About Rich Paschall

When the Windows Live Spaces were closed and our sites were sent to Word Press, I thought I might actually write a regular column. A couple years ago I finally decided to try out a weekly entry for a year and published something every Sunday as well as a few other dates. I reached that goal and continued on. I hope you find them interesting. They are my Sunday Night Blog. Thanks to the support of Marilyn Armstrong you may find me from time to time on her blog space, SERENDIPITY. Rich Paschall Education: DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University Employment: Air freight professional

THE TWO PANDEMICS – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

COVID-19

All of us are acutely aware of the novel COronaVIrus Disease (COVID-19) that has swept the nation. It has devastated businesses, overwhelmed hospitals, and inundated social services. In comparison to the last great recession (December 2007 to June 2009), things are much worse. According to the Pew Research Center, “The rise in the number of unemployed workers due to COVID-19 is substantially greater than the increase due to the Great Recession when the number unemployed increased by 8.8 million from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2010.”  The Great Recession happened over a couple of years, not a few months.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the number of unemployed at the end of May at around 21 million. That was actually a slight improvement as some temporarily laid-off workers were called back to work. The rise in employment came in ” leisure and hospitality, construction, education and health services, and retail trade.” This may be in anticipation of things opening back up. Some of these businesses are in for a shock.

The head of the World Health Organization has issued a dire warning. “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up,” he said. This might seem contrary to what an orange politician has to say. He might lead us to believe that the numbers are improving in the US. They are not. While numbers here are averaging 53,000 new cases per day (as of July 4th), Dr. Anthony Faucci, Director of the National Institute of  Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told a Senate committee that numbers could reach 100,000 per day. “Clearly we are not in total control right now.”

The orange one wants to fool you into thinking that increased testing is the cause of more positive cases. If that is not a lie than it is the statement of an incredibly uninformed individual. His job is to be informed. ProPublica looked at a seven day average from Memorial Day to the following Tuesday. In states like Illinois, New York, and Indiana where testing increased, the number of positive cases fell.  This rewarded their early and strong lockdown measures. In Florida, Arizona, and Texas, along with other red states who were too eager to reopen their economies, the number of positive cases exploded.

Stupidity

If you are reading or listening to the real news, not the Faux News the orange one watches, then you know there are plenty of examples of people who scoffed at the virus, and then died from it. We went down that road with you when we pointed out how “Stupidity Rears Its Ugly Head.” Then we mentioned a Virginia pastor, a Texas priest,  a Texas mom, and an evangelical pastor who all took the virus lightly, then died from it.

There have been more examples since that article ran. A lot more examples. And yet there are still people who want to believe that this is all a hoax or at least exaggerated. A death toll of 132,000 is not an exaggeration. It is a fact.

A leader of the ReOpen Maryland protests got so sick he had to go to an Emergency Room. I guess I do not have to tell you what he has. Now he refuses to help contact tracers. “I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it.” The governor is encouraging people who came in contact with him to get tested and to stay away from vulnerable populations. This is how grandma gets sick and dies.

In Michigan, where the so-called POTUS was encouraging anarchy by suggesting gun-toting right-wingers liberate the state, karma has struck. In East Lansing, they may have been able to enjoy a cold beer or two, but many won’t be doing that this week. One hundred fifty-two (yes, 152) cases of coronavirus were linked to Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub. The number keeps rising. Contact tracers show this moving into 13 counties. Those infected at the bar range from 18 to 28 years old, but there are nineteen secondary cases with ages ranged 16 to 63. That’s how grandpa gets sick and dies.

A student has returned to New York from Florida for a graduation ceremony for Horace Greeley High School. She got sick and since 4 others from the graduation are sick. She had returned from a Florida COVID-19 hotspot and contact tracers are now on the case. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa stayed away.

Eight Trump campaign workers were reported to have the virus after the rally in Tulsa. Two Secret Service agents tested positive and dozens of agents are in quarantine. Oklahoma Watch reporter, Paul Monies, tested positive. Former Republican candidate Hermain Cain also has it. He’s 74 and hospitalized. As for other attendees, time will tell us soon. Hopefully, grandma and grandpa did not attend.

Photo: Washington Post

You probably know I could go on and on. New cases show up every day as certain red states find the situation out of control. And despite all of the news and all of the examples and all of the numbers, some people still prefer the words of a self-centered orange politician over that of medical professionals. Stupid.

Unlike an orange politician, I do not make up my facts. Therefore, here are my Sources: “U.S. could see 100,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, Fauci says,” by Helen Branswell, STAT, statnews.com, June 30, 2020.
Unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years of the Great Recession,” by RAKESH KOCHHAR, Fact Tank, Pew Research Center, pewresearch.org, June 11, 2020.
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — MAY 2020,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, bls.gov, June 5, 2020.
WHO Chief On COVID-19 Pandemic: ‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’,” by Scott Neuman, NPR, nopr.org, June 29. 2020.
No, President Trump, Testing Is Not Causing Case Counts to Rise. The Virus Is Just Spreading Faster,” by Charles Ornstein and Ask Ngu, ProPublica, propublica.org, June 25, 2020.
A leader of protests to reopen Maryland says he is ill with COVID-19,” by Minyvonne Burke, NBC News, nbrnews.com, June 27, 2020.
Re-OpenMaryland co-founder catches coronavirus, won’t help contact tracers,” by Lee Brown, New York Post, nypost.com, June 28, 2020.
Coronavirus cases traced to East Lansing Harper’s Brew Pub rise to 152,” by Andrew Mullin, M Live, mlive.com, July 3, 2020.
NY student sparks COVID-19 cluster after returning from Florida,” by Melissa Klein, New York Post, nypost.com, June 27, 2020.
Eight Trump Campaign Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus After Tulsa Rally,” by Jamilah King, Mother Jones, motherjones.com
Secret Service agents quarantine after Tulsa Trump rally,” by David Aaro, FOX News, New York Post, nypost.com, June 25, 2020.
Reporter at Trump’s Tulsa rally tests positive for COVID-19,” Associated Press, apnews.com, June 26, 2020.
Former Presidential Candidate Herman Cain Hospitalized with COVID-19,” by Adam Carlson, People, people.com, July 2, 2020.

The orange one doesn’t read but if you have gotten this far we know you can. There is plenty to read above. Stay educated, stay home, stay safe.

See also: “Stupidity Rears Its Ugly Head,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, May 24, 2020.

A DIFFERENT WORLD – RICH PASCHALL

Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup was available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as an online product. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

No passengers? Move cargo.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.

THE SUMMER WIND

SONGS THAT CAME BLOWIN’ IN, by Rich Paschall


If you visited this space last Sunday, you saw the top Summer Songs as given by the musical genius, Brian Wilson.  Those may have been songs that evoked thoughts of summer for Brian, but some were a real stretch of the imagination to me.  I promised you songs that are really about summer.

Summertime by George Gershwin is arguably the most beloved summertime song ever. Great singers from Billie Holiday through Janis Joplin recorded hit versions of the song. Originally written by Gershwin for the 1935 modern opera, Porgy and Bess, rock and opera stars alike have recorded it. Guinness World Records claimed it to be the most recorded song ever. I’m sure you’ve heard it and probably have a favorite version.

When the Beach Boys put out a new album for their 50th anniversary, they served up a perfect piece of nostalgia with Summer’s Gone, written by Brian Wilson. He took lead on the record and in performance.  Unfortunately, they did not do it throughout the anniversary tour and there’s only one fan video from the last stop I can find.  Therefore, this tribute through old and new pictures will have to serve:

Now, the countdown.

10. Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, Nat King Cole, 1963.  If I heard it once, I heard it a million times (as the saying goes) while growing up.  I guess we must really have liked it. Cole was alive then and would turn up on variety shows to perform this.  Unfortunately, variety shows have disappeared.
9.  A Summer Song, Chad and Jeremy, 1964. They were part of the “British Invasion” and this was their biggest hit.
8.  Summer Nights, from the play and movie, Grease.  It was “the word” for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.  If you can look past all the people who killed this song in karaoke, it might still be a favorite.
7.  In the Summertime, Mungo Jerry, 1970  The song filled with odd sounds and rhythms was a mega-hit for the British group.
6.  Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone  This one was at the top of the Brian Wilson list.

5.  Surfer Girl, the Beach Boys  This early Beach Boys hit remained a fan favorite through the years.  Almost 50 years after first recording it, they could still perform the harmonies with ease.  Well, if not with ease, then at least with a lot of coaching by Brian:

4.  Summer Rain, Johnny Rivers, 1968  It didn’t make it to the top of the charts, but it is one of those songs that keeps getting played.  Now in his 70s, Rivers is still performing his many hits.

3.  Summer Wind, Frank Sinatra, 1966  Wayne Newton first recorded the song in 1965, but it is Sinatra who had a hit the following year.

2.  Summer Breeze, Seals & Crofts, 1972  Written and performed by Jim Seals and Dash Crofts.

1.  Summer in the City, The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966  Released in July 1966, by August it was number 1.  The overplayed summer anthem included a car horn and jackhammer sounds to let you know you were in the city.

What are your summer favorites?

WHY WE NEED TO SAY IT – RICH PASCHALL

From The Battleground, by Rich Paschall

When someone says “Black Lives Matter” (BLM), some are quick to respond “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” or some other variant. Of course, they are all true, but they are not the right response at this moment in history. You would think the reason would be clear by now. Unfortunately, it is not.

This is similar to the Gay Pride arguments we discussed last year at this time. Some ask, “Why is there a Gay Pride parade?” or “Why is there a Gay Pride month? There is no Straight Pride parade and no Straight Pride Month.”  Gay pride erupted when Gay people were tired of being pushed down and discriminated against. The breakout moment finally happened against the police in New York in the “Stonewall Uprising” in 1969.

Stonewall 1969 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In June of that year,  the police showed up at Stonewall Inn for the usual round of harassing the patrons and arresting the drag queens and anyone else they wanted to bring along. They released some people but they waited outside. The crowd began to build and a riot erupted as the police tried to take some away in patrol wagons. The next night the rioting continued. Police responses included nightsticks and tear gas.

A year later parades were held to commemorate the battles that were held along Christopher Street in New York City. These were Pride Parades. It was a celebration of gay pride over discrimination. Parades will not be held this year. After 50 years of being in the streets to declare we will not accept mistreatment any longer, COVID-19 has put a halt to the parades. Why are there Gay Pride Parades? Stonewall is the answer.

Some ask “Why is there Black History Month?”  Like Gay Pride Month (June), Black History Month (February) highlights the often forgotten parts of African-American History.  When it was officially established in 1976, President Gerald Ford told Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Let face it, US history has been mostly White History month every month. It is important to say out loud the contributions of black Americans because they have been left out of our history books in the past. This is the time to bring them to the forefront of America’s collective knowledge. Yes, some object to a month to highlight Black history as it should be a regular part of history all the time. Think of February as the month we must hear ourselves proclaim this history.

Why is there Women’s History Month? The early history of the US was about explorers, warriors, settlers, entrepreneurs, in other words, all men. Few women found their way into history. Men were the “citizens” and women had to fight for their place.  When the 14th amendment granted citizenship to all born or naturalized here, they really meant men. Women began fighting for the right to vote as early as before the Civil War. They finally won that with the 19th amendment in 1920, but that really just meant white women. Roadblocks were thrown up to prevent black women from voting until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

After consistently pushing back on women’s rights and women’s contributions to society, it is necessary to have a month to highlight what has previously been left out of history. Women’s contributions to the nation are more than just Betsy Ross sewing a flag.

There are a variety of history and heritage months. We often hate to look back through the ages to learn exactly what our history has been, and has not been. The systematic suppression of some people has led us to a list of groups who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past. Over time they have risen up and demanded to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, and to be treated equally. Sometimes the only way forward is through marches and protests. These protests are not against the country, but against the discrimination that keeps people from being seen as equals, for understanding that their lives matter too.

“Black Lives Matter” has to be said for all those who still do not understand that it is a part of “All Lives Matter.” It is the part that is not recognized by white nationalists, neo-nazis, KKK members, supporters of extreme right-wing broadcasters, and certain politicians, including the orange one. It needs to be said over and over until those who have been deaf to it until now, hear and understand.

See also: “Stonewall Uprising,” SERENDIPITY, July 1, 2019.

SUMMER SONGS – RICHARD PASCHALL

The Top 10 of a Musical Genius

From the time the Beach Boys hit the surf and the top of the charts in the 1960s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific songwriting propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains popular to this day.

Wilson was not just trying to crank out rock and rolls songs for public consumption. He was trying to create a new sound, the “California” sound of blended harmonies and instruments. His obsessive work in the studio while seeking a certain type of perfection was both his strength and ultimately his weakness.

Brian Wilson

Today Brian is again touring, writing and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by songwriters everywhere.  Many, including Paul McCartney, Bono, James Webb (American songwriter), and Rolling Stone Magazine, consider Wilson’s “God Only Knows” among the best songs of all time.

So when Brian offers an opinion regarding rock and roll music, it usually garners some attention.  A few years ago he gave us a top ten list of his favorite songs of summer.  To no one’s surprise, a couple of Beach Boys’ songs made the list, but there are also a few interesting choices:

1. Hot Fun In The Summertime: Sly and the Family Stone.
2. In The Summer Time: Mungo Jerry.
3. I Get Around: The Beach Boys.
4. Be My Baby: The Ronettes.
5. California Girls: The Beach Boys.
6. Give Me Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group.
7. Hey Jude: The Beatles.
8. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones.
9. My Obsession: The Rolling Stones.
10. Mony Mony: Tommy James and the Shondells.

I don’t know how some of these songs were chosen for a summertime list, but it is Brian’s list so he can do as he pleases.  I am happy to modify it a bit. You can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to look up because I never heard of it needs to go.

“My Obsession” by the Rolling Stones is an early hit that really offers little in the way of music and lyrics.  It is certainly forgettable in every way and a surprise on any list provided by Wilson.  Of course, we all have early rock favorites that will probably sound weird to anyone else.  So, I am kicking that one off the list and replacing it with one of the Beach Boys’ top hits of all time, Little Surfer Girl.

Next, I have to replace the overdone Hey Jude. While McCartney still uses this epic to kill 10 minutes of every concert, I think it is time to retire it. Seriously, have you seen any performance of McCartney, live or on television, that did not contain an overblown version of this hit?  I can not associate it with summer anyway, so I am replacing it with “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Every oldies station will indeed play the heck out of this song from now until Labor Day, but I never tire of it. That’s my standard.

I like “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Mony, Mony” but let’s replace them with Summer hits.  Add Jan and Dean’s number one hit from 1963, “Surf City.”  With a similar sound to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean successfully rode the airwaves on their musical surfboards for many years, cashing in on the California style rock.  Another song I’m adding is “Saturday in the Park.” by Chicago — if for no other reason than to include a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, but will it make my Top Ten?

When I discovered Billboard’s list of the Top 30 Summer Songs I see there are a few more that could go on my list by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

Yes, next week you will get my top ten summer songs that are really about summer. I know you can’t wait. Just sing Hot Fun In The Summertime until then.

THE BEST MAINSTREAM LGBT MOVIES

The Top Ten Movies For Pride Month, Rich Paschall

Our first outing, “In The Mainstream,” featured some of the best movies ever made, brought to you by the numbers 11 through 20. You will find the sequel today is equally exciting. Every one of these features to hit the screen is a gem and worthy of our Pride playlist.

Pride Parade, Chicago

We know you have been eagerly awaiting my countdown of the best LGBT movies ever made. It is important to point out that we should just say, some of the best movies ever made. They rank with the most entertaining and important features in cinema.

In fact, my number one pick was the best movie of 2005, but the Academy was not ready to bestow that honor on a film of this genre. If you see nothing else from the list below, be sure to see that powerful movie.

Now if you have refilled your bowl of popcorn, picked out a super gulpy size of your favorite drink, put a box of your favorite movie candy (Dots?) in your pocket you are ready to sit down to our 11 feature program. Number 8 is a multi-language, double-feature.

10. Kill Your Darlings. (2013) This time it is Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsburg during the college days of some members of the Beat Generation. The title does not pertain to a murder that takes place involving one of the writers, but to those pieces of writing that you can’t quite improve. Dane DeHaan received critical acclaim as Lucien Carr.

09. Maurice. (1987) James Wilby stars as the title character in the Marchant-Ivory film based on the E.M. Forster novel. Set in early 20th century England, Maurice falls for Clive, played by a young Hugh Grant. The film picked up some film festival awards and an Oscar.

08. The Birdcage. (1996) This is a remake of the classic French-Italian film “La Cage Aux Folles.” (1978) In the American version, the setting is changed to Miami, and the movie stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Do yourself a favor and see both versions.

07. Dallas Buyer’s Club. (2013). Matthew McConaughey picked up an Oscar for the true story of Ron Woodruff, an AIDS patient in the 1980s who smuggled in experimental drugs from Mexico to treat himself and members of the “Buyer’s Club.” Jared Leto picked an Oscar as well in a supporting role. Both actors lost a lot of weight to play their characters. The film picked up four other Oscar nominations and one more Oscar.

06. God’s Own Country. (2017) Never has a tough miserable life been so beautiful. A Yorkshire sheep farmer hires a migrant Romanian farmhand for the season. Gritty is the best description for this one. If the scenes between the two farmhands don’t put you on edge, the rough farm work will.  The movie picked up a long list of festival awards.

05. Philadelphia (1993). Bring a box of kleenex along with your box of popcorn for this groundbreaking film inspired by a true story. Tom Hanks is gay lawyer Andrew Beckett who dismissed from his firm for being suspected of having AIDS. Denzel Washington is the homophobic lawyer who finally agrees to take his case and sue the law firm that fired Beckett. The A list cast includes Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, and Antonio Banderas as Hanks’ partner. Hanks won an Oscar, so did Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song. Neil Young was also nominated for Best Original Song for the movie.

04. Love, Simon. (2018) Nick Robinson gives an excellent performance as a closeted high school senior searching for someone like himself while trying to keep a blackmailer at bay. The romantic comedy also stars Jennifer Garner and John Duhamel as the parents.

03. Call Me By Your Name. (2017). The scene is set in northern Italy in 1983. Elio’s father, a university professor, has a 24-year-old graduate assistant come for the summer to help him out. Timothée Chalamet plays 17-year-old Elio who at first disliked the grad student but slowly changes his feeling.  Chalamet was nominated as best actor for his outstanding job as the conflicted teen.

02. Milk (2008). Sean Penn is perfect in the role of Harvey Milk, the gay activist who was eventually elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. James Franco is a longtime boyfriend, Scott Smith. Emile Hirsch plays an energetic Cleve Jones. The film is historically important using archival film footage when necessary. Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor and Dustin Lance Black picked up one for Best Original Screenplay.  Highly recommended.

01. Brokeback Mountain. (2005) Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, as Jack Twist and Enis Del Mar, spend a summer as sheepherders on the mountain, and a lifetime longing for a relationship they could not have. The film is set between 1963 and 1983 in the American West when they must balance love and fear. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams are their wives. The brilliantly crafted film picked up Oscars for Director Ang Lee, and Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Original Score. Gyllenhaal, Ledger, and Williams were all nominated. It was the best picture of the year but apparently, the Academy was not ready to vote for such a film. Highly recommended.

For number 11 through 20 on our list, head back to “In The Mainstream.” For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play all twenty-one and some bonus clips, click here.

IN THE MAINSTREAM – RICH PASCHALL

LGBTQ in cinema, by Rich Paschall

We don’t need a declaration from an orange politician to know that June is the national Pride month. There may not be Pride parades this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed, but we have a Pride list of movies for your viewing enjoyment. Stay home, save lives, watch movies.

Pride parade

For this list, we have chosen films that have made it into the mainstream of cinema. Most enjoyed wide distribution and many found commercial success. There are many award winners including some that received Oscars at the annual Academy Awards. You should be able to find all of these screen gems on DVD or online.

In some of these movies, gay issues are the main topic. In others, it is just a part of the storyline and not necessarily the main theme or focus of the film. I have seen all of the films on the following list, or I would not have included them. There may be many other commendable films that could easily be included. Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site, has a list of 200 best LGBTQ movies of all time, although many are foreign films that would not be considered mainstream here.

I will start with an honorable mention from the foreign film category, however, and offer you the critically acclaimed Brazilian film, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho, entitled “The Way He Looks” for American audiences. The feature is based on the hugely successful 2010 short film that instantly went viral on YouTube. It now has over 8 million views and you can find it here, although I recommend finding the feature-length film.  The language is Portuguese. Both the short film and the feature have English subtitles.

Now grab your popcorn and be prepared to be entertained by some of the best movies ever made. A few are of historical interest, so you may learn a little history along the way. When I compiled the list there were 20, so I decided to rank them all.

20. Weekend. (2011) The British feature concerns two men who meet and spend the weekend together. After that…well, there will be no spoilers today.
19. The Children’s Hour. (1961). Based on the 1934 Lillian Hellman play, the film downplayed the whispered lie about a gay love affair between the two female teachers. Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Maclaine star. The film was nominated for five Oscars.
18. I Am Michael. (2015) The biographical drama concerns a gay activist turned Christian preacher. James Franco stars as the conflicted main character.
17. Dog Day Afternoon. (1975). Based on the true story of a bank robbery gone wrong, Al Pacino stars as real-life Sonny Wortzik trying to steal money for his transgender mate’s surgery. It was nominated for five Oscars, winning one.
16. I Love You Phillip Morris. (2009) Based on the true-life story of the con artist Steven Jay Russell and the man with whom he falls in love in prison. Jim Carrey gives a strong performance in the comedy-drama.

15. The Crying Game. (1992) The tense drama is set during the conflict in Northern Ireland. A member of the IRA promises to protect Dil, the mate of a rival fighter. The film picked up six Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Screenplay. The story included an element most audience members did not see coming.
14. Mysterious Skin. (2004)  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an early film role as a male prostitute. Set in the 1980s, the storyline follows the life of two friends and their separate paths following a childhood incident. It’s not for the squeamish.
13. My Own Private Idaho(1991) The cult classic stars River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as street hustlers and friends.  It picked up a variety of Film Critics and Film Festival awards.
12. Another Country. (1984) The British historical drama stars Ruppert Everett and is set in the public schools in the 1930s. The story concerns the openly gay student, Guy Bennett, who is based on the real-life spy Guy Burgess.

11. Howl. (2010) James Franco stars as Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. The experimental film style concentrates on Ginsberg’s poem of the same name and the 1957 obscenity trial that followed. The reenactment of the Six Gallery Reading in 1955, spread throughout the film, is often illustrated through animation. Franco also relives a Ginsberg interview where his comments about the poem and the trial are being recorded. Franco carries the movie as Ginsberg with his top-notch performance.

Like many good movies, we are ending with a cliff hanger. The top ten movies will be up tomorrow, but you can start on this list today. The above includes comedy, drama, and comedy-drama. There is romance and there is history. There is mysterious skin and there are mysterious people.

For a look at the trailer of any of the above movies, just click on the title. If you want to play them all and get a sneak peek at tomorrow’s list, click here.

WHAT WE ALWAYS HAVE BEEN – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

With the continual unrest across the country and the prospects that in some places it will not end soon, many may be asking themselves, “How did things get to be like this? When did our country become so racist, so divided?”  I have an unfortunate answer for those who would be asking. It has always been this way.

The division of authority and power between black and white Americans goes back to the beginnings of the colonies.  In 1565 the Spanish explorer who founded St. Augustine Florida brought African slaves with him. African slaves were brought to the British colonies by 1619. Massachusetts legalized slavery in 1641. Companies were set up to deal with the slave trade as if the people brought here were just commodities.

Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured slaves from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

In 1705 the Virginia Slave codes stated that anyone brought in to the land who was non-Christian could be a slave. Apparently, they thought this included Native Americans. Well, there is a whole host of regrettable “milestones” along the bumpy road to becoming a nation.

It’s no secret that the authors of the Constitution struggled with the idea of slavery. The Southern colonies were much more dependent on the free labor to work under the hot sun. Their booming agricultural economy relied on the slaves they had bought. Rather than have no country, the compromise was to allow this system of racism and slavery, mostly in the South. When slavery was put to an end by a horrific civil war, the racism did not end. In fact, in many places, it has not ended yet.

With a war ripping America apart in the 19th Century, you would think things would change by the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the story of the first 65 years of the 20th Century is one filled with white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Klu Klux Klan. They terrorized black citizens and any white person who would dare to stand up for them. Whipping and lynching were a way of life in some communities. By the way, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky seems to be blocking an anti-lynching bill in 2020. You read that correctly. 2020!

All the racism and discrimination in schools and housing and employment were put to an end, on paper anyway, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It did not, however, put an end to the racism taught in the home and in certain school districts across the land. With no national standard and decisions on curriculum made in every community, school boards were free to incorporate whatever version of history and sometimes religion that they approved. Even some local pastors perpetuated the myth that some people are superior to others. You still hear it today.

When children hear hate and lies as they grow up, in the home, in school, and in church, these lessons become the beliefs that they cling to in adulthood. Racism is taught. It is the only way people will grow up to be such haters. It is passed down through the generations.

Many police departments, big and small, have officers who believe they must keep “those people” in line. At one time that meant black, but with racism spewed by many of our national politicians, it could also mean immigrants, non-Christian religions, gay, or any other “non-conforming” groups.

Those who do not see it, do not care to see it. It is an ugly part of our history some would like to hide away, but like the Nazi atrocities of World War II, we can not hide what has been going on, nor should we ever forget.

When there have been protests and riots in the past, they usually die down after a few days, but this time they continue, as a nation weary from a pandemic and unemployment looks on. One thing that keeps the people fired up is the childish and hateful tweets of the orange one in Washington. His tear gassing of protestors to have a picture taken of himself in front of a church holding a Bible, could not have been more ridiculous. Does anyone think he has ever read it? Any of it?

In a scary development reminiscent of a sad time in the 20th Century, Attorney General Barr deployed a special detail of police in black shirts, without any identification, to patrol the area around the White House. If you can not identify them in their helmets and dark glasses and no uniforms, are they free to commit crimes on behalf of the WH?

Some people ask, how can anyone follow Trump? Don’t they see what kind of person he is? I even wondered that here in “What We Don’t Understand.” Some people even think of his followers as some sort of cult, and perhaps some of them are. But here’s the thing. They are him. They are just like him. They grew up with racism in their hearts and they finally have a leader that will allow them to express it. It’s not that they don’t see it.  They do see and they are pleased. The more he tweets and lies to them, the greater he is in their racist eyes.

Those who were taught racism will be hard to win over, but perhaps we can at least silence them again. If the orange one is to return for another term, however, …

Sources: “Bill Barr Deploys His Own Army Of Federal Correctional Officers,” by Emily Goodwin, Daily Mail, dailymail.co.uk June 4, 2020.
Civil Rights Act (1964),” ourdocuments.gov
Slavery in the United States,” en.wikipedia.org
See Also: “What We Don’t Understand,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com May 12, 2019.
Black Like Me,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com June 5, 2020.

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM – Rich Paschall

When You No Longer Have a Home, Rich Paschall


Jimmy knew it was not going to be easy.  He had put it off for weeks, but after a while, the delay was just as hard as what he perceived the actual event to be.  So the high school senior marched home, mustered up all his courage, and prepared for the inevitable battle.

Born of a rather dysfunctional family, Jimmy’s parents were divorced when he was just 4 years old.  His biological father remained marginally in his life.  His mother introduced a new “step-father” when Jimmy was 5.  He was raised by ultra-conservative parents to have values of the ultra Christian right.  Unfortunately for the family structure, Jimmy did not adopt the “family values” of his rather right-wing parents.  Nonetheless, the 17-year-old boy was prepared to take a bold step forward and challenge the strict guidelines he had been given.

When he arrived home near dinner time on a cool fall evening, his parents were already watching television and absorbed in some crime drama.  At the first commercial break, Jimmy made enough noise to be noticed.

“Well, boy,” the stepdad began, “you are a bit late, but you can still grab some dinner in the kitchen.” The mother just smiled and went back to watching the television.

The teenager had already called up all his courage and was not going to back down.  The moment had come, and even though he was shaking, he began a speech he prepared all day.  “I had something important to say,” Jimmy stated rather meekly.

“Well spit it out, boy, the commercials are almost over.”

Without launching into his well-rehearsed speech about each man having to be his own and so forth, a nervous Jimmy did indeed just spit it out.  “I’m gay,’ he declared.

“What?” the middle-aged, balding, flannel-clad stereotypical alpha male shouted. At that, the mother turned down the television volume.

“What did he say, dear?  I don’t think I heard him correctly,” said the middle-aged, middle class, middle intelligence woman.

“I think he said he’s a damn faggot,” the man shouted in a loud and disgusted voice.

“No, sir,” the boy countered. “I said I am gay.”

“The same thing,” the fake dad declared.

“I am appalled.  No son of mine is going to be a sinner.”  The mother was as much angered by the “sinner” as having to miss her TV program.

The step-dad marched right up to the boy and shouted in his face, “You will stop that right now or you will get out of this house, do you understand me?”

“I am sorry sir, I can not change,” the teenager said in a trembling voice.  At that, the step-dad pushed him as hard as he could and the boy went flying over a living room chair and crashed into the dining room.

The mother then began shouting at the boy, telling him he would go to hell, that God would never forgive him, that such behavior was forbidden in the Bible and that God hated him.  The boy rose to his feet and stood there staring at the shouting parents.

“If you are not going to take back that sinful statement, then you are not staying under my roof.  Get out sinner,” the pretend dad shouted.  With that, he gave a menacing look as if he would hit the boy again.  Before long, he started after the boy and shoved him, knocking him to the floor.

“OK,” the terrified teen said.  “I’ll go if that’s what you want.  I don’t want to be here either.  I will get my school books and leave.”

“I paid for those books,” the man shouted.

“Like you are going to read them,” the teen retorted.

At that the boy hurried to his room, he put his books, a few items off his dresser and whatever items of clothing he could stuff in his backpack and headed toward the front door.

“God hates faggots, son,” his mother said with great disdain.

“I don’t know that God hates anyone,” the boy countered, “but he does not hate love.”

That prompted the step-dad to pick up an ashtray to throw at the teen, but the boy was out the door too quickly.  The angry parents resumed watching television as the trembling senior high school student walked aimlessly down the street.  Tears filled the eyes of the handsome youth as realized he had no home, no parents, and nowhere to go.

Attribution: BookCrossingBefore at the English language Wikipedia

He struggled forward, step by step, as the night air began to chill his bones.  Was he shivering because of the night air, or because of the sad situation he found himself in?  When he arrived at a major intersection, Jimmy took a seat on a wooden bench by the bus stop.  He was not planning on taking the bus.  He had no plan at all.

After many moments filled with crying, Jimmy pulled out his cell phone and called the one person he thought could help him, his real dad.  He located the number, dialed, and got a quick answer.

“Hello dad, it’s Jimmy.  I have been thrown out of the house.  I have nowhere to go.  Can I come and stay with you a while?  I promise I will not be a bother.”  The teen was not ready for adulthood, and certainly not this.

“Why, what happened son?  What would cause them to do that?”

“I told them I am gay.  Can I come there?”

There was a long silence on the phone.  Neither one spoke for what seemed like minutes.  Jimmy finally spoke up again.

“Please.”


Note:  This is a work of fiction, but there are many true stories of teens tossed aside.  What do they do?  

BLACK LIKE ME – RICH PASCHALL

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall


My father’s parents, my grandparents, were from rural Tennessee. They lived in Weakley County and their town was Martin. They were farmers but after World War II life there was hard and they moved to Chicago. When my grandfather retired from the Appleton Electric factory, they moved back to Tennessee and bought a house at the very edge of town. By that I mean there was a cornfield across the street.

I had been down there when I was little but don’t remember a lot about it. When I was a little older I would go to visit my retired grandparents, perhaps early to mid-1960s. I would walk with my grandfather into town. It was a mile to maybe a mile and a half to get to the start of Main Street. It could not have been more stereotypical small southern town America.

Martin, Tennessee 1965

These walks were more to exercise my aging grandparent than anything else. We rarely stopped anywhere. On one trip as we walked down the street, we saw a couple of black guys coming from the other direction. As they got near us they stepped off the sidewalk to let us pass. I thought this was rather strange. On the next block, it happened again. “Grandpa, why do those guys get off the sidewalk when we come by?”

“Oh,” my grandfather said rather sadly, “it’s just what black folks do.” I was rather naive and I just didn’t get it. I thought something was wrong with us that these people did not want to share the sidewalk with us. It would take a few more years before I got it. I am not sure why, but that is a strong memory that stays with me.

When my grandparents lived in Chicago, I guess I spent as much time with them as anyone. My grandfather read the Bible every day and took the lessons to heart. He saw everyone as the same and never said a bad word about others, so I didn’t consider the idea of different races. He was the most decent man I have known in my life. He was a real Christian and believed in the Golden Rule.  I am sure he would not know what to make of all the fake Christians today.

When I was older, a book was recommended to me entitled, “Black Like Me.” It is the true story of John Howard Griffin. In 1959 he got the help of a dermatologist to temporarily turn his skin brown using drugs and ultraviolet light. When he could pass as a black man in the south, he set out on his journey.

Original publication 1960

He solicited the help of a black shoeshine man he knew in New Orleans, who did not recognize him at first. He needed an introduction in the community and had to confide in someone. The journey is at times sad, at other times harrowing. When you have finished the book you have a better understanding of just how hard life could be for black people in the south prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, you could never really know.  Yes, this 1960 book is dated now, but it had a big impact at the time of release. The author had to move to Mexico for fear of his life.

There is a 1964 movie starring James Whitmore that dramatizes the book. It has been decades since I have seen it so I can not explain how much it sanitizes the story for the viewing public. I am sure they did not capture a lot of what he was saying. The movie can still be found online. I ran across a free version on YouTube.

You may have seen the social experiment where a teacher asks an assembly of white people if they would prefer to be treated like a black person. Without getting even one response, she repeats the question, but there are no takers. Then she explains the facts to them:

I have lived in the same house for 41 years. It is a diverse neighborhood of mostly white, but black and brown and yellow too. I have never been afraid to walk down the street before, but it has been a rough few days. People are on edge. Businesses are closed. The post office and the bank are closed. Stores are boarded up as merchants large and small fear for their businesses.  I worry about going too far from the house that I might get beat up or killed in a neighborhood that has always been home.

It is no secret how I feel this has happened. I have seen The Making of America” and it has not been great. If Donald J Trump, the master of divisiveness, is not the anti-Christ, he is doing a good impersonation. But I digress.

With the boarding up of stores from Lincoln Square to Albany Park to Lake View to downtown Chicago, and with the threats to the gay business to Boystown, it has terrified many folks I know. Since the city has successfully cut off downtown with the police and the National Guard, protests have moved to the neighborhoods. A friend of mine commented on Facebook how frightening it was to live like this. He mentioned how there were sirens through the night and people were killed over the weekend.  Another friend replied:

“Scary isn’t it. That fear is what many black people feel all the time”

See Also: The Making Of America, SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com, June 2, 2020.

THE MAKING OF AMERICA – RICH PASCHALL

It Isn’t Great, by Rich Paschall

After 100,000 have died, millions have lost their jobs and America’s cities burn, we can hear the right-wingers now. “You can’t blame this on Trump. This is not Trump’s fault.” But here’s the problem. It IS Trump’s fault, just about all of it.

LIAR in Chief

The amount of lies Trump has told the American people is staggering. This is not just a wild assertion as some on the right side of the aisle may claim.  It is a well-documented fact. This is not just put out there by the Washington Post, but also by many fact-checkers around the country. If the Post is too liberal for you, you can find a variety of sources. If he is talking or tweeting, he’s probably lying. Now he wants to stop Twitter from fact-checking him.

Opportunist  in Chief

Despite something known as the Emoluments Clause, Trump has taken the opportunity to further enrich himself and his rich friends. He plays a lot of golf on the taxpayer’s money, then has the secret service and others in the entourage stay at his lodging, also at taxpayers’ expense. This is the way to funnel your money to himself.

Clause 7   The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

He would not know the meaning of this, nor would he care.

Tax Cutter in Chief

OK, this was never meant to help you.  This was all about giving himself and his rich friends a tax break. In other words, the rich got richer.

Hater in Chief

You may think this one is pretty strong. Am I actually calling out someone as a hater? His whole term in office is about hate speech and defending “some very nice people” with confederate or Nazi flags and automatic weapons.

Anarchist in Chief

The statements by someone already in an office that are meant to undermine local, state, or even federal government are outrageous, to say the least. He has used his position of authority, not to work with others, but to bad mouth mayors, governors and US Senators, and Representatives. His provocative speech has indicated to his base of supporters that it is OK to “Liberate” states. It is ok to challenge public officials. That white nationalist protestors include some very nice people. White Racists, including the KKK, favor Trump. In fact, the KKK endorsed him in the last election.

Mis-manager in Chief

He had the opportunity to take the lead in times of crisis. He blew it. He blamed China, he blamed governors, he blamed scientists, he blamed Obama. He blamed everyone for not getting out in front of this crisis but himself. As we write this at the end of May, the virus is on the rise in many states. Trump encourages the opening of states because it would help the economy. The only thing it may help is the death toll.

Leaders of some countries took early and decisive action. Trump dismissed it
“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”  – January 22nd.

The World Health Organization warned of a worldwide pandemic, Trump called it a Democratic hoax: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”  – March 9th

Other countries took action to help their people. Trump and the Republicans blocked a second stimulus payment. They work toward legislation to protect companies from any liability for forcing employees back to work. They threatened to cut off unemployment benefits. Trump refused to cancel student loans.

Nero in Chief

He may not know how to play the fiddle, but he is doing a good job of pretending to be Emperor while the cities burn.  Here is why it is his fault:

Robber in Chief

Yes, there are people who are taking advantage of a bad situation to do bad things. Some are looting stores for their own personal joy or gain. Some are causing destruction to make one side or the other look bad. As I write to you, my emergency alert on my phone is not announcing bad weather, it is announcing a city curfew.  There is violence in the streets.

There are lawbreakers among the protestors and rioters, that’s for sure. And no matter what any of them may steal tonight or in the days to come, Trump has already stolen from them the most important thing necessary to make and keep America great. He has stolen HOPE. He has left many Americans broken and alone while he sits on his toilet, or wherever, sending tweets of hate into cyberspace. Meanwhile:

  • Is there any hope that situations will improve between big-city police departments and communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that economic opportunities will come to the communities of color?
  • Is there any hope that gun violence and people violence will subside in our country?
  • Is there any hope that immigrant families, ripped apart at the border, will be united?
  • Is there any hope that a leader will step forward and unite America with one voice through this pandemic?
  • Is there any hope that that the poor and middle class will find more assistance during extended unemployment, as other countries have done for their citizens, or will stimulus really be a way to hand more money to the rich?

People who take to the streets in protests that turn violent have lost hope that change will come by any other means. They have been driven down and stepped on and had a knee put to their collective throats. They are sick and tired of it. The words from the Orange Menace in Washington signals to the people of the nation that indeed, there is no hope.

On Monday Limbaugh and Hannity and Trump will all rage away. Will anyone offer hope to the masses?

WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE – RICH PASCHALL

The Wake-Up Call, by Rich Paschall

The day had finally arrived. Jon was on his way. George waited for the news that Jon had successfully cleared Customs in Miami and was getting his second flight on to his new home. When there was no word, George went to the airport anyway. He thought Jon did not have phone service in America and could not get on the internet. He was not going to worry, not too much anyway. He had sent Jon the ticket so he knew the flight number.

Leaving home for a new life

George did not know whether to wait at the end of the concourse where passengers would come from the gates, or go down to the baggage claim area in the large airport. Having waited upstairs for a long time, George finally went down to baggage. He paced around nervously as the passengers claimed their luggage and walked away. Finally, the baggage carousel was empty, and there was no Jon.

It was late at night. Few people were milling about the baggage area. George stood in the aisle looking down one way, then the next, Suddenly a familiar person appeared in the distance, rolling a small silver suitcase alongside himself. It was Jon. George hurried toward him and gave him a big hug. “Welcome,” George exclaimed. “Thanks,” Jon said.

Jon was tired. He had started the day very early in South America. It took three flights to finally make it to a large city in another country. He was eager to get out of the airport and on the way to a new life.

George tried to explain the sites as they traveled home by car, but Jon seemed uninterested. George figured he was just tired. When they made it home, George asked if he wanted anything to eat. Jon ate a little. They talked a little. Then it was time for a good night’s sleep.

It seemed so sad that Jon had to leave so many things behind. He only came with a small suitcase and a small backpack. He told George he sold whatever he could to have money for the trip, and gave the rest to friends. He was ready to start anew.

A whole new world

There were two empty drawers in the dresser for Jon. For the large Queen size bed, George told Jon he could have either side he wanted. Jon took the far side, George tried to be quiet and not move so the very tired Jon could sleep well.

During the weekdays George had to work and Jon was home alone. There were plenty of Spanish stations on the satellite television to occupy time, but that was not enough for Jon. He felt like a prisoner waiting for George to come home. At night they shopped for food, some clothes, and a few other things for Jon. That too was not enough to satisfy Jon. This was not really what he wanted.

At the weekend, Jon wanted to go dancing. “Ok,” George said. “We can go.”

“No, I don’t want to go with you. I have met some people from my country online, and one will come to get me. We will go to the Club. I don’t want to be with you.”

George was startled by the declaration. He never thought Jon would say such a thing. George had assumed they would do everything together. George was wrong.

Jon was young and eager to do things and not be stuck at home every day. George tried to make things better for Jon. He introduced him to neighbors who spoke Spanish. He took him to nice stores and restaurants. He helped him to apply for his green card so he could work and have more freedom.

Seeing new things

Some days Jon seemed OK with his situation. He made dinner for George and things were pleasant. Other days did not go so well and Jon complained bitterly about being stuck in the house all day. Patience was not a virtue that Jon enjoyed.

After a few days, Jon had decided to sleep in the spare room on the twin bed. He told Jon that he moved around too much, and it was not good to sleep together since they kept different hours. Each weekend Jon went out with friends from his country. “Give me some money George. Just give me 20 dollars.”

By the end of just one month, Jon wanted to leave. He told George they were never friends. “You are ugly and I don’t like you. I want to go live with some people from my country in Miami where the weather is nicer.” Jon wanted Geroge to buy him a ticket. On the one hand, George saw no reason to spend so much money; on the other hand, he was unhappy and tired of Jon’s complaining.

So George bought the ticket online and immediately drove Jon to the airport. Jon took the suitcase that he brought to America and his backpack, both with some new clothes, and got out of the car at Departures. He said nothing. George drove away with the feeling of relief.

Leaving again for a new home

After a month had gone by, George got a message from Jon via Messenger. He deleted it. Later he got another, then another. George blocked him.

The next day George’s neighbor Axel told him he got a text from Jon. He desperately needs to talk to George but there is no answer. “I have nothing to say,” George told him.

The following day Axel stopped George again. He told George that it was urgent, but George said he was not interested.

“But Jon wants you to send him a ticket to come home.”

“Come home?” George said in a startled voice.

“Yes, the new friends do not want him there anymore because he can not pay anything. He says he will be on the street if you do not help.” George just shook his head.

“What shall I tell him?” Axel asked urgently.

“Oh,” George thought a moment.  “Tell him ‘Good Luck’.”

Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal
THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR – RICH PASCHALL

The Class of South Pacific, by Rich Paschall

Most of your high school and college graduates will not have the pleasure of hearing the typical graduation speeches this year.  Students are usually listening to them in wonder, perhaps even shock at some odd notion.  It seems like a peculiar thing to say to high school or college graduates, and yet we say it all the time.

“These are the best years of your life,” a guest speaker may exclaim.  Some may narrow it down to tell students, “You will look back on this as the best year of your life.”  The best year?

It was a long time ago, and I can not recall specifically what I heard at my various graduations, but I am pretty sure the idea was sold to me somewhere.  “How can this be?” graduates may ask themselves.  “What about the next 60 years?  You mean to say, ‘this is it’?”

Are these youthful years the best years of our lives?  Is this where we had the best times, best friends, best dances and concerts and music and well, everything?  The answer is a surprising yes, and no.

graduation

When I was in the third year of high school I learned that DePaul Academy would be closing and we would all be shipped off to another area high school.  To be perfectly honest, I did not like this a bit.  Despite the tough discipline of my school and the fear of 4th year Latin, I wanted to go to a similar environment.  However, the school where I applied to go to for 4th year would not take any incoming seniors.  So off I went where they sent me, bound to make the best of it.

There were a few familiar faces at the new school, some were transfers like me and some I knew from grade school.  There were also new experiences. There were dances and plays.  They had a fine arts department (something lacking at the all-boys academy) and teachers who seemed to care about you as well as your studies.  I took drama, not fourth-year Latin.  I came, I saw, I took something else.

The social activities meant more opportunities to make friends.  The interaction was an education itself.  Soon there was a group of us that hung together a lot, and some of us still do.

The most remarkable part of this transition was the “Senior Class Play.”  Yes, so many students wanted to take part, it was just for seniors, as in 17 and 18-year-old students.  I got the nerve to audition.  I have no idea what I sang.  Everybody was in the show so it did not matter that a hundred of us showed up.  We were going to do South Pacific.  I was rather unaware of it.

I’m in this group, front row just left of center.

Aside from learning the art of theater (Project, Enunciate, Articulate, Stand up straight), I learned about the classic story of war, hate, prejudice and, of course, love.  Learning to play our parts was important.  We were commanded to be professional in everything.  We also learned a story that held a dramatic lesson in life.

When the movie starring Mitzi Gaynor, Rosanno Brazzi, and Ray Waltson was re-released, we ran off to see it.  In subsequent years, we saw several community theater productions as well as professional versions of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical.  We grew to love the theater and the lessons that such musicals could bring to us.  We learned why fine arts were so important in the schools.

So we were fortunate. We had a positive experience and a good education.  We learned our lessons in the halls as well as the classroom, and in the gym which was also our auditorium.  We signed one another’s yearbooks and held on to them like they were made of gold.  But was it the best year of my life?  If so, what about all the intervening years?

It is an interesting paradox that you can not adequately explain to an 18-year-old graduate.  Yes, it was the best year up to that point, and it will always remain so.  Nothing can ever take away those memories, so hopefully, they are all positive.  Those lessons of love and life will influence everything from that point on.

While you are busy making new memories, a career, a family perhaps, and new friends, they will all be measured against “the best year of your life,” whether it is at 18 or 21.  Some friends may be better, some lessons may be better, some experiences may be better, but they will all be measured against those moments in youth when you discovered who you were and where you were going.  The quality of future friendships must stand up to those already at hand.
If you have a South Pacific in your memory bank, you will tell people all across the (hopefully) many generations that come through your life how this was a great experience.  You may say it was the best time ever.  If your younger friend looks sorry that your best times were so far back, remind him to enjoy what he has because it will be the springboard to everything else.  It will be his touchstone.

Every spring, without fail for these many decades, the change of seasons hits me like some great coming of age story.  My imagination calls up images of Bali Hai and I hear echoes of “There Is Nothing Like A Dame” in the distance.  I once again feel “Younger Than Springtime” and every night is “Some Enchanted Evening.”  Whenever I look back to the Class of South Pacific, I can also look forward to a lot of “Happy Talk” for everyone who will listen.

STUPIDITY REARS ITS UGLY HEAD – RICH PASCHALL

The View From Here, by Rich Paschall

Living Fearlessly

You have probably seen plenty of examples of this. There are those who need a haircut no matter what the risk. Some must have a party, no matter what stay at home orders have been issued. Others absolutely have to go to the beach, even if it is crowded. Those dying to get out and about don’t believe that they will be dying because they went out and about.

This week I saw two grade-school kids riding their bike down the street. They had no masks on. I did not recognize them as living nearby so perhaps they were just riding around the neighborhood. A day later I saw two different kids riding up and down the alley behind the house. They had masks but were not wearing them across their faces, just hooked around their ears and across their necks. They were probably told not to leave the house without them, so they didn’t. The two boys in the alley stopped to talk to an older girl. She did not have a mask on either. Recently I have been to two different convenience stores. As I went into one, a man was coming out sipping his coffee. He did not have a mask. A postal worker was buying a batch of Lotto tickets. She had no mask. As I was checking out, I mentioned to the checker that every single customer in that store did not have a mask. She and I were the only ones. A guy without a mask behind me in line got a piece of my mind. He did not say anything but he did back up a few steps. At another convenience store two young guys behind the counter were not wearing masks or gloves. I walked out.

I have seen the same sort of thing at the supermarket and the pharmacy. I tried to go to them in the first hour on a Tuesday or Thursday when it is Seniors only. Despite the signs on the doors, people enter who are not wearing masks. Some are not even Seniors.

You may have seen on the news, if you have the stomach to watch the news these days, that there are plenty of people out protesting for their right to congregate any way they wish. They even intimidate lawmakers by showing up at the state capital with automatic weapons. Many do not seem to think that any of their fellow protestors might have the coronavirus.

On our local Chicago news, we saw that business in neighboring Wisconsin had reopened. Despite bars and restaurants being encouraged to maintain social distancing, scenes from a crowded bar were broadcast. One of the people interviewed was a nurse from down here in hard-hit Cook County, Illinois. She has seen plenty of COVID-19 patients. Now she’s sorry she was interviewed at a bar.

Instant Karma

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead – John Lennon.

Perhaps you heard of the Virginia pastor who vowed to keep his church open unless he was in jail or in the hospital. He’s in the cemetery. He preached to a crowded church on March 22 and died on Easter of the virus. Parishioners and preachers have died of the virus because they thought they would be safe in a crowded church. An elderly priest died in Texas recently, but they seemed to dismiss this because he was old anyway. Some of his parishioners tested positive.

A Texas mom of two boys who declared the virus a “media hoax” died from it. So did an evangelical pastor who went to Mardi Gras. There are plenty of such cases. Some who contracted it have recovered after attending Mardi Gras, or a crowded party. Some didn’t.

Survivors of near-death experiences think we are moving too quickly to reopen businesses. “People don’t really understand how serious this is until they know somebody who’s going through it,” one survivor’s girlfriend claimed. I have seen enough of this type of interview on the news. In general, the survivor is very sorry for attending____________ (insert crowded event here).

In red counties that had strongly supported Trump, and have pushed to reopen businesses, the virus is on the rise. Four days after the Republican governor of Maryland started opening up businesses in the state, they had the largest number of positive tests for one day so far. Coincidence or karma?

Living In Fear

The sort of thing you see above in “Living Fearlessly” are the reasons that so many of us who are older or have suppressed immune systems live in fear. We can not count on going to the store and have all the patrons follow the rules. Some of us qualify to go to the store during the Senior hour, but that means nothing if the store is afraid to enforce the rules. I shop at stores that have large signs posted to wear masks, and certain hours are Seniors only, but it doesn’t matter.  If people are so willing to violate these rules about the store, we can probably guess that they are willing to break other rules too. Do we want to be in the store with them?

The lieutenant governor of Texas may believe that Seniors are willing to lay down their lives for the economy, but I have news for him. He can go out and take risks, but we don’t feel that way. We want to be around long enough to vote that sort of politician out of the political office or keep them from getting in.

I live in a two-flat house. My much younger neighbor upstairs had been very careful, wearing a mask and gloves to the stores. He was always cleaning and sanitizing. He gave me a special mask around Christmas time that not only covers nose and mouth but ears too. We had some bad winters in the past. I use it a lot now.

He has contracted the virus. He’s had girlfriends over to spend the night. There is more than one, I think. He probably trusted they were just as safe as he was otherwise. He was obviously wrong. Now he is sick. We have a common front hall and front door, common basement area with a common washer and dryer. We could touch a lot of the same surfaces in a day. He is not intentionally trying to kill off his older neighbors. Sometimes people just don’t think about it until it is too late.

Instant Karma Sources: “VIRGINIA PASTOR DIES FROM COVID-19… 3 Weeks After Holding Packed Service,” TMZ, tmz.com April 13, 2020.
Parishioner of Louisiana Church That Defied Virus Lockdown Dies From COVID-19, But Pastor Claims It’s a Lie,” by Rachel Olding, Daily Best, thedailybeast.com April 17, 2020.
Texas church cancels masses following the death of priest possibly from coronavirus,” by Meredith Deliso, ABC News, abcnews.go.com May 18, 2020.
Family Of COVID-19 Victim Who Criticized ‘Hysteria’ Around Virus Faces Online Attacks,” by Kelly McEvers, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 15, 2020.
Texas woman claimed COVID-19 is a media hoax & can be stopped by “faith.” Days later she died.” by Bil Browning, LGBTQNation, lgbtqnation.com April 7, 2020.
After enduring ventilators, body aches, fever, coronavirus survivors say states shouldn’t be reopening.” by Rick Jervis and Kameel Stanley, USA Today, usatoday.com May 18, 2020.
COVID-19 continues spreading into counties with strong Trump support,” by William H. Frey, Brookings, brookings.edu May 20, 2020.
Maryland Reports Largest Rise Yet In Coronavirus Cases 4 Days After Reopening,” by Bill Chappell, WBEZ 91.5, npr.com May 19, 2020.
See also: “Absolutely No Absolute Rights,” SERENDIPITY, teepee12.com April 8, 2020.