Monthly Archives: November 2016

Our Home – a play

Setting: A large, multi-level mansion inhabited by multiple members and branches of an extended family. They are looking for a new house manager.

Main Characters: Bob (current house manager), Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, Mom, Stepdad, Oldest Sister, Brother-in-law, Youngest Sister, Oldest Brother, Youngest Brother, several middle siblings, Uncle Crazy, House Manager applicants: Heather and Darrin

Act One

(Living room)

Grandpa: Damn, it’s hot in here!

Grandma: I know, Dear. The air conditioner still isn’t working right.

Bob: I hear you. I’ve been working with the guys on this problem the whole time I’ve been working here. It’s definitely better than it was before!

Oldest Brother: No, it’s not.

Youngest Brother: Yes it most certainly is!

Oldest Brother: You’re just saying that because it’s working in your room. In my room –

Youngest Brother: Yeah, it’s working great in my room. Bob’s done such a super job! And everyone’s totally happy!

Mom: You’re so right! I’m happy! Dad’s happy!

Dad: Actually, I’ve been really hot recently. The A/C isn’t working in my office or in the –

Mom: And Step Dad is happy, and –

Grandpa: Will someone fix the goddamn air conditioner already? I’m gonna pass out from this heat! Bob’s retiring next month and we need someone to run this place and fix the air conditioning. And the coffee maker. It’s broken, too. And the –

(Doorbell rings)

Youngest Sister: I’ll get it. It’s probably the new house manager applicants. (exits)

Grandpa: Thank god. We need the air conditioning fixed.

Youngest Sister, entering with two people: Here are Darrin and Heather, the applicants for our house manager position.

Heather: Pleased to meet you.

Darrin (scowling): It’s hot in here. Someone needs to fix the air conditioner. I can fix it. I’m a very successful radio salesman so I’ll be really good at fixing air conditioners. The air conditioning industry is totally fixed, you know. They make it impossible for anyone’s air conditioner to work. I’m gonna make the air conditioners work in every room of the house. I’m gonna get rid of the whole air conditioning industry.

Heather: Well, I’ve been working with house managers for a long time, and I understand what this job entails. I see that some rooms are getting pretty good circulation, but a lot of the rooms are just stifling. We’ll have to redirect some of the air from the high-flow rooms to reach some of the lower-flow –

Darrin: Wrong! You’re part of the problem. You’ve been in the house manager business so long that you have no idea what it’s really like to live without properly functioning air conditioning. Your people have had plenty of time to fix this already. We have a problem and I’m here to fix it. And you know what makes this air conditioning problem really horrible? The cousins living in the guest wing. They’re only second cousins once removed. I don’t know why they’re here. They use way too much of the air conditioning.

Cousin: Um, actually, we only have a window fan, and we’re chipping in on the electricity bill each month and we help with –

Darrin: Cousins are like that. They’re not good people. They use all the air conditioning so there’s none left for anyone else and it’s always the worst of the cousins who show up.

Mom (horrified): What did you say?

Darrin: Well, I’m sure some cousins are ok, but most aren’t. As house manager, I’ll make sure any uninvited cousins or cousins who were invited but stayed longer than they were supposed to are sent right back where they came from.

Heather: Most cousins are hardworking people. When I manage this house, I’ll make sure there’s a path for cousins who have been here a long time and are helping around the house and raising their kids here to make it their permanent, legal address.

Darrin: I’m gonna build a big wall around the house so that no more cousins get in.

Dad: That’s ridiculous. No one’s building a wall. But can you really get the air conditioning to run better?

Uncle Crazy: I hate cousins. They’re all stupid and inferior. And so are adopted kids.

Oldest Sister: Hey, I’m adopted!

Darrin: Well, that was a legal process, so it’s ok for you to be here.

Uncle Crazy: Nope. Not ok. Can’t stand any of those cousins or adopted folk. I say we hire Darrin. He’ll get rid of all the cousins and adopted kids.

Darrin: Just the uninvited cousins or the ones that’ve stayed too long.

Oldest Sister (to the room at large): How can you let him say that? How can you let him say that he’ll get rid of me? I’m part of this family!

Mom: Of course you are, Sweetie. Darrin never said he’d get rid of you – that was crazy Uncle Crazy.

Oldest Sister: But he said those awful things about our cousins!

Youngest Sister: He did. He’s disgusting. I don’t know why we’re still interviewing him.

Youngest Brother: I say we send Darrin back to wherever he crawled out of and let Heather take over.

Grandpa: But Darrin sounds like he can really overhaul this air conditioning system and give us some relief from this –

Youngest Sister: Yes! Totally we should go with Heather! You agree, right Mom? Right, Youngest Brother? Right, Cousins? Right, Oldest Sister? Yeah! Everyone agrees! This is great! And we’ve never had a short person as a house manager before, either – what a perfect step for our family to take!

Darrin: Heather steals.

Youngest Sister: What?

Darrin: Heather steals. And she lies.

Uncle Crazy: Fucking thief. Fucking liar. Thinking she can do a tall person’s job. Adopted person lover. Cousin lover. All of them should hang from trees. Darrin all the way. Darrin’s our man!

Darrin (tipping his hat to Uncle Crazy): (wink, wink)

Mom: Uh, Darrin, shouldn’t you maybe distance yourself a bit from crazy Uncle Crazy here?

Darrin: Who’s Uncle Crazy? Don’t think I’ve ever heard of him.

Youngest Sister: Oh my god! Darrin’s like Uncle Crazy! How can anyone still let Darrin stay in this house? Why haven’t you kicked him out? What’s wrong with all of you? Why do you all hate Oldest Sister and Cousins and all short people? You always do this! All of you! You always –

Grandpa: Isn’t anyone listening? I’m gonna pass out! I’m too hot! Please, someone fix the damn air conditioner!

Grandma: I really am hot, too. Will someone –

Darrin: The whole house manager system is corrupt. I know this. I used to buy them all off in my radio business dealings. I did whatever I wanted because I was the best in the radio business. I know these people. They’re all corrupt. I bribed them all the time to get exactly what I wanted, so I know that they’re all corrupt. And if Heather could fix an air conditioner she’d have done it already while her friend Bob was house manager. She was head of laundry while Bob was house manager, so she had plenty of time to fix the air conditioning. We need to build that wall and get rid of the air-hogging cousins now! Make this house cool again!

Grandpa: I remember when the house used to be cool! Oh, it was so much more comfortable then!

Brother-in-law: But back then, kids and short people weren’t allowed to use the air conditioning, only the –

Uncle Crazy: Yeah! Make the house cool again! Get rid of the cousins! Get rid of the adopted people! And the short people sleep in the garage where they belong! Darrin! Darrin! Darrin! Cool house! Cool House! Cool house!

Darrin (smiling at Uncle Crazy): (wink, wink)

Oldest Sister: Dad, do you hear what Uncle Crazy is saying? Do you see how Darrin is goading him?

Dad: How dare you call me anti-cousin! How dare you call me anti-adoption! I adopted you! I’m as pro-adoption and pro-cousin as they get! I paid for college for you and Youngest Sister and all your cousins, several of whom are short people! How dare you say I’m misoshortpeopleistic!

Oldest Sister: Where the hell did that come from? All I said was –

Youngest Sister: How can you support this guy? You care nothing about me! You hate me! You have no respect for me!

Middle Sister One (walking through the room): Hey, has anyone noticed how hot it is in –

Dad: This guy wouldn’t kick anyone out, no one hates anyone, it’s just talk to get attention so he’ll get hired and everyone’ll be totally safe and –

Darrin: I’m really rich, you know. It’s because I’m so good at everything I do. Everyone loves me. In fact, they love me so much that I can do whatever I want. Heather’s a thief and a liar.  Let’s make the house cool again! House! House! House! House!

Uncle Crazy: House! House! House! House!

Darrin: Liar and thief! Liar and thief! Liar and thief! Remember the laundry? She put red socks in with the white dress shirts. A disaster. A total disaster!

Uncle Crazy: Jail her! Jail her! Jail her!

Heather: I was never convicted of stealing or lying. They’ve investigated me 64 times so far and the charges have never stuck. I may have used some bad judgment with the laundry, for which I take full responsibility, but –

Darrin: Liar!

Uncle Crazy: Thief!

Mom: Heather has been investigated an awful lot times, do we really think that she would be the best alternative to Darrin?

Oldest Sister: Nothing’s been proven! If you look for someone else, Darrin will end up with the job, and he’s a vile, disrespectful –

Darrin (to Oldest Sister): You’re fat.

Middle Brother One (walking through room): Hey, don’t know if you all know this, but the A/C is out again in my –

Oldest Sister: What does my weight have to do with –

Darrin: I’ll make the house cool again!

Heather: Darrin knows nothing about air conditioning. He has no experience, and he doesn’t have the temperament to manage this house. There’s the driving to think about, the dry cleaning, the yard work, the cooking –

Darrin: I’m the only one that can make the air conditioning work. I’m the best at driving. I have the best laundry skills. I’m the best at food –

Mom: Darrin, who would you hire to help with meals? You’ve never cooked before and –

Darrin: I would hire myself first because I’m the best with meals and I’m really good at everything and I know way more than the career chefs.

Youngest Sister: You would put this in charge of our house?

Grandma: He was really successful selling radios.

Heather: I have significant experience with meal preparation. I was sous chef here for years and –

Dad: Yeah, and we had that kichen fire when you were here.

Heather: Wasn’t my fault.

Darrin: Yes it was. Liar. Pyromaniac.

Uncle Crazy: Pyromaniac! Thief! Jail her! Jail the cousins! Make the girls sleep in the garage! Laundry!

Heather: The laundry was thoroughly checked – the white shirts are fine. Yes it was a mistake, but I’ve learned from it and the shirts are ok. Most of the shirts were polyester.

Darrin: She threw out the socks! She threw out the shirts! She didn’t want to be caught!

Heather: The socks were all worn out – big holes in the heels and toes. The shirts were looked at and they’re ok, none of the good white shirts turned pink.

Darrin: Laundry! Laundry! Laundry!

Uncle Crazy: Kill the bitch! Kill all cousins!

Brother-in-law: Hey! I found this Youtube video of Darrin! Watch this!

(Video Darrin: I’m rich! I can do whatever I want to short people! I don’t even ask! I just steal their laptops!)

Mom: What the hell, Darrin?

Darrin: That was a long time ago. That was just hangin’ with the tall people talk. Heather’s a pyromaniac. Kitchen fire. Laundry incident.

Heather: The kitchen fire and laundry incident were looked into repeatedly. How many times do we have to revisit the same –

Mom: Potentially ruining the white dress shirts is a big deal. How could someone be so careless with something so important? Maybe she was getting paid by someone from another house who wanted a pink shirt.

Heather: The shirts have been thoroughly examined. It was poor judgement. Let’s move on and –

Darrin: Laundry.

Uncle Crazy: Hang her! House! House! House! House!

Darrin (smiling at Uncle Crazy): (wink, wink)

Middle Brother Two (walking through living room): Hey, guys. How’s everyone doing? I’m totally sweating here. The air conditioning is still –

Darrin: I’ll make the house cool again! I’m the only one who can do this!

Heather: The house is slowly getting cooler. Two bedrooms are averaging two degrees cooler than they were before Bob was house manager. It’s a slow process, but I know how to tweak it and get –

Darrin: Laundry!

Uncle Crazy: Make the house cool again! Kill the bitch! Build the wall! Build the cousin wall!

Darrin: It’ll be a tremendous wall. Just tremendous, really. And the cousins will pay for it.

Middle Brother Three (walking through living room): Man, it’s hot in here! I think we need to –

Youngest Sister: Look, we need to pick someone now to take over as house manager. Obviously Heather is the only reasonable choice. Only Uncle Crazy wants Darrin.

Middle Brother One (walking back into room): Darrin sounds like he could really fix the air conditioning in a meaningful way, and I think –

Youngest Sister: The Middle Siblings haven’t been in the living room enough to know what’s going on. They’re uninformed. Anyone who wants to hire Darrin is either Uncle Crazy or an uninformed Middle Sibling. Everyone knows that. Everyone agrees with me. Right, Oldest Brother? You wouldn’t choose Darrin, right? You’re not a crazy uncle or an uninformed middle sibling, right?

Oldest Brother (averting her gaze and mumbling quietly): Uh, right…

Youngest Sister: See? Everyone agrees with me.

Mom: Look, we’ve gotta decide who to hire. Let’s call everyone in and take a vote.

People yell and call everyone to the living room. All the family members squeeze in. Pieces of paper and pens are handed around for people to write in their choice for house manager. People fill out their papers and put them on the coffee table.

Grandpa and Grandma count the votes.

Grandma: Well, I’ll be damned. Darrin will be our new house manager.

(Close curtain)


Youngest Sister is sobbing in the middle of the living room. Cousins are shaking in the corner of the room. Darrin has gathered his sons and closest relatives, all of whom are in his family business, to advise him and help in his transition to house manager.

Grandpa: Finally the air conditioning will get fixed!

Uncle Crazy: Kill the cousins!

Oldest Brother: No one’s killing anyone. We’re gonna get a new air conditioning system.

Middle Brother Four (to Oldest Sister): Dirty adopted person. Go back where you came from. With Darrin here, we won’t take your kind anymore.

Darrin: Gonna get rid of those uninvited cousins! This is the best! House! House! House! I’ll be the best house manager for everyone in the house! You’re all gonna love me!

Middle Brother Four (to cousins and Oldest Sister): Fuck you, Cousins. You’re outta here. All of you. No one was invited. And fuck you, adopted person. This is Darrin’s house, now. (Pushes Cousins and Oldest Sister)

Uncle Crazy: Damn straight!

Darrin (observes and says nothing)

Youngest Sister: Fuck you, Middle Brother Four! Fuck you, Uncle Crazy! Fuck you, anyone who voted for Darrin!

Brother-in-Law: Don’t worry. There are enough of us to protect cousins and adopted siblings and short people. We’ll work together and everything will be ok.

Mom: I hope so….

Act Two

We shall see.


Election Reflection

I took a long walk with my dog today, and then I took a shower.

I like showers. I’ve always found them soothing and comforting. I can think in there. I can relax. I can’t hear the phone ring. I can’t see a television. Generally, no one bugs me while I’m in there.  I come out clean, refreshed, and smelling and feeling good.

A shower can relieve aching muscles while removing the dirt and sweat from a long hike or a hard work-out or a stint fighting weeds, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. Showers are powerful for me, so much so that the combination of just a single 200mg ibuprofen with a long hot shower will knock out even my worst, sick-to-my-stomach headache.

So although my shower was not able to negate the outcome of yesterday’s election, it helped me to gather my thoughts and to process them a bit.

Here’s what I’ve got:

People really suck at communicating. And people are hurting, which tends to decrease their communication skills.

People are hurting. And they are not hearing what is being said. Which leads to more hurt. Which leads to more closing off and even less ability to hear what is being said.

People are hurting. And they feel that they are not being heard. So they yell. And other people don’t like being yelled at, so they don’t listen and they yell back. Which leads to more hurt and more feelings of not being heard. Which leads to more yelling.

With full recognition of the fact that my children will see it as quite ironic that these words are coming from my mouth, although a yell or scream is at times necessary to grab attention, yelling tends to lose its at first attention-grabbing power when it is done too frequently. And although there are circumstances under which someone must continue to scream because their life depends on it, in most situations there are far more effective means of communication.

It has been a long election season. I am a heavy user of social media in that I am a heavy lurker – I listen. And I listen. And I listen more.

There are countless posts about how people have deleted people from their social media circles over politics. There are myriad political discussions which devolve into name-calling spats. There is vilification and dehumanization of those affiliating with a particular political party or supporting a particular candidate. On both sides. And within both sides.

So I listen. And I think. And I don’t un-friend or un-follow, because I want to know what other people are thinking.

And I occasionally say something, in a blog post, or in a private message, or in conversation with others.

What I hear in these personal conversations and in my lurking observations continues to affirm my initial assertion that people suck at communicating. And the reason is that they don’t listen – they don’t listen to what others are saying, neither on their own side nor on the other side, nor at times do they listen to what they themselves are saying.

I have many people whom I am close to on both sides of the political aisle. During this particular election cycle, most of the folks close to me, even those who generally vote conservative, voted for Hillary Clinton. But a few voted for Donald Trump.

The people I know well who voted for the president-elect are not racists. They are not xenophobic. They are not homophobic. Not even in a closeted-but-belying-underlying-prejudice-with-behind-closed-doors-remarks kind of way. Every person is by nature subject to carrying some bias, but beyond this basic condition of being human, these particular people are not –ists or –phobics. They happen to be smart, kind, highly educated, giving people. They support their local schools, they help feed the hungry, and one has given substantial financial support to LGBTQ causes. Their arguments tend towards the economic in general, and they allude not infrequently to frustration with the “political elite” and stifling bureaucracy. They uniformly decry unfair labeling by the general media and “liberal elite.”

The labeling hurts them. And they hear it even when it is not there. A statement about the white supremacist groups that support the president-elect evokes not an immediate repudiation of the white supremacist group but a defensive response of “I’m not a racist and the fact that I am fed up with career politicians doesn’t mean you and all the liberal elite have a right to cast me as a xenophobe.” I hear plenty of people lump all President-Elect Trump supporters together as xenophobes, but plenty of people don’t lump them all together, and it’s not fair to assume that everyone does lump. Anyone else see the parallel to what our Muslim citizens deal with? And does anyone see the parallel of what many of our president-elect’s supporters deride as “political correctness” (if it involves not offending a minority or disenfranchised group member) to the defensive response to the perceived offense in the example here?

People want to be understood, but they don’t always want to understand. People want to be heard, but they don’t always want to listen. People don’t want to feel vilified, pigeonholed, and dehumanized, but they don’t always want to give that same consideration to others. And when people don’t understand, don’t listen, and instead vilify, pigeonhole, and dehumanize others, we get the cycle of viciousness that accompanies every election but that we’ve watched grow exceptionally heavy over this past year-and-a-half.

Our president-elect is a successful businessman. He has had business failures, but he certainly has grown his financial empire overall. He knows how to work a system, how to get what he needs or wants. He worked the country successfully to get the votes he needed. He did this with divisiveness, with name-calling, with insults, with threats, and with plenty of lies. I do think he is smart and knew very well what he was doing at all times. He knew his viciousness and his baiting would tear groups apart and drum up a certain base that he would need to get the numbers he needed and get them where he needed to get them in order to win.  He has his work cut out for him if, as he stated in his victory speech this morning, he intends to be a president for all Americans.

It’s funny – at the very beginning of his bid for the presidency, Donald Trump was so over-the-top and so much like a caricature that I seriously thought he was doing what he was doing to make the Republicans look ridiculous and boost up the Democrats. It seemed satirical. This whole experience has been surreal. And frightening.

Words have consequences. Words are powerful. And some of his words have caused pain and fear that will be very difficult to heal. And some of his words have emboldened those that are, truly, deplorable in their malice toward others, and the rest of the country will have to work together, all of us, to halt whatever momentum they’ve gained. I can only hope that the demagoguery will be kept in check now that the deal has been closed, so that those flames of animosity and malice will not be fanned.

I take hope in the fact that a significant portion of his votes were based on economics and frustration with bureaucracy, that the overwhelming majority of voters in the youngest demographic did not vote for him (as this group voted on social ideology as opposed to financial dissatisfaction – a luxury those in the older brackets are not necessarily afforded), and that it appears that he did not win the popular vote – it doesn’t keep him out of the office, but it makes the statement that there is significant work to be done, that support needs to be earned.

We will have to fight hard to keep our rights. We will have to fight hard to keep hatred at bay. We will have to work hard to listen, to understand, to see the humanity in one another. We have been shown that we cannot be complacent, that we must keep our eyes open and keep on our toes, that we have further to go than we may have thought.

I hope we have a big enough hot water tank.