Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President,

I don’t know you personally, nor am I a psychologist or trained in human behavior, so the following observations are based strictly on your public persona, my interpretations of you as a public figure, and my own understanding of people.

I am an American citizen of Mexican heritage, born in East Los Angeles, California to parents who were also born in the United States.

I consider myself to be a member of the middle-class. I have some college education, have worked hard since I was 16 years old, am lucky to own a nice home and enjoy a long and successful marriage.

My personal and emotional foundation was formed as the result of the strict, disciplined and engaged parenting I received, as a child and a teenager, from my Father and many of my relatives. That kind of upbringing is typical of almost all Mexican-American families, and I’ve always been grateful for that good start on my life’s journey.

I was raised in a home where my Father was responsible for single-parenting my younger Brother and me, a role he never envisioned for himself. Although we never had much money, we were always well cared-for and Dad made Boy Scouts a central part of my youth, a gift for which I can never thank him enough.

With the help of Dad and Scouting, I learned the basics tenets of decency, empathy and compassion towards others that still resonate with me today, as embodied by the Twelve Scout Laws:

“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”

To this very day, I live my life striving to achieve the benchmarks of positive humanity as outlined in those twelve laws. They have never steered me wrong.

The question I have is this: where did YOU go wrong?

Much has been spoken and written about what motivates you to display the kind of negative, divisive and demeaning behavior you do as an adult and the leader of our Nation. There's many opinions about the parenting you received and the wealth and privilege you were born into, and how that all shaped your adult mindset.

Whether a janitor, a warehouse worker, a business executive, a puppeteer, an astronaut, a waitress or a politician, we all have a learned set of internal guidelines that help us get through our adult days and (hopefully) will not result with winding up in the hospital or in jail.

Those learned internal guidelines are cemented into our behaviors. Sometimes we must break them apart and reassemble them in ways that will allow us to be successful adults. Sometimes, even though we try our hardest, nothing can change those behaviors, no matter how hard we try.

Not changing bad personal behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean a person wouldn’t be a successful adult, but it does mean that person will never truly be all they can be.

It’s part of being a complicated humanoid in the 21st Century. 

The thing that most puzzles me about you, apart from our diametrically opposed politics, is how you seem to embody the worst traits of human behavior which any normal functioning adult would have long since shed, especially for someone of your age and education and status. 

My guess is that you behave the way you do because you’ve never experienced a normal life… a normal existence… the kind of life that the vast majority of Americans deal with on a daily basis.

You were born into wealth and privilege. I'd reckon you never once spent a day (or perhaps even a minute) having to think about food or shelter or clothing, worrying about paying for tuition or childcare or health insurance. You were given every advantage money could buy, sent to the finest schools, were fronted a million dollars by your Father to start your first business and bailed out by him several times when your business acumen failed.

That entitled upbringing gifted you with the ability to avoid dealing with life’s harsh realities. It also allowed you to develop a sense of superiority over all others, which is how things often work for the wealthiest among us. That superiority breeds hubris and antipathy towards those whom you feel are ‘lessers’ and the resulting lack of human compassion and empathy they deserve.

There’s a modern word for the malady that I firmly believe you suffer from: 


Wikipedia notes that Affluenza can be defined as ‘a quasi-illness… an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege.’ I would suggest this condition has been a part of your life from the very beginning and has ingrained itself so deeply and completely in your soul that you're literally blind to the effects it has on you.

I don’t blame you for the parenting you received… no one can, for themselves or for others. It would seem that you are who you were raised to be, but therein lies the problem.

As we become adults, slogging our way through the emotional turmoil of maturity and responsibility, we have two paths forward: continue on with the emotional tool kit we collected through childhood and adolescence, or re-tool and revise our tool kit to deal with the realities of adulthood.

Clearly, you chose the former and it worked well-enough because of your special stature as a wealthy while male… someone who received every break and entitlement and privilege available.

What you didn’t learn, as indicated by your behavior as an adult, are the critically important foundational traits of decency, empathy and compassion towards others. In your words and actions, you seem to lack even the basic knowledge of what it means to be anything other than what you are: a self-centered and narcissistic Master of the Universe.

A person with no concept of what it means to struggle to survive.

A person who has most likely never cleaned a bathroom, mowed a lawn, shopped for groceries or rode a bus to work.

A person who looks down on others who don’t share your social standing, your heritage, your financial success or your idea of what Americans are supposed to be.

A person who freely insults, denigrates and diminishes anyone who you feel doesn't live up to your self-defined levels of success and patriotism.

It would be very easy to dismiss your divisive and destructive behavior if you were just another fabulously wealthy and powerful media  personality, but you're not. You're the President of The United States, and although you seem not to realize it, the rest of the World looks to you as an example of American ideals, morals and leadership.

And therein lies my problem with you.

Your actions... your words... your behavior... your demeanor... are all hallmarks of a spoiled child. It seems your maturity level has never risen above that of a 7-year-old who refuses to eat his vegetables, clean his room or play nicely with others.

I know this much: if I displayed any of your behaviors when I was growing up, you can bet that I'd catch a belt whipping from my Dad that would leave welts which faded only after several days. I also know that if I acted in the same childish and immature manner as an adult like you do, I'd have been fired from most of the jobs I've held and certainly wouldn't still be married to the same amazing woman for 34 years.

So once again, I ask the question: where did you go wrong?

Have you ever even once in your entire life questioned your personal behavior as it relates to others? Has it ever occurred to you that normal adults don't actively insult and demean others without consequences? 

Most importantly, does it ever bother you to know that your son Barron is watching every single negative and insulting thing you say and do and is learning from your example?

No... I didn't think so.

Your supporters always dismiss and rationalize your aberrant behavior by saying, 'Well... his remarks and behavior aren't helpful but I hope he'll turn down the rhetoric and start to act more Presidential.'

That's a lie. They know you're incapable of changing your behavior and are just making excuses for you.  No one should have any allusions about you magically changing stripes at this time in your life.

But you're a grown man with a teenage son, so if you have even a shred of decency or compassion, please... think about what your behavior is teaching your son. Think about how you could be creating someone with the same stilted, inhumane and indecent feelings towards others that you seem to be so proud of.

It's obvious what happened to your older children, who seem to be the same kind of awful human beings as you are. 

But Barron is still young enough to work with and save.

Think about Barron, if you can.

We as a Nation can vote you out of office, and I hope with every fiber in my being that you'll be swept out of power in November. But Barron... he's stuck with you for the duration, so for his sake you owe him at least the chance to grow up with a Father he can look up to... can be proud of... can aspire to emulate. 

Someone who respects others, who can offer understanding and empathy and compassion without regard for their differences. Someone with a sense of decency and humanity, irrespective of their station in life or their heritage or their philosophy.

Don't let Barron suffer the same fate as an adult that you and your other children have... only you can do that for him. Otherwise, he'll become exactly what you've raised him to be... an adult just like you.

Can you do it?

No... I didn't think so.

Lead image, Gracias de Google Images; CSNY 'Teach Your Children' video, Muchismas Gracis de YouTube; Vote Blue in November.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Leave The Driving To Us

This ridiculous story is 100% true.

In early 1976, I had decided to move to the town of Paradise, California and leave SoCal behind for good. I'd help Dad run his recently-opened Mexican restaurant in that sleepy mountain burg nestled in an oak forest within view of the Sierras. 

At least that was the plan. I wound up leaving Paradise and returning to SoCal less than 18 months later, but that's not the subject of this story.

Before moving North, my good friend Patti had set a date for her upcoming marriage and demanded that I come back to participate in the festivities. Of course I said yes. Since it would involve a 3-day quick trip turnaround, Dad gave me that Friday and Saturday off and I decided to take a Greyhound bus rather than put more miles on my sweet '72 Capri. That way I could be as high or hungover as possible on Sunday and not have to worry about keeping it on the asphalt for the trip back.

I left my car at the Greyhound terminal in Chico (about 12 miles from Paradise) early Friday morning and started my journey with only three scheduled stops during the 8-hour trip on Interstate 5: once in Sacramento for a transfer, once in beautiful Kettleman City for a rest stop and the final destination in Downtown Los Angeles.

For the uninitiated, back in the 70's Kettleman City was only rest stop on I-5 between Bakersfield and Sacramento, a stretch of over 275 miles. Kettlemen City smelled of pesticides and manure. Otherwise, the I-5 corridor was a desolate sea of agriculture.

I'd planned to stay with Mom during the weekend, so she picked me up in LA and after I dropped her off at home, I used her new Camaro as my sled for the festivities.

Just like Mom's Camaro!

 The wedding was great, we partied like monsters and I was indeed very ragged on Sunday morning when Mom dropped me back at the LA Greyhound bus station. I staggered into the terminal, confirmed my ticket and crawled onto the bus. I was barely conscious as we pulled out onto the freeway around 9AM when the driver made an announcement that woke me right the fuck up:

"Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen... thanks for choosing Greyhound. We hope you'll enjoy this express shuttle that will make scheduled stops all along Interstate 99, with our planned arrival in Sacramento at approximately 9PM tonite. Welcome Aboard!"

Holy Crap!!! How did I wind up on a shuttle that would take 4 hours longer for the return trip?!?! I scrambled for my ticket and sure enough, it said 'Express Shuttle'... I'd picked the wrong bus for the ride home and would be lucky to get home to Paradise before midnight.

The trip to Sacramento was unending. No booze, no weed, with stops in literally every city along I-99. I had pretty much calmed down somewhere near Glendale, resigned to the long ride and just slept off my hangover for most of the trip, waking up each time the bus pulled into a dusty terminal near the freeway.

We arrived in Sacramento ahead of schedule (!!) just before 8:30PM and as I was exiting the bus to hit the restroom and get some snacks, I asked the driver if the same bus was headed up to Chico, he said yes and for me to leave my bag on board.


I returned to the bus (with a new driver aboard) and settled in for the 2-hour run to Chico, my car and home. The bus made its way onto the freeway around 9PM, heading North on the I-5 when the driver made the following earth-shattering announcement just outside Sacramento:

"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen... thanks for choosing Greyhound. We hope you'll enjoy this non-stop express bus, with our planned arrival in Redding at approximately 1AM. Welcome Aboard!"

I jumped up out of my seat and ran up to the driver.

Me (trying desperately to remain calm): "Wait a minute... did you say our next stop is in REDDING?!?!"

Him: "Yes Sir, we'll be there right on schedule."

Me: "But that's impossible! The last driver told me this bus would continue on to Chico!!"

Him: "It was, sir... but there was a schedule change due to a mechanical issue and the Chico route is being handled by another carriage."

Me: "WHAT?!? But but but the other driver told me..."

Him: "Sorry sir... perhaps you should have double-checked the updated schedule at the Sacramento depot. This bus rolls on to Redding and then back to Sacramento, non-stop both ways."

I was frantic, standing there at the front of the bus, knowing the driver was probably getting pissed, knowing most of the other passengers were watching to see if I was insane or drunk or violent and needed to be restrained for my own good.

I looked out the front windshield and saw that we were fast approaching the exit from the I-5 to the I-99/I-70 road that would lead to Chico and home.

Me:  "Please stop the bus and drop me off at the upcoming I-99 exit."

Him: "SIR... I'm not able to do that, it isn't safe!"

Me:  "PLEASE, I really need to get off this bus because it's headed in the wrong direction from my home!!! I can't go all the way to Redding because there's no way I'll make it to work in the morning!!"

Him: "Sorry Sir, that's just not..."

Me:  "PLEASE!!!!!!"

A few moments later, the bus stopped to drop me off on the side of the freeway, then slowly drove away.

And there I was, standing alone with my bag beside the desolate freeway interchange at 9:30PM on a Sunday night, 10 miles North of Sacramento and almost 80 miles away from my car in Chico.  I stood there for a few minutes, wondering what the hell I'd just done, really pissed at myself for this revolting development.

After about 5 minutes of mental self-flogging, I picked up my bag and started walking down the I-99 exit. Once I got off the exit incline and onto level ground, I did the only thing I could do: I stuck out my thumb in the hopes of hitching a ride.

I stood there for about 30 minutes while cars whizzed by until one slowed down to pull over and pick me up.  I ran down the road to jump in... it was a Black Pontiac Trans-Am with the t-tops out and the giant 'Screaming Chicken' decal on the hood. I looked inside at the driver, a dude with a buzz-cut, sleeveless t-shirt and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Me: "Hey man... thanks for the lift! How far you going?"

Him: (obviously totally drunk, with a can of beer in his hand): "Oh hey, maaaan... howyadooin'? Ahm going back to Beale Air Force Base outshide-a Marysville, that cool with you?"

Me (alarmed but desperate): "That sounds great, but... are you OK to drive?"

Him: "SHUR I YAM! Hop in and let's boogie!"

I tossed my bag into the back seat, climbed in and buckled the seat belt. He stomped the accelerator and peeled outta there, fishtailing and throwing up a rooster tail of gravel and dust.

Just like the drunk Air Force guy's Trans-Am!

I was petrified. Here's this drunk Air Force guy, driving along a desolate four-lane country highway at 85 miles an hour, barely keeping the car in the lane, talking to me with slurred speech while the radio was blasting so loud the music was distorted, pounding down a beer and laughing.

Him: "HAW HAW HAW... Good thing I picked yew up, I almosht din't see you there standing by the side of the road, what th' hell are you doin' thumbing in the middle of nowhere, anywaysh?"

I started trying to explain my sitch, but decided not to distract him from the task of trying not to drive into the deep irrigation ditches that bordered both sides of the roadway. He just kept on drunkenly talking to himself, drifting from the one side of his lane to the other, barely conscious and alert.

By some miracle, we made it all the way into Marysville and I asked him to drop me off at the corner of 9th and B... B Street turned into I-70 once it left town and would eventually get me to Chico. I jumped out and he once again peeled out, covering me in dust and tire smoke.

It was now about 11PM and I was almost halfway to Chico. I decided to grab something to drink at the small restaurant/bar located on the corner, so I stashed my bag behind some bushes and went inside.

It was smoky and noisy inside but not too crowded, so I sat at the counter next to a couple of half-drunk girls and started talking to them. They laughed at my predicament and said they'd be glad give me a ride to Chico where they lived. What luck!!!! I bought them both a beer and we talked for awhile before they decided to go to the restroom.

I sat at the bar for about 15 minutes waiting but they never came back. 

They ditched me. I'd been had.

Now it was past Midnight and I was still only halfway home. I walked outside, grabbed my bag and walked up B Street about a quarter mile, stopped in front of an all-night gas station and stuck out my thumb again.

After about 15 minutes, a ratty green Dodge truck pulled over to the curb in front of me. I opened the door and looked inside to see the driver was a grizzled older Black guy wearing a stained cowboy hat with a cigar in his mouth.

Him: "Howdy, Son... need a lift?"

Me: " Uhhhh... sure... thanks for stopping! How far you going?"

Him: "Well, I live in Gridley... where you goin'?" (Gridley is about halfway between Marysville and Chico).

Me: "I'm trying to get to Chico, but I'd really appreciate the lift to Gridely."

I got into the truck. He sat there smoking for a moment.

Him:  "You know, I jus' flew into Sacramento from Europe this evening and ahm pretty tired raht now. If you don' mind driving so's I can take a nap, you kin drive all the way to Chico and ah'll jus' turn 'round and head back to Gridley. How does that sound?"

Me: "WOW... that would be amazing!!! I'd be happy to drive, and THANK YOU!!!"

Just like the old guy's truck!

A few minutes later I was driving the truck out of Marysville with the old guy smoking away in the passenger seat.

Him: "Yep, been a long week. I play harmonica and been in Germany doin' a few shows, just got back into Cali tonite."

Me (suspiciously): "Germany, eh? Did you do any recording there?"

Him:  "Sure did! Here... pull over and look'a diss."

Once I'd stopped the truck, he pulled out several newspaper articles and copies of playbills from under the seat featuring him, Andy Rodgers (click the link) a world-renowned harmonica player who was famously known as the 'Midnight Cowboy' and had done session work with musical legends for decades. He gave me a couple of the copies to keep.

I was floored, amazed and humbled that this famous human being was willing and able to be so nice to me, a total stranger, in my hour of need.

After a few minutes on the road, Andy fell asleep while I drove through the dark Northern California countryside on a winding two-lane road, bordered by trees and farms and small isolated communities. I kept my speed at about 45mph so as not to take a curve too fast and wake him up.  He was leaned up against the passenger door, hat covering up his eyes, snoring loudly.

About 90 minutes later, I slowly pulled into the Chico Greyhound terminal and parked next to my Capri. It was well past 2AM. I woke up Andy and in just a minute or so, he was in the driver seat and I was shaking his hand like crazy.

Me:  "THANK YOU, ANDY!!! You have no idea how grateful I am that you helped in in such a big way. I'm so glad to meet you and will never forget you!"

Him: "You welcome, Bob... ahv had many people help me in mah life, so I jus' wanna' return the favor as often as I can. Maybe I can get mah wife to come up to yo Dad's place in Paradise sometime! It ain't that far from Gridley!"

With that, Andy slowly drove away, waving his arm out the window at me.

I stood there in the empty terminal parking lot, leaning on my car, taking a few hits off a joint, thinking about the 16-hour journey I'd just been on. 

The bus ride to Sacramento was endless, thanks to my own stupidity. 

I was really lucky to get a ride outside of Sacramento and not to have died in a fiery alcohol-fueled crash on the way to Marysville.

And I was especially lucky that Andy Rodgers, world-famous harmonica player, took the time to stop and help a brother out. I got into my Capri and drove the 12 miles home up on the ridge in Paradise.

I wasn't worth a shit at work the next day, and Dad made sure I knew it.


I wish I still had those playbill copies that Andy had given me, but they went MIA in the many years since like so many things do in our lives. He never made it to the restaurant, and by the end of 1977 I had moved back to SoCal where I'd soon meet my future ex-wife.

Hitchhiking is now a thing of the past, relegated to behaviors that we just couldn't or wouldn't do in our modern world.

But I did a lot of it in the 70's, when the world seemed so much bigger and other people seemed far less mean and dangerous.

R.I.P. Andy Rodgers (1922 - 2004).

"The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

All images, Gracias de Google Open Images; CCR 'Sweet Hitchhiker' video, Muchismas Gracias de YouTube; All vehicle images are indicative of vehicles referenced in this essay and are NOT the actual vehicles involved, M'Kay?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Orange Apron Confidential #2

Pandemic Polka

These are interesting times to be a Lot Geek at Home Depot, with The Galloping Crud lurking everywhere and the social tension thick enough to cut with a Milwaukee SawZall. The good news is that most people are in an upbeat 'be nicer to each other' mood, similar to the social atmosphere during the holidays. 

I always wished we could have that same holiday feeling year-round, but the circumstances for that phenomenon now suck pretty badly. Still... I'll take it.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer my humble suggestions for anyone who finds themselves needing to shop for essentials during this time of Crud Avoidance:

1. Please... dispose of your used sanitary wipes, face masks and latex gloves properly. Do not (I repeat) DO NOT discard these items inside the shopping baskets or (worse) simply drop them onto the parking lot. Don't be a fucking pig, OK?

Discarded latex gloves have become a hallmark of these pandemic times, and it also shows an incredible lack of consideration for others (like ME) who have to go around picking up your cootie-laden crap. Leaving your shopping basket in the middle of a handicapped parking space is bad enough; dropping your (possibly) virulent trash on the ground is not only littering, it's UNSAFE AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS.

BTW, a discarded clear latex glove looks exactly like a huge used condom.


If you can't find a trash can close by, just dump those items in your trunk and dispose of them when you get home. Show some empathy for others and we'll all be better off.

2. Don't be a line asshole. We all know it sucks to have to wait in lines to shop for essentials like bondage gear, razor blades or wolverine chow. The lines also seem longer because of the six-foot social distancing mandates. Keeping a cool head while in the cue is really important, because people are generally a bit nervous right now anyway. 

If you get antsy and impatient and start complaining or yelling at the store personnel who meter customers through the front door, you have marked yourself as a CoronaAsshole and will have rightly earned the derision of others in line.

When one my my co-workers prevented a guy from cutting the line and going directly in the store, the guy lost his shpadoinkle and screamed "YOU BITCH!!" at her. She calmly told him to go to the end of the line or get the hell out of the parking lot.

It was a long slow walk to the end of that line heh heh heh.

3. Pay attention to the 6-foot spacing.  Everyone should assume they're infected since there's no NO MASS TESTING yet (sigh... facepalm). That way you'll be more aware of making sure to steer clear of others in every situation while you search for that new bondage gear.

4. Wear a face covering, dammit!!!! No one looks cool in a face mask, and those of us who choose to wear a bandanna look like insane cowboy bank robbers (The Artist says I should wear a cowboy hat too... she's funny!). Stop worrying about how you look and cover your face in a sign of cooperation and and consideration for others.  Remember: assume you're infected and it will be more meaningful.

5. Be nice to your cashiers. You have no idea how much hassle and grief the cashiers and checkers go through to help you buy a 25-pound bag of wolverine chow. Also too, since you're likely infected (right?) it's also potentially dangerous for them to help you and that's a hard bargain for the $12.50 an hour cashiers get to face off with your uncovered mug. 

There are more pandemic behaviors you could adopt, but you get the picture. If you assume you're already virulent, all these suggestions will be easier to keep top-of-mind. Of course, YOU aren't virulent (are you?) but none of us know who the carriers are because NO MASS TESTING (sigh... facepalm).

Orange Auto Show

Here's some images of the cool cars I've seen lately in the HD parking lot. No rhyme nor reason nor particular order... I just like 'em. Pardon the poor image quality of my ancient dumb phone.

1966 Ford Thunderbird Convertible -- not concourse perfect but a beautiful wire-wheeled ride nonetheless. The Geezer driver had owned it for decades and was wearing wraparound shades.

1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 Convertible -- almost perfect condition, really stunning car.The Dude-bro owner had it for 3 years and just finished his restoration. The engine loped like a monster and he romped on it when he left the lot. Guys... amirite?

1974 Cadillac Coupe de Ville -- the millenial Latino couple were taking pictures of their short when I showed up with my dumb phone, just a sweet sled that suited them perfectly. The whitewalls were awesome.

1974 Chevrolet El Camino -- two-tone yellow and white, Cragars, lifted in the rear. A high school wet dream ride.

1974 Porsche 912 Targa -- gorgeous little car that totally overshadowed the new Black Porsche 996 parked just a few spaces away. Steve McQueen drove a similar car in the film 'Le Mans'.

1980 Dodge Ram -- this goat roper was literally flawless, the owner's Dad had bought it new and the Son had restored it to better than new. Even the custom bed cover and spare carrier were OEM factory options.

1967 Pontiac GTO -- another classic that was obviously a daily driver, not perfect but very beautiful. The body color and vintage American mags were exactly the right combination.

2002 Ford E-250 Zombie Apocalypse Van -- this image doesn't do it justice... festooned with lights, rocket launchers and assorted weaponry. The owner also has a Mercedes 4-door Sedan that's decked out in the same fashion and says his car customization the only hobby his wife will let him enjoy. Totally nuts and awesome, it was surrounded by admirers.

Zen Lumber

Now that HD is closing every night at 6pm (my usual arrival time), my job functions have shifted dramatically. I still wind up clearing the lot of carts and baskets, but it seems that now I've become the person mostly responsible for power-washing all the carts and baskets every evening so they'll be freshly disinfected for the next day. I don't mind at all, and it totally beats fronting product shelves.

Once I've finished the de-crudding, more often than not I'm asked to 'flat-stack' the lumber area, which involves straightening out the piles of wood that shoppers annihilate every day. The purpose of flat-stacking is two-fold: reset the wood so it's easier to search through and improve the appearance of the lumber area.

Heh heh heh... I said 'wood'.

It's a task not many people are willing to do, but I enjoy it. There's something very satisfying about starting at one end of the lumber aisle and flat-stacking everything within sight so that when finished, the lumber and wood stacks are clean and neat, a visual confirmation of actual physical work.

Don't kid yourself... it really is work, and I get sweaty real fast from the effort. Also too, if I don't concentrate the result is a massively bonked head or a dropped 8 x 8 on my hand or foot, so I gotta pay attention.

The other factor is that the task is strangely calming, prolly because I can let my brain shift into Neutral while I'm moving wood around. I find myself reaching an almost zen state of mind with the repetition, moving from one stack to the next, working steadily all by myself. It's amazing how much wood I can move in an hour, and seeing the results that are at once wholly transient yet strangely gratifying is a weird sensation.

Plus, I really like the aroma of freshly-stacked lumber.  Who knew?


Once again, I'm struck with the realization that my part-time HD gig offers more than just some extra shekels during our Global Pandemic Polka. It's a great way to feel relevant in uncertain times and stay connected (yet socially distanced) from other people who are also just trying to find their way through this unnerving crisis.

The overwhelming good nature that most people display is heartening. That we have a collective desire to help make things better for each other gives me hope for our post-Crud future, even though we'll be covering our faces for much longer than anyone thinks.

I've opined before that the human race resembles a virulent infection covering the surface of our Mother Earth, sucking up the life force while leaving devastation, destruction and death in its wake.

It doesn't have to be that way, and we know it. Our brush with Covid-19 should help us to see more clearly that we're all just Bozos on this collective bus, and we gotta be better stewards of our planet so we can keep tweaking each other's noses.

The question is: how far are we willing to go to make our future worth living on this spinning Blue Marble?

"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in." -- Robert A. Heinlein

Lead image, Gracias de Google images; car images, courtesia de Oblio: 'Big Yellow Taxi' y 'Polka Never Dies' videos, Muchismas Gracias de YouTube. WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Elephant Man


We'd been watching a movie on the teevee, probably something from the film noir genre that has recently captivated us, and she'd been munching on a fresh bowl of popcorn. An outburst of this sort from The Artist is a sign that her creative radar has just scanned a target.

"Quick", she said... "tell me what this looks like to you."

I joined her on the couch and stared down at the piece of popcorn in her hand. It had an unusual shape but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. She saw the questioning look on my face and said "It's the head of an elephant, you dummy. Can't you see it?"

Once she said that, it was clear what she'd seen in that popped kernel of corn that almost made in into her mouth. Yep... two obvious large flappy ears, a truncated trunk and elephant-ish head. An elephant!

"I'm gonna create an art project around it", she declared. "I can make a new shadow box or framed piece. It'll be cool!"

I'm used to this by now. She can see art potential in almost anything, which sets her mind into overdrive to figure out exactly how the project will be developed. She's the only person I know who can walk down an aisle at The Home Depot and point out potential art projects made from miscellaneous hardware items... ON EVERY AISLE.

The Quest Begins.


Art is a very subjective thing.

Throughout human history, great art is considered crap by some and crappy art is lauded by others. Every true artist understands this brutal fact and lives with the constant realization that no matter how much creative effort they invest in their medium of choice, it will likely as not be met with criticism and derision.

Vincent Van Gogh didn't sell a single painting until the final year of his life. Claude Monet's early attempts at the new style of art known as 'Impressionism' were laughed at and derided as crap when shown at a Paris salon in 1874. It took another two decades before his brilliant talent was finally... finally... recognized.

Claude. Monet.

All artists carry the burden of rejection with them like a gunny sack tossed over their shoulder, filled with negative comments and misinterpretations of their work. Doesn't matter if the medium is paint, granite, ink on paper, music, dance, glass, macaroni, recycled cardboard, plastic flatware or dryer lint. 

The artist's vision knows no bounds except the limitations of their chosen medium. However, their creative output is often limited by society's insatiable need to equate art with a monetary value before it's valued at all.

That's why the vast majority of artists never sell a damned thing, yet they continue to create what they see in their mind's eye. They're driven to do so... it's an almost uncontrollable desire.

It's also why so many artists, after failing to recreate the perfection their mind's eye has seen, suffer from anxiety and depression and occasionally remove themselves from this mortal coil.

Creativity as a crucifix... self-nailing, too!

The amazing woman in my life, referred to here as The Artist, has lived with this burning creativity her entire life. She too carries a gunny sack filled with the veiled criticism and constant rejection of her work. For over three decades, I've witnessed the struggle to realize her passion and become a working artist who actually sells her art, and she's finally achieved that hard-sought goal.

Although she creates commissioned art like a Boss, her personal output isn't for everyone (nor should any art be!) due mostly to the fact that she's semi-demented and has a wonderfully weird sense of humor.

Like all artists, she sees things the rest of us 'normies' don't. That's why she RULES.


The next day, she had a vision.

"It's 'The Elephant Man'! I'll make a small shadow box using the popcorn as the head and paint the background to match."

My mind began to reel with the myriad possibilities. The misshapen popcorn head did indeed look like an elephant and the unfortunate real-life Joseph Merrick, but I was wary about how it might be perceived or if people would actually understand the reference.

"It'll have to be kind of a small piece", she said. "I'll make sure the head isn't overwhelmed by the size of the box or frame or the background painting."

That same morning, she established it would be a shadow box so a shopping trip was planned to the local craft stores to find what she was looking for. This was a regular occurrence: once the vision is revealed, the challenge is bringing it to reality with exactly the right materials. 

She closely examined the popcorn elephant head. "This thing is pretty delicate. I'll bet it'll fall apart once it dries out, so I'll apply some kind of sealer or coating to make sure it stays in one piece."

I agreed that was probably a good idea and didn't give it a second thought. She's really good with paints and sealers and uses them with discretion. A few minutes later, I heard a terrible sound:


I raced through the house to her studio. She was standing there, head down, obviously dejected, and held up the popcorn elephant head for me to look at.

Only it wasn't a popcorn elephant head any more, just a small shriveled-up food bit. The chemical sealer she'd applied reacted to the popcorn and shrunk it down into an unrecognizable mass.

"My Elephant Man... GONE!" she wailed.

"I'm sorry", I said... "I should have considered what the chemical sealer would do to that organic popcorn."

She sat down, her head still down, shoulders sagging. "Gawd, that head was perfect and I'll never ever find another one like it."

I offered to make some more popcorn, but her massive artist brain was already in overdrive. She was on fire.

"No, this is still a project I can do, just without the popcorn head, which was cool and unusual but the damage would have happened eventually anyways. I can make the head out of something else."

That something else turned out to be paper, a medium she's used for many singular art pieces that have been sold to discriminating clients who love her work and bent perspective. We did our craft store scavenger hunt and found a perfectly sized square wood tray with angled sides to make it a suitable shadow box.



It happens at every art show where we set up the Misguided Designs display booth. We see four kinds of people:

#1 -- People who casually walk by the booth, barely glancing our way without stopping to look at anything.

#2 -- People who walk by the booth, stop directly in front but don't step in under the canopy. They look inside, grimace with displeasure and continue on.

#3 -- People who walk into the booth, slowly scan the artwork on display and leave without saying a word.

#4 -- People who walk into the booth, start looking at the art on display and say "Omigod... I love this work!" or "This is the best booth in the show, thanks for being here!" or "Hold on... I gotta get someone over here right away to see this!" or "Where in the world did you get the idea for that?". These people linger under the canopy looking at everything, talk with others about how much they enjoy the work, buy one or more pieces and/or talk to The Artist about a special order or commission. Handshakes and hugs, warm fuzzies, money in the till.

The Artist creates art for herself and for the #4 people... the ones who have an alternative sense of humor, who see things others don't, who appreciate a slightly bent perspective, who aren't afraid to laugh out loud over a piece that cracks them up.

The rest of them?  They'll catch on eventually... or maybe never.

Not all art is for everyone, nor should it be.


In the end, 'The Elephant Man' came out really cool, yet another in a line of Misguided Designs mixed-media pieces made from wood, paint and paper.  Sadly, no popcorn was used in the fabrication of this one-of-a-kind art piece.

The greatest joy of my life is being married to The Artist. Though her creative quests, our lives are filled with amazing music and film and art and food, all the things that inspire and intoxicate us with an overwhelming love of life.

Several years ago, we had the chance to take our teenage Niece to visit the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), a very special occasion since she'd never been inside a museum before.

In addition to exhibits revolving around the films of Stanley Kubrick and a display of mid-century modern furniture and sculpture, she had the chance to experience 'Levitated Mass', the massive 240-ton boulder exhibit that allows you to walk underneath it.

The best part of the day? It was watching her walk around LACMA with her jaw perpetually dropped after viewing one incredible exhibit after another. She was experiencing art at its finest for the first time, and it was our way of gifting her with the reality and purpose of art in every medium.

Meaningful art will always elicit an emotional response, whether positive or negative. Dealing with that response is another matter entirely.

Support artists of every type as much as you can. Attend art shows and boutiques and don't be afraid of looking at everything.  Ask questions about what you see... artists love sharing their creative vision with others. You never really know what kind of art will smack you between the eyes and make your jaw drop and the money fly out of your hands.

Don't fear art... embrace it with the zest in which it was created. You won't always 'get it' but that's not really the point. Creative output gives us all a fleeting glimpse into the heart and soul of the person who dragged it out of their psyche and made it real.

As The Artist likes to say:

"I don't dream in color... I dream about color."

Click on this link to see more 'Misguided Designs'.

Lead image, Gracias de Google Images; 'Levitated Mass' image, Gracias de LACMA; Don McLean 'Vincent' video, Muchismas Gracias de YouTube.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

"That Is Not My Dog."

I like dogs. Dogs are cool.  

For some reason, dogs are generally drawn to me in a way which can surprise their owners.

"Wow", they'll say... "Spartacus normally doesn't like ANYONE but he seemed to like you enough not to rip you to shreds when you tried to pet him!"

Thanks, Spartacus.

I mention this up front because my next statement tends to piss off dog owners: I really really DO NOT like it when people bring their dogs into places where I'm shopping. This has become a real issue with me lately, and dog owners are aghast and offended when I say how much I wish they'd left Spartacus (or Muffy or Champ or Weensie) at home or in the car instead of dragging them into the store where I'm at.

I remember about fifteen years ago when this phenomenon first became visible here in Orange County (CA) at a notoriously high-end outdoor shopping mall in Newport Beach. First one store, then another and another, starting putting out bowls of water for animals being walked by their owners.

OK, fine... that seems reasonable for the pet owners walking their expensive purebred hounds at an outdoor mall. 

Over time, the water bowls were placed inside the store entrances as a way to get the owners inside the store.  Then all of a sudden, people were bringing their dogs with them while they shopped.

I was horrified at this turn of events.

When did it become OK for people to bring dogs into stores? Once again, I understand a retail shop trying to get customers with dogs into the store, but what about the rest of us?

I'm standing in the 'Just Socks' aisle looking for some wool lederhosen and in you walk with your Doberman (or Chihuahua or Dachshund) on a leash, oblivious to the fact that I may not like dogs or may be allergic to dogs or, even worse, that you dog may not like me or my smell.

I don't know you or your dog, and your dog certainly doesn't know me. What makes you think your dog won't walk by me, dislike something about my clothing or scent or proximity, freak out and bite me?

You don't know and you won't be able to stop them. And that's the problem.

Oh sure... Muffy would NEEEEVER bite someone! She's a good dog!

But Muffy is a dog, and sometimes dogs simply don't like someone and if that person is close enough, the biting begins.

While working my part-time Lot Geek gig at The Home Depot, I notice that many customers bring their dogs of all sizes into the store, which the store seems to be OK with. What gets me are those who put dogs into the shopping baskets, with some actually putting a blanket or dog bed into the basket and then placing Weensie in there too.

If there was ever a reason to regularly disinfect shopping baskets, dog blankets/beds/ass would be one of them

So... OK, I get it.  People love their dogs and take them almost everywhere. But dogs aren't universally loving of other humans, and sometimes they'll chomp down on an unsuspecting human's hand and then a very awkward situation begins. That's because they're DOGS. 

I use the 'dog bites man for no apparent reason' example to highlight the fact that sometimes, humans react to other humans just like dogs do (heh heh heh... dog doo... get it?).

Sometimes, a human simply does not like another human, and for no apparent reason. I recently came face-to-face with this situation in the office where I worked for eight months before getting laid off due to a business downturn.

I'd only been working there a few weeks when they hired a guy temporarily to be our truck driver. He was the future son-in-law of the company CFO and was living with his fiancee' in the CFO's home. The guy had been chronically unemployed, having been fired from a local petting zoo, Home Depot and Disneyland (I swear this is true).

When we initially engaged, he seemed strangely quiet and standoffish, which the CFO said was his normal M.O. as he was very shy and reserved.

However, after a few weeks of putting on my best 'supportive co-worker' face, he wouldn't speak to me and was becoming uncooperative and antagonistic, not consulting me on projects that were my responsibility and going instead to his future Mother-in-law (FMIL) for guidance.

The guy simply did not like me. No reason, no rationale... he never spoke to me. Somehow he'd decided I was the enemy and he would refuse to engage or even acknowledge my existence. The kidz call that 'cancelling out' or 'ghosting' someone... he'd walk in and I'd say "Good Morning" and he'd walk right by, looking straight ahead, ignoring my greeting as if I was invisible.

Very weird.

Then one morning, our off-site Office Manager (I know, I know) requested that I inspect the day's deliveries once the driver had loaded the truck because there'd been 'problems'. I asked the driver to please delay his departure until I had a chance to review the load. 

He went berserk.

He started yelling that there was no reason for me to check his load, and when I told him I was only following orders, he called me a liar. When I climbed up into the truck to begin the inspection, he screamed:


I asked him please to tell me why he felt that way. Instead of answering, he raced back into the office to complain to his FMIL. I finished my inspection, went inside and while he was complaining away, told him the load looked great and thanks for waiting. He glared at me and left without a word.

A few minutes later, I went in and explained to the CFO what had happened and that I had tried everything possible to engage with the driver.  She said it was inexplicable and that she'd try to reason with him.

That's the last time she ever mentioned it.

Over the final months I spent employed there, the driver's immature behavior caused us all lots of extra work and effort because he refused to follow office protocol for documentation and reporting. His behavior only got worse, so when we lost a million-dollar client and I was told I'd be laid off, I was actually very relieved.

I'll bet he's still working there, also too.

Because I have lots of miles on my odometer, I never once sank to his level of behavior, antagonism or immaturity. I never yelled at or argued with him, was always upbeat and supportive, and did my level-best to make the best of a horrific situation. In the end, it didn't matter but at least I KNOW that I tried, dammit... at least I tried.

What DID bother me was that never... not even once... in my professional career had I encountered a negative co-worker situation that I wasn't able to diffuse and turn around. In fact, I've had the ability to gain the trust of co-workers who were otherwise reviled by everyone else, a gift that I've always been thankful for.

Our current National 2020 Viral Semi-Apocalypse is creating a shit-ton of misery for most regular 'Murricans. One positive side-effect is that for the most part, people standing in lines to buy toilet paper are in upbeat moods, open and talkative across the 6-foot 'social-distancing prerogative', and exuding the classic 'We're all in this together' spirit that gives me faith in human nature.

I know there have been reports of clashes in cues and guns drawn over who gets the last of the Charmin, but overall we hoomans are getting along pretty damned good, helping others in need and lifting each other up when necessary.

We can continue biting each other later... for now, I'll pet Spartacus without fear and be grateful for a shelf full of butt-wipe.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." -- Herm Albright

Lead image, Gracias de Google Images; 'Inspector Clouseau' and 'The Stooges' videos, Muchismas Gracias de YouTube.