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Monday, February 20, 2012

Mystery of the French Cuffs

As is my habit at the end of the year, I replenished the wardrobe last December. Shirts especially, and among the shirts, white shirts were most sought after. Enter Goodwill where shirts are $3.50 with a lot of life left in them. I don't know who it is that can pay $75 for a shirt only to discard it a year later, but I'm glad they can because that's where I get most of my shirts.

A week or so into January, I awoke wondering what I had been thinking. Why did I buy a white shirt with French cuffs? I don't own cuff links anymore, not like I did back in the day when I had all my daddy's gold cuff links.

I rarely wear white shirts when I'm traveling because of the likelihood that I'll wear my lunch also, and so it was only last week that I managed to wear enough white shirts to make it through the stack. Friday, I realized that no French cuffs had arisen.

WTF? Did I dream about the cuffs? Did I discard the shirt? I had no clear memory of the shirt's disposition. I wrote this off to being an old fart with vivid dreams. It'll probably get better in the coming years. Before long, I'll have complete memories of the space vacation I never took. Maybe I should start writing books about how the future will be, what with having dreamed it and all.

So, so, so...Today, I need a dark shirt, and I reach to the top of the dark stack. My rule is to wear the next shirt unless I have some compelling reason to start making fashion decisions, and that's a recipe for disaster in my case. The next shirt is blue. A dark blue. I pull it off the hanger, and lay it out for my post-shower dressing.

French cuffs. Here are the French cuffs. So much for the white shirt dream. Do you suppose wooden clothes pins will serve for cuff links on a cold Monday morning?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I blowed up real good


Way back in the day, I was able to get by with a little more around Lil and Josh than I can now. These days, they'll be quick to remind me of how old they are. They'll get over that one day. However, I do not expect to follow suit. Nope, no matter how much they complain. It's my job, you know.

One thing used to occur with some regularity. They would do something well in school, and they'd bring me the papers to show. I reviewed one paper at the time, letting them explain what they had done. This was a ruse to get them in my lap. Later when they had learned from experience, they maintained a safer distance as they explained things to me.

After they had told me about what they'd done, I would ask a question or two, sit silently for a moment, and then, what with being a proud papa, I couldn't restrain myself, and I'd blow up. Yes, blow up all over them. So proud that I exploded. Loud booms! And tickles. Always tickles. Later when they were more suspicious, I'd have to chase them across the house to blow up properly. Of course, some explosions were timed delayed with many stages, and just as they thought they were safe, the next stage would unleash.

Good times.

The opportunities to explode on them have long since fallen to the wayside. They're young adults, you know, and what makes proper comportment changes.

So I get this text message from Josh. “Pick up your phooooooonne.” I saw I'd missed a call from him, and he rarely calls, so I returned the call immediately, thinking he probably needs bail or something. He also has his squeeze visiting for the week, and he ought to be occupied with something better than calling me. I figured that whatever it was, it'd be good. Or alarming. Or both.

It turns out that he had been accepted into flight school with the Air Force. I made him repeat his message to be sure I had heard correctly. We had a congratulatory conversation, and then we hung up. I set at my desk reflecting on this turn of events. Flying is his first passion, and I thought he had about given it up when he didn't make the first cut. He was on the wait list instead, on that list for nearly a year, and here with graduation looming, he was set to do whatever his second choice was.

About 21 years of his life, my life, our lives, passed before my eyes.

With that, I stepped out to the back deck at work, alone fortunately, closed the door behind me, and called him back. When he answered, I asked him to put his phone on speaker. He did. He was not alone, and there, with workers from our neighboring buildings going about their outdoor work, I screamed a series of BOOM!s over the phone, probably six or nine, but I didn't count.

I suppose he was able to explain that moment to the people standing near him and his phone. I didn't bother to explain to the nearby workers. It all seemed self-evident, at least to me. It probably just gave our office park neighbors more to talk about.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What happened to the voice of the people?


I broke my rule and went to dinner the other night with a focus group. I usually avoid socializing with a group of people I've only known a few hours and in the context of our work and my facilitation. Besides, there's all sorts of stuff I need to catch up on, like email. And the telephone. I also need time to recharge my batteries, and doing more of what discharged them in the first place is not likely to help me much.

So sitting there at the table among the gentlemen with whom I've shared a productive day, the usual sorts of conversation ensue. Politics, especially politics. I quickly learned that I'm dining with a group of very conservative men, and given that I'm moderately addicted to my paycheck, okay, completely addicted, I remained, mostly, quiet, shared a tweet that Santorum had won three state caucuses, and left it at that. At some point, the fellow across the table mentioned that the federal court had overturned Prop 8 in California, leaving the matter to, probably, wind its way to the Supreme Court for resolution. The fellow next to me, and otherwise intelligent and generally well-educated man, chimed in with “What ever happened to the voice of the people?”

Having spent my first 50 years hiding in the closet, I'm generally disinclined to let such statements lie, but in this matter, a lot of people depend on me to do my job, and I diverted the conversation with an expression of my unusual distaste for green beans such as were piled high in the bowl before me. “God, I hate a green bean,” was my statement. Dinner was served, and I leaned into my plate, finished, had dessert, visited the host, and then walked back to the hotel. It seemed imprudent to extend my time in the presence of the on-going conversation, and I wondered if this is how they feel when they're a minority opinion at the table.

Yet, that question left me thinking: What about the voice of the people? On my walk back, as well as the rest of the evening, I processed this. If the voice of the people had held, my dissertation adviser would have been working the cotton fields, not guiding me through a PhD program. He is a black man. If the voice of the people had held, one of my favorite colleagues would not have been born. She is Amerasian. If the voice of the people had held, my family would not exist, what with the blending of indigenous American and European DNA that started over 500 years ago followed by the subsequent and systematic extermination of Indian people that continues to this day. I am not as white as I look.

It is fairly easy to cite a litany of examples where the voice of the people should not hold, and most of these instances arise from the expression of fear felt by a majority that the changes involved with granting civil rights to a minority will lead to the end of civilization. This is why we have a Constitution and a federal court system, at least in part, to prevent the on-going tyranny of frightened cowards and bullies, much of which we see exemplified in the hate-filled political discourse that consumes so much of our public attention this year.

To this end, I must thank my dining companions. They motivated me to see a matter more clearly. When the Supreme Court rules that laws such a Prop 8 deny equal protection under the law to a group of people, they shall have the opportunity to weep, wail, and gnash their teeth, much as many people did, and much as some still do, after the Supreme Court ruled on Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia and legalized interracial marriage in these United States. I just wonder if I'll live to see it.