Madison, Our Best President

This weekend, flags will be a-flyin’, firecrackers a-poppin’, politicians a-pontificatin’, and barbecues a-grillin’ as our nation celebrates its 240th birthday amid the usual pomp and turmoil. Our national patriotic selves are in particularly high dudgeon this election year, when we all play the game of Why Do We Have an Electoral College, Again? Some you will be tourists, traveling to national parks, or perhaps to our nation’s capital (I hear there’s some GCLS thing coming up soon?)  ‘Tis also a fine time to play another fun game of history, Who’s Your Favorite President?

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Was Lincoln your favorite because he believed in the equality of all individuals and the strength that can come from a united people under a good central government? How about FDR shepherding the country through the miseries of the Depression and anxieties of world war? Jefferson, articulating the freedoms that prompted us to start our grand experiment of independence? Or is it some prez that you lived through more recently? (Though I’d argue anybody after 1976 doesn’t give us enough perspective to evaluate fairly.) Or do you think picking the best president is Uncool, too Nerdy for you?

Nerdy or not, I submit for discussion, Mr. James Madison. He deserves his own carving on Rushmore. He should have his own obelisk on the National Mall, his own memorial next to the Potomac. And it should be the biggest.

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Empty Locker

Six months have passed since I retired, and I am slowly redrawing my habits. I was happy to leave the back-to-back conference calls and the constant grinding stress from my corporate masters. I was not happy to leave my work comrades. I had processed – therapeutically – the feelings about leaving them and still think of them fondly every day.  I had not, however, considered the feelings I would have about the non-work part. I miss the trappings. I miss my gym.

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End of an Era

February came and went before I was able to send my corporate polo shirt out of the house, the uniform that I wore weekly for years. I felt silly, but I took a photo.  I still long for the fresh turkey sandwich on a French roll that I would literally run next door to get in the five minute break between calls. I miss reading the newspaper on BART going into the city. I challenged myself daily to complete the cryptogram and the two crossword puzzles between Lake Merritt station and my office, which meant finishing them while I walked the five blocks to work. I couldn’t do it if it was raining.  This month, I finally decided to find a new gym.

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Ba-ba-doo-BANG (The One for Father’s Day)

I don’t want to write about my dad, even though Father’s Day is coming this week, and that’s a natural topic for my blog. Circumstances in recent weeks have thrust this topic into my lap, but I am resisting full force. In a prompt from my writing class, we were asked to pick the fourteenth photo in a randomly chosen album. The fourteenth photo: there we are in North Carolina on a drive from Detroit to Miami in 1973, but my first thought was, I don’t want to write about me and my dad.

Later that day, my wise friend Nancy saw a set of essays about famous fathers on http://myoldman.org/. With praise towards my weekly entries, she wondered what I would say about my parents instead of writing about food or art. How can you refuse a friend? Especially when they flatter you?

I didn’t know my dad well enough. That’s my problem.

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The World at our Fingertips

This week’s post was inspired by a sentence from the excellent essay 13 Right Now. This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing by Jessica Contrera, Washington Post:

The whole world is at her fingertips and it has been for years.

I read this book last year where the hero and villain chased each other across several countries to acquire secret technology that would rule the world. It had jet planes and speedboats and was written in the late nineties. The secret technology was described as the ability to connect all the world’s encyclopedias so that someone could type a word into a computer and learn everything there is to know about that thing. It would make education available to all, raise the standard of living for the poor, equalize disparate classes, and topple secret governments. The Internet.

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Cinderella Meets Katniss

[Gentle Readers: This week’s blog is a short work of fiction for a rare change. I have started a writing class and hope to provide the next new and improved normal nonfiction entries, after receiving instruction and feedback. Meanwhile, one class suggestion for this week was to reimagine a fairy tale, and I thought you might get a kick out of my submission. As always, I welcome YOUR feedback as well. ]

The Grand Ball was the big event of the season, a chance for the duchesses and baronesses to display their most extravagant gowns and jewels to trap the eye of eligible bachelors. Silk brocade swished through the air as the dancers whirled through the intricate steps of Empire waltzes. The music swelled as the violins approached a crescendo, propelling the whirling dancers into their fastest turns, and drowning out the sound as the poisoned darts hit home.

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