be 'popular'. It would be humorous if the fallout wasn't so frightening.

This mentality seems to pop up regularly when I do a mini-rant about rap 'music'. It's not really music you see, but only noise with a beat. Music has melody, but about rap I can at least say 'Hooray for percussion.' I have contended in countless conversations that rap is representative of the myriad examples of the continued devolution of our society, a poster child if you will. Many more times than not, in response to my contention that rap is a sickness of someone's heart I hear the 'pshaw' tone. That is quickly followed of course by a variation of "Our parents said the same thing about our music" like that torpedoes my hypothesis. I gainsay this simple-minded reasoning and declare the counterargument to be specious. Yes, our parents were restive (some more strident) about the music of the '60's, but more so the '70's where drugs and 'free love' were glorified. I was in the middle of it and remember. I remember the outcry when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. And that was in response to She Loves You. Nevertheless, most lyrics in those days leaned toward the double entendre rather than being flagrant calls for degredation and worse. Not so with rap and that is my response to those who pooh-pooh my contention. Yes, our parents were 'shocked' and dismayed by our music, but they never heard lyrics akin to 'fuck the bitch', 'beat the ho' or 'kill the nigga'. These are at best misogynistic, at worst racist, but without argument antipathetic. And for those who would like to shuffle me off to get in line with the racists, you are mistaken. You don't know me.

I see grade-schoolers singing along with this chanting and I simply can't fathom the decision-making that led to it. For middle-school students and those a step up it's bad enough. This constant barrage of negative images numbs the senses, perhaps only for a while, but what if the numbness lingers. Of course, rap is not solely responsible for the depths to which American 'culture' has sunk, but the long-term effects are incalcuable.

In Richmond, California last week, up to 20 young people stood around laughing and taking pictures while a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped--for two hours. After her school's homecoming dance. They took photos, most likely on their cell phones. I suppose for a Memory Book. Probably emailed them to friends with a clever comment.

The girl was left unconscious, probably for dead, but was found under a bench. Six boys have been arrested. It is sick, twisted, iniquitous, repugnant, grotesque. How could this be? How ignorant of any moral code, any decency does one have to be to hold the life of another being as insignificant? How did they get there? Moreover, what kind of young people would watch and laugh while a girl's life was forever shattered? This in America? Not in the time when I came of age.

We are rearing a mob of sociopaths that have no concept of right and wrong. None. And the mob grows larger. Don't delude yourselves that this was an isolated incident. Only in the sheer, undiluted depravity was it singular. Only the statutes distinguish this criminal foraging from the brutal murder of a Chicago high school student who was beaten unmercifully with 2X4's by an insane mob of youths. Those are just two recent examples. And someone, anyone can reply to me that our society hasn't sunk to a low that shocks the senses? Don't you dare try to turn the tables, make excuses, defend these creatures and say we have failed them. No. Someone did. I did not.

The battle for our character, our souls has been joined and it happened not just recently, not only in Richmond, California or Chicago. The war has been raging within for some time, all around us and we blithely continue down the path where eventually we will reach the unexpected signpost with the message 'No Return' for all to see.

I guess we'll just keep 'picking our battles' until the war is lost.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Can See the Forest

It's no revelation that we are bombarded daily with information from a myriad of sources--print, electronic, digital, cellular, gossip--and yes, I know some of that is redundant. Nevertheless, in this world of all news/information all the time, often we stumble into the theater of the absurd. As an example, did we really need to have live courtroom coverage of the battle over what to do with the expired carcass of Anna Nicole Smith? But when the news cycle is 25 hours a day, eight days a week (the Beatles were onto something well before their time), sometimes 'they' just make it up.

If we take all of that, swirl it around, then conflate it with the daily overdose of apochryphal dissemblage pouring from the Congressional sewers in the guise of paternalistic pap, it's well nigh impossible to focus. We get myopic, trying to fell the individual 'trees' that stand in the way of our rushing forth only to be strafed by even more amplified surround sound of didactic drivel. Counterintuitively we do this rather than taking the occasional hiatus to appreciate the wonder of the verdant forest through which we roam like Hansel and Gretel, trying to find our way home.

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a private reception honoring a friend of mine, Tommy O'Toole, for the decades-long effort he has poured into the game of golf. Yes, he does play the game, but by his own admission not as well as he'd like. He was, however, instrumental in the organization of the Missouri Amateur Golf Association years ago which ultimately became a springboard to the estimable position on the five-member Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association. He has traveled extensively over the years as a well-respected rules official and for other roles at U.S. Open Championships and many other USGA-sanctioned tournaments. Oh, and he's built a successful law practice 'on the side'.

Tommy sacrificed a lot for all of this, but his family always came first--always. And it wasn't always easy. His personal life suffered as did his health a few times. He had little time to devote to himself, but one thing he didn't give up, wouldn't allow it. He never lost sight of the things most important to him after family. His friends. And they are legion. In the past year, Tommy finally left his bachelor days behind and got married. He thinks he picked her. He didn't. No man ever does. We get picked. Our wives let us believe we're in control. We aren't. When Tommy took the plunge, he got a twofer--a son in the bargain, one who badly needed a dad and without any practice, Tommy slid into the role as easy as making a two-foot gimme. It's a tender scene to see them together, to see how gentle Tommy can be. Just as moving is listening to his friends talk about him, them.

I'm grateful I took time out to see the forest tonight, that I got to see Tommy with his new family, his mom and dad and so many people whose lives he's touched. He's gruff sometimes, blunt always and suffers fools madly, but I've not met anyone with a bigger heart. Tommy has been my friend sinced I moved to St. Louis, 29 years and counting. I've never kept ledgers with friends, never offered a hand with the expectation of something in return. I hope, though, that I've been as good of a friend to Tommy as he's been to me. Here's to you, TOT.

Monday, October 26, 2009

911

It's an emergency. I've fallen and I can't get up. No, I've not been nipping at the demon rum nor am I antediluvian, but I feel as though I'm dreaming, moving in slow motion. What is it about all of the buncombe in Washington that I don't grasp, can't reach in this nightmare? Will I awakene to a lost tribe of the citizenry that has been completely marginalized, something about which Michael Moore will fictionalize in a 'documentary'? Have we wandered so far from the 'loop' that we have not a prayer of ever rejoining? I'm unable to decipher any of the burbling babel of the 535 members of the Idiocracy. It has become white noise, no longer distinguishable from a mountain stream. I am getting drowsy again.

As I read the soporific that is the daily drumbeat of the news, I can't escape the $1.4 trillion dollar ($4 trillion; 10?) storm cloud of debt we can't pay and these Pied Pipers blithely pillage our pockets and add hundreds of billions more. Do we have to romance the stone, survive the Temple of Doom to learn the mystical secrets they know? Can the tendentious troika of Obama, Reid and Pelosi lead us on a magic carpet ride to enlightenment? Have Americans by the tens of millions been smitten by a Circean-like enchantress who has turned us into sheep? Or worse, lemmings? My head is like an IED, ready to explode at the slighted provocation. When I looked into the bathroom mirror this morning, staring back at me were the hopeless eyes of a futilitarian.

Please, will someone bring me back from the brink?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rear View

It is inarugable that the 'Baby Boomers' have impacted American society in ways that no other generation can claim. Regrettably, some of changes we fostered were inimical to our own well-being and others simply backfired. One of our 'improvements' in particular has had far-ranging ramifications on multiple levels such as athletic, social and medical. I am sounding the alarm about a heretofore unnamed disorder that has been percolating for years like a dormant virus. We've known of it, felt it, damned it and tried multiple homeopathic remedies, but to little avail. It is a pandemic. You heard it here first. As reported recently in the Mad Magazine Journal of Bizarre Diagnoses, 'Bleacher Butt' has entered the pantheon of medical jargon if not any of the traditional medical hightowers. The hidebound community of doctors can say what it will, but I know what I know. And I, like so many other Boomers, did it to myself, a self-inflicted malady if you will.

Approximately 20% of our generation remained childless, so a full one-fifth will never have to battle the iniquitous, almost stygian affliction of Bleacher Butt. They are the ones who are likely supporting insurance reform as they don't face the misery for many of the rest of us who face long-term debilitation on our rear face, the one with the permanent vertical smile. The appellation of the diagnosis is an apt one and few terms can be more descriptive of a malady. It is a most disagreeable one. Clearly the disorder does not affect all Boomers equally which is ironic because we spent a good part of our youth shouting for 'equality'. But (no pun intended) no, we now stare into the maw of that which we wrought.

I have four children, the oldest 23 and the youngest 18. I married a Catholic girl and she took her procreative obligations seriously to counterbalance my apostacy I presume. I digress. While I'm unable to pinpoint the exact date, my recollection is that I attended my first youth soccer game in the Autumn of 1991. Of course, being the new generation of parents that we were and riding in on the heels of our 'liberation', all the ideas, the answers were ours. We thought organized sports were great for the very young. We found out too late that we were badly mistaken. We kept our children from backyard pick-up games where each became a famous player if only for an afternoon. We were determined to make certain each child had 'self esteem' so we declared every game a tie and bestowed a medal or trophy on each child at season's end--just for showing up. No self-esteem was built by that as the kids were smarter than we were. They figured out early that the tokens had no value. My kids have hundreds of worthless trinkets. Parenthetically, I wonder what happens when these kids become adults, begin a career and expect a reward for arriving on time. In any event, we created the monster and it stomps through our time like Godzilla through Tokyo.

I estimate that I have sat on my hind quarters through more than 1,200 soccer, basketball, T-ball, baseball, softball, team handball, dodgeball, field hockey, lacrosse and hockey games; I've gotten a sore neck at tennis matches, fought boredom at cross country courses, sat through four-hour track meets watching a child compete for a total of less than five minutes; I've refereed flashlight tag and capture the flag; I've even celebrated at games of Red Rover and cheered at three-legged races. The sum of that my friends begat a lot of sitting. And not in a plush luxury box. Not in a nice theater seat. Not in the high-priced area. No. I've sat on bleachers in grade-school gyms so hot the concession stand served hot dogs without cooking them. I've planted my buns near sidelines on days so cold that the aluminum bleachers stuck to me like ice on a wet tongue. Only once was I fooled by the gentle contours of the modern fiberglas bleachers and only until I planted the buttosky. I've breathed a tribe's quota of stale air smelling of dark gym bags. There were days where a child swam through a monsoon in a game of water polo which was supposed to be a soccer game. Perhaps that's how water polo was invented. I've parked my fan-fan in snow storms during which some kids stopped and threw snowballs. There were a few times--far too few--where we were blessed by what can only be described as divine intervention: Lightning. Oh, for those days when the officials called a game because the crackle of electric current spidered through the sky. The kids never heard cheering like they experienced when a game was called. It must have exploded their self-esteem to new heights.

And all the while we assumed that kids understood everything we did about the games we coached, the rules, terminology and not hitting. My favorite was at a T-ball game with a group of first-graders. The coach, one of the kids' dad of course, was a little harried trying to herd the bevy of boys and yelled, "Who's on deck?' whereupon one of his players said, with a bit of a superior smirk on his face, "On deck? Coach, we're ballplayers, not sailors." Art Linkletter was far ahead of his time.

The years rolled by like flotsam and jetsam down the Mississippi. With hubris born of generational success, we irrationally clung to the belief that immortality awaited us. Some still do. They are mistake. We got older. So did the bleachers. Wood, aluminum, fiberglas--it didn't matter. They were all hard. Like a block of ice hard; like a steel bat hard; like the glare of a woman scorned hard. I mean they were unforgiving. It didn't matter whether I sat leaning back with legs extended over two rows or hunched over with elbows on knees. Leaning one way or another helped until the disfavored cheek was benumbed, torpid. I had a heightened sense of the point at which gangrene began to rear its horrific head, so I'd simply shift to the other side sending it back to its dark recess. By the end of an event, I couldn't walk normally, so I shuffled. So did the other parents. It could have been a new dance. Sometimes my buttocks had hot flashes as the blood returned to the capillaries with a vengeance. I found it interesting after games watching the parents nonchalantly kneading the rear flesh in an attempt to de-anesthetize the hump.

Age and gravity have now taken their course. I wasn't blessed with much of a butt, so I always had less to work with, but now I have reached the point of 'saggy bottom'. I'm one of those guys with baggy pants that look like bloomers because I have no booty to stretch the seams. All things considered though, my bum has served me well. It never went on 'injured reserve', never missed the call to arms, I mean buttocks. Only 223 days remain till my youngest graduates from high school. Soccer season is winding to a close, but basketball bounces into view less than a week later. When the last shot swishes, we take a short break for Spring to spring and then on to track and field. At the end of that road will be a history, 18 years of taking a seat to watch our kids romp and play, compete and learn about 'team'. Mostly, not always, I suffered the pain in silence, the backside silently screaming. I was and am willing to suffer the indignity for the opportunity to see unbridled joy for just a while.

My gluteous maximus won't miss the courts and fields. I won't know what to do.