Breaking the Silence

v-for-vendetta-effetto-domino

Surprised?  You should see it from this end.

When The Domino Theory went dark in 2016,  I had grown tired of blogging.   I was tired of writing about dead Black people.  I was tired of writing about racism.   I was tired of writing.

So I stepped away.   Here we are entering Year Three of  President Pussygrabber’s occupation of the Oval Office and while I haven’t been entirely silent on social media, I definitely receded into the background.   That was not an accident.

I never intended to blog for eight years, but my intentions aren’t always dead on.    The whole idea behind this blog was it was going to be where I kept my writing chops sharp in-between freelancing gigs.  As it turned out, it became my primary outlet when I stopped freelancing.

In a perfect world,  I would have parlayed my blog into a contributing gig with some newspaper, magazine or website, but that’s not where most journalists are ending up these days.   Most of my colleagues are out of journalism.  Some left it voluntary and some went back to college to get a Masters  and a few up and quit and a few passed away.   Whatever the reasons, I now know more former than working journalists.

In the end it seemed a good time to step away from blogging, from writing, from being concerned, from being committed.

But this is not a time to be uncommitted.   We are at risk.  All of us.   There’s a madman in the White House and he has the nuclear launch codes.   Passivity is not going to cut it and neither is hunkering down.   As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

The dominoes have fallen and the theory has become an ugly ass reality.   It’s time to break my silence as Dr. King did in April 4, 1967, a year to the day before his assassination.

mlk

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.

MLK was a great American because he challenged America to be greater than it was and he didn’t need a stupid red hat to get the point across.    Don’t think for a moment I’m trying to compare myself to King.   All I aspire to be is the kind of strong Black man he was and like my father was.

That is why I have zero tolerance for silence including mine.  Especially mine.   Now is the time to be the creative extremists MLK wanted us to be.

 

The 1000th Post: To Be or Not To Blog

Heard you didn’t miss me.  I’m back anyhow.

This is the 1000th blog post of The Domino Theory and I wasn’t sure if it would be the last one.   I took a month off to think about it. Or to put it more accurately to not think about it.

Nobody called,  nobody wrote to ask when I was going to publish again because nobody cares if there’s one less blog in the world.   All this blog is and ever will be is me sharing my thoughts on a topic most people already know about. I’m not breaking news. I’m sharing one man’s opinion and the value of that opinion waxes and wanes depending on how receptive the reader is to what I have to say.

Blogs come and blogs go.  Those that endure do so because the blogger finds ways to keep things fresh and interesting to them.   If they are lucky so will their readers.

This blog was supposed to be a means to an end. The intention was for me to keep my writing tools sharp by keeping busy between freelancing gigs. I never got into journalism to make money because unless you become a brand like Bob Woodward where you make your reputation on one or two good books and squander it by writing increasingly bad books, there’s no money in journalism. At least nobody I know is living comfortably off those wages.

I could do nothing but write about police shootings and racism and never run short of material.   The trouble is  how depressing it is to dwell all the time on blood and bigotry.   It’s not much fun to read either.   This will never be  the place to come for  your Kardashian/Jenner updates, but even I need to lighten the mood at times.   I recently read for my monthly writer’s group a personal story about a friendship which ended badly. It was a substitute for a blood-and-thunder piece I had written about the shooting of Walter Scott. One woman told me, “I was a little scared when I heard you were reading this month. You can be pretty intense sometimes.”

She’s right about that. But too much intensity wears you out.

The other night I came across a Word Press site from blogging expert Lorelle VanFossen and her post, How to Know When to Stop Blogging.  It rang true from the first sentence, “Blogging isn’t for everyone, and everyone doesn’t need to blog. There are times when you should stop blogging, and there are times to take a rest from blogging.”

As I approach the eight-year blogging mark, those are words of sage advice.   VanFossen had more of particular interest for me.

Stop blogging if you don’t have a purpose: Honestly, you don’t have to blog if you don’t want to, and if you don’t know what to blog about, don’t. If your blog has no purpose, stop blogging.

Your blogging purpose doesn’t have to be specific, but it does need to exist. A blog purpose is the reason you blog, the definition of your blog, and why your readers come back to read your blog. If you are blogging about your daily life’s activities and affairs, then that’s your purpose. If you are blogging about a specific industry such as online technology, space, transportation, or ice skating, that’s your blogging purpose. If you are blogging about a specific rare area of science, math, or research, you’ve found a purpose for blogging.

If you blog because it fulfills some deep inner need to express yourself, and it makes you happy and motivates you to get up in the morning, and that feeling lasts longer than 3 months, you’ve got a purpose for blogging. Keep blogging.

Vague, empty blogging just because it’s something to do, or because everyone else is doing it, is useless and a time waster. Stop blogging.

Pretty much this.   Taking a 30-day blogging hiatus did not offer any great revelations. Did not break through a wall of writer’s block. I had no epiphany. No startling insights. None of that. I just needed a break. I took one.

I did not reflect and I did not recharge. I am not renewed or refueled with a brand new sense of purpose. Whatever it was which made me angry or amused or confused or happy or moved to plant my butt in a chair and start typing until what was trying to get out was set free still does.

VanFossen’s parting shot is direct.  “If you are bored with blogging, or bored with what you are blogging about, or your blog writing bores you, it bores your readers. Stop blogging and find something else to do.”

That “something else to do” is to write more, blog less. Writing more means going back to freelancing.   Writing more means recognizing its okay to blog less.     Writing more means writing more stuff that means something and less to fill space because I’m not updating enough.

Too much time spent thinking about writing is not enough time spent writing. There are stories to tell and if I want to read them I’m going to have to write them.    This blog doesn’t have another 1,000 posts in its future, but I’m curious to see how many are left.

 

Good Goes Bad, Bad Gets Worse.

"Oakland?  I gotta move to OAKLAND?"  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“Oakland? I gotta move to OAKLAND?” (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2014 NFL season. An elite few will be still be ballin’ hard as they try to make the playoffs. Everybody else is just getting this last meaningless game the hell out of the way, try not to get hurt (though some guys may try to hurt somebody else if only to take out their frustrations) and then clean out their lockers.

“What will happen, will happen,” Harbaugh told reporters when asked about his future coaching plans, “What will not happen, won’t happen.”

What will not happen is another season with James Harbaugh freaking out on the sidelines as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Four years ago, Harbaugh was The Man, the chosen One who would lead the 49ers out of the poverty of the Dennis Erickson/Mike Nolan/Mike Singletary years back to the Bill Walsh Super Bowl riches.  Didn’t turn out that way.   The history of how the good times turned bad have been detailed by reporter Tim Kawakami but suffice it to say, it’s not really a shock the 49ers and Harbaugh are about to break up badly.

To be a 49ers fan is to be shooting for the future while simultaneously shackled to the past. It’s not Jim Harbaugh’s fault he isn’t Bill Walsh (or even George Seifert). It’s not Colin Kapernick’s fault he isn’t Joe Montana or Steve Young (but he’s not Jeff Garcia or Alex Smith either).

When Harbaugh packs his bags to return to Michigan and a reported $8 million yearly check, he will be the highest paid coach in college football. This would be a nice pay raise from the $5 million the 49ers are paying him and would bump Harbaugh into the Sean Payton/Pete Carroll/Bill Belichick neighborhood without actually winning a Super Bowl like those guys. To put this in perspective the 32nd lowest paid NFL coach was the already whacked Dennis Allen of the Raiders.   Even a nobody like this was pulling down $3 million, so never feel sorry for a fired NFL coach. They’re all overpaid.

“Aw man! The singer forgot the lyrics of the National Anthem!”

 

 

In his wake the 49ers will either promote one of their defensive coaches, Jim Tomsula or Vic Fangio. If they decide to start fresh, look for the team to seek out an offensive coordinators such as Denver’s Adam Gase or New England’s Josh McDaniels in hopes someone can resurrect the 49ers DOA offense and if he isn’t traded, Kapernick’s career.

There are many reasons for Harbaugh and 49ers front office to part ways. A below .500 season after coming one completed pass from a second Super Bowl berth is an excellent one. Of all the disappointing underachievers in the NFL, nobody is as disappointing and underachieved more than the 2014 49ers.

Despite getting the Niners to the NFC Championship game three consecutive years, they only won it once and went on to lose a heartbreaker against brother John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens. Winners know how to close and Harbaugh never could. He repeatedly came up short in the biggest games. Coupled with an inability to win the arms race with arch-rival Seattle Seahawks, despite the impressive win-loss record, Harbaugh leaves San Francisco better than he found it, but still frustratingly distant from the Gold Standard days of Walsh and Montana.

If owner Jed York and general managerTrent Baalkie wanted to make the fans happen they would order Harbaugh to fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman, make him play out the last year of his contract and put down in writing a promise to make Harbaugh the highest paid coach in the NFL if he could (a) beat the Seahawks and (b) get to and win another NFC championship.

Hello, I must be going.

What Harbaugh wants as much as money is control. He wants to pick his own players, draft his own rookies, sign his own free agents. He wants to pick his own G.M. who will do all those things the way he’s instructed to do them and hammer out the messy and boring contract details. What Harbaugh wants most the 49ers won’t give him which leaves teams like the Raiders and Jets that might happily go along with Coach Khakis can do the kind of renovation job he did with the Niners with these two perennial bottom-feeders.

The failure of the Niners was a team effort.   All-time rushing leader Frank Gore is a free agent who wants to stay put, but at 32 year old and a $6 million salary, he’s not coming back at that price. Anquan Bolden is 34 and Kapernick’s most reliable receiver and that’s a worrisome combination. Ray McDonald has already been whacked for his off the field problem and Aldon Smith is probably right behind him. Justin Smith is thinking retirement, Vernon Davis has vanished from the gameplan and former first rounder Michael Crabtree is too slow to stretch defenses and too unreliable to be a go-to receiver.

An offensive line full of highly-paid first rounders has become a sieve as Kapernick is the most sacked QB in the league.   Stud linebacker Navorro Bowman was injured in the NFC Championship loss to the Seahawks and never made it back to the field.   The talented troublemaker, Aldon Smith served an eight gamesuspension which sapped the defense’s pass rush capabilities and he may not be back.   Last year the Niners ended the season with one player on injured reserve.   This season the number jumped to 16.    “Next Man Up” is the ruling philosophy in the NFL and the 49ers are about to apply it to a winning, but difficult head coach.

“He’s my best coach. I didn’t enjoy here until we started winning. Since he’s been here, I’ve been winning.” That what Gore said about Harbaugh.  Crabtree added, “He’s one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever played for… He’s a player’s coach. He’s just a good dude. Everyone has their own opinion, but he’s been a good dude to me. And this team.”

Yet Harbaugh came up short on discipline as time and again a Niners player would show up on a police blotter.  Instead of cutting the bad actors loose, Harbaugh and Baaike would make excuses and extend second, third and fourth chances.  There isn’t space to list all the Niners who posed for mug shots during Harbaugh’s tenure,  but the handling of defensive end Ray McDonald is a signature moment of this whole shitty season.  McDonald was investigated by the police for striking his pregnant girlfriend but not charged.  Instead of suspending him the 49ers allowed McDonald to keep playing.   After sliding by for beating up a pregnant woman, McDonald rewarded the team’s trust by his name popping up in a sexual assault.  That was a bridge too far even for the lenient and lax 49ers brain trust and they cut McDonald the same day.

The blame for the team’s flame-out will fall primarily on Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman and both will be gone next season and veterans Gore, Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Vernon Davis all possibly decamping as free agents, salary cuts or retirement.   This will be a drastically changed 49ers team in 2015 and no matter who takes over its hard to see similar success forthcoming.

“Who’s Got It Better Than Us?” was the war cry Harbaugh rallied his players with when the Niners were one of the league’s best teams.   Now they’re not.   The answer to the question has become,  “Lots of other teams not named the San Francisco 49ers.”

Don’t worry for Jim Harbaugh.   He’ll do just fine wherever he lands.   It’s less certain the 49ers will do likewise.

 

Those khakis will be worn somewhere else next season.

 

The Rules of the Writing Game

RULE #1:  Write Alone.  

Writing is like masturbation.  It’s best done in private.  It’s awkward when done before an audience.   If a spouse, significant other, roomie, or BFF ever says, “I want to watch you write.  I’ll just sit over here and be quiet,”  gently and lovingly kick their ass out.  People are noisy and noise is distracting and distracted writing is bad writing.

My writing area is in my son’s room on the home PC.   There is a window on my left shoulder and a door on my right.  The significance of the strategic placement of these objects will be made clear shortly.

I write with music.  Jazz when I’m trying to get my thoughts straight and rock when my mind is a jumbled puzzle of chaos and disorder.  And not just any kind of rock.  The the loud, brutal, head banging kind of rock.   I serve up some KornNine Inch Nails, Ministry or Rob Zombie when I need to blow the bad shit out of my brain.  This is the kind of music you wouldn’t play for your grandparents unless you didn’t like them and wanted to drive them stark, raving mad.

I don’t have a dog but if I did, I’d keep it out of the room when I’m working.   Dogs may be man’s best friend, but not when he’s lost in a thought.   Some dogs are patient and comprehend their master is busy at the moment and does not want to play catch or get licked on the face.   Other dogs don’t give a shit.  Those dogs are every bit as much of an attention whore as a Kardashian near a camera.   They gotta go.

Cats are the same way.  When they want to petted, stroked or fed, they want what they want and don’t care what you want.   If you simply must have a pet in the room limit it to a goldfish.  A goldfish doesn’t need to be walked and isn’t going to jump in your lap breathing its hot stank breath in your face. Added bonus:  If a goldfish starts bugging you, pour it down the toilet and get another one just like it tomorrow.  After you’ve finished the Great American Novel.

A window can be a distraction if you allow it to be one.  I get inspiration from the sights, sounds (and occasionally the smells) of the world outside.  If I lived in New York City I’d be overcome by sensory overload.   I won’t say it makes the work go any easier, but it can be a welcome break from the occasional grind of getting the words to line up just so.

The door doesn’t offer as much inspiration, but it does afford a certain degree of privacy.   Privacy is important when you’re writing, but I keep the door open wide enough so when others in the house pass by they realize my groans, moans and sighs are based upon frustration with how the work is coming and not satisfaction because I’m touching myself inappropriately (I did say writing was like masturbation, remember?).

Plus, if you write in your pajamas, ratty old house coat, tighty whities or butt nekkid, do you really want the rest of the world to see you looking like a red-hot mess while you’re furiously tapping away at the keyboard?

RULE#2: Writing does not require a suggestion box.

There is a terrible misconception non-writers have about writers. Or to be specific, non-writers have a terrible misconception about me as a writer. I don’t write for them. I write for me. I have no idea what I should write to please an audience, so I try to please myself and hope an audience finds it pleasing too. This is the only way I know to make it work. I’m not sure any other way does.

” Jeff, why don’t you write about (fill in the blank)?”

Oh, maybe because I don’t want to, that’s why? I’m a opinionated and informed man, but there are many things I’m not informed of and have no opinion on. Some subjects take time, research, fact-checking, verification, analysis, data-mining and just more plain hard work than a 500 word blog post can do justice to.

There are hundreds of stories I would like to tell but can’t because of a lack of time to tell it the way it needs to be told. If you can’t go all the way, why go at all? Nothing is as obvious as sloppy writing because the author cut corners, took shortcuts and generally half-assed it.

You want to know why I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh? Not just Angry White Man persona, boorish behavior and caveman politics, though that’s plenty reason enough. How can I trust someone who never says, “I don’t know.” Limbaugh always has an opinion about everything. Whether it makes any sense is not the point. Rush will always have a point whether he knows jack or shit about the subject.

Limbaugh is what my dear departed Daddy called, “smart-ass White boys. They pontificate, they pronounce and they pose when in truth not a one of them knows nuthin’ about nuthin’. How many times are writers told to write what they know? Well, what if you don’t know anything?

I’m a writer and a journalist, not a talking head, not a professional pundit and prognosticator. Whatever little credibility I have comes from knowing when to call my shot and what the game is before I do. You can’t predict the pitcher with scorch a 90 mph slider across home plate the sport is basketball, not baseball. It makes you look ridiculous and I hate to look ridiculous.

Which is another way of saying I not only write what I know, I write what I’ve learned and if I have learned nothing and know nothing, I write nothing. Case in point: Hey, Jeff! Did you see the cover of Vogue magazine with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West? What did you think about that?!

Insert vacant stare here. You can add a little drool coming from the side of the mouth to the effect.

I didn’t think anything about it. What do I care about people I’m not interested in on the cover of a rag I don’t read? Put Kimmy Cakes on the cover of Field & Stream or National Geographic if you want. I still cannot begin to tell you how many damns I do not give.

Easy reading comes from hard writing. For me, writing about the lives of the rich and for no reason famous is like being waterboarded with gasoline; It might not kill me, but I’d sure wish i were dead and put out of my misery.

People who make suggestions of what you should write do it to be helpful. I get that. They also do it because what they want you to write is probably something they want to read but lack the skill to write it themselves. That’s understandable, but seriously–go take a class or something and learn how to DIY.

There’s this quote from Bill Hicks I liked so much it’s on the header of my blog, “I don’t mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that’s how it comes out.” I’m not opposed to people making suggestions and bringing something to my attention, but I have my stuff to do and coming up with ideas of what to do next has never been a problem for me.

Rule#3: I am not a tortured artist.

The biggest load of bullshit since the fertilizer truck turned over on the freeway is this nonsense you must write everyday. Uh…and what if you don’t want to write today because you don’t have anything you want to write about? This thing about writers suffering for their craft is a total load. If writing drove me to drink, depression and despair, I wouldn’t do it. I’d learn how to crochet or take a long walk around the park on a sunny spring afternoon and synchronize my eyes checking out the pretty girls jogging. Who needs a splendid miseries in their life? Not me. I want to be taken seriously and respected, but it’s not so vital to my existence if I remain obscure, unsung and unnoticed that I’m going to jump from a great height and turn myself into street pizza. It ain’t no ways that important. Maybe in death I’ll earn the kudos I hoped would be forthcoming in life. More likely that’s not going to be the case.

Stressing out when the words on the paper or screen don’t line up as precisely as they do in my head is frustrating, but hardly a reason to torture myself. I’m a serious writer, but writing isn’t all that serious.

Writing has a therapeutic effect on me. I haven’t gone out and bought a gun because I can write out my anger. I haven’t killed any of the richly deserving bastards who so desperately need to stop breathing air because I can call them bastards in my writing. I haven’t broken the law with my deviant fantasies and violent tendencies by setting them loose on an unsuspecting world because all that dark, creepy stuff has an outlet with the power of the written word. All of us have our inner demons. Writers have found a way to pimp theirs out and make a buck off of them and it is a darn good thing we have. There would be a lot more socially maladjusted serial killers and sexual predators if they couldn’t get their ya-yas out pressed between wood pulp and selling for $25.95 on Amazon.

I am not a martyr for my art. I do not suffer silently in a life of quiet desperation. I am not a tortured artist craving your acknowledgment and pleading for acceptance. Far from it. I’m a good writer and dammit I know I am. That long dark night of the soul stuff? Been there and done that and got the T-shirt to show for it.

My confidence in my ability came the old-fashioned way: I earned it. I know what it feels like to be ignored, to be belittled and to be told in no uncertain terms you suck eggs. If you can’t cope with rejection, don’t be a writer. You won’t last because when the whole world seems as though its conspiring against your talent you got to believe in yourself. That’s the only thing that will pull you through and enable you to come out on the other side with your soul intact.

I do not suffer for my art. Far from it. I write what I like because I like writing. As Gloria Steinem once said, “Writing is the only thing when I’m doing it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.”

I know what she means.

Dead Black bodies are a growth business (and business is good).

michael brown_autopsy_

And we’re back.

I needed some time off and I took off. No mystery to it. I’ve written about dead Black bodies that only came to my attention when they ceased being live Black bodies. I could have lived a happy life blissfully ignorant of Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, Justin Davis, Renisha McBride, Hadiya Pendleton, Antonio Smith or Michael Brown’s existence. Now they are part of mine. Despite never knowing them or meeting a part of them lives on in me and their restless spirits travel with me even as I wait for the next name to be added to theirs.

I could write every day for every last day of my life on dead Black bodies bleeding out in the street and never run out of material and I’m tired of it. It makes me angry and then it makes me depressed and then it makes me want to lie in bed all day long with the curtains drawn until its night again. How many words have I written over the past 22 years about dead Black kids where only the names and locations change but the details stay all too similar? I don’t know the exact number, but I know it’s been far too many.

Michael Brown and Antonio Smith were the last dead Black bodies that pushed me to and then over the edge. Ishmael Reed once declared “writin’ is fightin’ “, but these were the murders that made me drop my gloves. It’s not that I’m never gonna stop writing or fighting. How can I when I know I’m not going to throw a brick through anybody’s window or burn down anyone’s store or spit in the eye of any cop no matter how much I might want to.

You don’t have to smell the putrid funk of dead bodies to be sickened by it. I’m tired of writing worthless words which do nothing but make one man feel a bit better about the things he can’t stop or change.   Words are the only bullets in a writer’s gun, but depending on what the subject we’re drawn to and compelled to talk about we can fire for a while before we start shooting blanks. Dead Black boys provides a lot of ammo and Lord, do I wish I could put this gun down and never pick it up again.

Got no justice.  Can't rest in peace.

Got no justice. Can’t rest in peace.

Yet I know I will.   I always do.  In six weeks or six days or six hours there will be another Mike Brown and another and another after that.  Dead Black bodies is a growth industry.  I’m never going to run out.   No matter what else draws me away the certainty of cold hard steel tearing through warm soft flesh will draw me back to this subject time and again.

It will make me angry and it will make me mad and it will make me so depressed I’ll want to lie all day in a dark room with the curtains drawn and I’ll be thankful for only one thing: that’s it’s not my son or daughter.

I’ll pray it’s never my son lying face down in the street or my daughter staring up at the stars with dead eyes wide open that see nothing. I’ll pray for that even as curse living in a sick, sick, SICK world where any parent anywhere should ever have to pray “Lord, don’t let it be mine, let it be someone else”

Maybe tomorrow nobody will die.  Maybe nowhere in the world no trembling hostage will have some sadistic bastard cut his head off.   Maybe a Black teenager won’t get blown away with his hands raised hoping to save his life from a White cop determined to take it.   Maybe no woman will be raped or beaten or strangled.   Maybe there won’t be any war anywhere because maybe both sides decide to take a day off.

Maybe.   And maybe I’ll just wake up and wait for the next batch of bad news to come looking for me.

 

Escape From The Vampire Hours

What sleep looks like when you can’t sleep.

I am watching the last 3.5 hours of my last night at work creep around the clock.  After seven years I am finally–finally–getting off of the night shift.   The nature of working in I.T. (information technology) is you have to work weird hours and odd shifts.  When I started this job I was working four days on, three days off.  Two eight-hour nights followed by two 12 hour nights.   That lasted for two years.   That time is a blur to me.  What little I remember from it is how the first of the three days off were spent unconscious, more dead than alive.

I have worked in I.T. nearly 35 years and most of it was during hours when most of the world was sound asleep.   I’m not really complaining about it.   Writing satisfies my creative urges but   working the graveyard shift pays the bills.     I never understood why it was called that.  Now I know.   I feel that all these years working all these nights have put me closer to death.

Nobody made me try to sleep when the rest of the world is awake.   That was my choice and I tried to adapt to my weird schedule.   I used blackout blinds and heavy curtains to affect a reasonable imitation of darkness.   I tried working out before going to bed.   I’ve tried several brands of sleeping pills.   Whatever it takes to try to get some rest while the rest of the world is busy, I’ve tried.   The problem is when the neighbors want to cut their grass or the city wants to tear up the concrete for a new sewer line or the contractors are banging on the side of house at 7:30 a.m. and you just got off work at 7:00, it sometimes seems as if the entire damn world is conspiring against a guy getting a not-so-good morning’s rest.

In my rational mind I know there is no conspiracy.   The world does not give a shit how much sleep I get or don’t get.    Nobody did this to me.   I did it to myself.

I chose to disrupt the natural rhythms of my body.    I chose to lose track of days and forget birthdays, holidays, and special events.   I  chose to make myself unhealthily, crazier, and one hot mess of a human being.   It was 34 years ago I walked into the operations center a bank and voluntarily chose to spend over half of my life working while the world slept.

These are the Vampire Hours.    There’s no  bloodsuckers,  just plenty of bloodshot eyes.   You don’t lie in a coffin to escape the sunlight but you do lie in a bed staring up at the ceiling.   Insomnia is bad in the dark, but it’s no better in the light.

And damn if I’m not happy it’s over.   To sleep, perchance to dream?   Yeah, but first you have to get to sleep and sleep deprivation is the merciless foe of the shift worker.    We consciously make a devil’s bargain to give up a good night’s rest for money.    I don’t know if I’d do it again.

It’s been a while since I went to bed when it was dark and woke when it was light.  I only did so two nights out of seven.   My wife didn’t much care for it.  She got used to sleeping alone at night, but she never liked it.   It’s not good for a marriage, even a strong one like ours.

So I found another job.  It’s still an I.T. position, but during 1st shift hours.   That’s the good part.  The bad part is while the hourly pay is a little better, the overall result is a noticeable pay cut as I am losing both my shift differential and weekend pay.

Better hours.  Worse pay.   You do what you gotta do.  What I gotta do is get off nights before it kills me.

I cleaned out my locker three days ago and all I kept was some toothpaste and a couple of grape Crystal Light packets.   Everything else went into the trash can or recycle bin.  Even after all these years I never developed a taste for coffee.  I got my caffeine fix from slamming Diet Mountain Dew.  Liquid crack in a bottle is what I called it.    It didn’t always work, but it was better than nothing.

I deleted everything in my e-mail account.  Everything in inbox, outbox, saved mails, deleted mails was eradicated.  Everything.   I blew away any pictures, downloads, or music files I had saved.   Can’t take it with me.   Didn’t want to leave it behind.

My last official act was to scan the time clock, turn in my access badge and parking pass and on my way out the door toss my old lunch bag in the dumpster.   I wasn’t being defiant. I wasn’t mad at anyone.   I didn’t need it any more.   Could have taken it with me.   Didn’t want to.

I cleaned up the few outstanding issues on my desk, shook the hands of the people whose hands I wanted to shake, handed out a business card or two to a couple of guys I wanted to stay in touch with and that was that.   There was no going-away gift.    No last “thanks” for seven years of work.  Nobody seemed to care all that much.   Then again, I would have been a fool to expect a special good-bye.

This is 2014 and there’s no place in the modern workplace for sentimentality.    They paid me fairly well and in full.  The checks always cleared and an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work is all you can ask (or should expect) from an employer in 2014.    It’s all you’re going to get.
Nobody’s invaluable.   Everybody’s replaceable.   If I wanted loyalty, I’d buy a dog.

More than just seven years of work have come and gone.  It takes a certain sort of special mindset to hack working the graveyard shift.   I  don’t have it anymore.   Whatever it was, it’s gone and I don’t want it back.

I am going to have to relearn how to sleep at night.    I have screwed with my body clock and it is not going to be an easy adjustment getting back to normal.    Those sleeping pills that helped me make it through the days will now have to help me make it through the night.    We’ll have to see if they do.

Working nights is hell on the sleep cycle.  I don’t remember the last time I slept eight straight hours.   Usually sleeping is something I do between living life which means there have been many days when I barely or don’t sleep at all.

It’s time for a change.  Time for a new job.   Time to try to be a normal human being doing all the normal human being things when normal human beings do them.

I don’t know if I can.   I’m dreaming big, but I’m starting small with modest goals.   Sleeping straight through the night would be an excellent place to begin.
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A Strained Relationship Between Obama and the Black Press.

 

Has Obama turned a blind eye to the Black press?

Is the bromance between Obama and the Black press over?

Human beings have the unfortunate habit of looking at their own circumstances, incorrectly blaming others for problems of their own making and complaining bitterly it’s the other guy who needs to clean up the act.

Recently, George Curry, editor of the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA), took the easy route and griped how President Obama had shown “disrespect” for the Black press.

“There is a disrespect for the black press that we have not seen in recent years. For example, we have requested — every year — an interview with the president. He can ignore 200 black newspapers and 19 million viewers but he can give one to every stupid white comedian there is on TV, the black ones and the white ones, and has time for all types of buffoonery but they will not respect the black press enough to give us an interview,” Curry said on TVOne’s “NewsOneNow with Roland Martin.”

It’s understandable Curry is bent if Obama opts to talk to a “stupid White comedian” like  Zach Galifianakis and not him, but he underestimates his own importance and misunderstands than in the final push to get the Obamacare enrollment numbers over the top,  the smarter media strategy is to plow resources into a You Tube video that garnered  11 million views of the video, and a 40 percent spike in traffic to Healthcare.gov from the day before.

That doesn’t happen in an interview with The Oklahoma Eagle or any other Black newspaper.    Old media takes it on the chin yet again from new media.   You’d think they’d be accustomed to it by now.

Black want more meetings with Obama like this one in 2010 (Credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)

Black want more meetings with Obama like this one in 2010 (Credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)

The president is no different from most of Black America.   The problem isn’t the president pays no attention to the Black press. The problem is the Black press gives him no reason he should.   Their clout within the Black community has withered and faded in the face of competition from Twitter, hip-hop web sites,  bloggers, podcasting and the rest of social media.

Obama does need to spend a little more time with the Black press and throw them a bone now and then to make them happy,  but he didn’t need them in this fight. Black folks are three times in favor of healthcare reform. It was White folks–specifically YOUNG White folks he needed to recruit. The Black press can’t even deliver young Black folks. Obama would get more attention from an interview with World Star Hip-Hop than the Chicago Defender.    The support for Obamacare by Blacks is three times that of Whites.   Clearly the White House doesn’t believe it needed Curry and company to sell the program to Black America.

If the Black press feels disrespected it earned that disrespect.   Most of its wounds are self-inflicted and chief among them are a failure to adapt to both changing demographics, embrace the technological innovations that could have resuscitated it and enabled it to thrive in the 21st century, but that takes money and the willingness to try something new and different.   I haven’t seen a lot of publishers in the NNPA who aren’t convinced yet their problems are due to a failure to adapt and that is why they don’t matter all that much.

Black journalism has a proud history and a sketchy future.  The audience they need to thrive is made of up young people who don’t read Black newspapers, don’t see how it is relevant to their lives and can smell the musky, antiquated thinking and unwillingness to meet them where they are.

As a former editor and reporter of the Columbus Post newspaper, I saw first-hand the push-and-pull between the reporters, editors, photographers, and staffers who were committed to creating a quality product and the publishers who were more interesting in protecting their turf, currying favor with favorite politicians, pushing their pet projects, schmoozing with old cronies, nursing grudges and settling scores with other prominent people in the Black community.

The tragedy is there has never been a greater need for a healthy, robust, dynamic and energized Black Press. Many of the advances made by African-Americans are under assault by a hostile Republican Congress, a fickle and unprincipled Democratic Party, right-wing activists from the Tea Party to the U.S. Supreme Court.   Now more than ever the Black Press is needed to tell our truth to our people and now more than ever it seems unprepared for the task.

If Bams gives the Black press the “sit at the little kids table” treatment, what have they done to earn a place with the adults?  Not historically. but from a contemporary and serious journalism perspective.  Break any major stories? Do any enterprise or investigative stories lately? Earn any Pulitzer Prize nominations?

Politicians and the press maintain a relationship of mutual need  that at times has to become adversarial.   Curry, Martin and the Black press wants more respect from Obama they need to realize they need to do more to get it.   Simply grumbling over the Obama Administration making them them sit at the little kids table doesn’t cut it.   They need to raise their game as journalists to a point where even the president realizes it is politically advantageous to keep the Black press in the loop.   Right now there’s no particular price to pay for Obama if he doesn’t set out the good china and seat them at the grown-ups table.

The president can do better but so can the Black press.

Martin wants more face time with President Obama, but will he get it?

 

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To Blog or Get A Dog?

Yes, more of this. Definitely.

This is a Seinfeld blog post.  It’s nothing but a guy bitching cause he’s got a bad case of the winter blahs, ya feel me?

It has been one unbearably long, bitterly frigid, rotten winter. Not in the sense of the power’s out, the heat’s off, there’s no food in the fridge and I’m freezing to death here in the dark kind of tough. Just in the way when you step foot outside you think, “Damn, will I be glad when all this snow is gone and I can walk in the park without risking breaking my fool neck!”

Maybe it’s because I’m sick of looking out the window as I write and starting at streets, sidewalks and people all covered in a blanket of white flakes. It’s like watching too much porn. At first it’s kind of exciting, then it becomes routine and finally it’s just boring as hell.

So, part of me know this is just cabin fever, the winter of my discontent and weariness over a host of other issues on the job, family, money and health matters that writing is usually a release from, only not so much lately. Nothing feels exciting or fresh. Music, food, books, company, sex, it’s all ho-hum, so what and what’s on TV tonight? If this keeps up I might fall nod off standing up.

Even the old faithful of Washington politics, celebrity stupidity,  a high-profile racially motivated killing and weeping over the sad end of the San Francisco 49ers season doesn’t move me to write. Damn, Old Man Winter anyway!

I blame some this on blogging.  I’m good at it, but it’s not always agreeing with me.

When I started my blog in 2008 there was no plan I’d still be at it in 2014. The blog was only supposed to be something to mess around with in between freelancing gigs. It never was meant to be the be-all and end-all, but that’s what it is now.

And I’m kind of tired with it. It’s not that I don’t have things to say. It’s that I want to say those things in a different way and maybe in a different place.

I’ve written 907 posts, racked up 632,682 views, got 2,406 comments and deleted an ungodly amount of spam. I’ve been Freshly Pressed three or four times and in a week or two I’ll have 1,000 followers of my blog.   Like it matters.  Those are just numbers and while numbers never lie, they aren’t the whole truth either.

Blogging is mostly fun, but good blogging is hard work and finding something to say every two or so days that’s good is very hard work.

If I’m not psyched and pumped to get to the keyboard and look at it with the enthusiasm of unclogging a toilet, maybe I’m making what should be casual fun into hard work.

Dog Dance

Dog Dance (Photo credits: Giphy)

Caring for a blog and feeding it regularly with fresh content is becoming a grind.  So maybe  I might want to get a dog. If I have to invest in something that requires time, attention and my best effort maybe a four-legged companion that is always glad to see me no matter how full, empty or frazzled my brain is on a given day.

I love dogs, but I haven’t had one since my kids were kids, but the model we got was a little defective and didn’t work out too well. I’m thinking about trying again. The wife isn’t as crazy about the idea, but I don’t think she’ll go to war over the idea.

But she’s not delirious with joy either.

No dis of cat people. I’m a dog man, myself. Always have been. Cats can be playful but it has to be on their schedule..  Dogs?  Dogs bring the playful like water from the tap.

In my current winterlude of lethargy and lassitude, I positively crave a little playful.

I want a dog. I think I NEED a dog.  Until this miserable winter is over I’m sure not motivated to blog.

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