Make Me Blind Again


Make me blind again

to the shadows of indifference

that spread across unfertile black fields.

I’ve seen your cold emptiness

and I’ve felt your bitter cynicism

take root in my heart.

 

Make me blind again

to the ravages of time

in my morning mirror.

Weathered wrinkles of shame

and failure and fear accusing me

of crimes only I know I’ve committed.

 

Make me blind again

to the white capped waves of regret

lapping on shores of sorrow;

my footprints left behind

in the intractable sand of the beach

of things said and done.

 

Make me blind again

to the bubbling poisons of disease

and the toxic fumes they emit.

Make me blind again to the inevitability and clarity

with which I see a future

of diminishment and loss.

 

Make me blind again

to the darkened skies and barren trees

of the black forest of death.

Make me blind again to all I know

because seeing nothing is the same

as seeing everything.

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Poets


I’m currently the longest serving member of the Kenosha Writer’s Guild, coming up on ten years since I attended the very first meeting, where the Guild was born.

These days, the Guild remains as vibrant and alive as it’s ever been.  Membership has turned over several times, and with the departure of many seemingly indispensable members, there have been lean times where we wondered if we were going belly up. But it seems like each departure has been followed by fresh and talented new faces with energies that have reinvigorated the Guild. It’s all a part of the evolution of what we were to what we are. I am still honored to be a member of the group and take my role as a member of the Guild’s steering committee seriously, as we branch out into new and exciting landscapes.

Over the years, we’ve lost about as many people as we’ve gained.  Some quickly concluded that we weren’t their exact cup of tea and some relocated, to places as far away as the United Kingdom and New York. Others have had career changes.  Some who’ve left have and will return again and sadly, we’ve been around long enough that some won’t, not because they might not want to, but because they can’t.  So it is with every family – eventually, there will be an empty chair at the dinner table.

The second longest serving member is my good friend, the extraordinarily gifted writer and visual artist, Darleen Coleman. Darleen has been a member since the second meeting, or one fewer meetings than I have attended. I make a point to never let her forget that compared to me, she’s just a newbie.

A hobby of Darleen’s is collecting “junk,” or “junking.” Her passion for junk frequently leads her to estate sales.

So it was when she happened to stop by an estate sale a couple of months ago only to discover that the estate was that of Marguerite Mclelland, a member of the guild up until her death in 2015.  Marguerite was born in 1943 in the Alsace Lorraine area on the border of France and Germany.  In other words, she was born at the intersection of the chronological and geographic epicenters of World War two. She never knew her father, who was killed on the eastern front before she was born.

We in the guild didn’t get to know Marguerite until 2013 or 2014, when she joined our little group. We knew her as an utterly charming and good -natured woman who was also a very talented writer of poetry and prose.  She published a book about her childhood memories, “Stories from the War.” It’s a very well written collection of poetry and prose, of which you can hear some KWG members reading from here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=2141shttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgATnG6rbUM&t=174s

Darleen was quite surprised that the estate she was checking out was none other than Marguerite’s.  Knowing this, and remembering Marguerite’s passion for poetry, she couldn’t resist paying a couple of bucks for the thin paper-backed collection of poems and prose entitled “Ginsberg Speaks.”  Published in 1983, it contains about 35 pages of work by local writers, with its centerpiece being an interview with Allen Ginsberg by the Kenosha writer, Michael Schumacher.  When Darleen got home with the book, she opened it up and was surprised to see, in the table of contents, several poems attributed to another last name she recognized: “Gourdoux.”

I’d forgotten that my oldest brother, Mike, used to dabble in poetry. I’d forgotten about the pamphlet that published his poems. All I know is I didn’t understand very much about poetry at the time. It turns out there were plenty of other things I didn’t understand, either.

Mike was the oldest of four children. I was third, born a little more than six years after Mike. Growing up, he always seemed light years older than me. He also seemed to be, as far back as I can remember, the smartest person I ever knew. My interests closely followed his, and as his broadened, so did mine. First was professional sports, then music, rock and roll, then movies, and then books.

In 1971, a year after graduating high school, and after finishing a couple of semesters at UW-Parkside, he signed up for a three year stint in the Army, coming home in October of 1974. Those years, between 1970 and 1975, when I was between 12 and 17 years old, were the closest we’d ever be. In those years, he openly shared with me all of his knowledge about the aforementioned topics and more, including philosophy, the subject he’d changed his major to. To this day, I owe my love for those things to Mike.

One thing he didn’t share with me that I had no clue of until years later was his considerable expertise in substance abuse. What started out as a mild curiosity in high school,  in the army, in Germany, exploded into a major obsession, and he experimented with just about everything.

Sometime around 76, things changed. Mike was still living at home, and I was growing up.  Mike was having trouble holding on to a job, and he was going to school, pursuing his philosophy degree.  It was around this time that he essentially moved out of our shared room to a room in the basement, where he consumed case after case of Andeker beer.  We grew apart, into our own and separate corridors of loneliness, neither one of us realizing how much we needed each other, how much we could have and should have been helping each other.  Instead, we put miles between us, Mike taking a couple of Kerouac inspired trips to California and me moving to and working in northwestern Wisconsin.

In December of 79, after being laid off from my job at the window factory up north , I returned home, got a job, and signed up for night school, where I met my everything. In 1981, I married her; in 84, I started what would turn out to be a career in I.T.   Between 1985 and 1994 my wife gave birth to our three children.

Mike, meanwhile, continued to struggle. For a brief time he had a job in California digging out swimming pools. He’d return home and spend months at my parents’ property in Northwestern Wisconsin.  In the early eighties, when he wrote the poems Darleen found, he was living a hermit-like existence in a cold and unending winter.  Meanwhile, with a demanding job, a growing family, and some 330 miles between us, I didn’t have much time for Mike, but when we did get together, the spaces between us would fade and vanish and we’d discuss the Packers, Nietzsche, Jack London, and whatever else we felt like tapping into. He was such a great guy. Anyone who spent time with him knew that, and would leave feeling better than before they arrived.

Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, Mike was diagnosed with depression. I heard the word but I didn’t appreciate the extent of its meaning. Looking back on it now, I wonder how I couldn’t understand the pain he was living with, and I wonder how alone he must have felt while I went back to my family, my wife and kids.

I’m not self-centered enough to think that I caused Mike’s death. There are multiple specifics that I know directly contributed.  But while I may not have caused his suicide in 2010, I did nothing to prevent it, either.

Now, my kids are grown and have left home. I have nothing but time, time to remember, and time to forget. There is so much I could learn if Mike were still alive.

In recent months, thanks to the encouragement of several members of the guild, I’ve become interested in reading and especially writing poetry. When Darleen gave me the book she bought at Marguerite’s estate sale, I realized that Mike and I once again shared a common interest, and that, as usual, he’d developed a deeper understanding of the form than I probably ever will.

It’s so easy for me to see now in his poems what I couldn’t see the first time I read them, back in the mid- eighties. Now when I read them, with the added weight of regret and time, they reverberate with despair and anguish and beauty that is overwhelming in its sadness:

               My night bird is an owl

                and flies with the borealis and the stars

                to look down upon them

                from the static of their antennae skies.

                It sits in dark lamp-lit rooms

                with books on shelves

                and remembers a shadowy figure

                standing by a river in the woods.

 

Back when I was a teenager, I remember Mike telling me that one of his favorite bands was Ten Years After, and one of his favorite albums was their masterpiece, “A Space in Time.” While the album includes a lot of great deep tracks, the best remains the justifiably famous “I’d Love to Change the World.”

Now, in 2019, approaching ten years after Mike’s death, I’d love to change the world and go back to a space in time where Mike still lives.

 

I’ve Seen You


I”ve seen you
in the weathered faces of strangers
emerging from shadows.
Older women
with wrinkled faces
and light blue eyes,
you for only a moment,
then random strangers again

I’ve seen you,
In bright dreams you come back,
sitting upright at our old dining room table,
strong and healthy,
your brain free from malignancy.
I want to touch you, smell your hair,
but the shadows are already lengthening
and soon darkness overtakes you
until I wake up and you are gone,
the night as dark as a womb

I’ve seen you
in the face of the granddaughter
you met at the intersection of death and birth,
where souls collide, you on your way to joining
the green cosmic dust of the night sky
that lights her way through the journey
of her lifetime.

I’ve seen you
draw your last breath a thousand times,
death severing the cord that connected us and
sending me adrift in the inky and unending blackness
of the cosmos
until the next time I see you
and you become Mother and I become Son again,
warm and safe,
tethered to your infinite and unending soul
by a single thread of your grey hair.

 

Dreams Do, Too


As I approach the end, time accelerates,
and more is lost than gained.
One by one the functions fall
until I become immobile, a statue,
ensconced in flesh and blood.
Then you will become the moon and I the tide
and in your pale thin light 
you’ll find me,
waiting for you to exert your magnetic pull
to free the steady waves of my breathing
to obey the rhythm of our shared and beating heart,
the music of our souls, our bare feet gliding 
over the wet sand .
 
And the day is coming when I’ll fall mute,
unable to utter even a whisper,
and when the end is upon me
I will speak your name loud and clear
in a voice not heard in years.
 
And long after I’m gone
I will return to you,
young and strong again,
In the lifetime of the dream 
we’ve lived all these years
 
One after another
the nightmares all come true
But you and I, we know 
that sometimes,
dreams do, too.








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Tweeter and the Govnor Man


There might be an explanation, after all. 

This weekend, we’ve been given evidence that the root of the insanity that Donald Trump suffers from might be contagious.

How else to explain these past couple of days?  First, let’s take a look at the latest example of the insanity that our reality TV star in chief is afflicted with.

In mid-December, a week before Christmas and a day after he said he’d sign a budget bill, our little orange bundle of joy threw a temper tantrum, and instead decided to shut down the government until he got his wall built. It turned into the longest shut-down in history, until he caved in, doing double takes and nervous  glances over his shoulder in fear of that notorious playground bully, Nancy Pelosi.

So a week later, here he was again, threatening another tantrum if he doesn’t get funding for the wall he saw in the “Oligarchs ‘R Us” Christmas Catalog. (I suspect what he actually wants is the old “Fort Apache” play set from when he was a kid – in fact, for only $90  on e-Bay, we could get him a vintage copy of the original thing right here: https://www.ebay.com/i/192677456920?chn=ps   Perhaps this would turn out to be his “Rosebud”). He says he is going to shut the government down again or unleash plans the executive branch has prepared for declaring a state of emergency, never minding that if something can be scheduled, it can’t really be considered an emergency.

But then, last Friday, Trump insisted that all this time, workers have not only started on building the wall but are “almost finished.” When asked about the funding he needs to complete the wall, he said, “oh, we’ve got money.”

????

First of all, he can’t tell us where this wall is being built or by who.  Nobody who lives near the border has been found who’s actually seen these mysterious wall building people. But if any of this is true, why did we just suffer through a government shutdown to get a wall built, and why will we need another one or a state of emergency to finish it?

Never mind the questions about why anyone would contradict himself so quickly and  completely, or whether he believes these wall-building fairies actually exist or not. We’ve all gotten used to it.  It’s just “Trump being Trump”, which translates to English as, “the man is bat-shit crazy.”

But just when we’re getting used to all of this, the Democrat Governor of Virginia gives evidence that he’s been eating out of the same bowl of Fruit Loops as Trump. A photograph of two people, one in black-face and one wearing a KKK costume, and the story that one of them is the gov, surfaces on his page in his Medical School yearbook from 1984 (when he was 25 years old), which made me ask, they have yearbooks for Med School?  Then they showed the picture and offensive as it sounded, seen, it was much worse.

Then came the admission from the gov that yes, one of those two individuals in the photo is in fact him, followed by the usual bullshit apologies about how that doesn’t reflect who he is now, and how much he hopes we can all learn, and bla bla bla.. The usual crap one spews when he is busted. It also becomes clear that he has no intention of resigning, even though the number of people calling on him to do so starts rising as the story gains momentum.

Saturday comes and the pressure is rising, and he announces he is going to make a statement and take questions that afternoon. Okay, we all thought, he’s thought about it and he’s going to do he only thing he really can do, he’s going to resign.

This is where things get interesting.  This is the point where it becomes apparent that the Trump bats have also shit in the gov’s otherwise empty brain.

At the press conference, with his poor wife playing the clichéd role of the stoic and suffering partner, he offers that he has become “convinced” that neither individual in the photograph was him. When asked to explain, he says he’s never worn a KKK costume in his life.  Then, when asked if he’d ever worn blackface, he admits, yes, but only once, and not in the photo.  When asked when that time was, he says it was during a dance contest, also in 1984, and that he wore blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume. At this point, and this was my personal favorite moment of the whole weekend, a reporter asks him if he can still moon walk. A slight smile begins to form in the corners of the gov’s mouth, and I swear I could hear the bass rift to “Billie Jean” in my head as he was going to break into dance, when the stoic and suffering Mrs. Gov interrupts, saying that it would be “inappropriate at this time.” It is a wonderfully surreal moment that any man who’s ever been married can relate to – the time your wife saved you from your own judgment and prevented you from making an even bigger ass of yourself.

That moment also reveals the depths of just how clueless this guy is, as he actually thought the press conference and the denial of what he said less than fifteen hours earlier was true would save his job. He not only thought that wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume wasn’t racist, but that doing a moonwalk during the press conference would somehow absolve him of the reprehensible racism that was so painfully evident in every word he said, in every self-contradiction he pushed forward, and in every nonsense hypothetical he advanced (He explained there were a number of photos that showed up on the wrong page in the yearbook because a staff was sitting around with a whole bunch of photos on a table while preparing the yearbook, and that there were lots of photos of other guys in blackface … never mind)

The gov had to be disappointed in the resulting unanimity of the condemnation against him, and the unanimity of the calls for his resignation, including tweets from none other than the Tweeter in Chief himself.  I agree. The gov, like the tweeter, is too incompetent to lead a boy scout troop, let alone a state or a nation.

How can one lead when he displays such hatred for a segment of the population he is supposed to represent?  How can he effectively lead when he is caught in so many open and bald faced lies? How can anyone NOT call for such a leader to step aside or, if he won’t, to be removed from office?

It’s time to start boycotting Fruit Loops, or at least quit feeding them to bats …

After the Storm


The front porch
a slab of concrete
cold and damp
I thrust my hansds into my  coat pockets
alien and inexplicable sorrow in
the grape jelly marrow in my small bones,
making them ache and shiver.
Bored and restless
with all the time in the world to fill
like an empty glass of milk
that I drank too fast
on a warmer day in the summer.
that hadn’t come yet.


			

Afternoon Dream


I dreamt today about my brother.

In the dream, we were sitting at a kitchen table somewhere. Don was sitting to my left.  I was struggling with my hands, busy trying to put something together, and he was helping me, and struggling, too. I expressed my frustration, and he was very sweet, telling me that I was doing fine, and damned if he didn’t lean in and gently kiss my cheek.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, not a laugh of derision or embarrassment, just as an acknowledgement of how out of character the kiss was, and he understood, and he laughed, too.

I woke up right after that.  It was 4:14 in the afternoon, and I was alone in my bedroom. I thought of the dream and I thought about the kiss and although the gesture was out of character, the sentiment was not, and I remembered all the times when we were kids that he, the big brother, was supportive of me, the little brother, and how much that support meant to me. I grabbed my phone, thinking I should call him.

These days, for reasons neither one of us fully understands, we rarely speak. When it occurred to me today that I should call him, the telephone grew heavy with the weight of those reasons and the cavernous distance that has grown between us.

But I don’t care about any of that. I have no axe to grind, no blame to place. All I’d want to know is if he’s okay. You’d think that picking up a phone wouldn’t be so difficult, that it’d be easier than planting the seeds of regret that grow into black weeds that spread and devour the lush grasses of memory and love with every opportunity missed, every connection abandoned.  Maybe I’m too weak, maybe my fears are too strong. Maybe it’s because regrets have a way of repeating themselves.

Whatever the reason is, I put the phone down and went about the rest of my day. If I were to get up the nerve to call him, I’d tell him that I hope he is well, and I’d wish him a happy birthday. If I had the chance, I’d also thank him for all the dreams, new and old, in which he looked out for me like only a good big brother can.

The Way Things Auto Be


The automotive industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation that will forever change the ways we purchase and operate motor vehicles. Analysts predict that as early as 2030, or just a little bit more than eleven years from now, the highways of America will be dominated by driver-less, electric cars, and that most cars will be rented on an as-needed basis.  Gone will be the days of automobile ownership as we know it today.

Meanwhile, technology is already enabling a vast array of incredible new functionality, from global positioning functionality to automated parallel parking to crash avoidance. It’s an amazing time to be alive, to witness the application and implementation of space aged technology to every day transportation.

But for all the “hits” in this technological boom, there have been a few failures and “misses.” In this, the first in a series of closer looks, I examine a couple of these little known failures.

Off on the Wrong Foot

In November of 2014, Ford issued a memo announcing its driver-less car research project. Regrettably, the memo included a minor typo on the subject line, wherethe letter “r” was omitted from the word “driver.” This seemingly innocuousmistake went unnoticed by most of the press, but didn’t escape the attention of a salesman in the Ford dealership in Secaucus, New Jersey, named Bud Schwartz,who was the principle named in a law suit by Olympic champion Greg Louganis. In a sworn affidavit, Louganis claimed that Schwartz cited the memo as a reason to prevent Louganis’ attempt to purchase a 1987 Taurus. “See, right here,”Schwartz said, holding up a copy of the memo, “it says, ‘Announcing Ford’s ‘diver-less policy,’ so I got it right here, in writing. As for Louganis and his suit, he can go jump in the lake.”

Ford and Louganis arrived at a six figure settlement, and the “driver-less” project was delayed by a month.  The author of the memo, an intern named Carl Iguana, held onto his job when his HR rep, Samantha Herbivore, mistyped the word “fired” in Iguana’s dismissal memo. Iguana’s job was spared, but he barely survived being fried in corn oil.

Soup warmer

This was a feature proposed and evaluated by General Motors.  It consisted of a retractable bowl that, upon pushing a button on the dashboard, would slide out. The driver would take a bowl of cold soup and empty it into the retractable bowl, and insert it much like one inserts a CD into a CD player. Infrared sensors placed behind the dashboard would then heat the soup up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the warmer would beep and “eject” the soup. The warmer was actually installed and tested in a handful of vehicles, but failed when the eject button proved to  be a bit too strong, flinging scalding hot soup into the face of the driver, causing him to become inattentive and thus a safety concern.  Greg Llama, the engineer who first conceived of the soup warmer, down played the test results, saying “so what you might get a little bit of soup in your eye – to me, it’d be worth it. How many times do you find yourself driving down the highway on a cold day when all of the sudden, it occurs to you how good a bowl of clam chowder would be right at that moment. But no, you don’t have time to stop at the local diner, because you’re on your way to the foam rubber convention, and you’re the keynote speaker and you’re running late.  If you’re anything like me, that happens all the time!”

Airbags Alternative

Although they’ve saved millions of lives, safety issues with air bags continue to be a concern. Suffocation, claustrophobic panic attacks, head and neck injuries, arm and chest fractures, have all been issues.  GM engineer Walt Toast proposed and designed an alternative.  Like the current airbags,Toast’s design had bags deploying on impact, but the bags would be filled with shards of broken glass instead of air. “Of course they’d be worse than air-bags,” he replied to concerns about the harm his design could inflict. “Oh, the poor babies have a fractured arm, we’ll fix that, how about getting your throat cut?  How’d they like that?”

Amazingly, Toast’s design was approved for testing, but after killing three testers, the project was put on delay due to budgetary issues. Two years later, it was officially cancelled when Toast was diagnosed as a psychotic after admitting to mailing a powdery substance to bankruptcy attorney Peter Francis Geraci. Public health officials first identified the substance as a rare and lethal strain of Anthrax until further testing concluded that it was actually a table spoon of Nestles Quick. Toast was institutionalized on the basis of an obscure law that, to protect public safety, demands that anyone who supplies a bankruptcy lawyer with chocolate milk must be separated from the rest of society.

The Grableizer 2020 Cicada Detector

Mandated to be implemented in all vehicles beginning in the year 2020, this feature is from the mind of the brilliant inventor Joe Grabchinski. When the vehicle hits a speed of 59 degrees, it will begin emitting high-pitched and loud, ear shattering sounds mimicking the mating calls of all Cicadoidea, thus attracting all forms of cicadas from as far away as five miles to the vehicle. When asked why, Grabchinski only replied, “If I have to explainit to you …”

An Ending


The names were typed in a list, on a sheet of paper hung on a bulletin board in the hallway that lead into the offices. I don’t remember who told us about it, that the news was out. It’d been anticipated for weeks. Rumors about impending layoffs, and how many would be impacted. I just remember standing there, looking for my name. I figured I’d put in more than two years now, and that I’d be just on the edge if they took the ten percent that’d be about forty of the four hundred Conrad had estimated the totality of the union membership consisted of.

After weeks of speculation, the announcement came on a Thursday afternoon. It turned out that Conrad was right, it was a ten percent reduction in the work force. His estimate of four hundred was pretty accurate as the actual number was 412, meaning that there were forty one names on the list. The list was sorted by seniority, defined by start date, which was a column after name, sorted in descending order. I was number 37, with my   start date of 8/5/77 a week after number 41, “Platt, George 7/29/77.” If I’d started a week earlier, I’d still have a job.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon. After I found my name, I read the paragraph above the list. It was written in a bunch of legalize, and included an effective date of 10/31/ 79, the current date, four days before my twenty first birthday. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see my foreman, Mike.

“Sorry, Dave. I was really hoping you wouldn’t get cut. You got any questions?”

“Today’s my last day?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“So I got about an hour left.”

“Yeah,” he said, “they say it works better that way.  No confusion about when the layoff starts. Better to make a clean cut of things – at least that’s the theory.”

I walked back to my department and took my working spot alongside Lew Reed. “Are you okay?” he asked. Word was already out.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said

Conrad and Jack and Jeff spent the better part of the remaining hour trying to buck me up, telling me that I’d be able to sleep in late in the morning, and that once I got signed up for my unemployment checks I’d be okay, and that I’d be free to go hunting every day.  Conrad said they’d probably be calling me back in about three months. I smiled and said that’s all true, and that I’ll be thinking of them when I roll over in bed and go back to sleep tomorrow morning.

I couldn’t tell them what I was really thinking. I couldn’t tell them that I knew with certainty I’d never enter the window factory again. I couldn’t tell them what they meant to me, and that without my job to go to, without them, the days were going to be as long and empty and lonely as the nights. I was trying hard to commit their faces to memory, etch them in my mind, knowing that I’d never see them again.

Lew, forty five years old and baby-faced, rolly-poly with a soft middle, in his olive green work shirt and trousers and that ridiculous fishing cap covering his bald head. Conrad with his snow white hair and goatee. Jack, burly and broad shouldered in his flannel even at sixty, his beard equal parts dark gray and white.  Jeff, my age, with his thick brown hair cut like a salad bowl had been placed on his head.

The last hour went by quick and easy, with nobody doing much work. Roger and Louie came in and joined the festivities, all of us telling stories and ripping on each other like only a bunch of guys who’d spent the week days of the last two years together could. They had enough material on me and my antics to fill more time than we had to kill.

Then 3:30 came and we all walked out together, like we did every day, punching the time clock on our way out the doors of the loading dock to the parking lot.  I remember saying good bye to the guys, and waving to Wayne Cooper, an acquaintance from another department. I looked around and I realized that this, the factory and the guys I worked with, would continue, would still be here, only  with somebody else doing my job, snapping together the aluminum frames.  Who I could only guess.  I just knew it wouldn’t be me anymore.  Whoever it was going to be, I hoped they’d appreciate it as much as, until that moment, I’d taken it for granted, and that they’d listen and maybe even smile when the guys told stories about the goofy twenty year old kid who used to jump up on the tables and caw like a crow.

Sixty


How does it feel to be sixty years old?

Not so great.  To quote the late, great Leonard Cohen, “I ache in the places where I used  to play.”

Physically, I’m worn down and wiped out, and carry the greenish bruises on various parts of my body from falls I’ve taken.  My eye to hand coordination and my sense of balance have degraded to the point that simple things, like, hanging insulation in my work shop to typing this piece, have become difficult.  My vision becomes blurred and cross-eyed as my eyes grow tired, and my voice has grown weak to the point that too often I’m drowned out when I try to communicate.

Every day I’m witnessing new levels of ugliness that I’ve never seen before in this great country that I love so much. The places, the people, and the values that’ve been so important to me have faded and worn away, and I feel alone.  These dark days of violence and selfishness, cowardice and unfounded fear, prejudice and hatred, have turned victims of horrible violence into vile foreigners to be feared instead of embraced, to be met with a closed fist instead of open arms. It’s a place I don’t recognize anymore, where a charlatan and liar has taken control of our collective psyche and divided us with language and actions so despicable and outrageous that every day achieves a new low, and we become more numbed and anesthetized than the day before. I don’t recognize these soulless zombies walking the countryside, and in the empty and expressionless glances they shoot at me, it’s obvious that they sure don’t recognize me.  I’ve become a relic, a stranger in a strange land, a solitary time traveler, from out of a dark and forgotten past.

And then, just when it seems that things couldn’t get any grimmer, or darker, a number on a calendar becomes a representative for today, my 60th birthday, and I find myself surrounded by family.  Empty shadows and silence are replaced by warmth and laughter, and I and my faith are restored.

My daughter recently became engaged, and her fiancé is with her as she visits this weekend. The more I get to know Zach, the more I appreciate what a kind, generous, and decent guy he is. It’s amazing to see my daughter in love, and the fact that she’s found the perfect match restores the faith I’ve lost in myself, and in the world where I live. It’s the simple fact that in a world so ugly and divided that love not only still exists, but that it is still the most powerful force in the universe

So how does it feel to be sixty years old?

It feels damned good.