Trouble Me (with appologies to 10,000 Maniacs)

My regular readers, as opposed to my irregular writing schedule, will know that commuting is a common topic.  And why not?  I do commute 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, more or less.  Today I got into my car and my chariot roared to life.  Soon the radio kicked in and Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” changed my consciousness.  It was 1988 and I was joined by 50,000 of my closest fans watching the Amnesty International Benefit Concert.  Being over the hill, I also like harkening back to my 20s and a simpler time without as many worries.

It was a great show. Sting cancelled so Springsteen and E-Street Band and Peter Gabriel and to play longer sets, which was fantastic, because dreams of blue turtles bored me to tears.  I thought about being 15 and riding my bike to the record store to get Gabriel’s first solo album.  Yeah I was that cool.  So cool I didn’t have a girlfriend, but my music rocked.

As I was enjoying my groove, I came to the 4-way stop where I turn left.  Still, bopping a bit, I watched the car to my left move across the intersection and the SUV to my right turn right.  As the first car  passed me, I pulled out.  (Insert the sound of dishes breaking.)  So much for my groove.  The 2nd car to my left decided the stop sign didn’t apply to her.  She slammed on her breaks and glared at me as I deigned to follow the traffic laws that did not apply to her.

I gathered my wits in time for the SUV’s driver to decide that he was really a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos and the turn was a fake, moving in a pseudo U-turn to cut me off.  Clearly, starting a turn and finishing it is optional today.  I missed that memo.

I moved along my path, keeping in mind I’m only 4 blocks from home.  Ok, maybe 6.  Up ahead is a stop light, with a free right turn.  There are 3 lanes of traffic on the busy artery ahead, but the turn lane is generally pretty empty.  A head sat a car, frozen in terror because all 3 lanes weren’t clear.  You know the driver; he won’t turn right unless they can turn into the fast lane.  What ever happened to merging?  I’m pretty sure this is the same driver that enters the freeway at 30 miles per hour because the people in the slow lane go to fast and they believe NTSB has empowered them to make the world safer.

Before we can turn and I can continue my descent into madness, the song changes to Rainbow’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.”  I turned it up to 11.  Or 12.    The car blocking my progress finally turned and because the artery was open for ½ mile, I had no trouble gunning it and passing them within 50 yards.  The rocking sound track clearly helped push my adrenaline forward and my mood moved from Peter Gabriel inspired Romance to heartbreak’s rage.

Your poison letter, your telegram
Just goes to show you don’t give a damn

My mind often jumps from tangent to tangent.  You know who doesn’t give a damn?  The GOP. My mind is still overwhelmed by this week’s spin that the President decided to shut down the government.  Even after that bastion of integrity John Boehner, decided that previous budget and spending agreements in congress could be left on the side of the road like a hillbilly’s trash, because it was time “to take a stand.”  Seriously?  Politics is all about compromise and agreements.  By showing that previous agreements can easily be reneged on to achieve specious goals, we can only conclude that any future agreements will be as solid as tissue paper.

This entire government shutdown is ridiculous, and seems to be staged by the very conservative right.  Let me restate the facts as I know them.

  1. The GOP does not like the Affordable Care Act (ACA/ObamaCare)
  2. The ACA is the Worst Thing that has ever happened to this country (Noelle Nikpour GOP Strategist)
  3. It is worth defaulting on the national debt to stop the ACA
  4. The GOP agreed to a spending bill/debt ceiling increase then decided to hold the nation hostage
  5. The ACA is a law that was passed. (We all know how bills become laws from School House Rock, right?)
  6. The GOP wants smaller government, isn’t that what they’ve just achieved?
  7. For every action there is an equal, but opposite reaction

My outrage reached a boil as I saw Noelle Nikpour make that statement on TV about the ACA being the worst thing to happen to this country.  Slavery, the great depression, the civil war, the Viet Nam war, Prohibition, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy all pale compared to ObamaCare (they should trademark that name to make sure it is hated by all the people who still think our president is a Kenyan Muslim. Of course he’s neither.)  I am sure there was always an undercurrent of hate and prejudice within politics, but it has become hard to miss.

I’ve put it out there; either you agree with me or you don’t.  I’m not going to change your mind and I respect your right to your opinion, though I believe the conservative movement often wishes we liberals and moderates were not allowed to have opinions.  What I want to do is bring two significant points forward that mean quite a bit to me and probably should to you.

First, when the government defaults and that seems to be the ultimate goal of the Tea Party influenced GOP, you and I will be affected.  When the economy tanks, those of us over a certain age and having attained some success are deemed expendable.  We can be replaced at 70% efficiency at 75% of the cost.  Leadership, influence and helping other achieve more are less important than pure cost savings.  I have been let go too many times not to understand what happens.  Hero on Monday; too expensive on Friday.  We all can be replaced.   I have been.  You might too.  Lifetime employment ended in the 70’s we didn’t see that till the 90s.

Since the GOP has taken the government and legislative process hostage because they do not like a law that was passed, how long before the Democrats do the same thing?  What does this mean for our way of life and democracy as a whole?  This is the political equivalent of a spoiled child taking his ball and going home.  Eventually that child either grows up and learns or has no friends.  I’m not sure we have time for the GOP to lean that lesson.  They have already spent years shouting that they refuse to.

I’m more depressed than I am angry.  And I’m plenty angry.  All that’s left is for the evangelicals to remind us that this is the first stage of the rapture they want and the rest of us are going to hell.  I expect that message in the second half of October.



A Shadow over Guernica

Is it me, for a moment?

Work overflowed from the screens before me.  Two steps forward, three steps back.  I analyzed dates and progress. I reviewed pages of reports that were ignored, blank or filled with the spineless words, “no work done.”  I sent out emails that had to make me look like the bad guy, questioning how projects could go months without significant work or updates.

I rarely see myself as the bad guy.  I’ve realized belatedly a few times that I was the villain in a scenario. By and large I try to do the right thing not do things right. There have been people in my life I’ve perceived as villains.  Saruon to my Faramir.  I’m no hero, but I try to be a free thinking, positive influence.  Recently I heard one of those villains would be on the periphery of my work life.   Being an adult, I thought I would rise above the fray and keep looking for ways to keep Minas Tirith away from the infections Mordor wish to spread.

I see the bad moon arising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

It was hard to miss the rodent of a man walking the halls like he owned them.  Hearing him was bad enough; I could feel his swagger and arrogance from 2 blocks away.  My exterior did not reveal my inner turmoil.  At least I hope not.  Little by little I felt unease begin to pound the shoreline of my soul.  This was both unplanned for and completely unexpected.  I struggled, but got through the day by keeping to myself.  A coworker mentioned I looked “spent” at days end.

The next day, death stood behind me, looking for his pale horse. I tried to shake him, but always stayed at the edge of my vision; after a few hours I had forgotten he was there.  Perhaps he was just a dust bunny destined to keep my day from it pristine potential.

Laughter rang down the hallways. I’m sure everyone heard the joyful brown nosing.  I heard the cacophony of a maniac.  The Joker laughing as he toyed with Batman, empty spaces resonating the distasteful noise to 11 on the dial.  My sense of right and wrong bristled at this horrific sound which had no right to be within 50 miles of me.  Every time I heard that laugh, for this monstrosity is neither quiet nor terse, a large jagged edge ripped at my soul.  In my mind, there was plenty of blood on the killing floor. This was a being who believed a novel should be recited and repeated when the question called for a simple yes or no.  To him I was a layman.

The silicon chip inside her head
gets switched to overload

My rage slowly simmered over the next hour or so.  Then, the emotion boiled rapidly, spewing particles far and wide, attacking the compartment I tried to force it into. The walls broke down and rage filled me, the way Thoros of Myr lead men into Pyke, relentless in their fury, onward to crush their rebellious foes.

I was not myself. I hoped no one saw the shaking I was sure I felt rising from within.  I tried to maintain my composure.  It wasn’t working. Shortly after 12, so I left the building.    I walked. Where, I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t going anywhere my coworkers might remotely go to.  Alone was my singular thought.

One bourbon, one scotch and one beer

A tap room I’ve been known to frequent after work became my destination two blocks in. I rarely have a beer at lunch.  Being safe, I stayed off the front patio and took my double IPA to a dark corner inside.  Even If someone from work walked in, I wouldn’t be obvious.  I was a bit befuddled as the high alcohol drink softened my frayed nerves.  Seriously, I was drinking my lunch.  There was no food, just beer.  Reacting to my emotional attack, normal behavior was just out of reach.

But he forced a smile even though
His hopes lay dashed where offerings fell

Walking back to the office, I was less stressed, but far from right.  Of course I walked by a restaurant, its walls opened to the world, letting the delightful May weather in.  There sat Sauron, yucking it up with 2 others.  My stress level soared as I nodded politely to the man who signs my pay check and kept walking.  What little solace the day and the beer offered, fell by the wayside as I envisioned death, now on his pale horse, using his scythe to great advantage.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I felt a tide of blood chasing me down the street.

In the shuffling madness
Of the locomotive breath,
Runs the all-time loser,
Headlong to his death.

In a fog, I wandered back to the office, hoping to get lost in the mundane.  Eventually, with the help of caffeine in near overdose levels, my pulse and nerves evened out.  Paperwork and status updates became my balm.  After about 90 minutes, I was parched and headed to the lunchroom for a glass of water.

As I rounded the corner, I stood 2 steps from Sauron.  There he was, gray eyes, steeled in malice.  His voice was all sunshine and light in greeting, but his eyes betrayed his thoughts.  Hard and focused, recalling every perceived injustice he had ever been forced to endure.  In the past I had said a few things to him; ugly truths morphing from minor faux pas to gangrenous wounds, fueling his now visible anger.  I’m no angel, but I had not been trying to be malicious.  He, on the other hand, admitted undermining my projects because of his perceived slights.  He had held that anger so long that when he finally let it loose, I was actually afraid. Rabid dog was what I thought at the time. I saw that same look in the hallway.   My mind screamed, “Evil” as I walked toward my intended refreshment, wishing for vodka instead.

They say history is written by the victors.  I didn’t win.  No one did and no one will.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that feels that way. But if you look closely and skew the focus, you’ll see this as my Cave of Altamira; my record, painted in blood.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.