Monthly Archives: July 2020

Sleep Disorder

dark bedroom
quiet house
warm bed

“Neurons, start your engines.”
The tasks pass the reviewing stand
row one:
. need idea for this week’s poem
. finish song with David
. call  vet about Milou’s paw
row two:
. modify FSO website
. balance Schwab account
. call electrician about 30amp connection
row three:
. mow lower meadow
. schedule tree work
. answer John’s email
chores fly by the reviewing stand
like eucalyptus leaves in the Santana wind.

“Maybe I won’t be able to go back to sleep.”
3:20 am
drink water
try to get comfortable
“You know, this isn’t good for your health.”
My critic awakes
“You ate too much, last night.
You know you can’t eat dessert.”

Heart pounds
“You’ve been lucky, so far.
Your luck is running out.”

Chest tightens
“How will Kathy cope, when you are in the hospital?”
eyes open
a shaft of moonlight graces the far wall.

The puppy snorts.
“Maybe I’ll have to take Belle out to pee.”
She calms.
“I’m lucky to have Kathy
and the dogs.
Lucky to live here.
lucky for my family.
Lucky for a lot of things.”

My blessings fall down like rose petals
caressing me to sleep.

Malignant Trumpware

The United States is beset by two viruses: COVID-19, which is highly contagious and causes respiratory distress; and Donald Trump – a form of malware, which is also contagious and causes acute psychological damage. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of smell and taste; some cases progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome and 3.5 percent result in death. Trumpware causes massive loss of judgement; some cases progress to cult-like behavior and, in a small percentage, a willingness to grant Trump dictatorial power.

There is no known antidote to COVID-19.  We’re all trying to avoid contracting it by preventative actions such as washing our hands often, avoiding close contact when outside our homes — maintaining a protective distance of six feet, and covering our mouths and noses with cloth face covers.

There is an antidote to Trumpware; it’s the presidential election on November 3rd.  Nonetheless, in the next 100 days, there are steps you can take to avoid being contaminated by the Trump social virus.  The first is to understand it.

Malicious software –malware — has been around since at least 1988.  It is software designed to intentionally damage elements of a computer network.

Donald Trump has been around since 1946, but it can been argued that his malware career began in 1988 with the opening of the “Trump Taj Mahal” casino in Atlantic city.

The initial malware — computer viruses and worms — were primarily cruel pranks; such as forcing obscene material on someone’s home screen.  Since 2003 the majority of malware has been more malicious, designed to take control of a computer environment for illicit purposes: spying, damage, or ransom.   (Ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid.)

From 1988 until 2003, Donald Trump was not taken seriously; he was, in effect, a cruel prank.  Since 2003, and the advent of The Apprentice, Trump has become more malicious.  In 2016, Trumpware assumed its modern forms.

In some voters, a Trumpware infection is relatively benign.  It takes control of the right frontal lobe and causes loss of rational decision making.  For example, devout Christians begin to believe that Trump is one of them; that he was “chosen by God” to represent their cause.  As another example, formerly principled conservatives adopt the stance that the ends justify the means: “I don’t like Trump personally, or his tweets, but I love his policies.”  Or “fiscally conservative” Republicans look the other way while the Trump Administration increases the federal deficit ($864 billion for 2020) and runs up the national debt (currently $20.5 trillion).

Unfortunately, in some voters, Trumpware takes on a more malicious form: cultware.  Trump has boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”  For a significant percentage of Republicans, this is true.  For these voters, Trump can do no wrong.  Members of the Trump cult reject suggestions that he is unfit for office and cling to the notion that Donald will magically provide them with a big slice of the American dream.  (Some believe that, in the process, Trump will have to “blow up” Washington; in essence, destroy the U.S. institutions that have served Americans for the last 250 years.)

The extreme behavior of members of the Trump cult has fostered the ransomware version of Trumpware: Trump and his supporters threaten, “Give us what we want or we will bring down American democracy.”  Trump demeans civility and encourages violent behavior at this rallies.  He threatens the November 3rd elections by advocating various forms of voter suppression.  He sends paramilitary forces to disrupt peaceful demonstrations.

Computer ransomware takes control of an environment and will not relinquish control until a fee is paid.  Trump has control of the White House and is holding it for ransom.

Gotta Come Out

“One night I was layin’ down
I heard mama and papa talkin’
I heard papa tell mama
‘let that boy boogie-woogie

It’s in him and it got to come out.'”
John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen”

Music was always inside me
singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” with my grandmother
church choirs
L.A. pop radio (overlaid with my lyrics)
school choirs.
But the full expression of my own music was
stopped up.

In 1955
an epiphany
The Johnny Otis: Rhythm and Blues Hit Parade

My musical landscape shifted
from Bing Crosby to Bo Diddley.
A thousand new suns:
Clovers, Drifters, Flamingoes, Temptations,
Hank Ballard, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, Joe Turner,
Ray Charles,
Lowell Fulson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf,
John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk…

I began to dance and
music inhabited all of body.

Thank you
Johnny Otis
for activating my
boogie woogie.

Searching for Optimism

We’re halfway through the worst year most of us can imagine and it’s difficult to feel optimistic about the future. In the United States there has been a resurgence of coronavirus cases. The economy teeters on the brink of a depression. And President Trump has abandoned his post. Nonetheless, there’s a ray of hope: once you acknowledge the social order is broken, you can set about rebuilding it.

A June 30 Pew Research Poll ( found Americans to be angry and unhappy: “As the United States simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted… to just 12% today.”  Citizen understand that we have a serious problem.  Conditions are ripe for change.

At this point it appears certain that the November 3rd presidential election will be held in the middle of a pandemic and an economic depression.  It looks like Joe Biden will win and that Democrats will take control of Congress.  On November 4th we’ll still be in a deep hole, but we can begin digging out.

Because we’re experiencing a catastrophe, there’s opportunity for transformational change. Change in three areas: personal, communal, and societal.

1.Personal Change: slow down.  One of the consequences of the pandemic is that it has forced most of us — those who take COVID-19 seriously — to slow down.  It’s more difficult to travel so many of us are working at home.  It’s more complicated for us to do all of our daily chores so all those activities take more time and effort.  For those of us with children, we’re having to spend more time with child care.  Most of us are not going out to restaurants and bars.

It’s a good thing for us to slow down.  American capitalism is stressful.  It takes a toll on our health and sanity.  Americans are chronically sleep deprived (  Compared to other developed countries, U.S. citizens get less time off (

Of course, to actually change the pace of our lives requires more support from the larger society.  Many of us live fast-paced lives because we have to work long hours, or more than one job, in order to make ends meet.  For Americans to be able to slow down means that the social safety net has to be substantially strengthened.  There’s a personal element involved — the desire to slow down — and a communal element — support for life at a different pace.

2. Communal Change: invest in people.  The pandemic has reminded us that while technology can help us, people save us.  Community support is essential for survival.

The pandemic has made it clear that we need healthcare professionals and emergency-service providers, in general.  We rely upon the folks that provide our food supplies.  And the workers that keep the lights on and the mail delivered and the trash hauled away.  None of us live in isolation; we rely upon all sorts of folks to keep our support systems running.

Sadly, most of the “essential” workers, that I have mentioned, are the same folks that often have to work long hours, or two jobs, in order to make ends meet; the same folks that are chronically stressed.  We need to pay these workers a living wage and make sure they receive decent benefits like healthcare.  (78 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck ( )).

The theme of the coming transformation should be to invest in people.  We must dramatically strengthen the social safety net for all American workers.  In order to do this, we will have to tax the rich in order to provide a humane lifestyle for working Americans.

3. Societal Change: prepare for climate change.  The coronavirus pandemic is a forerunner of the devastation that will be wrought by climate change.  As temperatures increase, sea-levels rise, and weather patterns  becomes more extreme, many Americans will have to make wrenching changes in their daily lives.

Covid-19 has caused a public health crisis.  Climate change is causing a public health crisis.  The coronavirus requires us to either shelter-in-place or flee.  Climate change — for example,   catastrophic storms — means that we either shelter-in-place or flee.  Covid-19 disproportionately impacts challenged populations: the poor and those without good healthcare.  Climate change disproportionately impacts challenged populations.  Etcetera.

Pandemic politics and climate-change politics are similar.  There are pandemic deniers and there are climate-change deniers.  Anti-science Americans rail against pandemic policy — such as mask wearing — and they will rail against climate-change policy such as carbon taxes.

As bad as the pandemic will get, things will get worse with climate change because many U.S. regions will have to be depopulated — for example, because of sea-level rise.

Summary: There’s a lot riding on the November 3rd presidential election. It appears certain that this election  will be held in the middle of a pandemic and an economic depression.  It looks like Joe Biden will win and that Democrats will take control of Congress.  This is reason for optimism.

On January 20, 2021, we can begin rebuilding the United States.

Death Comes to Town

The church bell tolls 12 times.
A tumbleweed careens down
parched mainstreet.

Where is everyone who said they had my back?

At the intersection
dressed in black.

My feet shuffle forward.

Masked faces press against the saloon windows.

I wonder who betrayed Me?
The waitress who didn’t wear her mask over her nose?
The drunk Sacramento couple who wouldn’t wear masks?

The boardwalk creaks.

Grit in my mouth.
Unfinished list in my pocket:

A gopher breaks through the hardpan.

Where have all your brave words gone?

Nemesis’ ivory face

A barn owl screams.

It’s not over, until it’s over.

Nemesis sets up the table
unfurls the chess board
bids me to move.

White pawn to e4.

Happy Lemming Day

Saturday is America’s favorite summer holiday, Independence Day. In normal times, we celebrate the fourth of July with backyard barbecues or ballpark outings or beach parties. This year, because of the pandemic, most of us will “celebrate”  by sheltering in place.  Fortunately, on the third of July, Donald Trump will inaugurate a new national holiday, “Lemming Day.”

This Friday, Trump will host a political event at the Mount Rushmore national memorial in Keystone, South Dakota.  There will be fireworks and a flyover by the Blue Angels Naval aerobatic team.  According to the Republican South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem, social distancing will not be enforced and masks will be optional.  (  On July 3rd, Trump supporters will have another opportunity to infect each other with COVID-19.  Like the mythic lemmings, Trump supporters will be encouraged to huddle together and, in effect, commit mass suicide.

You may ask, “What was Trump thinking when he scheduled the Mount Rushmore event?”  Most likely, Donald was thinking, “This event will generate great TV ratings.”  The United States is in the middle of an existential catastrophe, the worst crisis that most of us have experienced, and what’s foremost in Trump’s mind are his TV ratings.

How did we get in this insane situation?

Although there were many explanations for Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 presidential victory, three seem particularly relevant today: 1. In 2016, many voters did not trust Washington politicians, “the elite;” 2. Millions of Americans felt they had lost their chance at the American dream; and 3. A significant number of Americans were angry with Barack Obama, because of the color of his skin, and wanted a “whiter” President.

1.In 2016, most Trump supporters saw Donald as an outsider, someone not part of the American elite.  By virtue of his free-wheeling manner, his penchant for Tweets, and his rambling politically incorrect speeches, Trump has exemplified the “outlaw” outsider.  Unfortunately, Trump disparages science and reasoned discourse.  This defect produced his destructive response to the pandemic — a catastrophe that has sickened more than 2.8 million Americans and killed at least 131,000. Nonetheless, today, millions of Trump supporters trust Donald more than the mainstream media or Washington “experts.”  They are part of the Trump cult — similar to the Jim Jones, “Peoples Temple,” cult that ended in the Jonestown massacre.

2. Many Americans voted for Trump because they felt eight years of the Obama administration had not helped their life chances.  They came to believe that Obama, and the Democratic establishment including Hillary Clinton, cared more for millionaires and billionaires than they did working families.  Donald Trump talked like a populist and they believed  him — because he was more “relatable” than Hillary Clinton.  Many of these voters are no longer part of the Trump lemming cult.  At the moment, they are adrift.

3. Finally, in 2016, there were many Trump supporters who harbored racial animosity.  They identified with Donald’s “white supremacist” tendencies and felt a visceral connection with him.  Today, they are still with him.  Trump’s racist supporters may not agree with everything he says and does, but, for them, he’s the only game in town.

On Friday, Trump supporters — from groups 1 and 3 — will gather at Mount Rushmore and celebrate their guy.  United by resentment.

After the rally, the Trump devotees will return to their hometowns and infect thousands with the coronavirus.  Many will get sick and some will die.  Rather than “make America great” they will accelerate it’s destruction.

Happy Lemming Day.

Bonded with the Blues

1958 summer Sunday afternoon
David’s room
smoking cigarettes
drinking beer
playing records.

Little Richard
Fats Domino
Chuck Berry

We’re competitive.
I played a Josh White LP
David parried with
“Leadbelly Memorial Volume 1”

Side one began with “Goodnight Irene”
ended with “Man going around taking names.”
Side two started with “John Henry.”
When we got to “See See Rider”
the earth stopped.

Thunderous 12-string guitar intro
(Hawaiian slack-key tuning)
amplified by a powerful baritone
See See Rider
see what you done done
you made me love you
now your man done come.

Naive white boys
transported to the land of
da blues.

We played “See See Rider” until
the room billowed with cigarette smoke and
the beer was gone.

We bonded.

Then our lives took different paths:
Bob, child of privilege
left for Stanford and
the corporate world.
David, child of the 99 percent
went to a local college
dropped out
worked as a house painter
drifted into addiction and

Real-life blues

David passed 18 years ago.
My kindred spirit.