awkward silence

Silence (awk.) being a recent idea for a band/album name, but after this past weekend, much more importantly became one of the most powerful tools in the long overdue movement to end gun violence in these united (?) states. We had the March for Our Lives on in the kitchen as we huddled over a puzzle as our latest winter weather stir crazy activity, and as soon as Emma Gonzalez got on a roll with her speech, listing out the victims who would never… she just cut it off and led us all into one of the more powerful silences we’ve likely experienced. Continue reading

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Viva la persistence!

Fellow groucho marxists,

Are you like me? Navigating the extra wide aisles of a local Target with the Cadillac of plastic shopping carts trying to ignore the twelve things on clearance that you never knew you wanted, determined to stick to your list of a picture frame, possibly a rug on clearance for the garage turned studio, and the loaves of bread you forgot to get at the supermarket earlier in the day. But you get off track, and you notice that the whiteboard that distracted you has a large dent in it but isn’t marked down at all, as if to say this is what you, as a mass consumer, should expect from this item, mass produced somewhere in (I’ll hazard a guess) China. And this damaged, full-price whiteboard becomes the latest inanimate object to whisper a familiar refrain to you, “Marx was right.”
Now I should say, I’m not even partially prepared to make the case I’m sensing I will want to forcefully make at some opportune moment, like at the next office holiday party or, more appropriately, when wrapping up my next training for our call center staff just on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexican border. My order of Marx’s and Engels’ Communist Manifesto has just been placed, and the soonest the drones at Amazon can get it to me is this Tuesday, those bastards. Can’t they see I need my revolutionary literature immediately? Expect a slowdown on that delivery? Does Apple slow down your phone performance when streaming the audio version of Marx’s Capital? I knew it!!
But I think we may be at the beginning of a backlash and, really, an thoughtful reckoning by the majority of the American people as the huckster in chief tries to drag this country backward in time, backwards in thinking, backwards in technology… backwards in you name it. Trump is laying bare the amoral motivations of our capitalist system. If making money is your primary goal, it eventually comes at the expense of pursuing other goals your civilization may have: public education, public health, a peaceful society, a healthy planet, rigorous and advancing science, flourishing arts, tolerant and diverse societies, freedom for everyone to pursue their dreams. Instead, it seems our freedoms have dwindled to our freedom to buy cheaply made clothes and products and occasionally eat unheatlhy food that someone else prepared for us and will clean up after us. Is this how we are supposed to spend our time and money as civilized and perhaps intellectually curious human beings? Remember W. Bush after 9/11 told us we should all go shopping? Not “go help someone else” or “go join the Peace Corps” or “go meet and learn about your immigrant neighbors”… but go shopping! Like the real concern at that moment was getting the economic machine back up and running.
It makes you think. And I know this is nothing new — there have always been a relative few in power and those in power will do what they can to stay in power and maximize rewards for themselves. And from what I’ve managed to learn/remember re: Communist China and Russia, it seems the same dynamic often plays out there with the top members of the ruling party becoming corrupt and not doing justice or fully realizing the model of “the people” owning everything and providing “to each according to their need.” I know as Americans we cherish our freedom and perceived control over our own destinies, so that we can strive to have more than just what we need, but also everything we want. We’re terrified that some bureaucrat would tell us what kind and what color car we can have. But how far away are we from that really? Doesn’t Apple tell us what kind and what color phones we all need to buy? So maybe the key will be to put Apple in charge of a new socialist republic?
Ok, well I wasn’t prepared for a political rant and rambled into one anyway. How boring. If you’re still reading, you must be a friend. Notice I didn’t say “comrade” there. And suddenly I’m sounding in my own head at least like Doofensmirtz from the one show we all watch as a family, Phineas and Ferb. Anyone else into that show? Holy smokes, it’s pretty great. It takes a few episodes to see both how formulaic it is and how interesting they can make it while sticking to said formula. Just goes to show ya: writers make the world go ’round. No? That’s gravity?
So the kids are slowly adjusting out here. Syd is being a bit stubborn about making new friends out here — something I feel like I did myself when I switched from public high school to private high school. Did I choose not to make friends or was I horribly unpopular? He who writes the stories… let’s say it was a bit of both. But I used that example when we moved out to IL warning Syd not to fall into the trap of thinking she has made all her best friends already (back in Sharon) and she doesn’t need to make more friends out here. Six months in she’s sticking to her plan. Persistent little devil. Isaac finally invited a friend over about a week or two ago
 and he seems to have found a group of friends at school and someone to walk home from school with most days of the week. When he doesn’t have someone to walk home with, I’m allowed to go pick him up… which is fine during the cold weather. When it warms up, he can hoof it the 6-7 blocks.
My music studio is taking shape in our detached garage turned into indoor space. Some local guys have come over to play music a few times — the space getting many oohs and aahs once I hung a few guitars from the wall beam and strung lights around the same. It’s just not a music space without a lot of twinkly little lights, no? Yes, I’m starting an emo band.

MayDayStudio_012818

Oh, and I’m teaching myself how to recreate some of my favorite dishes from Sichuan Gourmet, the top notch restaurant that was in the top 5 reasons I didn’t want to move away from Sharon. So far I’ve made reasonable facsimiles of Cellophane Noodles with Pork (or “Ants Climbing a Tree” as the dish is known in the province), Cumin-Flavored Beef, and a spicy noodle soup with pork. There’s a good Asian supermarket nearby where I’m able to get a bunch of ingredients, plus my local supermarket has a decent international section too where I can get at least half of the ingredients as well. I think the future is bright given how close my initial attempts were at creating these dishes. And if I end up becoming a communist, then I think that can only help as well.
Okay, it’s late for a school night. Oh I forgot to mention my cigar box guitar project. In the early stages of that so I can report back on that next time. The only amusing thing there so far was that I spent about 5 minutes in a cigar store trying to pick out the empty boxes they were selling for $1 each, and in the time it took me to pick them out I absorbed a few cigars’ worth of smoke, smelling up my wife’s car and drawing exclamations of disapproval from my kids for the rest of the day. But that’s pretty much a normal day around here anyway. Same reaction I get as I pour a sichuan meal out of the wok. Viva la persistance! What?
Till next time, goodnight!
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Pioneer Days

Greetings from the third coast,

Yes, that’s something I heard out here in Chicagoland, which seems to take “second city” one step further in the wrong direction. And I know it’s the wrong direction because… it’s great out here!! Granted, I rarely leave my lovely first floor home office, which is just off the kitchen with a bay window looking out onto a shaded front yard and our quiet, dead end street. And just past the dead end, on foot, I am two minutes from a great supermarket. Like the kind of supermarket with fresh made sushi and iced coffee drinks and smoothies. Smoothies, Jerry! Syd walks to and from the school bus one block away and, just today, Isaac walked himself home from school for the first time after refusing to get into the car which I drove a few blocks to his school because 1) I was running late after a phone call, and 2) because the Midwest has proven a bit dangerous to the health of certain members of the family, including–much to your empathetic distress–yours truly.
Yes, so here’s a brief rundown of our injuries since moving to Illinois. First, Syd slips in her socks on the wood floors upstairs and lands on her elbow. Possibly a hairline fracture, not sure. Had to wear a sling for a week or so, then a bunch of occupational therapy visits (despite our contention that she has no occupation) on Friday afternoons. Second, I found both a fun neighborhood touch football game to play in on Saturdays plus a great ultimate frisbee league on Sunday afternoons. One highlight-filled weekend a couple weeks ago, when I was making back shoulder catches for touchdowns and hush-inducing throws and catches with the frisbee, I collided with an opposing player and managed to break my left pinky. Only seemed jammed at first, so I played through the fifth game just occasionally giving an annoyed stare at my hand, you know, as heroes often do when they are momentarily bothered by pain. The next day the finger was turning a dark shade of purple, so that sent me scurrying to the orthopedic place we discovered for Syd’s elbow, where they asked if I wanted to put it on my tab. No cast or splint, just had to be taped to the ring finger for about a week, which was more annoying then you would think, really interfering with things like typing and counting on my fingers… counting by fives was nearly impossible, much to the chagrin of my coworkers as we counted attendees at a recent training, “Five… nine… fourteen… eighteen… wait, what?”
So then Syd fell on her tailbone twice in one day, the second time during a basketball game, just a couple days ago. And the same day, I was playing frisbee again, happy to have my finger just about back to normal, when some guy ran into me and got me with his cleats on my lower leg. Puncture wounds which I was sure to wash out later that evening, but I woke up this morning with it hurting more than yesterday. Sent a picture of a reddening lower leg to my Dad and Karen’s cousin who’s a school nurse and basically to anyone I had texted in the past two weeks and the consensus was, “Get thee to a walk-in clinic!” And sure enough, cellulitis! So I’m on antibiotics now for the bacterial skin infection, which if left untreated could turn into sepsis and, quite possibly, death. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this all day long: like a couple hundred years ago, or even just any place where you might not be able to get antibiotics fast enough, something as minor as a puncture wound to your shin could kill you?! Now I understand why ultimate frisbee is such a recent invention. And now I don’t have quite as much disdain for Achilles, who died from an arrow wound to the heel. Was it that all his mortality was confined to that one spot, or was it sepsis??
So the medical community has been quite kind and welcoming out here. And so have family and our new neighbors. The kids are a little bit frustrated at having to make all new friends and realizing that it takes a good amount of time to make good friends… which relative to their current ages is a REALLY long time. I mean for all of us — we could probably go a year or more without talking to anyone or watching the news and we’d all feel a lot better for it, am I right? Especially these days? Finding a cave somewhere sounds nice. Is this thing on? But one year is a much longer time when you’ve only lived 9-11 years. And it’s a lifetime for a one-year-old. But our kids are used to everything being on-demand. They still don’t quite know what to do when I’m watching a game on live TV and we can’t pause, fast forward or rewind.
Anyway, so we are settling in to our new house and our new town, which some people here have compared to Mayberry, in an extremely dated reference that pretty soon no one will understand. Syd has the tough task of starting 6th grade in a brand new community and she misses her best friends from Sharon. But she bravely stepped onto the bus on the first day and she’s played in a couple basketball leagues already. Isaac has seemed unphased on the exterior, but we know he’s probably just as anxious as Syd about everything being new. Karen’s liking her new job, especially the part where she rides the train every day to the big city and gets to come home to a hot dinner expertly prepared by yours truly (the instructions on bags of frozen chicken tenders are quite easy to follow). No, when I’ve had more time, I have prepared quite a few meals more from scratch, including my patented linguine and white clam sauce, namely because the great supermarket’s one weakness seems to be stocking the brand of clam sauce that tastes decent out of the can. Wait, two weaknesses: they also don’t have the frozen plantains in a brown sugar sauce (made by the fine folks at Goya) that I absolutely need for my beans and rice recipe. I bought a raw plantain one time and tried to cook it but of course it wasn’t ripe enough.
The great garage project of 2017 is underway. Our house doesn’t have a basement, but it came with two 2-car garages. So I’m turning the detached one into a heated/cooled music studio, workshop and game room. It’s a 2.5 car garage actually, so a ton of space. I could probably make four dedicated spaces in there if I wanted to, so get your bids in on a use for the fourth quadrant. Kimchi storage (that stuff can’t be kept in the regular fridge)? Nail salon? Birthplace of the next Google? The project entailed cleaning it out and insulating the ceiling and walls, which I did with a bit of help from a neighbor. Then we found some local drywall guys who were super nice and cheap, but left a bit of a mess. So we cleaned it out again. Now we’re waiting for the AC/heat unit to be installed, and then I’ll pull out the trusty paint rollers and paint brush. Yes, it’s going to be quite the little space, and my new home if I spend too much time in there and Karen changes the locks.
Ok, I need to sign off, take dose two of the antibiotics, and get some sleep. Crazy amount of work before a new project launches in November. I’ll be in the southern tip of Texas next week training our call center staff on that project, in search of a great taco in between sessions. Hope you’re all doing well, enjoying your convenient access to one of the first two coasts (that’s most of you, I think). Anytime you’re flying into O’Hare, think about making the 20 minute trip due west to the center of the multiverse that we pioneers have dubbed Arlington Heights. We’ll leave the lantern light on for ya.
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Merkel’s Yerkels

I feel like that could be the name of her U.S.-based fan club, should we all decide we’ve completely bolloxed up this independence thing and beg for admittance into the E.U. We’re not there yet? The past six months are just a moment’s retrograde in our country’s history… a history full of moments that would make us all shudder were we to relive or experience them up close?  Continue reading

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Go west, not so young man

Well, only fitting in the early days of this post-truth America that I cannot find a definitive source for the “Go west, young man…” quote. Horace Greeley, a newspaper editor, was credited with this full quote in 1865, which resonates a bit today: “Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” I guess later Greeley vigorously denied ever giving anyone this advice… probably because he was being named the Secretary of  Housing and Urban Development in some new administration. Continue reading

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everybody knows

What a week for this country. Seemingly everyone surprised by the election result and scrambling through many emotions to determine what Tuesday’s vote really means for our families, friends, and neighbors today and in the near future. Continue reading

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tempus fu**it

Time is certainly flying now at a pace where I recognize the seasons and, if it promises to be an uncomfortable one like with heat and humidity and the prospect of having to forego wearing pants or get near recreational water activities, I can just close my eyes for second and think, “Well, this too shall pass”… and very quickly it does! Continue reading

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