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Got Guilt?
There was a time when it was considered unwise to call yourself a “Liberal.” It supposedly opened you to charges of being a pinko, a fuzzy-headed do-gooder, and someone who is overly generous with other people’s money.

Well, I am proud to say that I am a liberal, and that I’ve never shrunk from the L-word label. I’ll even cop to those charges, although pink is not really my best color. I’ll also admit that, like any good liberal, I am riddled with guilt.

One thing I don't feel guilty about, however, is feeling guilty. It’s one of the things that motivates me to do good. And it’s good to good, so what’s the problem? There are some side effects, but nothing too serious. Too much of it can tie you up in knots and actually keep you from doing anything, including good. But if you get the proportions just right, a little guilt can keep you humble, which is critical if you want to do right. As long as you’re genuinely trying to be nice, you can safely let the guilt eat at you — as long as it doesn’t rise to the level of shame. Shame is a different strain of internal blight, and I try as hard as I can to avoid getting into that frame of mind. Fortunately, that little bit of guilt can act like an inoculation against the soul-eating cancer of shame. I’m lucky to have kept it to a minimum so far.

No one would ever accuse the Republican leadership in Washington of being liberal. For one thing, there is no evidence that they are even slightly burdened with guilt in the way that I am. Which leaves me to wonder: what motivation do they rely on to do good? Perhaps they are driven by some higher purpose I am too dim to perceive, or maybe they are attuned to the whispering of angels. They could, I suppose, just be naturally wise. I just don’t know.

But somehow they’ve managed to effortlessly arrive at a place it’s taken me a life of anguish and self-doubt to get to: they are almost completely without shame.
Treasonish
“It’s not treason.”

That’s one of the latest rationalizations about Little Donny’s meeting with the Rooskis to land with a thud on the sidewalk below Trump Tower. I think the Drump team was referring there to the very restrictive definition of treason under Article III of the Constitution. Article III seems to be talking very specifically about wartime “enemies.” We are not technically at war right now, so their assertion would likely be true no matter how nefarious the dealings that took place in that room. Even so, the assurance is something of a comfort.

If true. But truth, sadly, seems to be mostly an inconvenience to Donald, Donny Jr., and the rest of the Drumpsters. You’re better off assuming that whatever they say is a lie than wondering if they’re telling the truth. Furthermore, as the Drump Era comes into clearer focus, we are seeing some evidence to justify the assumption that whatever they do is likely to be illegal. That meeting might have violated any number of election laws, some of which are felonies.

Or it might simply have been have been extraordinarily unwise. Or clueless or incompetent or crazy or just plain stupid.

Although not treason. Nor is it money laundering, even though one of the participants was recently busted for that crime. Nor hacking, though another attendee has a record of such activity.

It is possible that the word “treasonous” might apply to this situation. We’d need to know more to be sure. The distinction here is that you can be put to death in this country for treason as it is described in the Constitution, but plain old treasonous activity like betraying your country and all it stands for will not get you the hangman’s noose. Treasonousness, like collusion, is not a crime.

For now let’s agree that “it’s not treason.” Little Donny will not swing for his crimes, whatever they are. In fact, he might even get a show on Fox.
Rootless
These are difficult days in the universe of baseball. Or at least in my universe. The San Francisco Giants, world champs in three of the last seven seasons, can’t catch a break this year. They don’t stink, exactly, but they don’t smell of roses either.

As we emerge from the All-Star break, it is the universe of the Los Angeles Dodgers that gives off the fragrant aroma of good fortune and high hopes. With the irrepressible Astros of the American League, they share the best record in major league baseball. At the points where L.A.’s universe overlaps the Giants’, interestingly, we lead 6 wins to 4. That, however, is faint consolation to me and my last-in-the-West team. We can’t hit, we can’t pitch, and our world-class horse Madison Bumgarner hurt his pitching arm…dirt biking.

The Dodgers, by contrast, can do no wrong. Their horse, Clayton Kershaw, is his usual dominant self. Their starting third baseman has the highest batting average in either league. Last week they came from behind to win with a walk-off walk that was preceded by three other walks. The baseball gods aren’t just smiling on Da Bums, they’re grinning from ear to ear.

Now, I have friends who are Dodgers fans. Everybody knows a few. They’re always very nice about the Giants. Root for them outside the rivalry and all that. At the very least, I appreciate the gesture. This year, though, it is L.A. who is on the crest of the wave, and now my friends wish to seduce me into rooting for the Dodgers. “Your boys are out of it,” they say. “Why not root for us?”

As I say, these are difficult days in my baseball universe. I am not a Dodger hater, but I know that I cannot root for them to win it all. It would run counter to the fundaments of my rooting philosophy. I recall that my father stressed a geographical rationale in his rooting patterns. Once his team was eliminated from contention, he rooted for the team whose ballpark was physically closest to ours. That, in this case, would be the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sorry Dad, but no. I’m not sure where L.A. ranks in my hierarchy of second choices, but it is not near the top. Could the Bosox swear allegiance to the Evil Empire in a similar situation? Would Auburn ever root for the Crimson Tide? Of course not. And to my bluish friends: it’s not personal, it is an axiomatic rooting principle — right there in your copy of the Rooter’s Bible.

Things have changed since my father’s day. The Giants/Dodgers rivalry has evolved since moving west. It was a spirited match-up in New York, but now a whole new dimension has been added. In The Big Apple, neither team was ever going to dislodge the Yankees as the alpha dog. But now the Yanks are out of the picture, and the Giants and Dodgers contend for bragging rights to the biggest state in the union. It has turned into, if not a blood feud, then the kind of classic rivalry that divides the universe into opposites. Like matter and antimatter, those two realities cannot intermix.

So I must focus, as Buster Posey does, on the next pitch. I cannot be distracted by yesterday’s game or “maybe next year” or solicitations from the antimatter universe. I am caught between my default position (hang tough, we can still win this thing) and mathematical elimination. I’ve just got to keep playing.

If I were to look forward (though it would be a violation of the proper rooting posture), I can imagine that mathematics might well catch up with the Giants this year. For the sake of this writing, then, let me entertain the possibility that I might end up rooting for some other team to win it all. Who would that be? As a nod to my father, let me suggest one geographically appropriate answer: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

So you see, my Dodger friends, it’s not personal. I’m rooting strictly by the book. If the Giants fall, it’s go Angels. The Rooter’s Bible tells me so.
Low and Slow
It is certainly an animal to be reckoned with. It is among the largest of its kind. It boasts a prodigious libido and glorious coloration. Yes, truly a magnificent beast. For a slug. And even if you don’t particularly like slugs, you have to give it up for Ariolimax californicus, the one and only banana slug.

That said, it’s a hard animal to cozy up to. I’m used to my furry friends being furry. And warm. A lump of slimy, room-temperature squrmishness is not my idea of man’s best friend. It looks like an internal organ that has somehow escaped the body of a larger animal, a raccoon gizzard that decided to strike out on its own. How could such a creature even manage to exist so naked and exposed to the world?

I saw one on my front porch today, and he/she (they can switch) did nothing to calm my concern for these gastropods. (Yes, concern. I am not heartless, you know.) It seemed to be making a beeline (a very, very slow beeline) for the doorknob side of my front door. I passed the slug several times during the morning, each time noting that the trail of slime had lengthened slightly, all the while remaining true to its course.

I’m not sure what mission the creature was on. The two main categories, I am told, are food and sex. There is food in my house, but not too much of the dead organic matter slugs are so fond of. I suppose my entire home might represent a possible meal to the slug, once the nails, resins, and plastics were removed, but it didn’t seem as appetizing as the leaves, moss, and animal droppings that were so abundant on the nearby forest floor. And if this slug had notions of a possible mating opportunity within my walls, I could have assured it that I do not run that kind of establishment.

It is possible, I suppose, that it harbored some other motivation. Perhaps it longed for a life with more meaning, or it had set itself to discover the purpose of its own existence, or it simply had a wild hair up its tentacle. Still, there was nothing inside my house (even if it did manage to open the door) that would be of much help with any of these goals.

No, it was on a fool’s errand. At these speeds, the whole project seemed like a huge waste of the slug’s time. It was taking forever, it seemed, to slide across my porch on a mission clearly doomed to fail. That was the root of my concern — the sadness of time and opportunities lost. That, and a return trip across the porch filled with regret and self-recrimination. I could have intervened and spared it all of that heartache. I could have picked it up (perhaps rolling it onto my handy copy of Field and Stream) and transported it to a more promising environment. But that seemed wrong. The slug had taken great pains to climb the stairs of my porch, and it clearly had a vision of where it wanted to go. Who was I to second guess its sluggish heart?

So I let it be. I had to leave eventually, so I never witnessed the outcome of the drama. If it reached my front door, it either turned back or continued its quest by climbing the wall of my house. Perhaps, finding its dream thwarted, it returned to the raccoon it had left behind and resumed its life as a gizzard. I will never know.

I am comforted by the knowledge, however, that whatever its destiny was, the banana slug had fulfilled it. With patience and determination. And very, very slowly.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee