Counting Presents, Pt. 2
Back through the mists of blogtime we go, for another look at past Greg T. posts:
It was ultimately a C-section birth, though it wasn't planned that way. To my surprise the HMO doctor asked me to help with the birth by keeping one of my wife's legs up. She pushed and pushed, and I felt such empathy for what females go through with childbirth...but the boy just wouldn't come through the birth canal. When his vital signs started looking a little shaky, the doctor chose to remove him from the womb via C-section.
My self-image went all over the map that night, from giddy lottery winner to insecure dorkburger. I've a habit, for better and worse, of trying to sum up "profound" moments with a clever word or two. But that moment was just too darned big. I remembered Jack Nicholson calling his little son "my man Ray" and feeling the love behind that comment; when Andrew came out, I blurted out "my man!" and felt typically incongruous. But soon my boy calmly rested in my arms, and I carried him out of the delivery room toward the nursery. It was magic.
I remember the numbness and darkness in the voice of, of all people, Katie Couric, as she spoke while the second tower fell. The testimonials from people near Ground Zero that day were alternately heartbreaking, scary and heroic, and always poignant. The pictures, from both New York and Washington (where the Pentagon had also been attacked) were unforgettable.
I work at a horse-racing wagering establishment, and was sent home early that day, as all the tracks cancelled their races. The TV network that carries the races (TVG) was replaced by Fox News (oh joy!), so I saw those towers falling over and over on my cubicle TV monitor. I remembered the magnificent view of Manhattan that I had from the top of the WTC, when I visited New York in June 1980.
Throughout the '80s, Late Night With David Letterman was my favorite TV show. It struck a comic pose that seemed so ballsy and innovative in the context of the Reagan '80s, where yuppification and sellout abounded, that it was like a cool swim in the middle of a desert. I got rather obsessed about it, as did many thousands of other fans. That level of fandom undoubtedly inspired a skit the show did: a commercial announcing the release of two Bible-like books of Dave jokes and sayings: What Dave Said and More Dave.
Watching Late Night on NBC in the '80s (up to 1987 or thereabouts) was often a giddy and uplifting experience for me, but it was also a bit of a package deal. On the upside, Letterman had a stubborn and obvious commitment to making his show a quality package, an edgy step up from the dated panderfest that Carson's show had become. With writers and performers like Chris Elliott and Gerry Mulligan aboard, the show was daring, innovative and refreshing. But the other side of the coin was that on the air, Dave wore his inner control freak on his sleeve, practically all the time. Anyone who deviated one iota from the Master Plan of Brilliant Comedy got it good from the General, one way or another.
He lived hard, he lived strong, he lived with much integrity. He was, in the words of one Internet compadre, a splendid human being. If his Christianity sometimes seemed a little over the top; if too much of his recorded output between the late '70s and early '90s seemed unfocused and even schlocky, it all pales next to the amazing body of work the man left us, and the resonance of that voice, one that will vibrantly speak to people over future decades and centuries.
What's the difference between right and wrong?
I'm not a professional philosopher, so I can only give a gut reaction. My gut tells me that true love is never in vain, is always right in some way. And experience tells me that commitment, integrity, passion and humor are virtues that are very powerful and very useful.
So, for me, a life with love, commitment, passion, integrity and humor is the right life to pursue. Lacking any one of these virtues would be the wrong way to go.
Name something you've done to undo, subvert or neutralize the Battle of the Sexes.
All I can tell you is what I've tried to do. The jury's out on whether I've ever succeeded. I've always tried to avoid the predator mentality with women, yet lust and whimsy and desperation have more than once made me too pushy. I married a woman whose passion and sense of humor I love, yet we argue too damn much.
I respect women, and I don't believe there's anything a man can achieve in society that a woman can't. If anything, I hope I've communicated that I am not a male chauvinist.
Here are two dispatches from the battlefield that have stuck with me:
"We make her paint her face and dance." - John Lennon
"We hate them. They hate us. They're smarter. They're stronger." - Jack Nicholson
Having smoked pot since I was 18 years old, and having taken acid a few times, I couldn't in good conscience throw a blanket "drugs are evil" gauntlet down on him. On the other hand, I have a strong opinion that underagers play an especially dangerous kind of Russian Roulette by taking drugs, and the chances are good that neither their minds or bodies are ready to handle either the upsides or downsides of it.
So I simply said to my son: "Drugs are dangerous, and kids really shouldn't be doing them at all." What I'll likely add in the future is: Adults need to decide for themselves, and take full responsibility for what they decide. If he's open to it, I'll probably someday go into my standard diatribe about how stupidly unfair and hypocritical the U.S. drug laws are, but that won't be for awhile.
It's been a sad spectacle indeed, watching someone with Michael's great singing, songwriting and dancing talents become an utter freak show over the past two decades. My theory is that the mega-success of his album Thriller in 1982-84 was too much for the already fragile MJ to handle, and when it coincided with unresolved personal issues with sexuality, religion and childhood, the man just snapped, and he fully devolved into a creature of repulsive vanity and denial.
It was first evident during the summer of '84, the summer of The Jacksons' Victory album and tour, that MJ had developed a dysfunctional relationship with the media hype, which by then regularly put him in the same category as Elvis and The Beatles. (This would culminate in 1991, when he declared himself "King of Pop".) Perhaps in his mind, it was the only thing that could liberate him from the inner demons. In any event, his aura of self-importance became suffocating, and certainly that adversely affected his art.
If you check the Madison Avenue commercials and the mainstream TV, you don't see a lot of anger reflected there. What you see is: America, the land of plenty, kicks ass. And the heartland is exposed to that message, day after day after day. Even an event like 9/11 is ultimately portrayed with heroic, reassuring strings.
The media seems to have an inbred resistance to angry rhetoric. Anger can be niche marketed in selected doses of comedy and commentary, but generally it doesn't jibe with the in-house research -- data that says the mainstream audience is primarily apolitical and wants to be pacified.
...while it's important for Democrats to be armed with damning evidence about George W. Bush, unless they have developed enough spine, compassion, discipline and rhetorical savvy to sell themselves as trustworthy vessels of information, they probably won't get far with swing voters & non-voters who remain uncommitted to candidate or party. These are people who are quite capable of logic and common sense, but for various reasons are a generally apolitical lot, not prone to the wonkish research and analysis required to properly critique (and often debunk) the mainstream media's spin on the news. What they're fed is a series of manipulated images and soundbites that make them feel reassured about America and their potential as Americans.
When they see a Dem calling BS on the whole corporate propaganda racket, and how it conceals hideous GOP policies adversely affecting the economy, environment and world community, many want to know, first and foremost, if said Dem can provide a replacement for that comforting feeling they get from the "America kicks ass" meme, sold daily via TV shows, commercials and newscasts.
I'm afraid that simply articulating one's logic and evidence on the matter is generally not going to win the hearts of the uncommitteds. There needs to be something extra added: a demonstration that one is empowered by thinking the way they do, in a way that is inspirational to others. That could manifest in different ways for different people, but in most cases it would involve noticeable increases in energy, focus, discipline and compassion, coupled with a certain joy for living that shines through even when one is angry.
Around Christmas of 1944, Hellemn was assigned to join Gen. George S. Patton's 3rd Army, near the German border in France.
"After being there for about four days, our division joined in the Battle of The Bulge," Hellemn said. "Our division was to replace two divisions that had suffered heavy casualties."
Below-zero temperatures and hilly terrain faced Hellemn and his fellow soldiers as they left for Verdun on the German border.
"The roads were all ice," Hellemn said, "and the truck wouldn't go up hills. We had to get out in the cold and push them up over the hills."
There, the soldiers found their "K rations" of food being used up within a couple of days, with no imminent replacements.
Risking punishment for going AWOL, Hellemn joined a group of soldiers who went to a French cafe in town, and were able to trade two cigarettes (very valuable in Europe at that time, he said) for a big bowl of potato soup.
His rifle made useless, Hellemn headed back toward Tetingen to get another one, braving more fire. He encountered his squad leader, still badly hurt and not moving, on the way back.
"I wanted to get Harry," he said. "In Tetingen there was a captured German medic who could speak a little English, and he said he'd go with me.
"We were able to pick up Harry and get him back to town, and somehow we didn't get hit."
Hellemn said they didn't settle for rescuing only the squad leader: "We decided at that point to get other people who were down."
Still avoiding being hit by fire, they were able to rescue about 10 others. They loaded all the wounded in an old abandoned American medical jeep (risking that the jeep might've been boobytrapped by the Germans) and made four trips to an AID station 10 miles away.
*Oct. 26, 1965: The Selective Service declares that married men without children, who were previously exempted from the draft, will now be called up. Married men with children remain exempt.
Turns out Cheney's "other priorities" centered around getting his wife Lynne pregnant.
What's interesting, for me, is discovering that 10/26/65 was an important day in my life as well. My father was 24 at the time, and still draftable -- but he already had two kids, my brother Mike and myself. And 10/26 is not only my mother's birthday, it's also Hillary Clinton's.
I love the smell of synchronicity in the morning.