Family Baggage — Saga of the Suitcase

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I keep myself from meddling in my children’s lives.  They see a lot of me as it is without me exerting extra effort to influence their fates or poking my nose into their business.  This time I couldn’t refrain, although I asked permission first.

The Kysylyczyns, the family of my daughter Michel and her husband Sid with my grand daughters Clara and Tess, took advantage of a great air fare deal booked several months in advance on Icelandair to take an August vacation to Switzerland.  They lived in Swiss Canton Zug almost four years.  This was their first visit back to Switzerland since repatriating to Minneapolis two years ago.

Of course I was jealous.  I love Europe and past touring with the Kysylyczyns making family memories is among my fondest highlights of my life.  I would have been machtig cool to hike Rigi Kulm, swim at the Bade of Zugersee at Oberwil or gaze at the Matterhorn from Zermatt with the kids, but alas, it was not to be.  Primarily I was not invited, though nobody said I couldn’t go.  Rox and I essentially spent this year’s european budget remodeling our kitchen.  The Kysylyczyns had friends to see and to stay with.  Besides, we had all, just the month before, taken a brilliant family vacation to the American Southwest, so I had no reason to feel estranged.  This was not where I butted my nose.

They did invite me to drive them to and from the airport, MSP.  One the way they anticipated a good flight on Icelandair.  By all accounts they heard the airline offered splendid hospitality and a little more legroom and coach comfort as you can find on a transcontinental flight.  They would have to pay for food but that wasn’t different from Delta.  There would be a stop at Reykjavik, where they would disembark, go through Customs (get their passports stamped Iceland) and re-board to fly to Zurich, but this was as much as flying into Amsterdam, going through Customs and boarding a regional jet on to Zurich, only the stop in Iceland was like a halftime break almost midway to each destination.  For Michel, whose fear of air travel is surprisingly palpable for someone who has flown so much the airline amenities mean a lot.  There would be individual movie screens, though the selection of titles were limited.  She really liked the price, it made the whole excursion affordable, but she wouldn’t have chosen Icelandair if they didn’t have a customer friendly reputation.

Icelandair flies in and out of MSP at Terminal 2, once officially named the Humphrey terminal.  It is the smaller and most approachable of the two terminals here.  T2 — or Humphrey as some still call it — flies small airlines such as Southwest, Sun Country, Condor and Icelandair.  T1 — called Lindbergh — handles some boutique carriers but mainly big ones such as Delta, American, United and Air Canada.  Thus Terminal 1 Lindbergh is vastly busier, frequently jammed three lanes deep in cars vying to drop off and pick up, not to mention short and long term parking, and the car approach to T1 Lindbergh is all only freeway accessible.  T2 Humphrey, on the other hand, can be easily approached even at peak times by a back road between the airport and the national cemetery, and rarely are cars more than one lane deep at the drop off and pick up curb.

We dropped the Kysylyczyns and their baggage at Humphrey under the Icelandair canopy sign, all hugs and chocolate promises.  Roxanne and I nostalgically watched after them as they shouldered their carry on backpacks and everybody gripped a suitcase and glided through the automatic doors to the terminal like they were going downtown on a train.  At home Roxanne and I watched the planes in the sky from our front porch thinking, off they go.

They were gone ten days.  Facebook real-time post cards showed they were have a good time (when Michel and Sid could get wi-fi — deep in the Alps it was iffy or not worth the fee.  Everything is expensive in Switzerland, alas.)  Sentimentally I followed the weather page of the paper for conditions in Frankfurt and Geneva.

Their flight home was on time.  We estimated about a half hour to get through customs and baggage claim.  On the drive to pick them up we talked about Lindbergh and Humphrey, the terminals and their namesakes.  At the time there was a hotel construction project next to Lindbergh causing lane closures on the freeway and a severe backup of traffic into the terminal.  Glad we’re not going there, we agreed noting the smooth flow towards Humphrey.  Just for conversation we eventually mused about the dropping of the terminal names in favor of mere numbers, 1 and 2.  It was ostensibly done for the ease of strangers, of whom there must be many — 1 or 2 simpler to identify on freeway signs.  But like many things these days a political motive can be extrapolated behind the name changes:  a desire by illiberals to erase Hubert Humphrey’s name from local iconography, and a campaign to disassociate the airport from Charles Lindbergh, a vocal anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer.  The nexus of these two causes resulted for the sake of simplicity in renaming the two terminals after the numbered euphemisms for urine and feces.  In that case, I offered, they numbered the terminals backward.  Lindbergh should be number 2.

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Pick up traffic was heavy even for Humphrey that afternoon but we readily found an opening at the curb and waited.  Roxanne texted Michel where we were.  Michel texted they were at the baggage carousel.  Moments passed.  Other cars came, picked up their people and left.  For a few moments we were parked in.  We dreaded the security cops would come and direct us to keep moving and we would be obliged to go around the return loop and position ourselves all over again.

Then Michel texted one of their suitcases was missing.  We held our turf and waited and got lucky against airport security.  In about twenty minutes the Kysylyczyns emerged to daylight.  Kiss-kiss, abrazos and hugs.  We stowed the luggage, one suitcase short.  Sid took the wheel — it was their car, after all, a big GMC Denali, six passengers plus luggage reminiscent of the VW Tauran we used to rent when we used to tour Europe together, big family car.  After about ten hours in the sky and a frustrating hour on the ground, Sid had an edge of determination like he needed to control something, so he drove.  I rode shotgun.  They were all tired and edgy and the ride provided a perfect moment to give in to their exhaustion and gush about what a great time they had but the moment was stolen by their consternation over the missing suitcase.  A beautiful catharsis spoiled.  Try as they might to answer Roxanne’s and my questions about impressions of their trip their thoughts were tainted with the question of how their suitcase got lost.

It was not a good night to all go to supper.  The girls were cranky and jetlagged.  Sid was expected to go to work the next day.  Michel needed to place her house in order before bedtime and come to grips with a bag of her possessions somewhere Out There maybe never to be found.  Even though she didn’t have to work the next day she faced a day of making phone calls.  We went straight to their house.

The suitcase contained all their clean clothes.  Michel’s makeup, their toothbrushes, their toiletries and four pairs of her jeans.  Tess had a couple of dear stuffed animals she called lovies.  Clara had a favorite pair of shoes, some shorts and blouses.  All their souvenirs and mementos.  Yet nobody cried.  Roxanne said this was a good example why you should always pack your toothbrushes in your carry on.  Michel worried that the bag got singled out because it got tagged Heavy Bag — it weighed two pounds overweight but was allowed to travel because the other bags weighed under the limit.

Roxanne suggested some other blurry faced passenger may have taken such a big black generic anonymous bag by mistake.  This mere observation set Michel into speculative agitation thinking some stranger had possession of their belongings, the invasion of privacy and susceptibility to theft.  It soothed her to figure most strangers who would make such a mistake would quickly rectify it, bring it back to the airport and turn it in to the lost and found, not loot it and dump it in the trash.

In any case, Michel resigned the issue to something unlikely to resolve itself overnight.  It would require phone calls the next day.  Back at Humphrey they filed a report with Sun Country Airlines, who handles baggage for Icelandair at MSP, and for the moment that’s all they could do.  Nobody, least Sid or the kids, was going to let this inconvenience spoil their vacation.  Already they looked back and it all seemed funny.  When we adjourned for the night everybody hoped it would all work itself out.

The next morning Central Daylight Time an international phone number to Icelandair went unanswered.  Michel said the number would ring and ring and then hang up.  This discouraged her and Sid, who said up to this point they were rather impressed with Icelandair customer service.

On the phone to Sun Country Airlines Michel found a sympathetic customer service rep named Nick, who counseled patience.  Another Icelandair flight from Zurich arrived every day at the same late afternoon hour at Humphrey terminal.  The suitcase could be on the next flight.  It wasn’t.

Next day, same thing, no suitcase.

It was part of the fabric of conversation now.  By the way, how’s the suitcase?  Sid and Michel speculated at what could have gone wrong.  Airline travel being such a closed system they reasoned there ought to exist a tracking system by barcode or some such to account for the whereabouts of every bag.  It was difficult for them to believe and seemed unreasonable nobody could track their suitcase in three, four, five, six days and counting.

We know this is a rich world problem.  There are societies where real persons go missing and are never found.

I’m not materialistic, dad, she said.  There’s stuff I’d rather have and not lose but it’s just stuff.  What gets me is nobody knows.  Nobody owns it.

The nobodies who knew where the suitcase went included this Nick guy at Sun Country, who Michel credited with always answering his phone but didn’t know anything.  Sid got a hold of a person at IGS, the ground services provider for Icelandair at Keflavik airport at Reykjavik, Iceland, who referred him to Keflavik Lost and Found, who referred him to Icelandair.  Michel and Sid filed a formal claim of loss online and entered into email correspondence among a network of aviation affiliated entities, and they received a claim number and apologies but no word where was the suitcase.

I remembered back at St Simon of Cyrene parochial school, 5th grade, Connie Hechter went to our teacher Sister Alsace Lorraine in tears one afternoon.  Connie alleged somebody stole her fountain pen from her desk during lunch recess.  It was a special fountain pen, I heard her tell the nun, a present from her grandma.  Sister Alsace Lorraine ordered everyone in the class to close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks for five minutes.  She said she would do the same.  During that time, whoever had the fountain pen was supposed to quietly tiptoe to Sister’s desk, return the pen anonymously and tiptoe back to his or her seat.  The rest of us were encouraged to spend the five minutes in prayer saying silent Hail Marys, Our Fathers and Glory Bes.  An Act of Contrition if you could get through it without having to say it out loud.  In five minutes when we opened our eyes we would expect to see the fountain pen on Sister’s desk, no questions asked.

My question was whether you could trust Sister Alsace Lorraine not to peek.  I had no trouble keeping my own eyes closed, though I didn’t stifle my ears.  There were giggles and whispers and hushes and somebody stifled a weak fart sound almost too genuine to be a prank.  Sister raised her voice once to invoke quiet, remind us to pray and to give the guilty party two minute warning to repent.  She wore a Timex wristwatch so you could suppose she could check it with her head down, but some way I had the feeling she was watching us.  I tried to sense if she were circulating among us but I heard no sounds of the clack of her beads, detected no swish of the linen of her habit, so it seemed plausible she was not up and moving about hovering above us on patrol.  I thought I may have heard tiptoes, but not more than one or two, not enough to get to Sister’s desk.  A cough.  Another cough, call and response.  I think I wished I could take a nap.  The tiptoe sounds could have been faked.  The kid across the aisle from me had sniffles but I can’t think of his name.  Mike somebody…

Sister said it was Time’s Up.  Our eyes got used to the light.  Connie’s fountain pen was not on Sister’s desk.  It was not on Connie’s desk.  It was on the desk of a kid named Micmac Murphy, an obvious plot to frame him.  Sister didn’t fall for it for an instant and almost credited Murph for finding the pen as she presented it back to Connie and said, No more need be said of this, but we can be proud because we’re honest, which was a message for the rest of us who didn’t steal the pen or get into trouble on their own as much as Micmac Murphy.  We clapped applause.  Pride.

Personally I didn’t think it would work.  I hoped Connie got her pen back, out of justice, but I overestimated the thief’s willingness to take a chance to smuggle it out of the classroom.  I guess it was a nice pen.  And far as I know the amnesty deal was honored with no repercussions, and I don’t recall any rumors or people talking out of school who took Connie’s pen.  Far as I know there were no more fountain pens reported stolen in 5th grade that year.  I was glad nobody got slapped.  Seems we all went to disposable ballpoint pens by 6th grade.

I was optimistic the Kysylyczyns’ suitcase would just suddenly arrive at their front door, no explanation.  I also had a more sinister theory that the bag had been interdicted on purpose by Interpol or Homeland Security.  And not as a Heavy Bag per se.  Perhaps innocently, at first, a random baggage inspection, one in every so many many, seized and examined up close — routine, just happened to be the Kysylyczyns.  Or perhaps not so innocent, Sid and Michel were targeted for surveillance after all those years mysteriously undercover in Switzerland.  When Clara and Tess used to pretend to be Sky Kids maybe they weren’t really playing but acting out drama based on secret family baggage.  I never fully understood Sid’s job — I could see him as a secret agent.  That’s why I believed all that week the suitcase would simply arrive at their front steps.

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And then there’s my memory of the Swedish Fish and the Hokusai Wave watercolor.  My favorite non-chocolate candy is Swedish Fish, a fruity jelly chewy gumdrop cast in the shape of fish, scales and all.  In America they come in bright bold red, yellow, green and orange — lingonberry, lemon, lime, orange.  I buy them by the pound and hand them out, raised my kids on them and been dishing them to Clara and Tess since either had more than three teeth.  While in Switzerland the Kysylyczyns made friends with families who were Swedes and learned Swedish Fish were a real Swedish thing.  Visiting their friends in Sweden they discovered the candy there is more citrus and tart, and the colors of the flavors more translucent and pastel — in fact they call them pastelfiskar.  The American recipe is made by Cadbury, the Swedish recipe by Malaco.  After a visit to Gothenburg a few years ago Michel mailed me a package from Zug, Switzerland containing a rolled up watercolor on paper of whitecap waves on a blue ocean with Mt Fuji in the background painted by Clara after the iconic image by Hokusai.  In that package was a presumably generous share of Malaco Swedish Swedish Fish.

It can take a while for mail to travel between Switzerland and the United States.  It was meant to be a surprise.  In due time when I didn’t email Michel I received the package after about a month, she asked me on a Skype day if I’d received it and I had not.  It was disappointing but somehow easier to accept something getting lost in the mail than something like an airline losing a suitcase.  Then about a week later I received in the mail a manila envelope with Clara’s Hokusai watercolor in it, rolled up and rubber banded, intact if a little rumpled and wrinkled, no worse for wear.  The address on the envelope had been transcribed by another hand, and inside with the watercolor was the original mailing label wrtten out by Michel along with a fragment of the original package.  There were no Swedish Fish.

I told Michel when the suitcase eventually arrives to count the Swedish Fish.

At the end of the week there was a break in the case — the missing suitcase, that is — I never got that missing batch of Swedish Fish — maybe some customs agents thought it was a semi clever way to smuggle drugs, oh what a surprise — I complained to Cy my longtime mail carrier but all he could offer were condolences and sad acknowledgement he knew of postal workers abusing the mail.

Sid made contact with somebody of the lost and found ground services company servicing Icleandair at Reykjavik who said the suitcase had been located at the airport at Warsaw, Poland.

But of course.  Everyone Sid told the news said the same thing.  Of course it went to Poland, did not the luggage tag say Kysylyczyn — where else would it go?

Michel used to say that almost every time she went through customs at Amsterdam the agents would look at her passport and tease her about her name — Kysylyczyn?  Shouldn’t you be going to Poland, ha ha…

Sid accepted a vague assurance from his source at Reykjavik the suitcase was found at the Warsaw airport terminal and would be routed to Minneapolis, but nobody knew how or when.  That might be known after the week end.  Nobody seemed to know how it got to Warsaw.  Icelandair does not fly to Warsaw.

There go Michel’s jeans, I thought.  I let go of my pet spy scenario to allow for another fluke incident, although it opened my mind to possibilities of eastern European intrigue.  Could it have been on its way to Moscow, or Istanbul?  I always felt the Kysylyczyns innocent of western counterintelligence skulduggery and shenanigans — be it, we are all ambassadors when we travel — and now I wondered what sort of international mischief may be in play to divert this one of all bags to a place backwards from its intended route to a place which used to be known as behind the Iron Curtain, where the airline which lost the bag does not fly.  I imagined a plot.  Recalling a craze not long ago in eastern Europe, a craving for all things denim, I said to Michel, forget the Swedish Fish, kiss your jeans bye-bye.

Turned out Michel packed the Swedish Fish from her Swedish Swiss friends in a different suitcase.  We savored their tart sweetness while discussing our questions and our hoped-for answers while anticipating the bag’s arrival maybe Monday.

We celebrated Michel’s birthday — 39 years on this earth.

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Nothing Monday.  On Tuesday Sid contacted his source at Icelandair’s ground services provider IGS at Reykjavik and was advised to contact Icelandair directly because the bag was not in the hands of IGS and they had no more information than a notation in a computer case file that the bag had been located in Warsaw and might be forwarded to them in Reykjavik.  Or not.

Michel tried Nick at Sun Country at MSP and learned nothing.  She asked Nick to call somebody at Warsaw Chopin airport, but Nick said he had no authority to make international calls.  He advised her to file a claim with Icelandair for compensation.  It was as though he knew the suitcase was never coming back.  He advised replacing the missing items and expecting compensation.

She mentally inventoried what was in the missing bag.  Clothes.  The jeans — Michel always said she had to search hard to find jeans she fit just right, she had an eastern European figure descended from Czechs and German-Polish border people on her mother’s side — usually high-end shop jeans, more reason to expect the jeans were gone even if someday the bag turned up.  There was her make up, not that she applied much or needed to, it would still have to be replaced.  Toiletries, easy to replace at Target — they already had new toothbrushes.  The airline would settle by and by.  Tess’s stuffed animals would be mourned irreplaceable.  Sid valued his shaving kit bag, not for its contents — he was given to going bearded — but because it was a nice bag by Tumi presented to him by Delta airlines on a first class flight he took on business to Bangalore.  There were souvenirs and mementos from Switzerland, including a full tube of Thomy Mayonnaise a la Francais intended as a gift for me and Roxanne — Thomy is the eggiest most delicious mayonnaise on the planet and comes in a big tube like a family-sized toothpaste — when I learned it was among the missing I counted it gone with the jeans.

And all the Swiss chocolate.  Michel estimated enough pounds of quality chocolate bars to push the suitcase overweight enough to get tagged Heavy Bag.

No word that whole next week, no bag.  Sid and Michael fatigued at squeezing futile phone calls and emails during the business hours of their day jobs.  The girls mustered to go back to school the following week, the week before Labor Day.  Roxanne and I took an excursion to a cabin in the Boundary Waters with our son Vincent and daughter in law Amelie.  Everyone went about their normal way enjoying summer while it lasts.  The Kysyslyczyns planned to hit the State Fair.  I expected the suitcase would be resolved by the time we came home and reconnected.

If nothing else, I said on the phone to Michel before departing for the Boundary Waters where there would be no wi-fi or cell phone service, a big black Lada sedan will pull up to your house and a guy in a black suit will wheel your suitcase to your door and ring the doorbell.  I believe this belongs to you, I said in a dramatic Russian accent — Have a nice day — and with no explanation he’ll go back to the car and drive away.

Count your jeans.

Back from the glorious wilderness where you can see the Milky Way I learned the suitcase still had not arrived.  Frustrated as the week went by without word, Sid and Michel knuckled down and tried to contact anyone remotely connected with custody of the suitcase.  On a hunch inspired by IGS in Reykjavik, Sid contacted the lost and found office at Warsaw Chopin airport operated by a firm called Welcome Airport Services.  A person from the Arrival Services department told Sid the bag indeed had been in Warsaw but had been sent to MSP six days prior via Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  This person suggested the bag might still be in Toronto and to contact MSP lost and found.

The suitcase had not gone back to Icelandair at Flughafen Zurich airport the way it came but instead was put on a LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw Chopin airport to Toronto Pearson International airport, where Air Canada was supposed to bring it to MSP.  Six days ago.

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A consensus developed between the Kysylyczyns and their new airlines cohorts that the bag may be stranded in Toronto, but no one could give Sid or Michel a straight answer.  Michel learned that United Airlines handled baggage for Air Canada at Terminal 1 MSP so she called United on a hunch the bag might be stuck unclaimed at Lindbergh when it should go to Icelandair at Humphrey.  United declined to acknowledge either its knowledge of existence of the suitcase or any affiliation with Air Canada.  Air Canada denied possession of the bag.  Sun Country declined to offer any further assistance because more than six days had elapsed since the disappearance of the bag and all inquiries hence should be directed to the primary carrier, Icelandair — plus, this Nick guy was unempowered to call Canada.  Everything seemed fishier and fishier.  Is this how it gets when they want you to give up?

Finally a travel consultant from Icelandair contacted Sid by email and confirmed the suitcase had been indeed found in Warsaw and for a week been in process of being sent to MSP.  She suggested the bag might be stuck in customs in Toronto because of rules not permitting a US bag to be sent through Canada.  She advised Sid — if he had not already done so — to file a claim for compensation, hinting the bag may never arrive.  Not giving up hope, Sid wondered whether there might be a kind of quarantine protocol being imposed, a wait time.  The Icelandair agent wrote she did not know but would be in touch as soon as she received additional information.

After three more days of hearing absolutely nothing, I asked Sid and Michel if they would mind if I took up their cause and inquired into the case myself.  Sure, have at it, they said, knock yourself out.

With the girls back to school and no need for us grandparents to look after them while mom and dad went to work, I had a little extra time on my hands.  All along the story fascinated me.  I felt rather honored and delighted to get actively involved.  Michel forwarded me copies of emails between her and Sid and various reps of the airlines and ground services firms they had corresponded with the past two weeks.  I read them and also asked Michel and Sid about their phone conversations to get myself up to speed.

I started with Icelandair, the airline ultimately responsible.  I wrote a letter — an email in letter format — addressed to the travel consultant who last contacted Sid, four days before.  Her name was Lydia with a Reykjavik e-letterhead.  I chose to go to her first because she was last contact and her emails showed she knew the most up to date information and might confirm the history, and also because she expressed a sincere desire to make things right for the Kysylyczyns.  She seemed to authentically take the whole thing seriously.

I presented myself as a journalist writing a story about the lost suitcase.  I did not disclose that I am Michel Kyslysczyn’s dad because I did not want to demean Michel and Sid’s own dogged efforts to get the bag as if Michel’s Daddy Rides to the Rescue.  Instead I credited the Kysylyczyns for my research and asked questions about what happened and how, what would happen next, and if in fact Icelandair was actively investigating the case.

I recited what I thought I knew.  I asked whether there was a security protocol that a bag of luggage must fly on the same flight as a ticketed passenger — seemed fair from recalling experience at Amsterdam Schiphol airport and listening to the public address system paging passengers absent from their flights and warning them if they failed to show up their luggage would be removed from the plane (I did not cite my Schiphol experience in my letter, only asked the protocol question).  I essayed to be friendly and respectful and even said the purpose of my story was not to impugn the reputation of Icelandair or anyone who took part in the mistake but to find the bag and see it happily returned to the Kysylyczyns.  I signed it Sincerely and gave my phone number.

The next day I received a phone call on my home land line.  It was an overseas call with that land line clarity phone companies used to brag you can hear a pin drop.

She spoke in a continental accent, asked for me and said her name was Asta from Icelandair calling from Reykjavik and we proceeded to hold an entertaining and pleasant conversation.

Asta did not bury the lede and said straight up the suitcase was located at that very moment at Newark Liberty Airport, EWR, in New Jersey, USA.  An Icelandair handling agent at Newark was going to hand-carry the bag directly to a FedEx station at the airport where it would be shipped directly to the Kysylyczyns at their home.  She promised there would be no more flights.

Except on a FedEx plane, I laughed at her joke.  Caught awkward she said, “I hadn’t thought of that.  Iceland is such a small country I think of FedEx packages going by lorry, but I suppose you are right, one last flight on FedEx to MSP and then to the Kyslysczyns.”  She unhaltingly pronounced their name.

She had yet to reach out to them with the news.  She estimated the bag would arrive the next day and said she would forward the FedEx tracking number as soon as it was available.

We agreed two weeks was a long time to fly a lost bag from Warsaw to Minneapolis.  I asked how it got to Poland if Icelandair doesn’t fly there.

Asta explained:  Both Icelandair and another Icelandic airline called WOW Air share the same baggage baggage handlers at Zurich airport and she theorized the suitcase was mistakenly loaded on a WOW Air flight to Warsaw.  Discovered in Warsaw, the recommended remediation was to put the bag on a WOW Air plane back to Zurich to be flown on Icelandair to Keflavik airport in Iceland and then on to Minneapolis St Paul.  Matter of factly she said, “This did not happen.”

Instead somebody decided to put it on a LOT Polish Airlines plane to MSP via Toronto, Canada.  This was a problematic course since LOT Polish Airlines does not itself fly into Minneapolis St Paul.  She said she believed Air Canada was supposed to fly the bag from Toronto to MSP.  How it arrived at Newark was unknown.  LOT does fly directly from Warsaw to Newark.  Air Canada flies there nonstop from Toronto.

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Asta could not account for where the suitcase languished the past ten days.  Asked more about Toronto and whether it had been hung up in Canadian customs she sounded more cautious, not sure the bag ever went to Toronto at all.  She seemed reticent to declare whether the Canadians had anything to do with it.

I didn’t press.  We shared some joy that the suitcase was virtually home.  I sincerely complemented her customer service skills and thanked her (and Lydia) for the response.  I said all I ever heard about Icelandair were good things, that my son and his wife had anice experience flying Icelandair, and apart from the suitcase Kyslysczyns reported positive things about the hospitality and comfort.  I said I and my wife hoped to fly Icelandair some day.  To visit Iceland.  I said I’ve always been fond of Iceland from a distance.

Why? she asked.

I did not name-drop my old friend Eleanor Arnason the science fiction author of Icelandic descent, or John McPhee who wrote about Iceland’s volcanoes.  I answered honestly I had the impression the people were happy and friendly and I was interested in volcanoes, hot springs, rugged scenery, the midnight sun and aurora borealis.  Yes, she said, we have all that and barely four hours of daylight in the winter.

And then I mentioned one of my great grandmothers was born in Iceland.

Yes?  When?  Where?  What was her name?

Embarrassed, I fumbled the answers and apologized for my ignorance of my own ancestry.

Asta said, Iceland is a very small country with population 350,000 people and you would be amazed how connected and historical known many Icelanders are.  She offered to look into the Iceland database for me if I would send her some clues.

She said she would call the Kyslysczyns next.  She said she would forward me the FedEx tracking number and an email recap of her research into the suitcase.  A few hours later she emailed me to say due to the lateness of the hour, almost midnight in Iceland, she would not be able to confirm the tracking number until tomorrow.  She concluded by saying all her handling agents had responded to her requests and she had reached Ms Kysylyczyn and informed her of the status of the suitcase, and reminded me to send information about my great grandmother so she could help me research my heritage.

I regret I did not disclose my family tie to Michel Kysylyczyn.  I owe Asta that courtesy.

Meantime, right after Asta’s phone call I did not call Michel right away.  Part of it was to allow Asta to break the good news.  And I hesitate to call Michel at work — she’s a clinical nurse.  But I called Roxanne, who was working that day, because I needed to tell somebody.  Roxanne then texted Michel — call dad.  When she called me she hadn’t heard yet from Asta, so I got to tell her the news.

As she later told Asta on the phone, No offense but I’ll believe it when I see it.  They had a nice laugh.

That was a Wednesday.  Thursday passed with no word, no suitcase, no guy in a black Russian sedan.  No FedEx tracking number.  No Asta, no vista.  We decided to give one more day.

Friday late morning Michel got a call from someone at Sun Country Airlines (not the Nick guy) at the Humphrey terminal who proudly announced they had found her lost luggage and would be sending it to her by FedEx that afternoon.  He confirmed her address and estimated delivery around 6:00, the dinner hour.  Michel said the guy made it sound like Sun Country wanted to get the final credit.

A little before six Michel texted Roxanne to say the suitcase arrived.  Crazy eyeball emoji.  Then a photo.  Not long later we talked on the phone.  It came in a FedEx van.  Intact.  No external scars.  No stickers, just some tags on strings.  The contents undisturbed and complete — jeans, chocolate and Thomy mayonnaise.  Stuffed lovies.  Shoes and shorts.  Swiss placemats and magnets.  Tumi shaving kit bag.  All there.  The way it was.

Only it smells like airplane, she said.  What do you mean, I asked.  Like the atmosphere inside the cabin when you first board a plane, she said — times ten.

So I composed a grateful email to Asta confirming my knowledge the Kysylyczyns received their bag.  I complimented the ultimate result and feinted a suspicion the final stage didn’t go as planned.  She replied she had her own confirmation the bag was delivered.  She offered again to help me research the origins of my great grandma and wished me a good weekend.  A short while later she followed with another email composed of copies of email exchanges and chains between herself and colleagues the past two days illustrating how things didn’t go as planned at Newark airport.

According to the emails the suitcase arrived at Newark Liberty Airport on an Air Canada flight.  Icelandair lost and found service at Newark was alerted but before anyone could intercept the bag it was handed over to Delta airlines for a quick flight directly to MSP.  Delta flies into Terminal 1 Lindbergh.  Delta needed to put it into the hands of Icelandair at Terminal 2 Humphrey.  Asta and her North American counterpart got somebody at Sun Country to mobilize somebody across the tarmacs between terminals to claim the bag from Delta.  Once secured, Sun Country put it on Fed Ex.

Not a word about Canada.  Only a reference to an Air Canada flight carrying the bag into Newark but no reference from where.  No mention of Toronto.

In Asta’s own words in one of the emails to the Baggage Coordinator at Sun Country corporate headquarters:

So this is quite a journey that the bag has been on.

If that suitcase could talk.

At Michel’s house I examined it.  I read the string tags: one from LOT Airlines with MSP as destination via Toronto, and it had inscriptions in Polish referring to Warsaw Chopin Airport; a tag from Air Canada in red saying RUSH and dated fifteen days before its eventual recovery and showing origination from Toronto Pearson International Airport with destination to Minneapolis St Paul; a tag, also red, designating the recent Delta flight from Newark to MSP; and of course the big plastic FedEx bill of transport.

Could we obtain readable fingerprints — run them through Interpol and CODIS.  Could I run the bar codes from the airline tags — maybe take them down to Cub foods and try them on the self checkout bar code reader, or at Target where they have those price check scanner guns.

My latest fantasy is the suitcase decided to take a vacation.  Maybe it met up with another suitcase and they ran off to Poland.  Maybe the suitcase (please don’t call me bag) made friends among other expat suitcases all those years in the basement storage at the apartment in Switzerland and they all held a reunion in Toronto.  Maybe the suitcase reflected upon itself, skin now rubbed and beaten shiny black and its seams shabby, the zipper teeth unsure of its gnarly smile, maybe a wheel going weak, the handle stiff and cranky, and seeing its useful life coming near its end decided to take one last fling and get lost for two weeks.  Who knows, maybe the suitcase went all kinds of places unrecorded, wasn’t stuck in Toronto at all.

If only that suitcase could talk.

The Kysylyczyns have a story to tell.  They are pleased with the outcome, needless to say.  What’s more, Michel, inspired by my correspondence with Asta, has piqued new interest in our family tree.

I am the one thinking too much about the suitcase.  Roxanne and I experienced lost luggage on one of our trips to visit the kids in Zug.  Our checked bags did not arrive with us at Flughafen Zurich.  Nobody’s did.  The luggage conveyor system at Shiphol Amsterdam where we made our connecting flight from Minneapolis broke down and the luggage was left behind in Amsterdam.  We filed a claim at the Zurich airport along with everyone else.  We gave Michel’s phone number.  Next day the bags showed up at the Kysylyczyns’ apartment via courier as promised in a phone call that day.  Zug is about thirty miles from the airport.  It was all Swiss efficient.  We never worried.  The lesson we learned was to bring toothbrushes and so forth in your carry on bags just in case.

The suitcase led me to learn some things about the aviation industry, such as the IATA (International Air Transport Association) codes which identify all airports in the world by three letters.  MSP is Minneapolis St Paul.  WAW is Warsaw Chopin.  YYZ is Toronto Pearson.  Keflavik in Iceland is KEF.  Amsterdam Shiphol is AMS, Zurich ZRH.  Newark Liberty Airport is EWR.  Sometimes the IATA codes make no intuitive sense.

A guy at the Oyster Card shop at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) noticed on my passport I was from Minneapolis and he said to me, Mary Says Please — his Heathrow mnemonic for MSP.  There’s an international airport language.

I learned the existence of more regional airlines of Europe like WOW Air, LOT Polish Airlines, and another Polish airline which flies in and out of Warsaw Chopin called WIZZ Air — no evidence WIZZ Air had any connection to the Kysylyczyn suitcase.

By my count seven different airlines and five sovereign nations participated in its journey, counting Canada although our neighbor seems to want to remain anonymous.  Countless people somehow collaborated to locate and transport a single misplaced suitcase to its true destination in this world.

One suitcase.  Lost and found.  In the time frame of the Suitcase Saga, and just since, the greater world has experienced planet-stunning events.  Hurricane Harvey basted Texas in a barbecue of putrid stew.  Irma blew away the illusion of the good life in Florida and leveled society in parts of the Caribbean.  An earthquake rubbled Juchitan, Mexico, a place so obscure nobody knows where it is relative to Cabo or Cancun.  There’s genocide in Myanmar on the border with Bangladesh.  North Korea toys with a hydrogen bomb and sends missiles over Japan like bottle rockets over the neighbor’s house across the street.  There’s an opioid crisis within the cultures of pain.  Dreamers of a thing called DACA face mass deportations to countries unknown and foreign.  Wild fires storm the forests.  A volcano called Katla rumbles beneath Iceland and fixes to blow its glacier into the sky.  That’s not all.  That’s just the past weeks.  That’s just some of the bold headlines.

And yet a bunch of people collaborated across five countries to rescue one American family’s vacation suitcase.

Nicely done.  Thank you all.  Including the Canadians who would rather not be recognized — talk about a network of secret agents.

At the top of this story is a picture representing Icelandair.  This is how it sees itself.  Take a good look at it and imagine which character represents Asta and which one Lydia — probably not the one in red.

Nex year Roxanne and I plan to visit Iceland.  Fly a deal on Icelandair.  See volcanoes.  Hot spring thermal baths.  Mountains.  Fjords.  Midnight sun, or maybe northern lights depending on the season.  Perhaps by then we’ll know the origin of Michel’s great-great grandma, but if not we’ll make one up.  It’s a small and friendly country, they say.

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BK

 

My Last Confession Was

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I am sorry for all my sins

for farting in the barroom from all those gins

for teasing my sisters with safety pins

for making fun of fat girls with double chins

for stealing lunch money from the charity bins

for watching european girls sunbathe in their skins

for stylizing opiates after Ho Chi Minhs

I’m so sorry for all my sins

for barfing in the barroom from all those gins

for using cuss words at the Minnesota Twins

for tipping outhouses just for grins

for leering after ladies with alabaster skins

for criticizing Jesus in the church of Original Spins

for harassing muslims for growing out their chins

for kicking crippled old ladies in the shins —

just for grins

I’m truly sorry for all my sins

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BK

Vinegaroon

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Tear up your red shirts

Dress yourselves in bogaine

Cartwheels in hoop skirts

Alejandro Romaine

Call the bunny fundamentalist taxi

Ride until the meter hits maxi

Get that double bubble out of your mouth

Looks so rude like your soul’s gone south

 

Whoa whoa Black Saturn

 

Seal off the stand pipes

Wash your hands in turpentine

Misread the bold types

Swishing in the Serpentine

Loot the funny pandemonium outrage

Suck the wind and blow a power outage

Stand up straight and put your shoulders back

Be so bad like they cut you slack

 

Ooh ooh Black Saturn

Whoa oh Black Saturn

 

One of these days you’ll get your degree

You’ll have an excuse to set yourself free

One of these nights you’ll get a job

Carve a wooden knob, pick corn on the cob

 

Ooh ooh

 

Sign all your pictures

Hide yourself in plain sight

Wear Stafford t-shirts

Affect a smiling overbite

Picture sunny lights painted on darkness

Choose bon mots to answer snarkness

There’s an eclipse due high in the sky

It’s the moon and the sun, you won’t fry

 

Oh oh Black Saturn

Woo hoo Black Saturn

Oh yeah Black Saturn

 

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BK

 

 

The Shitheads

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Pronounced Shith-e-ads, it refers to adherents of a philosophy called Shith, named for Shitheus, a 2nd or 3rd century Roman mid-level territorial imperial governor of a region in Gaulius.  Corruption allegations did him in, accusations affirmed that he amassed vast land for himself, too much Gaul.

Any record of Shitheus and Shith philosophy survive today mostly courtesy of WikiLeaks and Wikipedia for their diligent digitalysis of historical research.

Among the basic precepts of Shith:

Always throw waste into the river.  Or burn it up into the air and toss the ash in the river.  Rivers flow to seas where the dumpwater disappears into the horizon where beyond there be dragons.  Let the dragons deal with garbage.

Never make peace, especially with allies.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer to the extreme.

Always lie.  Truth can be manipulated to conform to any point of view so why bother with logic and linguistics, just make up a story.  Never mind if no one believes you, the more reason to keep lying because if no one believes you there’s no recognizing a standard baseline for truth.

Political opponents should always be rounded up and escorted to a sequestered place where they may consort among their own kind and be kept apart from disrupting the social order with contaminating ideas.  Greek style athletic fields were ideal for places like this.  And rock quarries.

Only one religion allowed but several deities were recognized by the state.  Gods and goddesses were often submitted to the populace for popular vote, a Shithead scheme to foster a symbolic sense of republican democracy.

The poor of Shithead society were encouraged to eat their own children first before resorting to sell them as meat on the open market.

Slavery was common back then so it was assumed everyone not of the noble class could be enslaved at any time for any reason.  Essentially all women, even noblewomen, were slaves.

The official line of the Roman empire of the day was that the borders were boundless, nowhere beyond the pale, but Shith philosophy foresaw the eventual takeover of Rome by the Barbars, and Shitheus a couple centuries ahead of his time identified christians as the number one threat to the internal stability of the empire.  He himself predicted by a hundred or so years the eventual move of the imperial capital to Byzantium by Emperor Constantine, leaving Rome defenseless and in the custody of the pope and a few helvetic mercenaries.  Shitheus preached a philosophy that attempted to militarize the up and coming christians to defend the empire against barbars, franks, turks, moors, anglos, saxons, mongols and you name it, whoever bordered the empire.  Shitheus tried to get Jesus elected to the state sponsored pantheon of deities.

Abruptly at the height of power Shitheus was removed as territorial imperial governor and accused and convicted of high crimes and treason.  He was sentenced to be beheaded and his history erased after his writings were intercepted and purged by order of the emperor’s tribunal that found him guilty.  He escaped to a fringe hinterland.  In an ancient twist of digitalysis, his philosophy persisted to influence leaders for almost two millennia even though his name and reputation were officially stricken from all historical records, and any references to him by name or inference were buried by dark ages historians and scholars as false (fake) history, called the Myth of Shitheus.

Even fake history repeats.

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BK

 

Untitled

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Mother’s Day came and went like the walleye fishing opener.  Father’s Day will pass like Grandma’s Marathon.  Spring has arrived in Minnesota.

The neighborhood streets have been swept clean of the leftover winter crud just ahead of the annual tree bud, pollen, blossom and seed fallout from arboreal awakening.  Fallen blossom petals from boulevard crabapples tint the street pink.  Maples launch helicopters.  Natural litter.

I haven’t seen this phase of spring at our house in five years.  The past five Mothers Days we celebrated in Paris, Zug, London, Lake Como and Rome, all with our daughter and her family living in Europe, except last year when we planned to visit again but they moved home sooner than planned but Roxanne and I went to Europe anyway.  We would go away in April (air fare what it is if you go to Europe you might as well go a month) and return before Memorial Day to an overgrown yard (maybe mowed one time by our son Vincent to discourage wildlife nesting) and morass of weedy garden we fondly call the jungle.  We usually arrived in time to see our sparse gangly, spindly poppies bloom but too late for daffodils and tulips and usually missing out on the neighbors’ lilacs and the riot of crabapple.  We would pick up with the hostas, lilies and phlox.  Weed the weeds.  Catch up.  As Minnesota goes it’s already summer in progress by the time we came home.

This year it’s good to be here.  Instead of someone else’s spring — Vondelpark, Rigi, Tuileres, Hyde Park, Parque del Retiro, Parc Guell — it’s good to be right here.  Home.  Buffalo Acres.  The day to day of April and May.  Who knew we have six red tulips in the jungle, a pink one and one white?  We have a daffodil — yellow!  Pink peonies?  Really?  All the autumn and winter detritus removed a month sooner, weeds clear, those poppies are shorter and sturdier this year.  Roxanne sprouted zinneas, bachelor buttons, cosmos and sunflowers in a rack of indoor starter pots on the window seat last month and they transplanted nicely — Minnesota nicely — in the weeded gaps in the jungle flower beds.  Roxanne has thinned the rampant prairie grass and laid cypress mulch around the borders of the house and garage where the day lilies dominate.  We have pruned more bushes so far than we would usually do by mid-July, just to have something to do.

The birds are back.  The sun rises before six and sets after eight-thirty.  Yellow dandelions — by the time we saw the dandelions they were white puffballs.  And cute little purple flowers amid the grass — some call it Creeping Charlie but I call it Ground Ivy.

Meet my old friend Moe — Moe Delaun.

It feels more rhythmic this year keeping up than playing catch-up.  A month gallivanting around Europe then leads to a frantic catching up at home.  This year we’re pitching in at home at a relaxed speed.  When we were in Europe we sometimes talked about things awaiting us back home, well now as we do these things at a zen pace in real time we discover more put-off domestic details to attend to, chores and projects to undertake to pass the time and tidy up for the closing stages of life.  Poking in the garden gives me moments to remember and savor our travels and the places we’ve gone and not feel sorry for a bucket list of unfulfilled dreams.

Married 45 years next year Roxanne and I have lived a charmed life, simply put.  Our romance nearing fifty years goes like the eternal flame of the sun.

They say some men marry their mothers.  Not me.

Mothers Day reminds me every year how different they were as people, as women and as mothers.  About the only two things they had in common were each were strikingly good looking and both highly intelligent.

My mom passed away eleven years ago just a while after Mother’s Day and just before the Memorial Day weekend.  Sudden.  Heart attack.  Not quite 73 years old.  I used to cringe at the approach of Mother’s Day for its conflict between attention to my mom and the mother of my own kids, plus Roxanne’s mom and eventually our own daughter becoming a mom — for me it was like a holiday of anxiety like some people experience Thanksgiving.  When my mom died the liberation simplified Mother’s Day so much for me it was like the transformation of Scrooge.  I could pay more attention to the mothers I really liked, Roxanne and daughter Michel.  The past years in Europe gave the day an exalted and exotic status.  The more recent passing of my mother-in-law simplified things a little more.

This year for some reason I’m given to what Huckleberry Finn called the fan-tods, a melancholy bout of reflection.  I feel guilty I wasn’t nicer to my mom.  I wasn’t mean.  I just wasn’t nicer.

For example I never took her to Ireland.  It’s every son of an Irish descended American mother’s duty to take her on a trip to the Old Sod, but I resisted, put it on my much younger brothers Sean and Kevin who never did it either (though they came close, Sean went with her to Paris when he was in the Air Force stationed in Belgium, and Kevin once went with her to Hawaii to visit Sean, again stationed in the Air Force).  I knew deep in my heart I could not travel with her.  She was no Roxanne.

My mother’s name was Colleen Kelly.  She was known far and wide as Kitty.  Charismatic, she was regarded as colorfully eccentric to outright mad crazy.  Her grandchildren called her Mimi.

I was her oldest child.  Oldest of ten.  She called me by my middle name, Michael, or Mickey, and for the first four or so years of my life I thought I was Michael Sturgis and my nickname was Buff or Buffy.  You may wonder why my surname is that of my mother, Kelly, and not my father, Sturgis.  My father, Dick Sturgis, allegedly and admittedly named me Buffalo Michael Sturgis instead of Michael Kelly Sturgis behind my mom’s back, filling out and signing my birth certificate at the hospital while my mom reveled in the heroics of her labor and delivery.  He named me after his best friend in the world, a guy named Buffalo Denny, who died in a car crash in Michigan when I was about ten.  It was a hard loss for my dad to bear but he claimed he got over it.  As he used to say, none of us gets out of here alive.

Dad was Richard George Sturgis.  Dick Sturgis.  Dad loved his name was Dick.  Proud to introduce himself as Dick Sturgis.  Business card said Dick Sturgis.  He was a car salesman.

Sold Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Ford, Dodge, Plymouth, Rambler, whatever was hot.  Made a good living.  Always drove a big new demo.  (Mom always drove a late model Cadillac convertible.  With so many kids we needed a big car and mom refused to drive a station wagon.)  He loved selling cars, closing deals.  He worked usually six days a week, open till closing.  He would have worked seven days a week if Minnesota law allowed car dealerships to open Sundays.

He sold imports for a while.  As a joke one weekend to get Mom’s goat he brought home a demo Renault Dauphine, that of the two horns, town and country, honk honk, bee-beep.

Dad’s favorite story was the time he sold a Ferrari Mexico Coupe.  His friend Mr Denny, my namesake, had followed Dad into the car business and they worked together at Riviera Imports on Hennepin Ave.  Guy came into the showroom and fell in love with a scarlet red Ferrari 340 Mexico Coupe.  Didn’t have the cash and couldn’t get financed.  He offered a stack of utility bearer bonds.  Mr Denny was my dad’s boss, the guy my dad went into the office to okay tough deals.  They took the bearer bonds, drew up the papers and closed the deal.  Soon as the coupe was out of sight towards Lake Calhoun, Mr Denny and my dad took off downtown to find a broker by closing time to cash the bonds.  Turned out they were worth thousands over face value and earned them both the fattest commission ever in 1950s dollars.  Plus they heard from the customer the next day, called long distance from Albuquerque, he needed to order an engine because he’d blown the coupe’s engine doing 180 mph in the New Mexico desert on Route 66.

I cannot say my dad and I were close. Being the oldest kid meant I knew him the longest, not that I knew him well.  He was kind to all his kids, all ten of us.  Never laid a hand on Mom except in self-defense.  He simply wasn’t around much.  When he was around or we went places and did things together he seemed like a fun guy.  He was not our disciplinarian — no wait till your father comes home because that could be really, really late into the middle of the night.  He worked.  He hung out after work with his friends.  He played golf .  He drank.  He womanized.

Mom kicked him out for keeps when I was in 8th grade.  Kevin wasn’t even born yet.  I was 13.  Mom organized a ceremony, filed papers for the sheriff to evict him.  She might as well have hired a color guard.  In front of the neighbors.  My sisters cried.  Mom explained to us that Dad wasn’t around anyway, he might as well live somewhere else, we wouldn’t miss him.

She immediately went on a dating spree.  It lasted decades.  Years later when my sisters and I talked about Mom we imagined she was making up for the adolescence she lost married to Dad at sixteen.  Married at sixteen and not even pregnant.  Dad was eighteen.  Grandma Mary, Dick’s mother, tried to politely describe how hot Dick and Colleen were hot for each other.  Efforts tried to keep them apart — Colleen sent to boarding school, Dick exiled down to his uncle’s farm — but Colleen ran away from boarding school when the nuns kicked her out and she tracked Dick down at the farm.  Dick converted to Catholicism for Colleen.

There must have been some kind of fraud committed to get their marriage license.  Grandpa Kelly, my mom’s dad, was a lawyer and probably could have found grounds for annulment, but apparently he told Colleen, you made your bed so lie in it.

Their teenage marriage presaged the era of Chuck Berry and you would have hoped his song about the teenage wedding would come true:  C’est la vie say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.”

It took about fifteen years but ten kids later it all crashed.

Along with the divorce decree Mom took advantage of the court to change her name back to Kelly.  While at it she legally changed her kids’ names to Kelly too.  We were all minors awarded to her custody after all.  So I became Buffalo Michael Kelly.  At the same time she changed the youngest kid’s first name from Peter to Kevin.  If she was really out to get revenge on Dad I don’t know why she didn’t change my full name while she had the chance.

She called me Michael until I started kindergarten, when school insisted on calling you by your true legal name — no nicknames allowed, especially at St Simon of Cyrene.  My name exposed a sore point with my mom, the shame from the nuns and devout Catholics for not naming her child after a saint.  She faced this at my baptism and corrected herself by naming her next two Kathleen and Bernadette.  But with the fourth child she lapsed — there is no St Molly.  Or Kerry.  Sean may be a play on John, or not.  Then Meaghan, Heather and Mavourneen.  Then Peter, who within his first year would be Kevin.  All suddenly Kellys.

The real Kellys — Mom’s kin — didn’t like that though Grandpa Kelly was dead, Grandma was remarried and Mom’s only siblings raised Kelly were sisters and married, none left named Kelly except now Mom.  And us.

I did not mourn my loss of being named Sturgis.  I still don’t mind even though it divorced me from from my father’s heritage, sketchy as it is.  My Grandma Mary, dad’s mom, already had a different surname, McMann, having divorced my grandfather after WWII, remarrying and starting a new family, migrating to Ft Wayne, Indiana.  Her family name was Farmer, and since she only had a sister and her own father was an only child, there were no known relatives named Farmer.  They say my Grandma Mary’s mother’s name was Mueller, maybe Danish, born in Iceland and migrated through Canada.  My grandfather George on my dad’s side was pretty much a ghost, completely absent and uninvolved in our family — people said he was intimidated by my mom.  Mom said he didn’t like children.  I only recall meeting him twice when I was a little boy and don’t recall a warm, beguiling grandpa.  I think I resigned my dropping the name Sturgis less than disloyalty to a dad and his clan than going with the flow.  At thirteen my family fell apart and my life crashed.

Within the parish of St Simon of Cyrene our status imploded with the scandal of divorce.  Shunned.  Rumors raged about an affair with a popular parish priest named Father Kevin who abruptly got transferred across the archdiocese.  Mom was summarily and almost ceremoniously excommunicated from the Catholic Church, though she pretended she wasn’t whenever it suited her and she continued to take holy communion at other parish churches the rest of her life whenever she wanted to be Catholic.  (Dad was excommunicated too but couldn’t have cared less; Sundays instead of mass he could be found drinking coffee at the Krispy Kreme, smoking Camels and reading a paperback by somebody like Mickey Spillane.  The divorce relieved him eternally from Easter Duty and liberated him for more golf.)  I graduated eighth grade as Buffalo Kelly with transcripts from St Simon of Cyrene.  Mom enrolled me at the Academy of St Bernard high school, a college prep program, defying a perfect chance to integrate me into the public school system because my mom didn’t trust public schools, especially for her gifted eldest son.  Years later she told people I attended Stanford when I was actually at San Diego City College.

In a short time we lost our house to foreclosure and more or less got run out of town, the Sturgis deadbeats.  Exiled from our cozy suburban residence, we embarked on a series of commorancies — temporary places to live — in the inner city.

It could have been a fresh start.  Single mom, ten kids, an opportunity to prove something and do extraordinary things.  Instead we leaped headfirst down the rabbit hole of dysfunction.  Our mom could have organized us as the family who persevered and created a home culture of quality aspirations.  Instead she led us into haphazard anarchy treading down a mill of despair.  She wasn’t just a bad role model, she was no role model at all.  Oddly she preached the air of nobility when in fact she led us in the ways of the riffraff.

Lip service was paid to values of getting an education, practicing good manners, owning personal responsibility and treating others with respect and dignity.  No fungible guidance on how to behave.  Didn’t read to her little children.  No plan to sustain stability to survive and prosper as a family unit.  We could have been contenders.

I say “we” because I choose to accept some of the blame.  As the oldest child I failed as a leader of my siblings to set an alternative example and maintain order to our household.  I realize it wasn’t my role to be parent and guardian to my nine sisters and brothers.  I and my two next sisters, Kathleen, called Leenie, and Bernadette, and to an extent the next one, Molly, rather wise and street savvy beyond her years, all under the age of 16, formed an alliance to keep things going — laundry, housecleaning, feeding the little ones, dressing them, reading to them, in Kevin’s case (we still called him Petey) changing diapers — covering for Mom day to day while she was out gadflying and days when she barely got herself out of bed.  We used to have a cook and housekeeper helping us do chores, and now we did it all ourselves — good thing the kindly lady taught us how.  We couldn’t keep up.  We fell behind in school, except Bernadette who had priorities and was the first to crack and say, this isn’t my job.  We had no social lives.  No extended family.  No parents.  I gave up.

With a new name our family could have made a new life of at least above average prosperity if Mom had used her intelligence and personality, connections, peculiar tastes and talents to persevere somehow in basically raising her kids to, in turn, persevere in intelligent pursuits and develop talents.  Instead she burned every bridge, freaked out, played the victim, overdosed, told everybody to go to hell and we all squandered chance after chance to be normal.

Dad meanwhile drifted further away living his own version of the playboy life.  Hugh Hefner.  Frank Sinatra.  James Bond.  Vito Corleone.  He fought the divorce, though ineptly — Mom scorned him he didn’t fight enough, acted weakly — and lost.  He was delinquent in support payments from day one into eternity.  Mom had trust fund income from her late father’s estate, enough, my dad reasoned, to sustain a decent, average household economy if managed unextravagantly, in his opinion.  She schemed to deny him visitation with his kids because he withheld child support and spousal maintenance, so he held back making support payments because she had her own money and wouldn’t allow him to see his kids.  This went on forever, literally, which was long after Dad virtually disappeared from just about everyone’s life.

Within two years of the divorce Dick Sturgis left the Twin Cities in disgrace.  An accused swindler, known deadbeat, philanderer, boozer and cheat, he would say he was a sharp negotiator, shrewd businessman who played by the same rules as everybody else.  No criminal charges pending, he stayed employed somewhere, maybe despite his reputation, and maybe because of his notoriety, until the last year or so of his life, until his charm wore off and his health gave out before he even reached Social Security.

The time around my parents’ divorce was the unhappiest years of my life.  At first I refused to concede that it made any difference in my life.  I denied my parents had any real influence on me.  They fought so wickedly, there was promise of peace and quiet if they kept apart.  I used to secretly hope they would break up just to stop the fighting, and then when my wish came true and the fighting changed to something else, and I began to understand more what they fought about and realized they were trying to destroy each other with bad choices, almost deliberately.  I blamed them now for their selfishness, destroying our family making reckless choices.  I blamed them for corrupting me into believing that they were the adults who knew what they were doing.  I figured if Mom could gin up the confidence to get married and go on her own at sixteen, then surely I her gifted child of almost that same age (aided further along by technological advances of the 20th century — don’t think that didn’t figure in my judgment) with a little help could manage our household until Mom stabilized and things could get normal.

I had hope something good would come of the divorce but it kept getting worse.  Dad took off for Wisconsin.  Mom embarked on a series of boyfriend trips to places like Acapulco and Honolulu, escalating the dating binge which lasted most of the rest of her life, searching for her own Ari Onassis.  Maybe Dick and Colleen were victims of all that Free Love of the 1960s.  Maybe it was the epidemic of identity crises sweeping through the culture in those days.  Mom and I argued.  I would passive-aggressively accuse her of child abandonment and she would scold me for disrespecting her and telling her what to do, then slap my face.  Once I dodged the slap and she smacked a door jamb and told everybody I broke her finger.

Ultimately I gave up.  I ran away from home.

Somehow Mom finagled our new parish to subsidize my tuition to the Academy of St Bernard, an all boys school, but midway through my sophomore year the school was contemplating not having me back as a junior.  I was not gifted.  I got a job at a cinema, and with a little money of my own I stayed out late, came home when I pleased, hitch-hiked flagrantly, drank beer and whiskey.  After passing my driver’s test (in one of Mom’s boyfriends’ Grand Prix) I took up driving around in cars borrowed from parents of naughty girls, cruising the parkways in the middle of the night listening to the radio and looking for places to park.  I smart-talked adults.  I cut classes.  At St Bernard I got caught passing a pornographic poem about Adam and Eve.  When the principal — the Dean of Men, he was called — let me off with a warning, he impressed me with his milk of mercy when he stressed he would not inform my parents this time.  He didn’t know it would make no difference.

Dick and Colleen were way beyond this or any future wake up calls regarding the nurture of their kids.  We are fortunate indeed to not have ended up way worse.  Some of us wandered and the younger ones were virtually born into a wilderness.  We could have been devoured by predators or lost in the flood, all together or one by one.  As things turned out, we all outlived our parents and their mistakes without committing fatal mistakes of our own, unguided or unwittingly flirting with danger or bumbling into life ignorant and unaware of higher expectations or opportunities to do better.  Helped or hampered by white privilege, our family never came under investigation by the system of child and family protection.  Even if anonymously tipped off, the social workers were busy working welfare cases far more dire and egregious of abuse and neglect than our mere white trashy dysfunction.  Even white trash privilege offers expectation that a family like ours can figure it out and survive without bureaucratic intervention.

Two of us served prison time.  Both as advanced adults.  Molly went to the state pen in Pierre, South Dakota for repeat drunk driving.  Bernadette did time at the federal pen at Lexington, Kentucky for kidnapping a newborn infant from a hospital nursery in Las Cruces, New Mexico the year after our dad died.  Molly’s crime illustrates her stubborn sense of exceptionalism and the family propensity to alcoholism.  Bernadette’s is significant because she was the most accomplished of the ten of us, a masters degree in nursing and working on a doctorate in public health, and she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.  Her defense presented a case that severe childhood abuse caused her to have multiple personalities and an uncontrolled other and not the real Bernadette masterminded the kidnapping of the baby.  To prove her defense she presented a story of horror at the hands of our mom’s brutality and rage, and named me as Mom’s chief enforcer, putting us both on trial charged with driving her insane.  She expected Leenie and Molly to corroborate her stories and expected me to confess and testify, to get even with Mom and set her free.  We all had grudges against Mom but this was hardly the time or place to get even, so none of us were willing to go into federal court to condemn our mother just to help Bernadette skip the consequences of kidnapping a baby.  Of all us siblings, Bernadette was crafty and bold, one who had run away from home the furthest and maintained the greatest distance — some of us joke that she is our family’s only Only Child.  She told the US attorney our mom used to threaten to give us away to the Indians if we misbehaved.  She didn’t strengthen any bonds portraying us as a sub-trailer trash clan.  Her anecdotal fabrications and exaggerations weren’t far off the mark but they just weren’t true.  I for one spent hours with the FBI and US attorney being questioned in anticipation of being called to testify for the prosecution.  In the end the judge rejected the insanity plea.  She lost on appeal.  She served time.  She remains remorseless about her strategy, and the irony remains that our mother’s abusive and neglectful behavior probably did drive Bernadette crazy.  Along with the rest of us one way or another.

Delinquencies.  Depression.  Identity crises.  (Bernadette apparently had four.)  Therapy.  Drugs and alcohol.  Therapy.  AA.  Religion.  Two penal incarcerations.  Could have been worse.  No psycho killers.

Success stories?  Leenie became a special ed teacher.  Molly owned a roadside cafe in Deadwood.  Kerry is a manufacturing superintendent.  Meaghan a registered nurse.  Heather is a champion equestrian and runs her own cleaning business.  Sean enlisted in the Air Force right out of high school and retired to Florida as a Top Sergeant after 27 years.  Kevin, whom we still occasionally call Petey, owns a piece of a business that remanufactures manufacturing equipment.  Mavourneen is an office admin in upstate New York.  Bernadette practices holistic medicine under the alias Dr Lourdes Sturgis somewhere in west central Virginia.  All functionally employable, even me.

Dad eventually turned up a little over a year before Bernadette kidnapped the baby.  On a Greyhound from Miami, where he lived in Liberty City where he had a flophouse room at a sort of halfassed-halfway house after being released from detox, and where he wore two pairs of pants to keep his wallet and cash in the pockets of his inner pair, Dick Sturgis returned to the Twin Cities with a secret case of melanoma and an obviously bad liver.  Fired from his last job telemarketing hearing aids in south Florida for being drunk on the job and tipping over in his chair (lost the appeal on his workers comp case) he moved in with his father, who was long retired from the highway department down in Miami Beach.  Then Grandpa George died and his brother, my dad’s uncle Bob representing grandpa’s estate, kicked Dad out of the house.  When the time limit for his stay at the shelter in Liberty City ran out, he cadged bus fare to Minneapolis.

He moved in with his aunt, his mother’s sister, Aunt Winnie — for some odd reason we kids called her Aunt Weenie — rhymes with Leenie — behind her back.  She was a dear gnarly lady who loved to read fiction like John O’Hara, always sympathetic to us wild kids though she never did anything.  She lived alone and widowed in a senior high rise, well into her 80s.  Like Dad she liked to drink.  They chummed it up like it was some kind of old times.  Dad expired one afternoon in Aunt Winnie’s bathroom in a bloody mess from gastrointestinal hemorrhage induced by heavy drinking.  Aunt Winnie felt badly about it the rest of her days but laid some of the blame on me for not responding to a voice message she left on my home phone while I was at work, and when I got home he was already dead.  The medical examiner told me there was nothing I could have done, he was dead as soon as he hit the tile.

Mom paid for his cremation.  She also got his spousal benefits from Social Security.

Mom lived about fifteen years more than Dad.  It can be said that in the years after kicking the last of her brood out of the nest she settled down and took a semblance of control over the drama of her life.  Too late for us kids to benefit but by then none of us were dependent on her to survive.  At some point she began to depend on us, for emotional outreach, to reconstitute our past to reinsert herself into our own version of extended family and make herself know to her grandchildren.  She matured, showed some impulse control and discipline in conducting her personal life.  It may have been the influence of a boyfriend who actually gave her good advice she listened to.

During the wild years after the divorce Mom was shunned by her family as the black sheep — they actually called her that to her face — which by extension is why my siblings and I barely know our cousins to this day, and few of us remember our grandma on Mom’s side, or our aunts, Mom’s sisters.  We were all shunned — except Bernadette who got a job as an assistant au pair for one of our aunt’s neighbors — as bad influences on the cousins.  Only when Grandma died did Mom begin to reconcile with her sisters, but that did not include the rest of her brood — they called us a brood, and also a tribe and a pack.

When Grandma died in the 1980s Grandpa’s trust fund dissolved and Mom finally came into some assets.  A lot of us held our breath watching to see if she would blow her inheritance and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.  She bought a townhome — no kids — in a modestly posh suburb.  She got a reputable funds manager and attorney.  No longer living hand to mouth on the stricture of the trust income — Mom never worked except as a local fashion model when I was little — and dodging creditors, hoping God would provide, now she paid her bills on time, balanced her checkbook and filed back tax returns.  She got a part time job as a restaurant hostess to pay into Social Security.  She bought a Camaro convertible.

For a minute there I thought she might get her high school diploma and go to college.

It’s one thing to forgive your parents for not being perfect, but it’s another thing to let them get away with not even being good.  Good parents make sacrifices for the welfare of their children.  My parents sacrificed their children.  Mom would say she did the best she could, but I doubt it, I know she could have done better and she didn’t.  Rather than punish her and Dad forever in my heart I’m inclined to believe living well is the best revenge.

“Don’t judge me,” Mom would say, and I would judge.  “Buffy, God put you on this earth to be my son, not tell me what to do,” she said — when she called me Buffy I knew she was displeased.  And I would criticize.  She did what she wanted regardless.  It was all I could do to recognize being sucked into the same friction and spite that demonized my dad.

I lived with my dad off and on in my teenage runaway years, in Wisconsin and California before he dropped out of sight.  You could say I mooched him good.  I say we weren’t very close, didn’t confide in each other much, kept a certain privacy, but I observed him more than he observed me.  I did not want to be like him, suave and convivial gentleman as he was.  He was old school debonair.  A playboy.  Ladies man.  Sharp dresser.  Republican, even in the face of his socialist mother and aunt.  I did admire his taste in Aramis cologne though.  I even tried golf as a little kid, never got any good at it and never shared his game.  He never taught me how to rebuild a carburetor.  As I did with my mother, I eyed Dad from the perspective of of the inside outsider who thinks he knows too much, only with Dad I kept my cynical opinions to myself.  Let him do the talking about politics, not that I feared him I just didn’t need to bait him to hear him out.  I told myself there must be a universe out there that didn’t depend on fast talking wheeling and dealing.  We could talk sports but I did not appreciate his concern for the over and under, as I didn’t make bets.

When he would reminisce about my mom he was clear she was the love of his life.  They didn’t have ten kids from sleeping in a narrow bed.  There was cold resignation and willful detachment when he spoke about their past and sometimes he confessed he was glad it was over, like a stint in the army.  He said he thought it was the best for the kids he stayed out of their lives, kept things uncomplicated from the strife with Mom.  He accepted that Mom poisoned our minds against him as if he deserved it.  “You know Colleen,” he’d say.  “She always wins.”

When he eventually showed up the summer before he died he knew he faced some hairy eyeballs.  At our little memorial thing we held at my house with his ashes in the plastic bag inside the plastic urn, Mom acknowledged it took some guts for him to show his face and look us in the eye.  No one disagreed even as some testified they would never forgive him for ditching us.

When Dad reminisced about his old friend my alleged namesake Mr Denny, he would get chillingly unsentimental as he concluded reciting the facts as if he were a third party to their friendship, almost third person.  Yet in his blue eyes there was a glimmer of a persona who wanted to express uncharacteristic emotion, love and grief, that he rationalized away like he rationalized away his lost marriage and fatherhood.

Mr Denny had all the world going for him.  He was on his way to open his very own Chevrolet dealership in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The world by the ass.  Just out of Indiana, south of Kalamazoo, there was an accident and he died.  Back then we called them car accidents.  Today they are called crashes, as though there are no accidents.  Dad never ventured into the details of the crash that killed his friend, whose fault, only that it was a Sunday night, not especially late, and his friend was driving alone on a highway in Michigan on his way to open his very own Chevy dealership in Grand Rapids and bang he was dead.  That’s how my dad would tell it.  “None of us gets out of here alive.”

Mom on the other hand had an exquisite funeral at the Basilica, attended by everyone who ever knew her who was still alive (except her old night club friend Mona, who couldn’t get a flight out of Florida) and they tolled the bells at the procession out of the cathedral’s front doors and down the stairs to the hearse for Colleen’s last ride in a Cadillac.

I never took my mom to Ireland, or became a priest, but eventually I scattered her ashes in Galway Bay.  Best I could do.

The first time I saw Roxanne was at a Target store where I was standing in a checkout line to buy a Mother’s Day card for my mom and Roxanne was the Target cashier.  Roxanne was the prettiest girl I ever saw in my life.  Our encounter was purely transactional, overwith as quick as you can say $2.03, but I saw she wore a nametag with a dymo label — Roxanne.  So began the courtship of the mother of my kids.

Unless it was a Hallmark my mom would hardly read it, no matter how verbose the prose.  Other brands like American Greeting and Carlton cards to her were low class.  To tick her off I would give her cards from Papyrus and Shoe Box.

Roxanne and I don’t exchange cards anymore, just engaging glances and blown kisses.

We are better parents than my parents.  I know that’s self righteous.  I recall a time when I didn’t believe I would ever have kids, afraid I would screw them up.  (I also used to fantasize that if I ever had kids I would get a court order to keep my mother away from them so she wouldn’t somehow screw them up.)  I didn’t want the responsibility of misguiding a fresh life.  As it was, Roxanne and I were married five years before we had Michel and I was 30 when Vincent was born.  Roxanne deserves celestial credit for bringing about the best from our kids and evoking the best from me as a father.

Instead of exploring more Europe, running away from home to ruminate the past of western culture, making up for a lost education, catching up with things my parents were apparently unaware to pass on as important to know, this spring I’m staying home.  Memorial Day would be our usual homecoming holiday.  This year I’m already here.  Stuck in my own roots and history, struck by what informs my own character.  Memorial Day is officially to commemorate dead soldiers and sailors, but for me — it’s dubious whether my family tree includes anybody who served in the armed forces, though Roxanne’s dad served under Patton and her grandfather served  during WWI — I tend to include all the dead in my commemoration.  My parents.  My mother who died on a Memorial Day weekend readily comes to mind.  Memorial Day is like my own personal Dia de Los Muertos.  The past five years it’s been an occasion mixed with reveries of Mother’s Day in exotic locales with daughter and grandkids and jealousy that my parents didn’t raise me in Europe.  Or take me there on vacation.  Or send me there to college.  This year, at home this whole while, my fingers dirty with my own dirt, American soil, putzing in the yard and contemplating having this hundred year old house painted so it looks nice another ten years, it’s as much like Thanksgiving for me as Day of the Dead.  Nothing turned out so bad.  It is what it is, and if I’m unhappy I have only myself to blame.

I’m actually happy.

It doesn’t matter to me whether I am or am not remotely related to a fallen lieutenant who died at Little Big Horn — I don’t see how we could be related if the men in that family traditionally went to West Point — or whether my dad’s dad was named after George Armstrong Custer.  I am relieved I got through life without my name associated with a motorcycle festival although I could have drank and dined forever telling tall tales about being named Sturgis.

After my dad died Aunt Weenie told me my dad’s friend Mr Denny’s real name was Byron, Buffalo was his nickname.  It doesn’t change a thing.  No matter.

Whatever genetic combination that composes me, I am nobody’s copy.  Not even as much likeness as one tulip in the jungle one spring to the next.  No pretensions of noble blood of any tribe, there’s no tracing ancestors of my own at the empire capitals of Europe but rather to trace the paths of my descendants.  My grandkids could have been in Manchester to see Ariana Grande.

In its common context the term “American soil” is mostly used as something being defended, but it literally means the dirt in yards and gardens like mine.  I can guess that ten thousand, or one thousand years ago no wild peonies grew on this lot, or tulips, crocuses or daffodils, as it was not somebody’s lot back then but possibly a fen or a glen.  I am stuck with it now, the hundred year old house and it’s detached garage, but everybody has to live somewhere.  Ending up here is not so bad.  The neighborhood may only go back a hundred years but the culture of the people around this land goes back thousands and thousands, comes from a population of various people who in some way imported themselves and their ways from some other place than this continent except the aboriginal native people, who also have been said to first arrived crossing a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska.  On days like this.

My people are mutts.  We are a litter of mutts.  Woof.  Domesticated.

Hear the birds at dawn.  They chatter all day, birdsongs in tongues.  Bird rap.  Mating songs, call and response.  Later in the summer they won’t sing so much, so urgently, so all at once.

Another year.  Mothers Day.  Memorial Day.  Fathers Day.  I am a better parent than my parent isn’t saying much, their bar set so low.  This old homestead, my Buffalo Acres, is where my kids grew up.  Where I raised my kids.  I look around this place and I can see measures of memories of ways I was a good parent, a good father.

Except for once when my teenage daughter lit into me about risking all our lives for choosing to live in the ghetto, my kids have expressed no resentments against me or their mom, though they tease me from time to time about when I would cloister myself upstairs in the loft to write a book as if I lived up there with an imaginary family.

Michel is modest with verbal praise.  Vincent says if anything we were too nice and not strict enough.  That makes me feel good because I see what good people he and his sister are and what good lives they live, and I can proudly think my kids took advantage of parental too-niceness and turned it into a positive outcome.

In myself I see my parents, but not as a copy.  I like to think I see actualization of their best traits, my dad’s gift of gab, his memory and recall, his taste in clothes, and I admire in a strange way the cynical edge he used to perceive the world and yet he played along.  I catch myself and my brothers using mannerisms like his and wonder if it’s from our physical similarities, because neither Sean nor Kevin spent enough time with Dad to learn to imitate him.  One the phone my son Vincent sounds like the voice of Dick Sturgis speaking.

Mom comes out in all us kids, especially my sisters as can be expected.  I feel we are fulfilling her potential.  Bipolar as she was, when she was manic nobody could match her zest for life.  We channel her arrogance as self confidence tested by our own trials and errors.  My sisters who benefited from the assertion of feminist power in their lifetimes got no support from Mom, who clung to a biblical belief that women should always subjugate themselves to men, who believed mothers should not work outside the home and scorned her daughters for pursuing jobs and careers, who espoused ladylike behavior and despised feminist politicians, especially Hillary Clinton who wore pant suits.  Mom’s most admired women included Phyllis Schlafly, Anita Bryant and Nancy Reagan and she used to make fun of Eleanor Roosevelt for having a weak chin and buck teeth.  Michele Bachmann was her kind of gal.  I don’t know where Mom came to embrace arch conservative politics, maybe originating from her father, a corporate attorney, or her mother, a self-styled southern belle, but it seemed when I was a kid she raised us as JFK liberals.  After the divorce she veered off towards Billy Graham and consorted with evangelical partisans and bible study conservatives.  She had a crush on George W Bush, thought he was one handsome devil, and one can only speculate what she would think of our current president.  She didn’t live long enough to see Barack Obama coming, but she was always on guard against Hillary Clinton — it was almost funny how Mom saw her as an archvillainess, and when we wanted to mess with her we only had to mention Hillary Clinton’s name.  It’s unfair to wish our mom had been like Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem, or even Aunt Weenie or her sister Grandma Mary, but Mom had ample chance to catch on to progressive politics but chose not to go there.  In some ways she benefited from feminist cultural changes in her lifetime without supporting the cause, like getting the wages without having to join the union.  Still, my sisters benefit, Roxanne, my daughter, and my grandchildren benefit from the gains women have made in modern society in my lifetime and fulfilling potential my mother did not dare to develop.

My daughter Michel has some of my mom’s good looks.  I see the future there.  I see my mom if she had gone off to college and worked for a living, had a good life and dear marriage without so much drama and baggage and still have an interesting life.  If my mom had had a good mother, and she did not.  As I aspired to be a better parent than my mom, I see Michel and Sid trying to be even better parents, and that means the cycle of generational dysfunction is broken, I am confident of that.  The last thing I want to teach my grandkids is that it’s normal to disrespect grandparents.  Same with my own kids who grew up around Mimi and formed their own impressions of the Kelly matriarch without the help of my exposition, and I am chuffed that they remember her with kindness.  It was only recently, maybe when she was living in Europe or just after she got back, it dawned on me Michel’s voice sounds like my mom’s.  She may have inherited Mimi’s vocal chords, or maybe my sense of hearing is adapting to my memory, but I hear my mother’s voice in my daughter.  That comforts me.  It recalls a time in my life when I was unconditionally loved, when I was Michael or Mickey.  It echoes what my mom sounded like if she were a mom like Michel.

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride, my dad used to say.

If Michel ever calls me Buffy I know I’m in deep trouble.

Taking another quote out of context, William Faulkner’s, “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”  Funny when you come across a saying like that in your mind when you’re pruning yews.  Looking at the house and eying it up for a paint job that might last another ten years, I should live so long.  Past.  Future.  Now.  Dead.

Mom’s heart gave out in the ER of a Colorado trauma hospital.  She was not alone, Leenie was with her.  Mom was visiting Leenie on a long weekend — just because you moved away from Minnesota you didn’t get to avoid Mom, she would come visit you.  Mom had a heart attack at Leenie’s, and Leenie drove her to the trauma center where she died.

I got the call about 3:30 in the morning.  It came as quite a shock.  Everybody knew Mom had cardiac risk — her father died of a heart attack at the age of 59 — but it seemed Mom possessed an eternal flame, nobody saw it coming, herself least of all.  She seemed immortal.  She lived like she was a goddess.

Eleven Mothers Days Memorial Days ago.  We all realistically believed Mom would age into gradually degenerating health but live long enough to spend all her assets on palliative care.  Not so.  We thought we would end up looking after her like she never looked after us, and in one night we were orphans.  If it took our entire lives to get over our miserable childhoods, in one night it was all over, no more Mom to bind us, no more need to think of Mom in the future tense, she was suddenly past.  Part of my grief was dealing with feelings that it was the best thing that ever happened to my sisters and brothers that they were suddenly free, but I dared not say so.  All these years hoping Mom would finally get fixed, love us the way we each wanted to be loved, behave in a manner that did not embarrass us, stop ragging about our flaws, accept boundaries and respect our privacies, in one night everything was solved.  No more recriminations.  No more need for a fix.  It tells me something that nobody called me to remember her passing.

All caught up with yard chores in time for a rainy day.  The atmosphere here at the 45th parallel trends warmer overnight even as the days are not too hot, a hard freeze way unlikely.  With atmospheric changes come storms, but the air is stable today if damp.  The forecast says partly sunny.  It’s amazing how lush and green the vegetation is this year.  Like this is how everything always should be.  Equilibrium.

Serene.  In the canon of faith based recovery programs is a philosophical gem they call the Serenity Prayer.  It essentially asks of oneself to accept what one cannot change and to take courage to change what one can, and hopes for the wisdom to know the difference.  It’s that last part, knowing the difference, the wisdom part, where I stall.  Ruminate.  Look for the secret patterns.  Where does responsibility begin and end?  What is courage?  The weather ball is green — no change foreseen.

If not change, at least there is maintenance.

I have been blessed with a charmed life.  Graced.  It’s about what comes next — I’m getting old now, chronologically.  In percentage of life expectancy I can say I’ve already lived most of my life’s adventure already, yet I’m in a place where I can pick and choose the quality of what remains.

If this spring is different from others it’s the observation of the full passage of the season, a culmination of an era rather than a beginning.  A reverse of autumn, un-fall, this spring goads me to look backwards and inwards for something to link myself, some kind of unified field theory of my existence, an internet of things about myself, a je ne sais quois, something that defies words but is not a new beginning but defines what is.  That’s apparently all I ask.  I would like to see Grand Canyon again.  And Eiffel Tower.  No going back in time, I go there in my mind, and if I go again it will be new.  Somewhere in my memory bank is my long ago childhood, someplace not lost, noplace to return.  Lessons learned.  What I look forward to is summertime and I’d rather not start the cycle over with amnesia.

BK

Nanny to Daddy State

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100 days of what?

It’s a sexist meme but let’s look.

Interest in a book called “The Fourth Turning” arises from a general fascination with cycles.  We happen to live in exciting times.  As is the appetite for explanation of the Now, let’s play along.

The Nanny State takes care of its citizens.  Wipes their noses.  Examples in the United States abound.  Social Security and Medicare.  Workers Compensation.  Section Eight housing.  Title IX.  Title X.  Unemployment insurance.  Public Assistance, aka Welfare and Food Stamps.  Medicaid.  Obamacare.  School Lunch — some would argue public education in general.  Public transportation.

Fringe conservatives, neocons, freedom caucusers, alt-rights, anarchists, libertarians, illiberals and other extreme thinkers opposed to state sponsorship of a caretaking society may name countless more such examples, but these are the commonest sore spots thus conspiring to undermine independence and individual initiative and purge self-reliance and reliance on God from human character.  Make that American character, as in America first.  These are the institutions of the state said to engender fatal dependence upon the state.  People get accustomed to having their noses wiped and others object to paying for and enabling the snot rags.

Critics of the Nanny State, or Welfare State, argue the social inefficiency of liberal social engineering as failed strategy creating more problems than it has solved.  Where such governments show actual success at achieving measurable social harmony along with maximum human rights, such as nations of Scandinavia, it is roundly pointed out the economic costs to each country’s GDP putting the average standard of living at beneath American middle class standards of aspiration, and cost a lot in taxes.  It’s always the taxes.  Sometimes it’s the social engineering’s fault but always it’s the taxes even where liberal policies work.  The taxes and the national debt.  It’s a matter of conservative principles.

Europe gets credit as incubator of nanny states.  England gets most scrutiny, perhaps due to its constant democratic self-examination, but France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Spain all get faulted for providing too generous benefits to its citizens and residents.  (One is not sure where Switzerland fits.)  Not a failed state among them.  None a perfect democracy.  All one time world empires.  If the common nanny state emerged here in Europe as a form of social contract responding to the aftermath of World War II, it certainly asserted a collection of ideals going forward, learned the hard way, how to form humane democratic states.  Americans might like to think the Marshall Plan influenced this outcome.  It’s this humanity now under attack for having open borders, resettling migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from inhumane conditions.  A grand mass migration of people is occurring and it frightens people to see infiltrators in their space.  Who can blame these migrants for seeking a good life?  Blame the nanny state for generously subsidizing more vagrancy and the erosion of national culture.

In America the nanny is about to get fired.  Sacked.  Given the shoo.

The seminal importance of “The Fourth Turning” is like similar popular obsessions over the Book of Revelations (and its offshoots like the Left Behind series) and the writings of Nostradamus (Alas, Babylon) to divine prophecies that define or self-fulfill current events.  The Heisenberg theory applied to history, it can be entertaining.  And can stimulate serious discussion and evaluation of cycles and trends on the planet occurring before our very eyes.

The sociopolitical meme appears to be turning from Nanny State to Daddy State.

The archetypal strong man takes over to rule over the unruly disorganized overly democratic masses in order to bring stability and ostensibly prosperity  and security to the nation — what people really want.  The strong man promises ultimately to grant what best for the people.

This is hardly a new method of governing — as old as tribal humanity.  See it in the animal kingdom.  The empires of the ancients.  Sovereigns of Europe. Popes.  Genghis Khan.  Kublai Khan.  That Napoleon thing.  Adolf Hitler.  Lenin and Stalin.  Chairman Mao and Uncle Ho.  Chiang Kai-shek.  Idi Amin and Moammar Khadafy.  The Ayatollah.  The Shah.  Fidel.  Pinochet.  Hugo Chavez.  Rodrigo Duterte.  Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Kim Jong Un.  Bashar al Assad.  Vladimir Putin.

A patriarchal pantheon.  In addition one hesitates to classify emerging statespersons such as Marine Le Pen, but perhaps she will not matter.  More difficult to classify Theresa May — maybe so, maybe not.  Angela Merkel comes from the nanny school.  One has an even harder task classifying the likes of Queen Victoria, Cleopatra, Indira Gandhi or Catherine the Great, so I’ll stick to focus on clear Daddy State regimes.  What would the sands of Arabia be like without the Saudi monarchy, after all?

America’s classic strong man was FDR , and it is ironic FDR is credited for creating the American nanny state.  Barack Obama, among other firsts, was perhaps history’s first male nanny.

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The American fuhrer, Donald Trump, President Hump, is now more than 100 days embarked on his mission to remake the country in his own image and likeness.  Fuhrer knows best.  Don’t question him.  Don’t doubt his authority.  You can get disinherited.

He rants like a drunken abusive head of household come home from bar closing.

He never laughs, certainly not at himself.  Can’t take a joke.

He brands the news media as the enemy of the people.  Wants to manage the news, control information, invent facts, and subverts the common practice of issuing press releases through a press secretary by posting Tweets and tossing non-sequiturs like bon-bon bon mots at the tourists.  When quoted he complains the news is fake.  His press secretary has no credibility but no one else wants the job.  Faker or fakir?

A recent ranking of countries by freedom of the press placed the United States somewhere in the 40s.  Seems modest.  Maybe we don’t wish to brag but America enjoys a delicious and generous quality of press freedom, how else a bumpkin like me gets a website much less President Hump himself uncensored license to spout gibberish and expect to be taken seriously.  In another country he might be in jail or assassinated.

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He skipped the White House Correspondents annual dinner, a traditional convivial roast fest which might have got ugly if he had shown up, if nothing else in memory of Don Rickles — remember, the fuhrer never laughs and can’t take a joke.  Instead at that same moment in real time he hosted a rally in the capital city of Pennsylvania where he addressed a hippodrome worth of avid admirers for about an hour, denouncing the media, promising jobs and health care, thanking the armed forces, winking at China and vowing to build a border wall against Mexico, rousing his crowd all frothy and sublime until you can almost hear them chant, sig heil.

Witnessing this display for any liberal must have felt like being in the Moral Majority in the 1970s if Hugh Hefner were elected president.  At least Hugh Hefner read books.

There’s a bunch out there who call themselves The Resistance.  Who might they be?

Most opponents of the fuhrer can take heart knowing there is evidence of fair mindedness and reason across the land.  The numbers of his fans are not increasing, despite what he thinks, and as he turns to his fans for another rally fix he’ll find it’s the same old mob, time and time again.  That may be as well, it helps identify the grievous among us.  He has no new ideas.  He attracts no new converts.  He will alienate the rest and bore the brightest.  He’ll fib his way along.

There’s a card carrying GOP Hoosier Daddy named Mike Pence working in the wings, just in case.

Meanwhile there no ignoring the fuhrer and his inner circle deconstructing the administrative nanny state and reconstructing a daddy state in its place, regardless of unpopularity, under scrutiny of the free press, against all professional advice, contrary to science, in the face of academics, no matter what anybody says including boomers and millennials, or even Congress.

He doesn’t care if Congress passes a bad health care law as long as it fulfills his promise to repeal Obamacare.  It’s a win for him.  So now he objects to the ACHA (American Health Care Act) being dubbed Trumpcare, and rightly so, it’s fake, he is Trump but he does not care.  Humpcare.

See how Trump admires dictators.  He praised Putin during his campaign.  He hosted El Sissi.  Invited Duterte.  Erdogen visits in May.  Says Kim Jong Un is a “pretty smart cookie” he would be “honored” to meet.  You almost wouldn’t be shocked to hear him say for all he knows Assad and Hitler weren’t such bad guys except for the poison gas, they just had a rough time trying to rule their countries under duress.  When more truth comes out about Russian election meddling you can expect to hear him say the Russians have proven there is no such thing as democracy.

The Russians always lie, so no one on earth believes them, so they lie.

One thing a majority of citizens approve of is the fuhrer’s actions as civilian commander in chief of the armed forces, namely his missile blitz against Assad.  One badass daddy licks one bad daddy.  Well staged.  He said in his campaign he had generals, and he has generals.  (Mike Flynn was a general.)  In a few weeks he will tour the Middle East, his first venture outside the USA since being president.  Will he attract throngs?  Will he simply meet heads of state beyond the view of the public eye?  What kind of mischief can President Hump stir up outside our borders?  Should we allow him back in?

I’ve been to Belgium, and it is not a hell hole.

He just said out loud it might be a good idea to have a shutdown of the federal government in September.  Like it’s a cleansing exercise at his daughter Treblinka’s spa.  Teach us all a good lesson.  We’re all grounded until we shape up.

In his faux state of the union speech, which stands out as his most reasoned address to date, the fuhrer spoke of a new chapter for America.  We should have known he meant Chapter 11.

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Chapter 11?

He’s a real estate guy.  His universe is built on leverage — borrowed money — mortgage loans secured by minimal collateral, sometimes unsecured or undersecured.  Big debt.  You know he won’t release his tax returns because he’s leveraged way over his ears, and the parties to whom he’s indebted would not surprise you and yet blow your mind.  Nothing illegal but blatantly oligarchic for someone passing himself as a man of the people.

In the immortal words of Aretha Franklin, who’s zoomin’ who?

Show us your golf scores!

Did I hear right, he referred to Sen Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas again at the NRA convention?  He’s truly run out of material.  Look back at the early days of the GOP candidate debates and you see Donald Trump emerge and set himself apart as a stand up comic, campaigning as a right wing Mort Sahl.  Oh if it were funny…

The fuhrer’s chief of staff called the 9th Circuit Court “going bananas” for its rulings against Trump’s proclamations against immigration and withholding funds from cities.  The court system is the administration’s opportunity to further slip on a peel.  It would be justice if Gorsuch turns out to be a stricter constitutionalist than the fuhrer intended.

Can Hump really roll back Obamacare by proclamation?  Rescind national monuments?  Get away with licensing the pollution of air and water?  Condemn the planet to antiscientific global disintegration?  Force our children to eat coal?

If he were a smart daddy he would come up with new material, fresh angles, ideas he can pitch as ahead of the curve.  So he promised to build a border wall coast to coast against Mexico.  He could say, I’ve been thinking about the wall and I came up with this fabulous idea.  It’s going to be an invisible virtual wall, this wonderful high tech border wall made of the most state of the art lasers and wi-fi and microwaves and drones and satellites, the most imaginative engineering and physics you can imagine.  Why spend all that money on brick and mortar that can go to infrastructure projects?  Why waste rebar?  Why go through the hassles of aggravating land owners over eminent domain, or the blockage of the Rio Grande, the scenic blight, environmental pollution, the inevitable hassles in the courts, when we could build a virtual wall and achieve state of the art security with 21st Century technology at much less the cost, more quality for the money I tell you.  And since the technology works both ways, maybe Mexico would offer to chip in!  Believe me.

No, he won’t see it that way.  He’ll go on conniving with his henchmen more ways to dupe the country.  He’s no visionary, he’s a con man, pure and simple.  His most telling metaphor is his tried and true rally staple recitation of the entire lyrics of the song “The Snake”, as he did again to close with huge fanfare his 100 days at Harrisburg, PA.  He presents it as a parable of how kindness to immigrants will turn and bite us.  In reality he is the snake.  He never hid his true nature from us.  We knew all along he was a snake.

The drama of the Hump presidency unfolds with absurd surreal majesty like a pageant of the Emperor’s New Clothes meets the Pied Piper of Hamlin.  Salvador Dali, who had a green card, would be LOL.  Call it the Dada State.

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So where’s Mama?

BK

Crybaby President

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What have we done?

What do we do next?

The first question ruminates the words of Paul Simon from “The Boxer” —

“A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

A woman too.  As for the disregards — to regard comes from a visual root, to see something, which suggests a reference to the song “Magic” by Bruce Springsteen:

“Trust none of what you hear, less of what you see, this is what will be, this is what will be”

People say we get the government we deserve.  A fine-tuned machine, by one account.

We have elected the most charismatic and mercurial egomaniac to emerge as a public figure in our lifetimes the President of the United States.  We elected him.  He won.

A man who campaigned relentlessly for xenophobia, nationalist anarchy and anti-intellectual demagoguery got elected fair and square by the free voting electorate according to the law of its beloved Constitution.  This was not a putsch or a coup.  This did not come about by mob rule or insurrection.  Not by ballot fraud.  This was accomplished by a year-plus campaign culminating in a free election.  Donald Trump.

Who voted for this guy?  These people are fellow citizens to be reckoned with.  These people have hopes and desires, demands and expectations of the new administration to act on their behalf.  What do they want?  What will Donald Trump deliver?

A large swath of conservative people voted to rid the executive branch of the liberal party, at whatever cost.  They do not see liberal values as progressive in the right way for the country or the culture.  On the contrary, they see the social goals of liberals as a form of tyranny.  Regulations of food, air, water, weapons, energy, property rights and business practices all impede freedom, they say.  Political focus on the civil rights of minorities makes some citizens feel uncomfortable and left out.  Dispossessed.  Counter disgruntled.  The government spends too much money, and everywhere it’s wasted, especially on social programs.  Taxation isn’t fair.  Immigrants are social liabilities who either steal jobs or soak up welfare benefits.  Compulsive health insurance is government socialized medicine.  Global trade kills jobs.  Gangs kill cities.  Liberals aren’t nearly tough enough on gangs.

Theses are some of the mainstream things I hear why voters went GOP this time, if not wholeheartedly for Donald Trump.  Already discussed is the influence of digitalysis — the collection of private cyber data for unauthorized publication — contributing to the upending of Hillary Clinton and much attention to efforts of Russian operatives to spin it against her campaign.  Americans are loathe to concede their free choice could be compromised by Russian propaganda, but they received fair warning it might be coming from Donald Trump himself when he previewed the suggestion in a presidential debate the Russians should hack Hillary Clinton, suggesting there might be something there — something like what, a link between pay-for-play with the Clinton Foundation, the State Department and the Trilateral Commission.

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Hillary Clinton to her eventual discredit campaigned like a nerd girl running for student council.  She remanded a linear campaign focused on platform talking points of liberal and progressive goals.  The moral highground seemed obvious.  It seemed obvious to her that human rights — children’s rights, women’s rights, the rights of asylum seekers and the poor and downtrodden of this world — should be of greater concern than the petty complaints of white privilege.  It seemed obvious to her of the certainty that she represented the virtues of being on the right side of history.

How prescient when one of the few times she broke character debating Donald Trump she called him a Russian puppet, and the two of them bantered back and forth like second graders:  You’re the puppet, no you’re the puppet.  Puppet!

I know you are but what am I?

Hillary Clinton failed to define herself as someone who would make America greater.  By default we get a president who won’t even accept he won.  Even if he does, would it make the criticism go away?

The president is a crybaby.

He disrespects his own office.  He disrespected his candidacy, his opponents, the electorate and the institutions of his country.

It’s all about him.  Were he a poet he could claim poetic license, but his verse rings rank and foul with unholy lies and half lies.  He said in the campaign, he’s the only guy who can.  He’s a brand.  An entity.  He’s going to makeover this country in his image, combover America with dyed hair.  Of course he has a plan, an unbelievable plan, an agenda, it’s his plan, his agenda.  Did he not speak plainly enough in his campaign?  How many quotes back do we need to go?

He built a fan base out of a cult following of people who admired his behavior and that he told it like it is.  His most admired quality besides being rich is that he says outrageously rude things and gets away with it.  He has no pretense of political correctness and people love that.  He hijacked the Republican party and stole away the Tea Party and the GOP sold its soul to put Donald Trump in the White House to push conservative legislation to downsize government, except the military.  So far Trump’s populist base favors the results so far from Congress, but the fan base might not see enough loyalty from legislators who may sense the President is playing them with shenanigans.

There used to be a caucus called the Liberal Republicans.  Dick Nixon was considered one when he was in Congress.  Nelson Rockefeller was one.  In Minnesota we had Senator Dave Durenberger.  Today any politician with a trace of liberal philosophy has been chased out and exiled from the GOP, sometimes turning up as independents, like unradical unleftist Democrats often do.

Donald Trump is his own guy.

Doesn’t need the party.  Doesn’t need Congress.  Not the intelligence community.  Not the courts.  Not polls.  Not the Fifth Estate.  He just needs fans.  That’s why he continues to campaign.

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The people who voted for him include significant numbers of people who voted a straight ticket and crossed their fingers and only thank their creator that the Devil Witch didn’t get elected.  There’s that “Thanks Obama” punchline, people who politically oppose the Dems for being Dems.  Most of them would say they would have preferred Lyin’ Ted or Little Marco or Rand Paul, but they would rather give Donald Trump a try than trust Hillary Clinton.

The population who voted for Trump who puzzles me are the women.  Aside from the many straight ticketers who could not abide Hillary, who crossed over the gender line to endorse this so-called sexist pig?  This beauty queen trafficker.  Deprecator of Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly and Elizabeth Warren.  Vilifier of Rosie O’Donnell.  Bragger of grabbing coochie.  There must be a lot of female voters out there attracted to Bad Boys, especially rich ones.  Is it like the women who write love letters to guys in a penitentiary they don’t even know?  For some women Donald Trump is like an outlaw rock star.

Bad Boys, Billionaires and Bigots.

Fascination for being rich enthralls people.  It follows that the envious and the emulators support Trump’s enterprising attitude.  In the event they too hit the big time they don’t want to pay taxes either.  They want to keep secret accounts too.  When the illegal immigrants are gone then the poor can get kicked off welfare to take the vacated jobs.  For some people the middle class is just a stepping stone.  Nothing gets in the way of making money.

The portion of the people — yes, they are people, as in We the People — who elected Donald Trump who concern me the most are the ones Hillary Clinton called a basket of deplorables.  The basket.  In another rare spontaneous wisecrack she defined an estimated half his supporters, which in sheer numbers is one big basket.  He draws rallies like Billy Graham.  There’s people who would take a grenade for the guy.  Donald Trump could literally shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and they would still love him, and he knows it.  Talk about a cult of personality.

Every time I see him give a speech I hear jackboots in the background.  Every Twitter rant sounds like marching orders, coded signals to get ready.

Even if the estimation of half his voters is way too high, the deplorables — not to confuse with Les Miserables — are the very ones the crybaby is appealing to, whom he’s been addressing all along, who identify his message as their own and would carry out deplorable acts to get their way.  In the name of their demigod, Donald Trump.

This is why Donald Trump worries me, he has had such success projecting his personality on American society by guessing right at reaching the lowest common denominator.

His latest conceit, that a “sick” (sic) President Obama tapped his phones, is so believable among the birther mentality we could see a demand for a special prosecutor to look into innuendo that the surveillance ran through Hillary Clinton’s server.  Then we’ll learn it was hacked by Russians and intercepted by the NSA, CIA and FBI then leaked to Wiki.  Digitalysis by the numbers.  If the DNC had actually hacked Trump’s tax returns don’t you think they would have been leaked by now?

Yes, we vetted him over a year and elected him anyway — well almost three million fewer of us than voted for Hillary nationwide, but he won by electoral votes.  Not a landslide, but he won.  What do we do now?

Somewhere in the scheme of things we owe ourselves an examination of conscience.  In each our own lives we first have to reckon what kind of person we are and want to be.

Then we have to look after our families and communities and recognize our common affirmations.  We need civil dialog as we strive for solutions to social problems.  We need to make the effort to stretch our understanding of others of a different mind to arrive at common enlightenment.

To be specific to Donald Trump there is an urge to resort to low satire, call him Hump our Douchebag Fuhrer.  Call his daughter Treblinka.

Then I think about Barack Obama and the cruel things the obstructionists said about him.  Donald Trump has not nearly the grace to hold up with nearly the dignity, and I don’t want to see this presidency degenerate into a horrifying mirror image of the last, depersonalizing and dehumanizing the President like unmerciful trolls — not that Trump wouldn’t do that to you if he felt he had to.

I would refrain from stomping on Ivanka because she has expressed support for Planned Parenthood and women’s empowerment issues enough to make one wonder if she even voted for her dad.  Women are going to put more influence on Donald Trump’s administration than he may think and he depends on them more than he may know — can he imagine a day without Kellyanne Conway?  His election has invigorized women to demonstrate their political and socioeconomic power and we’ll see a lot of culture clout the next four years.  Anita Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly are gone, and it shouldn’t come to Lysistrata, but there is movement to resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment, and it poses an opportunity for Donald Trump to reveal his true colors about women.

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On policy he should be challenged at every forum.  If he gets something right he should be acknowledged.  If he contradicts his own mission or double-crosses those displaced workers he panders to he should be called out.  If he negotiates bad trade deals or reneges on treaties he should be shamed.  If he fakes the press and lies the news he’ll be found out, believe me.

I am not objective.  I am white and quite privileged.  I am not disenfranchised or unempowered, nor do I feel left behind by the times.  I thought the country was great already and going the right direction and take issue with those who think the opposite.

To his hard core supporters be gentle but firm.  Give them wide berth to wear their prized Deplorables badges and do not abridge their constitutional rights.  Let them manifest themselves so we can know who they are and what they really stand for.  Let them out themselves.  Do not engage them or bait them with violence.  Bypass their confrontations with alternate channels of persuasion.  There has to be a way to educate people who fear an armed insurrection of Somali immigrants in caravans of taxicabs and minivans.  Let the fools reveal themselves as idiots by and by, and we’ll move on, this too shall pass.

Resist despair.  Take heart.

Look people in the eye.  Do a good job.  Wear a safety pin on your lapel.  Keep the faith.  Pay attention.  Don’t get suckered.  Assume positive intent.  Be the nicest one.

In Minnesota there once was a ballot referendum to amend the state constitution to explicitly prohibit same sex marriage and after all it became the first state to make it legal by legislative action, not by the court.  Be careful what you wish for, ye who wish to rule the world.

In Trump’s case pay attention to his fine-tuned machine.  If it breaks down and the wheels come off he won’t be able to hide it under a clandestine pit stop.

He can’t fire everybody.  He’s the apprentice now.  The mid-term election is just next year.  Constituents have the power to hire and fire the House and Senate, which goes both ways with Trump-era legislation.  He can’t fire voters.

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Sid my son-in-law observes that you never see Donald Trump laugh.  Sometimes he smiles, you see him smirk, but you never see him laugh.

Ask him why America should trust a businessman who dodges his bills and goes bankrupt.  Ask him for his tax returns.

Hound his subordinates.  Chase after the Steves, Bannon and Miller, seek after cabinet appointees and staffers like paparazzi and question whatever they say.  Saturate Congress with attention.

If this presidency folds up its bridges of access and retracts itself into a fortress like Trump Tower, don’t expect Congress or even Mike Pence to rescue Donald Trump from his perceived enemies of the people, by the people and for the people.

My friend Jim offered caution to the President when Trump first disparaged the intelligence community and he wondered out loud if maybe Trump whined enough about the CIA being like the 3rd Reich a black ops team under the 25th Amendment might show up one night at Mar-a-Lago, put him in a bag and whoosh him off to an undisclosed location, never to be seen again.

How can Donald Trump expect America to be great when he makes us look like morons?  He embarrasses us to the world.  The crybaby better grow up.

BK