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Reality Intrudes on a Otherwise Nice Weekend

The weather around here was atypically perfect over the Memorial Day weekend, with none of the vicious thunderstorms and potential tornadoes that usually drive all the campers away from the nearby lakes at some point in the holiday, and the news cycle was as slow as one can hope for these days. Still, there was no shaking a certain sense that real life and all its discontents would start up again today.
We did our best to put it aside for a weekend of gratitude to fallen heroes and other uplifting thoughts, attending church and doing some pressing chores and pursuing plenty of procrastinating, while sticking mostly to the sports news. On Monday we slept late and eventually got together with some gray-haired hippie friends who meet every year on the date at a charmingly dilapidated house in a charmingly dilapidated neighborhood, and we had some barbecue and drank some beer and talked mostly about music.
They were playing the Allman Brothers Band on an old stereo sound system, apparently in memoriam of Gregg Allman, one of the eponymous co-founders of the band and its longtime vocalist and organist and songwriter, whose obituary we had noticed in the news over the weekend, and we have to say it sounded great. As natural born rockabillies our tastes in rock ‘n’ roll tend to the pre-hippie generation, and in our relative youth we embraced the punk sensibility that rebelled against those aged hippies, but we could never resist that Allman outfit doing “Crossroads” or “Whipping Post” or especially that enticingly melodic “Jessica,” which we played over and over on our old stereo until it drove our mom crazy, so we shared with our hippie friends a sincere toast to an undeniably crazy old hippie who was also an undeniably great and quintessentially American musician.
There was plenty of grousing about President Donald Trump, too, of course, but our natural born rockabilly punk and old school Republican sensibilities weren’t much stirred to offer any defense. We left early and dropped in an another old friend, a woman who is a bit younger and far punkier than ourselves, and still quite attractive in an exotic and ripened sort of way, and after she she showed us some cell phone video of her cute grandsons she also started grousing about Trump. After such a long friendship she usually avoids political topics with us, but we invited her to vent her spleen without any fear of recriminations. This lead to an eerily civil discussion about our bedrock conservative principles, however weird they might seem at the moment, and even some lengthy discourse some about the authoritarianism on her side of the political divide, and it ended in a hug.
After that we still managed to make the last inning of the Wichita Wingnuts’ home-opening victory over the Salina Stockade at the old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on a glorious early summer night next to the Arkansas River, and although our New York Yankees lost to the Baltimore Orioles the Boston Red Sox also so lost so the Yankees were still comfortably in first place in the American League East. In our perusal of the sports pages we also noticed that Frank DeFord had died and Tiger Woods had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, so it wasn’t a great day in sports. DeFord was until his final day the best sportswriter of his generation, and at one point around 2008 Woods seemed poised to claim the title of greatest golfer and most heroic sports hero ever, and both of those stories came to a sad end over the weekend.
We dropped in on the last Wingnuts inning with a couple of our cigar-chomping friends in the smoking section of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, one of whom is a graying hippie professor at the local university and the other a gray-pony-tailed hippie who still musters a full-throated defense of Trump, and they briefly filled us in on what they’d been arguing about during the home team’s victory. At that point we tried to talk about the home team’s victory, and if we’d arrived early enough to purchase a beer we’d have raised a conversation-changing toast.
We can’t help a late night glance at the news, though, so naturally Trump came up in that. They don’t observe Memorial Day in Germany, so Chancellor Angela Merkel went ahead with a speech that didn’t mention Trump by name but made clear that in “my experience of the last few days” she spent with Trump she had concluded that Europe could no longer count on the support of “outside sources,” and her opponent in the upcoming election more explicitly agreed with her more subtle denunciation of Trump. Our liberal Facebook friends were meanwhile exulting in Trump’s admittedly unusual demeanor during the national anthem at Arlington Memorial Cemetery, and although we don’t think it necessarily damning we have to admit it is unusual. There’s the carry-over from the previous work week’s stories about Trump’s son-in-law and all-purpose appointee, too, and we had to warn our Trump-apologist friend that the upcoming testimony of the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director will likely require some difficult apologetics.
He seemed to take our warning to heed, and inquired about the well-being of our folks, whom he has also lately befriended. We appreciated the sincere inquiry, and assured him they seemed to be doing fine, and felt a hopeful thought that all this politics and sports and whatnot doesn’t really matter.
We also took a moment or two to remember Jerry Clark, who grew up in the Depression at an Atchison orphanage and got his toes blown off at the Battle of Manila in World War II and somehow wound up in the darkroom of the newspaper where we worked as young punks,  where he became one of our very best friends ever. For all the difficulties of his life he was one of the funniest fellows we’ve ever known, and as we face the coming week we’d love to hear what he would say about this particular moment in time.

— Bud Norman

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Life Goes On

A steady stream of cute kids in scary costumes dropped by our front porch in search of candy on Thursday, a scarier-looking bunch of the hated Boston Red Sox won the World Series on Wednesday, but our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad will commence a season with great expectations on Saturday. Each passing day has lately been shorter and cooler and every night longer and colder as one season gives way to another, but the neighbors will decorate the long cold nights with bright lights until the warmth and storms of spring surely come again.
Those of us who pay too much attention to economics and politics and world affairs and such will occasionally lose sight of the fact, but life goes on. The economy has been limping along on artificially low interest rates and endless money-printing that will inevitably come to an end before the high unemployment and limited opportunities do, for the time being politics has bestowed a government-run health care system so calamitous that even the press cannot pretend otherwise, and the world seems to be readying itself for a contentious and bloody post-American era that will begin with the apocalyptic suicide cult of medieval nutcases that runs Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but life goes on. Most people still get up and go to their jobs, or their two part-time jobs, and they come home and watch over those cute kids, and they watch sports, and the rest are still are getting their benefits or struggling along somehow. The guys on the talk radio shows and the people who call in are all plenty steamed about it, and all but most naively idealistic of the millions who have lost their insurance plans or seen them become vastly more expensive as a result of Obamacare probably feel the same, but it doesn’t seem to come up in conversation so often as the kids or the sports teams as life goes on.
Perhaps this is proof of the resilience of the American spirit and what’s left of capitalism, and we certainly hope so, but sometimes it feels more like a supine acceptance of American decline. The extraordinary number of Americans no longer bothering to even seek work goes largely unremarked, the broken promises of a conspicuously inept government are merely laughed at in the late-night monologues, and America’s diminished role in the world is little noticed and widely regarded as a welcome respite from the messy business of imposing some sort of international order. There’s an eerie lack of outrage about any of it, at least when the radio dial is tuned away from the talk shows, and a palpable sense of resignation.
Neither is there much of talk of hope and change and the fundamental transformation of America, as liberalism seems dispirited by its manifest failures and struggles to make the obligatory excuses, and it suddenly seems possible that the public’s discontent will at last express itself loudly at next year’s mid-term elections. In the meantime some of those people who are still going to a full-time job are pulling new energy out of the ground with astounding new technologies despite the government’s best efforts to stop them, and others are creating equally amazing innovations that will revolutionize other industries in ways the bureaucrats haven’t dreamed how to regulate, and many will go home from more mundane enterprises to raise cute kids who will someday come up with something even better.
Unless the country can muster a little more outrage, though, those cute kids could inherit a lot less than they deserve.

— Bud Norman