18 March 2018

Little Sister Visits, The Haunting of a Vietnam Vet

“Tommy, I need to talk to you. Don’t ignore me, don’t be afraid of me just listen. I’m serious… Thomas Steckel….” It was my sister’s voice. I was laying in bed at 3:30 in the morning in the midst of another struggle with insomnia and I was hearing my sister who had been dead for nearly 50 years. I was scared shitless. That was the first night.

I once overheard someone say that my sister’s death was ironic. She died in 1969. At the time I was fighting in Vietnam. I survived the war, but Linda, "safe at home," died. She was driving home with Benny Esteves, her boyfriend, from the Senior Prom when Benny’s car skidded off the road into a power line. Benny had had a few and the roads were slick from a thunderstorm half an hour before. So those were causes. There was no reason.

So to some people I suppose it was weird that instead of her getting word that I died in Nam, I got word in Nam, that she’d died. They sent me straight home. I never found it weird or ironic, to me it was terribly sad. Well, it was more than that, it was a great tragedy. How the hell do I go into a war, see combat and live while my sister dies on the night of her goddamned senior prom?  I had PTSD just from what I went through in the war. I saw the top of Billy McAfee’s head blown off and a guy named Hertzenberger trying to hold his guts in after a fire fight and I’d watched Fergie Scanlon step on a land mine and get blown in the air, some body parts separated. I’d also seen a VC fall to the ground after I shot him. He was dead. I'd killed him. It felt good and awful at the same time. I was in combat for the better part of seven months and saw a lifetime’s worth of awful shit. Not just saw, heard and smelled too. Those screams, those explosions, they never clear out of your head. The smells linger too. Especially the smell of death. Then add to that my sister's death. I could have used a psychiatrist. Bad.

“Tommy, acknowledge me, I know you’re scared but I need you to say something to me so I can begin a conversation.” I tried to speak but could only manage a frightened grunting noise. “I need to actually hear words, Tommy, words.” The best I could do was, “hi, Linda” which came out like a question from a shy little boy. “That’s better.” That was the second night.

Yeah, I had plenty to work out from the war even before Linda died. Linda and I were born three years apart and always pretty close. We saw life the same way and were both determined to make good. We wanted to get as far away as we could from our parents and the kind of life they lived. Oh we loved mom and dad, we just couldn’t abide all the pettiness that comprised their life. They were forever sharing office politics from their respective jobs, or neighborhood gossip and talking ill about friends and relatives. Status was everything to my parents. They were pretentious, vane and insipid. They only had cursory understandings of politics, none of philosophy or literature and though they attended church weekly, (another font of gossip) they didn’t really seem to care about or understand religion. They were there to keep up appearances. Still they were loving parents who were firm but fair and gave us whatever we needed without spoiling us. That us also includes my younger brother, Mark who was eight years younger than Linda and eleven years my junior. Once Linda died my folks started spoiling Mark who was a total misfit in the family and at school. He went from one fad or belief or philosophy to another. By high school Mark was a self proclaimed communist and halfway through college he took off for Cuba and we never heard from him again. I can’t tell you much more about Mark, I don’t feel like I ever knew him at all. Strange kid. Strange adult. As for my parents they were devastated by Linda's death but carried on as usual, only with an overwhelming sense of sadness. When Mark left it was like another death and their socializing became infrequent. They both died in their late fifties from lung cancer, they were chain smokers.

“Tommy. Big brother. I need you to really listen and to really talk to me. Can you do that?” I managed some garbled sounds and a fairly clear, “okay,” but my heart wasn’t in it. I was scared. And so it went each night for a week, with me too scared to communicate with the ghost of my dead sister.

Linda wasn’t sure what she was going to do with her life but had decided that college was going to be the place where she’d figure things out. Linda had been accepted to Barnard College and was excited to go there and be exposed to new ideas. She’d have been a raving success at anything she tried. Linda always got straight A's and was active in all manner of school extra curricular activities and led an active social life.  For my part, once I got home from Nam I was going to take advantage of the GI Bill, study engineering and have a long happy career. That’s actually what happened, minus the happy part. I studied at the University of Michigan. It was a successful if somber four years. I did well in school but the shadow of my sister's death was like a cloud that kept the sunshine out of my life.

For me everything has gone perfectly according to plan and yet I’ve been miserable pretty much the entire time. I met and fell in love with a wonderful woman, named Cherry and had two children.  I had bought my dream house and have had nothing but nightmares since the kids and then Cherry left.  I rattle around the place alone, lonely and feeling worthless.  Cherry had been barely able to stand my moodiness but when I added over indulging in booze to the mix she took off. The kids are grown and live in other parts of the country. I have only a few friends. I was always too busy with work to socialize or meet new people. I was a successful engineer with my own consulting firm. I hid in my job. I hid from my family and from my depression. When I sold the firm and retired I used alcohol to hide. I don’t blame my misery on Linda’s death, or my time in Nam, or my parents or anything else. It just is and the worst thing is that I’ve never dealt with. No counseling, no psychiatry, no 12 step program, no meditation, no yoga, no hobbies. I’ve wallowed in it.

So then Linda had started visiting me. Each night for a week. We weren’t exactly making progress. It was just this disembodied voice variously coaxing and hectoring me to talk and me being resistant, mostly because I was scared. But what was I scared of? Was it the idea of a ghost? Fear of being haunted? Or was it that my sister was going to get me to explore my problems. It’s undeniable that I’ve feared facing reality at least since the twin experiences of Vietnam and Linda’s death.

I finally vowed that on the eighth night I’d engage with Linda. I thought it better not to drink that day which believe me, was no mean feat for someone such as myself. Oddly, despite my struggles with insomnia, I fell quickly asleep that night and slept soundly for several hours before the call of nature awakened me and I had to pee. Back in bed I couldn’t get back to sleep. It was 4:00 am.

“Tom, are you going to talk to me this time? You really need to.”

Without hesitation I replied in the firmest voice I’d yet mustered in responding to Linda, “yes, I’m ready to talk.”

“Well it’s about time. I’ve been trying to talk to you for a week but it’s impossible if I don’t get anything back. No more sitting there and grunting and there’s nothing to be afraid of, Tom, I’m your goddamned sister.”

“I know that Linda, but you’ve also been deceased for decades, so this is kind of -- not kind of -- very strange.”

“I remember when we were kids you said you didn’t believe in ghosts. It was that night mom and dad were at the Jenkinson’s and Larry Kyle’s father got stinking drunk and fell all over the hors d’oeuvres. It’s all people talked about for awhile. Anyway we were watching the Munsters and during a commercial we started talking about ghosts and you said they didn’t exist.”

“Jesus, Linda how can you remember all that?”

“Tom, I remember everything. Every damn detail.”

“That must be weird.”

“You’ve no idea.”

“Where are you? Is it possible to see you?”

“I’m just here and no, there’s nothing to see.”

“So I guess I know why you’re here.”


“Yeah you’re hear to lecture me about how miserable I am and about my drinking and how I need to stop wasting whatever I have left of my life and to tell me that life is precious.”

“You were always a quick study, Tom.”

“So that really is it.”

“Yup. I guess I don’t need to say anything. My mere presence has done the trick. Fancy that.”

“But tell me, Linda, how is it possible, I mean you talking to me and what’s it’s like and what — ”

“Sorry big brother, no can do. Even if I tried to explain things you wouldn’t understand it. Anyway this is about you. What kind of steps are you going to take?

“AA, for sure. First thing. Then I’ll renew my gym membership. I don’t know, beyond that I’m not sure. Maybe get a shrink, maybe try to re-activate my social life. Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll write my memoirs.”

“Sounds like you knew the answers all along and my work here is done.”

“Do you have to leave, Sis?”

“You’ve certainly gotten over your fear of me. I can’t stay. But I’ll tell you this: if you don’t follow through with what you’ve just committed to or you backslide, it won’t be me who comes calling.”

“Whattaya mean?”

“Bye, Tommy. I love you.”

I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up I looked on line for the nearest and soonest AA meeting. Then I researched psychiatrists. After a hearty breakfast, sans Bloody Marys, for once, I went to the gym. I was doing all the right things, taking all the right steps, motivated and determined. I was still depressed as hell but maybe that would pass eventually. It's never too late to try.

14 March 2018

Wherein the Author Recounts the Horrors of his Childhood

Yup, that's me.

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
- From Starman by David Bowie

When I was a child I could often hear my mother yelling in the other room. There was no one else in the house but me. But she’d been screaming at someone using an ugly, angry voice. Sometimes she’d yell directly at me, although she was really just yelling in my direction. I was only rarely the target of her ragings and never for anything I’d actually done. I’m pretty sure  that I didn’t exist to my mother in her psychotic  moments. I would plug my years or turn on my record player or the TV full volume. Today I’m hyper vigilant and noises of all kinds bother me. Mom would sniff a lot and never seemed to blow her nose. Now when I hear people sniff it drives me up the wall.

The insanity stopped the second my dad or my big brother would come home. It wasn’t until my early teens that she could hold it in no longer and would rave regardless of who was home. I’ve told people this and many have been highly skeptical about my claim that from my earliest memories until adolescence my mother could turn her insanity off as simply as a spigot. Facing that skepticism has been one of the worst things I’ve gone through in my life.

My mother was schizophrenic, although never formally diagnosed. To the best of my knowledge she never underwent a psychological exam nor talked to a counselor. Ever.

I’ve successfully blocked out a lot of the particulars of my mother’s insanity. But I’ve never been able to shake how it felt, the overall terror. It was a constant drumbeat. Growing up I was used to it and at the same time every second of hearing her ravings was like being slapped across the face. I was formed into an adult living in that dichotomy. I was a happy child, I was a miserable child. Everything was great. Everything was terrible. My mother put me through hell, but my dad was an angel. Emotionally I clung to my father. He was kind and loving and fun. Nothing was enough to make up for what my mother did to me, but dad did his best. Yet in my teen years I rebelled against him and most of what he stood for. After all it was the Sixties and change was everywhere and living in Berkeley I was ensconced in the middle of so much of it.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you.

I've been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.
But I'm all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.
- From Old Man by Neil Young

When my father realized the truth about my mother he was, not surprisingly, devastated. His perfect world was flipped upside down. But one of his responses was to take extra care of me. This was no mean feat for two reasons: he was already a superstar father and I was doing things like trying to grow my hair long, opposing the war in Vietnam and listening to rock music. In all three cases quite the opposite of what he would have wanted. Still our bonds were firm, especially because of sports. He not only came to all my soccer games, but he came to all my practices. Meanwhile he took me to sports events of all variety: football, basketball, baseball, track and field, boxing, soccer and ice hockey. He was my best friend. My mother was my worst enemy.

I went off to college at 17 and in no time at all I was using and abusing drugs and alcohol. The booze, in particular, kept me sane. I had a lot of hurt stored up and it was bound to manifest in strange ways. The booze was a social lubricant that allowed me to be fairly normal in social situations and downright charming when I wanted to be. Sobriety I could handle provided I knew when my next drink was. Of course there were times when I took far too much of my medicine. In my sodden mind getting too wasted or suffering a hellacious hangover was always a small price to pay for the benefits of being high.

Even before I got sober there was trouble brewing in the form of panic attacks. Lucky me suffered (make that suffers) from a particularly virulent strain that is to the regular panic attack what the atomic bomb is to dynamite. I wouldn’t wish these ten megaton panic attacks on anyone no matter how awful a person they be. I am fortunate that none have ever occurred when I had a ready means of suicide at my disposal or I’d be long dead.

While I was drinking, the panic attacks, and the much more frequent problem of the fear of them, could easily be treated by alcohol. Once I ended my relationship with liquor the panic attacks became a much greater and more frequent threat. Enter pharmaceuticals. Since my condition was (is) so rare it took awhile to get me on the right medications. And when I say awhile I mean over 25 years. In the mean time I went through a cornucopia of meds. Some were not effective. Some were highly effective but with unpleasant side effects such as feeling like a zombie. One of the worst side effect was from a med that gave me horrible rages. This is not good look for a middle school teacher nor for a father. Fortunately I was off the stuff quickly before I did too much damage. (I did make one daughter cry during a rage and went way overboard scolding a student and got written up for it.) In addition to disbelieving accounts of my mother’s ability to turn on and off her rages, people have questioned my panic attacks. Many dismiss them as normal experiences, even enlightening ones, that I certainly need not take meds for. Others suggest I exaggerate and still others say that they’ve had many such attacks themselves. In 12 step groups I’ve been accused of trying to make myself different, a sure path to slipping back into using. These comments have frustrated, depressed and angered me. It is difficult not to be believed or having your pain dismissed. Rarely is one’s physical torments similarly dismissed, but when it comes to emotional anguish, everyone fancies themselves an expert.

No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through
- From Behind Blue Eyes by The Who

I still deal with the aforementioned hyper vigilance. My most effective means of dealing with it is by having headphones with me during my commute. In addition to sniffing, gum chewing, people yakking on cell phones and many other sounds drive me up a wall. While the hyper vigilance is almost certainly a direct result of my upbringing there is less certainty about depression. I’m bi polar, although in the past three years I’ve spent far more time depressed than normal or manic. The depression has been a constant companion, which is odd because it was never invited and wont take my broad hints to please leave.

Yes I see a psychiatrist. I’ve seen various shrinks since I was 16 with decidedly mixed results. Fortunately the doctor I’m seeing now is probably the best of the lot. And yes, I have benefitted from a 12 step program too.

My life has not been easy to live. But I here hasten to add that I am enormously lucky, grateful and satisfied with it. I’m proud that despite my ongoing psychological torment I’ve had a successful marriage that is now 30 years old. I helped raise two daughters who are excelling as human beings and who I couldn’t be more proud of. I am — if barely — a functioning member of society and have been a teacher for 33 years. And while my emotional state has been a constant source of trouble, my physical health has been excellent, as evidenced by my recent ten mile run, and the regular clean bills of health I get from my physician. On balance I’ve done okay.

I still think about my mother. Several years ago, after decades of loathing the woman, I forgave her. She was not at fault. I’m sure at no point did she ask to be schizophrenic for purposes of tormenting her youngest son. Nonetheless I still re-visit those horrors of childhood (generally not on purpose) and mostly I think of that poor little kid I used to be. Whether at five, eight or eleven. I want to hug him and tell him everything will be all right. I want to tell him that it’s okay to cry, even if it’s just once. I want to reassure him that mom’s insanity is no reflection on him. I want to tell him to remember in the future to take it easy with the medicines of his choice. I want to tell him that someday he’ll meet and marry them woman of his dreams and it will be wonderful. More so than he can possibly imagine. I want the poor kid not to suffer. I want to protect him. Rescue him. Love him. He didn’t deserve to be exposed to a schizophrenic mother. He got a tough break to start life. What I really want to do is tell him I’m proud of him. He’s tough.

10 March 2018

One Part is About Email Spam Another Concerns Biographies and the Third is a Discussion on the Greatest Talk Show Guest

Whenever someone wants to comment on my blog the web host sends me the comment before it is published. I can choose to publish it, delete it or mark it as spam. It’s a good system that I heartily approve of. Lately I’ve been bombarded with “comments” many of which are for posts that are more than five years old. These comments have several things in common. One is that they either only vaguely relate to the post in question or have nothing to do with it all. Many of the comments are poorly written and some make little sense. The other commonality is that within them are links to websites. I’ve only checked a couple and they were for sites that provide writing help. (Clearly many of the commenters could use the services these sites provide.) In a couple of cases the comments have referenced how one can improve their writing through the site.

None of this is a terrible imposition. All I do is take a cursory glance at the comment, see there’s a link, hit “mark as spam”and delete the email. Still it annoys. The annoyance doesn’t stem from having to go through the steps of getting rid of the comment but from the very idea of this spam. It’s an incredibly cynical thing to do. The, let us say perpetrators, are merely pretending to provide a comment on a post and what they’re really do is trying to get free advertising. It’s deceitful.

I wonder how the people who do this feel about their actions, about themselves. Are they proud of what they’re doing? Do they have a conscience? Do they hope that some of their comments will slip through and help traffic on their website and do they feel that that in turn is a legitimate way to drum up business? Honestly, I don’t understand how people think this is okay. I also wonder if there are other bloggers out there who fall these charades.


I recently finished reading a spate of biographies. Four to be exact. Maybe that doesn’t qualify as a spate. Perhaps I read several. Surely four is more than enough for several. In any case….

Biographies are comfort reading. They’re generally easy, fast reads but at the same time long enough to sink one’s teeth into — although not a recommended dental practice. I suppose circumstances in my life dictated these “easier” reads, what with occasional bouts of raging depression. Still good bios are hardly pablum. Learning about a person and what shaped his life is instructive and illuminating and one can’t help but draw parallels to one’s own life. Also a biography is a history lesson. History being something we learn far to little about let alone from. Sadly history is to often used — by both the right and left — to propagandize, being presented with glaring omissions or rife with distortions, exaggerations and downright mistruths. But I digress....

Biographies — assuming accuracy, balance and perspective — are fun and easy ways to find insight into the forces that shape people and their actions. For the record the bios I read were about George Armstrong Custer (I found him to be a most unsavory, albeit interesting character, who probably deserved far worse than the death he suffered at Little Big Horn); Ulysses S Grant (known primarily for having been a great general largely responsible for the Union victory in the Civil War, he was also surprisingly progressive man, particularly as president ,who aimed to do much for African-Americans, sadly his efforts were largely negated by the long string of racist presidents who followed); Alexander Hamilton (a complex man who, despite the excellence of the book, I could never quite get a handle on, a crucial figure in the forming of the US Government as we know it today and worthy of an eponymous musical); Richard Nixon (an endless source of fascination to me, someone who I grew up despising — and not without reason — a tortured soul who’s political demise looks inevitable in retrospect, he deserves vilification more for his dastardly actions regarding Vietnam than any of his misdeeds in Watergate).

I followed my bio binging by reading a book of essays by David Foster Wallace, a few of which did not much interest but most I found to be both utterly compelling and thoroughly entertaining. Wallace, like Thomas Wolfe, Jack Kerouac and a handful of others, leave me inspired and in awe. I fancy that I write a bit like Wallace only he did it about a hundred times better. Better make that a thousand. To read Wallace is to really be with him to a greater extent than with other writers and it is also to be almost overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of his intellect and intelligence.

I have followed the Wallace essays with a novel and after a couple months off of fiction it’s a different world. What year is it? How old is that person? Who’s he again? Now the author has changed location and time and I was just getting familiar with the story. Wonder what this guy looks like? What’s his backstory? Wait, are they at the office or the cafe? Which person is taking? I wish there were a damn index.

Of course, I’m not idiot — not so that you’d know it, anyway — and I do get things sorted in my mind and follow the story and enjoy it and my little brain is stimulated and I am happy.


I read an article in the New Yorker (aren’t I Mr. Fancy Pants?) about how Martin Short is the greatest talk show host of all time. You’ll get no argument from me. He was especially good on Letterman (and by the way Dave’s monthly Netflix show is terrif) appearing on Dave’s two shows a combined 50 or so times. The only one to rival Martin Short as a guest is his good buddy, Steve Martin. The two not only have performed together but appeared together as talk show guests.

After reading the article I went to my old friend You Tube and watched Mr. Short's last appearance in Letterman, it might have been his best and isn’t nice of me to have linked it for you?* One thing I particularly enjoy about the appearance is watching two old show biz hands enjoying one another’s company and swapping stories. Dave always appreciated guests like Mr. Short with whom he could chew the fat, share war stories from the old days or reflections on fellow artists or just reminisce. I’ve always like chummy conversations with people who’ve been through the wars together. I used to have a lot of those with fellow veteran teachers in my middle school teaching days. We’d often recount the same stories we’d hashed over before but it was still worth a laugh. I have fond memories of my father and other Finns talking about the old days whether it was about the homeland or construction jobs or fishing trips. Sports fans can enjoy the same sort of repartee.

I fear the likes of Martin Short and Dave Letterman are going to be fading away soon enough and wonder if the next generation of show business vets will have the same gravitas and respect for the past. Hope so.

*You may further be interested in Martin Short's first Letterman appearance -- which he references during his last -- 33 years prior.

02 March 2018

Gun Nuts, Nuts About their Guns and Maybe Just Nuts

Gun enthusiasts live in a strange world. It is a dystopian nightmare in which laws are useless, their families are threatened by imminent attack and a soon-to-be fascist government is going to try to seize their weapons. Their concern for human life is passing, their love of guns is eternal. Some seem in many ways to be reasonable people who will weigh both sides of an argument. But when in comes to guns their position is intractable. Their paranoid delusions have been created by none other than the NRA. This is perhaps the worst of the NRA's foul contributions to the US, they have poisoned minds, convincing their members that any gun law, no matter how reasonable or begin, is the first step to gunless totalitarian rule.

I had a reasonably sane conversation with a gun lover on Twitter in which we exchanged opposing views but I was ultimately frustrated by his unwillingness to concede that their might not actually be forces in this country looking to disarm the entire populace. He was sure that the next restriction on gun ownership or sale passed would begin the slippery slide into jack booted thugs confiscating his guns. These are guns, mind you, that he is convinced are needed to protect his family (how many home invasions are thwarted by good guys with guns?). The fact that a gun in a home is far more likely to be used on a member of the household then on a stranger is evidently of no import to the gun aficionado.

Other gun owners have asserted that citizens must be armed to protect themselves from the government which again, they think is a hop, skip and a jump away from turning into an authoritarian regime bent on appropriating privately owned guns. Apparently an armed citizenry will be able to rebuff a government that has at its disposal a military fully armed with tanks, missiles and bombs. Good luck with that. Evidently some gun lovers imagine a future in which they may gallantly die in a hail of bullets while standing on their porch shooting soldiers. Or perhaps they envision succumbing to a tank that steamrolls them as they wave the flag in one hand and fire a pistol with the other.

One of the more disturbing things about gun owners is their conviction that laws simply won't work to deter gun violence. So why bother? It begs the question of why we have any laws at all. People gonna rape, gonna embezzle, gonna steal and gonna jaywalk so people gonna shoot regardless of laws. Seemingly gun lovers don't care about laws protecting them because they can protect themselves perfectly well enough with their personal arsenals.

Then there's their total misreading of the second amendment (not that gun toters are terribly good at the niceties of reading and comprehending). Amendment numero dos begins: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. That's right a "well-regulated militia being necessary." Here's the deal, when the constitution was written the United States had no standing army and relied on the aforementioned militias for protection. There was no intent to ensure that everyone had a gun as a right of citizenship. Former Supreme Court Justice called the NRA contention that everyone is entitled to a gun"a fraud on the American republic." From an article in Politico magazine by Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and author of The Second Amendment: A Biography: "There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in (James) Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights. In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision. “A well regulated militia,” it explained, “composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

It's odd that the NRA and their minions so extoll the second amendment when they clearly don't understand it. Then again the NRA is a twisted group of people whose sole raison d'ĂȘtre seems to be the boost gun sales -- by any means necessary. I hold them responsible for making paranoid delusional out of so many gun owners. I further hold them responsible for much of the wholesale gun slaughter that is forever going on in the land of the free (not free, mind you, from the fear of being shot).

I find this love of guns bizarre. Sure some people like to go hunting (in other words they like to kill animals for sport) and target practice can be fun and its not impossible to rationalize having a gun in the house of glove box for protection and owning an antique gun or a gun that great grandpa used to use might be cool. But gun lovers have a weird obsession with the gun itself and one can imagine how they are possible phallus substitutes. When I was about ten I had a bee bee gun that I liked to use, to "play army" with and to shoot twigs off trees. One day I got a little bird in my sights and felled it with one shot. As it twirled to the ground I felt sick. I never shot at an animal again. I can't even begin to imagine shooting a duck or a deer or even a damn squirrel (maybe a rat, I hate rats). But some people love to hunt, love their guns and are as scared as hell about said guns being taken. Weird.

The impossibility of talking to gun lovers, of moving them one iota from their firmly entrenched positions (concrete provided by the NRA) is truly depressing. The NRA has become part of the right wing's crusade to eliminate compromise from US discourse and politics. Everything is binary. My way or the highway. And in the case of the NRA, their way leads to more senseless violence.

(My position on guns was summed up well in a tweet by a gent by the name of Lawrence Tribe: No guns till age 21, no bump stocks, ban AR-15s & equivalent guns, ban multi-shot clips, ban body-shredding ammo, make background checks & registration universal, use red flags & restraining orders, no guns for those on no fly list, boycott NRA, vote out its puppets.)

20 February 2018

What if? Questions About the Way the US Could Be

What if there were strict rules on gun purchases and gun ownership? And what if automatic weapons were banned? What if you had to be 21 to buy a gun and then only after an extensive background check that peeked into your medical (read: mental) history and whether you had a criminal record? What if you had to pass a test to own gun, like people have to to drive a car? What if you couldn't buy guns at gun shows or online? What if there were more restrictions put into place regarding where you could be in possession of a gun? What if there were limits on how many guns you could own and how much ammunition you could have? What if the NRA was labeled a terrorist organization and disbanded? If these things happened then wouldn't there be a significant drop in deaths caused by guns, particularly of the mass shooting variety?

What if there were less tax loopholes for big businesses, corporations and mega rich individuals to take advantage of? What if the recent tax cuts to the wealthy were taken away and that they instead got a tax increase while the middle and lower classes got a tax break? What if the military budget was slashed by 25%? Wouldn't that help reduce the deficit and allow for more spending on education, social programs and the infrastructure?

What if the United States got as serious about alternative energies and combatting global warming as the rest of the world? Wouldn't that help save, not the planet, but the people and animals living on the planet?

What if Citizens United was tossed away and a concerted efforts were made to take money out of politics and the influence of lobbyists was reduced? Wouldn't that reduce the influence that the rich have on our political process? Wouldn't then government really be for "the people?"

What if instead of continually arresting homeless people and moving them from place to place, we started building housing for them and tried to give them a leg up? What if we helped the ones with mental problems and drug addictions? Wouldn't that save us money in the long run and perhaps make them more productive members of society?

What if we took seriously the fact that Russians meddled in our last presidential election and are certainly planning similar disruptions in the future? What if  we did everything short of war to prevent this from happening again? Wouldn't that mean future elections would be fair and honest and that other countries would know not to mess with our democratic process?

What if we could find a way to stop Russian bots from bombarding twitter and other forms of social media? Wouldn't that make for more meaningful, representative dialogue?

What if we had leaders who forcefully denounced all racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic groups, speech and propaganda? Wouldn't that drive bigots back under the rocks where they belong?

What if we raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour nationwide with provisions to further increase in in the future as inflation necessitates? Wouldn't that pull a lot of working people out of poverty?

What if we drastically reduced the cost of higher education to what it cost (adjusted for inflation) in the 1960s and '70s? Wouldn't that make it more accessible to all Americans and mean that graduates didn't start their careers with crippling debt?

What if we sent less troops and less bombs into countries and sent more teachers, carpenters and doctors? What if instead of destroying and killing and maiming we built and healed? Wouldn't that make us more popular and hurt the cause of terrorists?

What if the federal government as well as all state and local governments guaranteed that gay and transgender people had the exact same rights as straight people? Wouldn't that mean we had a truly equitable society?

What if the dream act was maintained and we started to value those who want to live and work in the US and not try to send the home or build walls? Wouldn't we be a better country for it?

What if fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy food were cheaper and more accessible (particularly in low income areas) than fast food restaurants? What if school lunches were healthy like they are in many other countries? Wouldn't the obesity rate go down? Wouldn't there be less diabetes and heart failure?

What if prisons actually tried to reform inmates? What if sentencing were fairer? What if private prisons were abolished? What if sentences for victimless crimes were minuscule? Wouldn't our society be safer?

What if professional athletes and professional sports team owners all made 15% less money and the saved money would result in lower ticket prices? Wouldn't more people be able to afford to go to sports events?

What if we had single payer health insurance and prescription drugs were free? Wouldn't more people  be healthy and free of debt?

What if banks and business were more heavily regulated? Wouldn't we have less gouging of the middle class and less risk of recession and depression?

What if wages went up for middle income families and CEOs stopped making millions a year? Wouldn't that lead to a healthier economy and more equity?

What if more people were better informed and took the time to vote? What if elections were held on a Sunday and we made it easier rather than more difficult for people to vote? Wouldn't that make for a more representative democracy?

What if marijuana was legal throughout the country? What if we released everyone from prison convicted of selling or buying marijuana? Wouldn't that make more sense?

Just asking.

13 February 2018

Wherein the Author Seems to Suggest He Likes People But Really He's a Misanthrope We Also Hear More About Woody Allen, Twitter and The Patty Hearst Documentary

That's Patty Hearst Who's Discussed Below

I like people…in theory. As Eric Hoffer once said (not to me, don’t even know the bloke to be perfectly honest) “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor.” This is especially true when you are commuting, as I’ve whined about endlessly before (not really endlessly otherwise I’d still be going on, I’m merely resuming previous rants and diatribes). When you are commuting, humanity proves to be a rather big nuisance. They get in your way, bump you, take up seats, sit next to you, smell, make noise and give you the stink eye. But people are at their worst on social media. I was recently called a “scum” a “Roy Moore voter” and worst of all “a supporter of child rape.” It was further suggested that people like me are the reason that child rape happens. All this because I tweeted some facts related to the disproven allegations of child molestation leveled many years ago against Woody Allen.

People hate facts. Okay people do like facts if they support their previously held position. If they serve to contradict their opinions, notions and ideas, then facts are either to be ignored or twisted or the person presenting them is to be slandered. Still I have to wonder at what the end game is for someone once they’ve called you “scum?”
 They’ve established their lack of interest in a discussion, and that they hold anyone with viewpoint differing from their own as the enemy. What do they gain by name calling? And by the way, if you are lawyer for a person charged with murder does that mean you support homicide? Not by my reckoning.

The actress and — I guess she’s an activist of sorts too — Asia Argento tweeted about Quentin Tarantino after Uma Thurman alleged that he had risked her life and physically abused her during the filming of the Kill Bill movies. She said, “fuck Quentin Tarantino forever.” What the hell does that even mean? A literalist might suppose that she advocates someone engage in intercourse with him throughout eternity, but clearly she was, shall we say, casting aspersions at the director. She really wants you to know that she loathes the man and probably feels that you should do. To what point? I understand anger but I also understand that from our anger we should try to make something positive. “Better to light a candle than the curse the darkness,” as John F. Kennedy famously said, quoting, well I’m not sure who, there seems to be disagreement over who said it first although it wasn’t JFK.

The #metoo movement is a force for positive change in liberating women from the horrors of sexual harassment and sexual violence. But there is also a lot of disparate anger that is being directed at individuals such as Woody Allen who either are innocent of any wrongdoing or who have not had their day in court. Due process is a sacred right in civilized societies. But today woe betide those accused, they are cast to the pit of hell for eternity. There seems no chance at redemption.

The venom against Allen is particularly vexing as is the stubborn stupidity of so many who assail him. Separate investigations cleared him of any wrongdoing. Doctors said there was no physical evidence of molestation. He passed a lie detector test. The terrible violation described by his accuser could not have happened at the time or in the place described and her story was inconsistent from the beginning and of course investigators believe that she had been coached. Yet by bringing up these nettlesome facts one is vilified and put in the enemy camp. Enemy. One side against the other. There is no shading, no nuance, no negations, no discussion, no seeking common ground. We are moving inexorably into a binary world. Choose a side. It has already manifest in our politics where conservatives long ago dropped any pretext of practicing the age old art of political compromise.

Samantha Geimer (now an author but also known as the 13 year old raped by Roman Polanski) said it best in a recent interview with Quilette: “If you choose not to pursue a case, if you cannot prove your allegations, then deciding to try your case in the court of public opinion decades later is a cop out. Dylan Farrow is not alone in her circumstances. But we have a justice system and the rule of law in our country and that is more important than one person’s desire to be ‘believed’ or to exact revenge. What kind of example is that for those who have made peace with their decisions and experiences? That you must have the belief of strangers to heal? That you can never be whole if the person you believe to have wronged you is not punished? It’s simply not true. Most of the time, people can find the strength to recover and move on with their lives. How is it healthy to leave your emotional well-being in the hands of others, or to insist on their belief and attack those who decline? It’s a kind of emotional blackmail. Dylan did nothing wrong, but now she will be judge and jury, blaming others for her pain. I’m afraid I don’t like it.”

One of the problems with something like #metoo is that it spends a lot of time and energy in the easy task of directing vitriol on perpetrators and not enough on the more time-consuming and difficult jobs of healing the victims and educating and enlightening. Simply putting the fear of god into men — while useful — is only one step towards empowering women and keeping them safe. Real change will come only through teaching what is appropriate. Indeed we still need something of a cultural shift from objectifying women and treating them as less than. A major step in the right direction would be if we had national leaders who stopped apologizing for abusers and started condemning them.

Suffice to say I sidetracked myself from original topic which was my love/hate relationship with the human race and how the worst of people often comes out on the internet. Last night I caught up with parts one and two of CNN’s six-part documentary on the Patty Hearst kidnapping. It is a topic I am well-versed in and has been near and dear to my heart since the time it actually took place. One of the first published pieces I ever wrote was about my connections to the Patty Hearst case, and this was when she was still on the lam. For example my father built the apartment from which she was abducted and had warned the owners that the locks were not very secure (I subsequently worked within a two minute walk from said apartment for 20 years). Also a college roommate grew up next door to one of the SLA members, Nancy Ling Perry. I watched on TV with him and another roomie the night that Perry died in an inferno set off during a shoot out with the police.

Last night after watching the first third of the documentary I was on Twitter (maybe I should know better) when I decided to check into the Patty Hearst hashtag that was displayed during the program. I was surprised to see that the majority of comments were blasts at Bill Harris, one of two kidnappers still alive, whose present-day commentary on the case formed much of the documentary. Watching him on the show I was struck but what a lucky break it was to have one of the people “who was there” available to share memories, particularly given the fact that Ms. Hearst and the rest of her brood steadfastly refused to comment.

Mr. Harris was assailed for, among other things, not being in jail and seemingly living comfortably. (He did serve seven years so he in fact “did his time.”) Some even commented that he was well-dressed. I suppose viewers expected or wanted him to be living in a ditch wearing rags. These viewers also didn’t care for his attitude, he seemed to show no remorse and in fact delighted in relating what happened. Goodness. Did they expect him to mumble, head bowed, supplicating himself before the camera, interjecting apologies for his past actions? To me he was an old guy telling war stories. In fact, I thought he was rather good at it. I enjoyed the hell out of his accounts. You can’t please all the people…..

From time to time I vow to either quit twitter, or more realistically, reduce the time I spend on it. Even if you’re careful about who you follow and you block or mute the idiots and any jackass you can’t stand, you’re still going to come across know-nothing idiots who are sanctimonious, smarmy, self-righteous or all three. It’s magnified when they disagree with you and even more so when they aren’t interested in those damn annoying facts. I have been successful at steering clear of the comments sections of virtually any website I visit. Those areas can be fetid cesspools of bigotry, stupidity and ignorance. Twitter though still has its value and is an excellent way to stay informed, get a chuckle and find links to stories of interest. If it weren't for some of the damn annoying tweeters.

All the preceding taken into consideration I still like people — after a fashion.

07 February 2018

Minnesota School District Bans Books With Certain Words in Them, A Study in Cowardice

A Minnesota school district has dropped two classic novels from their library and classrooms, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Why? Because the books contain racial slurs. And the problem with novels that use authentic language?

Said the president of the local NAACP chapter: “There are a lot more authors out there with better literature that can do the same thing that does not degrade our people. I’m glad that they’re making the decision — and it’s long overdue, like 20 years overdue. Let’s move forward and work together to make school work for all of our kids — not just some, all of them.”

The district’s director of curriculum and instruction, added, “We felt that we could still teach the same standards and expectations through other novels that didn’t require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs.”

(No word on whether the district will also be looking to remove books with words such as “faggot, bitch, chink, spic, hebe, kike, dyke, Jap, wop, or redskin — if the latter they’d have to excise a lot of books and magazines about the NFL.)

If the district finds words offensive and hurtful, imagine how they feel about deeds. The horrors of slavery and the Jim Crow era far surpass the use of racial slurs. If a student can’t be expected to read a particular word — nigger (aka the “n” word) — how are they to withstand reading about the middle passage where African captives were shackled naked to the bottom of ships ,left to wallow in their own filth? Won’t it be intolerable to hear of the degradation of slave auctions, not to mention the rape of slaves, the whippings, the punishments for escape attempts? How to teach these sensitive souls about the Black Codes, forced segregation and worst of all, lynchings? Will history be sanitized along with literature?

In my last few years as a public school history teacher, I increasingly got complaints from parents — usually African Americans — about teaching slavery. One Black student wrote on an essay about slavery that all this didn’t apply to her because she was the descendant of princes and princesses. Was I to believe that her royal ancestors immigrated willingly to America and never had to undergo chattel slavery?

Why this denial of history? Of reality and truth? My mother was a schizophrenic who emotionally abused me, I don’t pretend it never happened. I was permanently scarred by my experience but by facing the reality of my childhood have been able to heal and ultimately forgive my mother. I abused drugs and alcohol but I don’t know pretend it never happened, my recovery is a daily proposition.

There’s no sense pretending that racial slurs did not exist (nor for that matter still do) or that many of our brothers and sisters are the descendants of slaves. It may feel uncomfortable to people but it is often out of our discomforts that we learn and grow and heal.

Of course I’m also disturbed by the notion of banning books. Especially those that are such integral parts of our shared culture. Where does it stop? This is not so much a slippery slope as a greased precipice. Students need exposure to classical literature and thought in part to see how the world was interpreted at the time and how this literature has helped form the culture we live in today. Students need to be exposed to the worst — and of course the best — that humans have done. How horribly unsettling and offensive is the history of relations between whites and Native Americans in this country. What a terrible thing to read about. Should we ignore its awful truths? Should we sanitize it so it is more palatable, if less accurate?

What other words are going to be deemed inappropriate for young minds? Are we to ban all vulgarities? All racially insensitive language? All sexist, homophobic, agist, xenophobic references in every novel, non fiction book and text? If these are to be excised how can we justify the sexually explicit and often misogynistic language in many popular songs of the day. For the love of god how do we protect students from some of the repulsive words and deeds of Donald Trump?

We need to preserve our glories and our tragedies. We need to present the worst of our deeds in a full context. If you’re a teacher who wants to assign To Kill a Mockingbird, by god do it, but warn students about the language contained therein and explain why it is there. It’s imperative that we trust teachers not only warn students about unsettling language but use it as a teaching tool. We also need to trust students to understand.

I never found it easy to teach about the worst of humanity but I did find it absolutely necessary. How much better to celebrate, for example, the accomplishments of African Americans during Black History Month if we understand the incredible struggle required? By knowing what happened before we can better appreciate what has happened today. To know that racial slurs were once freely used by whites at blacks makes it so much more gratifying that we’ve reduced the worst of the words to a status that it dare not be uttered by a white person.

In 12 step meetings the stories people tell of their miraculous recoveries only have meaning if they first share their story — i.e., their experiences as practicing addicts. Context is everything. Don't assume students will feel humiliated by reading racial slurs, tell them why those words were so often used and of the successful struggle to eradicate their use. It can and should be empowering.

I hope the story out of Minnesota is not the start of a trend. I hope it is an isolated incident and that they soon reverse their decision. I close by adding the most bizarre — and troubling — aspect of this story. Who pressured the district to remove these books? Who complained? Who was offended? No one. They made the decision on their own. Jesus wept.

28 January 2018

Wherein the Author Manages to Write While Depressed and Addresses Said Depression

Alexander Hamilton, a biography of whom is briefly mentioned in this post.
I’ve been depressed all morning. I wasn’t sure how to modify the word depressed in that first sentence. Very seemed trite but also insufficient. Extremely could have worked but seemed too dramatic. Morbidly was just too much, although it could apply. Anyway its been bad. (Again I eschewed modifying the word bad.)

There were ants all over. We’ve started a period in which no rain is on the horizon. We were out of milk. The missus has a cold. The internet is full of the sad, the ridiculous, the infuriating and the ignorant. People continue to refuse to see the world the way I do. Too many want more guns, less taxes for the rich, immigrants exiled and Trump made king. There is too much sexual harassment and there is the ongoing vilification of the innocent Woody Allen. His defenders, such as me, seem to be vastly outnumbered although we do hold a monopoly on the facts. Like that he’s been found innocent and it was believed his accuser was coached into making the spurious charges and the poor girl has grown up believing them.

It’s unusual for me to be able to write when I’m this depressed but I’ll not question that this time is an exception and instead take advantage of it as best I can.

So this is what the depression is like. Everything makes me sad. My normal state is sad and nothing I think of makes me feel any better and often makes me feel worse. Movies? Sad. Wife? Sad. Daughters? Sad. Work? Sad. Retirement? Sad. Music? Sad. Going to basketball game this afternoon? Sad. Trip to NY in the Spring? Sad. Running? Sad. Happiness? N/A.

Reading is problematical when depressed. I’m currently working my way through Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton (I think it would make for a great musical). Under the heavy cloak of depression I can manage a page or two before the mind goes numb with melancholia. I had had slightly better luck with the Sunday NY Times, but was unable to read articles of any significant length.

Walking to the store to get milk was easy enough — that is, once I managed to get motivated enough to dress then walk out the door. I could have wiled away a couple of hours watching a film but the effort required to decide on which one to watch proved too much. I considered turning on the TV but the very notion of television depressed me.

One thing I’ve proven adept at doing during this depression is staring at the floor. Not that I can tell you anything I saw or least of all anything that I pondered. The depressed state does not lend itself to creating or retaining memories. It’s akin to having an excruciating physical pain in that all that you can think about is how miserable you are.

I was not depressed yesterday. I was for part of Friday. Thursday, I’m not sure. I think that was one of the days during which happiness and depression were having a tug of war within my soul. That’s an unpleasant situation to deal with. You can practically feel warring factions within you trying to claim possession. As a consequence you are gleeful one second and morbid the next. Within a minute your emotions run the gamut several times. Within an hour you’re like a non stop yo yo. Events can tip the balance one way or another and then back again. The slightest bad news gives victory to the depression while a bit of good news will send you into happy land. I don’t recommend going through life this way. Indeed in 12 step programs one learns to live at an even keel. Getting to high can lead to nasty falls and getting too low can be hard to dig out of.

As I pause now and again while writing this I’m enveloped in depression. However somehow my fingers take control and resume typing and words emerge that manage to make sense together. I don’t know how it all works and indeed often it doesn’t. But I’m lucky now to be managing to write although it is left to anyone who might happen to read this to determine if it is anything worthwhile.

I do take solace in knowing that this will pass and I’ll be skipping merrily down the lane again. Then again as things have been going I also realize that subsequent to that happy event I’ll doubtless once again be dragging my feet down that same lane in a state of great mental anguish. I can only hope that someday the depression will leave me completely and that day will precede my death but quite a long while.

Well, I’ve managed to write this much so there’s perhaps hope that this accomplishment will lead to an upswing in my mood. Nowadays you just never know.

24 January 2018

And So It Ended -- A Doomed Love Story

Ivor stood at the doorway desperately wondering what he should say or do. Melissa, his beloved Melissa, sat on the bed sobbing. Why aren’t  I sobbing too, he thought. It’s not like I’m incapable of emotion and I’m probably feeling what she is feeling. Now. Ivor put his hands on his hips. It felt too blasĂ© for the moment. He leaned one shoulder against the door jamb. Too nonchalant. He put his hands on his knees, bending forward as if out of breath. Senseless. So Ivor stood in the middle of the doorway, perfectly framed. Melissa stopped sobbing and reached for a tissue from the bed stand. She blew her nose. Ivor was struck by how loud and snotty it sounded. So unlike the delicate woman Melissa was. Finally she looked at him through the tears in her eyes. The young woman’s face was contorted in anger. Ivor could feel his face fall as if in this moment he was defeated. It was over and she had won. Won what? This was not a game. This was their relationship. Their lives. Their future.

“What, what do you propose now?” She asked. “Go on as if nothing had happened? Not even talk about it?” Melissa had said the word “talk” as if spitting out something distasteful.

“No, I mean yes, that is we should most definitely talk about it,” Ivor meekly replied. His girlfriend had the upper hand. She was the dominant one. She would dictate terms. She would lead the conversation and she would emerge the satisfied party. It wasn’t fair. They were equally guilty. It was absurd for him to feel defeated and for her to act the aggrieved party.

Ivor walked toward her.

“Not too close,” Melissa practically barked the words. Ivor stopped in his tracks, then backed up to the doorway. He sighed deeply, sadly, profoundly. The young man couldn’t believe the situation he was in. Betrayed. A betrayer. The world seemed a perfectly marvelous place a few hours ago when he returned home a day early from a trip to visit his ailing mother. Ivor was looking forward to surprising Melissa, who he was sure was at home studying for mid terms. She’d been at home all right.

Ivor had parked on the street and walked softly to the door, opening the front door quietly. This would be a big surprise. He’d find her in their spare room pouring through her psychology books. Shoes off he tiptoed through the house, but he heard a most unexpected noise from the bedroom. It sent a shockwave through Ivor’s body when he realized it was the sounds Melissa made during love making, and that the bed springs were squeaking. He couldn’t believe it. She must be masturbating. Ivor opened the bedroom door slowly. Melissa was naked on all fours and a friend of theirs named Ron was humping her.

Upon catching his girlfriend in flagrante delicto, Ivor had dropped his backpack. The sound startled Melissa and Ron who quickly disengaged. Ron immediately scrambled to put his clothes on. Melissa buried her head in a pillow and Ivor stood limp. Not angry, not shocked, not hurt, just numb. No one said a word until Ron, having finished hastily dressing said, “if it’s any defense I only did this because you screwed Valerie.” Valerie was Ron’s girlfriend. Melissa sat up and tossed the pillow aside. “You cheated on me with Valerie?” She said in obvious anger and disgust.

Ron edged his way past Ivor and bolted out of the house. When he was gone Ivor finally spoke. “Just once,” he replied meekly.

“Once is plenty,” Melissa said, still angry.

“Wait a minute, you didn’t know that when you hopped into bed with Ron!”

Melissa turned bright red and could say nothing in response.

They’d cheated on each other. This is where our scene began.

The couple talked well into the night. They hugged, they cried, they eventually made love but mostly they talked. Ivor offered excuses for his infidelity and Melissa offered excuses for hers. They promised to be faithful. Over and over they promised. They apologized profusely. They spoke of how complex life in general was and relationships in particular. They talked about the pressures they were under as Phd students. They recounted happy times. They nuzzled and cuddled and gave each other lots of quick kisses and shared a few long lingering kisses. It was past four o’clock when they fell asleep, exhausted.

In the following weeks Melissa and Ivor were both kept busy by their studies. While Melissa pursued a career in psychiatry, Ivor planned to be a history professor. They were both within a year of completing their Phds. But Melissa was nagged by the idea of Ivor having had carnal relations with her friend Valerie. She had trouble feeling comfortable around Valerie. Meanwhile Ivor could not get the image of his friend Ron screwing Melissa. “My god,” he would often think, “I actually saw them do it.” It began to sicken him.

Their relationship grew strained. There were no arguments, only a few petty differences here and there, but more troubling there was a coldness between them, if barely perceptible. The first few days after what they called their “confrontation” Ivor and Melissa made passionate love. It was as if they were desperate to convince one another that they were still a couple, that they still belonged to one another. Then the love making stopped and so did much of the affection they had enjoyed. They would kiss goodbye and hello perfunctorily.

A few months after their “confrontation” Ivor found himself longing for other women. This led to flirtations and eventually to some causal sexual encounters. Melissa started seeing Ron regularly after he broke up with Valerie. When their lease was up, their landlord informed them that he was selling the house and they’d have to move. Ivor and Melissa agreed — almost giddily — to live apart. Ivor found an apartment and Melissa moved in with Ron. Ivor stopped speaking to both Melissa and Ron.

Many years later Ivor was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. By this time he had been married and divorced twice. As he took stock of his life Ivor came to the conclusion that his one great love had been Melissa and that if he hadn’t come home early that night they might still be together. Melissa was living on the other side of the country. She’d never married and was now alone. Her psychiatry practice was thriving but her life felt empty for her never having found the perfect mate. Melissa often thought that Ivor had been her one true love and she wondered why they had never got past that night when Ivor came home early.