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#Boomers

  • "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

     
    Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
     
     
    "That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
    By
    Robert Sihler
     
    Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     

    I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

    But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

    I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

    So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

    A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

    And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

    My friends, this is completely false.

     

    Unknown.jpeg

    First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

    Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

    Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

    You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

    Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

    You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

    What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

    When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

    Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

    Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

    But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

    You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

    I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

    All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

    Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

    If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

    And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

    Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

    Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.

     

  • A YouTube Conversation About the Arts

    A YouTube Conversation About Writing, Teaching, Learning, and the Arts

    Watch my conversation with Sean Murphy, founder and CEO of 1455 Literary at: 
     

     

    Thank you, Sean, for these flattering comments, for the wonderful conversation, and for your important work at 1455 Literary (www.1455literary)!!!

    By Sean Murphy--It's Back to the Future with this next installment of 1455's "The 14:55 Interview":

    Known for many (MANY) years as one of the most popular --and flat out best-- teachers in the history of Fairfax County, Chuck Cascio has also spent decades writing (journalism, sports, non-fiction, and lately, fiction). He also did no small part in helping infuse purpose and passion into your humble narrator, and, as the supportive, encouraging, and exceedingly patient faculty advisor (i.e., editor-in-chief) of South Lakes High The Sentinel, inculcated a respect for the discipline--the nuts and bolts of what real writing entailed.

    So it's with great joy that I chat with "Mr. Cascio" about a great many things, including his memories of being a precocious writer-in-training stealing glances at his parents' copy of The Catcher in the Ryeand why 1968 was such a momentous year in American (and Cascio family) history, and why the theme of coming-of-age recurs in his work. Special praise is doled out to "Born to Run" and Lost in Translation (an unimpeachable one-two punch for easily recommended album and movie), a heartfelt and welcome tribute to the amazing, if under-read, Wallace Stegner.

    Chuck confesses he still needs to read Anna Karenina (don't worry, I'll keep on him, and by the way, that's always a reminder that my friend Jeanne McCulloch's remarkable memoir ALL HAPPY FAMILIES takes its title from Tolstoy's immortal opening lines). We also talk about why it's worthwhile to reach out to a writer, thanking them when their work moves you.

     

    On that note, I know I am one of THOUSANDS of appreciative students (I won't say "former" student, b/c once Chuck teaches you, you stay taught) that want to thank Mr. C. for being something rare in this world: a positive role model and inspiration. I still can picture the sweat on our brows as we cut and pasted (with a razor blade, kids) articles for another issue of The Sentinel, but I'm delighted that my happiest memories of him have yet to be made.

    Watch the interview now: 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLznxZDM8mQ

     

     

     

     

  • Lessons in Racism: A Tribute to Donal Leace

    LESSONS IN RACISM--
    A Tribute to Singer, Songwriter, Teacher Donal Leace
    by
    Chuck Cascio

     

    It has been present all of our lives. We can look around and still see it. But it hits us hardest when something spurs our awareness and reminds us: Racism is real...it has been real...we have seen it ourselves, personally.   

    Donal Leace (no "d" at the end of his first name) was a Washington, DC-based Black singer, songwriter, entertainer, scholar, and teacher whom I met many years ago when I was 16 years old and working one memorable summer at my cousin's folk music club, the Shadows, in Virginia Beach. (Note: That club is not related to any club or restaurant that may have the same or similar name in Virginia Beach today.) I learned recently that Donal died of Covid in December 2020, and though I had not seen Donal in many years, hearing of his death brought back many memories...memories made all the more significant to me as the country engages in heated discussions about race. 

    One of my many jobs at the Shadows was to book hotel reservations for performers and then to greet them at the designated hotel when they arrived. Donal was scheduled to sing at the Shadows for a couple of weeks as the opening act. He drove down from DC (he lived in an apartment above the famous Cellar Door club in Georgetown), and I met him at the hotel where I had reserved his room. As we walked into the hotel together, a noticeable silence overtook the lobby. 

    When I reminded the man behind the desk, whom I had interacted with before, that I worked at the Shadows and that I had made a reservation for Donal, the man looked confused. He browsed a ledger intensely, flipped some pages, then finally looked up and said, "Sorry, got no reservation for him and no rooms are available. Fully booked." He scribbled something on a piece of paper and shoved it at me, saying, "But here is the address of a place where he can stay."

     

    Donal_Leace.jpeg

    Donal Leace: Singer, songwriter, teacher...

    I started to argue since I knew I had made the reservation and even had a confirmation number. But Donal tapped my shoulder and said, "I know what's going on here. Let's go." 

    We went outside into the beach sunlight and I started to blurt, "Donal, I'm sorry, I..."

    "It's not you, Chuck. This is what it is. You see what it is, right?"

    Of course I did--everywhere in Virginia overt racism was evident daily: The "Colored" restrooms and water fountains separate from "Whites Only" ones. The swimming pools with signage stating boldly, "No Coloreds." The segregated schools and neighborhoods. But in that moment with Donal, it all hit me hard, personally.

    We rode about 20 miles inland to the address the hotel clerk had given us, finally coming upon a dilapidated, sad building with a sign in front that read "Colored Motel." 

    "Guess I'll be making the trip from here to the club and back every night," Donal said matter-of-factly.

    Something swelled from inside me, and I said, "We have room at our house, Donal. Come stay with us!"

    Donal hesitated, then asked, "Are you sure? Will your roommates be okay with me?"

    "Yes," I said without hesitation, and we climbed into his car and rode back to the house I shared with three guys all in their early twenties. When we arrived, I explained to my roommates what had happened, and there was no hesitancy. Donal was given a room and throughout his stay, we all laughs and music together…but we shared other things, too, such as:

    After Donal's first night performing at the club, we all finished our closing chores, and I asked Donal if he wanted to join us at a local diner where we always went for our late-night/early-morning food and laughs. He came with us, and as we all entered the familiar diner on the main beach drag, I immediately recognized the evil quiet that blanketed us. We were quickly seated in a far corner booth by a waiter who knew us all, except for Donal, by name. 

    We introduced the White waiter to Donal, but the waiter simply turned away, refusing to shake Donal's extended hand. A minute or two later, the waiter returned and handed menus to each of us. Hungry, filled with the nightly relief of pulling off another successful club experience, we all started enthusiastically blurting out what we were going to order...except for Donal. He quietly perused his menu and, once the rest of us had quieted down, said, "Um, this place seems a little pricey, doesn't it?"

    In those days, you could get a club sandwich or scrambled eggs or fried chicken pieces for a dollar or two, so we were all surprised at Donal's comment. He smiled sadly, knowingly, and flipped over his menu so we could all see. Every item on his menu was at least 10 times the price shown on the rest of ours'! 

    One of my roommates angrily waved Donal's menu at the waiter.

    "What the hell is this?" the roommate said.

    "What do you mean?" the waiter said with a shrug.

    "You know damn well what I mean! You gave him a different menu than ours! Everything on his is much more expensive! Give him the right menu!"

    "That is the right menu...for him," the waiter said matter-of-factly. "So what can I get you guys?"

    With that, we all climbed out of the booth, and one of the guys got in the waiter's face and said, "We won't be back here. Ever."

    "Suit yourself," the waiter said, "but don't you go around saying we wouldn't serve him...and his kind. If he wants to pay, we'll serve him. If not, that's his choice."

    Yes, some things have changed since those days on Virginia Beach. But not enough. Racism still exists. It is, and has been, all around us. Think about what you have seen personally. Think about how it hit you. Think about how it hits others, daily.

    Racism is real. It is systemic. It must be addressed. 

    Thank you, Donal—for your music, laughter, friendship..and for the difficult lessons I learned from you during that brief stretch of summer.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

    (Readers: Tell me your story, if you like. Nothing will be reprinted without your permission, and you will retain all rights of anything that is printed: chuckwrites@yahoo.com.)

     

     
  • MY FATHER'S HOUSE--A posthumous 100th birthday tribute

    MY FATHER’S HOUSE

    By

    Chuck Cascio

    My father, Modesto “Morris” Cascio, was born on August 19, 1919 and passed away far too young.

    This is my modest tribute to him in the month of his hundredth birthday.

         His house blossomed as he walked Brooklyn’s streets helping his father bring home meat, bread, and occasionally a small piece of cake from the Depression-induced lines filled with hungry people in a land that once held promise for them all. 

         Remarkably, the promise remained inside him in the form of the house taking shape slowly within his agile mind, a mind capable of seeing hope during the days and nights on those dark streets miles and years away from the home in the rolling hills of Virginia that gradually grew as real to him as the stench of beer billowing from the brewery near the tenement where he lived with his parents, a sister, and two brothers. 

         His house evolved out of the spirit of his mind and took shape through his own will and desire. But first, he fought in the Second World War and then, four years after it ended, he took his small, beautiful wife and me and moved us out of Brooklyn, leaving behind the tenements, the stale brewery odors, his siblings, and his parents as one life slipped forward and the other slipped into the past but both made up the man who left Brooklyn. 

         The move saddened his immigrant father whose greatest fear was to lose any of his four children. All three of his sons had returned safely to Brooklyn after the War, but their wartime departure and his fears for their safety had turned his hair gray and furrowed his brow. Now this son—the second eldest child, the son who loved jazz and opera and who could make his mother laugh by turning her through a new dance step and who read someone named Shakespeare and who showed kindness to his siblings through a tease, a taunt, or an embrace—this son said he would be leaving because he felt a new life and a house growing inside of him. 

         Before he left, he assured his father, “Papa, you will hear from me often and we will visit, and you and Mama will visit us too. You’ll see; it will be good—good for you and good for me and for my family.” 

         The house he built in that strange land called Virginia became him—solid brick, 

    sturdy with quiet nuances of beauty, and a yard filled with trees and rolling emerald fields of grass. With dignity and simple elegance it faced the street—a street that began as dirt, eventually graduated to gravel and, then, finally to asphalt as the world around both him and his house began to change…a world that had graduated in stages inside him as he grew from a dreamer, to a man making dreams come true, and eventually to his fulfillment of a new life. 

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    My father’s house—our house—just outside of Vienna, VA.

         Every morning I watched as just prior to sitting at the kitchen table he would silently glance outside at the backyard, a view unimaginably different from the narrow streets and alleyways of his youth. Sometimes he nodded quickly and seemed to smile at the contrast. At other times, with his ever-present newspaper folded tightly under his arm, he would open the back door and stand there for several minutes, carefully surveying what was now his—and ours from him—before quietly sitting down. 

         How many days did I watch him sit at the breakfast table already in his suit and tie, reading his morning newspaper, ready for office work…another thing he had once only imagined but now lived?  He would sip coffee and occasionally give me and my younger brother and sister subtle reminders about how to behave, encouraging us to work our hardest, helping us understand that we must have a dream and we must be willing to pursue it. 

        And there were those times he would call us all together, excited about some small idea that had emerged: 

          “How about if we nail a backboard to that tree way in the backyard so you can practice shooting baskets anytime you want?” 

          “Let’s have a cement patio put in right at the bottom of the back steps connecting to the carport; then we can all eat outside!”

         “Gotta get together this weekend to start raking up the leaves. Fall is here!” 

         And in those brief, informal family meetings, he made his house and his dreams a part of his reality, a part of us, a part of all that we would be.

         His father visited the house only once. I still can see my grandfather, a Sicilian immigrant, sitting on the cement patio by the carport on a plastic and aluminum lawn chair, looking confused, as if he had once again migrated to a foreign country…this place with trees and space and fresh air. Over several days, he gradually sat smiling comfortably as he smoked a short, crooked, black cigar, sipped wine, and looked up occasionally from his Italian magazine to glance at the sky. On the day he left, a tear formed as he held his son, and the son, being the kind of man who could kiss his father, did just that. 

         His father returned to the solid streets of Brooklyn, his  place, the place he  had imagined as a boy who left Sicily with a dream, but he had briefly experienced the air and space of his son’s house and had seen the man his son had become. Neither man had regrets and both men knew they would always share certain realities—the family, the bread lines, the beer stench, the War, the fear of detaching from where you are and losing the essentials of who you are…but the absolute importance of taking that step. 

           After his father left, my father again quietly surveyed what was his and what he had become…the foundation of his being. Through his house he had proved that there is no detachment where there is real love; there is only an emergence of things that at first exist in the spaces of the mind, then take root in the soul, and eventually blossom from the heart.

         I have wanted so much of what he had, but nothing has consumed me more than his house—not the structure or the eclectic décor nor the lasting irrefutable loveliness of its grounds—no, it is not the house itself  that I have wanted. It is his quiet pride, his brilliant vision, his deep courage, his belief that this was it! He had achieved his sense of place and he had fulfilled the hope that had grown from the depths of his heart and his mind. He had absorbed the risks, built a new life, and shared it all with those he loved. 

         My father had taken his dream to reality and, in doing so, he had planted dreams inside us all.

    THE END

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • READING AND DISCUSSION GUIDE: The Fire Escape Belongs in Brooklyn

    Reading and Discussion Guide for
    THE FIRE ESCAPE BELONGS IN BROOKLYN
    By
    Chuck Cascio

    NOTE: If you would like  to discuss any of these items with me, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

     
    1) What is the tone established in the Prologue and Chapters 1-3? How does it contribute to the story arc and how does it tie to Volumes I&II?
     
    2) Throughout much of the book, Mike "talks" to Sally-Boy. Do his "conversations" and recollections seem to calm Mike or do they seem to cause an increased sense of despair and desperation?
     
    3) Chapters 8-11 are often referred to as indicative of a turning point in Mike's thinking. If you agree with that position, what are some of the specifics that occur in those chapters that imply a change and is that change a sign of maturation or further frustration or both?
     
    4) Chapters 12-19 immerse readers in several realities that Mike and others of his generation face. Consider Mike's initial reaction to Erica, how his feelings develop, and what elements of his nature seem to be emerging. At the same time, consider what his roommate, Fish, is like and how interactions with Darrell Bingham affect them both and, also, what Bingham seems to represent.
     
    5) Chapter 20 ties together several elements of life during the Vietnam Era upon which much of the book focuses. Of those elements, what emerges as having the greatest impact of that time and which, if any of those elements, still seem prevalent today?
     
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    6) As relationships emerge and develop between Mike and Erica and Fish and Katie, what aspects of their personalities seem to come through most prominently. Which, if any, of those aspects seem positive and which, if any, seem troubling to you?
     
    7) Chapters 31-33 move the reader from a party where the song "Satisfaction" has a real and symbolic role to deeper thinking on Mike's part about where he is headed. What are some of the key scenes (if any) that indicate to you a change in the depth of the characters and what are some of the implications of those changes?
     
    8) As the storyline develops, the role of Professor Staunton emerges as more prominent as does the impact of the Vietnam War. These elements combine to result in decisions that some people might consider heroic and others might consider objectionable. How do you feel about the decisions the characters make both in context of the story and in reality?
     
    9) Chapter 48 focuses on a ferry ride that Mike and Erica take. What do you think of the character development in that chapter? Do you see any foreshadowing of what is to come?
     
    10) Chapters 49-53 are filled with character elements that move the story to various points of dramatic conclusion. What is unexpected? What did you anticipate? How were you affected by the different events that impact the characters?
     
    11) In the Epilogue, do you feel that Mike has resolved his issues with Sally-Boy's disappearance? Do you think that Mike does justice to Sally, or is there more that he should do and, if so, what should it be?
     

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.