Category Archives: Random Musings

Prop Master: A Look at the November 2016 California Ballot Propositions

In between writing a second Hallmark Xmas movie with a lot of very earnest dialogue about the meaning of the holiday and a Lifetime movie with lots of single white female drama, I decided to take some time and write up my thoughts on the propositions as I do every year.

Now, as we have discussed, I hate the California ballot process. It is ridiculous that laws (or worse, constitutional amendments) are made by 50% plus one person of the fraction of people who actually vote, many of whom don’t take the time to do anything other than pay a little bit of attention to the misdirection and outright lies that most of the campaign TV commercials put out there. My default position is to vote “no” since most of them are put forth by extreme factions, often Republican, who can’t get things advanced legislatively in the state.

But every now and then there are some that come around that I think are worthy of attention. There are few this time around, including one I feel very passionate about. There are a lot of them this year so buckle in.

QUICK LOOK:

No on 51 (School Bonds)
No on 52 (Diverting Hospital Fee Revenue)
No on 53 (Voter Approval of Revenue Bonds)
No on 54 (Public Display of Bills)
No on 55 (Extension of Top Tax Rate)
No on 56 (Tobacco Tax)
No on 57 (Non-Violent Parole)
Yes on 58 (Allows Bi-Lingual Education)
Yes on 59 (Demand Action Against Citizens United)
No on 60 (Condoms in Adult Films)
No no 61 (Drug Price Standards)
Yes on 62 (Repeal the Death Penalty)
Yes on 63 (Gun and Ammunition Control)
Yes on 64 (Legalizes Marijuana)
No on 65 (Bag Fees for Wildlife Fund)
No on 66 (Changes to the Death Penalty Process)
Yes on 67 (Bans Plastic Bags)

IN DEPTH


Proposition 51: School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities. Initiative Statute

The short version:
Issues $9 billion in bonds to pay for schools and community colleges

Who is for it:
Almost everyone – Democrats, Republicans, teachers, and on and on

What the people for it say:
For God’s sake, won’t someone please think of the children! They are our future, you know?

Who is against it:
Governor Jerry Brown and the Libertarians

What the people against it say:
Nine BILLION dollars? What the fuck? Plus, it doesn’t have enough protections in it to ensure that the money is directed to low-income neighborhoods where it is truly needed.

What I say:
What the fuck? Sorry, kids. I’m with Governor Jerry.

Verdict:
NO on Prop 51


Proposition 52: Voter Approval to Divert Hospital Fee Revenue Dedicated to Medi-Cal

The Short Version:
Hospitals pay fees to the state to help them qualify for federal Medicaid funds – fees that are supposed to go into a fund that is matched by the state. However, legislators sometimes “redirect” those fees to other uses. Prop 52 is a constitutional amendment and state statute that would require any “redirection” of these fees to be approved by voters or by 2/3 of the legislature, which would effectively end the practice.

Who is for it:
Democrats, Republicans, the Health care industry – kind of everyone

What the people for it say:
Politicians are shady and they shouldn’t be allowed to use money for one thing on something else.

Who is against it:
Libertarians, mostly.

What the people against it say:
This will effectively increase funding to hospitals, which means corporate health care companies and their greedy CEOs will profit from it.

What I say:
I had over $2 million in medical bills from my big fun with cancer a few years ago. I don’t feel sorry for hospitals AT ALL. But beyond that, I am very against constitutional amendments being done through the ballot process.

Verdict:
NO on Prop 52


Proposition 53: Voter Approval Requirement for Revenue Bonds above $2 Billion

The Short Version:
Voters already get the right to approve the issuance of general obligation bonds, often done to pay for things like parks and schools, and repaid through tax revenue. But voters don’t have the right to approve revenue bonds, which often pay for things like roads and bridges, and are repaid through fees and other charges (like Highway tolls). This constitutional amendment would give voters the right to approve any revenue bond issuance valued above $2 billion.

Who is for it:
Republicans and Libertarians.

What people for it say:
Keep your damn dirty hands off my damn dirty money! Or… Politicians suck and they borrow money to pay for pork projects that we then have to pay for and we don’t have any say in the matter.

Who is against it:
Democrats and most progressive organizations

What people against it say:
Local and community projects would be negatively affected because it would require the approval of the entire state. Plus there is no exemption for natural disasters or other emergencies.

What I say:
Just like I don’t think 50% + 1 should make law, neither do I think they should be able to control state budgets. Plus it’s a constitutional amendment, so you know how I feel already.

Verdict:
NO on Prop 53


Proposition 54: Public Display of Legislative Bills Prior to Vote

The Short Version:
A constitutional amendment and state statute that would require that every bill under consideration in the state legislature be posted on the Internet for 72 hours prior to any vote. It also requires the legislature to record all their public proceedings and post them within 24 hours and allows anyone to record any public legislature session and post those recordings publicly.

Who is for it:
Republicans and Libertarians, plus lots of progressive groups like the NAACP, League of Women Voters, etc.

What the people for it say:
Politicians suck and this will help make them accountable.

Who is against it:
Democrats and their usual labor affiliates (nurses, teachers, etc.)

What the people against it say:
There is one billionaire behind this – a right wing nutjob who wants it so he can use the 72 hours to launch public outrage campaigns about pending votes by the Democratic-led legislature.

What I say:
This is one that sounds good on the surface – transparency is a good thing, right? But how many of you are going to check the website listing all the upcoming votes every day and then do something about the stuff that you don’t like? None of you. The ones that will do something are the extremists on both sides who will use it to try to slow down the process and advance their own agendas.

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 54


Proposition 55: Extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase

The Short Version:
Constitutional amendment that would extend current tax rates on individual incomes over $250K from 2018 to 2030

Who is for it:
Democrats and most progressive organizations

What those for it say:
Rich people suck! Or at least they suck when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes. This doesn’t raise taxes, it just keeps the rate they are already paying.

Who is against it:
Republicans and Libertarians

What those against it say:
I’ve had it with all these motherfucking taxes on the motherfucking plane! Oh, and this is a bait and switch because voters approved this “temporary” tax increase with the 2018 expiration and now it’s going to stay forever.

What I say:
Full transparency – because of all the TV movie gigs I have been getting plus my full time job, this law will affect me. I have always said I don’t have any problem paying taxes and I support the idea of it in general. But this is a constitutional amendment, so that makes me inclined to oppose it from the get-go. Plus, I kind of agree with the LA Times, which says: “When a majority of people provide a substantial portion of the state’s revenue, there is a broader demand for accountability and a greater incentive to vote. But when only a few provide most of the revenue, the majority loses not only its incentive to demand results, but its leverage to do so.”

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 55


Proposition 56: Tobacco Tax Increase

The Short Version:
Constitutional amendment and state statute that raises taxes on cigarettes, tobacco products, and e-cigarettes by $2.00 per pack (or equivalent) to pay for anti-smoking campaigns and health care.

Who is for it:
Democrats and progressive groups

What those for it say:
Smoking is evil. Smokers are bad people. Smokers should die but until they do they should pay for everything.

Who is against it:
Republicans, Libertarians, and evil smokers

What those against it say:
Taxes are bad and the money this raises won’t be used the way it should be.

What I say:
Full transparency – I’m a smoker. I quit when I got cancer in 2012 (which had nothing to do with the smoking, for the record) and then picked it back up again last year and then quit again last year and then picked it back up again this year. I have accepted that much like an alcoholic is always an alocholic even when they aren’t drinking, I will always be a smoker even when I’m not smoking. I’m totally with Bebe Glaser from this classic episode of Frasier:

Having said that, smoking is terrible and in general I support all efforts to keep people from doing it. But in the end this is a constitutional amendment that “punishes” one group of people for their addiction. Do we impose a $2 tax on every bottle of alcohol sold? Or every sugary Big Gulp soda?

The Verdict:
No on Prop 56


Proposition 57: Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements

The Short Version:
Constitutional amendment and state statute that would increase parole chances for people convicted of non-violent crimes and give prosecutors more leeway in deciding whether to try juveniles as adults.

Who is for it:
Democrats, Libertarians

What those for it say:
Prisons are overcrowded, often with people convicted of non-violent felonies (often drug possession violations)

Who is against it:
Republicans and law and order types

What those against it say:
They’re going to release horrible people from jail who will come to your home and KILL YOU!!

What I say:
This is another one that seems like a good idea, but I have a problem with it. State law identifies 23 specific felonies as “violent” and everything else is not officially “violent.” That includes things like, unbelievably, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, gun possession violations, rape, arson, lewd acts against a child, hate crimes, and a lot more . This proposition does not further define what is a “violent” felony. While I generally hate siding with law and order types, I think that’s a problem.

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 57


Proposition 58: Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education

The Short Version:
State statute that repeals proposition 227, voted into law in 1998, that requires English-only education in public schools and allows bilingual education programs.

Who is for it:
Democrats and most progressive groups

What those for it say:
227 (the proposition, not the Jackee Harry sitcom) was a racist piece of shit and this repeals it.

Who is against it:
Republicans, Libertarians, and most racists

What those against it say:
Build a wall.

What I say:
I hate the California ballot proposition process because it allows bullshit laws like English only education to get put into place by racist and/or misinformed voters. But a proposition that repeals a proposition? I can get behind that.

The Verdict:
YES on Prop 58


Proposition 59: Overturn of Citizens United Act Advisory Question

The Short Version:
This is neither a constitutional amendment nor a state statute. Instead, it’s an “advisory question” that would “encourage” the California legislature to find a way to overturn Citizens United, the US Supreme Court decision that effectively defined corporations as people and opened the floodgates for dark money into politics.

Who is for it:
Bernie and the Progressives (1960s Doo Wop Group, I believe)

What those for it say:
Corporations aren’t people and we need to get money out of politics. And something about hemp I think.

Who is against it:
Republicans

What those against it say:
This is a feel good thing that doesn’t actually do anything.

What I say:
The legislature isn’t actually REQUIRED to do anything and what they could do is probably limited, but since this doesn’t change the constitution or make any laws, then why not?

The Verdict:
YES on 59


Proposition 60: Condoms in Pornographic Films

The Short Version:
State statute requiring that all adult movies filmed in California require performers to wear condoms. If they don’t, the people who make, appear in, distribute, and display the films are subject to civil actions by anyone who feels as though they have been harmed by it.

Who is for it:
AIDS prevention groups, the Peace & Freedom party, prudes, people who say they are disgusted by porn but have pornhub.com bookmarked.

Who is against it:
Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, sexual deviants, people who have pornhub.com bookmarked and don’t care who knows it

What those against it say:
It’s a poorly written law that will allow any whackjob (no pun intended) to file a lawsuit against porn companies because they feel as though they were somehow “harmed” by it.

What I say:
This is well-intentioned but stupid.

The Verdict:
NO on 60


Proposition 61: Drug Price Standards

The Short Version:
State statute that requires state agencies to pay the same prices for prescription drugs that the US Veterans Administration pays.

Who is for it:
Bernie and the Progressives (who later became Hillary and the Progressives, a 60s girl group)

What those for it say:
Big pharma is evil and this will make drug prices more affordable for those on state programs who need it the most.

Who is against it:
Republicans, Libertarians, Big Pharma (big surprise), and several race groups like the NAACP and the California League of United Latin American Citizens (which actually is a surprise)

What those against it say:
Only helps those icky poor people and it could actually make drug prices go up for those heroic Americans who surved our country proudly. Glory, glory hallelujah! And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…

What I say:
Don’t get me started against Big Pharma but here’s the thing that troubles me about this. Drug manufacturers give discounts to the VA on medications, not because they are required to by law, but because not doing so would be disastrous PR. But if they are faced with the option of lowering their price on meds they sell to the state, they could very well just RAISE the price of the drugs they sell to the VA. Why? Because if this law works the way it is intended to, it will cost them billions and other states will rush to pass similar laws. Big Pharma has turned this proposition into the most expensive in history, dumping nearly $90 million into getting it defeated. They won’t take it laying down if it passes.

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 61 (although a very tough call)


Proposition 62: Repeal of the Death Penalty

The Short Version:
It’s right there in the title – this state statute repeals the death penalty in California.

Who is for it:
Progressives, Bleeding Heart Liberals

What those for it say:
The death penalty is immoral – the state should not be involved in killing people

Who is against it:
Law and order types

What those against it say:
Kill the bastards!

What I say:
My opinion is as simple as the title – I am against the death penalty in all instances.

The Verdict:
YES on Prop 62


Proposition 63: Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban Initiative

The Short Version:
A state statute that does a bunch of things related to the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition

  1. Requires background checks and a permit for the purchase of ammunition
  2. Requires a license for the sale of ammunition
  3. Bans exemptions for large-capacity magazines (those purchased before 2000) and set penalties for anyone who possesses them
  4. Puts into place a court process that attempts to ensure that people who aren’t supposed to have guns don’t have them. For instance, someone who has a domestic violence protection order against them is not supposed to own a gun, but currently there is no system in place to enforce that
  5. Moves up the date on which out of state purchases of ammunition are banned from 2019 to 2018
  6. Requires dealers and owners to report theft of ammunition within a few days
  7. Makes stealing a gun a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison

Who is for it:
Progressives, sane people

What people for it say:
We have to do something about gun violence.

Who is against it:
Gun nuts

What those who are against it say:
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! We gots to go kill us some things!

What I say:
If it were up to me I’d round up all the guns, melt them down, and turn them into playground equipment. Since I can’t do that, I will do everything I can to add as many restrictions as I can to get in the way of people and their guns.

The Verdict:
YES on Prop 63


Proposition 64: Marijuana Legalization

The Short Version:
Legalizes recreational marijuana and hemp and puts state taxes on its sale and cultivation.

Who is for it:
Duuuuuuuuuuuude

What those for it say:
Duuuuuuuuuuuude

Who is against it:
Pruuuuuuuuuudes

What those against it say:
Just say no.

What I say:

The Verdict:
Yes on Prop 64


Proposition 65: Dedication of Revenue from Disposable Bag Sales to Wildlife Conservation Fund

The Short Version:
State statute that would redirect money from the sale of carry out and grocery bags to a fund for the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Who is for it:
Tree huggers

What they say:

Who is against it:
People who hate baby seals.

What they say:
Why yes, I’d love to wear that baby seal as a fashionable hat.

What I say:
This is actually more complex than it seems because of Proposition 67, which would ban the use of plastic bags entirely. That ban was passed by the state legislature and 67 ratifies it with voters. If it passes, then a 10 cent per bag fee for the sale of any other reusable bag will go into place and that money goes to the retailer to pay for the cost of the bags and for environmental education programs. If 67 passes AND 65 passes, then that 10 cents will go to the state fund. If 67 passes and 65 fails, the money goes to the retailers. If 67 fails, it is all moot. Confusing? Yes, and intentionally so because Prop 65 was crafted by the same people trying to STOP the plastic bag ban, specifically the manufacturers of plastic bags. Sketchy much?

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 65


Proposition 66: Death Penalty Procedures

The Short Version:
Puts a bunch of new stuff around how the death penalty is administered in the state including speeding up the appeals process and restitution for the victims’ families.

Who is for it:
Law and order types

What those for it say:
The death penalty is needed but can be improved. Oh… and KILL THE BASTARDS!!

Who is against it:
Bleeding heart liberals

What those against it say:
It sounds like they want to do something about the death penalty but its a ruse. Don’t believe it.

What I say:
If the state were to keep the death penalty, there are some good provisions in this that would make it a little less horrific. Not much, but a little. Here’s the important part about this proposition though… If Prop 62, which repeals the death penalty, passes AND this Prop 66 passes, the one with the most yes votes wins. So even if 62 passes, we could still have the death penalty if this one gets more votes. Sketchy much?

The Verdict:
NO on Prop 66


Proposition 67: Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum

The Short Version:
The state legislature enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags. This measure ratifies that ban and institutes a 10 cent per bag fee on other bags that goes to the retailer.

Who is for it:
The same people who are against Prop 65.

What those for it say:
The same thing the people against Prop 65 say.

Who is against it:
The same people who are for Prop 65.

What those against it say:
I think you can see where this is going.

What I say:
This proposition does not create a new law. All this does is ratify a law enacted by the state legislature, the people who are supposed to be making laws in the first place. Since we already have a ban in LA it’s kinda moot to me. But while I miss plastic bags, this is a good thing in the long run.

The Verdict:
YES on Prop 67


Prince 1958-2016

It is not hyperbole to say that Prince literally changed the way I thought of music.

Growing up in Iowa in the late 70s and early 80s, most of the radio stations played country, classic rock, or farm reports and there was only one pop radio station that played, primarily, top 40. This meant that my musical education growing up was primarily disco and soft rock and my tastes ran toward the vanilla side of things – Barry Manilow, the Manhattan Transfer, Olivia Newton-John, Bette Midler, Donna Summer, and the like. Madonna, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson shook things up in the early 80s but it was still all pop all the time.

I will never forget the day that all changed. It was in the spring of 1984 – I want to say April or early May – and I was in the garage waxing the new (used) car I had gotten as a high school graduation present. This was a momentus time for me anyway, just a few weeks away from liberation from the torment of high school, thinking about how I wanted to move to California and pursue my dreams of stardom. I had lost a lot of weight and I had a really cool car – a 1981 Mustang with T-Tops. Things were looking up.

Then a song came on the radio that was sitting on my dad’s workbench. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before and I swear I could almost hear my mind expanding.

It was “When Doves Cry” by Prince.

More than 30 years later it’s still a great song but when it first came out it was revolutionary, especially for pop radio. Moody and atmospheric; an almost tribal drum beat; no bass line which was virtually unheard of; layered intricate harmonies; fierce guitar work. I stopped mid-wax and just listened. At some point I stood up. And when it was over, music would never be the same for me.

I became obsessed with Prince. I had heard “1999″ and “Little Red Corvette” of course (because they were Top 40 hits) but I never owned a single song by him but that changed quickly. I started with the “When Doves Cry” single then the extended dance mix that had the b-side of “17 Days.” I bought all of his prior albums – “1999,” “Prince,” “For You,” “Dirty Mind,” and “Controversy” – shocked and scandalized by the overt sexuality of those early recordings because nothing like that had ever made it on to Iowa radio. Remember, this is a place that thought Oliva Newton-John’s “Physical” was too graphic.

And then “Purple Rain,” both the movie and the soundtrack, which were earth-shattering both to me and to most of the rest of the world.

From that point forward the fandom grew. Albums release days were like Christmas to me and more than once I was outside of record stores before they opened just waiting to get my hands on the new Prince music. I collected 12″ vinyl dance singles, which not only turned four or five minute songs into 10 minute epics but it was often the only way you could get the unreleased b-sides that he loved to include – “Hello,” “Feel U up,” “Shockadelica,” “Irresistible Bitch,” “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore,” and the ultimate “Erotic City.” I got underground recordings of concerts, promotional singles, picture discs, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I decorated my corner of my dorm room at Iowa State and later my first apartment in Los Angeles with posters and record covers of Prince and his acolytes.

prince04

I still have most of it… the below is all that would fit on my dining room table but there’s more…

prince02

Oh yes, the extended Prince family was just as important. I dove head first into the obvious like The Time and Sheila E. but also Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, the Family, Madhouse, Mazerati, Carmen Electra, and more. People who had performed with Prince were added to the list – Sheena Easton, Wendy & Lisa, Rosie Gaines, and beyond.

I got buttons for my jean jacket and I even did the white boy approximation of dressing like him when I went out to clubs – a long coat, a frilly shirt, and a military style cap with lace netting hanging from it.

I saw him in concert at least a dozen times, from arena tours to intimate venues like his Glam Slam club in Downtown Los Angeles and at the Crown Theater in Las Vegas. On stage, nobody worked harder or captivated audiences more fully than Prince.

I even went so far as to study Prince’s music for the hidden messages and obscure references he liked to put in them. I broke a record player just so I could hear what the backwards message at the end of “Darling Nikki” on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack. I still remember it after all of these years – “Hello, how are you? I am fine because I know the lord is coming soon. I know the lord is coming soon.”

I figured out weird tie between his deep cut “All the Critics Love U in New York” from the “1999″ album released in 1982. One of the lyrics is “It’s time for a new direction\It’s time for jazz to die\Fourth day of November\We need a purple high.” Two years later Prince launched his global “Purple Rain” tour in Detroit on November 11, 1984. Turn that date into numbers – 11-4-1984 – and add the numbers together. 1999. Mind blown? Mine was.

I was thrilled to figure out how to pronounce the unpronounceable symbol – Victor. Long story but ask me about it if you are curious.

When I started writing I naturally turned to the greatest artistic influence of my life for inspiration. My first play was called “17 Days” (the b-side on “When Doves Cry”) and every play I wrote after that used Prince songs for their titles – “Mountains” (which won a bunch of awards), “I Would Die For You,” “Escape,” “Thieves in the Temple,” and more. I wrote a couple of never published novels called “Condition of the Heart” and “Strange Relationship,” two lesser known songs from “Around the World in a Day” and “Sign o’ the Times” respectively.

My fandom started to wane in the early 90s when he got into his battles with his record label and started releasing stuff from his vault that he knew wasn’t his best work just to fulfill his contracts. By the time he came back with material he wanted to do his sound had changed, or perhaps it was just my tastes and/or the world’s taste. His last top 40 hit was a reissue of “1999″ in, appropriately enough, 1999.

But my love for his prolific 1978-1993 period never waned and to this day I still regularly put on my Prince and Family playlist on iTunes. I’m listening to it now as I type this. “Alphabet Street.” I know all of the words to backup singer/dancer Cat’s rap: “Talk to me lover come and tell me what you taste…”

The news that Prince died today devastated me on a level that I have never experienced before with the death of a celebrity. I know a lot of people were laid low by the death of David Bowie or Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston or (insert other musical great here) and I certainly had a moment of “awww” with all of them. With Prince it was instant tears.

Thank you, Prince, for helping me understand the possibility of music. For me, again today, it will never be the same.

The lyrics to “Sometimes it Snows in April” from the “Parade” album, which seem especially appropriate on this sunny April 2016 day:

Tracy died soon after a long fought civil war,
Just after I’d wiped away his last tear
I guess he’s better off than he was before,
A whole lot better off than the fools he left here
I used to cry for Tracy because he was my only friend
Those kind of cars don’t pass you every day
I used to cry for Tracy because I wanted to see him again,
But sometimes sometimes life ain’t always the way

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

mscl

21 Words

This will be my last post before the surgery.  I feel as though I should be witty, or wise, or at least pithy but at this point I think the best I can hope for is coherent.  I guess what I am really attempting to gain is a little bit of that much longed for perspective that everyone always wants, thinks they have, and then forgets about as soon as life gets hard, scary, dangerous, or annoying.

My day, tomorrow, is fairly well planned at least in my head.  I’m going to get up at around 5am.  Note that I didn’t say “wake up at 5am” but rather “get up,” because I don’t want to presume that I will actually be sleeping tonight.  Stranger things have happened – Sarah Palin for example – but I think it’s best to stick with “get up” and that will cover any eventuality.

After checking my e-mail and staring at the empty refrigerator for awhile, I’ll go take a shower and greedily use as much of the hot water as I can because it will be my last opportunity to bathe for the next several days.  I apologize in advance to anyone who comes to visit me before I am able to have some alone time with warm water and soap again.

Somewhere around 6am, I’ll call a cab and then wait outside until it arrives.  I always take a cab to the hospital for any kind of procedure, surgery, or test if it involves me not being able to drive myself back home.  It’s not that there aren’t lots of people who would be willing to take me to the hospital if I asked, it’s just that I prefer to go by cab.  Part of it is that it allows me some alone time to gather my thoughts and mentally prepare for whatever I’m about to face.  The other part of it is I figure that if I can survive being driven to the hospital by a Los Angeles cab driver, I can survive anything.

When I get there I will also continue with my other little hospital tradition, which is walking up to the receptionist in the admitting room and stating, with a cheerful voice, the reason I’m there.  In this case it will be thusly: “It’s a beautiful day for an esophagectomy!”

The surgery itself is scheduled to start at 8:30am and should take three to four hours.

Now… and this is important… the one thing I don’t plan to do tomorrow is die.  It’s not on the agenda as far as I’m concerned.

But here’s the deal: I hate things left unfinished.  I don’t always need to have a nice tidy bow wrapping it all up because I understand that life rarely affords us the opportunity to do so, but I do need to have some measure of closure.  I loathe ambiguity; nothing frustrates me more.  It’s like a TV show that gets cancelled after the season ended with a cliffhanger.  Did Angela really end up with Jordan Catalono?  Did Harrison choose Brooke or Sam?  Did Jessica get killed by the firing squad?

So with that in mind, I offer some thoughts and ruminations that will act, I suppose, as my version of closure should my plans go awry tomorrow.

I’ve had a good life.  I don’t know if it was a great life but it was good and that’s better than a lot of people get.

I had friends.  Several were amazing and life-altering.  Most people don’t even have one of those in their life so in that regard I was truly blessed.

I knew love.  Not in the traditional, romantic sense, but it was still a true, undeniable, soul-mate type of love.

I had fun.  Maybe not as often as I should have and perhaps with less gusto as I could have but it was fun nevertheless.

I did some cool things.  I had not one, but two plays produced in real, honest-to-God theaters and they won a bunch of awards.  I rode a camel in Egypt.  I drank ouzo in Greece.  I wrote books that were published and people bought them and read them.  I won $30,000 on a slot machine.  I drove a race car.  I visited the Britney Spears Museum and saw the biggest ball of twine.  I shook hands with the man that would be the President of the United States.

I tried to be a good person.  I didn’t always accomplish that.  I had my moments – some extended – of selfishness and vanity and pride and hedonism and sloth and greed and all of the other things that make us human but I’d like to think that, for the most part, I merely waded in the pools of my various sins rather than wallowing and reveling in them.

I certainly was not always nice to everyone all of the time but I don’t think I was ever cruel.  Well, not intentionally cruel.

Regrets?  I’ve had a few.

I don’t think I took enough chances in my life.  I’m not talking about risky stuff like bungee jumping or wearing white after Labor Day, but rather the chances we can take, both big and small, that can turn a good life into a great one.  For instance, I think I would have had a career as a writer if I had more often ignored the blasted Midwestern work ethic that constantly whispered in my ear saying, “You need to have a job and a regular paycheck and health insurance and security.”

I think that chance-aversion also applies to my emotional life.  I’ve always been reserved, private, and cautious when it came to other people and I think I missed out on a lot of stuff because of it.  I pushed people away or didn’t pull people close enough and so my life has been more solitary than it needed to be.  It certainly is the reason I’ve never had a real romantic relationship.  Well, that and the fact that I never met Anderson Cooper.  He would’ve loved me if only our paths had crossed.

I regret that I didn’t do something about my chronic heartburn earlier.  That’s a big one right now.

But I think my biggest regret is that I never really figured out a way to feel comfortable in my own skin.  It’s like I never fit into the life I tried on for size.  It was probably the fat kid thing that I never got over, but whatever its root was, it limited me.  No one can be completely unlimited without winding up jailed, committed, or dead but if you live a limited life you might as well be all of the above.

So if I may offer some advice, either to you or to myself if/when I live through all of this it is as follows: don’t be so fucking afraid.  Take a chance or do something new, every day, even if it’s something small.  Eat at a restaurant you’ve never visited.  Take a different way to work and pay attention to what you are driving past.  Introduce yourself to that guy at the bar or that girl on the bus or the person at the bookstore looking at the latest from your favorite author who might just wind up being your new best friend.  Get a tattoo, learn how to dance, sing karaoke, go bungee jumping… whatever that thing is that you have wanted to do but haven’t… why not?

And also this: be passionate.  If I were the divine overseer of this universe, I would make it a requirement, sort of like picking a major in college.  Everyone would have to have one major and one minor passion, whether it be an artistic endeavor, a sport, or model railroading to name a few.  As long as it’s something that gets you excited, makes time fly, and gives you something to dream about, it counts.

And finally, I guess, just this… thank you.  As a writer, I like to think that every person is a story.  Stories are meant to be shared, so thank you for sharing yours with me and letting me share mine with you.

Do I have any last words?  Well, I suppose I’ll go with the ones that I took the time (and the pain) to have tattooed on my body – 21 of them incorporated into a tribal design on my arm, chest, shoulder, and back.  They are my words to live by.  I did, to some of them.  Others, I fell short on.  I hope you find your words, embrace them, recite them to yourself every morning when you wake up, and not just live by them, but live up to them.

Courage.  Integrity.  Joy. Life.  Devotion.  Indulgence.  Desire.  Commitment.  Chance.  Creativity.  Family.  Passion.  Peace.  Tolerance.  Acceptance.  Beauty.  Art.  Perseverance.  Inspiration.  Aspiration.

Wait… there’s one more. What is it?  Oh right… Perspective.