Waiting sleep

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 23, 2017 8:51 AM

Every night, as the sun goes down and the light of the day fades to black, the two solar inverters in our garage begin to pulse red. They do it quietly and steadily. Then, as the last of the light disappears, the red light flashes faster, briefly. On the LCD display it reads “Waiting sun.” Then they power completely down until sunrise. For some reason, this ritual occurred to me as I awaited sleep to revisit me early this morning. 

Lately I have been suffering from a relatively benign case of insomnia. I go to bed and fall asleep, but wake up somewhere between 1 and 2, and then can’t seem to get back to sleep for at least an hour, sometimes more. It happens almost nightly. I’ve tried to stop doing any work or even looking at the computer at least an hour before I go to bed. I’ve tried eating earlier than our usual too-late dinners. It works sometimes, but most nights, I have some variation on sleep-wake-stay awake-eventually sleep again. It leads to serial exhaustion. 

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing I’m thinking. My work load is too much. And I’ve been traveling for meetings. And did you have to go back to school? When I saw my doctor for a checkup recently, my blood pressure was a little higher than normal. She asked, innocently, if I have a lot of stress in my life. I suppressed a laugh, and said, maybe a little more than normal. 

The thing is I’m not quite sure how to alleviate any of it. I need the work to pay the bills. I need school because I love it, and I’m committed now for two years. The work travel will subside a bit but that will be supplanted in the near term with holiday stuff. We’re going to Paso Robles again for Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’re going to Des Moines the second weekend in December for a wedding, but we get to see Kevin’s family and Justin is coming. Then it’s full speed toward Christmas. Roy and Bobbi will be coming and we can’t wait. This year, we’re also having a New Year’s Eve party.

Plus there are gifts to buy and wrap, and in some cases, ship. There is decorating to be done. And school. Though school will be out on December 8 for about a month. But I will still have things to do during that month in order to stay caught up with my cohortmates, as the prof calls us. 

And so each night, the red lights blink in my head as I lay awake, alternating between too hot, too cold, and eventually just right. The figurative light flashes and flickers. Eventually, I can feel sleep begin to drape my body. That fuzzy, incoherent feeling that always delivers. The light flashes faster then, and just before I power down, the LCD screen behind my closed eyes displays “waiting sleep.”

Power down complete.

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I wonder

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 18, 2017 7:35 PM

[Written late last night and posted today]

I am 37,000 feet above the earth. It seems an impossible number. I try to imagine 37,000 wooden rulers like the ones I had in grade school, stacked one on top of the other, end to end, an endless stick that points from the desert up into a night sky where only the pale flash of red lights gives away where we are. I wonder how 37,000 feet became the accepted height for flight. I realize I don’t care enough to find out.

I am on my way home, finally. I say finally as if it’s been weeks since I was there when it was only yesterday that I left. It just seems like weeks. I wonder if others feel this way when they leave home or if others think about it.

I wonder when Southwest Airlines started having such on-time awfulness. I wonder when flying became more awful, nothing more than a means to an endpoint. I used to like flying when I would board big planes in Los Angeles and fly all the way across the country without stopping until we landed in Boston. I suppose I liked it because my dad often gave me his first class upgrades and first class is always better than steerage. Southwest only does the latter. When I liked flying it was before 9/11, before the rest of us were made to suffer because of the government’s mistakes. The government started making flying less fun; the airlines just perpetuate it.

I wonder why it’s always nearly impossible to hear the pilot when he addresses the cabin. That’s probably not safe. I also wonder why there is always someone who farts at least once while the plane is in the air and why that person is always sitting just in front of me. 

Or maybe airplanes just stink.

I am on my way home from San Francisco.

I had forgotten how much I love it there. It’s an incredible city, sprawling and tall, dirty and glorious, filled with different types of people all melding into one. I watched people walking their little dogs last night in Union Square as I sat in a Thai restaurant eating curries and pad Thai and sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. I miss the sophistication of a city like San Francisco. I had forgotten. I wonder why.

It rained on my walk back to the hotel, the kind of soft rain that you almost can’t feel and so you’re surprised to find out how wet you are when you step inside. Water dripped from the fire escapes above. People strolled, dogs pooped and owners cleaned it up.


Today I sat in a board room with walls of glass overlooking AT & T Park, where the Giants play, and the glass-like bay. The sun was shining, there was only the slightest breeze. People walked and jogged, dogs ambled. Tugboats chugged toward buoys. I wondered when I would have the opportunity to visit the City by the Bay again and have more time to breathe in its scent of ocean and bread and diesel and Thai food.

The plane has started its descent. The city lights are growing closer. Soon I will be able to see the cars on the road, the still and always illuminated flags waving in the desert night.

I love how the sound of the plane changes just before you touch down. The engines have slowed to landing speed; the gear is down, the flaps up. There is a hovering sound, a closeness, a tease of a kiss.

Home.

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In the gray

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:42 PM

We’re officially in fall. I know that much of the country has been in fall for several weeks now, but the desert seasons are a little different. It takes us longer. But it has finally become cooler, the days have shortened and the darkness has lengthened. The air conditioning has been turned off, and the windows are open, the daily breeze flowing through and coating everything in dust. It’s impossible to keep up with the dust in the desert, something I had been warned about previously. It’s not as bad in town but out where we live, where the winds are stronger and the land is more plentiful, the dust drifts in with the breeze and settles on our furniture, books, the floor like a long lost friend. 

Eventually even cooler temps will arrive though not for long. The numbers will drift down into the 20s and 30s at night. We might get a spit of snow. In the mornings, as we walk the dog, we will wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and slip our hands into gloves, wrap a scarf around our throats. The temperature of the desert in winter is icy even when it’s not as cold as it feels.

This morning, we woke up to a coated sky. Gray and white, the kind of sky that would signal snow in the Northeast or Midwest. It hovers, a sky like this. There are no defined clouds, there is simply a seamless blanket covering the city, the county, the desert. 

The sky up here on the hill is different somehow. Perhaps it’s because we are so sparsely populated. It just seems bigger, and smaller. And today, grayer. When the sky is like this, we seem to sit almost at the same level, like I could reach out and feel the cool of the hovering moisture.

I love the gray. I love the way it changes the colors. The greens are muted and quiet, the houses blend more into the landscape. Even those with red-tiled roofs, Mediterranean in style, seem subdued. The black of the pavement softens and becomes more accessible. The sun tries hard to push through but it never quite makes it, and so the desert flattens and softens. It looks almost two-dimensional from up here. It’s a painted landscape that stretches 10 miles or more in every direction except north. North lies the hill. In the gray, it seems closer than ever. 

There is something about the gray that makes me start to feel the approach of the holidays. Perhaps it’s the diminishing temperatures, or the shorter days. The gray, gauzy sky is what I remember from growing up in the Northeast. A sky like this always ushered in winter and with it, Christmas. The sky doesn’t look like this in the spring or summer. There’s something about the cold that makes the sky cloudier with less clouds. When the sky was this color, we would wait and watch. A single flurry could be cause for celebration. Maybe if it actually snowed and snowed enough, school would be cancelled the next day. It had to snow a lot for that to happen.

Now, the gray just allows for cool, and the promise of cold. The weather channel says it might rain. I don’t think it will. This is the kind of sky that settles in for a long nap. It’s in no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. It hovers.

In the gray, I find solitude and wonder. In the gray, I can think less of the constant chaos, and more about the world’s potential. In the gray, I find peace. Perhaps the world needs more gray.


Shades of gray. Painting by David Pearce

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The mask of Don Justino

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 31, 2017 5:03 PM

One of our favorite fun movies is The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Sir (!) Anthony Hopkins. It’s one of those films we never grow tired of, and stop to watch anytime we come across it. It’s beautifully photographed, the story is great, the action fun, and the acting decent. It’s a little tongue in cheek, and everyone is just gorgeous, especially Antonio Banderas. Part of it was filmed in San Carlos, Mexico, a place I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Susan earlier this summer. It was a perfect stand in for California. 

The film was released in the summer of 1998 when Justin was 7. It was rated PG-13 but we took him anyway. We had seen the trailer several times, figured it would be fun, and we weren’t disappointed. There’s a bit of violence, no language and no sex. It didn’t seem to us any more harmful than the Pokemon animation and other Japanese anime he was consumed with at the time. He loved the movie, as did we. No sooner did we get home than he found himself something he could make a mask from and armed with his Star Wars light saber, he proceeded to play the role of Zorro.

In the film, which takes place mostly in 1841, noblemen fight for the republic of Las Californias (California wouldn’t become a state until 1850), railing against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence. They are “dons,” established and respected men, men of social standing. The moniker of Don appears before their first names. Don Raphael is the bad guy; Don Diego is the older good guy and Don Alejandro is the younger good guy. Both good guys, naturally, also inhabit the Mask of Zorro.

For months, we were entertained by our own Zorro. And as Halloween got closer, and it came time to choose a costume, there was nothing to discuss. Zorro would once again come to the rescue of … Oak Park. Hey, it was California.

We found a costume, and with his pajamas underneath, and sporting his black cowboy books, Justin transformed before our eyes into Don Justino.

Every year, on Halloween we remember that costume. He wore it for weeks prior and weeks after. Sometimes he’d just wear the top part and shorts. But always the mask and the hat; always with plastic sword in hand as he singlehandedly saved the house from … whoever and usually Maguire. 

To this day, nearly 20 years later, he remains Don Justino. I doubt that the costume fits anymore, but the cuteness and goodness – the desire to save the world – definitely remains.

Shelter in place

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:13 PM

It’s not uncommon for us to see a lot of creatures up here on the hill. During the summer, many tend to be of the reptilian variety but now that we’re heading, albeit slowly, into fall and cooler temperatures, the warm blooded animals of the desert are reappearing. This morning, we had a desert rabbit just outside the bay window in the master bathroom and just above the drive. As we walked west with the dog, we encountered a mama javelina and her little javelin-ette. They were standing in the road, staring right at us, daring us to come forward. We stopped, they continued frozen. Finally Kevin put his hands up in the air as if to say “WTF?” and the baby nudged the mom – “Come on, mom, let’s goooooo!” – and she turned and off they trotted into the desert south.

Further down, there were two deer in amongst the rocks of a wash. We stopped to look, they looked back. Then we continued on and we assume they continued to forage for food. 

On the way back, the deer were gone, but we encountered another single javelina in the road. Normally, these animals travel in packs so it was odd. We stopped, Riley whined, and then this one lumbered across and disappeared into the desert north. 

We continued on our walk, finally ascending the road that leads to our house. We do this walk four to five times a week, always taking Sundays off – the day of rest, we jokingly call it – and often Wednesdays. If it’s particularly hot or we’re too tired or it’s too late, we don’t go. The last climb is difficult and though we’ve been making it now for some two and a half years, it never gets easier. We get to the top and we are always winded, tired. In the summers, sweating profusely. We tell ourselves that it’s good exercise, that the dog needs his walk, both of which are true. But the real truth is that we’d both probably never do it again if we had our druthers. 

Druthers is such an interesting word isn’t it? I love that word.

I digress.

As we started across the driveway toward the front door and thus sanctuary and coffee, we heard a strange noise from above. It didn’t quite sound like a bird; we thought perhaps it was some type of cat, maybe a mountain lion or a bobcat. We don’t see them often but we know they do haunt the hills. We stopped and listened, and then, over the rocks to the east, came a single deer. She leaped down and across other rocks, then slowed as she picked her way through the cactus. 

It’s not unusual for us to have deer above the house. It happens fairly regularly though we haven’t seen any recently. This one stopped above us, ears pointed and twitching. We watched and said “hi,” as we often do. When Riley started to whine, I brought him in the house, and shortly thereafter, Kevin followed. 

From the kitchen window, we could see her. She moved slightly toward the west, then stopped behind a saguaro and turned back to the east, so still she could have been a statue. Kevin got his camera and we watched through the zoom lens. We could see her muscles twitch, her breathe in and out. It seemed that she was either waiting for the rest of here friends or family to join her, or, if there had been a cat, she had gotten away and the word in the herd was to always shelter in place.

She stood there for at least 45 minutes, maybe closer to an hour. We kept waiting for others to appear. We scanned the hillside with binoculars, looking for movement, signs of more. We never did find any and eventually we had to go to work. When we came back for coffee a while later, she was gone into the desert.

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Along the Silverado Trail

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 11, 2017 8:29 PM

The Silverado Trail runs mostly north, from just northwest of downtown Napa. You get to it off Trancas Street. It’s a long, glorious road, lined on either side by wineries and acre after acre sporting row after row of grapes. It is the official red grape growing region of Napa Valley and includes the famous Stag’s Leap district of 20 wineries and some 1200 planted acres of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, and even a little Chardonnay. There are actually 2700 total acres in the area, and wineries include Baldacci, Chimney Rock, Hartwell, Pine Ridge, Silverado, Stag’s Leap and more. A 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon took top honors in red at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting made famous by the fabulous film Bottle Shock. 

We have spent many a lovely day wandering up and down the Trail, meandering through tree lined drives to get to wineries in order to taste wines, and undoubtedly, to buy some as well. For Bobbi’s 50th birthday, we rented a phenomenal house on top of a hillside, surrounded by 25 acres of planted grapes, and visited Chimney Rock, Stag’s Leap, Baldacci, Hartwell, and Pine Ridge to name just a few. I think we could have all lived happily up there for the rest of our lives. A stunning view, surrounded by deep red wine; where the hills roll and fold into one another and the weather is glorious. 

I am a wine lover and have been since first discovering Napa in the mid-1980s. It is a passion that has only grown. My husband shares this passion, as do our best friends in the world, Roy and Bobbi. There is something about being amongst the vineyards and in the wineries, about the musty smell of grapes fermenting, the dedication of those who make wine. There is pride there, rightfully so. Wine, to us, is art. It is exquisitely crafted for bouquet, color, and taste. It flows into a glass, leaving long “legs” in its wake. To me – to all of us – it’s food, something to be tasted and savored, explored and celebrated. As the Italians say, in Latin, in vino veritas. In wine, truth. 

For the last several days, I have watched in horror as the vineyards and wineries of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino have exploded in flames. I have read the stories of workers standing next to wine makers and owners, trying desperately to save their structures, their wine aging in wooden barrels; their grapes. Several of our favorites have been destroyed including Signorello, off of the Silverado Trail. 

I don’t know what makes one building susceptible while another nearby survives. It’s not important anyway. Regardless, the destruction, the devastation – the fear is visceral and real. 

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been there, because I consider Napa and Sonoma, indeed wine country, one place where I feel most at home; maybe it’s that I remember the feeling of peace that I experienced when we were there. It’s something that’s hard to find these days, and now it’s made even harder. 

California’s wine industry contributes $57 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for 325,000 jobs. It’s also produces great, lasting, liquid art. My heart breaks for those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods, for those who have lost loved ones, including pets.

I watch the flames and weep.

Tonight I remember driving along the Silverado Trail and marveling at its absolute, unassaulted beauty. I celebrate that memory and send my love to one of my favorite areas on the country. Tonight, I’m raising a glass.

Sometimes you have to dance

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 1, 2017 8:09 PM

We listen to a lot of music, almost all of it via internet radio. When we built the house, we made sure to have it wired so that we could have speakers and thus sound throughout. We have two in the ceiling of the master bath, two in the ceiling between the kitchen and the breakfast nook, two in the garage, two out on the deck, and two in the ceiling in the great room which join three addition speakers, one on either side of the TV and one underneath (for surround sound). Oh, and a subwoofer.

We have a variety of favorite types of music, ranging from classical guitar to classic rock and everything in between. Depending on the time of day and what we’re doing, we choose accordingly. Working in the shop in the garage and cleaning the house requires some great 70s rock, or John Mayer – sometimes The Rolling Stones. Evenings usually require some sort of jazz while Sunday mornings are about something quiet and soothing.

Kevin went out to work in the garage this afternoon. He’s building wine racks for the wine room, so he’s been busy cutting and sanding and planing and jointing. There is sawdust everywhere. But he absolutely loves it – if he could do anything in the world, he would happily spend his life in the shop, building stuff. 

“What kind of music do you want me to put on?” I asked him. 

“Something new,” he said, to which I asked what does that mean? 

“Surprise me,” he said with a smile. 

I pulled up iHeartradio and looked at what they thought might be something I’d be interested in. And there was Rod Stewart. We love Rod Stewart. So I touched the button and Maggie May came on. Good so far. 

For several hours, Rod and friends played throughout the house. Around 5 I took a break from my computer and wandered out into the garage to see what progress he’d been making. As he was showing me his mortise and tenon joints, and we were discussing the best way to attach all 18 staves to both sides of the posts simultaneously, the Bee Gees came on. Staying Alive. And we both stopped talking and started dancing. Not very well, mind you, but dancing. 

It made us both laugh, and we stopped and tried to talk more about the racks. But we couldn’t. The music and the beat was too overwhelming. Pretty soon we were moving and grooving again. Swaying and boogying. Looking completely ridiculous and having an absolute blast late on a Sunday afternoon in the garage, surrounded by sawdust, with our musical choice drifting down over us.

See, here’s the thing: sometimes, you just gotta dance. It makes everything else in the world better and more fun, especially if it’s dancing to Staying Alive.

via GIPHY

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In which Lorin has a cold and begins speaking Latin

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:31 PM

I used to get a cold every Thanksgiving. I don’t remember when that stopped happening but I think it was when I started having less meetings. The less time you spend with other people, the easier it is to not be around germs. I’m no germaphobe, believe me. But I hate being sick. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had the flu (that sound you here, even through the internet, is me knocking on wood) and I think it was before I had Kevin. Since Kevin, I’ve had bronchitis once and a wicked case of strep throat, both of which cleared right up with antibiotics. Also a sinus infection. 

When I would get colds, or not necessarily feel completely 100%, my way of dealing was to ignore it. I would still go for a run. I would psych myself out of being sick and sometimes it actually worked. 

Colds are upper respiratory tract infections caused by viruses. These viruses are transmitted through microscopic droplets in the air when someone who’s already sick coughs or sneezes, laughs or talks. Evidently, a cold virus can also spread by shaking hands or sharing things like toys, phones, spoons; a glass of wine. For some reason, and according to the Mayo Clinic, people are more susceptible to colds in the fall and winter, though they don’t say why. They also say you can catch a cold any time, like if you’re at school or on an airplane; in other words a target-rich environment. I was on a plane (actually four of them) two weeks ago. I was with a bunch of people in a closed room. I’m also in school. 

But I don’t think that’s why I’m sick. I think I’m sick because I’m tired, which is not to be confused with sick and tired, which I also am, but in this case that particular fact is immaterial. I tend to welcome cold viruses with open arms, ears, mouth and nose when I’m rundown, haven’t been sleeping well, and just have too much going on.

To wit:
There’s work. There’s the house to take care of (though I have a phenomenal husband who more than does his part). I have friends that I love spending time with. There is school, which officially started yesterday. Did I mention work? Oh, and I somehow tweaked my back so I’m walking like an old person, and because it’s impossible to get comfortable when one’s back is tweaked, I haven’t been sleeping well, as in almost not at all. 

Today, I woke up with a stuffy nose to go along with my tweaked back, and just the hint of a scratchy throat. I am not happy. First, I don’t do the sick thing well, largely because I don’t get sick all that often (see the first paragraph of this post). Second, the whole idea of a cold is dumb. 

Allow me to get existential here for a minute. A cold is not caused by cold weather, which we currently don’t have. It doesn’t necessarily cause one to feel cold, or to have chills. Ergo, a cold is a misnomer. It would make more sense to call it scratch and sniff, or SAS. Scratchy throat – check. Sniffy stuffy nose – check.

The name “cold” follows the theory of post hoc ergo propter hoc. For fans of The West Wing, you’ll probably remember this scene:

After this, therefore because of this. I have a cold because I have a cold. Blah.

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Experimenting with fall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 24, 2017 8:33 PM

Sometime in the past two weeks, and probably one night when I took Riley out after sundown, I noticed the air felt different. Not exactly cool but something underneath it that felt like cool, like something hiding under the blanket ready to spring out when least expected. Except that it is, of course, expected. It’s nearly the end of September. The cool is coming and with it, fall.

We’ve had an odd summer. It’s always hot; it’s the desert. But June was especially brutal, with our weather station up here on the hill showing temps reaching as high as 120º several times. When it’s that hot during the day, even when it cools off at night, it’s still in the mid 90s. No relief and lots of AC. 

July ended up being the wettest on record. We had storms nearly every day, totally nearly six inches of rain. It kept the temps cooler, though still in the 90s, but the humidity was high and the bugs were prolific. August was just hot and miserable. But then September eased in and temperatures started to abate. The last few days have only been in the 80s, and the nights have been comfortable if not yet cool. 

That changed last night. Last night, it actually was cool. I tested the concept by wearing my new UNH sweatpants, still with a t-shirt and flip flops but long pants have been almost non-existent for me for months, the only exception being when I was in Sacramento for business. I didn’t think it would be professional to wear shorts to my meetings. We sat out on the deck well into the evening, after the sun had set. We made the decision to turn off the AC and open all the windows. The cool air poured in; there was almost a chill in the air. 

This is early for us to have the AC off and the windows open. Usually it’s around the first week in October when it finally becomes comfortable enough to experience the fresh air of the desert rather than the staler air of the air conditioning units. We’ve only been here four years but each year, we look forward to this time. When we built the house, Mike couldn’t believe we actually wanted windows that opened. Evidently people in the desert are averse to fresh air. We were insistent; he was belligerent. But ultimately we won because we were paying the bills. We got windows that open in the master bedroom and the guest room, along with sliding French doors, two sets, in the great room. Both have screens. 

This morning it was 55º. The cool air was drifting in through the open windows. It was more than comfortable though not at all cold. We heard the paper get delivered. Just before 7, a road runner on the roof started tapping at the skylight in the bathroom. It sounded like someone was pounding on the window. Any thoughts of sleep now being gone, we decided to get up and start the day. I pulled on a pair of shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Kevin looked at me. 

“Long sleeves? Really?”

I grinned. “I’ve decided to experiment a bit with fall,” I said.

Here’s hoping the experiment lasts.

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Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 23, 2017 8:22 PM

One of our favorite movies is the 1995 film The American President. It’s a political romantic comedy that’s smart and honest and real. It stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd, a widower about to run for re-election, and Annette Bening, a lobbyist named Sydney Ellen Wade who becomes his love interest. It was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a real gem.

One of the central posits of the film is that President Shepherd is playing it safe, too safe. His erstwhile rival for the presidency is a republican senator named Bob Rumson, played by Richard Dreyfuss with nasty political glee. He repeatedly skewers the president for being liberal, and then attacks the president’s girlfriend, Sydney, as an ultra-liberal flag burner. He smugly dismisses the president’s education by saying that it doesn’t take a “Harvard education.” Shepherd, watching, irritatingly tells the TV “I went to Stanford, you blow hole.” That last phrase has become a favorite around here lately since I’ve been taking classes at Stanford and start my official 2-year program there on Monday.

President Shepherd’s staff as well as Sydney tell him to “go after this guy.” But Shepherd steadfastly refuses. He and Sydney split up, he has a fight with his chief of staff (the always wonderful Martin Sheen who went on to also play one of Sorkin’s presidents), and is about to lose his one big bill, for crime prevention. His approval ratings have plummeted, he is shedding supporters even in his own party. So naturally, he attacks black athletes who peacefully protest inequality and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. 

Oh, wait. That would be a president I don’t like. 

I read the news today – oh boy – and once again all I could do was shake my head. I am continually amazed, even though I shouldn’t be, that we have as our president a man who is perfectly content to sow the seeds of discord and division. I honestly don’t care if athletes kneel during the anthem. We have free speech and freedom of expression in this country. Many veterans as well as those currently on active duty have said that they get the protests; that it’s why they fought and continue to fight. For our rights as Americans. The athletes aren’t all black though most of them are. And most of those criticizing them, including the toddler in chief, are white. As if any of us white folk can imagine for a minute what it’s like to be black, to live with the issues that that segment of Americans live with. I’m not black and don’t know what it feels like so I choose to respect that they do.

Their protests are peaceful. They’re not causing riots. They’re simply making a statement. But last night, Trump decided they should be fired. He called an unnamed athlete who is widely thought to be Colin Kaepernick a son of a bitch. Kaepernick is the one who started these protests. He currently can’t get a job in the NFL, partly because he hasn’t been as good the last few years but I have no doubt that it’s mostly because of the protests. I think that’s sad.

We rally around the flag when it’s convenient and easy but most people rarely stop to think about what that flag stands for. Freedom, the constitution, our bill of rights. It is a beacon. It’s a symbol. But it’s not all that America is. It’s just one representation. Another is how we conduct ourselves in the world, the face we show to others, our insistence on human rights, our welcoming of refugees. The White House is a symbol; the Statue of Liberty is a symbol. Our despotic president is another, sadly. And he is making us worse, making our flag disrespected all over the world. Do the people who want athletes like Colin Kaepernick fired realize that? Do they care? Does Trump? 

Andrew Shepherd finally realizes the error of his ways, and does the right thing, junking his terrible bill, and taking on Rumson in a fabulous speech in front of the White House press corps. He doesn’t do it to get Sydney back, as he later tells her. He does it because “the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” 

Watch the whole speech and tell me it doesn’t make you a little nostalgic for a truly American president:

Tell me it doesn’t make you want to celebrate the genius of Aaron Sorkin.

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