May you live as long as you want
And never want as long as you live.
May you live as long as you want
And never want as long as you live.
Today, Saturday November 5, marks my 59th birthday, and I have to gloat on myself! For the first time in a long while, I feel better than I have…in a long while! For one thing I don’t feel a day older than 57! And, even as I rapidly approach the seventh decade of my life, I’m determined never to get “old”.
I’ve had so much going on lately. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated both my burgeoning freelance writing career and what savings I’d amassed over the previous years. I’ve had trouble finding work, which I attribute in part to my age. Other stuff has gone awry. My truck is showing its age; the overhead garage door needs to be repaired; I need a new PC, CD player and DVD player. I’ve had ongoing plumbing problems. A job that was contract-to-hire (and that looked very promising) was pulled unexpectedly from me on Friday.
But my hair is still black; my face and body are in relatively good shape; I still enjoy writing and blogging; and – most importantly – I’m still alive! I woke up this morning…well, more like this afternoon.
I’m also happy to say I’ve achieved that coveted status of “Dirty Old Man”! Now I can emulate my dad and pretty much do and say whatever I want and not give a shit what people say about it! What a glorious state of being!
As someone who has suffered from chronic depression most of my life and alcoholism most of my adult years, I’m glad to know I’ve made it to another year of life. I haven’t given up on myself and neither should any of you! If someone as deranged as me can live this long, just about anything can happen!
Filed under Essays
In 1995, the British pop duo Everything But the Girl released “Missing”, a song that would become their greatest hit. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt paired up 40 years ago to create EBTG. They found their title in the slogan of a store in their home town of Hull that promised to sell shoppers “everything but the girl”. I feel they’re one of the most underrated musical acts of recent decades. There was once a time – before the internet – when people could vanish from our lives and we relied on music like this to fill the void. Music always seems to fill the void of whatever or whomever we’re missing.
My old friend, Paul Landin, had discovered EBTG in the late 1980s and became instantly fascinated with them. He was especially enamored with Thorn. I know he traveled to England at least twice in the 1980s, but I don’t know if he ever saw EBTG in concert there or anywhere. Paul died in April after a year-long battle with liver cancer. Shortly after his death, a mutual friend, Mike*, sent a Tweet to Tracey Thorn advising her that “one of her biggest fans” had passed away. Paul and Mike had met at New York University in the early 1990s where they both studied filmmaking and found they had a mutual love of EBTG. They couldn’t have been more different: Paul, a Mexican-American born and raised in Texas and Mike, a traditional “WASP” from upstate New York.
A few days after Paul’s death Mike told me he’d dreamed of our old friend. “It might have been the edible I had last night,” he said via text, “but I felt his presence sitting across from me in the living room. He was smiling and he said don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.” Still, Mike lamented, he feels Paul had been cheated out of fulfilling his dreams of being a successful filmmaker/screenwriter.
Paul and I had a strange friendship; almost a love/hate type of interaction. I supposed that was because we were so much alike in many respects. Our fathers grew up together in East Dallas. Paul and I even attended the same parochial grade school in the 1970s (I vaguely remember him) and were altar boys at the accompanying Catholic church. We shared a love of good food and good cinema. As fraught as our friendship could be at times, I still miss him and his quirky nature.
Tracey Thorn’s reply to Mike* back in April
I miss a lot of aspects of my life. But isn’t that what happens to us as we get older? With more years behind than ahead of us, we sort through the intricacies and chaos of our lives and wonder how we managed to make it this far.
I miss the gatherings my parents and I used to have at this house. There often wasn’t a particular reason. Third Saturday of the month? Good enough! Family, friends and neighbors would convene upon this simple home and have the best time imaginable. We had food – real food! Not just chips and dips. People often brought dishes out of courtesy, but everyone knew they could actually have a meal. Ours became the fun house; where people could gather and always feel they were loved and appreciated.
I miss Sunday lunches with my parents. It was always a special occasion – even when I moved back here in 2007. We talked about anything and everything. Like music, food helps people bond.
I miss the 1990s and the excitement of heading into a new century and a new millennium. In some ways I miss the apartment I moved into in May of 1991; a relatively small one bedroom/one bath abode. For the first time in my life, I was truly on my own. I miss happy hours with colleagues at the bank where I worked in Dallas at the time. I still relish the period from 1996 to the spring of 2001, when most everything in my life seemed to go right. I know I can never go back (past perfect is only possible in grammar), but I wish I could recapture that feeling of freedom and happiness. I miss my blue and white lava lamp.
I miss the German shepherd, Josh, my parents and I had from 1973 to 1985. When we moved to this house in suburban Dallas in 1972, my parents had promised they’d get me a dog. Somehow I’d become enamored with German shepherds. My mother had a phobia of big dogs. As a child in México City, she’d seen a man attacked by a Doberman. But she swallowed her fears for my sake. Early on I noticed his eyes seemed to be tri-colored: mostly yellow-gold, but also green and blue. We didn’t realize how big he was, until we brought him inside the house. We would bring him in during the torrid Texas summers and (in his later years) during the occasional harsh winters. Putting him to sleep on Easter Saturday 1985 was one of the most traumatic experiences we ever endured. It’s not that we expected him to live forever, of course; we just never prepared ourselves for the end.
I miss my last dog, a miniature schnauzer I adopted from a former friend and roommate and named Wolfgang. I loved the sound of his breathing at night, as he slept. It remains one of the most soothing sounds I’ve ever heard in my life. My parents also fell in love with him, after I moved back here in 2007. My father especially developed a deeply personal relationship with Wolfgang. I realized how strong that connection was on the day my father died in June of 2016, when the lights flickered, and Wolfgang ambled down the hall. He stood before my parents’ closed bedroom door and turned to me. I knew my father was gone. Wolfgang died less than five months after my father did. I still maintain my father returned and got him.
I miss my father, George De La Garza, Sr. I love and miss my mother and everyone I’ve ever known and lost, but I miss my father the most. We had a unique bond that couldn’t be matched by anything or anyone. In my worst moments, I often wish he’d come back to get me. But then, all the plans I’ve made for myself wouldn’t come to fruition. And when I call to him and get no response, I realize it’s just not my time. I know. We could communicate without words.
So I continue and recollect the best moments of my past years and look forward to what I have left. Still, I’m always missing someone or something.
We all miss someone or something from our lives. Who or what do you miss?
Filed under Essays
It’s been 30 years since the group SNAP! released their signature song “Rhythm is a Dancer”. It remains one of my favorite tunes and was a favorite of one of my closest friends, Daniel, who died of AIDS in 1993. Another close friend, Paul (who died this past April), also liked it. It’s so emblematic of the 1990s.
Looking back – as I have the tendency to do – things were pretty good for me in 1992; a time before cell phones and personal computers were common and when the future seemed wide open, as the world moved closer to the new millennium.
My sentimentality may be getting the best of me now, as I’ve been going through some times these past few months. Still, music always has a way of soothing the troubled mind.
Filed under Classics
“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Abortion-rights and anti-abortion demonstrators gather outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
It has been one dream of conservatives for decades: overturning Roe vs. Wade. The landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed women the right to abortion, in accordance with the 9th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Now that goal has been achieved: earlier today, June 24, the Court has overturned Roe; thus gutting nearly a half century of reproductive freedom for women in the U.S.
It’s a stunning move and it’s left abortion supporters shell-shocked. It doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of Americans support abortion to some extent. Six justices on the Supreme Court have decided they don’t like the concept of abortion, so no woman should have access to it and no one should help a woman burdened with a crisis pregnancy. It is the first time in U.S. history that a constitutional right has been granted and then rescinded.
Social and religious conservatives are ecstatic about this decision. Although the Roe decision startled many people in 1973, the ruling didn’t really become an issue until the 1980s; when the evangelical Christian movement started to make its intrusive presence known. They saw the election of Ronald Reagan as assurance that abortion would be outlawed in the U.S.
At least 26 states were ready to outlaw abortion under most circumstances, should Roe be overturned. Now that it has, they are moving towards the annihilation. Last year the legislature in my home state of Texas passed the so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which bans abortion after 6 weeks (before many women know they’re pregnant) and only allows it in cases where the mother’s life is endangered. That means rape and incest victims will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term. Any woman (or girl) who obtains an abortion and/or anyone who assists in that procedure could face up to $10,000 in statutory damages and face prison time. Noticeably it doesn’t say anything about prosecuting men who rape women or girls.
The overturning of Roe perhaps will be one of Donald Trump’s greatest legacies, aside from his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. But it won’t so much be his legacy as it will be that of right-wing extremists – the people who loudly proclaim to cherish personal liberty and freedom, but in practice, mean it only for themselves. Everyone else’s personal liberty – that is, people who aren’t exactly like them – is somehow subjective.
Abortion opponents are now presenting – as they always have – what they consider viable solutions to the dilemma of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies; quick fixes that are ridiculously quaint and utopian. They recommend creating a society where every child comes into the world loved and respected; that women always have a safe and effective way to carry out their undesired pregnancies. It’s tantamount to beauty pageant contestants expressing their wish for the blind to see and the lame to walk. It’s wonderfully idealistic, yet extraordinarily delusional. Such answers to some of life’s most complex issues are typical of the conservative mindset: simple and unencumbered. That’s why I always say my brain is too big to be conservative.
In the 49 years since Roe was passed, it’s estimated that some 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States. Abortion adversaries groan that it means some 60 million children never got a chance to grow up and have fulfilling lives. But millions of children have come into the world under the best of circumstances and have never lived fulfilling lives. The future is always uncertain, and occasionally things go awry in families.
It’s also possible that those estimated 60 million children could have been subjected to abuse and neglect. Children who come into the world unwanted often end up being unloved. I have to wonder if abortion opponents are going to dish out any additional cash to help support all those children. It’s easy for them to lounge in their ivory towers – the way religious leaders often do – and bestow well wishes upon troubled souls. Good intentions don’t pay diaper and formula bills; they don’t provide housing and education; they don’t deal with the daily angst of raising children. They’re glossy words that lack substance, unless solid and concrete action is taken to make those lives better.
Liberals and moderates are already concerned that other Supreme Court decisions are at risk, such as Griswold and Lawrence. Even Brown and Loving may come under similar attack. As part of his decision to overturn Roe, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” referring to decisions on contraception, sodomy and same-sex marriage respectively.
Remember, the original Roe decision developed under the auspices of the right to privacy and equal protection under the law. Those are essential and undeniable features of a truly democratic society. Stripping any particular group of basic human rights isn’t a sign of a moral culture, as many social conservatives would have us believe. It’s more emblematic of a totalitarian world; a universe where a handful of people have blessed themselves with the power to decide what is and what is not appropriate for everyone else.
If abortion opponents think this Dobbs decision will end abortion in the United States once and forever, they are mistaken. After the initial shock has worn off (which is already happening), people will begin to fight back and find ways around it. Whether right-wing extremists like it or not, abortion will happen. There will always be women who find themselves in very difficult situations and feel they must end a pregnancy. It’s been happening for centuries and it will continue happening, even though a band of self-righteous elitists demand otherwise.
Just wait for it. They’ve awoken a giant.
Filed under Essays
“Tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them. Give the parents and siblings the strength in the darkness they feel right now. As a nation, we have to ask — when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
President Joe Biden, about the Uvalde massacre
“If our ethics are not consistent with respecting human life, period, no matter color, language, religion, profession, way of life – life is life – then we are not pro-life.”
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, San Antonio, about the Uvalde massacre
Many of the cases that arrive before the U.S. Supreme Court begin with individuals either trying right a wrong or make their own lives better. They rarely expect to launch a national movement. That was pretty much the case when Norma McCorvey found herself pregnant with her third child in 1969. An unemployed carnival worker living outside Dallas at the time, McCorvey apparently had led a rough life and had given up her first two children for adoption. She didn’t need – and couldn’t afford – to bring another child into the world. However, the state of Texas didn’t allow for abortions except to save the life of the mother. Even rape and incest victims couldn’t end their unwanted pregnancies. Like so many women in her situation, McCorvey was too poor to travel to another state where abortions were safe and legal. She even tried to obtain an illegal abortion, but again the cost was prohibitive. She sought legal help and ended up under the guidance of attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington.
In 1970, after McCorvey had given birth and given up the baby, Coffee and Weddington filed paper work challenging the Texas law and bestowed the name “Jane Roe” upon their client. They targeted then-Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade. Wade had entered the national spotlight nearly a decade earlier when he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald who had been accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. (Wade would later come to light as a ruthless prosecutor who engaged in unscrupulous legal maneuvers to ensure criminal prosecutions, no matter the cost and despite evidence to the contrary.)
After McCorvey’s suit was filed, a Texas district court ruled the state’s abortion ban violated the constitutional right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. Wade persisted, however, and vowed to prosecute any doctor who performed what he deemed unnecessary abortions in the state. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 7-2 ruling on January 22, 1973, abortion was fully legalized in the United States.
That was pretty much the end of the issue until the 1980s, when right-wing religious leaders began stoking the fires of anti-abortion rhetoric. It accompanied the presidency of Ronald Reagan who openly stated he wished for a return to an America before the 1960s. That should say enough about his bigoted state of mind, but it aligned with a growing hostility towards progressive ideology and civil rights legislation.
Earlier this week the unexpected news arrived that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe vs. Wade by the end of its current term in June. We wouldn’t know anything about this if it wasn’t for the leak of a draft opinion by Associate Justice Samuel Alito who declares the Roe decision “egregiously wrong” in terms of constitutional practicality. Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the veracity of the statement, but has joined many others in condemning the leak.
For many of us the leak isn’t the main concern. It’s what it says. There is now a very real possibility that nearly a half century of protection for that part of women’s overall health care could end because a handful of conservative extremists on the High Court want to inject their personal views into it.
For their like-minded ilk in the American public, the overturning of Roe marks the end of a long-fought battle in their alleged “pro-life” agenda; a perverted early Mother’s Day gift. It doesn’t matter that a majority of Americans don’t want to see a complete ban on abortion. They’ve been working for this moment over the past four decades.
For liberals, though, this is a much more dire situation. While the current case that brought Roe back into the forefront is limited to just abortion, progressives see other seminal SCOTUS decisions in the judicial crosshairs. It really isn’t extraordinary to see such cases as Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, reversed. Along with abortion, queer rights have been a target of far-right conservatives. But, if the Court sees fit to outlaw abortion at the national level (and leave it up to individual states), it could also reasonably overturn Griswold vs. Connecticut, which ruled that states could not deny birth control to married couples. Before that decision, married residents of Connecticut (and a few other states) couldn’t legally purchase birth control.
To some conservatives, abortion has become another form of birth control, which is not what contemporary feminists who jump-started the modern women’s movement desired. The latter group had always declared that abortion should be a woman’s last choice. But, with the overall concept of birth control in mind, is it possible a woman who has a tubal ligation could be criminally prosecuted? For that matter, could men who have vasectomies be subject to criminal jurisprudence? How about condoms or IUDs? Could those be outlawed?
Why stop with Roe? Aside from Obergefell and Griswold, could the Court target Loving vs. Virginia, the case that struck laws against interracial marriage? How about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, which outlaws racial desegregation in schools?
Remember that, when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Republicans in the Senate displayed their usual contempt and disdain for President Obama by refusing to hold hearings on his nominee to the Court, until after Donald Trump got into office. They stated that, since Scalia’s death occurred during an election year, the incoming president should select his replacement. Yet, upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, they rammed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – a character straight out of “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
That social and religious conservatives want to dictate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies conflicts with the long-held American vision of individual freedom. Many of these people screamed at the thought mandatory mask-wearing or forced vaccinations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; crying they should have autonomy over their own bodies. Really? What an original concept.
Conservatives herald the beauty of life, but a life costs hard dollars in the very real world of child-rearing. Since 2019, for example, the state of Texas has experienced a 1,100% rise in children placed into foster care. Love and compassion alone won’t pay those bills, no matter how much prayer one puts forth. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once emphasized that pro-life means the entire life cycle – not just up to the moment the fetus is born.
The reasons why an individual woman wants to end a pregnancy are myriad, but it is no one else’s business. As painful a decision as it may be, I’d rather see a woman end a pregnancy she doesn’t want than give birth to a child she doesn’t want. Children who come into the world unwanted are often unloved. That’s an awful fate for someone.
Regardless, pregnancy and birth are individual choices. No one – not the Supreme Court and not a politician – has the right to interfere with that.
“There is no death, only a change of worlds.”
Filed under History
The death of actress and national icon Betty White on New Year’s Eve 2021 has left many of us here in the United States shocked and despondent. White was just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday; an event which she and the rest of us looked forward to celebrating. Now she’s gone. Suddenly. None of us really saw this coming. How could this happen? Why? But none of us should be shocked.
Death doesn’t honor our designated times of order. My paternal grandfather once said that he respected death because it bears no prejudice. It takes who it wants when it wants. According to my father it was painful for him to admit even that much; as he had seen so many very young people and/or very good people suffer an untimely demise throughout his time on Earth. My grandfather died in 1969, and my father didn’t fully comprehend the meaning of what the old man had said until some years later.
Perhaps it’s easy for we older folks to have a more cynical if not sedate view of death. I’m at the point where I know I have more years behind than ahead of me. But currently I feel I’m surrounded by people enduring serious health struggles. A close friend is showing signs of Parkinson’s. Another friend is dealing with liver cancer. His doctors gave him less than a decade, unless he has a liver transplant. But his liver seems too badly damaged to qualify for a transplant. So he’s resigned himself to decluttering his life and reconnecting with people. One of my cousins who’s 10 years older suffered a heart attack in 2020 and is now battling kidney failure. The 40-something son of another long-time friend is still recovering from a catastrophic stroke he experienced about 2 years ago. He’s ensconced in a rehabilitation facility, but doesn’t appear to be making much progress – not according to his father. The latter says it seems his son doesn’t really want to cooperate with the therapists; as if – just a few years from age 50 – he’s decided he’s lived life to the fullest.
As a manic depressive in my past life, death often occupied more space in my mind than thoughts of the future. A typical artistic type, I experience the full range of emotions humanity possesses. But death haunts all of us throughout our lives. When I was in high school, a girl was killed when a train struck the car in which she was riding. Around that same time, lightning killed a boy walking home from school. Some years later, while working at a retail store, a teenage constituent was killed by a drunk driver, and another died in a car wreck. In the fall of 1992, I happened upon the obituary of a young man I’d known in grade school; he was 29. The following year a friend died of AIDS at the age of 31.
Looking at the myriad news events surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m always heartbroken at the sight of very young people returning home with damaged bodies and minds or in coffins. The epidemic of school shootings and deaths of those caught up in civil unrest is truly upsetting.
How is it these things are allowed to happen? Isn’t there supposed to be an all-loving, omnipotent deity who could prevent such horrors?
I’ve always wondered what life is like on “The Other Side”; whatever it’s supposed to be and wherever that is. I like to think all those I’ve known in decades past, including my parents and even my dogs, are safely enveloped in such realms; where (hopefully) they are happy and loved.
Back in 2012, I had a brief dream of an English and German instructor I had at a community college in suburban Dallas in the 1980s. She was a quirky, yet truly inspirational character. I hadn’t thought of her in years when I had that dream. I think it was a day or two later when I found her obituary in the newspaper. And I thought later that, perhaps, she flitted through my sleeping subconscious to say goodbye – for now.
Betty White’s “sudden” death saddened so many people. But she was 99! So she didn’t quite make it to her centennial birthday! She always vocalized how fortunate she was to have lived so long and to have so many people admire and love her. She had reached the end of her time in this world.
We all will at some point. As sad as it may be sometimes, it doesn’t really matter one’s age or condition at the moment of death. It just happens. We have to make our time as valuable and fulfilling as we can.
Filed under Essays
A sign of hope for America.
Things are beginning to return to the way they were. At least for me. I found Lysol® at the store last week! It’s a small – yet strangely ridiculous – sign of hope. Maybe not so much strange as pathetic. I mean, are things really so out of whack that we get excited about Lysol and toilet paper?
Last year started off rough for me, when my mother suffered a debilitating stroke. I reluctantly had to place her in a rehabilitation facility to help her heal. Her dementia only intensified matters. Then the pandemic hit. And then the facility practically evicted her in May of 2020 because her Medicare benefits expired. She finally passed at the end of June.
The stress of caring for both of my elderly parents for so long seemed to hit afterwards as my body and mind almost completely collapsed. In the midst of a global plague, I naturally thought I had “The Virus”. But it was just that relentless stress. I already knew its effects from life in the working world. Yet I’d never felt it so personally.
Alas, the U.S. economy is regaining strength, for which conservatives are crediting Donald Trump. But those of us with more than a few brain cells know Trump’s actions and behavior throughout his thankfully single term in office traumatized the American psyche and steered our financial situation into greater distress.
We finally have a president, though, who know how to act…well, presidential! Joe Biden may be an old codger, but as someone rapidly headed towards 60, I’d rather have an old man who knows how to govern than a failed businessman / tax cheat / cretin of a human being who brags about fondling women and holds up a bible like it’s a copy of Mein Kompf for a cheap photo op.
Earlier this week I started working on a temporary job – one that requires me to actually get into my truck and drive to an office building in a neighboring suburb. Aside from having to wear a face mask whenever I leave my desk, it’s a rather normal and ordinary corporate environment. Oddly, it feels good to go somewhere other than a store or a restaurant during the week.
Some other things, however, remain troublesome. Like its owner, my 15-year-old vehicle is showing its age. I really think it just wants to lead a life of its own – much like my body. Unfortunately, I’ve gained too much weight over the past several months. I believe that’s a recurring problem. But rotund physiques have become a common sight here in the U.S. If I’d known better, I would have invested in sweat pants years ago!
Regardless, I still see hope on the horizon of mediocre. Now, I must do some sit-ups and enjoy spraying that Lysol.
Filed under Essays