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Yesterday morning I learned about the suicide of Soundgarden and Audioslave lead singer Chris Cornell just before I was on my way to Silver Spring to attend a one-day conference for people of a certain age who are looking for new career opportunities or are looking into becoming entrepreneurs. I took the Metro and walked through the unusually hot and humid weather (it was 90 degrees and it felt more like August than May) to get to the conference.

When the conference ended I had to make my way back to the Metro in the hot and humidity. While I was walking along Colesville Road on my way back to the Metro station, I happened to be walking past the Fillmore when I saw this tribute to Chris Cornell.

On a different subject matter, for the past week or so I started to notice these empty brown cicada shell casings on the ground. These are normally the ones from the Brood X cicadas, which emerge from the ground once every 17 years. Except some of these bugs are waking up four years early, which has vexed a bunch of experts.

When I arrived home from Silver Spring I saw one of those large bugs just resting on one of the concrete steps outside my home. I took a photo of that cicada for posterity.

This morning I woke up to find out that Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, has just died at 52. The news is now coming out that he had hung himself.

Soundgarden was among the bands I listened to back during the early 1990’s grunge era (along with Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains). Sadly I never got the chance to see that band in concert. I still play Superunknown on a regular basis because the music is that good.

The sad part is that Soundgarden had just reunited and the band was playing a few gigs. Chris Cornell made this tweet just a few hours before he was found dead.

That tweet doesn’t look like one that was made by someone who was suicidal. It sounded like he was happy.

I’m just going to end this post by embedding a few videos that show Chris Cornell in action.

I’ve learned via Facebook that one of my cousin’s dogs have just passed away. His name was Gonzo and he was 15 years old. I have a few photos of that dog that I took when I visited my cousin’s home on Thanksgiving Day back in 2013. It was a time when I had purchased my current smartphone the day before (a Droid Ultra) because my previous smartphone had literally died. (In a weird irony, that smartphone totally died a day or two after I received a flyer from Verizon saying that I now qualify for a new smartphone. So I ended up purchasing a smartphone the day before Thanksgiving.) I was playing with the camera feature when I took pictures of my cousin’s pets, including Gonzo.

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Gonzo was an all-black furry dog and he could be hard to photograph at times. Here’s another shot of Gonzo with the other dog, Lucy.

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When I took those two photos back in 2013 my cousin had two dogs and two cats. Since then one of the cats, Cookie, has died and now Gonzo is dead. So my cousin is now down to one dog and one cat.

Thirty years ago yesterday my aunt passed away from breast cancer at the age of 48. I still remember her struggles with that illness like it was yesterday. She was around 42 or 43 when she noticed a lump in her breast. When she went to the doctor she found that not only did she have breast cancer but it had spread to her lymph nodes as well.

She underwent a mastectomy and went through many months of chemotherapy that literally made her sick. At one point she asked her doctor about smoking marijuana to help her deal with the side effects of the chemotherapy. Unfortunately medical marijuana was illegal in the state of Maryland at the time so the only way she could’ve obtained it was if she had been accepted in a clinical trial. I don’t know if her doctor refused to refer her to one of those clinical trials or if she got the referral but was rejected but, in either case, she had to fully endure the side effects of the chemotherapy.

She lost her hair so she started sporting turbans when she went out in public. Her cancer was in remission by the time I was married but she wore a turban at my wedding because her hair hadn’t grown back yet. One of the friends of my husband’s parents told my aunt how much she loved her turban during the reception. That friend thought my aunt was making a hip fashion statement. My aunt was elated by that friend’s praise.

Sadly the remission was short-lived because a couple of years later her cancer not only came back with a vengeance but it had spread to her liver. At the time of her death she became a grandmother for the first time just four months earlier and another daughter was pregnant with her second grandchild. (That child was born four months after her death.) As I’m typing this I realize that the oldest grandchild has just turned 30 while the second grandchild will soon turn 30. Time just seems to go too fast for me. It feels like yesterday when they were just babies.

In the years following her death my cousins would go on to have a combined total of eight other children. On top of it, one of my cousins has a stepson from her current marriage so if you were to count him in the mix, it would be a total of 11 grandchildren who would grow up without ever knowing my aunt as their grandmother because of breast cancer.

In her short life my aunt was a housewife who was very active in the Catholic church she attended. When her youngest child began elementary school she started a child care service where she watched some of the neighborhood kids during the weekday. Among those kids was a boy named Ben, whom my aunt started to watch when he was just a baby and he eventually started calling her “Mom Lipp.” (Lipp was my aunt’s last name.) Ben was the same person who took his own life earlier this year.

In a way it’s not fair that someone like her ended up living a short life while you have someone like Keith Richards, who has used and abused nearly every single drug known to mankind yet he is still alive and is currently living life to the fullest in his seventies. Sure his skin looks very leathery from age and all those years of hard living but he’s still alive and kicking nonetheless.

This is why cancer sucks.

Have you ever had the experience of learning that someone whom you first met when that person was a baby is now dead? That is happening to me right now.

My late aunt, who was also my mom’s older sister, was a stay at home mother of four girls. When her youngest daughter started elementary school, her home was pretty quiet during the school week. She decided to earn extra money by taking care of other people’s young children in her home during the week. Most of the kids she babysat were between the ages of 2-5 and they only stayed with her anywhere from a few months to about a year or two until they either started elementary school or their parents moved elsewhere. So she had frequent turnover of kids.

Then she started to take care of three young brothers. The oldest had just started elementary school while the youngest, Ben, was just a baby (he might have been at least six months old) at the time. I think the boys’ mother wanted to go back to work after being a stay at home mom for the last several years so that was why my aunt started to care for them.

I think there may have been marital tensions between the parents as well but I don’t have all the details. (I was a kid myself when all this was going on.) I remember that Ben’s father shot himself to death soon after my aunt started to care for the brothers. I still remember when my aunt called my mom telling her about the distressing news. Ben’s mother ended up becoming a single parent and she frequently leaned on my aunt to help out with the childcare, especially if the mother had to go on some errand without having any of the kids in tow. I heard that the two older brothers were deeply affected by their father’s death. Ben was the least affected because he was so young when his father died so he grew up without ever knowing him.

Eventually my aunt stopped caring for Ben’s older brothers when they started middle school so it was just her and Ben at home during the weekday afternoon (when Ben’s school closed for the day) for a few years. Occasionally there were periods when they would be joined by another preschool child whom my aunt happened to babysit at the time. But the rest of the time it was just my aunt and Ben.

I used to sometimes see Ben when I visited my aunt and uncle with my parents. Sometimes his brothers would be there as well but there were times when Ben was the only one there because his brothers and their mother were elsewhere. I remember Ben being this really cute little kid with the big impish grin. He always had this mischievous look about him. As he learned to talk he started to call my uncle “Dad” (he saw my uncle as a father figure since his own father was gone) while he called my aunt “Mom Lipp” to distinguish her from his own mother (Lipp was my aunt’s last name). My cousins used to dote over Ben as the baby brother they never had.

My aunt stopped taking care of Ben when he entered middle school. She would continue to see him at church (his family attended the same Roman Catholic parish that my aunt, uncle, and cousins attended) and he would come by the house to visit every now and then (whenever he wasn’t busy with homework and after-school activities) so he still kept in touch with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I think my aunt may have cared for a few more kids after Ben (I don’t remember) but she had to stop offering her child care services when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her cancer was in remission when my oldest cousin got married. Ben served as the altar boy at my cousin’s wedding. My aunt’s cancer returned not long after the wedding and she died at the age of 48. I saw Ben at my aunt’s funeral. I think he was in high school by then. It was the last time I saw Ben in person.

Today I learned on Facebook that Ben is dead. One of my cousins had posted a picture on Facebook of her, her three sisters, Ben’s mother, and Ben’s brothers after they returned from Ben’s funeral. I also learned on Facebook that Ben took his own life just like his father did. I don’t know why Ben felt the need to do what he did nor do I know if he actually sought any kind of professional help before he killed himself.

I just feel so weirded out that someone whom I met as a baby and saw from time to time as he grew up is now dead. I’m older than Ben and I’m still alive. Given the natural order of things, I should be the one who dies before Ben but, instead, it’s the opposite. Ben is dead and I’m alive. I just feel so numb about all this (and the fact that it’s cold and rainy outside today isn’t helping).

Last year I wrote about an impromptu memorial that sprang up in my area at the site where a man who committed suicide. At the time I wrote this:

The only lesson I can provide is this: Is there anyone in your life whom you haven’t communicated with in a while? Please take the time to either call, e-mail, or text that person. It doesn’t have to be something that’s too complex or involved. You could just say something like, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing?” This could give that person a chance to admit that he/she is overwhelmed and start talking to you instead of concluding that suicide is the only option.

I also provided a link to the National Suicide Prevention Line (which can also be reached by phone at 1-800-273-8255). I can’t say whether Ben would still be alive had someone reached out to him asking if he was okay or if he had contacted the National Suicide Prevention Line. Yes, I know that it’s too late to help Ben but I would urge everyone reading this to just reach out to someone whom they haven’t spoken with in a while just to see how he or she is doing.

Now I have to deal with the sad fact that someone whom I met as a baby is now dead and I’m outliving him.

Another one of my childhood memories have gone the way of the dodo bird. I’m sure most of you have heard this announcement that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will permanently shut down in a few months after operating for 146 years.

I feel sad because I still have fond memories of the few years when my mother took me to that circus as a small child whenever it performed at the Baltimore Civic Center (now known as the Royal Farms Arena). I loved watching the elephants and tigers do their tricks. (This was long before I learned about the allegations that these animals suffered abuse.) I still remember when this guy did a high wire act on a motorcycle and he even twirled his motorcycle around on that wire above our heads. I remember feeling awed by that stunt while my mother feared that the guy would somehow slip up or the wire would snap and that man and his motorcycle would fall on top of us.

I also loved the clowns because I thought they were hilarious. I especially loved it whenever a bunch of clowns emerged from a tiny clown car because I always used to wonder how so many people could pack inside such a tiny car like that. This was back in the day when clowns were considered to be child-friendly people who only wanted to make people laugh. (I feel sad that most people now consider clowns to be creepy and scary because it wasn’t always like this. I would love to spend the night at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada one day before I die but I would need to get plenty of money first before I can turn that dream into a reality.)

I remember my mother stopped taking me to that circus the year I was going through First Communion. That was because my parents couldn’t afford both going to the circus and the expenses connected with my First Communion, which included wearing a special dress with a veil (like a bride’s dress, a girl’s First Communion dress was also one that could be worn only once, especially since I didn’t have any younger sisters I could pass this dress down to) and throwing a post-communion party at our home afterwards. Personally I would’ve preferred going to the circus over First Communion but I wasn’t given the opportunity to make that decision. I never went back to the circus after that. (I don’t know why that was the case. The only thing I could guess is that maybe ticket prices had gotten too expensive for my parents to afford.) But I still have fond memories of the few years I went to the circus.

I haven’t been to a circus as an adult. The closest I came was the time when, in 2010, my then-husband and I visited the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, which included circus memorabilia (such as a miniature replica of a circus that was created by a lifelong circus fan). I don’t know if I’ll be able to check out the Ringling Bros. last circus shows for old-time’s sake because of financial issues. Oh, well. At least I still have the Nintendo Wii Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus video game to remember it by.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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I have a decoration on my tabletop that reminds me of someone whom I used to be friends with but he’s now deceased.

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This is a print that I have in a box frame that is currently sitting on my tabletop next to the Christmas tree. It was originally a wood printed Christmas card that was created by my friend based on his own original art.

The friend’s name was drex Andrex (he used a lowercase “d” in the first letter of his first name) and he was a very talented artist. My then-husband and I first met him through our Unitarian Universalist congregation and we served on a variety of committees together and frequently met with him and his wife, Ann, at a variety of social events. drex would’ve loved to have been able to make a living as an artist but, unfortunately, he never made enough money at his art to pay the bills. He had a day job as a federal employee plus there were the years when he and his wife raised three children so he had to limit doing his art to whenever he had some free time.

I remember when he and Ann would hold a series of weekly get-togethers at their home in the summer known as the Carport Studio where we would get together in the carport, socialize, drink beer and wine, eat whatever snacks they put out, and create some art. I had some pretty fond memories of those times.

drex was mainly into painting landscapes and cityscapes based on places where he and his family lived. (They lived in Europe for a few years—mainly Belgium and the United Kingdom—in the 1970’s and 1980’s.) He painted in an impressionist style and I’ve always loved his work. He tried selling his paintings to galleries and art dealers but he frequently got turned away. Having seen his work, I never understood why the galleries and art dealers rejected him. He was able to have a few art shows here and there but he really deserved better from the art world.

Fortunately he had his day job so he didn’t have to be the stereotypical starving artist.

At one point drex and Ann became involved with a group of people who were keen on starting a co-housing group. It took several years for this group to get off the ground because they had to find and buy the land then there were arguments and discussions over all kinds of issues ranging from what kind of houses would be built there to procedures to accepting new members into that group. By the time the co-housing development was finally built near Frederick, drex and Ann’s youngest daughter was midway through her senior year of high school. They waited until the daughter finished school, put their current house on the market, then moved to the co-housing development.

The Carport Studio get-togethers had ceased when they moved but my husband and I visited them in their new home a few months after they moved and they seemed happy. drex was selling his paintings that weekend and my husband and I purchased one of his oil paintings of a boat in a harbor and we hung it in our living room.

Sadly their happiness was short-lived. A year or two after the move drex was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. drex went through the treatments and did everything he could do to get well but the cancer got the best of him. I remember my husband and I going to Frederick to visit drex one last time. At the time his wife told us that he was so weak that he could only manage visits of no longer than an hour. However, when we arrived something inside of drex gave him enough energy that our originally scheduled one-hour visit was extended to three hours until he became so tired that we left. Even his Ann was amazed by how our visit had given him a new vitality.

Sadly that vitality was short-lived. One of his last pictures showed him with the family after his oldest daughter gave birth to his second grandchild. Six weeks after the birth, drex died. He was only in his mid-50’s.

When my marriage broke up and we were haggling over the separation, my husband wanted that painting that drex did. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was getting the house that we had shared together even though I would’ve loved to have kept that painting. I had foolishly told my husband that I was attending weekly Thursday night meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced because, at the time, I still hoped for a reconciliation and I hoped that he would be impressed by my efforts to improve myself. Unfortunately he took advantage of that knowledge to let himself into the home whenever I was out so he could take his things—including drex’s oil painting that hung in our living room. My husband was basically a coward throughout the whole separation and divorce in that he didn’t tell me he was unhappy until the night he left, he refused to see me in person or talk to me via the telephone, and he only communicated via email and text and that was when he demanded that I adhered to this separation schedule that existed in his head or else he would sue me. Naturally he only went to the house to get my stuff on the one night he knew I would not be home so he wouldn’t have to face me.

I was sad that I had nothing that drex had made until I was going through some clutter and I found the woodblock print he made for my husband and I as a greeting card. I found a block frame to put it in. This block frame is thick enough on the sides that it can stand up on its own. This print is now stored with the other Christmas ornaments and decorations in the attic and I take it down to display during the winter holiday season.

There are the occasional times when I still miss drex but I’m glad I have at least one thing to remember him by.

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2016 has turned into a totally sucky year with so many beloved celebrities dying like David Bowie and Prince. You can now add Florence Henderson to the list. Her death was just announced this morning on Black Friday. Here’s a video showing her in her best-known role as the matriarch of The Brady Bunch.

But there was more to Florence Henderson than her alter ego Carol Brady. She appeared on Dancing With the Stars and she proved herself as a pretty decent dancer. Here she is doing one of her dance routines with her partner Corky Ballas.

She has also done a number of ads on TV as well starting in the late 1950’s.

It’s very appropriate that I did a certain action today just a few hours before the start of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Today I did something that I once considered unthinkable and it’s also the sort of thing that will shock some members of my family when they learn this: I have joined the #DEMEXIT movement by changing my voter registration from Democrat to Independent. This is the first time I have ever changed my party affiliation in my life and I’m now glad I did it. In a way I felt I had to after seeing the horrible shenanigans on the part of the Democratic National Convention and Hillary Clinton that had been going on for many months and it came to a crescendo in Philadelphia just a few months ago.

I have followed in the footsteps of other longtime Democrats by quitting the party entirely such as this person and that person.

In some ways it’s sad that it has come to this for me. When I was 18 my high school held a special assembly that was only for students who were either already 18 or who will turn 18 before Election Day that November. The assembly was led by two women who were from the local elections board and they were there to register us as new voters. We were given voter registration forms that we could fill out then return to the two women. I registered my name and address. When it came time to check party affiliation, I chose the Democrat Party. It was a no-brainer for me. I lived in a heavily Democratic state (Maryland) and I come from a long line of mostly Democrats, especially on my mother’s side of the family.

In fact I had a distant cousin named Harry Banahan, Sr., who was devoted to Democratic politics. I don’t remember whether my Grandfather Banahan was also Harry’s uncle or cousin but Harry was definitely my cousin on my mother’s side of the family. Grandfather Banahan died a few years before I was born and I was never in contact with the other members of his family when I was growing up. (For some reason that have become lost in time since most of the people directly involved are now deceased, the members of my grandfather’s family decided to cease most contact with my grandmother after my grandfather died.) I didn’t meet Harry until after I was an adult and I only saw him in person twice—once when my Grandmother Banahan died and once when my aunt (my mother’s older sister) died a few years later. Both times were little more than a brief meeting at the funeral and I had never gotten into any in-depth conversations with him. (He was a few decades older than me. I remember he socialized mostly with my mother and other people who were either her age or older.) We never called each other or exchanged letters or anything like that. To me he was just a distant relative whom I only met twice in my life but had no other contact with him.

Harry Banahan, Sr. died back in February at the ripe old age of 98. I only learned this because one of my other cousins said that she had found his obituary in The Baltimore Sun. (For the record I didn’t go to his funeral because I didn’t know about his death until a couple of months after he was laid to rest.) Reading his obituary online, it was no mystery as to why he was a loyal Democrat his entire life. At 16 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was one of the many New Deal programs that Franklin D. Roosevelt created to help those who were burdened by the Great Depression. He left the CCC to serve a machinist apprenticeship at the B&O Railroad’s Mount Clare Shop but later returned to the CCC when he was furloughed. He was called back to the railroad but he later went on to serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he owned and operated a couple of sporting goods stores and he also was a purchasing director at the Baltimore Civic Center (now known as the Royal Farms Arena).

According to family lore (which I haven’t been able to independently verify) he ran as a candidate for the Baltimore City Council a few times in the 1950’s but he lost every election he ever ran in. He most likely ran as a Democrat because Baltimore was—and still is—heavily dominated in local politics by the Democratic establishment. Despite those defeats, he still kept tabs on local politics. His obituary mentioned that William Donald Schaefer (who was both former Baltimore Mayor and former Maryland Governor) was a friend. Harry Banahan was mentioned in this 2007 Baltimore Sun article where, at the ripe age of 90, he spoke with then-Governor Martin O’Malley about how he strongly supported the erection of a statue dedicated to Schaefer. Cousin Harry was probably thrilled when he got his wish because one can now find William Donald Schaefer’s statue in Baltimore at the Inner Harbor between Harborplace and the Maryland Science Center (both of which were built and opened during his days as Mayor).

It’s easy to understand why Harry Banahan was loyal to the Democrat Party his entire life. He benefitted directly from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program at a time when he needed the work. Thanks to that start from the CCC, he eventually became a successful businessman while supporting his wife and children with no help from anyone else. He was even able to spend the last years of his long life with complete dignity. There’s a charming story on the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Martin’s Baltimore website about how, at the age of 95, he was crowned the King of Valentine’s Day. Harry’s wife had passed away by then so an older woman was selected to be his Queen: 101-year-old Florence Curtis.

While Harry Banahan, Sr. was personally and professionally well-served by the Democrat Party throughout his life, unfortunately I can’t say the same for myself. Despite my own lifelong loyalty to the Democrat Party, that party hadn’t done much to benefit me personally. In fact that party seemed to have gone out of its way to alienate me. It started when I was a student at the University of Maryland. I was a Journalism major while minoring in Government and Politics. I was looking for a potential summer internship when I saw a notice through the College of Journalism where the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was looking to hire a few interns for the summer. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. I was a registered Democrat and that internship would have tapped into both my major and my minor so I applied.

I received a callback where they wanted to talk to me and we were trying to set up an appointment where I would meet with someone for a face to face interview. I was trying to schedule a time where it wouldn’t conflict with classes, especially if there was an important exam being held that day. While we were trying to figure out an appointment time that would work for the both of us, the woman I spoke with suddenly blurted out, “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” That was totally out of the blue because I don’t recall giving any kind of vibes of not being interested. (Hell, if I wasn’t interested, I would never have applied in the first place.) I protested that I really did want that internship. We finally settled on a date and time. But then the DNC called either a few hours later or a few days later (I don’t remember which) and found that, for some reason I don’t remember, we had to reschedule my interview. Again while we were trying to figure out schedules I got the same “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” question over the phone. I felt like I was being discouraged from even trying to get this internship, which made me more insistent that I get an interview for this internship just so I could show those people that I could do the work.

I managed to get an appointment that worked for everyone concerned. On that day I used public transportation (I didn’t have a car at the time) to go to the DNC’s offices in downtown DC and did a few interviews with the various departments that were looking for interns but I didn’t get an internship. But I still remember that “You don’t really want this internship, do you?” sudden jab all those years later and I especially started to remember it even more in recent months given how I’ve seen the DNC behaved. I’m at the point where the DNC thinks of rank and file members like me as riffraff who don’t really matter because we aren’t the 1% with incredibly deep financial pockets and I really don’t want to belong to an organization who doesn’t really want me around. This recent link I found has a headline that says it all about the current Democrat Party’s attitudes about its own members who aren’t powerful and wealthy: Liberal Elites Hate the Left.

Despite that early disappointment regarding not getting that internship at the DNC, I still remained a loyal Democrat for many years. As time went on I discovered that my relationship with the Democratic Party was becoming more and more one-sided. It was like a woman who falls in love with a conceited yet charismatic man who frequently ignores her while screwing around with several other women at the same time (and he might even be already married to someone else). Yet when he says a few kind words to her (and maybe even give her a single red rose) that are little more than throwing a bone, she starts to hang on those words while thinking “He likes me! He really, really likes me!” She continues to remain loyal to that cad while he continues to screw around behind her back. I never wanted to be in that situation in my private life so why should I expect similar treatment in from my affiliated political party?

Ever since Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 elections to Ronald Reagan I’ve seen the Democrat Party shoot itself in the foot over and over again.

In 1984 Ronald Reagan was running for re-election while running those now-classic “It’s Morning in America” ads, which definitely resonated with a lot of people. Gary Hart had thrown his hat in the race in the Democratic primary yet the establishment wanted former Vice President Walter Mondale to be the nominee. Gary Hart won the first few primaries, which would echo Bernie Sanders’ primary wins a few decades later, and I remember those victories freaked out the establishment in the DNC who really wanted Mondale. I started seeing results in later primaries where, in a close race, the DNC enabled Walter Mondale would get the lion’s share of the delegates even though the popular vote was tied. Despite the DNC’s love for Walter Mondale, I remember seeing footage of the two on the campaign trail and, to be blunt, Gary Hart performed way better than Mondale. And he had the charisma that matched Regan’s and, well, Mondale just didn’t resonate with a lot of people despite the DNC’s insistence that Mondale be its nominee. While I can’t say for sure whether Gary Hart would’ve defeated Ronald Reagan in 1984, I’d like to believe that he would’ve come much closer to Reagan than Mondale’s dismal results on Election Day.

In 1988, when Reagan was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third presidential term and Gary Hart decided to try running for president as a Democrat again, the DNC decided that Michael Dukakis was the man who would beat Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush. This time Gary Hart’s campaign was done in by a scandal of his own making (remember the ship Monkey Business?) so the DNC got its way again by having Dukakis as its candidate. I remember Dukakis was just as timid on the campaign trail as Mondale was. Whenever Bush or any other Republican tried to pin the dreaded “L” word (liberal) he would go to great lengths to avoid discussing being a liberal. Then there was that idiotic photo he did of himself in a tank while wearing military gear, which earned him total ridicule nationwide. I remember reading in The Washington Post about two or three days before the election where Michael Dukakis said that, yes, he’s a liberal in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. It was a lovely rebuttal that would’ve been awesome had he uttered it months earlier. Sadly that rebuttal was too little, too late and George H.W. Bush became the next president.

In 2000 Bill Clinton’s Vice President, Al Gore, ran against George W. Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush. It was also the year that Ralph Nader received a lot of attention because he decided to run for office on the Green Party ticket. For years I’ve heard loyal Democrats blame Nader for splitting the Democratic vote and ensuring the reality of a President George W. Bush. At one point I believed this. Recently there have been web pages debunking the idea that Nader was the spoiler in that election, such as this one. And there are my memories of Gore as a campaigner. I remember he came across as stiff and cautious on the campaign trail. He seemed like he was literally afraid of taking any kind of risks. I remember when I watched An Inconvenient Truth a number of years later and I saw a different Al Gore who was arguing passionately on why the U.S. needs to focus on climate change right now before it’s too late. It was too bad that Al Gore didn’t show that passionate side of him when he was on the campaign trail because he probably would’ve ended up in the White House by a more decisive margin that wouldn’t needed the intervention of the Supreme Court.

In 2004 John Kerry ran against incumbent George W. Bush but he ran a totally lackluster campaign. I remember when the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth challenged John Kerry on his Vietnam War record and John Kerry didn’t even respond at all. In fact I remember when he seemed to make himself scarce after the Democratic Convention and there were no calls for volunteers to help on his campaign. He did perform brilliantly in the debates against George W. Bush but that was about it. It was no wonder he lost that year.

Even when the Democrats win the White House they turned out to be disappointing. In 1992 the economy was going through a recession and the Democrats had a chance to regain the White House for the first time since 1980. Bill Clinton was elected president and he proceeded to act so cautiously to the point where he supported the Defense of Marriage Act (which was a big “FUCK YOU!” to LGBTQ persons who wanted the legal right to marry their partners) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which was also a big “FUCK YOU!” to LGBTQ people who wanted to serve their country in the military). He championed NAFTA by calling it the best thing for American jobs when, in reality, it hastened the corporations sending well paying jobs outside the U.S. because they could pay impoverished Mexicans less money while not being required to care about such things as occupational safety. Despite his cautious nature, his siding with corporations who wanted to ship American jobs overseas, and willingness to constantly appease the Republicans (especially those who really loathed him and were out to get him) I voted for him again in 1996 because I fell into the whole “we must unite to re-elect Clinton because Bob Dole is far worse and he’ll outlaw legal abortion and destroy the country if Clinton is defeated” argument and, besides, I was still a loyal Democrat at this point. I even remained a loyal Democrat when Bill Clinton was impeached during his second term because he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. (It says it all when the Republicans have been trying to find something on the scandal-prone Clintons that could hold up in a legal setting—ranging from Whitewater to the Rose Law Firm—and the only thing they could make stick is that Clinton lied under oath about getting blowjobs from Monica Lewinsky. And even that didn’t last long since Clinton ultimately prevailed and he stayed in his President job until his second term ended.)

In 2008 I chose Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the primaries because he was promising hope and change. Given the economic crisis when Wall Street literally tanked the economy I felt that a latter-day Franklin Delano Roosevelt is what this country needed and Obama talked like he was FDR reincarnated. I didn’t even care about the color of his skin—he could’ve had blue or purple skin and I still would’ve voted for him because I loved what he was saying at the time. But once he was elected he started putting in Wall Street types like Tim Geithner in prominent positions in his administration. Even his primary rival, Hillary Clinton, was given the position of Secretary of State. I’ve written in the past about how let down I felt about President Obama (especially when he did this compromise with the Republicans where the wages of federal employees like my ex-husband has been frozen for the last few years just so he could prove that, yes, he’s not a stereotypical “tax and spend liberal”). Despite my disappointment I voted for him again in 2012 mainly because the Republicans had put Mitt Romney as its candidate and this is the guy who loved to say stuff like “I like being able to fire people.” Plus I heard the message from Democrats saying that “we need to vote blue, no matter who, because the alternative is worse” and I believed it enough to help reelect President Obama. But it turned out to be all for naught because it ended up being the same old thing as before. At that point I declared myself as being through with supporting President Obama.

Over the years I didn’t just vote Democrat. When I was married my husband and I used to donate to Democrats running in various races, especially on the state and local level. (I haven’t made a financial donation to any political candidate or campaign mainly because of tight finances stemming from my divorce.) I even did some volunteer work on a few campaigns for Democratic candidates (most recently for Bernie Sanders during this year’s primary). But, in the end, the Democrats only did a few token things that I approved of (such as keeping abortion and birth control legal) while not doing much to help average people getting back on their feet, especially after the 2008 economic collapse.

Things really came to a head this year with the primaries and I finally came to my senses and decided that enough is enough. I decided to support Bernie Sanders because he was someone who had long fought for the underdog in the Senate and he felt that this country needed an ambitious program similar to FDR’s New Deal as a way of revitalizing America one again. He was also determined to run a clean campaign by refusing to accept large donations. Instead he encouraged average people to donate small amounts of money and he managed to raise enough money to be able to take on Hillary Clinton and her benefactors (mainly Wall Street). He remained strong throughout the primaries and he even won several states. But then Hillary Clinton’s campaign did some shenanigans that have really lowered my opinion of her even more than previously.

First there were the reports that the Clinton campaign had hired Internet trolls who went around to various social media sites, write multiple posts praising Clinton while trying to start fights with Bernie Sanders supporters. But starting online social media fights weren’t enough. These people tried to shut down pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook groups and one troll was accused of posting child pornography in some of those groups then report those same groups to Facebook for having child pornography that he posted online.

One result of these professional Internet trolls is that I no longer take any pro-Hillary posts seriously on social media because I have no way of knowing whether he/she is really a genuine Hillary Clinton supporter or if that person is really a professional troll who was hired by the campaign to post favorable stuff while bashing Bernie Sanders. I tend to ignore whatever argument that supporter makes regarding how favorable Hillary Clinton is because there’s always the possibility that this person is just a paid plant who really doesn’t really believe what he/she posts. The downside is that real Hillary Clinton supporters (the ones who really believe in her candidacy and who aren’t being paid by her campaign) are now unfairly lumped in with the paid trolls and their arguments get dismissed by myself and many other people as well. I know it’s not fair to the true believers but that’s on the campaign for hiring these professional trolls in the first place instead of cultivating voters to their campaign and electrifying them in a way that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have done.

But the one thing that has made me resolve to never vote for her is that Hillary Clinton has her own election scandal. There have been reports of frequent voter fraud in favor of Hillary Clinton in places like IllinoisMassachusettsKentuckyArizonaNew YorkCalifornia, and Nevada. In addition a hacker known as Guccifer2 has been hacking into the DNC’s servers while providing plenty of data dumps on how tight Hillary Clinton is with the DNC and the mainstream media. Then there is the recent Wikileaks release (which happened just days before the start of the Democratic Convention) of some previously confidential emails from the DNC that pretty much proves that the primary elections were rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton from the very beginning at the expense of other candidates (especially Bernie Sanders).

As a woman I would love to see a woman occupy the Oval Office in my lifetime. But just having breasts and a vagina isn’t enough for me. The woman who deserves to be known as the first woman president would have to represent the vested interests of the 99% instead of the 1% and, based on that alone, Hillary Clinton is ill-suited for such a historic first given her close Wall Street ties while showing little interest in any kind of reforms (such as reinstating the Glass-Steagal Act that was originally passed during the Great Depression in order to regulate the financial industry and was repealed during her husband’s administration). If she does get elected she will have way too much baggage to be an effective leader, as this next link puts it:

A Hillary Clinton presidency, then, would face a national majority of citizens in open rebellion. Either intuitively or consciously they are incensed with the dominance of corporate political power. This is the template of governance Ms. Clinton helped create, the one in which she is historically and demonstrably comfortable, and the one which finances her campaigns for elected office.  Wed to those donors, and locked into this mindset of the New Democratic Party, her presidency could not and would not alter significantly the status quo. Proudly she claims as much: “Let’s not start from scratch,” she says.  Corporate dominance would remain unchallenged, the rebellion ignored.

Rebellion scorned will escalate; first to spirited demonstrations we have already seen, conceivably to violence.  Only substantive reform can accommodate it.

Reform is neither difficult nor unprecedented.  Our history displays a number of means of subordinating corporate interests to the welfare of the American people. More than a century ago—in the “Gilded Age”—the nation faced a similar crisis and dealt with it successfully.  And a century before that, effective mechanisms were in place to restrain corporate dominion, even though the threat of it was already visible.

If all that isn’t enough, Hillary (and her husband, Bill, for that matter) just can’t avoid getting involved in some scandal. Starting with Bill Clinton’s days as Arkansas Governor, there has been one scandal after another that resulted in investigations of the sort that would have ended other people’s political careers a long time ago. The Clintons seem to be the type of people who just can’t avoid getting into trouble. Sure sexism (involving Hillary’s gender) and classism (regarding Bill growing up in a poor family) may have something to do with it but crying sexism and classism can only get you very far before people conclude that you’re crying “Wolf!” way too many times. And then there is the one common denominator to all of these scandals: a Clinton was involved (either Bill or Hillary or both).

If Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who had issues, it would be bad enough. But it seems like the entire Democrat Party is out of step with its traditional supporters (workers). A few weeks before the convention in Philadelphia the party decided against adding a platform that would’ve opposed the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, a multi-nation trade agreement that was negotiated completely in secret and it would not only have a negative impact on workers but it could also affect the environment as well as national sovereignty. (The TPP has been derided as “NAFTA on steroids.”)

The biggest irony is that had ex-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and other neoliberals had been dominant in the Democrat Party back when my cousin Harry Banahan was 16, there would have been no CCC or any other New Deal program available for him and it’s most likely that he would have lived the bulk of his life in poverty instead of the long and fruitful life he actually lived. It’s also possible that he would not have lived as long as he did since poor people generally tend to have less access to things like healthy food and medical care. And I seriously doubt that he would’ve been as loyal to the Democrats as he actually was.

Right now I’m registered as an Independent. I might have converted to the Republican Party had they not gone off the deep end years ago by catering to fundamentalist Christian extremists, white Southern men who pine for a return of the Confederate States of America, and devotees of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. The Republican downward spiral started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and I think it may be on the verge of hitting rock bottom. The fact that a total buffoon like Donald Trump became the official nominee on the Republican Party while channeling both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini by saying all kinds of outrageous hateful stuff against everyone except heterosexual white Christian men with no disabilities says it all about the GOP these days and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. (The only good thing I can say about the Republican National Committee is that at least they provided equal resources to all 17 candidates who ran under their banner and there were no reports of election rigging to favor one candidate. In other words, Donald Trump got his nomination the old fashioned way—he earned them in totally fair and clean primaries.)

Even though I will probably vote for Jill Stein on the Green party ticket because I agree with nearly everything on the Green party platform, I decided against registering as a Green. That’s because I had a brief encounter with them back in the 1980’s when I was still in college and they were then-known in the U.S. as the Citizens Party and I soon became unimpressed because they had organizational problems back then. Basically they would field a candidate for the presidential elections then you wouldn’t hear from then until the next elections. While some of the organizers talked about needing to field candidates on the state and local levels in order to build a genuine grassroots movement from the ground up, they frequently didn’t follow through. Had they done so starting in 1984 (when they fielded excommunicated Mormon and feminist Sonia Johnson as their presidential candidate), they probably would be a real force to be reckoned with today instead of a being a marginal party that is rarely taken seriously by many people.

I know my friends on Facebook are begging people to not vote for a third party candidate because of the threat of a potential fascist Donald Trump Administration. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m now 99% convinced that those rumors of Trump running a fake campaign to both destroy the Republican Party and elect Hillary Clinton to the White House are actually true, I might have held my nose and voted for Clinton in an effort to thwart a modern day Hitler or Mussolini. But those back and forth exchanges between Trump and Clinton seemed so forced and scripted that I’ve seen the children in my church act more convincingly in special plays that are held during the annual Religious Exploration Sunday service each spring. That’s why I’m convinced that this year’s race is totally fake. Sadly this is something that some mainstream media outlet could’ve uncovered a la Watergate in the 1970’s if it weren’t for the fact that much of the mainstream media is dominated by just five or six corporations—with nearly all of them making donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

In any case I refuse to take part in a fake campaign by voting for either Trump or Clinton and I am looking forward to voting for my first woman for president—Jill Stein. I will also vote for the people running for lower offices as long as they are people whom I respect, regardless of whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or some other party. To me a vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would be rewarding them for unethical behavior that is probably illegal as well and I refuse to do it. My friends can beg me or cajole me either on social media or real life but I’m not going to budge on this. If I end up losing friends over this, so be it. I’d rather follow my conscience and be at peace with my decision than to give in to peer pressure and do something I’ll end up regretting years later.

I’m sure my late cousin and loyal Democrat Harry Banahan would’ve been disappointed to hear that a member of his extended family had left the party. But I’d like to believe that he would’ve understood had I spoken to him about how I feel that today’s Democrat Party is not the same Democrat Party as the one that gave Harry a job in the CCC when he was 16 and I had been getting increasingly alienated from my own party because of it. In some ways, I feel like the Democrat Party had left average people like me a long time ago and I doubt that they’ll miss me at all.

I know Gene Wilder died recently but didn’t say anything because I was so distracted by my mom’s recent illness plus taking part in two simultaneous art shows, finishing off this summer’s series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to the 1970’s Howard the Duck comic books, and writing about the renewed interest in one of my older blog posts that was dedicated to this NSFW mixed media piece I did about Anthony Weiner because, once again, he was caught sending photos of his private parts to women other than his wife.

But I still feel the need to say something because his movies were a big part of my childhood and adolescence. I’m old enough to remember my mother taking me to see Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which I still enjoy watching after all these years. To me, Gene Wilder remains the definitive Willie Wonka. (I saw that Tim Burton directed remake but that one left me cold. Johnny Depp played a very creepy Willie Wonka that I would not want to be around, let alone allowing any young child to meet him.) One of my favorite songs from that movie is Gene Wilder singing “Pure Imagination.”

In addition there were other movies that Wilder made that I still fondly remember, such as the hilarious Young Frankenstein, which includes this memorable version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

I’ll admit that blackface performances are problematic and they are frequently considered racist. The only time I ever found blackface that actually worked was when Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were in the film Silver Streak. Basically Gene Wilder’s character had to get onboard a train while evading cops and Richard Pryor’s character came up with the idea of disgusting him as a black person. Despite Wilder’s reluctance, Pryor gives this hilarious lesson on how to pass as black. The scene gets more hilarious as Wilder gets more and more into trying to imitate an African American man.

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