The impermanence of things

Nothing can last forever. Yuri Semenov, overseer of the deorbiting of the Mir space station.

It’s true.  I’ve never been made aware of anything: animal, vegetable, or mineral, that lasts forever.  And, as humans, it’s very difficult for us to deal with this reality.  We don’t expect the end of things and this makes their ending even more devastating and unpopular.  We mourn the loss of pets, relationships, television shows, money…any number of things that had we thought about it in the first place, we’d realize the impermanence of it all.

Recently, C. and I went to see Toy Story 3 which is probably one of the two best films I’ve seen this year.  It deals with Andy, the toy “owner” and his impending collegiate years.  Andy is leaving for school and his mother insists that he either donate the toys or take them to the attic.  The rest of the film is what happens to the toys when they are separated from Andy.  I won’t ruin it for you.  Instead, I’d like to tell you about my toys.  I’ve been a Star Wars collector since 1978 when Kenner first produced 3 3/4″ SWoriginal12action figures.  I can’t begin to tell you the hours I’ve spent organizing this collection, reorganizing this collection, poring over catalogs, flea market bins, websites.  At first, I dragged my parents all over the city searching rack upon rack for the Han Solo with the black vest and puffy white sleeves.  Then, in later years, my friends and I would cover for each other as we snuck into the back room at Toys ‘R Us or Target to search for unopened boxes of action figures.  Nowadays, the figures and other paraphernalia languish in Rubbermaid containers in the basement for lack of play, lack of space, lack of time, lack of desire.  Nothing can last forever. I’ve thought about selling the whole bit, but have been talked down off that ledge by more than one person.  Often times, I’d like to go down there and really get settled in to collecting again, but my heart (nor my wallet) isn’t in it.  I opened all of my toys.  It’s your call on whether that makes them less valuable, but I love each piece down there and could probably tell you where I got most of it.

I cried at the end of Toy Story 3.  I’m man enough to admit that.  If you see it, I think you’ll understand why.  But the importance of this film is that nothing really lasts forever, even little plastic toys that are 30+ years old.  Things change and people change.  You have to be able to adapt to that and let it happen because there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

See you in the funny papers!

Who should take the most heat for the present state of the economy? Obama or Congress? Explain your answer. (LOL! Felt like a high school teacher writing that.)

Man, I never get easy questions. What about something like, where’s your favorite place to sit and think? Or, what are your top 5 songs for driving? Instead…I get this.

Still, a question’s a question. And, I believe you’ve limited my options unnecessarily. I’d like to blame the cancellation of "Studio 60" and the New York Yankees for the current economic crisis. Actually, in all seriousness, the current state of the economy (which is actually, in my humble opinion, looking better these days) can be traced back to the incredibly poor decision-making by the banking industry and their ties to the housing industry which collapsed in on itself back in 2005-6. And, to paraphrase Lewis Black, we all knew this was coming back then when our neighbors were selling their houses for six times their original value and all we could do was look around and say "we’re fucked." But it happened, so here we are.

Now, to answer your question, using your limited options, I’ll have to go with Congress. And, here’s why: Obama can come up with the options, but he requires Congress to approve them. He can’t just unilaterally decide to up and change things. That’s one of the great things about our government is the system of checks and balances. So…Congress, Republican or Democrat controlled makes no difference, is responsible for the current state of the economy. At least, in my very limited understanding of how things work, this is how I see it. If you’d like a better answer, you’re gonna have to find an economist.

Ask me anything


Today is the day that America celebrates its independence from England.  For 234 years this little upstart nation has been feeling its way through the pains and tribulation of democracy.  At times, we’ve succeeded; at other times, we’ve failed miserably, but throughout it all there has been an underlying sense that we’ve been forging ahead for the right reasons.  That unifying force has been our flag, ever changing in its design, but always at the heart of what we hold true in our minds; democracy, freedom, liberty, patriotism.

That is why, even though the evil done under this flag is at times disheartening, I still stand proudly with tears glistening in my eyes and sing:

O, say can you see
by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight
o’er the ramparts we watched
were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets red glare,
the bombs bursting in air
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there.

O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

There are 3 more verses to this beautiful song, but this is what is typically known as our national anthem.  And, I’ve heard about a dozen different ways to sing it, including the infamous Roseanne “screech” and the legendary Whitney Houston high note on the last line.  But, it never fails to bring my mind back to the people I know and love who believe in the power of this flag even more strongly than I do.

The flag pictured above was photographed by myself at Ft. McHenry, the birthplace of our national anthem.  My daughter and I helped to unroll a replica of the original flag which measured 30′ x 42′ and was hand sewn by Mary Pickersgill and others at the behest of Major Armistead who requested a flag “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it at a distance.”  Thank you, Mr. Key for writing a great poem, Mrs. Pickersgill for your diligence in your work, and Major Armistead for being determined not to allow the British to roll over Baltimore.

Have a wonderful Independence Day and long may our flag wave.

See you in the funny papers!


Today’s session deals with my fear of flying. I know that I’ve dealt with this before, but I want to cover this a little more closely this time to see if I can come up with anything different. On our most recent trip to Baltimore, we had a non-stop flight via Southwest Airlines into BWI. Now, before y’all start the trash-talking of various airlines, let it be known that I’ve flown dozens of airlines to a variety of places and that doesn’t matter. I’ve flown TWA, Piedmont (got my wings with them), Continental, Air France, South African Airways, Delta, Southwest, American, USAir, British Airways, Independence, some prop plane out of Flagstaff, it does not matter.

Heading North, the sun sets on the left.As the flight takes off, I feel my stomach sink and I grip the seat tightly and sweat out about five pounds until we reach our cruising altitude. Then, provided all is still and turning is at a minimum, I might be able to relax, but I can never take my seatbelt off.  The slightest bit of turbulence puts me in a panic and banking the plane causes an almost vertigo feeling.  Landing has always been the best part of flying for me, but even my most recent flights have made that more challenging due to turbulence and the fact that we’re notified 20 minutes before landing.  Why do I need to know 20 minutes before?  I can feel the plane descending.  I’ll know when it lands…why do you need to announce it?  Anyway, that’s beside the point.

Before the departing flight for Baltimore, I took a prescription Xanax that I had left over from previous flights.  I had hoped that I wouldn’t need it, but I took it just in case.  I didn’t bother taking the last one with me, which in hindsight was a bad idea.  Anyway, on the flight up to Baltimore, it did not seem that the Xanax had any effect.  The takeoff was similar to others, though it was fairly smooth.  There was turbulence on the descent which made for an interesting landing and I sweated off a couple of pounds there.  But, apparently the Xanax was helping more than I thought.  The flight home was a nightmare.  More than likely it was calm by other people’s standards.  The entire ride up to cruising altitude I desperately gripped the armrests, digging my feet into the floor as if hoping to steer the plane through sheer force of my calf muscles.  I whispered quietly to myself that it would be okay, that I would live, that everything would be fine if we’d just get up above the clouds.  Still, every slight bank or jolt caused me to tense up as tightly wound spring, while my wife and daughter sat quietly enjoying the hour and a half flight home.  By the time the seatbelt light went off, I was near tears telling myself that it was stupid to be this terrified while my 14-month old giggled through Elmo’s Animal Alphabet.  I was incapacitated to the point of being unable to help my wife with holding my daughter on the flight and every time she grabbed me I shuddered thinking that she was in more control than I was.

My wife knows my hatred of flying and she knows how difficult it is for me to get on a plane.  She has also repeatedly told me how proud she is that it doesn’t stand in the way of my desire to see the world.  I’ve been to 3 different continents, 6 different countries, and a number of states via airplane…but every single flight has required me to rip my heart out and watch it beat rapidly in front of me on the tray table as I hope desperately that this is not the flight that I fear it will be each and every time.  It’s not just the physical toll, though it’s a fairly severe extraction when you think about it.  It’s the mental and emotional drain.  Sometimes, when I exit a gate from a flight, I want to just sit and cry, or vomit, or both because it’s silly and irrational as well as real and discomforting.

I’m not sure that there’s anything I can do, but it has never once hurt me to talk about it, here or anywhere else.  Thanks for listening and if you’re next to me on my next flight, just be aware that it’s not that I’m ignoring you, I’m simply doing my best to keep it together long enough for us to get to our destination.

See you in the funny papers!

Photo by Michael B. Shane, courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons license.