Life on the Net

So, I spent about an hour on FB this morning and this is what I came up with… Has your life become an internet meme? 

Do you think to yourself, I should do something I love cause then I’ll be happy? Broke, living on the street, un-showered but fucking happy as hell! 

Are you tired of reposting, reposting, reposting… so some kid you don’t know can get better – wouldn’t it be nice to have an update on that shit – AMEN?

What about having to look at all these food pics that you know you can’t make and neither can the asshole that posted it and besides didn’t you just spend $300 on some super shake solution that tastes like shit?

Politics – just fuck all of them…

Olympics – yeah fuck them too – well except the Russians – cause anyone that can drill a hole in the lab wall and pass clean samples back and forth deserves a fucking medal…

Motivational posts – seriously you are trolling FB all day – I don’t think they are working on you. 

Your baby, puppy, kids, blah blah blah – do I even need to say it? We are all glad yours are so much better than everyone else’s! oh and fuck off…

You’re so blessed – fine we get it now stop rubbing that shit in our faces

You blessed someone else – fine you’re the greatest person in the world now stop rubbing that shit in our faces

You’re kneeling, standing, crawling, running, walking whatever shut the fuck up – we’re all just trying to get through the day… just leave everyone the fuck alone already

Happy everything, hope you have a wonderful fucking day – do I really need to keep hearing about it? 

Since obviously no one will tell you – you suck at relationships cause you’re an asshole stop posting about it please… it’s definitely your fault

The 2017 RANT

So, my friends, we have been traveling down memory lane, “RANT” style for about twenty years now – so I decided to use a new font this year to freshen things up a bit… $#%@ you that’s a joke, but seriously it’s a new font.

I wrestle with the same problem every year – how do you recount all happenings and accomplishments without coming off smug and all “look at me, look at me.” I know it always seems to work out with some combination of sarcastic observation about the strange world we live in and what passes for normal combined with a rundown of the family hi-lite reel.

I always go back and read the last three or four years’ worth of Rants before getting started – funny it always kicks up my allergies. This year I decided to start way back in the ‘90s and read forward – oh sweet baby Jesus was that a mistake! It reminded me why I started this mess in the first place – we were a young family, four kids, working our asses off, moving from rental to rental trying to stay ahead of the bill collectors and still buy groceries. Knowing everyday any little ripple could throw it all off the rails, “sorry kids no Happy Meal today, Dad has to pay the electric bill.” You work eighteen hour days, kiss your kids as they lay sleeping, love your wife when she lets you, catch a few hours and back at it – and I’m sure through it all my wife worked harder than I did.

Christmas time would roll around and we would scrape a few dollars together for gifts – those kids never missed Christmas and we did everything in our power to insulate them from the everyday hardships – it was our burden not theirs – we weren’t heroes just parents. Inevitably we would get that holiday letter from our slightly older and much better off friends trumpeting all their blessing and big deeds for the year – how do you not feel like your failing reading that? Most people tape it to the fridge and celebrate their friends good fortune – F’ that I decided to write a RANT instead and so here we are!

Those first Rants probably weren’t very good, and in fact I’m slightly embarrassed by how angry some of it sounds, but it was real and that’s what mattered… They are more circumspect and polished now – I guess I’ve grown up a bit and truth be told passed through that “slightly older better off” phase myself, now I’m just old, grumpy, and probably too acerbic – so almost full circle, but with better writing!

Normally I just plow through the kids one by one extolling their virtues, poking fun at them, and generally irritating them in a fairly good-natured way. But honestly, I just can’t bring myself to do it this year so I’m just going to go with some hi-lites and observations instead.

Two major events this year really have to take the headline though:

  • Granddaughter #2 – Joined the family in July of this year – cute kid, bright blue eyes, big head, drools incessantly! I think big sis is still deciding if she wants to hug her or hit her… Great name on this one and super sweet.
  • So, this second one is a bit more traumatic – my daughter called me about four months ago clearly upset – not something you ever want to have happen. I have to remind you she just had her first anniversary this December so this whole marriage thing is pretty fresh – anyway she breathlessly tells me that Jon has come home and announced that he is “VEGAN” – I have to admit that my first reaction was “well okay, it could have been worse…” but I refrained and counseled her that just because he had lost his mind didn’t mean that she couldn’t continue to eat steak, meatballs, chicken tenders, and all manners of meat. She is doing better – Jon looks a bit withered but that’s just me.

Of course, there’s more to talk about than drool and vegetables, there’s politics, Starbucks, texting & driving, stupid angry people, air travel, and all the rest of the crazy that makes up every day. I’m going to pare it down for you though cause most of it just makes me insane – so hang on this is the sarcastic acerbic section in case you were missing it.

  • Politics – simply put all of it makes me nauseous on both sides and I’m sure however you feel you’re already arguing about it enough and FYI none of the people in DC are listening to you. They don’t care about you, the environment, your kid’s education, healthcare or pretty much anything beyond their own power and comfort – yeah, I know cynical but have you listened to any of these people?
  • Admittedly Starbucks is a pretty consistent theme for me – I have a problem, I know I have a problem, fact is I don’t even order anymore I just drive up to the window and my stuff is ready. However, I just have to say the stupid angry people that can’t place a simple coffee order should stay the hell out of my drive thru.
  • Texting and driving is another favorite of mine but I’m not going to talk about it anymore – what’s the point everyone is doing it – doesn’t matter that it’s like playing dodgeball with cars at 80MPH – have a good time – just don’t hit me.
  • Air Travel – hmmm what’s left to say that hasn’t already been exhausted. It would be nice if they actually tried to wipe the biohazardous material from the last passenger off the seat and tray before shoehorning the rest of us in there – but what the hell I’ve grown used to being sick six months out of the year – popping antibiotics like #$%@#$ Tic Tacs and drinking cough syrup like it’s water.
  • Stupid angry people – where do you even start with this one – they are among us! Let me just say this is Florida and most of us serene older guys are way over armed and we practice – you young angry stupid guys need to chill out and stay out of my yard… Please. All kidding aside there seems to be some kind of mental lapse taking place in a whole generation of very angry young people because they clearly don’t understand how good they have it and seem to have an incredible amount of free time to protest just about everything from every angle.

Okay what’s that leave – right normal crazy and all the regular stuff – that’s cool plenty to talk about. The wife and I have settled fully into the whole grandparent thing. She even traded my truck for a minivan so she has transitioned to full GIGI mode and loves those little ones. I have to be a bit more circumspect about it, wouldn’t want anyone thinking I had gone soft or anything. However, I do spend a lot of time with the granddaughter on the front porch eating popsicles (sugar free) and watching the world go by – its good stuff, believe me and as a bonus I’ve recently started letting the new one drool on me. I also might have indulged in a number of Christmas inflatables on the front lawn this year – what the girls love Minions, blue hippos and pink pigs!

The other unfortunate situation this year has been the evolution of this group of Cruffin loving misfits that camp out every Saturday morning at God awful early to sample the incomparable creations of Jennifer and the girls at Born & Bread Bakery. Why unfortunate you ask, other than the before dawn wake-up call – despite my best and repetitive efforts these folks are becoming friends, I know a chink in the old armor.

Can you believe we are at fifteen hundred words already and you’re still reading this? I know crazy, right? I haven’t talked about all the kids, their jobs, trials and tribulations, relationships, exploits, blah, blah, blah… but this isn’t going to be that kind of RANT sorry. Everyone is doing life, there is some really cool stuff going on in their lives, and there are some struggles – these are really wonderful people and I love them a lot. You should get to know them if you don’t already, maybe see what they are up to – my guess is they have some cool things to talk about and some pretty interesting thoughts and opinions they would love to share… well except Jon he just talks about vegetables and the melting properties of non-dairy cheese.

So, my friends I hope this year has treated you well, and if it hasn’t let’s endeavor to make the next one better together.

———

Final thoughts for your consideration:

This year I published my second and third novels – if you have read them you have my very sincere appreciation – if you haven’t why not?

My first book “Jake” and its sequel “Peakeville” are intended to create a dialogue on systemic racism and oppression. It’s impossible to ignore the egregious every day demonstrations of intolerance around us – we can do better and if you aren’t experiencing it don’t pretend like it’s not real – be vigilant – there is so much more to say on this, but at the very least just stop acting like it’s not everywhere and folks should somehow miraculously just get over it. It’s not okay to devalue people simply because they are different than you.

My other novel is “Traffic” and is more in the style of an international thriller – but I based this book on the very real problem of human trafficking. If you are on Facebook or any other social media platform you know a week doesn’t go by without us seeing a flyer for the disappearance of a young person – predominantly teenage girls. What you rarely see is any resolution or happy ending to these disappearances. The statistics are truly staggering:

  • The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
    • 68% of them are trapped in forced labor.
    • 26% of them are children.
    • 55% are women and girls.
  • The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
  • In 2016, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.
    • Of those, 86% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.

There is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. The Polaris Project estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated. More information is available at www.polarisproject.org

Stay tuned the follow-up to “Traffic” should be out sometime next spring and I am contemplating doing a third “Jake” book – those take a lot of energy so we shall see.

As always, my very best and remember the journey is long but worth the trip.

Joe

Remembering 9/11

I have been meaning to write a follow up piece on 9/11 for many years, but I honestly somehow never seem to be able to properly capture how I feel about it, but I am going to give it another try this year.

It was October 2001 and I was flying back to Tampa after attending the memorial for my cousin Gary when I first tried to write down how I felt about 9/11, he had last been seen on the 92nd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I watched that tower come down on television not knowing he was working there, but knowing I had family and friends in the city. If you grew up in NY or NJ the Trade Center was the very symbol of the City, it towered over everything, casting a shadow into the very consciousness of those who lived there.  I had been in those towers as a boy with my Father, and had attended a number of business meetings there as an adult; to see them in ruins I honestly was unable to wrap my mind around it. That was a difficult time, my kids were young and didn’t really understand the magnitude of what had happened, my Uncle Ray and his family were deep in their grieving, and the smoke was still rising over the NYC skyline as I flew home that chilly October afternoon.  We had begun to rally together as a country, but there was a palpable underlying anxiety as well, soldiers patrolling airports, the constant crush of media coverage and the feeling that things were never going to be the same.

We have all come to know more about the events of that fateful day than any of us probably care to, the fingers have been pointed, the conspiracies debated, wars continue to be fought over it, governments overthrown, and even some Old Testament justice delivered by Seal Team Six, and in spite of it all I still miss my cousin.

So sixteen years later I still wonder why, was anything really accomplished on either side, how many must we kill of theirs, how many need to be beheaded by this latest incarnation of radicalism and in the end will any of it really matter? I think we all know the answer as this supposed war of faith has been raging for centuries with no abatement in sight and no real answers either.

For me the very saddest part of this is that we all believe what we believe but somehow that isn’t enough for any of us, we feel obligated to propagate our belief system as the superior form of faith, philosophy, or even denomination and these beliefs of ours in their most radical form require the conversion or extinction of those that don’t believe as we do. How it’s possible to reconcile this with any positive interpretation of spirituality escapes me.

Many of my friends and family have visited the 9/11 Memorial, they say it’s a special place, a solemn place, that the spirits walk there and I am sure it’s true, but I have not visited. I want to, I have even made my travel reservations, but something holds me back and although I am sure I will eventually make it there and I will close my eyes and speak with my cousin we will share a laugh and the memories of long ago, but not yet, no the sadness is still too deep, too real, and the loss has not faded to a point where I can face it yet. So, till then I look at the pictures, listen to the stories of those who make the pilgrimage, and I miss my cousin.

Author’s Note:

I am posting this a day early as we are expecting to high winds and loss of power as #IRMA enters the Tampa Bay area later today and tonight.

#Charlottesville

I feel like I need to preface this particular commentary with a bit of a disclaimer or at least explanation I believe racism and even more than racism – prejudice transcends the traditional boundaries of white and black extending to any number of “colors” and includes ethnicity, beliefs and orientations. Unfortunately, humanity has not managed to constrain its ability to hate based solely on the observation that someone is different than I am. What I sometimes find truly puzzling is that even groups that have traditionally been on the receiving side of systemic prejudice manage to manufacture plenty of their own.

As I am sure most of you have seen on your local news, social media or any number of other places we are witnessing another flare up of racial intolerance and hate in Charlottesville VA. I’m not going to comment on that specifically, you don’t need me to tell you why this type of behavior is abhorrent – however don’t make the mistake of thinking the revocation of “free speech” is the answer – it isn’t; that protection exists for all of us and the erosion of it, even for a group such as this, affects us all.

But what has me a bit worked up this morning is the number of shares on my social media quoting some preacher, politician, or celebrity decrying the situation in Charlottesville, they use words like: terrorist, Nazi, extremist and so on – point is they are worked up and outraged and many people are rallying to this message and sharing it with their endorsement, good for you I say.

However, I have only one real question… where was the ferocity of your rage yesterday, last week, last year? Where will it be tomorrow, next week or next month? When the torches have been put out and the crowds have disbursed and we return to the mundane everyday racism and prejudice that hides in the shadows of our everyday lives, where will your fervent outcry be then? Will we still see your pointed posts, will you still be preaching it from your pulpits? You see the problem is we already know the answer… and unfortunately most will return to their tepid outrage and tacit acceptance of “that’s just how it is…”

You know there is a word for this… hypocrisy…