Some little known things about me.

This is outside the realm of opinion. It’s just a story. In keeping with my sense of privacy (I value it) I am often faced with sharing more information than usual, and that is always something I avoid outside my very immediate family unless the need arises. While it’s certainly not my first personal story, it’s the first such tale of 2017, and probably not all old news to anyone, should anyone continue reading.

intersections

Everybody remembers 2001 for their own reasons, but few recall much of the year prior to September 11th. I remember much more before that tragic day. Even some of the few who have heard parts of this story haven’t really put all the pieces together…not fully. I remember 2000/2001 as one of the most tumultuous periods of my life, even considering this was after 10 ½ years of service in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

The year that rocked the Nation on 9/11 had already taken quite a personal toll on me. I’d been dealing with the aftermath of a long battle with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of the Navy (DoN) over pay equity for DoD/DoN Civilian Air Traffic Control Specialists’ specifically, but the decision would open up the issue of equitable pay for all Federal Civilian Employees…think Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the MANY Contractor’s under their jurisdiction…all of them, and I knew that.

dc-jungle

I knew there would be push back. I knew some of that effort would be personal, whether in preparation for or after the final decision. As expected and predicted I won the case on appeal despite the other side’s obstruction, determination, silent slander AND support. The initial decision; a dismissive denial in hopes of my dropping the issue; was as expected but not as was hoped. My naiveté regarding the proud, unashamed intransigence of Our Federal Government had been largely limited to the darker side of Service, but still the same, one of Duty and of Conscience and of the Greater Good, I thought. We were all equal, right, especially in the Civilian World? Ummm…no. Anyway, after I won, a ton of Positions were downgraded in pay. Yes it happened and no, I did not mean to appear to say hurray, though I can see that point of view. Last but not least… …my, oh my, how popular was I!

As you may have guessed, I soon began ‘working on’ my resume. I’ve been tweaking it ever since.

So, I have no particular love for how the 2nd Clinton Administration allowed such a serious situation to reach the point of appeal, but President Clinton wasn’t running. Al Gore was. And so was George W. Bush. An unpopular win in both the Nation and the Supreme Court of the United States (US) put President George W. Bush in the White House and in charge of the U.S. Government and I’d been for the other guy.

Great…a gazillion Federal Jobs out there…lucky me, right!?

Except it really was great. Well I was lucky at least. My spring and summer were going to be a bit longer and hotter that year. Why requires an acknowledgement of my 1st wife (dec) Kathleen Rita Darby Stiff and a smidgen of personal history.

polaris-tartan-tweed

She and I met in Scotland. Having successfully joined the USMC in December 1988 and having suffered the first of two ‘take this ASSHOLE!’ lessons of Military Decorum, I joined Marine Corps Security Forces. I served nearly 3 years straight on Sea Duty (as bad and not as bad as you may think) ‘aboard’ the USS Simon Lake, (AS-33), in Holy Loch, Scotland. The nickname for the place was ‘Site One’ and that’s plenty of info to Google the place and its Associations all over Social Media. Part of the reason for my extended stay in Scotland was my wife’s fear of leaving the safety she’d built for herself. Kathleen was already a Resident Alien of both the UK and US, with several years as a Resident Alien in Australia, as part of an encouraged migration policy of the 1970’s between the UK and Australia, in-between. We married 18 months after meeting, halfway through my eventual tour at Site One. Leaving our home on Holy Loch; literally on the shores of the loch overlooking the site, in the small village of Sandbank; we found the process of leaving was difficult for us, but more so for Kathleen. Truthfully, she never felt at home again until we arrived and settled in Yuma, AZ. We lived there for years. We died there for years. We ended there, her and me, which ended a journey that began with a walk up to Harvester Cottage years before.

Kathleen Rita Darby passed away not far from Yuma in 2011. She still owned the house there in The Villas at Yuma East. Her heart was in Yuma when she went ahead of us writers and readers. Her heart never left. She was a proud Immigrant Citizen of the US from the moment she swore the Oath of Allegiance to the US. She waited her turn and had no real need to ‘become a Citizen’ other than it was a dream that she felt she had to earn the right to fulfill. She was privileged and she knew it.

yuma-az-desert-sunset

Back now, to the longer, hotter desert spring and summer. Kathleen and our youngest daughter would be absent from the house while attending her friend’s wedding in the United Kingdom (UK). Some time prior to their departure, during spring if memory serves, I’d applied to a position in Europe. Shortly after my wife and daughter departed for the UK I was notified that I’d been selected for the Position of Director of Operations and Air Traffic Control, under the NATO Commanders at/controlling Taszar Air Base  in south-central Hungary. I knew it would be difficult to communicate with my wife about the offer and as we had already discussed the matter when I submitted my application, I accepted the Position and began the necessary paperwork nightmare to fill a Sensitive Post.

nato

The paperwork process continued uninterrupted as did my wife’s concerns about my/our relocation and no hurdle had stopped my progress…until one did. A high-hurdle, one that in the end I chose not to try to clear. Though the issue had nothing to do with me on a personal or professional level, it certainly would have made a huge, mostly detrimental impact crater in the already peppered landscape of my life. After very careful consultation with my wife, I officially and regrettably declined to accept the Position. We decided that the likelihood of holding our family together would be slim if I accepted. That decision still troubles me to this day and always will.

Fast forward a few long months to September, to the early hours of that eleventh September morning, to that horrifically stained and Memorialized day. What was your job on 9/11? I was an Air Traffic Control Supervisor then. I was sitting on my couch in my living room watching along with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric as the World Trade scene started to unfold before our eyes. I wasn’t wondering along with them as they posited guesses about what had happened. I had tears streaming down my face because I feared I knew what had happened, at least in part. When the second aircraft hit the towers it may as well have entered my chest. I was in utter disbelief that somebody successfully pulled off the attacks. I’d not thought it possible to cry more profusely, yet I did, and for some time.

federal-air-marshals

I’d been gutted. My wife could see it. She recognized the frustration in me pleading for relief. At first no relief came. A few miserable days of trying to pretend my world and the World around weren’t wobbling. Then Chris Thomas, a buddy at work told me about a new job posting. The Federal Air Marshal Program, then under the FAA, was hiring additional Agents for one of the most sought after Positions in the Anti-Terror World at that time. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the complexity of these momentous intersections, interactions and coincidences that were piling up around me. For me it was a complete no-brain-er…all heart and gut. As luck would have it, I’d just had a microscope up my business which greatly expedited my selection. I had applied immediately upon hearing of the announcement and was almost as immediately offered a Position as Federal Air Marshal. I accepted. I am now retired. My first retirement home was near Dallas, TX.

dallas-tx

There was to be another weird intersection in my life. In 2006 I met, and in 2007 married my 2nd wife Silvana, then a Bosnian Refugee of the Balkan War/Conflict in which the US was involved to a great extent, a war that was waged from a relatively unknown NATO Air Base in Hungary…imagine my surprise. She immigrated to the US and the Dallas, TX area in October 1997, nearly 4 years before I declined the Position that was involved in scarring her homeland.

She has immigrated, assimilated, dreamed and excelled in the US since her arrival. Now she’s a proud Immigrant Citizen of the United States (she was when we married) with deep ties to a European and US Community who have suffered grievous injury by Our Nation’s sense of the Greater Good. Some of my conversations with that Community are heated, and some of them won’t happen or just haven’t happened yet. Silvana is; via education and personal experience; a Subject Matter Expert on the Refugee Community and the many aspects of the harsh, uncertain life of a War or Religious Refugee. Still, she and all my new family and friends share one great attribute…they ALL love this Country. They ALL love America, just like me, ever since they swore that Oath of Allegiance to the US…their home.

memory-meld

She and I recently visited the World Trade and 9/11 Memorials and Museums in New York City. I simply cannot describe how deeply I was affected by everything I saw, from Katie and Matt on a loop, searching for the insight that far too few were able to conjure. Twisted beams so reflective they cast a shadow over all who see them. And the people. The people who’d still haunt me in my dreams if I dared allow it. The people were staring back through the glass at me but no words could soften the lump in my throat. Silvana knew when I needed space…she knows more of me than anyone alive…she gave me space to breathe away and brush away my grief and she found her own. She was there with me and for me and because of me and still would have been without me. She’s an American…that’s what we do.

There have been several other weird connections and missed connections in the time since I retired; since I remarried. I’ll try and write some of it down…since I have time.

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The Red-Faced Book.

drstiff

mugged

It’s no secret that I despise facebook. It’s certainly no secret to the few who haven’t unfollowed me there. No secret to the large number of facebook friends, family and strangers who keep trolling through my feed even though I stopped posting there completely until recently.

The lies and bullshit that turned facebook into fakebook (known/denied for years now) became too much for me. Fake news stories and opinions (even fake opinions) based on garbage or twisted, contorted innuendo took over feeds in some cases. Semi-serious analysis points to a 2 to 1 margin for fake stories on pro-Trump feeds over others. Don’t make the mistake of allowing the exoneration of one side. Instead indict both sides for the swift kick in the balls we are still absorbing from Tuesday week.

showusyour-kooch

As disturbing as all the fake noise and real noise of the 2016 campaign was, the problem for me was your silence. Almost nobody within eyesight of my feeds or my blogs or whatever would join in any discussion at all. On EITHER SIDE of this contest you said little or nothing. Now that we have to survive the epic embarrassment of Trump, pleas to give him a chance to succeed aren’t connected to reality, only Reality TV. The Constitution itself stands as proof that a Trump Administration has failed. The road Trump dragged us down to the 2nd Electoral College only victory in sixteen years has caused a Systemic Failure. Whether he leaves in one day or month or eight years, Trump is forever tainted and so are we.

So what the hell do we do about this crap? Not Trump, but your silence; the same silence that equals your consent. The same enabling of bad people to say and do perhaps horrific things because people I thought were good people (yes…my definition) said nothing…did nothing, or very little.

how-do-you-use-this

So, I wonder…silently…aloud…way too loud, I wonder. Why?

Why the silence? The vote is over now. As lazy or convenient or self-serving I believe that silence to have been (that’s way up high on my BS Meter), the silence NOW is bordering on absurdity. We just elected a fool and carnival barker to the highest office in the land and I’m not at all sure how many of you feel about that.

Claim Trump. Own him! Reject Trump. Disown him!

trump-to-the-world

Just pick one already. And stick your holiday jam recipes up some Chump’s ass.

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If You Were Silent in 2016,

then here we sit my Brothers and Sisters, on the first Sunday after We sinned. So many of us remained silent during this Election for various self-serving reasons. The election is over. Speak now.

“…We sinned.”

As you sat in the Church pews this morning (if you’re so inclined) or held vigil on the Sunday Talk Show Circuit (precisely as I did) or desperately dug through info on the Political mood of your friends, family and followers on Social Media (an exhausting task for those who’d not gotten the head start), as you did what you did on Wednesday and beyond, did you reflect on the sins you committed on the road to casting your vote on Tuesday?

I haven’t attended a Church service in a long time. I certainly haven’t scuffed the knees of my pants praying, but please keep reading as I try to explain what we’re guilty (my opinion) of getting right and wrong. This is a Bi-partisan guilt trip. This is not a me thing, it’s a WE thing. This is my critique and my confession to you all, if not to a God.

We faced a moral dilemma on Election Tuesday. The ‘lesser of two evils’ argument appears to have been skipped rather than answered.

So as Christians, or as a Christian Nation:

Did we not worship false prophets? On one side, Clinton: a Centrist so late to join the Populist Movement that she couldn’t be believed as a True Progressive or; by extension; truthful. On the other side, Trump: a person so devoid of ideology or empathy that he would praise the Black Plague for ‘choosing’ not to wipe out his genetic line decades ago. A man so vain that any imperfection in his reflection is the mirror’s fault…or the person who made the mirror…or the defective person or wall or genie holding the mirror.

Taking the name of God in vain…check.

Sunday is Holy? It’s plain to see the only thing holy about Sunday are nets and goals.

We did honor our parents in a sick and twisted way. We extended their influence for 1 or 2 more generations. People who insisted on or accepted Racism and Discrimination and Inequality were on their way to being Dinosaurs, but more importantly their toxic policies were dying out. The grandchildren will pay for this in a radically disproportionate way than the grandparents do.

Kill? N/A.

Adultery is tolerated across all Religious and Political boundaries.

Stealing? N/A.

Lord, Lord, Lord did we bear false witness on a grand scale. Lies were a staple of the entire Circus.

Did we covet? Are you kidding me? From the number of people who’d like to get into Melania’s pants or look at the pics from her past, to give me a job or a raise or a voice or say or tax-cut or education or just plain old ‘GIVE ME A GOD DAMNED CHANCE!’ With the best and worst of intentions we’ve redefined ‘Gimme’ as a Constitutional right … like happiness as a right, not the suggested and protected ‘pursuit’ that it is.

We can make up for our transgressions in 2018. It will take generations to grant us forgiveness. I mean that quite literally. Our children and grandchildren will be asked to forgive us, and they will if we join them.

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The Big Top Is Taken Down

 

Elephants, Donkeys and Others head to their trains.

 

Today the Big Top of the 2016 Political Circus is dismantled, but with new and careful instructions, labels and markings on how to reconstruct it in a purposeful way. The purpose or redesign of what became and has been widely panned as The Un-Greatest Show on Earth has the potential to be constructed to fit any need, even the needs that created this Circus; this cycle. What if it repeats and “they” again try to drain their personal swamp into Washington DC? Then, I’ll let the lapsed yet inner Catholic in me bid you ask that God help us. Help the US. I may risk a lightning strike and ask for help myself.

 

If we squander the lessons of time and sentiment, of demography and science, of freedoms and divisions which were exposed during this 3-ringed spectacle…

Blind and Blindsided Both Begging to Be Boss

…then we lose. We the People lose.

 

In twelve hours the decision will likely be reached that Hillary Clinton will defeat Trump and become the 45th President of the Greatest and most powerful Country in the World. The first stories of the late evening’s round tables on Television and Social Media will celebrate that victory with glee, as will many. Post celebration, the Media had better insist on starting and furthering the widest respectful public discussion about the messages that carried the day for the winner this time around, and of the messages and messengers that failed. All of this will shape support or opposition to Hillary, the Democrats, and the Post-Election Republican Factions.

 

Within a week of the Polls closing, we’ll know where all the chips fell.

How many different brooms will we allow to be used as we sweep up all the chips?

 

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It Has Been My Privilege

drs

It has been my recent privilege to abandon unproductive social interaction, which for anyone openly vocal about Politics, Race, Social Justice Resurgence and Criminal Justice Reform really translates as at-or-near zero interaction on Social Media.

It has also been my privilege (along with millions of other former and current Civil Servants at all levels) to see the burgeoning Public dialog swing in the direction I’ve (we’ve) been advocating for decades. That the key to Public/Private Partnership is a relationship built upon a foundation of mutually earned, deserved, and proudly accepted TRUST on ALL Sides. That relationship currently exists only with respect to HOPE, not trust. Accordingly this ‘hope model’ is most likely to continue for some time, though terrible things will certainly continue to befall us, and as hungry media spews out divisive rhetoric. I trust this, as I HOPE it doesn’t come to pass.

It was my privilege to live an adult professional life of Public Service. I was one of the many who were inspired to answer the call to join the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. We did more than babysit Bridesmaids on flights to Vegas. The FAMS was ground zero in the effort which would eventually culminate with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, an event so consequential in American History that it will provide fact and fodder for decades of Journalistic Review and Scholarly Debate. Remember the Patriot Act? I remember it, and I’ve not been a huge fan of many of the Act’s actions or consequences, whether intentional or unintentional.

It was my privilege to serve as a Senior Air Traffic Control (ATC) Supervisor and Specialist. We did more than babysit most of the aircraft in the sky from point to point and from wheels to wings and back, because we did it carrying an extra load. We carried the added weight of physical and mental stress from a job which few other professions can relate to, this on top of our own share of the burdens of everyday life. While the Nation’s stressed out Citizenry is popping happy pills like an endless supply of Pez, ATC and other professions are left to deal with the totality of their burdens without the aid of such assistance. Use a pill, lose your job…that’s the broad reality. Perhaps one’s failing under that overload deserves to be a special Aviation Incident Category. Aircraft and the people flying them aren’t the only ones in the Aviation Community to crash and burn.

It was my privilege to serve 10 ½ years in the United States Marine Corps, serving in both Marine ATC and Security Forces. From my first very long day of Boot Camp to today, I’ve had the opportunity to do and accomplish and fail at more things than I could ever imagine as a young man. I changed what was my reality by reaching for what was possible, and by reaching deeper within myself than I’d ever thought possible. Earning the title ‘United States Marine’ was the first major personal achievement of my adult life, and my first professional interaction with black people.

It has been my privilege to do everything I have done in life as a white person. This simple fact has loomed large in my life since the early days of my childhood. I was raised around Racism. I know Racism is real and I know I’m Racist. I know that Racism is real because I know other Racists. I recognize an extremely reluctant Racist every time I look in the mirror, and every time I see that part of myself in that reflection I am stung by that recognition. Then I try to do better, and be less racist in the future. I do what I can.

It was my privilege to have a multi-racial (black & white) stepdaughter. I was privileged to give her a white stepsister, privileged to watch them interact with the world separately and together, and privileged to have a living example of white privilege and racial disparity to study on a daily basis.

It was my privilege to be pulled over in a freeway traffic stop just a bit south of Dallas, Texas for excessive speed. It was my privilege to complete that process having uttered only one single word to the attending Officer through a 4 inch opening in my driver’s side window. I was not alone. I was not cautious. I made no attempt to put the Officer at ease, nor did I limit my movement or conversation or other interactions during this encounter, yet I met with no ill treatment or questions or even questioning gaze. I was a forty-something white man with a wife and others in a Land Rover SUV. Admittedly, it was just a speed trap, but my actions and all but absent speech never triggered a hint of suspicion on the part of the Officer.

It was recently my privilege to witness a young black Bank Teller interact firmly and respectfully with an older white woman bent on wounding the young lady’s spirit by attacking her with vile, RACIST comments and accusations. I wondered aloud how I would react to a customer’s insistent request that I don gloves for the duration of their transaction because they were allergic to my Race. The older woman actually insisted she was allergic to black people, and everyone else in the bank felt their jaws hit the floor. As management attempted to mitigate the damage and usher the woman out the door, I replaced her at the same young teller’s window, and the gist of my message to the young lady was how well she handled the offensive interaction…much better than I thought I’d have done in the same situation.

It has been my privilege to do or attempt or fail at a great many things. I openly admit that the greatest unearned privilege of my life has been my having had the good fortune to be born a white male in America.

It has been my lifelong privilege to be white.

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LGBT

drs

A Farewell to Facebook…for now.

Dear Friends,

And I mean that sincerely, not for some vain or fawning reason, but because I have no little “f” friends. That’s by choice. I have no use for them, not because I don’t care, because I’m as bleeding heart as they come, right? I don’t have the time for them because of all the crap my hands have been full of up to now. Unfortunately I mean that both figuratively and literally, to which my wife and daughter can attest. : )

So, what is this? Well, after much soul searching, my best guess is just…it’s time.

Notice the title of this post. “LGBT” was what I had initially saved the file as when I decided it wasn’t necessary to do the “good deed” I had planned to do; even penned to do. I almost let some people off the hook for disrespecting and disregarding my Sister and her Spouse. I wish nor mean no malice towards the people to whom I refer, truly, but I decided to leave the hook set squarely where it is, because I believe that it’s caught in the correct fishes’ mouths. I can understand that some of you may disagree, and I’m open to rational discussion, but it’s time for vocal, visible support for the causes I care about, and the people I care about. I was about to post this additional comment to my Sister’s post:

 

“With reluctance, I must explain a comment I made to my sister, and disavow much of what two of her daughters posted to me in response.

As I read my sister’s post (2 ½ days after the attack on the LGBT Nightclub in Orlando), I interpreted it as a public acknowledgment of her need for comfort and support, and her frustration that only one member of her friends and family had reached out to her. That frustration is shared by far too many members of the LGBT Community who have been ostracized by friends, family and society as a whole. These people need support, especially now that the LGBT Community is the new high mark for Mass Murder in America. I saw my Sister’s post 2 hours later and did a very simple thing. I clicked the like button, and made a comment of support to her post.

Fully two days after my comment, I made an additional comment lodging my dissatisfaction with what I perceived with the lack of response my sister received to her cry for help. To be clear, my sister has a great many friends and family. I expected more. I was disappointed and I wanted to publicly note my disappointment.”

 

It’s all true of course, but it hardly tells the whole of the story, or the emotion I felt towards this issue. Anyway, in the famous words of Angus Duke recently, “blah, blah, blah.”

So let’s consider this my “time-out” for almost doing the wrong thing…again. A Facebook time-out. I simply cannot justify or afford getting mired down in “friend and family correctness”. Two years back or so I did a similar thing just to avoid some petty political spats with people who didn’t or wouldn’t use their grey matter, and that matters to me a shitload.

Here’s why, and I’ll be blunt. On Social Media in general, but especially on Facebook, I’ve been disrespected by people who barely know me, and on Facebook, many of those people used to be my family. I suppose they think they know me, but they just know a snippet. The same, more or less, as I know some of them.

Anyway, let me say that people mean something to me, a fact that doesn’t cross my lips or fingertips often enough and I didn’t want to disappear without an explanation. I know what I know and believe what I believe because I’m damn smart and I’m a survivor. That’s not bragging, it’s the truth. I’m lucky enough to have done some cool things that not everyone has the opportunity to do. Also, I’ve had to do some things that scared the shit out of me and still does today, and I’m only referring to the first twelve years of my life. More fear followed.

Life wasn’t good for a long while, but there have been great times. I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t change a thing, but I look forward to a great future, I have a great wife, great children and grandchildren. Like I said…some of you know a different ME. Nobody knows every ME. I’m not special. The same is true for all of us. Simply put, it’s just that for me, Facebook is starting to hurt too much.

So, if you have my phone number or can get it, you’re welcome to use it. I’m not going to give out my personal email to Facebook. If you have it or can get it, feel free to use it while it lasts. I’ll provide an alternate address I manage. I advocate for the I AM HERE for Veterans Program; @IAMHEREforVets and #IAMHEREforVets on twitter, email iamhereforvets@gmail.com, or on the web at I AM HERE for Veterans . We strive to help make life better for the Veterans who need help and damn well deserve it, including myself and some of you. Especially Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Addiction. I’ll be concentrating my efforts there and with Congress during this election cycle.

Just no more Facebook. No senseless drama. No more lies…I lied for a living for years and I maintained my own lies and other peoples lies for nearly five decades.

That’s enough. That’s over. It’s time.

 

Thanks for reading. Thanks for whatever it is that you add to my life, even if neither of us knows what that is.

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Running Colors

drs

I got into this situation with,

trepidation with,

attempted communication with the Nation

but my Nation was small; most on vacation.

 

I remember how I got into this

to say how I’m not into this

pot-of-piss Political division.

I’m not into derision.

 

I made a decision to speak my piece.

That revision remains the centerpiece

of each literary master piece of fiction or fact

I publish, hoping someone will react.

 

But I watched as my mini-world turned micro.

Saw my comments flying solo.

Noticed stalkers on the down-low, sneaking info.

Some folks creeping on their kin folk.

 

Us vs. them since twenty-twelve, in the fall.

Purple ice began to thaw.

Solidarity melting provided clarity.

Blue and red don’t mix except for charity.

 

Four years later I’m still yelling it and yelling at

the mad souls who keep saying this and saying that.

No pretending that the words I choose to use out loud

shouldn’t make all those before or behind me proud.

 

I got into this.

 

( @MiddleDude on twitter )

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