How The Guns of August has held me hostage.

One other thing. I’ve literally been consumed with Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August.” Almost finished, and I’m yet again looking for some redeeming value in the human condition. There are brief flashes of brilliance and high-mindedness (King of Belgium), but mostly just stupidity. I’m amazed that so many readers of this book have characterized the causes and prolongation of WWI as being due to miscommunication, when it’s obvious that most of it was due to willful blindness. Generals and Supreme Commanders refused to consider reported facts that didn’t comport or endorse their own world view. Donald Trump should really take a month off and read it.

Modest Alternative to Affirmative Action

With the disappearance of Affirmative Action, it seems that the last nail has been driven into the coffin of higher education for disadvantaged students at virtually every inner-city school across the state. Even armed with the knowledge that behaving differently toward some for equality’s sake is effective, the powers that be have chosen racism over reason, leaving the best and most brilliant black and Latino students in the lurch, forced to accept attending community colleges even when the academic direction they’ve earned is clearly pointing toward Stanford or Berkeley or UCLA.

Although this is a lamentable and deplorable state of affairs, I believe there is a solution, one that will solve the problem at hand, ensuring that virtually all underprivileged students, gifted or otherwise, receive a back-to-basics college education, as well as maintaining an in-the-black ledger for the state’s budget. And most important of all, there are no quotas, race-based or otherwise.

My humble plan not only guarantees an education, but preserves these students’ rich cultural heritage, while, at the same time, exploiting many of the talents and traits they already possess, traits unique to their particular socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and traits easily adaptable to any social structure in any institution of higher education. Think about it. What’s the hue and cry of the privileged and gifted students already entrenched at a Stanford or Berkeley when a poor, inner-city student arrives on campus? Welcome? Be who you are? Not really. It’s more like: be like us or die, an imperative that is unlikely or unable to be obeyed.

This is of particular importance because of the very real fear of socially traumatizing these deserving youngsters, who, from no fault of their own, would find themselves, when confronted with one arcane bit of Stanford-esque protocol/etiquette or another, at such high levels of stress that their psyches and emotional well-being would be at risk and therefore not open to learning, which is what this is all about anyway.

My plan is so all-encompassing that these concerns dissipate as if they were steam rising from the dean’s afternoon pot of tea.

The question becomes, among others, just what is this rich cultural heritage that will be preserved upon implementation of my plan? It’s nothing more and nothing less than the proud tradition of service to another human being, indeed an as yet untested tenet of Christianity itself, and a tradition with which the underprivileged people of color throughout history are intimate.

In order to explain how the underprivileged will actually land onto a college campus, it’s incumbent upon me to explain the fiscal aspects of my plan. The top universities in California are expensive, not the way say a Corvette automobile is expensive, but the way a Bentley is expensive. They’re really expensive. The students who have traditionally been attending these universities are, for the most part, being subsidized by their parents, whose pockets are so deep that another twenty-five or thirty grand over a few years to pay for a new “perk” for their kids on campus would hardly be noticed.

And this is where the spiritual value of service to one’s fellow man comes into play. It’s no secret that, in the inner city, women of color possess an innate and invaluable knowledge of, among other things, how to make a bed properly and also keep someone else’s abode orderly and clean.

The boys, on the other hand, while probably not having any real experience at service, but being the progeny of countless generations of porters, waiters, butlers and man servants, shoeshine boys and the like, will have a genetic propensity toward this skill that will probably be able to be assimilated and mastered within a few weeks or so.

My plan, in short, is to offer to underprivileged students of color the chance to serve their academic brethren already enrolled in universities by becoming their servants, cooks, dressers and butlers, all at minimal or no cost to the state and thereby at the same time offering them a college education.

Of course, the method of acquiring knowledge that I propose here will necessarily be different from what one usually defines as “learning,” not because of any deficiency in pedagogic dogma, but simply because it’s so superior to what “education” has been eroded into over the years. No more strict adherence to class schedules and taking notes furiously from lectures on subjects that are, at best, open to interpretation; no more wresting meaning from algorithms and formulas that will rarely if ever be used in day-to-day life; no more guessing at just what one professor or another thinks is important.

The method my plan utilizes is not only foolproof and superior, but two-pronged: just as the delicate spring flowers of the Desert Southwest draw sustenance from the arid sand, so will these underprivileged students, through mere proximity to higher learning, draw into their brains a profound understanding of the lofty disciplines college has to offer. It’s simply, in a word, osmosis. And the second prong would be repetition and more repetition. To illustrate this, I’d point to the great composers of the world who would not nor could not have written a single great or even not so great note had it not been for their method of learning, which was simply copying others’ work ad infinitum.

The privileged students served under my plan (we’ll call them “Masters”) will, of course, be well-educated about their new state of affairs well before the first shipment of servants arrives, and therefore aware of the fact that all their homework, notes, graded tests, etc., must be photocopied and left for their servants to help themselves to at the end of every day.

The naysayers among you will most likely scoff at this seemingly catch-as-catch-can method of stocking the learning shelves: “What if one or more of the Masters forgets?” “What then?” Well, I say, “What if it rains?” I’ve covered every possible contingency. Forgetting is certainly a valid concern, one of which we’re all guilty. Are the servants simply to go without the learning materials promised them for as long as their Masters forget? Absolutely not!

My plan has a built in fail-safe mechanism for just such an occurrence, and for an explanation, we’ll briefly revisit the servants’ rich cultural heritage being preserved so far away from home. All we really have to do is briefly browse the statistics regarding a minority’s behavior while in their previously unenlightened environment. When we superimpose this behavior to virtually anywhere else in the world, one radiant axiom outshines all others: that when left unsupervised and in close proximity to something of value, be it an electronic device, flashy jewelry, or in this case, learning materials, the student of color will simply steal it.

The last and probably most important part of my plan deals with the manner in which a servant of scholastic excellence is treated, while again, staying within guidelines that are not inconsistent with the cultural baggage brought along to, say Stanford. The most important part of this task was to come up with a “Job of Honor,” if you will, one that reflected the monumental struggle of overcoming terrific odds to excel scholastically, and one that, at the same time, enhanced the dignity of the institution.

This job also had to be created, again, in accordance with certain predispositions of minority students, not only in terms of social standing, but also in terms of appropriate garb that was not only immediately identifiable as signifying excellence, but also one universally accepted as a mark of unflinching dignity.

Knowing that students of color are already wont to wear clothes and ornaments, usually in bright, primary colors, reflecting allegiance to one group or another, it wasn’t too great a stretch to come up with the notion of wearing similarly identifying garments for this job of honor.

After much thought, the “uniform” I came up with consisted of a silken, boldly striped jersey in the school’s colors and a cap with the same color scheme. For pants I thought that maybe a traditional pair of jodhpurs, tucked neatly into a pair of shiny black boots, would be suitably distinctive for exemplifying such a place of honor.

And the job itself is nothing less than serving the school as an icon of staunch character while at the same time adorning the acres of graceful lawns upon which the school’s proud structures stand. While wearing this previously described uniform of honor, the student of color will stand stationary for hours on end (an act of quiet dignity in itself) while holding a lantern in his outstretched hands, a gesture that unequivocally says: come on in. Take your shoes off. Sit a spell.

If, for some reason, my simple plan is rejected, leaving these underprivileged students no hope whatsoever, one can almost hear their desolate cries rising from tenement buildings and skanky neighborhoods across the state: “What are we to do now?”

The only solution available to them is obvious and elegantly simple, although admittedly not easy.  Indeed, it involves solving one of the great universal mysteries. But being of gifted caliber and having no other choice really, these students should be able to tackle the problem with alacrity.

So when their forlorn cries of frustration rise as to what to do in order to obtain a college education, the simple answer is: go back and be reborn to parents in Beverly Hills, silly!

 

Sunday Morning

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders should:
1. Use bigger doses of Botox before Sunday talk shows (the ugliness of her soul completely supersedes the effects of the drug).
2. Wear simple black dresses more often (her usual Bo-Peep/Goose-Girl “looks” don’t serve her well).
3. Admit that the two words, “president” and “Trump” are a monumental moral transgression.

I submitted an essay on dating in a wired world to the L.A. Times

I did. It needed to be 800-900 words. Check. It needed to be place specific. Check. It needed to be edited. Um…  It needed to be centered around difficulties/successes as it related to the online component of dating. check. It needed to be aphorism free. Check. It needed to not be breezy. Check.

Here it is:

 

I keep asking myself: How much older will I need to become until I can finally push dating into irrelevance?

I’m 67. I’m a gay man. I have HIV. I’m in recovery. I was involved with a man for 21 years once, but that ended. We lived in West Hollywood and Los Feliz. We looked happy, but never were. We’re still friends.

I now live with my dog Duffy in an elegant Long Beach building that stands quietly, majestically as an Art Deco barricade against the incessant urban cacophony of emergency vehicles on their way to emergencies. There are oceans of distressed people on the street below who’re barking particularly loudly this morning. The building is full of mostly interesting and involved people, like rocket scientists from SpaceX, cops, young acid freaks and online celebrities; a fairly even distribution of young and old. I’m a Democrat. My new neighbor is a Republican. He seems like a nice guy, but he’s treacly. No other word to describe him. My apartment is quite small. I figure it’s kind of like living on a boat, especially the kitchen, which is actually just a repurposed narrow hallway. I’m lucky to be living here.

I check online hookup sites dutifully, much like reading the news every morning. This rarely exceeds the bounds of admiration though, because honestly, I like looking at pictures and profiles of younger guys – you know, forty something. This has created an unkind truth about aging: even though it seems that objections to dating an older man would begin to vanish the closer to your age the prospect finds himself, the inverse is actually true, at least after the age of 39. Once that threshold is crossed, the 40s become the last stronghold of youth, jealously – maniacally – staking claims to those in their 20s or 30s while resisting the irresistible invitation to move forward toward…moi.

I work out at a gym very regularly. I use the adverb “very” because I’m currently enjoying a rare six-month spurt of religious commitment to exercise. I look pretty good for a guy my age. But I’m still 67, which I’m learning pretty much guarantees that my belly will prove to be monumentally difficult to disappear because, apparently, metabolisms slow way down at a certain point. That and I like bread.

Being HIV positive creates an added level of complication when looking for a date. Happily, though, most hookup sites have disclosure sections that allow you to just check a box so that prospects will be able to see your status, and you theirs.

I don’t insist that other guys be sober, as I am. It doesn’t freak me out that some guys insist on being high during sex (mostly meth, but sometimes other stuff too), it’s just something that not only makes sex uninteresting, but pretty much the rest of life too. I’ve tried to date sober guys in “the program,” but that’s often like dating somebody in the Taliban: every facet of existence is tinged with dogma.

Then there was Dave (not his real name) whose Adam4Adam profile seemed just right: close proximity, similar age, really great shape, HIV positive, and injunctions against using meth. I took the plunge and pitched him a “smile.” He responded with actual words, my reaction to which was: We’re going to be happy for the rest of our lives! We decided to meet in person before the dreaded flesh-market assessment preceding any prospective “activity.”

The hour arrived. He looked great as he approached. I was kind of giddy.

We headed inside a restaurant on First Street and each ordered a Poké. We sat. We commenced communication.

Dave had an awareness of carbs and diet in general. He worked as a phlebotomist in a local hospital…and god, what a body! He inquired about me. Disclosure: My debut novel was published earlier this year, something I’m quite proud of, so I quietly brought it up. This apparently was a mistake. Dave’s not a reader, which only became apparent after I’d explained that it was difficult to find part of the book that wasn’t too salacious to read in public. I didn’t care that he didn’t know the meaning of salacious. But it created a dissonance. I was still hopeful, though, and I tried to draw him out. “Phlebotomy sounds interesting and challenging.” Bingo. The floodgates of discourse had been flung open. I learned a lot about drawing blood from reluctant veins inside difficult people.

I also learned a few things about Dave, including this: He has debilitating back pain and he fears his prescriptions for Oxycodon from various doctors will be discontinued because his health insurance is in flux. He freely admitted to being strung out on the stuff.

If there’d been cartoon evaluation gauges above our heads, the needles would have been diving toward zero.

I got up to refill my glass of water. When I turned to return to the table, Dave was on his feet, heading in my direction where the trash can is, empty plate in hand.

Apparently the coda had just been performed, and I missed it.

Before shaking hands good-bye, Dave patted my Poké-filled belly. “Nice meeting you.”

This episode would have been much harder had I not had my dog Duffy at home. He will dutifully wait at my feet while I boot up Adam4Adam once again.

 

 

Wasn’t last Sunday like five minutes ago? By the way, isn’t Barbara Tuchman great!

Barbara Tuchman Barbara Tuchman Barbara Tuchman.

 

What a  w r i t e r   Barbara Tuchman is! I would love to have met her. I image she

enjoys a nice bowl of broth, and for excitement on weekends, maybe a fig cookie;

someone for whom the concept of  “entertainment” made her eyes glaze over, but

because of her generous heart, she simply demurred quietly.

 

It doesn’t matter though, because, apparently nothing matters anymore.

#trumpissuchanasshole