Calling my reps #3: Ben Carson

I called Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Roger Williams today. This is what I said:

I’m calling to voice my concerns about the selection of Dr. Ben Carson as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and to urge you to block his appointment in the Senate. I believe that Carson’s retrograde statements on public housing and fair housing rules to be a threat to the civil rights of countless American citizens, and I believe that he lacks the experience and expertise necessary for this position. I strongly advocate for you to block his nomination by all possible means, for the sake of the vulnerable Americans you serve.

Credit to tinyletter.com/Resist for the inspiration.

Calling my reps #2: Global Warming

I called Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Roger Williams today. This is what I said:

Hello, I am one of your consituents in Texas. I am concerned about global warming. I don’t believe that Republicans are genuine when they disagree with the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans and threatens our planet. Rather, Republicans are aware that the only real way to combat global warming is through progressive policies espoused by Democrats, such as investment in renewable energy and public transportation. It is time to put politics aside and do what is right for our children and grandchildren. We can debate the methods of fighting manmade global warming, but we must stop debating its existence. Thank you for listening.

All of my reps are Texas Republicans, so I’m trying to tailor my messages to that fact, in such a way that they might actually listen. I’m tracking all of my calls here. You are welcome to reuse what I wrote.

Calling my reps #1: Conflicts of interest

I called Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Roger Williams today. This is what I said:

Hello, I am one of your constituents in Texas. I am concerned about Trump’s many conflicts of interest. Passing control of his business interests to his children is not enough; he needs to completely divest and place his assets in a blind trust. Congressional Republicans are our best hope for providing checks and balances on Trump. Republicans who blindly accept Trump’s words and actions put our Democracy at risk, and set precedent for future administrations from either party. History, and voters, will reward only those who oppose Trump’s ethical lapses. Thank you for listening.

All of my reps are Texas Republicans, so I’m trying to tailor my messages to that fact, in such a way that they might actually listen. I’m tracking all of my calls here. You are welcome to reuse what I wrote.

Remembering the Ramones

ramones-end-of-centuryI loved this article in Rolling Stone about the Ramones. It reveals what we knew all along: it was never an act for the Ramones. They really were cretins, plagued with mental and physical ailments and limited intelligence. They were put on this earth to do one thing: Be the Ramones. They did that perfectly and then they all died.

My first Ramones album was the Phil Spector-produced End of the Century, which was an utterly bizarre intro to the band. “I guess this doo-wop shit is punk” I thought. Somehow I still became a fan.

I saw the Ramones two or three times in Miami in the late 80s. They were, of course, great.

But my biggest Ramones moment came during my junior or senior year of high school, when they did an in-store appearance at Yesterday & Today records. My friends and I raced to see them after school, expecting a long line. The place was empty. No one cared about the Ramones except us.

Joey, Johnny, Marky, and CJ (I think this was after Dee Dee quit) sat behind a table, looking pale and uncomfortable in their leather jackets under the glare of fluorescent lights. I nervously approached and asked them to sign the only slip of paper I had in my pocket—an admission slip from the school office; I’d been late that day.

All four Ramones looked over the slip and laughed. “He was tawdy! He was tawdy!” they said in their thick Queens accents. For a moment I felt like I’d joined their tribe of cretins.

 

My year without exercise 

In a slip-and-slide accident last year, I bruised my ribs pretty badly. I thought they were broken but the X-rays said otherwise. If you had seen my kids’ overly cautious attempts at slip-and-sliding, you too would have run full tilt and belly flopped on the cement-like surface.

My ribs hurt for two months and also served as a convenient excuse to avoid all physical activity. It also seemed like a good idea to eat more sweets and drink more beer. I did this for a year.

I did not get fat. When you have a body like Joey Ramone’s — but Joey in his 40s when he took to wearing XXL t-shirts — you don’t really gain weight; the weight just sort of moves. In Joey’s case, and mine, it moves to the gut, resulting in the kind of skinny/fat paradox that women and men find universally attractive.

joey-ramone-large-t-shirt

My little science experiment came to a halt soon after we stayed in an Airbnb with a full-length mirror in the master suite. There was very clearly something wrong with that mirror.

Years ago I read something in one of Haruki Murakami essays on running: “As long as you have a pair of running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content.” It stuck with me, but I never did anything about it because I hated running. Running was stupid.  “WHAT IS CHASING YOU???” I would chuckle to myself when runners passed by. “IS THERE A BEAR?”

This spring I took my Cub Scout on an overnight trip to NASA, and Chris Cabana, son of astronaut Bob Cabana, said something else that stuck with me: Every day, through normal physical activity, you crack your bones. Tiny spiderweb-like fractures form and then heal overnight when you sleep. In space, this doesn’t happen. In space, if you don’t exercise constantly, your bones forget how to heal.

“That’s me!” I thought. “I’m like an astronaut who never exercises!”

These pearls of wisdom, from a Japanese novelist and a NASA elementary ed specialist (combined with the grim reaper’s hot breath on a full-length mirror) finally spurred action.

Sarah introduced me to a neighborhood walk she likes to take. I went with her a couple of times and then made a habit of going on my own. Then I expanded the walk into a bigger loop. Then I started…running.

Or… “wrunning,” as I call it: a mix of walking and running. You see (warning: sad excuse) our neighborhood is very hilly.

At first it was painful. It still is painful. I feel like a rusty hinge. My knees hate the downhill; my calves hate the uphill. My lungs hate every goddamn moment.

And yet… when you start with zero muscle mass, it doesn’t take long to see incremental improvements. And I love measuring shit. In a few weeks I’ve shaved four minutes off my total time: from pathetic to merely embarrassing. I can run longer stretches, even up some of the hills. My goal is to run the whole thing, although I still haven’t figured out how to run down a steep hill without windmilling out of control.

I see more deer than people on my run. There is other wildlife, too. In fact, if anyone happens to ask why I am running, I plan to shriek “THERE IS A PACK OF COYOTES CHASING ME! RUN!”

Because running is stupid.

On the encroaching hellscape

Before 2016 I had several chances to vote for one of the Clintons — including Hillary’s first senate run in New York — and did not. My reasons for never voting for a Clinton amounted to:

  • Bill said Kenny G was his favorite saxophonist. If true, he has terrible taste. If untrue, that is pandering of the worst kind.
  • Hillary said, to a crowd of New Zealanders, that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. Considering she was born in 1948 and Sir Hillary peaked Everest in 1953, this seemed unlikely. Liar!
  • Bill, criticizing an opponent, pronounced the word “chameleon” with an “sh” sound: “shameleon.” What kind of psychopath does that?

You see: reasons.

Now that I am older, I still think Bill is a scumbag and I’m glad I never voted for him.

But I voted for Hillary in the Texas primary and will vote — several times if I can get away with it! — for her in the general election in November.

I came to this decision after a bit of soul-searching and also because I want to avoid the apocalyptic hellscape of a Trump presidency.

“But what about Bernie?” no one has actually asked me.

Nowadays in my soft, middle years I have the bleedingest of bleeding hearts and my politics align pretty well with Bernie’s. (Except on guns, which I believe should be dropped into a volcano along with the Second Amendment.)

So…Bernie’s fine. I still voted for Hillary.

Yes, it was a pragmatic choice and not one I would have made when I was younger. Younger me would totally be on the Bernie train. Younger me hadn’t had his heart broken a half-dozen times by other can’t-win candidates. Younger me was also more of a misogynist.  (Imagine if a rumpled old lady came onto the scene shouting exactly what Bernie shouts. We’d hold our noses at her old-person smell and she’d slouch off to eat cat food from the can.)

If I were a single-issue voter, climate change would be that issue. Climate change is the largest threat to our species and we are failing to do anything about it. It’s so much worse than most of us think. None of the candidates are talking about it enough; all of them will compromise with the oil industry if given the chance. We will continue digging up dinosaur fossils and lighting them on fire until it is too late.

But I would rather have Hillary in office making half-measures on climate change than see Trump reverse the scant progress that has been made. Worse: There is a non-trivial chance Trump would spark a nuclear war, rendering climate change moot. In other words, I’d rather our civilization die slowly than quickly. I want my kids have long lives with breathable air. (God help them if they breed.)

Why am I posting this? No one reads my blog or cares about my political opinion. There are pundits and essayists who are much more passionate and articulate about all of these issues.

I’m writing this because liberals like me tend to sit on the sidelines and assume everything will be okay; that in the end Americans aren’t suicidal enough to elect Trump. But history is full of characters like Trump who were called buffoons and whose rise to power caught people off-guard. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. If we Americans elect this fascist, at least I’m on record denouncing him.

Now… go vote for Hillary.