Entry 905: Answers, I’ve Got Answers

In my last post, I posed some sarcastic questions for Zach and Amanda, a married couple who are the only two people I know who are “actively” serving in the military. I put the word “actively” in quotes because how active can the Air Force be keeping them since they have three young sons and they still had the time to individually answer my stupid questions?

So here are their answers, along with some follow-ups from me.

1. When you were deployed to Afghanistan (she was) and Iraq (he was), did you feel safer than an ordinary American here at home? (Statistically, they both were.)
Zach: I was deployed to Iraq in 2009, the U.A.E. and one more location in 2019 that is classified. In 2009 I felt less safe because, while you are there, your very presence is inviting conflict, whereas back in the states, the majority of danger comes from accidents. Most people don’t think about all of the things that can kill you each day, but when someone is actually trying to kill you it makes you notice it more.
Amanda: When I was stationed in Afghanistan in 2010 it still was unsafe but not as bad as going outside the wire. The army still has it worse than us.
Me: I don’t think the victims of mass shootings would classify their deaths as “accidental,” but I get it. When you go to a church or a school in America, you don’t feel like you’re in danger even though you are. But, more importantly–wow, Zach, you were stationed somewhere classified? Was it Area 51?

2. When you enlisted, did they tell you what was in Area 51? Would it freak me out?
Zach: Yes they did, and it would BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!! (Seriously, no they didn’t; all I know about Area 51 comes from documentaries.)
Amanda: Sadly no, we don’t have the need to know.
Me: Now I know that’s where Zach was stationed!

3. You’ve been stationed in Utah and in England. Which place has better accents?
Zach: England has better accents but that’s because there are more of them. We hear accents that are Irish, Scottish, Welsh, London, etc. So there is a larger range, kind of like New York City.
Amanda: Germany. They would talk shit about us in German.
Me: Amanda, how did you know? Sprichst du Deutsch?

4. Both of you post on Facebook a lot. Is any of that coded messages about enemy troop movements?
Zach: Personally I don’t make any coded messages although I do like to look at things that others post on military actions and try to inform them if they are incorrect.
Amanda: No that’s OPSEC.
Me: I have enough trouble with normal millennial text abbreviations, so don’t start OPSECing me.

5. Can you both sing the Air Force song? Can you harmonize?
Zach: I can sing the Air Force song if you pay me or put a gun to my head. Otherwise F that. And I can’t harmonize at all.
Amanda: Yes and maybe if we practiced, but we aren’t that cool.
Me: Only in the Air Force could singing the Air Force song in two part harmony be considered cool. The question for Amanda is, would she pay Zach to sing with her?

6. Back in the 70s, I worried about being drafted, because I have no sense of rhythm and I thought I might have trouble marching in formation. Do either of you know anyone who got discharged because of that?
Zach: Everyone eventually gets it, and they will keep you in basic training until you do. I have seen some crazy ass marching. There is a thing called “failure to adapt to military life” and you can get kicked out for it. It’s like if you are constantly late to work, you fail your exams, fail your physical training test, your dorm rooms are disgusting, etc. It shows that you are just not cut out for this way of life.
Amanda: No, they would just be super fit because of the extra push ups or sit ups or burpees they would do.
Me: I wouldn’t have lasted a week. And I do not want to know what burpees are.

7. I know that neither of you are pilots, but do they ever let you fly something anyway? If either of you were the Robert Hayes character in the movie Airplane, could you land the plane?
Zach: So they have an “incentive flight” program where if you do something really noteworthy, or are just a constantly shining star they will let you go up in a two-seater fighter jet. I put out an aircraft fire once and “saved” the pilot’s life. So they sent me up in an F-16. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. The pilot let me fly for almost the whole 2 hours. And yes, if I had to, I could land a plane. I know enough about basic flight control systems and dynamics of flight to get the plane on the ground. The plane probably wouldn’t be able to make any connecting flights, but it would be on the ground.
Amanda: Zach has had the incentive flight. The pilot let him take the controls for a moment.
Me: “A moment?” Hmm. It seems like Zach may be exaggerating his “flight time.”

8. Some people wouldn’t work for a company that supported President Trump. The Air Force gave $18,456 to his reelection campaign. Are either of you going to quit because of that?
Zach: I’m not going to quit, because all of that money comes from individual people. Each year AF members can donate money to various charities or organisations, one of which is the reelection campaign. So that 18k is coming from 120k AF members which just shows me that he isn’t well liked among the majority of the AF. Down with the clown.
Amanda: If you didn’t like your boss would you quit? But would you quit knowing he could only be working for 4 years as your boss. Remember when you quit you lose all benefits and retirement.
Me: “Organisations?” Zach hasn’t been stationed in England long enough to be spelling with a British accent.

9. How many different uniforms do you have? Do they ever change the styles?
Zach: We have 3 distinct groups of uniforms. PT gear (work out clothes), Blues ( the formal blue suits with all the ribbons), and fatigues. The AF is currently phasing out the old ABU (airman battle uniform) for the new OCP (operational camouflage pattern). While we go through the transition, both forms of fatigues are allowed to be worn but by 2021 we will all have to be wearing OCPs. These uniform changeovers happen infrequently; it’s usually to meet the operational requirements of the regions we will be deployed to most often. Or to update old fashion styles with the times. (For example, the PT gear is getting updated from 70’s- style nut- huggers to more modern trends.)
(Amanda had basically the same answer but, for some reason, omitted the nut- hugger reference.)

More of Zach and Amanda’s answers in my next post! See you soon.

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Entry 904: 20 Questions, Military Edition

Every once in awhile, I compile some questions that I’m too lazy to get answers to with Google searches, so I use them in a post.

This time, it’s a little different. The questions are directed at the son of a friend of mine who is in the U.S. Air Force. (That is, the son is in the Air Force, not my friend, who would likely be rejected by the military for any one of dozens of reasons)

This young man (Zach) and his wife Amanda (who is also in the Air Force) are literally the only two people I know personally who are actively serving in our military. Here are my questions for them.

1. When you were deployed to Afghanistan (she was) or Iraq (he was), did you feel safer than an ordinary American here at home? (Statistically, they both were.)

2. When you enlisted, did they tell you what was in Area 51? Would it freak me out?

3. You’ve been stationed in Utah and in England. Which place has better accents?

4. Both of you post on Facebook a lot, like Amanda’s  post at right. Is any of that coded messages about enemy troop movements? (I blanked out your name in case nobody is supposed to know who you are, or what make-up you have.)

5. Can you both sing the Air Force song? Can you harmonize?

6. Back in the 70s, I worried about being drafted, because I have no sense of rhythm and I thought I might have trouble marching in formation.* Do either of you know anyone who got discharged because of that?

7. I know that neither of you are pilots, but do they ever let you fly something anyway? If either of you were the Robert Hayes character in the movie Airplane, could you land the plane? Did I pick a bad week to give up drinking?

8. Some people wouldn’t work for a company that supported President Trump. As I reported recently, the various branches of the military each donated money to President Trump’s reelection campaign. The Air Force gave $18,456. Are either of you going to quit because of that? Do you know where the six dollars came from?

9. How many different uniforms do you have? Do they ever change the styles? When military people come home on leave and go through regular airports, why do they wear camouflage? They don’t blend in very well.

10. When you retire from the Air Force, will one of you pursue a career flying drones for real estate agents?

11. When politicians and celebrities meet military people on TV, they always say “Thank you for your service.” Has anyone ever said that to you? If they have, did you say, “You’re welcome”?

12. How’s the food?

13. Do you ever whisper something under your breath when given an order?

14. Speaking of which, do military people really shout orders at each other, or is it more like, “Hey, could you hand me that wrench?”

15. I Googled “Air Force Acronyms.” Do you know what all of these are?

  • CMSAF
  • COMAFFOR
  • EWO
  • PTL
  • ROAD
  • CBRNE
  • DSCS
  • EELV
  • GLCM
  • HARM
  • SBIRS
  • UAS
  • ITT

16. I’ll give you one of the above: “ROAD” is “Retired on Active Duty.” How does that work exactly?

17. Also, “SBIRS” stands for “Space-Based Infrared System.” Is that a real thing? What does it do? Can you bring one home?

18. OMG–SBIRS’s weren’t top secret, were they? Am I in trouble? Do I have to go live with Edward Snowden?

19. Do you know any Marines? Just between us, are Marines really wusses?

20. What’s it like having an insane egomaniac for a boss?

Maybe I’ll see you guys next time you’re home. As for the rest of you readers, see you soon.

P.S. Exciting news! Although I wasn’t really expecting answers, Zach and Amanda have BOTH given me some! I’ll put them in my next post.

*Also, Vietnam.
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Entry 903: Sex, Death and the Law

Sex and lawyers are like chocolate and kale: most people like one, a few people like the other, and nobody much cares for the result when you put them together. Especially when you sprinkle some fatalities on top.

Take, for example, the death in France of a man identified only as “Xavier X.” Xavier, an engineer, was on a business trip when he had a heart attack and died. Xavier’s wife wanted to obtain death benefits from his employers.

However, Xavier’s employers, a Paris railroad company, believed the company was not responsible for Xavier’s fatal mishap since, at the time of his heart attack, he was with a woman he had just met and engaged in an activity which was not technically part of his job description. Let’s just say it had gone far beyond a French kiss, and that Xavier X was one “X” short of a very appropriate monogram.

(I’ll get to the outcome of this story in a moment. But first, an aside about online news coverage. You can’t have an article without a photo and, evidently, there was a consensus among news outlets about what sort of picture goes with a story like this, and, when I Googled it, I discovered that, apparently, there are many different stock photos of feet having sex.)

Anyway, the French courts ruled that Xavier died as a result of an “accident du travail”–a work accident–and thus his wife was entitled to benefits.

The courts were kind enough to reveal their logic. It went something like this (which I am not making up):

“An employee on assignment is entitled to their employer’s protection for the duration of their mission … whether or not the accident takes place as part of a professional activity or as an act of normal life. A sexual encounter is an act of normal life like taking a shower or eating a meal.”

I have two thoughts about this:

  1. How can a heart attack be a workplace accident no matter where it occurs? It’s not an accident at all. It’s not like people often trip and have a heart attack.
  2. Perhaps only in France could having an adulterous liaison with a complete stranger be regarded as an act of normal life.

But good for Xavier’s wife, I say. She got his benefits without having to go through a messy divorce. But now let’s cross the Atlantic to New York City, where another widow has not been as fortunate. Her name is Pai Xia Chen, and her husband was an NYPD detective named Wenjian Liu. Detective Liu, who I actually wrote about back in 2015, was killed in the line of duty, and Chen is trying to get Social Security benefits for their daughter. Unlike the aforementioned Xavier, Liu was wearing his work clothes at the time of his death, so it would seem pretty straightforward that the child he had with Chen would be entitled to benefits. Except for one minor detail: The child wasn’t born until after Liu’s death. Three years after his death.

I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds like a really long gestation period, and they should have induced labor around month fourteen.” Jeez, you’re an idiot. Obviously, Chen wasn’t enceinte (as Xavier X. would say) for those three years. She waited a respectable length of time before getting pregnant with her dead husband’s baby using, as I hope you’ve guessed, some of her dead husband’s preserved sperm.

The Social Security Administration defers to individual state rules in such instances, and New York State does not make a benefit allowance for posthumously-conceived children. One State Senator, Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn), has introduced a bill to change that.

“Families like Detective Liu’s who suffer a terrible unexpected loss should not be prevented from receiving what is theirs because of antiquated laws,” he said. “Assisted reproductive technology after one partner dies is now a true option for families that deal with tragedy, including first responders in the line of duty.”

This is one of those times when a statement sounds perfectly logical, but you still want to respond with, “Yes, but . . .”

In this case, it would be, “Yes, but, you say ‘families like Detective Liu’s.’ However the child in question was not part of Detective Liu’s family at the time of his death.”

Science has really created a gray area here. On one hand, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with providing benefits to the child if Pai Xia Chen had been pregnant with her at the time of Liu’s death. On the other hand, if Chen adopted a kid after Liu’s death, I think there’d be a pretty good argument for not awarding benefits.

So where does this child fit in? If benefits are intended for the surviving family of the person who died, should we now include sperm in that? Will obituaries start saying things like, “John passed away suddenly of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Joanne, his son Mike, and three tubes of jizz.”

I think of it this way: if you decide to have more children after your spouse dies, why should tax payers help support them? Those kids haven’t suffered “a terrible unexpected loss” because they weren’t around when the person died. If you’re pregnant, fine; I’m not suggesting you should get an abortion. But the key is you’re not taking action to add to your family knowing your spouse will not be there.

In other words, we should treat this situation like a movie, and the operative phrase should be “in production.” Benefits go to the spouse, to completed children, and to any kids that are in production at the time of the death. That covers the pregnancy. The cells in the test tube are the equivalent of a screenwriter’s first draft that hasn’t been optioned by a studio. There should clearly be no benefits then.

Now, someone might say, “But what if it was a frozen embryo?” Hmm. I’d reply that maybe the movie had been cast, but filming hadn’t begun. Still no benefits, I say, unless you can make a deal with Netflix.

But here’s the big question. What if Xavier got that woman pregnant in Paris? Would that kid be entitled to benefits?

Think on that for awhile, and see you soon.

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Entry 902: People I Hate

Let me start this post by saying that it is not about specific people I hate, like Donald Trump, Rod Stewart and Meryl Streep.

Yes, I know; those three names don’t usually go together. I don’t hate them equally, or in the same way, but I do hate them. Stewart because I can’t stand his voice and I think “Maggie May” is one of the worst songs of all time, one of the few that will make me reflexively turn off whatever it is emanating from and go smash a mandolin.* Streep because, well, I’m not exactly sure why; she just rubs me the wrong way. (Do I need a reason to hate somebody?)

Don’t get me started on Trump.

Anyway, what this post is about are types of people I hate, the kinds of morons we all know that make our lives just a little bit worse. For instance . . .

I hate people who introduce opinions by announcing something about themselves that is contradictory to the opinion. It always goes something like this: “I’m the least prejudiced person I know, but . . .” and then the other shoe drops, “why are all the murders on the news in black neighborhoods?” One of the specific people I mentioned above, who has pronounced himself, and I quote, “the least racist person that you have ever met,” is particularly prone to this. When someone begins with a statement like that, I just know they’re about to follow it with something that’s going to make me want to hit them. Because I’m the least violent person I know.
**********
It drives me crazy when I go into a public restroom and see a guy seemingly talking to himself at a urinal. It always takes me a moment to realize he’s wearing a Bluetooth earpiece and he’s having a hands-free conversation while he’s having a hands-on urination. But I really hate the numbskulls who place their phones on the ledge of the urinal so they can swipe with one hand while they aim with the other. I don’t care how important you think you are, there is nothing that can happen–including a world-ending catastrophe– about which you can later say, “I wish I’d known about that before I finished peeing.” (It’s possible that I resent these men because, at my age, I have to concentrate too much to be able to multitask.)
**********
I hate Right to Life people who want a ban on abortions except in cases of rape or incest. I actually hate them more than I hate people who don’t want the exceptions. Look, if you believe that a fetus is a human being entitled to full rights regardless of the wishes of the person carrying it around inside her, I may think you’re an idiot, but at least have the courage of your convictions. If it’s alive, then why does it make a difference how it got there? Murder is murder.
**********
I also hate people who are anti-abortion and anti gun control. It’s like they’re saying you should only kill people after they’re born.
**********
I hate authors who write trilogies and don’t tell you they’re trilogies so you read the first book and then, two years later, the author comes out with what you think is a sequel but, by then, you have absolutely no recollection what happened in the first book so you have to read that again before you read the second but the author still hasn’t told you it’s a friggin’ trilogy, so you have to wait another two years and then read the first two books again before you read the third and, let me tell you something, asshole, that last book better have one hell of an ending!
**********
I hate Republicans like Mitch McConnell even more than I hate Trump. Look, Trump is Trump. At least he’s fairly consistent. McConnell and other Republicans so obviously put party before country that you just want to give them an uppercut to the chin if, in McConnell’s case, you could find it.
**********
I hate people who put LOL in their own posts or emails. It’s bad form to LOL at your own jokes, which, BTW, if you have to LOL at them yourself, are never very LOLable.
**********
I hate people who text or read email while they’re walking. Sometimes I’m tempted to watch for awhile to see if they trip over something or, better yet, get hit by as bus. (Note: I make an exception for my wife.)
**********
I hate people who say “each and every.” I hate people who say “I could care less.” I hate each and every person who defends people who say “I could care less.”
**********
I hate people who don’t wear socks when they fly. I hate them for three reasons:

  1. They know they’re going to have to take off their shoes at security; why would they want to walk through an airport barefoot?
  2. They then always take their shoes off on the plane, usually if they’re sitting next to me. Wear comfortable shoes, idiot. They’ll be even more comfy with socks.
  3. I just don’t like the sight of feet.

**********
I hate people who think God is responsible for every little thing. No matter which deity you believe in, he or she had nothing to do with you getting that game-winning base hit.

And that’s all the people I hate that I can think of right now. I’m sure others will occur to me when somebody pisses me off.

See you soon.

*”I laughed at all of your jokes, my love you didn’t need to coax.” Seriously?
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Entry 901: Sunk!

You just never know where the next great idea will come from. For instance, Indonesia had one recently. It decided to sink its entire capital city, Jakarta, and build a new one from scratch in the middle of the jungle on the island of Borneo. Really.

Well, almost.

That is, Jakarta really is sinking, although not because of any action taken by the government, unless you count contributing to the climate change that’s raising sea levels. And Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, really has announced that they’re going to move the whole capital to a jungle-infested area on Borneo at a cost of 486 trillion rupiah. I’m guessing here that rupiah is the Indonesian currency, and not some animal that is bred locally for its meat and/or dairy and/or use in exports like Indonesian wallets. If that’s the case, I’d hate to live in Indonesia, what with all those rupiah running around and farting, which is just something I assume rupiah would do.

Where was I?

Right, sinking capitals. While Indonesia has the germ of a brilliant idea, it is making two errors in its execution.

  1. Its President’s name is Joko Widodo, which is just silly.
  2. They’re announcing it in advance.

If America was to import this idea like a genuine Indonesian rupiah wallet, I would recommend no advance warning. I’d want the sinking of our capital to come as a complete surprise, perhaps as a result of a very rare river tsunami rising up out of the Potomac and washing Washington away. Sure, we’d lose a bunch of interns and maybe some regular citizens, oh, and the Supreme Court and the artifacts at the Smithsonian, and the FBI and most of the Federal government, but that’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to start over and get it right this time.

For our new capital city, I figure we’d choose a location closer to where the center of the country is now, as opposed to where it was in the 18th century. I’m thinking Lebanon.

No, not the Middle East Lebanon. Our capital probably wouldn’t be welcomed there. I’m talking about the mid-west Lebanon. The one in Kansas.

I’ve chosen Lebanon because it is the geographic center of the contiguous United States (I know because of the official sign shown at right), and it’s easily reachable by almost no means of public transportation. So we’d finally have to build that high-speed train that could get folks from Hollywood and New York to Lebanon in under an hour.

I should point out that I could also have selected as our new capital Belle Fourche, South Dakota, which is the geographical center of the non-contiguous United States, the United States that includes Alaska and Hawaii. Although Belle Fourche has a more impressive marker (below, left), I’m staying with Lebanon because I’m a traditionalist. Besides, how great will it be when a president leaves office to return to his or her home state and is able to say, “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

But I digress.

To ensure continuity of government, not to mention C-Span, we’d have to prepare Lebanon in advance for becoming the hub of our country. There would need to be a top secret committee (the Freemasons, probably) that would clandestinely hire architects and construction companies to erect some office buildings in and around Lebanon. They couldn’t be obviously governmental (there’d be no domes, for instance, and they’d go easy on the marble and the beige) because that would raise too many questions. Curious members of the press would be told that all the construction was for a new theme park. Perhaps they could throw up a roller coaster or two for effect, or just add some terrifying loop-the-loops to the high-speed train.

Only this secret committee would know the exact day of what would inevitably be known as the “Swamp-Draining Deluge” because they’d be the ones that set off the small underwater nuclear explosion in the Potomac to cause it, making sure it happened when Congress was in session and the entire executive branch was in town (instead of, say, playing golf in Florida).

In a day or so, all that would be left of D.C. would be the top of the Washington Monument sticking out of the water. Forever more, whenever there was a hint of a scandal, people would say, “Oh, the corruption goes much deeper than that. That’s just the tip of the monument.”

Meanwhile, we’d have a brand spanking new capital city all ready to go in Kansas

Because Lebanon is not an attractive destination for power hungry people, we wouldn’t have all these assholes running for national office. Instead we’d have representatives who genuinely want to serve their constituents instead of corporations and special interests. I mean, even Mitch McConnell wouldn’t live in Lebanon just to take money from the NRA. And he’s from Kentucky!

We’d suddenly have a government full of fresh-faced, idealistic, unjaded, corn-loving (you’d have to be to live in Kansas) representatives of the people. And while we’re at it, we could update the constitution to apply to the 21st century, maybe by defining what types of arms the founding fathers meant it was okay to bear (muskets only!), and getting rid of the Electoral College, and outlawing SuperPACS, and banning political parties and so forth.

Of course, all of this will undoubtedly add to the national debt. But, hey, we’re already some $16 trillion in arrears. What’s another few trillion rupiah?

See you soon.

P.S. It’s possible that Lebanon KS is a much more exciting place than I’m giving it credit for, although, judging from this photo, probably not.

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Entry 900: Detour to Death

So I was driving around South Florida recently, thinking that it must be the most accident-prone region in the country. This was based on the number of billboards I was passing, all asking questions like:

  • “Injured?”
  • “Car accident?”
  • “Injured in a car accident?”

The queries were always followed by a lawyer’s 800 number, often spelling something like “1-800-SUE-THE-BASTARDS.” There were dozens of them, some with a dollar amount displayed like a lottery jackpot.

Unfortunately I did not see any billboards with questions that applied to my current state of affairs resulting from my being in South Florida, such as:

  • “Bored?”
  • “Clammy?”
  • “Tired of your glasses fogging up when you leave the car?”

The reason I was driving around aimlessly on I-95 is that I had just left my mother after paying a visit, and my flight home wasn’t for five hours. With no need for an attorney, nothing to store in South Florida’s abundance of facilities intended for that purpose, and no Robert Kraft-like desire for the massages that are offered in every strip mall, I was trying to think of something else to do until it was time to head to the airport.

What can I say? Butterfly World didn’t appeal to me.

Then I remembered a sign I had seen the day before when I was searching for a watch battery.

My mother’s watch had stopped, you see. She doesn’t need a watch, since she rarely leaves her room at the assisted living place, and her room has three clocks, at least one of which usually has the correct time. But she likes her watch, so I looked up jewelers on my phone and found one in Deerfield Beach, which is right near where she is in Boca Raton. So off I went, watch in hand, following WAZE’s directions. I found the jeweler, paid $15 to have the battery replaced (about what it had cost for the entire watch), and presented the working timepiece to my mom, which really thrilled her, because she had forgotten that she had given it to me an hour earlier and thought it had been lost.

What I remembered now as I drove around purposelessly was the sign that had been pointing the other way when I got off I-95 to go to Deerfield Beach. If I had made a right off the exit instead of a left, I’d be headed toward the town of Parkland. And now, with five hours to kill, I decided that’s where I wanted to go.

I should mention here that, although I live in the New York Metro area, I have never been to the site of the 9/11 attacks. I don’t exactly know why my wife and I have never visited Ground Zero. We’ve talked about going, but we’ve never gotten around to it, primarily because we never have some other reason to be in lower Manhattan, and have never felt compelled to go down there just to pay our respects, or visit the museum and memorial that stand where the towers once did, or find out if the street pretzels get any fresher as you near the southern tip of Manhattan.

And yet now I had a weird urge to go to Parkland.

So I repeated my route of the day before, and made the right off I-95. After awhile, I realized it was silly just driving in the general direction of Parkland. It wasn’t the town I wanted to go to, of course; it was a specific place. So I pulled into a Dunkin Donuts and stood inside patiently while an elderly couple chose the 12 donuts they wanted in their dozen. They were giving careful consideration to each selection and even arguing about it (“No Boston creme, Peter!”). Then, when they had finally compromised on chocolate glazed for their 12th donut, the donuteer told them they were entitled to two free munchkins, so they spent another couple of minutes discussing what variety of those they wanted. While I waited with unaccustomed patience to order an iced coffee (I did, after all, have five hours to murder), I looked up Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School on my phone, marveling that I remembered the name without assistance.

I typed the address into WAZE and followed the directions, arriving eventually at a closed gate (it was a Sunday). I don’t know what I was expecting. A sign? One of those makeshift memorials with flowers and teddy bears? A survivor handing out gun control leaflets?

But no, nothing. Maybe there was another entrance somewhere with a bronze plaque describing what had occurred last year or bearing the names of the dead, but I was losing interest. I got out of my rented car long enough to take this picture and then left, afraid to pause too long lest a passing officer think I was casing the place for some future horror.

I’m writing this now in the JetBlue terminal at the airport (having arrived still way early for my flight), and I’m wondering why the Parkland shootings affected me more than any of the other mass shootings America enjoys on a regular basis. I think it’s because of the kids. Not the ones who died, but the ones who were so filled with rage in the aftermath: David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez (yes, I remember their names, too) and the rest.* They were finally going to get something done, damn it.

Yeah, well, not in this country they weren’t.

As of August 31, 2019 there had been 610 mass shootings in America since 17 students and teachers were killed at Marjory Stoneham on February 14, 2018. You read that correctly. Six hundred and ten in about a year and a half. So maybe stopping by Parkland was my humble and ineffective way of doing something, anything.

It was certainly simpler than erecting a billboard with a question of my own:

See you soon.

P.S. Yes, this is Entry Number 900, which means I’ve done more than 900 of these posts (there have been bonus entries) since beginning this blog in June, 2011. During those 8+ years, the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. has tripled. Since 2013, 3,449 people have been killed in U.S. mass shootings**, which is over 1,000 more than the number of Americans killed fighting in a war in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2017.

*I even once wrote a letter to them.
**That doesn’t even include people shot one at a time.

 

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Entry 899: What I’m Willing to Not Do to Get Rid of Trump

I was in Maine for a wedding recently, and my wife and I were planning to visit the LL Bean outlet store in Freeport. I mentioned this to one of the other wedding guests.

“Oh, no,” she said, “you can’t shop at LL Bean. One of their board members raises money for Trump.” She seemed very confident that I was not some closeted Republican who wasn’t wearing my MAGA cap only because it didn’t go with my blue suit.

Ordinarily, such a pronouncement would not have caused us to alter our plans, because neither my wife nor I believe in political action through shopping.

We did in this case, however. After all, if I could get Trump out of office by not buying a discounted sweater, it was certainly a sacrifice I could make. Besides, we’d heard there was an entire outlet mall nearby.

The episode got me to thinking, though. What else could I forego to ensure that someone else–just about anyone else–would get elected in 2020? How could I do my part in a way that would not be too inconvenient?

So I decided to look up some corporate Trump supporters that I could comfortably boycott. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to a lot of trouble to do so, because there’s a website, GrabYourWallet.org, expressly for that purpose.

There I discovered that a fellow named Stephen M. Ross is an excellent target for my inaction. He’s the billionaire chairman of a conglomerate with a wonderfully generic name: Related Companies. It owns a lot of stuff that I have no use for, like Equinox Gyms and Soul Cycle. I haven’t been near a gym in decades, and I’m delighted to continue not exercising if it will kick Trump out of the White House. Related Brands also has a stake in Lola Organic Tampons which, I can militantly state, can certainly count on me not purchasing their product.  In fact, I’m so made at Ross for supporting Trump, I won’t even buy Lola tampons after Trump leaves office. Take that, Lola!

Ross also has a stake in something called Momofuku. I think that’s a chain of restaurants, so I’m not sure how it’s related to other Related Brands like Lola Tampons. In any case, I would like to take this opportunity to tell Ross . . . well, let’s say I’m making an assumption about how the last two syllables of Momofuku are pronounced.

The chairman of New Balance, Jim Davis, contributed $400,000 to Trump’s campaign. That might be problematic for many men my age, but I’m a Reebok guy. My son-in-law Alex, however, who got married in New Balance sneakers, might want to look into some Nikes.

The former CEO of NASCAR endorsed Trump. I thought it was a bit harsh of GrabYourWallet.org to try to penalize a corporation for its ex-employees, but I was happy to extend my lifelong avoidance of NASCAR races nevertheless. Besides, with all the logos that adorn the cars, how do you know one of those companies isn’t a Trump supporter? Look away! Look away!

I haven’t watched a professional wrestling match since, I think, Wrestlemania VII (at which, somewhat ironically, Trump had a ringside seat next to the guest timekeeper, Marla Maples), but now that I know the WWE is a huge Trump backer (which may explain Linda McMahon’s position as head of the Small Business Administration), I won’t even see any movies starring The Rock.

Everybody in Westchester NY is excited that a Wegmans supermarket will soon be opening nearby but, according to GrabYourWallet.org, none of them should shop there because they carry Trump wine. This raises two important questions:

  1. Isn’t it enough to just not buy the Trump wine? Do you have to boycott the whole store?
  2. There’s a Trump wine?

Anybody who actually purchases a Trump wine to go with their Trump steak deserves whatever president they get.*

Another website, OpenSecrets.org lists some other Trump donors including, somewhat disconcertingly, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. Does that mean that any Democrats who want to fight in a war need to enlist in some other country? Not that I was planning to join up any time soon, but isn’t it a little weird for our military to be contributing to presidential candidates? It’s like they’re trying to choose their own boss. And I bet they’re regretting their support now that Trump has redirected defense funds to build his freakin’ wall.

A lot of banks gave to Trump, too, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. According to OpenSecrets.org, Chase gave $18,604. That seems like small potatoes for a bank, don’t you think? It’s like the political equivalent of giving out a toaster for opening an account. And what’s up with the four dollars? Was that interest? Did Chairman Jamie Dimon have some pocket change?

Anyway, I’ve decided not to participate in this type of consumer protest. It’s not so much that I can’t live without any of these goods and services, it’s just that it’s too much trouble to keep track of who’s donating to who.

See you soon.

*Evidently, there is a Trump Wine, and it’s perfect for anybody who prefers wines from Virginia.
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