Friday, January 31, 2020

1/31/20: Book Review: My Life by Bill Clinton

This memoir took me back into the fascinating, struggling, highs and lows of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political careers in the 80’s and 90’s. It spans the era Bill Clinton became the longest serving governor of Arkansas, and went on to be president of the United States, twice. It was an interesting and enjoying romp down memory lane, and it also exposed so many details of the politics of the time which I was utterly clueless. Bill Clinton is one of the few national leaders I admired while in office, and I still admire the work he does with his foundation. So for me it was a joy to find out more about him, which in no way diminished my admiration of him. 

I was amazed to find that rightwing conservatives hated Clinton every bit as much as we liberals hate Trump. Living in California, I didn’t really see that detestation, which I find so interesting because I feel Clinton did more to help middle/lower class conservatives and any Republican president. 

The book is over 950 pages, and I feel he could have cut out 300 pages and it would have been a better read. On the other hand, there are many areas I wish he would have spent more time, like the Middle East peace talks, the Ken Starr witch hunt, and the budget debates. All in all, a satisfying read from a man who did so much to shape our current culture. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

1/30/20: Completed 2019 Journal

For the past two months I’ve been updating my last-year’s journal with notes and pictures I recorded on my month-long Bhutan/India excursion. I’m amazed it took so much effort, almost twice as long as it took to live it. Now it’s done. My 2019 journal is closed. When I breeze through the 700+ pages I can hardly appreciate what a jampacked year it was for Herman and I. It’s no wonder I’m feeling exhausted most of the time. Yet, I’m very grateful and proud that at the age of sixty-seven, we are able to keep such an active schedule. For two retired folks, we seem to be on the run most of the time. When we are home in Palm Springs—resting from our last adventure—we are planning our next undertaking. Case in point: we’ve been home two months—with Dec. being our busiest month due to holiday obligations—we already have the blueprint of our next trip on paper. It will take us to four European countries—Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal, and back to Spain—and cover a two-month timeframe starting in early May. That gives us three months to nail down the details, make reservations, and prepare for another expedition. As tired as I’m feeling, my mouth is watering over this next trip. 

 I’m a bit disappointed that we are not walking a Camino this year. Herman and I both love long distance treks. But Herman’s knees are giving him pain and we are not prepared to do another Camino until we get his body checked out. I think we are both afraid his knees will put an end to our cross-country trekking. Time will tell.

So now that my 2019 journal is complete I have time on my hands to start another writing project. But I don’t feel motivated to get involved with another fiction story just yet. I’m only interested in writing my daily 2020 journal entries. I have three stories in mind to write. I’m sure I will return to fiction writing soon, but for now I’m enjoying the break from storytelling. When the time comes to tackle my next story, I’ll know. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

1/13/20: Cooking Day

Spent this morning cooking my Minestrone soup and my Junkyard Dog chili for a dinner party that Herman has arranged for this evening. I enjoyed making the soup and chili, and they are really good, based on how good they were last week at a similar dinner party. But an issue arose in the kitchen. Herman is incapable of getting the hell out of my way and letting me do it myself. He tried to take charge, as if I’m his employee. This, needless to say, didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to do it myself, and I wanted him out of my way. He, of course, got offended whenever I told him, “I’ll do that!” and I would take over. 

It’s a matter of conflicting goals. My goal is to prepare the soups/chilies myself, and eventually become an excellent chef as regards to soups and simmered foods. Herman’s goal is for us to do it as a joint project, with him in charge. Part of me feels I’m being selfish, but I feel that’s okay. I don’t walk into his kitchen and start altering his dishes when he’s cooking. I let him cook his dishes the way he sees fit. I only asked the same in return. If that makes me selfish then I’ll be selfish. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

1/09/20: Book Review: Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Liveright, (Feb 12, 2019)
Pages 352

In its heyday, South Bend, Indiana had been one of the industrial revolution’s brightest achievements, a factory town that produced everything from cars to watches. But then like much of the Midwestern rust belt, it fell into hard times, lost almost all its industry, and the young people were escaping to larger cities for better opportunities. The leadership Pete Buttigieg displayed as mayor of South Bend, steered the people of South Bend to rebuild their city into a thriving community. 

In my view, the biggest thing to turn the tide on LGBT issues wasn’t theological or political evolution. It was the discovery that many people whom we already know turn out to be part of this category. The biggest obstacle wasn’t religion, or hatred. It was the simple fact that so many people believed, wrongly, that they didn’t even know anyone who was gay. At my high school in the late 1990s, I didn’t know of a single gay student. 

It is easier to be cruel, or unfair, to people in groups and in the abstract; harder to do so toward a specific person in your midst, especially if you know them already. Gays have the benefit of being a minority  whose membership is not necessarily obvious when you meet one (or love one.) Common decency can kick in before there is time for prejudice to intervene. Of course, humans can be cruel to people we know, too, but not as often—and we’re rarely as proud of it. 

In the struggle for equality, we do well to remember that all people want to be known as decent, respectful, and kind. If our first response toward anyone who struggles to get onto the right side of history is to denounce him as a bigot, we will force him into a defensive crouch—or into the arms of the extreme right. When a conservative socialite of a certain age would stop me on the street with a mischievous look, pat my arm, and say conspiratorially, “I met your friend the other day, and he is fabulous,” it was not the time for a lecture on the distinction between a partner and a “friend.” She is on her way to acceptance, and she feels good about her way of getting there; it feels better to grow on your own terms than to be painted into a corner.

In this entertaining and insightful book, Buttigieg lays out a blueprint of modern political ideas for transforming and revitalizing our communities. I enjoyed learning about his insights, and how he approached problem solving. And against this backdrop of how Buttigieg renovated the city he grew up in, was the even more enjoyable personal story of how Pete Buttigieg grew into the man who is now altering the landscape of the American political scene by becoming the first openly gay man to run for the highest elected office in the country. 

This well-written, insightful book is a mosaic of growth and hope, both for South Bend and for Buttigieg. Pete delves into his childhood growing up in a decaying industrial town, his attempt to escape that town and the promise that brought him back. He describes his experiences being a Harvard and Rhodes Scholar, Mckinsey alumni, and a talented musician. He tells of his military service, gives a frank and interesting account of coming out at age thirty-three, and also about finding love. 

I found this a fascinating read. I didn’t find him as “presidential” as Barak Obama or Bill Clinton, but I did see a very intelligent, capable, and positive role model who transcends the “gay” stereotype. What comes shining through is his integrity and altruism.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1/08/20: Back On Track

Today feels like the first day back to a regular schedule since the holidays jumped into high gear over a month ago. Since that time in early December we have marched through countless dinner parties and cocktail parties, several given by Herman and I, entertained long-term guests, performed countless chores to tie up loose ends from last year and kickoff this year, and worked constantly to complete our purge of unneeded stuff in our home. It has been a hectic and productive month, and I’m grateful to get back to my normal writing routine. 

Now the parties are over (ending last night with a dinner party for ten where I cooked my minestrone soup and also my new Junkyard Dog Chile recipe), the guests have flown back home, and the purge has turned into a remarkable success, also finishing yesterday when we gave away our canoe to Kevin and Phillip. I used to love slicing through the water in that canoe, but we have not used it in five or six years. We have moved beyond that time in our lives where we camped in tents beside a lake to spend our days fishing. As much as I loved those experiences, I’m not sorry to see them go. I only hope Kevin and Phillip get as much joy out of that boat as we did. 

We also gave away three more paintings to our dinner guests last night. We didn’t purge everything we could have, but we did manage to give away much more than I thought we could or would—clothes, furniture, carpets, a dozen paintings and prints, eight boxes of books, camping gear, and the canoe. We scrounged through every closet, cabinet, and drawer to give away everything we didn’t need moving forward. It is amazing how much stuff had been sitting there unused for years. Now it’s all in good hands. 

So now that I’m back to a normal schedule with no interruptions, I feel it’s time to get back to writing. I’ve missed my routine terribly. I see a lot of work ahead of me, and I’m joyful that I’m once again plowing into it. 

Insight of the Day: I feel most happy when I’m writing.

Friday, January 3, 2020

1/03/20: Losing the War on Terror

At the beginning of this new decade, I’ve been looking back at the last two decades that have been dominated by terrorism, and the political fallout from that terrorism.  It’s on the tv news daily, it’s in the movies, it has seeped into our hearts. I see America winning on the battlefield, but the terrorists are winning the war. 

They have changed us, changed the way we think, the way we live each day. Terrorists have created such fear in our guts that it has dominated everything we do. That fear has given birth to hate, and that hate has driven our society to rip away people’s rights, rip children from their families, dump children into cages, and place a hateful, lying, egotist at the lead office governing our country. Not since the war/race riots of the 1960s have I seen such division in our nation. 

All the social declines we’ve witnessed in the past decades stem from this fear that terrorism nurtured in our hearts. Now I see a country of cowards—people willing to make others suffer so they can feel safe, so they can keep their big cars and flat-screen TVs and iPhones. And what I see sickens me. People suffering needlessly sickens me, literally.

When one child suffers I suffer, even when it is not my child. When one family goes hungry, you and I are poorer, even if we are not all related by blood. We must move beyond this fear. We must make healing our sisters and brothers and neighbors our first priority. And by doing so, we will lift up our entire country in brotherhood. We must fight terrorism by increasing our compassion for each other. It is the only way to win the war on terror. The only way to defeat our enemy. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year’s celebration dinner

Tonight, we are hosting our annual surf and turf dinner party with Ben Wong, Jim and Rob, and Donny and Mark. Looking forward to catching up will all of them and ringing in the New Year with old friends. 

Our New Year’s celebration dinner was a lovely affair, with plenty of delicious food, moderate wine drinking, and interesting and fun conversation. There were eight of us, and we started at 6:30pm and the party didn’t break up until 12:30am. I was in bed sleeping it off by 1am. We are again thankful that our good friend and travel companion Ben Wong flew down to add to the cheer. We love having him spend time with us
 Herman sets a festive table.
 Not shown here is the stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom appetizer’s Ben made and the Minestrone soup I made.
 Herman pouring the first glass of bubbly. 
 Ben with Trek
Herman and I with Trek
A last gasp of 2019, and we bring cheer into the new decade. Farewell 2019, I’m grateful for all the love and excitement you gave us.