Category Archives: politics

Monday Morning Music – I See Monsters

“Oh, people are screaming, people are screaming

My baby, she’s dreaming

Oh, people are shouting, people are freaking

I’m staring at the ceiling, waiting for the feeling”

Songwriter: Ryan Adams

If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. If we don’t hug, we’ll rage. If we don’t speak up, we will fall apart.

There’s no need for me to add to the infinite election postmortems. I mean, how can I say anything meaningful when The Pope and Coach Popovich have already weighed in? So HRC should have visited Wisconsin? Would that have made a difference?

I’m devastated. My children are crushed. They don’t want to talk about it, but I can see it on their faces. The shell-shocked realization that the bully won. That everything they’ve ever been taught to cherish – respect, kindness, empathy – doesn’t matter in America.

May you find solace in these dark days. May you find the strength to keep fighting. Question, challenge, call people out, protest, volunteer, lend a hand. Try to be better tomorrow than you are today.

Love, therockmom.

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Election Special or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Blue Bloods

TS mosaic

Tom Selleck acts with his mouth.

It’s a subtle but effective talent.

Most actors focus on how and what their eyes convey to the audience. Whether their characters are listening, reacting, retreating or attacking, they project it all through their eyes.

But with Selleck, both his emotions and his authority as NYC Police Commissioner Frank Reagan emanate from the nose down. The dimples appear when he’s caught out asking campus security to watch granddaughter Nicky (Sami Gayle) when she’s at a college party. The lips purse when he’s faced with a fugitive on the run, a potential bomb disaster or a dirty cop. And the mustache – of course the mustache – wiggles ever so slightly when he’s invited back to a woman’s hotel room. (This has happened a few times over 6+ seasons, not that I’m keeping count or anything.)

I never noticed Selleck’s mouth when I was a kid watching Magnum P.I. Back then he often let his eyebrows, his chest and his Ferrari do the talking. I also missed a good deal of his story arc as Monica’s older boyfriend on Friends. But once my 83-year-old aunt introduced me to the Blue Bloods universe (that multi-generational American drama on CBS), I gained a new appreciation for Selleck’s understated charisma and his enduring sex appeal.

Now I know what you’re thinking: rockmom, you watch Blue Bloods? A network drama with a geriatric audience about law and order white folks? Blue Bloods?

Yes, I do. I even purchase seasons on iTunes. Proudly.

While it’s true that Blue Bloods draws the oldest viewers on television – median audience age is 62.5 – and depicts characters who probably lean to the right politically, it’s also a show that I regularly enjoy with my teens. One that always inspires what-would-you-do-in-that-situation conversations and an appreciation for Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan’s (Bridget Moynahan) tough but tender parenting. So when my kids give me a hard time about curfew times, we can watch the episode where Nicky’s arrested, and I can say: see, it could be worse. Her Mom made her spend a night in jail!

More importantly, in this never-ending, divisive election cycle – Red v Blue, Us v Them, Deplorables v Elites – Blue Bloods is one of the few designated safe conversation zones for me and my far-right, Clinton-hating relatives. There’s also the weather, college football, food and… well, that’s about it.

As an expat living in an international, fairly liberal echo chamber, I always experience a bit of a rude awakening when I return home to Texas for holidays. Mind you, there are a lot of wonderful things I can only enjoy when I’m back: Shiner beer, cheese enchiladas, perfect brisket, old friends and bluebonnets. But then I also have to be around people who tell me, out loud: ‘Blacks are bad tippers’ or ‘Hispanics don’t know how to look after their kids’ or ‘You can’t tell a good Muslim from a bad Muslim’ and of course the iniquitous assertion that ‘Of course, Obama is a Muslim from Kenya.’

It’s wearying. It’s depressing. It makes me wish Frank and his dimples would appear with a bottle of single malt and a couple of glasses.

But what can I do? This is family. I’m sure Father Quinn (Frank’s priest) would counsel: hate the sin, love the sinner.

And just keep watching TV. That great American cure-all.

At this moment in our nation’s unsettled history, I’m sure a lot of other families of mixed political persuasions could benefit from the moral clarity, compassion and generosity that Blue Bloods offers. I’m thinking specifically of Anglo-Saxon families that haven’t forgotten their own religious and immigrant roots. If, like me, you have a Catholic Dad who once bought everyone Christmas presents from the All Things Irish shop then you know exactly what I’m talking about!

With Blue Bloods, I might disagree with Frank’s support for the death penalty, but I can respect his convictions, and admire how good he looks in his sunglasses. I can also enjoy an hour when certain things are reassuringly, crystal clear. For one, according to Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg), there are only two kinds of people in the world: scumbags and not-scumbags. His job is to catch the former and help the latter. Don’t be a scumbag.

Second, there’s no problem so big that it can’t be solved with roasted meat and red wine. A beer and a chat with Grandpa also helps.

Further to that, it’s okay if Sunday dinners are contentious. Talk it out, disagree, argue, but above all, come back next week. We’ll be serving turducken.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the women on Blue Bloods. Because, you know, if this were a Hollywood movie, Moynahan would be playing Selleck’s love interest and not his daughter. So yay (!) to that casting decision. And yay to the other strong-minded women on the show: Linda (Amy Carlson), Janko (Vanessa Ray), Nicky and detectives Baez (Marisa Ramirez) and Curatola (Jennifer Esposito).

Can I also add that, as we all inch closer to Blue Blood’s median audience age, it should give us hope to see that Frank has very likely seen more action in the bedroom than his two single kids – Jamie (Will Estes) and Erin. (Not that my aunt and I discuss these things, oh no, not us!) I mean I’ve never fired a gun and would rather not dwell on Selleck’s association with the NRA. However, the season 2 episode where Frank buys Melanie (his foreign correspondent/booty call) a custom-made, leather thigh-holster for her concealed carry is, I’m not afraid to admit, incredibly hot.

So you see, Blue Bloods can bring liberals and conservatives together!

Now I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: the GOP chose the wrong ‘80s-era personality to top the ticket.

Vote. Peace.

Tom Selleck photo by Dominick D [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

Notes From Another Land

He sits on the back porch to smoke, because he’s not allowed to smoke inside. He has a comfortable chair and a radio out there – tuned to news talk – and a glass of ice water. His dogs like to sit in his lap. The smell from his cigarette sneaks by the back door, through the kitchen to where I’m sitting on the couch. I’d like to go outside and sit with him, but I hate the smell. These fumes have been with me since childhood, and they are of no comfort whatsoever.

Hong Kong - London - Houston

Hong Kong   –   London   –   Houston   (photo by therockmom)

It’s my turn now. Time to fly half way round the world to be with my Dad who’s been diagnosed with cancer. Time to make the trip that I’ve seen countless expat friends make to their parents: for dementia, for heart attacks, for Alzheimer’s, for Parkinson’s. When we do get the call – and we all will – we hope we’ll get back in time. We hope we’ll have time, to make up for all that we have lost.

I knew this day was coming. I thought I was prepared, but I don’t think you can ever prepare for your parents getting sick. And when you’ve chosen a life overseas the situation somehow seems more desperate. It takes me a day and a half to get there – 34 hours door to door – and I can only stay one week.

The lady at the rental car place reminds me how to get on the Beltway. I leave the airport and head east on a gray Sunday afternoon. Though I’ve been coming to Houston for 25 years, I don’t call it home. My Dad moved here when I was in college. And if it weren’t for him, my stepmom and their friendly neighborhood Mexican restaurant, I would feel nothing familiar or welcoming about the place. Houston the city is flat, flat, flat. There are only a few pockets of beauty here: the forests around The Woodlands or the bayous and coastline on the way to Galveston. But otherwise this place is prairie flat and industrial ugly. There’s no other way to describe it. Driving on 610 toward the shipping channel, all I see are tired strip malls, freeways, storage units and paint-faded apartment complexes: immediate move-in, no deposit required.

It’s rainy and cold on my first day. My Dad is still recovering from surgery but he’s more active than I thought he’d be. We watch the local evening news where the lead story is about a 15-year-old Clear Lake girl raped and killed in a Satanic ritual. The 17-year-old boy arrested for the crime claims he sold his soul to the devil. He told his accomplice that if he wanted the same for himself, he would first have to kill this girl. The teenagers carved an upside-down cross in to her stomach. This story will play for the rest of the week while I’m here, and I’m reminded why local news is only good for sports and weather.

I drive my Dad all over Pasadena, to two different doctors, to the Social Security office, to the barber and the grocery store for prescriptions and milk and steaks. He is my radar detector, my driving instructor, pointing out every county constable or city police cruiser that could give me a ticket. He knows instinctively when my speed inches one mile above the limit and he warns me so. Watch your speed, he says. It makes me smile. He gives me directions blocks and blocks before I have to turn. I indicate I’m going to turn well before I normally do, to make him feel better. We listen to Country Legends and Sports Talk on the radio. For the sake of our relationship, we haven’t discussed politics since W’s second term. So we talk about Johnny Manziel’s NFL draft prospects and the newly-named coach of the Longhorns. He tells me why the chemical plants have to burn off waste through their smokestacks.

In the parking lots, I sense a direct correlation between the size of a person’s truck or SUV and the level of fury at the current administration. Drivers express their anger in bumper stickers: Reclaim America! Stand and Fight! Don’t Believe the Liberal Media! There are a lot of big trucks, a lot of bumper stickers here.

We drive by tire stores and Salvation Army shops, nail salons and taquerias. On a stretch of lawn outside the post office, there’s a picture of Obama with a Hitler moustache and IMPEACH in big, block letters. Last month they were calling him Satan. Make up your minds already.

I wonder if people would feel better if they lived somewhere more naturally scenic, prettier. Where there was something beautiful on the horizon, and not just power lines and the flares burning at the chemical plants.

Maybe I’m reading too much Joan Didion, maybe I should give the place a chance or at least agree to disagree with their politics. Maybe it’s the shock of mortality, hitting me like a drunk driver on the access road. Whatever it is, it’s tough. It’s tough to be here, but it’s good to be here, with my Dad. I try to keep my emotions in check. I play with his dogs. I talk to my husband and my siblings on the phone. I go shopping at Target. I take photos, of chemical plants. And late one night, while I’m sitting on the couch watching a movie, my Dad comes out of his room for a snack and a smoke. He’s in the mood to talk, so we stay up until 2:30am and we talk – about religion, the Catholic Church, about why he stopped going after he divorced my Mom. He says he still likes the ceremony, the liturgy. His wife was raised Lutheran. He says, you know Lutherans are just bob-tailed Catholics.

It’s been a week of difficult news and a long road to come, but he still has his sense of humor. He still stays up with me.

Texas, oh Texas.

Texas, oh Texas. (photo by therockmom)

In The Land Of The Gun

Yesterday we flew in to Texas for our annual visit with family and friends. It’s a trip I look forward to every year: reconnecting with everyone, shopping, eating Mexican food and barbecue, showing off the kids, the usual proud mom / dutiful daughter scenario. Yet within a few hours of landing I had to have a conversation with my Dad – about guns. I dreaded bringing up the subject, I didn’t want to offend him or his wife, but I know they keep guns in their house and, as a parent, I had to be sure those guns were locked up and out of sight.

When a barking dog isn't enough.

When a barking dog isn’t enough.

Ironic isn’t it? That they own guns for personal protection, and it doesn’t make me feel safe at all. In fact it scares the living hell out of me.

But I didn’t go in to a diatribe about gun ownership or the language of the Second Amendment (‘a well regulated militia’ anyone?) or lay a bunch of statistics on him about accidental deaths, etc. The defensive look on my Dad’s face when I asked about their guns told me that 1. I wasn’t going to change his mind, and 2. It could get ugly if I tried.

After Newtown, I joined a couple of gun control groups on Facebook and read at length about Gabrielle Giffords and her extraordinary efforts to bring some common sense to the table when we talk about background checks and waiting periods. Everything she said sounded so reasonable, and I was so hopeful that momentum was on our side. Yet the post-Newton gun bill was defeated and a huge portion of the population still believe she’s an agent of disaster and will fight her every step of the way. It made me so angry that for a few weeks I thought: what if, on my next visit, I refuse to visit any house with guns? What if I take a stand? Would it be a stand at all?

But I just couldn’t do it. My Dad’s almost 80, he doesn’t travel much these days and he certainly doesn’t do long haul flights to Hong Kong anymore. Where would that leave us? He’s my Dad. He’s a good man, who grew up in Texas hunting and fishing and did his Army service like most young men in the 1950s and 60s. He thinks background checks can work and he questions the necessity of high-capacity clips. He’s also an antique collector and military history hobbyist, very knowledgeable, who often helps people appraise and value items that they’ve inherited or bought. He’s told me many stories about people coming to him with guns – new and antique – and asking for advice. Yesterday he told me about a woman whose late husband kept guns and a live detonator in a box in their bedroom closet. She had no idea what she had. When my Dad saw the explosive he called a police friend who in turn had to marshal the bomb squad to come out and dispose of the darn thing.

So this is the land of the gun. Where the big question of the summer is whether George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self defense. Where people hold doors for you and call you ma’am and are as polite as you’ll ever meet. But they also brag on FB about getting their concealed-carry permit, and their bumper stickers and yard signs warn you of impending doom if you try anything. Makes me feel like the city slicker holding her parasol, stepping off the train in Yuma or Abilene to a world of cowboy hats and six guns. A stranger in a strange land.

The thing I can’t get my head around is why gun rights are so important to so many people. I try to understand, free of judgement or condescension, I really try. But I can’t figure out – of all the things that they could be fighting for, with their time and energy and money – why guns?

If I find out on this trip, I’ll let you know.

Edward Snowden Gabs With therockmom: Why I’m In Hong Kong

For my Hong Kong peeps, both near and far, we interrupt our regularly-scheduled blog on music and parenting for a rockmom exclusive!

Not since Jean Claude Van Damme washed up on our shores to resurrect his career has there been so much excitement about a new resident. Yes, I’m talking about Edward Snowden – a bona fide breaking news sensation, living for the moment right here in HK. He’s all ours! Meaning we don’t even have to manufacture some weak connection to the media star, like we did with that Jeremy Lin fellow.

The big question, of course, is out of all the places in the world he could have chosen, why Hong Kong? Well, lucky for you dear reader, when I queried Mr. Snowden I got not one, not five, not ten but TWELVE reasons why he’s in the SAR. So now, here, in his own words:

EDWARD SNOWDEN TELLS ALL – WHY I CHOSE HONG KONG

12. The weather, of course!

11. With my white loafers, Dunhill shirt and man purse, I fit right in with the mainland tourists.

10. On my Bucket List: fish balls, chickens’ feet, hot Asian babes.

9. Golden Harvest promised that Aaron Kwok would play me in the movie. Massive fan. MASSIVE.

8. Actually, I thought I was flying to Japan. Common Yankee Error.

7. Found out your McDonalds delivers, 24-7. Sweet.

6. (Deleted by NSA)

5. Tiny hotel room + extortionist prices + sweltering conditions = trip of a lifetime 🙂

4. Because your kung fu is better than their kung fu.*

3. To hell with freedom, Zeman just gave me a lifetime pass to Ocean Park!

2. A certain Wendi promised she’d meet me here. WDM, I’m still waiting, x

1. The enemy of my enemy pays soooo much better.

Get used to it!

Better get used to it, Eddie! (photo by therockmom)

*Snowden says props to The Lone Gunmen, you guys were right on.