President Obama, Please

President Obama, Please

Set the Tone

A return to “Yes, We Can”

We need nuance, facts, direction, compassionate calm; in short; 

Hope

The President’s remarks to the graduating classes of 2020 over the weekend were striking in their simplicity and powerful in their eloquence.  They were the carefully crafted and considered words of a man, a world leader, a figure who stands so far above the political fray of this moment; our moment of national and global crisis, as to shine brighter than the tarnished remnants of the Fractured Union in which we now barely live.  We exist in a nightmarish netherworld of altered reality populated by bloviated expulsions from a huckster and a fraud who never wanted this job that he currently holds and does not have the intellectual capacity to maneuver within.  The current occupant of this global stage plods and plots his daily course with only the inept and mono-visioned focus of a man held captive by his own demons; demons which now have grown to infect, much like the virus he is being defeated by, the entire world’s hunkering and panicked population. 

We ask ourselves daily, “How much worse can this get?”, “How much more damage can he do in three months?”, or six, or however many months or years he will have at his disposal.  With the legislative checks and balances gutted, neutered, or in many cases euthanized, who will stand up to his schoolyard bully-ism?  

Who will speak truth to faux power?

As a populace, we have been beaten into a stunned silence by the barrage of non-fact and fictionalized “truth” by what can only be described as a despotic demon. This is a caricature that he undoubtedly thinks is a good thing based on his fawning obeisance to other world leaders who operate under the protection of militaristic, propped up, potentates.  We know this.  It is a fact firmly in evidence for years now as proven and witnessed by the sycophantic salaaming with which he believes he is flattering those whom he admires, or needs, or wishes he were more like.

These other world leaders, however strong-armed and backed by strong arms, know him for the fraud he is.  They know him for the weaknesses he displays and are angling with ever more efficient aim, at the heart of our democracy.  Our time in the sun is passing.  Our American Century is already well passed its “use by” date.  We are two decades into a new century and what nation or global cabal will lay claim to this shredded, barely formed, next 100 years? We can only surmise and none of our worst imaginings will be bad enough when we finally have to face to ultimate reality.

The winner will not be us.  Unless.

Unless our most recent past president retakes the reins of civil discourse and once again shows us why he was the best of the brightest.  Why, in the history of our country, we had eight years of scandal-free governance, global accord, and record economic expansion, innovation, and development; all while literally pulling us up out of the fiscal and cultural morass he was left with as he assumed office in 2009.  It is what, historically, Democrats appear to do best.  They problem solve our way into prosperity when the other party has looted our savings accounts of cash, courage, and convictions.

President Obama’s soft, thoughtful, rhetoric to those students of 2020 whose immediate, hard-earned, transitions into the real world were abruptly cancelled spoke more than just graduation oratory. They resonated into a human core that we have had literally excised from our current consciousness.  Numb to even the most blatant abuses through a daily barrage of instant twitterishness, we are reeling in a boat without a rudder; bobbing on seas that grow more stormy, and more disturbed, and more threatening hourly.

Something is going to snap.

The rubber band that has held our democracy together is old, frayed, and brittle.  The virus appeared as if to prove this point.  It could have been a nuclear attack on an ally, or on us.  It could have been a massive cyber-attack on our infrastructure.  It could have been a thousand tiny arrows aimed at a million points of perceived weakness.  Instead, it is a stealthy, one-celled, unseen, virulent agent that is taking us all out.  The world was stopped as efficiently as if someone had pulled the power cord to our lives.  And in reality, all the rest of those horrific end-times scenarios are still quite possible.  They could be heaped on top of the trash pile we are currently wallowing in. If you doubt that, I beg you not to tempt the universe for fate is, indeed, a cruel mistress.

Now.  This moment.  President Obama chose to speak out, critiquing the current president with the slipperiness of an eel and with a fluidity of words that only the highest intelligence can muster.  Heartful yet truthfully blunted, Obama reintroduced us to statesmanship in a ten-minute lecture format.  He must continue and once again take up a mortarboard of leadership that he set aside for loftier goals in his post-presidency.  It is a requirement.  History will judge this moment.

It is true that past presidents, as a rule, hold their tongues on the current administration’s foibles.  But today, the rule of law is abandoned, the courts are now akin to sacrificial altars of paganistic political power grabs, and the congressional oversight is in hiding. Now we need the shock and awe of a thunderbolt, but one sounded with the velvet-smooth cloth hammer of an orator of good cause.

I call on President Obama to once again pick up the overly onerous task of leading us into that unseen future he promised us once more than a decade ago.  Craft a message and deliver it to the Viral Times we are suppressed by.  Give Ted Talks on leadership, speak to organizations and political action committees, and yes, directly to the people of our country and our world, with the clear-eyed vision of a pragmatist, and from the stolid foundation of someone who trusted us through untested times in the recent past.

To hell with the “norms”.  They are dead.  Let us bury them.

Give us back our hope, Mr. President.  Show us how to think again and what to do and we will cheer you on with a resounding,

Yes, We Can…..Again.

Grateful Is Boring

Grateful is Boring

The world is in many stages of grief, anger, fright, and confusion.  Let’s begin there.  Oh, and we’re all, to varying degrees, in some sort of self or institutional lockdown.  We each come to be in our own private Idaho’s of solitude through no fault of our own but none-the-less each of us must come to our own private reckonings with the hermetic existences we are now enduring.

It happened, for the majority of us, quite suddenly and without any huge, impactful, event.  There were glimmers of a “new” virus out there, somewhere, in some far-off Asian province.  We’ve had these before from other disparate places; Ebola, H1N1, Bird Flu each, if we thought beyond our morning lattes, certainly had the potential to kill multitudes of humans but again, “them”, the amorphous masses that really did not affect us or our daily routines. Much.

And then this virus, this Coronavirus; this CoVid19.

One day I’m picking up our friend at a nearby airport for a visit and the next day, literally the next day, we were suddenly sequestered together for the foreseeable future.  It’s a good thing we were all very old friends who had traveled far and wide together over the decades and knew each other far better than most so it was really like a small family of three, on holiday…of sorts.

Except for the niggling of uncertainly that the daily news was feeding us if we listened.  This then bred the full-blown fear that rapidly followed.  Without warning the world “out there” was an apocalyptic morass of potential infection, suffering, and death.  Really, overnight.  And “out there” was outside our front door!

What this does to our individual psyches is a very personal yet somehow shared experience.  This isolation idiocy grows in each of us and on each of us in very different but related ways.  But mostly it is the constipated pipes of our freedom of movement highway (excuse the metaphor but really, how shitty are things anyway?) that affect the majority of us the most.  No quick trips to the store, no drives to Five Guys for a burger without masks, gloves, trays for the car and counting how many customers are in the store before you enter.  I met our neighbor across the street tipping a single used cup into his garbage bin.  We locked eyes and he said, with no trace of irony in his terse voice, “If I don’t come out to the trash bin at least twice an hour I’ma kill him.”  Him, being his husband 40 feet away in their house.  I got it.

But here’s where it gets rough.  Grateful.

It’s on Facebook a thousand time an hour:

“I’m grateful for the sunny day!”

“I’m grateful my family is healthy!”

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“I’m grateful for my precious cat, Precious!” 

Grateful is boring.

There I’ve said it. Bad me.  I’d feel shame and self-loathing if there was anyone I’d be actually seeing face-to-face in the next whenever to even care!  And besides, all wagers aside, I’ll wager that each and everyone else out there is of the same opinion.  

Grateful is boring.

Our lives are boring. Period.

My life and home have never, and I mean N.E.V.E.R been so respectably clean, organized, and perfectly presentable.  My mother would be thrilled!  But my mother would not be allowed to come into my house to see this miracle of modern living.  She’d be in quarantine as well if she hadn’t died decades before all this shit hit the fan.  And she thought 9/11 was bad!

We did the hard shit first: we moved rocks, built walls, rearranged plants in the garden.  I, alone, trimmed 185 feet of 16’ tall Oleander trees, both sides, and the top, down to 6 feet.  Forty, count them FORTY, huge, green, bins of waste; I’m still feeding them out to the green waste guy who now has added me to his Stalag-like list of offenders for TOO much work getting done which, I know, seems very UN-Stalag-like in its rock-splitting historical context but none-the-less, is my new reality.  It took me two weeks, 8-hours a day, to accomplish this one task.  Oh, and I had just had a quadruple heart ablation the week this all began.  The general consensus was if that didn’t kill me then either the CoVid would or a heart attack would, so what the hell…….get on with it.

And then the basement was cleaned and organized.

This actually was the beginning of the fright portion of the picture.  This had never been accomplished before in living history (I’m assuming for anyone else out there, as well).  I unpacked boxes from three moves and two decades ago.  But there was no place to take the give-aways as our local thrift stores were….you guessed it….closed.  We actually put some really hard-to-dump items like pool railings and air compressors on the curb with “$50 OBO” signs on them hoping they would look attractive enough for someone to steal them.  Someone bought them!  We shake our heads in wonder.

The real issue for me is that “Inspiration”, along with Elvis, has left the building. 

Grateful is boring.

I wish I could fully absorb the depth of the First-World, White-Person, problems we are confronting, I do!  I’m a privileged, white, talented, educated, individual but trust me, this shit is weird.  And it’s weird for well-off and well-under alike.  We really are all in this together.  The pablum platitudes that are pumped out have a certain ring to them that in my bones I feel resonates the same with my core group of over-indulged retirees the same as it does for those inner city Detroit put-upons who are still unable to drink their WATER no less wonder what would happen if and when they contract this plague.  For them, too:

Gratitude is boring. But what a world apart those two realities are. 

As a writer and a photographer, I’m having a pesky “block”; a creative logjam that is preventing me from having the inspiration I need to pick up a pen or a camera and create something that soothes my soul and maybe captivates others.

This is such a shit problem when compared to food lines, ER meltdowns, ventilator goodbyes, and the myriad of other tortuous pathways humans all over the world are traversing.  For them, gratitude is also boring but in a much more life or death sort of scenario. They literally having nothing to be grateful for.  Nothing.  They are bereft, seemingly forgotten, and without even hope which I posit is a prerequisite for gratitude. 

No hope=no gratitude.

So for now, from whatever end of the polar-opposite spectrums we all come to this same, fraught, fearful place we find ourselves in as humans, let us at least try and dig as deeply as we can into the fabric of the lives we are living and at the very least, fight for a glimmer of hope.  Then, clinging as hard as humans can to that, maybe we can get to; 

gratitude.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Empty Chairs at Empty Table

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone

                                         Les Misérables

There are so many levels of sad these strange days. We don’t miss what we didn’t have but we do miss what we took for granted as “always” having.  It is a loss of freedom that does not layer evenly across the country or even the states.  In talking to a friend in Northern California today, they are not allowed to drive anywhere.  They can only go to places that they can walk or bike to.  All beaches, parks, trails, and outdoor recreation areas are closed and enforced. Yet here, in the southern California desert, we have so much more room to breathe and escape.  Yes, parks are officially closed but trails leading into them are still available and many are talking advantage of the access in responsible ways.  We cannot park in lots, gather at trailheads, etc. but we can now utilize golf course (but not clubhouse), bike the many miles of interconnecting bike/walk trails.  We can go to stores as we need and life does plod on though with an overlay of nagging fear attached.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

Message boards and social media are blowing up across the nation as people debate the relative merits of locking down vs. opening up; wearing face masks….or not (more on that later). We assuage ourselves with obsessive hand-washing, wiping down, and wrestling with the glove issue (wear gloves or not? Discard after each use ala hospital protocol or reuse?  If we reuse how many days should they sit, letting potential virus die before we try them on again).  The volume of what we don’t know is legion and lacking any substantively serious, fact-based, guidance from ANY national-level authorities, we are each left to our own opinions and devices.  Disaster looms.  Again.  Fear is the only common denominator. It is making us schizophrenic and leaving us with head-snapping realizations and jarring images of a world put on hold with no plan for how to un-pause it.

But when we do go out into the world, it is a world unlike anything imagined except in the worst of the sci-fi fictions that humans in Hollywood have thrust into our consciousness time and time again.

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

My specific world is one of a high-traffic, semi-seasonal, major holiday destination. Palm Springs has grown exponentially over the years into a favorite worldwide, holiday, play, and event area.  People come to unwind.  Casinos, tennis tournaments, golf tournaments (we have over 100 year-round courses, you do the math), Pools, with a capital “P”, hiking, biking, off-roading; name it and we offer it up willingly to the masses from all parts of the world who come and lap up our largesse like thirsty natives at a margarita bar.  This is the height of our spring season.  We should be packed with Snowbirds from Canada, coastal neighbors seeking the early heat we share so gladly, and friends from everywhere that want an early taste of their summer to come without the humidity and the bugs. Instead:

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

The news, again, is not good, is not encouraging, is not even real in many cases.  Will there be a second (third, fourth, etc.) wave in coming months and years?  If so, how bad?  If onerously bad once again will be locked out and battened down as we are now?  For how long then?

We don’t know what we don’t know.

I noticed something telling just the other day. As I went about my day doping errands, picking up prescriptions, going to the grocery, an occasional required doctor visit, I realized just how tiring it now is to do these simple things.  Gloves on, gloves off, masks on, masks off, hand sanitizing at every turn, wiping down anything hard that others have touched as it comes into the house, handwash, handwash, handwash.  Mostly, it is simply emotionally and thus physically draining. The constant latent fear of infection lurking at every turn on every touchable surface, in every breath of air we take.  It suddenly hit me like Stockholm Syndrome:

I’d rather just NOT go out, home looks like a quiet, safe spot.

Thankfully there are others who are thinking and working outside the box.  Berkeley, CA. is closing many streets, permanently, to make expanded pedestrian malls, always a great idea for promoting inner-city strolling and ambiance. The are now critical when, twinned with relaxed food and beverage laws, they also allow staggering restaurants and bars to expand outward into the streets and begin to claw back their customers and try and survive in what looks to be a long-lasting new age.

Thankfully Palm Springs is doing the same.  This week’s City Council meeting will focus on exactly this issue because even more than Berkeley, Palm Springs is almost totally tourist and thus food and beverage dependent.  The great opportunity we have is our simple, straightforward layout of downtown; two parallel main streets with one block connector streets in between.  We already shut down most of Palm Canyon on Thursday nights for Street Fair, let’s make this at the very least semi-permanent and allow the throngs of outlets along these streets to step out even further into the fresh air that abuts all our dining and drinking favorites.

Let’s carefully bet on ourselves and our unique setting to once again get our empty chairs filled and our empty tables properly distanced. 

No More Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, with a side of Death

No more Les Miserables