What’s Happening (and What Happened)

It isn’t easy to speak out against injustice when it threatens your livelihood, your friends and family, or your physical and/or psychological self.

But what can be worse is NOT speaking out when any or all of the above are being threatened or at stake.

As news publicly broke this week of showbiz mogul-producer Harvey Weinstein being a serial sexual predator – in rolling stories and testimonies chock full of the kind of salacious details one’s eyes and brain wish they could un-see but certainly never will – I was ironically reading What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s book explaining her 2016 presidential election loss.

No, the irony did not escape me.

No man can write with much authority about the very particular challenges women face when a powerful man tries to crush her and centuries of patriarchal power automatically conspire to protect him and ensure his victory and her suppression. But en masse pushback and testimony from both women AND men can begin to slowly dismantle this kind of oppressive traditionalism and hopefully one day assure this kind of bull crap doesn’t continue.

oh it does… just ask abbi and ilana

As a gay guy, I never bought into the macho stance of patriarchal power despite the fact that I’ve clearly benefitted from it. I am not threatened by powerful women. In fact, I usually gravitate towards them.   Before it was fashionable, they gave me a chance and didn’t judge me by an unintentional swish of a hand or an unconscious sibilance from my mouth.

Is it obvious?

I’d like to say my attitude was merely because I was raised by this type of female and am an innately nice guy but in my heart of hearts I know it was more than that. Each of us are a product of our environments AND experiences and in turn are imbued with both learned and inbred prejudices we have a responsibility to recognize, dismantle and not make excuses for.

So as a male who is close to Mr. Weinstein’s age and who also grew up in his hometown of Queens I can say with great authority that he’s totally full of S*IT when he chalks up his actions to statements like:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

Yes, Amy, he REALLY said that.

Well – that I know of.

… and of course what I saw on Mad Men #poorbobbie #utzchips

Of course, this is part of the problem. We just can’t fathom someone we know fondly in one context being a predatory pig in another. Or even if we can imagine it, we don’t want to believe it. Or even if we believe it, we’re not sure it’s our business or what we can do about it. Or even if we can do something about it, if it’s worth the risk because surely we can’t fight someone with all of that fame, power and money.

This goes for women as well as men, albeit for different reasons.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton.

You rang?

There is no need to itemize the litany of predatory jabs Mrs. Clinton has been hit with over many decades of public life based on her gender. It’s bad enough to be accused of not being able to do the same job as a far less qualified man (Note: Or man/boy serial sexual predator), or slammed merely for the tone of your voice; likability; hair, makeup and wardrobe; or lack of…stamina?

Still, it’s quite another brand of gender politics when your man/boy opponent goes so far as to weaponize your husband’s former mistresses (LITERALLY) in front of you and the world in order to somehow get the public to place the moral blame on you for his dalliances during a presidential debate.

I can’t even…

Hillary has many things to say about what happened in her book, which manages to finally cut through all the doctrinaire thinking about her and her campaign and do the one thing she seemed unable to do for enough people during the campaign – humanize her. And that’s a value judgment coming from a guy who always saw her as human. At least, I thought I always did.

Which made me wonder, what is it about what she writes in this book that makes her seem even…more human? Perhaps it’s passages like these, when she reflects on her feelings the morning of her concession speech:

… I wear my composure like a suit of armor, for better or worse. In some ways, it felt like I had been training for this latest feat of self-control for decades. Still, every time I hugged another sobbing friend – or one stoically blinking back tears, which was almost worse – I had to fight back a wave of sadness that threatened to swallow me whole. At every step, I felt that I had let everyone down. Because I had.

Excuse me while I do this for the rest of time.

There is nothing more humanizing for us than a woman not only admitting defeat but blaming herself for it.   One hates to believe this is why certain sections of her memoir paint a more appealing Hillary but one also can’t fail to recognize it greatly contributes to the reason.

Nevertheless, it feels a lot better to focus on what Mrs. Clinton (Note: Why do I feel disrespectful consistently calling her Hillary?) humbly and wisely writes about learning from one’s mistakes and the ability we all have to use our virtues in order to soldier on for a better tomorrow.

Margaritas also help

Quoting a long passage from one of her favorite books, Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son (Note: Imagine that, a presidential nominee who reads!) about how she began to personally recover from her loss, she reflects:

Nouwen calls that the “discipline of gratitude.” To me, it means not just being grateful for the good things, because that’s easy, but also to be grateful for the hard things too. To be grateful even for our flaws, because in the end, they make us stronger by giving us a chance to reach beyond our grasp.

My task was to be grateful for the humbling experience of losing the presidential election. Humility can be such a painful virtue. In the Bible, Saint Paul reminds us that we all see through a glass darkly because of our humbling limitations. That’s why faith – the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen – requires a leap. It’s because of our limitations and imperfections that we must reach beyond ourselves, to God and to one another.

No, The Chair has not gone soft. I cop to not being a particularly faithful person in the traditionally religious sense. Still, here’s what coming of age in the 60s and 70s did for me – it gave me an undying faith that love and peace and caring could eventually win the day.

that…. and everything in the musical Hair

Sure I might not always remember this, and it will take time and we all might not be around to see the final result. But if time teaches you anything it’s the value of baby steps, the path of incremental change and the revelation that evolution means this all keeps going ad infinitum (hopefully).

Mr. Weinstein’s behavior is, sadly, just one more mere iteration of Mr. Trump’s. It’s not about who is more ill or who is more dangerous. It’s about all of us speaking out for what we know is right the moment we realize something is very wrong.

Tonight Show Female Writers Read Thank You Notes to Hillary Clinton

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Seven Ways to Survive

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-12-54-13-pm

The Chair (that’s me) is on a deadline with the finish line in sight. But here’s the thing –

HOLD ON.

We all simply have to

HOLD ON!!!

The emails, the sex scandals, the WEINER OF IT ALL!!

Seriously, how do you deal with it?

Well, here’s what I do.

1 – Eat pizza – There is just something soothing about all that forbidden cheese. (NOTE: No, not cheeZE – we’re getting enough of that in the news). Dripping in deliciousness. Though I’m partial to extra crispy crust.   But there’s only how well you can do with that at home. For truly near burnt dough, you’ve got to have your own pizza oven, turn it up to 600 degrees and resist the temptation to stick your head in. Chair advice: Turn off your device of choice and leave the house.

Welp, that's one way to do it

Welp, that’s one way to do it

2- Exercise – Yeah, I know. But if anything can get you out of the house to do it, this can. It’s going to be depressing, that first day back at the gym. But you’ll feel so good when you’re done. I promise. And you’ll look that much better at the HRC victory party.

3- Sex – I’m not going there. Though I just did. But given this election cycle it feels appropriate, doesn’t it? And besides, I could have gone further. A lot further. But unlike the rest of the middle-aged to old white men surrounding HRC, I’m not a sleaze, a predator and have nothing unsavory on video of tape. I promise. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before. But this time it’s true. ‘Nuff said.

4- Rant on social media – Many people have asked me how I can stand following all of this. (Note: Yeah, That). But many more have thanked me for speaking out, keeping them entertained and generally providing commentary on what has over the months become an impossibly ridiculous real time Black comedy. Right, Black. As in “my African Americans, where are my African Americans????”

It's the little things

It’s the little things

One former student asked me on Twitter, how can you stand it? My answer: It keeps me sane. I’ve now got her tweeting about It. Well, not me – I won’t take full responsibility. But if I can provide some small inspiration in the name of sanity, Hey, I’m there. #DealMeIn.

5- Listen to your favorite female diva – In the car. And sing along. LOUDLY. In a very, very FIERCE voice. For me, this worked with the re-mastered re-release of Bette Midler’s debut album, The Divine Miss M.  Do you know that I actually did a commanding solo of both Delta Dawn and Leon Russell’s Superstar in the VW Bug Convertible going up and down Mulholland Drive? Now, how gay is that??? (Note: In a good way). Full disclaimer: The top wasn’t down. There are limits. Even for the Chair. Though not many.

BRB, getting fitted for my fins #boogiewoogiebugleboy

BRB, getting fitted for my fins #boogiewoogiebugleboy

6- Plan an election day party – You’re probably thinking, oh please, I just want this to be over. That’s party enough!! But I beg to differ. You didn’t come this far to just let it all go, did you? It’s like what I tell my writing students. You mean you’re going to hand in your final script to me without printing out a title page with the phrase of your choice, followed with BY (Fill in your name). You did not come all this way to not take some credit for all of your hard work – even if what all of your hard work amounted to is just listening. Because listening, and enduring, and listening some more, and living through this sh-t show, deserves some sort of celebration. Or are you just the kind of person who denies yourself that particular type of joy? No, I don’t think so. Not on my watch.

7- Choose your drinking game of choice. This needn’t include alcohol. In fact, it can also be your eating game of choice. Or your – anything consumable game of choice (Note: We take no responsibility for your choices and it goes without saying – nothing dangerous and no driving. You’ve seen those commercials. BUZZ driving is DRUNK driving).

I'M WITH HER

I’M WITH HER

Still, when the day comes that this insanity is over – or, at least this chapter of the insanity, make a game of it. Life is too serious and the fate of the world is too precarious to not indulge. Just a little. So once Rachel, or Brian Williams, or Blitzer, or Meghan Kelly or Chris Wallace or George Stephanopoulos or whoever the hell you’ll hear it from, announces that the U.S. has its first female president in more than two centuries – take a VERY LONG SWIG – of something. And celebrate the fact that you are alive at this time. And managed to live through it. MORE LATER.

MUCH, MUCH MORE.

PS – No, the WORST will NOT happen. Say it with me. Again. Then Again. Now – One more time. Now Rinse. And repeat your Seven Steps above.

Where We Are

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-1-22-14-pm

I can’t take much more of this. And neither can you.

Pick a card. Any card.

Oh, you know what I mean.

I’m tired of unarmed Black people, mostly male, dying at the hands of white police officers.

Hold it. I have nothing against police officers. Or white people – working class or otherwise. But whether a dark-skinned guy is holding a book, an Epi-pen, or even carrying a firearm that he is clearly NOT pointing in your face, you don’t shoot to kill.   Forget nuance and details and circumstance. It’s pretty simple. A last resort. Whether it’s a cop or you shooting because you’re being disobeyed or wholly confused – or only pseudo threatened. Not convinced? Okay, pretend it’s NOT you but someone else, anyone else, and they’re aiming a gun at your little brother or your older father. Or grandfather. Or MOTHER. Cause that’s next. Then answer. So…right?

Let's get real here people

Let’s get real here people

I can’t deal with any more mentally ill young people going into a nightclub, movie theatre, school or, in the latest case, a mall in Seattle, and shooting it up.

Five dead and another troubled white boy in his twenties in custody. Sound familiar? The truth is no one would get shot if we didn’t have guns. Stop! No, ain’t gonna take your guns away. I’m just sayin’. You can’t shoot someone if the machines to shoot with are illegal. Can’t happen.

Wouldn’t reducing the number of guns out there even slightly lessen the number of deaths? Forget if you like to shoot elk or simply want to reenact the Revolutionary War with your friends…or the practicality of passing legislation. Maybe we prevent one death, just one – your kid.   Or you? Could it be worth it? Or would you rather just have everyone carry and live as if you were on the set of Braveheart but with 2006 Mel Gibson. Too soon? Then how about Gunsmoke or The Wild, Wild West? (Note: TV or film remake). Or Falling Down with 1971 Clint Eastwood playing the Michael Douglas part as Dirty Harry. Better?

Where should we start?

Where should we start?

I’ve had it with arguing about which ethnic or religious group subset is responsible for said terrorist bombing du jour.

I don’t effin’ care. Really. A terrorist is not a member of any sane religious and/or ethnic group that I’ve ever run across. Their sub-set is terrorist, plain and simple. I’m a New Yorker and I hate that some soulless ass thought a lethal pressure cooker in Manhattan was a good idea several weeks ago. But blaming it on his skin color or spirituality…Wait!

That’s like blaming the gays for Roy Cohn. Or the Christians for Ann Coulter.  Or putting me, Tom Cruise, Dave Franco and Usher in the same pot because we’re all 5’7.” I’m nothing like any of them, though certainly we’d fit into some of each other’s clothes (Note: Hi Ush…). You know what I mean?

Uh, Tommy WISHES he was 5'7" #lifts

Uh, Tommy WISHES he was 5’7″ #lifts

Still, if you want to know the truth, where this is all coming from, here’s what it’s really about.

I just can’t take any more of the Trump.

Yet as a good citizen who has had issues with my country over the decades but has come to see that I love it nevertheless, I am afraid to fully turn him/it off for fear of waking up in more of an alternate orange reality than I am already in.

#IMWITHHER

#IMWITHHER

You know how they say there’s a tipping point for everything? That final push that breaks the camel’s back or yours – the thing puts anyone or anything over the edge of sanity or maximum density?

Well, I finally hit it. And over such a little thing, too – at least by comparison.

The NY Times, CNN and others report that Gennifer Flowers, the former mistress of Bill Clinton – he’s the former president who is the spouse of current Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton – has been invited to Monday’s presidential debate. By Republican nominee Donald Trump.

umm... WHAT?

umm… WHAT?

Okay, FINE! If you want to split hairs it’s technically only slightly murky – the way every single statement, tweet and Trumpism is. Which means – it’s the norm. In response to fellow billionaire Marc Cuban being seated in the front row at the debates, Trump tweeted, that if that happens perhaps I will seat Gennifer Flowers right next to him. Talk about false equivalencies!

For those too young to recall or wise enough to forget, Ms. Flowers many, MANY decades ago had an affair with Bill Clinton and Republican operatives in the early nineties tried to blow up his presidential campaign by bringing her to the forefront when such things as marital history and monogamy mattered in presidential politics. It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard about Ms. Flowers but every now and again she reappears on the national or international scene when people get desperate enough about the Clintons and throw up their hands when they’re out of ammunition.

The only place this woman belongs is on some third-rate reality show #CelebrityApprentice

The only place this woman belongs is on some third-rate reality show #CelebrityApprentice

The idea that this Orange Clown, this spray-tanned-backed-by-Russian-oligarchs buffoon, this counterfeit trust fund baby, is sick enough and so utterly weak of character and self-confidence that he actually thinks inviting the woman whom his opponent’s HUSBAND had an affair with decades ago to sit in the front row during a PRESIDENTIAL debate against said opponent, is a way to distract her and win, speaks to a kind of base immorality we have not seen before. His knee-jerk childishness and temper tantrums and clear terror at the prospect of only being able to talking about ISSUES is mind-boggling, not to mention a bit scary. As for Ms. Flowers, she has told the NY Times that she will attend the debates – though whether she will indeed be #Drumpf’s guest and/or sit in the front row is still in question.

#DRAMA

#DRAMA

Nevertheless, whether or not Ms. Flowers will or has attended the debates by the time you read this is not what’s relevant. To be considered more seriously is where we are and how silly and sad this has all become. Donald Trump has the temperament of an immature child and commands the room only because the adults in charge, meaning all of us, let him.   However, his just desserts are that in this presidential race he faces one of the few adults in the political world – a strong woman (nee Mom) who won’t let a bilious little boy get away with lying and mouthing off just because he’s angry and bored and tired of all of the many expensive toys he’s been given.

So, really, he could spit into her face or turn into Regan from The Exorcist and it won’t matter. Come Nov. 8th, he’ll be grounded and his fake presidential seal will be taken away for life.

AMEN #ThatsAllFolks

AMEN #ThatsAllFolks

As terrorism, gun control and the racist American demons this child has unleashed, let’s hope she can be half as successful in conquering them.

Finally, if you’re voting for Trump