Old Age

Like infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and middle age, I couldn’t appreciate how Old Age would feel ‘til now.  Still, despite the feeble body and befuddled mind I hope to hang around a couple more decades.

Understandably, and perhaps just as well for the rest of us, folks in wheel chairs, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice seem evolved into another species.  I don’t want to die, but I don’t want that either!  Secretly knowing if a heart attack, cancer, drunk driver, or some fool with an Assault Rifle doesn’t take me out, if I don’t kick the bucket first, that’s the best can hope for, I “whistle past the graveyard.”

Dr. Murray Banks points out that seeing aged bodies, slouched, asleep, a school principle who doesn’t know his son, a brain surgeon drooling onto a bib–Life’s survivors, the lucky ones!–some might may say, “I don’t want live past ninety.”  They’ll say that until they’re eighty-nine.  I don’t want to die, not today, not now, not ever!  But grow old, silly, sick, senile?

Experiencing a eighty-two-year-old carcass, I’m convinced anyone past the allotted three score and ten hurts.  When an old woman or man appears slow and stiff she or he is not faking.  It’s said some oldsters are, “Sharp as a tack.”  No one past seventy is mentally as quick as they were thirty, twenty, ten, even five years ago.  We who appear “sharp as ever” fake it.  Trust me.

It’s Biology 101: Like car engines, gears, transmissions and tires, human muscles, organs, joints, and skin wear out.  Worn-out cars are recycled or go to the junk yard.  Physical bodies end up in the crematory or marble orchard.  For me, acknowledging, if not really feeling comfortable with the facts of Old Age, provides as much consolation as anyone can ask for.

Nevada

There’s something about the State of Nevada.  Something about the of gnarled hills the relentless sagebrush flats, the Ghost Towns, Caesars, MGM, the neon, the noise.  It feels like the state of Nevada has something to teach me, something important.

When I think of Nevada I think of prospectors and burros, gold and silver, boom and bust, Eureka, Pioche, Tonopah, Carson City, Virginia City, the Comstock Lode.  I think of a false-fronted Emporium with empty window frames, sand blowing through doorways, snow drifting over boardwalks.  I think of tumbleweed rolling down empty streets, biting winter, scorching summer and the sweet pungency of sage after a thunderstorm.

When I think of Nevada, I think of an islet of light and gas pumps beside Route 50, “Loneliest Road in America.”  A sadly heroic outpost hunkered down in the drab, silent land, a shameless spark of life impossibly far from anywhere else on Earth.  I think of Corollas, Mercedes, Harleys and semis racing past grimy windows where “Budweiser” flickers and chrome-faced slot-machines beckon like prostitutes.

When I think of Nevada I think of “The Biggest Little City on Earth,” “The Strip,” the Mob, “Bugsy” Siegel, con-artists, and hit-men.  I think of the Flamingo, Stardust, Dunes, Sahara, MGM, Caesars, green felt, Blackjack, Roulette, Craps.  I think of Lounge Shows, Extravaganzas and bare-breasted show girls.  I think of the mawkish kerchunk of slot machines and the clatter of nickels in tin bowls.  I think of a million lights winking all night every night, of giddy winners and suicidal losers, of mechanical dealers and bionic pit bosses and the Eye-in-the-sky.

When I think of Nevada I think of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Mustang Ranch the Cottontail Ranch, pimps and whores.

As if feeling overwhelmed by hills rolling on like gray-green velvet over mounds of mashed potatoes, carpets of sagebrush hung hammock-like between decaying stony spines, shimmering heat, killing cold; as if intimidated by the boundless sapphire dome, the Bigness, the Stillness, to buck up our courage, to fool ourselves into believing we matter at all, we turn on the lights, turn up the volume, raise a ruckus.  Secretly knowing all the while, the neon, the noise, the clatter, the glitter, the ten million dollar jackpots, the Extravaganzas, bare-chested beauties, the ninety-nine cent ham and egg breakfast, the five-ninety-five steak and lobster dinner, are apparitions in the window of a sad cafe in a lonely outpost beside I-15, I-80, an evanescent fairy-dust mirage in an empty silent land.

The Desert nurtures and consoles me.  I absorb the dirt, rock, sage, the jackrabbits and wild horses, the shimmering heat, the stunning cold, the vast dry land, the endless robin’s-egg blue, the stillness.  Alone.  Emptiness, silence are vital.

Then, suddenly, I yearn for an oasis, the indecent clatter of nickels in a tin dish, the garish light, the noise and motion.  I crave a hot shower, air-conditioning, steak and lobster, green felt and One-armed Bandits, pimps and whores, cons and hit-men, Pen and Teller, bare-chested showgirls.  I need music, laughter, curses and tears.  To survive, to exist, I demand people!  Without a café and gas station beside the Freeway I can not survive.

For me the State of Nevada is Yin and Yang, paradox, diametric opposites inconceivable without the other.  Think about it, light without dark, summer without winter, noise without silence, solitude without community, male without female, life without death.  Inconceivable.

The state of Nevada’s emptiness and glitter fascinate me.  Without The Strip, The Biggest Little City on Earth, the lonely parched land feel hopeless.  Without the lonesome desert Vegas and Reno are absurd.

Under the Bus

I cant’ believe it!  Obsessed by financial profit, Republican legislators would throw Oregon children under the School Buy.  While teachers, perhaps the most crucial, underpaid and unappreciated profession, knock themselves out in outrageously oversize and extremely hard to manage classes, Conservatives who lay out $3 for a latte, $50 for lunch, $100 for Cabernet, or $100,000 for a month on St Kitts are loath to part with pennies for Oregon’s kids and future.

To properly fund a Public Education System variously ranked between thirty-third and fortieth of the fifty states and a graduation rate of seventy-seven percent, Oregon Democrats proposed a tax of 0.057% on business sales over $1 million, with subtractions for labor, capital costs and some businesses exempt.  Consider this: After a $1 million exemption and write offs, 0.057% of the remaining $100,000 is $5700 or 0.0052% of the original $1.1 million.  Pocket change for the effected businesses.  Republicans boycotted the bill.

With profit sacrosanct, they argue that business taxes inevitably pass to consumer.  Fair enough!  As beneficiaries of an up-scaled educational system, it is appropriate we all help pay the bill.

A couple of consequence to our failure to properly fund Oregon Public Education:  A half-century back, each fall my Mom, a widowed elementary teacher, drove two hundred miles to Utah-Idaho School Supply and spent her own meager income for educational material she considered necessary to supplement the bare-bones note book, pencil, crayons, and reading, arithmetic, spelling books supplied by the District.  Apart from a four hundred mile round trip, for many Oregon teachers this is still the case.

As we, the Public, abrogate our commitment to properly educate children the burden falls on parents.  Have you seen the list of school supplies they are expected to provide?  Oregon kids are barred from programs as fundamental as music, art, and athletics because parents can not afford to pay for them.

It’s Public Education folks!  Failure to prepare out children to contribute, indeed to survive as adults, leaves their and our future at serious risk.

Clear and Present Danger

We were warned.

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.  .  .  conclude, “President Donald Trump is dangerously mentally ill and that he presents a clear and present danger to the nation.  .  .  .  From the trauma people have experience under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristic of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.  It’s not in our heads.  It’s in his.”

These expert agree Donald Trump exhibits symptoms of “Narcissistic personality disorder  .  .  .  a personality disorder with a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance (remember “stable genius”?), excessive need of admiration and lack of empathy.” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)  Into the third year of his Presidency, Donald Trump’s ever-expanding record of delusional thinking, ill-conceived acts and policies, factual inaccuracies, and outright lies is uncannily constant with this definition.

Flimflam Man

Karen’s Dictionary.com “Word for the Day” was “flimflam.”  According to Merriam-Webster “flimflam” involves “1. deceptive nonsense, 2. DECEPTION, FRAUD.”  In turn, “Fraud” is, “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.”  Wikipedia calls “flimflam .  .  .  a confidence trick  .  .  .  an attempt to defraud a person or group after gaining their confidence used in the classical sense of trust (my emphasis),  .  .  .  .  Confidence tricks exploit characteristics of the human psyche, such as   greed, dishonesty, vanity, opportunism, lust, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, desperation, and naivety.”  Too much?  For where we’re headed here it’s important to appreciate what we’re talking about.

The storied “traveling salesman,” the prototypical Flimflam Man, comes to mind.  Purveying pots, pans and patent medicine from a horse-drawn van, these nineteenth century entrepreneurs went town-to-town leaving “good people” defrauded and farmers’ daughters deflowered.

One man’s flimflam it another man’s gospel.  Nowhere is this more apparent that with Donald Trump and his Red-Baseball-Cap backdrop.  Despite ranking among all-time best, and hauntingly reminiscent of a World Class Flimflam Man nearly a centry back, it is inaccurate and unfair to single out President Donald Trump.  Like hucksters and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe, flimflam is politician’s currency and “suckers,” the “base,” their meal ticket.

No conservative ever won because of Liberal votes and no Liberal ever won because of Conservative votes. Compelled to preach to the choir, officeholders and candidates slog through verbal swamps, grasp at islets of fact to support their position or “fact”—think Kellyanne Conway—to support their flimflam.

And perhaps as well as any politician ever, Donald Trump knows his choir!  Candidate Trump boasted he could shoot a person on a New York street and not loose a vote.  This puzzled me.  Now I get it.  For the Red-Baseball-Cap crowd, a third of Americans, President Trump could rape little boys on the Whitehouse lawn and never loose a vote.  Fox “News” would assure Right Wing acolytes it was a Leftwing setup.

The roots of Donald Trump’s flimflam are instructive.  Immersed from birth in cutthroat, New York real estate, our President’s attorney and mentor became Roy Cohn–Google it.  Apparently devoid of an ethical or moral compass Cohn became Chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s Communist Witch Hunt.  Later disbarred for perjury, witness tampering, misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, pressuring a client to amend his will, and persecuting gay men, Cohn died of AIDS.  His motto: Truth be damned!  Win at any cost!  If Donald Trump were caught over a prostate body with a bloody knife in hand, his attorney’s defense would be, “My client came upon this poor follow and pulled the knife out to begin resuscitation!”  What does his say about a President who openly pines after a Roy Cohn clone?

The hymnal for Trump’s Conservative choir might be “Fight Change!”  Keep things as they are, even rolling them back.  To conserve means “to keep, preserve.”  Conservative implies, “conserving or tending to conserve; preserve.” Much to Conservatives’ disquietude, however, change is the only constant, the only thing we can depend on, the only thing that never changes.  Un-meddled with, the hands of a clock turn one direction.  Resisting change is like holding back the Mississippi.  Build as many dams and levees as high as you like; like that Ol’ River, Time presses relentlessly forward.  “Ay, there’s the rub!”

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump a woman is quoted, “I want my country back!”  Her concern reaches back decades.  On the heels of the Great Depression and WWII, Americans had a bellyful of pain and poverty.  It was time for peace and plenty.  Nineteen forty-five promised a bungalow for every family, a Ford or Chevy in every garage, a good job for Dad, an electric stove and refrigerator for Mom, and nice schools for their lily-white “Boomers.”  The miracle of television brought “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “Ozzy and Harriet,” “Mayberry RFD,” “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” to every home.

Then, suddenly, the picture went out-of- focus.  “The Graduate” introduced “plastic.”  Hippies, Viet Nam, and Civil Rights erupted.  The “coloring” of America began.  It turns out Father didn’t necessarily know best, Gomer was gay, and even the Nelsons weren’t like “The Nelsons.”

Fighting change, Conservatives forget, or never knew, the good old days carried more than their share of suffering.  A century back, the leading causes of death were disease, accidents, and childbirth.  Given twentieth and twenty-first century medicine, better living conditions, and public safety, materially and physically if not ethically and morally, Americans today experience far less suffering than our parents and grandparents!  Today, despite the nostalgia, who longs for the two-hole outhouse, doing laundry on a scrubbing board, traveling by horseback or wagon?  Still, undeterred by facts and inevitable change, the Red-Baseball-Cap choir yearn for the “good ol’ days” and celebrate their Savior’s Flimflam.

President Donald Trump’s Fabrications and Lies

On hearing Donald Trump say his dad was born in Germany, when in fact Fredrick Christ Trump took his first breath in the Bronx, the notion of enumerating the fabrications and bald-faced lies made by our forty-fifth President came to mind.

After cherry-picking a few notorious assertions: Obama tapped my phone.  I’m a stable genius.  Mexico will pay for “the wall.”  Attendance at my inauguration ranks among the largest in history.  Our healthcare plan (which even Mitch McConnell hasn’t heard of) is far superior to Obama-care, I Googled “donald trump’s lies and false statements.”  Over seventy hits!  This number and its implication for the state of mind they reflect, one with no seeming ethic or moral compass, is truly alarming!  No American President, not even Nixon, can claim such a record of madness and outright falsehoods.

The bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred, cage-fight of New York Real Estate has no place in the Oval Office.  Why, in the name of sanity and National Security, do our Legislative and Administrative Branches allow this mockery and hazard to continue?

President Donald John Trump is certifiably delusional and a clear and present danger to America and the world.  Forget collusion and conspiracy.  Forget impeachment.  It’s time for the Twenty-fifty Amendment!

Department of Peace

If I were President I’d have a Department of Peace.  The Secretary of Peace would be tasked with establishing a University of Peace and reinventing the Peace Corps.  America’s best and brightest could choose between taxpayer paid, advanced educations in War or Peace.

The University of Peace’s funding, facilitates and faculty would have the stature of West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force and Coast Guard Academies.  As a gesture and economic boost to the Heartland its campus would be smack at the geographic center of America, in a Kansas wheat field.  A traditional liberal arts and sciences curriculum would be augmented to focus on worldwide human health, welfare and Peace.  Each students would be proficient in the language and extensively training in a non-American culture.  With the pay and benefits equivalent Military Officers, graduates would commit to six years working for world peace in a restructured Peace Corps.

From $38,000 a Military Academy graduate second lieutenant’s salary can grow to upwards of $100,000 plus benefits.  Military enlisted personnel’s pay ranges from $20,000 to $39,000 plus benefits.  Peace Corps volunteers receive “housing and a living stipend” and $8000 after two years service.  That’s thirty-eight thousand to over $100,000 plus generous benefits for studying and conducting warfare versus three hots, a cot, a stipend and $8,000 working for human welfare and world peace.  What’s wrong with this picture!

It’s outrageous when, as the only option for an advanced education, a Topeka mechanic’s daughter or a widowed Cleveland teacher’s son risks her or his life as a Marines while the Bush twins and Mitt Romney’s five sons—count ‘em five!—get free top-drawer educations and skate on without ever peeking inside a Recruiter’s office.

With a seemingly inherently aggressive aspect of “human nature,” arguments for a strong “National Defense” are put forth, and given the nature and urgency of their task, reimbursing military personnel well makes sense.  At the same time, only an altruistic motivation seems appropriate remuneration for working to  improve human life.  After all, moral satisfaction is the missionary’s and human-rights worker’s  pay.  Even so, in a world where, from dishwashers and ditch diggers to CEO’s and baseball players, all who work are paid, why not those who work “doing good”?  If we spent half of what we do promoting human health and welfare maybe we could waste less preparing for and perpetrating war.

Pursuing my preposterous propositions, to be fair we should re-instigate a draft of men and women.  Bone spurs and cowardice notwithstanding exemptions should be held rigorously to those who physically or mentally cannot function.  Based on needs, draftees would be assigned by lottery to the Military or Peace Corps with equal pay and benefits.

I’ll never be President.  That’s sad, because I’m serious.