What if smoke-filled rooms were good for us?

bogart smokingPeople are just so angry anymore, so easily offended, so eager to believe the worst about people who disagree with us, just so darn mad at each other.

How did we get this way? I got to thinkin’.

What if the smoke in the smoke-filled rooms was a good thing? You know, the smoke-filled rooms where political deals were hashed out, once upon a time.

What if there was something in the tobacco that calmed the soul and made people more amenable and more willing to listen? What if tobacco really is a sacred substance that brings peace among warring men? What if by injecting tobacco with cancerous additives that killed so many, we drove ourselves away from a substance that made us more willing to reason, to negotiate, to understand the other point of view?

What if we got so polarized, so indignant with one another, so intolerant of other world views, because deep down in our bodies we just needed a smoke?

So much might be accomplished for the good if we just reclaimed the universal opening line of so many successful meetings of the mind: “Hey, buddy, you got a cigarette?” “Hey, friend, you want a smoke?”

I don’t smoke – never have. I’m just wondering.

Commencement collection


Lately I’ve been thrown into a reflective mood when the anniversary of my entry into the “real world” rolls around. Here are two better essays I’ve written around this date the past couple of years:

4 things I didn’t know on graduation day

A pretty good life, all told, so far

And here are some half-finished thoughts I scratched out this year: Continue reading Commencement collection

Why I choose optimism

The other day I posted the preface to the revised and expanded edition of my book Refuse to be Afraid, which begins:

“As this 2016 edition of Refuse to be Afraid is prepared, the major U.S. political parties have put up the two worst choices of my lifetime. To pick either one is to doom the United States government to four years of scary leadership, their ideas antithetical to the American standard of individual freedom and equality before the law.”

An old friend offered this comment: “I thought you were the eternal optimist. These words clearly convey a message of good old pessimism.”

Oh, perhaps those words are pessimistic, but they are an introduction to an introduction, and I chose the words carefully. Continue reading Why I choose optimism

scene 3

dreamstime_m_7005470 old pickup truck web
Old Pickup Truck Photo
© Typhoonski | Dreamstime.com

(scene 1, part 1)  (scene 1, part 2) (scene 2)

The old truck rattled a lot. I probably should have taken better care of it when it was newer, so it wouldn’t rattle so much now. I suppose.

The important thing is I kept it running now – I know how to take care of it, and it gets me where I need to go. It’s old enough that it doesn’t have computers and GPS and all of the things that track where it is and where it’s been. Not that those things aren’t important – to me – I just don’t know whether they’re important enough to anyone else who’s minding their own business.

After awhile the rattles just fade into the background, and I don’t notice them unless I have a passenger who says, “Whoa! This truck rattles a lot!” or if the rattle changes. Change means something shifted and I should make sure I don’t need to shift that something back into place. Continue reading scene 3

It is still your life to live

I finished another journal today. Tomorrow morning I’ll be reaching for another bound book of blank pages waiting to be filled with fragments of thought and bursts of creativity.

I got curious as to how the last journal ended, so I grabbed it off the shelf and remembered that I used the last page and a half to write a new preface for my book Refuse to be Afraid, which I was re-releasing last summer.

Much has changed since I finished that last journal. But I still believe this with all my heart and soul: Continue reading It is still your life to live

Scene 2

My beautiful picture

(Our story thus far)

I figured I could trust her at least as far as I could throw her, and she was a trim thing, as I said, so I could probably throw her farther than a lot of folks if she were to let me close enough to throw.

Besides, she came with a recommendation from Pete Bratcher. Or, at least, she came with a name drop. I would have to check with him about that.

Pete and I go way back. Back to before there were cameras in every nook and cranny of civilization to surveil the guilty and the innocent alike. We would scope out the new cameras as they were being installed and figure out how to beat them. The train station was one of the first to be outfitted, so the tech was a little older, a little more primitive, a touch easier to beat. But just a touch. I’d still have to be careful. Continue reading Scene 2