Beware, gentle readers. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a story of betrayal, corruption, and greed. If you have ever read Dante’s classic work, “The Inferno,’ you may still have nightmares remembering the Nine Circles of Hell. Since the poem was written in the 14th century, Dante could not have anticipated the 10th, and most vicious circle, the one you enter when you call a major corporation to request a change in service, as my wife tried to do a couple of weeks ago in a noble attempt to save us a few dollars per month by disconnecting our landline.
On my Sunday afternoon jog around Lake Junaluska, I can actually feel for the first time that summer is slipping away. There is the slightest sliver of coolness in the air, like a strand of different-colored hair, and some of the trees are beginning to flash a tiny glimpse of the dramatic changes in color that are just around the next bend. I’m pushing myself a little today, as if I might outrun the image forming now in my head of my family huddled together, waving goodbye to the best summer we’ve ever had as it pulls away like a train leaving the station.
We made our first trip to Edisto Beach 10 years ago and almost immediately, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We had been mired in traffic snarls for hours on I-26 and arrived much later than planned, only to find ourselves in the middle of a rainstorm reminiscent of the days of Noah once we crossed over onto the island. The kids reckoned themselves about starved to death and were scanning the roadsides for any sign of a Burger King or McDonald’s. Nothing. Not a chain restaurant in sight. The whining inside the car intensified to match the rain on the outside.
On our way back from the coast on Saturday in bumper-to-bumper traffic just outside Charleston, I saw a billboard that not only made me laugh out loud, but also summed up this year’s election better than any political commentary I have heard or read. Some clever realtor put up a picture of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with a banner that read, “Moving to Canada? We can help you sell your home.”
There are people who believe that the reason black men seem to keep getting shot and killed by police officers is that they simply will not obey orders or “show respect” for authority. There are people who believe that this is a media-created problem, and not a race problem. There are people who believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is racist by definition, as if the implication in saying black lives matter in the first place is that no other lives matter, as if the suggestion that context matters, too, is just liberal hogwash.
Because when she dresses like that, she is just asking for it. Because saying “no” is part of the game, not what she really means. Because she got me worked up, and that is on her. Because once you go so far, you just cannot stop. Because we were both drinking and things got a little out of hand. Because she shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Because boys will be boys. Because I’ve got my whole future in front of me.
I don’t know what to tell my children, so I don’t tell them anything. Not yet anyway. It is the first day of summer vacation, and therefore, the mood in our home is one of revelry. The alarm clocks are off, the swimsuits are airing out on the railing of the deck, and the pancakes are whimsically sprinkled with chocolate chips, in the manner of a big, crooked smile. I don’t know what to tell them, so I don’t tell them anything.
The world is filled with love. The world is filled with rage. The world is filled with hatred. How can all of this be true? How can it be reconciled? How can it even be understood? Another mass shooting, this time in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people dead. Another young, male killer, and everyone trying, as usual, to assemble pieces of his life into a picture that will explain it, why he chose to go into a nightclub just around last call and start shooting until fifty people were dead. Maybe he had ties to ISIS? Maybe he was homophobic? Maybe he had a history of mental instability?
My daughter is turning 15 this weekend. Every 15 minutes, she reminds me that she will be driving a car in another year. And every 15 minutes, I remind her that so far she has saved exactly $3.78 toward the purchase of her first car.
My wife and I like to host small parties or entertain our friends every three years or so, not because we love people so much as the discovery we made some years ago that throwing a party is the only surefire way to get us to clean our home.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a complete nut about music. There are people for whom music serves as a kind of soundtrack for their lives, so that certain bands and songs function as memory jukeboxes, instantly evoking specific times, places, and people whenever they come on, regardless of the circumstances.