December 28, 2010

Going Forward

Man... "Going Forward" ranks right up there with "Go From There," and "It Is What It Is," and "At The End Of The Day" isn't it? Yet another popular phrase that people don't even hear themselves say after a while.

But, you know, going forward I'd just like to say that I'm sitting here thinking 2011 is going to be an interesting year. I'm not saying it's going to be a good year, just interesting. There's a couple things I have going on right now that I haven't mentioned at all that I have some hopes for. One of them a collaboration on a project that came up out of the blue this past fall. Another that is kind of related and kind of not.

I have the next piece of writing already in mind and will be getting this last ridiculously boring thing out into the hands of someone who is going to try and find a home for it in the next week or so.

What are the chances of me finding myself in some other employment by this time next year? Well that's hard to say. I've been looking in earnest for a couple weeks now with little luck. And just in the last few days here all of a sudden we've had an uptick in activity in signed contracts and actual deposits. So who knows? It can't be that the economy is slowly moving again, can it? My work is usually like the proverbial canary in a coal mine. For better or worse. Time will tell.

I just have a general sense that something good is around the corner and I can't really put my finger on it. I'm not so sure it has anything to do with me so much as to the people I'm close to. One person in particular is overdue for great news. But this is nebulous and I don't know what it is at all. Just a sense.

It's just I'm through with years clicking over before I have been paying attention. Jesus, my granddaughter is going to be 8 this coming year. EIGHT? When the hell did that happen and where was i for that all this time?

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens when you grow old. We all know about it and laugh about it and pretty much agree with it. It's sort of like the Betty White Syndrome (which I just now made up) wherein when you get old enough you can pretty much say anything you want and get away with it. I'm sensing a general drift towards that kind of power in my life. We'll see if I just chicken out.

In 2011 we are having our 40th high school reunion and the thing that has struck me the most are the number of people from our class of '71 who have croaked. I still don't know how someone who was generally outside the lines in school manages to get on his SECOND reunion committee in ten years, but I'm beginning to suspect it's because I ended up being one of the people with the least amount of baggage from those years. It still astonishes me the number of people who want nothing to do with this. Not that I don't feel that view is valid, just that I don't understand it. Seems to me a person would have to have baggage to feel that way, no matter how much they say it's just a matter of interest. I look with suspicion upon it.

In 2011 I will be telling you about a slew of things that will be making their way back into the small press world. The time has come to quit sleeping through it all.

In 2011 I am going to get below 200 and stay there.

In 2011 my oldest daughter gets her Masters. She will be a master accountant. But since both of my daughters are already currently making more money than me a year I'm already pretty proud of them.

None of these are resolutions. Resolutions have the character of things that may or may not be. I'm simply telling you "what it is."

Yet another stupid saying like "going forward" and shit like that.

December 27, 2010

When You Come Right Down To It

I'm generally an optimist.

I always believe it's not as bad as we think it is. I generally feel there's always a chance. I'm pretty much open to new music, new ideas, new people.

I still think I can do it. I have this feeling that something else can always happen.

People who lay out that negative vibe, even if it is negativity disguised in "trying to help," I can usually set aside and walk away from.

I don't much like to hang out with negative people or people who always have an exception, a cutting remark, a justification for their opinion even when it wasn't called for, a desire to interject their critique about something when the drift of the subject points another way. I try to walk away as much as possible. Stay focused. Don't take it to heart. Keep moving.

You point to something funny and they have to tell you why something about that something is something they don't like.

They're very willing to tell you why you need to get "practical" and "down to earth" and live in the "real world," but their own horizons are steeled into a strict, narrow avenue of what is acceptable. Unless of course someone else is doing the exact thing they just criticized you for, and then "they are a great example."

I long ago realized that I'm not going to make everybody happy. I'm not going to satisfy other people's expectations. Nor am I at the mercy of those expectations.

I'm saying all this but I'm not completely sure why. Maybe it's just my inner Stuart Smalley . Maybe I'm honing in on a "resolution" for the coming year. Yeah I do those sometimes, when they're needed.

I think this one may be needed this year. We shall see, eh?

December 26, 2010

Happy New Christmas Whatever

What the hell is this doing here?

Have you ever been with MrsRW and I when we've gone and vacationed in the tropics?


Well, if you did, you'd understand what this was doing here...

December 22, 2010

Oh Look! Christmas Bullets!

  • Yesterday I took the day off work to take my grand daughter and MrsRW into the city to go see the Goodman Theater's annual production of "A Christmas Carol" and also to have dinner under the Great tree at Macy's. The production this year was rather flat and the food at the Walnut Room was ridiculously horrid. Either the bloom is off the rose for the play or whatever, but it just didn't sparkle like it did in years past. Not sure I was 100% convinced. Still we had SECOND ROW seats (I was wrong about 4th row, what do I know?) and that was fun. But the Walnut Room (this was better when run by Marshall Field's) had an almost three hour wait and my vegetables were cold, dry, and tasted like they were sitting in somebody's basement a second ago. Breakfast is the only thing to go there for. Champagne and waffles they still do well. Dinner... not so much.

  • Still, seen through the eyes of seven-year-old Emma this was a great day. At the end of the show when people were taking their bows one of the actors specifically pointed her out and waved to her. She lit up and waved back and was on top of the world after. Plus at dinner a fairy came by and sprinkled her with pixie dust and granted her a wish. Plus she said her chicken fingers were fantastic. So it was a success even if MrsRW and I spent most the the day squinting and going "wtF?"

  • So I don't know. We either go to the Walnut Room for breakfasts only or find another place. or change our tradition. This was unacceptable. The tree was great this year and Emma sat where she could have it in view completely while she ate. We have some decisions to make before next year I guess.

  • It is just about as gray and icy out there as I have ever seen it. It is an unbelievable gray right now. I'm not sure this gray ever showed up in nature before. Like some redheads I've seen.

  • I commented yesterday to MrsRW that coming down into the city for Christmas anymore will get you one of two things: A. a justified and eternal conviction that humanity is comprised of a bunch of fucking boneheads worthy of hate, disdain and ridicule or B. Christmas back in the city is just a wonderful, colorful, exhilarating joy.

  • I'll get back to you on that.

  • Well you'll wish you were here Christmas Eve because I'm making roast beef for the daughters and their associated peoples. Then Christmas Day at the oldest daughter's with the whole family (plus the shoehorn needed to fit us all in there). You know you want to be at my house Friday though. Admit it.

  • What I haven't told anybody is that I'm back on the stomach-watch. Sad to say at the opening of this month I was (don't hate me) up to my highest ever weight - 213. Oh dear. Last night I came in at 203. I've been doing a spot of running, cutting all portions, no fast food AT ALL, lots of greens, no milk and TONS OF WATER instead of beer or soda pop or anything else at meals. Plus fresh-squeezed lemonade (from real lemons = no corn syrup from the concentrates) and smoothies. And fruit. And more veggies. But that's 10 pounds in 22 days and probably I have a disease because that's a little drastic don't you think? Maybe I'm dying. Who knows?

  • Yeah I was worried about this week and the poundage because of the holidays and all. I expected to put a stop to this weight loss as of yesterday but luckily dinner was inedible so I didn't screw it up there. What's amazing is that last weekend i took my daughters to Stephanie Izzard's (you know, Top Chef winner season 4 blah blah blah) place and we p-i-g-g-e-d out BIG time. So again - wtf. I probably have cancer or something and don't know it yet. Best I can figure.

  • And on a lighter note, in the past week I subscribed to TWO anarchist publications. They're so cute. If I wasn't on somebody's list before I will be now. But oh well I'm dying so who cares.

  • I should be back in beforehand but if I'm not a Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. Whether you want it or not.
  • December 16, 2010

    Where I Am Now

    I already have the idea for my next bit of fiction and can't wait to get going on it. The problem is I'm still not done with the current thing. I'm a little anxious to get started on the new thing and, as expected, I already hate the old thing. But I have promised to send it to someone who wants to try and do something with it in January so I guess I better get that done.

    Don't get excited, I hate everything I've ever written. Everything.

    If anything I think I've found the voice I've been looking for all these years.
    There's not a lot of verbiage anymore. No long-winded paragraphs and descriptions until you've got every last freaking detail.
    Don't write the boring stuff; the big, long paragraphs that just make everybody yawn.
    Dialog dialog dialog.
    As few adjectives as possible.
    And one sentence paragraphs. A lot of them. In a row.
    Your reader should be on page thirty before they even know it, and wrapped up in the story so that they don't even realize they're that far in.
    Take out all the flummery. Distill everything down to as few words as possible. That's the hard part.
    Write 6,000 words and cut 5,500 of them. Then do it again tomorrow.
    Expect that most of what you did yesterday is shit.
    Don't fall in love with anything you create.
    Just tell a story and don't be full of yourself. A five-year-old can tell a story.

    Hemingway said writing is easy. "All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

    Then don't take the blood seriously.

    On another front, I've taken out a subscription to an anarchist magazine. Anarchists are so cute. They realize what they're saying is impossible but they keep going for it anyway. I saw a cartoon, said "libertarians are anarchists with money." But if the people who call themselves libertarians - as it is understood these days - knew the anarchist roots of the idea they'd be shocked. Shocked I tell you.

    But I was browsing through Quimby's Bookstore the other day and OMG saw issue #103 of The Match. Do you realize I first saw The Match when I was in HIGH SCHOOL??? Like 1969 or '70 (yes, I've been weird for a while now, and your point IS?). The same guy is doing it. Fred has got to be in his 70's by now and has lived pretty much off the grid since forever, spouting what he styles as "ethical anarchism." There is no website, so forget that. You have to really look to find an address to connect with him via snail mail. And if you can manage to get a subscription you have to realize that he has no publishing schedule. You'll get it. But you'll get it when he's done so bugger off.

    Still in all that's not the one I just subscribed to, but just the same it's Issue freaking #103 and I think forty years ago it was like Issue #2 or #8 I was looking at.

    And NO I'm not joining the movement. I stopped dreaming of the impossible a long time ago. If everything was anarchism the only people in charge would be gangs of roving thugs. Whoever was armed would say what's what. Which is kind of what we have now except on a worldwide scale. So there is that.

    Okay so tonight I'll throw out most of yesterday's work and plow in again. It's like a dam broke but most of what comes out is swill.

    December 15, 2010

    Another Reason I Love My City

    Because they're all a bunch of bums anyway and furthermore we know it.

    But there's some good scene shots in here too.

    You wished you lived here. Admit it.

    Have fun...

    December 13, 2010


    Just a bit of housekeeper btw. Notice, please, some alterations in the all-important sidebar. I have saved two of my favorite comments from over the years and added them in. I have to say that after starting right along with the internet (beginning with the newsgroups and carrying all the way to streaming video) I've grown a pretty thick internet skin. If any of you have read my shit on other boards or blogs where it looks like I'm pissed off, you got it wrong I'm afraid. From the start, you should know, if you ever want to escape some of the ill-will and mean people on the inter-tubes... all you have to do is turn off your computer. No? Bad guys gone like poof.

    So if you have anybody out there who will seriously yell at me - not for-show yelling, I can tell - I'd be more than happy to add them as well.

    Brian? Gino? I wish I would have kept the comments from that one-eyed Catholic fascist troll when we were doing the Boileryard. Wut wuz i thinkin...

    But ALSO I have added a little thing called "Exceptional People and Things." So far I got two links in it. I'm looking for what blows my mind. It's not a link list or a "give me a link I give you one back" crap. These are going to be things that, if we were in a bar having a couple of drinks and you said "so recommend some things I haven't seen online" I'd lead you here.

    The first one, Hyperbole and a Half, is the flat-out funniest blog on the net. Sorry. No contest. End of story. Forget about it. Allie's artwork can be found everywhere from amongst the denizens of Anonymous to kids who have dog stories to tell and swipe an image to print on their report. Hyperbole and a Half) is flat out genius. I'm sure Allie is a long lost daughter of mine from some illicit liason I didn't remember.

    Below that is the direct channel to the Wikileaks mirror sites. If you haven't read one cable, then what are you talking about?

    And... for the finale... another tune from before 1968 that has been covered by the Punks and deserves to be seen as a true feeder for everything that broke out in the late 70's. Click the link below that says "Enjoy" in red.


    December 12, 2010


    We are the greatest people on Earth. Our form of government is the best. In religious belief and practice we are exactly right. And we are also the best fighters in the world. As a people we are the wisest, politically the most free, and socially the most developed. Other nations may fail and fall; we are safe. Our history is a narrative of the triumph of righteousness among the people. We see these forces working through every generation of our glorious past. Our future growth and success are as certain as the rules of mathematics. Providence is always on our side. We have been divinely selected in order to save and purify the world through our example. If other nations will only accept our religious and political principles, and our general attitude toward life, they soon will be, no doubt, as happy and prosperous as we are.

    December 09, 2010

    Needs Be Said

    Those of you who are keeping an eye on the news have probably, by now, read where it has been stated that Anonymous has been staging dos attacks against Visa and Mastercard and a small number of websites that are actively opposed to Wikileaks' diplomatic cable dumps.

    You should know that, first of all, Anonymous is not an entity with any semblance of cohesive or clearly defined leadership. Actually, anyone can claim to be "Anonymous." As is explained in the link above it is more an ongoing internet meme than anything else.

    As a former member of the Church of Scientology, I've been very happy to see that Anonymous has taken on those purveyors or fraud full-on and have created what is now a campaign of cultural inoculation against the "Church" that is going on close to three years.

    However because I am listed publicly as an "ex who has spoken out against," - a listing I am happy to be a part of - there is nothing about me that can claim to be "Anonymous," because I'm not. Technically I'd actually more associate myself with Project Chanology, which is a portion of / splinter from / aspect of / sub set to / different than / what is known as "Anonymous."

    After the unrest in Iran where that oppressive regime began to control internet and other electronic media access and thus hampered the activities of the anti-government protest movement, Anonymous showed the dissidents how to get around it. But the part of Anonymous that did that was not always completely the same part of Anonymous which was dealing with Scientology.

    Early on Project Chanology/Anonymous used dos attacks against Scientology websites but reversed themselves and, in fact, are opposed to the tactic; if only because a person doesn't have to do anything "illegal" to expose the cult - all you have to do is just talk about it and people will be all "wtf??"

    It should be explained that the dos attacks against MasterCard and Visa et al were done because those entities disallowed contributions made online going to Wikileaks. It was not done to get anybody's info or anything like that, as far as I can tell.

    And although I am in favor, so far, of Julian Assange's general outlook and utility, I am against dos attacks. I'm not sure how people do that, but if it isn't illegal it probably ought to be.

    I can't answer for whatever part of Anonymous is responsible for the "cyberwar" and, though sympathetic to the cause, I'm not for the tactic.

    Just to be clear, that "part" of Anonymous concerned directly with the cult of Scientology published a very informative explanation of the situation and you can read it here.

    These kind of things have happened and will happen again, if only to demonstrate the fact that there simply is no centralized leadership in this shape-changing, amoebalike entity known as Anonymous. People have even done mischief in its name with the express purpose of blackwashing Anonymous.

    We'll get back to my usual bloggy blather after this. I just thought it needed be said.

    aka Robert S

    December 08, 2010

    No Idea What This Post Is About

    (You'll need to clickee these pictures to get the whole deal)

    So let's see what do I have to say today? Christmas is coming. This Saturday I'm taking my daughters to Stephanie Izzard's place. My second time, their first. When I went on my birthday I was apparently the only one having fun. I liked it fine & thought it not only worth the trip into town but up to standards for a name chef.

    In two weeks we're taking the grand daughter to the Goodman to see A Christmas Carol again. It's a kind of tradition around this time of year. I think they've been running it 33 years now. Last year I got in to the ticket rush late and the best we could do was upper balcony. Grand daughter didn't mind & had a great time. But THIS year I scored 4th Row tickets, center stage-right. I think I dove in the second or third day the tickets came available. It's a big deal in Chicago. It's going to blow her mind to practically be able to reach out and touch it. She's in Second Grade. In other words 7 going on 13.

    Then after the show, which is a matinee, we're taking her to Macy's what used to be Marshall Field's where, since 1907, the Walnut Room has been operating on the department store's 7th floor. In particular this time of year because that's where you can sit under the Tree which goes up every Christmas season. Normally breakfast is the best - because we always got champagne with our waffles and that is just evil good - but we're doing dinner this time because it's the only time we'll be in the city before Christmas Day. But, my God, I first sat under the tree when I was in second grade... and now here's my grand daughter. Did you know that the ceiling in the main part of the store is by Tiffany?

    Tis true indeed. You can even travel up to the whatever-floor-that-is and get so close you can see where there are little glass mosaic pieces missing. But it's pretty awesome. I can't imagine what that might be worth up there, dollar-wise, but all of this - and more - is what makes me happy to still be living in the town I was born is. Even if the snow we had last weekend has frozen solid white because we haven't been over 20 since SUNDAY FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!

    No but I can't think of living anywhere else.

    Except Gibraltar.

    Of course that's not something likely to happen because pretty much I think MrsRW and I will never end up very far from the grandchildren so I don't know where I get this.

    Except to say that if what I see about to happen here in the US actually does happen - meaning the reins of government about to be taken up sometime in the next 4 years by forces that will represent some kind of anti-intellectual, common man, xenophobic, foreign-intervention minded, God-fearing gun owner ideal - I'd surely consider leaving if it were possible. Which it won't be, but I'm just saying. Lately everywhere I look I'm seeing signs of a groundswell of narrow-minded reactionaries gearing up to take over. And I don't think it can be stemmed any more.

    And so I was thinking about "hmmm what places that are a little out of the way and yet have all the comforts you'd need, plus English because as an American I can only speak one language, would be cool to go to?" And prancing around the internet I come up with Gibraltar don't ask me how or why. It looks exotic without being threatening, or whatever that is.

    But the more I look at it the more interesting it becomes. A great mix of Spanish and English, Moor and Moroccan. never gets below 55, mostly Mediterranean cloudless in the summer tempered by the sea to rarely get too far over 85. There's 30,000 people who live there and it is far enough away from all the coming troubles while still being close enough to cultural centers. I mean the chances of us actually ever getting to Spain (my dream) are bad enough so this is a big pipe dream but, you know, it's kind of a game.

    And yet, truth be told, every time I'm away from Chicago more than a few days I miss it. And I miss it bad. Even if I'm on a family vacation where everybody's with us, I miss it. The place I mean. I like knowing that if I wanted to I could get in my car and drive to my old neighborhood. My White Sox and my Bears are here. I don't really mind the weather (we don't tell you about May and September when the days have warmed up and the clear nights are cool and things are just about perfect - we only talk about the bitter winters and muggy Augusts because we don't want to give you any ideas you might want to live here, actually), and if I'm not used to it by now wtf?

    So I'm still the same crazy mixed-up kid I always was I guess. In the same place I've been for a while now.

    December 05, 2010

    Merry Christmas

    The American Humanist Association has begun a campaign to publicize their associations and point of view this holiday season much to the consternation of some believers who are organizing a counter-campaign. BACKGROUND INFO.

    One of the actions in the broader campaign now engaged are the placards soon to be on public transportation in Fort Worth Texas, extolling the humanist view relative to the Christmas season. This has been countered with an announced boycott of public transportation by Christian groups from a wide range of denominations.

    None of the ads from the humanist groups are being placed anywhere an ad for a religious group can't be placed. This is a market issue, not a "state/religion" one. In that public transportation sells ads in the marketplace it is not a government sponsorship of one opinion or the other, it is a sponsorship of the party paying money to have the advertising done.

    I have a deeply nuanced set of opinions about this kind of thing that I have struggled with a long time and through the various points of view I have held and do hold presently about religion, God, humanism, freedom, rights, group intentions and all that those ideas and concepts define.

    To begin with it must be said that the viewpoints I'm going to express on the ads and the campaigns are informed by this set of personal opinions...

    1. I consider myself a Christian, though I'm certain there are people who would not grant me that title.

    2. I don't consider the Bible meant to be taken as a literal thing. For me it is a book assembled by humans that went through a process of addition and subtraction after much consideration by humans, who are not infallible. I also consider this to be the case for all works considered "holy books" such as the Qu'ran et al. I do not believe they are given to man by God. I believe they are given to man by men who thought about God a lot for a real long time.

    3. I believe there was a Jesus. I don't know what his nature was. Is he God himself or a prophet or a very interesting guy who shook some things up back in the day, I can't say. I want to believe he was real and special but I haven't decided what I think his nature was. He's a good guy, at the very least, and a good example for us to follow. I have no problem calling myself a Christian to the degree I understand what he was up to in the stories that have been passed down - that were written by men.

    4. I sometimes have a hard time figuring out why, if a person professes to be a Christian, they feel it's okay to participate in things I would have a hard time picturing Jesus involved in. But if I'm to be honest I know that those folks feel the same way about me for other things, so that's kind of moot.

    5. I believe the dialog between religionist and humanist is probably the most important dialog being held anywhere, and it's a shame when it devolves into something below the level of dialog at any time.

    6. I look on the Christmas season as a time where both spiritual and secular traditions merge to form a cultural event. Since understanding the works of Joseph Campbell (quite possibly the largest influence on my personal life philosophy than any one else) I very much appreciate the value of tradition, ceremony, cultural events, and even ritual as being valuable to humans. I also understand that they can be perverted to fit the views of humans. But I view that as the humans' fault, not the fault of the traditions, ceremony, etc. themselves.

    7. I also feel that way about religion. Though many humanists will decry religion as an institution as being a root cause of suffering and difficulties and oppression etc., I have always rejected that notion as not only self-serving but incomplete, as a thought. The only thing equally absurd to me than a humanist giving the "religion is the basis of all problems" screed is the religionist giving the "religion is the answer to all problems" screed. They are both equally mistaken because they have stopped their thought process a couple steps too early. My point being that a good idea of any kind can be screwed up by humans. Extrapolate at will.

    8. I hear Christians who complain about humanists using "our season" to publicize themselves and I can't fathom what their reasoning is. They don't have some kind of proprietary right to a time on a calendar and they don't have a right to make a call for someone else. The humanists rightfully point out that this is the perfect time to present their case because of the general cultural activity. It does attract attention to their cause. The only thing I find disingenuous on the part of the humanists is that I don't see similar campaigns during Ramadan for the same reason. The Qu'ran, if their humanism is more than an affectation, is also not a "holy" book and Islam is not without some of the same faults as Christianity or any other man-made coda. I could take the humanist more seriously if they were as equally vocal. Surely there are people from the so-called "Muslim world" who are also atheists and might appreciate the freedom.

    So tying all these viewpoints of mine into what I feel about the back-and-forth that always seems to take place this time of year between all the opposing forces in our society I can only say that, when the girl in the video linked above says "it's hurtful" to Christians I want to point out that the law provides for expression, not whether or not you feel butthurt.

    And I have no problem with people who'd rather say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I don't have a problem with folks who "want to put Christ back in Christmas," and I don't have a problem with humanist ads during the season. People have a right to boycott whatever they want, to buy ads wherever it is allowed, and believe as their conscience dictates.

    But I still think we need to get out of each other's faces while at the same time not being so all "offended" by what this or the other group thinks.

    I know the humanist concern is to what degree religionists influence things they have to live with, and vice versa. But that's what dialog, the Constitution, and private conscience are for. Sometimes I think the rest of it is all a big show for the audience. On both sides.

    So Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays. Or Nothing In Particular. As you see fit.

    December 03, 2010

    Walking Away From Yourself

    At the park district clubhouse I was running up on the track above the basketball court yesterday, trying to beat down some of this ridiculous blubber that has somehow attached itself out of nowhere to my mid-section over the past year or six. I walk/run/mostly/walk for a solid hour at a good clip (enough to get my lungs and heart pumping) because I read that it's only after 45 minutes that you start to work on the fat you're hauling around. I hope that's true what I read, anyway.

    But that's just the set-up.

    The thing is that for the second time this week we've had to walk/run around a young girl who is obviously unclear on the concept.

    The first time I saw her she'd walk to the back windows and put her water bottle on the ledge and appear to be talking for a few minutes while we pass her a couple times. Then she'll get out on the track and walk at a respectable pace for, like, twenty steps until she just stops dead cold on the inner lane and bounces on her toes. Then she'll fiddle with her hair and talk like she's on a cell phone.

    Everybody has to pass her as she stands there and then on the next lap she's fourteen steps further down where she stops again and goes through the whole thing again. Then she'll walk a lap and run ten feet and stop on the turn. Then she'll stand by the window, point to her bottle, and cross the lanes to get a drink without looking if anybody is coming up behind her.

    If you're walking on the inside lane and the person behind you is jogging on the outside lane and you both approach her at the same time while she's standing there you have to manage it carefully or you'll all end up crashing into one another.

    The first time I saw her start I was already thirty minutes or so into the walk/run and was at the point of pushing myself, physically, so I wasn't going around with 100% awareness. I was into the Holy iPod and though I was cognizant of my surroundings, you know - hey, when you work out seriously you can get in a zone.

    So the first time I saw her antics I wasn't really paying attention that closely. I saw a small woman that looked like she was standing on the track talking on a cell phone. So I figured - not that big a deal. A temporary glitch. Maybe her kid is calling her and she'll handle her stuff and so what. I went around her.

    And then I went around her again. And then again. And we were all going around her. And I wasn't happy. I wanted to stop or slow down and say "Ma'am if you're going to talk on the phone please step off to one of the corners so you don't get run over."

    I can't explain how, but you just know that the rest of the people working out are also getting a little miffed about this obstacle that you pass and pass and then on the next lap she's stopped twenty paces down from where she was last time.

    Bouncing on her toes, talking to herself, fiddling with her hair, pointing at nothing.

    Which is exactly when it finally dawned on me that she's not some selfish, thoughtless person who has no clue how this running track is supposed to work; she's a person just doing the best she can. She's not as capable as the rest of us to process what's going on. In her frame of reference she's "working out." And for all we know this is a very big part of her day. Even if she only does three laps in the half hour she's out there; she's doing the best she can with her autism.

    And I was thinking, well you know, she's somebody's daughter. Imagine what her parents must have felt when they first realized she was autistic. Imagine bringing your newborn home and eventually finding out this is what your child is going to be like and there's precious little you're going to be able to do about it.

    But that wasn't my first reaction. My first reaction was "what a nuisance." And actually my second reaction was "get the hell out of the God damned way" and my third reaction was "I swear t'God if you're standing there when I come around again I'm going to tell you to move your pokey little ass."

    I didn't though. I mean, I'm the type to do that - in case you haven't already figured that out by now. I'm going to be the one who says something. The guy who will open his mouth and say what everybody else is thinking but are too polite to say. I was going to. But I didn't. And to be honest I'm not sure why, on that pass, I held my fire.

    Which is exactly when I noticed what the situation actually was. Which was embarrassing to me, if only in my own mind.

    So I was more careful as I ran. I tried to not make a whole lot of huffing and scuffing sounds when I went by. I gave her a wide berth. There were people who were still getting pissed off but it occurred to me... she's somebody's daughter. I can't explain that. I thought about my daughters. My grand daughter. And how I would feel if any one of them was afflicted with this kind of condition that would by necessity limit their interaction with the world. Forever.

    That was Tuesday. The first time. Yesterday, Thursday, I watched as she came onto the track all decked out in her running suit, going for her work out. And for some goofy, probably self-serving, reason I made it a point to kind of watch out for her. You know; run careful, walk responsibly, and be on the lookout for some shmuck like me who was going to be pissed off about her ways and maybe say something.

    And I'm going along with that frame of mind and, as it does when you workout hard, you get in a zone. And I felt like such a self-satisfying, self-righteous little twit because of my new Knight In White Armor attitude towards her.

    It's hard to tell sometimes, isn't it, about the degrees of one's mental capacity. There are people who wouldn't want her on the track because they wouldn't want other people to see them being associated with "someone like that." They'd be embarrassed to be seen doing the same thing she was. But that would be a symptom of their mental health, wouldn't it? Yes it would. It's called insecurity.

    It's often at the bottom of self-righteousness, isn't it?

    There are times I just really want to walk away from myself. I swear.