Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Narrative and warmth

The other night I was hoping to watch  Next Generation with Graham, but he said he didn't feel like it. I was a little upset, and he came over and gave me a hug and apologized. Mary suggested that we watch Dave Chappelle's segments from his hosting of SNL, and I reacted negatively at first, thinking that it would surely be election-related and therefore stress-inducing, which was precisely what I was trying to get away from.

But we went ahead and watched it.  We sat down on the couch with her laptop and pulled up Chappelle and leaned against one another, and I calmed down. As always, he was transgressive, wise, funny. We watched all the sketches he was in, and while they weren't as good as Season 1 of his show from the Comedy Channel, what is? That is an extraordinarily high bar for anyone.

Mostly I got what I needed. I sat on a couch with a family member and shared a narrative while touching their body, which is all I really needed to get out of myself.

Admittedly, when Graham and I watch Next Gen (or when Natalie and I watch The Crown, for that matter), we have the additional element of some very serious couch-slouching and a blanket, but this was with Mary, who will not be leaving me within a few short years to go to college. So in that sense it was even better. It is hard to get her to sit on a couch and watch things with me.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Was just reading the reading reviews/recommendations at the end of Nick Murray's monthly newsletter for advisors. He is always primarily positive and hortatory in his reviews, and he reads broadly -- if in a right-leaning sort of way.  It always makes me want to read more. The effect is not unlike that of Buffett praising all of the wonderful managers of the portfolio companies of Berkshire Hathaway. It just makes you want to keep going.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Thanksgiving is almost over, which means that I am emerging from a tunnel of activity into a couple of weeks of relative calm, Christmas notwithstanding. In the last month I have had: the election and canvassing, the death of my uncle Marty, going to a conference of Russian Studies people in DC last weekend, my old field, where I felt like I was very much on the outside looking in, and now the holidays themselves. On top of just doing my job.

Also my lake-owning HOA's annual general membership meeting, where I, as a member of the Board, faced a little bit of challenge from frisky members of the general population who have issues with some of the things the Board does.  Which I get. I shield you from most of this stuff, gentle reader, because it is boring and deeply provincial, but contentious at times. Older people worried about money, liability, erosion, blah blah blah. If I could step back from it with sufficient distance -- as I will in future years once I am able to rotate off, it could be interesting. For today, let's just call it a distraction.

I will note that this meeting was the week after the election, so that people were still generally pretty freaked out. Which was entirely appropriate. Even now, coming up on three weeks later, it is so hard to figure out how to react to the rise of Trump. Does he represent a general Existential Threat to Democracy and Civil Society As We Know It, or has he just been fucking with us and he's going to pull back and become pragmatic now. Certainly empowering a guy who seems that psychopathic and putting the nuclear football in his hands is scary.

And then there's the Supreme Court.

I will try not to let this devolve into another election-related screed. I already tried that, with limited efficacy, and that is a genre in which all too many in the chattering class have indulged ourselves, all of us seeking to sum up what happened in the Most Profound Manner. Clearly what is needed is greater listening and focus on forward-looking action.

And there you have it, unawares, the election has interjected itself back into a reflection which I had not intended to focus on it. Sigh. Meanwhile, my task list overfloweth.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Namesake

Our old neighbor Gideon mentioned on Facebook that he was taking a break from social media and was going to read novels and walk his dog for a while.  That sounded fairly prudent for me, though it is tough for me to do so, and I have cats.

In any case, I thought he was right about reading a novel, so I went for one that I've had on my shelf for a while -- Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. Mary and I had seen the movie when it came out, and rightly so, as it's good viewing, so I needed for the film to fade in memory to make the book worth reading.

For the first two-thirds of the book, it was difficult to separate the book in my mind from the Trump election, first the focus on coming to America and assimilating (a frequent theme of Lahiri's, which she handles well), and then the protagonist's path and mine began to intersect: college at Yale, then living in New York City, having girlfriends who expose you to the rarefied aesthetic of the cultured Manhattan elite. It all read like an elegy for a time and place that whose face has been ripped off by the election.

But now that the main character's dad has died and he is processing that loss, it has become emotionally real and proximate, something else the author is good at, at her best. So I read on.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

In the attic

Trying to resist the temptation to offer endless reflections on America after the election and what it means. But I was just up in DC and it was pretty surreal. I'll leave it at that for now.

We've been trying to integrate Graham into more and more household chores, especially carrying stuff, to help make in grow sturdier. Amongst the stuff that we have taken into our household since granny and David moved into their retirement community is a "rebounder," or mini-trampoline, which was in the rec room. But we already had one. I figured it's not bad to have a second one, because history has shown that after lots of bouncing from the kids (Natalie enjoys it too from time to time), they do wear out. So I wanted to put it in the attic. After stalling for a while due to personal idiocy, I finally figured out that it wasn't that hard to take it apart enough to get it upstairs.

Thus I had Graham help me get it up to the attic, the new attic up above our master suite (the old one having been blown out to get us the cathedral ceilings in the "nave" of the house). Once we were up there, I realized that Graham had never been up in the attic before, so we hung out up there for a few minutes. I could tell he was into it. I discussed the insulation and the HVAC unit and anything else I could think of. Attics and basements are special kinds of places, occupying unique niches in the imagination. But you have to go up in them to get that groove.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bad conscience

Yesterday in the rec room I made time to work on a chore that I had been putting off for a month or so, so I turned on the TV in the hopes that there might be a soccer game on.  There wasn't. Instead, there was coverage of communities digging out from the continuing effects of Hurricane Matthew, and another show with some attorneys talking about what people with flood damage needed to do to assure they got paid by their flood insurance.

This brought a couple of things to mind. First and foremost, that while many of us are focused on the fallout from the election, there are others who are digging out from even more immediate things.

Secondly, on a different level, I thought that while those who were first responders to Hurricane Matthew were perhaps more likely to have voted for Trump, that it is Democrats who are committed to working on one of the key long-term causes of the tragedy, to wit, global warming.

A Trump voter on Facebook challenged me on my removal from the lives of those most devastated by the new economy, saying that I lived in a bubble, which is a charge that has been levelled at many Democrats living in highly educated areas on the coasts and in population centers, and I and we have to admit that there is a lot of truth to this. But, at the same time, it must be owned that this is part of the nature of a global supply chain. That doesn't just mean that widgets are made in Dongzhu and screens in Taipei and garments in Lahore and complex engines in Spartanburg. It means that climate change scientists, neurophysiologists, and product and project managers are found in Cambridge, Copenhagen and Chapel Hill, and that to get and keep those jobs they have to focus and work their asses off. They don't just hand those jobs out. A listening tour of Youngstown doesn't help them solve the problems they need to address to stay employed.

Overall, lets be honest: the global elite works its ass off. Yes, their lives look glamorous and sounds exciting: flying here and there, eating dinners, taking meetings in tall buildings in capitals. But it is stressful as fuck and people are away from their families, they stay up late at night and work on weekends. It is not as fancy or stable as it looks on Facebook. Hotels suck, airports suck -- and getting up at 4 in the morning to get to them sucks even worse, being away from your family sucks.

Sure, people do it for their families and it's nice to have the validation that comes from earning money and competing at a high level, and there is a sense of achievement and challenge, but it ain't all fun by any stretch of the imagination.

I know I know, cry me a river. Blech.  I thought this post was going to integrate better to a bigger theme. I guess my point was is that everyone is occupying fine niches within a global supply chain of ideas, with a goal of producing more and better stuff and services for everyone, and/or addressing big issues that impact people globally. And then resting and trying to see their kids.

Good thing this is just a blog.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The desire to strike

Graham got lost this evening after pick up from ultimate, which is to say I couldn't find him. It was getting dark, and cold, and I ran everywhere looking for him, from Phillips over to Estes where the car was, back to Phillips, then I thought maybe he had walked home, so I drove home, but he wasn't there. I was panicked. Finally I got a call from the office at Estes. By the time I finally  I wanted to hit him, which is something I have never done. A remember having the same feeling when Natalie crossed highway 1 somewhere north of Santa Cruz where there were a ton of windsurfers around. She was distracted and almost got herself killed, and I yelled at the top of my lungs. Then I wanted to hit her.

And I wonder, is this natural desire, primal fear for your child which morphs into anger when danger is passed, or learned? There was an occasion when I walked in front of a car in a breezeway at a motel at Myrtle Beach sometime in the 70s, I guess I was hit by it and dad was furious and I guess he hit me. Leslie remembers it much better than I do.

So I do have an emotional precedent which I can't quite untangle.

Anyhow, I calmed down, Graham and I went home, and later we watched the first episode of the last season of Next Generation, which makes me a little wistful.  But we still have all of Deep Space 9 and the Voyager in front of us. Plus probably more that I've never heard of.

By now, it's bedtime, and tomorrow it's back out in the streets for the Democrats.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Recent dreams

Yesterday morning, in hotel by the Neuse River in New Bern for Marty's funeral, I awoke from a dream in which I had suddenly come into possession of a number of nifty old sports cars. Two of them were similar English cars from the 60s of some make I couldn't remember, two of them were similar vintage Maserati convertibles, and then there was a Porsche or something thrown in for good measure. They weren't in all that great shape, somehow they weren't that valuable, and I knew I didn't need that many sports cars and didn't want to take care of them, so in my dream I was trying to figure out the best way to get rid of them from a tax perspective.

What a pathetic version of a mid-life crisis dream.  I should have been out tooling around in those bad boys, letting the wind blow through my hair. I didn't even envision Mary in them, because I know she doesn't like wind messing up her hair while driving.

Then this morning, I had, for the second time I believe, a dream in which I lost a tooth.  Not all the way down to the root, mind you, and there was no pain.  It was just like one of these big fillings a dentist jammed in there sometime had crumbled.

I think that my subconscious has a decidedly glass-half-empty view of the aging process right now. It would probably be better if I had been able to make it out to the soccer field this weekend, where I am able to connect with the youthful mojo. Even though even there younger peeps are getting by me more. Which argues for playing in the 40 and over or even, dare I say it, 50 and over league. But I'm still loving Rainbow and our team in particular.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Canvassing in Garner

Posted this in Facebook already. Might as well stick it here for archival purposes.

I spent three hours or so walking a subdivision in Garner yesterday. Knocked on 40 doors. People home in maybe 14 houses (roughly in line with labor force participation at 62.8%). If the population had not been so mixed, it would have been distinctly Trump country. Split levels and colonials in need of paint and power washing. Campers and motorcycles under dirty tarps. Almost all had blinds drawn and shades pulled down. The smell of cigarette smoke wafting through closed doors even in some empty houses. Many multi-generational households, at least judging by who was nominally registered at the address.
With a few exceptions, not a lot of enthusiasm for Hillary out there, despite the fact that I was knocking on safe doors. Maybe it's because most of the people who were at home were out of the labor force, or else worked crappy shifts. One young African-American guy was like "I ain't votin for her, what's she going to do for me?" Nice enough guy, though.
This year, every vote must be won.

It is sad how many people seem to believe that Hillary's email peccadillos and character imperfections are even remotely comparable in scale to Trump's multi-decade record of evil and general incompetence and lying nature. For hard-core Republicans, it is understood that they are just holding their nose because they want a Republican, but they are having to hold their noses really hard.

Hillary has made some very significant errors.  Asking for specific judicial outcomes from Supreme Court appointees in the debates was, in my view, amongst the biggest.  That is not how the Executive and Judicial branches should interact. But that is my pet peeve. 

I hope to have energy to hit the streets tomorrow.


My attention has been so drawn in to the election in recent weeks that I have found it hard to focus on other things.  Today I am hip deep in Trump country in New Bern.  My uncle Marty, my mother's sister's husband, passed away, and I was asked to be a pall bearer in his funeral.  I was a bit surprised at the request, because I hadn't seen him in many years until a month and change ago, when we stopped in on the way back from the beach to see Faith, my mom's sister, for her birthday.

In life Marty was, shall we say, a strong-willed fellow, a not atypical southern man of his generation. He believed strongly that all people should learn to stand on their own two feet. This was instilled deeply in him by many decades of being a Federal employee. Say no more.

Today at breakfast we were talking about the lake and mom reminded me of the time when, not long after we had moved home to NC, Graham fell off of the dock and into the lake. This before he had learned to swim. It was in the Fall, so it was a little chilly already. Luckily it was in a shallow spot. Mom and Mary were terrified, but Graham was somehow proud of having survived, of some aspect of the experience.