Downtown

I’ve worked in downtown Nashville for coming up on two years now. It is lively and entertaining and, despite the commute, I really like it. One of the reasons for that is the cast of characters you see on the streets. Right outside my office, there are at least two barkers trying to lure the tourists into either B.B. Kings or Coyote Ugly. On slow days, the Hooters girls will hula hoop on the sidewalk to bring the folks in for bad food served with a side of cleavage.

There is this one guy who I see occasionally. He’s old, in a wheelchair, and plays an acoustic guitar for change. He’s pretty good, too. He’s been down here forever, as far as I can tell. I have stopped to listen and throw a few coins in his bucket. When my friend Mitch came downtown for lunch (having recently moved back to Nashville from points north) he mentioned that this guy was down here playing back when Mitch was haunting 2nd Avenue the first time.

I haven’t seen him in a few weeks and it turns out there’s a reason. The Tennessean ran his obituary today. It seems he’s been performing on 2nd for change for 30 years. A rash of robberies (including his van he used to sleep in) prompted a police officer to help him get into housing and get some health care. I was glad to read he didn’t die alone on some street corner.

I was also glad to see that he was deemed newsworthy enough for a profile in the paper.

I have withdrawn from the media coverage of the healthcare bill. We’re getting to the point where it just makes me angry and I’ve come to terms with the notion that whatever passes will be awful and that the Democrats are stupid and unable to effectively use their majority status, which still makes them only slightly better than Republicans who have truly become the party of “No!”

Maybe it would have gone better if we’d declared war on something – the war on illness, the war on medical bankruptcy, the war on pre-existing conditions – I’m just spitballing here. The right never seems to question war funding and Republican presidents have a history of declaring war on things that don’t have an army to fight.

Started a new video game over the weekend. DragonAge Origins is Bioware’s new “Dark Epic Fantasy.” I’ve bought nearly every console game that Bioware has produced. I babbled at my friends about how cool Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was. Jade Empire was equally fun (if short). Elder Scrolls: Oblivion took several years before I’d completed it. I’ve played through Mass Effect three times, including exploring all the planets.

So I have high hopes for this one. I don’t buy a lot of games, so anything I buy has to have replayability. Otherwise I’ll rent it or borrow it. DragonAge looks to have that quality. So far, the story has been engaging, but the fight mechanics are a little hard to get used to. I get this feeling that I’m going to run across some shortcut command once I’m 20 or more hours into the story that’s going to be a facepalm moment as I realize how much easier it would have made the earlier chapters.

This happened in Mass Effect twice. Once when I realized the vehicle they give you to explore the surface of planets had a big cannon on it (I’d been making do with the machine guns) and the second was when I figured out that the same vehicle had a sniper scope on the cannon (meaning I could get better shots on enemy positions).

DragonAge represents (at least for me, anyway) another step in videogame delivery. Buying the disc new meant you got a code good for unlocking a character that those who rent the game will not see. It also came with a code that will give you a set of armor to use in Mass Effect 2, which is due next year. Finally, certain quests that pop up during conversations will have a response option that includes downloading additional content (for additional money).

I like the downloadable content model being used by a lot of games lately. It keeps the cost of the initial game down somewhat and offers the designers a chance to have users provide feedback about what they want to see. If you like the game, you can extend it by a few hours for another ten bucks. If you don’t like the game, then you aren’t saddled with paying for content you have no interest in.

It’s a good system.

What I don’t get are the people who play sports titles and buy what is essentially the same game every year with only minor changes. Is Madden 09 that much different from Madden 08? Wouldn’t a downloadable roster update make more sense? For the player, yes. For EA Sports, not so much, I guess.

This morning on the way to work I kept hearing someone blowing their horn. I checked each time to make sure it wasn’t me doing something wrong. Then I caught a glimpse of what was going on. It was a sedan in the HOV lane. The driver was blowing his horn at the drivers in front of him who weren’t supposed to be in the lane because they were alone in the vehicle.

He blew his horn at one SUV which moved over into the next lane just in time to keep from being spotted by a State Trooper parked in the median looking for HOV violators.

In Nashville, they don’t patrol the HOV lanes all that often, but when they do, they usually patrol in pairs. Once you spot the first patrol car, you might manage to get into the correct lane before being seen and then move back into the HOV lane once you’re out of sight. That’s when the second patrol car pulls you over.

But this is the first vigilante approach to HOV enforcement. I liked it.

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An Open Letter to Congressman Bart Gordon

Dear Congressman Gordon,

I moved to your district in 1986 while you were still in your second term. I have been a supporter of you and the Democratic Party for just about as long. My family worked for your campaign when you had a close call against Steve Gill. For the 10+ years I’ve had this blog, I’ve publicly ridiculed your opponents and defended your record.

Your district has grown more and more Republican, yet you manage to hold onto your seat. Tennessee 6 voted for McCain by 62 percent in the last election. Around Murfreesboro, people put up signs for McCain and Gordon in the same yard.

Your voting record has grown more conservative as well. Your vote to authorize torture made me incredibly angry. Your record is a string of votes along party lines until something comes up that really matters. But I continued to support you, because the alternative was going to be some anti-abortion, corporatist stooge.

Last Saturday, you voted against the House health insurance reform bill, citing that it would not reduce the cost of health care. But the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill and said it would save money and eventually create a surplus.

It seems like you’re listening to the vocal minority – the teabaggers and birthers – who don’t believe the government is capable of doing anything well. These are a loud crowd of Glenn Beck followers who strive to defend the downtrodden insurance companies. I’m amazed at how many people not only vote against their own economic self interests, but go out and protest against them.

I’ve seen estimates that say there are 54,000 people in your district without health insurance. How many of them will have to declare bankruptcy because you don’t trust CBO numbers?

The thing is, it isn’t even about that. It isn’t about the yelling crowds or the phone calls to the field office or the growing conservative nature of your district or even your proffered reasons regarding the bill’s cost. The real reason you voted against health insurance reform is that over the course of your 13 terms in Congress, you have received more than $1.4 million in campaign cash from the health care industry.

That says to me that the teabaggers could have stayed home because you never had any intention of voting any other way.

But putting that aside for a moment, I want to know why you voted to include the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the bill? You have proclaimed yourself pro-choice on many occasions, but this amendment limits the ability of women to buy health insurance that covers abortion. Hell, I want to know why you voted to include any amendments to a bill you had no intention of voting for. All you did was make the bill worse before voting against it anyway.

You know how I know your vote was based on campaign contributions? Because you had to know that even voting for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment and against the bill it was attached to wouldn’t cut any ice with the teabaggers and birthers who will back the Republican candidate against you next year anyway.

In fact, Politico reported that your seat has been targeted and it looks like you’re in for a tough race next year. In the past, you could have counted on my support. Not any more. I’ve written too many of these letters over the last few years only to see you sell me out again and again.

Maybe 13 terms is enough. Do you have any other skills?

Mike Reed
Resident of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Just so we’re clear, the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was an 11th hour inclusion in the bill to try and bring the Blue Dog Caucus around. Last summer, when all the astroturf groups were storming the town hall meetings, an agreement was struck in the form of the Capps Amendment.

The Capps Amendment says that private plans offered through an insurance exchange cannot use federal funds to cover abortion services, but premiums paid by the individual could be used. The agreement also said that at least one plan from every region would offer abortion coverage and at least one plan would not.

The Stupak-Pitts Amendment states that insurance companies aren’t allowed to offer plans that cover abortion services to anyone who receives a government subsidy, even if the premiums are paid with private funds. The public option will not cover abortion and no one who participates in the public option is allowed to buy abortion coverage. Insurance companies are allowed to offer abortion coverage as part of the public plan, but only those who pay for the public plan without any government subsidy are allowed to buy it.

What is boils down to is that wealthy women will  have access to insurance plans that cover all aspects of their reproductive health, but the poor and middle class women will not.

Rep. Stupak suggested that women could buy an “abortion rider” on top of their existing plan. This is stupid on the surface because it would require women to plan to have an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. Plus, since 85 percent of current employer-based plans, already offer abortion coverage, such riders do not exist. The legislation doesn’t call for their creation and it is unlikely that insurance companies will offer them.

It is unfortunate that a bill designed to offer better health insurance options to people has gotten tangled in the abortion debate.

This weekend the family and I were in Nashville tooling around. Dollie needed to do some research at the state library and archive, which is next to the capitol building. The kids and I went to the Adventure Science Center before driving back to pick her up.

We took a little walk around the capitol and listened to the protesters. They didn’t really seem to have a common theme. You got the usual crazies who don’t believe the Constitution allows an income tax, the people who believe President Obama is a Marxist/Leninist/Socialist/Communist/Muslim and the people who believe the country has gone to hell since Reagan left office. A shrill woman on a bullhorn told the crowd that the off-year elections (in which the Dems won all the national offices and the Republicans won two governors seats) was proof that the Democrats (and even moderate Republicans) were in trouble.

She specifically cited New York 23, which has been a Republican district since the Civil War, but was taken by the Democrats when the teabaggers forced the Republican candidate out of the race in favor of a Conservative Party candidate. I love how they think forcing out a moderate Republican in favor of a moderate Democrat is a “win.”

But I believe Max hit the nail on the head as we left the capitol:

“I don’t think this was about health care at all,” he said. “It seems like they just don’t like Obama and are looking for something to complain about.”

Attended my first meeting of the Metro Nashville Domestic Violence Death Review Panel. I signed a confidentiality agreement not to talk about what is discussed in the meeting. I will say this, though. I got to meet Dr. Henry Foster, who also serves on the committee.

He was President Clinton’s nominee to replace Dr. Jocelyn Elders as Surgeon General, but his nomination was sandbagged by Sen Phil Gramm who was grandstanding as he sought the 1996 Republican presidential nomination. It was a pleasure to meet him and I told him so.

An update on my new phone

So, I found out who used to own the phone number I now have. I got a call today for Cary Williams. This was the first time that anyone had asked for him by his full name. So, I Googled him. Turns out, he’s a rookie cornerback with the Tennessee Titans.

I called the guy back who’d phoned to ask if he was looking for the Cary Williams with the Titans and he said he was. I then texted the model who sent me the Halloween pic and she confirmed.

I just finished writing Mr. Williams a letter, letting him know how much I’ve enjoyed this experience and to see if he’d like me to give anyone his new contact info. I’ll keep you posted.

In and out . . . real quick

Halloween came and went so fast that it didn’t hardly register. With Dollie living in East Tennessee and me being the lazy sod I am, the decorations didn’t go up with the exception of the giant inflatable Homer in the front yard. Even that was put up on Halloween and taken down the next day.

Max and I even put off buying pumpkins until Friday. That turned out to be a mistake as three Krogers, a Publix, and a Food Lion near our house were all out of pumpkins by the time we rolled in looking to score.

Saturday morning, bright and early, I sought out a roadside stand. I found a dude and picked up four. I gutted them and had them waiting for when the entire family was together that afternoon. We got them all carved about an hour before dark.

Rozzy's Bear Holding Shark

Max's Strong Bad

Dollie's Spooky Tree

My Tiki head

Not too shabby. We took the kids trick-or-treating with the Hambys. We walked up and down Main Street and several of the roads leading off of it. Some of the old houses were converted into incredibly spooky places by some folks who were waaaaaay into Halloween.

Good for them. After a taking the kids by the hospital to screen the candy for curses and evil spirits, we called it a night.

Yesterday, I picked Max up and we went to Krogers to pick up some groceries. We went through the store and I was very careful to remember to pick up all the little things I usually forget: light bulbs, paper towels ect… We had a cartload and I was looking to see which line I wanted to join, when I reached into my pocket and realized I had no wallet. I had left it on my desk at work. Yikes.

“What are we going to do?” Max asked. I found an earnest young clerk and explained my situation, sort of.

ME:
Hi, I just loaded up this cart full of groceries and realize that I’ve left my wallet at home.

CLERK:
Oh, well, that’s okay. How far away do you live?

ME:
Well, a mile or so.

CLERK:
I’ll put it aside for you and you can come back.

ME:
Well . . . uh . . .fine, thanks. [I ushered Max out the door]

MAX:
Did you leave your wallet at home or at work?

ME:
At work, but you don’t sound so stupid if you say you left it at home.

MAX:
So what are we going to do?

ME:
Go home.

Along the way, I realized that this was a bad lesson to teach Max, so I pulled out my cell phone and called the store.

ME:
Hi, I was just in the store and left a cart full of groceries with a clerk.

LADY:
Yes. I have it here.

ME:
Well, I didn’t leave my wallet at home, I left it in Nashville. I’m not going to be back tonight to pick those up.

LADY:
Thank you so much for calling. Most people just leave the cart in the aisle.

ME:
Well, I had some frozen stuff in there and I didn’t want it to go bad.

LADY:
Thank you. We’ll take care of it.

So I let Max know that everything was cool and we didn’t have to put on disguises to go to Kroger any more. But I still had no wallet and not enough gas to get to work in the morning. So, I dug around in the couch cushions and found five dollars in change to buy just under two gallons of gas.

I got to LP Field where I park to ride the shuttle downtown and realized my shuttle pass is in my wallet. Great. I’m going to be late to work because I have to walk the mile or so to 2nd.

Bottom line, kids, leaving your wallet at work can mess up two days of your life.

I’m sorry, you’ve got a wrong . . . hello!

I got a new cell phone number about a month ago. Wireless companies being what they are, they have a lot of churn. So when you get a new cell phone number, you can expect to be getting some calls for the previous owner of that number. I don’t know what the waiting period is for re-issuing a number, but there is a guy named Cary out there somewhere who had a lot of friends.

I get calls for him most days and rarely does a week go by that I don’t get a text message or two from some acquaintance. His old coach (I don’t know what sport or whether it is high school or college) sends me texts all the time asking how he’s doing. I explain that I’m not him and that he should stop, he apologizes, then texts me again the next week.

I got a text that contained a photo of a new line of athletic shoes coming on the market and a request for my (his) opinion.

I got a text from his aunt who, when I texted her back to say I wasn’t her nephew, she texted back to apologize and then called 10 minutes later to make sure I wasn’t really her nephew trying to blow her off.

So, it has been a bit of an adventure for a few weeks. An annoying adventure. That is until just after midnight on Halloween. That was when I got a text message that said:

Happy Halloween! I miss talkn to you Cary!

Accompanying the message was a photo of a pretty young woman dressed for Halloween in what can only be considered “slutty construction worker.”

(I asked her if it would be okay to publish her photo for this blog and she said “Hell no! Don’t! I model and I can not have picz floating around of me” So I’ll respect that). It was very late and the phone actually woke me and Dollie up when the message came through. In my bleary state, I saw the photo, realized it wasn’t for me and hung up, but not before I tapped out a quick “wow.”

Dollie woke up enough to joke “Is your girlfriend texting you in the middle of the night?”

“Well, yeah, sort of,” I said and showed her the photo.

“She’s hot,” Dollie replied.

“I know, right?” I’m gaining a new respect for Cary. Soon, I got a second text message:

“Wow what? Wish u were here . . . by now we’d be official. But I hope all is well with u I’ve gotten best costume at 3 clubs now lol.”

I know. I have no idea what’s going on either. But it was Halloween and I decided to let it lie. She texted a couple of more times saying how much she missed Cary and how much she’d really like to get to know him better “we might end up being the best of friends or more 🙂

At this point I decided to confess that I wasn’t Cary. She “lol’d” and asked who I was and if I was hot.

“Tell her your wife thinks you’re hot,” suggested Dollie. So I did. She thought that was funny as well. I told her I didn’t want to cause either her or Cary any trouble, it was a really cool picture and I was having some fun with her. She said it wasn’t a problem and that she and Cary had never met, but were just texting buddies. She hasn’t heard from him in a year and just spontaneously decided to send him a photo.

She was also impressed that I’d told Dollie about it. But really, why wouldn’t I? This isn’t a sit com where I have to hide things from my wife because she’d be threatened by a picture on a phone. So we chatted back and forth until she asked “How old r u?”

“41. How old are you?”

“23 LOL”

So I told her that it was very nice meeting her, sorry I don’t know anything about Cary and that if she wants a text buddy to send more photos to, feel free to keep my number.

“Where mine at?” she replied. So I sent her a photo of me — middle-aged, bald, husband and father — with the note “I know, just your type, right?” She said married men weren’t her type.

So it was an interesting Halloween, pumpkins, trick-or-treating and candy aside. I still have no idea who this person is, but judging from her area code, she’s in Wisconsin. Judging my her costume, she’s freezing to death.