Trump: don’t laugh, cry

Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President of the United States. In the most recent polls, he is running neck-and-neck with Hillary Clinton. These are the two most disliked candidates in our history. Quite frankly, it’s not funny anymore. Because while both candidates are dangerous, Donald Trump is a threat to the human race, a scourge worse than the plague and meteors.

Hillary Clinton is not a good candidate. She has lied many times about the email account she used as Secretary of State, and faces a very real indictment from the FBI. The co-mingling of responsibility and funds for the Clinton Foundation is disturbing, at the least. She is the embodiment of an establishment politician focused on power rather than results, and this drives everyone in America nuts. Even the ones who like her.  She should be better, but she’s not. It would be great to see a woman sitting in the Oval Office who isn’t blowing a president, but who is actually the Commander and Chief.  I don’t like her because she feels that she is entitled to this job, and have the sense that she doesn’t care what it takes to earn it.  She will emerge as the nominee, California notwithstanding, and folks will be in a fruit-juicy-uproar about that.

I don’t like Hillary, but I’ll damn sure vote for her before I vote for Jester Trump.

Trump is the court-jester that vies for the throne. That comic relief character that farts and insults his way closer and closer to the crown; when the actor puts it on his head, the crowd cheers because it is absurd and unexpected. When Trump takes his bows, the world will convulse. A buffoon in the Oval Office.  When the nation that defeated Hitler elects its own, the world will shudder.

When the world shakes, people die.

Donald Trump doesn’t care.

He wants to be President because it means power, not because he can do good. He is blinded by his arrogance and essential meanness, and his schoolyard-bully mentality that has somehow won over American voters.

In the good stories, the bully looses, and perhaps is even redeemed. Darth Vader even got it at the end. Evil is defeated and good triumphs when people recognize the difference between words and deeds, and then act.

If you vote for Donald Trump, you are voting for smoke and mirrors and lies and the destruction which comes from those things, and worse, a man who believes he can control the outcome. His arrogance knows no bounds. Anyone that speaks of themselves in the third person so redundantly should be excluded from public office.

His foreign policy is based on the illusion of absolute power. (I hit back ten times harder). Escalation is not necessarily the answer when nuclear weapons are in play. The nukes in the Russian triad alone, between bombers, subs, and ICBMS, would be enough to wipe out the human race. Trump has no concept of this. His arrogance can kill the world.

Trump promises to “Make America Great Again,” which assumes that America isn’t already great. America is great, by every metric available. Yes, we could be better, but we still lead the world in might, production, technology, and individualism. To all of you who disagree with me about this, I say, “fuck you. You are arguing on the internet.” The internet exists because of America. Read your history and statistics. We’ve still got the biggest GDP, military spending, and natural resources in the world, on top of the greatest minds that migrate here, because, well, we invented rock and roll and jazz and put a man on the moon.

Trump is dangerous, while Hillary is annoying. There is a huge difference, and it’s not a reality show any more. Trump could be the idiot that launches ICBM missiles because he feels disrespected, and he gets angry at 1:00 EST with a sandwich in one small hand and the nuclear codes in the other.

We survived Bush. We survived Obama.  We won’t survive Trump.IMG_0673

 

 

 

 

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Sprinsteen and Me

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I met Bruce backstage just before the show. The crowd thundered, the lights were up, and chants of “Bruuuuuuce!” shook the concert hall. I’d promised myself not to gush and fanboy, but there I was in the same room with the E-Street Band and the Boss himself was grinning at me.

“Hey, man,” he said in that raspy voice I’d heard a million times on worn out cassettes and CDs. “How’ya doing? I’m glad you could make the show. I read your book, and it’s pretty good. I thought you might like to join me onstage for the last song. We’re gonna close with “Chimes of Freedom.”

“Um,” I stammered, aware that I was sweating profusely and that I couldn’t feel my legs.

“Well? Do you know the song? You look like an idiot just standing there. Can you speak?

Of course, that never happened and it never will, but it’s a nice dream. Bruce Springsteen has inspired me for about thirty years now, and it’s both funny and more than a little absurd in the way that he and his music have influenced my life. I wonder what I’d say, if I had the opportunity to speak in coherent sentences.

The Music and Memories

I saw Springsteen in concert for the first time back in 1986 on the Born in the USA tour at the Orange Bowl in Miami. I’d been a casual listener before that, but the concert changed me into a lifelong fan. There was an electricity in the air, a palpable thrum and connectivity throughout 80,000 people, and when he launched into Glory Days, there were tears in my eyes.

In my mind, perhaps the most amazing thing about Springsteen’s music is the way it grows with you. When I heard Glory Days, I was a senior in high school, and the song meant something entirely different then than it does to me now. Same thing with The River; I felt the quiet desperation in the lyric and that mournful harmonica riff, and I knew I didn’t want to wind up like that, where I looked back years later with a misplaced fondness upon a youth wasted, where being trapped was a way of life. Later on, I could relate with a certain horror to some of the bleak songs, yet I found hope in them, too. Born to Run and Thunder Road acknowledge boundaries and the self-made prison life can become, yet are ultimately gloriously triumphant. A lot of his music is about pushing through, breaking those chains, and busting out.

Badlands is probably my favorite song of all time, and when the bridge launches I still get chills every time and if I’m driving I have no choice but to speed up and start belting out the words at the top of my lungs, much to the horror of my wife and children. I once explained this necessity to a police officer, and, being a fellow Springsteen fan, he understood and tore up the ticket.

Inspiration

I love movies, books, and music that are about overcoming defeat through sheer force of will, and Bruce’s anthems are as good as it gets. When I hear Trapped, Light of Day, and Wrecking Ball in sequence, my chest swells and there is a singing feeling in my soul virtually nothing can dampen.

I hear persistence, hard work, and discipline thumping from the speakers in a way that makes me want to do whatever must be done, no defeat, no surrender. It makes me want to be a better man. His music makes me believe in dreams.

So what would I really say?

I’d stammer and look like an idiot, of that I’m certain. But I’d like to think I could manage this, at least:

“Thanks, Bruce.”

 

 

 

Free short story: Sand

kelli at the end

Sand

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The ocean this morning is that special blue, deeper than any color can be alone, truer than the sun playing golden on easy waves, warm and inviting. The sweet breeze and the singing feeling in my chest and the taste of salt and life and the way light and shadows dance against a vast horizon are all part of one color.

I am an artist, feeling what I see, seeing what I feel, and right now in this moment I have discovered a new color. Hope.

Standing in the surf, hard packed sand beneath painted toes and wind tossing my long hair, hope embraces me, a brilliant color and emotion I have yearned to find. There is freedom and forgiveness and exhilaration in it, but it is more than those things, for it is akin to explaining the sunrise to a blind woman or the joy and pain of childbirth to a man. There are some things that only make sense with color and context.
Henry launches himself into a wave, laughing and carefree and seven, bursting with light and potential, and I am filled with joy and gratitude as I gaze upon my son, and for a moment a cloud passes overhead and there is regret mingled with wonder at his resilience and my own.

“Momma, did you see that? That wave almost got me. It didn’t though.”

“I saw, honey. You beat that wave.”
“Look out,” he shouts, grinning with his hands in the air. “Here comes a big one. Get ready.”

Yeah. I know about that.

Behind us, the castle surrenders to the water, walls sliding into the sea, a work of art doomed to memory from its inception because it was built in the only place it could have been with the materials at hand: Hope and love and sand.
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I saw something in him when I first laid eyes on him, and part of me still wonders about that. Doubts my sanity. That’s a man, I thought. Tall and handsome and cocky, a guitar on his back and a searching kind of loneliness in his eyes at the same time. A road trip with some girlfriends to Panama city with a detour to Nashville cast ripples I never could have imagined. Probably we should have gone to the beach.

I’m from a little shithole southern town where everybody knows everybody, even though they never really do. They think they do, and make up lies to fill in the blanks. Don’t get me started. That’s a whole separate ball of wax. It’s part of it, though. Part of why I stayed when I should have left after things went like they did. There is hope now, and for me back then in those hard years between the folds, I saw hope in that guy with a guitar and wounded eyes and silver words.

You work with what you’ve got, and sometimes it’s sand. You build where you can, and if it’s the damn beach, then that’s better for the moment than anywhere else if that’s the only place you think you can build.

Worse, if that’s where you want to make something lasting even though you know better, because there is that thing that you can’t explain to anyone with a brain, including yourself. That love and passion and color and self-delusion wrapping around each other in a heady mix of blue sky and Cinderella and faith and kisses.

There are hotel rooms where people to this day cannot go because of us. We fucked like wild animals and it was glorious, mattresses askew and cushions on the floor and people calling the front desk. It was like that; that was the good part, the beginning, that thing that was real in its own way but painfully elusive in the life I eventually lived. The life we lived for a damn decade.

I wasn’t happy where I was when I met him, raging against the small town and small minds and big egos, and there was this huge man with song and gentle touch. A caress and a look around the eyes that unlocked parts of me I didn’t want to face, but which ignited a tingle and desire and a longing for something I’d almost given up on believing could be real. I wanted to believe. I truly did. I was divorced, he was divorced. I had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend. We lived 550 miles apart…here we go.

I should go back and slap myself upside the head, but it’s a little late for that. I try to tell my daughters not to make the same mistakes I did, and I pray they hear my plea. They likely haven’t learned the things I wished they would, the right lessons that could have been lived and not said, and it makes me sad still.

That son of a bitch. The man I loved destroyed me and he hurt everyone I loved. There was darkness in me and surrender because I didn’t see anything else.

I am better than that. I remain undefeated, and with the sky true and the ocean sweet, I feel it. He was my enemy, implacable in the way of the tide claiming a castle built upon the sand. He did what he did, hurting and acting and reacting. Hurting me. Harming our family. The tide has no choice, serving the moon, but he made choices the ocean never has. Later, I made choices too. I don’t have many regrets. He can keep those.

The bitterness in my heart devoured me, and that I lay at his feet. That he fell in love with me for a second time when I wasn’t in love with him doesn’t matter anymore. I’d already moved on before I moved on, he just didn’t see it. Truth is often painful but always worth the price, even when it’s paid in heartache.divorce-2

I am a woman, a mother, and an artist, and my past does not define me. I fought like hell to get here to this moment and feel these colors. I earned this ocean and this light. I paid the price with tears and years and parts of me I should never have surrendered.sand3

I hear a laugh behind me, a joyous hearty thing, and I spin, my toes digging in the sand and the sun on my face and smile at the man I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.
He is not the same man I built castles in the sand with.

And that makes all the difference.
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Dawn comes slow and warm, the surf an easy whisper on the beach. Lying on my back beneath a sand dune, the sky is turning from black to gunmetal gray, becoming something new, painted with swirls of pink and orange until the sun breaks on the horizon. I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise; it’s a wondrous transformation, as darkness surrenders to light. A kind of rebirth which only comes through time.sand2

Endings are really beginnings; I often forget that. I remember it now.

The fresh sea breeze soothes my soul and there is the taste of salt and the coming sun on my lips mingled with peace. The kind of peace you don’t know you need until you find it again and see how much you’ve been missing it.

I am a writer, and I’ve sacrificed much at the altar of love. The love of words, and the love of a woman.

Maybe that’s how it had to be.
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Sometimes when you meet the love of your life you know it right away; that’s how it goes in the movies. It wasn’t like that for me.I didn’t know it until it was too late.

I met her in Nashville years ago, rebounding and hurting and she helped heal me. Made me feel loved and safe. There was a whirlwind romance with this unlikely woman from the deep south with wild hair and blue eyes and a hunger in her I found intensely desirable. Within six months of divorcing my previous wife of many years, I found myself married again, an expectant father and stepfather of two girls, living far from home in a new town.
I wanted to be that guy. I really did. I wanted to believe.

I wasn’t ready to meet her, but it happened the way it did and went to hell from there. I hung on through kids and demons and heart break, inflicting my own upon the way. Resentment grew in that void and bitterness festered. There were actions and reactions until it was impossible to know what was true and what was false. It’s not an uncommon story, and I wish I’d written a better one for my life, mine and her’s.

We hung onto eachother and our children through years of quiet desperation. Clinging to the hope that one day things would change, that light would break through the looming clouds and we would feel that shine on our hearts again. That God would bring purpose and healing to us together, not individually. To our family. That our faith would sustain us.
It happened for me, but it never did for her. I only thought it did.hourglass

On a perfect day right before the blue sky fell, the sun was gold dust glittering on the water and in the air and we were a family. I recall the sense of wonder and glory, savoring that moment with my children in the waves, holding hands with my wife, a deep gratitude and awe in me that things were good. I can wrap those memories around me now and hold them tight

Just because we wish a thing to be true does not make it so.

I defined myself as a father and a husband and an author, and it’s been a process to remake my life and my existence. I will always be a dad, and being away from my boys for any time has wounded both me and them. I’ll always be a writer, too and I embrace that part of me. Words don’t keep you warm at night, though, don’t hold you when you are crushed.

She was my muse and best friend, inspiring me, making me a better man and better author. It’s an anguished thing to loose, knowing that that has faded away. I hope forgiveness finds me. For the moment, there is peace. There is hope in the growing light.

The tide eats the beach and blue waves claim the sand as they have forever, and when the wind blows right and the ocean calms, the sand blows up onto the rolling dunes and the beach is born again.

The sky is bright now and I turn away with a certain wistful sadness; I’ve got pages to write. Later, I’ll come back with my boys and we’ll build a sand castle. The memories will remain long after my footprints are gone, and they will be true and good.

The End

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http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IK7MH9M/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Remembering Silver Hill…My Magnolia

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The woods are lonely and empty there now, but in my mind there is a place which will always remain as it once was. A house on a hill surrounded by forest and filled with laughter and generations and love. My grandparents called it Silver Hill.

In the spring and summer the air of Upstate New York has a sweetness to it. As if the maple trees and rocks, the flowers and the sun breathe new hope into the land itself. Little things take me back. The smell of fresh-cut hay, the clink of ice in a glass of tea on a hot day, the aroma of pipe smoke, the sight of an old orange tractor.

For me, Silver Hill was magic. It was a place of safety and refuge, a constant in a childhood rife with upheaval. My folks moved many times, and I attended about twenty schools, but Silver Hill remained a beacon of hope and stability when things got dark and mean. I remember riding the lawn mower with my Grandfather when I was about four or five, and later being allowed to mow the whole yard myself, a thing I enjoyed. It’s where I learned to shoot, love the woods. I recall reading an entire series of Piers Anthony books over about a week, perched in a comfortable nook of a towering tree, surrounded by twittering birds, the wind whispering through the leaves, and the branches rocking me gently.

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There were family reunions and birthday parties during the warm months, and I’d roam the woods and the yard with my cousins, all of us with skinned knees and dungarees. Catching frogs and tadpoles down at the pond, always on the lookout for a snake or Bigfoot, who was rumored to inhabit the area, and whom I was fairly certain I’d seen at least once. Building forts of increasing complexity. The adults would join in games of softball, and football, and there was this wonderful togetherness. That’s how I remember it, and that’s the truth which remains.

We ate blackberry pies, hot-dogs from the charcoal grill, and stacks of steaming pancakes from the griddle, my Grandmother making them as big as we wanted. Eating was a kind of celebration.

In the fall there was a bittersweet, fleeting explosion of color, as the woods came alive in red and yellow and every breath held the promise of the coming snow, a sharp, tingling sensation, a singing feeling in my soul.

Winter meant vast snowbanks, crackling fires, and Christmas. The aunts and uncles and cousins would migrate to Silver Hill, and we’d eat turkey and stuffing and tear into presents, savoring each one. We opened them one at a time, and it was a joyful thing, anticipation and wonder all wrapped together. We built igloos and had snowball fights, epic battles when the wind was cold and the snow was deep, knowing a warm fire, hot chocolate, and a slice of pie waited inside.

Silver Hill became a part of me, and looking back I realize that it’s because of the people, my family, my blood, and the memories which live there for all of us. We’re spread out all over the country now, but Silver Hill, and those black and white and faded picture still recall.What I remember most is love, unconditional and true.

Before every meal, my Grandfather would lead us in a short prayer, the same one every time,and it is etched indelibly into my heart.

“Lord we thank you for this food, and for thy many blessings.

We pray you will bless this food to our use and us to thy purpose.

Amen.”

http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IK7MH9M/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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