Another thing entirely

So, I was writing this insightful, magnificently structured essay on Hillary Clinton and the revolution that will not happen when she’s elected. The GOP is right about that; Clinton is the very embodiment of the liberal establishment — which is in some ways fine, at least the parts that have to do with equality and tolerance. But liberal solutions — public housing, welfare to work, urban renewal — have not worked, and we’re back in “now what?” land.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Magical thinking can be found in unexpected places. Currently, there’s a feeling among many in my karass that we must say nothing bad about Hillary Clinton because some voter in Pennsylvania will hear about it and convince 10,000 of his fellow citizens to vote for Donald Trump and therefore threaten the Supreme Court, Obamacare and all Muslims everywhere.”

And then I talk about foreign policy (largely unmentioned in the campaign) and poverty (ditto — instead the talk is all about middle class families and how they’ve suffered in the new kleptocracy; the poor have suffered even more, but no one wants to talk about them, because we have this notion that poverty is a character defect).

(Notice how the italicized paragraph reads a lot better than the one after it? I had wonderful paragraphs, adept turns of phrase, and a blog post that veered between the obvious and the obscure, with a little “just plain wrong” thrown in. That’s what I had: entirely bogus, yet well written, paragraphs).

No one wants to talk about the sad realities of American history. Whatever we say, we are a warlike people. We have the largest army  in the history of everything. We believe that it’s our God-derived right to tell other countries what to do. We have killed children and old people, doctors and priests and cab drivers and farmers. We committed genocide against our own native peoples. We continue to lock up the innocent; we continue to use torture to punish them. (Solitary confinement is torture; in our saner moments, we recognize that). And so forth: I tried to list our various sins, but I became too depressed and had to make myself a nice pot of tea. Herbal.

Against all that, the election seems to be pretty small potatoes. Both Trump and Hillary support American armed presence everywhere. They participate gladly in the fight against ISIS (which is a violent criminal organization, no question) but also things like the Saudi bombing of Yemen and the cold war with China over mineral resources in Africa. They both support unregulated surveillance of American citizens; indeed, Hillary participated in that policy.

I’m not saying “don’t vote”; I’m gonna vote, because the Donald is so ignorant that his policies are essentially incoherent, as opposed to the semi-coherent government we have now. But politics? A whole lot of fun to gossip about, especially in this Trumpian  world. On the other hand:

Death Valley 00176b20160308
Foreground: Tufa. Background: Sierra

Or perhaps:

20160122-Darcy 0001020160122
The baby next door, trying not to look at the cacti

 Or even:

Jon & Joan
The late Joan Mankin. Her deep devotion to silliness is a model for us all.

Nature, babies, friends. The quotidian world. The things we touch every day, the emotions we feel, the goals we have. We are lucky; it’s true. We live in peace, more or less. And I think we have an obligation to enjoy that peace, to cherish those things that require cherishing. The lies of politics can be a distraction. Taken internally, they can be toxic.

We gotta dance, friends. Fixed income or not; aging body or not; the tragedies and failures of living or not; dance.

west oakland36
Yeah, like that.

Of course we have to live in society. We have to be committed to social justice. Which means advocating, volunteering, donating. Political campaigns come and political campaigns go, but there will always be people who need our help, natural wonders worth saving. Lemme do a few links.

There’s the wonderful Alameda County Food Bank. There’s Oakland’s own beloved Fairyland. There’s the Southern Poverty Law Center. There’s the International Crane Foundation, which is admittedly an eccentric choice. There’s the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, another eccentric choice but I encourage eccentric choices. There’s good old Doctors Without Borders. And so forth. Feel free to post your own links in the comments section, including local ones.

So we do that, and we try to live our lives with grace and understanding, and we listen. Then we dance.


I thinks it’s time for a joke:

The graduate with a science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
The graduate with an engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
The graduate with an accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”
The graduate with an arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

Another joke:

How many Freudian analysts does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change it, and the other to hold the penis. LADDER. I MEANT LADDER.

One more:

A boy and a man sit on a couch together. The boy says to the man, “Yeah, well, I didn’t believe in reincarnation when I was your age either.”

Wait, I can’t help myself:

I said to the Gym instructor “Can you teach me to do the splits?” He said, ”How flexible are you?” I said, ”I can’t make Tuesdays.”

We only pass this way but once, so we won’t need a road map. Let’s breathe a little bit. Over there somewhere, Donald Trump is saying something astoundingly stupid, and Hillary Clinton is still refusing to do press conferences. Meanwhile, the gas bill is due, the car is making a banging sound, your boss is a douchebag, and there may be some sex in the near future if you play your cards right. It’s afternoon, the sun is bright, the cat is hiding in the long grass, and there’s still time for everything.


Birdwatchers just pick a spot and experience it.

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Advice that I am still not following by Michelle Mizera

57 thoughts on “Another thing entirely

  1. Well, yeah to everything you say (especially that charming photo of you and Joan) but…

    “the poor have suffered even more, but no one wants to talk about them, because we have this notion that poverty is a character defect”

    We also have this notion that poor people don’t vote (or not in large enough numbers to pay attention to them), and that poor people don’t have money with which to make people care what they think. Those are a couple more reasons people don’t want to talk about them.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Absolutely. Also, few people understand what hard work it is being poor. They think of poor people as sluggards and slackers, when they’re working as hard as any CEO — and the work is not nearly as interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. So glad that you mentioned the Alameda County Community Food Bank, Jon. I’ve been volunteering there for some time now, and what keeps me going back is an astonishing fact of life in the Bay Area that the folks at ACCFB mention during their orientation meetings: One in five residents of Alameda County do not get enough food. Yup, that’s one in five, 20% of our neighbors are hungry. In an area as wealthy as here in the Bay Area, that is worse than obscene; it’s downright criminal.

    I would encourage local residents to spend some time sorting and bagging produce (just one example of the work volunteers do). It’s a little thing, really, with a huge impact. And, y’know, it’s actually fun to spend a morning or afternoon with like-minded people doing good work. Plus, it’s good exercise.

    So, thank you, Jon!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John,

    You’ve overlooked something, which is that CA is a hyper-blue, and not a swing, state, a fortunate situation that allows us to vote our conscience since CA’s electoral votes will certainly go to Hillary and the Supreme Court, at least, will be safe.

    Me, I’m going to vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, whose platform is much, much closer to my beliefs; Google it and see if that’s not true for you, too.

    And then consider joining me . . .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a fallacy, a smear tactic used against Stein. She’s a medical doctor; of course she supports safe and necessary vaccinations. She only said maybe the for-profit manufacturers shouldn’t be influencing the testing of vaccinations for safety and efficacy, and FDA approval – you know, fox, hen house.

        As for “superstitious idiots,” that’s really not fair. Most moms and dads are not scientists, but they have kick-ass instincts when something doesn’t pass the smell test. When you see your child experience an abrupt personality change, or marked change in development, directly after receiving a cluster of vaccines, it tends to make you go “hmm.” Talk to other parents who have witnessed a similar correlation, and the “hmm” gets stronger. People have a right to ask questions…and we all have a right not to trust our corporacratic government, which after all let Citizens United stand.

        As Jill Stein said, “Anyone who supports vaccinations, and wishes to prevent dropping vaccination rates, should be concerned about the erosion of public trust caused by the corrupting influence of the pharmaceutical industry in regulatory agencies and government in general.”


        1. i think that’s just a cover story. The problems with pharmaceuticals are manifold, but none of it has to do with vaccines, which are not harmful to 99.7 per cent of the population. Which is reason enough not to vote for her, plus there’s the part about how she’s going to be beaten soundly by the…Libertarian candidate.

          But I don’t wanna talk politics. You have lured me in, you succubus.


        2. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “the government” that let Citizens United stand. Wasn’t it some specific Supreme Court judges urged on by some specific, individual Americans with a certain agenda they are pushing?

          I think we will be a lot more effective when we stop acting as if the government is one specific entity. It really might depend upon the individuals involved and the positions of power they are in. Food for thought.


  4. Some organizations I support:
    Positive Futures Network – publisher of Yes Magazine, which features news about lots of great alternative community based stuff you’ll never find out about in mainstream media.
    Oakland Public Conservatory – Offering affordable, culturally relevant music education to Oakland kids.
    Attitudinal Healing Connection – Building self esteem through art for at risk kids. Hosting monthly Racial Reconciliation circles.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Easy enough to highlight the text, right click and do a google search. Each of these are the first search result, ad free.


  5. What you guys, and Jon of course you know I think you’re wonderful, what you guys don’t recognize is that there will be a revolution. Not the revolution you have in mind. But how women work together is very different, and how we see things is different, and she will be a different kind of President than we’ve ever seen.


  6. Thank you, Jon. We’re missing you a lot; the Datebook has lost much of its allure for me. Since you mention it, I do have a non-profit to cite:

    It’s a non-profit to create a community farm in the urban core of Santa Cruz, CA, where people with developmental disabilities are welcome. I’m on the board and it’s a very cool, very worthy cause. – Leslie B


  7. (Shhhhh… we’re not talking about the water politics that decide how far those tufa towers stick up from Mono Lake.)


  8. What do you think about Oakland Promise? I like the notion very much but worry about the effectiveness of 4-year college within the coming decades as a lever out of poverty.


    1. I gotta look that up, but I do share your doubts. When college becomes universally available, it will not have the same power to improve people’s lives. Plus (I speak as an old person), colleges today: Oof.


  9. I realized long ago that my Magister Ludi enjoyment of the fun and complexity of presidential politics had little to do with the real world. I saw clearly that A) I would never see elected the folks I wanted to see elected, B) as a nation we always get the leadership we deserve, and C) 4 years is nothing. (Dr. Ben Carson was actually on to something!). As Californians, we survived 16 years of Reagan, one way and another. Then sooner or later we got Jerry back. (Oh, D: Nobody’s perfect.). You just never know. Anyway, simplified everything for me. Best to take the long view, to quote a really wise guy: “Every 100 years, all new people.” La Lucha Continua.

    Those are some good jokes! Not a joke per se, but this from The Simpsons:

    Homer was going to join some cult or something, and Lisa sez she sez:

    “Oh Dad you’re so suggestible.”

    Homer: “You’re right! I *am* suggestible!”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your joke about the various college majors reminded me of Douglas Adams’s’ wonderful quote about civilization:
    “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mario was right, throwing yourself on the gears works every time so just keep truckin’ and flashing yer peace sign and rattling yer love beads … ’cause the Age of Aquarius is arriving any second now.


  12. I find,this especially entertaining this morning…here in Ireland and Looking at yesterday’s posts…thanks, Kathy Shea

    Sent from my iPad



  13. Hi Jon and Fellow Jon Fans (FJF’s); Adding to your list of worthwhile causes, check out Oakland’s Coalition for Police Accountability. We are the group that has worked for over 4 years to get the City Council to approve a ballot measure for November 2016. Known as Measure LL, it will establish a Police Commission that will have much more power over our Police Force than the current Civilian Police Review Board. We need donations in order to run a successful YES on LL Campaign. Please go to and donate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was the plan. Wait:

      “I just learned the answer to the question asked in Hamlet, “What is he to Hecuba, or Hecuba to him?” Answer: “The shortest volumes in the encyclopedia.”


  14. Yeah.  In this house, I think about writing something cogent and not yet written, something it would be valuable for people to know.  I could even get paid a pittance for it in one publication.  But I don’t write it. All the reasons. Bad for my back.  Another dreary opinion backed up by sorrow-inducing facts.  No clout.  Wasted effort.  Bad storytelling or maybe I’m just lazy.  But until I feel some pleasure in doing it, who cares if I point out the doors leading forward and what lies behind each one.  So far, in this life, we have participated in many uplifting movements.  And been beaten by evil pricks with money every fuckin time.  Because here we are. Now.

    Eh? Martha Ture


  15. Jon Carroll I think I love you and I needed to read this this morning. Young, I bought the magical liberal thinking. Bought, hell I swallowed it whole. Now older and not necessarily wiser but certainly more experienced with a long professional life in public education, then almost 10 years riding with the cops to crime, death, suicide, etc scenes I no longer believe in magic nor do I embrace the liberal fantasy. But what to do??? OMG!! I cannot vote for Mr. Trump although throughout his insane ramblings of his own wonder I hear some truths that cannot be denied, some truths Mrs. Clinton would never own as valid. So I sit in the surf watching my big dog play; I hike although now only on the trails and then I volunteer in a school for homeless children, I’ve applied to become a member of a board that reviews and makes decisions on police activity as well as another that hopes to improve our local parks without destroying those random and homeless overnighters. I play with my grand-kids grateful, every so grateful now that a long term sobriety has afforded me this gift. I try to live in the moment, I seek joy in small events and peaceful places and I try to not contribute to the hate, the insanity and then on the days I can read a thoughtful essay such as yours –I am prone to wax philosophical –I can feel hope that we are not all insane only confused, sometimes fearful but ever present and ever seeking. Thank You !!!!


      1. Yeah, yeah but perfection never even an option only progress as we all trudge, hopefully mostly happily this road to whatever revolution awaits us.


  16. I wasn’t quite sure where you were going with this one. Like you (like all of us, maybe), I’ve grown so weary of the public and social media rage engendered by this truly dismal presidential campaign, which is indeed toxic. I don’t have much faith in Hillary, but Trump is so clearly a disaster on wheels that I can’t imagine why or how any sane person could think he’s “The Answer,” much less vote for him.

    Meanwhile, the world is going up in literal and figurative flames everywhere we look, but I can only look for so long before the need to close my eyes becomes overwhelming. The people being consumed by those flames don’t have that luxury, of course — they’re too busy burning down — and we may not either for much longer.

    So I just surrendered to go with your narrative flow… which took me to a very good place indeed.

    Thanks. I didn’t quite realize how much I needed that.


  17. WE NEED A DEPT OF PEACE, book, interview with Charlie Keil on KPFA today. Sounds like a good book and an excellent suggestion. Might we try?


    1. No, not a book club, but that is a good idea, too. A dept. of peace, as discussed in book (see note) would involve creating enough support for our reps. to establish a Dept. of Peace, (alternative to War Dept., known as Defense Dept.). This dept. would discuss alternatives to war when another war idea or suggestion comes up, as it seems to with each new president……I think its time. Its actually overdue. We peacniks need representation, too.


  18. No matter what happens at the national level, there’s always something local that needs to be done, some issue that can be handled better by those of us who are close to it. It’s a responsibility I am happy to embrace.


  19. Glad you are blogging. It helps me know I am not alone in this exceptional election season. As for volunteering – here is one close to my heart: CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) You choose to work with a foster child as a mentor. The need is great. The rewards are, too. The link below is for San Mateo County but this program is in every county and across the country.


  20. Thanks for the laughs and the reminder to dance – off to the lake shortly to do just that. (Born in SF so it’s the lake, Oakland, and Tahoe for The Lake)


  21. I’m so happy to have found you. I titled myself “Your most loyal fan in San Jose.” I thought that you were lost forever. I will try to catch up on your prior wit and wisdom. I wish that I also could love “our” candidate more, but she’s the only game in town we got. Perhaps we can push her away from endless wars and questionable trade deals. Once again, thanks for being there and helping me retain sanity.


  22. like the idea of taking readers through the writing. hey, it appears that neither you guys nor I have done our assignments for Jon Carroll book. What do you think? It’s your book.. maybe you are too busy and happy to want to fiddle with it right now? An issue as important as this should be discussed over dinner. not free tomorrow night, are you?

    On Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 2:38 PM, Jon Carroll Prose wrote:

    > joncarrollprose posted: “So, I was writing this insightful, magnificently > structured essay on Hillary Clinton and the revolution that will not happen > when she’s elected. The GOP is right about that; that Clinton is the very > embodiment of the liberal establishment — which is in s” >


  23. Great column. Spot on.

    My wife and I did the food bank last week. Hard work but immensely satisfying. 5 of us bagged 1 ton of apples in under two hours. Everyone should put in some time there.

    Oh. the Musicians Action Group really loved your article about Harvey Robb’s memorial. Thanks again.


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