Another isolated incident…

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It was a day just like any other day; every other day for that matter, the week before Christmas. A non-stop, full throttle, balls to the wall, dash into retail oblivion in search of the most elusive treasure and sought after booty…the Perfect Gift. The one spectacular bauble, the one ideal garment, the one size fits all gift card, already pre-wrapped and stuffed neatly into its accompanying envelope. This is the obligatory quest of a Nation. A curious and irrational exercise in civility, temperament and diligence, set into motion before the dishes are cleared after Thanksgiving Dinner. This take-no-prisoners, shop first-ask questions later, leave the weak behind mentality could likely be an underlying and unproven affect of turkey and stuffing with pumpkin pie.
For it seems that the commencement of this season begins following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and has claimed it’s first casualties before Snoopy and Garfield have been deflated and freed from their ninety foot Earth-binding leashes.
Yes…this is Christmas.
The season of giving…and traffic, and no parking, and sales, and snowballs and egg nog…and suicide. This is the time of year for Peace On Earth and good will towards Men. The time of year when charity is expected, and grace and joy are the unrealistic consequence of jingle bells and ginger bread. This is the time of year when poinsettias are potted and scattered across the nation as if to provide the entire country with a much needed splash of poisonous color in an otherwise grey and dismal landscaping pallet. The time of year when houses and their fore lying shrubbery and trees are draped and illuminated in the most elaborate of patterns, awash in every color the human eye can behold. Tis the season of the evergreen genocide, in which we assemble in mass, with axes and chainsaws in hand and set out on a locust-like brigade to level groves of pine trees…only to later reassume their stature in our homes and dress them in heirloom ornamentation with tinsel and garlands.
Yes this is Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. My favorite time of the year.
This is the season that makes me giggle at the slightest gesture. The end of the calender brings me a joy that I, admittedly, don’t fully understand. A strange and lyrical season that argues and fights with my more cynical nature and ultimately wins. These cold and busy weeks, when children are dressed in their holiday best, families gather together and friends are more seasonally available, are my favor weeks of all fifty two.
This is Christmas…a child’s global playground. The one time of the year when it’s truly better to be a child than to be an adult.
Except on that day.

That day… was a bad day.

Sure, it started out as a good day. It looked like every other good day before it at Christmas time. Bright and chilly, laced with all the previously mentioned distractions and yet, hopeful with the sense of accomplishment that the Perfect Gift would be found, and in the right size. And on sale.
That day began for me as it did for countless others; with coffee, breakfast, morning dog walk and a very, very quick shower. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Time was becoming a major factor in this Holiday countdown to the inevitable. Time was going to run out, whether I or anyone else was fully prepared for it or not. Christmas was going to happen.
So I got myself dressed, no longer the task of layering for warmth that it had been in NYC, shorts, t-shirt, flip flops – done. I am now one of the millions of Americans, officially in the Rat Race. With my own schedule, rough map of destinations and their allotted placement on my itinerary, I am on the go go go. Me, Myself and I are in a full on race against You, Them and They…and the first one to the checkout line wins.

And then it all stopped. I stopped. The world stopped.

As I sat in my car, having just started the engine, my ears were hearing something bad, and it was not coming from my well worn Ford Escape. Coming through my car radio, as if it were some ghastly portal straight from hell, was a report that my ears were hearing, but my heart and my head could not comprehend.
Something very bad was happening in Newtown, Connecticut. And it was happening in an elementary school…and to children.
I turned off my car and raced back into the house. Sure enough: every modern tool of communication had become its own ghastly portal from Hell, spewing this same absurd tale of children…babies…being gunned down in their classrooms. Now, I miss my car radio, because these indoor portals are broadcasting images, and this I cannot endure.
On screen and on every channel some reporter or another has interrupted our regularly scheduled programming to bring us this breaking news. This heartbreaking news. It was the worst form of news imaginable. A lone gunman has done the unthinkable…breaking into an elementary school and killing twenty six people, twenty one of them children. The on screen images assaulted me from every device. Computer, cell phone, television…it didn’t matter, there was no escaping this tragedy. With tears in my eyes, I could not turn away. On screen, the parents of children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School were being detained, screaming and crying. Held back for their own safety by the municipal police of Newtown and enraged with fear for their children, parents were lost, confused and undeniably scared. More images race across the screen: children are running hand in hand out of their school, screaming, crying and terrified. Panic has found itself a hot spot in the lower Connecticut hills, and is spreading itself across the entire nation at break neck speed and with unrelenting force. Children are being murdered on MSNBC, FOXNews and CNN. The nation cannot help but be appalled. This is the criteria for a nightmare, the unexplained force of subconscious activity, mind games…just a bad dream. This is not the imminent global headline worthy of interrupting Judge Judy or The Price Is Right, It can’t be.
Who, Why, and How instantly become the only questions being heard. Both on air and on the street, people are dumbfounded. This can’t be happening. But it is. The details slowly roll on to the screen, far too slowly and with no guarantee of accuracy.
But time; it seems, has stopped.
For hours I sat in front of my television and watched as the most horrid and sketchy of details came scrambling in. Six, nine. twelve, sixteen confirmed dead…mostly children, some teachers, the numbers just keep climbing. With a heavy heart, I fumbled with the remote flashing from one news network to another, seeking some glimmer of hope. But Hope was absent from school that day and the images railed on. The things I saw will forever be etched in my mind and the screams of parents and children will echo in my ears for some time to come. But even these unimaginable video and audio assaults on the human condition would pale in comparison to the most disgusting and offensive of spew to be uttered by people who love their guns more than they love their children.

It took only a few short hours before the narrow minded, gun toting, right wing, anti-Obama lobby machine switched on and began to pollute the airwaves with scare tactics and remedial statistics. Within hours of the Pledge of Allegiance, the plague of the Nation had formulated a plan to express itself with no regard for sensitivity or facts. Before the lunch bells would normally ring at SHES, FoxNews managed to find some militant, anti-Obama-government, gun toting, ”expert” to defend the shooter’s right to posess these weapons. Even though he killed the actual gun owner and stole them…and the owner was his mother. This ”expert” demanded that this was another isolated incident.
Another. Isolated. Incident.
I am sick.
With apparently no time for investigation, facts, grieving, sensitivity or common sense, the conservative gun lobby began it’s assault on intelligence and began politicizing the nightmare before us. Such blatant disregard for sensitivity and compassion should be criminal. With smug expressions and ill fitting suits, representatives from this Hunt Club or that Gun Club made their way onto FoxNews, only to be coaxed by on air ”journalists” seeking to defend the Second Amendment and begin the left/right maelstrom.
Yes the hellish game of political spin had begun. With fresh blood and bodies still littering the floors of Romper Room, grown men
(presumably fathers), sat in poorly lit meeting rooms of high rise offices and discussed the ”language” for their press release. While two floors up, in sleek, well lit executive board rooms, the six-figure crowd discussed ”exposure” and ”public perception” and ”shareholder inconvenience” While the rest of the nation still tried to come to terms with what was happening in Newtown, CT, the Gun Lobby enacted a well calculated plan that had been formulated following the first mass killings in a school at Columbine,CO. Mailers will be sent out, statements will be made to the press, experts will explain statistics, rallies will be organized and if you can fucking believe it…gun appreciation day. The game of media cat-and-mouse have begun…a non stop he said/she said of statistics and numbers, laws and regulations, anger and fear, none of which explain why six year old Jonny is riddled with bullets on the gymnasium floor.
And, not unlike the game of chess: pawns move first.
The most powerful of the Right Wing Lobby Mafia, the National Rifle Association did what every publicist in the world would advise: lock down, hide away and keep quiet. Making no official statement and not being available for comment, the NRA let it’s unofficial underlings bare the brunt of a Nation that wanted justice, reform and sanity. Like some uncaring step-brother witnessing a schoolyard ass whooping; Firearm’s Big Brother sat back and watched while sibling after sibling took beating after beating. Unwilling and unable to intervene from it’s seemingly fixed position on this disturbing game board, the King of guns did nothing but wait. And when the time was right and fever pitch was raised to breaking point King NRA made his move.
In what would become one of the most commonly discussed press releases; amongst people that wouldn’t normally give a shit, Wayne LaPierre -Executive VP of the NRA expressed his sorrow for the tragedy in Connecticut, reminded the Nation of it’s right to possess guns, AND if you can believe this…suggested putting armed guards in every school in America.
THIS can’t be happening…but it is.
Rather than consider even discussing gun control, or reform of any kind, the suggestion of the NRA is to put at least one gun in every school in the United States. That’s right- the NRA has turned one of the worst of human tragedies into a sales opportunity and membership pitch…and out looks like middle America is buying. Immediately following Mr. LaPierre’s ridiculous statements and even more absurd suggestions, American social media exploded, leaving intelligence gasping for life, and an entire country pebbled with stupidity’s shrapnel. I don’t tweet…ever, but my Facebook news feed was suddenly punctuated with right wing, second amendment defense fund, alarmist propaganda. Warnings issued to citizens that ”the Socialist, left-wing, Muslim, Obama administration” was coming to take away our guns. Post after post telling of ” the right to bare arms” and the Constitutionality of gun ownership. I saw posts attacking the President as a hypocrite for being protected by armed men at all times…even though the Secret Service is mandated by the Treasury Department and not the White House. People blamed Hollywood and video games…Godless parenting and mental instability. Some people even blamed the schools and teachers…like those murdered at SHES. People…friends of mine…parents of children I know and love, all heralding the same dangerous message: ”the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”. But the most upsetting of all, the one post that blistered with scathing insensitivity and rancid forethought was nothing more than the ad for the weapon used in Connecticut: a simple photo of the gun against a black backdrop with a tagline: ”your man card has been reissued”.
What the fuck…?

It is probably obvious that I am not a gun owner. I grew up in a home where guns would not be tolerated. My mother and father were practical people and there was absolutely no position for hand guns in their practical homestead. As an adult I’ve come to realize that there is still no place in my life for guns. This is a decision that I am comfortable with, one that I can live with. But I do not begrudge those who do own guns. How could I? How can we?

We rely on the safety of a gun, both as individuals and collectively as a nation. We are Constitutionally empowered with the Right to own guns, a Right not afforded to citizens of all nations and one that We take for granted. People collect guns, trade guns, auction guns, personalize guns, compete with guns…and yes, die from guns. But we love our guns. Every US child, including those murdered in Connecticut, has played ”cops and robbers” at some point in their glorious childhood. Fashioning a gun from their forefinger and thumb, a simple twig or even Mom’s hairbrush and chasing the ”bad guys” around the house or yard. Plastic guns have been made for children for as long as I can remember and undoubtedly of wood or some other material before my time. Dart guns, squirt guns, cap guns and bb guns are all commonplace toys in American childhoods…as much as hot dogs, baseball or apple pie. Hollywood has a fetish with guns that only grows stronger AND don’t get me started on video games.
So why is it that a Nation that was raised on guns, relies on guns, manufactures guns and makes billions of dollars on guns, can’t have a rational discourse on gun control? Why is this great nation so polarized on an issue that’s in such desperate need of compromise and unity? How many more isolated incidents does this nation have to witness before grown adults can embrace a logic that seems inherit to children?
No one, anywhere is suggesting collecting the privately owned guns of US citizens, such a thing is absurd, irrational, and not even remotely practical. However this kind of hyperbole is dangerous, it prevents open dialogue, incites division and clouds the truth with fear. Politicians know that guns are a political minefield; a dangerous landscape that few inside the beltway traverse and even fewer escape politically alive. The Gun Lobby has deep pockets and never-ending connections that keep Bills out of Congress and people out of Washington. The White House is moving slowly and cautiously towards gun control legislation while just down the street The Supreme Court seems to be biding it’s time, waiting for the inevitable Bench-Busting case that will force the Court’s hand on national gun legislation.
But we cannot wait. As a Nation, we need to move first…we are after all..the pawns in this game. We need to look for real solutions to gun accessibility, background checks, mental health and military grade weaponry. We need to be able to have frank and honest discussions about guns without mistruths and unrealistic threats to the Second Amendment. We must not politicize tragedy and glorify division at the expense of facts and emotions only to delay legislation. This Government of and by the people must lookout for the people…especially when the People aren’t old enough to vote.

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As the new year begins, right after the glorious maelstrom that is or was the holidays has relented into nothing more than a new panic eleven months away. And people begin to feel the pale boredom of reality wash over them once again, often with a peculiar calm and sense of loss that they can’t clearly identify, the nation as a whole settles into an eerily content state of mishap and non interest in all things probable.
We are done. We want a break.
And we want it now.
The final six week span of last year and of every calender before it, has exhausted the masses to a comatose like state of consciousness that can only commence following a global celebration of a celestial process, and the dropping of some ball on New York City. Yes beginning in January and holding out for as long as individually possible, We The People, just sort of… tune out. We are free from that six week  assault on our sanity that brings out the most dreadful in each of us and thrusts it forward for all to loathe. No longer chained to false emotion and dragged hand in hand across a snow covered landscape alight in every color and echoing with meaningless merry merries and happy happies. Christmas has passed, and now, the bulk of the nation can finally get back to the tiresome and tedious business of not doing shit.
That is..except for Hollywood.

Just to the west of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in what was once sprawling citrus groves, wedged between the deep Pacific Ocean and the blistering sinfulness of Las Vegas, rests the the glory of Hollywood. Trapped in the seemingly infinite city of Las Angeles, lies a creative outpost where dreams come true, fame and fortune are the commpetitive commonplace and human value is measured in box office returns, yet treated like popcorn on the floors of theaters, that so many aspire to fill. This is LaLaLand….where unknown faces become ethereal legend, where up and comings transition into tired and finisheds, where America turns to escape in a search for the unreal.
And here in this city of sex, and money, of fame and fortune, of glamour and excess, at the same time the rest of us settle into our couches and barcoloungers for the season of ”huh?”, Hollywood revs it’s engines, sets the spin cycle on high, and starts to stroke itself in ways Pee Wee Herman never imagined.
This is Oscar Season.
What is generally an anesthetic, national lull between Christmas and March Madness, save for a Super Bowl thrown in as a booster, makes for a Hollywood season of hype, press tours and of course…consideration. This is the time of year when Hollywood looks back on itself with compassionate and expecting eyes and decides who amongst them has finally made their mark. Ballots and screeners go out to ”members out the academy” for private viewings and eternal judgment of the past year’s on screen submissions. Finally, early one morning (today in fact for this year) some poor starlet and not quite leading man are awakened before the sun to read off a list of names they someday hope to be on. And the dream making machine of Hollywood kicks into overdrive as agents, publicists and stylists scramble to meet the press and answer the age-old questions of ”how does it feel” and ” who are you wearing”.
Amongst the glorified tally of nominees, one finds a myriad of talent studded with household names, faces you’ve never heard of and the occasional name you almost forgot. For here lies the embodiment of what the Hollywood Dream is all about, for these are not just Actors…these are Movie Stars.
And everyone in Hollywood knows the difference.
But than again…these are not just any awards, these are the Oscars! This is an elite and hard won fraternity of talent, more off screen than on, that expands only at a pace it sees fit, and only to the few willing to sacrifice for membership. Legends of Hollywood have lived like on screen Supernova and never known the glory of this small statuette. An elusive creature, especially for one that’s inanimate, Oscar has dodged the grips of some of the most beloved of cinematic icons, only to find itself resting on the mantelpiece of some obscure talent for some obscure project that took the Academy by storm. Even fewer of these ambitious talents are familiar to Oscar’s nod of approval, having heard their name broadcast at the crack of dawn, once, twice…several times before. This high-end super-clique at the top of Beverly Hills, hardly awakens for such things, and is only made awares by calls, texts, twitter and the news. These are the Meryls and the Als and the Jacks and the Bobbys…these are the living legends of Hollywood lore that graciously nod and smile when hearing ”congratulations” again and again. But even these denizens of fame and celebrity, whose mantles runneth over, whose accolades are in need of a weekly dusting, break from their traditionally more private and personal lives, and haul ass down the hill in full black-tie and evening gowns to see who didn’t suck at last year’s workload. Yes, even these Royals of the Red Carpet show up every couple years or so, if not as a nominee at least as a presenter. Everyone in Hollywood and countless other places around the globe, wants to go to the Oscars.
But why do we? Why do we, the everyday, working class, not Hollywood, less glamorous masses of the country tune in annually, for Hollywood’s all out freak fest? And we don’t just tune in. No, no, no. We go all out. We gather in small collections, with spectacular wine and rank cheeses. We amass in larger huddles with drinking games and betting pools. I have been to Oscar parties with driveways covered in red carpet, walls of flashbulbs on motion sensors, and the drag queen equivalent of Joan n Melissa to greet guests as they arrive.
No, we don’t just watch the Oscars, we absorb them. We linger around televisions at early evening hours to ”greet” the hopeful arrivals who have spent the entire day primping and dressing for this very moment. We shush one another with loud hisses, as some black-tied network host demands of the Best Actress nominee ”who made your dress?” And we fawn and giggle like schoolgirls at a sleep-over at the first glimpse of that scruffy leading man with the six pack abs and that devilish grin, stuffed perfectly into a custom made, Tom Ford tux.
Yes…we love the stars. We love their films. But we live for their labels.
For this Oscar fanatic, fashion and styling are as much a part of these late winter festivities as the films that accorded this grand gathering to begin with. Tonight Fifth Avenue and Hollywood Blvd pair up to outfit and out-show one another on a global scale. With a sewn in guest list all their own, fashion’s ”Hollywood must haves” are all in attendance…Chanel, Armani, Prada and Marc Jacobs are all expected to make several arrivals. Each barely wrapped around some delightful, size 4, thespian in vintage LaCroix heels and a quarter million dollars of Harry Winston diamonds.
This is why we watch. This is what glues is to the screen with the highest of hopes. This is what keeps us chattering for days after the ceremony…it’s the unrealistic excess and glamour. It’s the world that we don’t know, the world that we can only glimpse on as night such as this. For we, the great huddled masses, still partially attached to our couches and barcoloungers, will only see these circumstances vicariously through large flat-screen monitors in the comfort of our own homes.
But isn’t that why we turn to Hollywood anyway? To provide us with an escape route. To take us away, and to places we’d never get to go, to let the wonderful world of make believe…make us believe.

This man’s best friend

There are many different types of friends that we will all encounter throughout the course of our lives. Good friends, bad friends, old friends, new friends, close friends…the list go’s on. And to each one of us, each one of these friends will mean something entirely different. The roles that they play in each of our daily, unscripted, unstaged comedies or dramas are roles that are subject to change. The casting of co-stars for our life long productions is left to chance, fortune, luck, faith and what have you. Rarely, if ever, is our ”choice of friends” really our choice.
No, no  no.
Friends, even before we would dare to rank any new found acquaintance in such a category, are flung at us from every possible angle, grabbed from thin air at the most obscure times and retained loosely after long spans of time in which apprehension can finally dissolve. Friends; it seems, can be found anywhere, anytime, anyplace. There are no set guidelines, no rules of order, no aligning format by which we are to adhere in order to acquire friends. Nor do I think most people assemble a manifest at any time, listing the types of friends they hope to have, such as gay, black, white, straight, Asian, Republican, diabetic…whatever. I for one think that task and implied resolution,would apply far too much self imposed pressure for what could ultimately be fruitless. Not to mention, a little sociopathic. And no one wants to be friends with that guy.
My point here is that friends just happen.
Now, how each of us interacts with our friends is in and of itself, unique. While we all might think that we are the same with all of our friends, the truth is, we are not. I would like to think that all of my friends know the same Me, but they don’t. It bares no sign of falsehood to acknowledge this fact, rather a sense of  truths. I have friends that I can watch football with, all day on any Sunday. And on Sunday night I can sit with other friends and watch the entire Paris fall/winter runway collections on line. It’s likely that never the two might meet.
These are my friends, these are our commonalities.
But, as with all things in life, as time rolls on, things can and undeniably will become….complicated. And when we’re talking about friendships and friends, complications can span a variant of degrees as wide as the universe itself.
Our daily interactions with those that are closest; husbands, wives, lovers, children etc, are the scenes that are most likely to be featured in our own individual pre-release trailers. Combined with the often less, sometimes more stimulating scenes with other Co-stars, supplied by the hours spent at work, school, the gym, church and so on, and what begins to form is something of a unique production. Add in background players,(dry cleaners, cashiers, bus drivers) daily walk ons(clients, appointments, receptionists) and guest stars(aunts, uncles, out of town guests) and alas, your tally is that of a weekly drama or sitcom that could be called…and fuck me for saying it: friends.
As for the responsibility for any.such complications, that is a burden that I believe should be shared equally and by all. For in this arena, the innocent are a myth, a fairy tale, a dream…they simply do not exist. None can claim to not offer some form of complication to every friendship they behold and to think otherwise, is a complication all it’s own. I am not saying that everyone has an innate, predetermined, fate that causes some form of friction, much less that we’re actively aware of it, but we are only human. And when dealing with more than one human at a time, things are at least twice as complicated. Some complications entwined in friends are innocent, an unintentional emotion sprout forth from one friend at the apparent fault of another. I have seen days ruined and friendships tested at their core because one of my friends may not have noticed another friends new hairstyle or the fact that someone may have, allegedly lost weight. You might be thinking that I surround myself with some rather simple and shallow people that I call friends…but who, if any, can claim no not have at least one friend that clings to these same ridiculous parameters of friendship?
Which is exactly my point.
As friends and friendships go, we are, each and everyone, forced to make decisions about what are the acceptable parameters of each individual friendship. Sometimes these are conscious decisions, more often than not, these decisions are made long before we are even aware of them. Why do we tolerate qualities or actions in our friends that we ourselves find deplorable?
I have one friend that uses me for pot…I can’t hardly blame him, I always have pot..and it’s always good pot. I have another friend that doesn’t understand, privacy and personal liberty, so I guard what I tell them, and what they are acclaim to know. And I would imagine or hope that I am ”that” friend to at least a couple of people that I know… be them friends or not. But we all conjure up these lines ourselves, we create this invisible boundaries for each other, while all along hoping that our dearest, our closest, our…best friends would dare not cross. And simply by the laws of numbers…they do. And for Best Friends, a term that is arguably the most fluid of definers for all the many types of friends, the challenge is greatest, the rules more strict and the rewards and punishes far more severe. Yes, for Best Friends…we often get the shitty end of the stick.
Now, there are two types of friends that I will not address here: online friends and BFF’s…the former is too complicated to attach to this text and the latter, is just plain foolish. And so it is here at Best Friends that I lay my pen to rest.
Best Friends…we all have them. Some have more than one. Some maintain a variety of ”besties” in different locales: school, work, gym, cellblock…whatever. We all have that person that we believe is the one. The one you can trust the one you can tell anything, add I mean ANYTHING…we all have at least one. And that One, is what makes it all better, makes it all seem rational, makes it all okay….even when it’s not…even when it won’t be. That One is subject to change and change often and without notice or need of consent. That One is as fluid as the rest that have been cast in that role. That One is forever a role in development.
Except for me.
While I do believe with my heart and soul everything here forth written, and I love every single one of my friends, each in their own truly spectacular way, I reserve the role of Best Friend for the one and only: Duke – my dog.
Duke doesn’t come with any of the previously lauded details. Duke doesn’t come with any parameters or expectations, and if he did, I imagine Duke would set the bar pretty low…he is after all, my best friend. Duke asks nothing of me other than food, occasionally extending or daily walks, and that I not EVER try to take his bone from him. These are all parameters by which I can coexist. He has never borrowed money, we’ve never had an argument, he listens when all I need is an ear, he’s never given bad advice, he is always happy to see me (something even I find hard to conceive), he had witnessed the best and the worst of me and still he stays. He knows what I need and when I need it even when I don’t. And to my knowledge he hasn’t ever interfered in any of my more personal friendships. For eight years he’s been the one true consistency. A true friend and this Man’s best friend…Duke.