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Conceptual Irregularities

"It's not big; it's just small…"

Lent

I gave up Facebook for Lent.  Twitter, too.  I can’t say I miss them terribly.  There’s a lack of connection, to be sure, but I don’t miss the political hoopla.  I’ve thrown in the towel on that front.  The Republicans are going to do what they’re gonna do. Let’s give them a chance to try this very libertarian free market capitalism program and watch it fail miserably. Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe.  My friends all have Trump Derangement Syndrome.  Just like Republicans had Obama Derangement Syndrome.

We got the bad news that Nancy has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer, something one doesn’t usually come back from.  She has a good attitude and has been very open about dying on Facebook, which I have to see through Tami’s account.  We are going to move out there to support her and Neil.  Tami wants to raise dwarf goats and miniature donkeys.  I will work from home, which means I’ll be a data analyst/goatherd.  New professions for the new millennium.

Left Laners

I am the guy comes all the way up to the entrance of the ramp, passing the line of cars on my right and then cutting in front of you at the last possible second. I am the woman with 13 items in the 10 items or less line at the market. I am the guy using his outside voice in a relatively quiet bar. I am the guy who lists purple as one the colors of people whom I treat equally. 

I am the woman who believes men should act like men and if that means I get my pussy grabbed, well, hey! I am the man who is scared. I am the guy who works hard and believes anyone can do the same. I am the person who can’t understand why people have to change their gender and it makes me say, “Ick.” I am the guy who comes from pioneer stock and has hardship and danger in my blood and my bones. I have a time-share in Branson. I am the person who is uncomfortable around people unlike me. I am a Plugger.  
I am the guy who does things because I can. I am the guy who makes his pipes on his Harley louder. I have been in fights. As an adult. I am the guy who feels like I have never gotten a break. I am from the stock of people who owned other people. I will be rich one day. I believe in and thrive on the American Dream.

Coming To Grips

It is hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that the leader of the free world is a man of such loathsome values.  A man who lies with impunity.  A man in whom a significant proportion of citizens have put faith.  I can’t help but believe that he is conning these people.  He is a businessman first and foremost.  That means he puts his own interests first.  He has always been a great manipulator. I believe his goal here is to profit.  And if he continues to feed his constituents’ fear and xenophobia, they will look the other way when he uses his position to make deals and/or ensure policy that help him or big business in general.

More than ever, we live in bubbles now.  We naturally choose like minded people to socialize with and many of my friends have no conservatives whom they regard as friends.  I grew up with my brother, Desmond, the uber-conservative, so I have always had someone there to show me the other side.  He has always been very angry about it and political conversations with him go South in a hurry.  More than half my band is conservative, ranging from Tea Partier to Rockefeller Republican. I work in finance, so there are a few people with whom I work who are conservative, but not as many as you might think.  

A fellow blogger, Beauty Beyond Bones, liked my site so I went and visited hers.  She’s a very nice woman who is recovering from anorexia and has some very interesting things to say about recovery and self-discovery and faith.  She voted for this man and outlined her reasons why in a very thoughtful post.  Her main reason is that she is anti-abortion, and I find that that does tend to be a deal breaker for people who think that way.  If you feel that babies are being murdered, you can’t really soft-pedal that.  She is also in favor of stronger immigration laws and resents being called a racist for feeling that way. 

I don’t care one way or the other about immigration laws, having spent my childhood being told to get off of people’s lawns.  I believe some of this stems from the primacy of private property that capitalism evokes.  Capitalism needs selfishness and greed in order to succeed.  Or, conversely, capitalism succeeds due to the selfishness and greed that are inherent in the human condition.  There are a few of us who don’t feel like we always need to gain more stuff and can be happy with just enough, but most humans want more.  For that matter, most living things want more.  You keep putting bowls of food before a dog, and it will keep eating ad infinitum.  

Clearly, the proletariat wants something different than what we elites want.  They are scared, they want security.  They have no pensions and they don’t have the wherewithal to put away the money that they will need in the future.  This fear is not limited to the US.  The Phillipines have elected Duterte as president, a mans who has openly called for extralegal killings of drug dealers and has bragged about doing it himself.  He retains a high level of popularity.  

Liberal society’s rule of law has not worked out for many of the great unwashed.  They feel as though they play by the rules yet struggle to get by while others destroy their communities with impunity.  While the Wal-marts of the world exploit them, they don’t hold these corporations in contempt because they provide cheap goods and jobs.  The drug dealer does not.  

For those of us who grew up in relative affluence and then went on to liberal arts colleges, putting aside the atavistic comes  more easily.  We believe in compassion for the downtrodden and want to give them a hand up.  Conservatives see that as a handout and believe it just enables them.  I personally believe there may be some merit in that idea but that there are a great deal of the poor who simply, due to family history, racism, mental illness, or other factors beyond their control, cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  Mostly because they have no boots.

I would like to be able to sit down (actually or virtually) with a conservative and just be able to lay out little pieces of what we believe in and see how many of the points there are on which we agree.  I have made peace with the fact that I am not going to change anybody’s mind.  I just want to see where we can find common ground.

Camp Uke Fall 2016 Concert

I run a Ukelele camp through my church.  I have never been a big fan of the Ukelele, usually finding it too twee and trendy and thin to be an actual instrument. On Denis Leary’s Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll they referred to it as “a motherfucking Game Of Thrones midget guitar” which I actually find apt.  However, our previous pastor, Rachel Manke,  was a big Ukelele player and she got this camp started to reach out into the community and when she left, I took it over.  I have gotten to like the instrument.  I have made a couple cigar box ukes that I use.  I find it a very convenient instrument to play.  You can play it in an Adirondack chair because it is small and the arms don’t get in the way.  So, being able to sit back with a bourbon and a cigar and noodle a bit is always a good thing.  I’m even starting to use it on the Noyes and the Boyes project a little.  It focuses your playing because you’ve only got an octave to work with.  I’ve learned a few jazz pieces: Wave, Night in Tunisia, Epistrophy.

It is a particularly good instrument for kids, being small and all.  So we started this camp for 8-11 year olds.  We have it one week in the summer and then every other Wednesday throughout the year.  We learn a lot of kids’ folk songs and then try to throw in a pop song or two.

Malden, being the most diverse city in Massachusetts, gives us a wide variety of countries of origin for our campers.  They come from Brazil, Haiti, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Pakistan, to name a few.  This wonderful quilt of culture informs what we play and how we relate to the community.  We have all kinds of abilities in the group but in my mind, the most important thing is to have fun.  I believe kids are too over-programmed today and I feel guilty contributing to that.  I try to give them some freedom and I try to engage them in making choices about the direction of the repertoire.

We had our fall semester concert this past weekend and I thought it was a great success.  Thanks to Janet Lundstrom, my fearless sidekick, we had a good turnout and sounded terrific.  We started out with the Henry Triplets doing a couple of numbers and helping me out on a Christmas blues tune I wrote, Peace On Earth Blues.

 


I then did a solo version of my tune, My Grandfather’s Chair.  Then the adult ukes came up and did a couple of Christmas carols.  The adults meet after the kids and we always do a couple of numbers at the concerts.  It has been fun and has gotten people into music who would not have otherwise done so.

Then the kids did their pieces, including “I Don’t Know My Name” by Grace VanderWaal.  She is a 12 year old kid who did this Ukelele song on America’s Got Talent and won it.  The kids nailed it.  They also nailed Lime In The Coconut which for some reason they hate doing but Janet and I love.  So they humor us.

We ended the night with Simple Gifts and This Land is Your Land.  We have done this Woody Guthrie song since the beginning and I feel it really speaks to the melting pot that is the United States.  I like to believe that thss is bigger than the hate that is so trendy now, what with the orange one coming to the White House.

 


The next day we played at the Festival of Carols at the Malden Baptist church.  We did Joy To The World along with the adults and they l0oved us.  I am so honored to be able to bring this music to everyone.

Video by Shanan Edwards

Thanksgiving In The Heartland

Day 5: We go to Arlene’s assisted living facility to have Thanksgiving dinner there. We are seated at a table with the Freemans; her mother is a resident. Mr Freeman has got that taciturn Midwestern guy close-to-the-vest thing going on but I manage to get a chuckle or two out of him.

Arlene has had better days but eats a little pumpkin pie and a few bites of the string bean casserole. We all tuck into The styrofoam containers, noisily tearing off the lids so they don’t take up extra table space.

A woman is sittting alone at a table near us. An aide comes over, hugs her, and sees if she wants to move to another table with other people. She does and so moves. The interaction was so sweet.

Dinner is done by 12:30 so we take Arlene back To her room and go. It is not lost on me that that may be the last time I see her.

Mark, Lora, Kelsey and Lindsey get back from Des Moines around 6. It’s always fun to see the kids, both successful young professionals in Charlotte and Phoenix. When they get home, they are kids again, falling back into roles they have honed over the past 25 years. We sit out back on the patio around the gas fire pit and talk about work, plans, and old friends who still live in town. Kelsey and I, though at opposite ends of our careers, are dealing with similar issues: the intransigence of those who are permanently ensconced when one is trying to improve systems. I am glad to see that she is such a dynamo and is bent on trying new things.

We get back to Boston Friday night. I beg out of going to Copake and Tami winds up being sick so she doesn’t go either. Sunday she feels better and makes a fabulous turkey dinner for the two of us. I feel so lucky to be attached at the wrists and ankles to her.

Thanksgiving In The Heartland


Day 4: Start the day very worried about our cat, Karen, who ran out of the house just before we had to leave for the airport. She usually comes back eventually but not immediately so I figured she’d come in for Andrea who is looking after the animals. But messages from Andrea for the past 2 days tell us she hasn’t shown up. 

Today we are going down to Lincoln so Tami can meet up with her college boyfriend, Carlton, whom she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Rather than the interstate, I like to do the blue roads, so we set off down route 77. 

Anti-choice signs in cornfields are big around here. Holier-than-thou farmers’ wives have a mission which they see as saving lives but is actually just their way of being catty toward women who were getting some when they weren’t gettin’ any. The lives they purport to be saving they are actually condemning to struggle and strife because the only person who really has any control over this zygote’s fate knows full well that she can’t handle it right now and needs to wait, but can’t because these catty church ladies insist on doing everything they can to shut down every clinic and harass every doctor who would help her to exercise the control over her body that God has given her. God is not going to judge her for making the choice that is clearly the best for her family; only the church ladies are. 
I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but the moral bankruptcy of the Christian Right in America is dragging this great country into the sewer. And my cat is missing.
But besides these signs, the Nebraska landscape in the drizzling rain is sublime. It’s flat, mostly, vast cornfields straddled by bug-like irrigation machines that pivot in great circles around a water pipe. Today, in the November rain, there are no machines running. The corn has been harvested and the husks are brown. 
We drive through Indian reservation towns where you can get cheap cigarettes and gasoline. Right now their Water-Protector brothers are being frozen by water cannons and humiliated by tear gas up at the DAPL. The American shame just keeps coming and coming. 
Each little town has a sign listing all the churches in it. A town of 500 may have ten different houses of worship. But they all get along for the most part. 
We pull into Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska and a college town. A new basketball arena sits to the right and the Huskers stadium towers on the left. This state runs on Huskers football and the stadium represents it monolithically.  
We go to Haymarket and meet Carlton at Laslo’s. He’s a good guy with a nice smile and a positive attitude. After a Templeton Rye, I leave them to catch up and I go off to the music stores. 
In the first one, CGS Music, a sprawling independent outfit, half of which is devoted to repair and thus is strewn with myriad instruments in various states of disrepair. Of particular interest is a 7 string fretless hollow-body bass from which the bridge has detached. I would love to see this thing in all its glory. In the 2 instrument rooms there are Weissenborns, Dobros, Pipas, Charangas, Ukelele basses, and upright basses, along with the usual complement of guitars and ukes. The proprietor tells me that in the large space he has downstairs, he has different community events-a Ukelele group tonight, a blues jam tomorrow night. I tell him this is the model many independent bookstores are using now: being a community gathering place for all kinds of groups. This fosters loyalty and repeat business.
We all go out to lunch at a steak house, Misty’s, which brews its own beer. Carlton and I got ribeyes while Tami got a prime rib. While there, I got a text from Andrea saying Karen (“that slut”) returned and was fine. This picks up my spirits immensely. We drove back on the Interstate, hitting Omaha right at rush hour.
(Photo by Tami Kander)

Thanksgiving In The Heartland 

Day 3. We met with the hospice providers that Tami’s mother, Arlene has. This is a program she gets through Medicare. A nurse comes to the nursing home twice a week and checks in on her. Aides also come by and spend time with her and there is a social worker, too. I was impressed with the care and professionalism exhibited by this team. This is a service available through Medicare that I suspect most folks don’t know about. Most people are not comfortable talking about their death and the death of their loved ones. But this is a whole lot more humane than successive trips to the hospital and much cheaper. 
Arlene seems to be doing pretty well. She’s in a wheelchair now but she recognized me and still had her sense of humor. I gotta say, Mark Kander is doing a wonderful job managing her care. We are so grateful!
We went to The Gateway for dinner, a little roadhouse which is decorated with Crown Royal bags hanging from the ceiling. They smoke their own stuff there and it is really inexpensive. Marie is always sitting at the bar and when you pay, the best way is to go up to the bar and chat with Marie while you pay. 

Thanksgiving In The Heartland

Day One: We are off to Nebraska. We are leaving in the afternoon this time as opposed to 5am. Much easier. 
Meant to leave my Swiss Army Knife at home, but did the opposite. This knife was given to me by Tami on Valentines Day 2001, the night we got engaged. It’s always a thing that I have to remember to either leave or pack with the checked luggage. This time we are not checking anything so the plan was to leave it home. We had a brush with losing it in St Thomas coming home from our honeymoon. The gate attendant ultimately let us put it in a bag that we were going to carry on and check that bag. 
So, tonight we somehow got put in the TSA pre-check line. One of the advantages of being white in Trump’s America, I guess. But I squandered the opportunity by having the knife. Fortunately, they now have a deal where you can mail it home right there. They have a grey box with plastic bags with little slips in them. You fill out the slip with your address and credit card, put it and the knife in the bag, put it in the grey box and they send it back for you. Very convenient. It’s the little things in life when you’re traveling. 

There is something about watching the sitcoms they show on the plane. I never plug in the headphones to listen to them, so I’m watching this pantomime where there’s this whole story going on that I am not really privy to. I can see the action and not knowing the reason for it makes me wonder if I should plug in the earphones and listen and enjoy the show. But I sort of like being in this limbo, just grooving on the movement. Whenever I see tv I can’t hear it always reminds me of flying. 

Jiffy Pop Has Left The Building

Jiffy out by the fire
Out by the fire

We are at the vet getting Jiffy checked out. He is in the twilight of his life and wil be turning 16 on December 2nd. He threw up blood a little yesterday and we thought we should get it checked out. While he has gained .2 pounds since last time and doesn’t have a fever, he is weak and doesn’t want to go on walks anymore. Tami is despondent. I’m trying to keep my chin up. I want clarity from the vet as to how we negotiate these last weeks or months of his life. How do we know when he is done? They say we will know but it’s hard not knowing.

Stormy, 9 months older than Jiffy is going strong, it seems. He is the ugly stepchild, having been adopted at ten from Tami’s mom when she went into assisted living. He whines and we never know what he wants, but we love him anyway. I am trying to communicate with him more since up to now I thought he was deaf. I don’t think he is.

Karen, our 8 year old cat, just got done with a few weeks of staples in her neck from an apparent cat fight injury. She is, however, happy and vital.

The vet, Dr Franquin, comes back in after doing an ultrasound on him and informs us he has a mass around his pancreas. We go back and forth about the possible treatment options. She could give us a referral to the animal hospital in Woburn. If it was pancreatitis they could treat it and maybe we get a few more months. If it’s cancer it is a whole treatment routine for a very old dog. Or we can euthenize him today. Or wait a couple of days. She leaves us alone.

We cry and hold him close. We hear him struggling with each breath. We know he is old. We want to at least let Andrea and the kids say goodbye. But that would mean making an appointment for his death. We went through that once before with Daisy Duke and it was awful. I remember Tami lying on the front porch with the kitty, crying, knowing the day was coming tomorrow.

We make the decision to do it today. Rip the bandaid off, so to speak. Dr. Franquin tells us what to expect and takes him out to put a catheter in his foreleg.

They give us plenty of time to sit in the little room and cry. Another tech comes in and has me sign a paper saying we want individual cremation. As opposed to cremation with a whole lotta other animals. We have a graveyard in our garden with Daisy Duke and Cheryl. Of course we’re gonna have the individual cremation. I just couldn’t deal with holding the body, so we got the cremation.

We cry some more and hold him, this dear sweet poodle who has made our lives so much better in so many ways. We could bring him to parties and he would run around doing all the socializing we were too shy to do. He was smart, charismatic, and a really great dog. A once in a lifetime dog. He even had his own website for a while, jiffycam.net. Ironically, that domain name expired yesterday.

A tech, Danielle, comes back in and asks us if we need more time. We answer no. Dr Franquin comes back in with the 2 syringes, one to provide the anaesthetic and the other to provide the overdose. That’s how dogs die, from a an overdose.

We put him on the steel table wrapped in an Indian blanket. Tami holds him as one syringe is connected with the catheter in his arm and then the other. Dr. Franquin puts on her stethoscope, listens to his heart and says, “He’s gone.”

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