The Tactical Teacher

art_teacherI’ve thought about this a lot. In another universe far far away, I did a lot of tactical training with handguns. I have studied the matter closely, run the drills and know intimately the feeling of a .45 automatic pistol bucking violently in my hands as it launched its payload downrange. I have trained with soldiers, cops, Air Force A-Team operators and Army Rangers, many of them veterans of “the sandbox.” In those circles, the definition of a pistol is “something you use to fight your way back to your gun.” I have applied some serious brain time to this issue.

The “arm the teachers” idea is rooted in a fantasy, the “good guy with a gun” myth so popular among gun enthusiasts – the notion that a normal citizen with a handgun can stop an armed assailant before a crime is committed. This fantasy rests on a number of shaky assumptions: The armed citizen will be psychologically capable of firing a disabling shot under pressure; the armed citizen will be psychologically prepared for the attack and act with courage; the bullet fired by the citizen will stop the attack; the setup will be perfect to shoot the attacker without shooting other people in the process; the armed citizen will conscientiously develop and maintain skill with the weapon; the armed citizen will correctly use cover and movement to avoid being shot themselves; the armed citizen will learn and practice failure drills; the armed citizen will learn and successfully use retention techniques to avoid being disarmed by the assailant; the armed citizen will not get shot in the process of being a hero — You get the idea.

Now, imagine your third grade English teacher doing that. I’ll wait.



I was staying with my grandmother. I called her “Granny.” I did something wrong. I don’t remember now what it was. She gave me a knife and told me to go out and cut her a switch to whip me with. This is how I was raised. The person you are about to discipline you first give a sharp knife. I went and cut a green shoot and brought it back to her, but when I gave it to her, I ran. I was four or five. At first she tried to follow me, but less than halfway around the house, I looked back and she wasn’t following me anymore. I found her sitting on the back steps crying because I had shown such disrespect as to run from her. She couldn’t chase me. Her heart wasn’t good. I begged her to give me a whipping. It hurt me badly to see her crying, but her heart wasn’t in it. This was one of the formative experiences of my life.


Cutting the Cable

LinksysCutting the Cable

Spectrum upped our bill to nearly $200/month and then scrambled the signal, forcing us to lease yet another cable box for the second TV, so we decided to cut the cable – turn the damned thing off. This meant internet only for entertainment. We upgraded the modem to 50 megabit and I bought a new triple band Linksys router which is designed for homes with a lot of wireless devices. We can now watch TV on our iPhones, Fire tables, and the Smart TV. Installing this new equipment and getting all of the wireless devices talking to each other was an exercise in uber-geekdom. I got it all done, so now I can watch baseball on my phone, tablet or TV. I have to say that I don’t think normal people can do this. It’s just too complicated. I have been doing computers since the very first 256K IBM PC so I have an intuition about this stuff. I’m lucky. I don’t see how people coming to it new can figure it out. That’s what the cable companies are banking on.


The Totality

The TotalityEclipse

I was really expecting to get something cosmic out of the eclipse, visions, the dead appearing, a surrealist landscape bathed in weird blue light… something. I made hard boiled eggs, and then egg salad for a sandwich. I fed the cat. She ate and went back to sleep on one of the kitchen chairs. The light began to fade and I turned on the electric lights in the kitchen – I’m such a romantic. I found a nice live news feed from NBC and watched it on my Fire tablet. The light was getting dimmer slowly. I went outside and looked around. It was kind of weird, like 7 PM light at 2:30 in the afternoon. I smoked a cigar and tried to soak up whatever strange vibes might be around, checking how I was feeling – the feeling was heavy, by the way. I felt heavy. I went back inside and picked up my dishes. Soon the light was coming back up. It was passed. It never got completely dark here, just dim, a metaphor perhaps.

If there was a mystic vision it was that for a couple of days we all seemed to be on the same page about the eclipse. Millions travelled to the perfect spot to watch it. Scholars dug up the mythology of the eclipse and scientists overheated their computers calculating the track and the times. The bloggers blogged and the peeps tweeted. It was a rare moment of mental unity, not unlike John Glenn’s first Mercury flight. That one was so powerful that my third grade teacher let me listen to my transistor radio in class. The eclipse was not quite as dramatic but it had the unifying feeling that the early spaceflights did.


There is a such thing as Truth

There is a such thing as Truth, and it matters. Some would have us believe that there is no objective truth, and that all we have are subjective perceptions – “Reality is only what I think it is.” Those who say that are manipulative and they are wrong. There is an objective reality with which we all interact. The human brain is the most powerful information processing system in the world. It is perfectly capable of perceiving truth and reality – objective, shared reality. There is a telephone pole on the corner. Anyone who hits it with their car is going to get messed up. This is truth. Individual subjectivity lasts right up to the moment of impact. At that point, shared objective reality takes over, and it will be the same cops and ambulance who answer the call, regardless of the subjective perception of the crashed driver. Truth really matters. There is a such thing as right or wrong, true or false. Life does not afford us the luxury of making our own rules. The telephone pole still guards the corner.


When You Look Around the World


When you look around the world things can appear grim and scary. I have some suggestions:


1. Be nice to somebody today.

2. Learn to think about other people.

3. Take pictures of the people and the world around you.

4. Check your address. If it’s not Aleppo be thankful.

5. Answer a little kid when it talks to you.

6. Stay in the shower longer than you have to.

7. Spend a few minutes with someone who is hurting.

8. Read a book.

9. Pick up a piece of litter.

10. Kiss that favorite someone for no reason whatsoever.

11. Indulge in silliness.

12. Fix a great meal. Share it with someone you love.

13. Go outside your house.

14. Remember a day that made you glad to be alive.

15. Write down something that happened.

16. Make someone laugh.

17. Refinish a piece of furniture.

18. Take a nap without feeling guilty.

19. Breathe deeply.

20. Dance in the kitchen.


Bukowski’s Ghost



Bukowski’s Ghost


I really don’t want to write like you as beautiful as it is,

too much pain, too much semen and maggots and blood.

I read you like a junkie shooting up, a rush to the brain.

When I was young I was cute with great hair

and the girls loved me, and I didn’t get turned down

for jobs or sex or clubs I wanted to get into.

My skin was clear. I didn’t suffer your crucifixions.

I was tough and mean with very fast fists,

and no one picked on me because I would hurt them

without even thinking. Not proud of that.

It was simply the way it was for a southern boy who

understood the brutal truths very early.


You were the kind of guy I felt sorry for, a pitiful loser,

foreigner, edge-liver, dredger of all that was ugly

and broken in the world, the ragged sax player on the corner

pumping out heart breaking jazz to the bus stop,

the indifferent traffic with windows rolled up in their oh so

precious cars, and bank clerks on the busses who

felt superior to you as the chrome beasts belched smoke.

Your reed was black with their smoke and still you

played on oblivious to their indifference, knowing in your heart

that your notes mattered, and you just didn’t give

a shit whether anyone was listening or not – you played.

I was not born with that courage or tolerance to pain.


I have a confession to make to you, and I hate confessions.

I believed the world about you, critics and small minds,

that you were the dirty old man who wrote about drunken

sex, vulgar roaches, ugly beaches and bars and whores

and everything that would make us awaken vomiting the horror,

and they were right, but they were so terribly wrong.

So terribly wrong. You were so tuned in, so engaged with what

the rest of us weren’t even seeing, feeling it all, like few

ever have and I thank whatever that I didn’t have to live in your

skin, or feel all of that. Feel all of that and shake.

Feel all of that and shake, the boil on your neck and the last beer

and cigar at three in the morning when no place is open.


You lived with a whore for ten years and loved her purely like an

Old Testament prophet, and when she finally died from

too much booze and life, you grieved for her for the rest of your life.

You wrote poems to her thirty years after she was gone,

poems that I read after you were gone, and I could feel her in them.

That is being a real man, even when you saw yourself as

a frightened child cowering in fear from the playground bullies,

those whose faces I would have broken with my hands.

Your love was so deep, so much deeper than my wicked hands,

so much deeper than Mozart, Faulkner or Freud.

You taught me something about loving people I won’t forget,

loving the broken, damaged, unlovable people.


I am bleeding now, my red life dripping onto the keyboard.

The cat bit me and the wound will not stop bleeding.

You loved cats, five as I recall. I don’t know what your cats

were like but mine is a ruthless killer who draws blood.

A friend of mine said, “You have to draw enough blood to

the surface that some of it comes off on the paper” – art.

Maybe that is why you loved the cats. Did they make you bleed?

Did you curse them in the night for the wounds they made?

Did you admire the purity of their cruel bloody fangs and claws?

Did you call them over to drink of your life as it spilled

onto the linoleum floor, the toaster, the sofa stained with beer?

My cat is in the alley right now because she knows I am mad.