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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Wednesday, August 31

Colin Kaepernick & Congressional Term Limits

Colin Kaepernick is a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, and there’s been all kinds of fuss recently about his choosing not to stand during the playing of our national anthem. He tells us he’s protesting the unfair treatment of African-Americans in the United States and will not honor that anthem until our nation and its leaders do something about it. He’s certainly not the first to protest against perceived wrongs. What’s the big deal? We have our Second Amendment right to free speech. Doesn’t that include freedom of expression? For the most part, protest of any kind in this country is allowed. Try to protest in many other countries in the world and you’ll get your head handed to you . . . literally. What he’s risking isn’t his life or deportation. He’s risking his football career and a bunch of money. But that’s his choice. Trump says let him try another country if he doesn’t like this one. Sounds just like Trump, doesn’t it? In any case, this is truly a tempest in a teapot. He still has the right to remain seated during the national anthem. And this tempest will soon be forgotten.

John McCain (R senator from Arizona) is running for his sixth term in the Senate. The man is 80. If he wins, he’ll be 86 at the end of this term. He’s been a member of the Senate for thirty years and he wants to make it thirty-six. He, like too many others in both Houses, is too old to effectively help run this country. Thus, there have been a number of attempts to pass a 28th amendment to the Constitution which would limit the terms of congress people. I think it’s time, way past time, to set term limits.

A petition signer from Minnesota said this, but I’m reasonably certain it’s been said by many other political pundits: “Politicians should be changed frequently as are dirty diapers, and for the same reason.”
One such suggestion for a 28th amendment states (and I agree wholeheartedly):

1. Term Limits in both Houses of Congress:
Senate: 2 (six year) Terms Maximum
House: 2 (four year) Terms Maximum
Note: Not able to run again once you have served you maximum limit in either House of Congress
2. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when he/she leaves office.
3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
4. Congress can purchase their retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raises.
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women; Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

Calvin would probably sign such a petition.








Books, anyone?

Tuesday, August 30

Those British Women & Mom

We went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre for a one-night special—Those British Women—and sat uncomfortably between two other couples at a table for six. I’d have sworn I reserved seats at a table for two. Not that I’m xenophobic, but if I had my druthers I’d prefer to eat only with my wife or friends. The other four had nearly finished their dinners when we arrived. So, there we were, sipping our usual dirty martinis before ordering, making very small talk with four strangers. One couple told us how they’d always drive back to Maine each summer to see Sally Struthers in a dinner theater there, implying that that dinner theater was vastly superior to this one. How in the world did these two old New Englanders wind up in Arizona instead of the East Coast haven for eastern retirees, Florida? We finished our dinners just before the house lights dimmed and the show began. Five young women dressed in skimpy UK flag skirts gave us a rousing opening number accompanied with an energetic trio of musicians at stage rear—a guitarist, a frenetic drummer, and a keyboardist. The musical selections began with several of Petula Clark’s oldies but goodies (“Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Darling” the one we all know best), followed by some Dusty Springfields (“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Son of a Preacher Man” the two most obvious), and four of Shirley Bassey’s best known (Oh, yeah, “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever” in tribute to Bond, James Bond). The young black lady doing Shirley was stunning in several floor-length gowns. And her voice was rather stunning also. All of the selections were done singly, doubly, or with all five together. After a twenty-minute intermission for desserts, another drink or two, and bill paying, we heard the second act of Spice Girls and Adele. It was an evening of songs remembered from our pasts and presents and we were both glad we went, despite having to sit with four strangers.

Television sit-coms come and go, some funnier than others, but the one currently on the air that just busts me up is Mom with Allyson Janney and Anna Faris. Who would have ever suspected that the presidential adviser in The West Wing could be so funny? And so tall? And who would have thought a show about alcoholism and drug addiction could be so comic? The whole cast is hilarious.

And speaking of funny people, goodbye to Gene Wilder, one of the funniest men ever.

Monday, August 29

Trump, Clinton, or Apathy?

This presidential election just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Both sides keep slinging mud and neither seems willing to talk about what he or she plans to do if elected. Trump and his cronies continue to shoot themselves in the foot with one crazy tweet or another, one crazy background detail after another. Clinton keeps dodging the e-mail flap and the Benghazi fiasco, keeps trying to evade the accusations of her lying. Just over two months to go before we can vote . . . or not vote. Both candidates are being painted with darker and darker hues. Like I said, crazier and crazier. And more and more painful at the thought of either of them in the Oval Office. What on earth are we going to do? What must the rest of the world think of us? These are the two best candidates for our presidency? We may finally get to see what Trump seems to be hiding in his unreleased tax information. We may get to hear what their plans are if they ever get around to any debates. Meanwhile, a lot of us may simply do like Calvin and not vote for either of them, choosing apathy over Trump or Clinton.
Books, anyone?

Wednesday, August 24

Lochte, Arpaio, & EpiPens

More details have come out about the vandalism in Rio that Ryan Lochte and his three swim buds caused. Apparently there wasn’t as much damage as first reported and that Lochte hadn’t done any more than pull down a poster. But why did they all feel it was necessary to exaggerate the other details? Like the gun held by one of the station security guards, by the amount of money that was taken from them, by their accounting of the time involved and their whereabouts before and after the incident. And why did the security guards exaggerate the details of the incident and say that their guns were only for defending themselves? Lots of gray areas here, and Ryan Lochte stands to lose millions in sponsor money over something that may not be as it first seemed. I wonder if his sponsors will rehire him. I hope so. His reputation has been damaged enough and he doesn’t also need to lose his very lucrative sponsor money.

In the Arizona political scene, we Arizonans now are wondering what we’re going to do about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For the past twenty-three years, he’s been the tough-guy Sheriff of Maricopa County with his “Tent City” jail, voluntary chain gangs, pink underwear for prisoners, and his views on illegal aliens. He was admired by people all over the country for his toughness. But he has also too often felt he was above the laws he was paid to enforce, accused of abuse of power, his failure to investigate cases of child abuse, and his racial profiling. And he’s cost the county millions ($142 million, to be exact) in law suits against him and the county. Now he’s being charged with three counts of contempt-of-court for his continued racial profiling despite a court order to stop. He's running for reelection, but I think it’s time Joe left office. He’s too old and too crooked. The man is 84 and may have a marble or two missing. One such marble is his continued belief that Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii and thus shouldn’t be our president. He and another loose cannon share that belief—Donald Trump.

I went to the drug store to pick up a prescription for my wife, Xarelto, 90 pills for $495.94. The young man at the counter sort of gasped when he saw the cost, and I just looked at him and shrugged, “Hey, what are you going to do?” I guess the word “exorbitant” might apply. This isn’t the first case we’ve run into where the charge for a prescription drug was gaspingly high. I remember when I needed a tube of cream for the psoriasis on my legs. I think I may have blotted the name of it from my memory. I do remember the cost, though, around $300 for a 60 gram tube. Then and now I have to wonder how pharmaceutical companies can justify such price gouging. Now we have the news that Mylan, the company that makes the EpiPen, an injection for children and adults who have an anaphylaxis allergic reaction, have raised their prices from $249 for a two-pack of shots to $615. Either price is exorbitant, but why raise it to an even higher exorbitance? I realize that we are already a nation of too many regulations, but can’t the FDA regulate the prices for pharmaceuticals? Let the companies justify their prices with the FDA.

Books, anyone?

Monday, August 22

Olympics Finale

I seem to be suffering from OW—Olympics Withdrawal. I’ve really loved this Rio version of the Games, but my eyes, my mind, and my butt were all ready for the finale last night. I and most of the rest of the world would probably agree that these Games exceeded our expectations. Thank you, Rio, for giving us the breathtaking views of your city, your beaches, your Sugarloaf and your Christ the Redeemer. And thank you especially for the athletic venues you built and the drama those venues provided. The only shadow on these Games was the Lochte fiasco, which showed the world another version of the Ugly American, the arrogant American who thumbs his nose at authority. Some of what the Games gave us in displays of sportsmanship among competitors was negated by Lochte’s juvenile destruction of the restroom facilities and then his lies about what really happened and his half-hearted apology for that behavior. Why couldn’t he just man-up and offer a real apology to Rio and Brazil for what he’d done? But despite the Lochte debacle, we had many moments to remember and cherish—Usain Bolt’s dazzling speed and equally dazzling smile, Simone Bile’s gymnastic excellence and interview elegance and charm, Michael Phelps' incredible return to his fourth Games, Gwen Jorgensen’s triathlon win, Ashton Eaton’s decathlon win, and, of course, the men’s and women’s medal winners in golf after more than a hundred years’ absence. Golf is a game ready made for the Olympics, with gracious and honest competitors who, to a man and woman, were so very grateful to be part of the Olympic dream. And what drama both divisions gave us on a course that was perfect for both the men’s and women’s games and allowed for that drama. How we loved seeing Justin Rose celebrating his win for Great Britain. How we loved finally getting to see an Inbee Park smile when she made that final putt and later accepted the gold for the Republic of South Korea. I’m sure those golfers who chose not to take part in these Games now regret their choice and will be more than willing to go to Tokyo in 2020. I have a question about the American women’s choice of garb for their rounds. Why did they all choose to wear those sleeveless tops for round one? Stacy Lewis’s shoulders looked like they’d never seen the light of day. And then Lexi Thompson and Gerina Piller took it a step further the next day with exposed shoulders. Sorry, ladies, but those weren’t very attractive outfits.

The finale in the stadium was spectacular. Even the light rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants. What a show! What a wonderful tribute to the people of Brazil, and the coming together of people from all over the globe to celebrate our shared humanity. And, thank the heavens, no acts of terrorism.

Books, anyone?

Sunday, August 21

Florence Foster Jenkins

She’s done it again. Meryl Streep. Done it again. Another dramatically different role to go with all the other dramatically different roles she’s played in just under fifty years of acting. And she will probably win another nomination for best actress with this heart-breakingly hilarious role as “the world’s worst singer.” This time she’s Florence Foster Jenkins, a patron of the arts in New York City just before the end of WWII. Florence dreamed of being an opera singer and had enough money to make it happen with a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. She had performed on other occasions but only for small, carefully selected audiences. Her husband St. Clair (Hugh Grant) indulged her singing ambition by bribing her voice coach to praise her voice. He bribed Arturo Toscanini to praise her voice. He hired an accompanist, Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) to overlook her painful shrieks and flats when she practiced. Her performances were so bad they were laugh-out-loud hilarious, and Florence mistook that the applause was for her vocal beauty and not her comic awfulness. Florence and her husband had a platonic relationship because at eighteen, on her honeymoon, Florence had contracted syphilis from her first husband, and would not jeopardize the health of her second husband, St. Clair. And he was devoted to her so much that he overlooked her terrible voice and paid others to do the same. The accompanist, Cosme McMoom, could only roll his eyes at the sounds she emitted. We know Simon Helberg from his role as Arnold on The Big Bang Theory, but here he was, playing the soft-spoken pianist who came to share St. Clair’s fidelity to this would-be singer. It’s interesting to note that Helberg was the one playing the piano in all the scenes, just as Streep did all the singing. I can only guess how difficult it would be for a singer as good as Streep to sing as horribly as she did in this role. But just as she’s done with other roles, she did her homework and must have practiced for a long time to sing so off-key. This latest role as Florence Foster Jenkins can now be added to her many other diverse roles during her career; the harpy, cigarette-devouring matriarch in August: Osage County; the truly noxious nun in Pride; the Polish immigrant in Sophie’s Choice (for which she won the first of her Oscars for best actress in 1982); the iron lady Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (for which she won her second Oscar for best actress in 2011); the delightfully wicked witch in Into the Woods. The list could go on and on with romantic leads in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Bridges of Madison County, The Deer Hunter, and Out of Africa. Will Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg be nominated for their roles in this movie? Possibly. Will Meryl Streep be nominated for her role in this movie? Probably.

Books, anyone?

Tuesday, August 16

More Olympic Observations

More Olympic observations. What else is there to write about? Oh, yeah, there’s always Donald Trump, but most of my readers are probably sick of all I’ve already said about him.

I just watched an interview of Lydia Ko, fielding questions about her Olympic impressions, about the Rio course she’ll be playing on Wednesday, about her chances of winning gold. We tend to forget how young she is, only 19. But all through the interview she was charming, well-spoken, unpretentious, and funny. She just shouldn’t be all those things at only 19. I’ll be rooting for Lexi Thompson, but I’ll also root for this charming girl from New Zealand.

I and most of the world watched Usaine Bolt easily win his third 100-meter dash in a row. For the first 50 meters almost everyone was even with him, but then the lightning struck in the final 50. No one can stay with him after fifty. He looks like he’ll probably be a lock in the 200-meter for his third in a row. The obvious questions: Will he return is 2020 to try for four in a row? Well he still be a dominant force four years from now? I hope I’m still around to find out.

I love the Games, especially the summer Games. I watch the winter Games but only as a stopping off place to get to the more interesting Summers. I have many vivid memories from Games past. You might think from what I’m about to say that I’m as old as Methuselah, that I was probably around when Jim Thorpe was the greatest athlete of the century in 1912, or that I was witness to Jesse Owens’ impression on Adolph Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Games. No, I’m not quite that old. But I do remember when track and field events were measured in miles, yards, and feet instead of meters, when runners were trying to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile run, when 9.6 was the record for the 100-yard dash. I remember when high jumpers were still using scissors and Western roll techniques until Dick Fosbury came along in 1968 and showed the world his Fosbury Flop. I remember Bob Beamon’s incredible long-jump of 29 feet 2.5 inches in the Mexico City Games in 1968, and the two Black sprinters (Tommy Smith and John Carlos) who showed the world their “Human Rights” salute as they accepted gold and bronze in the 200-meters, black-gloved hands raised, heads bowed, as the National Anthem was played. I was around to see the transition from bamboo to metal to fiberglass poles in the pole vault. I was there to see the Reverend Bob Richards win in 1952. I remember when Carl Lewis was the Usaine Bolt of sprinting and long-jumping, and what a charming and handsome man he was. I cheered for Al Oerter’s four-in-a-row gold in the discus from 1956 to 1968. I winced with the pain and heartbreak of Jim Ryun’s fall in the prelims of the 1972 1500-meters. I shared the pain when Greg Louganus hit his head on the springboard in 1988. I fell in love with Olga Korbut in 1972 when she wowed the world in gymnastics. I cheered for Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10’s in the 1976 gymnastics. I fumed at our local CBS station that just couldn’t wait to inform us of the one-legged vault by Tucson native Kerri Strug that assured the gold for the first time ever for American women. Talk about spoiler alerts and our need for one in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I can still see her in the arms of coach Bela Karolyi.

I remember golden American decathletes, Bob Mathias in 1948 and Bruce Jenner in 1976. And now she’s Caitlyn Jenner. Just think how far we’ve come in the last fifty or sixty years. And now we’ve finally got golf back as an Olympic event. Justin Rose’s win will be filed away in my book of favorite Olympic memories.

Friday, August 12

Olympic Observations

All those complaints about a too-white Academy Awards this year. “We need to be more inclusive,” the complainers complained. “Why are there no Black (or, for that matter, yellow, brown, or red) nominees?” I’m watching the U.S. men’s basketball team in Rio and I don’t see a single white (or, for that matter, yellow, brown, or red) player. I’d have thought there might be at least one white guy good enough to be included. Kevin Love, comes to mind, but I just read that he said no because of injury. Okay, then how about someone else, even though he may not be as good as other qualifiers? Oh, you say that wouldn’t be fair to all those who ARE good enough to qualify. Isn’t that parallel to the Academy Awards? Why should a Black actor be nominated just because he/she is black? Shouldn’t it be based on quality of performance instead of race?

Things I’ve noticed in these Games. Nearly all competitors (with Simone Biles the most obvious exception) are taller than in Games past. Just look at the volleyballers, especially the women, or the basketballers, especially the women. Nearly all competitors have beautiful, white teeth. Just imagine how dentists all over the world have gotten wealthy. Nearly all competitors are extremely attractive. I guess the increased size, strength, and attractiveness is the result of better nutrition in most of the world. And nearly all competitors have been exhibiting wonderful sportsmanship. Almost no evidence of any animosity between any Olympians, with the possible exception of those who think that all the Russian teams should have been excluded for their doping infractions. Now if we could only find a food that would turn hate into love, a loaf of special bread that could turn the followers if ISIS into followers of NICES.

Wednesday, August 10

Star Trek Beyond & the Verrückt

Rosalie hated it but maybe not quite as much as she hated The Lobster. And for the most part, I agree with her. I’m talking about Star Trek Beyond. I’m an old science fiction fan and the tv Star Trek was a wonderful series, as were the first two movies. But this one, not so much. The technology involved in the Enterprise and the starbase colony was impressive, but then we have all the slam-bang hand-to-hand fighting between the good guys (the Enterprise crew) and the bad guys (Krall seems to be the only bad guy around but he’s bad enough), and it took on the too familiar look of all the action films out now, revered by the younger set, not so much by the older. Judo kicks and punches and spins and loud sounds of flesh striking flesh (Well, who knows what one might call what Krall and some of the other aliens are wearing on the outside?). One of the movie’s best features was Jaylah, a female alien who was cast out by Krall and who then built a home in the wreckage of the Franklin, a starship that was lost years and years ago when it did a nose-five onto the planet where Jaylah and Krall reside. Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) sported a snow-white face highlighted by three black streaks that made her head look like a piece of vanilla nougat. But, man, could she kick ass. It was comically funny but just a tad too silly for my taste. And way too silly for Rosalie’s taste. She may never again let me suggest which movie we should see.

A quick comment on the idiot parents who allowed (maybe even encouraged?) their ten-year-old son to ride on that awful water slide in Kansas (the Verrückt—“insane” in German). Just how important was that thrill to the parents or the boy? Ah well, as they said after the accident, he’s now in the arms of Christ. Idiots.

Tuesday, August 9

Rio, Day 4

How’s that for a joyous jump? Kelley O’Hara, member of the U.S. women’s soccer team, looks like she could probably slam dunk one in the NBA. Her leap epitomizes what the Olympic Games are all about, the joy of competing, the joy of winning, the joy of simply being there. I said it four years ago and now I’ll have to say it again: the spirit of the Games would be better served by paying more attention to individual and team successes than on national medal counts. The U.S. teams are great, but we don’t need to rub the rest of the world’s noses in it by making such a big deal of the accumulated golds, silvers, and bronzes.

The first two days of competition gave us some exciting moments—the men’s cycling involving a four-man sprint to the finish, all three medals decided in the last 100 meters; almost an identical conclusion to the women’s cycling, with American Mara Abbott being passed by three cyclists in the last 100 meters. The cycling also gave us a few horrific spills on the downhill sections, especially that of Annemiek Van Vleuten’s fall to the unforgiving pavement after leading the field by a wide margin with less than nine kilometers to go. But despite the exciting finishes and dangerous spills, most of the race coverage was too repetitive, too many views of men’s and women’s pumping legs, too much of those disconcerting cars and motorcycles zooming in and around the bikers. Wouldn’t their omnipresence bother the hell out of the competitors? I can only imagine how wooden their legs must be after that many hours on a bike, how painfully sore their butts must be.

The rest of the coverage, especially during the day, is pretty much confined to preliminaries, sorting out the haves from the have-nots, with finals one or two nights later. Two nights ago we saw Michael Phelps win his 19th gold when he and three teammates won the 400 freestyle relay. And Katie Ledecki won the 400 freestyle in world record time. The U.S. men’s volleyball team got swept by Canada. U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams have had really lopsided wins in their early games. My problem, and probably the problem for most viewers, is that there are so many sports that are almost totally unfamiliar to me, or at least on professional levels—rugby, field hockey, archery, men’s and women’s water polo, table tennis, equestrian, synchronized diving, synchronized swimming, fencing, kayaking and canoeing, and a few other I can’t think of. Unless you or someone you know is involved in such sports, you don’t pay much attention to them unless you’re a rabid, junky sports fan. Most of the viewers (at least in the U.S.) are more interested in the swimming, gymnastics, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, tennis, and of course, golf, back in the Games after over a hundred years (last in 1904). The rest sort of flash by every four years only to fade out of sight in the interim.

By and large, Rio has done itself proud with these Games. But I’m still aware of the poverty and filth just west of the lovely beaches and high-rises. They represent the national dichotomy in Brazil—the haves and the have-nots—and after these Games are over and the visitors have gone home to their cleaner, more prosperous nations, Rio will have to confront its economic and political problems.

Saturday, August 6

Talk Talk Talkers & Rio Games

Zits says it again—lots of headings, too few details.
We went out for breakfast this morning and had the misfortune of sitting near a table of four people, one of whom talked incessantly to the other three, not even slowing down when his food was delivered. I couldn’t figure it out. How could he be eating without missing a word-beat? I could hear him telling, or more likely retelling, various dramatic episodes in his life, the words pouring out of him like water in a rushing, mountain stream. I’m always amazed by people who don’t seem to know how they’re dominating conversation. Don’t they ever listen to themselves? Haven’t they ever been told to shut their traps and let someone else speak? Maybe they have but they just don’t care. My oldest brother was like that. I think he may have inherited this gift-of-gab from our father. I wasn’t as close to my father as my brother was, I being so much younger than he, so I’m only guessing that our father was also a talker. All the writing I do might be considered by some as just a silent verbosity. But no one has to read what I say, whereas a talker holds his listener with a verbal straightjacket. I imagine him backing his listener into a corner and then leaning on his arms, one on each wall with the poor prisoner locked there by arms and words. We’re living in an age of too many talkers and too few listeners. In politics, Donald Trump best exemplifies this, a man who talks and talks and says almost nothing. In the coming debates with Hillary, by the rules of the debate, he’ll have to let her speak even though he won’t be listening, too busy organizing the empty words he’ll use in rebuttal.

The opening ceremonies of the Rio Olympics was technologically impressive and visually gorgeous, getting the Games started without a hitch of terror or protest. Now we can only hope the rest of the Games does the same. During the parade of teams into the stadium, I was struck by the number of attractive contestants—handsome men, beautiful women. And all were smiling. It’s hard to believe there are terrorists who would like to kill them, to kill these happy, handsome people. Every four years we hope that the shared competition of people from all over the globe will put an end to national animosity. Maybe this time will do it.

Friday, August 5

Memories

We woke up to hard rains this morning, and our skies are nicely overcast. Humidity up, temperature down. That’s a nice combination. And it’s our anniversary. That’s a really nice combination. I have vivid memories from our past together, like the Bergman’s “misty watercolor memories, of the way we were.”

I remember our marriage fifty-six years ago, Rosalie in a form-fitting navy blue dress, I in my really ugly double-breasted brown suit. It was a speedy ceremony from morning through afternoon—quick elopement drive to Pierre a hundred miles south of Mobridge, hurried blood tests, marriage license, meeting with brother Dick and wife Doris, who were acting as our witnesses, and then the vows. One might think we were in such a hurry because Rosalie was pregnant, but that wasn’t so. It was an impromptu idea to marry before the next school year began, to get our teaching plans in order. One would think that my most vivid memory of that day or night would be our post-nuptial coupling, but the most vivid memory of that evening was my crossing the street from our motel to get burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes from a fast-food place. I don’t remember what it was called, but it certainly wasn’t a MacDonald’s or Burger King, franchises that hadn’t yet come on the fast-food scene. Sorry, Rosalie. I’m sure the love-making must have been great, but it’s that food and food joint I remember best.

Memory is a fickle beast. So far, knock on wood, neither Rosalie nor I have had any signs of fading memories. I think one of the saddest ways to die is to have your memory, your actual being, lost to dementia and Alzheimer’s. We’ve seen what it does to relatives and friends and we want no part of it. Why do we remember some things so colorfully vivid? Why are whole segments either gray or black or simply white voids? As I said in my intro to Doggy-Dog World, I may not remember events as they actually happened. I may see some things more favorably than they actually were, may even forget whole segments either because they weren’t important enough to remember or because they were too grim or hateful to remember. Or too unflattering. Kara, in Jeffrey Deaver’s novel The Vanished Man, explains to Lincoln Rhyme why she believes that life is just an illusion: “Well, everything in the past is memory, right? . . . And everything in the future is imagination. Those’re both illusions—memories are unreliable and we just speculate about the future. The only thing that’s completely real is this one instant of the present—and that’s constantly changing from imagination to a memory. So, see? Most of our life’s illusory.”

I keep trying to persuade Rosalie to write her own memoirs, something for our kids and their kids to read and see who we were. But she just never gets around to it. I tell her to get some file cards and on each one to write down one of her most vivid memories, and then to expand on that one moment in time, to try to figure out why it’s implanted so vividly. Then she should organize them in chronological order, and—voila!—there’s the outline for an autobiography.

Now, here we are, several lifetimes down the road. We’ve had a few hard times, some flat tires and detours around highway construction, but most of our times were good, with smooth highways and breezes at our backs. And tomorrow night we’re taking daughter Jeri with us to the Vogue Bistro, a very fancy French/American restaurant nearby, for a celebratory dinner. And because it involves elegant food, that will probably give me a memory that will stick in my head forever.

Thursday, August 4

Obama Birthday & Arizona Monsoons

Tomorrow is our 56th anniversary. And I noticed in the paper that today is Barack Obama’s 55th birthday. So, our president was born exactly 364 days after Rosalie and I got married. I guess that will make it easy to remember his birthday. Maybe I should send him a card. Nah, too late this year, but maybe next year when he’s finally gotten the Oval Office off his back. Fifty-five years old and just look at what the last eight years have done to his hair. I don’t know what his plans for the future are, but I’m sure it will be something involving charity, and he’ll have a lot of years to devote to it. In ten years, he may even get a less biased assessment of his presidency, and it won’t be anything like what the GOP is now trying to say about it. I’m convinced that history will one day place him in the top ten, maybe even the top five. We’ll see.

Arizona is still in the middle of its annual monsoon season. For those non-Arizonans who might be reading this, the monsoon season usually begins in early or mid-July and usually lasts until early or mid-September. It’s a time when the temps can be anything from 90 to 115, but the humidity is way higher than it is in non-monsoon months, from 40% to something in the 60% range. And for us who have become acclimated to really low humidity, the monsoon season can be drippy hot. It’s also marked by cloudy skies and thunder storms, even one or two haboobs. Haboobs are those really ominous dust storms that look like mile-high brown walls rumbling across the Valley,
bringing automobiles and planes to a halt, depositing tons of Arizona desert sand in pools and roads and yards. Back to the cloudy skies: huge billowing clouds build up, looking like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else. Often they’re white, but often they’re also dangerously black, with rain cells taking turns zipping across the Valley and into the mountains to the north, with lightning strikes setting our northern forests ablaze. The monsoon season is our Arizona equivalent of the winter months up north when one fights the white stuff and the frigid air. Here, at least, the only thing one has to shovel is a bit of the haboob sand in the driveway. Sometime in September, we’ll notice a rapid drop in the humidity along with the drop back into temperatures in the eighties and nineties, and we’ll all heave a sigh of relief. Ah, back into the good stuff.

Wednesday, August 3

Sports Feast 2016

For ardent sports fans, those of us addicted to boob-tube events, these next three or four months are loaded with sports—almost three weeks of Rio Olympics (where Olympians must keep their heads above water at all costs), Ryder Cup golf and FedEx Cup golf, baseball playoffs and World Series, NFL preseason and regular season games, and U.S. Open Tennis.

I love NFL football and am anxiously waiting to see if the Arizona Cardinals can live up to all the preseason hype. Will this be the year they finally win a Super Bowl? Can they stay healthy for the whole season? I love baseball, but this year I don’t have the Diamondbacks to root into the postseason (Man! Do the D-Backs ever stink.) I love tennis on the tube and would dearly love to see Serena win the Open this year. And I love golf over everything else. The Ryder Cup is a week of head games and international rivalry; The FedEx tournaments are a rich buildup to that very rich prize at the end; and the golf in this year’s Olympics should be a new way to watch golf team play. And all the other events in Rio.

These games in Brazil will be interesting to see not only for the events but also for the health issues (bad-ass mosquitoes and really foul water). I love the swimming events and I, along with millions of other fans, can’t wait to see if Michael Phelps can add to his medal totals. Hopefully, the water in the pools will be safe enough to swallow a bit. Will Simone Biles win gold in the women’s gymnastics? Which country will win the men’s and women’s golf titles? As if I wasn’t already confused about present-day sexuality, now I see that Caster Semenya, a female sprinter from South Africa, is in the spotlight for possibly being an intersex, that is, a hyperandrogenous hermaphrodite (Whew! That’s an alliterative tongue-twister.) It seems that an intersex female produces testosterone like a man, giving her masculine speed, endurance, and strength. What will the Olympic Committee do? Ban her? Put her in a separate category all by herself? We’ve come to a time when women can often compete with men in many sports: baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, even football. We’ve been watching American Ninja Warrior in which women compete with men on the same courses. No special easing up on the obstacles to accommodate their supposed feminine weakness. In basketball, couldn’t Diana Taurasi play on an NBA team? In tennis, couldn’t Serena Williams hold her own against most males? In golf, couldn’t Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko make a living playing on the PGA? In soccer, couldn’t professional female soccer players be effective on a men’s soccer team? In baseball, Sarah Hudek pitches out of the bullpen for Bossier Parish Community College; Melissa Mayeux, a 16-year old French shortstop has been added to MLB’s international registration list of those who can be drafted by MLB teams. In football, Patricia Palinkas in 1970 was the holder on a field goal attempt with the Orlando Panthers; Shelby Osbourne plays cornerback for Campbellsville University; Julie Harshbarger made a field goal while playing in an indoor football league game; and Jen Welter is a running back in the Indoor Football League. These are no shrinking violets or weak pansies. These are women competing with men in male-dominated sports, and competing quite well. I say, forget this gender business and just go after it—men, women, gays, transgenders, intersexes, whatevers. May the best man or woman win.

Tuesday, August 2

Captain Fantastic

I’m not sure I cared for the title of a film we saw yesterday—Captain Fantastic. I’m certainly not sure why the director or producers chose that title. Viggo Mortenson plays a very special father to his six children, but I don’t think he merits being called “fantastic.” The opening shows us an overhead view of a vast forest. Then we’re brought down to see an antlered deer foraging in the trees. As the deer passes by deep foliage, a black-faced human leaps out to wrestle him and slit his throat. The rest of the black-faced tribe rushes to the spot, with the leader congratulating him and proclaiming him to be a man. He cuts out the deer’s liver and gives it to the boy to take a ritualistic bite. That’s pretty much identical to the rite of passage among many primitive tribes. The group then goes to a pond to wash away the mud and we see them for what they are: a man and six children living in an isolated place somewhere in the Northwest. We are then shown the rigorous schedule the father has them on, the intense physical training, the lessons they have on literature, history, philosophy, and language. The children have been taught to speak seven languages (even Esperanto), are able to define and discuss subjects as diverse as the Bill of Rights, sexual intercourse, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and their favorite hero from the past, Noam Chomsky. Twice we hear them creating extemporaneous music together (and sounding remarkably good).
They’ve been taught that words are only words and not things to be ashamed of (so we hear a lot of F-bombs), that nakedness is a natural condition (as Ben explains to an old couple as he stands in full frontal nudity in the door of his bus), that formal religion is a haven for the weak and unenlightened (as Ben points out to the Catholic congregation at the funeral), that most of American society is a prisoner of fast food (as the children point out wondering why there are so many obese people) and material wealth (the huge, ostentatious house of Jack, the father-in-law), that The Man is leading society in dangerous directions. The children are happy to shout, “Power to the People!” and “Stick it to the Man!” because their father has taught them to honor individualism. He and his wife began this social experiment a number of years before, but we learn that she’s been hospitalized in a nearby city, suffering from extreme bipolar disorder. Then he hears that she’s killed herself, and the family wants to go to her funeral to say goodbye and see that her wishes for cremation are honored. But the father-in-law (Frank Langella), a very wealthy member of the Establishment, warns him that if he shows up he’ll have him arrested for child endangerment. And there you have the basic conflict. This family of outsiders doing battle with a society they don’t understand or want to join. The children are amazingly bright, but all their smarts are from books and their father’s words. And they are almost completely ignorant of any social behavior. The children are delightful as they debate on esoteric subjects with one another or with their father. The oldest, Bodevan, explains to a girl he meets on their trip to the funeral that all his brothers and sisters were given names to indicate their uniqueness—Keilyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja, and Nai. After they kiss (he for the very first time in his life), he is so enraptured that he proposes to her (on bended knee no less) only to have her and her mother laugh at him. The movie is both funny in many ways, and deadly serious in others. I strongly recommend it, for the delightful six children and for the excellent portrayal of Ben Cash by Viggo Moretnsen, maybe not Captain Fantastic, but Captain Pretty-Damn-Good. There’s probably an Oscar nomination in it for him in 2017.

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