Category Archives: That 70s Journal

Short entries (a few hundred words) on personal observations since turning 70.

So, this is novel!

If you woke up yesterday expecting to vote for Donald J. Trump, wow… you have got a serious reality check to consider: Your candidate, as of 5:15pm yesterday afternoon, is a convicted felon.

If you are one of those Americans, please ask yourself this: If you ran a small business, …say you owned a coffee shop, or a hardware store…, would you hire a new assistant manager after learning he had 34 felony counts on his record?

Ok. Maybe you’re a forgiving type or an optimist. What if he also had a civil judgement and was paying damages to the victim of his sexual assault?

In addition, what if a number of his previous businesses were judged to have committed massive business, tax, and lending fraud? And were now paying penalties, or prohibited from engaging in those businesses?

Oh… this was mostly in New York State, and that makes a difference to you? It really shouldn’t, but let’s allow it anyway.

What if he was pending trial in Georgia for election fraud? And was a conspiring person of interest in another case in Arizona? Or are those states too “purple” to count for you?

Or maybe your shoe store just really needs that assistant manager desperately?

How about two other pending prosecutions? These could land our feisty job applicant in federal penitentiary! One is for stealing and concealing federal property, and top secret documents at that? The other is about fomenting a riot to pervert constitutional democracy, and hang on to the office he’d lost in that election?

I mean what if this guy had hidden plans to steal your secret recipe for french vanilla, and then take over your ice cream stand altogether?

Or is all of this just too silly for you to take seriously?

But, would you hire this guy? To balance your checkbook? To represent your personal interests? To drive your wife to the airport? To watch your kids while you’re away?


It’s Personal…

In 2020 I had resided in McIntosh County Georgia for 18 years. I voted for Joe Biden in the election there that November. I felt considerable pride for my adopted state as that election count was finished. The Democratic Party succeeded in seating two new Senators, and won 16 electoral votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Democracy is exhilarating when you earn a positive outcome honestly.

On January 2nd, 2021, out-going Trump placed an hour-long phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he pressured the Secretary to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the election.

This wasn’t Trump’s first phone call pressuring the Secretary’s office. On December 23, 2020, Trump called the chief investigator at the secretary’s office, who was then conducting a ballot audit. Raffensperger had ordered the audit in response to Trump’s allegations of fraud. Trump asked her to scrutinize the ballots and said she would find “dishonesty”. She didn’t. No significant fraud was found.

Four years have passed.

Trump is now indicted under both federal law and in the state of Georgia for his criminal attempt to defraud voters and steal the 2020 election. And it wasn’t only those two phone calls, but the fraud involved a coordinated effort by numerous individuals to present and count false electoral ballots from seven different states.

The conspiracy’s success hinged on fomenting utter chaos at the Capitol. Trump’s surrogates summoned armed and violent right wing posses. They moved according to a plan under the cover of the other demonstrators. Capitol policemen defending the building suffered serious injuries. Some died. One civilian was shot dead.

Slates of false electoral ballots were created in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republican party workers labored to put those fraudulent ballots on the floor of the House on January 6th, where they hoped the pressure of the rioting mob might force their acceptance.

And the plan almost succeeded. The House and Senate chambers were evacuated. Tear gas was discharged in the Rotunda. Windows and doors, interior and exterior, were shattered. The counting of electoral ballots could not take place.

The certification of my chosen candidate was delayed until late that evening, after the rioters withdrew, the building had been cleared and deemed secure, and the legislators and Vice President Pence had returned.

Chaos didn’t succeed that day. But chaos hasn’t given up. Trump recently said that there would be “bedlam” here if he was not re-elected. It’s pretty clear to me and others that’s a call to his violent supporters to engage in armed insurrection again on his behalf.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of living with ongoing chaos and division, if you’d prefer living with peace and the order of law, then you shouldn’t support Trump, or any faction that supports him.

They tried to steal my vote. It’s personal…


If you’d welcome my forgiveness
as I could welcome yours
We might sit down some afternoon
to tea and petit fours.

As I ask you for forgiveness
what I hope you’ll realize
Is my asking for forgiveness
doesn’t constitute a prize.

Should you offer me forgiveness
but not accepting mine
I’d feel fully entitled
to believe you out of line.

When I offer my forgiveness
what I’m offering to share
Is the peace which that forgiveness
has brought me in a prayer.

You should know that your forgiveness
is your antidote to pain
As my forgiving you the while
has worked for me the same.

If you’d welcome my forgiveness
as I could welcome yours
We might sit down some afternoon
to tea and petit fours.

January 2024, Charlotte, NC

‘Mahagonny’ (1980), a film by Harry Smith

Here’s my cranky old man’s take on the second film Ann and I ever walked out of, but don’t judge the film too harshly by it. I’m sure it’s better than I make it out to be. While watching it, I kept glancing at Ann, and thinking about Alvy Singer dragging Annie Hall into numerous screenings of ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’ (1969-4hrs.25min).

There’s a proper review of this art house magnum opus from 2003 in the New York Times, and here, too, an interview from this past week with Rani Singh, director of the Harry Smith Archives in NYC which aired on WFAE, Charlotte Public Radio. Less helpful is the IMDB page.

Anyway, my review emerged in an early morning conversation with my daughter Ellen. Enjoy…

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By the way it’s worth mentioning that the first film Ann and I bailed out of years ago was ‘On Golden Pond’, which won Academy Awards for both Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. So don’t listen to me!

Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves…

(Reading time: ~2 minutes)

Here’s some clarity for you this morning: Fervor has utterly displaced Mellow in these United States.

Remember when you’d hear the complaint, “Hey, Dude! You’re harshing my vibe! Yo, chill!” Maybe mostly on tv, and perhaps only ironically over a beer in a backyard, but the thing was this: In general, back then we valued relaxation.

And, we could indulge in it!

Fast forward to today: No matter which side you’re on, it’s all Urgency. It’s all Crisis. The Right cries out, “Defend Our Freedom!” Everyone else shouts, “Defend Democracy!” The underlying passions are feeding a stridency and tension that may reach a flash point.

Don’t mistake my reflections here as a call to calm down. I am anything but complacent these days about the dangers I’ve seen coming, and, yes, arriving in America.

We are confronted by a small but powerful faction that has built its strength by playing on and magnifying people’s fears and hatreds. The fear and hatred is irrational and tribal. It’s curated to be so by those that generate it because frightened people are easy to manipulate, and also easy to stampede!

There was a guy some time back accused me of being a “sheep” for telling him to calm down. “What’re you so angry about?,” I challenged him.

“You’re one of the SHEEPLE!”, he shouted.

And I closed my eyes and pictured the mob stampeding the Capitol.

Those who would lead you to smash things aren’t thinking about you. The one swinging the sledge isn’t thinking about the hammer. He’s thinking about the target of the blow, and what he might do with the empty space left after destruction. The burning of the Reichstag didn’t liberate Germany.

Those who would lead you to reverse an election in these United States- (they tried on January 6th, and they’re trying again in 2024) ..Those are the ones who pursued only three missions when they held control: increase the wealth of the richest, seize factional control of the courts to shape society to their view, and build a “show-piece” wall to perpetuate fear of the “other”.

Paul Simon wrote a song called ‘Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves’. It’s a simple little story tune; an allegory riffing along axes of culture, politics, and human psychology. If you see what I’ve been saying here, you might enjoy it too. Chill out with it for a bit.

And after that ask yourself who are the sheep, who are the wolves, and what do the pigs really want.

The Republican Problem (Updated)

(Reading time: ~1 minute)

Today saw Mike Johnson (R-La), anointed as the new House Speaker. He managed to command the votes necessary to accomplish what three other far-right members could not. This followed shortly on the heels of Donald Trump skewering the bid of Tom Emmer, the Republican Majority Whip, who was named Speaker Designate for about 90 minutes late Monday night. To appearances this has mended the fractures in Trump’s party. But has it?

Ask yourself this: Is the Republican Party a single party anymore? I ask myself what number of them are posturing as Trump supporters? How many wish he would withdraw from public life? Which would secretly wish him convicted and in jail? How many despair of the nightmare Trump’s cult has visited on their life in public service? They are fair questions.

Oh, there are certainly many, many true believers. Even so, there’s mutual grievance, distrust, and anger in their ranks. Their caucus is still fractured. Behind the smiling celebratory faces following Johnson’s being seated, there’s considerable grievance, distrust, and anger in their ranks. All the moderate Republicans are lying low, as the far-right, grandstanding extremists dance to Trump’s tune.

The Republican Party seems unable to mend itself. Trump’s putsch at the Capital has driven a wedge into his party, with factions and fractures roiling beneath the surface. As evidence, behold the chaos in the House over the past month. The extremists in its ranks are clearly disinterested in governing, preferring instead to prop up their gilded graven leader, and harken to his whims.

How many republican members whisper to themselves, “Maybe the courts will save us!” Frightened, mired in futility, this feckless circle of the hopelessly self-interested are a spectacle to behold.

( Enjoy this brief video of Johnson supporters booing down a question about his stand on election denial: )

This Old House

(Reading time: ~1 minute)

Yesterday the ultra-right firebrand, Jim Jordan, lost his bid to be third in line to the president. He was set aside by 25 republican members who, despite considerable bullying, found their spines and refused to seat him as house speaker. I enjoyed watching the vote happen, sipping Earl Grey Tea.

I, too, laughed as Mike Kelly (R-Pa) voted, instead, for John Boehner. Boehner, who dubbed Jordan “a legislative terrorist”, and used to razz Jordan by button-holing him to ask, “What do you plan to f-ck up today?” That was before the far-right Freedom Caucus drove Boehner from the speakership and into retirement.

As thankful as I am for this unexpected courage from those 25 republican members, it bears reflecting that on the dark and stormy night of January 6th, after the sacking of Congress, not one of that 25 voted to confirm the rightful election of Joe Biden, but instead supported The Big Lie. In all, 147 republican house members voted against confirmation.

Good governance requires both a vision concerning real policies and works; Not just some vague notions that “taxes are too high”, and “regulations are bad”. And, too, a willingness to work with your opposition in honesty and compromise is essential. A commitment to constitutional democracy wouldn’t hurt as an added extra.

The present house majority lacks all those, almost absolutely.

Coffee with Lemurs

October 1, 2023 (reading time: 1 minute)

It’s a fully caffeinated morning for me. Unusual, that, as I’m trying to control my blood pressure without a statin (this with my doctor’s encouragement). I’m at my elder daughter’s home, a compact bungalow tucked away in a forest with lemurs. There’s a giant sequoia seedling in a pot on their deck. I love that everything here, from the garden to the rafters is mildly and pleasantly disheveled, but beautifully, like an unmade bed with colorful pillows and a sumptuous tangled quilt.

I sleep well here. There were neither sirens nor car alarms in the night, and no trains howling at crossings. They run the fans all the time to keep the air moving, and this makes the house sound and feel like it is breathing quietly, a gentle shushing in the background. It’s relaxing here.

The only task I have today is to decide what to do next. I’m at liberty to travel or hold still, and travel is an option that won’t always be available. Seize the day sometimes translates to seize the reins. So be it.

(Cue Neil Young:) ….well, I’ve been to a forest with lemurs, (how insane!)…


Prosecco Dream Notes, with ‘My Cousin Vinny’

September 30, 2023 (reading time 2 minutes)

After sharing a bottle of good prosecco with Ann last night, I dreamt of a place, a resort and hotel, with a pneumatic ski lift; giant tubes that could lift one with hair standing straight up, shooop!, straight to the top of the mountain. Sans skis, as I supposed they would get stuck in the tube.

At this resort, someone, not me, was prepping to take his bar exam, to become a lawyer. The test was conducted on a proprietary terminal with a time limit for completion, and our candidate had signed in and launched the exam, but stopped at question 1. Then he wandered off to admire the pneumatic ski lift.

The clock was ticking. I wanted to help him, and was pretty certain I’d noticed a paper copy of the exam somewhere nearby, not that it would necessarily help. But our examinee was unconcerned with the passage of time, and oddly confident he’d finish despite having wandered off. Such dreams annoy me, since I’m pretty sure I’m both the observer and the observed in them.

This dream was likely inspired by having recently seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’. Released in 1992, it’s a memorable film. Vinny was a New York lawyer who took six years and six attempts to pass his bar exam, and had never tried a case in court. He finds himself defending his cousin, wrongfully accused of murder in a small county seat in Alabama. Joe Pesci plays Vinny, Fred Gwynn the crusty judge, and Marisa Tomei won best supporting actress that year as Mona Lisa Vito, Vinny’s girlfriend.

It’s a film well worth revisiting.

Road Trip, Day2

September 26, 2023 (Reading time: 1 minute)

We slept in a private home last night, the way one does these days via an app on our phone, and it was just fine. We a found a few crumbs in otherwise clean sheets, and the elderly lady of the house was kind and helpful. She seemed grateful to have a bit of company passing through.

The home is one of those row houses in a modern development with fruit trees and a patio. The trophies of children now grown and departed decorate corner tables here and there in the house. I had a good night’s rest despite the jets from Dulles International climbing out overhead. We’re three miles from the Potomac River and the Maryland state line.

Ann is here in Virginia to claim free fabric and other quilting notions. A friend invited her to come fetch them and a sewing table before they were discarded. So we’re hoping for a rain-free trip back to Charlotte with this booty riding in our pickup. The table is a handsome thing, but too big, really, for Ann’s sewing room. She plans to re-gift it to another quilter down in Georgia: A journey for another day…