Father’s Day…

My dad died so long ago I don’t remember much. I guess Fathers Day is the genesis of this post.

I don’t think about him much anymore. I wore a mustache in his honor for thirty years, hating it. One day I decided it had to go. It was a freeing moment. Maybe my first day of freedom since the day he died in 1965.

I stopped using drugs and booze around the time the mustache left. His was this cool, thin Boston Blackie mustache. Mine was a farce. It was big and bushy and itched all the time.

I’m twenty years older than he was when he died. If we met today I would be the elder and allegedly wiser from the years. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that, especially me being the wiser of the two. Yeah, I don’t see that.

Looking back at his ancient photos are looking back in time. Like a grainy black and white 4 by 4-inch portal – with a wavy white border. Not unlike viewing the world through a 12” black and white TV, with an array of vacuum tubes. Continue reading Father’s Day…

Boyhood Lost…

The truth is all of the front teeth are held together in an elaborate array of metal spikes and wires. A few in the back are missing too, and an odd assortment of rods and screws hold together flesh and bone.

Up by the bridge of the nose are two deep scars and the countless broken bones now ache and scream for rest.

I feel the need to apologize to the boy on the lake’s shore, pole in hand, coffee can full of worms. This was never the plan. The plan was to fly in space.

Somehow, between that day when they drained the lake and Dougie and me waded out in the waist-deep muck and caught the six-pound bass, and exhausted from the wars of being eight years old we laid down in the cattail reeds, and tried to figure out the sun; between that day and today, this life happened. Boyhood was lost.

Fastest Cyclist in the World

If you are a cyclist and you don’t know who this guy is, you should.

Some of his records stood for 40 years. Even the name “major” was an insult. A reference to the circus uniform he was forced to wear by his handlers.

Revered as a star athlete in Europe and reviled in America as a sideshow freak…

I often wondered if those genetically superior white boys, who couldn’t hang on his wheel felt superior to the lightning fast colored boy…

When he died he was first buried in a pauper’s grave. Thanks to Frank Schwinn and others he was moved to a place of honor, on the south side of Chicago.

There is a velodrome in Indianapolis, his hometown, built in his honor.

I’ve ridden a few times with the New Jersey Major Taylor team. I was the white guy at the back of the pack trying to hang on. They honor the man and his name and his natural talent.

Marshall Walter Taylor, the fastest cyclist in the world.

Prologue – Three Lives of Richie O’Malley



Prologue

Before -  NY City 1950’s

A spark was ignited fourteen million-millennia ago, back when the first stars formed from carbon dust. 

Over time the fire has been injected into every one of us who has ever successfully slipped from the birth canal, creating a something deserving of a big, complicated, bombastic, raging and powerful name.

But we call it simply “Life.”

This ancient, mystical, boundless flash can be shut down and snuffed out in less time than we spend in the cycle of one breath. 

The entire process, the sentient action to end a life takes a handful of seconds. The methods have been experimented with and perfected and honed and polished within the confines of those thousands of millions of years into an art, a cold and ruthless art. 

In this case, the process, the art, is the gunshot: shots fired from one gun. 

**********

The handgun, a revolver, was born shiny and clean and smelling of machine oil in a Smith & Wesson, Springfield Massachusetts factory in 1948, assembled by a couple of guys recently home from the big war. 

A gun, any gun, is only an object. It can’t be good or bad, it doesn’t feel or think or desire or need, hurt or hunger. But the gun is the vehicle.  The violence comes from men, from me, from men like me.

Men like me are drawn to many things. To shiny objects of money and power, drugs, and to safe, secure, sane and grounded women. To soft music and softer words of promise while we dance and beg the sweet ladies to leave their pretty summer dresses in a pile on the bedroom floor. 

But then we run.

We run from the women because we run from the comfort, from the terror of family dinners and kids and dogs and well-trimmed lawns.  

The gun was stolen from its original owner by a kid called Lucky Johnny.  Johnny was from the streets of Brooklyn, 1949, a black and white world, a world of large analog and mechanical things.   

He held odd jobs, lived with his mother in a third-floor walk-up apartment. The stoop out front was concrete and dirty. There were some flowers outside one first-floor window, but they seemed gray too. 

One of his jobs was as a night janitor at the local police precinct. He hated the job. A couple of the local street cops were good to him and he considered them friends. The sergeant, though, was a master prick and treated the kid like crap, picking on him, calling him a loser, telling him how much he’d like to fuck his mom. Johnny hated him, and so did most of the beat cops. 

One December, about a week before Christmas, the cops had a party in a back room of the station. Johnny was cleaning out the toilets when he found Sarge passed out drunk in a stall. Sarge had been loudly proud of his newly issued .38 Police Special revolver. It sat unstrapped in the drunk cop's holster. Johnny, looking over his shoulder, reached in where the fat, drunk cop sat stooped over and stole the gun, sliding into his pants. He finished his work quickly, went back to the party, said goodnight to the other cops, and left for the night. 

Walking home he passed a liquor store and thought of his mom, and the Christmas present he hadn’t yet bought. He needed money.  Walking inside, he announced, “This is a stickup!” He pointed the revolver at the man behind the counter. Holding it with both hands, he fired off six shots. Glass and lead and whiskey filled the air. A bullet ricocheted and took out the front window glass and the neon sign that said “Fine Liquors.” He missed the cashier entirely.

Johnny ran. 

Johnny hid the gun under his bed in an old shoe box. He lay there awake all night thinking about the gun - terrified - scared the cops would find out he was the one who shot up the liquor store. The cops would realize he stole the sergeant’s gun. He poked his head under the bed and opened the box. It was real. 

Lucky Johnny needed to be rid of the gun. He took a train to the Bronx. His friend's brother, a jewelry store owner, wanted to buy a gun for protection. Johnny sold it to the guy for forty bucks, a fortune in 1949. 

With his money he bought a Christmas tree and took it home to decorate it. He bought his mom some towels for the kitchen. He paid a girl who lived in the building on the floor above him fifteen dollars for sex. It was the best Christmas of Lucky Johnny’s life.

************

The mild spring of 1950 gave way to the summer heat of August. The jeweler was happy with his purchase. It seemed to keep a distance between him and the bad guys of the street. 

One evening he was on his way to deposit the day’s cash in the bank before heading to his home on the Grand Concourse, near Yankee Stadium. The jeweler was a good guy, a decent guy with a family. He had kids. He liked beer and baseball.  But he’d begun to fear the neighborhood where he kept his business, so he carried the Police Special revolver.  It made him feel more secure, less afraid. 

A thug named Angel, working an empty street turned dark and damp and drowned in an early evening and a late summer’s fog, jumped the jeweler and took the gun. The jeweler fought back, taking a long, arching swing but missed entirely and fell face first to the wet concrete. 

The thug made a snap decision and pulled the trigger on the stolen gun. 

The process is simple: the trigger pulls back against the force of a spring. A pawl pushes up and a ratchet is turned. A barrel spins one-sixth of one turn and is locked in place by another pawl. The spring, under pressure from the trigger, pulls the hammer back. The finger applies more pressure. At the apex of the cycle, a pause, that is only microseconds long, but seems a lifetime - possibly because that is all the time that remains for the jeweler - somewhere between that second and the next second, a life will cease. 

After the pause, the split second, the trigger as far back as it can possibly go, now slams forward, like a hammer, like an uncontrolled and angry cock. It releases its kinetic power - driving into the primer of the bullet cartridge. The primer, pushing forward causes an explosion in the little shell, enough to force the lead from its casing and down the barrel. To decide a fate, to take a life, in a moment, just a moment - breathe in and out - and count the seconds. 

The bullet entered the jeweler's body, bursting through skin and muscle and bone and passing through the heart at six-hundred feet per second. 

Angel exhaled. The jeweler didn’t. 

The damp, sticky air echoed the sound of the explosion that follows the lead from the barrel. It bounced off and was absorbed by the walls of the buildings on the foggy street, up and down the alleys and hollow city caverns. 

Angel heard sirens in the distance.  He pocketed the man’s wedding ring and cash, the day's proceeds from the jewelry store.  And stuck the gun, the snub-nose .38 Smith & Wesson Police Special, into his waistband. 

**********

Angel hunkered down, he did his job, he hated his work, and he lived modestly, quietly. 

He met a pretty girl and dreamed of a farm and a life away from all of this. 

He hoped the farm would somehow silence the screams of those he killed with the .38 Smith & Wesson Police Special. 

He married the girl and found the farm. 

The gun went with him. 

He was a terrible farmer. He got a job in a factory and raised his family and tended to his land and cows and chickens. Angel lived like a guy with a mortgage and bills and a crummy job. He never showed the world the money he took from those streets. 

Angel became “Unk” to everyone - his friends, his family, even his wife called him Unk at times. 

He had a favorite nephew.

That boy's name, my name, is Richie O’Malley.  This is my story.

#writersofinstagram #bibliophile #bookworm #bookworms

I don’t miss the life…

I miss the euphoria of seeing the Cape May lighthouse after a day on the bicycle. Two-hundred and eight miles. The last eight counted, too. I never said, “a two hundred mile ride”, it was always the exact number of miles.

Donna ringing that cowbell and laughing all day, “you got this, bro…”

We did it in 12 hours and we did it in 20 hours and all times in between. One year it rained in an unrelenting deluge. The lightning got so bad we had to stop in Egg Harbor and take shelter on some strangers front porch. The poor people inside never come out to confront the smelly guys in spandex standing there sweating. An unplanned stop, just long enough for our legs to stiffen up like boards.

We had 16 flats that year. With 105 miles to go, I was out of spare tires. We stuffed a five dollar bill in the sidewall. It held. We made it to Cape May.

The ride evolved into a crew of three, John, Franko and me. Why these guys continued to be friends with me, to this day, is beyond me.

One year, after a shower I ate so many eggs and hash browns the waitress was concerned for me. John just said, “keep feeding him, he’s quiet when his mouth is full.”

I got really mad at John one year. At 180 miles in he told me we had almost thirty miles left to pedal. I flipped and called him, “a goddamned pessimist!”

John had a spreadsheet in the SAG car. If you stopped to piss he would punch in the numbers and remind you that sunset was 8:34 pm…

Another year I told Franko of my plan to kill him and hide his body in that big field along the route before we got to that last WaWa store. When I stopped there I’d tell everyone I just lost him.

Franko said, “shut up and pedal…”

The season ended on Christmas Day and started on New Years Day. Riding in temperatures below zero. Skinny road tires in the snow and ice, because “fitness,” everything was fitness, everything was geared to the “doubles,” a double-century. People think 100 miles on a bike in a day is a lot, so you double it.

Franko called a 100, “just a long ride.”

By now, mid-May, we’d be doing 400-mile weeks, 140 to 160 training rides on weekends. 120 Saturday and 120 Sunday and 120 Monday – “triple witching weekends.” One year I rode nearly 15,000 miles. That averages about 55 miles a day and I did take a day off now and then.

It never occurred to me the absurdity of riding 160 miles on Saturday, so you would be ready for 200 in a few weeks.

It was always about fitness and sleep and lack of sleep. Worried so much about not sleeping enough you’d not sleep.

Thinking any family trip within 100 miles was “rideable…” I’d just leave 4 hours ahead of anyone.

Then I stopped.

I think the broken bones and the injuries finally caught up.

It was hard for a time.

Something wasn’t right

Then one day I rode my bike for an hour – just one hour – less than 20 miles. A local loop. It was kind of awesome. Then I ate a cheeseburger and didn’t worry about the fat content or carbs in the bun

Then the next day I rode 20 miles again.

I liked my bike. I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t a torture machine. It was fun.

Then one day a group of young studs swarmed me and I just let them ride away.

I got back to the shop three minutes after them. No one died. I wasn’t humiliated.

I miss the euphoria of rolling across a finish line running on fumes.

I don’t miss the life.

No excuses, just facts.

It’s enlightening when you talk to people who know things and not watch the talking heads on the news channels.

Saturday, I’m talking to a GE engineer. He told me things about those jet engines that failed last week in an engineers terms.

No fluff.

Southwest has a very high “cycle rate.” He said, look at the data. Southwest planes spend less time on the ground than any other airline. 39 minutes from one landing to the next takeoff on average. Again, he wasn’t judging or editorializing. He was stating facts.

These engines are “plug and play,” his words. It only requires a few hours on the ground to swap out an in-service engine, to take it into a hanger to test for metal fatigue, and replace it with a tested engine.

He said GE has very clear guidelines about “cycles” and testing for this metal fatigue. The cowling should have contained the failed metal piece that took out the window. That baffled him. He called it a horrible fluke.

He spoke of all airlines reluctance to take planes out of service, even for a few hours.

“Time on the ground costs money…”

Seeing things and speaking as only an engineer can, he said, “you design it properly, you built it properly and you test it properly and you have a good, safe, solid engine. If you buy a new car and the engine maintenance is scheduled for every 5000 miles and you don’t change the oil for 50,000 miles, and the engine fails, did Ford make a bad motor?”

No blame, no BS, just the facts as he sees them.

The conversation ended with him saying he was flying back to Memphis on Sunday. He was flying a Southwest plane equipped with the engines we’d been discussing.

We gave it away to the grifters…

They all fall right? The Roman Empire fell, The British Empire fell. Why not this dodgy little empire.

I always figured it would in time. Maybe when my grandkids – kids were grown. The glue of the great American Experiment would have dried and cracked and the structure holding it up would collapse to the ground.

I didn’t think it would happen so soon.

75 years after the greatest generation kicked Hitler and Hideki Tojo’s ass

50 years after we went to the moon

Lawless and cowardly men are elected and appointed to protect and enforce the laws of this land.

Con men and grifters with no relationship whatsoever with the truth are given truly profound power and it’s used for personal gain.

A marginalized and increasingly angry population who calls themselves Christians support the most un-Christlike causes and turn a blind eye because these con men and grifters give them a voice. And these people swarm to the voting booth while the good and thoughtful liberals stay home and watch the results in disbelief.

There was a sense, a very real and palpable sense, not that long ago where the future held greatness. We were moving forward. The Great Society of the ‘60’s, set out to eliminate racial injustice. Christian Barnard replaced a human heart. Men walked on the moon and we looked toward Mars and beyond.

We were ablaze!

Somewhere, I lived through it, I sensed it, it was subtle, but I felt it, that greatness was lost. A facade was put up. Men, far from great, far from strong, far from morally sound rose up and took claim to the greatness and twisted it and prostituted it and ruined it.

They ruined it to the point where what was once beautiful shining diamond of civilization and awe-inspiring; a fountain of ever growing pride took on the airs and graces of cheap costume jewelry.

Don’t look too closely behind the curtain now. All you will see is the rubble and chaff. The crisp and clean and shining colors have turned an ugly gray. Damp and molded, perhaps from the flood used to put out the fire.

We lost it, or worse we gave it away.

We entrusted it to the grifters.

This is not a drill…

I fear, really fear, after the Sinclair revelations this week that this fight we are in is deeper and much more layered than I’d ever imagined.

This isn’t about some uneducated and exploited jerks in their MAGA baseball caps, this isn’t a handful of Russian hackers. This isn’t a fascist president and his, complicit family and friends. This is large-scale brainwashing. Mind control.

Like it or not we consume news. Whether you are a 24/7 cable news junkie or you say you don’t pay attention, you consume news.

Maybe all your news comes from your buddies over coffee or in a bar, but someone you are talking to is parroting “news.”

Trump said he loved simple uneducated people for a reason. It’s worse than that. If you are fed the same narrative 24/7 I don’t care who you are or how smart you are you’ll be impacted.

I remember a day recently where I spent a day in an office with Fox News blaring the entire time I was there. It was in every room. It was an indoctrination. I started out laughing, but after three hours it got in my head. I started pondering points the pseudo commentators presented. I left seeing how a mind even slightly open to this noise could be changed, controlled.

Imagine if the doctrine presented wasn’t from something as bombastic and laughable as Fox, but your trusted morning newscasters. Your local news. The people many of us have our coffee with each morning before we head out to work.

Imagine…

I hope the Democrats and moderates and indies get off their asses in November en masse. This is all hands on deck. This is not a drill. The only way to defeat this danger is large numbers of sane people voting for the future of this country. If we fail in November, I really feel all hope may actually be lost. Trump will win in 2020, Congress will be even more complicit. Bubba, down there in the double-wide; no health insurance, debt up past his nipples, will sit there watching Fox News, swearing and sweating waiting for ISIS at his front door.

The reason these smug assholes can be so smug and do their deeds in the light of day is they know full well what they have behind them. They know many of us, perhaps most of us are already owned.

Don’t misunderstand me. The left, the people “across the aisle,” in Congress are no better. We are currently inundated with Koch brothers and Roger Stone and Mercer line. If it wasn’t them it would be some other agenda.

CNN is selling its agenda too. They are as guilty and full of shit as Fox.

As with anything else, somewhere in the middle is the truth.

The terrifying point is we lost the “Fairness Doctrine” under Reagan. The world we see today, the America we see today, the perception of that world today is the result of that loss.

We don’t need Boris and Natasha. We have Hannity and Ingrahm and Maddow and Samatha Bee.

Say it again… Just follow the money. This is all about money. Money is power. Power is money. We no longer seek the truth.

#MAGA

#MAGA – Treason pisses Americans off. It should piss you off too. People, a lot of good people, fought and died for your right to support this fascist. Sadly, it appears they died in vain.

If you are ok with money laundering and corruption and Cambridge Analytica and emoluments and porn stars and pussy grabbing and endless lying and alternate facts and “fake news,” – everything that’s not on Fox News is “fake news” –

more collusion and blackmail and Russian tampering with our elections and the KKK and White Supremacy – then he’s your guy.

His own Secretary of State called him “a fucking moron.”

Obama was a politician, that’s what they do. I’m not excusing, it’s just a fact.

So was Bush II and Clinton and Bush 1 and Reagan and Carter and Ford and Nixon and LBJ and JFK and IKE and Truman and FDR and on and on.

This fascist pig is not in any way presidential. He is a threat to everything we have held dear for longer than I’ve been alive.

You have every right – no thanks to people like trump – to support anyone you like. I hope you also enjoy the shit storm headed our way if this pig and his entire regime stay in office.

I never understood the money…

I’ve never understood the money…

The vast amounts of money that things like Google or Facebook can generate. I remember talking to another IT guy, from West Point, in the late 90’s about Yahoo and Excite – years before Google.

He saw things from a more military perspective than I, more of a global reach to these things, but neither of us could understand how giving people free e-mail and free search services could make them any money.

Fast forward twenty years and you have Google and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and a dozen others.

Vast oceans of money from “free” stuff.

Then I hear a story like Cambridge Analytica and it starts to make sense.

My daughter was getting married in 2009 we were emailing back and forth about cake bakers and photographers near her. I noticed then ads popping up in Gmail and Google for wedding related stuff, gowns, limo services, cake bakers…

At the time I was mildly amused. Possibly a bit concerned about my privacy, but not overly concerned with either wedding cakes, tuxedos or my personal information. I was, after all using a free email service. I did not expect real privacy and security.

A couple of years ago I noticed that if I’d google certain bicycle parts or Mustang car parts that similar parts would show up on Facebook ads and google ads and even emails. Maybe I was a bit more concerned.

Ok, so Google and Facebook and Twitter are mass marketing machines. I had to decide if I could accept that. I long ago realized – I don’t know who first said this – don’t put anything on the internet that you’d not want to see on the zipper in Times Square – If you want to sell me Mustang high-flow fuel pumps while I’m bitching on Facebook that doesn’t bother me that much.

But…

Being a powerful and ubiquitous advertising mechanism still didn’t add to the billions and billions and billions…

It seemed to me that advertising generated more money than the goods sold. It didn’t add up.

Guys like Zuckerberg who were multi-billionaires long before their companies ever turned a profit. Google and Yahoo and Amazon as well.

Then yesterday, I learned about Cambridge Analitica and Facebook and political campaigns and Russians and it all suddenly made sense.

They cull our personal information from us and use it to create a twisted personal reality, profiting from our fears and insecurities and feeding us lies. We act on these lies and make some incredibly bad decisions. Decisions that work to our detriment.

It’s actually creepier and more terrifying than even George Orwell warned us about.

Author of The Third Step, now available!