Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The Things We've Handed Down

Since the death of my parents, I've been on a mission to find my roots. This song by Marc Cohn has been a catalyst, lyrics dancing in the background like Trevor tugging on my shirt sleeve. I'd be hard pressed to find more poignant words to describe to my children who and why and how they are.

Don't know much about you
Don't know who you are
We've been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don't know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we'd give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I've heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we've handed down

I wonder who you'll look like
Will your hair fall down and curl
Will you be a mama's boy
Or daddy's little girl
Will you be a sad reminder
Of what's been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we've handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father's
That you'd gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we've handed down

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Uncle Ronnie

My uncle, Ronald James Dickson (stage name Jim Dickson), was part of the cast of a TV documentary called "Primal Man" in 1974. The cast and film crew were all killed in a plane crash on the return flight from the shoot at Mammoth Lakes area in California.. This makeshift memorial, made from wreckage, is near the crash site, on top of the mountain, with the airport in the background. They were aloft only minutes before the crash.

I was living with him when it happened. I remember waking to the sound of my aunt crying in the living room after having seen news of the crash on television. We lived in Hollywood CA at the time.

Aunt Laura Dickson, if you Google yourself and see this, email me. I would love to see you and catch up.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The CliffsNotes version of my relationship with Barry Morris (an adventure in self-therapy)

A search of the phrase 'unconventional parental relationships' might return a link to this blog. I've always marveled at (and been envious of) healthy, normal, consistent familial relationships.

My father died this week. My mother passed two years ago, so Dad was my last direct mooring to this planet, and my last-best-hope to truly understanding why I'm here. The unconventional aspect of our relationship stems from the fact I met him for the first time at age 31. The past 20+ years have literally been an attempt to catch up.

Absent the day-to-day mental history most people co-author with their parents (as divergent from reality as they often are), I've managed to learn in bursts everything I know about my Dad and family. We exchanged letters at first, in which I described the first three decades of my life, and he gave me a peek into his world. He also described the circumstances which influenced decisions my parents made about their relationship and its fate.

I was heartened by the similarities in my parents' stories. Both admitted to playing a part, and accepted their roles in their relationship's demise.

Upon our first face-to-face meeting I witnessed the profound impact of genetics. As much stock as we place in the formative influence of environment, I am convinced more than ever our primary constitution is based on DNA. Facial expressions, body motions, stride, all were uncannily similar. If there was any reason to be suspicious of our genetic commonality, our matching smiles removed all doubt.

My new connection to Dad also came with bonus connections to other family members. I have a half-sister and step-brother, both of whom have children and families who are now part of my life. I have a great uncle who is quite an extraordinary and even historic figure, who has also been very kind and welcoming. Dad's wife, who had every right to treat me with skepticism, has done the opposite. I consider her a great blessing, and look forward to maintaining a relationship with her as long as she'll have me.

Unfortunately, the act of building a bridge to my father also served to build a wall between my mother and me. Her life was very difficult and the work of raising a child alone was often more than she could handle. She had a very tumultuous childhood which ill-prepared her for challenges ahead. She did the best she could and was lucky to have a father she could depend on for help. I spent about half of my childhood with my grandparents, who I credit greatly with my personal balance. (Many would say the word 'balance' is a gross mischaracterization.)

On the other hand, my father's life was more traditional and comfortable. He had the benefit of both parents, was involved with their family business, and had a healthy childhood and head start. My mother couldn't help feeling bitter about that. Despite my attempts to balance my attention, the more time I spent with Dad, the more she pulled away from me. When she died we hadn't spoken for several months. Needless to say, I was devastated.

My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer a short time before her death. She made the decision that she lacked the will to fight the disease, and took her own life. She consulted no one, she allowed no attempts at dissuasion.

Dad had always considered suicide an act of cowardice and an affront to god, and when I told him of Mom's death he made no effort to conceal those feelings. Although he had softened his stance recently, his original reaction made a mark on me that would never fully heal.

Similar marks exist in every relationship. We had less of a foundation than most, but over time we managed to work through it. In the end, things were better. Over the past 20 years we had both invested much time and effort in building family bonds. Given another 20 years, who knows...

I do know this. I'm thankful for the family I inherited through meeting my father. I'm thankful for my wife's extraordinary family, which has become a loving and important part of my life. But yesterday I opened my phone and saw Dad on my 'frequent calls' list, and the thought of not having him, and those calls, made me feel profoundly lonely.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

President-Elect Trump: The Complicit Press

For the purpose of this piece, I will allow the press this caveat: I think their slack-jawed acquiescence to position-driven journalism was propelled by the rise of a very unusual candidate. He said things nobody who hoped to grace the most powerful office on earth had ever said, about the very people he hoped to lead.

I have no idea how to even begin defending the press. In their zeal to focus on the (truly offensive) things this candidate has said, and in an admitted vacuum of an actual plan or position on many of the issues with which voters were concerned, the press tried to fulfill their quota of clicks, and provide
24-hour-a-day coverage, with conjecture, outrage, and their own vacuum of quality journalism.

I will cut them some slack because there aren't many outlets providing a budget for deep journalism. The kind of reporting we saw during Watergate was expensive, and today's business model for most newsrooms has changed greatly. Most truly motivated journalists today are forced to use their own time and money to chase a story. Been there, done that.

I also think the press rightly assigned a certain weight to a fact not in dispute: a US president has the unique position of being the sole arbiter of the most dangerous weaponry on the planet, a fraction of which could eliminate all life.

The landscape is different today in the news business. With lowered budgets and raised expectations, they aren't able to deliver the same journalistic integrity required of a diligent, responsible press. You might construe this as another feeble attempt at a defense. I watched hours of coverage featuring an anchor allowing a pundit to lie provably and extensively. It wouldn’t cost a dime for the anchor to drill deeper for the truth. Unfortunately the two are bedfellows, as the anchor needed the pundit to be back next hour, and the next day, and next week.

The press might also be somewhat forgiven if, in fact, they were determined to add a counterbalance to the criminal theft and release of one of the major campaign's planning and strategy emails. That seems to run counter to reality, as they aided and abetted that very act of international espionage by self-servingly propagating it, with no concern for fact-checking and no ability to validate authenticity. Hey, why not, it's news, right? Then came the alligator tears as they lamented a political system that had been hacked by a foreign government. Journalistic principles? None.

No doubt, Trump is his own worst enemy. He gave the press plenty of fodder for bad journalism. Garbage in, garbage out. Even the press’ portrayal of some sort of major groundswell is false, Trump’s popular vote count totaled barely 25% of the voting population, well short of Obama’s totals and nothing even close to the level required to condemn the entire United States as a nativist, racist country.

But I’m convinced the press’ obsession with Trump’s personal shortcomings, the failure to push him on real policy positions, and their abject failure to dig deeper into why Americans were willing to vote for him, caused those voters to be re-entrenched. They had reasons for their votes, but the press took the easy route and assigned simple labels instead of doing their job.

The Unbearable Smugness of the Press - from CBS News

Monday, June 13, 2016


The social media meme of the day is in full force. Being respectful to the dead means you can't discuss preventing future mass killings. 'Thoughts and prayers' or quiet introspection are the only appropriate responses. Anything else is disrespectful.

Yes, it is comforting when we all come together for a moment, set aside our differences, and feel the camaraderie of shared pain. We post rainbows and hashtags. Sing Kumbaya. But don't you get a little tired of THIS kind of camaraderie?

So, how long shall we wait? What is the magic moment when it's OK to discuss curbing the slaughter of fellow humans? After the pain of the moment has faded? After Trump, Clinton, Wayne LaPierre and others have made political hay and further entrenched their followers?

The 'heat of the moment' is a poor time to make decisions, that's true. But is this really the heat of the moment? We've had plenty of time to collect evidence from the last 1,000 mass shootings, and still have not had meaningful discussions. Americans have very short memories.

Those who insist "this isn't the time" should carefully consider my question: When IS the time? Don't give me some generic schtick that intelligent people can see through, don't defend faith, don't defend guns, don't defend blind allegiance. Just tell me when we should begin.

Because we still haven't begun from the last time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


It's been over a year since my mother left the world on her own terms. I found a piece this morning, written by Rev. Safire Rose, and was very moved. I wanted to share it here so I can find it later, and in case it might help someone else cope or understand.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev. Safire Rose

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


After an early morning flurry of activity, the kids are out the door to a summer camp.

Flurry is hardly appropriate. For my family, it's a squall. Some mornings, a raging storm or a high pressure dome. Yesterday was a level 3 typhoon. (It had a distinctly Asian, almost Samurai feel.) Almost never a flurry.

I am a gentle waker. I am the type who lingers in bed, and might be awake 10 minutes before I open my eyes. I'm usually awakened by a thought, or a dream's plot twist that seems a little too unlikely. These days, maybe a pain somewhere.

I like for the kids to sneak in and slip beneath the covers with my wife and me. In fact, that is the one thing I really want for Father's Day-an early morning, peaceful, easy kid nap. That's some of the best sleep.

I'd like a coffee bar in our bedroom. I can hardly accomplish a thing 'BC.' I've lived most of my life addicted to a substance, utterly incapable of productivity without it, yet haven't been carted off to a clinic. Isn't one debilitating addiction as harmful as the next? (I know, I know. No emails, please.)

My wife is an up-and-at-'em type. For wake up music, she likes jams, I like jazz. We compromise with something I call jamzz. (a weird mix ranging from Jay Z to Phoebe Snow) She's also a morning gym person. That's something I'll never understand. I mean, what the fuck? And, she does it all sans coffee. I find that abhorrent and reckless.

If every day started like this one, I'd be fine. The squall happened, but it ended and I'm on the deck with a cup of Mama Carmen's Guatamalan reason-to-live. Clients are nipping at my heels, so I'll head down to my recording studio in a few minutes. At the moment, a nice breeze is blowing, and if it weren't for the trash truck down the street, it would be completely peaceful.

That driver could probably use a kid nap and cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Have a catch

I watched the Cardinals drop one to Cleveland yesterday and it was disappointing, but the Indians' Corey Kluber was throwing a no-hitter against us until the 8th. As much as I wanted the win, it was still a thrill to enjoy the pitching performance. That's baseball.

I love to "have a catch" with Grayson.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Laws or hoods: things you can hide behind

This kerfuffle over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act makes me wonder - why is religion a protected class? It's is clearly a choice, like Hawaiian shirts, or riding a llama to work. Here's the thing: I want my future Hawaiian shirt purchases to be tax free. And I want rules relaxed on where I can feed my llama. Why not?

Regarding this article, some states, such as Illinois, have added sexual orientation as a protected class, so the drum beat by Governor Pence that then-Senator Barack Obama supported the same law in Illinois is disingenuous.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Bibi got backing

Today, traitorous scalawags, drunk with power, diminished their own country in a grotesque breach of diplomatic norms.

Members of our own Congress invited a foreign leader to speak against our own President, and applauded him for doing it. Bibi Netanyahu, who apparently considers peaceful negotiations folly, and who is bent on war at our expense, was gifted the attention of our entire Legislative branch, his message delivered over a chorus of grotesque, congratulatory bleating.

That's not to disagree with his stance, nor even consider it. This was about a Congress of rednecks shooting their guns in the air. A power move designed to convey a message to the American people: we won't sit idly by while this President sullies the good name of 'Murika.

Mr. Netanyahu fell for it, hook, line and sinker. He made the best of the opportunity, and bullied the President over his negotiations with Iran. He pilloried our Middle East foreign policy, to a cacophony of hoots and hollers. He questioned the decisions of his most ardent ally, who finances a large percentage of his own defense budget.

What of his position on the prospects for peace in general, and talks with Iran specifically? To ascertain his record of gauging threats, we only need remember when his bellicose rhetoric helped seal the fates of thousands of young American men and women, and trillions of American dollars.
"If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region." ~ Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu urging the US to invade Iraq in 2002.
He wasn't the only one who got Iraq wrong. Still, he's being compared by some to Winston Churchill. I'd say to bear up to that comparison, he'd need to be right about at least one of the Hitlers he has manufactured. Do some wish harm on Israel? Certainly. Will remaining in a constant state of war with those entities build bridges? Certainly not.

That's beside the point. Diplomatic protocol was breached. The President, charged with developing and executing our foreign policy, was bypassed. It is a defining day when the hatred of one man can overpower centuries of tradition and precedent. But John Boehner managed.