The Bar Formerly Known As…

“Things change, and that’s how they become our own.” This was my first thought coming out of a dream, and I wanted to write it down before I forgot. 

I was standing, in the dream, in a pizza place where I’d worked. And the full kitchen had been remodeled. It was laid out in a square before, and now it was L-shaped and more closed in. It was a whole different vibe. I think I was sad about that, but I hadn’t said anything to anyone. Then, the above mentioned thought came to me clear and whole. A group of younger kids was there, early 20s I’d guess, and it was a bar. I hadn’t really been interacting with my environment, but at one point a song played and everyone knew it, so everyone sang it. I got caught up myself and was singing too. This was their bar. It was no longer my workplace. 

And that’s how life goes. We get Mr. Gatti’s on Battlefield or LaMar’s on Campbell or Parkview laid out like a pitchfork until we don’t anymore. Only so many people in the world know those places like I do, and some of them are already gone. 

I’ve often wondered how people from 200 years ago or 1,000 or 5,000 years ago would see our world. The answer is they wouldn’t recognize it. They’d say: “there used to be a barn here, or a creek bed, or a path with trees and a hill,” as they stood next to a Bed, Bath & Beyond. Change may be the hardest thing to accept, but it’s what makes our world unique. And the world can’t be about us for long. For we are fleeting. 

In the parking lot of a Bed, Bath & Beyond in Sunset Hills, Mo.

The truest words I think I’ve heard in my life came from an artist who has now passed: “Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” Someday, I’ll tell my grandkids about him and it’ll get confusing fast. “He had one stage name, and then he was a symbol before he took the old one back.” And they’ll tell their parents, “grandpa’s stories are crazy.” And their parents will smile and nod. 🙂

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Modern Tips for Consuming News Media 

The liberal media ain’t just liberal anymore. I may be stating the obvious to some, but seeing and feeling how divided our country is in the wake of #charlottesville, it occurs to me — a former business reporter from Springfield, Mo. — this could be a great time to offer some quick and valuable, if not obvious, tips for consuming today’s media. If you’re mad and you know it, the media might be partially to blame. Curse you, Fake News! 

1. Every publication has a niche and works to serve its audience. NYTimes serves the interests of different readers/advertisers than FoxNews or the Springfield News-Leader, generally speaking. Think of media like restaurants. Yes, McDonald’s and Black Sheep (high-end local) both have hamburgers on the menu, but their goals, approach and ingredients are wholly different. 

2. The vast majority of news organizations are working to establish facts that serve their audience — often by consistently trying to meet their expectations. FoxNews, for example, has, and I assume will, report accurate facts in news segments (when not offering commentary), but it’s not looking to report on a study funded by a left-leaning nonprofit that finds people in countries with universal health care spend half what the average U.S. citizen pays. No, but it may report extensively on a conservative-backed study that shows there is abuse within the Welfare system. Both would be news, but Fox (like CNN or MSNBC or anyone) wants to be a consistent brand distinguishable from other news outlets. 

3. I’ve said before that media has a money bias, and it’s true (they are all pushing stories they think will get the most attention to help generate the most revenue), but it may be more accurate to say media has a conflict bias. Conflict is just more interesting. “Peeps got along today just fine” is not a headline anyone cares about. There is an old saying, “if it bleeds, it leads.” It’s unfortunate, but often news is the most disturbing thing happening right now. 

4. If you’re a Democrat and you just can’t understand how or why anyone would support our president, it may be a good time to check out conservative-leaning news orgs like National Review or Red State. Or if you’re a Republican and can’t understand why liberals are so hell bent on ruining our country, it might be time to pick up The Atlantic or The New Yorker. 

If you’re angry and don’t know why, the conflict-bias you’re used to may be to blame. Solution: hide under the covers and plug your ears and turn off your smartphone. Or, just get your news from a various sources — particularly if it’s a story you care about — and apply reason to sort fact from audience development. The latter option is much harder, but satisfying. 

Under the Big Tent

The morning comes and pulls clouds back to their stations, manning invisible posts, then marching forward. Ever marching.

Worms wiggle out of cool, wet earth, brushed by itchy grass towers towards a sloping, firm concrete valley. A waiting robin beast has breakfast on a bumpy, sprawling plate. The carnage. The wormanity.

A man walks with a song from a dream in his steps. He wonders about death. He prepares for work. A runner comes his way and turns around. Neither of them wanted to talk. The man admires power lines. 

Sun rays spring from a clown car. The audience applauds on cue as the photons work the crowd in waves. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my. In cages. With collars. Preparing to dance for food. 

Reading the Room: a white guy’s view on racism in America. 

“Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.” -Luke 11:35

For the better part of my life, racism has been a publicly condemnable thing.

Oh, I’ve been under no illusions that it had vanished. But, from my white and privileged perspective, it had gone underground.

This was most obvious in the subtle ways racists reveal themselves.

You see, people tend to project. They more often than not assume others are like them. White racists tend to believe other white people share their views.

In my Midwest blue-collar work life, these folks would let down their guards in quiet moments on the job when other black employees or bosses or customers weren’t around. This was my wife’s experience, too.

While we are both white, together we have raised her oldest son, William, who is mixed.

Will was 5 when I married his mother in 1997.

I remember being a skinny 20-year-old man-boy taking 3-year-old Will to Wal-Mart and being ready to fight the first person to disrespect me or him. Only that day never came.

No one ever discriminated against us to our face. As Will got older, he’d have to experience racism on his own. Ever heard of “driving while black?” I know he’s been messed with by cops on a few occasions. And I’m sure there’s a lot he hasn’t shared. But Will is tough, and this is not a victim’s story.

My point in sharing is that sometimes racists white people misread the room. They are so anxious to have their skewed views and exaggerated sense of superiority supported that they jump the gun and tell a joke about porch monkeys or mention to your wife that another white lady looks like the type to sleep with black guys.

“When a person shows you who they are, believe them.” -Oprah Winfrey

On the few instances I had racists mistake me for a sympathizer, I always made it clear I wasn’t on board. I’d tell them my step-son was mixed, which usually garnered a pretty satisfying reaction. Invariably, they’d backpedal. I believe racism can’t stand up to moral scrutiny. It can only really exist in public when enough people in power see the benefits of propping it up.

And this is what’s concerning about the recent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacist see today’s political environment as the right time to come together.

And while the president condemned the violence that surfaced there, he stopped short of laying blame where it lies — with the passionate white nationalist movement that helped elect him.

The good news is there was wide and bipartisan condemnation of the white supremacists’ views on display in Virginia. Many on the right including Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voiced their opposition to the Nazi-evoking and Confederate-flag-waving alt-right demonstrators.

But today feels different. It feels like a time and place where racists aren’t afraid to be racists anymore. I pray I’m just misreading the room.