Monday, February 20, 2017

Never Enough Sleep

I'm going to keep this short this morning, as I have a ton of stuff I have to do today. But I'm finding something out as I get older that I literally never knew was true: no matter how used to it you get, your body simply does not like to get up at 5 AM, regardless if you've had two hours of sleep or ten. Since shifting back to day hours, I've been going to bed at a reasonable hour--around ten most nights, sometimes as early as nine o'clock. My alarm is set for 5 AM on days I work, because I like to have several cups of coffee, write this blog, and eat in leisure before showering and going to work (it also leaves time, in this season, to shovel out if need be).
I've been working four weeks in this position now, and I don't care when I've gone to bed the night before, when I wake up at 5, my body is stiff and I yawn for two hours while I sit here. The stiffness is partially because I am actually exercising some every day, whether it be walking the dog, shoveling, or work-related (and sometimes all three). But this never feeling like I am fully rested is getting old. I'm trying to remember if I felt like this before I started working nights, but I wasn't working for five months before then, so that's not really relevant. For much of the last few years I worked for Berkshire, I got up even earlier, by 4:45, because I liked to be at the office earlier than I get to work now.
I have a feeling that this, too, will change after tomorrow. Lauren has gotten used to going to bed and getting up earlier than she was last summer, and her medications have stabilized her sleeping patterns. But I know she isn't going rising at 5 AM regularly, either. I might wake up to let the dog out, but I have a feeling I'm going to have tweak this routine some. And if I feel less tired, even with less sleep, it might be beneficial.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

That Used To Baffle Me

I was presented with a few situations yesterday that showed, during and after the fact, both how much I have changed in the past year or two, and also how much work there is left to do. Yesterday was the ten-minute phone call" weekend for the institution where my significant other is. She's been calling between 9:20 and 9:50 every time she's called. Yesterday was the final phone call, and I obviously wanted to discuss where and when we are going to meet when she comes home in the coming week. But 10 AM came and went without the phone ringing. In the past, I would have lost my focus, been worried out of my mind, constructing all sorts of scenarios in my head about why she wasn't calling.
But yesterday, I didn't do that. I went about my morning, walked the dog for an hour, came back home, secure in the knowledge that whatever the reason was, it was not because she suddenly lost interest in me or had decided to call someone else, and it was not because she had gotten into trouble and had been denied phone privileges. The weight of the evidence of months and years of commitment, and of knowing her well enough to know that she simply does not get into trouble on that level in any place she's ever been in, kicked in or stayed in the forefront. I wasn't happy that the phone wasn't ringing, but I was able to be rational, calm, and accepting about it. i didn't go to pieces emotionally. And that is such a huge change for me.
Obviously, I have not spent eighteen-plus years after getting clean going nuts every time there are unexpected developments in every area of my life. I haven't even lost my shit when stuff like this happens in every relationship I've been in. But I am emotionally invested in this one like I have been in no others previously, and my past history has been when I am deeply invested emotionally in someone, the worry/fear/insecurity complex that has always haunted my psyche for as long as I can remember surfaces. I am not totally unmanageable, but I am deeply affected, and I become a mess inside and sometimes on the outside, as well.
And that didn't happen yesterday. I knew that there was a reason why, that I would find out eventually, that there was no real reason to doubt her and that life as I hope it is going to be was not coming down with a crash. And I realized, sometime after 10 AM, how freeing it really was, that I was not tore up and stressing and caught up in my head. And I felt immense gratitude for much--for a faith in God that allowed me to take solace in the knowledge that I was going to be fine no matter happened; for enough faith in Lauren that I knew that was some sort of glitch beyond her control; and for the program of recovery that I have worked well enough to be able to find some freedom from the fear and self-absorption that is the root cause of the disease of addiction.
And sure enough, a couple of minutes after noon, the phone rang. It was an odd number, ostensibly from Utah, but I answered it and it was her. The phone system at the institution had gone down in the morning, and no one had been able to call out for hours. It still wasn't totally right, but the outfit that handles the calling had made some kind of switching in the routing--hence the weird phone number that was showing up on the caller ID--and she was calling. And after the ten minutes were up, and arrangements were confirmed for this coming week, and the expressions of affection were exchanged and the call ended--I felt not only relief, but a lot of pleasure, too.
Because faith is a great thing, but it's even greater when the faith you exhibit is justified.
I decided to attend an AA meeting last night rather than go to the NA event that was happening, for a couple of reasons. One is that I liked last week's AA meeting and wanted to give it another chance; another is that I knew I had to work this morning and I wanted to go to bed early; and a third is that I'm so tired of speaker jam/dances/karaoke events. I don't miss bars/clubs, and can't stand venues where you have to shout to have a conversation, and at least one of the people that are in charge of finding speakers on the current subcommittee that puts on these events is someone whose recovery I'm not a fan of and whose choices of people to speak in the past I have, in my humble opinion, have given a message of recovery that doesn't resonate with me. And I'm glad I went to the AA meeting; the topic was one of the few lines of AA literature I know, "intuitively handling situations that used to baffle us." Time and again over the years I've been clean, I've found that one of the ways I know that I've made the right decision, when presented with options, is when I go to a meeting and the topic is something that is directly applicable to what I am going through that day. That happened yesterday, and I left the meeting feeling refreshed, happy, and ready to go home and chill for a bit before going to sleep.
There was a minor complication; before the meeting ended, my daughter had texted me saying she was going to the gym. I didn't think a whole lot about it, and didn't really think any more about it until I was in bed and realized that it was going for ten o'clock and she wasn't back. I texted, then called--no answer, unusual for her. I called about five more times in the next half-hour--still no answer. And I got concerned, not only for possible safety concerns, but also because she is now on a restricted license and really shouldn't be out after 9 o'clock, anyway, except for work or sports purposes...The gym she belongs to is just across the river, and I thought that maybe she was so engrossed in a workout that she hadn't looked at her phone. I weighed the options and decided to drive over there, because at this point, I was growing very irritated that her recent issues with her license seem to have made very little impression on her, and have resulted in few changes in her behavior--and, truth be told, no change in all in her usually-lousy, since The Fuckboy entered her life, general attitude. Gratitude and perspective don't come easily to many 18YO's, and certainly do not to this one.
I drove to the gym--and did not see her car in the lot. Growing agitated now, I went inside--and discovered that the clerk there is an old, old friend of mine, that confirmed that my daughter had never set foot in there since she started working, at 2 PM.
I started to get agitated. Part of me was angry as hell because I believed I had been lied to--but there was also a part of me that was freaking out, because even when she has been deceptive about her whereabouts in the past, she usually will answer texts and phone calls, even if she lies in the answer about where she is. I started to fear the worst, and the entire drive home, I continued to call, going to voice mail every time, and debated calling the police and making a report, because of the lack of response being so out of character. As I walked in the house, she finally texted a response, and I called her and blew a gasket. She was on her way home, and when she got here, I started to lay into her about not being where she was supposed to be, etc. Which garnered a negative response, as you might deduce.
And in the middle of it, I shut it down. I realized that I was too emotional to make rational decisions, and told her I would sleep on the matter and figure out a response today. I also told her that my freakout was not based in anger, but in fear--which it was. I didn't get horribly upset until I found out she had never gone to the gym, and while I figured it was Fuckboy-related (which it turned out to be) there was a possibility that something bad had happened. And I left it at that.
And as I was writing this, MOTY called me with her own concerns, about an interaction our daughter had with her this week. There will be a discussion later, and perhaps more serious action taken. But the point I am making is that I knew last night that I was too emotionally raw to make a good decision, and deferred it to a later time, once the safety issue had been laid to rest.
And that's something that would not have happened even a few months ago. It's a sign of growth and acceptance in me. I'm not happy that I blew a gasket, but I am happy that 1) I didn't continue to justify it, and 2) I shut it down before I boxed myself into a corner because of it. The situation still has a chance of being resolved constructively. And if nothing else, I can work a full day today without my guts churning wondering what the hell is happening at my own home. And yes, that's progress.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Finding Serenity

There's a fine line between "comfortable in your own company" and "isolation." I'm fairly confident that my deciding that I've preferred to spend the last few Friday nights in the recliner at home falls into the former category. Partly, I've also been doing it in preparation for Lauren coming home; Friday is the one night I never have to go to work the next day, and whatever social life we're going to have is probably going to take place on Friday nights.
But part of it is that I've settled into a very comfortable routine with my recovery commitments, too. I go to two meetings every week, and I almost always make a third--either the new Tuesday or the Wednesday night, although work commitments have made me choose Tuesday for the last three weeks. I went to an AA meeting on Saturday night last week and liked it, so I will probably be back this week. And I don't really feel the need for any more. The routine that I have established, most of the people that matter to me are people that I see at least once a week; more importantly, the people that urinate all over my serenity are absent from those meetings. Sometimes it really is a matter of addition by subtraction.
I'm perfectly happy being out of the loop of the drama--well, of the established members, at any rate; I hear and see plenty of what's going with the large group associated with the halfway house. But with weeks and months clean, that's to be expected, from that demographic, and it's actually kind of gratifying to see them work their way through the inevitable morass of early recovery. My level of service is at a level I am comfortable with, too; I am chairing the Monday night meeting this month, I am an active part of the Thursday group, I am being sponsored, I am sponsoring again. Right now, it's all good.
I'm aware that life as I know it is going to change quite a bit on Tuesday. I'm as ready as I am going to be for it. There are several significant differences between this time and the previous times she has come home, but none bigger than my attitude toward the relationship. I've lowered my expectations to a reasonable level, and I know as I never have before that I am going to live my life as I have been living it. My fondest hope is that she shares it and comes to enjoy living in this fashion as well. I'm not totally sure that's going to happen, but I do know that two essential ingredients of that possibility coming to pass are present this time that have not been before: 1) she is completely convinced that the old ways do not work for her, and so much of this journey is about accepting that massive changes are necessary, and 2) her environment is going to be the healthiest it has ever been. I'm not perfect, but I am not going to use, I do not engage in questionable ethical practices, and I am not going to encourage deviations from what she is supposed to do in any way. She is going to have limited exposure to other people who are not done, and the biggest toxic influence in her life cannot be around her until her legal obligations are finished. It's not a guarantee that she is going to make it this time; there are no guarantees. But I feel confident that she is being given the best chance she's ever going to get to turn it around and keep it turned around--and also that she wants to go in a different direction, in all ways. And a personal level, the commitment to not only this way of life, but to me personally is there, at least now. Will it stay? Well, of course I think it will, or none of this would be happening.
But even if it doesn't--I'm going to be all right. I'm comfortable in my skin like I never have been before. It's been a long, long journey, and that journey isn't complete. But I am in a better place than I ever have been before.
It's been a long time coming.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Taking Apart The State of the County Address

While most of the world was focused on our batshit-crazy President's press conference yesterday--which admittedly was something that had to be heard to be believed; I really wish someone would create a Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel that would watch any live Trumpkins Twitter public appearance and stream it live--something of far more importance and relevance to my daily life took place here yesterday. Our new county executive gave his first State of the County address, and since he has already deviated significantly in some ways from what he presented himself as when he was a candidate, I was very interested to see what he had to say.
And it was a somewhat informative 20 minutes:
1) County finances are poor--"moderately stressed," according to the state. County Executive Garnar hinted at the elephant in the room that few if any seem willing to talk about; that dating back to the days Fiala was county executive, sales tax revenue projections have rarely come close to the amounts actually collected. Since the other party and his moronic predecessor have been in charge of the county for the last five years, well... never mind implementing a hiring freeze. How about firing the incompetent nitwits that keep putting these over-optimistic budgets together? They not only still have their jobs, they're the very ones that he and the Legislature appear to be "consulting" about how to fix the shortfalls. Sad. He also blew smoke everyone's butt by claiming that the hiring freeze has already saved $90K in a month, which is fantasy, plain and simple.
2) He spoke about the opiate epidemic, the issue that largely won him the office he sits in. There's yet another "Task Force" and another egghead sitting with a fancy title leading it. Here's the basic fallacy with all that: people that have no direct experience with living with addiction and who have managed to put active addiction behind them  are trying to create policies and come up with ideas to combat addiction. I could write for days about this, but simply--they're not going to work, because just like you can't arrest your way out of the epidemic, you can't intellectualize your way out of it, either. People that are addicted to drugs do not think and act in logical ways, and they do not instantly snap back to thinking and acting in logical ways after getting a few days clean. And every goddamn "plan" that "treatment professionals" come up with and try to implement, at not-insubstantial cost, assumes that people that have lived for years addicted to drugs are going to think and act like "normal" people in an impossibly short of period of time. Such approaches are doomed to failure, and we really don't have time or resources on another "task force." It would be a lot cheaper and ten times more effective if three people from the county attended NA and AA meetings every day for a month and found out exactly what people in early recovery think like, feel like, what they need, what they want, and most of all, what people trying to maximize limited resources to marshal help should be focusing on. Another set of meetings and "programs" featuring people with letters after their name that don't have any experience living with the problem is going to be a colossal waste of time and money, and is going to end in failure.
3) Greater Binghamton Airport. It's a mess, no airline wants to operate out of it, few people want to come to Binghamton anyway, and it's in the middle of nowhere and isn't exactly convenient to use. I'm talking off the top of my head here, but if we're really in that much trouble financially, I'm sure that the airport's struggles are a factor in it. It might be time to close it, because it is really difficult to imagine a future where the Binghamton airport becomes financially viable. And if it does close, in the short and long term, it helps the financial situation. Syracuse, Elmira, and Scranton are all an hour away; it would be moderately inconvenient to fly out of there, but you have to go to one of those airports to fly to almost anywhere in the country now as it is.
And you can take the money that we're burning at the airport and put it toward getting the former Broome Developmental Center functional as a rehab--or the old hotel on Front Street, if a location in the city is preferable.
4) Jobs. What he spoke about was hard to argue with, and this is a subject that there aren't any easy answers for. I think that he ought to be looking outside the box more, though; the Chamber of Commerce is not only a bastion of Republican orthodoxy, it hasn't exactly done a bangup job of promoting commerce in the last thirty years, either. Or more bluntly, there is no reason to believe that any of them know what they're talking about...Biting the bullet on the airport makes the most sense, but since that's something that can hammered in TV commercials when people are running for elections, I'm sure it's not going to be done. And we can endure another round of hand-wringing and chasing shadows, and we can pour millions into something that has outlived its usefulness, and then we can close it ten years from now. Myself, if you're going to do something about an issue, I would do it at the beginning of a term, so that by time I'm running again, there will be either evidence that it was the right decision, or if it turned out not to be, then remedial action can be taken. But at least it isn't a finger-in-the-dike "solution" that has a 1% chance of improving the situation long-term.
5) Student Advisory Board. Another waste of time and money. You can get more effective input by having someone monitor Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat all day... that's somewhat facetious, but only somewhat. These boards tend to reflect the concerns of those that are motivated enough to participate on boards--which means that the focus of whatever recommendations come out of the board's meetings are going to be very limited in scope, very insular. Concerns for the vast majority of young people are, increasingly, the three basics (food, clothing, shelter); lack of a viable future; (for almost all youth of color) perceived police presence/misconduct/targeting and the distrust of the "justice" system in general (I'm not necessarily agreeing with the perception, but it is pervasive and omnipresent); and, again, lack of a viable future, for upwards of 90% of your school-age youth.
6) The Broome County Website. This is perhaps the easiest one of all. Blow it up and start over. It has sucked since it first started, and Garnar is the first county executive that is even remotely comfortable with the digital/online world. I really hope he isn't afraid to do this; this will do more for his image and standing with younger voters than any student board ever will. And if he really wants to tie it in to outreach to young people, make a contest of a new website design and features, It sure beats eventually hiring a "consultant" that's going to cost six figures.
I wasn't completely discouraged by the speech. But I really think he's going to have to break with the "traditional" power structure and the entrenched elite to make a difference. Given that he's surrounded himself with second and third generation party hacks staffing his administration, I think the chances of that happening are zero. And he really doesn't understand the need for a complete and total rethinking of the opiate crisis and possible solutions. You hate to generalize, but I'm going to... the "rehab" system as it now stands works for maybe 15% of the population it is trying to serve. It is skewed overwhelmingly to help white people with intact family structures, some education, and some life skills find their footing and become productive members of society. Garnar is an improvement over most political office-holders that we've had because he has close relatives that have gone through addiction--but his views are colored by the fact that the system worked for his relative. It worked for his relative because his relative is white, with an intact family structure, had some education, and for whom the rehab process was rehabilitation, not simple habilitation. I benefited from the system as currently constructed, too, but it didn't make me a cheerleader for the way things are, because I realize that the system as currently constructed does not--cannot-work for most people that are caught in the grip of addiction.
And while addiction is not the only problem the county faces, it is a major one, and it is one of the few problems that is both addressable--and can help ease the effects of some of the other problems. This area is centrally located in the state; the physical infrastructure for a large treatment center is here already, and doesn't have to be built from scratch; we have a functional public transportation system; we have two colleges here; we have a viable recovery community in both major fellowships that can support people in early recovery. We even have a large Drug Court now in session that is financially stable for the long-term, that can help provide oversight of those in treatment with legal issues. It may not be a perfect storm--but realistically, few opportunities like this are ever going to come together so neatly. And crying that you don't have all the money in the world isn't going to do it. Even if you have to borrow to make it happen--well, interest rates are low and likely to rise soon, and the long-term rewards are going to make the project worth doing.
That's a new direction. That's thinking outside the box. That's bold leadership. And while he is an improvement, marginally, over his predecessor, to this point, I don't see anything new, outside-the-box, or bold in his vision. The fact that this county is in dire straits may not be his fault. But same old, same old is not going to get us out of it, and I really don't think he has it in him to actually move in a new direction.
I am even more convinced that in five or ten years, I will not be living here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: FATES AND TRAITORS

Fates and Traitors, by Jennifer Chiaverini, is billed as a novel of John Wilkes Booth, and I suppose that it is that, in that there are fictionalized reconstructions of conversations, etc. But it is testimony to the paucity of actual material about Booth that the book is largely descriptive of other people--most members of his rather extensive family, Mary Surratt, Lucy Hale. There is a rather weak attempt to portray Booth as a Confederate idealist, but there is no real information given as to evolution of his views, nor to development of his character. I'm not sure if this is deliberate, but if it was, it was a disappointment, because ultimately, in a novel ostensibly about him, the one central figure in the narrative that the audience learns very little of is John Wilkes Booth.
That isn't to say that the novel is totally without merit; the female characters are universally well-depicted and rounded, from his mother to the Surratts. Which makes me wonder whether this was the intention of the author all along, because consensus at the time was that Booth was a master manipulator of women more than men. The overall effect is that this isn't a bad novel at all--it just could have been so much more .

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Things I Do Not Understand

I've seen a few things in the last few days/weeks that are simply beyond my comprehension. I want to emphasize that this is not an exhaustive list.
1) It's not the first time I have seen this. But every time I do, I wonder "How can people do this?" I am talking about--The Car Filled With A Year's Worth of Garbage. My daughter's car is approaching this stage, although to be fair, there is room for a passenger in the front seat. But I saw one yesterday that was, seriously, like a picture of a dumpster the morning of pickup day. Bags and bags of fast-food wrappers, papers, at least two pairs of gloves, even old medication bottles. I remember the car that I gave MOTY years ago, a Subaru Outbook wagon--and a year later, how it was shin deep in garbage in the back seats, and the space in back of the back seats was just a dump. And every ashtray is overflowing, too... I've seen a few others in my lifetime, too. I can't fathom willingly sitting in the middle of this every day.
2) I walked into a restroom at a gas station off an exit about twenty miles from Binghamton, and saw, for about the 700th time in my life, a toilet filled with excrement--and no toilet paper in the bowl. Think about it. Then think about who you saw in the parking lot, eating something purchased from the station's sub section. Then think about it some more.
3) Serial relationship in-and-outers. I can think of three people, in the last two weeks, that spent literally hours every week posting memes and pictures of phrases on social media regarding relationships and what makes healthy ones and what they want out of them and how they've been shit on and how they're never going to fall for the same stuff again. And then, two weeks later, come the angry post-break up posts about how they're never going to go through this again, about how they're done with relationships, "never again," how their good hearts have been toyed with for the last time, etc.... Hey, peeps, you might want to take a break from the dating scene and/or stop posting about it. You have 700 Facebook friends, and 697 of them have been Facebook for more than two weeks. We remember what you said the last 65 times this happened. And the only result is that your credibility is shot with your friends--and with the very type of person that you claim you want to be with. Safe, stable, giving, caring people aren't usually looking to get involved with the type of people who post every detail of what's going on with their relationships every day.
4) People who bitch about award shows and the people that get or don't get awards. You listen to music you like, you don't listen to music you don't like. What does it really matter to you who gets named Artist of the Year by a bunch of people you don't know, never will meet, and probably know less about music than you do? Who really cares?
5) There are metal detectors at the courthouse and police station. But at schools, first there are locked entrances, then you have to show ID, then you have to sign registers, then you have to be guided wherever you're going. So basically, if you mean harm, you'll still be able to cause it--they're just going to know who you are. Metal detectors would be preferable, frankly, to the time-consuming nuisance that getting into a school now is.
6) Indoor golf places. I'm not a huge fan of outdoor golf, so I admit I am prejudiced. But these indoor golf facilities seem over the top to me. Do you really think that a "virtual reality" machine is going to be an accurate indicator of what your swings will produce in real life? You can't go three months without "playing?" And I don't care what you tell me, you're not playing anything except a gigantic, interactive video game. And the results of playing that game will be about as relevant to your real gold skills as the old bar game where you spun the ball with the palm of your hand.
7) People who think Michelle Obama will run for President in 2020. Why would she want to? She has just endured eight years of uncalled for, undeserved, and unwarranted verbal and mental abuse from a substantial part of the country--for being married to a guy that was holding the office. You really think she's willing to set herself up for that times ten as a candidate for President?
8) People that fail to understand that Trump doesn't give a shit what the law says, what the media thinks, or what reality is. He's a rich guy that was born rich--he's used to people kissing his ass, getting his own way, and not having to pay consequences when he breaks the law because the law doesn't ever punish rich people for breaking laws. He's lived in a bubble his entire life, and the sole attraction of being President is that he thinks it is an office where he can exercise even more power and control than he ever has before. As Springsteen sang nearly 40 years ago, "Rich man want to be king." So please, stop kidding yourselves that there is going to be some kind of evolution of Trump, or that he's going to stop doing what he's been doing. What you see is what you get.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Morally Compromised "Holiday"

Of all the cynical ways Corporate America manipulates us into translating what are supposed to be genuine emotions into profit for them, the Valentine's Day phenomenon is perhaps the most egregiously smarmy and icky. While none of us are living the "ideal" love stories, most of us have or have had a special someone in their life, somebody that they have, to the best of their imperfect ability, loved. Love really should not need a special day of celebration, and if it does, it should certainly not be marked by price gouging and pithy expressions of what is supposed to be the one feeling that makes our lives the most worth living.
I am in a relationship that, for one more week, is a long-distance one, and so I will be doing nothing but working today and possibly going to a meeting tonight. And this is one of the very few times that I am glad that my situation is what it is. She is younger than me, and has told me that her past relationships have yielded very little in the way of "special" occasions, so if we are still with each other 52 weeks from now, I am going to have to the flowers/dinner gauntlet at least one more time. And I can't say I am looking forward to the prospect of essentially being robbed. A dozen roses that cost $25-30 any other time of the year cost $60 or more right now. Dinners that cost $40-50 in most restaurants any other night of the year will cost twice that, and eating in an already-overpriced venue like Number 5 will cost $200 or more tonight. Boxes of candy cost $10 today, and will cost $1.50 a week from now. The card that I sent Lauren a few days ago cost $3.99--and one of similar size, made by the same company, costs $1.99.
And not to be overly dramatic--but this is why a lot of the world, including many of our own people, not only find us overbearing and self-righteous, but hypocritical in the extreme. Everything in this country has a price tag, and there are people/corporations that are trying to get in your pockets all day every day. It's all about the buck. For the world's allegedly "most Christian nation", there sure is a lot of worshiping of the almighty dollar here. The constant hustling is bad enough, but the fact is that we are willing participants in our own looting. We not only accept and tolerate those that are constantly on the make, but we actually admire them, seek to emulate them, and ascribe to them qualities of personality and abilities they do not possess. We define "success" as a society almost solely by financial yardsticks.
And people that don't buy into the consumerism and materialism are derided and denigrated regularly, by everyone from their peers to the media to their own government. It was only a decade and a half ago that W equated patriotism with consumerism in the wake of 9/11. We have the most misanthropic occupant of the Presidency that we have ever had, and he is there simply because he was born rich and has convinced a large number of people that he actually has intelligence and ability because of that accident of birth. All of my life, I have seen people who are not materialistic dismissed as "dreamers," "flower children", "inhabitants of "ivory towers," unwilling to live in the "real world."
Today is supposed to a "celebration" of the love we feel for our romantic partners. It instead has turned into an orgiastic celebration of the way we eventually turn all emotions into dollar signs.  Both the original Saint Valentine and the God he believed in would be and, if the Christian theology is correct, are appalled by what we have turned this day into.
The irony of modern America is that even as we piously proclaim our virtue to an alternately amused and frightened world, we have turned into what the Ayatollah Khomeini called us many decades ago. When rhetoric is pushed aside and our actions are seen for what they are, we are collectively the biggest hypocrites the world has ever seen. And on no day is that more on display than on every February 14.