Saturday, August 31, 2013

No Road Trip

When I put in the request for this particular period of time off a few months ago, I had every intention of going to the Narcotics Anonymous World Convention, which is being held in Philadelphia, four hours from my home, this year. Some of my friends in the fellowship are regulars at conventions and out-of-town events, but I've never been one that goes to many events and hardly any that are held out of town; I think the last one that I went to that was further than fifteen minutes away from Binghamton was the Niagara Falls convention in 2000. This has been largely due to circumstances arising from being a single parent; I've never been one to leave Sabrina in the care of others for any great length of time, and my only access to Rachel and Jessica has, for years, only come on weekends.
But as I am discovering yet again this weekend, I also, when push comes to shove, am not a convention/large gathering type of person. While I'm not abnormally shy, I'm not the most comfortable person among crowds. I don't have the patience to deal with lines real well, and although I am much more tolerant of the foibles of my fellow homo sapiens than I used to be, I still struggle with being in the presence of large numbers of us because the odds of having to be subjected to someone whose personality irritates me or whose intelligence level is closer to that of hamsters go up exponentially in crowded venues. And truthfully, the searing experience of having been subjected to the Messagemaster and his overwhelming, pervasive hypocrisy for over a decade has taken its toll. The Messagemaster's habitat was the convention, and since it first became clear to me somewhere around 2000 that he was a hypocrite of historical proportions, that the gap between all the fine-sounding words that flowed from his mouth and how he actually lived his life could be measured in light-years, I have been extremely wary of anyone that I don't know who is in front of a microphone at an NA event, because I honestly wonder if they are full of shit. There's an old saying that all politics are local, and my variant on that is that most recovery is local, too. Regardless of whether we're constant presences on the convention and event circuits, we all have home communities, and the true test of our recovery programs, the ones we directly affect the most by the way we try (or don't try) to incorporate spiritual principles into our lives are the people who live where we call home. And when I hear some guy from Albany or some woman from Harrisburg or hear some speaker CD of somebody from Omaha with a fine-sounding message, my mind inevitably wanders to "I wonder what the people who live in your area think about you." It's not fair to those people to think that way, I know; I'm sure that most people who speak at these events are working their programs and honestly sharing their experience, strength, and hope. They should not have to pay for the sins of the Messagemaster.
And to be sure, I have gotten better with hearing messages from unfamiliar faces. I've attended most of the local events this past year, and actually heard more speakers in the last twelve months than I did in the twelve years prior to that, and took something away from almost all of them. And to be sure, if circumstances had broken differently, I would be in Philadelphia this morning. By the time I found out World was so close, the hotel that the event in being held in was fully booked, and the early bird registration fees for the event itself were about to expire. And these sort of events cost a lot more than they did in 2000; it was a hundred dollars for a registration and the hotel rooms in any hotel in the vicinity were $129 and up per night. And the reality is that, even though I make a decent living, dropping several hundred dollars (including gas and food) would have been a huge imposition on my finances and those in my life dependent on me for their well-being right now. Even though it is entirely possible that a World Convention will never be this close to me again, it still, in my mind, would have been a rather selfish and self-indulgent act for me to go there. The cost, both in actual money spent and in its effect on future expenses that I know I am going to incur, would have been prohibitive.
And so I didn't go. And as it turns out, I'm actually good with it. Both the noon meeting yesterday and my home group last night had many fewer in attendance than normal; the candlelight, in particular, was affected and it ended up being a good thing because it was hotter than Hades in the basement as it was, even with 40 people in it rather than the usual 70-80. I am going to a small barbecue today and a larger pig roast tomorrow that I would not be able to go to if I wasn't here. I see what my friends who are at the convention are posting on Facebook about it, and I can't say I'm regretting not being part of the teeming mass of humanity that I am seeing in their pictures. I'm comfortable being here, in a place where everyone knows me, living the life I've led for a long time now. I'm not putting down anyone who enjoys travelling, and who likes to meet people from other areas with other views and experiences. But I know now, like I never have really known before, that that's not really for me... for some reason, my first Christmas clean just popped into my head. I was in a halfway house in Boca Raton, Florida, away from family and Rachel and Jessica (Sabrina's arrival in the world was still two weeks in the future), with a hundred other men. And I remember going to the beach that afternoon with Rocco and John Amato and Tyrone and Bert and the kid from Long Island whose name escapes me at the moment and Oliver, all of us from points north of the Mason-Dixon line, and for a hour or so, we went in the ocean and sunbathed and generally acted like tourists, all the while telling ourselves how great it was to be hanging on the beach at Christmas. And when we were heading back to the halfway house, I suddenly blurted out, "you know, that kind of sucked"--and everyone else instantly agreed. I am sure that for some people, it would be a wonderful experience to be on the beach at Christmas. For those of us who had spent a lifetime in places where Christmas meant cold weather and family and presents for children under the tree, it was alien, and experiencing it was very alienating. I'm not saying that being at World this weekend would be alienating, but I know myself well enough to know that I doubt I would be having a great time or thinking, "Wow, this is fantastic." That's not me.
For many of those there, it is them, and I am happy for them that they are enjoying the convention. And the great thing about a fellowship is that there are places for both types of people in it; indeed, it is necessary to have both types of people in it. I am sure that I am going to be tired, come the end of September, of hearing how wonderful it was in Philadelphia this weekend from those that are there now--but it doesn't make it any less edifying or true for them. God knows I talk enough about experiences that I have that I find enjoyable and meaningful, and the people from here who are there now are, almost without exception, people who are valued parts of my recovery and, more importantly, friends of mine as well. I'm happy if they are happy there, for real. Had circumstances broken differently, I would be there and no doubt finding a way to enjoy the proceedings in some fashion.
But I'm also not sorry that I stayed behind, and I'm not feeling like I'm missing something or that I'm left out. I enjoy my life today, wherever it is taking place, and I am comfortable in my own homebody skin. I will, at some point, go to a convention again, probably sooner than later, and expand my comfort zone and grow in my recovery. But maybe someplace at an event someplace like Waterloo or next year's Recovery in the Woods, places less crowded and more low-key, that suit my personality better.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book review: PROPHET OF BONES

Prophet of Bones, by Ted Kosmatka, is an interesting little thriller. Well, I should amend that; the action and the chasing and the  motivations of the villains and the body counts--those are pretty standard for the thriller genre. What makes this novel interesting are a couple of the plot details. One is that the entire premise that the novel revolves around is a very interesting historical "what if"--what if there had somehow been a plausible and generally accepted way to brush off Darwin and the evidence for evolution, and the prevailing scientific paradigm of the entire world was that the age of the earth was about 5800 years? It is fascinating to read how the world would treat supposedly anomalous knowledge in such a scenario, and it really is quite jarring to contemplate a world in which the obvious is so determinedly ignored. I'm sure that for people who prefer to deny the reality of evolution, they might find the world as it actually is jarring as well, but I'm sure a 5YO who wanders downstairs on Christmas Eve and discovers Mom and Dad placing Santa's gifts under the tree finds the experience disconcerting, too. I'm sure it isn't a coincidence, but I found myself thinking about other paradigms that are "common knowledge" that would stand up to scrutiny and reality about as well as Creation-as-science does--like the "terrorist threat," "liberal welfare state is bad", and "you can't legalize drugs."
And I always like to give some recognition when an author uses a plot device that I've never seen before. I have never read a book before where someone beats customs and other parties interested in confiscating contraband by secreting the item behind a glass eye. And given the number of books I have read in my life, to have something occur that I've never seen before, and that also is not completely off the scale of probability, is impressive.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Hold

It took seven weeks to get into Support Court for an initial hearing after I filed the petition. I have not gotten any money from Sabrina's mother since the beginning of the year, and I have received absolutely no communication whatsoever on any of the myriad changes going on over there, except for the two times that she moved during the year. I know she is on public assistance from sources other than her; I know she is seven months pregnant from sources other than her; I know her latest victim  man has been diagnosed with ALS from sources other than her. Which, to those of you who are not familiar with the world of child support, may not seem like a big deal, and it really shouldn't be.
However, the standard language in all child support orders is that any residence, household composition, and income changes should be communicated to the other party when they happen. MOTY has never done this willingly, and has become even less willing since she was ordered to pay me support a couple of years ago. I stayed patient as long as I possibly could, but after two years without a job, after she started obtained a car, after she moved twice in four months--well, maybe there isn't and maybe there is money I could be getting. But the contempt for the provisions of the order is more what drove me to file than the lack of money. This "none of my business" shit has been old for a long time. It's not prying or controlling to have rudimentary information such as whether there is money coming into a household where my daughter does spend some of her time. It's not prying or controlling to know that a half-sibling is on the way for our daughter. It's not prying or controlling to share the information that the man you're with is going to die within the couple of years. For most people, sharing such information would come naturally, because I might be more inclined to be understanding and to cut her some slack. If there are reasons that are making keeping up on support, meager as it is, difficult--well, I'm not made of stone.
But there is also a long history of deceit and sketchiness. In the past, MOTY has never willingly been open about what she is doing, and the reason always turns out to be that she is doing things she should not be doing. I'm not going to rehash the entire sordid history of her misconduct and scheming here; if you're really interested, click on the label MOTY and read backwards in time. But I have ample reason to believe that this is the case presently as well. When I filed the petition, I was not necessarily looking for the arrears; I know that there really isn't a lot of money to be had in that house. What I want is accountability. What I want is some consequences to be paid for the lack of respect for the process and for her failing to live up to all her obligations, not just the financial ones. And I knew this wasn't going to happen yesterday, as it was only an initial appearance.
Only she didn't appear. When I finally got called into the courtroom, the address the court had for her was in Endicott--not one, but two residences ago. The hearing was adjourned for three weeks while the court serves her in person at where she lives now. And since one of the two items listed as a violation is her failure to inform me of changes in income, residence, and circumstances--well, she's supposed to keep the court informed of that stuff as well.
It's not going to go well for her.
The question really isn't whether she is going to be violated; after all, I have not gotten any money or information. The question is whether the violation is going to be found "willful." I'm certain it is; if there is a constant to MOTY's life, it is her constant acting out, her constant willful behavior. The court may not agree, I'm aware; they don't know her as well as I do, and the legal term carries a more ominous weight. Because if violations are found to be willful--well, people go to jail for those kind of offenses. I'm not sure whether that is in the cards here, especially with her so visibly pregnant. But I have to say it can't give a good impression to be bringing another kid into the world when you're not supporting the ones you already have.
I don't act out of spite as a matter of course. I certainly have legitimate cause for action in this case. But I also have to say that I am struggling a bit with my feelings on this one. I am so sick of dealing with this bullshit. It has been sixteen-plus years of one thing after another after another after another... I love Sabrina beyond words. She has been the primary means of my personal redemption, the ultimate cause of all the positive changes I have made in my life over the last fourteen years. I cannot imagine my life without her as its centerpiece.
But I have a ready answer for anyone who wants to know what effect drug addiction has on people's lives. Because if not for drugs, I would not have to deal with her mother as a fact of my life. And although on balance having Sabrina outweighs having to deal with MOTY, there are days when the gap between the positives and negatives is dangerously and uncomfortably small.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on Syria

The world is full of nasty dictators. There may be fewer than there used to be, but there are still plenty enough of them to ensure that somewhere, someplace, at any moment of any day, something nasty is happening to somebody. Syria is one of those places, and has been doubly afflicted by a relatively new addition to the world's curses, the hereditary tyrant. The current monster-in-charge is the son of the dictator that afflicted the country for the last thirty years of the twentieth century; this guy, a few years younger than me, has been in charge for thirteen years. If you're counting, that's 43 years of the Assad family in charge of this poor place. There has been widespread dissent for years, and outright rebellion in areas of the country for the last few years, and it has come to light recently that chemical weapons have been used by Assad's forces in efforts to root out and quell the rebellion.
And it seems like every cowboy wanna-be, every conservative nitwit, every yokel with a small penis and a large gun, and every narrow-minded flag waver now wants to drop several hundred thousand tons of military hardware onto Syria. The last time we tried to do intervene on the behalf of a populace that had had chemical warfare waged against it by the ruler of his own country didn't work out so well; we left a bigger mess behind than the one we found when we got there, and bankrupted our own country in the process. It isn't like Iraq was a generation ago; we just got out of there two fucking years ago. 
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Proponents of bombing campaigns point to previous interventions in Libya and the former Yugoslavia as "successes." Well, Libya is no longer ruled by Qaddafi, it is true--and several months after he was removed, there was a riot against our embassy that the flag wavers are apoplectic about to this day, looking to start another war over. The former Yugoslavia is not engaged in fratricidal genocide, to be sure--at the moment. But it hardly has become a model of tolerance and civil society, either. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that any intervention at all is going to have a positive result in Syria, even absent other factors. And there are other factors in play. We don't need to be stirring up any number of Arab fringe groups that don't need much of an excuse to target Americans and American interests in exchange for perceived slights. And the yahoo element here is even more gung-ho about dropping tons of bombs because Russia's President has gone on record warning of catastrophic consequences in the region should bombing commence; how dare those proto-Commies question anything we want to do!
Well, I'm not a big fan of Putin and Putin's Russia, either, but even a stopped watch is right twice a day, and in this case, he couldn't be more right. Intervention is not going to materially help those who were victimized, and it is going to lead to many more problems than exist now. Even if the campaign succeeds--what then? What replaces Assad? Are we going to spend billions to clean up the mess? Are we going to have a presence in Syria? Do we just leave them to clean up the rubble? Do we open the door to possible Israeli intervention? See, this is what really irritates me about calls for this kind of action--the vast majority of those calling for it exhibit the foresight of an earthworm, in that little or no thought beyond wishful thinking goes into trying to understand what happens after the force is used. I've seen the same jokers spin the same songs for too long to believe that any of them are motivated beyond anything other than "let's blow shit up, and maybe a bunch of people we don't like will die, too!"
An entire nation has spent most of the last 60 hours on fire over a former child television star performing a tasteless act on some awards show--and yet nobody is sparing any outrage at all over this rush to commit yet another orgy of violence in an area that 1) has already seen endemic violence, without said violence accomplishing anything of value, 2) where no strategic or tactical advantage is likely to be achieved either on a short-term or a long-term basis, and 3) where our record of intervening is pretty sorry. I look at the people who are strongly advocating intervention on the national stage, and I see a disturbingly large number of the same people who assured us that Saddam Hussein really did have chemical and nuclear weapons and needed to be deposed by force, and who have spent a decade blithely ignoring a mountain of evidence that they and their assumptions were and are dead wrong. And that's the most galling thing about living in the United States of American in this day and age. All these "experts" remain "experts" even when their input and views have been proven to be folly and nonsense, repeatedly. It's an idiocy loop, a rehashing of the same bullshit over and over again that allows the looting elite class to continue feeding at the trough of public money yet another time. It's not about "freedom" or "human rights" or even about something as tangible as "access to oil."
It's about keeping the grift going. It's about continuing the hustle, of keeping big business in the business of churning out weapons and other hardware. It's about creating reasons to justify the mission creep of internal spying, information gathering, and growing repression on the home front. It's about creating crises to maintain the illusion that we cannot afford to make any substantive changes that would change the emphasis of how our resources are distributed because it would be dangerous to not "finish the job." I'm sure, if I really cared to do so, I could find other pious-sounding drivel that is being advanced to justify military intervention in a region that has seen nothing but endemic violence for centuries.
If it was a solution, then it would have been apparent a long time ago.
And what I find especially irritating is the rationale being heard by the yahoo element here, some of whom are national in scope, but most of whom are the ignorosi that are complicit in their own marginalization. These are the same morons who advanced the "domino theory" in the Vietnam years and the "better there than here" theory for Afghanistan and Iraq. However hateful Assad may be as a human being, however awful Hussein was to his own people for decades--their ability to cause direct problems for the people of the United States was and is zero. What I have realized, to my horror, as I have gotten older is that we are a nation full of hypocritical bullies. The same people who proudly post anti-bullying messages on social media, who want to crucify some muscle-bound, mean-spirited thirteen year old in their local school district that makes fun of the visually unpleasant and socially awkward kids in their midst, are the same people who want to unleash apocalyptic violence on a country none of them have ever been to for no better reason than "They said stuff we don't like" or "they're the same religion as those assholes that brought down the Twin Towers" or "they don't use acceptable ways of killing large numbers of people--can't have people going off the reservation like that." Well, the reasons are bullshit, and I'm, beginning to suspect that a large number of these tools and minions want this to happen because they get off on seeing other people suffer without any possible danger of retaliation that directly affects them.
We are a nation that has a significant portion of its population that are, under the surface, abusers. They get off on seeing other people suffer. And they will invent reasons to indulge those fantasies; giving barely-plausible justifications to the unjustifiable that allow them to contradict what they profess, in other circumstances, to believe. We really are no different than the crowds that used to fill the Colosseum to see heathens fed to lions and slaves fight to the death. And it disgusts me. I'm certainly not in favor of what Assad is doing to his own people--but there are better ways to deal with it than a more refined and higher level of violence.
But since that would take intelligence and patience to implement, it's not going to be done. And there will be yet another mess for another generation to clean up, after the war contractors have siphoned another round of obscene profits out of the public coffers and another chorus of "Seig Freedom!" is heard in the halls of Congress and at gatherings of the ignorosi. What a world we live in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: THE RED COUNTRY

I was never into fantasy fiction in my life. I have never either read any of the Lord of the Rings books or seen any of the movies, and it was a genre that had escaped my interest for a long time. And I wasn't sure what I was getting into with Joe Abercrombie's The Red Country when I got it out of the library; it seemed somewhat interesting according to what was on the jacket cover, but I was prepared to be disappointed.
The preparation was for nothing. The premise is that a pair of farmers in the more settled portion of a continent come back from a market trip to find their farm burned, children gone and the caretaker hanged. It is the beginning of an epic journey to retrieve the children, but there is so much more going on here--the redemption of some, the descent of others into the barbarism they thought they had put behind, the corrosive effects of violence and greed, the conflict between "civilized" and "savage" and the very blurry lines between them. To be sure, much of the action is derivative of both actual American history and other books of this genre--it was about 300 pages in before the plot began to significantly deviate from that of The Dragon's Path, the last book of this type I read. But in the end, there were enough plot twists and resolutions to provide a very satisfying end to the story, and for once almost all of the loose ends were tied up securely enough so that the inevitable sequel will not feature many of the same characters.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Short Week Ahead, Great Day Behind

I don't like to take my vacation time in broken-up increments, normally, but this time I didn't really have a choice. My work week, for payday purposes, goes from Thursday until Wednesday, and so does our on-call schedule, because we are now getting paid for being on-call, and for the purpose of simplification for everyone involved, it was just easier on all of us if I went on vacation from Thursday until next Thursday. So I have a three-day work week this week, which is fine by me--this week.
I have a lot of cause to be even more grateful than usual for my job. Yesterday I got a surprise when I went to the Sunday morning meeting. I knew yesterday was Aldo's clean date, and I figured he would get a black keytag (he hasn't picked up a medallion for several years now). I did not know that Vincent would be getting his 20-year medallion yesterday. Vincent was a large figure in my early recovery years, and has remained a friend for the entire length of my time clean. He has had major physical issues in the last seven or eight years--a couple of back surgeries and crippling arthritis--and he finally, he told us all yesterday, has retired on disability. There was a party after the meeting for him at Kate's mom's house, and I ended up speaking with him at some length, and his major concern right now is not any of his physical maladies, but finding ways to productively spend his time now that he isn't going to be to work everyday. And I can identify; the two hardest periods of my adult life were when I was not working in the immediate aftermath of my separation from my wife (my addiction really took off at that time) and the year 2002, when I lost two jobs and was unemployed for much of a six-month stretch. I've had this job for nearly eleven years now, and I can no more imagine not going to work regularly than I can imagine living on the moon. Vacations are nice, but they are a break from routine, a way to recharge and revitalize myself, not a substitute reality. So I can fully empathize with his disorientation, and although it's not at the same level, I have arthritis, too, and know the feeling of my body betraying me on a daily  basis...The positive aspect of this is that we, in the fellowship, should be seeing more of Vincent; he is one of the guys whose program is strong and has to much to offer both newcomers and old-timers.
And then there was a nice get-together at Kathie's after that, with some different people in attendance, and I reflected again on how nice it is to have friends and to feel comfortable in the fellowship again. Some newer members were at Kathie's, and somehow the subject of the Messagemaster came up. Those of us who've been around for a while all agreed that, whatever drama and occasional contretemps blow up on occasion now, there is no longer the division into rigid camps that there was when he was around, and that we are better off for it. The new Activities and Events chair was in attendance, and the subject of speakers at events came up; she was really unaware of how many people with substantial time in this area haven't really been able to share at speaker meetings and events very often considering their length of clean time. There is a place for out-of-town speakers at events, to be sure, but most of recovery takes place in a particular community, and as such I've always thought that the preponderance of speakers at events should be local figures, because most of the audience there will be able to not only hear the message, but will be able to see how it is applied by the person propounding it in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
Anyway, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and a nice lead-in to what will be a short (but intense) work week and hopefully a very good vacation time. There are developments afoot that may lead to epochal changes in our lives, but I don't want to get into all that until I know more. For now, it's never been a bad idea to go one day at a time, and it will be especially apt this week to do so.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Entering the World of Travel Teams

Went to the parent information meeting for Sabrina's travel team last night, and I have to say that I was kind of surprised. What I thought was going to be difficult turned out not to be, at least for the short term. Yes, it's going to cost a lot of money to be on the team--$1200 or $1250, depending on whether or not she gets a new helmet herself, whether the team buys them, or whether I can get away with spraypainting her existing one black. But the payments can be in installments, and I got the sense that it's monthly or nearly so, which would mean I could swing it without too much trouble. There is only going to be one fall tournament, for $125, and 1) it's not even set in stone, and 2) it's a one-day tournament, with no hotel fee to pay.
I also, after a year of JV softball and one of modified, and two of open winter gyms, not am not put off by the coach's manner and quirks. I'm not a fan of everything about him, but I know he's competent, I know that there resides genuine affection for his players within him, and I have realized that in many ways he is like me--mental errors and lack of focus drive him crazy, just like they do me, and sometimes he has a hard time reining in his feelings when it happens. I also appreciated his words on the subject of possibly using softball as a tool for college aid; it was information I didn't know, and wouldn't have known without someone telling me. One thing we are going to have to do this year is starting filming her games; I guess the primary way of bringing yourself to the attention of college coaches is cutting DVDs of yourself playing the game and mailing them out to colleges you might be interested in going to.
It was some of the other elements there that made me a bit uncomfortable. One, the meeting was in a bar, and almost all the other adults there were drinking. It was also made clear that some degree of "bonding" is expected to take place among parents on the tournament trips, and "bonding" among adults almost always involves people drinking, which is not an option for me. So right off the bat, I felt like I was an oddball, like I'm not going to fit in. Then there was only one other single parent there, out of the 13 families that are part of the team. And listening to the talk around the room, I could tell that almost all of the people there have world views drastically different than mine. I understand that it would be a boring world if we all thought the same about political and cultural matters, but all the same, I'm not going to be comfortable around people espousing views regularly that I find misguided at best and downright offensive at worst. I've met some obnoxious liberal/progressive types in my life, to be sure--but no one can do asshole like conservatives can. And there were a few there last night that grated on me within seconds from the other end of the table. I'm not going to do well in protracted contact, and I'm not really thinking that isolating in my hotel room is going to go well for either me or Sabrina next summer. But there is no way I am going to spend even five minutes around one bozo in particular that got under my skin last night; I am profoundly glad that their kid is not a Binghamton kid and that I am not going to have to deal with them in the stands on school teams.
So this hurdle has been cleared. She doesn't have her first practice for another two weeks, and by then the world may be a very different place on the home front, too; I will have been to court with her mother at least once, school will have started, and I will have a better idea of what my domestic situation will be like. Money is like manure, I guess; it's not meant to be piled up in one place; it has to be spread around to be of maximum benefit.
And I reflected yet again last night about how baseball/softball, the alleged national pastime, has begun to reflect the nation as a whole yet again. It has become a sport for the well-off, that has walled itself off from access to pretty much anyone who does not have access to both fair amounts of cash and prodigious amounts of leisure time. It is a sport that virtually demands, on the youth level, the strong near-total involvement of two parents, and in an America where the intact two-parent nuclear family is becoming less common, the practical effect is that it limits the number of kids available to play the game. When I was in high school, the American Legion league was overflowing with quality players; Endicott had so many that they had to create another team to accommodate the number of quality players, and within a couple of years Endicott had the two best Legion teams in the area. One thing I have noticed in the last couple of years is that, both on the scholastic and non-scholastic level, that talent and even attitude are not the sole determinants of roster composition.
It is increasingly becoming a matter of who can afford a place at the table. Out of the thirteen kids on the team, I know of five others that are Binghamton kids, from four other families. All of them are West or South Side residents, and from the areas of those neighborhoods that are still rather affluent. There is one senior-to-be, one sophomore, two freshmen, an 8th grader, and a 7th grader. The incoming 7th grader was on Sabrina's all-star teams that won their tournaments two summers ago as a 10YO, and is good enough to be on the team so young. The 8th grader is the younger sister of the sophomore; I know her personally from showing up to watch the JV games last year, but I haven't seen her play, and of course I know the sophomore, who was on Sabrina's JV team (and modified the year before that). The older one can play some, and has gotten a lot better since being on this team, I am told. The other freshman is KK; I'm not always right, but I had KK and Sabrina pegged as the two best players in their age bracket (the now-14YOs) three years ago, and while a number of promising kids have fallen off or gone in other directions, they have stayed on course. KK was on varsity last year and on this team last year, too. Sabrina is not on varsity because of the now-senior, who is the catcher on that team--but I have a feeling that with these practices and this level of quality, the coach is seriously considering Sabrina for a move up. Sabrina can play right field and first base very well, and if she proves able to hit at a higher level--well, anything's possible. I'm all for anything that saves her knees. But the point of all this digression is that these are not the only kids with exceptional talent in the city--but they are the ones who can (barely, in my case) afford the prohibitive cost of this level of play. There are three kids who were on last year's JV teams that are on other travel teams--but there are at least three others who are good enough to be and won't be because they can't afford it. And that's a real shame.
But it's the reality. For the moment, at least, Sabrina is still on the inside. And now it's up to me to keep her there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

This is a critical period that I am entering into, where decisions will be made that will affect the course of the my and my daughter's lives for months and even years to come. This evening, there is the parents' meeting for kids who have been selected to play on the travel team softball squad; there is an agenda with seven items on it, but since Sabrina has been heavily invested in Binghamton softball for years, things like the coaching philosophy and expectations on the players are not going to be news to me. The two things I am going there to find out are how much it's going to cost to join the team (and due dates on installments), and travel schedules for the fall tournaments (there are going to be one or two, apparently). I've squirreled money away for a rainy day for several years, and have had to dip into it for the last 18 months or so to the point where I was starting to wonder if the hemorrhaging was going to stop. This month hasn't been bad; through three-plus weeks, more has been retained than has gone out.
But that's about to change, because of back-to-school shopping for clothes and supplies. In retrospect, a big reason the outflow got under control is that one of my credit cards got a boost in the credit limit, and I quickly dropped $500 on that card to give Sabrina softball equipment she needed. But at least, as I said, my own spending on non-essentials has gotten under control, and I can at least begin to contemplate a future when the ledger will be stable. Even though I told her it won't be necessary yet, Sabrina even made noise about getting her working papers and seeking a job. She's 14, and I don't really think she should feel responsible for having to contribute to the household finances at that age. It's an indictment of what this country has become that such echoes of the nineteenth century are becoming increasingly commonplace.
And I am contemplating a big decision in another area, too. I've been spending a lot of time around someone in early recovery again, and I am getting to the point where I have to make a decision about what kind of commitment I am going to be making. There were a lot of reasons to be wary, and some of them I continue to feel wary about, but I have to say that the most basic question--whether to be involved at all, because there is a significant difference in both clean time and age--has been answered in my own mind in the affirmative. God does work in mysterious ways, and there are no coincidences, and whatever lingering doubts were in my head were relieved in the meetings I attended the last two nights. I had a discussion with my closest contemporary in the fellowship Thursday night that reviewed my relationship history over the years, and last night, someone I dated earlier this year was a basket case over the POS loser that she's already wasted a third of her life over and won't let go of. And between the two, I got some clarity over some of the things I've been mulling over in my mind.
 The difference in clean time doesn't really concern me; I've had an ability to discern, almost from the day I got into recovery , who is done using and who isn't, and I have no real doubts now that the woman I am around is done for the foreseeable future. Even MOTY, as immature and messed up as she has been, stayed clean for nearly a decade without any sort of recovery program at all because she was, for a long time, done, and I was able to see that a lot earlier than virtually anyone else. The difference in age is more problematical, but there are a few things that are undeniable: 1) She is very much infatuated with me, which is something I haven't experienced in a long time, 2) it isn't like I'm fending off hordes of women at present, and 3) it isn't like I haven't tried, over the years, to build relationships with women in my own age group, both in and out of recovery. There are some flags out, to be sure, but what were red flags a month ago are pinkish now and fading by the day, and I have my own dreams and desires that are part of the equation, too.
Well, hell, I'm going to say it. For at least a decade, I have listened to countless women talk--talk about how they want a man who is responsible and works for a living, who is decent, who is good-natured and treats the people in his life with respect, who is a good parent, who isn't in thrall to addictions, who is faithful. And guess what? I am all of those things, have been for quite some time now. And time and again, the same women who are vocal that those things are what they are looking for have, when a man who exhibits those things is interested in them, instead demonstrated that their walk doesn't match their talk, that they would rather do things like enable a 60YO man who hasn't been clean for a week since Nixon was President; that they would rather not close the door on a man who treated them abominably for years; that they are going to chase every guy in the world who bears a physical and emotional similarity to the ex-husband who has made their life difficult for three decades; that they would rather excuse any and all indiscretions and failings because "he's so good-looking" or because he can lift a car with his bare hands or because he has a third leg or he's somehow convinced them that they are The One and that they are not going to like the four other women he's had children with that he left them to raise and that this time he's clean to stay and that his 34th white keytag is going to be his last one...it's gotten old. Real old.
A couple of years ago, I would have taken note and been mildly amused by the idea of someone a few years older than my oldest daughter being interested in me, but that's as far as it would have gotten. But that's not where I'm at right now. Just maybe, it takes someone who isn't carrying around a freight train full of emotional baggage based on years and decades of bad decisions to see what ought to be obvious. I know I'm not all that--but I'm much more of "that" then a lot of these clowns that get dozens of chances and miles of slack from women who claim that they want something better than what they actually end up being with--and that they actually pursue. Maybe it's not me that's been the issue all this time...
I have no idea whether this is going to be something that turns out to be real, or whether it is merely ephemeral and transitory. But I'm going to stop feeling awkward and even guilty about finding out. Fifteen years clean, three exceptional daughters, a good job, a good living, and a life based on principles that are actually applied much of the time--the question is not why someone in their twenties finds it attractive, even if there is a significant difference in age. The question, rather, is why it doesn't seem to be for women in my own peer group. And it's not even about looks. I'm not a heartthrob, but I'm certainly presentable, and I've been found attractive all my life by women who are attractive themselves.
I keep hearing that "age is just a number", and "fifty is the new thirty." And maybe those things are true. I intend to find out.

Friday, August 23, 2013

End of Another Week

The summer is pushing through to its inexorable end, and I for one am happy that it is. The days have melted into one another, and even with one vacation week already taken and another on the horizon (I will be off starting next Thursday for another calendar week), it just seems a bit numbing..
Of course that is an exaggeration; there have been some good things about this summer, and not everything has not been routine. But there are times when you just wish to be on to the next stage, on to the next chapter, and yet you have to slog through some dreary landscape to get there. And today is one of those days when I just am not feeling the magic. One of the reasons why is that today is fear. With the Presidential visit today, I have an idea that, despite what should be, everything within fifty miles is going to be seriously screwed up all day long. Where I am going first thing in the morning is one of the few places in the area where there is really only one good way to get there, and as it happens the presidential motorcade will be passing by that route, necessitating that I go there earlier than I wanted to be. The trip itself is a deviation from established practice, and it's going to take a while before routine gets re-established there, too. I foolishly agreed to meet with someone I'm not really fond of later in the morning, and I'm not looking forward to that.
And while I'm not one of these dingbats that checks horoscopes every day and has a concealed Miss Cleo experience in their past, I do somewhat believe in omens, and I got a good number of them yesterday. I had to go to Ithaca for my job, and got a parking ticket even after dumping a bunch of money in the meter when I got there. I got to the Endicott meeting in the evening  to open up--and discovered I had lost the key to the building. Lucky enough to be let in by a church straggler, I set up the meeting--only to have the power go out on only the block the church is on just as the meeting was getting underway. And an expected phone call never came last night; I'm not as disturbed as I would have been at some points in the past, but nonetheless I don't like it when that happens. So I'm a little anxious about today; I just want to look around at 4 PM and say, "Well, all the concerns were for nothing." I know myself, and human nature, well enough to know that the mind often makes uncertainty agonizing, and while I have made great strides in this area over the years, it's still there on a toned-down level; that's just the way I am wired.
So I sit here, having got up at 4:15 in the morning wide-awake, wondering if going to work at 6 AM is feasible. My daughter is going with her mother around lunch time; she did clean her room out last night, so I guess I should count my positives somewhere, right? This, too, will pass. But I don't like sitting with an uncomfortable feeling anymore than I ever have. I just deal with it better.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hail to the Chief

So the President is coming to town. The Empty Suit is going to be at Binghamton University on Friday. Every local politician of note, of both parties, has announced their intention to attend, and social media is full of anguish that tickets to the event don't seem to be available to the general public.
Myself, it's a matter of complete indifference to me where he is and what's he's doing. The near hysterical-complaints being heard about the lack of public access to Obama amuse more than anything else. Have people not been paying attention over the last thirty years? It's more of a principate than a presidency, and the office is now merely the top spot in the pecking order of an established oligarchy. He, and his people around him, have no more desire to mix with the great unwashed than they do in snaking out your drains on Saturday afternoon. And I'm very glad that, if all goes well, all of the oppressive security measures sure to be in place will, if I am lucky, not directly affect me. He's doing some kind of bus tour (I don't know where he's flying into, but I do know that Binghamton's airport can't handle a plane the size of Air Force One) and thus will be arriving on the highway (wonder if his motorcade will have to deal with the construction nightmare that's been affecting 81 for two years), and BU's main campus is across the Susquehanna and several miles away from anywhere I am likely to be that day. I don't particularly relish the idea of being held up in traffic or having to detour just to get to my home, and it doesn't look like I am going to have to.
But the way a lot of these people are carrying on reminds me of the episode from the first year of All in the Family, when Archie wrote Nixon a letter and all four of them donned their Sunday best (even the Meathead) to go to the post office to mail it. I'm iconoclastic by nature, and I've seen enough of people who hold offices in my lifetime to realize that they are most assuredly mere mortals who put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. I'm not a big fan of Obama, but I voted for him twice because he was clearly the lesser of two evils in both elections, and I don't really harbor him any ill will. I wish he would be more of a populist President instead of a tool of the elite, but I also firmly believe that if he really wanted to be a populist, he wouldn't be in office now, so it is what it is. And I can respect the office he holds without having to genuflect or prostrate myself before it, and certainly not before any individual who holds the office. Maybe that's something I need to work on, but I've lost any childish tendencies at demigod worship of those who merely hold an office that me and millions of other people put them into.
I've never met a President, to be sure. I was at Geneseo when Reagan was here in 1984, and I don't know where I was when Clinton was here in 2000 but it wasn't around him. The closest I've actually come to a President was in 1974 or 1975; our family was traveling home from New York City when traffic was stopped on the Thruway somewhere around Suffern or Harriman for Ford's motorcade, and I got a glimpse of the Presidential limousine about fifty yards away as it descended the entrance ramp. I met a Senator once--Al D'Amato was at Belmont Park one day in the 1980's--and I met the Representative whose district Geneseo was in while I was there, someone who impressed me so much that I can't remember his name without Google. But I long ago lost my awe of politicians; I became politically aware in the time of Watergate, and my two overriding memories of my youth regarding national affairs are Nixon resigning and Rockefeller flipping BU students the bird. Whatever happens Friday, I'm reasonably sure that Obama will not be giving anybody the finger and giving the rest of us an iconic image for the rest of his life and beyond.
And the unseemly haste of the local political establishment to get their seats--and camera time--is almost amusing, as well. Our long-serving state Senator has already been on camera stating, "While I don't agree with his policies, he is President, and so I will be there" like it fucking matters to Obama whether he's there or not. Our county executive, also of the other party, will be there (hope she dons her best sweatsuit, which is her usual public attire), and the Binghamton mayor is grabbing his last chance at reflected glory before his term ends at the end of the year. It all reminds me of a gibe about a current United States Senator: "the most dangerous place in the world for anyone to be is between [him] and a TV camera."
I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed with dog and pony shows, and the nature of the security state today mandates that all public interaction with any office holder of note is a dog and pony show. I imagine I will be able to see it, should I so desire, just fine on television that evening. There will be nothing of consequence said, no major news other than crowd shots of college students looking like the crowd in the Ed Sullivan theater the night the Beatles came to town. I will not have even a smidgen of regret that I will not be participating.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bell Curve On Front Street

As much as my life revolves around the recovery community, I am in touch with all aspects of it, and one of those, unfortunately, is the reality that many members of our fellowship have varying degrees of legal involvement. And for some, that degree means incarceration, for shortish but also indeterminate amounts of time. I know how much it means to people who are in jail to know that they have not been forgotten about by those that matter to them on the outside, and I have occasionally made time over the years to write or visit some of my friends that have found themselves in the local county jail serving short sentences or awaiting disposition of their cases.
And also being the keen observer of human nature that I am, I've been able to see two large groups of people interact with each other, and form opinions on the nature of both. The first, of course, is that segment of the population that I share waiting rooms with; the families and friends of other people who are there to visit inmates. There are a surprising number of people there like me, people who are not direct family of those that they are there to visit. Some are significant others, to be sure, but some are not. There are a large number of parents there on any given day, and a somewhat smaller number of siblings of inmates, but one aspect conspicuously absent are children of those inside. Once in a while, kids under the age of about nine will be there, but teens and young adults whose parents are resident in the facility are extremely rare. And to be honest, I see behaviors and attitudes exhibited regularly that make it quite clear that whoever is inside is not some bad-seed outlier from an otherwise idyllic environment. A majority of the people that are there to visit on every day I have been there exhibit all sorts of annoying tendencies. One is an inability to read or follow direction; when you have to pass through a metal detector, you would think you wouldn't have to be told to take out earrings, for example, and a huge number not only have to be told, but give off the impression that the correction officer is being a jerk for making them take them out. I don't know how many people I've seen that show up five minutes before visitation begins and think they are going to get right in ahead of the forty people already there, but it's a large number. There is a large sign that takes up an entire wall that lists what is and isn't acceptable, and every time I have ever been there, there are people that violate one or more of the provisions regarding dress, food, or cell phones, necessitating a comment from an officer. And in general, while many of the people there conduct themselves with decorum, and seem to be nice people, an equal number don't and aren't.
And the other part of the equation are the people that work there. And while many of the visitors grumble that almost everyone that works at the jail are assholes, I haven't found that to be the case. The ones who regularly work visitation are, to my mind, much more patient and pleasant than I would be if that was my beat. The lady who works during the week has never been anything but nice to me, and she, although she takes no nonsense from people, does start on time and doesn't treat people who set off the metal detector as possible terrorists, especially if you are familiar to her as a frequent visitor. The younger guy who works second shift on Fridays is one of the most good-natured people in uniform I have ever seen; he cracks jokes and also moves people right along. The officers stationed in the visiting room are a more varied lot, but with one exception, haven't been jerks; they have a job to do, and they do it, and most of them will cut both inmates and visitors slack about small rules violations (keeping your hands visible, staying seated with feet on the floor, etc). And I've personally experienced the guy with the visitation book letting the last visit of the week for an inmate run long without cutting it off right at the end of the hour.
The people behind the glass when you enter the building are a different story. I've seen about ten of them there over the years, and at least six of them have been rude and confrontational as a matter of course. I understand that they get a lot of what they regard as stupid questions, and some of our less sterling citizens tend to run their mouth more freely when there is glass separating them from law enforcement officers. But I really don't know why a corrections officer finds it necessary to treat anyone who comes to the window as an inmate-in-waiting, and a number of them that work that station clearly do. And I will never understand why they treat having to find information on the computer as some sort of chore--things like determining where someone is housed so that the person asking the question knows when the correct visiting hours are. There's one guy in particular who acts like you've just asked him to clean up a messy pile of shit in Aisle 7 when you ask him anything that requires him to move or do anything other than say "no."
What I am seeing while I am there is the Bell Curve in action. If you get a large enough group of people, their tendencies will be distributed like a Bell Curve. There will be some real nice people on one end, and some real jerks on the other, and the great majority are in the middle--generally OK, capable of being an ass on occasion, but mostly just either minding their own business or doing their jobs. What I lose patience with is people who take the extremes as the norms. I hear a lot of talk in the waiting room, and I feel like hollering at times, "No, all CO's and cops are not assholes! Why don't you not show up half in the bag or with shorts on that actually cover even a minuscule part of your thighs?" Sometimes I feel like pressing my face against the glass and saying, "What have I ever done to you? Are you this much of a dick at home, too? It isn't like you publish inmate information on the county website, and by the time your automated menu on the phone gets through listing options, I'm able to drive here from Endwell." And one other thing I've noticed; no one ever complains when they get a CO or a deputy that's goes out of their way to be helpful or nice, and none of the CO's or cops ever thanks anyone visiting for making their job easier by following the rules without being told or taking some obstreperous asshole acting out to task without them having to intervene. But I suppose that's human nature at work, too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: ALL FALL DOWN

All Fall Down is the second installment of Harry Turtledove's Supervolcano series. This one focuses on the new world that has resulted after the eruption of Yellowstone Park. Most of the Midwestern United States is still uninhabitable, and the rest of the country is struggling to continue on. The book tracks the progress of a far-flung family. The main characters are a cop in the Los Angeles area and his geologist wife, and in the course of the book they have a baby, welcome home two of their three children (from college locally and from a refugee camp in Arkansas), and adjust to the realities of life (driving is nearly a thing of the past, food is drastically changed). The third child is in Maine, which has regressed back to a 19th-century culture. Most of the book is familiar, life-during-stress Turtledove writing, with his Spillane-type asides and metaphors and predictable plot twists. But then, at the end of the book, Turtledove resolves a minor arc concerning a serial murderer that had been plaguing the LA area for two books in a surprising and novel way that I, for one, never saw coming; kudos to the author, whom I frankly didn't think had such an effective resolution for any plot twist in him.
I'm interested to see where Turtledove is going to take this series. One of the characters introduced in this book seems fishy to me--a militant Serb immigrant that is drawn as ridiculously as most suspense novelists depict Muslims as jihad-obsessed madmen. With two babies now in the picture--the cop's ex-wife had a baby in the first book, and the current wife has a baby in this one-- I also can't really see a satisfactory resolution coming from that arc. But the portrayal of a society in chaos because of the consequences that a Yellowstone eruption would bring--and it is possible--is realistic, and the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps the author is writing of an ultimate Gaea hypothesis--that this is the earth's response to serious global warming. Apocalyptic novels of this day and age tend to focus on a world gone hot, not one on the verge of a return to the ice ages.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Things Never To Write About

I have friends who also have blogs, and I've been writing this one for over four years now, and so I've gotten a pretty good idea of things that, First Amendment notwithstanding, should never be posted about in a forum like this.
1) Bodily functions. You can write about physical ailments, to be sure, as long as you don't reach saturation point. If you're writing most of your posts about something that's wrong with you, then eventually no one is going to care. But writing about spending twenty minutes in the bathroom or a particularly foul discharge from one of your orifices is not going to make compelling reading.
2) Family relations. It may make for interesting reading. But unfortunately, those finding it most interesting will, invariably, be the family members you are writing about. Unless you have truly, totally reached the point of no return with them, this can only end badly. Even writing about dead members of the family has its hazards; there is always someone who didn't share your feelings and will be willing to go to bat for the deceased, especially if it is a continuation of a rivalry that the dead person did all they could to foster.
3) Your job. This is not a universal rule, because I see a lot of people who do it, but in my case, I've learned the hard way that this is dangerous. In some ways, I feel lucky that interesting stuff happens at my job, but other acknowledging that I have somewhere to go forty hours a week that pays me reasonably well, I've learned that this is an area best cordoned off by yellow tape. If it's not mentioned and not out there for anybody to be able to willfully or inadvertently misconstrue, you will not end up having awkward conversations with people you'd rather not talk about your future with.
There are also some topics that should be handled gingerly:
4) Naming names. This is a corollary to Rule 2. Unless you are absolutely sure that you are done with someone, it is best not to directly name someone whose behavior irritates--or worse--you. You can be confronted in places you don't want to be confronted, and oftentimes posting about something that pisses you off will be a cause of regret when you calm down. And more and more, I'm realizing that life, God, whatever, has a funny sense of humor; it seems like I keep moving into a succession of glass houses. You never know how many people read what you write until you publish a peeve with a name in it. Besides, the narcissist in me has grown to like making veiled allusions and having other people ask me, "Were you talking about so-and-so?"
5) Anything touching on adoption. I never knew, but apparently this is a subject that a lot of people are passionate about--actually, some people are hysterically demented about. I ended up taking the posts down, but when I had the temerity to suggest that some kids were better off not having their biological parents re-enter their life, I unleashed a tempest of biblical proportions upon my head. I will never forget some of the more creative epithets and insults I was called in the comment sections.
6) Areas of your life subject to court order. I write, at times, about one parent of one of my children, and I probably shouldn't, although she is such a train wreck that there's no real danger involved. But I have three children, and I have been very circumspect about anything relating to visitation and support issues regarding them. I have no real problems at the moment on either subject, to be sure, but I would hate to be in Family Court having to explain why I wrote something I wrote. Discretion is the better part of valor there, too.
7) Significant others. Since when I am in a relationship, it tends to cast a rather large shadow over my life, I find it impossible to not write about when something important is going on. But I have learned to be very, very careful. The other person can read, and the other person has friends who read, too. My rule of thumb has become that anything other than acknowledging the obvious is a place best not explored.
And notice what I did not put in the list:
8) Politics. Not everyone wants to read about my political views, especially people whose views are markedly different from mine. And I'm not Atrios or Daily Kos here; this is not a political blog. But I am a citizen of the United States of America that takes the time and makes the effort to be reasonably informed about civic matters. The best invitations to tyranny are ignorance and apathy. The one period of my life when I was relatively apathetic to politics, we ended up with a dangerous moron as President and a gang of thieves and thugs setting policy for eight years that have landed us in a number of swamps we're still trying to emerge from. I don't mind debating or arguing with people who don't share my views, as long as they come by those views honestly (IE, not regurgitations of Faux News propaganda that is somewhere between 95 and 100% made-up bullshit).
9) Religion. I have a strong belief in God, so I don't generally take people who practice a particular faith or sect to task, even though I don't belong to any myself (well, Mormons partially excepted). I find it amazing that a lot of people, even a majority, claim that their belief in God is the most important thing in their lives--and then absolutely keep the subject completely off-limits, as if talking about it in any way or being asked "why" on this topic is so threatening to their well-being that it must be avoided at all costs. I've never understood that, and I never will. Well, let me add a caveat--most people don't get into discussions on this subject because a lot of the time, the discussion degenerates into an argument about why the respective parties are wrong about what they believe. I was guilty of that for many years, but once I became secure in my own beliefs, I didn't find that necessary any longer. I'm capable of talking about the matter without trying to tear down someone else's beliefs. More of us should be.
10) Children. My kids are the most important people in my life. If you're bored or irritated by my talking about my kids, then chances are you're not much of a friend. End of story.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dilemma

It's fish or cut bait time. Sabrina got a text message from the high school softball coach, who also coaches a travel team, on Friday asking her to attend a tryout yesterday morning. She went, and apparently the purpose of the exercise was for him to ascertain that she had not regressed since the end of JV season in May; she wasn't there but 30 minutes and she was the only kid there. The spot on the team is there for the taking.
I haven't seen the paperwork yet, but it will cost somewhere between a grand and $1275 to be on the team, and then there is the fact that they travel, pretty much every weekend in the summer and, from what I gather, at least two or three times in the fall, as well. And they go to places like Williamsport and Hartford and Pittsburgh, as well as closer and more mundane destinations like Syracuse and Middletown and Albany. My car is getting up there in miles, and it needs an alignment that I've been putting off for about a year now, and I know hotel rooms are at least a hundred dollars a night and in some places, like Philadelphia, a lot more.
And I haven't got that kind of money laying around. I suppose I could borrow the membership money from my mother, or even get it as a gift if she was feeling generous, but the travel bit is eating at me. I have other responsibilities, I have bills to pay that aren't going down in price any, and while I make a decent living, my pay will actually be going down after September because the amount of money we get paid for being on-call will be decreasing. There are other developments going on in my life that look like they are going to be longer-term, small-scale financial commitments, although that's not set in stone.There's a lot of people around here who can't find a first job, which not only makes it difficult for me to find a second job, but raises some moral questions about seeking one for me, as well. I've thought about putting out a shingle as a tutor (which I know I could do), and I have made some half-hearted efforts to find some kind of writing work on the Internet (writing advertising copy really doesn't do it for me, and that seems to be the only kind of writing anyone wants).
So I really don't know what I am going to do here. I pray every morning, every night, and sometimes during the day. I've grown very wary of praying for specific things, even in a general way, because that's asking God to do what I want Him to do, and that kind of makes a mockery of the whole Higher Power concept, as far as I am concerned. I do pray for courage, wisdom, and the chance to make the most of my abilities and assets, and I will be even more fervent than usual in the coming days and weeks. And I see, again, that there are no coincidences. I hadn't had any real contact with any other members of my family for a month prior to yesterday, because of some (in my mind) justified grievances: yesterday morning, before Sabrina's tryout, my mother called me and offered an olive branch. That was a sign that I'm going to need her help, if this softball thing is going to work. That door is at least cracked open; if she hadn't called yesterday, it would be closed.
There are other developments happening, as well, that I'm not going to write about until I have a better idea of the future. But with that development, too--there is no free lunch. Anything worth having is something that has to be worked hard on to maintain. And Sabrina, too, is getting this lesson, a lot sooner in her life than I did. One of the reasons I ended up living the life I did was that much came easily to me in my early years--I never had to work hard for good grades and I took my skills and abilities in sporting endeavors for granted (and the opportunities to display them, as well). I never learned to be an employee because what jobs I had entailed working for either my father or my friend's father. Sabrina isn't going to have the opportunity to take anything for granted, which will serve her much better in the course of her life.
Sometimes a day at at time is more than a cliche. I'll do my best, and we will see what happens here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Of Gardens, Bees, and Politics

One of my pet causes and worries for the future all of a sudden became Big News this week. I don't read the weekly news magazines anymore, but apparently Time had a cover story about the ongoing catastrophe that is Colony Collapse Disorder, and then on top of that Russia's President publicly called out Obama and the rest of the United States government over our refusal to acknowledge the obvious culprits in the bee apocalypse. And suddenly public awareness of this issue has shot up to never-before seen levels.
I've been aware of the collapsing honeybee populations for at least three years, and have been doing my little part to not make the problem worse. In line with pretty much every other public policy question in the United States of America these days, the need for intelligent and safe policies has been subordinated to corporate greed, and the fairly substantial evidence that the major culprit in the bee population collapse is a class of insecticides that Monsanto (which is right up there with Halliburton as the lead horsemen of the Apocalypse) and Bayer (a German company that colluded the Nazis and managed to survive and thrive the end of the war unscathed) have rammed down the world's throat has not been acted upon. The Europeans (the honeybee that is endangered is the European honeybee) have acted and banned this particular poison, defeating the corporate propaganda blitz, which is including obfuscating and even lying about the effectiveness of the ban. I know I read two years ago, when France banned a particular insecticide, that bee populations recovered somewhat within a couple of years in that country. But you'd never know it looking at Wikipedia or if your only source was television news.
I have no hope that a nationwide ban is ever going to be passed into law here; there are too many corporate whores in Congress for that kind of legislation ever to get passed again. I am more hopeful that some parts of the country will regulate these matters on a state level, and indeed Vermont already has. New York, no matter how much I get frustrated at times with the generally corrupt and inept way the state government works, remains, in matters of public policy, relatively progressive, and I think that a ban here is coming, especially if it becomes a nationally relevant issue that the Spoiled Little Bastard thinks that being on the right side of will help him become President in 2017. Judging by local farmers markets and local produce available in chain supermarkets here, I do not think the situation is as dire here as it is in some other places in the country. But New York isn't exactly the nation's breadbasket, or orchard, and the big effect isn't going to be seen until the wintertime, when most of the fruits and vegetables that we have come to take year-round access to for granted come from California, where the bee crisis is acute.
I'm trying not to worry about it so much; I'm old enough to remember when fruits and vegetables were seasonal. I spent a good portion of my childhood at farms like Jackson's, Van Winkle's, and Green Brothers picking all sorts of vegetables and fruits, and then my mother spending days canning, flash freezing, and otherwise preparing for storage just about all of them. I'm sure it can be done again; I chose not to this year, but I've flash frozen my home grown broccoli in years past, and am thinking about doing it with the second crop of green beans that is now coming in.
My own garden and yard is, after a dicey start due to a late frost, doing quite well, and after some nervousness earlier in the summer, I see that I have a healthy honeybee--and other kinds of bees, as well--population. I haven't used either pesticides or artificial fertilizers in several years, ever since I become aware that bee populations were under stress, and I've become very aware of what is and isn't attractive to bees, and what kinds of bees like what kind of flowers and plants. I've let snapdragons naturally proliferate because honeybees love them, and I'm adding a salvia every couple of years for the same reason. I've discovered that honeybees also are big fans of green bean flowers, and this year's green bean sowing, which I originally undertook with the idea of improving the soil fertility in the areas I cleared the hedges out, will likely become a regular feature. I've noticed that squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins attract an entire menagerie of bee species; honeybees tend to get crowded out by the bumblebees and other kinds that are literally all over those flowers as soon as the sun comes up. I've noticed that daisies, zinnias, and cabbage plants (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) are not bee favorites at all; flies and moths seem to do the pollinating with them.
Everything I planted this year has turned out to be doing well. The peppers and tomatoes are not as prolific as last year, but I am getting enough to keep me eating them. Squash had a bit of a late start, but they're doing all right now, and the cucumbers are absolutely exploding after nearly getting killed by the late frost. I will have three large pumpkins this year; they're already orange, and I'm going to have to take them off the vine in another few days and hope that they will make it to October sitting on a shelf in the garage. Green beans are growing like a weed; Lima beans are holding their own, and peas came in pretty good earlier in the summer. After not planting much in the way of broccoli last year, it came in great this year, and one plant that was in shadow when the garden was full is now getting a gigantic head on it--I've never had broccoli this late in the year, and it's given me an idea to space out plantings next year to ensure a steady supply. Aside from the culinary benefits of all this urban farming, my wallet is getting a bit of a break, too. I haven't had to buy any vegetables from the grocery store for a month, and won't have to again this week, either. And I will be eating green beans and squash for a while to come yet.
I have bigger plans for years to come. This year was a bit of a fallow year for the areas I normally put flowers, and I've concentrated on making more growing area. I need to refurbish the wood in the front garden box, and I intend to at least partially make more boxes in the fall in other areas. The new reality of life around here is that food is getting more expensive to buy in the stores; if you can grow your own, you're ahead of the game. And since it is unlikely that I will be adding to my income anytime soon, I fully intend to pursue take this path as far as practical, because as I am sure many of you have noted, I am not inclined to be passive in the face of potential problems.
And it all helps, both in the little and the big picture.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Among the Pharisees

I posted on Facebook yesterday afternoon about a rather disturbing incident that took place near my office. I don't want to go into details again over what happened, because I don't want to give the impression that  the church or the leadership of this particular congregation is somehow responsible for some of the attitudes and beliefs of some members. But it stuck with me because it is something I have had to deal with for nearly fifteen years, and it points out a fact of human existence that even Jesus of Nazareth was combating--the tendency of those who verbally espouse the highest moral qualities to fall way short of those ideals when it comes to putting those qualities into practice.
The neighborhood that my office is in is in the middle of what in other cities would be termed "the combat zone" or "the red light district." There is a substantial amount of drug activity in the in the rectangle roughly defined by the river, Prospect Street, Glenwood Avenue, and Main Street, with a jog south of Main that begins roughly on Schiller and extends to Seminary/Eaton Place, and even more so in the old heart of the 'hood that was a rough area during my active addiction--a smaller rectangle bordered by Oak, Main, Jarvis, and Clinton. If you know what you are looking for, you can see people engaged in all aspects of illegal activity at all hours of the night and day. One of the corollary characteristics of a drug-infested neighborhood is visible prostitution, and the blocks surrounding my office have turned into ground zero for that activity in this city in the last couple of years, as a concerted effort to combat it in the former epicenter in the blocks surrounding the library on the other side of the river have largely succeeded.
And the individual that drew my ire yesterday made some extremely condescending and nasty remarks about a number of the regulars in the area. It's a subject that has more of an emotional charge for me than most people. One reason for that is that I am in recovery and have been for a long time, and I know many women who have supported their addiction in this fashion. Most people seem to believe, and often voice their belief, that women who prostitute are moral failures, that they do what they do because they enjoy it or that because they are addicted to sex, and I can say without hesitation that the next woman I run into that does it because they enjoy doing it will be the first one. It is a ways and means to get money to support an addiction to a substance, invariably; there have been some I have known over the years that claimed otherwise at first that turned out, in the fullness of time, to be more ashamed of being addicted to drugs than of the selling of their bodies and thus would not cop to the addiction out loud for as long a time as possible. But every single one I have ever known has done what they do to support an addiction. I am not justifying the practice, but I do want to make damn sure that those who smugly condemn those who engage in it as moral reprobates understand what it is that they are condemning. I repeat: it is a ways and means to get money to support an addiction. It is not evidence of some deep moral failing or of sexual licentiousness.
And having been a drug addict and then in recovery, I have come to know several dozen women reasonably well who have prostituted. Every single one was molested/raped/sexually abused before the age of fifteen, and in many cases much younger than that. Every single one. Not every woman who was molested ends up prostituting, to be sure, but every one that ends up prostituting had some kind of sexual trauma when they were a child. Many of the same people who want to judge and look down on women that prostitute also pride themselves on being caring, compassionate people (at least when there are witnesses), and quite often are very honestly caring and compassionate toward children who have difficult circumstances. Well, only a small proportion of children who have difficult childhoods have positive interventions while they are still children. What do you think happens to the other 95% who grow up without therapy, without counseling, without something that counteracts the damage? Does the effects of the abominations visited upon them magically disappear once adulthood is reached? Most people would answer "of course not"--but when it comes to making the connection between what they see in the adults around them and what led to what they see, there is a disconnect, a failure to see context. That woman getting into the car in the CVS parking lot did not decide one day, "Hey, I'm going to be a hooker when I grow up."
And the women you see out there are people. They are somebody's daughters; in many cases they are somebody's mother. They are not some abstract construction, some automaton; they have people that care about them, that they care about, aspects to their lives that are much more than what they are doing to support their addictions. No, that doesn't necessarily excuse either the behavior or the addiction--but truly, there but for the grace of God go many of us. Many people find it distressingly easy to focus on the extremely narrow aspect of what they see at a time and place--and forget that they are dismissing a human being as worthless and morally repugnant.
I don't like this tendency when I see and hear it from anybody. But I find it even more revolting when I hear and see it coming from those who ostensibly have a deeper and more meaningful connection with God. Whatever happened to "hate the sin, love the sinner?" Whatever happened to "Treat others as you would like to be treated?" I don't recall Jesus of Nazareth being quoted in any of the Gospels saying, "Well, except for the prostitutes and the addicts..." And it's even more infuriating when I hear sentiments like this coming from people that I know, in the privacy of their own little cubicles, watch pornography. I have three daughters, and many years ago I realized that that all these women that are on video doing all these sex-related things are somebody's daughters. When the thought crossed my mind "How would you feel if this was your daughter on the screen", I got physically sick--and I have not watched a pornographic video since. I still challenge people with that moment of clarity when the subject comes up, and I have seen several people have the same reaction I did. There comes a point when you have to confront your own hypocrisy, where it is no longer possible to claim ignorance of what it is you're doing.
If there was a consistent target of Jesus in the Gospels, it was not the people who sinned. It was the religious establishment and the holy rollers of his time and place, those who claimed to have a strong connection to God and who "lived right" but who could not summon up even an ounce of compassion and love for those around them who fell short of their ideals. The entirety of the "Good News" is based on the premise that we are here to "love one another," to comfort the hurting, feed the hungry, help those who need our help. Yes, it's an ideal that everyone falls short of, but some try harder than others to live up to them--and some of us do not openly mock and jeer at those unfortunates who cannot find their way--cannot even imagine--that there is a better way out there. I know that when I was in full-blown addiction, one of the things that kept me out there was straight,naked fear--not so much of consequences, but that there would be no forgiveness, no acceptance, that I would be forever ostracized for some of the things I had done. Twelve-Step fellowships are effective precisely because they do accept those who need it most, offer some comfort and compassion, and welcome all who enter. Churches are supposed to espouse the same principles--but in practice, I have seen very few congregations that actually welcome "sinners" into their midst for more than a few minutes. Church membership in the United States has been declining for the length of my lifetime--and a big reason why is that there is precious little attractive about the way congregations treat those looking for comfort and acceptance. Put bluntly, there are far too many instances of what I saw and heard yesterday in too many contexts.
Holier-than-thou is never attractive to see, and even less so to experience if you are "thou."
I'm not sure I've expressed what I wanted to express very well in this essay. I guess what I am trying to say is that passing judgment on what and whom is out there is not helpful, and if you truly think that your connection to God is high and is the most important thing in your life--then act like it. Don't be jeering at lost souls. Don't walk by and cluck your tongues. Don't call them names if they happen to be standing between you and your car. You don't have to enable their addiction, but it doesn't cost you anything to treat them like a human being.
I always do. And I have been told by several people who eventually made their way off the streets and out of addiction that one small reason they were able to do so was that I, and other people in recovery, didn't treat them like they had the plague or like they were invisible when they were in the midst of addiction. I talk to most of the addicts that prowl the neighborhood--female and male--because my hope for all of them is that someday they will find their way to the place where I put my own addiction behind me. Most of them now know that I was once as hopelessly addicted to drugs as they are (some of them are even people I used to get high with, as long ago as that was), and that I am not now--and it is my hope, my responsibility to make the way I am living now to seem like a more attractive option to those struggling than the life they are currently leading. And being an asshole to them--essentially, kicking them when they are down--doesn't accomplish that. And even though I do not attend any church, I do recall enough of the gospels to know that on this matter, I am merely practicing what Jesus of Nazareth outlined as God's way. The guy jeering yesterday, and far too many like him, profess to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God Himself--and yet ignore his instructions and directives.
Is it any wonder that those desperately looking for help don't feel the love you claim is present in your place of worship? Is it any wonder that the path you claim to follow has no appeal for those it would ostensibly help the most?

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

I'm not perfect. But I can tell you this much: it doesn't cost me anything to be civil to those less fortunate than me. It doesn't cost me anything to model a better way. And even though I don't really believe that there is one, should there be a Judgment Day after I die, I know I will have less to answer for than a lot of people who sit in church every Sunday morning and claim to serve God with all their heart.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: A CURIOUS MAN

When I was a kid, I used to buy paperback editions of Ripley's Believe It or Not collections. I think I ended up with four or five of them before I started becoming skeptical of the information somewhere around puberty, and I probably hadn't thought of either the series or the man since. Then I saw Neal Thompson's A Curious Man at the library, a biography of Ripley himself, and thought it might be interesting to read.
And it was. Ripley was a fairly gifted cartoonist (it never occurred to me that Ripley himself actually drew the cartoons that filled his books, at least the ones that were published when he was alive), and he had a reasonably respectable career in journalism before ever publishing his first Believe It or Not. And the entire franchise is one of those things that were probably a product of their time and place; this sort of trivial fascination with the different, odd, and weird is the province of the Internet these days. But Ripley became a very wealthy man in the midst of the Depression because of his fascination with what filled his cartoons, and he was a ubiquitous media presence--newspapers, radio, and one of the pioneers of television, too.
And he lived the life of the rich playboy type, too. He was a party animal, had as close to a harem as a respectable American could publicly have, and more money than he could ever spend. He counted the rich and famous among his friends, and was yet another famous American of the thirties that hated Franklin Roosevelt (funny how it was only rich people that seemed to loathe him). Toward the end of his life, the vapid emptiness of a life based on collections of shrunken heads and sophomoric alcohol-soaked parties seemed to get to Ripley; he became quite churlish and undependable in the 1940's, to the point where he lost his radio show and was about to lose his newspaper gigs when he died. All things considered, this is an interesting book, a detailed excursion into the all-American life story that ends as a lesson in the moral and spiritual emptiness of a life based on materialism and the chimera of "success."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watching "42" With The Next Generation

Ever since the trailers started showing up months ago, Sabrina has wanted to see the Jackie Robinson biopic "42". It finally got to Redbox yesterday, and both of us ended up watching it. Twice, as a matter of fact, because she had a lot of questions about both Robinson and baseball in general, and because even someone as knowledgeable and jaded as I am was greatly affected by what I was seeing--but not as much as she was.
The first aspect was somewhat entertaining. Spending as much time as I did in Brooklyn and Queens when I was young, I came to know a lot about New York City baseball history. My dad got me a copy of Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer when I was about nine, and I read it twenty times if I read it once; of course, Robinson is a pivotal figure in it, as he was perhaps the quintessential Dodger of that era. My father, despite growing up in Brooklyn and being a very good baseball player up until he was invited to go to Korea, was not a Dodger fan. As I explained to Sabrina, ethnic identity was keenly felt in the first half of the twentieth century among first and second generation immigrant families, and the most prominent Italians in the major leagues while my father was a youth were Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra, and he was, consequently, was a Yankee fan until the day he died. I've read a lot about baseball history over the years, and while Robinson was going to go into the Hall of Fame no matter what he did, he was a great player, too. His defensive statistics are amazingly good at three positions; he hit for a high average with  a lot of walks, some power, and was the best base stealer of his era; and his teams won from the time he entered the league until the day he left it (he was in Brooklyn for ten years; they made it to six World Series, lost in playoffs to get to the World Series two other seasons, and lost the pennant on the last day of the season in another. He wasn't the only good player on the Dodgers, of course, but he was their unquestioned leader, and most of the Dodgers said at the time that Robinson was their best player). And aside from his statistics, he 1) entered the league at 28 years old, meaning the years when players normally have their best seasons were already behind him, and 2) as the movie graphically details, no one in the history of any sport dealt with what he had to deal with just to play the game.
The second aspect was somewhat gruesome, and affected me almost as much as it affected Sabrina...I remember seeing The Passion of the Christ a decade ago, and being vividly affected by watching, as opposed to merely reading about and imagining, what Jesus of Nazareth was subjected to; it made the notion of one man's suffering physical torture and punishment much more plausible as an instrument of redemption. And no matter how much I had read of the race-baiting and abuse Robinson had to silently suffer, it was incredibly powerful to see it, to see it so naked and raw, to listen to the constant verbal abuse (and they only showed a few games' worth in the movie; it went on for all of the 1947 season at those levels and continued on at some level for many years afterward) of a sickening nature. I found myself feeling uncomfortable and angry seeing it, wanting to somehow enter the TV screen and punch out Ben Chapman, wanting to deck the Philadelphia hotel guy, wanting to somehow intervene. And as much as I was affected, my daughter, who has grown up in an era where naked racism of this nature is not accepted--hell, where raw naked racism of this virulence is hardly ever even seen-- was totally blown away. I'm not going to pretend that racism no longer exists, or that it isn't a huge issue in our nation at the moment--but I do have to say that there has been some progress in sixty-five years. I honestly do not know how Robinson dealt with it without killing someone. I wouldn't have made it through one game, one inning, of such treatment. And it was amazing to see my daughter's mind being blown, for real. She knows that racism exists and is real--but she had never seen even a dramatized portrait of its true virulence and nature before. And it really, powerfully affected her. The fact that most of those openly espousing racist sentiments in the movie came around to respect and even like Robinson didn't really matter to her as much as seeing what racism looks like when not confronted. I'm older, and do appreciate the magnitude of the honest and heartfelt changes that men like Dixie Walker and Bobby Bragan experienced (both men spent decades of their life not only apologizing for what they said and did in the first part of 1947, but actively becoming aggressive proponents of integration and going out of their way, as coaches and managers--Bragan managed in the majors for decades, and managed in the minor leagues into his eighties, as recently as 2006--to be racially progressive and inclusive. The movie is about Robinson, not the metamorphoses of his nemeses, but to be truthful, those changes are a great story in their own right)--but the fact is that their changes were merely amends for a great wrong done, and it is an open question whether or not those amends were sufficient. Seeing my daughter's visceral disgust at the open racism displayed was eye-opening for me, and I think that the movie, as good as it is on its merits, can serve a larger role as well for all of us. This is the type of society and the type of moral environment that many people, both in power and those who support them, want us to return to. This is the alleged "golden age" of America for far too many people, this America where "porch monkey" and the N-word and legally sanctioned discrimination were all "normal" and morally acceptable for a whole lot of people. And the movie doesn't emphasize the point, but there were others who exhibited hatred at the time and place who did not change much, if at all. Kirby Higbe has a minor role and served as an early Robinson foil, but in his 1961 autobiography, he made it clear that he wasn't reconciled to integration in baseball. Although Eddie Stanky stood up for Robinson in the movie, he did so, as he said in the movie, because he was a teammate, not because of any change in attitude; what the movie didn't show was that Stanky, as a manager in the game in the 1960's, was regularly accused of racism by his players.
Well, fuck that. And fuck the reprehensible people who can contemplate returning there, who can even make excuses for the inexcusable. I know how dangerous it is to judge people of the past by the moral standards of the present--but you cannot tell me that the openly racist people of that time and place did not know that they were doing wrong. And you cannot tell me today that only-slightly less racist people are merely "ignorant" or somehow less culpable for their attitudes and beliefs. They were and are moral monsters. I have had no tolerance for racism for a long, long time, but if anything, seeing it like this reinforced it even more than I thought possible.
There was one minor and one major quibble I had with the movie. Branch Rickey is the other main character in the movie, and I've read quite a bit about Rickey over the years. There is a scene in the movie where Rickey is informed, just before the season starts in 1947, that Leo Durocher was being suspended, and Rickey calls Happy Chandler a "son of a bitch." Everything I have ever read about Rickey says that the harshest epithet he ever used was "Judas Priest!" (which he says in the movie a few times)--and that he would never ever use words that could even remotely be considered cursing. Rickey is a man who stopped playing major league baseball in the early twentieth century because he didn't feel he could play on the Sabbath, so his religious convictions were genuine and consistent. I just cannot credit that Branch Rickey used the phrase "son of a bitch." The major quibble is with the beaning of Robinson by Fritz Ostenmuller. Whether Ostenmuller was racist is somewhat open to question. But Ostenmuller was left-handed, not right-handed, and when he hit Robinson, he hit him in the arm, not the head. Robinson was eventually beaned in his career--but in 1949, not in 1947.
 But otherwise, this movie passes my own rather rigorous standards of historical accuracy, something I pointed out to my daughter. Her favorite movie up to this point in her life has been Remember the Titans, which I don't really mind but which also bothers me some because of the liberties that those who made the movie took with the real story.
And this movie has taken on an added poignancy this summer. Major League Baseball retired 42 as a uniform number back in the 90's, grandfathering those who were currently wearing it. The last player standing who was exempted at the time is Mariano Rivera, and this is his final season. And it comes at a time when the number of African-American players in the major leagues is at numbers not seen since the early 1960's. There are a number of reasons for this dearth, but the irony is inescapable, and indicative of other changes in United States society that have led to racism's persistence--it just manifests in less overt and nasty ways.
But there is hope yet. Sabrina is up at 6:30 on her summer vacation to watch this movie yet again. Maybe, as generations pass and soak in the knowledge of what racism truly is, it will finally fade onto the dustbin of history.
Let's hope so.