The Beginning of the End of Football

This post is from 2016 and was copied from The Way Back Machine internet archive.  I destroyed my database and thought all the old posts were lost.  Since this was written 99% of NFL player’s brains examined have CTE.

A few years ago, football crazed friends living on a boat, started appearing at our home just before kick off time with beer and snacks.  This is Seahawks country, so it was a fun year to watch.  We won the Super Bowl, hooray.

I hadn’t followed football since I stopped playing, in 1987.  Sucked into the drama, the savagery, the last-minute heroics of Russel “God talks to me during games” Wilson, I got the fever.

I began listening to sports talk radio on my way to work, something I had chided friends about in the past.  I always wondered how anyone, even hardcore sports fans, could listen to the endless, cliche’ ridden yammering.  I discovered that filling 24 hours of airtime with clever sports banter is a mildly interesting art form in which a hyper focused, bordering on hysterical passion for all things sports, can infect. The combination of uninvited guests choosing for me how I would spend my Sundays, and a dramatic, entertaining team full of characters, pulled me into the vortex.  After a few weeks, I was a willing participant, wondering when our guests were going to arrive, fussing over beer inventory, getting ready.

Soon, I was in the dummy bubble, wondering how the pass Wilson threw in the fourth quarter, the one that would have turned the tide, was ruled an incompletion!  Before long, I became a daily sports talk radio listener-a fan, a grown man swept up in meaningless drama, and having fun with it.

On they droned, day after day.  Does Russel Wilson get the respect he deserves?  Is there really an East Coast sports media bias against our Hawks? Where does coach Pete Carroll rank among active coaches?  Who are the leaders in that locker room?  What happened to our offensive line last week? When are these guys going to wake up and realize they need each other? Slowly, the game soaked into my consciousness, until it seemed normal to foam and blather about nick knack details upon details upon conjecture, wrapped in testosterone soaked lust for victory at all costs.  Go Hawks!

The last second blunder (an ill-advised play call that resulted in a turnover a few yards away from the winning score) that cost Seattle the Super Bowl last season, caused an amount of suffering for fans akin to a mass casualty incident involving children.  Callers wept, the sports talk guys, lost in shock, careened between subdued resignation and howling rage at the call, the coach who made the call, the head coach who could have stopped the call, the players who failed to execute…on and on.

A year later, they are still talking about The Play.  Having recovered from my Fever, I now listen from a dispassionate perspective.  I admit to enjoying a Seahawks loss for two reason, I don’t care, and secondly, the Monday morning whining is usually entertaining.  And often fascinating.

Football Fans, Men (mostly), who are generally seen as lunk-headed cretins, obsessed with plastic breasted cheerleaders, cheese dip, beer, and the perceived brutal simplicity of football, are more than capable of intricate analysis, of parsing the strategic and logistical aspects of the game, but also the on and off-field psycho-drama between teammates, coaches, fans and opposing players. Factors in play during preparation for next weeks game are fluid, complex, and discussed with a combination of cold analytic precision and nuanced, emotional tea-leaf reading that would impress Oprah.  You can’t help but wonder what the world would be like if millions of football fans felt the same vicarious tribalism, hyper focus, and emotional commitment towards ANYTHING of consequence.

Imagine teams of renowned physicists wearing brightly colored uniforms, taunting each other in pre-debate interviews, making millions a year after becoming top tier free-agents, battling it out week after week in front of 50-80 thousand screaming fans, with millions watching at home, as they discuss quantum mechanics, and the possibility that we are living in a multiverse, instead of a universe.

The beauty of gaming lies in clearly defined rules and procedures, and the human body’s ability to perfect feats of strength, grace and poetic finesse toward some end, either individually or as part of a team.  Add controlled violence, territorial conquest and complex strategy, and you’ve got an addictive, passion stirring, goldmine of a sport.

People, over-worked and rattled by life’s ocean of gray have-to’s, want clarity, drama, excitement and gore.  This seems universal in the human experience, think jousting, the Olympics, or Roman gladiatorial arts.  We have always the craved vicarious slaughtering of opponents, or out groups.  Games of restrained savagery have been useful outlets for our innate blood lust, our collective Champion fetish.

Over time, the levels of brutality we find acceptable change.  The arch doesn’t move steadily away from outright killing of opponents to gloved pummeling, but rather, ebbs and flows back and forth on a continuum of violence, depending on era driven norms and cultural idiosyncrasies. Yanomamo young men, to prove their stamina and toughness, engage in ritualized beating contests that leave participants coughing up blood from repeated blows to their purposely exposed abdomens.  Ritualized war is an acceptable substitute for the real thing. Which, despite a general softening, or evolution away from our brutish past, remains hardwired.  We seem to get this unseemly trait naturally.  Research indicates that chimpanzees are partial to assassinations, and murder for greater access to territory, mates, food and status.  We are well-groomed savages, smart enough to have decided that for the most part, it’s better to play at slaughter, than to do what comes natural.

Football, in its earliest form, was little more than drunken mob riots.  In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt met with college officials to design rules, attempting to limit deaths and injuries.  The November 27th, 1905 edition of The San Francisco Chronicle reads “Nineteen Killed On Gridiron.”

Two players died on the last game of the college season.  It continues:

“Among the injuries that have not resulted fatally are: nineteen broken collar bones, and shoulders, thirty-one broken legs, nine broken arms, nineteen fractures to some portion of the head, three broken ribs, three spinal injuries, and three concussions of the brain.  Reforms Suggested.”

With rules in place, state of the art safety equipment in use, and EMS on the sidelines, Ninety two young men died playing high school football between 2005-2004.  Seven young men died in 2015.  Long odds, given the number of players, but still, your odds of dying playing American football rank between scuba diving and Grand Prix racing, 1 in 50,000.

Living your life based on statistical probabilities is not living your life.  How many great experiences are at least partially dangerous, foolhardy, risky, or otherwise not recommended?

There is a tipping point though, a point at which common sense, scientific research, statistics and eventually public opinion, can catch up with almost any favored pastime, no matter how beloved…besides NFL football, which is almost bigger than Jesus.  But, if the pipeline of new players vanishes, even the mighty NFL could go the way of the Roman Games.

New research into chronic brain injuries sustained playing football makes it hard to imagine the game surviving for long, certainly not at the youth level. When I started playing organized football at the age of nine, my aunt, a nurse, went ballistic on my parents for allowing me to do something so dangerous. She had seen the injuries.  We thought she was nuts.

As of September 2015, 131 of 165 “football brains” had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  87 of 91 NFL football brains had CTE. CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease found in individuals who have sustained repetitive brain trauma.  There are numerous stories of football players descending into depression, cognitive difficulties, irritability and suicide.  It was believed only players with long careers, players taking several thousand blows to the head for many years, could be affected.  Several cases have come up recently where the brains of dead young football players are, unexpectedly rife with the disease.  Michael Keck was 25 when he died.  16 years of football left his brain deformed and full of the signature protein of CTE.

Turns out, my aunt was right.  Research shows those who played tackle football before the age of 12 face a higher risk of altered brain development.  I cannot comprehend how this intuitive and obvious point could have been completely overlooked for a hundred years.  If a grade school gym teacher invented a game where third graders smacked each other over the head with padded bats, two or three hours a day, for three or four months, he or she would be arrested.  There is a painfully obvious reason why we don’t have grade school boxing or mixed martial arts teams.  Basic parenting instincts tell us that growing brains are fragile.  Go figure.

If you never played football, (or other contact sports), it’s hard to grasp how deeply ingrained the culture of denial is, related to injuries.  You are always getting hurt when you play football.  There are endless small injuries, abrasions, bruises, muscle soreness, strained knees, shoulders, mangled fingers, smashed feet etc.  These aren’t even considered injuries, because if they were, most games would be forfeited before they started for lack of “healthy” players.  If you make it to varsity high school football, you are willing and able to play through a certain amount of pain.  I suppose stoicism is character building, but it also makes it difficult for coaches, or even players themselves, to know which form of pain is actually dangerous, and which is just part of the price you pay to legally beat the shit out of people. The most dangerous aspect of the game is this lack of distinction.  I missed exactly one practice with a sprained back, and was treated like a traitor.  I was told,  “You are a linebacker, you’re not Allowed to be hurt.”  So, I played hurt.  If I took enough aspirin, or whatever it was, and applied this molten lava strength chemical, sort of a nuclear version of Icy Hot, my back went numb for several hours, allowing me to get through practice and games.  I wasn’t the champ, everyone was always hurt to some degree, but the only guys on the sidelines had sustained compound fractures.  One particularly tough bastard, was playing a week after dislocating his elbow on my head!

I played before the water era.  This bit of absurdity might give perspective. Until my senior year, water was for sissies.  A state law, put in place after a few heat stroke deaths, required coaches to grudgingly give us water every 45 minutes.  Before the law, you had to earn water.  So, if practice (in 95 degree, August heat) wasn’t brisk enough, you didn’t get to take a sip.  Water is for tennis players!  I don’t know where this deranged attitude started, but it was more or less universal for many years.

The game is changing, no doubt.  Hits that were commonplace when I played in the 80’s, warrant suspensions now, even in the NFL.  The problem for the future of football is two-fold, and in my opinion, insurmountable.  The culture of “toughness” inherent in the game, which leaves coaches and players unable or unwilling to call an injury an injury, coupled with increased knowledge of the risks involved, especially at the youth level, probably means we are not going to have a game that resembles football in twenty years.  Increased awareness often creates cognitive dissonance, a painful psychological state in which new information collides so completely with old paradigms, it is ignored for as long as possible.  Football is, by far, our most popular sport, and is so captivating, until recently, it wasn’t news that every year 12 kids, on average, die playing. CTE, and the growing wake of broken middle-aged men tossed aside by the NFL like old milk cows, and the formerly ignored, but now, painfully obvious idiocy of youth football, have made it impossible to look the other way.

World Gone Wrong ?

Did you know the devastation in Huston is a byproduct of climate change and therefore, is our fault?  North Korea wants to start WWIII for no discernible reason, besides the apparent insanity of KJU.  Vladimir Putin is responsible for everything bad that happens.  America is being consumed by Nazism. Resistance must include the elimination of free speech and street brawling. Attempting to enforce immigration laws is a hate crime. Black Lives Matter when they are taken in a narrative friendly manner (at the hands of white police officers), but do not matter when taken in off narrative scenarios like inner city combat between rival gangs, or as part of ongoing ethnic cleansing operations in Libya, carried out by US trained and funded terror groups.

It is happening.  The American collective mind is unraveling.  The slide into mass psychosis is accelerating. and nothing can stop the derangement.

Right?  Well, maybe.

Stepping back, removing one’s nose from the hungry wood chipper of social media and cable news, is like flip switching between two universes.  Outside it’s mostly sunny.  There is a party tonight for a relocating coworker.  The Mariners could somehow stumble into the playoffs, despite absorbing the most injuries to a pitching staff in the history of baseball.  People are suffering horribly in Huston.  There are reports of both heroism and looting.  Life is churning along; the beauty, hard to fathom, the tragic, seeping in…and we do our best.  But, in the dark chute of the wood chipper, all human civility was terminated when B. Obama left office and Donald “The Cretin” Trump poisoned our collective soul with his toxic cocktail of hucksterism, proud ignorance, hate speech and hubris.

How does a nation that twice elected a half black man as President, explode with latent Nazism, ten months after he leaves office?

It doesn’t.

The American, or perhaps universal human tendency to go soft in the head when drowned in ginned up hysteria, leaves us susceptible to a kind of demarcated blindness in which ONLY the current media hype is relevant.  The hype exists outside of time and is therefore context free.  The hysterics explode in every direction and people are reminded, yet again, that they are essentially powerless.  This powerlessness increases the need for JUSTICE, leading to the consumption of more hysterical media, hoping against hope to score a terminal blow against INJUSTICE.  Every few weeks a knew locus of outrage adds another log to keep the fire blazing and lining the pockets of media moguls, teleprompter readers, bloggers, YouTube screamers and crazed radio hosts.

Here’s some context.  READ THIS.

To state the obvious- there will always be hate groups because there will always be disaffected people of one sort or another, in any society.  The dominant group becomes more dangerous, more susceptible to hateful ideologies when stressed enough, economically or otherwise.  If history is any gauge, their numbers will rise and fall according to perceived external stressors, or lack thereof.

Trump must be viewed with this in mind.  He is a symptom of multifaceted, mostly white rage- at its core- rage at a hopelessly corrupt political system, wage stagnation, skyrocketing costs of almost everything and a burgeoning cult of political correctness whose fuel is hatred of all things “white.”  White self loathing is all the rage now and whites are overdosing and killing themselves in record numbers.  It follows that the dregs of the dominate culture (whitey), will seek out like minded idiots to revel in asinine master race narrative in order to stave off the perceived destruction of the white race. They are delusional, dangerous and should be seen as a stark warning that something, or many things are going wrong.

Worse, Antifa’s proud usage of goonery and calls for the end of free speech, are unwittingly playing into the would be Nazi moron’s half baked narrative in which whites must crush lesser races who seek to destroy them.  I submit that the Antifa folks and the KKK/Nazis are both victims of twisted logic. One lives in a fantasy world where a supreme race exists to dominate all others, the other believes social justice can be achieved through violence and speech policing.  Both are subject to the same general economic stagnation and political disenfranchisement (real and perceived), and both serve the existing power structure they claim to be at war with,  by growing the level of divisiveness that serves keep us exactly where we are.

More worse, media as it exists today, is perfectly designed to fracture and derange groups of people more efficiently than ever before.  The scary question we have to ask ourselves is, is it too late?  Can we speak hard truths and be heard over the groaning masses on each side convinced the only answer now, is violence?

The vast majority are either completely tuned out or mildly traumatized, but not sufficiently enraged to do anything about…whatever locus of rage and terror is in service of the system this week.  This also serves to keep the power structure exactly as it is.  See how this works?

 

 

 

Clarity of the Social Media Rabble

Idiot harvesting is big business today.  Some claim it’s the only game in town. Social media platforms surround us with like minded rubes united by a pathological need to be unaware of nuance, context or reality.  Clicks equal dollars and there is no going back.  What to do as the great American spirit is packaged into tiny capsules of addictive rage?  A smart person would simply turn away from the infestation and run to higher ground.  But we are getting dumber by the hour.  The sad joke is that each of us believes our eyes and thumbs have a unique perspective, a more real conception of the world than anyone else does, that our bubble is the virtuous bubble.  Pause to consider some event in your life that was either highly exhilarating, or horrifyingly disturbing, some moment that could be taken out of context and be polarizing when considered in a thoughtless manner.  Consider how you came to be in that specific place at that specific time to witness or experience the event, then ponder all that had to fall in line like a well crafted script to make the event possible, consider the complexity involved, the happenstance, intent, unconscious desires etc… Now Imagine a singular photo of the event being transmitted around the idiot harvesting universe.  How could anyone but you really understand all that went on?  The idiots would divide into prescribed camps and celebrate or demonize you and your event, not as a way of seeing, or of understanding, but rather, as a way of mentally masturbating themselves to achieve righteousness orgasm. Social media’s usefulness is quickly being overshadowed by dangerous levels of mindless polarization…that feed clicks…and clicks equal dollars.  Things can only get worse.

Sunny the Bigot?

In her Guardian article Why the lack of Indian and African faces in Dunkirk matters, Sunny Singh does an amazing job describing the horrors of identity politics, especially considering the amount of concrete she carries around between her ears.

BBC reports-

Historian John Broich says the Indian soldiers in Dunkirk were “particularly cool under fire and well organised during the retreat.”

“They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war,” he told Slate.

Singh suggests director Christopher Nolan is a racist bigot for only showing people of color in one shot.  Given that, according to an actual historian, there were perhaps a few hundred Indian soldiers out of hundreds of thousands at Dunkirk, the one fleeting shot would seem to be historically accurate.  Instead of comprehending how film narrative is built and tension and pacing is maintained, Singh’s racist radar detects sinister motives behind the film’s WHITEWASH.

Does this removal of those deemed “foreign” and “other” from narratives of the past express a discomfort with the same people in the present? More chillingly, does it also contain a wish to excise the same people from a utopian, national future? 

In the fractured reality Sonny Singh lives in, white filmmakers not illustrating the deeds of non whites obviously are trying to create an all white England. She continues in the same manner for most of the article.  Perhaps a film making class would be instructive.  Could it be that Nolan chose to limit the characters to white British men because the vast majority of those at Dunkirk happened to be white British men?  Was it a sinister racist plot to erase people of color from the past and the future, or was it a choice made to simplify a chaotic situation into a comprehensible narrative.  What is more likely, Nolan and his racist minions are part of a not so secret cabal to annihilate and expunge the presence of non white participants in WWII in order to begin the process of racial purification in Europe, or that Nolan produced a stylized piece of entertainment with the hopes of kicking ass at the box office?

“Dunkirk is not a war movie, it’s a survival story, and foremost a suspense film,” claims Nolan.  Is his claim a smokescreen for racist, white nationalist tendencies?  A quick look into his bio seems to suggest he is a very successful director of commercial movies…most of which are suspense films.

To follow Singh’s logic, it is an act of racist aggression every time a film is made that does not represent exactly the racial component of any given place at any given time.  To protect Singh’s sensibilities production companies will need to hire historians and demographics experts to meet her lofty demands of perfect racial historical representation, narrative be damned.  Artistic expression should be limited to dressed up demographic studies to insure the inclusion of everyone and defeat the forces of the great WHITEWASH.

Singh could have written an article describing the heroism and sacrifices made by people of color in the British empire during WWII and called for the next up and coming young filmmaker to tell their story.  What a fascinating film that could be.  Instead, she chose to see racism.  She chose to suggest that Nolan and his ilk are really making films to purify England of undesirables.

Could it be that Sunny Singh is a racist bigot?

 

 

 

MIND ON FIRE PODCAST

Recently, after being subjected to one of my verbal screechfests regarding political matters, a good friend suggested I could make a lot of money as a right or left wing nutball, stoking the flames of hatred burning so brightly in America today…if I wanted to.  His joke made me consider how often I batter friends and family with random thoughts related to issues I’ve become obsessed with.  This has lead to an obsession with my obsessions and the birthing of the Mind on Fire Podcast.  Episode 1 considers everyone’s favorite topic, Taxation.  Keep you posted…

Travel Log- Kauai

“Angiostrongyliasis, also known as rat lungworm, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by a parasitic nematode (roundworm parasite) called Angiostrongylus cantonensis.”

We made it to the airport with a reasonable amount of time to spare (although not preposterously early, as I prefer) carrying two 49lb suit cases, four carry on’s, a collapsible sleeper (large baby crib), a multi-strapped car seat rated to 40 lbs, and a sturdy eight wheeled stroller containing our two year old daughter.

At what appeared to be the space where you enter the easily retracted seat belt human funneling fencing to the baggage weighing and tagging area, stood a permanently annoyed middle aged woman lurching and snapping at dumbfounded, bag laden passengers for not first grappling with the line of boarding pass verifying machines clearly marked as the first step in becoming a passenger for those inclined to gaze upwards 12 feet before reaching the checked baggage weigh in and tagging kiosks at the herding maze’s end. The skyward signage made it necessary for Alaska Airlines to position surly staffers unfit for duty elsewhere, or perhaps those being punished for tardiness or calling in sick too often, at what would be (if marked properly) the boarding process’s second step- beginning your travel day with a scolding at the hands of an understandably miserable person, barely able to hide her contempt for us, for herself, for somehow having come to this, and for life in general.  I felt sorry for her and for all humans, with our elaborate systems and technical brilliance, all morphing and changing in a whirlwind to contort into the shape of some unknowable plane of stasis where all of this brain spawned lunacy produces painlessly whatever desired effect- which, despite our best efforts, remains permanently just out of reach.  The sign could not be lowered.

The baby, stricken with something, feverish and with empty stomach (having barfed up her breakfast), made weak sounds of protestation as my wife deftly shifted her focus to the cold faced machine standing between us and vacation. I stood, puffy in the head from prescribed Xanax, and waited.  Sweat was visible on her forehead and trickled down my back.  The smell of jet fuel slithered between us.  Arriving cars honked and jerked awkwardly at open spaces where passengers could be let off, often sandwiching in those trying to escape, building knots of sideways cars driven by angry friends and relatives roped into airport duty.  We had packed for various weather contingencies out of habit and were drastically over burdened with very heavy options.

TIP- You don’t need anything besides swimming gear, a few pairs of shorts, undies, T-shirt etc. when going to Kauai. It is always at least warm, with blazing heat in the middle of the day.  Even the rain is warm.  Minimalism is the order of the day.

The machine accepted our info, but failed to spit out the required boarding pass, so we were grudgingly permitted into the herding maze by the angry woman who claimed the machine had been disabled by the likes of us yanking on the boarding pass prematurely, somehow gumming up its vital parts.

The adult form of A. cantonensis is only found in rodents. However, infected rodents can pass larvae of the worm in their feces. Snails, slugs, and certain other animals (including freshwater shrimp, land crabs, and frogs) can become infected by ingesting this larvae; these are considered intermediate hosts. Humans can become infected with A. cantonensis if they eat (intentionally or otherwise) a raw or undercooked infected intermediate host, thereby ingesting the parasite. 

I have grown to despise travel of any kind.  Real effort is required for me to be in the right frame of mind, a state of willful self delusion in which I assume the personality of a normal person who longs to “get away,” to visit exotic places, to pursue family oriented adventures.  My hatred of travel comes from a sad and in my case, burgeoning, stick in the mud tendency; a state of being often seen in aging men who perceive extra routine maneuvering as temporary madness to be avoided.  I am not a fan of this way of thinking, but recognize its strange allure pulling at me, somehow in proportion to the size of my gut and ass.  Having lived chaotically for decades, I now crave sameness, stability and some measure of predictable order.  In other words, I have become exceedingly boring.  Luckily, I am married to a woman who helps me shake these habits with statements like, “You could get sick and die at any moment, so we are taking a vacation.  There is no point in waiting for a better time than now.”  Months ago, her wise words shifted the gears of my head from resistance to acceptance and I was on board, even excited to have our routine disrupted in an exotic paradise locale.  I participated in hours of YouTube video watching, oohing and aahing at the sites we would soon experience for ourselves.  As we were about to leave, a series of news stories tossed my newfound excitement down a flight of stairs into a pit of deranged paranoia. Rat Lung Worm virus was making headlines. Significantly higher numbers of tourists were left helpless and in horrific pain over the past few months as the parasite literally wormed into the meat of their unsuspecting brains.  There is no treatment.  A woman described child birth as a walk in the park compared to the pain she experienced at the tiny hands of the RLWV.  I tried not to poison the experience by becoming hysterical, but I couldn’t stop reading about the goddamn parasite.  The articles ranged in tone from- All you have to do is wash the fruit and produce you eat and nothing bad will happen to you! To, we have no idea why this is spreading so rapidly and in many of the new cases we cannot determine how the victims came in contact with this destructive parasite!  Did I mention-

THERE IS NO CURE!

Victims are left incapacitated for weeks, months or years depending on the life cycle of the invader who cannot reproduce once inside a human host.  So, for a few days in paradise you are left with a massive hospital bill, no job, the lingering psychological effects from prolonged physical torture and a worm corpse slowly decomposing in your brain.  Or not…

As we battled our way onto the plane, grappling with our gear and constantly double checking the location and relative stress levels of our children, then partially disrobing and item wrangling at security, I questioned the mission, wondering if paying to enter RLWV territory was an act of madness.  As we were digested by security and spat out shoeless into the screened bowels of the airport, I pictured our baby girl experiencing pain at the highest imaginable level, our soon to be ten year old son scarred emotionally for life, his boyhood book ended by paralysis and years of hellish, unceasing pain.  We scurried, found the gate and enjoyed priority boarding, which is a great convenience for those tempting fate and travelling with toddlers.  Once crammed into our seats, the now fully formed and wondrous cloud of Xanax told me it was OK, nothing bad would happen, these kinds of horrors always hit other people and usually they have done something stupid, increasing their chances of transmittal, like eating a salad, or forgetting to wash their bananas.  The Xanax also reminded me how rare airplane disasters are.

“It was like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone, in my chest and in the back of my neck. The majority is in your head and the pain is just excruciating.”

The next five hours are hazy due to the Xanax and beer and my inability to stop dozing into little pockets of near sleep as my wife attempted to entertain our baby enough to keep her from screaming, while settling turf disputes between her and her brother, wars over cracker distribution and headphone induced melees.  I thought I was helping on an equal footing, but was asked to maybe take a half on the flight home so I could help out instead of drooling and gazing at the nothing space between my face and the seat in front of me.

“It was like my nerve endings snapping in my feet. I was feeling like there was fire ants, hundreds of them, crawling on my feet . . . like a luau of fire-ants.”

As the flight dragged on, beautifully smooth, with very slight turbulence nudging us from side to side, the baby slept, then woke bleary eyed and quiet. Something was wrong.  Her silence and inactivity, set off alarm bells.  Gone was the never ending chatter, the squirming, the testing of boundaries, the snuggling and intermittent shrieks of joy.

On the ground, the first striking thing about paradise is the heat and humidity’s ability to envelope and nearly smother the temperature delicate Northwesterner.  It was like deplaning into a vat of soup.  The Lihue airport is small and dingy compared to the sprawling, art slathered Seatac.  Once reunited with our checked luggage we stood in the heat waiting for a shuttle to the rental car, wondering what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into.  As the Xanax faded, I reawakened to find I was in fact very excited to explore Kauai with my family, despite the heat and discomfort and exhaustion produced by sitting in cramped quarters for five hours nibbling on peanuts, climbing over and around strangers, urinating in a moving phone booth and fretting holes in my invisible Xanax security blanket about looming Ratworms and the statistically possible air disaster.  Once delivered to our rental car company, the kids and I lingered in the shade watching locals towel dry freshly washed, brand new looking cars.  After about fifteen minutes, just as my wife emerged carrying the paperwork and keys, or daughter projectile vomited onto the sidewalk what looked like blood and the entrails of a rat (strawberry something eaten during the flight), causing a broad shouldered woman sitting on a bench to gag and run away.  We asked for a hose and were led to our waiting car.

With my baby girl covered in sunscreen, wrapped in a towel and curled in my lap, I went in and out of consciousness to the sound of the wind and far off crashing waves.  We sat among the chickens (Kauai is covered in chickens, supposedly descendant of a rag tag group of escapees who busted out during a hurricane) our long, adjustable sun chairs placed in the shade of the cabana. My boy was burning in the sun, his milk white skin unable to absorb the pounding sun’s radiation despite multiple layers of 4,000 SPF sunscreen.  His excitement over endless water slide repetitions fueled by the 27,000 grams of sugar poured into his shaved ice lunch, made it impossible for him to follow simple orders like, “get the hell out of the sun for a few minutes.”  The chicken closest to me made cooing sounds as she gathered her chicks under her in the sand.  I held mine as she slept.  In front of us, a young German couple read books; the Fraulein on her stomach in the sun, the young man, tediously adjusting his chair to remain perfectly centered in the patch of shade cast by a tree.  He applied sunscreen every 15 minutes in an obsessive way, behind the ears, between his toes, adjusted his trunks, moved the chair, read his book for ten minutes, then repeated the process.  Closer to the pool, a French couple plopped themselves into the pool, the young man standing on his hands, trying to impress his partner and failing.  The heat was starting to feel good.  The mai tias, sacraments to recumbent lethargy, were plentiful.  Charge it to our room? Why yes.  We lounged, but couldn’t relax completely because the baby was ill to the point where we determined a hospital visit would be needed if her fever didn’t break.  RLWV was lurking.  Ever vigilant, I kept looking for evidence of slug encroachment on our turf.  I was also suspicious of marauding chickens, the shifty bastards.  Surely they could drag a knuckle across an infected slug trail and spread the incurable parasite like wildfire.  Mama chicken, all wide and puffy protecting her chicks, remained still and content next to me, but the roosters were actively seeking out rivals to intimidate and below at.  Who knows where they’d been.  I threw sand at a surly fellow with an amazing red tail.  He scurried away, cocking a beady eye at me from a safe distance.

We awoke in comfortable beds to find the baby had shed her fever and was hungry.  From there, I let go of my parasite fear and was swept up in the deep narcotic of hardcore relaxation punctuated by unforgettable tourist type adventures with verbose tour guides who drug our pasty flesh through the bush and along the coast with real flair, and a bit of cruelty.

Kauai was as advertised.  The Na Pali coast tour was a highlight for all of us, besides the member of our party who became seasick and was shown no mercy by the boat captain, who extended our tour chasing yellow fin tuna as she and a handful of other victims heaved the contents of their stomachs over the rollicking boat’s edge.  The coast seems virtually untouched by humans, with massive outcroppings that look like frozen three dimensional sound waves.  There are caves with black stone and coral pounded by water so blue, it doesn’t seem real.  We swam briefly in the warm water and were nearly carried away.  I recommend the Kauai Backcountry Adventures float trip for adults and kids as young as 8 or 9.  The hour long float moves through a system of canals and tunnels used in the 1870’s to move sugar cane and is both invigorating and relaxing.

A spell is cast on Kauai, a kind of hypnotic calm conducive to rum drinking and long periods of silence punctuated by dips in the pool or bouts with the surf. The surf and wind are in harmony, lulling you into an expansive trance, erasing days, imploding your will to gnaw on stress or to be concerned about anything besides what’s for dinner.

We avoided the dreaded Ratworm, survived a second flight, and vowed to return with a third of the luggage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born Again…

With a new layout, this site should be easier to use on a variety of devices. Thanks to everyone for visiting, shopping and commenting…much more content on the way, including a short story compilation and a book about the 2016 election.

COLLECTED POEMS 2015-16- On Sale

The last two years have been tumultuous, beautiful, harrowing- sad beyond belief and life affirming all at the same time.  We lost people we love, gained a baby girl, a house and a new community to call home.

I went on an unexpected poetry rampage, writing 164 poems in about a year and a half.  The collection represents perhaps the strongest, or most powerful works, some of which have been published in various magazines and quarterlies.

COLLECTED POEMS 2015-16 

Money Talk

I’d forgotten the power of the “so, how much money do you make?” faux pas to enrage in a uniquely immediate way, as if a fire had appeared in the couch, until my nine year old son aimed the question at his parents.

I flashed on the time I blurted the question out- just before dinner one summer…I believe the response went something like, “THAT is none of your business.” Our son persisted, wanting to know why it was forbidden to reveal our monthly cash flow to a fourth grader.  I stumbled, but my wife interceded, describing it as a kind of security concern, a softening of the none of your business line, but he wasn’t buying it.  Eventually relied on the “none of your little business young sir” approach, and he asked for a cookie as a kind of payoff for his silence on the issue.

His curiosity inspired me to do a little digging.  Have we recovered from 2008?  How is your average person fairing in 2017?

Those seeking office want to stress the impending or realized economic ruination of entire regions or demographics (usually what used to be the middle class), while those in office, or of the ruling party describe a land of plenty burgeoning with opportunity and the promise of more good things to come.  As is always the case, reality is the enemy of everyone in this case.  THE MARKETS require perpetual attitudinal upselling, as do sellers of anything.  Value is perception as they say- so the crazed eyes of Perception must be closely controlled and protected from off narrative doses of reality. So, what is the current financial state of the nation?

One measure speaks volumes.  Half of us cannot come up with 500 bucks to cover an unexpected emergency.  Despite job growth and a slight uptick in wages, the cost of basics like healthcare, childcare and food are eating up any gains made.

The short answer is- we are dining on a sinking ship.

Maybe our ship needs to sink, forcing us to consume less, rethink what is important, gain perspective on what we really need as opposed to what we have been conditioned to think we want.  You can find as much doom and gloom forecasting as you can handle. Here’s one.   Half of Baby Boomers have little or no retirement savings.  This fact alone is going to change how we live.  It will take some getting used to, but we stand to gain a lot living as we did for thousands of years, with our extended family.