Sunday, September 26, 2010

Party Poopers

A recent Saturday started out well.  Despite me, my wife and two of my kids battling various stages of allergies/flu/sinus infections we decided to go out for breakfast.

"Started out well" is a relative term.  When dining out with the shorties, "well" is a meal that involves any combination of the following:

- Less than 5 utensils thrown on the floor
- Less than 5 sugar packets, crackers or liquid creamer packets broken or spilled on the table
- No vomit, gas or body malfunctions
- Two complete sentences spoken by an adult without interjecting (pleading?) a child's name

So yes, while the meal went well, it was the drive that went strange.  As we approached a construction zone outside a mall, I came to a stop along with the other cars while two cars waited to turn through our lane. 

In one car a man blared away on his horn.  Mind you, none of us were moving until the distant light changed.

There was nowhere to go, but this guy clearly had brain surgery to conduct at Starbucks and did not let up.  As the light changed and he drove by, we all got to hear his expletive filled tirade, which he screamed out the window while on a cell phone. 

Tough to explain that one to the kids, huh?  No need.  Just one angry dude.  It would have, however, been quite the teachable (YouTube) moment if we had watched an enraged, distracted driver plow into another car or a construction horse. 

On another recent afternoon, I was walking the dog while pushing my three year-old in her stroller.  The hound took a pit stop and I picked it up and placed it into a sealed plastic bag.  We had a good ways to go and as I came across a garbage can at the curb I tossed the bag inside.

Bad idea. 

I heard a man yell from behind.  Maybe six feet tall, a cut off t-shirt and lunch pail.  Apparently it was his house and he was upset that I used his garbage can.  "I hate when people do that," he yelled.  I said I was just being a good neighbor by picking it up and had a ways to go.  Then he, ahem, put down his lunch pail and approached as if willing to start a fist fight.  Over a bag of poop.  In front of my daughter.  I stood there, he backed off, and we continued on our walk. 

I thought about it again after reading the "Poop Rage"  story below:

So my question in all three cases is:  What gives? 
What on earth is going on in someones life that they become so enraged over something so trivial? 

It's a reminder to me, to us, that we are all vulnerable.  None of us know what lives in the minds and hearts of others.  Looking into the eyes of both men was sad, not scary. 

The scary part is what we don't see. What happens next.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

America, Land of the...Poor?

I was struck by a recent news item. 

Forget struck.  How about floored, shocked, dismayed.

The poverty rate is now at 14.3% - the highest level since the 1950s, when the statistic was first measured. 

And poverty, for a family of four, is an annual household income of $21,954.  

1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty.  And these days, 7 of 7 live with uncertainty, don't they? 

Our economy plugs along with the grace of an "el" train, and the gap between "rich" and poor grows.   I use the term "rich" loosely because somehow I fall under this definition in some political circles. 

I ain't rich.  Blessed? Yes.  But if I'm rich Donald Trump wears a rug. 

1 in 7 are poor. 

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the story broke after several loons rocked the political establishment on primary night. 

I'm not a fan of "isms."  Racism, sexism, ageism. 

Or extremism. 

Extremism is a bipartisan "movement," with adherents on all sides of the political spectrum. 

We lack moderation these days in our political discourse.  Many argue we have for a while, which makes getting together on an issue like poverty a pipe dream. 

Lots to consider in combating poverty, but I tend to simplify it with three main factors:

1.  We spend a ton of money to educate our kids, who overall fall short of other industrialized nations in science and math.  But we spend much less in poor areas due to funding heavily reliant of property taxes. 

2.  Kids who grow up in single parent homes are victimized by a welfare system that still punishes families for sticking together. 

3.  Kids who grow up in cities face crumbling roads, schools and infrastructure.  The race to suburbia has left many who can find a job either unable to get there or faced with hours of public commuting.

A commitment to rail lines and buses would be great (A transportation "Marshall Plan"?), except there's no cash. 

And the problem isn't limited to cities.  The face of poverty is rural, urban, and sadly American. 

What would you do to combat poverty?  I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Daley Double

Da Mayor is done.  Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley won't run.  The Daley regime, and the Machine(?) comes to an abrupt end.

He says its time.  Makes sense.  Some argue its been time for a while, or that it's good to end it on his terms before voters do, with his approval ratings at a new low. 

I think he's just had enough.  You can see the stress on his face in recent years.  The combination of his wife's illness, the botched Olympic bid and an (perceived?) increase in crime seemed to do him in.

There's also the not so small matter of a cash strapped city with a $600 million Visa bill. 

He was a successful mayor, no question.   Chicago remains a world class destination due mainly to Daley's relentless leadership.  Pro business, pro arts, pro development, particularly the lakefront and downtown.  He contributed mightily to Chicago's reputation as a city with a great "front yard."

But the "back yard" has it's share of old tires and sinks. 

Daley rules with the subtlety of a burlesque show, treating aldermen like the "Whack a Groundhog" arcade game. Witness the midnight raid of Miegs Field or the selling of city assets.  Are naming rights next?  How about the "Jersey Shore" Drive or "Oprah" Field?

And corruption is rampant, with over 40 members of Daley's administration indicted in recent years. Cronies constantly cut insider deals, cashing more chits than an Ivy League admissions officer. We're left to wonder the indirect cost of each foot of wrought iron fencing to cops, firefighters and teachers. 

Chicago's next mayor is going to have a lovely, showroom quality car.  Just don't peek under the hood.

Neil Giuntoli's brilliant play "Hizzonor" opens with Giuntoli, as Daley's father, kneeling in his Bridgeport church.  The Priest says "peace be with you" and the congregation responds "and also wit choo."  Pure Chicago.  Pure Daley. 

The city that works, like sausage. 

Da Bears

A quick note as we begin Lovie's farewell tour.  Jay Cutler is a nice quarterback, but I have the sinking feeling he will running from defenses like his hair is on fire.  The line is brutal, and my fear is that they are Puppy Chow to guys like Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh (a beast who tosses QB's like the morning paper)  and the Vikings Jared Allen. 

I hope I'm wrong.  Just sayin'.