So You’ve Elected a Criminal as President…

When a top athlete or sports team is caught cheating the punishment is mighty. Olympic medals are stripped and given to the next person in line. Tours de France are forfeited. Basketball teams are banned from post season play. In the sports world, unfair competition is punished. Fines are levied and accomplishments are invalidated. This is how we insure sport is kept honest.

One of the growing problems in politics today is the increase in team based fervor. Also, treason. But I’ll come back to that. The 2016 election was the culmination of the belief in the electorate, “my party/team can do no wrong.” Or more accurately, “my team may have problems but they’re nothing compared to the devastation the other side will bring upon the country. As such, my duty is to vote against them no matter what.”

In some part the problem is a bipartisan one, but I hope I am not shocking anyone to say it is a predominately Republican one. To be honest, the Democrats face the opposite problem where a failure to pass a purity test means an abandonment by the voters. The Republicans faced something similar with the Tea Party movement but that populist wave won out in the end.

The far Right-wing was successful in purging moderate control from the GOP as a whole.

What are the consequences of such extremism? The Trump administration is answering this question front and center. The result is America installed a criminal as its head of state. I could post a bunch of links about Trump’s blatant criminal behavior but I’m not here to do your homework for you. Take a quick Google surf and you’ll find enough evidence.

Yet, if my statement is so cut and dry as I want to make it seem, why is Trump still in office?

Here is where the team mentality comes back into play. The GOP made a mistake. They elected a crude and vile individual who never wanted anything from the Presidency other than self-enrichment. He was blatant about it. Everything Trump has done since he took office was telegraphed in plain language during the campaign. People still voted for him though.

The question is why?

For one thing, he cheated. The time to stop being coy is now. I understand that people with real power need to moderate their message. Game of Thrones isn’t only some make believe world where dragons take forever to become important. The rules of power are true in Westeros as well as Washington. The most important being, you don’t strike at the king unless you are certain you will win.

I forgive the Democrats in Congress for not pressing harder against Trump the would-be tyrant. Should they fail he would be invincible. But we all know he’s guilty. It’s now a matter of uncovering the proof. The evidence is out there. I don’t doubt it for a second.

I also have no qualms about calling Trump a criminal. Because he is.

The team mentality is what protects him. There isn’t a single Republican in the country who would be OK with this kind of behavior from a Democrat. And they shouldn’t. I would be ashamed of any Democrat who had no issue with Hillary Clinton talking about pardoning herself six months into her presidency. If it got to that point she would deserve to lose all support.

But it wouldn’t. Because she’s not a criminal. Unlike Trump.

Republicans are not going to admit their mistake. Doing so would forever tie their party and its ideology to criminal behavior. It already kind of was, but now the circumstances are too obvious. What can be done then? Realistically, not much more than we are doing now. Resist all policy, agitate against the regime, activate people to vote the criminals out as soon as we get the chance.

If the world was truly just, then Trump would be kicked out of office and stripped of all his power. By that I mean assets and the methods to buy influence. Put him in maximum security general population and wish him all the best. Then give the Presidency to Hillary Clinton. Count her as the 45th president and remove all appointees including but not limited to the Supreme Court seat Trump and the Republicans stole.

No one who supported Trump should stand for re-election. No one who voted for him should be allowed to vote in the next cycle. Call it a time out. You voted for a criminal.

Obviously, none of this will happen. The punishment is far too extreme for our government to survive. There are far different consequences in elections than a bicycle race. And yet if the penalty for cheating isn’t so severe as to shock the system, it will happen again. When fines for breaking regulations are less than the profits gained, companies work the payments into their cost of business.

The true danger is if the Republican party accepts treason as a small price to pay for getting an ultra-conservative Supreme Court or cutting welfare programs to the bone. My biggest fear is they already have.

This will happen again. Count on it.

On the Presidency

A lot has happened over the past weekend. Incredible, unbelievable things. Donald Trump’s own son has admitted to going to a meeting where he expected to get information from the Russian government. Information that would be damaging to his father’s political campaign. Allegedly, data gathered through espionage. He was fine with that.

Long story short, Donald Trump Jr. of his own free will quiet possibly admitted to being a Russian spy. If this were the 1950s he’d be in jail awaiting trial for treason as we speak.

But he’s not. Neither are the other high level Trump officials at the meeting.

Despite the Republican party’s desperate need to send the country back to the 50s politically, it is not 65 years ago. There’s no telling where this story will go. Every week something new crops up and pushes the envelope of expectations even further. What we do know, is the pattern of lies is real. The Trumps and everyone in their administration are engaged in a cover up of massive proportions.

They are lying to the American people.

Yet, here is the problem. It should seem obvious that this behavior is unacceptable. There was a time in this country where something of this nature would force a well-deserved, shame-filled resignation. However, countless Republicans and the Trump family themselves are steadfast in their refusal to admit to any wrong doing. There’s a chance that could change, given that the evidence is so blatant. Unfortunately, the damage has been done.

The President is not a person. The President is an office that a human being inhabits for a period of typically, four to eight years. I can only hope that this current resident of the office won’t be around the White House that long. Once again, that depends on the rest of the GOP standing up for themselves and admitting that they made a mistake.

The person who is selected to occupy the office of the Presidency accepts a grand responsibility. We as Americans can disagree who should be placed in the office but once that person is there, they become a representative of all of us. The President is responsible for everyone that lives in the United States, not just the people who voted for them.

Once someone decides to even attempt to assume the mantle of the Presidency they are expected to live up to a certain level of respect inherent in the office. This respect is the reason the country and its leader commands influence across the world. Many of our citizens seem to think that level of self-respect is no longer important.

Chances are pretty good that it’s going to come out that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government in order to win the Presidency. In my opinion, I believe he did everything possible. He has shown himself to be the kind of person willing to sell anything out if it benefits him. I have no doubt in my mind that Trump had no moral issues with destroying any and all respect for our nation and the Presidency if it meant he would “win.”

But that’s just my opinion. For now, until more evidence comes out. Which I expect it will.

We can throw around the word treason all we want but the indisputable fact is that Trump’s actions before and after winning the election are beneath the dignity of the Presidency.

The 4th of July was last week. A day where all Americans are supposed to feel pride and patriotism in their country. For me, it was difficult to stir up those feelings given how disrespectful the entire Trump administration has been to our hallowed traditions.

We’ve had bad Presidents before, plenty of them in fact. We’ve never had a terrible person as President. Until now.

Yokai Blues: Part II, Chapter 1

Nick looked up and down the road. He found himself in Kyoto, bathed in florescent-white street light. He remembered telling Tom he planned to go back for a visit. Though that would have taken a lot more money than he could get his hands on at the moment. Bullet trains are expensive. Regular trains were often out of his reach as well.

Yet, here he was.

Nick saw the fox with no eyes standing next to him.

“Didn’t I shoot you in the head?”

“Indeed you did,” the homeless creature said. His wounds continued to weep a thick, clear liquid. Whatever healing power the fox possessed did not apply to his eyes.

“You should be dead,” Nick reached for his pack of cigarettes.

“Such a relative term.”

“Relative to what?” The lighter in Nick’s hand clicked again and again. He was having trouble getting it to catch. The fox only smiled and offered Nick a book of matches. He turned it over in his hand but there was no logo to be found. Only blank white paper.

“Notice anything different?”

Grilled smoke poured out of a pipe set in the nearby alleyway. A greasy odor snaked its way on to the main street. The scent of charred chicken meat spilling over the street is the best free advertising. An effective use of what is just a waste product as well. For a restaurant in the crowded marketplace of an average drinking conclave, any advantage helps. Nick was certain that these restaurants got a kickback from local dry cleaning shops because of it. The odor of blackened poultry doesn’t fade from a suit jacket through wishful thinking. He had to admit, however, he was getting hungry.

“I see a rather basic Kyoto street.”

The fox pointed across the way to a side alley where two men were relieving themselves against the wall. Nick paused to light his cigarette. The two men against the wall began trying to splash each other’s shoes with their own piss. A spark of recognition flared in Nick’s head. One of the public urinators danced away from his friend almost crashing into another man trying to slip past.

“You Charles Dickens copying motherfucker.” Nick’s cigarette dangled from his lip threatening to fall.

A much younger and thinner Nick dodged out of the way of the stumbling piss bandit. He grumbled some words which were completely ignored by the two drunks and hustled past the pair before they could douse him too. The younger version of himself turned down the road and started heading away in the direction of a pink-light district. Nick started to trail after himself out of instinct. He stopped short and looked back at the fox, his question obvious.

“Don’t worry,” the fox said, staring back up at Nick with his mangled eyes. “No one can see you. Just like in Dickens.”

“So you’re the ghost of drunken weekends past?”

“You don’t remember which night this is yet, do you?”

Nick glanced back down the street, his other self had almost disappeared in the crowd. He jogged forward trying to catch up. At first he dodged the other pedestrians as usual, until he couldn’t avoid crashing into an old woman. She came to a full stop with little warning and he bowled right through her. Luckily she had all the resistance of a particularly detailed fog bank.

After that it became easy going.

Kyoto vibrated at a different frequency to Tokyo. The old capital lived as a regular city rather than a vast urban savannah like the new. Tokyo sprawls as a bloom of vomit on the sidewalk. Kyoto stays neat and contained in its valley. The trees are different too. Tokyo has trees, of course, but they’re lonely things, caged in concrete. Even the sprawling parks feel like an arboreal zoo, planted amongst the buildings as an obligation. City planners read how shade makes people happy and bless a few major streets with a block or two of sad trunks strung along in a row. Tokyo officials have little concept of or motivation for taking care of grass.

Kyoto has a different relationship with nature. At the least, they are still on speaking terms. Many temples and holy places are surrounded by forest. Kyoto is at least fifty percent historical artifact, including the residents. That’s not much of an exaggeration either as the population of Yokai in the city is slowly reaching majority. An Oni even ran for mayor in the previous election. He lost but had a good campaign.

The Yokai are drawn to the shrines and temples, which has given the humans living there not quite an open acceptance but a friendlier tolerance for certain. Also, since the shrines are most of Kyoto’s tourist economy there is a greater number of easy jobs for yokai willing to trade pride for a living wage. Nick especially liked Kyoto for the trees. The city’s relationship with the surrounding forest reminded him of home.

Also, when he first arrived, Kyoto was where people were willing to pay real money for his cross-cultural skills.

He followed his younger self down the street and began to wonder where it had all gone wrong. Staring into this mirror of the past he became starkly aware of the extra twenty kilos of paunch he put on over the years.

The way his double was as cool and suave on the outside as he had been in his head. Now with each cigarette he became a prisoner shackled to nothing, so well conditioned that he never thought to escape.

The capital city clearly has a way of getting in your blood like a virus. Nick’s younger self was a stark reminder of the effects of the Tokyo disease. After some twenty years only fools think anyone can escape the effects of age. Nick was certain now that the river of time flows rougher in Tokyo. With plenty of jagged rocks lurking beneath the surface. Unfortunately he had been exposed for too long to the concrete nightmare to ever want to leave. As dangerous for your health as Tokyo was, a metropolis is good at making a man feel alive.

Nick dropped his spent cigarette to the ground. The fox with no eyes coughed to show his disapproval.

“Terrible habit you’ve got there,” the fox said.

“I have worse,” Nick said, his attention still locked on the specter of his youth in front of him.

More than half the time, he remembered to throw away his cigarettes in the proper place. Maybe it was less than half. The rate dropped when he was distracted and couldn’t be bothered to bring a pocket ashtray.

A bar vented its grill smoke outside to pour along the road. Young Nick paused to finish his own cigarette before heading in. His last puff of tobacco smoke mixed with the thin cloud of burned chicken roiling past the door. The apparition had the decency to use a portable ashtray rather than flinging the spent butt to the ground. Somewhere in the years to follow Nick had lost that level of dedication. Nick’s ghost disappeared into the bar leaving him behind with the fox.

“Aren’t you going inside?” the blind fox asked after Nick hesitated.

“I remember what night this is now.”

“Then you’d better get in there or you’re going to miss it.”

Inside the bar’s decor attempted to invoke “old-fashioned log cabin”. Rounded humps of wood covered the walls in soft tan. The facade was clearly bolted on to a standard concrete wall but the attempt had a pleasing enough effect. Long tables of rough hewn cedar filled the common area with a camping in the woods ambiance. Across every free surface customers had scratched, drawn, or otherwise marked messages commemorating their visit. The bar left a few cheap ball-point pens scattered about the room for exactly this reason. The signatures created jagged breaks in the the glow of the wood, each one marking someone’s existence. Nick stumbled across this shop shortly after he arrived in Kyoto. Each time he came back, he tried to catch up with the bar as he might with an old friend, if he had any. A friend who didn’t keep in touch too much otherwise.

For all Nick knew, the place could have closed years ago. The realization stabbed him right in the appendix. 

Nothing at all had changed.

Obviously.

After a quick scan of the room he spotted his younger self doing the same, searching for a place to sit. Old Nick wanted to see if his first scratchings in his favorite table still remained, a whole host of other memories tied up in those marks. A group of loud businessmen had already claimed that spot. Young Nick passed by the table without a second glance. Current Nick figured he hadn’t wanted to raise a fuss. Nick’s youthful mirage instead settled into a smaller booth away from the entrance.

Nick followed, unsure how to let this play out. Part of him screamed that he was intruding. Any moment his younger self would spot him and fall into an existential crisis. The fox removed that fear by sitting down directly across from the phantom Nick. His younger self ordered a bottle of beer with three glasses and several skewers of roast chicken and green onions. Salt only of course, nothing fancy. He lit another cigarette and settled in to wait, as nonchalant as someone born and raised in this town. Old Nick joined the fox and wrestled with the mental disconnect involved in looking into a time mirror.

“You want something to drink?” the fox turned his head in Nick’s direction. 

“How would that work exactly?” The fox only smiled and waited for the server to come with Young Nick’s first bottle. When she did the blind fox pulled the beer towards him leaving behind an exact duplicate. He did the same thing with two of the glasses and proceeded to pour a healthy dose into each. Nick picked up the foaming glass of beer. It seemed real enough. Tasted just as he remembered as well.

“Neat trick.”

The fox said nothing and simply sipped his own drink. Young Nick took zero notice and was already pouring his second glassful.

They had little choice but to continue drinking. A hand-written sign stretched over the main room which summed up the management’s position on customer behavior. The banner read:

Order one two more bottle(s) of beer or get the fuck out!

Nick didn’t begrudge the place. He found the upfront sincerity refreshing. The small group finished off two more beers and several plates of grilled chicken before Young Nick got up from the table. Nick slumped down into his seat, almost sliding down on to the floor. The moment had finally arrived. The fox poked him in the shoulder, the boney jab surprisingly painful for a dream.

“Get up,” the fox said. “This is why we’re here.” Nick shuffled out of the booth and turned to look back at himself. He had his arms wrapped around her now in a welcoming hug. Lin turned, her arm still wrapped around his waist, and introduced Young Nick to her mother. This was back when Lin still loved him. He couldn’t be certain of it at the time. It might never have been true anyway. Still, it pained Nick to rewind this particular moment of lost happiness.

“Do we have to stay?” Nick downed another swallow of the phantom beer. Unfortunately the intoxication effects were as ephemeral as the drink itself. He felt as sober as a church mouse.

“This is why we came,” the blind fox repeated. “I won’t let you leave just yet.”

“Nice to meet you Nick,” Lin’s mother said. Young Nick guided the pair to the booth. He poured Lin’s mother a glass of his beer. Lin sat next to her mother but something in her eyes said that she wanted to be next to Nick. He only noticed it now, years later as he stood over the scene looking in from the outside. He was too wrapped up in himself back then to figure it out. That would come later. As they went through the opening banter he couldn’t help but wonder if he could have salvaged things if he’d had those extra years.

“Is there a fast-forward on this thing?” Nick asked, “We were here quite awhile if I remember things right.” The blind fox said nothing but the air shifted around him. The figures at the table melted into subtle new positions and the number of empty beer bottles grew.

“So why are you in Kyoto, Nick?” Lin’s mother said as she held up her half empty beer glass. Young Nick filled it dutifully.

“I have some troubles back in Tokyo. Your daughter convinced me you could help. The older fox smiled briefly and then sipped her beer.

“I hope it’s not financial,” she said. “Lin knows I live on a fixed income.” The old fox moved with the casual grace of a master of tea ceremony. The blind fox snorted at her last comment. Nick looked his way but his guide was not planning to explain his amusement.

“Of course not,” Young Nick said, “I’ve made something quite angry.” Lin’s mother drained her beer. She left her hand on her now empty glass, fingers wrapped around in a light embrace. The moment lingered until Young Nick got the hint and poured her some more. After finishing another half of her drink the older fox chose to speak.

“Indeed you have.”

Lin glanced between the pair of them before resting a paw on her mother’s arm. “Please mom? It’d mean a lot to me.” This was the point in Nick’s recollection where the two women began speaking in the Fox dialect.

“What are they saying?” Nick asked the blind fox.

“They’re talking about you,” he replied.

“I figured as much back then,” Nick said, “Anything more specific?”

“Nothing I’m willing to tell you. Some things are better left a mystery.”

“Blind asshole,” Nick lit a cigarette he stole from his younger self. Again, no one took any notice of the pair of watchers standing awkwardly by the side of the table.

Young Nick sat against the back of the booth, pretending to act casual. He held his glass of beer up to the light as though something more refined hid within. Lin and her mother finished up their conversation and Lin excused herself to the bathroom. Once her daughter was gone the matriarch leaned closer to Nick.

“So tell me Nick,” she lowered her voice, “What did you do to deserve this extra attention?”

Little came to Old Nick’s mind other than a series of painful episodes. In between he numbed the hurt with purified grain alcohol in some form or another. This cycle repeated itself quite often over the years and would continue right up to yesterday.

Today and tomorrow as well, he admitted to himself.

“I don’t know why I’m being hunted,” Nick said. The old fox raised one eyebrow but otherwise kept her expression flat.

“Are you certain?” Nick refilled both glasses. Avoiding her stare, he picked up a neglected skewer of chicken and tore off some of the now cold meat. He took the time to chew and swallow completely before speaking again. His mother had done that right at least in raising him.

“Nothing more than my usual brand of depravity,” Nick said. “I haven’t been able to figure out what I did specifically yet.” He placed the empty wooden skewer back on the plate. Lin’s mother continued to drink her beer but made no move towards the food. She looked him up and down and maintained her silence. Young Nick moved to fill her glass again but she covered the top with her paw.

“I’ll help you out, Nick” Lin’s mother said. “But if you’ll allow me to play the concerned parent for a moment.” Young Nick chuckled and tried to appear even more casually disinterested. Current Nick wanted to grab him by the collar and slap some sense into himself.

“If you don’t fix the root of your problem,” Lin’s mother continued, “It’ll keep coming back time and time again.”

“Is this a gardening metaphor?”

“Only common sense advice.”

“My mother had a garden when I was growing up.”

“How nice,” Lin’s mother let the conversation wither until Lin came back a few moments later.

“So, did you two have a nice talk while I was gone?” Lin smiled at Nick. He avoided saying anything with a drink of his beer. Lin’s mother smiled at her daughter and patted her on the shoulder.

“Yes it was quite pleasant, dear,” the older fox said. Lin’s mother reached into her overstuffed bag and rummaged around for several moments.

“A gift to help your journey,” she said finally. She leaned forward to place a small package on the table. She then shifted back into the seat, as stoic as when she first sat down. The world shimmered in place similar to waves of heat rising off blacktop in summer. He looked over at the blind fox for explanation.

“What’s going on here?” Old Nick squinted trying to get a better look.

“The magic here is strong. It interferes with your mind and thus your memory of that day.”

Nick thought back to the original day but the memories were hazy at best and completely missing at worst. The scene continued to crackle and warp like a TV with a weak signal. An orb wrapped in paper sat and hummed softly at the edge of Nick’s hearing. Young Nick reached out for the object, his hand pulled along by a subtle magnetism. The cool weight of metal obvious even through the paper shell. He paused, looking at Lin’s mother for permission. A swift nod was the only cue given.

“Is this what I think it is?” Nick said after he peeled back the paper. Inside the wrapper, a round blob of red painted metal. Sketched on the front, a face with hollow white eyes staring out over an angry grin full of fangs. He ran his thumb over the surface of the doll surprised at the smoothness. On closer examination he understood the reason for a lack of texture. The coloring and design were part of the metal itself. Red ink flowed and mixed with the white at a glacial pace beneath the surface. It was almost as if something had been captured in a transparent sphere rather than crafted. The sharp smell of iron made that seem unlikely, however. The longer he looked into the object the more a force tugged on a hook lodged deep in his chest.

“It’s forming a link with you,” Lin’s mother said. Young Nick jerked his head up from the charm in his hand. He had forgotten he wasn’t alone. The world resolved itself a little more clearly. 

“Is that a good thing?” Young Nick said. He smacked his lips, his throat had gone dry. He took up his beer with the other hand, not wanting to set the charm down. Nick watch took a sip from the glass. Something was off. The brew had a distinct metallic tang to it now, the same rustiness of blood. He put down his drink and pushed it away from him. Lin’s mother stood and placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder.

“Time to go, dear.”

“Wait,” Nick said. The old fox looked back at him. “What about the eyes?”

“When you know for certain your goal, press a thumb against the eye on the left. If your conviction is strong enough the circle will darken, activating the power.”

“And the other one?” Lin’s mother paused to brush out a crease in her clothes before answering.

“Fill that one in when you succeed.” With that, the older fox left the restaurant. Lin looked back over her shoulder and mouthed “Call me” at Young Nick. He put the doll down and stared into the flat, blank eyes.

He lit a cigarette.

The memory dissolved into white, leaving Nick and the blind fox alone in a vast empty expanse.

“So I should find that doll?”

“Yes, that is why I brought you here. To remind you.”

“Seems like an awful lot of trouble. You could have just given me a call and explained it that way.”

The blind fox grinned. “Don’t worry, you won’t remember any of this and when you wake up you’ll think it was all your idea.”

Trump’s Cosmic Perspective

During my overly extended, undesired staycation, I’ve had lots of free time. I’m trying to use that time to read more. A decent number of books have fallen to my casual pace. Far more than recent years. During my life in Japan my reading time was dominated mostly with magazines for smart people. National Geographic and Wired, for example. I haven’t touched them in months.

Also, thanks to some nerdy friends I’ve read more fiction than I have since I finished Game of Thrones. The books, not the show. Obviously.

Reading is, of course, fundamental. The book I just finished was “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. A nice light read, perfect for storing in the restroom for guests I imagine. To be honest, if you watched his excellent recent version of Cosmos there is little in here that wasn’t covered in the TV show. Except for roundness. That was new.

Still, highly recommended.

The final chapter of the book has Tyson talking directly to the reader about the wonders of an infinite universe. Rather than letting the vastness of space make you feel insignificant, the author argues that the opposite should be the case. Revel in the fact that you are made of star stuff and can trace your existence back to the origins of the cosmos. Deep shit.

All well and good, but what about Trump?

Barely half a year in, the 45th President has locked in the title of “Worst President ever” for a large population of the country. Obviously, not everyone. That doesn’t mean that he won’t forever be the worst in many people’s minds. Just like Obama is hated by lots of gap toothed, cousin-loving rednecks.

Sorry, that was as mean as healthcare. I wouldn’t want to be accused of inflaming rhetoric.

Now, Trump has built a solid base of facts to earn that title. His personality is undeniably awful. Some people don’t mind that or even think it’s a good way to act towards people who disagree with you. I suppose that is a sad fact of the human condition. Once you choose the team to belong to it is hard to accept anything that tarnishes that distinction.

Ask a Cubs fan if you don’t believe me. I can make that joke because it worked out for them in the end. I wouldn’t put money on the same happening for Trump.

But what does this all mean in a cosmic sense?

What will Trump’s legacy be in a hundred years? A thousand? A million?

Certainly, for most of our lifetimes Trump will be a prominent figure in history textbooks. But how many people today are still mad at Calvin Coolidge? How many can even name him? The man who brought about the Great Depression? Hardly anyone, I would wage. Especially since the President in office immediately prior to the Great Depression was Herbert Hoover.

Human memory is short. The truly outstanding individuals last through the ages but they have little direct effect on actual daily life.

Sure, you might have someone like Julius Ceaser who created the calendar we sort of use today. Except over a thousand years later some pope named George might come along and change it up. Time is long and humans are not. Eventually there will come a time when even Donald Trump is forgotten to history.

This is of course not to say that we should just let him do whatever he wants.

It is vital to resist against the things that will cause pain and suffering to millions of innocents. That’s just common sense. Trump is a symptom of a great disease which weakens America to its core. Our systems are struggling to fight off this infection but they are, for now, holding firm.

The United States is a young country. One of the jokes I often heard from my continental friends in Japan was as follows. “For Europeans, one hundred miles is a long distance and for Americans, one hundred years is a long time.”

You had to be there, I guess.

We’ve got time. When the atoms of the Milky Way have expanded beyond the heat death of the Universe, there won’t be anyone around to worry about cuts to Medicaid. That sounds like a reason to despair. I know the feeling and it’s a struggle to resist every time I check Twitter.

The point of Tyson’s book however, is the opposite. Live this moment for what it is because of the mathematical wonder required to bring it about. The same oxygen molecules that fuel the President’s unhinged tweets are the same that power the protest songs of the Woman’s March.

And they were all created in an astronomical ball of nuclear fire.

Pretty cool if you ask me.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I wish I could worry less about life and the world around me. I’d even settle for one out of two.

The desire to just, check out, watch TV and let day after day swim by is strong. Caring takes a lot of energy. Plus, all the news is depressing. Even the good stuff carries weight.

I’m not the first person to have these thoughts. I’m sure that the Athenian philosophers of old felt the same way about the wars with Sparta.

They didn’t even have Netflix.

As of this writing I am still waiting to hear back about a good job. A perfect job in fact, one I know I could sink my teeth into and feel like I was accomplishing something with my life.

Something like that is hard to come by so I am understandably nervous about my chances. I think I did everything right but Lady Luck and I have never gotten along. I’m hopeful but cautious. The hope decreases exponentially as each day goes by.

As it often does.

Since January I’ve probably applied to at least one hundred jobs, give or take twenty. Of those jobs, I’ve gotten some form of rejection email from perhaps fifteen. At least they let me know for sure they weren’t interested. That was nice of them.

As far as interviews go, I’ve had four. Three by phone and one in person. One of the phone interviews was supposed to lead to second, but they never got back to me. Like I was someone they met on Tinder or something.

Another interview was for a job that misrepresented the basics. I thought it was full time work, they thought I was some fresh college student willing to take any employment even if it mean being discarded six months later like a paper cup.

In some ways though, I am.

None of it is up to me, of course. A lesson I always knew but optimistically believed wouldn’t matter. However, I have little to distinguish me from the many other qualified people out there searching for the same line of work. I can’t point to much that isn’t readily available to many others. I can only send out my resume and hope something comes back. A majority of the time only silence returns.

It’s discouraging to say the least.

To elaborate, it’s frustrating. I finished that book of Mastery I spoke about last week. In it they talk about “the apprenticeship” phase of mastery. This is where you take whatever opportunity that comes your way, as long as it will let you learn the ins and outs of what you want to do. Even if it’s only tangential at first.

Therein lies the problem. First you must figure out what it is that you are called to do. All the greats apparently had a feeling of purpose. A desire they couldn’t quench.

Have I discovered that about myself?

Perhaps.

That sort of knowledge is really only available in retrospect. But I am still waiting to find something that will let me pursue what I’ve come to hope is my purpose. There are no tips and tricks in the book to solve that particular problem.

Nothing about what to do if you got it wrong either.

To be fair, if everyone could do what they wanted there would be too many video game testers. The book makes it sound so simple though. Find a way to earn a living doing what you love. What you wake up every day wanting to do. Then learn all you can until you are skilled enough to strike out on your own. Don’t be lazy about the work involved. Focus, focus, focus.

There, I’ve spoiled most of it for you. When you boil it down it sounds like every by the bootstraps speech you’ve ever heard. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get started until I get a job. So far, getting over that last hurdle has been almost completely out of my control. So, I check Twitter obsessively to feel like I’m involved in the world around me.

Every day I forget how depressing my Twitter feed is. Even if it’s awful it helps me feel like I’m in the study phase at least. And lately it’s always been terrible.

Always.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Purpose

I’ve been listening to another one of those self-improvement type audiobooks. Same author as the one about the laws of power. Must be a pretty nice gig collecting the combined wisdom of the ancients and organizing it for the rest of us fools. I would see about getting in on that racket but this guy seems to have it locked up pretty tight.

The book is called “Mastery” and deals with something I’ve contemplated myself. How do the legends of humanity get etched into history? Some people would say they were born with it. Maybe it’s a TV jingle. It certainly might seem to be true. After all, didn’t someone steal Einstein’s brain after he died to try and figure out what made him special?

Brain theft. What a caper. Probably isn’t true though.

Turns out not much is different about the father of relativity’s grey matter. At least, that’s what this book seems to be arguing, the effort is what matters. Nothing else. I wouldn’t know for sure because as of this writing I’m not even half finished. But like many internet denizens I feel imminently qualified to speak on something of which I only understand a small part.

In other words, this isn’t a book review.

I’ve wondered though, many times, what it is that separates those who accomplish and those that muddle through life. In some ways, it’s comforting to think that it’s all up to genetics, circumstances, or sheer luck. Takes the pressure off. I can’t help being mediocre if I was just born to it. Excuse me while I drink myself into a stupor to forget my problems.

It’s never that easy though. Nothing in life is because if it were we might never have moved off the savannah. If the cold didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have figured out fire. No fire, no electricity. No electricity, no world spanning mega culture.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad.

Birds don’t need to figure out how to get a job and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They just got to fly and find food. If they’re lucky, they’ll find a spot where one of us puts out the food for them. Because we like their pretty colors. Birds have got it made in the shade brother.

What’s our excuse?

We dreamed of something bigger and better. Looked up at the night sky and wondered to ourselves, why? Then some of us figured out that question. Busted their ass on it. Which led to new questions and new answers. A never-ending cycle. What did we achieve? The power to shape the planet in our image, even if it means destroying the whole thing in the process.

Take that birds.

Catching up to life

The idea of leaving one life behind and living another is often something left to the movies or TV. A high-level snitch placed into witness protection. A middle-aged boring guy ditching that depressing office job for life as a surf instructor. A family of yokels finding out some distant relative had billions of dollars and left it all to them.

It’s nice to dream.

Most of those stories don’t talk about what happens if you return to your old life. If the story hinges on escape or change, it doesn’t make for a happy ending to end up back where you were before the main event. Losing billions of dollars or returning to a life of crime wouldn’t be that great in the grand scheme or even in the medium scheme.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t all that bad. At least I wasn’t giving up life as a beach bum.

Discovering that travel might not be the cure for what ails you is more common than those other fictional scenarios, I suspect. Beaches get boring and mega cities are hard places to find fulfillment. Easy to lose yourself, though. At least that was the case with me. I’ve already talked a lot about what it felt like to leave behind one life for another.

How does the return compare to the exodus itself? That’s a harder comparison to judge. A year into my time in Japan I had made new friends and was enjoying my life as a club hopper. What money I had went into beer, cigarettes and late night ramen. Work was just a means to an end. Coal for the insatiable furnace of debauchery.

But there’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called your twenties.

I’m more than a year back in the United States and things are progressing at a much slower pace. I arrived in Japan with a life set up for me. Pre-packaged and ready to go.

I left with little more than the jealousy that comes when a friend flashes cash and a desire to do the same. It’s fortunate that I don’t drink, smoke, or club anymore. Not that the city of Wilmington is known for its outrageous night life.

With more years come further refinement of tastes. My group of friends have gone from cheap beer swilling pool sharks to micro-brew chugging tool jockeys that are also local real estate experts. It’s hard not to get jealous of fancy things like hard wood floors, brushed steel appliances, and equity.

It’s also hard to shake how I treated myself ten years ago now that I’m back where I started.

I wasn’t super cool when I left. Hard to picture, isn’t it? Now, I am outrageously cool. Cooler than a crystalline Christmas cucumber. It took a long time for me to come to grips with this indisputable fact. Unfortunately, I can tell it isn’t second nature like it should be. I have to actively keep on top of my awesomeness when I’m around old friends. Or else I’ll fall into the same patterns as before.

That’s what I mean by catching up. While I was bathing in the concentrated amazing that is Tokyo, Japan, absorbing that power into my soul, everyone else was buying houses and shit.

Life is a series of trade-offs, I suppose.

My First Principle Event

The heat wouldn’t go away. My memories of September tend more towards the “briskness” of early fall. Perhaps that’s just a rose-colored view of the past. Or maybe it’s global warming. Anyway, it was still hot. To be fair, early September is still basically August. What’s the point of all this weather talk? I was about to spend a lot of time outside.

For anyone that doesn’t understand what I mean by “principle event”, it’s the term campaigns use when a major figure gives a speech or makes a public appearance. For us that meant anyone named Clinton or Obama with Kaine or Biden thrown in for good measure. Trump had himself and Pence. We were a bit busier probably than our Republican counterparts.

Being in the largest city in one of the most fought after swing states meant we were going to be busy constantly. Many of my co-workers still spoke in hushed tones about the joint Clinton-Obama event that had taken place a month or so earlier. At the height of the Southern summer heat. Again, with the weather. Why does it matter? Because organizers don’t set up the event in the cool comfort of air conditioning. That’s Advance.

We work the line.

During my two months on the campaign I worked seven principle events. The majority of those I did sign in and line management. The best way to learn just how angry people can get when asked to give up their email. It’s just an email, ya’ll. Give me the spam Hotmail account you never check. I don’t care. But please don’t act like I’m trying to steal your identity.

Anyway.

My first principle event arrived less than a week after I started. A big one too. Hillary Clinton herself. That’s right, I had to learn event work after only a few days on the job and during a speech by the main candidate.

It went as well as could be expected.

Luckily, I was posted to parking duty. I’m not sure if it’s because someone took pity on me or if fate smiled that day. Parking was easy work and it got easier as the lot fills up. The best thing is no one can yell at you really. It’s easy to see there are no open spots and if you’re not there in time it’s hardly the parking guy’s fault.

None of this stopped some people from getting angry but Americans are an entitled bunch.

Eventually, they stop letting in cars. That’s when I got my first taste of the line. Sounds like I’m talking about starting a cocaine habit but it’s far more exhausting. Remember when I talked about the heat? The parking lot was in shade for the most part. The line, not at all. I handed out bottles of lukewarm water and made sure people were signed in.

Thankfully, everyone in line was on the same team. The mood was joyous and excited for the most part. Spirits were high. I bought my first campaign T-shirt ever from one of the traveling merchants that always spring up outside events. Not a lot of Obama swag made it over to Japan and my political activism in college began and ended at the voting booth.

I put it on over my other shirt, which was dumb. Because of the heat.

A chance to move inside for the speech opened up for me thanks to the sacrifice of one of the organizers I trained with. He volunteered to stay outside and catch stragglers instead of escaping the heat. I did not have his moral strength. I’m perfectly fine with siphoning off some of his for my own use, though.

Which is why he’s currently one of my job references.

I kid of course. We all shouldered the burden together at different times. That’s what it means to be a team. That’s what I was thinking as I stood in the midst of the crowd and its roiling energy. That’s when I knew that I was doing something important. It’s when I knew I’d be able to make it through whatever the campaign could throw at me.

It was when I knew I had made the right choice.

Trump is padding his legislative resume.

The Trump administration wants you to believe that they are getting things done. You might hear something along the lines of “nobody has passed more laws in this amount of time.” Or something equally pedantic.

For the record here is the list of all legislation passed in the current Congress. I have tallied them under some broad categories. Keep in mind that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House.

Removal of rules from previous administrations: 15

These are what makes the most headlines and aren’t actual laws being changed so much as rules for how branches of the government will act within their mandate. These “laws” do nothing new. They just role back the efforts of those that came before.

Appointments: 5

Self explanatory. These are “laws” to appoint people to various positions including getting a waver about having a retired military person running the Dept. of Defense.

Memorials/Naming Buildings: 5

Naming a federal building or setting up a memorial takes an act of Congress. Nice way to pad a stat.

Government Management: 8

This is the category that deals with mainly how the government spends its money or handles paperwork. It includes passing a continuing resolution on the budget which was needed to prevent another government shutdown. But this group also includes a bill that makes it OK for government workers to comp their travel costs when using Uber.

Encouragement: 4

These are bills that sound good but have little muscle behind them. Things like saying the US would like to have a World Expo or asking NASA to come up with a plan to inspire women to go into STEM careers. Sounds nice yes, but does very little in real terms.

Actual Laws: 2

After all of that there are only two laws passed that have any real substance to them. Expanding weather prediction capabilities and giving more money to NASA. More science money was definitely one of Trump’s major campaign promises, right?

So when you hear Trump try and convince you he’s moving the country forward, nearly half of what he’s accomplished is the exact opposite.

The rest is fluff.

But I guess yay for science?

Leaving on a Campaign

I snuck out before my friends woke up. My training for the campaign had just finished and I was about to leave from Raleigh to Charlotte, North Carolina. Standing on my friend’s porch I paused to take a picture of my car in the early morning sunlight.

The car was not as impressive as the moment would suggest. A Nissan hatchback of some sort. What more could you expect from a rental? I had only been back in the country for around five months. This would be my first proper job since leaving Japan so a car of my own wasn’t something I could manage.

Of course, renting a car for two and a half months isn’t exactly cheap but I’m fortunate to have a patron.

I woke up early because it’s a long drive from the capital to the Queen city. I never appreciated how vast my home state truly was until this experience. I drove a lot in Charlotte, which has some of the craziest roads in the state. Five lane highways suddenly split off into three and two. You might be forgiven for not noticing the change because one of those lanes was inevitably an on ramp as well.

Worst drivers too, probably.

I was fortunate during my time on the campaign to see a large part of the city. We also got to have a field trip into the surrounding areas closer to the end, but that’s a story for another day. All told, I put in about 3000 miles over two months. Not bad considering I spent most of my days in an old accounting office glued to a phone.

I don’t remember what I listened to on the long stretch of I-40 between my college home and my new temporary life in Charlotte. Either the Hamilton cast recording, which I had been listening to non-stop in those days, or the audiobook version of Team of Rivals, the classic Lincoln biography. I have a bit of a thing for early American history.

You’re required to be a bit of a nerd if you want to work in politics, I think.

Interstate 40 is an interesting animal. It has long been a part of my life as it was the best way to get from my home town to where I went to school. For the first 24 years of my life I never moved more than 30 minutes away from that stretch of concrete. During that whole time, it’s been under perpetual construction. People from the area know what I’m talking about.

Some of my co-workers were shocked to hear I had never been to Charlotte either in that time. I moved half a world away only to wind up just off that highway once again.

Eventually, I reached Charlotte and made my way to my first voter registration drive. Straight off the highway right to work. I should have expected no less. The drive was at a Revolutionary War re-enactment of all places. This being North Carolina, my first guess would be Civil War as the re-enactors conflict of choice. I couldn’t go in and check it out, though. For one I was on duty. For another they required tickets.

This was when I first met some of the people that would become my fellow organizers. A special bond. People who would go from strangers to dear friends over a span of mere weeks. I knew I was in good company when one of them wore a shirt with a British flag on it to a Revolutionary War event. Cheeky to say the least.

That evening I got my first taste of call time. We did calls during training but there’s no substitute for the real thing. For some reason, I remember the lights being dimmer than they would be for the rest of the campaign. Perhaps my brain wants to remember that time more intimately. Maybe it was because a light was burnt out.

Either are equally possible.