Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Be Numb

We all play many different roles in life. I consider myself a father, teacher, writer, husband, friend, brother, consumer, voter, and the list could go on. But the two roles that I think truly define me are "father" and "teacher." And today, both of those integral parts of my concept of self had their hearts broken.

As a father, the Sandy Hook tragedy points out an essential truth. Our children are the most important things in our lives. The idea that I could be standing in front of a class discussing Huck Finn one moment and receiving a call delivering the most devastating news imaginable the next makes me ill. What if? The question is numbing.

As a teacher, I can't help but think of my high school students, all of them I've had in the past six years, imagining them years ago on a playground at one of the district's elementary schools. There's that question again. What if? What if something like this had happened in our district. What if I'd never gotten the chance to meet, teach, and care for the amazing kids I work with every day. They've had such a profound effect on my life. That idea is quite numbing as well.

But don't let it numb you. Don't let it paralyze you. Yes, today hurts. Yes, we will cry when we look at the photos being posted across the internet of parents breaking down as they realize the fate of their precious angels. And yes we will feel varying degrees of hatred and anger for the man who caused all of this.

But don't be numb.

Feel it. Really let it affect you. It was numbness, dissociation, it was a paralysis of the heart that must have allowed this man to commit this act in the first place. It would take someone so numb that he could look a bunch of beautiful, sweet, and innocent little children in the face and then pull a trigger. So don't be numb. Feel every gut-wrenching moment of it. Those innocent cuties deserve that tribute.

And when you're feeling it, realize that we are going to feel this again. Again and again. What started long before Columbine and will, God help us, continue long after Sandy Hook, seems to be only increasing. It's a never-ending cycle of violence. With it, we feel hopeless. We feel lost. And most of all, we feel helpless.

But we are far from helpless. No, we can't prevent the tragedies that have already happened. We might not be able to prevent those that come in the future. But we can absolutely do something.

I'm not talking about gun control. Though it's worth taking a look at. Unfortunately, no amendment can amend what happened. No law can subvert the laws of nature.

I'm not talking about prayer. Though I'll be praying day and night for the lives lost, those destroyed, and for the protection of those that remain.

No, I'm talking about what the Apostle Paul referred to in Romans 13:10 as "the fulfillment of the law." Love. We can love.

What better way to combat hatred and anger, the kind of hatred and anger that caused tragedies from the Holocaust to 9/11 to Columbine to today's horrific events in Newtown. Love each other. Love each other like it matters, like there's no tomorrow. Go out of your way to make others smile. Go out of your way to tell the people you care about how you feel. Go out of your way to make the outcast feel special. Spread love like a disease--an epidemic of Biblical proportions. In short, care about others instead of putting them down, trying to defeat them, or feeling jealousy toward them.

Just love.

We may never know what caused one man to lash out at the world and destroy the future of Newtown, CT. But what we can be sure of is that it had nothing to do with love. A man filled with love, surrounded by love, emitting love, could not commit a crime such as this.

After all, with love, it's impossible to be numb.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"All You Need is Love"
Performed by The Beatles

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Questions Than Answers

With just a couple more days until the election, I have to admit that the results are much more up in the air than when I once posted that Obama was guaranteed an electoral landslide. What happened? Mitt Romney got on the public stage alongside President Obama and denied all of his ideas were his ideas and backtracked on all his plans. Much like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar who stares at his mother and says the cat did it, Romney's strategy was simply say, in the immortal words of Shaggy, "It wasn't me."

Obama had no answer, looked silly to America, and the entire debacle that was Romney's campaign was shaken away. Call it an Etch-a-Sketch or Romnesia or a brilliant--albeit late--pivot from primary to general election strategy (let's face it, all candidates who have to win a primary do it), it worked brilliantly, and people were no longer scared of Mitt Romney.

With all the analysis I've done of the situation, I think it all is going to come down to five questions. These are not the questions most will be asking themselves as they wait for Tuesday's results. We will probably never know the answer to these questions, but behind the scenes somewhere they will have contributed to the results of this election. Here they go, in random order:

1) Will the evangelical Christian right that pushed George Bush to victory but was not enthusiastic about John McCain vote for a Mormon. There was a piece on yesterday about a conservative Christian voter that said he, and others like him, are merely sitting this one out. They won't vote for someone who is pro-choice, whether we're talking about abortion or gender of marriage partner, but they also won't vote for a Mormon whose view of Jesus Christ contradicts their own. If we concede that evangelical Christians carried W to re-election despite everything going wrong in his presidency, we have to admit this is probably a problem for Mitt Romney.

2) How big a fluke was Barack Obama winning in the first place? Were we really carried away by the chance to make history and by soaring rhetoric? Were we really taking George Bush out on John McCain? In short, was Obama just in the right place at the right time, or was the country really voting for his progressive agenda? The honeymoon is certainly over. Both sides were frustrated by his attempts to play nice for two years, and when he got tough, Republicans got rubbed the wrong way and now refuse to play at all. If Obama wins again, despite a failing economy, this might show us where our country is as a whole. Have we become more liberal, and have social issues like acceptance of gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and socialized medicine become acceptable to the majority? Have we become a liberal nation? Or was 2008 a fluke? That might get answered Tuesday.

3) The fact is there are about 5% more registered Democrats in this nation than Republicans. Turnout then, as usual, becomes key. The more people that actually go out to vote, the better it is for Democrats. The more people who stay home, the better it is for Republicans (assuming independent voters break even, and with the national polls tied in the final days, that seems to be the case). Who can motivate the base more to come out and win this thing? Now, I admit, that's pretty much a question every pundit is asking and goes for any election. But I think there's a different question this time in regards to this. With the apparent hatred between these two candidates, the complete and total disgust building between the polar opposites of our society, I think the question is which side hates the other side more? Will liberals disgusted by the Republican party in general come out to the polls out of anger more than conservatives who are pissed off by what they see as a socialist agenda? Who is more pissed, sickened, outraged, disgusted, and/or homicidal might be the key to this election.

4) Also related, who are the more protestyer protesters--the Tea Party movement or the Occupy movement? There is no better way to show the vast differences in America public life. Both the Tea Party and Occupy movements have had issues with both candidates, it seems, or at least think neither is either liberal enough or conservative enough to satisfy their anger. Perhaps what we're seeing through this is that both candidates are more moderate than mainstream voters gives them credit for. Some do see this and claim they're both the same candidate that really agree on most issues. Either way, even though nobody will ever be liberal enough for the 98% and nobody will ever be conservative enough to be invited to this tea party, they will definitely be voting for the candidate closest to their own agendas. Which side is stronger, more organized, and like in question three, the angriest could be a huge factor in this election.

5) Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. We live in a strange world right now where men are overwhelmingly going for Mitt Romney and women are overwhelmingly going for Barack Obama. This isn't new. When you watch the debates and you see that little meter going at the bottom, often the two lines, one for women and one for men, are heading in completely opposite directions. This means something. Think about it. This means that in several households--I'm not about to venture to do this math--the husband is voting Romney and the wife is voting Obama. How is that possible in this age of hatred between parties? It's true, though. Maybe this accounts for the divorce rates being so high. Numbers this varied can't lie. We like to think we live in this world where men and women are equal and the problems of women and men have now equalized. Men care about their children going to war and getting sick, too; don't they? Maybe not? Who knows? But for this election, the question may be who can make more inroads with the gender who seems to oppose them. Can Obama convince more men to vote for him? Can Romney win over women? The battle of the sexes could be the battle for the White House. Will married men vote for Obama just to keep their wives off their backs????? Okay, that last one was just a joke, but this will be interesting to watch.

There are a slew of other factors going on out there, city vs. rural vs. suburban for example. In a recent Colorado poll that has Obama up slightly, Obama leads handily in the cities, has a comfortable but more modest lead in the suburbs, but is losing in the rural towns. Will cities and lukewarm support in the burbs win despite Romney's support from rural towns. What about the Hispanic vote that Obama will win by a landslide? What will that turnout be like in states like Florida?

There's so many interesting angles this time around that I could see Obama winning an electoral landslide (not a popular vote landslide), and I could see him losing altogether. I could see Obama winning the electoral vote but losing the popular vote. Heck, there's even a chance at an electoral college tie which, though various legal messes, could end in a Romney/Biden White House. What a goldmine for SNL!

It's going to be an exciting night full of answered questions, but when it's all said and done, whoever is the president is going to have a lame-duck Congress that needs to get to work on debt reduction and the debt ceiling. Actually, the "George-Bush-tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy" issue will be the first thing to decide with that deadline for their expiration looming. What happens after the election, before the new Senate and House are sworn in, might be just as politically exciting as this election.

Well, that's my final word on this election. I'm guessing Obama wins with 303 electoral votes, but I'm not exactly sure. Romney might pull it out or Obama could win by more. There's too many questions left unanswered. We'll have to tune in Tuesday night to find out.

Peace, and may the force be with you.

 Why can't this happen more often?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Politics in 3-D

I'm a liberal. Let's get that straight from the get go. But this isn't about my political beliefs. It's about theirs. The kids. The future of America.

With the election coming up, I have been engaged in quite a few political conversations with my students and ex-students in the past few months. Through these conversations, one thing has become abundantly clear--the polarization of our political system is in danger of collapse. I'm sure most of you would say, "That's great news." However, do you really mean it?

I see most of us commenting on Facebook and commenting on articles, mostly through condescending and often inaccurate memes, even analyst on television, completely dedicated to their red roots or their blue. We've identified with a party, memorized its stances on every key issue, and adopted them as their own. We make fun of the spin room crap shoveling while strapping on our own boots to join them.

So what do the youth believe? I read a comment the other day, and forgive me for not remembering which of my Facebook friends posted it, that said, "Everyone is a little bit Libertarian." Somehow young people in this country have been able to see past the giant donkeys and elephants in the room, to somehow ignore the red or blue glasses that tint, or perhaps taint, all of our adult viewpoints, and see another future for America, a future where political polarization and hatred are replaced by complete unity and harmony from sea to shining see. Not red states, not blue states, but purplish states.

It seems that young people, though they sometime take up their parents' (and probably grandparents') torches and argue over Obama and Romney, really do mostly agree on the problems that face our country--and the answer for them has become Libertarianism.

They realize our government has gotten too big, that social programs are being taken advantage of and leading to laziness, that government that's too big and infringes upon rights (see USAPATRIOT ACT) is downright scary. They've read 1984 and recognize Orwell's Big Brother looming over them. However, they do not see the Republicans as the solution to that problem. They are smart enough to see that the debt exploded under Republican rule.

They also see the Republicans as backward-thinking folks that infringe upon basic rights and are saturated in bigotry. They believe in marriage equality and may even be truly post-racial in some circles (if only their parents would let them be). They don't hate gays. They believe in freedom of religion, but they don't think that means ending contraception and abortion. They know that rape is rape. They are disgusted by Republicans and their attempts to send us back to the 1920s.

Let's not forget that this is a generation, like the 60s and 70s, scarred by war. For most of them, they don't remember a world where we weren't at war. Their earliest childhood memories are of 9/11, and they've known relatives that have spent more of their lives overseas fighting than arguing at the dinner table. It's a shame the way they've grown up, and they blame George Bush and Republicans for the most part for this.

They aren't too thrilled with the Democrats either. They see liberals as big spenders who want to control their lives. Yes, the Dems would let them marry who they wanted. Yes, the Dems would let them buy contraception. Yes, the Dems would care for the needy. But with the thought of being saddled with a massive debt to China, they also see the Dems as enablers of big spending and laziness.

They fear a government so big they have no choices. They fear Obamacare and socialism. They've been taught to hate Communism and that our troops have been fighting for American values by uprooting political systems around the globe that control their people too much. They've been taught to hate China and call them currency manipulators. They fear the Dems as much as the GOP.

There's a reason Ron Paul, at his age, was so popular among the youth. Most of his contemporaries probably hear about hash tags and think you're talking about "those hippies" and their "marijuana cigarettes." Now Gary Johnson (the official Libertarian candidate) is even becoming a darling, unfortunately for him, among those not yet old enough to vote. Why is this?

The kids today want freedom, unadulterated freedom. They want gay marriage, they want free markets, they want to legalize drugs (not to use them but because they can't understand how the government can tell us what to do under any circumstances), they want free speech and a freer press. In short, they are pure-blooded Libertarians. Even those that don't know what the term means.

I took a test the other day on It told me that I matched up 83% with Barack Obama and 23% with Mitt Romney. No big surprise there, right. Well, the surprise was that I matched up with 85% of Gary Johnson's beliefs. I've made fun of Libertarianism as wanting to have your cake and eat it too for a long time. But what if you can? What if we all are a little bit Libertarian. I'm wondering if America knew Libertarianism existed if Libertarian candidates wouldn't win in a landslide. Think about it.

Most of us do complain about government spending and the debt. Most of us do think people are taking advantage of foodstamps and other benefits. Most of us do fear the government controlling us. On the other hand, most of us have gotten to the point where legalized marijuana and gay marriage don't scare us. Not only do most of us think contraception is okay; over 90% of woman use it and 100% of men, while not wanting to discuss it as a political point, are grateful for it.

We want freedom. America was founded on it. But it seems the Democrats and Republicans are perfectly willing to preach freedom while cherry-picking which freedoms they are for or against. The youth seem to see through this. The youth just wants to be free. After all, that's what we've been teaching them since they started school. They see that slavery can exist in many forms.

Imagine a world where 47% of America doesn't hate 47% of America. Where everyone can agree on one basic set of ideals. We were founded on these ideals. Freedom is our credo. I can't help but thinking there is a shade of purple we can all get behind, kind of like looking through a pair of those 3-D glasses, where what's right in this world will just pop out at us and not be so hidden behind the words "it's complicated." I wonder if the young folks are right.

The editor-in-chief of the high school newsmagazine I advise has written her November cover story on third-party candidates not getting enough attention. She is an adamant Libertarian. I see her fighting and arguing for the rights of all and freedom for all on a regular basis. That's what she's been taught to do. How can that be wrong? I love that about her, so how can I tell her that's not the right way just because it's not the left way?

She talked about feeling disenfranchised (though she didn't use that word), and I told her, in a rather condescending way, that she would have to get used to it because she supported a part "nobody cares about." I apologized later and told her that I meant that it was unfortunate nobody cares about it, not that it wasn't important. And that's what I truly believe. We should get to hear all sides, not just the sides the media wants us to hear.

But I was wrong. People do care. Just because they don't know the option exists, or because they are too young to vote, doesn't mean nobody cares. They do care. They care a lot. I see it on Twitter and Facebook. And if we don't beat the righteousness out of them, and don't somehow convince them they have to pick a side in the unending fight over two belief systems--philosophies that don't really truly exist in all practicality--if we let them wear those 3-D glasses and see the world in a beautiful shade of purple, maybe this will be our future.

While I'm a liberal and believe in taking care of the least among us, I can't help but think that America as a whole is all little bit Libertarian. They just don't know it yet. But with young people like my editor-in-chief leading the way, some day they may. A child shall lead them. Don't think it's possible? Still think we're stuck in a two-party system that will never be shed?

Look at Colorado. This state might be fully legalizing weed in a week or so. The hippies who smoked around a circle like on That 70s Show are now prominent leaders in government and industry. Look at inter-racial dating and marriage. We are quickly becoming more and more post-racial because of the extent of mixed-race families in this nation. As the children of those first desegregated schools have grown up, so has the idea of racial equality. Racial equality without government-coerced quotas.

So, what we as the establishment see as a crazy fringe group, a fad of the naive young people of our nation, may one day be the reality. After all, when I was in high school, sadly to us, the idea of a black president was a fantasy, an impossibility. Things change, and the youth are the barometer predicting that change. I see it permeating my classes. They're sick of leftist big government. They're sick of right-wing fundamentalist bigotry. They're truly ready to move forward. And they see that forward as Libertarianism. In a way, they're already fighting for our freedom. Who are we to stop them?

What would Abe Lincoln think about this election?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

'Ya Big Baby

My son was playing soccer today when one of the other kids began crying and screaming. The coach playing with them was pretending to be Spider-man and was throwing a red piece of fabric at their balls as if slinging a web. Just a year ago, that was my Owen. In fact, this year, Owen was too scared to play without his sister holding his hand the first two weeks.

So I knew what the mom of the little crybaby was going through. I thought, I guess it's just a phase. But is it, really?

As I stood there watching Owen dribble across the wet grass, I came upon the realization that we never really grow out of that phase. Children are just more transparent than adults. Aren't we all afraid of new social situations? Don't we all sometimes want to run into the comforting arms of someone we trust? Sure, for this kid the situation was a relatively innocuous game of soccer and the someone he trusted was his mommy, but what's the difference really?

How often do we leave something unsaid, avoid an awkward conversation, or sit around wondering what if because we failed to take a risk? How often do we go into a new situation without giving it a chance simply because it's different or uncomfortable? How many times do we look across the dew-covered soccer fields of our lives, see the scary coach that is our fears that we're not good enough, not smart enough, and gosh darn it, nobody likes us, and cry like little babies and run to the comfort of something we know is bad for us.

No, we're not much different than children. We're just much better at hiding it, hardened by what we mistakenly call growing up. What's the difference between the child pitching a fit in the grocery checkout line and the sports coach berating members of the media after a tough loss? Both of them are just upset they didn't get what they wanted. What's the difference between the child intentionally dragging her feet to avoid going to bed and the business woman who arrives late to avoid the awkwardness of being alone with a rival? Both are simply delaying the inevitable. And what's the difference between the child hiding his peas under the edge of his plate at dinner and the politician hiding his assets in an offshore account to avoid taxes? Both have proved themselves untrustworthy. What's the difference?

We are just children who have perfected hiding our emotions, masking them with other just as undesirable ones. We resort to passive-aggressive attacks, saying every negative thing we can think of but what we really mean. We may not stomp our feet anymore, but we think nothing of stomping on the hearts of others. Perhaps we never really grow up. Perhaps life is always just as scary as it was the first time we walked into a classroom and watched our mommies leave us there by ourselves. On our own. Alone. Perhaps we never do fully figure out our own feelings. Maybe we never get the point of life.

I know I haven't. But I'm still holding out hope that it's just a phase.

"Forever Young"
Rod Stewart

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

It's Labor Day. A day to sit back and enjoy the fact that you have a day set aside from actually going to work so you can get more work done while you're at home.

Wait, that's not what labor day is about?

In fact, the whole concept of labor day is probably enough to confuse the heck out of all of us. Proposed by a union leader, copying those socialists in Canada, and fought against by president Grover Cleveland until they came to a negotiated understanding, it sounds a lot like it's a holiday celebrating organized labor.

We are, after all, a nation of workers...workers who complain about their working conditions no matter how posh they seem to an outsider. Even the highest paid executive can never get that coffee maker to work just right, or perhaps finding a competent secretary to bring him the coffee has been difficult. We all want better working conditions.

Yet unionized workers, and the unions that protect them, are often scapegoated for just about everything from the outsourcing of American jobs to the budget crises faced by many towns, states, and even the federal government. People seem to hate organized labor, even if they are in a union. We're a nation of labor schizophrenics.

American jobs are shipped overseas because unionized American labor is too expensive. They require benefits and OSHA-approved working conditions. If we would just work for peanuts, with no medical benefits, and work in factories where we could easily die the next time a machine coughs or clogs putting lead paint on toy cars America could become the great nation it once was. Damn unions.

The truth is, we are all labor in some ways. We all work for someone. So Labor Day is for all of us. And no matter how much you think "the other guy" has it easy, we all have a lot on our plates. Don't hate your boss because he makes twice as much as you. He has a boss that craps on him too, pressures a bit more pressing than yours (at least on the job), and probably is at more risk of being fired at the drop of a hat than you are.

And bosses, don't be so quick to judge your employees. If they seem lazy, unmotivated, and self-absorbed, it's because, well, you haven't given them as strong a stake in the work they are doing as you have. They don't get paid as much as you. They have families to feed, which probably weigh on their minds more than if your company makes a profit. It's the American system. Yes, I work for you, but only because it benefits me.

Then we come to us in the public sector. We are paid by society to do a service for society. And people hate us for it. It's one thing when there's a lazy employee hurting the profits of a grocery store, bank, or video store (I've worked at all three), but when that lazy person is costing you money, tax money, that is absolutely enraging. The truth is, though, that if the government wasn't paying that worker, they wouldn't be lowering your taxes by that worker's salary divided by the number of tax-payers. They'd be wasting it somewhere else.

And don't blame teachers for their union's attempt to protect them. Most teachers, if not all, in some ways work above and beyond the contracts that have been negotiated for them. Yes, the union fought for us to have a school day that ends and begins 20 minutes after and before the bells ring, but none of us stop teaching at that point. In fact, many of us will be grading papers on this Labor Day. We stay late for kids, give up our union-negotiated lunches for kids, and even sometimes vote to forgo our union-negotiated annual raises to help out the kids. Name me one group in the private sector who would vote to forgo raises to help the bottom line at the company it works for. Yes you work hard too. Yes you take work home too. But if your union fought to protect you from doing something, would you do it anyway out of the goodness of your heart?

I also understand the local towns needing to get the most they can for their buck. The battle between labor and management need not be a battle. It's sad how we use terms like "labor" and "management" to divide and dehumanize. It's that damn economics 101 pie theory. If you get more, I have to take less. Imagine a negotiation where both sides went into it trying to do the best they could for each other. Just imagine it for fun. What a beautiful thing it would be. We're all humans, and shouldn't we want to do the best we can for our fellow humans?

It seems like a fairy tale, something out of the Bible or a board book. However, I recently did experience such a thing. I was trying to buy a car from an older gentleman who had priced the car at $3,500. I was sold the moment I saw the car--I was desperate after all--but he insisted I drive it first. He handed me the keys and let me drive off alone in his property without thinking twice. A bit risky, no? I could have crashed, stolen the car, whatever I wanted to really. Then, when I told him I would take it, he asked me if I want to talk price. I said I just needed a few days to get the money all in one place.

He said, "Well, I could go down, ya know, maybe, say, even $3,300."

I never said a thing. I never asked him to lower the price or indicated that I couldn't pay it. He was simply being an honest negotiator. He had set the price higher than he wanted in order to leave room to negotiate. He had asked for $200 more than he needed, so when the buyer tried to get it down, it would work out for him. A crafty and selfish move. But when the buyer didn't try to get it down, either his conscience or sense of social justice brought that price down anyway. It was the Golden Rule at its finest, social contract theory in action. Not a bad sign that humanity hasn't gone to hell in a hand basket, after all.

It reminds me that even though our society, the one that gave us Labor Day, isn't about the American ideals of individualism and selfishness. It's about humanity, compassion, and giving. Yes, we all have a boss, but it's the same boss. The Big Guy above. We all answer to Him in the end.

So bosses and employees, labor and management, whichever "side" you are on, remember, in the end, we're all on the same side here. We're all here for a purpose, and it isn't simply to get ahead. Take care of each other, through not just negotiations, but through all of your every day interactions. And remember, though those of us fortunate enough to have Labor Day off can take a moment to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor--our collective labor--our true work is never done. For love, compassion, understanding, and self-sacrifice should never take a holiday.

Be at peace friends. Happy Labor Day.

"Who Can it Be Now" Men at Work
(Get it? Men at work? See what I did there?)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kids These Days

We all do it. We take a look at the headlines, hear the stories coming out of our schools, see a kid crying in the grocery store, and then we lament on the good old days when kids had respect for adults, cared about their futures, and were afraid to defy their parents. Kids these days! Where is this country heading?

Yesterday I got my first real taste of the new school year at my now annual late summer editor's meeting and woke up this morning with one thought on my mind. If only these kids were running our country instead of Congress, we might have a chance...there might be some hope.

Sure, they get a little gaga over One Direction and giggle and whisper when boys come past the room, but if you were in that room yesterday, you might have been surprised by what you heard.

Topics of conversation included the audacity of Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" flap, the need to elect leaders by popular vote rather than the glorified board game known as the Electoral College (they even knew why the electoral college was set up in the first place), and the tragic state of our nation when one choice seems a bit weak-willed to do the job to them while the other seems to lack the compassion they'd like from their leader.

What's more amazing about the eight young ladies I sat with yesterday is what they are about to do. By the end of the year, they will have published a 224 page yearbook that will more resemble a catalog for a prestigious art school than a high school publication. At the same time, they will publish eight issues of a newsmagazine that, if only we could afford color, would make you think you were flipping through Vogue or Rolling Stone. They will be in charge of its content and production, and even have supervisory duties over the rest of the staff. They will have just one to two weeks to write a full feature story and maybe less to design their spreads with the pressure of knowing that being late for yearbook plant deadlines could cost the program thousands of dollars. (It costs about $35,000 to produce a yearbook these days by the way.) These same students are cheerleaders, singers, dancers, and even ukulele players who will be enrolled in several AP courses, some for actual college credit. And that's not even getting into the home lives some of them have to overcome.

You probably haven't accomplished feats that impressive since, well, high school.

So while it's easy to look at the headlines and listen to the complaints of parents, teachers, and administrators, know that you're not getting the full picture. I will have around 100 students this year. Three to five will impress me to the point where I just know they will go on to make the world a better place. They will totally knock my socks off. I will grow to adore another ten to twenty. At least half of them will do fairly well at their jobs of being students. A quarter of what's left will truly want to do well, they will try their best, but lack of skills or various conditions will prevent them from doing so. And in the end, only a handful will truly try to make my life difficult and show that they simply don't fit in an academic setting. And of that handful, only two or three will be the type you see in the headlines and on television that make you worry about the future of our country.

Now look at the Senate. One hundred full-grown adults elected to lead our nation. Can you say the same about that group of one hundred? I rest my case.

Now look at your community. While the kids at my high school are collecting piles of toys for needy children, what are the adults around you doing to help those less fortunate? While the kids at my school are staying late to work on their yearbook spreads, going straight to cheerleading practice, tutoring for National Honor Society, having a very late dinner, then staying up until two to three o'clock in the morning to get their homework done for an AP course load, what are your adult neighbors doing? While my editors spent a week of summer vacation at a yearbook camp, planned the ladder for a 224 page publication, redesigned templates for a newsmagazine, and worked on writing summer articles so we would have something to put on our website when school opened, how did those adults around you spend their time off from work?

Sure adults give back, work overtime, and take work home on weekends and vacations. The point isn't that these kids are somehow better than adults. The point is that they aren't what you might think they are, and I have a front row seat every day to see the truth.

You may look at the class of 2013, throw up your arms, and ask, "My God, is this the future of America?"

But I look at the class of 2013 and say without hesitation, "Thank God, this is the future of America!" If only we don't ruin them between now and then.

And if you still think there was some magic day where teens were more respectful, more civic minded, and stayed out of trouble, just look at the classic 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. This is a movie from those golden years when everything was roses, sunshine, milk, and honey. Yet there we are following three teens who all end up in jail on the same night. But that movie is about the poor parenting those teens received you say? About how the adults failed them? About how they are misunderstood?

Well, I guess some things never change.

"Disposable Teens"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Painful Patience

I'm dying here.

Anyone else out there hate waiting? It started, I think, when I was in high school. At one point I had to get rides to school from my uncle Bob, but because of his schedule, he had to get me to school like an hour before anyone else arrived. What to do? I went to my locker, used the potty, walked around just sight seeing, I guess. I was bored out of my mind and felt embarrassed and awkward--my standard state at that point in my life.

So, while I consider myself a patient person, my skills honed by all that waiting I was forced to do back in high school, I hate being patient with a passion. It just kills me.

I find myself now doing that...being patient...and dying. School starts next week, and unlike most of my students, I'm dying to get back. Besides my own bed at home, there's no place I feel more comfortable than my classroom. To top it off, there have been so many changes over the summer, all that I'm fairly thrilled with, including a new floor in my room to replace the puke green tiles someone vomited there back in the sixties, that I'm freaking out wondering what life will be like when we return.

The editor-in-chief of my yearbook program is hard at work setting up the ladder and visuals for our 2013 book. But knowing she has until next Friday to have it all set, she's content taking her time to get it right, which is good, don't get me wrong, but it's killing me not knowing what she'll come up with.

A few readers are currently going through my third novel and giving me wonderful feedback, but it seems I might be shelving it for a while since it will need another whole rewrite. I can see where it could be a masterpiece, but not in its current state. With the school year about to kick off, I'm not sure I can give it that kind of attention. I think Talia and Tia might have to wait to be reborn.

With all that going on, I have a brilliant idea, one of those "I think I know the next big thing in YA and I'm ready to write it and get it out there before someone else does" kind of things. Not that I'm trying to just capitalize on a trend; I'm hoping that my idea can lead to a trend. I've been obsessed with writing this type of novel for years, since I started in my MFA program, so like three years ago, and when I pitched the idea at a workshop, the room and instructor loved it. I'm just now seeing how it could be YA and am already visualize scenes and the character which means it must be good. I'm heading down that scary path toward inspiration, but what to do with All We Know of Heaven already on the back burner?

And then there's those pesky freakin' queries. I've found some amazing agents lately. I abandoned the road since I feel like I've already used up all the best matches on there. Instead I've used creative Googling and found some great interviews and advice from YA agents, finding ones that specifically fit what I'm writing much better than combing through agentquery. But they've now got my query and sample pages in hand, so until I hear from them (or don't), I'll be painfully and patiently awaiting their responses (or lack of them).

Which leads to the new waiting game life has dealt me. Today, I found an agent who not only wants edgy stories, but specifically wants the darkest possible--she craves "problem novels." This woman is excited about taking something other people don't think can be published as YA and getting it done, setting trends, shaking things up, causing controversy. Twincest, anyone? Sounds like a perfect match for The House on Bittersweet Trail, right? Pitch it to her right? Why aren't you typing that query letter and hitting send instead of wasting time writing this blog post you say? All this bitching about waiting and you're dragging your feet you say?

Closed for submissions until Fall 2012. So close, yet so far. The most painful kind of wait.

So, I think I need to start at least planning novel number four, which might leapfrog into novel number three. While I've been bored, I've been updating my online presence--a new website and more coming soon--and I know those agents are going to be calling any second for a exclusive. There's only four more days until I see my beloved classroom again, and three before I meet with my journalism editors for the first time. Eventually things will be going forward full-tilt and I'll miss these days of inactivity and time to think, plan, organize, and tinker with the relatively unimportant.

But for now, I wait.

And it's killing me!

"I've been waiting a long time..."
Love the Green Day

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oh Boy!

I've been thinking. That's never good.

Here's the deal. Over the past two days I've been reading blogs, interviews, and agent bios trying to find the right agent to represent my work. Here's the problem--none of the advice agrees on one key point.

Yesterday, I was discouraged to read several sources stating that boys don't read, so YA agents won't touch male-centered YA novels. When they see YA and a male protagonist's name together in the same query, it's a questions asked. Should I be creating characters with unisex names to trick them?

However, today I've been reading that because the YA section of the book store has gotten so pink that males are afraid to even go down the aisle, agents are dying to find good male voices in YA to attract an untapped market.

What the fuck? So am I doomed or not?

That's where the logical debate begins. First, even if it's true that young men don't read, does that necessarily mean male-centered YA won't sell? Don't girls want to see "romance" and relationships through a male point-of-view? It's like having an secret inside look at how the other half lives. I read stuff written by chicks about chicks. I loved Speak, for example. It's kind of like having that best friend of the opposite gender there to let you in on the little nuances of the opposite sex. Cool, right?

So, technically, even if boys don't read, which is probably somewhat true but not wholly, that doesn't mean girls won't buy a book with a male main character. Seems pretty obvious. But that's the "ought" not the "is." YA agents should listen to pitches about books with male leading characters because some guys might buy it and chicks could by it, too. Let's not stereotype. Let's not say this is for boys and this is for girls and that's it.

But is that how it really is? Do agents care about how things ought to be or only how they are. Look at the big hits lately--Twilight and Hunger Games. Girls. Girls. Girls. Even Harry Potter was created by a woman, and he isn't the prototypical male dealing with male problems. What about us dudes? I can see in our culture why agents might be afraid to take chances on us.

On the other hand, just because agents might be dying to add some blue to their pink YA shelves doesn't mean they're willing to take a chance on it. I also read an opinion in a comment on a blog stating that everyone in YA talks the game. They all say they want more male voices and that boys would read more if they had some to choose from, but they aren't willing to actually take the chance.

It sounds grim. But what does the logic of it matter anyway? Should agents be looking for male YA? Should agents be playing it safe and sticking to teenage chick lit? Who cares? At the end of the day, I wrote what I wrote. I write what I write. The golden rule is a great story with great characters will get published. So, what am I worried about? We've advanced to the point where boys can read girl characters and girls can read boy characters, and it doesn't matter either way!

I know you're sitting there saying the same thing--it's stereotyping to even say there's one thing for boys and one thing for girls. This is 2012--we've got Hillary Clinton and Title 9. It's a new world! The end of gender stereotyping!

Every minute in this country, 160 boys are born. How many hospitals do you think are putting the pink hat on those boys? How many of their parents have prepared a Disney Princesses nursery?

That's what I thought.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Truly Rejected 99%

Well, I'm just about finished polishing the first draft of my new novel All We Know of Heaven and completely done refurbishing Scout's Honor based on some great feedback by a top agent. I've been reinvigorated this summer by something I heard at the WestConn MFA residency last week, which is not surprising since when I was in the program, all my invigoratory writing came from those few days in Danbury.

One of the agents giving us a little talk on the industry mentioned that he rejects 99% of the queries he receives. 99%. Think about that. Basically, my chances of getting a yes from an agent are the same as an American getting a tax cut from Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. This got me to thinking, though. I had heard so many stories of people going through 20-30 rejections before getting published.

Scout's Honor was at 41. At least.

But with this new number in mind, and some important revisions based on the aforementioned agent's advice, I'm at it again. I've decided to do a query a day until I get to 100 queries. Unless my writing stinks, which I don't think I would have gotten through my MFA program and a scrutinizing mentor like Daniel Asa Rose if it did, I should get a yes from one of the 100. Basic math, right?

Meanwhile, I'm facing revisions on novel three, which I'll give myself until next summer to fully finish. I've got plenty of readers who want a shot at All We Know of Heaven, including former students, former classmates, and a friend from church. Hopefully their feedback will make this one a winner.

Right now it just kind of blows my mind that I've written three full novels. Published or not, that kind of kicks ass. I'm pretty proud of that. And I've had enough people read and love my work to not be discouraged by a lack of publication. What's even more mind blowing is that I think I have a series least a trilogy.

Agents beware! If you don't grab me up soon, you're going to have quite a backlog of work to deal with. Just sayin.'

Oops...what I meant to say...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dreams Do Come True

Despite our mounting national debt, a faltering economy, and non-stop rhetoric about tax relief and tax shelters and tax fairness, President Barack Obama and the United States government have proven that dreams still can come true--for little boys.

Just yesterday, my son, a four year-old dreamer who enjoys Wii, board games, and long walks on the beach, proclaimed he wanted a rocket ship for his birthday. "You think that's cool, little guy," I said. "Check this out." He watched with glee as I showed him a YouTube video of a space shuttle launch and pictures from Mars.

So forget making the dreams of middle class families come true by investing in education, health care, and help for small businesses. Let's launch rockets. I'm shocked that the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party or Libertarians aren't frothing at the mouth to lecture the president on his lack of fiscal restraint. I'm shocked that Mitt Romney's campaign isn't jumping all over this as a waste of government money at a time when government waste and cutting departments is at the top of the list of discussion points for this election.

Why is that?

Well, it's because our country is currently being run my males. Males that are still trying to make their childhood dreams come true. We spend like crazy on really cool, top-secret military gadgets without many conservatives railing against it. There's stuff going on at the "Groom Dry Lake location" (Area 51) that may have nothing to do with aliens, but still costs billions of dollars and is so classified that even top military leaders aren't even in the know.

Why don't we hear calls to shut that place down? Because it's cool. If it's not flying saucers, it's really cool James Bond shit going down there. It's like a living, breathing GI Joe movie. Why do we even have NASA? That whole race to space thing with the Soviets is long over. Does anyone really think finding out that there were microscopic organisms on Mars billions of years ago is going to help us right now? Can't we wait, say, another million or so years, once we get the budget balanced, to go play Star Wars? At least use the technology to give us those flying cars that sci-fi movies have been promising for decades.

And when the terrorist did that despicable act back on September 11th 2001, destroying the symbol of American financial excess, what did we do? We got ready and started planning to rebuild our symbol of financial excess to show those terrorists that America will not compromise on it's excess. This is the country that brought you super-sized value meals, for crying out loud. You're not going to get us to reign ourselves in with one act of terror. Basically, those in charge are reinacting that time their big sisters knocked down their LEGO castles and they had to rebuild it bigger and better to show just how little her knocking it down really mattered to them, as they held back the tears.

Sometimes I feel like we're in a perpetual summer vacation, 104 unending days of building crazy contraption after crazy contraption as if funding was just as unending. Isn't your country a little broke to be sending a robot to collect dirt from Mars? Yes, yes it is. Where is Perry anyway?

What would happen if we cut the military budget for R & D by, like, half. And don't try hiding behind some $250,000 chair or $9000 box of paper clips either. As Corey Taylor of Stone Sour put it, "Classified, my ass; it's a fucking secret, and you know it!" And then we eliminate NASA all together. Just cut it. Then we just buy the little boys running this country a freakin' XBOX or let them go to some classic toys convention and buy all their old Star Wars and GI Joe action figures back. Maybe we get them sparklers or a jar to catch bugs in or something. I don't know. Can we please put an end to them putting us further and further in debt just to play their little preschool games.

So next time you want to complain about cutting "entitlements" or education or healthcare, please take the time to look at all the places we could be cutting if they weren't so cool. I mean, old people, teachers, and doctors are just so...well, lame. Why would our society value those losers.

Who knows? Maybe a woman president wouldn't be so bad?

Watch Phineas and Ferb help Baljeet build a portal to Mars

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A New Start...

I'm posting a completely revised chapter one to my first novel Scout's Honor. It's become clear to me that one of the main reasons it has gotten so close so many times to landing me an agent yet failed is the lameness of the first chapter. If you would be so kind, please read and leave any feedback you're willing to give in the comments below. The novel is about a 17 year-old boy that has run off to NYC to make it as a rock start, but the true reason that he has run away from his cushy, suburban life remains a mystery until the end, even as it haunts him. Thank you for all that have the time to help!

The Real World
            “Fuck you, kid.”
            I had just gotten off the train at Grand Central station and asked a nice enough looking lady in a newsboy cap and purple scarf where the taxi stand was. I apologized for bothering her, and she walked off glaring at the big board, probably pretending she cared when some imaginary train was coming in just to avoid me.
By that time, my parents had to be in hysterics. Well, at least my mom. Jerry was probably yelling a lot about how I was just trying to get attention and how I could never make it in the real world alone and how he’d beat the snot out of me if he ever got his hands on me again. He liked to threaten to beat the snot out of me. He never did, though. I guess I should be grateful. My cousin Sam got the snot beat out of him by his dad so much DCF took him away, made him a ward of the state, and paid his college tuition. Poetic.
I started wandering about looking for a sign that said where I could find a taxi. There were so many people rushing here or there, all with some huge purpose, some intense pull in one direction or the other. There were business men, dressed in the suits and ties to make sure we all knew they were business men, tourists flipping through brochures and taking pictures, and even a token homeless guy with an overgrown beard and a faded, red shirt. Perhaps times were tough even for Santa Claus.
The thing that really caught my eye in the colorless abyss of the Great Hall was this little boy with a bright blue balloon. His parents were tugging him along, but all he cared about was looking up at the ceiling. The mile-high green sky above, scattered with celestial bodies, always impressed me no matter how often I visited. What I saw on the ground, however, was about the last thing I wanted to see—cops. They were everywhere I looked. Well, at least that’s how it seemed. I was afraid of police enough when I hadn’t done anything wrong, and now… Well, let’s just say I was plenty afraid. I looked back for the boy and his balloon, but I lost him in the crowd.
Then I started thinking about my kid sister Hester. That’s right, I said Hester. My parents were very literary in college, especially my mom Priscilla. She was big on The Scarlet Letter at the time, I guess. She taught American literature for a few years before my dad got his big break at the firm, and then she didn’t have to work any more. She was happy, I guess, but never had much to do. She just sort of invented things to do, like playing tennis and watering plants and all that. They named me Truman. Yup, after Capote. Truman Armstrong, that’s me. I told you they were literary. Anyway, Hester would have been panicking about that boy and if he was going to let the balloon go all the way to the ceiling out of reach. She worried about things like that, always putting other people first.
            I shuffled through the traffic and got on line to buy a MetroCard just in case, but it didn’t take long to find the taxi stand outside the station all on my own. The line was fairly long, and it was hot and humid. I think my sweat was starting to sweat. Then this pregnant lady jumped in line behind me kind of waddling along each time the line moved. She must have been fairly far along because she was pretty huge.
            “Excuse me,” I said.
            “Yes,” she answered, a bit frazzled by a seventeen year-old punk addressing her. The night before, I had gotten my lip pierced and hair done. I had a thing for punk at the time, so I had the beautician chop it, spike it, and bleach haphazard patches of it. In the movies, whenever perps were on the lamb, they altered their appearances.
            “You can go ahead of me if you want,” I said.
            “Waiting for someone?”
            “No. I just thought…I just wanted to be nice.” She was pregnant after all.
            “That’s okay. You have a heavy load.”
            I had my portable amp in one hand, a massive bag full of whatever I could fit in the other, and my gig bag with my guitar strapped over my shoulder. So she was right, I was carrying a heavy load, but her cargo seemed a bit more important.
            “You sure?” I asked. “I’d feel bad making you wait.”
            “Where are you heading?” she asked as the line moved up again. A few businessy looking guys had jumped in line behind us, all trying to look oh-so important. They reminded me of my dad. I hoped they were running late.
            “China Town,” I said. I wanted to hit street vendors to get some cheap swag, update my look a bit. If I was going to find my way as a rock star, I was going to have to look the part. Westport was so suburban, and my high school so uppity, cruddy Metallica t-shirts were enough to look hardcore. I imagined it would take more in the Big Apple.
            “Me too!” she said like it was the biggest act of God since the parting of the Red Sea. “We’ll share a cab, and then I won’t have to wait longer.”
            “Cool,” I said, but I really didn’t want to. I didn’t much feel like striking up a conversation with her. I couldn’t handle it that particular morning.
            The cab came, and I loaded my crap in the trunk. We made our way through stiff traffic toward China Town. We didn’t talk much, just an awkward smile here or there.
            “So what brings you to New York?” she asked as I gathered my stuff out of the trunk.
            “Starting a music career,” I said confidently.
            “Sounds exciting.”
            “Hope so,” I concluded.
            “I bet a lot of people have done just that same thing.” She smiled and rested her hands on her belly.
            “I know. I just feel like I’ll be different.”
            “Oh, no,” she said. “I didn’t mean to imply you wouldn’t make it. Obviously many do.”
            “Oh, okay. Sorry.”
            “Don’t worry about it. You know what I used to want to be?”
            “No, what?”
            “An opera singer?”
            “Really? What happened?”
            “Life, I guess. Just wasn’t meant to be.”
            “I’m sorry.” For some reason that was the saddest thing I’d heard all day.
            “Don’t be. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world.”
            “What do you do?”
            “I’m heading to work now,” she said. “I guess you’d call me a companion nurse. I spend time with and help take care of an elderly woman with Down’s Syndrome.”
            “That sounds tough.”
            “It’s challenging,” she admitted, “but she’s the love of my life. I couldn’t imagine going very long without seeing her. She sees things differently than you or me. It’s refreshing.”
            “Well, I’m glad for you,” I said. But honestly, I really wasn’t. I felt bad for it, though.
            “It’s coming up on the right,” she said to the taxi driver, and he pointed to a spot in front of a brick building. We were just south of Canal Street. She turned to me. “I’m sure you’ll make it just fine, really, but if ever need anything, give me a call.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a business card. “I’m Anne.” She held out her hand, and I shook it.
            I paused to find a suitable name to give her. “I’m Trent,” I lied, conjuring the name of the first rock start that came to mind, Trent Reznor.
            “Nice to meet you Trent,” she said. What a fraud I was.
            When we pulled over to the curb, I jumped out and made my way around the cab to help her dismount from her seat. She gave me an awkward smile, probably thinking the gesture was over the top, and it was. I just felt bad for her, that’s all.
            She said goodbye and headed up the steps into the building. I was on my own again. Time to lace up the big-boy shoes and be a man. I had my guitar, my saved up allowance—three hundred and thirty-seven dollars and fifty-eight cents—and a plan. Of course, I had just come up with the plan on the train, and I forgot my pick, and three hundred and thirty-seven dollars and fifty-eight cents wouldn’t get me one night in some Manhattan hotels, but the moment I stepped out into the streets of the big city and looked up at the sun-glazed sky-scrapers and clear blue skies, I knew I’d found exactly what I’d been looking for.
            I awoke from my trance, however, as a loud honk startled me from behind.
            “Move, ya little shit!”
            A UPS truck was trying to pull into the spot vacated by our cab, but I was just standing there clueless, apparently looking like a ‘little shit,’ ruining the currier’s day. He honked twice more for good measure. Welcome to the big city. I dragged my stuff and myself up onto the sidewalk and went looking for deals with the street vendors.
I found a long row of salesman peddling cool swag, all for under ten bucks, and within twenty minutes I had too much junk to carry — a new wallet, some dark, pre-ripped jeans, a leather jacket with some crazy silver rings across the side and back, and a pack of picks, too. It was amazing. I found myself able to just start up a conversation with anyone – any guy that is. There were a few cute girls selling bracelets and paintings that were too intimidating and made me feel guilty for gawking at them, but with guys I just started shooting the breeze and whatnot. Like this one old dude selling tchotchkes. He was eyeing me while I checked out this over-priced crystal unicorn that was obviously fashioned out of glass.
I was about to move on to the next table in a long succession of worthless wares when he hollered at me, “Hey, kid, want a cool pocket knife?”
“Let me see.”
“It’s a one of kind, has a unicorn engraved in the handle. Got it off a dead guy in Central Park.”
“How much?”
“For you, eight bucks.”
            “Sold. Dead guy, huh?”
            “Yeah. Poor guy spent the whole night out in the cold. Winter ain’t no time to be homeless. Made me eight bucks, though.”
            “How ‘bout summer?”
            “Kid, there ain’t no such thing as homeless in the summer. You can sleep wherever you want, and hell, it’s not like you have to have a place to crash at night. City that never sleeps and all that.”
            He looked like he was speaking from experience, so who was I to question him? His graying stubble put him at about fifty, and his frazzled, matching, half-bald scalp agreed. It was encouraging news seeing as how I had already burned a third of my resources.
            “Well, thanks a lot, sir.”
            “Sir. I like that. Thank you, kid. Here, that knife comes with a complimentary lighter.”
            “No thanks, I don’t smoke.” I'd never even tried, actually.
            “You ain’t gotta smoke to have a lighter, kid. Take it. It used to be Henry Winkler’s. Ya know, the Fonz?”
            I knew the Fonz.
            “Sure, I’ll take it. Thanks again.”
            He tossed it to me underhand, and I made a basket catch as he answered, “No problem.”
            His smile told me I'd just bought him dinner in exchange for a couple of second hand nothings, but I was happy just the same. This stuff had character, a story. I tried to flip the knife open, but it was stuck. I pushed harder and harder, but nothing. It was rusted shut or something.
            “Hey!” I called to the vendor. “Sir, this thing is busted.”
            “Caveat emptor,” he said with a crooked smile.
            “But I want my money back.”
            “I want to be the King of England,” he said. “Always test the merchandise first, kid. Remember that.”
            “But that’s not fair,” I protested.
            “Hey asshole.” The vendor next to him, an extremely large African-American with no neck selling “silk” neckties was calling out to me.
            “Me?” I asked, pointing to my chest.
            “Yeah, what other asshole would I be talking to?” He looked to the man with the gray stubble and said, “Look, he knows his name.” The old man laughed. What a crock of shit this was. “Just move on,” the neckless man commanded, like he was performing a Jedi mind trick. I wanted to tell him it only worked on the weak-minded, but the guns on this guy were huge, and I thought it was better to just let it go.
            I suppose he taught me a lesson. And on the bright side, he confirmed for me that I really didn’t need a place to stay, so spending my cash didn’t worry me. I could make enough each day from playing to buy me a couple of items off the value menu somewhere and sleep on a bus or subway ride now and again. Who needs a bed when you've got Henry Winkler’s lighter?
            When all was said and done, there was a whopping ninety-eight bucks left in my new, cow-scented wallet. Way to conserve. But I worried not. And as the sun gave in to brighter, man-made illumination, a newfound spirit of hope overcame me. I had done all I could to screw up my life, to make Truman Armstrong a failure, but New York had given me a second chance. I would never look back.
            I spent the rest of the afternoon sightseeing. From Greenwich Village to Central Park, I was everywhere. I loved it all. The people, the food, the sights, the sounds, the yellow cab swarms buzzing along as far as the eye could see, the smell of garbage and ladies’ perfumes dancing together between drops of summer sweat, the playbills, the Garment Distric princesses, the greasy feel to the hot sidewalks, and even the drone of pure, unbridled noise, it all made me feel at home.
            I ended up in Times Square. I spent an eternity just staring up into the sleepless night sky as the glittering lights of Broadway intermingled with the heaven’s stars. For a brief moment I forgot all the bullshit. I forgot high school, parents, and unforgivable mistakes. I could see myself on stage at the Roseland or Hammerstein, maybe even the Garden. I could see myself being a star.
            Then I started feeling a bit hungry. I went up to a cart selling dirty-water dogs and gyros and ordered two dogs. I reached for my wallet to pay and nearly swallowed my own throat. It was gone. At first I assumed I put it in the wrong pocket, so I stood up and felt the other. Then, in a panic, I felt all my pockets, and each one was empty. I must have looked like an idiot there, groping myself in the middle of Times Square. I checked my bag and even my gig bag. Nothing. It was gone.
            You hear about things like pick pockets, but you assume that’s something that happens to other people. Maybe they’re urban legends. But no. They’re real. And I was broke.
            “Lost your wallet, kid?” asked the man who ran the cart. He was holding a hot dog in each hand.
            “I think so,” I said in defeat.
            “There’s a couple officers right over there. I’d tell them if I were you.”
            “Thanks,” I said, but I knew I couldn’t do that.
            I walked away hungry. Luckily, I still had some money left on my MetroCard, so I got on the subway and just rode around, dozing off now and then to get at least a little sleep. The subway ran all night, but trains were infrequent, so I had to struggle to stay awake during waits. There’s no way I wanted to sleep in the station. An MTA cop would probably want to know why someone so young was so alone so late at night, and who knows what kind of whack job or crack head might mess with me while I was sleeping there. I didn’t want to just walk the streets that late either and draw attention to myself.
            Eventually the sun rose above the skyline, and the morning hustle and bustle around me in Columbus Circle told me that I had survived my first night on the island of Manhattan. Sure, I’d lost nearly one hundred bucks and my new wallet, but I had to give myself some credit. Maybe I could make it the real world. I would have to make some money, though, quickly, if I was going to make this happen. Going home wasn’t an option. It was time to put my plan into action. It was time to become a star.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Let's Get Political...

With so much going on in the world, I'm not sure what to blog about. The Olympics? Too boring. NFL training camp? Now there's some real sports, but it's pretty quiet in Giants world. Michelle Bachman? Sure, if I were writing a comedy routine, I'd start right there, but she's quickly proving her irrelevance. Revisions on my book? That's going smoothly, so not much to tell there. I only write about my writing when I'm whining about something. I've got an agent meeting on Friday with an agent that seems perfect for everything I'm trying to do in my first book, but I've gotten excited about those before, and here I sit unpublished. So we'll just let go and let God on that one.

So what to write about?

I think I won't be timely. Let's look 100 days in the future, as all those emails from every Democrat in America are asking me to do. Election 2012! I was doing some research around the web, looking at poles, maps, reading articles, even checking out data on Tweets and followers for both candidates. The fact of the matter is, as much as the media is trying to make a story out of every little thing on the campaign, it's not much of a story at all. This is looking like another incumbent cruises to victory kind of election, and the media must hate that. Well, unless you Keith Olbermann, and then you're ecstatic. Your guy wins.

I imagine it's time for the FOX News crew to start manufacturing things to bring Obama down, never mind the fact that all past attempts have failed. Let's face it, Hillary Clinton did a better job of vetting Obama than any Republican could. And MSNBC will get in on it too, focusing more on where Obama is vulnerable, they'll probably call it white-voters-buyers-remorse or something like that. Anything to scare liberals into thinking Romney has a chance in order to help Obama gain votes and keep people interested in their news coverage. Maybe they'll highlight voter suppression or something like that.

I think back to 2008 when Keith Olbermann did the basic math about half way through the night and was all like, "With California certain to go to Obama, hasn't he already won?" and Chuck Todd chastising him with something like, "Shut up Olbermann, we still have two hours left of coverage!" These are paraphrases, of course. Don't quote me on this (or anything ever).

Either way,, my favorite source for election hanky panky, has Obama as a 94% chance of winning, and there's nearly as good a chance of a freakish tie as there is of Romney winning. Basically, if you really focus on the maps, all Obama has to do is win Virginia OR Ohio OR Florida OR Iowa (Iowa, for crying out loud!). Obama is polling well in Ohio, close in VA, and has a shot in Florida and Iowa. I think the key to the new electoral reality we're facing is Pennsylvania. I remember during the Bush elections we used to call PA a swing state as much as Ohio and Florida, a key chunk of electoral votes. Now it is solid blue, probably with the help of Joey-B.

The website runs 10,000 simulated elections daily based on crunching state-by-state polling numbers and other trends, and Obama wins 91% of the time. The mean, median, and mode for his electoral votes in those simulations is 303, a number I'm comfortable with and expect may be the count, unless Romney makes even more "gaffes" before election day and Obama takes North Carolina and Florida too. Right now I have the most Obama could take up in the 340's, with the absolute most Romney could take at 276. That means that even with Romney taking the popular vote and winning all the states that even Obama has a slight lead in right now, he would just barely make the 270 necessary to be president.

Other sites seem to agree. I've seen projections of 290, 303, and 274 safe for Obama at various polling sites across the internet. That's the safe number with the possibility for more. So while the national polls are showing a close race, with quite a few undecided, we don't elect presidents nationally. A candidate could have a national lead by winning by large margins in states he was going to win anyway, but losing very close elections in the states he loses, but if he loses those close battles in key states and enough of them, he loses the electoral college. Ask Al Gore all about that.

So, unless something drastic comes out on Obama or happens in the next 98 days, the 98% are going to be celebrating four more years of Barack-n-roll in the White House. And truthfully, with all that Obama has weathered, and all the attempts at using his past and his various connections to bring him down, if a surprise is coming our way, it's coming from Mittens, not Obama. Just think about those tax returns that must be so damaging that taking the hit for not bringing them out is less of a political setback than letting us see them.

The good news is that if the political nonsense of false promises that can't possibly be followed through on has got you down, you now have my permission to quit watching. No matter how much the cable news networks try to hype the race, it's a foregone conclusion the incumbent is going to win yet again. If you want political drama, watch the race for the House and Senate. Most have the Senate at a tie, with VP Biden breaking the tie, and I've seen equally reliable predictions for both the Dems taking back Congress and the GOP making major gains on their majority. And let's face it, there's a lot more at stake with who is making the laws than who is signing them. We've seen already that no matter what progressive agendas the President wants to push, it doesn't matter with a block-and-blame Congress.

If the Democrats take back the law-making body of government, and have Obama in the White House to put the stamp of approval on their legislation, we could see some of the most innovating, controversial, and history-making legislation of all time. We are ripe with debate in this country, and a sweep of the Presidency, the Senate, and the House could mean single-payer health care, gay marriage, legalized pot, a new immigration policy based on compassion, and the 1990s tax codes sweeping the nation. (Ahhh...Clinton-era budget reduction gets me all wispy in the morning.)

If you're a Democrat and all of that excites you, get campaigning, donating, and voting. Strike hard and fight. If you're a Republican and that scares you, stop being crazy. Stop showing the nation daily that you're more concerned with hate and childish squabbling than with helping the people of this country. In fact, I even know a way you could possibly turn the Presidential race on its head. Should I tell?

The fact is, nobody is excited about 2012. Obama would be winning by a bigger landslide if liberals were still excited about him, and conservatives hate their candidate. Not much excitement there or a struggling economy could guarantee Obama doesn't get a second term. So how does the GOP excite their base when all the candidates that get tea-party folks and hard-line cultural conservatives frothing at the mouth make independent voters sick to their stomachs?

Condi. She's tough. She stood up to Bush and Cheney at times. She's a woman, a real woman, not a woman that sends womanhood back to the 1800's. African-American voters might give her a look, and on every controversial issue her stances wiggle right down the middle. Abortion is bad, but the family should decide. We need to be tough on immigration law enforcement while realizing we are a country of immigrants. And I love this quote, ‘“Let me be clear. I’m evangelical and I’m proud of it. I consider an evangelical to be someone who professes faith in a way that draws others to it.” (As oppose to scaring the living shit out of others.)

Source: The Politico

Not only do I think Condoleeza Rice could shake up this election, though probably not win it, I think she has what it takes to be the first woman president in 2016. Tell me Hillary vs. Condi wouldn't be the greatest presidential campaign story in the history of our nation. I think Rice actually brings some honesty to the table, will stand up for what she believes in even if I don't agree with her on some things, and could take the GOP in a direction it hasn't gone recently with fiscal conservatism and social sanity. What a great alternative to the Michelle Bachmans of the party. She also handles herself in an interview in such a way I think she'd be a master debater (see what I did there?), so no Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house" jokes on SNL

Well, the veepstakes should come to a close shortly after Romney returns from his international dating game, a game he is losing, so probably in a week or two we'll know for sure. I predict he'll pick another white, male stuffed-suit that does nothing to excite and everything to simply "do no harm," ushering in another four years of Obama. The only question left to answer is what type of four years will it be. Four years of Congressional cooperation in changing the world as we know it, or four more years of block-and-blame campaigning for the 2016 presidency.

I'm thinking, sadly, we're looking at the latter.

Get it?