Thursday, September 14, 2017


Based on very recent tweets, Donald Trump is not done feuding with Hillary Clinton. But if Trump vs. Hillary wasn't enough to satisfy him, now we have Trump vs. Hill. That would be Jemele Hill, ESPN commentator. Pretty easy to pick sides in this one. Granted, Jemele Hill's area of expertise is sports - not politics. But as someone who is also a human being, Jemele is allowed to have opinions on the Clown in Chief. I suppose that in being a public figure who is a spokesperson for her employer, there are some limitations on how she chooses to express personal non-sports opinions, no matter how accurate they are. Politics is neither sports nor entertainment, despite what we often see on TV. But sometimes no matter who you work for, you just have to get something off your chest. And ESPN, a network that is supposed to be about sports and nothing but sports, has certainly spent some of its valuable air time delving into non-sports areas. They even once decided to dedicate an entire show to this subject...

If we were able to make it through that well intentioned effort from the most peculiar of messengers then surely our patriotism can take the hit of Jemele Hill calling it like it is about the man who has taken the US presidency hostage.

Trump supporters who claim not to be bigots need to closely examine his words and deeds along with their own hearts. If they don't/won't, Michael Jackson was clearly right.

Friday, September 8, 2017

THE CALM - a short story

2017 has been merciless in the weather department for many people, and there are still several months to go. Climate change deniers just shrug and dig their heads deeper into the sand. Meanwhile residents of Houston, Texas have exchanged homes for motor boats thanks to Harvey, the Caribbean (aka my homeland) was pummeled by Irma with extra attention paid to Barbuda. Puerto Rico has devastating aftereffects to deal with and a White House that seemingly fails to see the urgency or the residents' humanity. Hurricane Jose is apparently waiting in line right behind Irma. Hurricanes often move up from the Virgin Islands and pay a visit to Florida. Book (and 6-toed cat) lovers have an eye on Ernest Hemingway's Key West home this weekend, hoping it survives the pounding rain and whirling wind to come. Not wanting to be left out apparently, California wildfires began to rage.

Moving beyond the United States of America (which already has Donald Trump to deal with so mean spirited weather on top of that seems unfair) to view the world at large, we find a variety of devastation from Mother Nature taking place. Most recent (last I checked) was an earthquake in Mexico.

Destruction of property by nature's elements gone wild from time to time is inevitable. Unfortunately, so too is loss of lives. There isn't much to be done about that, not even by those who fully accept that climate change is both real and largely a man made phenomenon. Sometimes in life the best we can do is hang on to the sturdiest object around with one hand, to our closest loved ones with the other, and pray to whoever/whatever we believe in that we'll manage to weather the storm.

Raising funds to assist with the aftermath of hurricane Irma

USVI Recovery

Both before and after that storm comes "the calm". I once wrote a story with that very title. You can find and read it below.

                           THE CALM
                              BY ROY L. PICKERING JR.

Certain days are never withdrawn from one's memory bank.  Such was the case of the first full day of a summer that was taking over for a rain filled spring, fresh on the heels of a bitter New York winter.  Incarceration by nature's less than ideal elements had finally concluded.  The sun now blazed with abandon, summoning God's creatures to emerge from hiding.

A picnic seemed in order.  Paulette felt the same, surely a good omen.  We had not agreed on much of anything in some time. Our frequent opposing views added spice to the relationship in the beginning.  As long as we shared lust for one another in common, other things didn't much matter.  Over three years gone by, the carnal nature of our union having peaked and moved beyond, it was in doubt as to whether Paulette truly was the yang to my yin, the negative charge to my positive, the creamy center to my cookie crust.

These worries I put aside, for I didn't need to get along with Paulette to know that I loved her.  I was willing to work out whatever problems we may have, though not inclined to have my love life be a chore, I was hoping the passage of time and shared experiences would work the kinks out for us.  Ending the relationship never emerged as an option, even in our most heated disputes.  I took this to mean that Paulette felt as I did.
We spread a blanket on the grass of a nearby park, popped Miles Davis into my CD player, set up assorted reading material (I was reading Faulkner, she examined Cosmopolitan magazine), and partook of grapes, brie cheese on crackers, and a pitcher of lemonade.  

The rippling lake before us was a constantly changing work of art reflecting the cloudless sky above.  A man taught his precocious daughter how to fish; a dog frolicked with his masters; children rolled by unsteadily on rollerblades or glided past with more assurance on bicycles; lovers lay blissfully together as far as the eyes could see.  All of this Paulette and I contentedly observed, our souls filling up with peace much like the air was becoming saturated with pollen, the latter of which I had prepared for in advance by taking a sinus pill.  I felt secure for perhaps the first time that we would make it, that the winding roads of our separate lives were no longer running parallel, but had merged together as one.

Unable to snag a coveted location under the shade of a tree, Paulette and I spritzed each other with water to endure the humidity.  After an hour passed, a steady breeze began to blow.  The sun's rays took pity and lessened in intensity, perfecting the level of comfort.  We kissed tenderly, then passionately, then reposed with hands held and hearts light.

I assumed the first roll of thunder to be my imagination, the second a misinterpretation of a lick by the bass player accompanying Miles.  The third roll was too distinctive to be anything other than what it was.  Looking upward, I saw that the sun's clemency was due to clouds which had crept upon it.  In the following silence I hoped the inevitable would not occur, but a flash of lightning on the horizon told me that hoping would do no good.

Paulette and I hurriedly packed our belongings under the rapidly darkening sky.  The first drops trickled down large, cold and ominous.  The breeze, once gentle as a baby's kisses, now sent debris into orbit.  We had just begun the race we had no chance of winning when the barrage started.  There was no shelter in sight that was a match for the storm's force.  We could do nothing but get drenched and either find humor in Mother Nature's unpredictability or not.  I saw no reason for a little water to ruin our moods, but Paulette's joy endured the rain as well as a lit match.

I went away for nearly two weeks on a business trip the next day. Upon my arrival back home, the tone of Paulette’s "we need to talk" on my answering machine foretold that our reunion dinner date would likely spoil my appetite.  It did.  Paulette felt that continuing further with the relationship would keep us from getting on with our lives.  I had not been aware that either of our lives was on pause.  Therefore, I objected strenuously to Paulette’s resolution.  It was one thing to fix what was possibly broken, but to simply discard our relationship was inexcusable.  Paulette was convinced that we weren't meant to be, to which I rebutted that nothing was meant to be.  Things just were.  Paulette replied that our thing was just over.

That summer had been shaping up to be special but turned out to be an idyllic backdrop for my grief.  I could find no humor in the irony that of all our disagreements, the only one to matter was the one about breaking up.  Paulette probably would have said solely for the purpose of contradicting me that our final dispute had actually been about staying together.  But no matter how the situation was viewed, it wouldn't change the fact that I was now alone, nor help me cope with this any better.  For longer than I care to recall, I isolated myself while waiting for Paulette to realize the folly of her decision.  If she ever did, she didn’t bother to let me in on her change of heart.

Time tends to all matters in due course.  I am not of the opinion that wounds heal so much as they are buried under the growth of new skin.  They become invisible to the eye, but continue to be a part of who we are.  As Paulette predicted, I eventually began conducting the business of getting on with my life, no doubt considerably later than she.  Breaking up with someone is something one does long after already having done so emotionally. Perhaps a trite lesson to learn, but valuable nonetheless.

And so I decided on a lovely August day to prepare a picnic for one and head to the park.  It was a mirror of the occasion spent there the year prior.  The lake was as ceaselessly moving yet never changing as I remembered, and the sun remained a boiling pupil in a vast blue iris.  About me adults huffed and puffed to sweat off a few pounds while children played for the right reason.  I surveyed my surroundings and saw that God's creation was a good one; that beauty persevered in the face of ugliness; that some people should never wear a bathing suit in public.  I thought of my past and present, tried to ponder my future but came up blank because it had not yet been formed.  No matter.  If not to be granted knowledge, I would settle for serenity.  Tomorrow would be here soon enough.

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First SuperheroThe Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

4 stars earned because the subject of this book led such an interesting life. 2 stars earned because the tedious writing style pulled off the feat of making Houdini's exploits seem quite mundane. So I've split the difference to give it 3 stars. Overall I'm glad I read this book. What I came into it already knowing about Houdini only scratched the surface of his accomplishments. I had no idea that he was a major participant in the earliest days of airplane flight. Not until reading the jacket cover did I know he most likely participated in spying for the government. Turns out he was also a Hollywood star (writing, directing, acting), a bibliophile who amassed practically a public library's worth of books, a man on a mission to warn the public against con artists who promised (for a price) to provide connections to the dearly departed, and perhaps least surprising - a ladies man. Houdini proved to be much better at escaping from all manner of devices than at keeping his extramarital affairs secret from his wife. The subject matter of this biography is juicy but the prose manages to be overlong and repetitive and I'll just say that it's way less of a page turner than it could have been. But I read through to the end and now feel that I know just about everything there is to know about Harry Houdini EXCEPT how he managed to pull off all that wonderful magic. He is and probably forever will be the gold standard of mystifying entertainment.

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