ON THE AVENUES: Surrender.


There hasn’t been much time to think it over – only six decades – but I’ve concluded that I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer. You need to be patient with me. Things don’t always stick the first time — or the fourteenth.

These observations were first made by a friend more than 25 years ago, and characteristically, it’s taken a whole pandemic for me to concede their accuracy. Better than a nuclear conflagration, I suppose.

In this week of milestones, which has included my 60th birthday, Pints&union’s second anniversary and the 15,000th blog post at NA Confidential, also comes the ideal opportunity to bring to fruition a promise I made all the way back in 2018.

My friends, the clock has expired. The sabbatical continues. Consider this my official withdrawal from active participation in the Resistance … to Mayor Gahan’s cult of personality, not President Trump’s.

Yes, I’ve been guilty of backsliding a time or two, as during the entire municipal election cycle in 2019. In retrospect, it was a last gasp. I made killer arguments, did the research, voluminously rested my case … and came out on the losing end, resoundingly; not once, but twice.

Slow learner, and all that jazz.

There has been a steady de-escalation of public affairs-oriented blogging (a.k.a., resistance programming) ever since, resulting from being busy in other aspects of life, as well as the need to reallocate non-paying writing time toward billable hours. The blog quota has been cut in half over a two-year span, and I’ve made a few farthings in the process.

The first six months of 2020 have seen the blog’s contents move ever further away from the proximity of the local Democratic Party’s movers and shakers. If for no other reason, simple pragmatism explains this shift.

The party’s ironclad commitment to one-way non-dialogue has resulted in my being muted, blocked and otherwise scourged over a period of seven (!) years; given this, it makes little sense to persist in scoring myriad solo debating points, virtually at will, against a AWOL opponent.

Although to be honest, dunking on them multiple times a week has proven to be almost more fun than sex.

To summarize, in 2020, with only a few exceptions, I’ve drastically reduced instances of truth-telling with regard to City Hall and its loyal Democratic Party acolytes. Rest assured that “truth-telling” is no idle boast. Just the facts, ma’am. In effect, I’ve written the history. What’s left for me to say?

The truths I’ve told remain just that – true – but these truths never were proprietary to me alone. I was just the one who kept repeating them aloud, imagining truth would eventually matter. No regrets, although I’d have been better off using the time to learn a foreign language.

Well, here’s more truth: My situation is unsustainable. To paraphrase Chief Joseph, I will resist no more forever (or until 2023, whichever comes first). Gahanism is triumphant, at least for the moment.

I no longer have the energy to explicate the absurdities of this city’s “chosen few,” and I’ve come to understand that they’ve cornered me with a bizarre variety of “Reverse Pavlov’s Dog (Park)”.

To wit: Whenever I tell the truth about City Hall, certain of its functionaries begin to salivate – and they respond by applying an electric cattle prod to someone standing close to me.

I’m not punished directly, because they know it’s impossible and inadvisable. They don’t even bother trying. Instead, they hit back indirectly, by making life miserable for someone near to me, rendering me responsible for whatever pain ensues. In turn, clearly the only way for the cattle prod to be withheld from use against those close to me who don’t deserve it is for me to muzzle myself.

In the strictest sense of politics, as the accumulation and dispensing of raw power, I must admit this is the single cleverest stratagem the Gahanites have yet mustered. They shrug as I dominate the rhetorical battles, then go full Pavlovian to win the war.

It’s a genius-level tactic, one fully deserving of respect and public acknowledgment – and I’m being neither flippant nor sarcastic. Not one single bit. Political power duly amassed, but never deployed, is squandered.

Check, mate; I surrender, dear leader. Send a ordinance enforcement officer to fetch my sword, on a plate.

City Hall wins and I lose, although it’s worth noting that in reality many others are losing, too, because municipal governance in our contemporary era relies on putting a heavy finger on the scales, choosing winners and ditching losers.

You know it, I know it. They know it. Hell, they’re proud of it; so it goes, and that’s life in the Vaseline, every day, all the time. At the age of 60, with 15,000 posts under the bridge and slowly floating downstream, it has become inordinately tiring to fight the power on a daily basis.

Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

On the other hand, there is much consolation. The historical record has been conceded to me, and I’m absolutely confident that posterity will pass a favorable verdict. I’ve proven my points again and again, typically without debate, reply, discussion or justification in return … which of course provides even more reason for raising these points (and their hackles) in the first place.

Truly it’s time to let go, because I’m toast, a sentiment reflected by the eternally witty Mael brothers of Sparks in their new song, “Toast.”

I’m toast
I’m toast
I’m toast
Nothing stays the same as it was

Have I made it plain?
I could not sustain
Any hard won gain
Now the choice is jam or butter

Now for the pivot.

It should be clear that a pandemic “trumps” pettiness, and what’s more, it’s a presidential election year. As such, I’ve completed a circle that commenced in 2004, when this blog was founded from the sheer, accumulated exasperation of forever arguing national affairs to the exclusion of local issues.

At the time I barely grasped these grassroots concerns, thus inaugurating a learning curve that first encouraged involvement beyond my comfort zone, then full immersion into the prevailing insanity, and finally the long process of restoring equilibrium, which is the reason for today’s column.

My viewpoint has widened again, far beyond this grubby burg. We’d have been spending much of 2020 talking about the election, anyway, but the arrival of a pandemic upped the ante. After all, COVID is a harmful, global virus.

It’s also the Great Revealer, a truth serum of epic dimension, illustrating that a crisis seldom causes folks to change their minds. It exacerbates what was there already, even if submerged or camouflaged. Humans dislike change. We double down on whatever superstition got us here.

And local Republicans have gone down doubling so far in 2020.

I’ve made many friends with conservative Republicans since my campaign in 2015, and I’m absolutely grateful for them. Granted, I’ve joked that you see me talking politics with Republicans them only because the DemoDisneyDixiecrats anti-socially distanced me years ago. It isn’t true; I enjoy their company, and have no plans to alter this dynamic.

However, it’s also important to recall the words of Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres: “When a friend makes a mistake,” he said, “the friend remains a friend, and the mistake remains a mistake.”

As it pertains to the pandemic – to Trump, Mike Pence, Black Lives Matter, the veracity of science versus religion, bailouts for the wealthy, capital accumulation and a plethora of other current briefs, I disagree with my friends on the Right, in some instances strongly. I think they’re mistaken. When we shared a distaste for the maddeningly dysfunctional local Democratic Party’s megalomania, bigger-ticket differences were easier to ignore.

Presently, not so much, but I never lied to anyone. I’m a leftist, and when it comes to politics in a presidential election year, it means I’ll be found camping in a locale much closer to where the Democrats bivouac, even if I retain my fundamental disdain for the American two-party system and its less salubrious practitioners on all sides of the aisle.

Here we are. On national topics, I can broadly agree with at least some elements of the municipal Democratic Party establishment; otherwise, we share a mutual and understandable loathing.

As for the Republicans, in my view the local cadres have been overtaken, exposed and struck deaf, blind and dumb, first by Trump, then COVID. However, their ongoing efforts to promote fiscal responsibility and governmental transparency are still worthy of my support.

The GOP, overall? It still isn’t me.

Pertaining to NA Confidential moving forward, it’s to be almost entirely a daily personal diary with post titles taken from songs. While not entirely denuded of municipal social commentary, it will be reduced to a size capable of being stuffed into an emptied can of kippers. Where it leads, I can’t yet say.

To prevent my friends and neighbors being punished for my truth-telling, certain topics will remain off-limits. It’s what I must do. Fortunately I’ve studied the lives of dissidents, artists and free-thinkers in the former Soviet Union, and they’ve taught me how to self-censor with dignity.

Yep. It’s impossible to come back without first going away. Vive la résistance!

Recent columns:

July 30: ON THE AVENUES: Guys.

July 23: ON THE AVENUES: These overdue mask mandates should help us separate the bad actors from the good.

July 16: ON THE AVENUES: Daniil Kharms, Marina Malich, and writing for the drawer about nothing … pre-Seinfeld.

July 9: ON THE AVENUES: Mask up, folks. Pints&union is coming back, and we’re taking precautions.