A New Relativity (or How Life Equals I See Squared)


Indulge me for a moment, please.

What’s your age? I know it’s a personal question, but say that number out loud (if only to yourself).

Next, subtract five. Say that number aloud (no one’s listening, promise).

Pretty similar, huh? Numerically, they’re not that distant. And if you were blessed enough to live into the double digits, live decades even, the difference may be marginal, at best.

Now return of that first number, your age. Think of all you went through to get to this moment. The loves and the hates, the brokered peaces and the broken pieces, the exes and the ohs, the wisdom and the foolishness that somehow did not topple you. It’s no small feat. When you think long enough of the road you hoed, it can leave a body fatigued. And ain’t we all?

But now, think of that second number, when you were five years younger. What did you used to be able to do? How long could you work, walk, play, engage? What occupied your frontal lobe? Who did you see in the mirror? It’s only five years, but when you think of that body, that traveler, the steps feel more springy.

It doesn’t matter your age. Five years ago, you were a young person. We can’t help but polish memory to a shine.

It could seem a cold realization, that time is little more than a candied apple which cloaks bruising that remains nonetheless.

But here’s the good part.

Think of five years from now. Perhaps you won’t like the number. Perhaps you don’t care. Either way, you will look back at today and see a young person. One who could walk for miles, smile for days, commit the beautiful and horrific errors of youth. Someone somehow…different.

That person is here. That person is now. That person is you.

Forget what I said about apples. Time is like a TV. You can go broke investing in resolution. Ultimately, a television’s worth rests solely on viewing angle.

For once, the automakers were right. That object, the one that’s in the mirror.

It’s closer than it appears.



Benny Bobblehead and Constance Cussalot



I love fast food.

It’s not an easy confession to make. It’s like saying you love commercials (which I occasionally do too, and not just during the Super Bowl).

But you rarely hear someone professing their love of, say, Big Macs, though their personal economies may suggest otherwise. If anything, that giant M has become a scarlet letter of sorts, aglow in neon and pastels. A friend’s daughter makes sure the car is free of McD wrappers before mom picks up friends, lest they discover evidence she ate crap. The loss of that demographic must haunt the ghost of Ray Kroc. 

But take the M off sign, the Jack out of the box, the crown from the King, and the experience becomes something different. If you stopped at a local coffee shop every morning for your drink and biscuit, we’d find it quaint. The people cooking your food may wear a different uniform, but they are doing the same thing, providing the same service. Just in plastic.

Screw that. I get to know my fast food servers, who know my dog by name (and inquire when she’s not in the car with me). This morning, the manager of my local Jack in the Box literally chased me down before I pulled out of the drive-thru to give me a “VIP” key chain, good for 10% off any order, at any outlet, no expiration date or usage limitations. It’s a dubious honor, to be sure. I’m surprised they even have such a thing. But let’s see a Starbucks — or any coffee shop — offer customers something similar.

Plus, with fast food, you get experiences like Benny Bobblehead and Constance Cussalot, my favorite homeless denizens of my local McD‘s.

Benny is a homeless man who waits at the end of the McD drive-thru. He bobs his head constantly to peek around the corner to greet drivers after they’ve  they’ve picked up their orders (and change). It’s a brilliant location, one that rivals freeway exits. Regardless of whether you give him change, his response is the same: “God bless.”

Connie doesn’t request money, though she is less diplomatic. She waits at the exit of McD‘s, cussing up a storm. She’s more of a “goddamnit” girl than a godbless one. Keep your window rolled down, and, if she notices, she’ll toss a “motherfucker,” “bitch” or “asshole” your way. I wonder how many parents have had to explain Constance  Cussalot to their kids.

Last weekend, both were in fine form. Benny was looking dapper, decked out in a sport coat (minus the shirt). He’s more hirsute than I thought.  I gave him my change (though, confession: I keep the quarters), and, with windows yawning open, braced for Connie’s wrath. She was spewing Category 5 expletives.

“Damn motherfuckers!” she yelled at no one in particular. “Sonofabitches!!”

As we neared the exit, Esme heard the rant. Her ears perked as she stood on her hind legs, just tall enough to look out the passenger window at the commotion. She saw Connie and, for the first time, Connie saw her.

“GODDAMN!!…” Connie began — until she saw Esme. “Awwwww! Wittle doggie!! Whooz a good baby??!! Whoooz a good doggie??!! WHOOOOZ A GOOD DOGGIEEE???!!!”

Her kind vitriol trailed off as we merged into traffic. I assume she returned to her tirade at the next soccer mom she saw.

America may hold its baristas dear. I prefer to hold the pickles, hold the lettuce.



Livid, from New York, It’s Saturday Night!


First: How is it that Donald Trump has not responded to rapper Eminem’s scathing video beat down of the administration, in which he told his fans that if they were supporters of the Pumpkin-in-Chief, they should stop following buying his music?

It was a rare non-response (which has become as much a tea leaf into his thinking as the Tweets he does make) from a president who likes nothing more than to enter a social fray in which he can offend.

Confusion is the only scenario I can think of that led to the silence:

Flunkie: “Sir, social media is buzzing about Eminem’s video criticizing you.”

Trump: “Those sons of bitches. Was it the green one?”

The Incontinent Id did offer some interesting fantasizing last week. Namely, wondering aloud if the media’s daily excoriating of him wasn’t tantamount to unequal political coverage.

Of course, one of the greatest memories in the history of memories didn’t use the word “tantamount.” Multi-syllabic words are not his friend (except bigly, which actually is a word, coined in the 1400’s). Instead, he mused aloud whether he should yank NBC’s broadcasting license.

Gen. John Kelly couldn’t get to him in time to tell Trump he doesn’t have the legal authority to do that. Or perhaps Sarah Huckabee Sanders scolded Kelly that it’s disrespectful for a Gold Star family member to differ with a president. Regardless, the Tweet went out like a silent fart at church.

Still, under the broken-clock theory of logic, Trump occasionally (if unintentionally) strikes on a salient point. What if he could revoke FCC licenses? The question is less one of power than programming. Trump has floated the idea of equal air time before. But what would Republicans put in its stead? The GOP is terrific at bellyaching (Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh), less so at belly laughs. 

Consider: Name one politically satirical TV show that is conservative. There was once Dennis Miller of Saturday Night Live fame, but his humor became so obscure even he didn’t get his jokes. Other right-tilting comedians include Tim Allen, Jeff Foxworthy, Adam Sandler and Larry the Cable Guy. But they joke about politics about as often as they do pedophilia.

Now consider the other side of the ledger. There are no fewer than seven big-budget comedy shows making Koch-like money skewering President Carrot Top: The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyer and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper. And that doesn’t include Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, The Trump Show on Comedy Central, or the increasingly leftward leanings of mainstream comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. All but Klepper were born during Democratic presidencies.

What gives? The most common answer I get is “Republicans aren’t funny.” But we know simply from the success of Republicans’ non-political entertainment that this isn’t the case. Sandler’s movies clear $83 million a flick. Allen’s Home Improvement ran for nine years and took more than a dozen Emmy Awards.

The issue, then, must be the material more than the emcees. And here’s where you find the comedic difficulty of conservatism.

Like journalism, comedy requires editorial freedom to work. It also requires watch dogging, critiquing and whistle blowing when the system goes off the rails — hardly a skill set sought in quarters that seek order or discipline, like the military, government or church.

Picture a Republican TV show that excoriates Trump for a boneheaded comment. Or teases the religious right. They’d be shut down in a week — by Republicans. When you take god or the president off the comedy menu, you’re left with a plateful of limp-noodle punchlines. And little to aim at besides people telling the jokes.

Which as been the sole stratagem left standing for the alt-right. A day after the Vegas shooting, Sean Hannity went on the air to play a montage of comedy shows that took a moment to recognize the massacre — and make a call for a change to gun laws.

Hannity vomited some nonsense about the left’s unquenchable desire to politicize American sadness.

But the shows were right, if only on a visceral scale. We are sad. And mad. And goofy and dumb and eager to address issues of the day, bigly (it means “to handle with great force, often emotionally”). So loosen up, Foxtards. There are literally millions to be made with just a dash of humor.

But here’s a tip. When you go looking for the show’s band leader, don’t bother Eminem. I don’t think he likes you.