Olympic Injustice

That Sha’Carri Richardson deserves her consequences because she knew the rules and broke them anyway, is a flawed argument. If you are followers of the thinking of Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King, Jr, you might even argue that when a rule is unjust you have a moral imperative to break it.

Whether marijuana is performance enhancing is also irrelevant. Lots of things are performance enhancing, vitamins, diet, EXERCISE.

The only criteria that should be considered in whether to ban something is whether the substance is a significant risk to health (as can be argued of steroids), and that its effectiveness is also clear, such that allowing any athlete to use it, would require, in effect, that all athletes follow suit, in order to compete. Marijuana neither poses that kind of health risk, nor is it’s effectiveness clear. That it might work for a given athlete’s regiment, I am open to believe, as I am open to the idea that it could hurt another’s. I am content to leave that up to the athlete. In that it has medical and therapeutic applications, among them, depression and even asthma, are we supposing to ban antidepressants and asthma medication too?

The crime here is not whether they smoke a joint, or whether they feel that attending press conferences takes them out of their mental game, or whether they wear a swim cap that works with black hair, or weather they miss a random drug test for which there is no reasonable suspicion and no due process or assumed innocence. It is not even whether they tested positive for steroids, as long as there is a possibility of a mistake for which all of the burden of proof falls to them.

The crime lies with the establishment who would deny athletes who dedicated their entire lives to their sport the culmination of what they earned, and who deny us, the fans, the opportunity to see who really is the best, and who would deny even the remaining athletes, the chance for victories untainted by thoughts of, “yes, but would they really have won if…..” And the crime is how often this sort of thing affects black athletes.

Rebirth

Accounting is not what I am, it’s what I do.

And if I said the opposite about writing, that it is who I am, and not just what I do, that would also make sense, right?

Not that people can’t be called to accounting, more power to you, we just wouldn’t readily understand that.  And writers could do it just for the money too, but that would be a weird career choice for someone only interested in money.

Here’s my problem. I can’t separate what I do from what I am. Maybe you’re different, but I doubt it. People become what they do. That’s why I think like an accountant.

It takes practice to train the mind to work in certain ways. What you put your attention to, grows. The wolf who survives is the one you feed.

I don’t want to be an accountant. I want to be creative, unique, authentic, honest, wise.

I wish I could go back and forth, but I can’t work all day with numbers, certainty, superficiality, normalcy, and then switch gears to the unorthodox, unconventional, and intuitive.

The only way I ever even think that I am happy as an accountant is when I can fool myself. If I keep reminding myself that I could be different, by writing, for example, that depresses me, and makes it hard to stay motivated to work.

This is why I want to finally say fuck it to accounting, and why I want to spend all the energy I can muster, whenever I can muster it, writing and reading.

I never wanted anything else. 

So, I will retire as soon as I can, which isn’t as soon as it should be. Then the accountant will be put to death. And something else will work the warren, to emerge into a new day, reborn.

Reinvent Yourself

There are always things I want to do, like read, write, learn languages, exercise.

Can I become a different person?

Can I reinvent myself, for example, as someone who doesn’t care what people think? Can I be courageous, confident, happy?

Can a person change what he believes about himself or anything else?

I mean, I can’t choose to believe something that just doesn’t make sense to me, like that stuff about Jesus. 

But can you be happy when you’re not? Can you be extroverted when you’re introverted? Can you be young again when you are old?

I had a saleswoman tell me recently that I was older than her. I think it was in the context of remembering the old days.

I didn’t want to be mean, but I thought I must have misheard her. “wait, are you saying that I’m older than YOU?”

She was 10 years older than me.  She told me her age. And she looked it, if not more so. But, I get it. I work with someone who I consider my peer, because we work together, and so I was admittedly taken aback when she told me that I was the same age as her father.

We’re not constantly looking in the mirror, so how can we know how old we are?  Isn’t it more important how we feel? As George Costanza said, “it’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

So, start over, if you need to.

Or at least rewrite your history. We are time travelers, all of us, and the older we are, the further back we can go to reinvent, not just who we are, but who we were too. 

What if you can turn yourself from a person who failed a lot to someone who always succeeded, from one who regrets everything to someone who has always been grateful? Which one is fiction? Who’s to say? It may be as simple as remembering more of your successes than your (supposed) failures.

And even if I made up the fact that I had a wonderful life and it wasn’t true, does that matter if it helps me to reinvent who I am today?

I had a friend in 1984 named Larry Wachowski. He was a film student and a fanatic Cubs fan. He won a bet I made with him at the beginning of the 1984 season that my Mets, who had finished last the year before would finish better than his Cubs who finished second to last.  I knew the Mets would do well, because they were bringing up a bunch of talent from the minors that year, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra. They had David Johnson, the manager they had played for in the minors, they had Darryl Strawberry, the 1983 rookie of the year.

But the Cubs ended up in first, and the Mets in second. When the Cubs clinched the division, Larry came to my dorm room with a bottle of Jack Daniels, – he had introduced JD to me – to celebrate.  I called him an asshole, and then we drank it.

I liked who I was then, even though my team had lost, or at least I’m choosing to remember it fondly, and then I rooted for the Cubs in the playoffs.

When the Cubs lost the playoffs, Larry put his hand through a window pane.

Since then, he reinvented himself. I only know this because he’s kind of famous, not because I’ve kept in touch. He’s a girl now.  Maybe she would say she was always a girl.

Semantics.

I thought about him when the Cubs finally won the World Series. And I wondered if she is as happy about it as he would have been. how much do you re-invent? Would she have put her hand through a window pane if they had lost again?

I hope so. Because you gotta like a girl like that. 

Life is a Bother

It’s my job to be bothered by people that work for me.  They say, “sorry to bother you with this, but….” And I say, “don’t apologize for bothering me, it’s my job to be bothered by you.”  It’s also my job as a dad to be bothered by my kids, and it’s even my job as a husband to be bothered by my wife. Life is a bother.

The thing is, when people bother you, they make you better, so you shouldn’t get mad at them for it (shouldn’t, but I still do). 

When my employees push me, I respond by helping them to do their job, the job I want them to do. They make me do something I may have been neglecting that they need me to do. And then, I look like I have it together and my bosses don’t necessarily know that I was about to drop the ball. So, I encourage it, even though I may not look forward to it.

I used to help my oldest daughter a lot more than I ever helped my other two kids, because she asked me too.  It’s not because she needed more help, my son has always needed help, and sometimes I think I failed him, but it could be because he didn’t make me be the father I could have been.

I also find that when I have uncomfortable arguments with Republicans, and I am forced to debate things that threaten to make me mad, and that I don’t really enjoy talking about with them, and that I’m not necessarily prepared to debate, it prepares me. I end up understanding them better, even if I don’t agree with them, even if I didn’t convince them of anything, and then I end up being able to make better arguments, to people like them, and I maybe even change, I’m open to this, my positions. We can discover, or look for, common ground. There’s usually something we can agree on. Allies can hide in surprising places.

I know all this, but I haven’t lived my life by it. In fact, I have been quite reticent to have difficult conversations with my wife for almost all of the 32 years since I met her. I have been, like many men are, scared of my wife.  I’m more inclined to express my views now then I used to be and I got here through a lot trial and error that didn’t always end well.

A Valentine quiz went around facebook recently in which one of the questions was “who gets more angry” and I would answer (if I had done the quiz) that I can get much angrier than my wife, but she gets angry more often. A lot more often. And I’ve been scared of both her anger, and my own.

But acknowledging that life is a bother, and should be a bother, and that we want it to be a bother, and that maybe that’s even why we’re here because that’s how we learn, helps. It’s what we need to grow and learn and teach and resolve. Sometimes I have wished that I lived with someone who was exactly like me, but then again, when two people are the same, one of them is unnecessary. 

I’m a Hoarder of Dreams

I started playing drums in the 2nd grade which is why it’s so hard to give it up. I have a hard time giving anything up. I’m a hoarder of dreams.

I hold on to what my life might have been like if I had continued in mathematics, or physics, acting, political activism, running my own business, managing investments, philosophy, comedy, writing, or if I could have become a polyglot, or, one of my earliest ambitions, simply a millionaire.

I had this beach towel that was the image of a million dollar bill. I loved it so much. One time my parents brought me a gold nugget from some vacation they took. It wasn’t worth much, it was mostly symbolic, but gold, Jerry, gold! I brought it to the playground to show it off and lost it in the sand the same day I got it. The bully who was chasing me told me later that he had pocketed it and gave it to his grandmother, which was probably true. I was very upset, and so were my parents, I think because they had made me so happy, only to so make me so unhappy.

I went to an arts high school for music, but had reservations about choosing the drums over drama, for which I also had the opportunity to go to an arts school. By the time I went to college, I decided not to be a drummer, and second guessed that decision for the rest of my life as well. My reticence to let anything go has always held me back.

Early on, I wanted to be a cop, then a fireman, then a magician, then a reporter or whatever else I saw on TV. Then I realized I didn’t really want to be any of those things, I wanted to be all of them, as an actor, pretending to be them.

It was my first real ambition, acting, before I got serious about music, and as my first, it was the only one I remember being single-minded about. I have to look back to that to remember what it felt like not to be a hoarder of dreams.

If I were to keep one dream at this point it would be to write. It doesn’t matter what. Anything and everything. Journal, fiction, I can pretend to be someone else, like when I was acting. Opinions, like I’m a political activist, philosophy, comedy.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t listen to music, just that I wouldn’t listen competitively, always wondering if or how I could do better. I might just enjoy it.

But, of all my dreams, drums might be the hardest to give up, because it has for so long been a part of my identity. Once a drummer always a drummer, right drummers?

Or not.

Maybe not.

People keep telling me I shouldn’t give up the drums. But for all intents and purposes, I quit a long time ago.

Crashing

You know how when you’re working on something in excel, and IMing someone at the same time, and the next thing you know excel goes blank, then it comes back, and you can see your numbers for a second, then it goes blank and, back and forth like it’s blinking, but it still doesn’t say that it isn’t responding, so you tell the person on the chat that this is happening, and how weird it is because it’s shifting back and forth, and the person suggests you save your work, and you’re like, “fuck my life,” and hating your job and wondering when it will all be over, and not just your job, because it’s too late to save your work. The ball is spinning and you’re exercising your patience, except also wondering what you’ll have to re-do, or if, because it’s different this time and maybe if you wait a little longer, while chatting online with your co-worker (even though he sits right next to you) it will recover. But meanwhile, it is late in the day and you were hoping to finish and leave, but now you are obsessed with getting back to where you were, at least, and then the IM crashes, and you can’t even talk to your co-worker anymore (even though he sits right next to you), which is really weird because that’s not usually the thing that crashes, so maybe excel isn’t crashing, and you open up a new instance of excel, just to see what happens, because now you have all this time on your hands, and it works. In this new instance, you can navigate around blank cells even while the other eight instances that were open when the hiccups started are still trying to work it out. You close the good session, hoping maybe that disrupts the cycle and tricks the computer into thinking something finished, but it doesn’t, that never works, and then you try to close some of the eight you don’t need, but they’re all interconnected at this point, until finally the program suddenly gains that self awareness that it is going nowhere. It realizes what is happening. It’s like nirvana, as close to God as it will ever be. It knows itself and that it must change. That’s when it gives you two options. You can wait, or you can close and recover.  

My life is like that, except in life I always choose wait. With excel, “enough of this already.”

Minimize/Simplify

I’ve been thinking a lot about minimizing, but I don’t really just mean getting rid of stuff. I would like to unburden myself of things, but I think of minimizing much more broadly, to encompass tasks, and decisions, online presence, hobbies and interests and other obligations that turn out to be stressors, etc. Whenever I read up on minimization, it’s always so focused on stuff. Then I discovered that when I search on simplifying, I get that more holistic guidance that I’m looking for. To me it’s all part of minimizing. But to them it’s simplifying.

See, I’m worried that even when I retire I will be overwhelmed with all of the things I want to take on and I still won’t be happy: languages, drumming, writing, reading, biking. When will I have time to watch TV all day, binge watching old episodes of Highlander, and Stargage SG1 and Star Trek of course, plus all of the new shows that have to be discovered.

But seriously, been thinking about giving up on drumming. I know I could have been really good, and I feel remiss that I never proved that to anyone, and I might still could, but so what? Do I have to do everything that I could have been great at? Especially when the reason I was never great at anything is that I couldn’t decide what to be great at. I took on too much. I divided my interests. Divided we fall, don’t you know?

If I just give up drumming, I not only take pressure off for the big time suck it would take to be good, and finally admit that it just wasn’t a path I chose to pursue, but I also could get rid of a lot of stuff. The drums, the sticks, the cowbells, the shakey things, the cymbals, the cases, the extra skins. The conga even maybe sort of? Do I have to? Don’t go half way, Andy. I’m sure I could find an appropriate person who would want an old classic fiberglass LP from the 70s, even though it has a sticker that says “Vote for Carlos Danger” on it after the band “Carlos Danger” that I miss playing in.

I’ve been thinking about it.

Trump’s tax returns

When I was beginning my career as a tax professional in New York, Leona Helmsley, otherwise known as “the queen of mean,” (who does that remind you of?) was on trial for tax evasion. The government was out to make an example of her. More typically an audit would conclude in a financial settlement, or judgment, and you have to pay maybe a lot of money. But, like Al Capone, they wanted to put her away.

She and her Husband, Harry Helmsley, who was dead by this time, owned the Empire State Building.

The firm I worked for was part of the defense team. Technically, I don’t think that was public, but they were working for the lawyers. I had friends on the engagement. But she still lost.

All I remember is that she deducted everything as a business expense, personal furniture, stuff like that. Just like, it appears, Donald Trump.

The New York Times’ in depth analysis of his tax returns impressed me in the way that reporting of tax issues usually doesn’t. And one revelation regards a property in Westchester County that he lists as an investment on his tax return, which allows him to deduct such business expenses as would be limited or not deductible if it were considered a personal residence.

But, in 2014 Eric Trump told Forbes that he and his brother spent many summers at that property, and at one point took up residence. “It was home base for us for a long, long time,” he said.

And the Trump Organization website describes it as “a retreat for the Trump family.” So, are they treating a personal residence as a business? Like Leona?

Even his businesses seem like hobbies, so maybe he gets confused. Is he even trying to make money? I’m sure he could if he wanted to.

Other things about Leona Helmsley that remind me of Donald Trump:

She stiffed contractors. From her Wikipedia page, “After allegations of non-payment were made by contractors hired to improve Helmsley’s Connecticut home……”

And she famously said, “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes,” just as Trump bragged that not paying taxes, “makes me smart.”

The good news is that he has a lot of debt coming due, and not a lot of cash or stock on hand that he can still sell to pay it.

I would like him to go the way of Leona Helmsley (jail). But I’ll settle for destitution.

We need to work together

When this virus first spread, I was thinking, you can’t just close the world. Economic collapse also ruins lives.

When we did start closing the economy, I was frustrated that we didn’t have an exit strategy. How long will it take? This can’t go on indefinitely.

I’m still frustrated that we don’t have an exit strategy, a plan to get where we want to be and an end date. But to those who still think that the closing of the economy is unwarranted, that we should brave the risk of Covid and keep everything open, for the sake of the economy, I have this to say.

There is no recovery of the economy without controlling the spread of Covid.

Because we can force businesses to close, or we can allow them to open, but we can’t force people to patronize them.

And as long as the virus is out of control, people won’t go to sporting events. They won’t eat inside restaurants or have business meetings face to face or take dance classes and yoga and go to the gym. They’ll even stop going to bars, and weddings (and funerals). They certainly won’t take cruises. Even if the virus wasn’t that big a deal, unless everyone knows that, a surge in cases is going to hurt business.

People don’t want to get Corona. They believe it can be serious, that there could be lasting repercussions, and that they could spread it to someone who is even more vulnerable, most likely someone they know.

Even if they’re wrong, that’s what they think. So they’ll stay home.

For a case in point, look to Sweden. Of all its Nordic neighbors, Sweden was unique in that it decided not to shut everything down. To them, it wasn’t worth the effect on the economy, and now, among their neighbors, they have the most cases and the worst economy.

Covid doesn’t scare you, I get it. I’m not that scared myself. But when you don’t wear a mask, you scare other people. And then their fears are realized with a spike, and maybe someone they know gets sick, and they change their behavior and the economy suffers. It’s not an unreasonable or unexpected reaction. It’s logical. These are smart people.

See, unfortunately (or fortunately) there are still more smart people than stupid people. So, if you care about the economy, practice behaviors that will get the smart people supporting the economy again.

We need them. Smart people serve a purpose too. We need to work with them.

Baby Donald may be right

The latest news is that antibodies fade. This doesn’t mean that immunity fades, because T-cells may still act quickly to tackle a reinfection. But it’s harder to test for the T-cells. The difference between T-cells and antibodies is that antibodies attack the virus the minute it shows up, while T-cells attack once the virus invades a cell, but it would still be at the early stages of reinfection.

So, although we don’t know, it’s likely that there is less risk to a population that already recovered. But we don’t know who those people are, if they didn’t get tested within a relatively small window of time.

And if antibodies fade quickly then it also casts doubt on whether a vaccine will provide lasting protection. Does the vaccine promote a T cell response or just an antibody response? – I don’t know.

Since we failed so miserably in the US to test timely and sufficiently, our infection rate could be way understated.  I have a co-worker who tested positive, for example, for an active infection in March with symptoms. She just got an antibody test and it was negative. I’ve also got two other co-workers who were sick with Covid like symptoms in February and got tested for antibodies in June. I was dying to know whether they had had it, but even though the results were both negative, it apparently doesn’t mean anything.

February may seem early to think that it was already in Georgia, but I heard a story from a friend who has a friend who was in the ICU in January, in Atlanta, with an unknown respiratory illness. Many of his co-workers were sick at that time, but he was the only one in the ICU. When you’re in the ICU, and they don’t know what you have, they apparently keep samples of your blood. They tested these samples recently and the results were positive for Covid. This is what I heard. If it’s true, I don’t know why it isn’t big news that this thing was in Georgia in January, but it’s not impossible.

My daughter tested positive for antibodies while everyone else in the family was negative. We assumed she had it before she came home from school, which would explain why no one else had it, but if her antibodies likely would have faded by now, maybe she had it more recently, and the rest of us had also had it, just less recently.

So the problem is, if we don’t know who’s had it, we can’t know when we have herd immunity, or even individual immunity. We can’t know when it’s safe to go about our business, or even who doesn’t need a vaccine, and if the protection won’t even last, what’s a vaccine good for? (sing it with me, “absolutely nothin’!”)

It may be that the only way we’re ever going to know that we’re safe again is when this thing just magically disappears on its own, like Donald Trump said it would, or said he hoped it would, cause all he can do is hope. He’s only the President. But he might end up right about this. It may at some point just go away, because so many people have had it that people just stop getting it.

But we can’t predict when that will be. We just have to wait, although, the more we open up, the faster we’ll get there.

All we know for sure is that the dead won’t get it again.