I have nothing to complain about really. Maybe it's brain chemistry or the void that's left as the sprouts grow up and require less full throttle mothering but lately it requires conscious effort to keep from wallowing in my own lack of accomplishment and future prospects. Recent studies about depression ironically reinforce those tiresome homilies that people who practice gratitude and compassion are generally happier. Lately it is somewhat of a struggle to channel this but this week at least, I tentatively give myself a pat on the back.
Joe Workforce was home last summer. He worked briefly but etched on my memory, was coming home from work to find him on the couch in his underpants watching TV with a coaster-less beer on my good coffee table. While in New York I learn of his last minute change of plans to return home for this summer. I love the child but after two years without a full time kid, for all of my empty nest issues, we have become set in our ways and the indolence of the previous summer has left a bad taste.
Stagnant in my late fifties I forget how much difference a year can make when you're in your twenties. Since the summer of sloth, Joe Workforce has served as a Resident Adviser helping a bunch of over dramatic freshmen navigate their first year of college. He himself now has graduated. He gets a good job one week after returning home and then a month later, gets an even better job. Dinner now is the three of us. I remember being somewhat impatient with the stream of consciousness naivete of a college student and not really partaking of dinnertime conversations but now I actually look forward to hearing the kid's car chugging down the street so I can ask him about his day, feed him and then let him choose a film for us to watch.
I listen to the same alternative rock day in and day out. I dabble in Drake and Kanye and recently Kendrick Lamar and an interesting woman who calls herself Tink. I love the energy which is lacking in a lot of the old spacey alt stuff I mostly play. We talk about Straight out of Compton and I note that N.W.A. and most of their predecessors in many ways haven't well served the neighborhoods they hail from. I am bothered by the vulgarity, misogyny and materialism that hip hop promotes. Joe Workforce sets me straight and compares my perception of hip hop to that of my parents to Elvis's gyrating pelvis. He points out that it's all theater and the art isn't about creating culture but reflecting on it. Rappers shouldn't be held any more accountable for what they observe than any other artist. The Rolling Stones were never role models but are never called out for this.
It is gratifying that the kid is becoming an adult that I respect and whose company I enjoy. When he was a tiny baby my dad held him close and caressed his head and signed, “My God, I've seen so many changes in my lifetime, I wonder what he'll see in his.” When the boy saw Dad's old typewriter at the office he asked why the keyboard had no monitor. Once as a child for Halloween I found an old refrigerator box and painted it with knobs and dials and awkwardly trick or treated as a computer. My children have never not known computers but both now carry phones with a zillion times the capacity of computers of their childhoods. I suppose self driving cars and drone deliveries will be commonplace. I worry though that the sonic growth of technology will only further widen the economic divide. The ramifications of Citizen's United and the conflation of money with free speech threatens to further unbalance a country where already a single family (The Waltons) controls more wealth than least wealthy 40% of individual Americans combined.
When I was fifteen I spent all of my after school hours working in a campaign office for George McGovern. I was frightened that the war in Vietnam would go on indefinitely and that boys I knew would be drafted and killed. The results of the 2016 elections will probably not have a profound effect on my day to day life but could well have a lasting impact on the future of my children and grandchildren. Under Bill Clinton regulations against the banking industry were lessened which resulted in the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Under Reagan's aegis standards were relaxed and now the F.C.C. has no oversight of bias or fairness in news reporting. The restriction of the number of news outlets a single corporation could own, a measure to insure our access to accurate information, disappeared under the Gipper so that now six gigantic corporations control over 90% of the media in this country.
I understand why the abhorrent Trump continues to poll well. For all his crass vulgarity and insane ideas his message that politicians are beholden to giant corporations resonates. I fantasize about Trump vs. Sanders in 2016 although while it looks like the primary season is going to be a fun and wild ride it will likely be Bush vs. Clinton. Still, I love Bernie and haven't been this invested in an election since McGovern in 1972.
Himself and I have been united now for over a quarter of a century. I guess we would both be branded liberal intellectuals but I will vote for a lesser of evils and he steadfastly will not. Since our lives and finances have become one, the only candidate we have both agreed to donate money to has been Jerry Brown. You're welcome. While I will likely end up voting for Hilary and he for some Green Party crackpot, we both love Bernie Sanders.
We sign up online to attend this week's rally at the Sports Arena. We receive an e-mail asking if we'd like to volunteer and say “what the hell...” We are told to report to the venue at 2:30 and waltz right in with about a hundred volunteers. The group is a mixed bag, young, old, multi-ethnic but a couple of folks, give off sort of a creepy vibe and I am a bit anxious that we are all admitted to the building without passing through any sort of security.
I understand that the Sander's organization is a bit taken aback by its own success and that the L.A. event was planned at the very last minute. Supplies are short. The only merch available are white t-shirts which quickly sell out and for which they are set up only to receive cash. When I express my concerns about security to the volunteer coordinator he acknowledges this but explains that the decision not to have the security team on duty earlier was a financial one. Himself and I are charged with collecting names and e-mails of attendees. Unfortunately, the fields on the forms we are given are awkwardly designed and space for the e-mail address is so tiny that most addys will be illegible.
Many volunteers are sent to scour the long lines of people waiting for admission and get folks to sign our registration forms. Each registrant is given a sticker. Our responsibility is to patrol the foyer, searching out the stickerless, and encouraging them to register. I stand at the other side of the turnstile and catch people right as they enter the door. The security force is now on duty and people are stripped of food and beverages. I doubt if this makes the venue any safer but it does make the concessionaires selling overpriced crap, a bit richer. Unfortunately, mine is the first face people see after their fancy dinner has been dumped in the trash. My volunteer badge I guess gives people a license to spew invective although almost everyone is cooperative at least about providing a name and e-mail. When my voice goes out I scribble out a sign that says, “There are still plenty of seats. Please register before you enter.” I hold this until my arms ache, every last seat is filled, and thousands are relegated to watch via big screens erected in the parking lot.
We are told first thing that we are there to work and not to expect to see the actual speech. But in that there are no real duties to perform, almost all of the volunteers sneak in and crouch in the aisles to hear Bernie. He appears in rolled up shirtsleeves and in a remarkably economical one hour speech boils down cogently what's gone wrong in our nation and poses practical, realistic remedies. I even get a bit choked up. Bernie describes the America I want for my children and their children. It might not be the time, but we elected an African American President and codified equal marriage far sooner than I would have predicted. I'm going to stick with it. Perhaps I'm setting myself up for disappointment but at least my kids will know the kind of America I hope they'll inherit.