September, 2013 Archives

Two Old Codgers

September 22nd, 2013

Wherein my Sunday morning coffee felt more like a tea party.

Two old white guys were sitting, sipping coffee. I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke and in a way, it is.

I had stopped into Dunkin’ Donuts for a slurp of caffeine and while I was waiting for my morning drug, these two guys — at least in their 70s — were complaining about what they had just read in the paper.

“Do you really think this health care change is going to help the poor?” one asked the other.

I slowly moseyed over closer to hear their exchange.

“Hell, poor people on welfare have it easy,” said the other one. “That guy in here the other day was talking about his new washer and dryer.”

If I weren’t fascinated by their meanness, I would’ve piped up, “That’s terrible! Poor people want to wash their clothes; what has this country come to?”

It got better. “In Hawaii, a family of four makes more than they need to survive on welfare. There’s no reason to work; they just stay lazy and keep taking money from big government,” one guy said to the other.

Being a recovering journalist, I instantly knew these codgers were repeating some false factoid they heard via some right wing “news” outlet. It had all the code words they love; welfare, lazy, big government, Hawaii. I’m surprised they didn’t toss in Benghazi, ACORN, the Second Amendment or Big Bird.

I made a mental note to investigate when I got home.

There they sat, grousing about how the poor have it so good on their governmental handouts. I started surmising — and I don’t recommend surmising on an empty tummy — these two guys were probably retired, receiving both Social Security and Medicare benefits. Now, there’s not a shred of empirical data to suggest that they receive any aid from the government. They just, you know, looked the type. I don’t want to profile them, but they fit the bill. You can never trust two old white guys sitting, drinking coffee. They’re always up to no good, right?

I should say right here that I have nothing against old white guys. Some of my best friends are old white guys.

On and on they yapped. Being too much of a scaredy cat, I grabbed my frozen coffee and exited the building without making eye contact … you just never know.

When I got home to my trusty search engine, I plunked in the Hawaii statistic and voila, there it was. With only a few clicks I discovered they were quoting a study funded by one of the Koch brothers. His “think tank” did some wonderful mathematic trickery and made some very odd assumptions. Then they included the taxes that maybe wouldn’t have to be paid and on and on, gymnastic flip after flip. So by my logical conjecture, one of the richest guys on the planet thinks Hawaiians shouldn’t do laundry.

And now that I’ve written it on the internet, you can say “I read it somewhere.”

People are calling BS (not on my laundry claim, but on the original study). Forbes says it utilized “shocking bogus methodology.” If that weren’t enough, they say it’s “complete, unadulterated nonsense.”

But sure enough, the study was repeated as fact on that right wing channel. And once it was there, those people — the two old white guys — sipped their coffee in sublime supremacy, knowing that their own personal governmental handouts were far better than some grass-skirted Polynesian’s.

My days as the captain of my high school debate team are long over. So I had no stomach for confronting this gang on a Sunday morning. Plus, you never know, people dressed like that were probably packing iron … a three iron, that is.

When Your Power Goes Out Without You

September 12th, 2013

A lack of electricity generates certain longings on another dark and stormy night.

The last gray glimmer of day fades behind the storm that made our electricity go out on a blind date without us. Like the pioneers, I sit and write by candle light. Unlike our forefathers, my iPhone sits next to me, pinging alerts about my Facebook friend’s power outages and pictures of other’s food or funny selfies. Tesla and Steve Jobs must be rolling their eyes and L-ing out L.

This blackout has also served to remind me why I got high grades throughout Elementary School in every subject besides penmanship (well, I blew at Math too, but for the purposes of this narrative, let’s just confine it to handwriting).

Things I Take For Granted, in no particular order:

  • Spell check
  • Refrigerators
  • Palatino
  • The Detroit Tigers in High Def.
  • Any moving picture, really, besides the gruesome reflection I see mirrored in the window by candle light
  • Erggh, Spell check again
  • Sump pumps …
  • Phwew!!

Two hours in and the family has resorted to cannibalism. I’d give my left arm for electricity. Whoops, I almost actually did! I try to text our Power to see how its date is going. I’m told the electricity just isn’t there.

My wife lurks somewhere in the house with ingenious battery-operated reading glasses. I gave them to her for Christmas and I curse my magnanimity as one of the wicks next to me abruptly flickers out.

Note: Look up “magnanimity” once IF the power ever comes back.

What The #$%! The candle wick sprits and pops, sending out a waxy contrail arc. Damn! That never happens when I’m typing in Word. I’m terrified of re-lighting its sister wick that also just sputtered dark.

You know, I realize it’s just because I can’t open the fridge right now for fear of losing the stored up chill, but a beer would taste absolutely divine right about now. I make a mental note to create a Belgian beer and Vanilla ice cream shake once that snappy, sparkly, crackingly lovely electricity comes back into our lives.

Wait, is our home actually haunted? Nope, just an eerie looking wife with robot spectacles lying there in the darkness. Heart beat slows back down to 300 beats a minute.

My daughter has long-since abandoned us to a friend’s house with power, ostensibly to do homework. She gleefully texts me that her high school is running on backup generators. I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s probably like a giant snowstorm on a Sunday morning: they’ll have it worked out well before the first bell tomorrow.

Three hours later. Power returns home, slightly tipsy and not at all apologetic. I turn on every electric device in the house. Frozen beer shakes for everyone!!

(Not really. Actually, I wander around with my flashlight still in hand, trying to correct the clocks that aren’t connected to the outside world. Halfway through, I realize I don’t need a flashlight and just flip on the overhead light. How quickly we adjust.)

Lightning Rod

September 3rd, 2013

Sacrificing sanity for the sake of photography.

I’m not exactly sure when it hit me. Maybe it was while I was fiddling with my camera’s exposure settings that I realized standing in the path of an oncoming lighting storm might not be the most intelligent thing I’ve done in my life. But I had my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend as company, so if our foursome got struck by one of the errant bolts slashing toward us, at least we’d save on funeral expenses.

But they weren’t the ones with their hands glued to a metal tripod on this dark and stormy night. I was the conductor in this endeavor, in more ways than one.

I’ve been caught in storms before. Heck, I’ve intentionally traipsed toward tempests throughout my career as a journalist. Some of them even involved weather. But as I’ve gotten older and as less and less people have been willing to pay me for my pictures, I’ve slowly realized how insanely lucky I’ve been. Stupidly, dumbly lucky.

Still, when my wife nudged me awake over the weekend and wanted to share the wild weather with me, my gut response was to grab my gear and go.

We made it to the end of our driveway.

Lightning was snap, crackle, popping right over the tree line at the end of our block. But unlike Rice Krispies, we didn’t hear a sound. It was the oddest sensation. Bolts were jig-jagging across the sky and only a distant rumble ever reached us. It seemed, though, like they were getting closer.

Taylor and her new boyfriend were already out on the driveway, sharing a romantic moment watching the storm. I’m sure the last thing on both their minds was sharing their date with Dad.

Since I had grabbed our only easily-accessible tripod, Marci was forced to roll out an old sparring bag on a stand that the kids used for Tae Kwon Do. Long ago we decided to sell the thing and it still has a sign taped to it asking $40. We never had any takers, so the padded punching bag sat abandoned in the garage until pressed into service as a supplemental stabilizer for a wife who just wasn’t quick enough to snake the tripod first.

We snapped as the lightning crackled, using long exposures to make sure we captured lightning in a pixel.

All four of us eventually realized that the electrical storm was getting a little too close and that only imbeciles would continue along our present course.

My apologies to imbeciles everywhere; you are all much smarter than we were.

Ducking for cover, we finally got it through our heads that maybe we should leave the lightning experimentation in the past with Ben Franklin. But not before seeing that we each got a pretty fair group of photos.

Safe inside, we raced to look at our pictures and maybe post something on Facebook before the power went out. We listened to the rain as it began pouring down.

The power never went out that night, but the next day, under brilliant blue skies, it cut out twice.

FOR SALE: One professional quality tripod that doubles as a punching bag.