I am deaf but for rumbles and blind but for the way the night lights when I strike the ground I am outside searching deep into black fractal hills for the drum summoning. A great spirit is awake tonight and haughty. I am some beast long-chained attempting a great labor The sky furrows and crouches on the ridge-lines and nothing will hear me yell as I stalk amid the pines I am bravado shaking trees and slapping the wet red earth I have seven league boots and a peacock’s tail but everything in the dark is much larger than me I am awake inside a drum I am asleep inside a drum I am rent haggard and something in the hills is angry and enjoying this Behind me in the dark my son sleeps dry and uneaten he wakens to bright and resinous air a strange lightning in his eyes
I’ve lived in Cleveland for nearly 15 years now, & in all of that time, the city & its people have been, through existential trial & error, trying to taxonomize what it means to be Cleveland. All of them should have visited Steve’s Lunch before it burned.
There are a few who have me beat, but, for the most part, I’ve been to more places in more neighborhoods than people who’ve lived here their whole lives. The common denominator, when you wipe away all the branding & internet-era posturing to reveal the rusted heart at our core, is a moderately exasperated politesse. Clevelanders are busy, we’re in a hurry, we know what we’re doing, we don’t have time for your shit, but we aren’t gonna be jerks about it.
We’ll hold the door just long enough for it to not close in your face; we’ll throw up our hands at a senior citizen who probably shouldn’t be on the road, and impatiently give them the right of way. We’ll serve up a completely unpretentious hot dog, on a cheap plastic plate that’s been cursorily washed 10,000 times in 15 years, that changes your life when the stadium mustard smears across your tongue.
Steve’s Lunch is where I went when I had $20 to spend on a night out & could buy a hot dog with my last two dollars at 3AM. It burned before I could introduce my son to the place, but we’re regular enough at Steve’s Diner that the staff knows us on sight & the Pepsi is waiting for us when we sit down. We grouse with the staff about weather & homework & bills & split a plate of fries. Steve’s is where I go when I’m lonely or in need of comfort, & where I head when all I have time for is a hot dog.
That hot dog could be dim sum; or pierogi; or ribs barbecued in a converted 50-gallon drum & served up without a permit at an abandoned gas station. The core of Cleveland, that no amount of luxury condos or new coats of paint can obscure, is a lack of pretension. Dandelions like Steve’s are in every neighborhood; lifting their yellow heads & growling at whatever Cleveland supposedly is this week.
We’ve seen so many grand gestures & prophets of prosperity descend from the clouds to save Cleveland, using money & influence to change entire swathes of our neighborhoods. The loudest story is that we need to be saved. We do our best to obscure the fact that we serve up little bits of salvation every day.
You want another hot dog?
- Developing consistently healthy eating habits
- Figuring out a regular exercise schedule
- Driving below the speed limit
- Home ownership
- Long-term romantic relationships
- Weight loss
- Scrambled eggs
- Good posture
- Beating the original Super Mario Brothers
- Going on vacation
- Not being weird
- Publishing my writing
- Being respected in my community
- Learning guitar
- Being quiet
- Expressing emotion
- Having confidence
- Ancient Greek 103
- Making biscuits from scratch
- Writing regularly
- Maintaining friendships
- Doing dishes in a timely manner
- My son
- My mom
- My dog
My grandpa used to say to me: “You have more excuses than Wrigley has chewing gum”. He grew up during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, supported 4 kids and a wife running a postal route, was a city councilman, et cetera, et cetera.
I can’t think of one time that I ever heard him complain or offer an excuse or fail to take responsibility for something that was brought to his attention — whether or not if it was his problem to begin with.
My life has been extravagantly decadent compared to his, but when I’ve been faced with adversity or failed at something I’ve always kept that saying of his in mind, and his example.
- If you’re held responsible for something that isn’t your fault; there’s no point whining about it — you’re already blamed. Clarify the situation and help solve it. Take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- If you’re in any position of leadership, the failures of any part of your team are your failures. The instant you shift blame, you’re a whiner, not a leader. Spreading blame is worse than a waste of time, it is counter-productive. Are you here to find a scape-goat or get some work done?
- Don’t complain that reality gets in the way of your goals. Don’t invent realities that justify your failures. Be humble, be honest, work hard, and know your capabilities.
- Admit your mistakes but don’t give up; have another idea ready at hand. Ask for help, guidance, or feedback.
- It’s okay to express frustration, but it should be done in private; and the next step after that is called “getting back to work.”
- The difference between an excuse and an explanation boils down to responsibility. An excuse avoids it, an explanation owns it.
When I have interactions with people who do not seem capable behaving in the manners described above, I feel pretty safe in assuming that they’ve never truly been held accountable to others & probably won’t be able to hack it when they finally are.
I keep reading articles & news posts about how the Trump Administration is doing a bad job of communicating its policies & governance. This presupposes two things:
- That the Trump Administration has objectively and holistically comprehensible policies and governance strategies
- That they have the desire to communicate them clearly to the public via the media
I think the press is still doing a bad job at understanding what’s going on here. The easiest way to #DrainTheSwamp is through neglect. Shut down whatever you can, fill key positions with administrators who will further hamstring the bureaucracy, and leave the rest to dry rot.
This is the kind of state/regulatory capture you learn about in an introductory public administration course.
In the apotheosis of postmodernity that we are currently subjected to sincerity is hard to find. The alt-fact (propaganda) & alt-right (white supremacist) are unscrupulously disingenuous at dissembling. The social justice left has balkanized due to self-inflicted “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the early aughts was at least performative — a joke that everyone was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was funny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about everybody is a revanchist.
The tools used to make nothing mean anything, and anything mean nothing have been so refined that 140 characters can take 10,000 of analysis to unpack. Speed, volume, and anonymity create so much noise that there might as well be no signal.
I used to think hipster irony was the problem & that sincerity was the answer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the problem.
I still think sincerity is the answer.
In general I support candidates, legislation, and civil behaviors that most closely meet my ethical and moral standards. The discernment process becomes progressively more refined as necessary, which, it turns out, isn’t very often. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and ethical foundations are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:
…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Luke 10:29 – 37
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Reiterating: Meet those standards and get my support. Oppose them and I’m an opponent.
I support candidates and legislation that make the correct moral, ethical, and reasonable decisions, even when they are difficult. Policies and positions based on science, empirical research, and long-term viability get my support. I don’t believe in quick fixes. Government works best when it is evolutionary — a series of very gradual changes we can believe in. If a legislator or piece of legislation does not meet or impedes the progress of correct moral, ethical, or rational decision-making, I oppose.
Anti-incumbency, Complacency, & Overton Windows
Barring disqualifying ideological differences, if a candidate or party has been in office or in power in an area for a long time, I’m probably going to vote for their opponent, especially in a primary. I blame this on 30 years of hearing the same names on the nightly news. A Bush has been either President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spotlight for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not into dynasties — familial, ethnic, or otherwise. I thought it was hilarious that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gruel. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most major candidates that run for office.
I also think that the longer a candidate is incumbent — the longer they have to become comfortable, complacent, and likely to ignore their constituency. You keep a knife sharp by honing it. The same principle applies to people. Comfortable people are dull. I think every incumbent should be challenged in a primary when up for re-election. No free passes.
I also vote to shift the Overton Window closer toward the Judeo-Christian ethic illustrated above.
I don’t want legislators or legislation to dictate to me or others how and in what way our private, personal business is handled. All y’all deserve the protections enumerated in our constitution. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.
I realize that this description of my political philosophy isn’t nailed down to the last shingle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That orthodoxy results in the political climate we currently loathe. When there were grey areas to be had in a politics, I welcomed the chance to discuss them, learn, and possibly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not returning any time soon.