This morning, as usual, I picked up my building ID, two sets of keys, my pocket knife, watch, and a few other odds and ends I carry with me every day. The morning progressed as usual right up until the point I stopped to fill up the Jeep’s fuel tank. That’s when I discovered my wallet wasn’t among the items of kit that I had stuffed into my pockets on the way out the door.
As they saying goes, you really don’t miss something (or realize how often you need it) until it’s gone. Instead of the day progressing normally, there was no fuel, no breakfast bagel, no stop for a mid-day doughnut, no pausing on the way home to pick up fresh greens for the tortoise, and no stop at the last chance liquor store for my Wednesday powerball ticket. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of infuriating, but the simple act of leaving behind a small piece of leather with a few pieces of plastic and a bit of green paper inside certainly has the the effect of being an outsized pain in the ass.
I’ve never really given much thought to the virtue of ApplePay, but it’s safe to say I have a new healthy interest in adopting a payment method that involves something I don’t leave the room, let along the house, without having on my person.
There’s nothing like the sobering presence of death to help bring your day into focus. That great equalizer of men and kings comes to us all in time. It’s one of the very few common truths that we all share between us – the grand irony of that being that it’s one of the few things we as a culture don’t talk about in anything more than a whisper.
Despite the outward appearance of building briefings and fidgeting with memos all day, what I’ve really been doing is processing; adding new facts to what I think I know about the world and the people in it. What I really came up with is that on balance I’ve been a bad friend to so many who have deserved better.
We grew up together or grew into adults in one another’s company. We met for a time and parted company. We shared secrets deep or dark. We laughed, cried, then laughed again. We took long draughts from the tap in crowded rooms or passed hours in companionable silence.
Life happened. We moved on or moved apart. We had kids or didn’t. Our careers took us around the world or brought us back home to the mountains. We had different politics and wildly diverging interests.
Even though Facebook helped, we did a shit job of keeping in touch and staying engaged. That’s the part that hurts – the ease with which we could have picked up the phone or sent an email, but didn’t because there would be time for that tomorrow or the day after. Maybe we’re all wild eyed optimists believing against all outward evidence that there will always be a tomorrow.
I’m a bad friend. I freely admit it. I’m the first to want to race home from wherever I am and whomever I’m with and slam the garage door shut. I should have done more to keep the lines of communication open and didn’t.
Know this, though, if you were my friend, you are my friend still. Despite years or circumstances I think of you often – and mostly smile or chuckle at the thought. I may occasionally roll my eyes. In my mind we’re all still at some vague age between 17 and 23 and have only been parted for a moment no matter how the years have intervened.
I carry you with me always. In the moment that doesn’t feel like much, but it’s something and occasionally something has to be enough.
Let me start off by saying I had no idea that the Grammys were handed out last night until I woke up this morning and my various news feeds were cluttered with stories about artists of whom I’ve never heard. That’s not an aspersion, by the way. I’m not in any way making a judgement about the worth of any of the award winners. I am, however, saying that I recognize virtually none of them by name and in all likelihood could not identify them correctly if their music was played for me or if they walked into my living room right this very minute.
Take a tour through my iTunes library and you’ll notice that it includes a fairly wide cross section of genres and historical periods. You’ll also notice that for all practical purposes, it stops sometime around the middle of the last decade.
I’m not the guy who’s saying the haven’t made a good song since the year I graduated college, but I am admitting that I’ve mostly given up seeking out new music that I might actually like. I tend to like my music a little poppy, maybe with a screaming lead guitar and 50-piece drum kit backing it up, or that tells some kind of story (no, repeating the same five words for three minutes and five seconds doesn’t count as telling a story). The simple matter is, most of the popular groups don’t make music that I find particularly appealing these days. They’re ok with that. I’m ok with that. I just means that I’m a little out of touch with what passes for award-worthy these days.
The up side to being blissfully unaware of the continuing sweep of the music industry is I continue to find songs from old favorite bands and artists that I missed somehow when I first came to know and love them. Given that everyone has a back catalog that seems to be mountainous, I’m never really at a loss when I want to listen to something new… even when that something new first came out in 1972.
Just one thing really. That one thing, the United States Senate. Those useless douchecanoes shut the government down for three days, accomplished nothing, and seem to be doing everything in their power to find themselves right back in the same position in a few short weeks. Funding the government is pretty much one of the only things the founders specifically called out the Congress to do. Everything else – including dreaming up their favorite political causes of the day are basically side business – and ways to raise money for the next campaign. For the entire length of my career – fifteen years and counting – they have proven to be incredibly (and reliably) inept at getting the job done.
In retrospect, I suppose I should have just gone ahead and pursued a career as a Senator… because apparently it means all you have to do is dick around on someone else’s dime and occasionally go on television and confirm to the public that you’re a blowhard piece of shit.
I’m beginning to think it’s not term limits we need, but a page borrowed from out parliamentary cousins. The ability to launch a vote of no confidence against the ruling coalition when they can’t get a basic vote passed feels like something we really should have in our collective quiver. Forcing the whole membership of the Congress to stand for a snap election after all sides have proven themselves incapable of governing would be even better. Sure, they still probably couldn’t get a damned thing done, but that would save us from having to wait for a scheduled election to experience the joy of voting them out.
I’m taking a brief pause from writing this evening. I’ve opted instead for warmed leftovers and a movie I’ve seen at least two dozen times.
Frankly the things I have to say about our elected representatives and my employer’s apparent lack of planning for how to handle a shutdown in a efficient and orderly manner would sail dangerously close to treason and insubordination. So I’ll just sit here and avail myself of my right to remain silent.
This isn’t my first government shutdown. I remember the one brought about by the clash between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in the 90s. I sat at home through most of the 2013 shutdown. The reality is a “shutdown” of the federal government is something of a pantomime. No president or member of Congress is quite mad enough to threaten to really shut things down – to send the troops back to their bases, close the country’s airspace, and dismiss the people who send out Social Security funds. Maybe they should, because shutting down the US Government is stupid – and stupid should be painful.
There’s plenty enough blame to go around when Sam runs out of money. Since funding the government is one of the very few specified tasks assigned to Congress, I tend to lay the blame squarely at their feet. They really only have a handful of “must do” items every year – the rest of the things they spend their time doing is grinding personal axes or chasing their party’s stated objectives. We the people, however, are the ones who vote for members of Congress – so in my estimation their failures are our failures as well. We make the decision to keep sending the same useless asshats back to Washington year after year. Perhaps we’ve finally gotten the government we deserve.
I’m one of the 800,000 “unessentials” whose furlough will start tomorrow in the absence of an appropriation. In one of the great moments in which I realize the universe has an odd sense of humor, if the Senate manages to remember their duty and tomorrow is just another Monday, I’m scheduled to stay home and telework. If they screw the pooch and let the shutdown run its course, I actually end up having to go to the office tomorrow. If the fact that I’m headed to the office if we don’t have money, but staying home if we do tells doesn’t tell you all you’ve ever needed to know about the appalling strangeness of federal employment I don’t know what will.