Loneliness: The most powerful photo I’ve ever taken

Loneliness: The most powerful photo I’ve ever taken

A few years back, hurrying to work, I nearly missed him. He was sitting along the wall beside the AT & T building in Chicago’s Loop, stoic and still among rushing throngs of office workers, tourists and students. To either side were his two dogs, A cart with the man’s world belongings were beside him.

I didn’t know his story or where he came from, and I have not seen him since. It was a moment in which the paths of our lives crossed for a perfect and powerful moment.

What I find in looking at this man becomes less of a narrative about him as it is an insight to my own heart. Still, it is impossible to escape the torture of his eyes, one that speaks to pain and lonesomeness. In that face are a thousand stories and possibilities. Perhaps he ran afoul of the law when he was young, or made poor choices in life that brought him to this place. Maybe it was drugs or alcohol, or even mental illness. Maybe it was none of these things. Life can bring any soul to the precipice of despair. Not everyone comes to that fight with the same strengths. Some are crushed under the weight. I have felt that strain before. I have people who love and support me. Those blessings are simply not the case for all of us.

There is a certain wisdom tinged with exhaustion in his eyes that suggests at a life of tough breaks and  a lack of family and support. It could well have been an illness or the loss of someone close that he could not recover from. In the end, the story one makes about the man tells more about them than about him.

One thing that is without question is the loneliness in his stare. The dogs are his companions and family, but there is little to suggest in the evidence that the story of their shared lives will end happily. And that is where I will leave it…


We are storms and banks and reeds

Whipped by the wind, we rise to bluster and succumb to our own floods

We are fear and desperation and pointlessness

Cold, we huddle for fear of being forgotten, yet that is our fate.

We are hope and need and desire

Dragged from our homes, Our cries lost to the tumult of the world

We are tragedy and sickness and alone.

And if there is any redemption left to us it lies in the sacrifice of love

                                                                                       WC Turck

Beat it, Mooch!

A long needed conversation with my socialist welfare addicted dog, thanks to Senator Rand Paul, Dan Proft and Joe Walsh. Finally told him to go get a job. I was tired of our dog Bleu mooching off the system, sitting at home chewing on Milk Bones, EXPECTING to be fed, given water and provided free healthcare, while the wife and I do all the work. Well, the gravy train(see what I did there) is OVER! And I can already hear the victim mentality: “Oh, I don’t have opposable thumbs so how can I fill out an application,” or “I suck at Microsoft Office!” Cry me a river. So I kicked him out into the rain and pointed towards the busy street and said you’ll have to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY or die, ya mangy mutt. Donald Trump did it, with a mere $3million from his dad, and look at Jared Kushner, who pulled himself up by multi-million Dollar bootstraps, and look at him today! With that, shivering in the pouring rain, Bleu simply put his head down, looked at me with those sad and confused brown eyes and sighed.

To a Better Border Wall…

In fairness, I don’t want to dismiss Trump’s idea to put solar panels on the border wall, costing America and Mexico less money, but I don’t think he goes far enough. Here are some other ideas for Mr. Trump’s wall to save money and stop so-called illegal immigration:

1. A coal powered wall, since he has promised to bring back coal, despite the entire nation evolving past coal.

2. Paint it to look like the desert, and when people bump into it and fall down we can videotape our national prank, and like coal, revive Bob Saget’s Funniest Home Video career.

3. A 2000 mile 60 foot tall aquarium, because surely Trump will believe Mexicans will believe that America sank and go home.

4. Post America’s $20 trillion debt clock on the Mexico side of the wall. Might encourage poor refugees to take pity and throw soon to be worth more than the dollar pesos over the wall as charity.

5, make the wall from the same place he gets his hair. Immigrants will get hopelessly tangled, but would otherwise be same.

6. Replace the water in the Rio Grande with Budweiser beer. I like beer and I would run from that! Seriously?

7.Show immigrants anything from PBS on the Mexico side of the wall, and when they slip into a Coma, carefully pick them up and move them south 100 miles.

Build the wall on the border of Canada, and wave them north to a decent country.

8 Put the whole country up on polls

Anything I might have missed? After all, its all about helping our Grifter in Chief…


Left or Right?

Have to agree with Annie Froelich from a previous post. This is less a sign of Left vs Right, as it is about anarchy(save you posts anarchists) it is about a society that equivocates on everything, which tilts towards the wealthy and white, then pardons, overlooks and explains away their crimes. It is a white cop murdering a Black man on camera, then deciding afterwards he was “afraid for his life.” It is about Sandra Bland. It is about the devaluing of individuals for the purposes of consolidating power and excess. It is about a deficit of moral leadership in the White House deepened by administration after administration. It is racism, consumerism, lawyerism. It is about describing a worldwide religion as terrorists, or a race of people “illegal.” It is a generational assault on education, information and enlightenment in favor of spin, opinion and a beer-swilling, foreigner-hating, big truck-driving, slack jawed nationalism. It is news media for profit. It is profit above community, by corporatists in America who put profit above their nation, and then are protected by media. It is, if the president or congress or the corporate spokesperson lies to get what they want, or to escape guilt and justice. In short it is an American cultural and moral cancer that will prove the ultimate demise of this nation. And all of us allow it to happen.

Prayers for Bowie. Sucks to be a Squirrel in Heaven…

Oh, sorry, I’m talking about the dog, not the pop star. My bad. Still, I wanted to relate a conversation yesterday with my friend, Joe, who after 13 years lost his companion and beloved pet, Bowie. Understandably, and properly, Joe was grieving. He had made a heart-breaking decision most pet owners must make. With emotion in his voice Joe found solace that Bowie was someplace better now, chasing squirrels for eternity. I’ve said the same thing about pet cats, wishing they were someplace where they could chase birds and mice to their hearts content. That got me to thinking.

It must suck being a squirrel in that other place. It finally gets a chance to chill with an endless bowl of acorns, and here comes all these freakin’ dogs, spoiling eternity. Heaven for cats, hell for mice. Valhalla for hyena’s, torture for, for…whatever it is that hyenas eat. As for the roadrunner and coyote, forever must truly be frustrating and exhausting!

Of course, if we extrapolate that in another direction, when it comes to all of the bullies I faced in high school, god, I am so screwed. I can’t take a forever full of swirlies, when what I was hoping for was an eternity with a perfect and eternally cold beer, my wife sitting beside me without being on Facebook or Pinterest or emailing work on her phone for a change. I hope to hell(see what I did there) eternity is not about hunter and prey. Instead, I think I’d prefer it to be, at least for Bowie, an endless chew toy, an unending string of butts to sniff and a pair of testicles that always tastes like bacon. That is my prayer for Bowie, and the squirrels too…

Much love, Joe.

Travels in Tuscany: Happy Hour, Tuscan style

The single best bit of advice I can offer for truly enjoying Tuscany is that you’ve got to know someone. A friend will open the door to an Italian world normally unseen to the average visitor. If you don’t have a friend, this would be the time to dust off those social skills, practice that smile, appear a little-but not too-sympathetic and make a friend. Not as hard as people think. I’ve done very well by that gift-of-gab Ana says I get from my father. For Americans it can be a fairly big hurdle to get over, given our culturally imbued suspicion about other people and cultures. In the States we are bombarded with terrifying tales of pickpockets and thieves, terrorism and all manner of criminal masterminds out to victimize wayward Americans. The truth is, in every country, the vast majority of folks are decent and honest and as curious and hospitable towards you as you would be to them-how you answer that question will mean a lot for your international travel experience.

Rick Steeves I think has done the greatest dis-service to travelers with constant warnings over thieves and crimes in his books and videos. Truth is, Europe, and most of the world is far less dangerous than most of the US. It comes down to a simple rule; If you have your head up your ass, church can be a dangerous place.

So, as I was saying, Ana and I had spent a couple days wandering around Venice. Well off the beaten paths we were curious over folks gathered at these little bars-not like American bars, but sort of cafes that serve wine, beer and cocktails and something to eat. Neighbors and friends would gather at these dark-wooded bars, snacking at small plates of appetizers or finger sandwiches, having a drink and chatting up the afternoon. We passed curiously, unsure just how that all worked, settling at cafes where we could more familiarly be waited on at a table, as we are accustomed.

For a friend anywhere, but particularly in Tuscany we could hardly have done better than Shevko. In Mostar, barely 18 years old he knew everyone and everyone know Shev. How could anyone imagine that 8 or so years in Italy that anything would change? Leaving the hotel that first night in Caprai, we headed back across the river into Montelupo Fiorentino to his favorite bar, the Cafe Centofiori, comfortable hidden from view in one of the new apartment blocks along the bright and spacious Viale Cento Fiori.

We followed Shevko inside, like a court to some blue-collar King, leaving the afternoon heat behind. Instantly, amid Shev’s riotous entrance, greeting friends, flirting with counter girls, Ana and I were engulfed by the smells of humbly prepared gourmet sandwiches and snacks. Our would-be sovereign directed us to a corner table and returned to the bar, laden with platters of mouth-watering food. Returning a moment later with fat goblets of a local red wine and a plate of food, Shev proceeded to pronounce the obvious, that everyone knew him there. Indeed, all that was missing was everyone shouting “Shev!” when he enter, ala Norm from Cheers.

“Sort of Italian, how do have in the US, happy hour,” he said. Shev explained that the food was free for the taking if you were having a drink. Most folks would congregate at the counter, catching up with old friends or chatting the owner up. He was a young guy, who, I was told worked the counter dawn until late into the night 6 days  week. Helped by a couple of counter girls, all the pastries and sandwiches were his own recipe, hand-made there in the café. Nothing went to waste. Whatever was left from the day was  cut up for the afternoon crowd.

Taking in the crowd, smiling and stumbling through Italian introductions Ana and I savored every bite as if our lives depended on the fresh and simple flavors before us. Lifting a thin wedge on homemade Italian bread, adorned with a bit of prosciutto and  fresh mint leaf, sitting with friends and Ana with a lusciously dry glass of red wine,  I wondered how it could get any better than this.