Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Death to the GOP

Donald Trump has delivered. We can not act surprised in this man of action and the promises he has made and carried out thus far. However, just because someone makes promises and delivers, doesn't make them noble, ethical or magnanimous. He is simply a man of action with a diabolical agenda—not a role model for any decent human.

Despite my unhealthy views for the orange-faced dictator, I have even more contempt for those who continue to support him and prop up his agenda in what is known as the Republican party.

I’ll confess here, that I've never gone out of my way to vote Republican, but I've never ruled them out completely. And yes, I have voted Republican a few times in my voting life. But, after today—after the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education—I never will again. No more. Nada. I’m finished voting for these political whores of the rich and powerful. I’ll vote an independent-write-in before I vote for another Republican. I’ll make up an opponent before I vote for a fucking Republican again. Anyone who chooses to run under the same flag that is propped up by scoundrels and frauds like Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, Paul Ryan—and yes, Donald Trump—are guilty by association in my book. The GOP has become a shameless party fueled by pure unapologetic deceit and unabashed hypocrisy—camouflaged in Christian values and the American flag.

The Republicans have become a desperate bunch who know the glory days of the “grand old White party” are waning, and they’ll do anything they can to hold on to power. Welcome to the early stages of America’s Apartheid. Hopefully it is short-lived.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

He Is My President

Donald Trump is my President, and I think he is a fuck-wit.

I may not like Trump, but I really do have to accept him as my President just like he may not like me calling him a fuck-wit, but he’s going to have to accept that too.

So, for the next four years (and hopefully it won’t be that long) I intend to doubt everything about him based on his past. Give him a chance? No way—he’s a calculating jackass. And who gives a calculating jackass a second, third, or fourth chance? I saw all I needed to see during his campaigning—which was disturbing to say the least. I have all kinds of adjectives for Trump—none are favorable, and I don’t see anything on the horizon that will make me think differently. I’ll never rule out the possibility of having something good to say about the douche, but I’m doubtful. He’s dug himself in pretty deep as I see it.

But, for the record I am willing to admit I’m wrong about anything to do with Trump if it ever comes to that. In fact, I would prefer such an outcome. This is one time I don’t want to be right.

Which reminds me; people don’t like to admit they are wrong and they don’t like to say “I’m sorry.” In this day and age, it seems more true than ever. And that’s the scary part. Too many of the proud Trump voters will probably stick to their guns even when the most casual observer has concluded Trump is every bit the fraudster we said he was. When the economy tanks, when the good-paying manufacturing jobs never materialize, when crime starts rising again—and God forbid—the nukes come raining down on the world, the mouth-breathers of the United States will find someone else to blame. I betcha Obama will be the scapegoat. 

As a voter who voted for the loser, it’s important for me to point out here that the uproar over this President, isn’t about Republicans winning and Democrats losing. It’s about an asshole running the country. It’s about an asshole fooling a lot of good people. It takes a fool to vote for a fool, but Trump roped many others with his little feat of political sorcery—competent, smart, and reasonable people. Nevertheless, I suspect many of them will come to regret that choice someday.

Had Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, or even Ted Cruz won the election, nothing would be going on like it is today—nothing like it at all. Oh sure, there would be some cracks at one of those new Presidents (no worse than G.W. Bush or Obama), but Donald Trump is in a class all on his own, and it’s a very, very low class—where the greasiest, double-dealing snake-oil salesmen dwell. You voted for Rubio over Hillary, I get’cha. But, you voted for Trump over Hillary (or anyone)! What the fuck, man!

So, as this shit-show of a Presidency unfolds, I will remain optimistic as I anticipate the day when Donald Trump is a broken and demoralized man—more so than the day of Dylan Roof’s execution.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Membership Has Its Privileges

Racism isn’t just politically incorrect, it’s wrong. And sadly, this still has to be said as 2016 comes to an end.

I’m not an expert on racism, but sooner or later we all end up in conversations about it, and like it or not, we end up speaking our mind. I’ve done so before on this blog and after watching a disturbing video recently, perhaps this is a good time to say something about it again—in particular, “reverse racism” since it is gaining traction in light of our new President and his followers.

Over the years, I’ve heard my share of White folk now and then talk about “reverse racism”—stating events where they or someone they know (also White) have experienced it. It kind of makes sense if you don’t think too hard about what they are saying, but I’ve never bought into this fabricated concept, and here’s why.

Racism is something that is dealt out by a majority. Now, if you are White and living in a neighborhood where a minority of our country’s citizens are the majority, you might experience racism at the local level, but you won’t have much to worry about beyond that neighborhood. However, if you’re a minority of our country, you probably have plenty of stories in your life where you have experienced the ugliness of racism no matter where you live.

Many see minority and majority in terms of numbers only. But, those who possess the greatest power easily become the majority as well—see Apartheid South Africa circa 1960s. Here in the United States, Whites make up over 60% of the population and the closest contestant to that are Latinos at a paltry 16%, with Blacks coming in at 12.2%. Given this math and the excessive distribution of power doled out to Whites in government and business, it’s safe to say that Caucasians are indisputably safe as our country’s majority.

It’s also important to keep in mind that racism is based on two important concepts that minorities don’t have much of, and therefore can not exercise: power and privilege. Look no further than the disproportionate arrest and sentencing for people of color vs. Whites when it comes to… say, drug crimes. Further, Whites are certainly less likely to experience racial profiling and when arrested, will almost certainly have superior legal representation compared to those of color. Finally, the odds favor Whites when it comes to talking themselves out of an arrest—especially if it is a White police officer.

The bottom line is this: you can’t make a legitimate claim as a victim of racism providing you’re a member of the majority. 

And while you’re at it, don’t get confused when it comes to angry words, protests or fights for equality as some form of racism. This is simply (and understandably) an unpleasant response from centuries of White privilege and power. Civility is nice if you can get it, but not everyone who has experienced racism is going to be nice about it when it comes up in discussion. Being a pollyanna about such discussions will only confirm how comfortable you truly are in your White privilege—which probably means you are a racist.

Lastly, I read this not long ago:

Making a racist statement is a manifestation of racist culture; being “mean” isn’t. For Whites, it can be difficult to be confronted with the reality of racism, and with comments from people of color about how privilege and power operate. It’s tempting to take such comments personally and to insist that people of color are being “mean,” which is often a hop, skip, and a jump away from an accusation of reverse racism. —S.E. Smith

I’m unsure if there will ever be a time in the future when being a member of the majority won’t be a privilege. However, as long as that’s the case, along with your privilege you should include several good measures of accountability, compassion and an ability to absorb criticism or insults that may not be as personal as you think. It’s a puny price to pay.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Critics Unite!

It’s a fine line between being a critic or being a complainer. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who isn’t too afraid to speak out and offer up a critique on any given issue that I encounter. As a result, and over the years, I know many in my community and workplace see me as a complainer.

For the record, here’s some definitions that I scrounged up on these two terms:

Critic: a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something, the practice of judging the merits and faults of something.

Complainer: one who states a grievance, an expression of displeasure.

I’ve certainly  “shot my wad” as the expression goes. Translation: I’ve spoken up enough times—especially in those instances when no one else did—that anything I say from here on is for the most part greeted as, “Oh, that’s just Morgan complaining again. He’s always complaining about something.”

In contemplating these two terms, I’ve stumbled onto many famous quotes that defend and attack the critic/complainer. 

In the corner attacking criticism/complaining, there are the following:

“Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” —Emmet Fox

“Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.” —unknown

If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant.” —Chris Brogan (Akin to “If you don’t like it, leave.”)

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” –Benjamin Franklin

“Watch out for the joy-stealers: gossip, criticism, complaining, faultfinding, and a negative, judgmental attitude.” —Joyce Meyer

And in the corner defending the critic/complainer, we have these:

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” —Frank A. Clark

“I like criticism. It makes you strong.” —LeBron James

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president... is morally treasonable to the American public.” —Theodore Roosevelt

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” —Norman Vincent Peale

“I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” —Johannes Kepler

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I relate more to those quotes that defend the critic while those who attack it strike me as thin-skinned do-gooders who are actually up to no-good.

In the last four years or so, I’ve been relatively quiet in my critiques, which can be verified by looking at the frequency of posts to this blog. Some friends have even noted it as well saying things like, “You’ve been pretty quiet lately—what’s going on?”

I must confess that the election of Donald Trump and everything that he brings (and doesn’t bring) to the Presidency has awakened me. Yep, critical posts to Facebook and my little circle of like-minded friends (mostly) isn’t good enough any longer. So, here I am.

Further, rather than critiquing something about the President-elect here or some other important issue in our world or nation, I’d like to offer up this critique to those who are a little closer to me—those who have patted me on the back at some point in the past and told me quietly, “I’m so glad you said that, I feel the same way.”

Well, the time has come and Morgan has used up a good chunk of his “cred”  in all of his critiques. Which means it’s time for you to speak up and say those things that you have been content with only hearing from those like me. Yep, imagine… just imagine if you are the one who speaks up before me, or along with me, instead of sitting on your hands. Imagine yourself and a few others speaking up instead of being silent. Suddenly, it’s not, “That’s just ‘Tirade Tyree’ spouting off again,” but now there are several who feel this way and maybe, just maybe others will consider the critique and take it seriously and perhaps even get behind it as well. And the next thing you know, change is unfolding before us all.

So, quit patronizing me or others when no one else is around. Get off your ass and speak up for those things you believe in and call out wrong when it is sitting right in front of you. Quit caring about how you come out in the local or national popularity contest and make a stand.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Abusing a New President

America Becomes Great Again
Those who proclaim “Not My President” in light of the recent Presidential election outcomes, are catching quite a bit of shit these days—and most of it coming from those who supported the winner, Donald Trump.

I’m not sure when, where, or who came up with this popular phrase, but it certainly wasn’t conceived as the election results poured in on the night of November 8, 2016.

I remember after the election of 2008 seeing newly minted bumper stickers with this phrase in my community. Now, it would be easy for me to stop here and lay the blame on the Republican, conservative-minded folk for coming up with this brand. Further, it really felt racist given how we had just elected the first Black President (even if half Black). But, I live in a heavily Republican state—so heavy that it would surely vote for a turd excreted from a Republican over a highly-qualified Democrat—and in hindsight, I suspect it was only new to me back then. Surely this same slogan was being tossed around in Democratic strongholds following the election of George W. Bush.

So, as to the origins of this phrase, it probably isn’t as new as many of us think. And like all things that become popular, wherever it truly originated, it probably didn’t get much fanfare when it was first blurted out, but over the years—with the election of each new President—it has gained some traction.

Akin to these slogans, Presidential “nicknames” have become quite popular as well. Ones that come to mind are “Slick Willie” for Clinton, “Dubya” for George W. Bush, “Obummer” for Obama, and surely something is brewing in the wings for Donald Trump—“The Donald,” “Pussy-Grabber,” and “The Dump” are surely strong contenders as I write this.

I know these phrases and nicknames are somewhat new relative to our country’s existence. There was a time when almost all people respected the President and considered him (but sadly “never her” ) their President. But those days are gone. Are we less respectful today than say, the 1840s? Perhaps. But, I would simply lay the blame on our greater connectedness and that more people have a voice today thanks to the vast and economical communication networks that are in place. Like Gutenberg’s metal moveable type invention that lead to greater literacy for the masses, the same has taken place providing a greater voice for the individual.

As far as a unified respect for the President… we may never see that again.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

More Drag, Less Macho

Photo by Hananiah Aldrich
There are a lot of folk out there in my little community of Powell, Wyoming that think I dislike everything about this town, its college (Northwest College) and even the state of Wyoming. So, I’m here to declare that, “It just ain’t so (in a Wyoming accent).” I’m critical of many things that I care about, but in this day and age of thin-skinned Pollyannas, anyone who is critical about something is immediately painted as a hater or Debbie-downer.

To be honest though, there are things that go beyond my critique and thus deserve my disdain—those same Pollyannas come to mind.

Here’s what I’m talking about: I’m critical of our Wyoming culture that seems to reward and reinforce overly macho behavior. I’d like to see that toned down a bit in the near future. Besides, it’s sooooo cliché. What I dislike are those assclowns who adopt and embrace this trumped-up virile behavior—in particular those who feel the need to modify the exhaust systems of their gigantic 4x4, quad-cab diesel-powered pickup trucks while incessantly revving their engines everywhere they go. I can’t think of a better illustration of a textbook douchebag.

Contrary to all of this, I served as a drag contest judge the other night on the campus of Northwest College. It was absolutely fun, entertaining and delightful—and as I was sitting there watching men (and women) compete for the best drag contestant on campus, I thought to myself, “You know what this town needs are a few more drag queens and kings and a lot less knuckle-dragging, macho-oozing, look-at-me-because-I-drive-a-loud-diesel-pickup-truck douchebags.”

Perhaps this sentiment has to do with a little incident I had the other day when I flagged down one of these John Wayne, chest-beaters (a.k.a., assclown) as he was doing about 45 mph through the middle of campus and about to run a stop sign. When he hit his breaks and rolled down his window in bewilderment, I calmly said, “Hey man, it’s 25 mph through campus and that’s a stop sign you just went through.” In so many words he retorted that I don’t tell him what to do and after a few more exchanges the dude started to get out of his 4x4 to duke it out with me. I mean honestly, I can’t think of a better example of testosterone-induced rage.  You’re breaking the law and endangering the public, someone calls you out on it and you want to fight them… what the fuck, man?!

I’m not sure if I could have whipped him, but if it had come to that, and I ended up having the upper hand, I would have trashed his 4x4 Silverado too. I suppose if it went the other way, he probably would have done the same to my longboard.

With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to make a challenge to our little community of Powell… How about we all start calling out these hotheads in their rude and self-centered behavior when they are breaking the law, endangering others or simply being disrespectful of peace and quiet. This used to be a quiet little town, but in the past five years, it has transformed into a noisy and belligerent little town. And while we’re at it, let’s see if we can encourage enough students to enter the drag contest next year—perhaps even double its participants.

Let’s bring down the machoism a notch and lift up the drag. It’ll be good for Powell.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Meditations and Confessions of a Geezer Longboarder

Pre-Ride Hike
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” —Walter Begehot (Quote on a Good Earth tea bag)

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, it’s possible that I was the first kid with a skateboard—and if I wasn’t, certainly one of the first. My board came to me by way of California following a holiday out West in the mid-1960s. I have a hunch that few of today’s more youthful riders have ever seen a skateboard like my first one—with it’s short, narrow wooden deck, and steel wheels. Perhaps it was a sign of my fate, but even as a youngster, I learned how to slide the wheels on our smooth, sloped concrete driveway that dumped onto the rough chip-seal of Stevenson Avenue.

I don’t know what became of that skateboard, but there were others that followed and there were times in my life when there wasn’t a skateboard at all. That said, it seemed like there was always someone nearby who had a board if I was hankering for an occasional ride. To be clear, I haven’t spent my entire life on a skateboard like some, but I’ve never been far away or too out of practice to confidently jump on a board when such opportunities came along.

If you were to ask me back in the 1980s what I thought I’d be doing for fun as a 50-year-old, I probably would have answered you with something like fly-fishing, golfing, or bike touring. Surely one of the last things coming out of my mouth back then would have been anything to do with a skateboard.

• • •

My on-and-off skateboarding life continued until 2002 when a college student in need of some quick cash convinced me to purchase his Gordon & Smith 43-inch pintail longboard. Prior to that time, I had seen a few of the “giant” skateboards around, but never rode one. As it turned out, curiosity was the driving force that ultimately sealed the deal in my first longboard purchase.
Longboarding Home

For the next several years, I pushed the G&S pinner around my flat, little town of Powell, located in the high desert country of Wyoming, but unlike a true enthusiast, I never entertained the idea of taking it further.

Despite the flack directed at Original (a longboard maker) from the longboarding community (and I'm not sure why this is either), I’ll confess here that it was an Original video on YouTube that blindsided me one day and made me start thinking about that old G&S in a new light.

Not long afterwards, I started studying up on other forms of riding—freeride and downhill specifically. This line of thinking was influenced by that Original video and a geographical feature just outside of Powell called Polecat Bench.

Polecat Bench is a hybrid of mesa and plateau dominating the Powell horizon from the north to the northwest direction—rising 500-feet above the town. The “Bench” (as we call it) is the closest recreational destination for the locals—whether it’s riding an ATV or mountain bike, arrowhead or bird hunting, or just a place to look over the land in quiet solitude. It is also home to the community airport and a gas refinery beyond the airport. Connecting these operations with the community is State Route 295 (also known as “Road 9”) which includes about 1.5 miles of sloped asphalt that climbs the Bench at a five-percent grade. For the most part, there is very little traffic on this road-to-nowhere except for an occasional truck hauling crude or refined petroleum product along with the pickup trucks of those few who work at the refinery. The highway is absolutely deserted on Sunday mornings, and even when there is an occasional car or truck, you can see it coming with ample time to get out of the way.

As I contemplated the Bench and learned more about freeride and downhill longboarding, I started to realize that my Gordon & Smith FibreFlex wasn’t going to cut it on the steeper parts of the Bench. And so, not long after this epiphany, my Landyachtz Switch 40 arrived followed by a helmet, slide gloves and a set of pads for my knees and elbows.
• • •

To say that things have been “happily ever after” since the drop-deck Landyachtz arrived would be a boldface lie. To be blunt, some of my worst fails/falls have been at the slowest speeds and were attributed mostly to bad judgement rather than poor riding skills. There have been spills so embarrassing that I wouldn’t even speak of them in a confessional—let alone these pages, but I’ll humor you a bit here with a couple that I can stomach.

Before my Switch 40 ever saw an incline, it threw me off the sidewalk and into the street in the first 10 yards of my maiden voyage on it. I could say that the bushings were soft and the trucks looser than I’ve ever ridden, but as I washed the gravel out of my hands I knew it was just poor judgement on my part.

Not long after I’d been riding the lower sections of the hill, a friend of mine was in town and decided to tag along with his camera. I’d like to think my riding was no different than any other time that day, but I suppose having a bona fide camera-toting spectator along alters one’s abilities or at least perceptions of their own ability. Before we returned to town, I had managed to shred my entire forearm and slam by helmeted head into the asphalt thanks to high-siding on a toe-side carve that was reminiscent of any head-to-head collision from my youth of playing football.

Years earlier before I ever gave serious thought to downhill, I rode a traditional skateboard down a small—but very steep—hill at the local park. Prior to that I’d never, ever heard anyone speak about something called “speed wobbles.” Although it was a narrow foot path with lush grass on both sides, the wobbles threw me right into the middle of the asphalt resulting in enough road rash on my legs and arms to go through a tube of Neosporin before the week was out. I hobbled the mile distance home with the board under my bloodied arms. At the ripe age of 43, I was not only embarrassed, but convinced I’d never ride a skateboard again.

I’ve stated in many conversations that, given my age, I’m probably one bad spill away from transforming my longboards into wall art. And I’ve already taken enough big hits that left me laying stunned on the payment wondering if any bones were broken. I’ve gone through several boxes of extra large bandages thanks to road rash and landed hard enough on my ass to turn it black and blue. My shoulder has likely suffered from a couple impacts with the road and I’m pretty sure I broke a toe and cracked at least one rib. Every time I head out, I always remind myself, “You can’t afford to fall.”

I’ve also been telling everyone in my world that I’m not going to ride any faster than I can run, but the one day I clocked myself at 26 mph on one section of the Bench. I’m pretty sure I can’t run that fast.

Despite the aches and pain on my 50-some-year-old body, I’m riding more than ever these days—and not just the Landyachtz. In fact, I’m downright ashamed to lay out my quiver (of boards) to anyone at this time because—for one—I’m too old to own multiple boards, and secondly—I’m not that good.

Nevertheless, I am considerably better when it comes to riding a hill. I can carve confidently and, for the most part, I’m pretty decent at a hand-down toe-side speed check as well as a shut-down slide. My hand-down Coleman needs work, and I’m unsure if I’ll ever pull off any kind of standup slide, but I’m not ruling it out either.

When I started working the hill last spring, I set a goal for myself to ride the entire hill before the summer was over. I underestimated my eagerness to ride; on June 19th (two days before the first day of summer), I made it all the way down without incident. Since that time, it has become my longboard laboratory and a getaway from the big crowds of a town with over 5,000 residents!

I think riding alone suits me in terms of focus, concentration, and ultimately safety. And there is something about the solitude and quiet of the twenty-minute walks back up the hill to begin another run. Several times I’ve been offered rides to the top by those in vehicles passing by, but I almost always turn them down and tell them that walking back up comes with the territory of riding down. Besides, if nothing else, it is a good little aerobic exercise.

I’m unsure of a particular riding style that defines me—freeride or downhill. Not to dwell on my age, but I simply want to get down any hill without catastrophe regardless of steez (style). Perhaps the only steez I’ll ever possess is in my geriatric efforts. For now, it’s the little victories that keep me going such as marking the highway with long thane lines (polyurethane skid marks from the wheels sliding). Recently I cored (and flat-spotted) a set of wheels which was akin to receiving badge of valor. Making it all the way down a big hill without falling or bailing—no matter how much steeze I lack—is always motivation to go back up or return the next day.

Living in the country’s least populated state, people are pretty spread out. No matter who you are, what your interest or profession might be, there’s always an element of isolation and with it comes a lack of feedback from others like you. This is certainly my situation as an over-the-hill downhill longboard rider. Late this summer I met a college student who has ridden the hill and he has a few other friends that are curious about longboarding as well. It will be interesting to see if we ever evolve into a micro-community.

The other day two old guys smoking cigarettes with grizzled beards and dirty ball caps followed me in their car as I worked my way down the Bench. Upon reaching the bottom, they pulled over for a visit and I discovered we were of the same age. I wondered if they were as surprised as me upon discovering one another’s age. I’m sure there are older riders with more skills out there who have been riding longer. There’s nothing too unique to my story here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not common.

• • •

In the Autumn 2014 Issue of Concrete Wave, the following quote stopped me in my tracks:

“Skateboarding has been around for a very long time now. With very little effort, you can find skaters ranging from 5 to 55 years old ripping at almost any skate park, bombing hills, doing freestyle, or simply cruising to get somewhere.” Because I’m 54-years-old now, this harmless little statement has been haunting me in a Logan’s Run kind of way.

I know there’s not much time left for me—not like a teenager, while the likes of Patrick Switzer, Kyle Chin, or Liam Morgan needn’t worry about me stealing any of their sponsorships. Yet, these are some of the folk I look up to in making myself a better rider. With that article quote in mind, I’d like to think I have a little more than a year remaining. Nevertheless, I know my years on a board are numbered. Assuming I can stay healthy, perhaps I have another five to ten years of riding. Yet, to think I’ll still be riding that hill or one like it when I’m 65 seems utterly absurd.