This Cowboy’s Hat

In the wake of Obama’s presidency, I’ve been ruminating on that great big nuclear bomb of politics, race. Before I give you my personal views on race and racism in this country, here’s a snapshot of where we are today.

The media has done Black Lives Matter to death, as well as professional athletes and celebrities who decry the current state of race relations in this country. They are pieces of the puzzle, but they are not the whole

On one hand, we have Professor Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University, who recently published the book, “The Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.” A professor delivering a sermon to a large segment of America… What a concept. He is a black man who clearly views everything through the lens of race in this country. I find this view to be limiting, much as I do whenever I meet a blind person who judges every issue they come across through the prism of his/her blindness.

After preaching to white America in his book, Professor Dyson suggests some possible solutions that white folks can adopt in their personal lives in an effort to combat their inherent and latent racism. One of these strategies is what the good professor terms, personal reparations. That is white people donating money to the United Negro College Fund, or other charities geared toward African-Americans.

When I hear suggestions like that, my political spidey sense starts tingling. What I hear is, give us money. I am a big fan of many charities out there and I believe very strongly that people should give of their time and money to those who are less fortunate. So, I tell you what. Find me a charity that supports philosophy in the mold of Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas and Walter Williams and I will happily donate.

My issue with Professor Dyson’s book is his premise. He seems to believe that white America is the sole source of the problem. When I hear diatribes such as his, I notice a decided lack of interest in looking inward.

Several years ago, I read a book by Juan Williams called, “Enough: the phony leaders, dead-end movements, and culture of failure that are undermining Black America– and what we can do about it.” It was one of the most enlightening books I have ever read. In short, Williams spring-boarded off of remarks made by Bill Cosby at a 2004 meeting of the NAACP in which Cosby took members of his own community to task for behavior that he felt sabotaged their march toward equality.

Sadly, recent revelations about Cosby’s alleged sexual misconduct toward women in his private life have nullified any credibility he may have had on the issue. But Williams’ credibility is still intact, save for the fact that he works for Fox News. Many blacks would call him an Uncle Tom, conveniently ignoring the fact that he has written many books about the civil rights struggle and the continued plight of the African-American community in this country.

All I can do is heartily recommend that everyone (black, white, brown or yellow) read this book.

On the other side of the fence, we have Sally Boynton Brown, current member of the Idaho Democrat Party and candidate for the position of chairperson of the National Democratic Committee. At a debate the other night, she was responding to a question about Black Lives Matter when she said the following:

“White leaders in our party have failed. We have to accept that we have prejudice within our own party.”

She went on to say:

“My job is to listen to the issues. My job is also to shut white people down when they wanna interrupt. My job is to shut other white people down when they say oh no I’m not prejudice. I’m a Democrat.”

So far, so good. She appears to be doing what I’ve done for years; calling out liberals for the unrecognized bigotry they all carry concealed beneath their cloak of sanctimony. But she doesn’t stop there. A few minutes later, her meaning becomes more crystallized when she addresses the training of new Democrat party operatives:

“We need to teach them how to communicate, how to be sensitive and how to shut their mouths if they’re white.”

I am not taking these remarks out of context. The video is widely available on YouTube and you can see her remarks in full. Despite her protestations to the contrary, she is clearly a politician who is preening and pandering to a segment of voters. Her tone of voice is nothing less than unctuous as she speaks of white privilege and, “People of color.” Frankly, if I were a minority under the banner of the Democrat Party, I would be insulted. And, most important of all, she is not calling for a conversation. A dialogue consists of a reciprocal communication between two or more parties. White people shutting their mouths would result in a monologue; a one-sided communication.

You can draw a causal line from Boynton Brown’s remarks back to those of Attorney General Eric Holder in February of 2009. In his first speech after assuming office, he delivered remarks at the Department of Justice African-American History Program. Here is an excerpt from said remarks:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

I was skeptical when I heard about Holder’s speech. It’s been my experience that, when those of the left use the word, “conversation,” in a socio/political context, they usually mean the exact opposite. A dialogue with a liberal usually transforms into a monologue, with a good deal of imperious finger-wagging in the faces of those who disagree.

When I read the speech in full, I had the benefit of hindsight. Holder’s track record on racial issues prove that my skepticism was well-founded. The best example was his refusal to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for their blatant voter intimidation tactics at a polling site in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. The underlying sentiment from many DOJ officials that came out during the ensuing investigation was that the Voting Section of the DOJ wasn’t in the business of prosecuting minorities; ergo, whites have no civil rights worth violating.

I think that Sally Boynton Brown was probably saying the things that Eric Holder was thinking, but was too smart to say. She strikes me as the Sarah Palin type; speak first and think later. The only thing I liked about her remarks was her candor.

Unfortunately, history has taught us that when you live in a country which espouses free speech, and when you tell a segment of the population to shut up, there are consequences. For blacks, said consequences came in the form of Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King. For women, they were embodied in Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Over the past eight years, where racial matters are concerned, white people (particularly conservatives) have been made to feel that, when the subject of race comes up, they should just shut up, smile and nod respectfully and take whatever the other side is dishing out. If they should ask questions or argue, they are then labeled as obtuse bigots.

So what did liberals get for their high-handed attitudes? Donald Trump!

According to Professor Dyson, the only reason Trump won was because of race. This is a simplistic view. Trump won for many reasons, not the least of which were economics. However, I do believe that he flipped a lot of people who are tired of feeling bullied because he addressed certain issues from his self-made bully pulpit that rendered him impervious to the usual charges of racism and bigotry that are routinely hurled against any and all Republican candidates. This is unfortunate. Trump’s brand of candor will be too boorish to result in any kind of substantive racial dialogue. But then, Obama was quite articulate, wasn’t he? Obama was supposed to be the first post-racial president, and things are far more polarized today than they were when he took office.

Sadly, when one extreme gains traction in society, other extremes also gain traction in an attempt to push back. I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to see a cause-and-effect line between Eric Holder and the legitimization of certain members of the Alt-Right such as Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer.

How does race affect me personally? That’s a tough question. I grew up in a whitebread town in the middle of Nebraska. I knew of three black people growing up who were local residents. One of them went to high school with me, but we seldom spoke.

I became more aware of the black culture in college in the ‘90’s. The rendering of the O.J. verdict in 1995 high-lighted the disparity in viewpoints between blacks and whites. When the verdict was broadcast, I sulked in my dorm room, while a group of black students loudly celebrated across the hall. The contrast was very stark.

Sidebar: I intended to blog about the recent O.J. miniseries after watching it, but that project is still on the back burner. Probably because I’m a flamin’ racist.

When I worked at Gallup, I felt at ease while conversing with black and Hispanic employees. One of them was named Tim, who was an ex con. I remember him as a gentle soul who was very polite and friendly to all, including those respondents who abused him on the phones. There was no trace of the stereotypical, “angry black man.”

I met several African-American members of the National Federation of the Blind when I became active in the Nebraska affiliate. Later, when I moved to Denver, I met many more people of varying races and backgrounds. I never felt nervous or out of place.

In 2009, I left a lousy job working for a couple of reprobates who were white. I immediately found a new job working for a black couple. They showed me kindness and warmth while I was in their employ and, unlike my previous employers, they always treated me fairly. We’ve sort of lost touch, but I remember them fondly.

In 2014, I worked for an orientation center for the blind as a summer counselor. My duties included serving as apartment babysitter for three of our male students. Two of them were Hispanic. I don’t remember any racial tension arising from our interactions. Quite the contrary. I enjoyed hearing their music, sampling their cuisine and hearing about their backgrounds. In that same program, we had seven or eight Hispanic students in total, plus one African-American, two students from China and one from Thailand.

I also had one African-American coworker, two Hispanic coworkers, one Ukrainian and one who was Asian. Honestly, the staff didn’t always get along. Some of the staff meetings we held got pretty contentious. But that was due more to issues of personality and ego, rather than race or ethnicity.

Did my students and I have frank conversations about race? No. I was their counselor. They never brought it up and I wasn’t going to force the issue. I learned more just by listening as they occasionally talked about their families in Mexico. I didn’t stay quiet out of intimidation, but because I was learning. Would I have conversations with them about race today? Sure, as long as it was a true dialogue.

I don’t think I’m a racist. I really try my best to take people as I find them, regardless of what political or social narrative larger forces try to spin around them. If I met a woman of a different race and fell in love with her, I wouldn’t acknowledge any racial barriers. I would gladly break bread with those of other races on any social occasion as long as I was welcome. Of course, my saying that I’m not a racist doesn’t make it so. Richard Spencer probably doesn’t think he’s a racist either. Some pundits would argue that I am racist merely because I’m white and therefore benefit from white privilege. I flip such people the bird. I know my own mind and heart and try my best to let my daily conduct speak for itself.

How do we solve the racial polarization that has left our country fractured? My answer is, we don’t.

I’m not being defeatist. I believe that racism and tribalism will always be a part of the human condition. I believe that it is a tragic flaw that is inherent to our species. Tribalism has existed for thousands of years and I don’t see any signs that it will get better. The 20th century has seen the advancement of mass communications with the advent of the telephone, the radio, the television and the internet. Yet, rather than bringing us closer together, we seem further apart in many respects.

Does that mean we simply wallow in the muck of racism and racial politics? Hell no! I don’t believe we can simply flip a switch and make prejudice disappear. All we can do as individuals is to make our own corner of the world a little better.

How do we do this? It starts with Eric Holder’s speech, which may contain more kernels of truth than he meant for it to. We start by holding frank conversations with those of other races about our situation. I emphasize the word, conversation; a two-way dialogue. We also start socializing with each other more. Think of that cheesy yet effective scene at the end of the movie, “A Time to Kill,” when the black kids and the white kids are playing together. I think this reality already exists to a point, but it’s obviously not yet large enough to eclipse the angry drumbeat of media and professional race agitators who cling to a more convenient and self-serving narrative.

Sidebar: That heart-warming, climactic moment at the end of the movie was pure Hollywood. The original Grisham novel did not contain such a scene. “A Time to Kill,” is the only Grisham story that I enjoyed. The movie is a mostly faithful knock-off of the book. Samuel L. Jackson’s, “You one of the bad guys, Jake!” speech echoes the sentiments of Professor Dyson.

Yes, by all means, let’s have a chat about race. But why stop there. I honestly think that if most people of divergent races really got together, they’d figure out they have more in common than not. Why not talk about the NFL, NBA, food, clothes, Jay Z or Chris LeDoux? Remember his song, “This cowboy’s Hat?” How about a cowboy hat summit across the nation? I didn’t vote for Obama in either election and I didn’t support his agenda, but he and I could talk about The Wire or Al Green if we ever clink beer mugs.

The problem with this approach is that it’s too slow. We now live in an instant gratification culture. It has become too commonplace for people of all ages and of all political stripes to look to their government for quick fixes. They want a leader to come along and wave some magic wand that will make all of the ugliness of humanity disappear. This is why the left loved Obama. They thought he was a transformative figure. Many on the right see Trump in the same way, though I believe that our camp is a bit more divided.

There is no cure-all law or policy that can bridge the gap. Brown vs. Board of Education was a righteous decision, but it doesn’t change hearts and minds. Neither did LBJ’s Great Society, affirmative action or bussing.

No politician, activist or spiritual figure has all the answers. It’s no coincidence that when the followers of a leader realize that very basic truth, said leader loses popularity with his or her flock.

With respect to President Obama, if he was supposed to be the first post-racial leader, he fell down in spectacular fashion. If Obamacare was his signature issue during his first term, then race should’ve been the corner stone of his second. Maybe my memory is bad, but I only remember him speaking in a reactionary, rather than a proactive fashion. The 2009 Beer Summit was a good start, but as it turned out, it was a false start.

When the incident with Trayvon martin occurred in 2012, he had plenty to say, but there was no follow-up. He certainly had plenty to say after Ferguson, Baltimore, New York City and Baton Rouge, but his attitude at his press conferences and his approach to the issue seemed detached. By any yardstick of success I can apply to these various situations, Obama’s policy on racial healing in America was an abject failure.

Trump isn’t going to be any better. Hell, he might even be worse. As I write this, he’s penned an executive order to build a wall. This will only inflame the immigrant communities. As for domestic relations, I don’t see Trump holding any kind of a beer summit with Al Sharpton or the heads of Black lives Matter. He’s just not built that way.

If a forward-thinking president really wants to start a meaningful conversation about race, he/she needs to conduct a national beer summit. The president needs to initiate a multi-city tour. The tour needs to visit locations as diverse as the inner cities of Boston (the most segregated city in the country), as well as Baltimore, D.C., Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Phoenix, Philadelphia, etc. Let me stress that these tours will have to be held in the inner cities; I don’t care if the president has to triple his/her Secret Service detail.

The tour will also have to visit cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Montgomery, Salt Lake City and even Boise, Idaho. Secret Service can bring along electrical tape in case Ms. Boynton Brown forgets to keep her mouth shut.

The tour would include, not just the president, but a diverse group of speakers who would join in the conversation. And not just racially diverse, but politically diverse as well. Possible suggestions for the panel would include Professor Dyson, Juan Williams, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Kristol, Colin Powell, Mia Love, Congressman John Lewis and many more. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would not be welcome. Local police reps and church members would be encouraged to attend, but the primary focus would be everyday citizens who were interested in a cross-racial dialogue.

Skeptics would call it political theater and charge the president with symbolism over substance. So what? They would do that anyway. But who better to start a national conversation than the president? I don’t know where said dialogue would lead, but if it helped the races to meet on an individual level, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Sidebar: People would assume that a black or Hispanic president would have to take the initiative. Why? If Ben Sasse ever took the White House, I could envision him doing something like this. Wouldn’t a white man benefit greatly from such an endeavor?

In the meantime, I fear that things will only get worse before they get better. History demonstrates that our instincts of tribalism will trump our better nature. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. All we can do in the interim is wrestle with those inherent tendencies toward prejudice that we all hold within ourselves and push back against bigotry when we encounter it in our own lives. Tall order, but very possible.

Fire Down Below

So I’m sitting at the Littleton Cafe the other morning (my home away from home) and Oscar, the friendly waiter, brings me my breakfast of a double bacon cheeseburger. I tell him, “Osk, you forgot the jalapenos. I can’t eat this without them.”

He apologizes profusely and quickly brings me a large side of jalapenos. I put all of them on the burger along with some onions, then splash my seasoned breakfast potatoes with a liberal amount of Cholula sauce. There was a time when Oscar would’ve stood by with a fire extinguisher, but he’s used to it by now.

It seems that, as I’ve gotten older, my palate has become far less sensitive to flavor and I need to compensate by spicing things up more than a little bit.

I made my breakthrough in the summer of 2014 when a couple of my students introduced me to a miracle liquid called, Tapatío. Life was never the same after that. We would pass around a big bowl of popcorn at our Friday night card games and Martin or I would sprinkle a generous amount of Tapatío over the popcorn. Some of the students would partake. Others would not. Still others would take a few bites, then quickly leave the table, breathing heavily and grunting in agony.

I’m not embellishing. I brought home a bag of those wimpy buffalo wings from Wal-Mart one night. After we cooked them, this poor kid ate two of them, then stood up and began pacing around the living room. Soon, he was breathing copiously and yelping as if there was a live cobra crawling around loose in his underwear. I had to convince him that water is the worst thing you can drink when you’re in pain from a spicegasm. Luckily, we had milk on hand and it soothed his scorched throat.

Let me pause here to explain that cooking for Mexican students can sometimes be a challenge when you’re a meat-and-potatoes gringo from the middle states. I made them chili one night and was very proud of myself. I figured I’d make it interesting for them by throwing in an entire jar of jalapenos. My three students, all growing boys, ate one bowl and then said, “Ryan, that was so good that I can’t eat anymore.” Now, these are the guys who always cleaned their plates three and four times over, so I silently called bullshit and resolved to learn how to make authentic Mexican chili.

Us white people have it all wrong. You don’t concoct chili by browning hamburger and putting it in a Crockpot with canned tomato sauce, canned diced green chilies, canned kidney beans, pickled jalapenos and chili powder. Turns out that you have to include ingredients such as real steak or pork, raw jalapenos (not pickled), fresh tomatoes, garlic, cumin, freshly-soaked beans and (here’s the kicker) raw chipotle or habanero peppers. There seems to be some controversy as to whether or not beans should be included in “real chili.” I admit it…I’m not man enough to try it.

My coworkers get annoyed because I place an order for spicy Indian or Thai food. When I get it, I always admonish the order-taker, “You forgot to make mine spicy.” “NO I didn’t!” they always retort.

Then, there’s my family. At a recent Christmas dinner, my brother grilled some chicken tenders for me and smothered them with habanero barbecue sauce. I ate the chicken greedily, then washed it down with a cold draft.

“Ryan,” my brother said. “I can barely eat those things, but you powered through them without breaking a sweat.”

I silently called him a wuss as revenge for all those times he kicked my ass in our family room growing up.

I’ve even won the Blazin’ Challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings. It wasn’t easy. I’ll admit that I suffered, but I did it. My suffering wasn’t as dramatic as my pal Joe’s. He finished his 12 wings, then put a napkin over his face and began to shriek. You’d have thought that the CIA had attached wires to his hangie-down parts and cranked up the voltage.

As a man past 40, you’d think my stomach would revolt at such abuse, but spicy food doesn’t generally tend to give me heartburn. People often warn me that this or that spicy concoction will send me to the toilet with fire erupting from my lower aperture, but it never happens.

There is one thing that I’m deathly afraid of. You know that spicy mustard you always get with your Chinese food order, whether you asked for it or not? I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m sure one of you will enlighten me. Well…I can’t go near it. It makes my sinuses tingle just thinking about it.

By the way, if you’re wondering why I overdid it with both jalapenos and onions on my burger, it’s because Marty wasn’t available to kiss. But Mags, my cat, wouldn’t even come near me.

This weekend, I’m going to make homemade burgers. A coworker gave me a bottle of Ghost Pepper Salt as a Christmas gift. Will I endure? Watch this space for the answer.


What is love?

It’s not the crap we hear about in pop music, read about in books or watch unfold on the movie or TV screen. That is superficial love. I mean real love. What is it? I’m not the smartest guy in the room by a long shot, but after nearly 42 years of living, I am beginning to figure it out.

Love is when you hold your partner in your arms, rather than turning away in disgust, when they are too sick to control their bodily functions.

Love is putting a piece of your paycheck into a savings account for your kid, even when it means you’ll have to skip McDonald’s for a month.

Love is comforting your sobbing mate at three in the morning because they just lost someone important to them and you’re the only one they can turn to, even though you have to be up in three hours for work.

Love is going to your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, even though you may have better things to do.

Love happens at that worst moment in a fight when you and your partner are screaming at each other and you storm out of the house, but through the white hot anger, you know you’ll be back.

Love is rescuing an animal from a shelter and treating it like a member of the family.

Love is a soldier in a foreign land, fighting for their home thousands of miles away.

Love is when your mate does you wrong and you have them dead to rites, and you choose to forgive them.

Love is standing in a hospital, feeling your heart break as you decide to take someone off of life support because you can’t stand to watch them suffer one minute longer.

Love is the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to do.

Love is the universal thing that everyone needs.

Love is the thing that some people have.

Love is the thing that too few of us know how to truly give.

Polish Pool

So I wanted to get this post about 2016 written. But here’s my problem. Marty has me handcuffed to the bookcase; my bed doesn’t have a headboard. We were all set to take our relationship to a new level, but then she accidentally dropped the key and Monty swallowed it. So now, we have to wait about 24 hours for him to poop out the key before I can get loose. So I’m using dictation to sum up this past year.

The fiasco with the key seems to encapsulate 2016 very well. It’s like starting out trying to get a cheap thrill, but in the end, someone has to take a crap before you can find true relief.

Actually, 2016 held a lot of high notes for me. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 and I became a life-long fan. It didn’t really surprise me that my loyalty would be tested so early. I knew this was gonna be a transition year, but who the hell knew we wouldn’t even make the play-offs? I guess Von Miller gets the last laugh, which will carry him all the way to the bank.

My former coworker gave me a beautiful and lovable kitty that I named, Mags. She is everything a cat owner could want. She is cuddly, uses her litterbox, doesn’t eat too much and doesn’t try to play with me when I’m sleeping. I wonder if I could train Marty with those same habits?

I also started an old-time radio podcast. For those of you who have listened, thank you. For those of you who have yet to listen, give it a try. It can’t be any worse than watching Real Mafia Housewives.

In September, I was honored to attend the marriage of my longtime friend Alicia to her husband Mark. Alicia has been through some hard times, but it really warmed my heart to witness as she and Mark gave their lives to each other before God. Life wasn’t so kind to my pal Wes, who was involved in a pedestrian vs. auto accident last April. His knee was injured and he’s still dealing with some PTSD from the encounter. He’s had about as much fun dealing with the medical and legal fall-out as a man would have taking a walk through Chicago without a bulletproof vest. Chin up, Wes. At least your Chiefs are gonna make the play-offs.

I was also honored to be elected as secretary of the Denver Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Dan Burke is a smart guy. He knew the only way to force me to pay attention at the meetings was to make me responsible for the minutes. Does this mean I have to quit mixing Bailey’s with my coffee? I hope not.

Many of you know that I began a relationship with Marty Rahn about nine months ago. Marty has a tender heart, an agile mind, a courageous spirit and the patience of a teacher. I love her.

Sadly, this year has brought challenges for Marty. In May, she stepped into a hole at work while walking Monty and broke her foot. She had to undergo surgery to get a pin to reinforce the broken bone. During her recovery, she began to experience severe numbness and tingling in her body. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The M.R.I. also detected three benign tumors; two on her carotid artery and one at the base of her skull.

It is a scary time for both of us right now. For the past two days, she has been experiencing intermittent dizzy spells. Getting answers from her doctors is like trying to go bowling in a herd of elephants. She has been prescribed Gilenya and it has helped, but we fear more surgeries lie ahead. All we can do now is ask for everyone’s prayers as we continue to chart these unknown waters.

In lighter news, I was accused of sexual harassment at work. There is no punchline. It really happened. My angry feminist coworker didn’t like something I said, so she ratted me out to the boss. I consider this to be a badge of honor. In this postmodern age of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, I think we’ve learned that sexual misconduct is actually an attribute on one’s resume. You know how in the movie Ted, when the bear keeps getting promoted every time he does something naughty at work? Well, my boss gave me a raise this year. I can only conclude that he secretly approved of what I did.

I should feel guilty for writing that, but I’ll go watch the female Ghostbusters reboot and cleanse my guilt.

Speaking of Trump, I’m not going to write a lot about the election, mostly due to the fact that I’ve already written about it ad nauseam. I will only say that it’s dispiriting to me *though not surprising) to see Democrats willfully refuse to understand why they lost the election. The combination of a fatally flawed candidate, shifting demographics and bad polling lead most people *including me) down the wrong path. I did not vote for Trump, but I accept him as our president and am glad to see that the Republican agenda will have a chance to move forward.

Politics wasn’t all bad this year. In April, I had the chance to participate in the process by attending the state Republican convention. I’ve also moved away from most talk radio and have gravitated toward conservative thinkers who express themselves through the written word. For those of you who will need a strong dose of sanity throughout the next four years, read the National Review and the Weekly Standard. Conservative stalwarts like Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, Amanda Carpenter and Ben Shapiro have been beacons in an otherwise gloomy populist landscape. And for those of you who think that all politicians are bad, please follow Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Twitter or Facebook.

2016 saw the deaths of many celebrities. The ones that peaked my interest were Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, Merle Haggard, Kenny Baker, (aka R2D2), Gene Wilder, Holly Dunn, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Special note for Antonin Scalia, who’s untimely death high-lighted the polarized D.C. electorate. I’ll see you in hell, Fidel! Trying to rationalize with Castro supporters is like trying to play a game of pool against a Pollock. You confidently walk up to the table with your pool cue in hand, only to discover that the Polack is carrying a pool noodle.

Is anyone reading this a fan of the original Law & Order series? Steven Hill, who played the first (and funniest) D.A., Adam Schiff, on that series, died this year. Is anyone reading this a fan of the cop show, Homicide? Jon Polito, who played Crosetti, the first character to die on that series, also passed away. Also, a respectful nod to the memory of Curtis Hanson, who directed one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential.

In the personal loss column, Nehemiah Hall succumbed to cancer last Spring. He and I weren’t close, but many of my friends cared for him. I was truly shocked and saddened at the sudden passing of Ahimsa Wishneski. She and I were forming a friendship, all be it an online one. I hope someone finds that Merle’s gift card I gave her for her CCB graduation and puts it to good use.

Another friend left Denver in the person of Beth McGarr. My pal Drew and I reconnected in a heartfelt conversation at, of all places, a casino. Robin and I have also reconnected. Drew and Robin have reconnected. Special thanks to Katy for introducing me to the Joe Pickett novel series, written by C. J. Box. Art is still the best listener ever.

Many people seem to treat 2016 as if it’s a living entity. I don’t buy it. Life is what we make it. If you want 2017 to be better than 2016, go out there and make it happen. Don’t rely on external events that are out of your control to reinforce your happiness. This is a personal challenge I make to myself as well as everyone else. Happy New Year.

Monty is sniffing me and his whiskers kind of tickle. 22 hours until the key reappears.

Wait! That’s not Monty. Oh whoa ho ho whoa!!! Marty just found the feather duster. I gotta go!

E Is For Elope

The following is a guest post, submitted by Lenore from Sioux Falls. Here she is, writing from room 209 of the Castle Hotel.

I will not add any preamble or post script, except to say that I am not, nor have I ever been married. If others with more knowledge or experience would like to speak to this issue, your comments are most welcome.

Here is Lenore:

Years ago on an old blog, Ryan posted an entry titled “The top 10 lies people tell themselves.” Inspired by that entry, and my own marriage, I am now writing “The top 5 lies told to the bride and groom about their wedding day.”

Before I begin, I feel the need to make two disclaimers. The first is, I acknowledge that I am speaking in generalizations. The statements I’m about to make do not apply to all people or all weddings. The second is that I realize the tone of what I’m about to write may sound as if I don’t favor marriage. Given that I am married, nothing could be further from the truth. I do indeed favor the institution of marriage. I would be remiss, on the blog of the conservative blind guy, if I didn’t also state for the record that I’m talking about traditional marriage, between one man and one woman. I stand in awed wonder that I’ve found someone I love enough to make those vows to, and that loves me enough to make them to me. Even as I type with my wedding ring on my left hand, I have trouble rapping my mind around this. In short, this is not an anti-marriage entry. It is, however, a commentary on the darker side of wedding planning, and weddings in general. So, with all that said, here are the top five lies told to the bride and groom about their wedding day.

5. “I’ll help you with anything you need.”
While many people do want to help, most want to help with the things that are considered fun, convenient for them, or that land them in the middle of the glitz and glamour of the wedding day itself. For example, people are quite eager to go dress shopping, stand up with a couple, or take pictures. However, when the couple starts asking people to help with running needed errands before the wedding, or to assist in the bureaucratic process of changing one’s name after the wedding, most family and friends will suddenly find reasons why they are too busy and don’t have time to help after all. The reality is that these things are not fun, not convenient, and there’s no glory for the person helping. They are the inconvenient and unglamorous necessities that come with a wedding and a marriage, but which the bride and groom may need assistance with all the same.

4. “I don’t’ want anything in return for my help.”
Again, most people are well-meaning. However, most also do, consciously or not, want something in return for the support they give a couple. This is not usually related to money. Perhaps it would be easier to deal with if it were, and if thanks could be shown in the form of some cash or a gift card. Unfortunately, in return for their assistance, people usually want one of two things: public recognition, or a say in the decisions that are made surrounding the wedding. When the couple doesn’t give these things, or doesn’t give them to a person’s satisfaction, drama is likely to occur.

3. “It’s your wedding, you shouldn’t have to do all the work.”
No matter how much work a couple is able to delegate to other trusted individuals, weddings are exhausting. The exhaustion seems to start about a month before the ceremony actually happens, and is at its worst during the days before and after. Even when other people are supposed to be the ones playing host/hostess, in the end it’s the bride and groom who are still responsible for ensuring that everyone else around them remains happy, appeased, and has what they need and want.

2. “It’s your day, do things how you want them done.”
I can’t tell you how many times my now-husband and I heard this line, told someone what we wanted, and then were immediately told why that was wrong and we shouldn’t do it that way. Even when the bride and groom give their reasons why they may want something done in a specific way, there is always some well-intended person who find something to criticize about what the couple wants, and thinks they have a better suggestion. This leaves the couple with one of two choices. They can stand firm and have their day as they wish, but risk the anger or hurt feelings of family and friends when their advice is not taken. Alternatively, a couple may cave in to pressure in an effort to keep the peace and avoid the drama, but give up having “their day” as they wanted it. In the end, it’s an exercise in strategy and tactics, and picking battles on a near daily basis.

1. “It’s your day, it’s all about you.”
The wedding day is, in fact, not about the couple getting married at all. Even the bride and groom initially try to convince themselves of this one, because if recognized for the lie that it is, not nearly as many people would put themselves through the stress of planning and carrying off a wedding. Certainly society tries to convince themselves of this, in part because it’s the lie that drives America’s multi-billion dollar wedding industry. The truth is that the wedding day is about the family, friends, and acquaintances of the couple. It is done to give those people something to attend, to remember, and to talk about. (Particularly remember, as the bride and groom will likely not remember 95 percent of that day, even when they look at their pictures later.) For the couple, it is about the end result, that they are married in the eyes of God and society. A big, (or even medium-sized) ceremony/reception is not needed to achieve this result. It is, however, seemingly needed for the rest of society to view a couple as having legitimately gotten married.

As stated earlier, I am not anti-marriage. Bottom line though: Eloping is a wonderful thing that I now dearly wish I had done, and would advise any couple who wishes to avoid stress and drama to do as well!

Ho! Lee! Cow!

“I don’t want to be a killjoy, but it’s been my experience that it’s always safer to bet against the Cubs.”

That is what I tweeted a week ago last Monday. Now, I have to eat my words, and I couldn’t be happier!

I’ve always been a casual baseball fan. As a kid, my family supported the Mets because our uncle was a scout for them. Our local radio station carried the Royals.

As an adult, I lived in Lincoln for 14 years and I knew a lot of Cubs fans, but I didn’t care. I moved to Denver nine years ago and have been to more than a few Rockies games, but I’m not passionate about them.

Having said that, I admire the dedicated loyalty of Cubs fans everywhere. To paraphrase Eddie Vedder, Cubs supporters are not fair weather fans, but foul weather fans.

They’re people like my pal Amy B, who always wore a Cubs T-shirt when the weather got nice. I watched a lot of the competition between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998 on her living room floor. Or her Uncle Ray, a school teacher who took a day off every year for the first Cubs game of the season

Or my buddy Wes, who was more interested in the Cubs match-up against the Marlins that night at Applebee’s in 2003. I was more interested in guzzling Long Island ice teas and flirting with some girl or other.

Wes was perfectly in character when he dragged Amy M and I to a Cubs game when we visited Chicago over Labor Day weekend of 2007. The Cubs won that day and I affectionately chuckled at the fans who stayed around and sang, “Go Cubs, Go!”

Then, there’s my folks. I’d like to think that they would have been Cubs fans if not for family loyalty. Whatever the case, their association with Jim Hendry brought them around in the early 2000’s. I texted Mom the other night that I didn’t think the Cubs would win. Her response was classic Mom: “Shame on you!”

As an aside, I would’ve tried much harder to kiss Mr. Hendry’s ass that night he came to dinner at our house if I’d known he was gonna turn into a baseball big shot.

Even those Chicagoans who are not Cubs fans can’t help but be impacted. My coworker Matt, for instance. He’s a White Sox fan. I asked him if he was stoked about a possible Cubs victory yesterday and, in his trademark flat Chicago tone, he stated, “I’m indifferent.”

And yet, we’re having lunch today from a place called, Mustard’s Last Stand, which serves Chicago-style hot dogs.

I was pleased to see the Cubs win last night. I love the fact that we have back-to-back Midwestern championships. But this victory isn’t for me. I’m just the guy who occasionally had a game on in the background.

This is for Wes, Amy B, Uncle Ray, Mom and Dad, Jim Hendry and all the thousands of long-suffering fans who took the jokes and the affectionate contempt in the name of something bigger than themselves. They stuck with their Cubbies year after disappointing year, but they kept coming back. If that isn’t love, you tell me what is.

So, congratulations to the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series champions. And congratulations to their fans. 108 years is a long time.


By the way, did Steve Bartman ever come out of hiding?

Everybody Lies

One of my favorite entries from the old blog was titled, “The top 10 Lies People Tell.” There was no official study taken for this compilation; only my life experience served for the parameters.

Here, as best as I can remember, are the 10 lies with very abridged explanations.

By the way, lest you think I make these proclamations from an elevated position, I’m as guilty as the rest of you for propagating many of these lies, especially numbers 10 and three.

10. “I will pay you back.”: Everyone uses it and no one ever means it. It’s why we have a crushing national debt, why credit card companies make a killing and why your best friend secretly resents you after five years of waiting.

9. “I do.” If people really stopped and reflected on the meaning of these two simple words and the vows that go with them, the divorce rate would not be at 50 percent and professional florists and photographers would have to take up panhandling to supplement their income.

8. “I don’t want to date you because I don’t want to ruin our friendship.”: A lie commonly told to men by women when they are just not attracted to him enough to take the next step.

7. “It’s what the people want.”: This lie rests at the foundation of every honey-coated untruth that drips from the forked tongue of politicians, activists, false prophets and social architects. What they really mean is, “It’s what will give me more power.”

6. “It’s not you…it’s me.”: A lie commonly told to women by men in the course of a break-up. What they are really thinking is, It’s not me…it’s you.

5. “I don’t have a favorite child.”: A lie commonly told to children by their parents. It is usually followed by the compounding lie, “Parents just love each child differently.”

4. “Violence never solves anything.”: Think about this lie the next time you see President Barack Obama on television, and realize that he might very well be picking your cotton for you if it weren’t for violence. Or maybe we’d all be eating chicken teriyaki with chopsticks. Or English tea would be a hell of a lot more expensive. Get the picture?

3. “I’m sorry.”: Usually said when someone who committed a wrong merely wants to smooth over the hurt feelings of the injured party without really feeling regret for what they did.

2. “I don’t judge.”: This lie is my biggest pet peeve. Everyone judges. We can’t help it. As human beings, we make dozens of judgments every day. We’re wired that way. It’s what we do with those judgments after they are made that really counts. I don’t give a damn how non-judgmental you are. If you come home after a hard day of work and find your wife shagging the grocery delivery boy on the kitchen table…you’re gonna judge her.

1. “I love you.”: The three most over-used, misused words in the English language. People use it as a mask for lust, envy, control, manipulation, fear, violence and even hate. Parents, children, spouses, friends and even leaders use it without truly understanding it’s deeper meaning.
I posted this abridged entry to Facebook a year ago. The longer entry, which is now gone, was written sometime in 2011. If I’d known then what I know now, we could’ve added two more lies to the top 10 for the sheer number of times we’ve heard them over the past year:

“I’m gonna build a wall and Mexico is gonna pay for it!”


“I thought C stood for Clinton.”

I’m paraphrasing that second one, but you get my point.

I’m done now. Thanks for reading this. Love you guys.

It’s Not Funny

I promised not to comment on the election in this blog until November 9. That still goes. But let me put one toe over the line.

I heard the infamous Trump tape. I will let all of you make your own judgements about The Donald. I will only say that, if any of you were surprised by this latest revelation, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m sure there’s more to come.

What I really want to talk about is sexual assault.

I’ve known many women in my life. Many of these women have been victims of sexual assault; that is, the unwanted sexual advances or contact from either men or women.

I’ve known women who were abused by their friends, boyfriends, husbands, authority figures such as bosses or coaches, strangers, or worst of all, by their relatives. The impact of this trauma is nothing less than heartbreaking. It never strikes women in the same way.

Some of them lose their basic sense of self-worth and believe that the only way they can relate to men is to have sex with them. Other women suppress their sex drive entirely. Some learn to hate all men.

Some women battle depression or other mood disorders for years afterward. Some go into deep denial and pretend it never happened. Some women want to talk about it. Some don’t. Some talk about it too much. And some women choose to go on a long, painful journey that leads to healing and recovery.

Some women have chosen to come forward, either privately to trusted friends or family, or publicly by exposing their abusers. The women who come forward are sometimes believed, sometimes not. Often, their revelations lead to fractures within families and friendships that never heal. This is why most women who are molested choose to stay silent. It’s just easier.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m far from a feminist who thinks that every woman has the right to be believed. I am firmly in favor of due process and the constitutional guarantee of innocent until proven guilty.

Whatever the case, sexual assault is not a joking matter. It’s not funny. Any man who would find humor in it doesn’t have a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend or a coworker who has survived sexual assault.

One defense I’ve heard over the past 72 hours is, “It’s no big deal. All men talk like this from time to time.”

That is flatly, patently false! I’ve said and done many things in my life of which I’m not proud, but rape jokes are not part of that. Moreover, most of the men I’ve known over my life would not joke about such a subject. I am hard pressed to imagine my father joking or laughing about rape or sexual advances of any sort.

This election really has brought out the worst in our country, not the least of which is abject hypocrisy on both sides.

For those of you supporting Hillary, I suggest you study the term, “Enabling.” Those who enable sexual predators are little better than the predators themselves. If you want to call yourself a feminist and brag about the first female president, think long and hard about Bill Clinton’s victims. I’m looking at you, Ms. Albright and Ms. Pelosi.

As for you Trump supporters, many of you were around during Bill Clinton’s era. Why is it that character no longer matters? What makes Trump so much better than Slick Willie? I’m looking at you, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Limbaugh.

Finally, to any man or woman who has been sexually assaulted, I won’t presume to tell you how to feel. I won’t presume to tell you what you should do. The only thing I will do is beg you to please share your burden with someone you can trust. Don’t go through it alone.

Witches Make the Best Fertilizer

A lot of people are shocked when they learn that I get up every morning at 5 AM and commute from Littleton to Boulder. I take two buses and one light rail to accomplish this. The round-trip time comes out to about 4 1/2 hours daily. What can I say… I get a lot of books read.

When I first took the job, I knew I would never give a single tax dollar to what we conservatives affectionately call, “The Peoples’ Republic of Boulder.” I have worked there almost 2 years now and I can tell you that the stereotypes are all true.

One example is blatantly obvious. Boulder recently banned the selling of ice cream at all municipal parks and swimming pools. They did it for, “health reasons.” This is the textbook definition of a nanny state. Don’t let Mom And Dad decide if their kids should eat an ice cream cone in the hot sun. Leave it up to the government.

If you use plastic over paper at any Boulder grocery store, you’re going to get taxed for it. The potheads can stink up the Pearl St. Mall with no consequence, but tobacco is a mortal sin.

Speaking of foul odors, my coworkers imposed a new recycling program at our workplace about a month ago. Now, we get to sort all of our trash into various containers, including a compost bin. The compost bin, which contains all organic items, sits right outside the control room where I work. It’s supposed to be put out once a week for pick-up, but no one ever does it.

Last week, the smell of rotting food wafted into the control room and down the hall. On Thursday, I finally snapped and moved the bin outside the back door. My coworker (the crazy Wiccan), threw a hissy fit because I left the bin outside her office window, thereby blocking her view. She didn’t care that the smell of rotting food was stinking up our office, as long as she got to enjoy the blessings of the sunshine from Mother Earth.

This is the environmentalist movement in a nutshell. 53 square miles surrounded by reality, indeed.

OK, so why don’t I just move to Louisville, Broomfield or even Westminster? After six months of working there, I realized I don’t want to leave Littleton because I love living here!

I would describe the political vibe here as libertarian; as long as you obey the law, we don’t care what you do. But more to the point, it feels like a community here.

I have within walking distance, a grocery store, my bank, a dental office, my doctor’s office, a UPS store, a post office, a vet clinic, a liquor store, an antique gallery, a park with a duck pond and much more.

I eat out a lot, and neighborhood restaurants include Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai and American cuisine. Yes, there is a Starbucks nearby. Duh!

I live a block away from a major bus route and a light rail station is a 15-minute walk on a nice day. Even though I don’t really have any reason to go there anymore, I also like living near the Colorado Center For the Blind. I respect their basic mission of teaching blind people the skills of independence.

So, I will continue to grown and gripe as I turn off the 5 AM alarm and stumble to the shower. The job kind of sucks, but the paycheck is worth it if I can stay comfortable here in Littleton.

In the meantime, I will pass the hours in Boulder trying to figure out if Wiccans make better fertilizer since they are more earth-friendly.

The Road to Omaha

I’ve never been a diehard sports fan. Strange, since I grew up in a house full of jocks. Football, baseball, basketball, golf…they never interested me. I got dragged along to various sporting events wherein my brother was the center of attention and I viewed it as a good excuse to slap on my headphones and read a book.
I became a casual Husker fan during my first college years in the ‘90’s. It’s sad that it took the death of Brook Berringer to bring me around, but that’s human nature. I cheered for the Big Red along with almost every other Nebraskan, but I never bought any Husker memorabilia.
The same rule applied when I moved to Denver eight years ago. Broncos games were an obvious event, but I was along for the social interaction with my friends. Every Sunday, the guys and I would gather, turn on the radio, drink beer, smoke cigars and eat chips and bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos. It was all wonderfully stereotypic. I didn’t like the Broncos. I didn’t hate them. If they won, I was glad. If they lost, I would be over it 30 seconds after the final second ticked off the clock.
I cheered for the Rockies for about a month in 2007 until they got crushed under the treads of the Boston Red Sox. Then, it just got harder and harder to care. The Nuggets never interested me. The Avalanche were kind of cool to watch live, but I never actively followed them.
Then, Peyton Manning came to town and things began to change. This was on the heels of the Tim Tebow phenomenon when it became clear that media hype drove celebrity every bit as much as talent. At first, I was sure Peyton was an overrated package. He was coming off of a two-year forced hiatus due to a neck injury. My pal Steve (who knows far more about sports than I do) was so psyched over Peyton’s career change that he bet a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings that Peyton would take the Broncos to the Super Bowl his first year out. I won, of course, and Steve was very gracious.
However, I couldn’t help but be struck by Peyton’s demeanor. The guy was practically a sports god, yet he talked like a small town grocery store owner. “Ma’m, let me wrap up those Patriots for ya. Would you like your Tom Brady in paper or plastic? And how’s Mike and the kids?”
I make it a point never to become too invested in the projected public persona of a celebrity. There’s just too much we don’t know about Peyton’s private life. Yeah, he’s got a wife and kids, which probably means he’s got four mistresses or a gay lover on the side. That’s just human nature. Yet, I can’t help but admire the guy. He’s my age and he just won his second Super Bowl trophy.
I was one of the many who reluctantly predicted a Broncos loss against the Panthers. The sting of the embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Seahawks two years ago is still felt. I can’t be happier to be wrong. After the victory, I became a diehard fan. When my paycheck permits, I’m going to own my first ever football shirt. It will be in honor of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 win. I think I’ll throw in an AFC champions shirt just for good measure.
Nebraska will always be my home, but Denver is my adopted home town. I think the Broncos are a more accurate representation of the culture here than the ever-present stench of marijuana. There is much I still don’t understand about the numerous nuances of football, but I know that, when Peyton retires, I will cheer for the Broncos and proudly display their banner from now on.
As for the Rockies…I don’t know. A man can only take so much punishment.
Go Broncos!!! Super Bowl 51, baby!