Buster Dozer

Buster Dozer
Dozer is Buster Posey's biggest fan.

In my natural habitat...

In my natural habitat...
The author of Mark's Work, next to an AC/DC plant...

Self-portait

Self-portait
Life is a balance...

HappyDay Farms

HappyDay Farms
Great success!

Family power

Family power
Love is the greatest power.

A face in the window...

A face in the window...
A glimpse into Paradise.

It's a new day, yesterday.

It's a new day, yesterday.
The morning the sky caught fire...

Just pause for a moment.

Just pause for a moment.
Beauty abounds!

If you have seen one sunset, you have seen them all, said no one ever.

If you have seen one sunset, you have seen them all, said no one ever.
Part of the ritual of being at the beach...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

markyboy1231@hotmail.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Facing the Music


This is the third and final installment in my tawdry tale of still one more indiscretion involving cannabis, in which I try to prevent my son's wedding from being shut down prematurely. Part One, "Encore!" and Part Two, "I Fucked Up," precede this grand finale, so here goes.

Facing the Music

“What do you want?” The speaker, who was addressing none other than me, was shaped like a small blockhouse and was at least half my age. His ham-like face was rounded on all four sides, his apple cheeks and chin were dusted with a sparse growth of light-colored whiskers, and he was wearing a red plaid, long-sleeved shirt. 

He stared implacably at me through ice-blue eyes, as though I were nothing more significant than a writhing maggot, while one of the other two men in the room actually put one hand over his mouth, and giggled like a middle-school girl.

Easy does it; keep your wits about you now.

“I would like to talk about what just came down, upstairs.” I was dutifully respectful.

“You were smoking pot.” He spat the words out as if hocking a loogie. He seemed fixated on my mustache.
“Yes. We were. It was a poor choice. My bad.” I was abjectly apologetic.

“At a boy scout camp.” His face, if at all possible, seemed to inflate even more with indignation. His sense of outrage might have seemed comical, had not the stakes been so high.

Right on cue, Lackey Dude giggled again.

“Yes, I know it’s a boy scout camp. I brought two classes of sixth grade students out here more than twenty years ago, when it was also a boy scout camp. What’s your point?” I had no choice; I had to remain civil.

“My point is, it’s a goddamned boy scout camp.” He accompanied this witticism with a sneer.
 
“Fine. Except right now, it’s not a boy scout camp; we’re celebrating a wedding. Nary a boy scout to be found.” 

Easy, Lad; keep focused.

Before I go further, a brief recap is in order. I was attending one of my son’s wedding, five years ago, at a venue where it was made clear in advance, that the appearance of cannabis would be met with great unhappiness. The facility had a policy that prohibited it.  

Make no mistake. I may not have been thrilled about it, but I did know the boundaries. Besides, I had the situation well in-hand, because I had had the foresight to bake up a batch of gluten-free, oatmeal cookies, using cannabis oil instead of butter. No one need ever be aware of my indiscretion.

However, the occasion being most joyous, one of the participants had come to me with a request for an environment, in which he could indulge in the pursuit of his own happiness. Normally, the great outdoors is a marvelous setting, but unfortunately on this particular evening, the clouds were spewing. 

There was snow mixed in with the rain, an indication that the temperature hovered near freezing, and the wind made it unthinkable that we would consider trying to smoke a doobster. Rain and wind have a tendency to dampen fire, if not spirits.

I had earlier that evening been in a building across from the main event, in which an upstairs room had been used for this exact pursuit. Yes, cannabis was being smoked. 

I had returned to this venue as the pied piper, with a parade of happy revelers following me. There was no lighting on the external staircase leading up to the second floor, so we had tread carefully, the only sound occurring when one of the celebrants slipped on the staircase, and went down with a thud.

Almost certainly, this thud is what drew Blockhouse and his two henchmen up into our midst, and he had blown the doors off, with a vitriolic tirade that made some of us a little nervous.

We had come down the staircase and gathered beneath the overhang outside the main hall, contemplating the universe. We made brief conversation.

“Whoa, that is one pissed off dude.”
  
“I don’t know; this might not be good.”

“What do you mean? We did stop.”

“He said something about shutting everything down.”

“What an asshole.”

“What do we want to do about it?”

“Should we just go back in?”

“Maybe someone should talk to him.”

I spoke up. “Hey, it was my bad all the way. I am the one who suggested going upstairs. I will talk to him right now. You guys head back into the party, and I will face the music. If anyone is going to get drummed out of here, it ought to be me.”

I had seen our antagonist, followed by his buddies, enter a lighted door directly under the room we had just vacated. Even if they hadn’t heard the thud, they had certainly heard us moving about, directly overhead, anyway. 

I pulled the handle of the door down and opened it, stepping into what appeared to be a bare-bones office with one chair, a desk, and three dudes standing there, now staring at me. Blockhouse had inquired, acidly, “What do you want?”

We had not gotten very far in the interim and were, in fact, regressing.

“Smoking pot at a goddamned boy scout camp. I should just have you thrown out of here.” Blockhouse gestured dismissively at me, but kept on staring.

“Look, can we have this conversation?” [Enough with the boy scouts, already.]

Use your tools, Laddie. That’s what they’re there for.

“What. EVER.” Blockhouse stared malevolently at me.  

[Giggle, giggle, from the pencil-neck]
Though it took the entire sordid conversation before I could peg that giggling flunky down, when I did I nailed it. He was Ignatius Feeney, the character from the old John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, played by Jack MacGowan, Squire “Red” Will Danaher’s lackey. In the film he was the twit always making notations in the “black book,” as directed by the big guy. 

The worm to the right of Blockhouse was his twin; he never said a word-just giggled.

“I do not want to see my son’s wedding ruined by someone who is pissed off at me.” I kept my voice even.

“You should have thought about that.” 

“Thought about what, exactly?”

“That this is a boy scout camp.” He continued to glare at me, focusing on the braids of my mustaches.

“What is with you and the boy scouts? We’re having a wedding here. I don’t see any boy scouts. When I brought students here, there weren’t any boy scouts, either. This is a wedding. Folks party at weddings.”

“You people come in here and the next thing I know, you’re smoking pot.”  The familiar sneer was back again. 

“Yes, we’ve established that. I understand there is a rule. What I don’t understand is why you are so angry. You have taken it personally, and I don’t understand. You are furious. Why is that?”

“It’s illegal,” he said, self-righteously. At last! Now we were getting somewhere. 

“No, it’s not illegal for those with a doctor’s prescription; I have a card here, which is designed to be handed to the CHP or county sheriff. Cannabis may be against your policy here, but that is not the same as being illegal.”  

I had removed my plastic Compassionate Health card and presented it to him, so that he could see it was my picture on the front. He was not impressed. 

[Giggle] 

“You people make me sick.” If his intention were to humiliate me, he needn’t have bothered. It takes a person deserving of my respect to insult me in the first place; otherwise, I simply consider the source, and not for very long.

“Because we smoke cannabis? You don’t even know us. I wouldn’t be able to attend this event if I didn’t have access to cannabis. I need my medication.”

“Pot?”

“Yes, cannabis. Call it what you prefer. You do not have to like it and you do not have to approve. But you do not have the right to question what my doctor prescribes for me, just as I don’t have the right to question what your doctor prescribes for you.”

“But I don’t have to smoke my medication.” 

“Neither do I. I brought my cookies,” drawing out my plastic baggie, and showing him the contents of gluten-free, homemade, oatmeal cookies, baked with cannabis oil instead of butter. 

“I did not need to smoke upstairs, because I came prepared. However, a friend of mine was here, who has some of the same anxiety issues as I do, and he asked me for a place to smoke. Had I told him there was no place, he would have simply gone out to his car.  

But I had thought that the room we were in was all right for that purpose, and had directed him there accordingly. I was wrong for having done so, and I have apologized.”

He stared at me with contempt. I didn’t have a problem with him being upset at the act; I had a problem with his pure malevolence. This man in front of me had an indisputable loathing for me. I could not say one thing that toned that malignant expression down one notch. Implacable hatred. 

“Before I leave, I am going to request that you not interfere with the wedding celebration. It is not my son’s fault that I chose to disregard the rule about cannabis.”
Something about my mustache.. Weird.


He fixated on my mustache and did not say a word. His scornful eyes said it all.

“Fine.” I went on. “You like being in control. I’ve said everything I have to say. I made a mistake, admitted it and apologized. That’s all I’ve got,” and I turned and exited the building, stage left, and frustrated as ack.

Whether he never intended to interfere in the first place, or whether something I said actually penetrated his noggin, I shall never know, except to record that the wedding continued with no interruption. 

As I noted in the opening chapter of this little drama, I have partaken of cannabis in a multitude of settings, and that though I ain’t proud, I have never been scared, either. 

That last is patently incorrect, however, because I was scared-petrified is more like it, that I had caused the wedding to be shut down. Did I learn anything? Yes I did, but I am a slow learner so I have to repeat the lesson over and over again, to make sure I get it right.

One strategy does stand out: Bake those cookies and leave the lighters at home.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Fucked Up

This is part two of "Encore," in which I get to the nitty-gritty.

I Fucked Up

I fucked up. Let me get that right out there, with no beating around the bush, no extenuating circumstances and no attempts to gloss over my actions. I mean, there was nothing wrong with what I did, or why I did it, but the timing was so abysmally bad, that there is no getting around it: I fucked up.

The venue was Camp Wente, a multi-purpose facility located a few minutes east of Willits, and the site of my middle son’s wedding. Ben had secured the location, met with the powers that be and signed the papers. One of the rules set forth at this time, was that this was a cannabis-free environment.
This news had been conveyed to me in a timely manner, I had baked up a bevy of gluten-free, homegrown, cosmically-enhanced oatmeal cookies, and I was ready for action-ready for danger. No one need ever be aware that I was violating the terms of the agreement with my cookies.

You see, the cookies were not an option for me. I had completed my therapy dealing with panic-attack syndrome the previous year, and it was now time to flex my newly developed muscles. I was going to attend the first wedding of my life, during which I would not have to be petrified that I would have a panic attack.

Dr. Jill had furnished the written material, I had met with her seven times, I spent the following winter digesting and testing, and I had rid myself of a 48 year-old albatross. People bandy the term “panic attack” around these days like a tennis ball, but I am here to tell you that it’s no game.

I could not be in the center of a mass of humanity, for fear that a sudden noise, an unexpected turn of events-or anything that took me by surprise, would send me into a tailspin. What did that look like? My face would turn chalk-white, I would start panting, sweating, hyperventilating, and my knees would rapidly melt down.

Failure to get out from wherever I was, meant a dead faint-away. Have you ever fainted? I don’t mean collapsed in exhaustion into a chair. I mean just drop off the face of the cliff, into nothingness. One second you are moving forward in a disoriented cloud of confusion, and the next you are trying to get back on your feet, while trying to figure out what just ran over you.  

It kind of took the luster out of anticipating upcoming family events.

To be able to even attempt it, I relied on cannabis to get me through the rough patches, and settings with lots of people were the roughest. Don’t ask me why-it’s a form of claustrophobia that has always been a part of my molecular makeup.

It took me 45 years to figure out that the reason I was always able to attend [GASP!] LA Dodgers games, and all of those concerts at the best and brightest of SoCal’s music venues in my youth, was because I was always wasted. 

Whereas cannabis creates a panicky feeling in those not accustomed to it, I might suggest that I got past that stage, before I even entered it. I have a mood spectrum disorder that is kept far more even with cannabis, than I have a right to expect. 

That’s the background; that’s why I baked the cookies. I wanted to see if the therapy would work because as the father of the groom, I was going to be in the spotlight. Spotlights blind me and I lose my footing easily, but with a little help from my friend, I could do this.

It was a dark and stormy night, both literally and metaphorically. The rain hammered the venue, obviously not caring about the joyous event taking place within, attempting its best to put a damper on the scene. All of those people were trapped indoors and it was harder for some than for others.

A long-time homie, going back to 1982, was there at the wedding, along with his family. He was struggling for the exact same reasons I was struggling, except that he had never seen a therapist to help him sort it out.

He hit me up, “Dude, I need to get outta here and you know, fire one up. You know this place-where can we go?”

There was never any thought in his mind that anything could possibly get in the way of such a reasonable request.

And right here, at this point in the whole sordid affair, is where I could have nipped disaster in the bud. I could have agreed one hundred percent, I could have suggested my truck, out there in the parking lot and we could have gone and taken care of business.

Instead, as the two of us headed across the crowded room towards an obvious exit point, we created a vacuum of immense proportions. Like a pair of pied pipers, we were at the head of a parade and one glance at the faces parading past, answered the question of where we were going.

Again, I could have paused at the door and simply put my hands up in the air in mock surrender.

“I got nothin’ for you!” I could have said. “There’s only room for a couple of us in the cab of my little pickup. It’s pouring outside so do yourselves a favor and stay dry.”

But no, that wasn’t what came out of my mouth. Instead, I heard Markie say, “Look, let’s go up the steps to this big room upstairs, where we were hanging out before the wedding began. That should work out just fine.”

If you believe that, I have a golden bridge you are certain to be interested in.I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Tomorrow: “It’s a boy scout camp, for God’s sake.”




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Encore!

In an effort to sidestep politics for a minute or two, I have written something better presented in more than one episode. Here is the first of two installments, designed to give some background info, on the debacle about to be unfolded upon an unsuspecting audience-tomorrow.

Encore!

I have indulged in cannabis on the Demilitarized Zone dividing North Korea from South Korea; I have stood inside the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, gazing down at the verdant vegetation and throngs of people at the cafe and bar, and smoked a bowl of Acapulco Gold; I have partaken of cannabis at The LA Forum, The Long Beach Arena, Candlestick Park, AT&T Park, The Greek Theater in Berkeley, The San Jose Center for Performing Arts, The Cow Palace in San Francisco and countless other venues ranging far and wide in my travels. 
I ain’t proud, but I’ve never been scared, either.

However, all that being said, one cannot have indulged in the gentle giant of herbs for close to fifty years, without having stirred matters up a time or two, and I am no exception. In more or less chronological order, the following incidents have a neatly placed check-mark next to them, in my black book of close encounters:

*** There were those two nice West Covina policemen, who pulled me over back in 1970, just as I was easing my ’64 Nova away from the curb outside a boisterous party that was being rousted. There were five of us in the car, I was barefoot, I had unquestionably been imbibing tall Olympia beers and I was behind the wheel of a brilliantly polished red car, that had oversized tires and a jacked-up rear end.

After ordering us out of the car and lining us up, Officer the First told me he was going to look through my car, and that no one had better give him any crap about illegal search and seizure rules, because he didn’t give a damn. I gave a damn, though, because as soon as those red lights had lit up the sky, I had opened the front cover of a Chilton’s Manual on Chevys that was on the front seat, and slipped a small baggy of Mexican cannabis inside.

Visions of tomorrow’s headlines flashed through my brain.

As the five of us stood paralyzed with fear, Officer the Second peppered us with questions and editorial comments as his partner rifled through the contents of the car. Returning an eternity later, seemingly empty-handed, he asked me if I knew why he had pulled me over. 

“Negatory, your Honor,” I replied. 

He shook a finger at Steve, the only one of the five of us wearing shoes, and dressed presentably with his button down dress shirt and slacks, having come straight from his job at a grocery store. “That man is dirty,” he declared. “He was making furtive movements in the back of your car.”

In mock horror, knees weak with delirious joy at my appearing to have dodged a Sherman Tank, I glared at Steve and tried not to chortle.

*** Next in my Hall of Fame of Ineptitude was that awkward moment when ten of us were sprawled around the hootch one frigid winter’s night in Ascom, Korea, blazing up with religious fervor. In strolled the commanding officer of the 199th Personnel Service Company, who demanded to know exactly what in the sam hell was going on.

Snapping to attention, but forbearing the salute because I was dressed in civvies, I responded, “Nothing, SIR! Just confabulating the latest Eighth Army regulatory measures for our mutual edification, and committing them to memory, SIR!”

Whatever he was expecting to hear, it was not that. It gave him time, however, to contemplate the universe. Maybe he was thinking of the paperwork involved in busting us, or possibly how efficient his office would run, if he sent ten of his redeployment experts to the brig.

In the time it would have taken to blink, he had assessed the situation, reevaluated his opening demand, and determined that all was under control.

“Carry on!” he responded and without another word, about-faced and was gone, leaving us dazed, confused and doubly in need of that which was being circulated.

*** Proving that there can be smoke without fire, there was that one Friday morning when two classmates of mine and I had paused for the cause, just before the start of our 7:30 Spanish class. We chose the cozy confines inside Kevin's sky-blue VW Bug, parked on the fourth floor of the San Jose State parking garage, where we blazed up some sinsemilla, in the early days of my long association with this king of cannabis.
We paused for maybe just one or two rotations of the doobster too many, before gathering up our tools of the trade and making a somewhat frantic dash to the university cafeteria, or what we loosely referred to in Spanish as la panaderia, the bakery.

As was the custom on Fridays in our small conversational class, those present were seated in no particular order around a large round table, so that we could habla the espanol. Being sultans of cool, my buddies and I nonchalantly approached the table and inconspicuously took our seats.

That was the goal, anyway. What actually happened was that we descended on the unsuspecting group like a trio of middle schoolers, breathing just a tad too hard from our breakneck pace, after having clambered down four sets of stairs, and raced for the student union.

Red-faced, self-conscious and giggling, we three had circled the table seeking out chairs, a faint trail of that inevitable fragrance emanating forth from our clothes.

Sniffing delicately, our professor, a dignified man who was born in Spain and actually functioned for a couple of decades as a Roman Catholic priest, raised quizzical eyebrows and inquired, delicately, “Someone has been smoking marijuana?”

The giggling became guffawing, as the entire class was enjoying our discomfort, the diversion coming so early in the Friday program.

Seated, fumbling with backpack and other paraphernalia, the best I could manage was a mock-serious expression and the soulful response, “Yo quiero! [I wish!]”

Mercifully, we moved on.

***
And who could forget that helicopter and the six rent-a-goons who invaded my home in 1985, robbed me of $900.00 and left a land-seizure notification on the obliterated front gate, which had not been locked?

Buddha knows what a hassle that was, even though I was never charged with any offense, and had to pony up $17,500 to get my house and twenty acres back from the federal government. All for 33 plants, cleverly concealed in the manzanita. Well, maybe not so cleverly.

Having written extensively about it, I will leave it go at that, and move on.

***
Finally, there was that time more recently, up in Eureka, when my surreptitious indulging behind our motel, had created a most unexpected response from the proprietor, who gave us the shoe-shine. No matter that there were no windows from which patrons might have viewed me, or that I encountered no one in the pre-dawn light.

 I now realize he must have watched me with a surveillance camera, because he had the facts at his fingertips. I posted two pieces of writing on the entire, sordid fiasco, which took place in July of 2015.

***
And even after my having been given the boot from the above-mentioned motel, I got rousted on a little side street, opposite the big establishment behind the Marie Calendar’s, only a few months later.

Minding my own business, again early before it was light, I was moseying down to the end of the block trying to get my priorities in order with some lemon ogre, when I was accosted by an apparently ‘roid-raged iron pumper, who had emerged from the workout facility located within sight of the motel parking lot.

Evidently he had seen me sauntering along, indulging in my prescription meds, with no one else in the vicinity, and decided I was a threat to his existence.

“Hey! Where the f**k do you think you’re going?” The man did not need a megaphone.

Was he seriously talking to me? What had I done to rattle his cage?

“Are you talking to me?”

Even from a hundred feet I could hear his intake of breath and could only imagine the flaring of nostrils. 

“Who the f**k do you THINK I am talking to?” he raged.

“Well, you’d know better than I…I hope,” was all I could come up with. 

“We don’t need your kind creeping around our neighborhood!” he bellowed, thereby answering his own question. He thought he was talking to someone who “creeped” around decent people’s neighborhoods.

“Not sure what kind you DO need creeping around your ‘hood, but I am staying at the motel right there, and am simply out for a smoke, so don’t get your trunks in a bunch.” I hoped that was it.

He gave no indication he had heard one word I said.

“You people think you can come into my neighborhood, and I won’t call the cops, you’re f**king nuts!”

“Froth at the mouth, why don’t you?” I suggested good-naturedly, but only because I had now maneuvered my way past him and was sailing towards the refuge of my motel room.

“F**k you!” he added for further clarification purposes as I hung the left and passed out of his sight.

So yeah, I’ve been busted, I’ve been hassled, I’ve been yelled at and I have been suspected of dastardly deeds that I had no intention of performing. But the experience that felt the worst, was the time I tripped over my third leg once too often, and went down with a thud.

Unfortunately my actions threatened to shut down a small, intimate gathering of 275-plus-people, those who were attending my middle son’s wedding.

Tomorrow: Wedding Day Blues

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Easy Pickings

Easy Pickings

The meme screams out, “Insulin prices skyrocket, putting many diabetics in a bind,” as if this really comes as “news” to us these days. American pharmaceutical companies are to the sick and elderly, what a spider pouncing on a writhing fly in a web is, except that diabetes patients, along with the sick and elderly, are not despicable, nasty flying nuisances: They are human beings.
In an article appearing in Healthday, written by Serena Gordon, we learned the price of for certain types of insulin has grown 700% in the last two decades, from $21 a vial in 1996, to $255 a vial in 2016. Other medicines have become cheaper due to availability of generic brands, but such is not the case with insulin.

How many of us have family and close friends who are afflicted with diabetes? Apparently, enough people do, prompting the American Diabetes Association to issue a call for Congress to investigate insulin pricing, and come up with solutions so that people with diabetes aren’t faced with financial hardship when obtaining that which keeps them alive. 

My, that is a novel thought and one that has evidently never occurred to an industry, that prides itself on providing life-saving drugs-at a cost. Pay-to-play is the name of the game, and unfortunately, Big Pharma holds all the cards.

Asking Congress, however, is a joke. The members of Congress are the biggest pack of hypocrites and liars ever assembled in one place, purporting to represent the American people. They represent folks all right, those belonging to the elite one percent, because that is the source of their money. 

What do you do when you find that the medication for your sick kid, is going to cost more than your paycheck? I’ll tell you what you do-you do anything you have to. You begin by getting scared and then angry. 

You think of the brakes on the car, and how they’ll have to wait; you think of the braces that your middle school daughter needs so badly, and how they’ll have to wait; mostly, you think about your plan to finally get out of this gnarly rental unit, and into a real home, and you know that will have to be put on hold-probably forever.

Insulin was first discovered in 1921, by Doctor Frederick Banting, who sold the patent for a dollar, to the University of Toronto. Imagine that! The guy who invented the stuff was willing to give it to humanity for a buck.

Of course, the University of Toronto could not meet the demand, so it sold the patent to the pharmaceutical companies. Want to bet that the price remained the same? No, neither do I.

Big Pharma is comparable to General Electric, a corporate conglomerate that pays no federal income taxes. Big Pharma is a blood-sucking spider, ugly, vile and obese, spinning its web incessantly over the weak, the ill and the elderly, because, why not? 

Them’s easy pickings.

Who defends the weak and elderly, at the corporate level? The same folks who stand up for the 50 million people at-or near-the poverty level, including the nineteen million kids. That would be no one.

Who at the corporate level defends sick children, who will die if they do not get a life-saving medicine? No one defends these kids.

Why are there no restrictions against blood-sucking spiders, disguised as American businesses? Because restrictions are bad for business, and America is all about business.

Besides, dead people need coffins, speaking of business. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement





A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

There were thirty-one of them, eighth graders in all their wondrous glory: humorous, witty, sarcastic, a tad rowdy, and they were mine fourth period. I had them “in isolation,” teacher talk for a class that I saw for only one period a day.

They weren’t my homeroom, I was the new teacher on the block, and as one of them succinctly put it one day in the library, when he did not think I could overhear him, “We got rid of the last two and we’ll get rid of this one, too.”

Unfortunately, there was a thread of truth to his boast, in that the previous year, as seventh graders, they had experienced their homeroom teacher quitting in mid-stream. Actually, she made it until some point in April, before matters got out-of-hand, and she pulled the plug.
In came a long-term sub, an individual with warmth, integrity and a fierce desire to succeed so that he could take over the position full-time in school year 1990-91. Unfortunately, as these things occasionally pan out, he had no management skills, and this class destroyed him.

The potato stuffed into his tailpipe, that last day of school, sealed the deal. The man was as demoralized as any teacher I had ever encountered, but that did not include the just-departed homeroom teacher who had bailed out.

I did not lack for confidence, I had grown out my flaming red beard, and I had decided there was to be no first-name business. I was Mr. O’Neill, or Mr. O, if you preferred. I made my expectations clear, I never even remotely got close to losing my cool, and I treated the little jabonies with a respect that they could not help returning.

Says so in the manual, page twelve, paragraph four, subsection C: If you give them a modicum of respect, they will return it tenfold. I had my black, three-ring binder, into which I would place class sheets, so that I could indicate lapses in appropriate behavior, with a delicate little checkmark.

I would ask the class for attention, wait quietly for a reasonable time (long enough to stroll casually over to my desk for the binder), and then open the binder and start arbitrarily looking out over the class with my pencil poised to strike.

Magically, the hubbub came to a halt, every single time.

No drama, no muss, no fuss, smile plastered on my face, I watched the beast shudder, shake its massive head one last time, and settle down for a fifty-minute siesta, only it had to actually keep its eyelids propped open.

I was gently chastised once, by the venerable Brian Buckley, superintendent at the time, for writing a referral for one of these same eighth graders, during a formal observation. The issue was not the referral, or the reason for the referral, but rather, the fact that when I handed the slip of orange paper to the student, I had the unmitigated gall to smile.

“It sends a mixed message to the student,” Mr. B explained.

Was I ever shocked to hear myself patiently explaining to the man who had been responsible for hiring me, that I had to disagree with him. If I make my expectations crystal clear, I said, and if the student makes a bad choice, then I am merely the dispenser of bad news, nothing more, nothing less.

For me to assume either an angry expression or one which indicated displeasure, was to make it a personal thing. My more benign expression was simply meant to indicate-if anything-a sense of mild regret, but certainly not anger.

Student Tony validated this attitude on my part once, by asking me in front of the class, just after he had earned a three-step referral, “Now, Mr. O, was this for being inappropriately unacceptable, or unacceptably inappropriate?” He was laughing when he asked the question.
I have gone on record in the past as saying that discipline is either a teacher’s biggest concern (as in my two predecessors), or his least. It’s all about the perception of the players in the class. If they sniff blood, they’ll go for the jugular (or juggler, if a teacher vacillates) every time.

If the person in the front of the class, manages to somehow suppress the desire to bolt for the door, and then actually directs the class in a forward manner, then all is a great success, because the little darlings are trapped.

Their parents, the state mandate, our culture, or for whatever reason, those 31 students were trapped between 11:25 and 12:15, for 180 days that year, in Room 21. In case you ever wondered, 31 eighth graders can form any number of little cliches, within a short period of time.

This class featured one small group, who proudly identified with anarchism; those five were my very own anarchists, which means they did not believe in rules. Don’t you just love diversity? 

That’s where freedom of choice comes in, big time. You can play the anarchist if you are willing to pay the piper, in this case Pinkie, who ran detention with an iron fist, but one that was coated with love and understanding. No one, and I mean no one in the history of the universe, ever gave Pinkie a hard time. She would have won every time.

So hey, anarchists, give it your best shot! In point of fact, on the last day of the school year, these five sat around, comparing notes. Specifically, they were counting those orange referrals to see who came out on top. Of the five, four were male and one was a girl.

The girl, whose name shall mercifully remain unmentioned, took top honors. 

And here is the point of this little story towards which I have been heading. On the last day of school, prior to Christmas break, moments after this savagely tame beast had vacated my classroom, I was sitting at my desk for just a moment, simply reveling in my success.

I was congratulating myself on having survived the first half, when the door suddenly burst open and my female anarchist came blasting in, the full impact of 120 middle schoolers out in the quad, creating a hurricane of energy.

Surprised at nothing anymore, or so I thought, I simply raised my eyebrows slightly, in a questioning look. I did not see the little wrapped Christmas present until the last second, and then I was flummoxed. 

“Here, Mr. O!” was all she said, and just like that, she had raced back out.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have surprised me more. I thought this girl hated my guts. I knew this was not her mom, behind the scenes. I knew it was this girl’s idea. Then it hit me like the proverbial lead balloon. Duh. No self-respecting anarchist would give a teacher a gift. Other kids did, but those were generally the “good” kids. Was it possible she did not hate me?

Later, I joked about what was in the package. There was no heft to it, as though it were just an empty box. “I guess empty is better than what it might have in it,” I joked. “Scorpions don’t weigh much,” I suggested.

Being a hardcore traditionalist, I waited until Christmas morning to open the gift. Again, though I thought I was ready for anything, I was not prepared for the exquisite glass reindeer ornament that was in the package. No wonder it had felt empty. 

A tsunami wave of emotion cascaded over me, leaving me dazed and confused, and infinitely delighted. I was told afterwards, that the range of expressions flowing over my features, had no limits.

To this day, when we set up the tree, I seek this ornament out, and allow that emotion to once more envelop me, and think back to those kids with no rules. And then I ruminate about my own life.

Something tells me I learned as much from those anarchists, as they learned from me.










Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dauntlessly Brainless

Dauntlessly Brainless

Sarah Palin for Secretary of Veterans Affairs? I must admit, her name leaped into my pea-brain also, for this particular job, and why not? Sarah-Darling has never served in the military, she has no experience dealing in foreign affairs and we all know that the president-elect has promised throughout his campaign, that he would make looking after our veterans his No.1 priority.
Wink, wink...

Considering the closest President Malproddunt has ever come to serving in a military capacity, is the time he spent at a military academy as a teen, it makes sense that he would appoint Sarah-Darling as the person in charge of the VA. “I always thought I was in the military,” he explained of the experience.

And let’s not forget that Sarah has a son who served in Iraq. Making her Secretary of Veterans Affairs makes about as much sense as assigning the position to a well-trained chipmunk, although the chipmunk would be more likely to complete the four-year term.

Others also supporting the selection of the thinking-challenged former governor, include: 

SkepticSmash Podcast: "Cabinet starting to look more like a Jerry Springer Show lineup."

Sarah Jones: "For the love of God, do not let Sarah Palin near veterans-or anyone else."

bennydiego: "Sarah Palin may be appointed to head Veteran Affairs. OMG Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on SNL? See? There is something good about this."

Pete Acquaviva: "Sarah Palin isn't even qualified to run a Dairy Queen but sure let's put her up for Veterans Affairs, not like that's a tough job."

Though Sarah once quipped that the closest she ever came to dealing with foreign affairs, was the fact that her state shares a border with Russia, I don’t think we should allow her lack of experience, to cloud our vision of her undoubted success.

How can I be so certain that Sarah will be successful at the position of VA director? All I have to do is examine Malproddunt’s own military record, to rest assured that he knows what he is doing. Oh, yes, he has an agenda.

For instance, do not dwell on the president-elect’s fuzzy memory about how he avoided Vietnam. He attributed his success to a high number in the draft lottery, but in reality, that came later. He was deferred because of bone spurs. 

Pay no heed to the fact that this six-foot-two-inch athlete played football, tennis and squash on the college level, without any physical issues, and that the bone spurs magically healed on their own, without surgery.

Besides, according to the virile president-elect, he served his own personal Vietnam conflict, in that it was a tough job to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. “It was like the Vietnam era. It is my own personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
Smirk, smirk. I am brave.

We all know how much bravery it requires to grab a woman's genitals. And then brag about it.

Malproddunt does have experience working with veterans affairs, however, after lobbying for years to have the homeless veterans in their street vendors’ stalls on Fifth Avenue, removed. Quite successfully, as it turned out. 

And support for the military? 

In at least three instances reported by Huffington Post, Malproddunt’s companies have fired or refused to hire, military reservists because there was a conflict in scheduling. Federal law prohibits employees being penalized for absences caused by military service.

Finally, who could forget the derision Malproddunt expressed towards John McCain in 2015, when he mocked McCain for being shot down and captured? “He was a war hero because he was captured,” the president-elect blurted out. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Well, lucky for those of us who served, Malproddunt has captured Sarah-Darling for the person best qualified to run the VA. Buddha knows there are enough problems with the VA to keep Sarah busy for at least half of her term, before one of those pesky book-ops crops up. 

Sarah’s tenure as governor of Alaska was tragically cut short, halfway through. Wikipedia cites her reason as “due to the costs and distractions of battling ethics investigations…” Well, no wonder! Spending $1.9 million to dodge those incessant ethics investigations, does drain one’s enthusiasm for actually working.

And speaking of not working, Veterans Affairs ought to be a match made in heaven for our dauntless Sarah. Dauntless and brainless, bless her pointy little head.


When it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, now that you mention it, Republicans don’t give a flying fuck about veterans, anyway. Vets have served their purpose, that of wielding the weapons of profit, so what better way to show contempt for “heroes,” shot down or not, than to appoint Sarah-Darling as head honcho at the VA?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of Burning Flags and Crosses


Of Burning Flags and Crosses

As challenging as it was, President-elect Malproddunt managed to step on his undersized [Editor’s command: STOP!] early Tuesday morning, yet once again, as he tweeted a proposal that demonstrators who burn the American flag should suffer consequences.

Loss of citizenship and a year in jail were two suggestions Malproddunt made, but coming from a man who would rather see a cross burning than a flag, I can only scoff at his buffoonery still one more time: The man is such a contemptible entity as to make George Bush, Jr, heretofore referred to only as W, look like the Dali Lama. 

As Molly Ivins has so eloquently stated, “I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps himself up in the Constitution, over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps himself up in the flag.” How she could so accurately have described Malproddunt, before her death in 2007, defies explanation. 
A few weeks ago I posted a piece of writing entitled “Face-Punched” (http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2016/10/face-punched.html), something that rocketed upwards in my statistics file until it reached the coveted Top Ten list. To me this simply means I hit a nerve; readers from both sides stopped by to take a look.

In the essay I spelled out the differences between patriots, of which I am one, and nationalists, of which the two most famous are probably Adolph Hitler and President-elect Malproddunt. This is what I wrote:

“There is much confusion over what constitutes a patriot and how that differs from being a nationalist. Succinctly put, a patriot supports his country, but recognizes that it is not perfect. A nationalist supports his country to the extreme, believing it can do no wrong, ever, and feels threatened by those who dis on his country.”

When I wrote “Face-Punched,” I got the distinct impression that folks were shocked that I would burn a flag; allow me to assure you, that nothing could be further from the truth. I love this country, though I can no longer call it mine. Frankly, I want nothing to do with what this country has become.

MY country, the one that existed when I was growing up, still featured men of honor, in charge of both political parties. These men had integrity and would never have allowed money to interfere with that. They had money but did not need to have it all.

These men still felt that American values included the family, and that meant the mom being at home to care of and guide the kids. Now that is impossible because both parents must work and the cost of daycare, plus the latchkey lifestyle of the kids, have led to a crushing decline of the family, as a meaningful unit in most people’s lives.

Either that, or else the grandparents are raising the kids.

Why must both heads of the household work? They must because the upper crust of this American stew, has gradually sucked every bit of nutritional value out of the dish. The cost of living has continued to skyrocket, the profits of the corporations, likewise, are soaring, and yet wages remain at an unconscionably low level.

27 of America’s biggest corporations paid no taxes in 2015. These rotting, bloated, obese leeches, suck the marrow out of the general population, and for what purpose? So that the wealthy who run this country can continue to rape its people and plunder its resources.

The one percent of the population, already living opulent lives of greed and excess, continue to squeeze, wrench and rip the soul out of the American population. I know this to be true, because otherwise, how do you explain a lout such as Malproddunt, being elected to this country’s highest position?

And now we are supposed to somehow draw inspiration from the symbol of greed and profit, the American flag? I no longer believe this to be true, if I ever did.

Whereas I have no wish to desecrate the flag, I do have a fierce desire to protect the rights of those who do. If I were asked to what end I served this country for close to two years of my youth, back in 1972-73, I would say it was to protect Americans’ right to dissent.

And now, in case you just woke up from a year-long siesta, is the time to dissent.

Speak up for those being intimidated in your presence, write letters to your congressional and senatorial leaders, keep informed as to the latest irrational/unjust/immoral appointments to the Cabinet of Hate and continue to passively/aggressively refuse to kowtow to an agenda of injustice.

And for Buddha’s sake, recognize that the actions of the president-elect are not those of a patriot-they are the actions of a despot.

He wraps himself in the flag of nationalism, while burning the Constitution with his bigotry and racism, and he doesn’t need any gasoline because he already has the flames from his burning cross.