For a Smile

Well, here we are, boys and girls, in the home stretch. Seven days from today I will have typed my last obligatory words and tombeingtom will return to its regularly scheduled format: whenever I please.

Not that I haven’t enjoyed these moments we’ve had together. I actually enjoy stretching for a topic each day, or simply freewriting a blank page for public consumption. I even enjoyed my shining moment yesterday, which was halfway cheating but still followed the letter of the original directive. Plus, it made some of you smile. If I can get someone to smile, every day, I’ve done my job.

Did you smile just then?

Okay, then, I will continue.

The wife and I have been busy getting the house ready for the return of the mother-in-law. Her room has been something of a storage unit since she’s been away, visiting sisters and such, and now we need to store our stuff someplace else. I want to build a storage unit in the backyard, but haven’t pulled that $549 trigger just yet. Money is so much easier to part with than to earn. Perhaps once I get my massive tax cut from the passage of the new health care bill I’ll use some of that windfall to purchase a shed.

Perhaps monkeys will fly out of my ass, too.

Smiling yet?

Last night, around 9 in the evening, I was ready for bed. I had put in a long day of yard chores and house organizing, and finished it up with beers and BBQ. I let the dogs out for a minute, after checking the perimeter for skunks. They did their business and went back inside. It was 103 degrees and the sun was setting behind the distant mountain peaks. I couldn’t help myself.

Realizing that 103 at 9 pm was rare, I decided to indulge in one last beer and a poignant moment alone on the deck. I’m glad I did. Everything in life makes sense when you can take a moment for yourself and indulge in the pleasures of a cold beverage, a big deck, a summer evening, and a beautiful view.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know what I’ll say in this space. What I do know is that I’m happy to be alive. I’m enjoying every magical moment of this thing called life. I hope you are, too.

And I hope, somehow, I made you smile.

Have a magical day, folks. 😊

My Shining Moment

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All.

Work.

And.

No.

Play.

Makes.

Tom.

A.

Dull.

Boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy. All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull boy.

😎

The Runoff Race in Georgia

The runoff race in Georgia provides an interesting contrast to the political drama in America today, on many fronts. If you don’t know what was happening there, they held an election in Tom Price’s deep red district after Price became Donald Trump’s Health Secretary. The Republicans have held that district since 1979. Victory was assured. However, the backlash against Donald Trump in America today gave the Democrats hope that they could unseat the Republican candidate Karen Handel. It was a longshot, but hopes were higher as the election cycle continued. It turned out to be the most expensive campaign in congressional history.

Handel won, as most expected. I paid attention to the rhetoric leading up to the race and almost everybody was saying her opponent, Jon Ossof, was a longshot to win, but that even a close race would be a victory for the Democrats and a referendum on Trump. It wasn’t really close. Handel won, if you’ll pardon the pun, handily. A Republican won a deep red district as expected. This, according to some pundits this morning, is an apocalypse for the Democrats.

No, it isn’t.

The person expected to win the election won. It is, however, a great time to overemphasize a runoff election with hyperbolic embellishment. And everyone from the President of the United States to the left-leaning Atlantic is ringing the bell of historic victory or doom and gloom.

It’s dumb. But that’s America right now. All sensationalist sound bites and chest-beating. Zero substance. It’s a big game being played out between Democrats and Republicans and only the final score matters. CNN and Fox News are simply the ESPN of politics, covering the players in the game. The folks in the stands don’t matter, as long as they pay their ticket and watch.

I understand the Trump grandstanding on all this more than the Democrat hand-wringing. Trump has been short on victories since taking office, and he’s prone to bluster, anyway. He’s gonna make it sound like his team just won the Super Bowl, because of him, no matter what happens. Even if everybody in Georgia avoided talking about him as much as possible down the stretch. He’s bad news for both sides.

The reason the runoff is such an interesting contrast, however, is because partially the Democrats are right to be concerned. It wasn’t the end of the franchise. They lost a game they were supposed to lose. But it is still a wake-up call. One of these parties, somewhere along the line, has got to start remembering it isn’t about the game, it’s about the fans. The millions of people in the audience are more important than the handful of players on the field. If you want to make a great America, focus on what is best for the people. The party that figures that out will run the table in 2018.

But, no, that asks too much. Donald Trump wants to run social media victory laps. Republicans want to repeal a health plan, then add tax cuts for the wealthy and reintroduce much the same plan with their name on it, instead. Democrats want to take back the Congress without compromising their core value of self-interest.

It’s time for some soul-searching. Both parties should take Georgia as a wake-up call and start thinking about the American people again, start thinking about the us in U.S. The approval ratings of Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan are even worse than the approval ratings for Donald Trump, and his are at historical lows. Nobody likes the leadership in America. And who can blame us for that?

But go ahead, leaders, keep celebrating and hand-wringing. Go ahead, news outlets, keep sensationalizing nothing stories. Keep the end times coming.

Apocalypses are great for ratings.

What’s On Your Mind, Social Media Star?

If you’re on social media you’ve probably come to the recent conclusion that it’s hot outside. If you’ve gone outside you’ve probably come to the same conclusion.

I’m not disparaging the use of social media to project a sense of environment; that’s partially what social media is for. It is an avenue that allows each of us to present what we see in front of us, or in our heads, to the world. In a world where there is only one you, you are the star.

Scrolling down my Facebook feed this morning I see a happy Dodgers fan. I see someone asking for prayers and positive thoughts on their glaucoma. Somebody is celebrating their new work schedule. A couple of people are lamenting the coming day’s heat. One lady is appreciating two bachelors from a prominent TV show. Another is celebrating the start of her vacation. I see a cinnamon roll, a couple of plates of sushi, some flan, several beautiful families, a couple of beautiful boats, a blow-up alien watching a dog, a sad report on Otto Warmbier, and Mark Garcia giving away Train tickets.

One person is even asking people to post no pictures of the weather today. 😉

But that’s what we like. I like the comments and pictures about the weather. The photos of food. I value the laments and celebrations; I want to see what you’re up to. What you’re enjoying, or not. I like your show.

My own wall has me talking about having a beer. There’s Moxie from 3 years ago, freshly groomed and sitting on the deck at Old Casa. There’s Moxie and Ludo on the deck at New Casa for the first time, one year ago. I see a link to yesterday’s blog. I see a picture of me finally meeting a young lady named Trinity. And there’s my daddy, in uniform, from forever ago.

People tell me all the time that my show is all about beer and dogs. Or the Rams. Or all about my feet, or the food my wife is making me, or the food I am grilling for her. Some say I’m all about parties, or tacos, or politics. I’ve even been told that all I ever talk about is superheroes, or rompers, or my new car. I’m all about a bunch of one things.

You seem to be, too.

In the final analysis, what does it matter? It’s your show, talk about what you want. Regale me with weather updates, inundate me with love for your god, talk about baseball, show me pictures of cattle blocking the road, tell me about your new beginnings and your happy and sorrowful endings. I wanna know.

Don’t hold back. Tell me all about your day.

Or, as Facebook would put it:

“What’s on your mind, [friend]?”

On Crime

I woke up late today so I have to rush. As I said yesterday, I found 4 typos in the last 25 entries; I intend to make more today. No editing. I’m going to put down some random thoughts in 400 words and see what the raw post looks like. It could suck. But it will be brief.

As I opened the news page today on Google, there were two stories about brutality against Muslims that jumped out to me immediately. Sad times. The hate we see in the world is worsening. Hate is the easiest thing to stoke.

At “church” yesterday, my friends and I spent some time talking about crime in the local community. There are varying statistics as to the current crime rates in Redding, and some controversy over whether it is worse now than 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Information about it is certainly more accessible with instantaneous electronic news and social media reports. We know more about the crimes that happen, and we know about them quicker. Regardless (I won’t use irregardless again, Dylan!), the fact remains that Redding needs more police officers than they have. According to one report, Redding has 1.4 police officers per 1000 citizens. The California average is 3.6 per 1000, the national average is 3.4. For a town wrestling with crime, as we seem to be, that is not enough.

The city tried to pass a quarter-cent sales tax increase back in November to address the situation. Ostensibly. It failed to get the 50% vote it needed, apparently because the funds weren’t specifically earmarked for law enforcement.  But a couple of years earlier a similar bill, earmarked specifically for law enforcement, failed to get the 66% of the vote an earmarked bill requires. Redding is a tax-averse community so a vote requiring a super-majority to raise taxes is difficult to pass.

So we’re at a stalemate. We have rampant crime and few solutions. My friends and I joked about the city needing Batman. I’m not in favor of vigilante justice, but I do like cool costumes and gravelly voices. Plus, the bat-signal thing would look great in Redding skies.

I don’t think that’s the solution. More cops on the street, an expanded jail, and a chance for serious repercussions for criminal activity would all help stave the onslaught.

If we come together on anything out there, we need to come together on that.

Have a great Monday, now. Spread some cheer, but watch your backs.

And wear a cape. Capes are cool. 😎

The Smithin’ of More Words by the Juggernaut of Jargon

I took a little time yesterday and read a few of my old entries. The last 25 to be exact. I really enjoyed it. I found some typos that I’d missed on my final edit the first time around, and I corrected ‘em. They were minor, and easily missed, and there were only 4 in 25 entries. That’s a pretty good average, I’d say.

I enjoy reading what I write. I don’t know if that’s one of those “wrong things to say” kind of things, but I’ll say it, anyway. If more people wrote the way I do I’d probably read more. That’s definitely one of those “wrong things to say” kind of things, but I said it. It’s okay to disagree with it; I encourage you to write the way you like to read, too.

Since I’ve started this foray into dedicated daily entries, for the entire month of June, I’ve had two other people tell me they’d love to start a blog. I’ve encouraged them. I’d like to help them get started. I hope they have great success, however they define it. I hope they scroll back to their old entries and enjoy what they see. I’d hope that they hope that others write like them so that they can enjoy what others write, too.

Have I belabored that point?

Honestly, it’s Sunday and I’m on limited sleep and I didn’t feel like getting up and putting in my 400 words before church, so I’m just filling in blank spaces on empty paper so I don’t have to buy the beer.

You knew that, didn’t you?

But let me be honest for a moment. Another moment, I mean. Because what I said above was entirely true, in every way. I love reading my old entries. There were some typos. I fixed them. I wholeheartedly encourage people to write and share. The two people who have said this week that they want to start a blog are clever and dear to me. I can’t wait to see their stuff.

But the other honest thing I was going to say is that I look at my writing like poetry a little bit. I may not have something to say all the time but I endeavor to say it in the most ornate way. It’s art to me.

Poetry.org defines poetry as “an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional or semantic content.”

See, even if you didn’t understand all the words in that definition it’s a beautiful use of the language.

I like to take language, take simple moments in time, and write something aesthetically and semantically pleasing about it. I do it in sentences and paragraphs instead of stanzas. I make purty.

Or, at least, I try to.

Whether or not I succeed is the judgement of the observer, just like any art.

So, those are the things that went through my head as I read my own stuff. If you’d like to do Tom a favor, and you find yourself with some time, go back and read some of the ones you’ve skipped. Read them for their flavor more than their content. Let me know how I did. Even if you didn’t agree with the opinion, or care for that day’s topic, did I make you smile? Did I create something artful with my use of the language? Did I create something awful instead?

That’s what I look for when I go back. I can be biased, so your opinion means even more to me than mine does. I hope you find that you liked it enough to want to read more. Or I hope you hate it enough to tell me so. Either comment improves Tom, being Tom.

Okay, so I went and filled a blank page with more than 700 words without really meaning to. I apologize for that, and hope to do it again tomorrow. I hope you read it. If you don’t, I will punish you with another 700 the next day. It’s what I do.

I’m the energizer bunny of semantically poetic prose. The irresistible force of lethal literary illumination. The juggernaut of jargon.

I’ll stop there. You deserve better. 😉

Have a great Sunday, friends!

My Own Health

I’ve been considering my own health a lot lately. Maybe it’s because of my friend’s recent battle for life, at a young and vigorous age. A battle he is still fighting, by the way. A battle he is winning, by all accounts, but with a long road ahead. Every day I hope there is some way I can help him.

Maybe it’s the loss of a great-aunt. Her name was Nadine, and her funeral was yesterday. I was telling my sister, via text, that I don’t remember if I ever met her and Uncle Vern or if I’d just heard about them. Probably somebody in the family knows the truth about that. Families and extended families can be huge, and being the youngest of 7 probably means I met many of the family elders when I was very young. I’m not very young anymore. I hope Nadine rests in peace.

Maybe it’s because I’m becoming physically aware of my own advance in time. Things hurt more when I move about. Mostly in the legs. The way the legs used to hurt when I played 5 AM basketball three times a week in 2012 for 6 months. They often feel like I played basketball yesterday. Maybe I’m not stretching enough. I can still touch my toes when I stretch, though, so that’s a thing. Heck, I can still touch my heels, most days.

But, still.

In 12 days I’ll be a year away from half a century old.

There should be some sort of daily countdown for that, right? Like The Twelve Days of Christmas, only geared to someone I know better. The Twelve Days of Thomas. Oh, I could bore the hell out of all of you with that.

🎶🎶“On the First Day of Thomas, my good friend sent to me … a Resistance link and #LockHimUp meme.”🎶🎶

No, I won’t bore you with that. As fun as it might be to do twelve of them, I won’t do that.

Unless I run out of ideas tomorrow.

In thirteen days I’ll be 50. I say that, because I have this quirky little thing I’ve done since I was first sentient. The day after I turn one age, I start referring to myself as the next. I do this because (a) I’m still a weird little shit like I was back then, and (b) it prepares me mentally for what comes next. I never fear the age I become on the age I become it because I’ve prepared myself for it for a year.

Told ya it was quirky.

More or less, I’m prepared to be 50, mentally. Or 49, for now. I don’t feel it mentally because, in my mind, I’m still a stupid kid. Honestly, if I could go back in time now and answer that dumb question we all get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’d answer “a stupid kid.” I never want to grow out of the age of wonder. I never want to stop playing superheroes. I never wanna grow up.

But I’m going to have to, pretty soon. I’m going to have to make a doctor’s appointment and go see if, physically, I’m about to be a 50-year old man. I last saw a doctor in 2010. I was the picture of perfect health then. I’ve carried that knowledge with me for 7 years. There is no reason to expect that has changed. No reason at all.

Except age. I guess even superheroes get older.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my health lately. I need to acknowledge some things about the body and about reality and go see what an expert has to say. They’ll probably give me some good advice like “cut out red meat,” “stop drinking so much beer,” and “get more exercise.” Hell, I tell me that. I probably won’t follow any of it until I have to. Kids can be so stubborn.

As soon as I’m done here I’ll go research general practitioners in my network. When I was young I never thought I’d write that phrase. I’m not that young, anymore. I need to make an effort, see what’s going on inside, make some corrections. It makes good sense. It’s what we do when we get older.

I have to think about my own health.

It’s about time.

So Cool to Be Cool

Yesterday was one long, hot day.

The foreman arrived promptly at 8 o’clock, as promised. His crew, and my new air conditioner, headed to Palo Cedro on a paperwork snafu. That was corrected in short order. The guys were all congenial, but not talkative. They were professional. They got to work.

My job was to stay out of the way and occasionally offer cold beverages. I did both well. The crew preferred the water they had brought to my offer of Dasanis. The joke to grab them beers was politely and professionally turned down. Each time. I’m persistently ludicrous like that.

I wandered around all morning with clippers in my hand, trimming hedges and shrubs. I did some weeding. The area on the far side of the house, away from the workers, got the mowing treatment. I ran some laundry, folded some clothes and towels, and cleaned the kitchen counters. Any other cleaning was superfluous due to the mess they were still going to make.

Those chores were all complete by noon.

I visited the boys, Moxie and Ludo, frequently. They were trapped alone in the bedroom until about 3 in the afternoon, confused by all the sounds. After 3 I had to keep them out of the house, in the sun or shade, while all the duct work was completed in each room. I got a good shoulder and face burn from that activity. I kept cool with beer.

It was a long, hot day. Just after lunchtime the foreman predicted a 3 o’clock finish; they were well ahead of schedule. The next two hours were painful ones for him, I could see that on his face. Things went wrong. They often do. Between the hours of 3 and 5 he passed me several times, always displaying apologetic anguish. Each time I assured him he was doing great. He was. Things happen.

Just after 5, another major mishap. Two guys left. Another showed. The company owner came by for an assessment. They decided to push through. I concurred vehemently.

The vans pulled away, just after dusk. I would estimate it was pretty close to 9 o’clock. They have a small job to complete this morning before final inspection. For me, it was a long, hot day of doing mostly nothing. For the air conditioning crew it was a long, hot day of battling Murphy.

But even though anything that could go wrong, did, they kept it together. They completed their mission. I am eternally grateful that they did.

I haven’t slept that well in weeks.

It’s cool to be cool again. 😎

Other Things To Do Today

Yesterday was a longer one, by daily standards, so today I’ll keep it light.

I’m at the halfway point. I’ve found that, with a little effort, I have a topic or two to talk about every day. Maybe it’s something lighthearted (Church), sentimental (Married to Mary Poppins), sympathetic (For My Friend), introspective (Building A Better Tom), or important to all mankind (The Future is Unwritten). But it’s something. Every day.

Today I have a day in. I have so many things to do around the house. I could spend a week in and not get caught up. Homes do that to us. They own us. But the air-conditioning crew is coming to put in a new unit, and the expectation is an all-day job. I’ll catch up on some things, keep the boys company. But, dammit, I want to make some time for some reading, too. Maybe I could finish David Brooks’ Road to Character today, and start something new. I want to re-read every entry I’ve ever done for tombeingtom.com. I want to get some perspective on my writing. I’d like to dabble some more in fiction.

The problem with modern life is that we are all so busy, all the time. The things we want to do get trumped by the things we have to do. Unless you’re so passionate about something that nothing will stand between you and the doing of it, you’re left with a long list of stuff you’d like to do but always put off. I’m always putting stuff off.

I could spend the entire day making a list of things I’d like to do today.

But, instead, I’ll keep this entry brief and get to tackling things on a list I haven’t made yet. After that, I’ll start on chores. The A/C guys will be here around 8. I need to be ready.

It’s gonna be a long day of waiting.

But this part is over. Go spend your Thursday putting things off now, if you can. If you’re lucky enough to have that one thing you can’t wait to do, do it. Otherwise, take some time for yourself.

You’re a cool human; you’ve earned it. 😉

Thinking Local

Like a lot of folks, I must admit that my focus on local politics is lacking. I absorb some information here and there, mostly from overhearing conversations. I’ll hear complaints about it from customers in the store. I’ll see it on social media. I don’t currently watch local news stations or get the paper. An acquaintance recently pointed out that my approach to knowledge seems more macro than micro. I love national and international politics. I love political theory.

Which is all well and good and fun, but when something big happens in my personal sphere, I often find that I don’t know enough about it.

The good thing about knowledge, however, is that it is prevalent. I can ask opinions from people “in the know.” I can catch up on archived articles. I can read commentary in response to articles and get a feel for the community view. There are always plenty of mild and extreme opinions on all sides. It’s fascinating to see the contrast. It’s also fascinating to see how many people are absolutely sure they have all the answers. Even when it’s clear that they don’t.

I don’t. I don’t have all the answers. Which is why – despite the opinions of some, I’m sure – I have a fairly moderate view of politics and the world. With enough research and considerable thought I can find a pretty good reason to support any side. But I’m always the first to admit that I could be wrong. In so doing, I’ll always point out that you could be, too. I think that’s fair.

Here in my town, the town of Redding, there’s a mini-revolt going on. The effects of national and state politics have created a condition of turmoil in our city, and everyone is looking for someone to blame. A recall effort has been launched against members of the city council. The city council has tabbed a new city manager. The city manager has dismissed the current police chief. This has been one heck of a week.

My week-long inquiry into these matters leaves me woefully unprepared to state an opinion as of yet. For some of you, that might come as a shock. For others, who know me as a fair-minded and methodical study of human nature and human affairs, maybe not. But I can tell you that I think we have a problem. We have a problem at the national level, we have a problem at the state level, and we have a problem at the local level.

The problem at the macro level is a problem of inequality. There is a lack of proper services for the citizens in this nation. There is a lack of access to quality education. I’ve pointed all that out before.

But at the micro level the problem is a different one. It is caused by all of the above factors, but we can only work with what we are handed. We’ve been handed crap. It stinks.

What can we do about it?

Well, we can fire everyone on the council, if we want. We can fire police chiefs. If we want, we can raise taxes and build jails. We can cut salaries and add staff. We can point fingers until we’re blue in the face. Will all of that make it better?

I don’t know. If today’s blog is about anything, it’s about how much I don’t know. It’s also about how much I’m willing to learn.

I’ve read some pretty good things over the last week about this subject, and some pretty terrible things, too. The best overview I’ve read so far on the matter is the one this morning by R.V. Scheide in aNewsCafe. Fair. Sensible. Broad. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for all week. Does he have all the answers? Hell, I don’t know. Does anybody?

I’m going to take another look at what he said in a minute. And I’m going to keep digging in and looking for answers. I’m going to think micro. I’m going to act local. I am going to help, if I can.

Samuel Johnson said it is always a writer’s duty to make the world better. I don’t know that I have the ego to think I can make the world better, or even the ego to call myself a writer. I don’t have the ego to compare myself to Samuel Johnson.

But I do have the willingness to learn and the will to try.

In that matter, as in all matters, I appreciate your help.