I Wish I Lived in Badger’s Drift

          I suppose I’ll be asked to prove to someone that I haven’t “lost it” in my old age, but I really don’t mean that title in the way it sounds. I simply like the name: Badger’s Drift. It’s the kind of thing that has always interested me. Words, names, places that appear to paint a brief picture in themselves, and strike a chord in the ear and the head when we hear them. Like “Land’s End”. Both the place and the Corporate name create an instant picture when you hear them, and it stays forever linked to the geographic locale and the Clothing Brand every time it is repeated.

          Well, “Badger’s Drift”  does that for me. It was the creation of Caroline Graham, who wrote the mystery series about a fictitious county in England called Midsomer (itself a fascinating play on the expected: Mid-Summer). The badger, of course, is quite a common if reclusive creature in England, though not found in NW Pennsylvania, where I live.  A “drift” is a common term in England for a slower-moving section of a stream, usually  meaning the surface area of the water over a deeper portion of the stream or river. It is where fly fishermen often cast their flies to let them “drift” over the deep pools to lure the fish. And author Graham put the two together to create Badger’s Drift, the fictional community in which more than one of her mysteries take place. I invariably picture a rather ill-mannered, furry creature sitting on the bank of a stream, ready to attack any unsuspecting human who wanders into his territory.

          I once had occasion to travel through a real life town called East Fallowfield, in Pennsylvania. It was a small but normal-looking place, which belied the somewhat dismal sounding “Fallowfield”, which would suggest an unplanted, barren field of weeds and ruts waiting for a crop that will never materialize. Badger’s Drift, at least, has a kind of uncommon, almost adventurous appeal to it. But there is also the danger of confusing the appeal of the name with the settings of the stories: The novels have been adapted for television by the BBC, and are aired under the title “Midsomer Murders” . The settings are idyllic, with English manor houses, elaborate thatched-roof cottages, and quaint country inns aplenty.

          I suppose the ultimate pictorial name would be  J.K.Rowling’s “Hogwarts School” for budding young sorcerers. But saying I came from Hogwarts would simply sound silly, where “I live in Badger’s Drift” sounds bizzare yet plausible enough to actually be true. My own home town of Erie, Pa. may remotely suggest to some a connection with the Great Lake of the same name (which of course it has), but just think of how much better it would sound if we changed the name to Erie Canal, Pa. That immediately provides a boost from the ordinary to the vaguely romantic and adventurous days of the bustling canal traffic. True, the canal never actually passed through Erie, but it came very close, and could lend a tug at the ear and a distant memory of something special.

          Well, perhaps not(sigh). But I still wish I lived in Badger’s Drift. Now that’s a name.

 

Vince Katarzynski

 

The thing about guns

          I have an opinion about guns, as does, I really believe everyone who will ever read this post. But in order for my opinion to make any sense to anybody I will have to include a rather long and detailed personal history and explanation before I actually state it:

          When I was a boy, maybe 12 or 13 years old, several uncles and relatives took pity on me and included me in their annual hunting rituals. I had already proven my abilities in handling guns safely while visiting an uncle who lived in central Pennsylvania. He taught me to shoot, including safe handling of firearms and the loading, cleaning and general maintenance of them. My local uncles, then, imposed on my father to take me to a course of hunting lessons given at a local gun club. I did fine.

          I was then included is hunting trips both locally and at a camp owned by one of their number. I was taught to first respect the animal hunted, and to make sure of my target and my ability to make the shot before I ever fired the gun (a shotgun for small game like rabbits and pheasants, and a rifle for larger animals like deer). And I was taught that “respecting the animal” meant first that you never take the shot if you believe you will only injure the creature and not actually kill it, Also, it means that you never shoot what you don’t intend to eat, and that you will use (eat) whatever you kill.

          To these people, (men to whom I owe a large debt of gratitude and honor for their efforts in my behalf) the skill of the hunter is the paramount part of the hunt. To make a “clean, accurate, single kill shot” is always the ultimate goal and all in their circle were and are judged solely on their performance of this task.

          All of this brings me to my first point. If any hunter (man or woman, using rifle, shotgun, musket or bow) deliberately cripples or maims an animal to slow it down for a later attempt, he is NO SPORTSMAN and has no right to be in the woods injuring animals. There is no question of this, it is simply a fact. And this also means there is no possible justification on earth to take to the woods with an AR-15 or AK47 automatic assault rifle. You make a skilled, clean shot, you do not lay out a curtain of lead to try to bring down your prey. (And I know this discussion may confuse some readers, but any true sportsman or woman knows full well what I mean.)

          I should state here that I was assigned to a branch of Naval Intelligence (I’ll wait ’til you stop laughing) and also served briefly as a police officer between semesters in college. I have had very good handgun training, and am especially sensitive to the uses and misuses of handguns. I own a small’ nicely concealable 9mm handgun, and am licensed to carry it.

          All of this leads me to where I intended to go in the beginning. After all the years of hunting with my family I gave up hunting some 40 years ago. I did so because I paid attention to the grouping and behavior of small herds of animals and realized that not only do they stay in rather loosely defined familial groups, but I have seen several instances of one animal (usually a deer) actually draw attention away from their group in an apparent attempt to protect it. And also because I lost my taste for wild game as I grew older and refused to kill a creature just to kill it, and give away the meat it provided.

          I still own the handgun because there are daily reminders that dangerous people continue to raise havoc in the streets, and at 70 years of age I no longer feel adequate to defending my wife and myself in an emergency. But with all of this said, I would lay down my weapon in a heartbeat if I thought life would be safe without it. I would sell the shotgun and rifle and handgun and leave them to younger, wiser people.

           But the dangers are real. This past week a distraught teen shot and killed a 6-year old child on a school playground. There were shots fired in my home town this week. And the next pressure-cooker bomb may be triggered anywhere. So I will retain my guns, praying as always that I am never forced to use one, ever again. I’m not glad of that fact, but I must own it.

Vince Katarzynski

I Have Nothing to Say

           OK. I have a lot to say, but I can’t. I spent the best part of my youth being told: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” That lesson , of course, was usually intended to re-enforce the opinion of the advisor, but I find it has come from the past to block my attempts to write my post for this month. I usually write about the things that have occurred to me in the days before I begin, but the last few weeks have provided only things I probably shouldn’t put down for any or all to see.

          First and foremost there have been medical problems to deal with that are not mine to discuss. They’re my family’s, but not mine. They provided much concern and nervousness, and a few awkward (for me) adjustments that I should have taken in stride but couldn’t. Seems I’m not the cheerful, supportive “can do” guy I once was. I struggled with the logistics involved in helping where independent family had always emphatically NOT needed help. Suddenly, help is not only needed but relied upon, and I’m just not used to anticipating the needs and wants of others. I try, but like my favored Cleveland Browns, failure seems to have become a way of life. I constantly have to ask when the next appointment or treatment or medication will be due, and usually forget anyway. I’m getting a little better at preparing meals, but my limits mean the menu is limited and probably getting boring.

          But there have been other concerns as well: There’s the political atmosphere surrounding us now. It’s hard to bite my tongue that hard, but I don’t think yet another opinion would appeal to anyone (least of all to me) so all I can do is try to ignore all the grand pronouncements and endless analyses, and continue to urge people to learn Canadian, no matter WHO wins the race.

          There have been bereaved relatives whose loss is private and need not be mentioned here. The challenge of how to help in their grief is a problem that talking (writing) won’t ease. There has been the heartache of a friendship betrayed that has in many ways complicated all these other things, but, again, not my place to describe or detail openly.

          And I’ve spent entirely too much time watching the woman I love above all else be in pain, and that is messing with my head. I get angry at odd things; I forget what I’m doing when I see the flinch cross her face; I even catch myself ignoring or dismissing others whom I love because I don’t want to drop the ball in another area.

          So I had better not write about any of these things because I really don’t have anything nice to say about them.

 

Vince Katarzynski

A New Year

I don’t remember when I started tracking the years from birthday to birthday, but I was still a teen when it happened. I was born at the end of August, on what often seemed to be the hottest day of the year (I’ve never liked the 90+degrees and 99% humidity of August’s last gasps) and always envisioned it as the bottom of a pit that the calendar would slowly raise me out of and cool me off. I should never have fallen into this infernal trap, since it’s led me to see the world from a kind of skewed position that never corrects itself.

My year begins on a glorious note: The days get cooler right away, and herald the wonderful fall to come. The first day of school is blessedly softened by the first weekend of football. Cheerleaders dance, guys take dates to the games and dreams of glory fill the cool night air. Soon the leaves begin to change and pumpkins are artfully carved in anticipation of All Hallows Eve, when spirits are thought to be loosed on the land for a night before the feast of All Saints drives them back. (Ah! Such lighthearted fun.)

And soon enough “The Holidays” begin in earnest: Thanksgiving, although secular in origin, sets the seasonal tone by giving thanks to the Creator (in Christian life, at least) for the gifts of the harvest and hearth. Oh, we seem never to run out of turkeys to slaughter to celebrate the season; but even for those for whom a cold turkey sandwich on black Friday doesn’t bring shivers  of joy, the turkeys’ demise has become part of the splendor of the event and who am I to argue? And by now the Christmas decorations have been carefully placed everywhere (some for months) and a strange thing begins to happen: My favorite phenomenon of the year starts to take hold all over the world: People begins wishing each other well.

Now, I don’t mean to sound naive, but after the first tired, hesitant “Merry Xmases” you hear, they seem to become “Merry Christmasses” after time, and eventually you know in your heart that every one of them is sincerely directed and spoken with true meaning and well wishes. By Christmas Day we are all genuinely convinced that at least our nearest and dearest are actually hoping for good things for us, now and through the coming year. I love this feeling, and look forward to it more than any one thing in life.

A week later the official new year begins, and we all have hopes for the future. And here is the let-down: By the beginning of February all those well-wishing friends are ignoring or avoiding us. They’re busy trying to figure out how to cheat on their taxes this year, or how to “get one over” on us and make a buck in the process. The snow is piling up outdoors, and people who’ve lived up north all their lives are offended and almost surprised by the potholes, bad driving decisions, and general stupidity of their fellow men. It’s like none of this has ever happened before. And of course, a “Happy New Year” or even “I wish you all the best” would be greeted by a quick remark or a punch in the eye.

This is the setting into which we usher the Christian season of lent, a forty-day-long bout of guilt and depression in which we acknowledge the torture and death of Jesus, largely because of our own wicked and sinful behavior. By Easter, when He is supposed to be celebrated for having delivered us from the punishments we so richly deserve, we are too deeply depressed and guilty to do much more than slink away to lick our wounded egos.

With the advancement of spring there is a slight reprieve. The rains seem to wash some of the gray from the land, and we begin to enjoy things again. Golf, boating, swimming, even just walking come back into our daily routines, But for me it just means the end is near. The heat will engulf everything, the oppressively muggy lakeside air will resist even a slight breeze, and a long dry summer punctuated by fireworks and gunfire will inevitably lead me to the end of my year and the beginning of another. There ought to be a better yardstick to mark the passing of a year in this life.

Vince Katarzynski

 

Inependence

          It seems funny that I should feel compelled to comment on the 4th of July – Independence Day – because everybody I know is aware of exactly what it means: Separation from England; becoming a completely new country; apart from ownership or control by any other entity; answerable for our actions and responsible only to ourselves for the course and conduct of our business. That’s what we were declaring those 240 years ago. We all get it.

          But that’s not the end of it. For example, we celebrated the 4th early, yesterday, with a close and much-loved couple that we seldom get to spend time with because of the distance we live from each other. In a much broader vein, our country is in constant contact with allies like England, Japan, Israel, and countless others. We also keep close ties with not-so-close countries such as China, Russia, Syria, etc. We are independent but not closed-off from others. We celebrate our independence, and sometimes make foolish claims of total separation from the others on our world, but in reality we can do almost nothing independently of the rest of the world.

          And I guess that suggests the point of all this: We’ve been subjected to endless months of political nonsense trying to whittle down a large and amazingly varied field of candidates for the presidency of this country. And it would be sad enough if that was the end / object of the circus. But it’s NOT. We are about to elect a new leader of the majority of the “free” world (by our standards), and our choice will effect the entire world for 4 years or more. And with the laughable choices we.ve left ourselves, I can see no other option than to spend the next four years – or longer – apologizing to the world for our silly misunderstanding of the word “Independence”.

          “Independence” does not mean isolation; or the freedom to conduct ourselves or our affairs with total disregard for their consequences on anyone else. It implies a maturity and dedication to our country that takes responsibility for ourselves as a nation and includes the care and wellbeing of those we hold dear. Just as we delighted in sharing our meal and warm feelings with friends and family yesterday, this country’s independence means it will embrace and hold close those countries in this world that assist and support us, as well as those who might be swayed by example to join with us in the conduct of our daily lives. (God this sounds “preachy”!) How truly sad that we now face the virtual certainty of failing in our obligations to OURSELVES first, and to the rest of the world by virtue of the simple fact of our independent place in it.

vince katarzynski

 

Hah!

In my working life, (now seemingly done, although I still apply and still get ignored) I’ve worked at many jobs: most moderately well, some crashing failures. But it seems that even at the best jobs, the ones I liked the most and performed very well at, it’s the failures – the near misses in conduct, performance, or execution that stand out in memory.

My most recent job was delivering prescriptions for the local Rite Aid stores until they contracted an outside company to sublet and administer the delivery program, company-wide. I really enjoyed this job, even though it was plagued by unusual dangers that made it a bit stressful: There was the extreme poverty of the neighborhoods I delivered to each day; the constant traffic snarls and suicidal drivers navigating narrow streets; the weekly (or more often) shootings and gang rivalries common to my areas of service; and, in some cases, the shaky nature of my customers – like the man who was so high he couldn’t figure out how to sign the receipt while holding a crack pipe in his writing hand. You get the picture.

But the thing that comes to mind most often when I think about the delivery job was a very old , very sick and broken lady whom I’ll call Abby for now, since she hasn’t given me permission to use her real name. I first delivered to Abby’s home about a year before my job was terminated, and thereafter at least once or twice each week.

On that first day it was Abby’s caregiver who answered the door. I entered, and at first didn’t see my client in the corner chair where she would prove to be every time I visited. As the young woman signed my receipt I heard a sound from the back corner: It sounded like “hah” – like “hat” without the “t”. I looked up and the sound was repeated, “Hah!” like some nonspecific vocalizations I had heard from several other non-communicating customers before. This one was al little quieter, and less like an eruption of energy than others, but basically still a vocalization of some sort. I looked up again and tried to nod an acknowledgement that I knew she was there, and I noticed the caregiver and a young boy on the floor by the  TV were both looking at me rather tentatively. To see if I’d ask “the question”? To see if I was going to react negatively  as others might have before me? I stiffened a little and tried my best not to offend people who obviously had more on their plates than I.

Then I thanked the young lady who’d signed the paper and turned to leave when I heard the other vocalization: ” Bah!” she said. “Bah!” And it finally clicked. Here I was trying to be professional and not overreact to the spasmodic vocalizations of a very old woman in a corner and she was just being civil to the stranger is her home: She was saying”Hi!” to the new fat guy (and later “‘Bye!”) And I had looked at her like a dunce and not understood. I quickly waved over my shoulder and said “‘Bye!” as I almost ran out the door. From that day on I always tried to look into her corner first thing in the door, and always I was met with a low, gravelly “Hah!”.

I saw in the paper that Abby passed away a couple of weeks ago. I had wanted to write about her before, but felt she deserved more respect that to be written about without her permission, and I’d been unable to find a way to explain to her why and what I wanted to write. Now that she’s gone, I think she might understand.

 

Vince Katarzynski

Indefenceable attitude

          I was going to blame my old friend Dudley for this, but the fact is that blame rests squarely on my own shoulders and I might as well own it from the start: I have a bad attitude about nearly everything lately, and it’s getting worse.

          For example, I have a very busy schedule this summer, and I’m not happy about it. Sure, some of it I will enjoy immensely. There’s the family golf outing that I look forward to more each year. It gets me out on the course with the people closest to me and gives me 5 or 6 hours of golf and joking and chatter with my kids and grandkids whom I seldom see and almost never spend enough time with otherwise.

          But the outing this year comes the day after my wife’s family reunion. These are very nice, warm people that I enjoy seeing, but however you cut it it’s still an entire day spent with every in-law I have, and there’s always that sense of being “on”, of having to crank up the internal filter to maximum so I don’t blurt out some remark that might tickle the kids, but insult anyone who doesn’t know me well enough.

          Then, a few days later (I’m rotten with dates and my wife will be GLAD to confirm that) we have guests coming to the house. Not kids or grandkids, but my wife’s old high school classmates from more than fifty years ago! Seems there’s to be yet another class reunion of people whom I’ve met 3 or 4 times at reunions 5 or 10 years apart. Most of these folks never bothered to speak to me, except the guy who delights in cornering me at every reunion to tell me how HOT my wife was in the 11th grade and how much he drooled after her from afar … that’s always fun! There’s also a woman who’s my age and thinks SHE’S really hot, and a guy who dotes on his wife who acts like the world’s perfect airhead! But I digress: The visitors are friends of my wife from Nebraska or Iowa or some such tornado-ridden state who are coming to visit and go with us to the reunion in Ohio.

          Marge, my wife, is absolutely right in asserting that my attitude is bad, I know. Yet the thought that I’m also on tap for a wedding involving one of HER co-workers; a visit to someone we used to spend time with (Marge’s friend) until they moved to Michigan, (she has a mother who will be 100 years old this summer); and I know there’s something else planned (for some time in August) but I can’t remember what … those thoughts just depress the heck out of me (see, Dudley would have said the word but I’m not allowed).

          Please don’t get me wrong: I love my wife and would never refuse her these things. And not all were her idea, she got cornered into some of them, too. I guess my real problem is that I honestly feel better if I cuss and complain about things like this than if I just suck it up and go along. I’ll bet my friend John would say I should consider the feelings of those who have to listen to me. And Dudley , of course, would tell me to let go and turn the air blue and tell them all to … uh … well, you know.

           My secret wish is that I could see a full, interesting and invigorating summer ahead filled with adventure and new experiences. (Not much chance of that, even though I admit it would be nice.) What I actually see is constantly checking clocks and calendars and still getting yelled for forgetting this and missing that, all while trying to pretend I’m enjoying the rollercoaster ride as much as everyone else. And the worst thing is it’s ME. My bad attitude. My dread of what’s coming, even though I know there’ll be the golf outing in Toledo, with great grandkids to kiss and tickle, family to visit, world-class food and company galore, seems to be ever present. Sigh.

          I just have a bad attitude.

vince katarzynski

 

 

 

 

 

That #@^”+&! Tree!

          I ran into my old friend Dudley the other day, and frankly I’m sorry I did. He was in quite a lather over a tree his landlord had refused (several times) to remove from the front of his apartment building. It’s really a beautiful tree, and I made the mistake of asking why he wanted to be rid of it.

          “It’s such a messy thing!” he fumed, “and my wife yells at me every day because of it. You see, it’s some silly kind of pear tree that doesn’t ever have fruit.”  “So what?” I wondered. “It’s pretty, and provides great shade in the summer.”

          “I know,” he said, “but you don’t live with it. That #@^”+&! tree sheds crap 5 times each year, and just sure as hell I track all that stuff into the house and she thinks it’s MY fault.” He was on a roll now, and I knew I’d started something that wasn’t going to finish any time soon.

          “To start things off,” he said, “at about this time of year it spits out these little brown things that are so small you can’t even sweep them away. There are millions of the &%)-! things on the ground right now, and you can’t even tell where they’re coming from! They just drop for a week or more and you reach the next level: stink! That lousy tree stinks exactly like cat urine, possibly the third worst smell on earth. And it’s not a flower that smells, it’s the @&%* trunk! It oozes this liquid that stinks to high heaven.”

          I needed a break, so I started: “Surely, Dud, there are worse things around than cat urine. And it’s a tree so…”  “Yeah, yeah,” he interrupted, “I told you it’s ‘third’! Right after human decomposition and skunk spray!” He was actually ticking them off on his fingers, so I didn’t dare cut in.

          “Well,” he said, “the stink lasts a couple of weeks, and then the flowers start to grow. I guess they’re actually pretty nice, but I can’t enjoy them ’cause I know what’s coming next:  Those dang flowers are made up of five or six individual white petals each, and they start to fall after about a week. Freakin’ snow storm in May every year, and those things are flat and wet and stick to everything they touch!”

“Oh Dud,” I put in, “flowers are flowers and everybody likes those. Besides, that should be all that happens until the leaves turn.” He grinned an evil grin. “You really don’t know a  _*&$$*  thing, do you?” He flushed a bright red as he spoke.

          “Those flowers grow in threes, on a little tripod of a stem. And the darn STEMS fall next. wilting little twigs all over the place, and they last for at least 2 more weeks.” I could see he was picturing them as he spoke. For a moment I thought I’d lost him to his mental horrors, but finally he continued: “After that you begin to think you’ve out lasted the freakish tree because for several weeks (it’s now June and nice  outside) the tree does nothing. It’s leaves are green and full, and it gives a nice shade from the summer heat” He stopped again, as if in a reverie, and I thought he might be finished.

          “But in the hottest August days it begins to drop these strange round nutty-looking things that split in two when they hit the sidewalk…or your car. They seem to be covered in a sticky sap of some sort that takes 4 or 5 washings to be removed from your paint job. Even the pros at the car washes can’t clean it up in less than three washes.” At this point I decided to just let him talk. I didn’t want to push him.

          “You know? When the other leaves begin to turn and the roadside is alive with color THIS tree hangs on to its green leaves ’til almost Christmas; Sometimes longer. And when they finally turn and fall, they’re just yellow/brown blotches on the clean white snow.” He was finally calming down, as though just the discussing of it had helped. His closing words (sorry, Greenpeace): You know something? I actually HATE that @^$*+#!!^&? tree.”

          My friend Dudley can be very emotional at times.

 

Vince Katarzynski

 

Defending Silence

           I’ve started 3 new posts in the last month, and scrapped them all. Some tell me there are no excuses for this, but I maintain there are reasons: First, my wife, lover and partner of 38 years underwent back surgery Feb. 2nd.  She was home in a couple of days, and is healing nicely. But with back surgery there is always the lurking fear: Will it heal as hoped? Will not only the pain but the weakness and associated problems clear with time? What normal functions will be lost for how long? Finally, after a month of worry I was able to think clearly enough to write a small piece (“Politics”).

          And almost immediately after we were faced with a new, more frightening crisis: My daughter, the apple of our eyes now grown to womanhood and parenthood and entering the “change” could suddenly no longer cope with the perfect storm of professional, biological and medical problems that rained down on her and she had a brief – and very terrifying – break with reality. A breakdown which put her in the Behavioral Unit at the local hospital for a week, and left us frozen inside. Not because her case was so terribly bad or the diagnosis at all foreboding, but because we-as-a-family were ill-equipped to handle it. There was no common folk wisdom to turn to for help: “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” “Chicken soup is the best remedy” There was only: “what was it I learned in psych class 40+ years ago? And how do you address what you are unable to point at and quantify?” Our (MIne and my wife’s and our family’s) lives froze in place while we wrestled with unanswerable questions.

          And for me the worst part was that it was not MY affliction that I could write about and expose to the light of day and look at from afar as a reader. It was someone else’s problem and I could not discuss it without her permission. I even tried, but it felt unethical and eventually stopped me cold since I hadn’t asked. Trying to pick an alternate subject was futile. I found that no matter what subject I tried to write about, it related in my mind to the crisis in my daughter’s life and I was stumped. I couldn’t think clearly enough to overcome the block and finish a post.

          Now, of course, with her permission secured, I can only write about my own reaction to all of this. I don’t presume to understand the horrors she must have felt, knowing things weren’t right; knowing she was not choosing to behave strangely or ramble about nonsense as she was, and not know why. -Or how to stop. -Or how to explain to those she loved what was happening to her. The loss of our contact with our place in the world, our grip on the realities of life, is perhaps out worst of all nightmares, and my own daughter was living through it.  Neither I nor her mother nor her own sons could do anything of real use to help her. In the end it was her own private battle for her life, and thank God above she was able win it, and start the long road back. It will take time and effort and love, but she will succeed. I know it.

          Just as I know that (hopefully) soon I will be able to write of other things again: Things like why the sight or mention of Donald Trump immediately makes me think of Chuancy Gardener, the Peter Sellers character in “Being There”. And: Is Damien’s name actually Donald?  Stay tuned.

 

Vince Katarzynski

Politics

I’m a failure, of sorts. I promised myself I would not discuss politics or religion in this forum, but I can’t sit closed-mouthed and ignore the universe around me. Luckily, I can keep the old trap shut and recount a conversation I recently had with my old friend Dudley. Dud (as I call him) is never at a loss for wind or words, and he’ll tell you what he thinks whether you ask or not.

“I have nobody to vote for!” he exclaimed when I saw him. “there’s no one running, in either party, that I can really say I’d trust in the White House. I’d write in my own name, but nobody important even knows the old Dudster, and I’d feel I threw it away. Voting’s an important thing.”

Dud looked dead serious, so I tried to encourage him a little. “Look”, I said, “there HAS to be somebody in one of the races you could live with!” “Nope,” he said. “Nobody. Hell, just look at the five or six with the best support!” He proceeded to run them off, one by one:

“First there’s Trump: He’s been ‘the boss’ in his own world for so long he believes it! He lives as the man at the top, with EVERY one he talks to owing him their job. However ridiculous, every word he says is treated as profound and sacred. Old Donald has had his head up his own butt for so long he thinks the sky is coffee-colored, and the person meant to rule is the guy who owns the biggest storehouse of ‘Charmin’, which he has the money to assure is none other than Donald Trump.”  (I love it when Dud gets fired up. He can really get on a roll.)

“Ted Cruz is a little more rational, but he still scares the hell out of me. I admire his religious principles, but I don’t feel he would be able to separate his religious views from the needs of the government. If a true conflict shows up, I can see Cruz quoting scripture and acting contrary to the national interests. That, and he seems convinced  that his conservative view is the ONLY view, period. Democracy is essentially an exercise in compromise between one view and another. Cruz sure seems to think there IS no other point of view.” (That entire statement was odd, because Dud has never been serious for an entire paragraph in his life.)

“Marco Rubio”, he continued, “is  a bright, good looking young man who’s also convinced he has all the answers.” “but aren’t ALL candidates convinced of that?” I asked. “It seems to me that would be a prerequisite for elective office.”

“Oh, you’re right about that,” he said, “But Marco hasn’t had nearly the experience needed to be right on a presidential level. I know he doesn’t see it, but then that’s the proof of the pudding: He doesn’t see it ’cause he’s inexperienced.”

“But now,” he marched on, “I can’t wait to cross that aisle! Hilary has been running for the job since Obama took his second oath of office. She and Bill decided eons ago that stonewalling was the way to face down a problem, and she’s still doing it. You’d think that if the Lewinski thing didn’t show them that doesn’t work, they’d have at least noticed it didn’t do them much good during the USS Cole hearings. I just can’t decide if it’s her dogged sticking to a failed strategy or her obvious unfamiliarity with the word “truth” that bugs me the most” (I’ve cleaned that up a little: As I said, Dud tends to get fired up a bit.)

“Finally, there’s Bernie.” For the first time since he started, Dud was smiling. “Poor Bernie,” he said. “He’s probably got a closet full of bell-bottomed jeans and chambray shirts all packed and waiting to start the new era in the White House. The guy actually IS a socialist, even though socialism failed everywhere it was tried and has gone the way of Soviet communism. Besides, remember what I said about democracy and compromise: No Republican OR Democrat elected in this country could ever HOPE to get re-elected to any position in the U.S. Congress   if he dared to consider or support any legislation proposed or supported by a socialist. That could no more happen than if I ask Trump to hire my gay cousin Julio as his personal secretary.” (I’ve seen Julio, and he’s definitely NOT a gorgeous 20-something female.)

“No,” he concluded, “I’m going to have to blow off the primary, and write in either Opus or Aunt Jemima  in the general election.” Personally, I hope he picks Opus, ’cause that’ll make at least two of us.

vince katarzynski