Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Everything's Going to Be Fine-ish.

Suddenly summer.

Hard not to love this time of year. That creaky old lumbar don't pay as much mind, and the sun stays up longer than a starving cat in a tuna tree. Oh, just so you know, that's how I like to talk in the summer, like I'm back on the porch, sipping on a tall Hi-C. Matter of fact, I can still hear my old hound dog barkin', chasin' down some hoodoo there.

Born in Puyallup.

But while each season throws off its own distinct vibe, summer's mood is magnified; it's a little lazier but a lot more passionate. The quarter of all Americans who regularly attend school are abruptly handed a box of instant holiday (now with fifty percent more free time!), and we all know shit tends to happen when the kids get bored.

And aggravating our restlessness a notch further this particular solstice is a churning storm on the horizon, kicking up an angst about America's future that a lot of us can't remember previously feeling. Violence dominates our headlines and citizens are rancorously divided over whether to address it with more violence or otherwise. The president we elect in November will inherit an unprecedented hunk of disenfranchised voters from whichever side loses. Whether we like it or not, we're stuck with either a libelous Beltway lifer or a racist, peach-pallored prick. Seems pretty grim, doesn't it?

Mmm... nah. Our country has actually teetered a lot closer to the brink than we are right now (Please see World War II and Cuban Missile Crisis.). Oh, and that term "good old days"? That's about as real as those WMDs they cooked up to hornswoggle us into the Iraq boondoggle.

So, to demonstrate how our union has persevered despite taking a few shots to the pills from time to time, I'd like to highlight some of the good and bad mojo visited upon this country we love.

Summer of 1966
We move our hunting rifle from the gun rack to under the bed because of this: During August, race riots inflame much of the nation, most notably in Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois, and Lansing, Michigan. A state of emergency is declared in Cleveland, and troops are dispatched to restore order.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: On July 4, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.

And this cool thing happened: The first Star Trek episode was broadcast on September 8, further dividing America into those who love Star Trek, and nerds.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: The Men in My Little Girl's Life, by Mike Douglas. It was the only top ten hit for the famous talk-show host, and with a title like that, I can see why.

Summer of 1976
We move our hunting rifle into the closet and buy a .38 revolver because of this: In New York City, the "Son of Sam" pulls a gun from a paper bag, killing one and seriously wounding another, in the first of a series of attacks that terrorize the city for the next year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: We watched Bruce Jenner, Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinx brothers make quick work of their commie counterparts in the Montreal Olympics, dominating them until Apollo Creed's tragic beating in Rocky IV.

And this cool thing happened: The first woman is admitted to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Afternoon Delight, by Starland Vocal Band. A curious thirteen-year-old at the time, by the end of that summer I'd surmised that this wasn't about the joys of a Fudgesicle at 3:30.

Summer of 1986
We move our .38 revolver under the bed and buy a new .357 for under our pillow because of this: The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to explode, and what better reason to protect you and yours from wandering bands of deathly ill homosexuals than with that little beauty of a pistol you found under the Christmas tree last year.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Top Gun debuts, grossing $177 million and causing the firearm owners mentioned above to feel aroused and dirty. Many went on to purchase VHS players for future Top Gun screenings in the privacy of their own homes.

And this cool thing happened: During "Hands Across America," at least five million people form a human chain from New York City to Long Beach, California, to fight hunger and homelessness. Unfortunately it quickly deteriorates into a vicious game of Red Rover.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco. Wait, did I say top one-hit wonder?

Summer of 1996
We put our .38 in the glove box of the F-150 and move the .357 to the nightstand. For further protection, we purchase a Glock .45 because of this: The Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics kills two and injures 111, so y'all might want to listen up: no immigrant Islamist terror tool is going to make me a victim without tasting a headful of lead. Wait, what's that? He's a white American Christian? Whatever, I do love me a sweet new gun.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: President Bill Clinton signs the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the United Nations.

And this cool thing happened: The unemployment rate drops to 5.1%, the lowest since March 1989. House Speaker Newt Gingrich laments that five percent of the country is still slackers.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: Standing outside a broken phone booth with money in my hand, by Primitive Radio Gods. Sheer genius, as it was the only song ever written with its entire lyrics in the title.

Summer of 2006
We give our .357 to the wife, put the Glock in an ankle holster and buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle because of this: Spinach contaminated with E. coli kills two and poisons over 100 others in 20 states. We learn that leafy vegetable-based terrorism is real and if you don't believe it, explain the sneeze guard, tough guy.

But damn it, we're still a great country because: Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion. Well, at least the YouTube guy must think we're great.

And this cool thing happened: The world's tallest living tree, a 379-foot tall coast redwood (sequoia) now named Hyperion, is discovered in Redwood National Park.

Top one-hit wonder of the summer: You're Beautiful, by James Blunt. This song always gets my hopes up at the beginning because the guy has a plan, then leaves me feeling raw and empty. Damn you, Blunt!

Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully we can all agree that over the past five decades, through the good but especially the sad and horrific, we Americans have shown a way of coming together when it's least expected.

I'm certainly not expecting it this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2016

More Boyfriend Drama—a short story

The table vibrated, Cynthia's quiet ring tone set to Billy Squier's In the Dark.
You're never sure if the illusion is real.
You pinch yourself but the memories are all you feel...
She rolled onto her side and grabbed the phone. Her nerves were stupidly frazzled. Is it him? It's been three days.
Damn. It's just Heather. "Hey, Heather."
"Hi, just wondering how you're doing."
"Umm...I'm okay." Cynthia drove her fist into the pillow. "Shit! I'm trying—I really am, but I can't stop thinking about him. He hasn't called since Sunday… and it’s just making me more and more obsessed." She rolled onto her back and blew out a breath. "This isn’t good."
"Come on, Cyn, keep things in perspective. You know he's into you."
"Yeah, well, that’s the thing—I don't know. Supposedly, he's really been busy with work lately. That's what he says, anyway. Then he just shows up in the middle of the night, like he lives here. Fucking asshole."
"It's just so funny," said Heather. "I could've sworn the dude was gay when I first met him. He's in such amazing shape and wears those tight clothes. Those belts, the boots. Oh, and hello? That old guy he's always hanging with. Not sayin’. Just sayin'."
Cynthia threw off the covers. "Heather, trust me, if only you knew. Not gay. And Rob says he only hangs out with the guy because he has to. If the boss says work late, you work late."
"I know, and I totally trust your instincts, Cyn. I just have a feeling that there's a lot you don't know about him."
"Well, there's a lot that he doesn't know about me either. Like that clown I just broke up with. If he ever found out about that, we're as good as over. They used to be best friends, you know."
Cynthia's call waiting buzzed. Her heart jumped as she looked at the number. Him. "Hey, Heather, I gotta go. It's Rob. Thanks for listening. Love you, call you tomorrow."
"Bye, Honey. Love you too."
Cynthia cleared her throat and blew out a quivering breath. Gently, she thumbed the green circle. “Hi, Rob... Really? Again? Right. Mm, hmm.”
Molten rage filled her stomach. Peeling off her head band, Cynthia flung it at the TV, burst out of bed and elbowed the bedside lamp against the wall. “Tell you what, Robin, this is the fourth time you've done this, not that I'm keeping track. How about if I call you next time? You never know, though, something might suddenly come up.”
She clicked off her phone and gazed out the window into the night. The Bat Signal's familiar beam pulsed brilliantly above Gotham’s twinkling skyline.
“Hmm... " Anger subsiding after her torrent, Cynthia's eyes followed a wispy cloud as it wafted across the familiar oval.

"I suppose he could be gay.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Interview—a short story

The perky admin approached Panos as he sat trying to will his sweaty forehead dry in the overstuffed lobby chair. New York summers.

She smiled and paused, unblinking. "He'll see you now. Follow me, please." Panos rose, grabbed his ornamental briefcase and watched the woman’s ass as she led him inside. Her beautiful hand opened the door to the sun-splashed corner office, then slid back and she disappeared.

The white-haired man sprung up from behind the massive mahogany desk. His eyes were intense, a little Christopher Walken bulgy, his manicured hand gracefully swooping in. "Panos, Bob. Pieasure to meet you. Please, sit."

"Thank you for seeing me, sir."

"Hey, call me Bob. Being called 'sir' makes me feel like I'm talking to--well--just about everybody."

Panos forced a chuckle, unbuttoned his jacket and sat.

The billionaire settled into the leather couch next to Panos, "I've taken the liberty of reading through your résumé. Impressive, indeed. But just so you know, we've vetted hundreds of people for this position. Matter of fact, we we're still not done."

"Oh, yes, sir," said Panos. "Par for the course. Regardless, I’m honored to be able to see you personally."

"Well yes, thank you. So, let's get started. Says here that shortly after graduating, you signed on with Monsanto. Talk about a PR challenge! What did you glean from that experience?"

"Well, sir, I suppose my biggest lesson was that an elected official's opinion can be modified far more easily than corn seed, yet either can lead to vast financial reward for the stakeholder."

"I see. And then you accepted a position with Arthur Andersen.Your largest client was a company called Enron. Tell me about that."

Panos knew this one was coming. "Sir, have you ever had an itch on your back that you couldn't reach? Arthur Andersen and Enron each had itches, and they discovered that if they embraced each other, their itches could be simultaneously scratched. A lot of people became very wealthy from this relationship, and fortunately, I got out of there before some people made some mistakes."

"And then you came on board at Halliburton?"

"Correct. Takeways there? I’d say when it comes to government contracts, 'no-bid' equals 'no lid'." Panos was hoping the old guy would at least crack a smile, but nothing. 

"From there," Goldman Sachs enlisted your services. Tell me about that."

Panos stared out the window, taking in the Chrysler Building and Empire State in the hazy distance."Let me put it this way. When your job is hiding the proverbial razor blade in the financial carameled apple, eventually some trick-or-treater’s tonsils are going to be nicked, and..."

"Okay, you know what? Just stop right there. I think I've heard enough."

Shit, thought Panos. Too graphic. Should've known with this old dude.

Mr. Kraft bounced up like a teenager, stopping inches from Panos’ still-sweating brow.

"I think we've found our man. Congratulations, Panos. Welcome to the New England Patriots."

Panos took a step backward and put out his hand. Kraft ignored the gesture and engulfed him in a suffocating hug.