Sunday, October 27, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Years ago, I was sitting in a local coffee shop with my friend John.  John was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, having been activated for either a tour of duty in Iraq or because we had invaded Afghanistan.  I don't recall.  A lot of friends and acquaintances wore the uniform on a fairly constant basis in those days.  

He wore a dagger on his belt that was at least 6" long.  I said it looked kind of out of place in a downtown coffee shop.  He shrugged.  Part of the uniform.  He always had to have it on him.  

"FIGMO" they say.  "F*ck it.  Got my orders."

"Let me ask you something," he said.  "Take a look around you."

"Ok," I said. 

After I returned to his gaze, he asked,"Would you say that the folks in here are pretty representative of the population of Little Rock?"

This particular establishment caters to a pretty diverse clientele.  Folks of different races and genders were in there drinking coffee and eating pastries along with John and I.  So I had to agree.

"Of the folks in here, how many do you think have ever been in trouble with the law?"

"Not many," I said.  "Mostly traffic stuff most likely."

"Maybe 5%?"


"Now just imagine if 5% of the entire population of Little Rock decided to riot all at once.  Do you think law enforcement in this county could handle it?"

"Never thought about it.  Probably.  But it would be tough."

"Well, that's what's happening in Iraq.  Government depends on the vast majority of the population being law abiding.  But it doesn't take very many folks to screw things up completely.  That's what I've seen with my own eyes in Iraq."

Which brings me to Rob Blake.  He's an umpire in Major League Baseball who toiled in relative obscurity as should all umpires until last Tuesday when he felt led to tweet, according to ESPN,  that he planned to buy an AR-15 "because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR!!! #MAGA2020."

I do hope that Mr. Blake had been drinking when he issued that pronouncement.  But he might not have been.  And who knows how many other folks feel the same way he does?  I personally know one man here in town who predicted civil war if Trump is removed from office.  And that was 2 years ago.  He already owns an AR. And God knows what else. I have since ceased to follow him on Facebook.

Showed him huh?  

Part of the problem, part of the danger, is that we have too much exotic weaponry floating around out there and we may safely deduce that a certain number of the owners of these weapons are semi-unhinged.  

And another part of the problem is that Trump and his defenders are resorting to intemperate language to describe his political problems stating for example that the recent impeachment inquiry is a "coup."

This is an opportunity to teach.

"Coup" is shorthand for "coup d'etat" or "blow against the state" meaning the overthrow of an existing government by non-democratic means if you will.  Think French and Russian Revolutions.  There are you some sure enough coups.  

Whatever you think of Mr. Trump's current plight, the impeachment process is by no means a coup.  It is described in Article I of the Constitution of United States of America.  It is carried out by elected officials.  And it only removes a person from office.  It doesn't alter or replace the existing government.  It is not a coup.

But try telling that to the average American who gets his or her news from TASS, I mean, FOX.  Or owns an AR 15.

And if we are to be honest, part of the reason for the venomous response of the Trumpers is due to the belief that the Never Trumpers have longed for this moment since his election.  And they're right.  I know folks that were talking impeachment damn near 5 minutes after Trump took the Oath of Office.  And I always tamped such talk down as utterly foolhardy if not groundless until fairly recently.  

But even though the Trumpers have a point of sorts it is largely irrelevant as Mr. Trump has done a pretty damn good job of handing himself over to his enemies ( and maybe more Republicans than we currently know) on a silver platter via room service.  

As for Mr. Drake, he has mercifully shut down his Twitter account and has issued an apology undoubtedly drafted for him by MLB, the MLB Umpires Association, or both.  

"I want to apologize to everyone that my words may feel less safe," he allegedly said in a another statement obtained by ESPN. "I also acknowledge and and apologize for the controversy this has brought to Major League Baseball, my fellow umpires and my family. I never intended to diminish the threat of violence from assault weapons of any kind."

And naturally, in conclusion, the statement goes on to say that Drake is "going to learn from this."

Like I said.  Maybe he was drunk when he took to Twitter last Tuesday.

But what about the sober yet deranged people out there that share his thoughts?  What are they gonna do if Trump is removed from office?

After all, It doesn't take many people to screw things up completely.  My buddy John saw that for himself in Iraq.

Hopefully we won't get put to that particular test here.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

My Worthless Feeling

I have nothing to allow today.  Which is rarely an impediment to my writing in these chronicles.

Beat you to it.

Anyway, I'm taking the day off.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I don't particularly know what came over me.  But a couple of months ago I decided that I wanted a nice wrist watch.  The only type of watch I've worn since-when?-law school I guess has been a running watch, a Timex Ironman (more specifically) the last 15 years or so.  The Deacon gave me a FitBit watch 4-5 years ago.  I was teaching full-time back then.  It would amaze me how many steps I would take in the average day.

You think teaching ain't work?  Buy a teacher of your acquaintance a FitBit or similar product and check his or her mileage.  Bet it's more than yours by a couple of laps.

But keeping track of all the stuff the stupid thing compiled on me on a constant basis) became damn near a fetish.  Or as close to one as I'll ever have. And my eyes are pretty bad.  I had trouble seeing the face of the device (you couldn't really call it a watch) in broad daylight.   So I went to Wal-Mart last spring and got me another Ironman.

Which suits me just fine.  Until I saw an article in Esquire Magazine about watches it recommended.  And it occurred to me that here I am pushing 65 and I didn't have what my father would call a "dress watch."  Besides, I'm no longer paying for 2 houses so the cash flow has improved considerably. So off I went in search of my dream.  

Now I knew I wasn't going to buy a Rolex, although my brother Bob gave me a fake one for Christmas one year.  Or anything that cost over $500.  So the first place I looked was at a large department store in the mall down the road.  This was a mistake.  The men's watches on display there were heavily reliant on the bling.  A gentleman of my age and station should not disport himself as Willie the Pimp.

So I started looking online.  I told my buddy Phil what I was up to.  Turns out he had a Citizen in his desk drawer that he wasn't wearing.  So he gave it to me to try out.  It's a lovely watch and I am grateful for his thoughtfulness.  But the damn thing has a black face, black hands and black numbers.  My eyes are so bad I can't read it even in good light. So first priority was to find a watch I can actually read with ease in all light.  

Two things became readily apparent once I started looking.  The first is that there have to be 25-30 companies in America that make quality timepieces in my price range.  The first one I ever heard of was Shinola out in Detroit.  I think I saw a story on 60 Minutes about how the company bought a building downtown and trained unemployed folks how to make watches.      I don't know if Shinola was the inspiration for all of these other companies making watches in this great land of ours.  But there sure are a lot of them.

Secondly, if you don't think Facebook doesn't read your mind or something, just look for a watch online.  Or some other discreet niche product.  As if by magic you will find ads from makers and sellers of watches on your feed.  Same thing with golf equipment.  It's really true that there's no such thing as privacy out there on the Internet.  So don't go looking for sex toys online unless you Mark Zuckerberg all up in your business.  

A word to the wise is sufficient.

After much looking and research I settled on a watch made by an outfit in Los Angeles called VAER.  The one I picked was semi-military in style in that it had a green face and white hands and numbers.  It came with two straps.  One was a gray nylon "NATO styled" strap for use in diving and other adventurous water sports.  The other is a "burnt orange" leather strap.  I have a feeling that the military grade strap will stay in the box.  I don't like to swim.  Besides, NATO will probably be dissolved by the time the election rolls around.  The Texas Longhorns will not.  Finally, it cost far less than my price range.

So I placed the order.  They said it would take about 2 weeks due to a backlog on orders.  Most likely it was the lies about backlogs on orders that were backed up.  But I didn't mind.

My new watch came in last Friday.  It was just as pretty in the box as depicted online.  It has a nice heft and feel to it on my wrist seeing as how, unlike either the Ironman, the FitBit or the fake Rolex given to me by Bob, the new watch has a million moving parts.  And it has a feature VAER calls lume which is just a fancy Latinate word for "light." Which means I can read it in pitch darkness as well as normal light.  And I can.  I am so happy.  

So if you are in the market for a reasonably priced, attractive timepiece that is made in the USA, take a look at the VAER website.  Or any of them.  They are all pretty good.

Just don't be surprised when Mark Zuckerberg gets wind of this too.  


Sunday, October 06, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I know a woman whose late husband found himself in protracted litigation over real estate during a time when he was not at all well.  She wrote me to tell me that she had heard recently that the attorney for the other party was now himself gravely ill.

"Karma is a bitch ain't it?" she wrote.

Indeed it is.  In this case it has given a perfectly nice little lady a license to indulge in schadenfreude.  Which I completely get.   

I don't claim to be very good at Christianity.  I have my moments I suppose.  But I  understand the inability to forgive.  

In my own life, there are a couple of people whose funeral I would attend pretty much only to make sure that they were indeed stone cold dead.  Which is petty in the extreme and goes against both my home and church upbringing.   I know this.  I was raised better.

But under certain circumstances Christ's admonition to turn the other cheek is not just impractical.  It seems impossible. Ask anybody who has gone through a divorce.  Who has come out on the short end of a business deal.  Who has been denied a promotion or otherwise works for a son-of-a-bitch.  Pick your own scenario. I know that you can.

Which is why the scene in the courtroom in Dallas was so remarkable.  A young man named Botham Jean was sitting in his apartment eating ice cream when he was blown to Kingdom Come by a cop named Amber Guyger who claimed that she not only somehow mistook his apartment for her own.  She mistook him for an intruder.  

The prosecutor called this unlikely mistake of both identity and residence "murder" and a jury agreed.  It gave Guyger 10 years.  Just before she got led off, the brother of Botham Jean approached her.  And the now famous picture shows him hugging her and offering her his forgiveness.


By all accounts, Botham Jean was a fine young man. He was much beloved by friends and family.  He manifestly did not deserve to have his life taken from him by an addled police officer.  And yet Amber Guyger was forgiven by the brother of the man she executed.

Could you do that?  I know I couldn't.  I'm not nearly Christian enough or man enough.  Mercifully, most of us won't have to have our faith tested in such an extreme way.

I'm no theologian but I am a practical man. Perhaps there's a middle ground.  I heard a rabbi once say, on the Don Imus show of all places, that "hating somebody is to drink the poison and expect that other person to die."  I think that this is useful advice which I have tried to follow in my own life.

Like I said, there are a few folks that I would just as soon not ever have anything to do with ever again.  But I refuse to hate them.  Mainly because to hate them would require me to think about them.  I refuse to let them occupy real estate in my head.  I refuse to drink the poison. 

That ain't exactly offering up my cheek to be slapped.  But that's the best I can do. 

The harder question would be what would I do if one of these people that "I would just as soon not have anything to do with" asked me for forgiveness.  I am comfortable posing this question as I am certain that it is purely rhetorical.  Narcissists have no need of reconciliation.  

But my answer is, God help me, that I do not know.  I do not know if I am capable of being Botham Jean's brother.  But I refuse to hate.  Like I said, it's the best I can do.

And I guess that would be my response to my widowed friend.  

I hope she finds a measure of peace someday.  I hope she can put down the poison.

But I likewise understand it, and will not blame her, if she never does.