An encyclopedia of useless information, puerile rantings, baseless insinuations, foolish assumptions, preposterous notions, and phony instrospection

Monday, July 7, 2014

Officer Perry Renn EOW 07-05-14

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog in spite of, once again, having sincere intentions to write regularly when I created it. I can probably attribute my negligence to not having anything to say that someone else hasn’t already said more succinctly and elegantly. Fate, not mine, but someone else’s, has cleared away the cobwebs in my mind and I find myself inspired, maybe even obligated, to address a topic that is dominating the local news here in Indianapolis. Don’t let that scare you away if you live somewhere else. The impetus for this might be local, but I could just as easily be writing about Boston, Detroit, Denver, Houston, or Los Angeles. This will, by necessity, be long, but I have a lot to say and it’s coming from a perspective that I think you will find unique and, I hope, thought provoking.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve spent the last twelve-and-a-half years as a 911 dispatcher in the Indianapolis 911 Center. I spent six years dispatching for two other police agencies and I worked as a police officer in a very small town for two years back in the early 1980’s. I faced less danger in those two years than an Indianapolis, or any other big-city, police officer faces in a single shift, but my training was not all that different from what they went through. I’ve been a keen observer of the police officers I’ve worked with over the years and I want to share some of my observations in the wake of another terrible tragedy.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department lost one of their finest officers Saturday night, July 5th, just as I was arriving for my shift. Officer Perry Renn, a twenty-two-year veteran of the department, responded to a “shots fired” call and was gunned down by an assailant armed with an AK-47. I never met Perry Renn although he worked on my shift for as long as I’ve been in the 911 Center. I spoke with him hundreds of times on the radio over the years and would have recognized his unique voice anywhere, but I wouldn’t have known him otherwise had he walked in the door. Perry was an IMPD Medal of Honor winner with a very distinguished career. My impression of him from our very limited interactions was that he was a no-nonsense guy who took his work very seriously. By all accounts, he was. His fellow officers have described him as “a warrior” and “fearless”, as someone who set a great example for younger officers. One of the local news stories interviewed some of Perry’s neighbors, all of whom had glowing things to say about him as a friend and neighbor.

I found out about the shooting on my way into the building Saturday night from another dispatcher. At that point, we only knew that he was in critical condition. It wasn’t long before we learned that Perry had passed away. The first emotion was pure sadness- for Perry, his family, his friends, his fellow officers, and for all the rest of us in the public safety family. Yes, the public safety community is a family, even though we fight like cats and dogs at times.

To a stranger walking into the 911 Center, it would have seemed mostly like business as usual. Apart from the mood being slightly more subdued than normal, it pretty much was. The calls don’t stop coming in and the local miscreants don’t stop acting up just because we’re dealing with a tragedy, both professional and personal. We had to continue answering calls and dispatching the police. The supervisors kept busy paging out command staff, the FOP president and attorney, the prosecutor, the post team, and the public information officers and answering calls from the media.

It was only in the wee hours of the morning when things finally slowed down that we were able to stop and reflect upon a hero whose life had been senselessly cut short, a husband who wouldn’t be coming home to his wife and family, and a brother in blue who, for twenty-two years, stood selflessly between pure evil and the community he served.

Unfortunately, for those of us who have been around awhile, this was nothing new. This was the third time an officer has been killed in the line of duty on my shift, the others being Jake Laird in 2004 and Rod Bradway just last September. I’m not used to it and I never want to get used to it. I have learned to come to terms with knowing that any one of the officers I work with and work hard to protect to whatever extent I’m able to can be gone in a split second. To quote Hyman Roth in The Godfather II, this is the business we have chosen.

I have the luxury of doing what I do in a safe environment. There is no one with an AK-47, boiling blood, no conscience, and an itchy trigger finger lying in wait for me in a dark alley, behind a door, or at the wheel of a car with a brake light out. Police officers have chosen their business too and those of us who watch them in action every night know just how risky that business is. I’ve been privileged to have a front row seat to thousands of acts of bravery, skillfulness, and fortitude and an equal number of acts of kindness and compassion as performed by the men and women of IMPD. I’ve had the misfortune of hearing the “officer down” call go out way too many times.

In the coming days as I find the time, I’m going to have much more to say about police officers as well as the current state of our society. For now, I want to focus as much attention as possible where it belongs- on Officer Perry Renn, his dedication to his career, his courage, his kindness toward others, and his untimely death. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sailing with WFB

I'm always torn, on those rare occasions when I have a few hours to devote to leisure, between sitting down with a good book and writing something for the blog or for a forthcoming Masonic presentation. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself with an entire evening free. I had a $50.00 Barnes and Noble gift card that I received for Christmas and had yet to redeem it, so off to the bookstore I went. I spent a couple of hours browsing and came home with, among a few others, the late William F. Buckley Jr.'s Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography, a collection of Buckley columns and articles that he chose to tell his life's story.

After overcoming the urge to delve into the Vince Flynn spy novel I had purchased, I settled into the recliner with Buckley's book. I was aware that he had long ago been universally hailed as the father of the modern conservative movement. I knew somewhat of his background, the book he wrote about Yale, and that he founded National Review, the conservative bible. I had seen him on television a few times. Of course, I remembered this famous exchange being alluded to on many occasions. Buckley was commonly accused of being an elitist. His wealth, the patrician accent, and the use of obscure words made him an easy target. Most of the accounts that I've read by people who knew him described him as friendly and gracious- even toward his ideological adversaries, Gore Vidal excepted. Elitist or not, Buckley was brilliant.

Buckley was a prolific writer and legend among his peers for the speed with which he wrote. He authored over fifty books and more than 5000 magazine columns in addition to hosting Firing Line for thirty-three years and giving dozens of speeches annually. I don't recall ever reading anything Buckley wrote prior to his death in 2008 at age eighty-two, when I skimmed through a handful of his columns posted around the internet. It was my loss. Within minutes of picking up Buckley's book, I discovered that he wrote elegantly, convincingly, and with a charm and wit seldom equaled anywhere in print. Only a few of the columns Buckley selected to chronicle his life and career contain anything political although his conservatism never fails to shine through.

Yes, you will need to keep a dictionary handy when you read Buckley. This particular book is 570 pages and I felt lucky when I completed a page without having to look up a word, a phrase in Latin or French, or some arcane Greek mythological character. On the plus side, I have added the words encomium, tectonic, and belletristic to my vocabulary and learned that opera is actually the plural of opus. I can't imagine why any writer would repeatedly choose words that no more than one percent of his readers could define. Buckley tendered an argument defending his penchant for seldom used words, but I remain unswayed. I think he was just showing off. To what higher honor, though, could any writer aspire than to induce a reader to refer to a dictionary 500 times in 570 pages only to find the reader still captivated by the author's wordsmithery? That's Bill Buckley.

I intend to read more of Buckley's work. I'm inclined to choose one of the books he wrote while sailing across the ocean for the next one. Since I lean toward spy novels for my guilty pleasures, I might also begin the Blackford Oakes series although that will require some effort. Many of them are out of print. They will also be outdated, but that seldom spoils a good espionage tale for me. My affinity for spy novels is akin to Maynard G. Krebs's fascination with monster movies. I'm also burnt out on Muslim terrorist bad guys, which have been, not surprisingly, all the rage for several years now. I miss the Cold War stories that find the U.S. taking a few lumps from the Russians, but always prevailing in the end, often with the assistance of the chaps from MI5. That's why I've never become a fan of John LeCarre's work. I like the good guys to be good and the bad guys to be bad with everything wrapped up in a neat little package at the end. LeCarre's characters tend to drift back and forth between the two, which is fine, but not my cup of tea. I suspect that Buckley's characters will be of the white and black hat variety that I prefer. I should note that it lies within the power of my heart to forgive the hero if, to fulfil his duty to God and country, he has to bed down some alluring femme fatale along the way.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grand Encampment Shuts Down the RER

I picked up on a bit of somewhat startling Masonic news last evening in the same manner that I usually do, via Chris Hodapp's Freemasons For Dummies blog. The Grand Master of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar has shut down the RER. I’m going to do my best to comment on this without it sounding like sour grapes although I may not succeed. I have mixed emotions about this decision. I was glad to see the Grand Encampment obtain this charter from the Grand Priory of Occitania that authorized them to confer the Templar degrees of the RER. I have nothing but respect and friendship for the Past Grand Master of the Grand Encampment Bill Koon, who spearheaded the effort. I don’t believe he had the slightest intent of starting a food fight over recognition or who has a right to confer the degrees. I’m entirely convinced that he wanted nothing more than to see these highly sought after degrees actually conferred on worthy brethren.

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the Chevaliers Bienfasants de la Cite Sainte (CBCS), who also hold a charter permitting them to confer these same degrees, actually confer the degrees on anyone. The CBCS has essentially functioned as little more than a dinner club for a few dozen elitists, who were highly offended by PGM Koon’s, and consequently the Grand Encampment’s, audacity in encroaching upon what they consider their exclusive territory. The CBCS, demonstrating all the maturity of a nine-year-old, has no apparent interest in conferring the degrees themselves, but they don’t want anyone else to confer them either. Sadly, this entire affair disintegrated into a donnybrook with both people and organizations, including a few grand lodges and grand commanderies, lining up on opposite sides of the fence. The unfortunate result of this little spat involving fewer than one hundred Freemasons is that it took twists and turns that ultimately began to affect many thousands of brethren, their visitation rights, and a number of Masonic gatherings. The newly-elected (in August, 2012) Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, Most Eminent David Goodwin, found himself in the midst of a hornet’s nest and came rather quickly to the only logical, if perhaps temporary, solution that he could and ordered that the charter be returned to the Great Priory of Occitania.  

As I’ve noted above, I believe the motives of the Grand Encampment and the fledgling RER body were pure, but I had some issues with their methods. I have to lay a little groundwork first. I was not a member of the RER and no invitation was ever extended to me. I have a few close friends who were members and, while I’m highly envious of them, it’s not a matter of me being distraught over their receiving an honor that I didn’t. It’s very rare that any two active Freemasons’ journeys travel the same course. Besides, I could not have accepted had I been invited, which I’ll explain in more detail later. It all boils down to my interest in the degrees the RER conferred.

I have had an abiding interest in those degrees for a long time although I have no clue as to the content of any of them apart from knowing they are Templar degrees. I have owned a copy of the three craft degrees of the Rectified Scottish Rite for a number of years. I’ve read and studied them diligently. I’ve made presentations in a few lodges on the craft degrees and led a study group on the topic at the Scottish Rite. I’m not alone. There is broad interest in these degrees all around the world. Lots of Freemasons would give their eyeteeth to see them conferred and have an opportunity to study them. Similar battles to the one just waged over these degrees here in the U.S. have been fought in England and elsewhere.

Here is where I take issue with the RER. First of all, it was an invitational body that, from what I was led to understand, was going to be only slightly less exclusive than the CBCS. Fair enough. At least they were going to confer the degrees. I do believe, however, that this was a contributing factor in GM Goodwin’s decision to return the charter. Although I believe the Grand Encampment was on solid ground in obtaining the charter, there was little point in going through all the gyrations necessary to keep the group afloat when it benefitted so very few and left many brethren who are interested in the RER degrees out in the cold. Secondly, the initiation fee for the degrees was $700.00, way more than most men of modest means could ever justify spending to see three hours or so of ritual performed. I could never have afforded it. It’s difficult for me to conclude that the cost was set this high for any reason beyond keeping the riff-raff out. It pretty much ignores the concept of meeting on the level and the lack of regard for a man’s worldly wealth and honors.

One thing that I want to make crystal clear is that I don’t believe for a minute that any of my friends or anyone else who was initiated into the RER are anything close to elitists or that they demonstrated disdain for timeless Masonic principles. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe they joined because they had a sincere desire to see the degrees and I feel badly about the money they have now lost. Had I been invited and the $700.00 to spare, I’d have forked it over as quickly as anyone. I am suggesting that if you looked at the organization as a monolith, it sent a message that I’m not entirely comfortable with.

I have what I consider to be a very simple solution to this entire matter that would seemingly make everyone happy. Since the CBCS doesn’t appear to have any interest in the actual degrees, why don’t they simply hand their charter over to the Grand Encampment? I realize it would be a little more complicated than that, but it could be accomplished. Let the current membership of the CBCS affiliate with some other obscure group and anoint themselves with some other exalted title. Hell, they wouldn’t have to be mere knights anymore. Knights get dirty and sweaty and bloody and ride smelly horses. No, these guys should be barons, lords, dukes, earls, or even kings. I believe, by God, I’ve got it. The Most Puissant Society of Excellent Sovereign Masonic Kings of North America. They wouldn’t have to change a thing but their name. They could remain as exclusive and elitist as they are now. They could continue to have their dinners.

This would allow the Grand Encampment to form an invitational RER body that confers the three Templar degrees once per year in every state. Invitations would be extended to petitioners who could demonstrate a sincere interest in the RER degrees via some means of examination and required proficiency. The initiation fee would be set high enough that the members would feel like they have some skin in the game, but remain affordable to the average man. The potential for something similar to this to ultimately come to fruition is the only positive aspect of this whole ordeal. The only problem with my solution is that it would require the CBCS to act like mature adults. From all appearances, that won’t happen anytime soon.

This fight isn't over. The recognition issues and the feuding between grand bodies is over for now, but the effort to make the RER degrees available to U.S. Freemasons will continue. The saddest part of the entire affair is that the RER Templar degrees, which, based on what I've seen in the craft degrees, have as much beauty, pageantry, symbolism, and as powerful a message as any in Freemasonry, are no longer being conferred anywhere in the country. And that’s a damned shame.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crossing a New Threshold

I have an article entitled "How to Call 911" published on The Art of Manliness website. This is the first non-Masonic article that I've had published anywhere, so I'm kind of excited about it. I'm not quite ready to quit the night job and buy a house in the New England woods. I rather doubt that an article telling people how to call the cops, which any six-year-old can do, will result in the editors of the New Yorker and Esquire racing each other to my door.

The Art of Manliness is an online men's magazine and blog that is published by Brett and Kate McKay of Tulsa, OK. The website has 130,000 subscribers and has 2.5 million unique visitors and 7.5 million pageviews per month. All the articles are archived and you can learn everything from how to tie the perfect four-in-hand knot to how to sharpen a knife to what to carry in your bug-out bag and everything in between. You can tell that Brett and Kate have struck a real chord with with a lot of men, including me, who scoff at what passes for manliness in our current society. I'm very honored to be published on their website and I'm grateful for the opportunity. I had occasion to meet Brett when I invited him to speak at a Masonic banquet at a conference in Alexandria, VA last February. He's a really bright young guy and is enjoying great success with The Art of Manliness. Bookmark the site and make it one of your regular stops.

That, an article for a Masonic magazine, and a myriad of other things have kept me very busy of late. I still intend to post on the blog more regularly than I have been. I'm determined not to let this blog get pushed to the back burner like the others.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Got the Presidential Blues

I’ve already noted that this won’t be a political blog. I can’t, however, let an event like a Presidential election pass without offering a few comments. My side lost. It was a punch in the gut. I really didn’t see it coming. I believed the pundits that said the polls were over-sampling Democrats. I thought the majority of voters would realize that electing Obama in 2008 was a huge mistake and elect Romney. I was wrong. I totally misread the mood of the country. I thought I’d be mad, but I’m not. I’m disappointed and I’m puzzled.

I’m not going to rehash the nomination process. Romney was the most electable candidate in a weak field. I wasn’t a Romney fan at the beginning, but I ultimately grew to admire him. Mitt Romney is a good and decent man with a great family. I was moved by the many stories told at the Republican convention by friends and acquaintances that were beneficiaries of his generosity and compassion. He is a very accomplished man with impeccable credentials and would have made a great President.

I wish with all my heart that this wasn’t necessary, but I have to address an issue that always lurks near the surface when discussing Barack Obama. That, of course, is race.  I’d be happy to ignore the topic altogether and the world would be a much better place if I could, but I can’t. I can’t because, sadly, racism still plagues certain segments of our society and if I fail to include this disclaimer, then I become an easy mark for the intellectually lazy race-baiters and cretins who counter every criticism of Obama with charges of racism. So let me simply state for the record that I’m not a racist and have zero tolerance for racism. I have some pretty tough things to say about Obama, but not a single one of them have anything to do with his race. My quarrel is with his behavior and his beliefs. If you don’t believe that, the problem is yours.

There was a part of me that rejoiced when Obama was elected President even though I was appalled that anyone so bereft of qualifications and experience could be elected to the highest office in the land. I’m not going to go down the laundry list of reasons why I think Obama is not fit to be President. You’ve heard them all before. I’ll just sum it up by saying that he’s an imposter and an empty suit who espouses a worldview that is contrary to the principles this country was founded upon. I’ll offer one caveat.  I generally deplore race or gender-based politics, but I don’t blame black Americans for supporting Obama wholeheartedly. If I was black, I’m reasonably certain that I’d have voted for him too. Obama is unquestionably a hero and a source of pride in the black community, as well he should be. The litany of injustices foisted upon blacks by white America throughout much of our history gives them every right to hoist a huge collective middle finger directly at their oppressors even though Obama represents a party that seldom acts in the best interests of black Americans.

I’m most interested in what motivated people to vote for Obama and against Romney when it was apparent that we needed a change in leadership. If you’re a political junkie like me, you’ve probably already read or watched dozens of post mortems on the election and the preceding campaign. God help those of us wallowing in the aftermath of this election after being unable to turn in any direction without being reminded of it for the better part of a year. If you’ve made it this far, you either share my addiction or you’re really, really bored.

I’m incapable of just walking away from this election and moving on because I believe there will be dire consequences as a result of it. I want to know why Romney lost. Conservative think tanks need to examine the turnout numbers, demographics, and exit polling from every possible angle. Campaign strategy needs to be dissected. Republicans need to consider revamping a nomination process that leaves their candidate victorious, but bloodied by his primary opponents. Most importantly, they need to find a way to marginalize an overwhelmingly leftist mainstream media that manages to define the Republican party as a bunch of angry, extremist, racist, Bible-thumping, cold-hearted white guys. You can never win a war of ideas when you let your opponent define you. Besides, the angriest white guys I know are Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann, and (the Devil made me do it) Rachel Maddow. Every one of them is a far-left ideologue without a shred of credibility.

I have a perspective on the electorate that I haven’t read elsewhere although someone somewhere may be making the same argument. Immediately after Obama was declared the winner, I posted the following on my Facebook page: Moral Relativity + Poor Parenting + Failed Education System + Lack of Personal Responsibiliy = Four More Years. I originally intended to write a couple of hundred words about each of the four factors above, but decided to do a quick Google search to see what someone smarter than me had to say about them. I’m glad that I did because I found something that I believe sums up the election and the state of our nation very well. In his 1995 book When Nations Die, Jim Nelson Black identified ten factors that led to the downfall of formerly great societies:

  1. Increase in lawlessness
  2. Loss of economic discipline
  3. Rising bureaucracy
  4. Decline in education
  5. Weakening of cultural foundations
  6. Loss of respect for traditions
  7. Increase in materialism
  8. Rise in immorality
  9. Decay of religious belief
  10. Devaluing of human life

With the exception of the rising bureaucracy, which no one would deny we’re in the midst of, all of those points would fit quite neatly underneath one of the four factors in my equation above.  I have my own opinion, but you can decide for yourself if any of those factors apply to Barack Obama personally or to his worldview. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a large percentage of Obama’s base that causes, contributes, or subscribes to each one of those factors. That’s why we should have elected Mitt Romney.

Moral decay was a chief contributor to the collapse of the great Greek and Roman civilizations and it’s contributing to ours. Liberals and even many libertarians who can’t decipher the difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion chafe at the slightest mention of religion or any suggestion that the country’s moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction. Some don’t believe that there is a God before whom they will stand in judgment someday while others prefer not to be reminded of it. No system of morality, personal or otherwise, is valid unless the individual that subscribes to it believes there are consequences attached to violations of it. There’s an old adage, erroneously attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, but nonetheless true, that says America is great because she is good; and when America ceases to be good, it will no longer be great. The U.S.A. has plunged into a moral abyss so deep that many of the things we once considered good- church, marriage, and financial success, for example- are now looked upon with suspicion.

The current electorate is so dumbed down that much of it was easily distracted from Obama’s record and the serious issues that the country faces. Obama racked up more debt in his first term than every other President in our history combined. Millions are unemployed and many have given up looking for work. One in five Americans receives food stamps. We’re fighting a war in Afghanistan that no longer seems to have any purpose. The U.S. government left an ambassador and three others alone to die at the hands of terrorists without lifting a finger to help save them. And what was the hot issue? Whether Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who, by the way, pays $40,000 per year in tuition, ought to have to pay $9.00 a month for her own contraceptives.  This was merely a part of the larger war on women that Democratic strategists claimed the Republicans were waging.  This would be comical if it weren’t so pitiful. Even worse, a lot of women, apparently unable to think above the waist, fell for it.

Let’s not leave out the cool factor. Never mind that the only thing Obama is capable of doing competently is reading a speech off of a teleprompter. He was so busy laughing it up with Leno, Letterman, and Stewart on late night television, giving interviews to frivolous media outlets, and hanging out with the Hollywood elite in Las Vegas and L.A. that he couldn’t find the time to attend his intelligence briefings. He spent most of his first term playing golf, raising money, and campaigning.

The Democrats have managed to do something in the last two elections that both parties essentially failed at for decades. They motivated young people aged twenty to twenty-nine to vote. This is a demographic that is easily influenced by media, but generally not interested enough in current affairs to examine issues in depth. So they tend to go along with the mainstream media, musicians, and actors who are overwhelmingly liberal and they voted for Obama in large numbers. The old saying that says a young man who is not a liberal has no heart and an old man who is not conservative has no brain comes to mind. I’m not sure what the Republicans can do to get through to people who refuse to think, ignore realities, and vote against their own self-interest because it’s the cool thing to do. 

I should note that there are plenty of good, moral, principled people on the left. I have a lot of friends and family who support Obama and the Democratic Party. I don't question their motives or their patriotism. I think some of them vote Democratic simply because it's a family tradition and others because of the cool factor. Liberalism fails the logic test. It's failed everywhere it's been tried and it's failing here. I'm not sure how much worse things are going to have to get before some people get the message.

The country is in need of strong leadership and could use a serious morale boost. Nothing Obama has done in his first term suggests to me that he is capable of providing either. One thing is for certain. Obama and the Democrats own this economy now. No one on either side of the fence wants to hear more excuses. I expect the economic malaise to continue. Obamacare will be a disaster and companies are already laying off employees as a result of the election. Energy and food prices are likely to soar. Obama thinks he can solve our economic woes by taxing the rich. This is a personal crusade of his that has nothing to do with economics and the numbers prove it. I wish I had some answers and I wish I had some level of confidence that the President could get the nation back on track. I just don’t think he’s up to the task. It’s going to be a long four years.

Friday, October 12, 2012


If you’re reading this, I’ll presume that you’ve also read the introductory post to this new blog. You probably thought it more than a little strange that I would profess my devotion to writing only to turn around and compare it to a root canal. The pain that I associate with writing would be better described as mental anguish. It emanates from a desire- no, make that a compulsion- to ensure that I’m delivering whatever message I’m trying to convey clearly, concisely, and in a manner that is pleasing to the reader. That is a talent that comes naturally to only a select few. Most folks, including yours truly, discover writing to be damned hard work unless you happen to be a graduate of the Joe Biden School of Speechwriting, where the only requirement for a diploma is to successfully pass Plagiarism 101. Selecting the correct word or phrase and applying your grammar lessons from high school English is painstaking if you care about what you write, which I do. If your writing doesn’t venture beyond jotting down the grocery list or leaving a note for the babysitter, none of that matters. Writing something that you want others to read and comprehend, whether for work or pleasure, demands a lot of effort.

I’ve thought about why I find writing enjoyable yet, at the same time, frustratingly hard work. I think I’ve arrived at a reasonable conclusion. I don’t have a talent for anything else that is tangible. I discovered in seventh grade shop class that I didn’t have much of a future in woodworking or carpentry when I got a D on my birdhouse. I earned B’s in art class not because I had even a tiny shred of aptitude for it, but because Mrs. Bonsett, the art teacher, was a nice lady and probably appreciated the fact that I at least showed up regularly. Other than showering and shaving, I can’t think of a single thing I can do with my hands competently. Okay, maybe typing. But I never considered myself a good fit for the secretarial pool. So I write, primarily for my own enjoyment and occasionally for Masonic publications.

That’s the gist of why writing appeals to me. Plus, it’s good exercise for the mind. That should explain the conflict in the first post, which was the sole purpose of this one. I’m stopping here because this post already contains more I’s than a Barack Obama speech. I don’t expect to be writing about myself very much in this blog. I neither write nor have an ounce of tolerance for touchy-feely, soul-baring, my-life-is-a-wreck-and-I’ve-got-to-get-it-off-my-chest, nobody-gets-me drivel. I thought I’d toss that out there in case you stumbled in here merely by chance and happen to be suffering from Oprah withdrawal. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed

Several decades have passed since I last contemplated the musings of Dante in his epic poem Inferno, where he and his trusty guide Virgil take us on an allegorical tour of the nine circles of Hell. I found a copy on the Internet and searched through all nine circles for what I thought certain was there. I swore that one of those circles was the exclusive domain of frustrated writers suffering from terminal writer’s block, a place where the ghosts of history’s greatest wordsmiths torture its denizens unmercifully. I could practically hear the derisive taunts of Tolstoy, Joyce, Faulkner, and Wodehouse. Even worse, I envisioned myself locked in a room with Erich Segal and Jacqueline Susann as they alternately read passages of Love Story and Valley of the Dolls aloud for hours at a time. Alas, there was no such circle. Okay, as they say in politics, I misremembered. Dante had his vision of Hell and I have mine.

What’s the point of all this? I’m one of those aforementioned frustrated writers. Here’s the really sick part. I love to write. I can’t explain it. There probably is no logical explanation for why a reasonably intelligent fifty-seven-year-old man derives pleasure from a process that delivers all the joy of a root canal. I suppose I could find a $200-an-hour psychotherapist who could lay it all out for me in terms that would likely send me looking for a cliff to jump off of. But I digress. The real point is that I’m launching another blog. For those keeping score, I believe this is version number four or five.

My earlier attempts have been, shall we say, less than successful, not only because they weren’t particularly unique or compelling, but also because I was a less than dedicated contributor. There were a couple of lame attempts to write about politics. I soon got bored with composing angry diatribes that served no useful purpose. Most everyone who knows me is aware that I’m a very active Freemason. That was the focus of my most recent failed effort. God knows I love the fraternity and my Masonic brethren, but it’s not something that I care to write about at length. Besides, like politics, there are a lot of people doing it much better than I ever could, most notably my friends Chris Hodapp and Jay Hochberg.

What is this latest stab at a Pulitzer Prize all about? With apologies to the writers of Seinfeld, it’s a blog about nothing. I’ve concluded that all of the earlier blogs were failures for one simple reason; I generally have trouble focusing on any one thing for extended periods. Exhibit A:  A couple of years ago, I attended a dinner and had a really great glass of red wine. I vowed on the spot that I’d become a wine snob. For about a month, I spent hours poring over websites about wine. I read a couple of books. I bought a few bottles of wine. After a few weeks, my curiosity sufficiently piqued, I moved on and I now have only a passing interest in the topic. At various junctures in my life, I’ve repeated this exact same drill on subjects ranging from learning to speak French to perfecting my golf swing to playing chess with many other stops in between. The sad truth is that I have the attention span of a gnat, so it’s no surprise that I’ve struggled to maintain a blog dedicated to a specific theme for more than a few weeks, let alone write the great American novel or even, for that matter, a lousy one.

So, this time around I’ll expound upon whatever strikes my fancy at the moment- serious, not so serious, or totally frivolous. Perhaps the blog about nothing comment above was not entirely accurate because anything and everything will be fair game, from what I had for dinner to my contempt for most of modern culture to the pros and cons of the last book I read. If you’ve found your way here by accident, understand that I am, first of all, a baby boomer. If you’re not, you’ll see a lot of references to baby boom culture and people whose names you’ve probably never heard. I won’t be taking time to explain. If you don’t get it, this is one instance where Wikipedia will be your friend.

I always enter into these new ventures with the best of intentions, swearing to God, Heaven, and John Wayne that I’ll update the blog religiously. On a couple of occasions, I’ve done relatively well for a few months before doing my D.B. Cooper impression and parachuting out of the blogosphere. Unlike the elusive Cooper, I’ve made more comebacks than Richard Nixon. I’ll simply say that I hope not being tied down to a particular topic will result in my posting more often. If you’re a disturbed enough person to have stuck around through all of these different incarnations, I’m not certain whether I should say thanks or urge you to make an appointment with a therapist. Anyway, I’m off and running once again. I hope I’ll occasionally have something to say that you’ll find informative, amusing, or insightful and worth a few minutes of your time.