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worst birthday gift ever

July 21, 2019

I just returned relatively unscathed from the U.S., literally sweating out the start of that massive heat wave until I got to LAX.  I went south to visit family and friends.  I hadn’t  been to the Midwest since 2012, and I had an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

My dear friend Bill was delivering a motorcycle to his son in Ellensburg, Washington.  His wife Leah rode out with him, then generously yielded her spot in their Toyota Tundra so she could fly home to avoid more altitude sickness crossing the Rockies.  He picked me up in Seattle just after leaving her at the airport.

It went swimmingly the first 27 hours.  We reminisced about our wasted youth, much of which we wasted together, and gleefully.  Then in Rapid City, South Dakota, we decided to have a fine meal at Red Lobster and spend the night.  After ordering our meals, I went to the bathroom to pee.

I couldn’t.  I was blocked so badly that every attempt grew more and more painful.  We went to the nearest emergency room, which was packed.  One woman there said she’d been there five hours.  I was certain that I couldn’t bear that pain that long, but my look of distress got me treatment after an hour or so.

I was having my first attack of prostatitis.  Pretty much any guy in his 70’s can count on prostrate problems, but I can’t figure out why Random Chance, in its infinite wisdom, chose South Dakota to remind me.

After some procedures and a shot the nurse said “might soon feel like you’ve got a baseball in your butt”, I was released.  Bill and I drug ourselves to a hotel and heated up our to-go Red Lobster feast in the room.

In the morning, I felt fine, including my butt.  I peed freely.   Bill and I drove the rest of the way to Kansas City, stopping only for gas and a buffalo burger at the famed Wall Drug Store.  The next day — my birthday — he drove me to the Budget car rental agency at the KC airport.

I had rented the cheapest car they had, a manual transmission that no one else wanted.  Problem was, they couldn’t find it, so they told me “how would you like a Mustang at the same price?”  I immediately turned 18, my age when the Mustang was first released on an undeserving world.  “Why, sure!”, I said.  “Happy birthday!,” they said.

So they brought up a new Mustang 5.0, which had more horsepower than all the other vehicles I’ve owned combined.

And it was orange.  Repeat: orange.  It had a real “STEAL ME!” vibe.

Nonetheless, I headed out to my daughter’s home in mid-Missouri.  Problem was, I had to do a 150-mile stretch on the Interstate at the beginning of the weekend crush.  So I was driving a muscle car on the first day of my 73rd year in traffic that was either sailing past me or right on my tail until it could sail past me.

Somehow I survived.  Fortunately, my daughter had beer.  The visit went very well.  I got reacquainted with kin I hadn’t seen in ten years.  Then I visited my nephew, whom I hadn’t seen in 16 years.  Then, some old friends, and my son and two grandsons, whom I hadn’t seen in seven years.

It was an incredibly rewarding and stressful week.  After a thorough immersion in this modern world, I may never leave Quadra Island, or even the farm, the rest of my life.

Tom Cotton’s picky logic

May 16, 2019

I generally respect my fellow veterans, but I must call bullshit on Tom Cotton, the U.S. Senator from Arkansas.  He said recently that there would be some sacrifice for Americans in the current trade war with China, but that sacrifice would be “pretty minimal compared to the sacrifices that our soldiers make overseas that are fallen heroes that are laid to rest in Arlington make.”

Cotton was in the Army, volunteering for the infantry.  He pulled tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star.  I give him his props for that.

But it grieves me that he makes such a huge logical jump on the backs of the U.S. war dead.  Did they not pay dearly enough?  Why drag them into this?  It just further lessens an archetype diluted by America’s increasingly specious conflicts.

It also minimizes those paying dearly today.  Witness the farmers who are in danger of losing their properties as Trump “squabbles” with Xi Jinping.  An Iowa farmer told CNN yesterday that the tariffs could cost him $150,000 this year.

So Cotton guilt trips them with the deaths of others also caught up in circumstances they had no control over.  He likely has national political ambitions, because he seems to be following the Trump arc, which starts with the belief that patriotism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.

And, Tom, as a former English major, I must also point out that your grammar is sub-par.

a Cat among cats

April 17, 2019

As we await the release of the Mueller report and the quite likely shit storm of response, Jude and I have been searching for distractions.  Regrettably, we got a huge one yesterday when Ollie, our beloved cat, took his last laboured breath with Jude by his side.

We think he might have had cancer.  He’d lost a lot of weight from his 18-pound frame.  But he was about 15 years old.  He faced his death as he lived his life: calmly.

He lived on our farm almost as long as we have.  He was literally dumped in our laps.  A client Jude was seeing on a home visit wanted to get rid of him.  She called me from there and asked if she could bring him home.

“Well, we’re not landed yet and things are really up in the air for us,” I said.  “Please,” she said.  “Okay,” I said.  “You’re so easy,” she said.  I really couldn’t mount a cogent counter- argument because we had just acquired our soon-to-be-beloved dog Slinkee from the rescue shelter.

Thusly, Oliver Purr Twist came to our farm.  Though just a kitten, he immediately secured a valued place in the family constellation by going on a rampage, hunting mice day and night until he had the rodent population down to a manageable number.

He was hell on birds, too.  When the weather started warming up, he would often come to the door with one in his mouth.  His muffled meowing would give him away, so we’d say “Step away from the door and show us what you have.”  He wouldn’t, being a cat and all.

From Ollie’s viewpoint, there was no object that couldn’t be a toy, and no time that couldn’t be playtime.  Gravity was of no interest to him.  He once jumped six feet nearly straight up.

He lived life fully, all nine of them.  He got a serious infection from a stick that penetrated his skin.  He got poisoned, probably from eating a shrew (they’re venomous) and twice one night I thought he had died in my arms.  He got a sizable hole chewed in his backside by a raccoon which probably would have killed him if Slinkee hadn’t intervened.

He would usually disappear when we had visitors, but would usually take to the visitors who became friends.  He seemed to have a knack of sensing the pain of others.  When I had my hip replaced he laid on that side of my body.  When I had my hernia surgery recently, he laid on that side.

About six months ago, the dog of some dear friends was nearing the end of his illustrious life.  We were baby-sitting him his last full day on earth.  He could barely walk.  Ollie lay down with him on a floor pillow and we got a great photo of them.  That photo just doubled in value, if you can multiply pricelessness.

So, Ollie, old chum, good luck wherever you are.  I hope it’s rodent-abundant and raccoon-free.  The only thing about you I won’t miss is your practice of leaving the livers of your night kills on the floor for Jude or I to find in the morning.  Usually barefoot.

 

 

this is priceless

April 5, 2019

Trump’s bump from “total exoneration” has yet to appear.  His aggregate approval rating at the Five Thirty Eight website today is 42.3, the same as March 25th.  Indeed, Donald’s numbers have been quite steady.  He hasn’t been below 40 since February 27 of last year, except for a quick dip at the height (or depth) of the shutdown.

Pundits are making much about public opinion solidifying before any real meat from the Mueller findings sees sunlight.  I agree that Barr’s four-page summary of a 400-page report can scarcely do it justice, but I believe that there’s plenty of time for the truth to break through and change minds.  If someone buys Barr’s whitewash topped with Trump’s newest Big Lie of total exoneration, likely nothing would sway him or her.

The Donnie immediately fumbled this huge gift by threatening to kill Obamacare and close the southern border because of the immigrant influx.  Reluctant real Republicans like Mitch McConnell privately counseled Trump on the folly of that, so he did back flips one doesn’t usually see from someone of that age and frame.  The ACA problem can now wait until late 2020, and the crisis at the border now has a year to set itself straight.

Trump has mostly limited himself to gloating before adoring crowds.  They eat up his sophomoric (no, more like freshmanic) humour.  This bugs the bejesus out of me.  It’s petty, a stain on the office of the Presidency.  We’ve got Samantha Bee, Steven Colbert, Trevor Noah and John Oliver for political humour.

But there’s one topic I encourage him to rift on: wind power.  I guess because it’s not a fossil fuel industry, he has deemed it a Good New Enemy.  According to Trump, wind power doesn’t work if the wind isn’t actually blowing, and when it does blow, the sound of the turbines rotating causes cancer.

Steady Trump supporter Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa called that claim “idiotic”.  With good reason: there are 4000 wind turbines in Iowa that provide 9000 jobs and 37 percent of the state’s power.

So, Donald, please keep tilting at windmills, as you call them.  The image is priceless.

 

 

letting go

March 25, 2019

I am surprised by the short version of the Mueller report, but not really disappointed.  I withheld judgement, believing that he would be fair and thorough, and I think he was. My main mistake was being too influenced by the ocean of speculation by pundits of all stripes, a problem I’m correcting by cutting back on my TV time.

Spring broke dramatically here just as the probe wound up, so I have winter clean up and ample chores to do anyway.  And the Sweet Sixteen next weekend.

I’m quite cheered that it’s over.  Implication of guilt would have added massive problems to the U.S. political and legal systems.  I hope that the Democrats, other than ensuring the full report sees sunlight, won’t dwell on it.  Nancy Pelosi showed her extensive smarts recently by spurning talk of impeachment.  There are many other investigations of Trump that seem to have much more beef to them.

Trump has been almost non-Trumpian in his response to the report.  True, he immediately misrepresented it by claiming that it “completely” exonerated him, but that’s just Donnie being Donnie.  His smugness seems subdued.  He’s got to be exhausted from two years of this shit.  He has vaguely threatened copious inquiries into the Mueller probe.  However, the GOP would be wise not to get into another destructive Benghazi loop.  We have soooooo many real problems to address.

The silver lining is that we are now freed up to deal with these issues, including the much larger question of direct Russian interference with the last two national elections.   Trump will likely get a bump in his approval rating from this.  Can he build on it?

caution: rant straight ahead

March 20, 2019

It’s not that I don’t have enough to worry about just around the farm.  Our septic system may be starting to back up on us.  We’re behind in our wood-cutting because I’m post-op from hernia surgery.  And we’re experiencing the driest March in our eleven years of record-keeping here.  As we welcome the triumphant return of spring, we have only 33 millimetres of rain so far this month, with no more predicted.  We usually have 300.  Plus we just survived the coldest February in those eleven years.

But all this blanches in the toxic glare of Trump.  I suppose that, as the most powerful man in the world since Stan Lee died, he can only punch down; but now he’s punching six feet under ground.  His attacks on John McCain are so odious that even U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, a solid conservative, called them “deplorable”.

McCain himself was fairly conservative, but he did stray from the elephant herd often enough to earn his reputation as a maverick.  I respected his principles.  My heart leapt when he turned his thumb down on Donnie’s health care near-disaster, Mitch McConnell standing by with arms folded, even quieter than usual.

I share a kinship with McCain as a Vietnam veteran.  I didn’t go over there with the starry-eyed belief that I would be keeping the Viet Cong out of our shopping malls.  However, I understand the sacrifices that all the troops there made, and McCain bore the brunt more than most of us.

So while Trump obsesses about McCain when he’s not obsessing about George and Kellyanne Conway, he can’t be bothered to condemn the rabid racism of the New Zealand slaughter.  Apparently, the national emergency at the border resolved itself.

He’ll continue to strike out as the steady stream of bad news from the Mueller probe and all the skeletons it’s finding gets steadier.  How Trump maintains his approval rating through all this is baffling and dismaying.

As Trump and his henchboy Steve King drop broad hints that they have all the muscle and munitions for a civil war, I call bullshit.  Donnie thinks he has the military behind him if push comes to gunfire, but I don’t think so.  He has fucked over the troops and their leaders too much.  Their sworn loyalty is to the Constitution.

Rest easy, John.  Your family is holding up with a grace that Trump can’t fathom or buy.

the storm before The Storm

February 20, 2019

Short and brutish February can’t leave the farm too soon for me.  It’s been substantially colder than usual.  We only have 50 or so mm (@2 inches) of rain thus far.  We usually average 250 for the month.  And it’s five weeks before the San Francisco Giants can begin to regain my confidence in them.  They’ve done precious little in the off-season to give me hope.  Thank Random Chance for the Golden State Warriors.

The real problem with this particular mid-winter is, of course, Donald Trump.  As he steams the USS America toward rocky shoals, we found out today that the Mueller report will drop quite soon.  The Don remains unapologetic and uncaring about the course we’re on as he blindly pursues funds for the wall.  We do have a national emergency: him.

His quixotic quest will likely continue to expand in bizarreness until Mueller drops the hammer.  Hopefully Thor’s hammer.  Andrew McCabe is hawking his new book by suggesting that Trump may be a Russian asset.  Roger Stone goes to court tomorrow to explain why he challenged his judge’s gag order by posting a photo of her with a crosshairs symbol behind her.  Stone, a whining bully like Trump, would stoop to the earth’s core to solicit sympathy.  But he made his bedlam, let him steep in it.

Not even at my most fearful can I see Donnie come out of the investigation unscathed.  It has found more smoke than the summer wildfires generated.  But since he has devoted his life to covering his tracks, he may skate a lot.  Maybe the mass of folks he’d throw under the bus would raise it off its axles.

However it plays out, it will be messy.  Constitutional crisis messy.  Pay your satellite bill, stock up on essentials, gather your loved ones near and dig in.