411. It’s over… right?

 

The oligarchic Olympiad of the most un-presidential presidential election ever conducted on this planet is now over, isn’t it?  Please, God. Make it stop!  Two years and at least five billion dollars have produced…. what?  The Despicable with fewer votes loses. The Despicable with the larger number of votes gets to pull taffy with congress and the media for a while, until a hearing, special prosecutor, impeachment, or some other pair of concrete boots get shackled in place. But no, that does not even add up. The Despicable with the most popular votes lost, thanks to the electoral college system.  It’s hard to say which ruthless political hyena is the bigger loser. Oh yeah, but the biggest loser is our country, unfiltered and driven by idish fears where neither issues nor facts mattered in the end. Only the twin towers of fear and hate stood. Just take the gloves off and get violent. Take the mufflers off and get hostile. Turn the conscience off and spit all over the Other. Let there be no talk of reconciliation. No. No matter who won, it is a matter of Reload not Respect or Rapprochement. Fact deniers become verdict deniers and then history deniers. If you start with a pair of liars, you end with a frothing ocean of lies, breaking on our shores in wave after sickening wave of verbal garbage.

“But he lies more.”

“But her lies are worser.”

“No, he’s the worserest.”

“I know what you are, but what am I?”

And the wounded nation groans for the next generation.

I don’t ever recall the pure hatred of the other side as opposed to the firm declaration of difference in directions being outlined. My first election pitted Jimmy Carter against the un-elected, suddenly promoted in scandal, Gerald Ford. Good trivia question there:  which U.S. president was never elected president?  Oh, political science majors are drooling while googling. John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, and Chester Arthur are the others who moved from vice to full president after calamity. Death opened the door for these guys, whereas Watergate opened the door for poor old clumsy Gerry Ford, who was not even elected Vice President, to stumble through. Spiro Agnew was elected twice. Remember him? However, these stories pale by comparison to the political pornography we have been subjected to for the past two years. Death would have been more noble for the office of the President than drowning in this moral sinkhole of 2016.

The media have functioned as porn film makers. They are just giving the people what they want, so they say, while raking in record ratings and earnings. Pollsters, pundits, professional blatherers have all gotten on the porn wagon. It is its own parasitic industry, ticks feeding on the blood of a bleeding nation. Fear and hate keep audiences glued to their favorite news outlets, drinking their favorite flavor of hallucinogenic Kool Aid. The political porn stars, Don and Hill, are hideous caricatures of character, so flawed on so many levels.

And we are the insatiable audience for this reality television, twitter feed, Facebook war on civility. Peephole creepers. Is it over yet?  No. The new stink is just beginning.  That skunk odor will help sell air fresheners and cigars, and trips to mythical places that have never existed. The campaign culture bar was lowered below ground level so that future political limbo dancers will have to knee walk through Hell, heads bent backwards, sucking the dirt from the soles of the same old special interests, shamelessly squirming to dodge custom made land mines. Hey, it’s what ya gotta do.

“The name of the new boss is the same as the old boss.”  Oh, that won’t do. Let’s go full credit to the Who…

THE WHO     “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the songI’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Sure, it will be different. Sure. The triumph of fear and hate sandblasted the electorate’s moral compasses, leaving nuclear ghosts where soulful people used to reside. Ever seen a nuclear ghost?  They are the shadows of folks whose bodies were annihilated by atomic bombs in Japan.
Onward, patriots. It had to be done, this scorched earth political assault. Once we stopped seeing the Others as  human beings and demonized them, the bombs had to drop, right?
But it’s over now, right? Wrong.
Revisit Dover Beach sometime, it ends this way…
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

404. Born to be Mild

Joel has been on the lam for the past three weeks or so. Could be a month. It’s been a social and intellectual drought in his absence. However, time is sketchy. At our age time is measured in sinus infections and colonoscopies. The sky won’t rain; the chickens won’t lay; and the cows will not come home. I don’t really want the cows to come home, mind you, but that leads right into one of Joel’s favorite movies, City Slickers.Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

If you recall, several rather impotent midlife crisis New York men go out west to a real working ranch to find and flex their manhood. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Billy Crystal transforms from some sort of fragile wimpy dud Dad insurance salesman into a true cowboy hero. He brings in the herd after the real cowboy leader (Jack Palance) dies. Crystal observes, “What did you expect?  He ate bacon three meals a day.” Let this be a warning to you lard inhaling bacon lovers. Do you want this epithet on your tombstone? “Killed by nitrates seared in salty pork fat.”Image result for city slickers 1 pictures

Similarly noted in Coffee Nation, “Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” That virile (or is it viral?) spirit led our mild mannered Joel out of Turtle Town onto a world class motorcycle trip into the Ozarks with several other biker dudes from around the world. You see, he recently purchased a three wheeled Spyder motorcycle, which is worthy of much envy. But our local roads could not contain nor constrain his Steppenwolf heart that beats beneath a sharp new leather vest, bursting with high test testosterone.Image result for steppenwolf band pictures

“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway

Lookin for adventure and whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

I like smoke and lightning  heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind and this feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’, go make it happen  Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.

Like a true nature’s child  we were born, born to be mild

We can climb so high  never want to die.

Born to be mild.”

Before he left for his journey, I managed to wheedle him into a napkin will, where it was clearly stated in his inky hand, that in the event of his untimely death on the Tail of the Dragon trail, I would receive the Spyder, if it survived unscathed. I had the napkin notarized by Shirley, who calls me various men’s names and occasionally gets the right one. I was torn, however, between wanting to hear Joel’s road warrior tales and driving my new Spyder cycle. Come on, you would too.Image result for spyder motorcycles images

So, Joel has returned intact with a certain swagger that comes from deep immersion in the hot springs of masculinity. His jaw seems more square and his posture post modern, beyond framing. He announced in  his purple checked shirt that he had to leave for a meeting in Shippensburg, and thus he could not attend Coffee Nation. Wow! Just Wow! We moved out to the noisy sidewalk to do our suddenly less important business, but Peter Fonda’s stunt double remained inside, finishing something epic on his Ipad.  Eventually he emerged and put on that leather vest, a funky helmet and away he road on that Spyder, like Harry Potter… into a world we mortals could only imagine.Image result for pictures of faces of abandonment

I was left without any tales of Brave Joelysses or my much coveted Spyder cycle. I felt robbed twice, as if someone stole my wallet from the guy who stole my wallet. It hurt in an abstract sort of way if you thought about it long enough. Somewhere Shakespeare’s lines on mercy seemed reversed–

“Envy is twice cursed. Like gasoline stinks on the pumper and the pumped.

It curses he who covets and he who is immersed.

Leaving both as empty as a wheel barrow dumped.”Image result for gas pump picturesUnlike Billy Crystal Joel did not return with a calf named Norman. That would have been special, by Golly. Norman on the back seat roaring through Turtle Town.Image result for cow on a motorcycle picturesBut he did return with a huge mildewed heart. Being mild is okay, my blog warts. It allows for a comfortable move forward, while remaining grounded, safe, and homogenous. The highest state of mild is “to become the dew of mildness, also known as mildew.” Wild is for crazy risk takers who don’t wear helmets. In salsa sales mild is by far the leader, not medium or hot. Know why? You can always increase the kick of mild, but you cannot unwild the hot stuff. A jalapeno without a fever is a fake pepper and will never become a gastronomical dictator.

And that is Joel. For sixty some years he has been building up to this zippiness. Aging well like old amontillado wine. He is enjoying life uncorked now since accepting Social Security and AARP benefits. Rockin it, too.Image result for amontilladoAnd I am trying really hard not to be envious, but I am failing miserably. He has taken on mythic stature in his semi-demi-god retirement. Image result for zeus on a harley davidson images Could it be that the Sermon on the Mount passed over the mild because their inheritance was too materialistic?  “Blessed are the mild, for they shall inherit the cool cycle, hang with Motor head dudes, tame the Dragon Trail in the Ozarks, and walk as giants among measly mortals.”

Image result for walter mitty imagesTom Petty told us “If you never slow down, you never grow old”, which is a nice lyric but a very hard trick to pull off into your seventies and eighties.

In any event… I guess it’s okay to have Joel back on his Spyder. He’s the man, the myth, a giant among dwarves. All the men of Coffee Nation stood a little taller that day as he gunned the Spyder and whirled away dervishly.

“You’re a savage gift on a wayward bus,

But you stepped down and you sang to us.”

So Joan Baez glorified Bob Dylan, and so we salute you, Joel. Born to be mild.

Image result for mild mannered man pictures

 

 

 

362. Connectivity

The first text on my smart phone was from my downstairs tenant who scarfs my wifi at work… “Heads up:  Your wifi is down.” Wow, the first message of my day tells me that I have been disconnected from the world of Facebook and email and… oh no, my blog. I can’t be cut off from my psychic crutch!! What will my three secret followers held in a North Korean gulag do? I’ll have to call Dennis Rodman and Tom Cruise later to reset the linkage. International back channel diplomacy/espionage is not for the weak willed or timid tummied. It’s time to Growaset!

Well, it was coffee nation morning so I had to be off to the monkey cage. No time for silly things like cyber-connectivity. I was on my way to the beaten up couch and chairs where six of us would huddle and talk a bit too loud to be considered mannerly. Joel the rabble rouser was not in residence. He’s traveling in warm places this week and next. It’s a rendezvous with Sheila the mule in the Grand Canyon, which I will share in another post, after the preliminary hearing and terms of bail are set. Last week he tried hard to start an insurrection, suggesting that if he won the lottery he’d buy us all coffee for life, thus unseating and usurping my imperial rule. I had to beat back their fantasies of democracy. What if mules got the vote?  Do you think they would keep hauling fat tourists in and out of the Grand Canyon?  NO!!  I will never be usurped while I am busy surping my Sumatran blend. No coffee nation, no banana republic, no fundamentalist theocracy is or ever will be a democracy. But tyrants are people too. We serve a useful purpose among herd animals. Joel came to his senses and repentantly bought my coffee last Friday. A small but sincere gesture of rapprochement, which is French for detente.

Rob the young blood was already in coffee mode when I arrived. He apologized for asking me a serious question on No Thinking Thursday, but I allowed it due to the fact that we were technically ten minutes early. After all, I am a benevolent dictator. Steve rolled in wearing jeans and sneakers. Another paid day off for him. Sort of. He volunteers his accounting skills to the high school band, which he plugs shamelessly. “Hey, we’re having another spaghetti dinner next Friday. We raised all kinds of money for the marching band competition, which we hosted and won last year. FAMBU accredited. So we are.”

“And what does FAMBU stand for?”

“Oh, the Federation of American Marching Bands Unlimited. Don’t make the mistake that the last treasurer made and call them BAMBU, which is the Brotherhood of American Marching Bands Unlimited. They are posers to the throne of Martial Music. He was escorted off school grounds and roughly de-badged, that guy. Whew! We had to start with all new passwords. Lemme tell you, it was a hot mess.”

Mercifully Doug rolled in and shook hands around. I quickly diverted the band conversation to Rob and the Steelers. “So, Rob, the Steelers are done now, eh?”

“Yeah. I guess I’ll be pulling for the NFC team in the Super Bowl. I can’t get behind New England or the Broncos.”

Steve, “New England cheats all the time, right?”

All, “Yep. Steve, you go to one Ravens game and now you are a sports guru.”

Steve, “I don’t think Brady should even be allowed to play after deflate gate.”

Rob, “Yeah, the MVP of last year’s Super Bowl and he was almost suspended four games. You know the Seahawks lost that game because they were trying to make Russell Wilson the hero and not Marshawn Lynch. Wilson is nice and Lynch is not, i.e., marketable. And it backfired. So the cheater got the MVP.”

Lance, arriving fashionably late. “Let me strut my swagger, gentlemen.” Handshakes around.

Rob, “The Seahawks have never won a Super Bowl.”

BS,” Correction: they won the year before, remember? They crushed Peyton and the Broncos.”

Rob,”Oh, right.”

BS,”Doug, here is a trivia question for you. Name the only Doug who was the Super Bowl MVP.”

Lance-a-blurt, ” Doug Williams, Redskins.”

BS,” Thanks for your blurtation, Lance. You didn’t even raise your hand!”

Lance, with both hands in the air now, doing some full body butter churn torso wobble. “And, that was the strike shortened year… late 80’s, Super Bowl 22…”

BS, “Just shut up now! We were doing fine with our low football IQ until you came in showing off.”

Steve, “Deflate yourself, Lance.”

Lance, “I think not. My tee shirt says, Grown a set.”

Steve, “Don’t get me started…”

BS,”Uh oh, looks who’s riding into town. Cowboy Chuck!”

Chuck canters through the chairs with horse swagger, handshakes around.

“The girl asked me if I was in Coffee Nation. How’d she know?”

“Lucky guess or you look like the other five circus clowns in the back room.”

Chuck, “So have we solved the world’s problems yet? Cuz ya’ll was loitering like this the last time I was here…”

BS,” Which was two years ago.”

Chuck, “I can’t remember if it’s the second or third Thursday of the month…”

BS, “Shut up! Look, this is why you are a bench warmer and not a starter like Steve. He leaves one of the largest multinational corporations in the lurch almost every Thursday at 8:30 so he can run on our squirrel wheel. No excuses from Steve O. He leaves it all on the field, Chuckie. He’s a team player not some lone wolf who rolls along like a tumbleweed…”

Chuck, “I’m sorry, man.”

BS,”It’s alright, man. We just need to hug our way through it. We’re all glad that you’re here.”

Chuck, “Yeah, I need me some connectivity.”

All, “That’s right, right on. Come on down.”

BS, “As the late great Marvin Gaye said…

What’s goin on? Tell me what’s goin on. You know we’ve got to find a way, to bring some love in here today….what’s goin on?”

 

 

315. Waiting for Mohammed

It may seem strange to have a chess partner who is a young Libyan man in Turtle Town, but that’s what the deal is.  Mohammed hangs out at the coffee shop most afternoons. His mother functions as a cross between a social worker and pied piper for the lost ones who congregate around the town square. She is passionately kind to the disenfranchised and very sweet to her son, Mohammed.  I have no idea what their back story is, how they came from London to the U.S. No idea. I do know tenderness when I see it, though.

Anyway, I often wait for Mohammed to show up so that we can get in as many games as possible. We don’t talk that much, though he told me he is a poet. We thank each other at the end of every game– win, lose, or stalemate. Smiles and a handshake. “Good game.” “That was fun.” I tend to mutter Marvin Gaye lyrics while I play… “only three things for sure– taxes, death and Trouble.  Trouble man.”

He says some odd things at times.  A while ago he asked for free advice. (He knows I provide therapy.)  “My advice to you is not to ask for free advice.”

“Oh.”

Lately he said, “I am wondering if God exists. Check.”

I said, “Good, keep wondering. It’s a critical question to answer. Uncheck, you booger.”

“Why do you say that? Do you believe in God?”

“Yes, I do, but whether you do or do not believe, your answer will form a core belief and inform you about your purpose and meaning in life. Check.”

“What does that mean? Not the check, I follow that.”

“Well, have you ever seen a house being built from start to finish?”

“Sure.”

“So one day there is an empty plot of ground and someone starts dreaming and designing a lovely structure that will fit superbly on this spot. A surveyor stakes out the foundation one day and sets the corners. A while later a backhoe operator digs the footers for concrete. Eventually you get a detailed structure. Check.”

“I don’t get it. What does a house have to do with God’s existence? Uncheck.”

“Well, it’s an analogy to building a faith system. Once you break ground, (in your case it’s deciding if God exists) you begin building a structure of beliefs that connect to one another.”

“And what if I decide God does not exist? Check.”

“You still build a structure, a belief system around that core belief.”

“Oh, I thought belief systems were religions.”

“Religions are belief systems, but so are paths in science and political systems. Communism and socialism and fascism are all political belief systems that are not religions. In fact, they often outlaw religion or restrict it severely. Uncheck.”

“Hmmm. Gaddafi was religious, but he was also a total dictator.”

“Yeah, he was sort of a mutant combination of being the tribal chief, president for life, thug godfather, and well, let’s see what Hollowverse says….

“Gaddafi was quite taken with the principle of democracy. To him, multi-party, representational democracy was not truly democratic–nor was a dictatorship, though he was widely considered a dictator. And perhaps he was, but regardless, only three years after Gaddafi orchestrated a bloodless coup in Libya, he stepped down as Premier of the Libyan government, re-titling himself “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” and instituting a complex series of self-governing citizen bodies with titles like “The People’s Committees” and the “General People’s Congress.”

“Yeah, that’s a delusional belief system. ”

“He was a very bad man for a very long time. Check.”

“Yep. I wonder if he believed in God? or if he thought he was God?”

“The thing about God that stops me from believing is the evil in the world. All these innocent people who are abused and killed. Where is God for them?”

“That’s an old complaint lodged against the idea of a good, loving, all powerful God. Why would He allow evil to flourish? Uncheck.”

“So evil makes me not want to believe in God.”

“Uh huh. That’s evil’s job, though, to eliminate hope and belief in a better world. Evil destroys and pollutes and desecrates. Like Gaddafi. Because he caused so much evil, does that mean that good does not exist? God, on the other hand, if you believe in Him, originates, creates, purifies, redeems, saves. He heals what evil perpetrates. Mate.”

“I don’t think I believe that. Not the checkmate. I get that.”

“So how do you explain beauty and the order of nature? Do you think it’s all the random outcome of a bunch of random stuff? And when you see extraordinary kindness like your mother shows, how do you explain that? Did compassion for one’s fellow man just evolve out of a mud puddle like pollywogs?”

“I don’t know what are pollywogs?”

“They are evolving frogs, uh, tadpoles. It’s a stage between the frog egg and the mature frog. Actually… like you, Mohammed. You are evolving into your final adult form. Seeking the answer to whether God exists or not is part of your spiritual/intellectual growth.”

“You think so?”

“Sure. I remember reading that every thinking person must answer three questions. 1. Where did I come from?  2. Where do I go after I die?  3. What should I do between those two points?”

“I can’t answer those questions yet.”

“That’s okay, Tadpole. Did anyone every tell you that you look like Chico Marx?”

“No, who was that?”

“Groucho Marx’s older brother. Have you ever seen a Marx Brothers movie?”

“No.”

“You’re probably better off without the Marx Brothers experience.  Let’s just say they were some crazy comic brothers back in the day.”

“Do you think they believed in God?”

“Yeah, I do… at least they had to believe in miracles because their movies were incredibly stupid, and yet they made a good living from being silly.”

“Maybe I could do that too.”

“Mohammed, stand up comedy and you… I’m not seeing it.”

“No, here is a keeler joke:  How many Tunisians does it take to change light bulb?”

“You got me. How many?”

“Whole country.”

“Where’s the punch line, Mohammed?”

“Don’t you remember Arab Spring?  The Tunisians changed leaders like old light bulb.”

“Oh, yeah. Keeler, man. Let’s stick with theology.”

“But why?”

“Cuz you’re killin’ me.”

 

 

181. Sleet slides down the foggy Russian window pane

Yuk, yuk, yuk!!! The poorly lit gray world outside my warm office setting is dripping down my wide windows. It’s impressionistic sort of, except there is no gorgeous light to set the drizzles dancing with crystallized fire. I expect to see Fyodor Dostoyevski at any moment, mumbling about the Double Man in each human heart, stumbling about in his great coat muttering about civil service clerks in Imperial Russia. But it’s not St Petersburg in 1869. It’s Chambersburg, PA, 2013, two days before Thanksgiving. The odd man at my door asks if the drug rehab place is still here. “Nope. Gone seven years now, my friend.” And he leaves for his equivalent of Siberia. Weird. Maybe he was a desperate soul seeking redemption and, not finding it, is on his way to murder another unfortunate soul in an unheated apartment he shares with 12 others. And away I go trying to make sense of randomness. If not legal or scientific sense, then at least I try to pull things together into a barely plausible narrative.

Illustrations of I.S. Glazunov to the novel “The Idiot” by F.M. DostoevskyWow, how lost can a guy get? (I am referring to the guy at my door not me or Fyodor or you… but you don’t know that.) The Trans-Siberian rehab train left the station about the time Bernie Maduff came off the rails. Wonder how Bernie is doing in federal prison? And then I wonder which side of reality is more drizzly– the near freezing street scene on this side of the guy’s pupils or the backside where his optic nerve almost connects to his burned-out brain’s mother board? The same question can be asked of Bernie– which side is worse B? The prison around you or the prison inside you? And have you seen Fyodor lately? Muttering, always muttering.

I think of eccentric things when I am left unsupervised. My mind is like a shopping cart that randomly rolls along aisles collecting Pop Tarts, borsch, dental floss, pork loin, coffee, peach yogurt, light bulbs, and witch hazel rubbing alcohol. What am I going to do with all these disparate items? Not sure, but I am sure that something will turn up. A turnip, for instance, gotta get one of those. My mind is extremely associative. I glom onto anything that will stick to my throbbing fuzzy gray matter Velcro mass blob-organ. Well, here you go. My blog has hits from foreign countries. You know which country is second to the USA in traffic on my eccentric blog? The Russian Federation. True. Is True, Comrade Blogovski. My stuff is odd enough in the native tongue; I can’t imagine what Russians think. No, actually I can.

My default impersonation voice is the Russian guy. A long time ago my youngest daughter cried out in frustration to my wife, “Mom, why did you marry this man?!!” I gave her my best Kiev accent, “Yessica, it vas long vinter. Your musser vas very hungry, desparrot even. I vas last husband on shelf.” To which she screamed even louder, “Mom, he’s doing the Russian guy. Make him stop!!!” Those were good days. Now she just hits me with a pillow or a puff of contempt.

My wife’s cousin’s ex-husband grew up in Armenia. Conveniently his name is Armen. He used to talk to me at family gatherings, usually in lugubrious Solzhenitsyn-like complaints about American life. He’d sometimes end in a rhetorical question for me. Here’s an example.

“You know in old country, if you vere sick, you got aspirin. Vun aspirin. Now, here, if you get sniffles or aches, you go Valmart and they got pink bubble gum or grape, cherry, or fruit punch Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, ibuprofen, aspirin, and so on. So many you can’t see all of them at vun time. Tell me, Burrito, vaht is bayter?”

Why he thought I had an answer worth hearing, I’ll never know. People often think I am someone or something that I am not. Still, I feel compelled to answer even rhetorical questions… “Ya know, Armen, I think it’s about the heavy burden of freedom. We have a lot of choices, and a lot of choices means that you have to think more. In Old Country you had one doctor, one aspirin, one option. No mystery there. But in America we have a flurry of options. Too many it seems. But I’d rather have too many than only one. In fact, one is not an option, cuz there’s no opting besides nothing. It’s one aspirin or no aspirin. Here we have baby aspirin, 200 mg. aspirin, 500 mg. aspirin, all sorts of combinations with flu or cough medicines, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and flavors out the butt. It’s daunting, true, but at least you get to think.”

“Huh. In old country you got choice as long as you listen to Beeg Brother. We vere Leetle Brother, always. Russia vas Beeg Brother. You no make Beeg Brother mad.”

And some things never change. Our Big Brother is Big Government or Big Wall Street/Corporate America. They set the menu from which we choose. It’s freedom of a sort. What would that look like if everyone drove a black Ford Escort? Everyone had corn flakes and whole milk for breakfast?

Dull, deadly dull. So I want to celebrate creative individualism, the full color spectrum of cough syrup and analgesics. Praise competition that drives performance. Congratulate the visionaries who sorted through thousands of options and arrived at the best one.

On the other side of a free society is dull, drab conformity driven by fear. It’s similar to being addicted to opiates. If you stop or reduce your levels, you get dope sick. Marx claimed that religion was the opiate of the masses. Well, Karl, I’d like to suggest that rigid dogma of any flavor is the opiate of the masses. Whether it’s communism or consumerism, humans drink it down and can’t pry themselves from it. It’s fun watching China these days as they wrestle with their manmade dragons. The coerced conformists give all for the state while the state’s big honking plutocrats drain off billions of free market money for themselves… hey, they’re only human despite all the hogwash dogma.

So if you see Bernie or Fyodor, Karl or Mao, wish them a Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah and Black Friday from me.

“Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.“

—Steve Jobs, “Commencement Address at Stanford University“ American Rhetoric (delivered June 12, 2005)