Brisbane’s Beautiful but…

The river winding through Brisbane is tidal, meaning bull sharks lurk beneath your boat as you pass under lighted bridges and Queensland culture. Along the way, half-naked rock-climbers scale the Kangaroo Cliffs, skinny cyclists speed by on the right (wrong) side of the road, and groups of well-tanned runners thunder through the streets in herds, which call up images of America’s buffalo. When I heard about Australia’s dangerous wilderness, this was not what I anticipated. Still, though Brisbane is rife with its own velocity, the real danger here is about twenty minutes outside the city in a tiny animal sanctuary. There are pythons and crocodiles, dingos and Tasmanian devils, but even these pale in comparison to the real threat, which hides in Eucalyptus trees and appears cuddly and lovable until you know their little secret, which my transport person (I’ll withhold her name for fear of retaliation from the marsupial army) revealed to me while on our way to the “Sanctuary.”

You ready for this? Almost 90% of Koalas have Chlamydia, which interestingly, also happens to be the most commonly reported STI in young people in Australia – kinda makes you wonder what the hell is going on out here on Saturday nights.


Since it’s transmitted sexually, you’d probably think there wouldn’t be too many incidents of humans suffering from the passage of this disease. After all, how much infidelity can there be when you have to shimmy up a tree and part the fur just to get at the little suckers. However, you’d be wrong.

This from Wikipedia: Koalas are struck by a different strain of the disease from that which affects humans – although it seems humans can catch the koala version through exposure to an infected animal’s urine.

Let that sink in.

…humans can catch the koala version through exposure to an infected animal’s urine.

Here’s the best part. When you arrive at the sanctuary, there’s an almost un-refusable offer. For $15, you can hold one of these cute little furballs in your hand, have it wrap its tiny claws around your shoulder, and you’ll get one of those photos where social media types will spout hearts and envy ’til you tear up with pride. $15 is cheaper than crack or cocaine or any other dopamine strike and there’s just no way you’re gonna say “no” to an opportunity for a lifetime of memories and joy.

I am now inside the sanctuary. I have passed all of the other animals and I’m striding slowly toward the Chlamydia, I mean Koala cage. To my horror, there is no cage. These animals are free to roam, to pee more recklessly than a drunk man in Hollywood, to relieve themselves upon small children’s shoulders and heads, to turn, aim, and fire at any curious onlooker. Worse yet, there is a line of ticket holders who are giddy with anticipation as they await an opportunity to have the koala-keeper place one of these furry tramps upon their shoulder.

Around the site, I’ve seen oodles of hand-cleansing dispensers and I’ve almost come to tears watching these folks walk right by them after the photo shoot. Imagine hugging Keith Richards and not showering afterward and I think you’re getting close. And now I pause, click the zoom on my camera, snap a few photos from outside urinating range, and get on my way. I don’t want to have that story. I can’t imagine a life where conversations about my sexual history begin with, “Well there was this Koala, see….”

As I leave, I pass through the gift shop. It is pretty clear to me there’s a massive market for Koala condoms and someone should be making a fortune. Instead, there are photos of these furry creatures and they are smiling. When I look closer, it’s the same koala in every picture. I think he’s in that marsupial minority. He’s one of the un-infected, climbing into the eucalyptus sack with the arrogance of a sexual soothsayer. He knows the lady koalas see him as prime fodder and his picturesque smile suggests a satisfaction only really good-looking people can understand. He is Neo, the Highlander, a veritable Gold Coast Superman. I exit without making a purchase. My transport person is waiting for me in the parking lot. She is smiling. I open the door and get in.
“Well?” she says.
“Get me to the clinic,” I respond. “And step on it!”



By ccxander

Newtown Dogma

Newtown Dream Dog Park is located towards the front entrance of Newtown Park, about a long jacuzzi’s drive from downtown Atlanta. It is a fenced, one-acre area featuring artificial turf, sprinklers, various bridges, tunnels and hoops, plus water fountains for people and pets. On any given morning, there are tens of canine crusaders traipsing around the grounds in search of a proper smelling anal gland.
The park was built in 2015 when some Atlanta native spun around three times before entering the Beneful Wagworld Dream Dog Park Contest with a $500,000 award. Since then, most of the neighborhood’s felines have existed in a state of forehead-slapping envy.

Newtown actually consists of two dog parks, one for dogs and the other for what appear to be large rodents, who call themselves dogs, but clearly couldn’t hold up in a three round fight. The small dog park is sort of like the Kids table at Thanksgiving dinners, where everyone looks over and smiles but no one really wants to be there. Most small dog owners collect social security and have names like Harriet or Edgar. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of texting going on in there.
It’s a bit of an injustice that the small dog park is closer to the parking lot such that all big dogs must pass the small dogs on their way to better things, and, with the lifted legs and bared fangs, you can almost sense the mockery going on. When Chihuahua’s become envious, their upper lips quiver. There also will come a moment in every large dog’s life when they graduate from the small dog park to the big dog park and there will be guilt and an attempt at humility, akin to a Triple-A pitcher getting called up to the big show. Or, maybe dog’s just don’t really give a shit. Point being, if you’re one of life’s little dogs, the whole world knows you suck.


Once you clank through the double gates to the big dog park, you’ll set your leash aside many other shredded hemp and drool-stained leashes, and free your dog out into Beneful’s beautiful bailiwick. Immediately, several four-legged friends will seize upon the new playground member. Some will sniff, others will paw, and eventually one will take off like a bat out of hell (for no apparent reason) and the rest of the pack will give chase until the lead dog stops and everyone else stops and looks around like “what the hell did we do that for?” Over time, the animals separate into groups of threes or fours or a random coupling with some romantically suggestive rolling. There is an uncomfortable amount of sexual activity here, the preferred position, fittingly, dog style, although there’s a German Shepard doing some things with a French Poodle that borders on felonious.


Wandering the grounds offers insight into the canine lifestyle. On every bench, rock, bridge and pretty much anything supra-terra, myriad pools of spit, slobber and drool provide a slimy varnish. There are torn tennis balls in various states of decomposition and hairstyles (the dogs’), which run from East Harlem to Jamaica, with a few of the smaller pups evoking something Reichstag-ish. Stolen leashes and pilfered water bottles are part of the milieu.
Moving across the park is a lot like traversing an Afghanistanian minefield, with IED shit piles lurking at every step, and if you happen to avoid all of the piles, there’s a strange sense of accomplishment. Of course, it’s a fleeting feeling as you’ll have to cross again and the chances of surviving the day without something ghastly sticking to your shoes are near nil. There are a lot of happy flies here.
As for exercise, the dogs roll and splay and you see back ends sliding out like an Indy-car coming off the high-bank. Post-run breathing patterns range from hoarse and wheezy to phone stalker-ish. Eventually, one pup gets pissed off and then there are snarls and growls primal enough to make Vin Diesel sound comparatively Soprano. Some aggressive owners shout sharp commands to “Get the fuck off him,” and more anxious ones attempt to grasp their pet’s collar like a blind man searching for a dropped cane. A few will scream bloody murder and enter the melee with little regard for flailing fangs. In a nod to city planning’s foresight, there is a fire station directly across the street from Newtown. Sirens sound often.


It is not a myth that many dogs resemble their owners, and vice-versa.

Jowelled-old men sport bulldog companions, while a former NBA-player cuts through the gates with his two Great Danes. There are pretty blond women with golden retrievers and small, badly-permed, elderly ladies toting Schnauzers and toy Poodles. If you were a gambler, you’d be confident the Pitbull owners have gym memberships. Every so often, there’s a mismatch – Jowelled-old men sport bulldog companions, while a former NBA-player cuts through the gates with his two Great Danes. There are pretty blond women with golden retrievers and small, badly-permed, elderly ladies toting Schnauzers and toy Poodles. If you were a gambler, you’d be confident the Pitbull owners have gym memberships. Every so often, there’s a mismatch — a old woman with a German Shepard or a Hell’s Angel with a Chihuahua and the whole park knows there’s gotta be one hell of a backstory. Conversations pop up around the park like a schizophrenic frenzy. For example:


“Is that your yellow lab?”
“Yes, and I’m guessing by your facial expression that the humpee is yours?”
“Yea.” (accompanied by a long sigh indicating either frustration or envy)
“Do you want me to get him off, er…take him off your dog?” 
“It’s ok. Just let them do whatever it is they need to do.”
 “You’re going to make a great parent.”


“That your lab?”
“Uh huh.”
“Did you teach him to steal wallets?”
“No, I think it comes with the breed.”
“Pardon me?”
“You know, retriever.”


“Is the lab yours? etc.

The point is, Newtown resembles a speed dating meet-up, where half the park population walks around sniffing ass and the other half prods each other with sharp tongues.


It must be ignorance which encourages adult women to bring their toddler children to the dog park. Aside from the constant fingers-dipped-in-dog-shit-and-then-tastes-it, the petri-dish of diseases, the sexual proclivities of amped-up adolescent pups who see small children the way priests see them, and the ever-present threat of life-ending fang-to-throat issues, the place is pretty much a derby of canine collisions. In any given hour, there are ten to fifteen hound wind sprints, which threaten toddler spectators’ survival. In less than a week, one kid was rabbit punched through a fence, two kids were trampled rodeo-style, and another flipped skyward into a near flawless triple-with-a-half-twist when a Rottweiler put the kibosh on a quick-turning Dalmation. My therapist says I’ll be over it soon.


There’s also the dog names and nothing is off-limits. Just this morning, I met Yoda (seriously), Nova, Alouicious (sp), Madame Matilda P. Asuncion, and a Great Dane mischievously monikered Minnie. One kleptomaniacal puppy steals wallets, leashes, and various food items. He responds to the name Robber, which says a lot about the owner. There’s also a French Bulldog who’s yanking so hard on his leash that his aging owner has to grasp a bench to stay upright. With the dog’s choked voice and bulging eyes, Marty Feldman comes to mind.



Over time, ubiquitous fang marks make one uncomfortable.
If you’ve ever witnessed dog play, it’s a well-choreographed parade of writhing gestures that owners hope will result in a desperately-desired dognap. Like most relationships, it begins with a handshake, or in the case of these palmless creatures, the anal-sniff. Apparently, there’s a recognition or an attraction, or something in a dog’s butt crack which shouts let’s play and then all hell breaks loose. Dog play resembles a vampire attack. There are sharp fangs driven into exposed necks and even your most intellectually aware folks tilt their skulls and wonder whether they should be doing something to stop the apparent carnage. Fortunately, the ripping and gouging rarely result in anything other than an ADD moment when both dogs pause and one walks away to pursue a hurled tennis ball. Once in a while, these playtime moments grow ugly when an Alpha male enters the fray and battles for supremacy. The corresponding growl and bark draw full-park attention and most owners mouth the same “oh shit” phrase. Imagine spotting Jack the Ripper at the fence line and you’ll get close.
Eventually, Newtown closes. Marty Feldman and one of the Great Danes exit together in what looks like a Casablanca tribute. A few folks meet at the gate to rip foreign objects from their dogs’ mouths and return them to each other. There’s a parting. Seconds later, panting hounds pull their owners to the cars. The sun sets. The moon rises. And Newtown is just an empty lawn…..preparing for tomorrow’s shit show.

By ccxander

An Independent Voter’s Anguished Cry

Blog posts seeds come from interesting places. To wit:

I am sitting in an Atlanta suburb cafe. At least thirty button-downed men and a dozen sweater-clad women surround me as they have a go at Southern-fried things. A waitress arrives with my burger and I stretch my neck across the room to inquire whether I can borrow a woman’s ketchup bottle – yes, I am that guy. While waiting for the ketchup, this blog landed upon the gray matter.

Back in the 1970’s, Heinz ran a campaign to sell their ketchup. Some excited woman stood with a ketchup bottle tipped upside down while Carly Simon crooned “Anticipation” over the airwaves and you got the sense that something great was about to happen. When the sultry red condiment finally climaxed at that ketchup bottle lip, viewers were bordering on ecstasy. Forty years later, I’m still waiting for that fucking ketchup.

Ever get the feeling you are unwanted, like you’re some Dickensian child with a toothy smile and a vote, waiting for someone to say come on in and clip that hanging chad onto our floor so we can start setting up your future? I am that child now. Unwanted, waiting, anticipating.

The Republican party has hoisted a successful business man whose ego is larger than his considerable gut, whose vocabulary is smaller than his paltry palms, and whose knowledge of the global community would make an eleventh grade history teacher cringe. He speaks and recants, blathers and boasts, and then settles back into a frumpy glare that would dominate the conversation if it weren’t for all the head scratching he compels. Aside from the fact that he is outside the political system and in spite of the current need for someone with a financial background to resolve the 20 trillion dollar debt, he is nearly impossible to like. Then again, he may be the better choice. The Democrats have hoisted a thirty-year veteran of the political world who’s flipped and fabricated and fucked over so many people she needs a case of Alzheimers just to get through the day. Her trust factor hovers around 11%, which is slightly less than the percentage of people who believe in Bigfoot. Still, she is clearly more knowledgeable about world affairs and America’s place on the international stage.

With neither candidate presenting an attraction though, one might turn to the ideologies of their respective parties to find solace and comradeship. Here too, there are problems. On many social issues, the Republicans remain too conservative. With issues like abortion and equal pay and gay marriage still lingering in the political ether, and with the suggestion that heritage or skin color might have something to do with one’s criminal mindset, the party is at best unattractive and frequently offensive.


Conversely, the Democrats have a bigger problem. In their marketing campaigns, you are either with them or categorized as “deplorable” and “racist” and “stupid.” With a hint of disagreement about tax policy or developing a sustainable economic model that doesn’t leave the nation with crushing debt, or fiscal responsibility so the middle class isn’t falling behind at a million dollar per minute rate, they label you “an idiot” and “heartless.” Clearly, they don’t want me. For a party which promotes tolerance and inclusion, there is, simply, none.

All of this leads me back to the ketchup. I am sitting here now, after the nice lady handed over her Heinz bottle, waiting for the ketchup, salivating for what is to come, hoping it will present me with something tasteful and satisfying and Yelpable. The point though, is I’m still fucking waiting.

By ccxander

Tilting at Windmills


In my youth, I used to play miniature golf. There was this whole animated course to navigate – clown’s mouths, windmills, uneven terrain – and my ability to overcome these obstacles surely meant I was on the cusp of professional success. The local putt-putt served as my Augusta, and if I could shoot better than par, I believed I was on my way to a Masters title. But childhood fantasies crack and collapse before the harsh reality of a real course. See, making a good putt once in a while is only a small piece of the greater game of golf. It is not a long leap to see how this relates to politics.

When these candidates campaign for votes, they display a very specific skill set that is quite inadequate for governing. The ability to speak, to throw down a witty quip, to walk away from a debate unscathed – are these attributes indicative of a candidate’s ability to steer the national ship?

The truth is we used to have substantive debates. A small group of anchormen/women would dissect the candidate’s positions and we as a nation of voters would be more educated. We’d analyze the logic of their arguments, their vision, the details of their plans, and we’d gather around the dinner table to discuss the future of our nation. But things are different now.

Today, in a generation where 141 characters represents the national attention span, where cynicism dominates the landscape and the ruination of professional careers is more captivating than resolving national problems, the media is content to report sound bites. We hear who launched the best barb. We fact check to see who was lying. We search for the slightest crack in these stained-glass window candidates and then answer poll questions about honesty quotients and favorability.

This re-direction of attention – from substance to subtext – has consequences. First, in order to win debates, our candidates now emphasize their retort and rhetoric skills. Second, when candidates do have a few moments to speak, they spit out a Tweetable phrase and then direct voters to their website, where some ghostwriter has crafted voter-friendly paragraphs with about as much depth as a street gutter. And third, the next generation of voters gets the sense that this is how politics has always worked, and our future leaders will begin honing their own skills to focus on presentation over platform. And thus, the cycle will continue.

The point here is the teleprompter speech and debate repartee represent the miniature golf version of politics. Once in office, these candidates will have to deal with nuclear issues, looming debt, and the economic disparity crushing the country. They’ll have to resolve half a nation paying income taxes to support half a nation which can’t. They’ll be required to incentivize hiring, to alleviate poverty, to enhance education, and to establish trade policy. In other words, they’ll have to govern.

Whether the public’s attention drives the media content, or vice versa, perhaps it is time to look at things anew. What if debates revolved around vision? What if each candidate got fifteen minutes to articulate their vision for America? What if, instead of tete-a-tetes, we placed these candidates upon the stage and put their platforms and voting records on a big screen behind them? What if rather than questions like “what would you do if North Korea got a nuclear weapon?” we asked questions like, “Please list the specific incomes and liabilities you will need to bring our national debt down from 18 trillion dollars to zero.”

Then again, maybe the public wants things in brief. Maybe I’m a dinosaur who wants to sit and read full paragraphs with well-oiled arguments. Maybe the future will take place in a world of abbreviation. If so, FML.

I hope they have a clown’s mouth at Augusta!

By ccxander


It’s billed as a night of intellectual challenge, where groups of up to twelve strangers are locked in a room and given sixty minutes to solve their way out. Escape Room LA. The Detective. For those not in the know, here’s an overview:

The building is in downtown LA, somewhere on 8th street where drab brick and climbing metal stairs give the place an exoskeletal look. When you arrive, there’s an intercom which requires a three digit number to access. The intercom number sits just above the intercom but if you’re not looking for it, it’s about as visible as Bill Clinton’s morality. After three minutes of trying to figure out how to get into the building, my group and I saw the code and then realized how bad an omen it was that we couldn’t even solve the puzzle for opening the damn door.

Inside, a metal elevator takes you up three floors, and if you can avoid the idiotic jokes about whether the elevator is the room you need to get out of, you are a better person than I am. Upon exiting the elevator, a room awaits, where a single lady sits behind a plastic desk hosting $2 water bottles and a Mac laptop with your reservations. Drinking a bottle of water before being locked in a room for up to an hour has devastating consequences. I’ll not elaborate.

You sit on plastic chairs as other strangers enter and then there’s a nervous energy as you size each other up for things like IQ, body odor, and the sort of dick-swinging competitiveness that all puzzle-solving humans inevitably get when confronted with intellectual challenge, I guess. People shake hands, make jokes, and then you are led into a second room where the host rifles off the rules of the game and presents a few hints on how to succeed. The feeling is a bit like entering the Haunted House at Disneyland, just before the floor drops out and your inner child screams with terror.

You are told, “out of 1471 escape attempts, only 141 groups have gotten out.” This is meant to be informative but you and the others share an imaginary wink as you make nonverbal promises to be group number 142 and your collective ego swells as you walk through the door.

Once inside, things happen. The sixty-minute clock begins to tick. There are numbers and letters and photos and airplanes and locks and books and folders and darts and clocks and enough codes to make the NSA anxious. Your group spreads out across the small room and begins trying to piece together which things are clues and which aren’t and whether the idiots around them are bright enough to help them out of this place or just idiots who will prove sixty minutes of worthlessness. You find yourself sharing brilliant and logical deductions with perfect strangers whose intellectual equivalent are the blocks you are solving. With so many puzzles, however, the escape room requires teamwork. At some point, you give it over to the Gods of Decryption and pray like hell these strangers don’t make a mistake.

All the while, there’s a gum-chewing secretary in the room, one who begins with an attitude and grows increasingly friendly as your group fails to solve anything other than the light switch and how to pick up dropped pieces of paper. As you reach levels of frustration only seen in places like the DMV or on hold with your cable company, she drops hints – think a quick jerk of her head or a subtle finger point toward a clue. Once or twice, she speaks with a New York accent and wears slightly less than enough perfume. The ticking wall clock only adds to your frustration as pressure mounts on both your brain and your bladder.

As some point, there comes a moment when you realize you have no prayer of exiting this place before time runs out. There’s a certain sadness, an acknowledgement of your failure, followed by a harsh hour of blaming all of the rest of the people in the room for being too stupid to help you. The puzzles mock you for the final minutes, daring you to try to solve them quickly, but with the sort of arrogance that cryptography always wields when time is of the essence.

When time expires, and assuming you are still in the room (and let’s be honest, with only 10% of the people finding their way out, you probably will be), the secretary walks you through all of the puzzles and explains how each one of the clues could have been resolved. While many of the puzzles prove very solvable, some require the mind of a Dalí or a Picasso.

And then it is over. The host takes a group photo of you before you leave – evidence of your failure that they’ll likely use for promotional purposes.


As you walk down the hallway home – feeling the adrenalin rush of a mind well-worked, of a night spent in pursuit of an unobtainable grail, of an hour with stupid strangers who really should have pulled the intellectual oar a little harder – you smile, because the damn night was just so much fun.

And then, with the door to the street closing behind you, you reach back inside and grab a brochure for The Cavern, another Escape Room that will pit you with eleven more strangers in complete darkness. Because that way, if any of those morons actually get an idea, at least you’ll be able to see the light bulb above their head.

By ccxander



I know generalizations and stereotypes are at the root of racism and bigotry, but all of these stories have given me a case of the fantods.

They say the good ones are far more abundant than the bad ones, but every week, the news shows them killing someone. They claim to be peaceful but many members of their organization kill people without cause, or, if they do it for cause, it’s for a cause that a lot of us don’t agree with. And then, they fall back on their interpretation of some higher law. When they do kill, it is quick, with little warning other than a few words shouted out. Very few of their members ever speak out against their organization and when there is a killing, most of their community justifies it in the name of some higher authority. Sometimes, it seems like they believe we are committing sins just by the nature of our existence.


So, when I see them walking down the street, or in the airport, or huddled in large groups, I feel fear. I know that is terrible, but I can’t help it. How am I supposed to figure out which ones will hurt me and which ones won’t? Their outfits don’t tell me which ones are good and which ones are bad. Their skin color does not reveal what is in their minds. At any moment, they may transition from a peaceful person to a killer, and I have no idea what will trigger that transition. I don’t want to be scared but if I am honest, there is unease whenever one of them is near. I become more vigilant. I worry about looking them in the eye. I wonder if they are going to use a weapon against me.

Sadly, most of them are good. They help our communities and offer people safe haven when times get tough.   They respect the law and they offer a place to turn for counsel. It is the bad ones, though, who make the news. It is the bad ones who kill recklessly and then blame the victim for starting it all in the first place. It is the bad ones who cause me to live in fear, and to make me view all of them as potentially dangerous, and to make everyone label me as a generalizer, or a stereotyper, or worse. But, I don’t know how to get over it. It’s just the way I feel.

So, the next time I see a policeman coming down the street, I’ll try to give him the benefit of the doubt.

By ccxander

Do Guns and Religion Promote Peace or War?

For several years now, we’ve heard debates about the second amendment. More recently, some folks have turned to international events to begin speaking about the first amendment. With such grandiose rights at stake, here’s something to ponder:

Second amendment advocates argue the claim to guns is an antiquated right that was meant for militia purposes and to oppose an oppressive government. There are those who adamantly believe the removal of guns from the landscape will prevent the increasing number of homicides and suicides. They suggest a citizenry, without the capability to shoot each other, will convene in a safer society. It is the guns, they say, which have no other purpose than to inflict death. To remove the means to kill would force criminals to use other weapons, ones, which could not inflict harm with the speed and effectiveness of a gun.


Other second amendment advocates argue their claim to guns is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. There are those who believe a landscape without guns makes the terrain susceptible to the whims of criminals who will not obey the gun laws. They suggest a citizenry without the capability to shoot criminals will not be able to protect itself from criminals who choose to disobey the gun laws. It is the guns, they say, which serve the purposes of protection. To remove the means to kill would subject us to the superior force of criminals who could then enter our houses without fear of retribution or retaliation.

And onward we go.

First amendment advocates argue the claim to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. There are those who adamantly believe the removal of a specific religion from the landscape would make all religions susceptible to the whims of a subjective government. They suggest a citizenry, without tolerance for all religions, is oppressive and discriminatory and against America’s core values. They suggest citizens are safer when freedom of religion is absolute. It is the religion, they say, which serves the purposes of diversity, and hope, and unity amongst believers. To remove the means of faith would subject those adherents to the religious values and tenants ofother, more accepted religions, which would destroy their own values and beliefs.


Other first amendment advocates argue the claim to freedom of religion is unsuitable when the religious values are contrary to the fundamental principles of the nation’s foundation. There are those who believe removing a religion from the nation’s freedoms will prevent citizens from the death desired by those religious adherents. They suggest a citizenry, without the ability to adhere to certain religious tenants, will convene in a safer society. It is the religion, they say, which has no other purpose than to inflict death. To remove the means of faith would force adherents to use other means to spread their dogma, ones, which could not inflict death with the speed and effectiveness of religion-based dissemination.


So where do you stand?

Is it the religion, which poses the problem, or is it the people who use the religion to inflict their will? Is it the gun, which poses the problem, or is it the people who use the gun to inflict their will? Are you consistent in your beliefs?

If we remove the item being used as the weapon, will we violate certain rights? Will society be safer?

Rainy days stimulate profound thought and it’s pouring outside. Hoping someday the sun will shine on a more peaceful world.  Until then, hugs for Kenya, Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and a hundred other places where peace bends and breaks before acts of atrocity.

By ccxander

American Hallucinations


The American political landscape now resembles a celebrity roast. Politicians stand behind a podium, hurling stones at each other, while claiming they are the true voice of the people, the nation, and the essence of American interests. They are divisive, condescending, and so vehemently focused on dethroning the champions of the other side, that America’s well-being has been relegated to an afterthought. We have reached an intersection between reality television and national mockery. To find the nation’s next President, we’ll need more than debates, deceits and public demeaning. We’ll need a leader.

Leadership is about unification. It is about recognizing that some men are not better than other men. It acknowledges that humans, regardless of gender or race or preference, are just simply humans. Leadership accepts the fact that no one “deserves” anything, other than an equal opportunity to prosper, provided they make the effort and can access the intellectual and physical wherewithal to pursue their aspirations.[1]

Leadership requires visionary thinking, perhaps not so much to restore America’s prominence in the world, but rather, to ensure all of her peoples are safe, and endowed with an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Over the past few decades, the immigrant community has entered America with new ideas, new culture and the political philosophies of their homelands. Rather than assimilate into the American culture, they’ve opted to pull the country into the deepest waters of sociopolitical ambiguity, disorienting her with their desire to drown her cultural origins. They want this nation to conform to the ideals of the nations they left, to be “more like home” so that their adjustments to the American standard of living is not difficult. As a result, the country is changing.

The consequence of such action is a nation which no longer survives in the tradition of its founding. Instead, America finds itself bobbing in the ocean of opinions, a country without anchor, a spellbound ship seeking a port with a firm foundation. In 2016, she will gain a new captain, presumably one who can pilot us to safe shores. At present, however, each of the candidates lacks the navigational wherewithal to chart a course to sanctuary. The absence has a discouraging presence.

Entrenched in their party dogma, the candidates no longer consider the nation’s well-being. Rather, they operate campaigns to counter the opposition, saturating the airways with invectives and denunciations until America’s future looks more like a rugby skirmish than manifest destiny. They shout “Those darn Republicans” or “Those darn Democrats,” as though they are willing to abdicate their responsibility to represent a major faction of their constituents.


How can fiftypercent of the populous support a President who spends the majority of a campaign disparaging the ideals and beliefs of that constituency? Imagine a little league coach ignoring half of his players and you get the idea. It’s hard to imagine we have come to this place in American politics. This is not leadership. This is reprehensible.

At present, all three branches receive the scorn and contempt of the populous – not one faction of government garners more than fifty percent approval rating. So what does that leave us?

The names Bush and Clinton, Sanders and Trump, Carson and Chaffey, do not inspire us the way Obama and Reagan did during their campaigns. Those orators made us believe unification was possible, that one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all was more than an ideal. They envisaged a nation, which re-established the American dream and we Americans bought into those visions. Whether you approve or disapprove of the outcome of either of those administrations, it is the campaigns that were relevant. Through Iowa and New Hampshire, Kentucky and California, Americans believed in the ideas these men espoused. Today, no candidate engenders that confidence.

America’s sunset is approaching now. I hope one of today’s candidates corrects course. I hope one of them abandons political party dogma and seeks to fuse dialectics into dreams, such that possibilities will appear in the horizon’s blue sky. I hope one leader will emerge from the bowels of America’s ship to captain us upon a course where people will tell tales of a mighty ship, which weathered many squalls.

If not, the stormy skies may once again entomb a great civilization and the American Dream may transform into the American nightmare.

[1] If not, and this is an important point, our society should help. The mentally ill and physically disabled require our care, and we, as a compassionate and civilized society, have an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves. Whether society has other obligations to all of its members – education, health care, welfare – is left for its members to determine.

By ccxander

Kart-ma (def) when you cut off the person in front of you in the grocery line and intellectually suffer for it


For the greater part of my life, I’ve been a decent person, opening up doors for people, allowing others in line in front of me, helping out the random stranger when they need a few cents in the supermarket line. I’ve always thought it was a part of being a compassionate human, helping out a brother/sister in need. There were no karmic intentions. But then, given so many deposits into my Karmic bank account, I figured some of it might be withdrawn if I was ever in dire straits. Cut to today:

With two items (I’ll withhold the details for fear of mockery), I headed toward the checkout line at my local supermarket. Three lines had check-out personnel and each one was four full carts deep (who knew 10:30 am on Monday was the equivalent of grocery shopping’s US405 rush hour?) With tears brewing – I had a meeting in three minutes and this was a Disneyland-ish 30 minute wait at best. Scanning the prairie for assistance, I saw her. She sauntered up casually, with the sort of confidence that just radiates from your soul when you know you’re about to make someone’s day. Staring into my forlorn eyes, she lifted a ring-laden finger toward me and curled it toward herself. I’m pretty good with the “come hither” signals and I leaned in for the dash to freedom.

Next to me, an old woman who happened to be fourth in line in the next lane, turned her cart and slid its front end before me. In Malibu, “closest to the curl gets the right of way.” At Indianapolis, “nose in front” takes the lead. I heard the phrase “Back off, Grandma!” brewing in my skull and then felt my hand touch the front of her cart and give it a nudge. With three-hundred items – this grandmother appeared to be shopping for the entire retirement home – the cart barely moved. True, she had the proximity advantage, but I had gotten the signal!

So here’s my question. With all those karmic deposits behind me, I feel like I’ve earned this moment, the high-speed lane opening up just as I reach the pinnacle of frustration. This is the moment when the Universe pays me back for all of my good deeds, right? RIGHT???

It is now 4:00 pm and I am sitting in a post-meeting stupor, staring at the rotating ceiling fan and pondering the ramifications of what I’ve done. Did I cash-in on a history of compassion or did I just make a withdrawal that has left me morally bankrupt and at the mercy of karmic revenge? How does one know when karma is paying you back rather than testing you again to find out if you are really just an asshole?

These questions truly plague my existence.

By ccxander

Going West to Nashville

Bristol, TN to Nashville covers 293 miles and requires one bathroom break or an empty wide-mouthed Gatorade bottle. Because of construction, speed limits change every fifty miles or so and there are sun-glassed policemen in unmarked cars, who gain small thrills issuing fast-traveling tourists tickets. If they don’t issue you a ticket, they stand outside of your car for nearly half an hour discussing things like the impending storm and UT football and other soul-sucking conversational topics that can destroy your day if you happened to break 75 in a 70mph zone because you really have to get to your destination before the sun goes down. Without a doubt, I know this to be true.

Along the road, the religiosity of this state’s population is evident. Rumors suggest Jesus was a carpenter, and based on the number of Churches here, God must have been a general contractor/developer. The prevalence of prayer places here makes Starbucks’ ubiquity seem horribly inadequate.

Dominant roadside shades include purple, yellow, and orange, and if you get close enough to the leaves, you can almost smell the moonshine that’s fed the trees for more than a century. And, well, since we’re talking about alcohol, here’s a sign from one of the small towns I passed on my journey.


Fortunately for everyone I know, they didn’t have t-shirts.

Nashville is known for its music – think Hank Williams, the Allman Bros. and a post-move Elvis. Thus, when you descend from the Appalachians into the city’s heart, the wind outside your car window blows with a country twang. You hear them crooning from honky-tonks and diners, on street corners and in local restaurants, all cutting open their veins to bleed onto the pages of music history. Music is to Nashville as food is to Italy.

And so now I am wandering these song-filled streets, taking in the cowboy boot stores and famous fried foods from kitchens which ring out phrases like, “Y’ant mo’ okra?” and “Oda up!” Everyone says “Mornin’ to ya,” and, on every sidewalk, big belt buckles play host to sun-drenched thumbs. I’ve yet to see anyone chewing on a stalk of hay yet, but cowboy hats are as abundant as Hollywood implants.

In the past few days, I’ve noticed myself sliding into the Southern drawl. It’s easy, like cutting your workday short or using a microwave to prepare dinner. Today, though, I have to give a presentation in the King’s English. Wish me luck, y’all.

By ccxander