Happy Birthday To Me! Here We Go Again.

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-4Last week I celebrated my 44th birthday. I had a great time. We went to dinner, shared some laughs and got a cat. Yes, a cat. Birthdays always make me think about my life — the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve met, etc., etc., etc. Birthdays also make me think about life in general. Where is the world going? What’s it going to be like in 50 years? 100? 200? Will I be able to use technology to survive that long? I totally can see myself as a brain in a robot body. . .But I digress.

I look out at the world and I am afraid. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid for my fellow human beings. Every day it seems like technology is advancing us towards some (hopefully) utopian future. I am all about high tech gizmos like brain/computer interfaces, smart watches, smart clothes and smart houses. Unfortunately, in so many ways, we also seem to be moving backwards as people, as a society. Don’t believe me? Just look at the evening news. Our government is a joke. Fake scandals, lies and political posturing have become the norm. Republicans are chomping at the bit to undo the little bit of good Obama has managed to accomplish. Our economy is on the brink of something — I’m not even sure what anymore. We’ve committed ourselves to yet another war across the sea and it will be interesting to see if this time we actually give a shit about the welfare of our troops after they come home — those that do get to come home. Cops are running wild, gunning down citizens (sometimes innocent, almost always unarmed) and most of the time getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Public beheadings. Kidnapped child brides. Hate crimes. The world has become a scary (scarier) place.

But here’s the thing. I don’t like living in fear. I’ve spent too many years doing it. In the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor, “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” I refuse to keep doing it. I’m not living, I’m existing. So here is where I will wage my battle with all of the things that go bump in the night, clunk in the day, and squish in the twilight. I’m talking about the crappy news, the scary policemen, the weird tales and the wild storms. I will face them head on with my observations and my words, topped off with (hopefully) a funny quip or two, a bit of imagination, poetry, music, books and all sorts of things that help cast light into the dark places.

This time I’m really going to try to keep my personal wackiness from getting in my way. I’ve started this blog many different times and always end up letting it fade away. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So, here’s to new beginnings. . .

 

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Mr. Rogers: Destroyer of Children?!

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Earlier this year Fox News aired a report that declared Fred Rogers, the beloved host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, an enemy of children. The report claimed that he ruined a generation of children because he told them that they were special but didn’t tell them that they had to work to be special. Now, those kids have grown to believe that everything is owed to them without any work or effort on their part. This is how they explain the rampant “something for nothing” attitude plaguing the American people, an attitude that leads to welfare abuse and a desire for government handouts of all kinds.

After careful analysis I have come to the conclusion that this report is total bullshit! First I don’t believe that the American people have a sense of entitlement. As with any society there will be those that abuse the social systems, but the whole concept of the “American Dream” is the belief that anyone can work hard, save their pennies and earn their house, two car garage and 2.5 kids.

Second, in my opinion, Fred Rogers was a giant in the field of children’s education and development. His simple style kept children entertained and educated without overwhelming them. He wrote most of the songs performed on his show and more than 36 books to help kids with issues that mattered to them like going to the doctor, making friends and dealing with a new baby in the house, And, his testimony in front of the U.S. Senate in 1969 left them so impressed that they more than doubled government funding for public education television (1971 PBS budget raised from $9 to 22 million).

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He taught me what it meant to be part of a neighborhood. He taught me that it was OK to play make-believe and that it was OK to dream of faraway places and cool adventures with interesting characters. He taught me about sharing and about being nice to people. He taught me that it was OK to be me, no matter what “me” was. I don’t remember being taught that I didn’t have to work for the things I want in life. I certainly don’t remember being taught the world owed me things.

I would suggest that the problem isn’t with Mr. Rogers. As great as he was, at the end of the day he was still just the host of a kids’ tv show. I would suggest the blame for this “the world owes me” attitude should be placed squarely in the lap of the parents and other adults who for one reason or another did not supplement Mr. Rogers’ teachings with lessons of their own. it was (and is) up to parents and elders to educate children about life.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 – 2001. Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer in September 2003 at age 74. RIP Mr. Rogers.

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American Terrorism

I’ve been thinking about terrorism. Al Qaeda. Hezbollah. Al Shabaab. The Haqqani Network. These are known terrorist groups as defined by the U.S. State Department. These are groups of people who are unhappy with their current political situations and use threats, intimidation and violence to affect change.US Flag

The more time I spend watching the news the more I realize that there is a terrorist group operating here in the U.S. They don’t wear masks or use aliases to hide their identities. They work in the open and their main goal is to destroy the U.S. government. Who is this brazen group of anti-American operatives? They call themselves the Republican Party.

Obviously I don’t believe that all Republicans are terrorists, but there’s no denying that some big name politicians are openly and actively working to undermine our legally elected (twice!) president, are openly and actively trying to recruit others to their way of thinking (lies, imagined scandals and fanning the flames of crazy) and are openly threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get what they want. Call me crazy, but that sounds a lot like threats and intimidation to bring about political change.

I understand that political competition can be cutthroat, but at the end of the day shouldn’t the main goal be to govern the people who have chosen you to represent them? For example, how much time and money will be wasted trying to repeal Obamacare? At the moment it’s up to 40 or 41 with each vote costing about $40 million dollars (according to my internet research). It may not be perfect but it works well in the states that take the time to fully implement it instead of going out of their way to make sure it fails.

It saddens me to think about the thousands of men and women we send around the world to fight terror and spread democracy — not to mention the billions of dollars we spend doing it — when we can’t get it done in our own backyard.

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Flash Fiction #1: “Track 10″

In a previous post I used a photo as the inspiration for a piece of short fiction. This time I used a writing prompt from CreativeWritingPrompts.com. The only rule is that the story must contain a few specific words, in this case I used Prompt #345, the required words were: college student, crumpled paper, train and laptopThe accompanying image I chose because it fit the story.

Enjoy…

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Commuter Train

Before leaving his office he read his email and responded to the ones marked urgent. He made some notes regarding lesson plans for the following weeks and left them in his assistant’s mailbox. He checked his schedule for the following week.  He shut down his laptop and stowed it in his bag for the trip home. His usual end of the week routine. Only one thing was different.

“Hi honey, I had to schedule a late meeting. Don’t wait up.”

As he entered Grand Central Terminal his eyes were drawn to the big board displaying the arrivals and departures, more out of habit than need. Years of commuting to and from the city had burned the schedule into his brain — Train 57 to Westport, Track 10, departing every 45 minutes.

The bar at Cipriani’s overlooked the Main Concourse. The note left on his desk said she would be there waiting for him. The note, that smelled faintly of jasmine, bearing a not so subtle invitation for drinks and much, much more. Her note, now just a piece of crumpled paper left in his desk drawer.

He headed towards the bar, his pulse quickening, his body tensing. His eyes scanned the bar, looking for a familiar silhouette, his ears straining for that familiar voice. He had imagined this moment so many times before. He would see her through the crowd, her back to him. He would quietly step up behind her and say her name. Slowly she would turn and acknowledge him with a chaste kiss on the cheek and smile. It would all seem so innocent, but the way she would touch his hand — the slow movement of her fingers along the back of his hand and down his fingers — would make her intentions crystal clear.

And now, after all this time, fantasy was about to become reality. He saw her standing at the bar, her back to him, a glass of wine sitting on the bar in front of her. She almost looked out-of-place, a college student dressed up and trying to look more adult among the middle-aged business types. He approached her slowly, deliberately. All he had to do was say her name and she would turn and see him. Taking a deep breath he caught the scent of jasmine…. then slowly turned and walked back the way he came.

He was almost out the door when he heard a voice, “Professor?”

His feet were lead weights as he walked out of the bar and headed towards Track 10.

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Picture It & Write! #1

I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head and sometimes I have trouble focusing enough to choose a good blog topic. Fortunately there are a number of resources out there for people like me that need a little help keeping the creative juices flowing. One such resource is Ermilia, a WordPress blog featuring “Picture It & Write!” a section that encourages creativity by posting an image and asking people to craft short pieces of fiction based on the image.

It seems like a cool idea so I’m giving it a try. In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t like this week’s image so I’m using the one posted for the week of June 9th.

As always comments are encouraged and appreciated.

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JRipper By the time they see the danger it is already too late. A quick embrace, a push of the knife, that slow, sweet exhalation — like a lover’s whisper — and then it is done. Another painted doll for my collection.

The police try their best but they continue to stumble about looking for the dangerous man who preys on what they now call “ladies of the evening.” They say that he steps from the shadows to force his evil will upon them, dragging them off into the dark before carving them up like so much meat.

I’m sure such colorful language sells newspapers but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve never had to use force of any kind to attract my dolls. There is so much more power in a kind word and a smile. “My isn’t it chilly out tonight? Come along, my dear, and we’ll get you a nice cup of tea to warm your bones.”

And so my dolls follow me willingly into the night where I have all the time in the world to do what must be done. Sometimes I regret having to leave them as I do — it does such a number on my clothing, but it creates so much excitement among the police when they find them. I would hate to rob them of that.

But still, I must admit that I am getting a little bored with life here in Whitechapel. I walk in plain sight, but no one sees me for what I am. Day after day, night after night they pass me by with barely a second glance, just a tip of the hat or a “Good evening, ma’am.”

Perhaps I’ll move on soon. There is a big world out there to explore, and my collection could use a little variety.

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Poetry Corner #1

I’m still working on a few ideas for posts. Rather than go too long without posting something I’ve created the Poetry Corner as a place — now and in the future — to share some of my favorite poems, quotes, lyrics, etc. Do they move you in any way, or are they just words on a (digital) page? Let me know what you think.

This first edition of Poetry Corner is dedicated to William Blake (1757-1827).

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The Garden of Love

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;
So I turn’d to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.

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Auguries of Innocence

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.”

*The full text of the poem can be read here.

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A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Have Some Pride!

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Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the Pride Day Parade and Festival, an annual event sponsored by Philly Pride – the community organization dedicated to raising awareness of LGBT rights and issues. [FYI, Philly Pride also sponsors OutFest – a local festival organized around National Coming Out Day. They also co-sponsor the Philadelphia DYKE March and the Alternative Prom.]

We caught up with the parade as it sashayed its way down Market Street towards Penn’s Landing where the festival was set up. There was a great vibe in the air as is usually found at events like these. People were laughing, there was a lot of hugging and kissing, and rainbows as far as the eye can see!  Of course, anytime there is a group of people having a good time, there is always someone who wants to rain on their parade – no pun intended. A couple of religious haters had setup loudspeakers along the parade route and were spouting their messages of hate and non-acceptance, but they were easily ignored.

Entry fees paid, we made our way into the festival area. Once again it was rainbow city! Vendors a plenty were selling their multicolored necklaces, bracelets, sunglasses, wigs, boas and suspenders. A few beer stands were scattered here and there and there were a number of booths from some well-known companies and organizations – Wells Fargo, Booz Allen Hamilton, New York Life, Drexel University — many of which were manned by members of those company’s LGBT groups. A few that really caught our attention were the Human Rights Campaign, Philadelphia Family Pride and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. We spent some time at each of these booths talking to people, signing up for newsletters and generally just learning more about their individual missions – which was one of our goals for the day.

Another reason for attending Pride Day – aside from enjoying a nice day in the sun and showing support for our LGBT brothers and sisters – was to help spread the word about The Gay Dad Project. It was started last year by two women who realized that they shared a similar experience – both of their dads came of the closet when they were in their teens/early 20’s. After meeting, they realized that there was a terrible lack of resources for children in their position and decided to create “a positive place where people can share and discuss their stories.”

They have had a lot of favorable publicity and are currently filming a documentary featuring people and families from around the world who have dealt with the experience of having a parent come out.

I think it’s a great idea and I wish them the best of luck.

 

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Who Cares How I Wear My Pants?

When I decided to start blogging again the first thing I thought was, “I need a cool name.” I tried a few and found that many of what I thought were interesting or cool names were already taken – My 2 Cents, Into The Abyss and This and That to name a few.

Then I started thinking about what I really want this blog to be. I want this blog to be more than just a repository of the random thoughts, etc. that pass through my mind on any given day. Those things are important, but I also want this blog to reflect the ideas and lessons learned (or should have been learned) that only come with life experience and maturity (or at least the little bit of maturity I’ve managed to gain).

So what name would describe such a blog?

In 1920 T.S. Eliot wrote The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, which has been one of my favorite poems since I read it in high school many years ago. I started thinking about it again because it was the answer to a question on Jeopardy a few days ago (I love that show). It created so many great images in my mind and had so many great lines about life and the passage of time. What better place to look for a blog title?

I thought about using “My Life in Coffeespoons,” as a blog name –

For I have known them all already, known them all
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Then I remembered that there’s a 90’s pop song entitled “Afternoons & Coffeespoons” by the Crash Test Dummies and the titles seemed too much alike. Also, I don’t like coffee….

So I settled on another of Eliot’s obscure references to aging –

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.        

….and so “My Trousers Rolled” was born.

 

Welcome

Thank you for visiting my blog. Here you’ll find my thoughts on life, books, movies, restaurants, cartoons, the news, video games — whatever I happen to be thinking about when I sit down to write.

This is a brand new blog, but not the first time I’ve tried blogging. I always seem to find an excuse (real or imagined) not to write [... "It's late...", "I hurt my finger so I can't type...", "There's a Doctor Who marathon on BBC America..."] because the truth is that I’m really not that great at sharing. But this time I want it to be different. This time I want to prove to myself that I have the discipline to keep this blog going on a regular basis. And, hopefully, my words will spark an interesting discussion or two as time goes on.

So if you’ve made it this far, consider sticking around a little longer. Read a post and leave a comment.