Yesterday, laundering sheets and pillowcase, jammies and socks: when I opened the dryer, all of the socks (four pairs) came out together. Each one of a pair touching each other. Perfectly matched.

This has never happened before. I take it as a sign of miraculous synchronicity to come. That or aliens playing with the space-time continuum again.

Have you ever, after engaging in a conversation with someone, sudden choked on the growing realization that the person you’re talking to is not completely sane?

It’s always a shock, because we just don’t expect to be face to face with crazy, especially if it’s someone we know.

The worst instance was a telephone conversation at work, decades ago. OK, not face to face … thankfully. A salesman I knew, someone I’d gone to lunch with, called me and began to talk about his sister. How she’d been the victim of a crime, a brutal, sexual attack. His voice broke; he cried, apologized, and then went into the details. Graphic, gory details, until I cried, “Stop! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for you, but I can’t listen to this!”

By then, a friend had come over because he could tell by my face that I was hearing something awful. It took a few moments to realize what had just happened. Then it took a few hours to sink in. I’d never heard the term “mind fuck” before, but add a scoop of blood-drenched shock and that’s what I was served up. I felt like a fool, because I’d let the man talk.

My friend called the boss, and we called the police. They didn’t treat me like a fool, thank goodness. The guy never came near me again; we learned from his boss (eventually) that mine was not the first complaint.

Like I said, that was the worst instance.

I’ve been creeped out by strangers who sat next to me, pointed out their former co-workers there, on the dance floor, and told me how they dreamed of getting a gun to punish them for the way they behaved. That happened twice, when I was young and went to dance clubs. What weird karma is that?

I was getting to know a friend who told me about her childhood in the south. Fun times, great conversation. Six months later I brought up an anecdote from that talk because it seemed appropriate. She stared at me like I was nuts. She’d never been to the south. She grew up in Arizona. Her partner, a long-time friend, told me later that such things happened to him too. She had alternate personalities that came out at times to tell stories about their lives.

A fellow writer, who was finally getting her magnum opus published, moved because of one neighbor who stalked her, stole her mail, and frightened her. Her friends heard about these incidents as they happened, every few weeks. Then the former neighbor showed up at her new place. She called the police, who referred her to a private detective. The detective made her a hat of sensors and wires to deflect the stalker’s probes.

At some point, you blink and realize there is no stalker, no stolen mail, no detective. What do you do then?

A smart, clever woman called to tell me she would no longer join our group at a restaurant because she’d heard us all talking about her, condemning her. It went round the table, those hissing rebukes. I tried to calm her, tell her that hadn’t happened. No one condemned her, but she wouldn’t believe me. A year or so later she was hospitalized with dementia and she died the first day of this year.

Last night I listened to an elderly woman, a casual acquaintance, who has been telling everyone for months about her computer viruses and problems, and who has blown off every suggestion that made sense. She told me about the sneaky hackers passing themselves off as Paypal investigators, about Microsoft ripping her off, about the bank lady telling her to take her accounts elsewhere because my friend keeps closing and opening new accounts as she’s hacked. The FBI is investigating, she’s been told. Has she called the police about this identity theft? No, because the FBI is handling it. She was told that. She never said by whom. Meanwhile, she’s cancelling all her plans for the weekend because the computer people may call her then and keep her on the phone for hours.

What do you do? When you’ve been listening to a woman talk for 45 minutes and never answer a direct question, but go round and round about these bad people who pass themselves off as good people, what?

We like to believe that the folks we know or meet see the same world we do, more or less. We seek common ground and build on it. When the person across from you begins to sink into quicksand, when their moaning and groaning crosses a line into paranoia, when their stories become confused and there’s no logic to the drama that keeps growing and expanding, it’s a threat, in a way. Crazy is close, it’s just across the table on on the other end of the phone.It’s grabbed hold of someone I know. How long has this been going on?

I no longer feel like a fool when someone fools me. It’s not about me at all. I also don’t often cut and run, unless the person speaking is a total stranger and getting away seems imperative..

I guess the answer to “What do you do?” is you listen and try to think of a way to help.

 

Once upon a time, there was a young man who believed strongly in law and order. When he saw injustice, he wanted to right it – by force if necessary. Men must behave rightly. The innocent must be protected.

This man went to law school, and then got into politics. Soon he was the state Attorney General. As such, he focused on putting certain gangsters out of business. Since they were a threat to the innocent, he had no problem using illegal means like wire taps on their phones to get evidence against the bad guys. Our hero just made sure his name stayed off of any orders about that.

World War II brought new threats. The Attorney General helped craft the order that interred the Japanese, in order to protect the innocent. On a national stage, he argued forcefully for it and saw it passed. Thousands of American citizens and non-citizens lost nearly everything they owned and were imprisoned in desolate locations for the duration of the war.

Soon the man was governor. Then a Republican president tapped him for the Supreme Court. Not just that; the president wanted him to lead the court!

Yes, boys and girls, that is how Earl Warren became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

And what did this protective, harsh man do, once on the court? You know the answer.

He struck down segregation in schools.

He told the police they could no longer hold and question suspects without letting them talk to an attorney.

President Eisenhower liked to say that he’d only made two mistakes while in the Oval Office, and both of them were sitting on the Supreme Court.

I’m not sure how Earl Warren viewed his path in life, from conservative icon to liberal hero, because I have not read his autobiography. I tried once; he is not an engaging writer. Verbose, but dull. I’ll try again, one of these days.

I know how I view the transition he made. Once on the court, he realized he had to make decisions for everyone, not just the people he wanted to protect. He had to interpret the Constitution and accept that it applied to all, even if he didn’t like it.

I can’t express how much I admire Earl Warren’s courage. It’s easy to fight for justice for those you love. Warren learned to fight for justice for everyone, whether he loved them or despised them. His goodness, at peril for so long, caught up to him.

Foreign influences on our elections?

dimensions-travelerForget the Russians! The bigger worry is … did time travelers from the future interfere in our voting process?

Politics and science fiction do, occasionally, intersect, but you have to be quick to catch that.

First, the background:

For liberals and Democrats like me, the last couple of months have been filled with dread. Not because the other guys won; that happens regularly. After nearly 45 years of voting, I’ve learn to live with disappointment. Most of us do not doubt the patriotism or righteous intentions of the other party’s candidates, even though we rabidly disagree on many issues.

This time is different. To me, this is a train wreck, a bad joke that seemed impossible to manifest, a nightmare from which we can’t awake.

I have friends and family members who are Republicans, and who could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. And I know at least one who did. Let me say up front that I still love you; I just think you’ve been taken in by a dangerous cad who will treat you badly and discard you.

But he’s been sworn in! The dangerous cad has taken over the family manse and fortune!

We now live with him as President. Dread is done because the future is here.

Second, the SF spin:

Were time travelers from the future hiding in the crowds on January 20, there to prevent the inauguration? A Pacific Standard piece described that and I love that idea. I read elsewhere: “New research has shown that every ten minutes someone claiming to be from the future sent back to save humanity is admitted to a hospital somewhere in the US.”

And of course, there’s this video from Steven Colbert and Scott Bakula, doing Quantum Leap on a young Donald:

This time travel idea was broached as early as last March, but the UK has put a new spin on it: Donald Trump himself is “a thrill-junkie time traveller” (sic) (it’s British), here to save us from nuclear war, according to several papers. The quoted phrase is from the Daily Star.

Or maybe Hillary Clinton was the time traveler! That from a Tweet by Jomny Sun, who said future people forgot about sexism when they selected her and sent her back. You can imagine how well that went over.

My theory:

If there were time travelers involved, they were there to ensure that Trump took office.

Why?

Think of Donald Trump as medicine. Horrible, vile-tasting medicine, or like chemo that will save you if it doesn’t kill you first.

Women's_March_Washington,_DC_USA_33suffragettes-marching-on-pennsylvania-avenue-washington-dc-march-3rd-AE43DPI can imagine Many Good Things coming from his presidency.

We’ve seen one already: the Women’s March. A million strong, marching in every major city. One conservative asked me, “What good did that do?”

Fortunately, I can point to several marches that lit fires and changed the world. The Los Angeles Times just wrote about the Suffrage movement marches and President Woodrow Wilson, 100 years ago. And there are many others; Selma, for instance.

Unless a time traveler stops by to enlighten me (and you’ll be the first to hear) the good done by Sunday’s march will not be known for years, till we can point back to it and say, “That’s when it started.”

From my liberal standpoint, I can think of other Good Things that may happen during a Trump presidency:

  • Republicans lose control of Congress and their most extreme representatives and doctrines are rejected.
  • Climate change speeds up, scares us badly, and that spurs us to take decisive action, And it will take scares. We are appallingly lazy about clinging to our conveniences and one-use plastics, myself included.
  • The economy gets mucked up, pushing us to re-examine rules set in place back in the 1930s, and adding a few more.
  • The wealth of the 1% becomes a target. Instead of being coddled and obeyed, the super-rich are taxed and forced to pony up their share to improve our society, infrastructure, and economy. Good: Greed is not fulfilling; it is the exact opposite.

A final point, aimed at those clever, Ayn Rand-loving entrepreneurs that thought Trump was winking and speaking (in code) directly to them: Maybe we’ll all learn that sexist, racist, bullying speech isn’t something to be cheered, tolerated, or winked at. It may actually be a clue that the person speaking is, by golly, a sexist, a racist, and a bully.

hidden_figuresA little over half-way through the movie Hidden Figures is an onscreen date: May 5, 1961.

When that appeared, I practiced restraint. I wanted to elbow everyone down the row and let them know that that was my 7th birthday. But with the self-effacing control of a Catholic saint, I sat still.

I did not scream it out, but here’s the truth: Scott Carpenter became the first American in space on My Birthday!

I remember that day. One of the best birthdays, because everyone made a big fuss over me and gave me kisses and presents in the morning, before school. Then, when I settled onto a seat in the classroom, as we always did, gathered around our teacher and not at our desks, the teacher asked, “Does anyone know what happened today?”

She knew! Bless her, she knew with her magical teacher powers! My hand shot up, and as soon as she called on me I said, “It’s my birthday!”

That wonderful lady laughed and clapped her hands, as if there were no other reason in the world for her to have asked a question other than acknowledging me. She called me up for the traditional fake spanking and pinch to grow an inch. I’m sure I glowed.

Somewhere jumbled in that memory is her pronouncement that America had sent a man into space that day, my birthday, and this was an Historic Day. And I would always remember it.

I did.

I knew nothing of the science behind launching a man into space. Until this movie came out, it never occurred to me to wonder how engineers, etc. managed that feat, even though I worked for the aerospace industry in the 1990s, with a few men who remembered the Apollo program first-hand. That IBM computers might not have been available to them, or might have been less than perfect all the time, were not things I imagined.

And civil rights? The idea that Langley AFB was in a segregated state? The movie mentions Brown v. Topeka Board of Education and states an obvious fact that I truly was aware of: even though that Supreme Court decision was made in 1954, desegregation did not occur right away. Most of us rightly recall that happening in the 1960s.

But did I ever think of segregation affecting NASA? Of course not. Until now.

The movie is terrific, by the way. Lighthearted, even though it deals with very serious subjects. The fact that the three women in it are real, that you can google them and read about their accomplishments before or after seeing Hidden Figures, takes an edge off. You don’t have to wonder, “OMG, what is going to happen now? Is someone going to die?” There’s no spoiler here to say that all three women achieved great things and were recognized as brilliant in their lifetimes.

In contrast, I had watched The Free State of Jones a couple of nights before. Also excellent, also grounded in historical fact, also marked by extraordinary performances. But that movie was intense, with scenes that made you flinch and shut your eyes (I have a low threshold for gore and violence). As my friend pointed out, most of us can’t imbibe movies like that too frequently. We need time to process them, contextualize the lessons, and ponder how such violence stays with us, even into the 21st century.

Hidden Figures is not so intense.  Thankfully.  There is happiness; these women were wives and mothers and BFFs, along with being brilliant professionals.

So here’s my takeaway: I am not happy that hatefulness and bigotry occurred during my lifetime. I am not proud that people I loved in my childhood could not rise above their own prejudices; in some cases, they didn’t even try. But I can be amazed at how much has changed since 1961.

The movie drives home this point: every generation moves forward. The bigots of the 1960s are mostly gone now, and their descendant have largely rejected their blatant racism.

The older I get, the more I see this. We do what we can to solve problems, but a lot of the healing simply occurs as people take their lifelong mistakes to the grave and leave the world to more open hearts.

Mercury’s in Retrograde.

I looked it up: yes, Mercury went retrograde Dec 19 and emerges Jan 8.

But I really didn’t need to look. In the past couple of days, my Kindle stopped downloading, my phone has stopped working intermittently, emails (emails that I forwarded to myself from a different account!) are not being delivered — all weird little communication events that proceed seamlessly most of the time have just tied themselves in knots.

To top it off, I turned on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve last night, just so I could say I watched some of the New Year’s Eve programming, and saw Mariah Carey prance uncertainly across the stage, asking “what’s wrong, guys?” to the techie powers-that-be as her backup dancers improvised. She held the microphone over the audience so they could sing the song. It was a mess. Then another song started, with no better results. I turned it off; I see on CNN that she walked off the stage right after.

Mercury in Retrograde! Not even Mariah Carey is immune!

Whether you believe in astrology or not, there are times when devices just stop working. And the best thing to do is walk away and do without for a bit, then try it again a day or a week or so later. Usually, it works fine. It needed to rest. Perhaps you had negative vibes the first time you tried. Whatever.

The worst thing to do is to keep trying to make it work. You just get more and more frustrated as you move beyond your competency level. You’re liable to really break something then, and it may cost you more time and money. So walk away. Let it go. Have some brie and crackers.

 

 

vol2_cover_largeThis is a pleasant surprise: Chicken Soup for the Soul has included one of my stories in the second edition of their Guided Journal!

I just got a complimentary copy in the mail, and am very happy. Anything that gets my name into print and in front of people is good, right? The Guided Journal is available at bookstores and I guess wherever Chicken Soup books are sold, and on Amazon.

The letter that came with it points out that these Guided Journals are taking the adult coloring book trend to the next level, creating a journal with stories to to saved and shared. They call in a Bookazine.

My story is smack in the middle, and it’s called “Fun.”

 

Trump and Bill Clinton are sassing each other on Twitter. Who cares?

Well, apparently a lot of us. Among the 11 “Top Stories” on CNN this morning are these three:

2016-12-21

I love the second one: Opinion: Why Trump keeps tweeting.

Why? Because he gets three of the top 11 stories by doing so, on a world stage! Duh.

Which refutes the first story: Trump’s still going wrong on Twitter. Whose definition of “wrong” are we using? I think by Trump’s standards (and most celebrities would agree) whatever gets you in the headlines is not wrong, it’s right.

CNN, you’re silly.

I recall this time last year when everyone was saying, “Thank God, 2015 is almost over! Can’t wait for 2016! Whatever it brings, it’s gotta be better than this.”

Yes, and if you don’t remember that you don’t know my circle of acquaintances or live in my world.

So here we are at the end of 2016, and is anyone sorry to see it go?

Anyone?

Maybe by December 2017, it’ll look good.

I sometimes amuse myself by going to psychic sites and reading what they predicted for this year, and what they’re predicting for next year. Some psychics predict pages and pages of stuff. That stuff includes an earthquake on every continent and in every country, a  plane crash, a terrorist attack in every city you can think of, serious health problems for every major star over 60, relationship difficulties for all the married ones, and contact from an alien race.

How can they go wrong?

I’m in the same place as I was in 2015 … mainly, behind. But I have sold some books and been to a few parties, so I’m not complaining about nothing. Except that my writing has been sporadic at best. I have posted on my other blog, HistoryLosAngeles, but not even much there.

I’d write now but I’d rather sleep.

attachmentOn December 4 and 5, The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories – Kindle version – will be absolutely free! That’s right, no cost at all. Why?

Because I’m sure that once you see the book, you’ll realize that it’s the perfect holiday present for every Baby Boomer on your list, and you’ll want to get print copies for all of them.

But there’s more! Once you’ve downloaded your free copy of The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories, you can pick up a few other freebies and get discounts to other books, including my historical novel, Death Speaker. 

If you’re a writer, you should know that the freebies include steps to creating a bestseller, ways to promote your book, and some great ways to save money. All the details are here.

So download it and enjoy!