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Archive for July, 2009

I’d almost phased out of the politics of California when a couple of items popped up on the radar screen.

A day or so ago, Eric Jaye, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s long-time friend and campaign strategist, resigned, ostensibly because of a difference of opinion over how to run Newsom’s campaign for governor of California.

Jaye is a proponent of the Obama approach to 21st Century politics: rouse the Twitter and Facebook crowds and solicit small campaign donations from millions of young voters. Newsom is 40 years old, and Jaye figured he’d relate more effectively to the young crowd than to the oldsters, who probably will identify with Newsom’s strongest opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 71 year old Jerry Brown.

Somewhere along the line however, Newsom either decided on his own or was convinced by others to revert to a traditional money raising approach, personally hit the phones and call the big donors.

Some analysts theorize that Newsom is distinctly uncomfortable with the Obama strategy because it also calls for personal contact with a lot of young people who are prone to ask potentially embarrassing questions. Newsom, it is thought by some, is more comfortable talking to the big money men, with whom he more closely identifies.

Be that as it may, Newsom replaced Jaye with Garry South, an old-line campaign strategist who favors not only phone contact with the big boys but also a scorched earth policy toward one’s opponent. Thus, with South in charge, we will probably notice an increase in personal attacks against Jerry Brown from the Newsom Camp.

This raises the specter of personal attacks in return from Jerry Brown’s folks, and hoo boy, does Newsom have a lot to be personally attacked about. In the interior of California, the voting population is very conservative. They do nor like Newsom’s stand and actions on gay marriage at all. No siree. Not one bit. And those conservative inlanders, along with an overwhelming Black vote, managed to kill gay marriage in California, at least for the time being.

But gay marriage isn’t the only divisive issue on Newsom’s record. On February 1, 2007, all hell broke loose when the Fog City Journal (some think the Chronicle broke the story) revealed that Newsom had had an affair with the wife of his then campaign manager and best friend.

The news erupted with the force of a couple of A-Bombs and the shock wave quickly circled the globe. Newspapers far and wide and blogs galore were totally consumed with the news to the virtual exclusion of all else. Even Newsom’s now-wife got in the act when she called Newsom’s inamorato “the culprit” and blamed the whole mess on her.

Newsom apologized with a pithy “Everything you’ve heard is true,” and then every one of the principals in the event clamed up tighter than a drum, and to this day, very little is known of the affair. Most of the information floating around is speculation.

Now here’s the kicker. Articles about Newsom have recently appeared in the New York Times and Fast Company Magazine. In both, Newsom addressed the affair, saying among other things that “it wasn’t true that everything you heard was true,” thus casting himself as a liar from the git-go. He went on to say, “There a story that hasn’t been told. Things were more benign than they appeared in print.”

Okay, so Newsom is an admitted liar and all of the facts of the matter haven’t come to light. How does the Greatest Story Never Told factor into Newsom’s new campaign strategy?

Here’s the chain of logic:

· Newsom’s campaign is in trouble

· He fires new-age (almost) campaign manager, Eric Jaye.

· He hires old-age campaign manager Garry South, noted for his scorched earth tactics.

· The new manager is expected to unleash personal attacks against Newsom’s main opponent, Jerry Brown.

· Jerry’s camp is expected to retaliate.

· The darkest blot on Newsom’s record and a likely subject of attacks from the Brown group is Newsom’s affair with his then-campaign manager and best friend’s wife.

· To dampen the effects of the expected attacks, Newsom initiates a preemptive strike, calling the affair and its aftermath benign and intimating that the real story has yet to be revealed.

· In other words, “Ain’t no big t’ing, Brah.”

· Mission accomplished.

However, the Newsom camp may be treading on thin ice by permitting Gavin to put forth the possibility of more to come. Hidden among all of the ambiguous statements is the clear intimation that any and all information released by el Gavo will cast him in the role of Saint and “the woman” as the siren who lured him onto the shoals of sin. Here are some possible scenarios:

Newsom’s version of the untold story will place him in the most favorable light. All or most of the blame will fall on the woman. After all, she is an admitted alcoholic and drug user (although the latter has never been officially verified), and it’s easy to envision this poor drunken woman pestering Newsom until he reluctantly succumbed.

There were only one or two encounters, the story may go, and poor Gavie was so distraught over his betrayal of his best friend that he quickly and sternly told his partner in sex that there would be no more, whereas she had a nervous breakdown or something and checked into rehab.

Later, at some point in the unfolding story, the three of them sat down together and discussed the matter like adults, whereas they all agreed that it was no big deal, just a benign, one-time aberration. Then, they shook hands and went their separate ways.

This or something similar may well be Gavie’s story, but it won’t work. While he might concoct some sort of preemptive cover story to defuse the personal attacks almost sure to come from the Brown side, he runs the risk of opening up a can of worms.

So far, his once-campaign manager and wife have remained resolutely silent. If Newsom opens up, they may do the same. If that happens, everything will plop out in one large plop. And if my guess is right, it may be a very messy plop indeed and likely spell the end of Newsie’s political career.

I could be off base in my analysis. I’ve been wrong before. Other explanations for Gavin’s enigmatic statements are well within the realm of plausibility. One comes to mind.

Quite some time ago, the media was rife with reports of a book in the works about the matter by the woman. The story faded, but if the book is near completion, and if Gavo’s camp is aware of its status, Gavo’s statements could be a preliminary move to counter inflammatory information that the book might include. I doubt this scenario, but anything is possible in San Francisco.

If I were one of Gav’s handler’s, my advice would be simple. STFU. Shut your damned mouth. Let sleeping dogs lie. Everytime this story is about dead, someone, usually the Chronicle, runs something, complete with names.

Now, Gav wants to jump on the band wagon. Enough damage has been done, a family destroyed and a child’s future altered irrevocably. Let the others get on with their lives, Gavster. I repeat, STFU.

Okay, political junkies, keep your eyes out and your ears to the ground. Things happen fast in California.

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The day before yesterday marked 30 days, one month, since her spirit soared to the heavens where she watches over us as she watched so many years on Earth. She is pain free now, and for that, we are grateful. Her last months were difficult for her.

When she became bedridden, I was her sole caregiver. My morning routine began around 5 a.m. with a shower, followed by a trip to the kitchen to brew her morning coffee.

While the coffee was heating, I put a couple of pieces of cinnamon toast in the toaster and opened a packet of instant oatmeal, the kind you empty in a bowl and add hot water.

By the time everything was ready, she would be awake. I’d ask her if she wanted her breakfast in bed or in her favorite chair. Although she preferred to remain in bed most of the time, she occasionally had the strength to sit upright and watch television while she ate. I always monitored her closely, however, for signs of pain in her face. I knew her every nuance and at the first hint of pain, I quickly moved her to the bed before the pain took over.

If the pain won, she would moan, and as quickly as I could, I would give her a prescribed dose of Vicodin, a pain medication that didn’t always dull the pain. Even if the medication worked, about 40 minutes would pass before it took hold.

In those 40 minutes, I was helpless. I stroked her brow and forehead and whispered to her, hoping she took some solace from my touch and voice.

And then, if and when the medication worked, she would become quiet and still and sleep for about an hour, waking with the smile that always melted my heart.

Occasionally, after she woke, she would be in high spirits and talk about walking around our favorite shopping mall. When her euphoria first occurred and she talked about walking, I didn’t understand what was happening. I reminded her, rather bluntly, “But you can’t walk.”

At my words, her face lost its glow. She sank back in her bed and just stared at the ceiling. Only later did I understand that she had forgotten that she couldn’t walk. After that, I always said something like, “Okay, let’s go,” or “When would you like to go?” She soon forgot and usually fell asleep.

At home, she always received immediate attention from me. In the hospital, it wasn’t unusual for a nurse to take thirty minutes to an hour to respond.  When I complained to the staff doctor, he listened sympathetically and said, “I understand your frustrations. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in the hospital, either.” I decided then that she would remain with me at home no matter how hard that might make it for me.

When I wasn’t attending to her needs, I worked around the house, washing dishes and clothes, cleaning, and doing the things she had done for us for so many years. I learned the truth of the old adage, “A woman’s work is never done.”

And, yes, I grew physically tired, so tired that on occasion I would lay beside her in the bed with a crossword puzzle in hand. More often than not, my eyes would droop and my pen would fall on my shirt, leaving ink stains on it. I always worked crossword puzzles with a pen because it forced me to get it right the first time.

When she seemed to be especially down, I would lay beside her with her hands in mine and talk to her, trying to reassure her, whispering how much I loved her and how I would gladly give her my strength. She would often grasp my hands and squeeze them as hard as she could, as if by easing her grip I might leave her.

But I knew in my heart that I would never leave her. She had given her heart and soul to her family. Without her, our lives would have been empty and desolate. She demonstrated her love in so many ways small and large, from the placement of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the counter for our daughters when they returned from school to telling them later in life that the gifts on special occasions were my idea when in truth, they were hers.

Ever shy and self-effacing, she rarely showed her emotions in public. When a daughter graduated or married or when one left home to begin her own family, she would remain composed through the ceremonies only to cry alone in the shower later. We all knew her habits and they endeared her to us. We knew her composure in public was a signal to us that we must remain strong.

For the most part, we followed her guidance. But when she left us, we cried uncontrollably. We weren’t strong. But I think she understood.

I often wondered and still do if she knew her overpowering effect on us and how much we loved her in life and always will.

We talk now about monthly anniversaries, but before we realize it, months will become years. Even so, her memory will be fresh within us. We will always love her with all of our heart and soul.

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As a youngster, I thought nothing of moving from one place to another. In fact, I used to describe my itchiness as an overpowering desire “to be where I ain’t.” Any excuse was sufficient as a reason to head for new pastures, or to return to old ones, as the itch struck.

My wanderlust didn’t stop when we married. Not immediately anyway. Let me count the times I uprooted children from playmates and wife from a settled existence and her circle of friends: Oakland CA to San Rafael; San Rafael to Petaluma; Petaluma to Riverside; Riverside to Honolulu; Honolulu to Tracy CA; Tracy to Honolulu.

If my math is correct and my memory intact, that’s six times in about four years, not a large number, but those long-distance moves weren’t the whole story. Once we had settled in a new town, it wasn’t unusual for me to move from house to house on a whim.

But that still isn’t the whole story. I had a traveling job. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend 60 days at a whack in a single foreign country and then fly directly to another country for 30 days before returning home.

My life would have been wonderful for a single guy or gal, but when you’re married with children, complications can arise. Like the day I called home from the Philippines hoping for a nice chat with my wife only to be met by a breathless daughter who said without preamble, “Dad, I quit college.” She later finished, but that short sentence almost gave me a heart attack and forced me to reexamine my lifestyle.

I gave up traveling and moving around, but I failed miserably when it came to dreaming and talking. If I casually mentioned another location, my family would become agitated. They’d mill around, and one of the girls would say something like, “Mom, Dad wants to move!”

The fear in them was there for anyone to see, but I didn’t. I think the turning point came when, after one of my rambling monologue about “new pastures,” a daughter asked plaintively, “What about me,” obviously anxious about the possibility we would leave her behind.

Throughout this period, my wife tolerated my behavior, but she didn’t offer overt criticism. That wasn’t her way. Rather, she continued to work, smiling and pleasant as usual but with an unmistakable coolness until I shut up. She was always very effective when it came to guiding me in the “right” direction.

Over time, the girls left home to establish their own careers and families. My wife and I often talked about finding a nice retirement spot but that’s as far as it went. We were comfortable here and my desire “to be where I ain’t” had faded away.

Then, the unexpected unexpectedly happened. She passed away so suddenly that it absolutely stunned me. At first, I panicked. With the help of two of our daughters and a son in law, we packed up some stuff and headed for the airport, leaving the house under the watchful eye of a police officer friend who lived next door.

In these moments of panic, I had visions of moving permanently but that goal shifted and I decided to spend some time in Tejas, Annapolis, and the Bay Area, with side trips to garden spots like Reno, Lovelock (where my mother lived in another age), and Winnemucca.

But even that plan changed as I found myself wanting with all of my heart to return to the home where all of my memories of her resided. I’ll return, of course, but will I stay or will I once again want “to be where I ain’t?”

I have a hunch that her spirit in the family home is the power that will hold me there until I join her. When that happens, I’ll never again want to be where I ain’t. She planned it that way.

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I’ve never been in a foxhole, so I can’t offer direct testimony for or against the theory. About all I can say is that the statement sounds logical. When our life is in imminent danger of coming to an abrupt halt, we may reflexively pray regardless of our professed disbelief in a god or gods. Approaching death makes believers out of a lot of people, in or out of foxholes.

I’ve always been skeptical of the Biblical version of a god. Call me a heretic if you wish, but I just can’t seen to get a handle on an invisible being in the sky who created all that is around us in seven days and then rested.

And, yet, there is so much about the universe and human nature that is unexplainable. Are humans merely a product of random chance? Was my beloved no more than a fortuitous arrangement of protoplasm? The thought seems outrageous, so preposterous, in fact, that I am forced to reject it out of hand. A human of such inner and outer beauty could not possibly be just an accidental creation.

For many years, I rejected both the theory of creationism and the theory of evolutionism. For awhile, I thought about and accepted in part a belief in the universal nature of all things. We are all a part of the Earth and the Sun that give us conscious life. There is no distinction between the animate and inanimate. When we die, we become once more a part of the elements. We soar with the wind and float atop waves. Our spirit rides on sunbeams, ever touching those we love and ever giving them the gift of the warmth that is our love.

When did I abandon this belief? As my beloved lay dying and when I heard my daughter cry our, “Dad, she’s going,” I began to cry and kiss my loved one’s cheek and caress her hair, begging her to stay with us.

And then, I began to pray. I implored God to give us just one more moment, just one more smile, just one more exhilarating glance into her sparkling eyes. I prayed silently as I had never prayed before.

But God’s response didn’t touch my personal foxhole. He permitted her to silently slip away, and suddenly she became still and quiet. I continued to cry and kiss her, but I knew there would be no reanimation of dead tissue.

Life is short, brutal, and nasty for many. But she made my life tolerable. Someday, if I am fortunate, we will join again. Until then, I’ll wait patiently and dream about our life together.

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To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die…

I suppose that’s true. The American version of the King James Bible says so in Ecclesiastes-3. Who am I to argue with King James?

The problem is, James lived a long time ago. Today is today and the tools for measuring just about anything are sophisticated. As far as the passage of time goes, scientists are able to measure it to the millisecond, although accuracy at this level isn’t necessary in everyday life.

For example, when a baby leave’s its mother’s womb, the chances are excellent that the attending physician will look at his or her watch and say something like, “Ah ha, nine ten a.m.,” meaning, “This baby was born at ten minutes after nine in the morning.” Subsequently, the time will be entered on a birth certificate for all to see unless the physician forgets and enters any old time.

Gauging the time of a person’s death is equally imprecise. The case of our beloved is illustrative. Her final heartbeat and her last breath occurred at five minutes past seven in the evening.

But that isn’t the time on her registered and certified death certificate. The time entered by an anonymous soul is a full hour later.

Why the difference? Because the time noted by our daughter and me isn’t “official.” Only a properly certified medical professional can pronounce a person dead.

In our beloved’s case, a registered hospice nurse traveled for almost an hour to reach our home and complete the requisite examination. Then and only then was our wife and mother “officially” deceased. In the interim, she was apparently in a state of bureaucratically imposed suspended animation.

But measuring time isn’t the message in Ecclesiastes-3. The verse quoted above refers to the inevitability of the events of life in the days of Adam and Eve and Noah and a host of other biblical figures. We are born; we die.

So it is also in the 21st Century. With a couple of exceptions. Back then, most people probably accepted the given that God was the decider in chief when it came to determining the “time.”

It ain’t necessarily so in this day and age. Men with their God-given technologies often determine the time of birth and death. Induced deliveries and cesareans hasten the natural process of birth.

And feeding tubes may well maintain life indefinitely beyond its natural span. Think of Terry Schiavo as an example of the debatably harmful extension of life by artificial means.

In the case of our loved one, she had decided long ago to let her body follow its natural course. Fortunately, her family agreed. There were no appeals to courts of law or to religious institutions or attempts to persuade her otherwise.

For her, the natural time to die arrived at 7:05 p.m., Saturday, June 27, 2009.

Despite our intellectual knowledge that her passing was a blessed relief from her extended pain and suffering, we nevertheless defined her passing in terms of our pain, our loss, our misery, our grief.

In life and in death, there is a time to be selfish as well.

If this seems rambling, incoherent, and  disconnected, so be it. There is also a time to be confused, even if King James excluded it.

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Sometime next week, if all goes as planned, I’ll file my first dispatch from Texas. I am leaving this Friday with my daughter to spend some time sorting out my life and thinking about my time with my beloved.

I’ll be in the extreme Southeast corner of Texas where nothing moves except alligators and oil tankers sliding imperceptibly along an Inland Waterway canal to unload their cargo of Middle Eastern oil at Texas refineries in and around Port Arthur.

I’ve been to PA and Nederland (pronounced Neederland) several times and for someone who has lived in exciting places like Petaluma CA, Southeast Texas may prove a challenge. I’ll probably spend a lot of time in WalMart and IHop, counting the cans of black-eyed peas per square foot and gorging on pancakes and maple syrup.

Then, if life really slows down, I may sit on the back porch and watch the squirrels scamper through pecan trees (that’s pronounced pee can, as in two words).

This may or may not sound humorous, but it’s my best effort at the moment to take my mind away from reality. Once I achieve some sort of emotional balance, then I’ll take on the task of deciding where I want to be on a more permanent basis.

Until that time rolls around, my posts may be erratic and speak of an instability that would make the the Twilight Zone appear as sane as the Bush White House.

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