Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Thursday, November 17, 2016

And So it Goes (November 15, 2016)

The girl is on a roll. We welcome back Sehr Wenig for an encore. May there be many more to follow—the editor

At the beach Sunday morning, a man stood with his back to the ocean, FaceTiming with family. "I love you," he said again and again in heavily accented English and the high, tight voice people use with children. "Goodbye. Goodbye. I love you. See you soon," he said.

I made my way past this handsome man wearing $1200 black leather Berluti tennis shoes and a Prada jacket, with a yarmulke somehow attached to a large bald spot.

When I passed him again on my way back up the beach, the man pointed to my nearly-full trash bag and asked, "Why are you doing that?" 

"I'm tired of being sad about the election and need to do something positive."

"You’re sad about the election?"

"Yes. Very."

"Why? There’s hope in America again!"

"Hope?" Bagnell Dam burst inside my chest. "I had breast cancer this year. If they repeal Obamacare and allow insurance companies to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, I will be uninsurable if I lose my job. And it's not just me. Twenty million will lose health care entirely. Millions more will be vulnerable. That's not hope. And health care is just one issue. Hundreds of other issues will hurt millions of others."

"Sorry," he said in a voice that dripped with not-at-all-sorry.

I moved down the beach, filling yet another bag with trash and wondering why a wealthy man—who clearly loves his family and is devout enough to cover his head out of respect for God—is not compassionate enough to care about people whose lives may be damaged by Trump’s presidency. 

A few hours later, Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon—a man whose “news” organization publishes a steady stream of anti-Semitic and white nationalist rhetoric—his “Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.” 

And so it goes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

And So it Goes (November 13, 2016)

The editors are pleased to welcome back our favorite female Geezer, Sehr Wenig. 

As a Minnesota Geezer lost in LaLa Land, I go to the beach nearly every weekend.

When I went to the beach a few weeks ago, a taco truck was parked on the PCH, its owner clearly living there. This morning two more food trucks had joined the sad parade. As it happens, these particular trucks come to the one-way street outside our office every day, feeding streams of computer engineers and movie marketers and media types. Imagine catering to privilege every day and then sleeping on the cold metal floor of a make-shift kitchen every night so you can get up and do it again.

As usual, a homeless black man slept in a blue sleeping bag, huddled against the seawall. Last week his drug paraphernalia was nestled in a toddler’s hiking boot, just within reach. This week the little hiking boot was nowhere to be seen.

Down on the beach, a 30-ish Mexican man and his 8- or 9-year-old son threw stones into the water, laughing at good throws and groaning at bad ones.

A 40-ish woman sat on a rock, playing a guitar. The man wrapped around her from behind corrected her fingering now and then as she learned a new song. 

The woman's long, mousy brown hair was tucked into a newsboy cap. The edges of a rip in the sleeve of her whiskey-colored leather jacket fluttered in the breeze as she strummed, and she tapped the worn-through toes of Stuart Weitzman boots that probably cost a thousand dollars, long ago and far away.

Eventually, the man took the guitar and began to play softly. "F*ck you," she cried. "You're so much better than I am. It's not fair!"

"No, baby. Not better. Just been playing longer," he crooned.

"You make me so f*ck'n mad with the way you play."

Now dancing to the man’s tune, the bone-thin woman smiled broadly. The pockmarks on her face glowed in the sun -- a rosy contrast to the blackened edges of every tooth.

"You can see my human-icity on my face," she said. "You like that word? Human-icity." 

"Humanity," the man murmured. 

"I like my word better," she replied.

I couldn't hear his response, but it made her wild.

"I asked you never to mention her. Never speak her name in my presence," she shouted. "I beat her up, you know. Beat her ass in the CVS parking lot. Knocked her off her bike and kicked the shit out of her."

"How dare she tell people I set her husband on fire. I've never set anyone on fire in my life. Except myself."

The tide rolled in, accompanied by the giant sucking sound of water rushing in and out at the same time. 

I’ve been distraught since the election, filled with fear and rage toward racism and misogyny and Islamophobia. I’m still outraged but have to admit things looked ever-so-slightly different from this vantage point.

If this woman were my daughter or my sister or my mother and IF I believed Trump's wall would “seal our borders” to keep drugs out of our country, it’s possible I might have voted for him. It’s even remotely possible I would have chanted, "Build that wall," along with the crowd -- not as a way of throwing stones at people like the young father and his son, but out of desperation and misguided belief this "strong man" could save a woman I loved. 

But I do not believe Trump is strong, and I do not believe he will save anyone. Or that he even cares to try. 

Before leaving the beach, I filled a trash bag with bottle caps and empty beer bottles and chip sacks. On the way back up the sand ramp, I noticed someone had placed a bag of groceries on top of the rock that shelters the homeless man.

And so it goes.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A LIberal Geezer Emerges from a Funk.....

I'm a long veteran of mindful exploration, and when the hobby manages to stay this side of narcissistic navel-gazing, I've learned a thing or two about the workings of that oddity called the Mind of Mercurious.

One thing I'm aware of is that the old noggin has an interesting way of concocting its own stories. The stories it hatches sometimes ask to be called "truth," but close examination shows that pretty much every story contains a good measure of fictional story-telling. When in a buouyant, jubilant mood, deep looking reveals an inner story that is preposterously upbeat; and when in a melancholy mood, you'll often find an inner story with a rather dismal plot line.

There is no right or wrong to this, and I'd be the last to suggest that there is some kind of "power of positive thinking" dumb-ass self-help advice to be had here. It's just the way it is: the mind tells stories, and sometimes those stories are bright and happy, and sometimes they are dour and discouraging or frightening. Period.

Since Tuesday evening, I've been in as discouraged a mood as I can ever recall, a melancholy bordering on clinical depression. The catalyst, of course, is the election of the Orange Ogre. The depth of this melancholy has puzzled me a little, since incompetence in public officials is nothing new in the world, and in my lifetime I've rolled with Richard Nixon, agonized over Johnson, lamented over Carter, fumed over Reagan, laughed at W.

So why, I wondered, is Donald Trump's election hitting me so goddamn hard?

I've begun to see the reason in just the last day or so. The inner story I've been telling myself has a plot synopsis something like this:  "Fifty-nine million of my neighbors and coworkers and distant family members voted for the Orange Oaf because they like his racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, lying bullshit. My nation is full of bad human beings who don't give shit about anybody but themselves."

That's enough to depress anybody, I suppose, especially if you have believed that people are basically good. It's like waking up and discovering that your father was actually Hitler.

But in the last day or so, I've come to understand that while Trump is indeed a lousy waste of oxygen, quite a lot of his non-deplorable voters were acting on another inner story, the opening lines of which went something like this:  "Fuck Washington. My kids are drinking poisoned water, my faucets are blowing methane gas from frack explosions, and the goddamn bankers get richer while I'm working at Walmart for $7.00 an hour and can't afford health insurance."

The reality is that for a good chunk of America, Washington—both Democratic and Republican Washington—has betrayed them, again and again. They voted Trump because he was the one guy who didn't represent Washington, and they voted for him for the same reason Bernie Sanders gave Hillary a hard time, and for the same reason that Trump beat all those polished Republicans in the primaries. He was different. The others were all the same. And this time, anyway, being different was more important that being good or even decent. Hillary is a far better human being than Donald Trump, but she is life-long politician, and middle America knows where that story leads.

Pretty sure I'm right about this, because now that we're finally listening to those middle Americans, what we're hearing is that a whole bunch of Obama voters from 2012 voted for Trump this time; that a number of Bernie voters ended up casting their lot with Trump. In a race this close, that's the ballgame, folks. A Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would very likely have won Ohio, Pennyslvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—and then my inner story looks much different.

So I offer something of an apology to the young Democrats, among them my daughter and some offspring of other Geezers. We had it wrong. I'm not sure if Bernie Sanders was the guy, but it needed to be somebody outside the box. If I had it to do over again, I would have hoped for Elizabeth Warren, who is as feisty as Bernie Sanders without being mean, who REALLY would take it to the banks and Wall Street, and who is scary smart. If the young democrats are shrewd enough to chuck the old school once and for all and nominate a revolutionary next time,  Orange Otis will be out on the streets in four years.