Thursday, November 27, 2014

In Spite of Being Predictable . . .

by Dick Mac

Have a Very Funky and a Very Happy Thanksgiving!


Sly & The Family Stone

Midnight Special
Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) (1974)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This is the conundrum about the "Ferguson Verdict" for me

by Dick Mac

(1) You can't very well prosecute a cop for doing his job

(2) Cops work for employers that allow and promote the harassment, imprisonment, and murder of young black men.

An exaggeration?  I don't think so.

One only needs to look at or read the "news" to know that deadly force is used disproportionately against black men than white men, and that minor infractions are dealt with more harshly for black men than white men.

The problem is systemic, the problem is societal.  We place less value on the lives of young black men than other young men.  Black men are arrested for infractions for which a white men would never be arrested, probably never even stopped and questioned.

The police cannot change as long as our social policies and mores allow and/or promote this.  We all allow this.  Every single one of us is responsible for this.  And if you think you "support the cops," you are doing them and yourself no favor by pretending that this is not a real problem.


In the big picture, we all "support the cops."  Even the people who are systematically harassed by the police will tell you they know that police have to exist and generally do a good job.  There are very few sociopaths who will tell you they are opposed to policing, to police forces.

The difference is, some people who "stand by the cops"  know that the criminal justice and law enforcement system is rigged against young black men and some of us who "stand by the cops" think that is a fallacy.

It is not a fallacy.

We live in an economy where one of the the biggest growth industries is incarceration:  imprisonment for profit.  The increase in prison population to fuel this growth industry is disproportionately young men of color.  This is real.  The numbers prove it.  Black men are imprisoned for minor infractions at a far greater rate than white men.

It's very very sad that Michael Brown is dead.  It's even sadder that his death will be in vain because another unarmed black young man will be shot for no infraction or a minor infraction any moment now. It may have just happened as you read this and we both know it.

You can't prosecute a cop for doing his job, but you can demand his employer change its policies and tactics.  Who is that employer?  That employer is you!

Unless you are willing to change and do something about it, nothing will change.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Supporters Supporting Supporters

At RFK Stadium.  Photo by Bob Larson.
by Dick Mac

If you are like me, you really don't like that person at a public event who over-reacts to inconveniences and mishaps, especially at sporting events.

You know the ones: he'll roll his eyes, or click his tongue, or say something sarcastic that would have been witty if it wasn't so bitchy, or snotty.

Snotty: that's the word.  Nobody likes a snob, that person with the snotty attitude about the goings-on about them.

Shit happens at events, especially public events with crowds, and really especially at sporting events, shit happens.  We roll with the punches.

I've had beer spilled on me and thrown on me from above, I've been knocked over, I've had people with inexpensive tickets sitting in my expensive seats, I've dropped my food or drink in the concourse and returned to my seat empty-handed, I've stood in line at the concession stand for the entire half-time been 10 minutes from service and walked away empty-handed.

This is the shit that happens.

I have a smart mouth and a sharp tongue that I use too much and sometimes inappropriately.  I speak up when it comes to bad business and bad service, and I tend to be more forgiving of the human error of my neighbors and companions.

And I get really irritated at those snotty bastards who whine about kids in their expensive seats, or liquid flying through the air during a goal celebration, or someone knocking your beer out of your hands.

Well, let me tell you a story about one snotty bastard and four really nice people at the DC United vs. Red Bull New York playoff match last weekend.

It had been a really long ride from Harrison, NJ, to Northeast Washington, DC.  Twelve buses left early early early in the morning and arrived with barely enough time to set-up, get the grills going, cook a few hundred pounds of burgers and dogs, feed 1000+ people, distribute drinks, break down and get into RFK Stadium for kick off.

I wasn't too famished, because I'd brought a couple dozen amazingly delicious donuts from Best Coffee Shop, in Borough Park, Brooklyn.  On my bus we had yummy donuts.

Many people arrived in Washington already buzzed and a bit hungry for it.  Some people got plenty to eat because they were paying attention to the goings-on, and some people were rushing at the end to get a little something in their belly before it was all gone.  I was in the middle of that.  I had a burger and a dog, and someone brought me a second burger.  I was hungry, but not famished.

The march into an away stadium is always exhilarating because the home fans line-up to jeer us, while the police try to protect us, and the march is often substantial because visiting supporters don't always get the best parking lot for their buses.  The chanting and singing, the yelling and bickering, are fun, funny, tense, and amusing.  You'll even see a cop or two crack up laughing at the banter between rival fans, and the words of some of the songs and chants.

We were a big crowd.  Well over a thousand Red Bull supporters made the march into the stadium.

I managed a seat with some friends and strangers and we had a wonderful time during the first half.  When the whistle blew for the break I was hungry and not sure if I should get food.  It didn't take long to decide YES!  At soccer matches, the away fans, the visiting supporters, are relegated to a specific section or area and are generally only allowed to use the concessions and toilets in that designated area.

Fortunately, there was a quesadilla stand in our area and I decided to get two big, cheesy, over-sized quesadillas, because I assumed my friends and neighbors would help eat them once they saw them.  They look amazingly yummy!

I waited and waited and waited and the second half started and I waited some more, and now I was really hungry and getting a wee but irritated.

Finally, ten minutes into the second half (which meant at least 25 minutes in line) I was making my way down the stairs of my section to my row to my seat.  Just as I got to my row,  Péguy Luyindula scored a goal that pretty much secured our victory over the hated DC United and advancement to the Eastern Conference Finals.

I was excusing myself and sliding past the first couple of guys in my row when the place erupted.

Everyone leaped into the air!  Even I was screaming and yelling and balancing two hands of food and an open bottle of water tucked under my arm.  Then it happened . . .

In celebration, a body slammed into my back, the person threw his arms around me and the guy in front of me and we were all three a mass of celebrating human flesh.  The quesadilla in my right hand vanished somewhere.  I was irritated but not angry.  I pulled away, switched the food in my left hand to my right hand and held the open bottle of water in my left, turned around and BLAM, the couple in the row in front of me had spun around to hug whoever was behind them.  That was me.

My second quesadilla vanished and water began spilling everywhere.

I was so happy to have scored a goal, and I was so hungry, that now I was light-headed.  I pushed the guy off me as hard as I could, splashed some of my water on him for good measure. and screamed:  you just destroyed my fucking food that I waited twenty minutes to get.

I was filled with rage.

I was now that little bitch who over reacts.  I was that snotty prick you want to slap because he's being a total ass.  That was me.

The genie was out of the lamp.  Now I was hungry, wet, embarrassed and angry.

Within 10 seconds, the young guy to my right had rescued one quesadilla from the ground and meekly handed it to me.  I was still seeing red and threw it to the ground, knowing I was being a jerk but unable to stop myself.

I screamed something about my food and how long I waited and blah blah blah.  I didn't call anyone any names and I didn't directly insult anyone, but I was being a total ass.

The befuddled (shocked and appalled?) couple in front of us was so contrite and so concerned that I just got more embarrassed and angrier.  She insisted that she go buy me another quesadilla.  I insisted "no"; but she insisted yes and was gone.  My friends and neighbors gave me a wide berth.

As I wrote earlier:  "I have a smart mouth and a sharp tongue that I use too much and sometimes inappropriately."  This was one of those times.  I dropped my head and shoulders in defeat, I had a physical reaction to my own behavior.  I was now that person we all hate:  that snob, that jerk, that little bitch.  That was me.

I squeezed past my friend and approached the two guys in my row with whom I lost the first quesadilla and I put my hand out, apologized, insisted that I over-reacted and thanked them for helping me.  I think they were surprised that a total jerk like me might actually apologize; but they were gracious and apologetic themselves and in moments we were pals again.

I then turned to the man in front of me and leaned forward.  He was a bit apprehensive, but I stuck out my hand, apologized, said I over-reacted, and thanked him for offering to get me more food.  He was a bit wide-eyed, possibly aghast, but he accepted my apology, insisting that he had no bad intentions.

I felt like a jerk, but that's how I should have felt.  This poor guy was still concerned that he had done something wrong.  He hadn't.  I had.

A moment later, while still apologizing to this guy, the woman (his wife?  girlfriend?  I don't know their relationship) returned with a quesadilla for me and handed it to me with a big smile, saying:  "I know what it's like to be hungry, have low-blood sugar, and get really irritated."

She was making it all right.  She was explaining that she, and by default the others, understood the situation and were just as concerned as I was angry.

I was humbled.

I apologized to her and said I over-reacted.  She would have no part of it, open her eyes wide, reached into her bag, handed me a bottle, and said: "I even stole the hot sauce, too"!

Everyone burst out laughing.  Everything was forgiven.  I shared my new quesadilla, and we all returned to watching the match, singing, chanting, jumping, and supporting our team.

These four supporters, these four people I didn't know, saw a fellow supporter in distress (for good reason or not), and they decided to help, to make it better.

I asked all their names at the time, but did not remember that night when I got home.  If you are reading this and you know who they are, please let me know and tell them I said thank you.

I love being a soccer fan in America.  I love the amazing community of soccer supporters that grows around every club.  The camaraderie, generosity, and good-will is amazing.

As I often say in my blog articles, I am a very lucky man whose life is made better by every person I encounter. That happened again in DC.  Now, it's New England for the conference final!

Come on you Red Bulls.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day and Veterans Day

by Dick Mac

Armistice Day commemorated the signing of the treaty at the end of World War I among the Allies and Germany. It took effect at "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Today is Armistice Day.

War, in a historic perspective, is no easier to analyze than it is in the midst of the battles.

The two world wars of the Twentieth Century seemed like easy wars to justify and get behind. Those wars seem to have been about more than just control of natural resources; those wars seemed rooted in the human belief that there was a right way to live and that we would risk life and limb to ensure the rights of sovereign nations.

There have been a few other wars, or military actions, since then that have been efforts of human decency; I think of military conflicts in central Europe and Africa, undertaken to save ordinary citizens from genocide.

Today is Veterans Day, in the United States.

The American military has done some amazing things, and it is important to remember that there were times when men were sent to fight wars and they had no choice but to comply. Some of these men became heroes they never intended to be, some have been scarred for life. They deserve our thanks and respect.

We are creating new veterans today; men and women who have taken up arms at the behest of their nation, and no matter what you think of war or peace, today is the day to say thank-you to a veteran for risking everything.

Thank you!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Paying Attention To My Money

by Dick Mac

Image from
Used without permission
There are different ways to pay attention to your money.

Most of us do the standard thing:  budget.  I earn $x and my expenses are $y and I like to save $z.  That leaves me $lmnop for music downloads, hookers, subscriptions, booze, gambling, dating, etc.

Some of us have investments and follow our holdings in the stock market.  Ford is up, Home Depot is down, ATT is a strong sell, Abbott is a strong buy, for example.  By the way, I am not an expert in investments, I just made up all of that stuff.

Many more of us have retirement funds, sometimes with our employer, but some of us also have privately owned fund. I have no opinion about what funds are better than others, but I am trying to understand the machinations of it all.

Most 401(k) plans provide us with a list of funds that we can choose from.  Often I hear people say they have their money in target date retirement funds.  Those are funds that are geared to maximize the benefit for people retiring in a certain year.  So, if you are 29 now, and plan to retire when you are 60, you might put your money in a fund with a target retirement date of 2045.  A fund like this will invest aggressively and with more risk when we are young, and then the investments become more conservative and stable as we approach the target date.

There are also individual funds that specialize in stocks and bonds:  international, small-capital, metals, health care, media, treasuries etc.  You put your money in these funds and the majority of the money is invested in companies or bonds that fall in that category.

The thing that's always baffled me about funds is finding out what stocks/bonds they own.  If I am anti-abortion, is my money in companies that provide abortion-related devices?  If I am opposed to war, is my money invested in mercenaries and arms manufacturers?  If I am concerned about obesity, is my money in Coca-Cola or Hostess?

How are we supposed to know this stuff?

Bankers certainly don't want us to know, so they don't publish that data in an easy-to-access manner.

Fund administrators don't want us to know because we might form opinions that conflict with their plans and we might start bothering them about it.

In the world of finance, those in charger prefer we all remain uninformed and, hopefully, unenlightened.

There are some companies I boycott and do my best to avoid:  Nestle, Wal-Mart, and Monsanto, especially.  It's easy to avoid the first two.  Monsanto is insidious because it's next-to-impossible to know which growers and manufacturers use their poisons.

I decided to not only avoid these companies products on a retail level, but to also divest any funds that own that stock.

Quarterly, I look at the funds in which I am invested, find out which stocks they hold, and sell any fund that has purchased these companies.  I have learned that two fund I own are no longer aligned with my moral position on these companies:

First Eagle Global Fund Class I (SGIIX) has acquired a position in Nestle.

Vanguard Capital Opportunity Fund Admiral Shares (VHCAX) has acquired a position in Monsanto.

On Monday morning, I will no longer have a position in those funds.

How do you know where your money is?  Do you care?

Friday, August 29, 2014

In The "I'm a better punk than you" Department

by Dick Mac

It may be old and it may not look pretty, but it plays and it's mine!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Breaking an important law: "Commuting While Black"!

by Dick Mac

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Nook Is Dead. It has An Extended Warranty. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

by Dick Mac

I remember when Barnes & Noble was the bad guy because they destroyed all our local bookstores.

Now they are the good guys because they are our local bookstores and they are being destroyed by the likes of Amazon.

I use the Nook from Barnes & Noble.  When I got my Nook HD+ recently, I purchased the extended warranty.

My family has multiple Nooks, and the Nook app is on our non-Nook devices.

My newest Nook (the HD+) stopped working.  It won't hold a charge.  These things happen.  But, to be sure, I spent a couple of days trying to charge it in different rooms, at home and at the office, with the original cable and with the extra cable I purchased for travel.  No good.  Sadly, my Nook must be serviced.

I call the 800 number and it's the usual scenario that we have all come to accept.  The guy treats me like a child and has me touching buttons and inserting plugs and cables, as if I haven't already tried all of this.  I understand.  It's his job.  He has to troubleshoot to determine if my Nook needs replacing.  I cooperate and he determines that I need a replacement.  It can be here in 3 - 5 business days.

In order to get a replacement I have to give him my credit card information.


I don't like this.  I have already paid for this device, then I paid almost the same amount again for extended protection.

Now they want my credit card?  In fact, they want me to read all the information over the phone to a stranger in a foreign country.

Wow!  What a scam.

I pay for a Nook, then I purchase the extended warranty.  My Nook stops working.  I call and am told that in order to get a replacement, I have to give some guy my credit card information (again), "in case I don't return the device"!

How insulting is that?

They want me to trust some stranger in some foreign country with my credit card information, but don't trust me with the Nook I already paid for.  They presume I am going to steal their shitty broken Nook, but I am supposed to trust them.

There is a work around.  I can return the Nook and they will send a replacement.  However, I can't bring the broken Nook downstairs to the BN I purchased it from, I have to ship it first and then they will send the replacement.

How will this work?

They will email me a label, then I affix it to a box broken device is in.  I have to find the box.  A padded envelope won't do, I have to use a box.  My own box.  When they get the broken Nook, they will get around to sending a replacement.  This will take three weeks.


But, if I give them my credit card, I can have my replacement in 3-5 business days.

I selected Nook not because it is the best choice, but to support BN.  The Nook isn't any better than any other reading device or tablet.  In fact, in many ways it is lacking.  But, I was a BN shopper and I wanted to support them.

That has proven to be a poor choice, a bad decision.

Barnes & Noble doesn't care about me a fraction as much as I care about them!

I will be switching booksellers and devices as soon as these Nooks are gone.

I consider some companies to be "good" companies and some companies to be "bad" companies.

BN used to be on my list of good companies.

While protecting their bottom line BN might want to examine exactly how insulting they are to long-time customers who have been loyal.

BN, go to hell!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

People who don't even know they are racists are so often lying racists! Yeah, you!

by Dick Mac

A "conservative" meme is being spread around Facebook.

More than one of my relatives have posted it.

Racism is a form of mental illness.  "Conservatives" aren't bad people, they are sick people.

The meme uses a favorite conservative tactic of accusing victims of racism as being the actual racists.  It shows four images depicting Congressional caucuses:  The black caucus image is a group of brown-skinned members of Congress.  The other three images are blank, and the caption reads:  "Oh, I see, but everyone else is racist, right?"

The implication is that there are no Latino, Asian caucuses, or White caucuses.

This, of course, is a massive lie just like everything else "conservatives" try to tell us (and themselves).

What is the truth?  One look at the list of current caucuses points out that the vast majority of them are for Whites, that there are multiple Latino and Asian caucuses, and one Black caucus.  One.

Here is an alphabetical list of all the Congressional caucuses, in 2014: 

2015 Caucus, 21st Century Health Care Caucus, 30 Something Working Group, 4-H Caucus, 9/11 Commission Caucus, Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, Afterschool Caucuses, Ahmadiyya Muslim Caucus, Alzheimer's Disease Congressional Task Force, American Sikh Congressional Caucus, Americans Abroad Caucus, Animal Protection Caucus, Anti-Value Added Tax Caucus, The Anti-VAT Caucus, Appalachian Caucus, Armenian Caucus, Army Corps Reform Caucus, Bangladesh Caucus, Bike Caucus AKA Bicycle Caucus, Biomedical Research Caucus, Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Bipartisan Working Group on Disaster Recovery and Response, The, Blue Dog Coalition, Congressional Bourbon Caucus, Building a Better America Caucus, California Democratic Congressional Delegation, Caribbean Caucus, Center Aisle Caucus, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, Children's Environmental Health Caucus, Coalition on Autism Research and Education, Community College Caucus, Community Solutions and Initiatives Caucus, Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, Congressional Arts Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Automotive Caucus, Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, Congressional Battlefield Caucus, Congressional Bicameral Arthritis Caucus, Congressional Bike Caucus, Congressional Biomass Caucus, Congressional Biotechnology Caucus, Congressional Bipartisan Cerebral Palsy Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Boating Caucus, Congressional Border Caucus, Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Congressional Brazil Caucus, Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Congressional Caucus for Bosnia, Congressional Caucus on Central America, Congressional Caucus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Congressional Caucus on Global Road Safety, Congressional Montenegro Caucus, Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch, Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian Americans, Congressional Caucus on the Netherlands, Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Americans, Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans, Congressional Caucus on Uganda, Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports, Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus, Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine, Congressional Children's Caucus, Congressional China Caucus, Congressional Coal Caucus, Congressional Coalition on Adoption, Congressional Coastal Caucus, Congressional Complementary and Alternative Medicine Caucus, Congressional Constitution Caucus, Congressional Correctional Officers Caucus, Congressional Croatian Caucus, Congressional Czech Caucus, Congressional Diabetes Caucus, Congressional E-911 Caucus, Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus, Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Congressional Fitness Caucus, Congressional Food Safety Caucus, Congressional Forest Task Force, Congressional Former Mayors Caucus, Congressional Fraternal Caucus, Congressional French Caucus, Congressional Friends of Denmark, Congressional Gaming Caucus, Congressional Gulf of Mexico Caucus, Congressional Hearing Health Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Conference, Congressional HUBZone Caucus, Congressional Hockey Caucus, Congressional Horse Caucus, Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Congressional Humanities Caucus, Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, Congressional Insurance Caucus, Congressional Intelligent Transportation Systems Caucus, Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, Congressional Internet Caucus, Congressional Iraqi Women's Caucus, Congressional Kidney Caucus, Congressional Kids Safety Caucus, Congressional Labor and Working Families Caucus, Congressional Life Science Caucus, Congressional Management Caucus, Congressional Manufacturing Caucus, Congressional Manufacturing Task Force, Congressional Medical Professionals Caucus, Congressional Men's Health Caucus, Congressional Mental Health Caucus, Congressional Mentoring Caucus, Congressional Mine Warfare Caucus, Congressional Mining Caucus, Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, Congressional Montenegro Caucus, Congressional Morocco Caucus, Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus, Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, Congressional Nursing Caucus, Congressional Organic Caucus, Congressional Pakistan Caucus, Congressional Port Security Caucus, Congressional Prayer Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressional Pro-Trade Caucus, Congressional Real Estate Caucus, Congressional Rural Caucus, Congressional Rural Housing Caucus, Congressional Safe Climate Caucus, Congressional Scouting Caucus, Congressional Savings and Ownership Caucus, Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, Congressional Serbian Caucus, Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, Congressional Ski and Snowboard Caucus, Congressional Singapore Caucus, Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus, Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Congressional Steel Caucus, Congressional Stop DUI Caucus, Congressional Submarine Caucus, Congressional Taiwan Caucus, Congressional Taskforce on International HIV/AIDS, Congressional Tourism and Travel Caucus, Congressional TRIO Caucus, Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, Congressional United Kingdom Caucus, Congressional Victim's Rights Caucus, Congressional Vision Caucus, Congressional Waterways Caucus, Congressional Western Caucus, Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, Congressional Working Group on Parkinson's Disease, Congressional Zoo and Aquarium Caucus, Consumer Justice Caucus, Delaware River Basin Task Force, Diversity and Innovation Caucus, Democratic Israel Working Group, Duma-Congress Study Group, E-Waste Working Group, House Economic Competitiveness Caucus, Senate Economic Competitiveness Caucus, Electronic Warfare Working Group, Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus, Flat Tax Caucus, Friends of Norway Caucus, House Friends of Scotland Caucus, Senate Friends of Scotland Caucus, Friends of Switzerland Caucus, Future Caucus, Future of American Media Caucus, German-American Caucus, Global AIDS Emergency Task Force, House Great Lakes Task Force, Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Historic Preservation Caucus, House Aerospace Caucus, House Afterschool Caucus, House Agriculture Energy Users Caucus, House Army Caucus, House Baltic Caucus, House Beef Caucus, House Biofuels Caucus, House Democratic Caucus, House Military Depot and Industrial Facilities Caucus, House Oceans Caucus, House Reading Caucus, House Recycling Caucus, House Republican Israel Caucus, House Rural Health Care Coalition, House Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Caucus, House Trade Working Group, House Trails Caucus, Hudson River Caucus, Hungarian American Caucus, India Caucus, Indonesia Caucus, International Conservation Caucus, International Workers Rights Caucus, Interstate 69 Caucus, Intelligent Transportation Caucus, Japan Caucus, Kenya Caucus, Korea Caucus, Kurdish American Caucus 2007, Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus, Law Enforcement Caucus, LGBT Equality Caucus, Liberty Caucus, Montenegro Caucus, Minor League Baseball Caucus, Multiple Sclerosis Caucus, National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, National Landscape Conservation System Caucus, National Service Congressional Caucus, Navy-Marine Corps Caucus, New Democrat Coalition, North America’s Supercorridor Caucus, Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, Northern Border Caucus, Nuclear Issues Caucus, Out of Iraq Caucus, Passenger Rail Caucus, Patriot Act Reform Caucus, Pell Grant Caucus, The, Physics Caucus, The, Populist Caucus, Ports Caucus, The, Public Broadcasting Caucus, Public Service Caucus, Qatari-American Economic Strategic Defense, Cultural, and Educational Partnership Caucus, Recording Arts and Sciences Congressional Caucus, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, Republican Study Committee, Research and Development Caucus, River of Trade Corridor Congressional Caucus, Saudi Arabia Study Group, The, Senate Afterschool Caucus, Senate Economic Mobility Caucus, Senate Oceans Caucus, Senate Taiwan Caucus, Sex and Violence in the Media Caucus, Sexual Assault Violence Elimination (SAVE) Taskforce, Shellfish Caucus, Silk Road Caucus, Special Operations Forces Caucus, State Maritime Academy Caucus, Stop DUI Caucus, Sudan Caucus, Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Tea Party Caucus, TEX-21 Congressional Caucus, Unexploded Ordnance Caucus, Upper Mississippi River Basin Task Force, U.S.-Afghan Caucus, U.S.-China Working Group, U.S.-Mongolia Friendship Caucus, U.S.-New Zealand Congressional Caucus, Victim's Rights Caucus, Victory in Iraq Caucus, Wounded to Work Congressional Caucus, Youth Challenge Caucus, Zero Capital Gains Tax Caucus.
So, when a "conservative" tries to tell you that the real racists are the blacks, just laugh in his face. Reason, dialog and pity haven't worked so let's start laughing at them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

When Things Go Wrong

Robin Lane
(photographer unknown - used without permission)
by Dick Mac

In 1978, and the years to follow, I listened to, watched, admired, developed crushes on, and came to adore Robin Lane.  With her band, Robin Lane and The Chartbusters, she owned a substantial slice of the Boston music scene, which was exploding at the time.

I attended live shows every week:  Robin Lane, Human Sexual Response, Mission of Burma, Lou Miami, Pastiche, The Girls, The Outlets, Phobia, The Stompers, Unnatural Axe, The Lyres, Lizzie Borden, La Peste, Classic Ruins, Thrills, Del Fuegos and more -- so many more.  I got to know musicians and singers, bartenders and bouncers, record producers and band managers.  I landed in videos and films, radio stations and recording studios.  I produced plays and wrote comedy. I took too many drugs, drank too much, had sex with too many people, and absolutely adored my life.  It may have been the end of the 1970s, but it was still the 1970s we all loved and were lucky to live through.

The Rat, Cantones, Sp(a)ce, Inn Square Men's Bar, Streets, Storyville, and other haunts became my homes away from home.

Some weeks I sought out a particular band, some weeks I was chasing a particular romance, some weeks I was looking for particular drugs, but every week included some time in one of these venues.

I never had any trouble meeting and picking up girls or boys, and was known to be very direct with anyone I wanted to be with. On more than one occasion I asked the wrong boy to dance, and would find myself in a potentially violent and dangerous situation.  Fortunately, the majority of the people on the scene were not as offended as the guy who considered himself my 'victim' and I could talk my way out of death with the help of friends or casual acquaintances.

I jumped at any opportunity to see Robin Lane and The Chartbusters.  Robin Lane was adorable, and sexy, and looked so tough and seemed so vulnerable.  She was everything a rock 'n roll chick should be in my young, naive mind.  I had the hots for her, as I said in those days.

Whenever I had the opportunity to say hello or chat with her she was charming and friendly.  I would get tongue-tied, stammer and mumble, and eventually make an excuse to withdraw.  No matter how cool, hip and sophisticated I thought I was, she was cooler, hipper and more sophisticated.

In the ensuing decades, I learned about self-centered fear, and the way events of my youth shaped my ability or inability to form healthy relationships with other people.

A few years ago, I saw Robin Lane listed as a 'friend' of a 'friend' on Facebook.  Facebook is that place where the word 'friend' means something very different than than definition I remember from Catholic school.

I checked-out her page and read about her work with women and girls and music.  She was clearly a survivor like me and so many others of our generation who made it out alive.  She was using her valuable life experience to be of service to others.  I was now more impressed thirty-odd years later than I had been in my youth.

Eventually I became her 'friend' (in the Facebook sense of the word) and followed her goings-on from a distance.  I read a post she made one day and it resonated so deeply with me that I sent her a message, and we had a brief correspondence about some issues of importance to both of us.

Some weeks/months/years later, I saw a poster online announcing her performance in the Boston area on the same bill as my cousin, Andrea Gillis.  We shared some messages about that and I was excited to hear that she admired Andrea.

Sometime in 2012 (I think), I saw an announcement that Chartbuster's drummer Tim Jackson established a kickstarter project to fund a movie about Robin.  I was thrilled and I followed the progress as announcements were made.

Finally, earlier this year, the premiere screening of the movie was announced for Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Arlington Regent Theatre, near Boston.  Next Friday.

I got two tickets immediately and started making plans.

I will be there.

Will you?

Get info here:  When Things Go Wrong, Robin Lane's Story

Get tickets here:  Regent Theatre

Look for me:  I'll be the really good-looking guy who used to be much younger!

And I'll look for you:  I remember who you are.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Development and the Social Conscience

by Dick Mac

The Chelsea neighborhood of New York City is home to many famous people:  actors, singers, television personalities, writers, etc.  And it is home to many people not quite so powerful and affluent.

The more socially-conscious of these celebrities often speak-up when something unsavory is happening in their neighborhood.  In fact, in the not-too-distant past, one famous couple (actor and actress) attended public meetings held to consider if a financially-strapped hospital could use its air rights to build luxury condos that would save the institution.

St. Vincent's was the only hospital on the West Side of lower Manhattan, it had an important legacy of charity, and pretty-much invented the protocol for treating people with AIDS.  It was part of the fabric of the city and its loss would be devastating.

It was a relief to hear that Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star Couple would be attending the meeting.  They could bring a powerful voice to the needs of the community.

Well, oddly, they were taking a stand AGAINST the hospital!

She said the hospital was dreadful, that SHE would never bring HER children there.  And he mocked pro-hospital demonstrators by agreeing that the neighborhood deserved a world-class hospital, but he would only go there if it was life-or-death (implying it was not a world-class hospital and never could be).

The chapel inside St Vincent's Hospital
For those who do not know:  St. Vincent's went bankrupt, closed, has been demolished and luxury condos are being erected.  There is no hospital on the west side of lower Manhattan.

A few years after that world-altering, earth-shattering event, Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star had the ovarian fortitude to stand in front of the now-dead hospital to endorse a mayoral candidate and decry the loss of the hospital!  Yes!  She gathered with a group of people upset about the hospital closing!

She spoke against the hospital five years earlier, and now she was upset that it was gone.

The only word that comes to mind to describe this amnesiac is a word that today I will not type.

Fast forward to 2014.

Less than a block, in throwing distance of the lovely Chelsea home owned by Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Stars (now-separated), at 124 W. 16th Street, a developer has purchased the air-rights above a church of questionable business repute, and is erecting an 11-story luxury condominium building nestled in a neighborhood of 6-story buildings.  (See picture here where the developer's artist has drawn the adjacent six-story building out-of-proportion so it looks taller than it really is and the new building looks smaller.)

I don't know if Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star still owns that nearby home, but she still lives in New York and I can't imagine a good reason for her to have moved from that lovely neighborhood.  If she does still live in the neighborhood, she has failed to use her considerable clout to fight this development, which unlike the hospital plan, IS a blight on the community.

A building like this could diminish the value of her property.  Sadly, the diminished value of her property would mean diminished value of the property owned by people not quite as affluent and powerful as she.

In the big picture, with friends like her, that neighborhood doesn't need enemies.

The construction of this building destroys the character of the neighborhood (which I know means nothing to America anymore); but, it diminishes the value of taxpayers' homes (and even a Tea Party supporter should be un-in-arms about that).  This development is bad for everyone but the developers.

Yet, the development goes on and those who own property on that street have no recourse.

I hope the community stages daily walking pickets outside the building when prospective buyers come to shop.  Let them know they are complicit in this debacle.

Nobody like Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star has come to their aid, and nobody of any importance will.

Read about the new development:

In case you hadn't paid attention to the St. Vincent's debacle, read here:

Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star is so concerned in 2013:

Monday, February 03, 2014

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? A Look Back

by Dick Mac

Chicken crossing road
About ten or fifteen years ago, a list circulated of answers to the question "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

The first list below is the list that circulated.

The second list were the additions I made at that time, and began to appear on the list as it circulated around the globe.

Do you have some to add?

The original list as I first received it:

The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why?  The ends of crossing the road justify whatever motive there was.

Thomas de Torquemada:
Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.

Timothy Leary:
Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.

Carl Jung:
The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and, therefore, synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

John Locke:
Because he was exercising his natural right to liberty.

Albert Camus:
It doesn't matter; the chicken’s actions have no meaning except to him.

The Bible:
And God came down from the heavens, and He said unto the chicken, “Thou shalt cross the road.” And the Chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing.

Fox Mulder:
It was a government conspiracy.

The fact that you thought that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically dispositioned to cross roads.

Darwin #2:
It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Richard M. Nixon:
The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did not cross the road.

The Pope:
That is only for God to know.

Louis Farrakhan:
The road, you will see, represents the black man. The chicken crossed the “black man” in order to trample him and keep him down.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

Immanuel Kant:
The chicken, being an autonomous being, chose to cross the road of his own free will.

In my day, we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken had crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

That depends on which plane of reality the chicken was on at the time.

George Orwell:
Because the government had fooled him into thinking that he was crossing the road of his own free will, when he was really only serving their interests.

Colonel Sanders:
I missed one?

For the greater good.

To actualize its potential.

Karl Marx:
It was a historical inevitability.

Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.

B.F. Skinner:
Because the external influences, which had pervaded its sensorium from birth, had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own freewill.

Jean-Paul Sartre:
In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Albert Einstein:
Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Pyrrho the Skeptic:
What road?

The Sphinx:
You tell me.

If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken nature.

Emily Dickinson:
Because it could not stop for death.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Ernest Hemingway:
To die. In the rain.

Saddam Hussein:
It is the Mother of all Chickens.

Joseph Stalin:
I don’t care. Catch it. I need its eggs to make my omelet.

Dr. Seuss:
Did the chicken cross the road?
Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes the chicken crossed the road,
but why it crossed, I've not been told!

O.J. Simpson:
It didn’t.  I was playing golf with it at the time.

Human Resources/Training Perspective:
The chicken had a vision. The chicken was proficient in the core competencies necessary to implement the plan and make the vision reality.

Pat Buchanan:
To steal a job from a decent, hardworking American.

Oliver Stone:
The question is not “Why did the chicken cross the road?” but is rather “Who was crossing the road at the same time whom we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?”

Jerry Seinfeld:
Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to  ask, “What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place anyway?”

Dirk Gently (Holistic Detective):
I’m not exactly sure why, but right now I've got a horse in my bathroom.

Bill Gates:
I have just released the new Chicken 2000, which will both cross roads AND balance your checkbook, though when it divides 3 by 2 it gets 1.4999999999.

The items I added those many years ago:

e.e. cummings:
g   e    t
the other    s    i     d    e

Albert Einstein (#2):
The chicken is insane!  For all of time the chicken crosses the road over and over again, expecting different results.

Freud (#2):
Sometimes a chicken crossing the road is just a chicken crossing the road.

John Lennon:
The fookin chicken crossed the bloody road to get away from his oppressor, man.

Andy Warhol:
In the future, everyone will cross the road for fifteen minutes.

A 12-Step Perspective:
Having admitted that it was on the wrong side of the street, the chicken came to believe that a Power greater than itself could, and would, if sought, assist it in crossing the road.  The chicken made a decision to cross the road.  Before proceeding too wantonly, the chicken examined its past, its motives, its fears; admitted these to itself, God, and another chicken.  Became entirely willing to cross the road.  Asked God to remove all obstacles in the road.  Made a list of all who were harmed in the chicken’s self-seeking efforts to stay on the wrong side of the street, and became willing to make right all such relationships.  Made all the amends necessary to relieve itself of all obstacles between it and crossing the road.  While crossing, continued to examine its motives and actions and corrected them immediately.  Sought, through prayer and meditation, a constant and rewarding contact with the God of its understanding.  Having successfully crossed the road, the chicken practiced these new-found principles in all areas of its life, and dedicated all its efforts to helping other chickens get on the right side of the street.

Do you have some to add?

Your Name:
Your answer.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger (1919 - 2014)

by Dick Mac

Pete Seeger
I stood-up to relieve my discomfort after listening to a brilliant man, elderly now but with a legacy that rivals any other intellectual’s legacy, eulogize his wife.  They were both well-known American activists associated with some of the most famous and infamous names of the 20th Century:  from Ella Baker and W.E.B. Du Bois to Che Guevara and Kathy Boudin.

The elderly man was stately and regal-looking, he had the powerful voice of a litigator and orator, and his advanced years, though showing physically, had not affected his brilliance.  He had started weeping and it turned to sobbing, and he was unable to continue.  He did not look broken, just sad, very sad.  He was escorted from the stage by one of his sons.

Somebody else began speaking from the stage at the SEIU 1199 Hall at 43rd and Eighth while many of us fidgeted back and forth one foot to the other, empathizing with the pain of this widower.

I found myself standing next to an older man who was not wearing a suit as most of the men were.  He was pleasant and when we made eye-contact, he extended his hand:  “I’m Pete.”  He smiled.

I knew his name was Pete.  I suspect everyone in the room knew his name was Pete.  He was present to pay homage to his friend, the late Joanne Grant.  It was her husband, Victor Rabinowitz, who had just eulogized her and left us all feeling deeper compassion than I knew I had.

I thought it must be awkward for Pete to be in these situations, these gatherings, but he was relaxed and pleasant.  I introduced myself, and he said he would miss Joanne, that her death was a big loss for the world.

I did not know Joanne personally, I was friends with her son, Mark, and it was because of him I found myself in the midst of Leftist New York this particular evening.  I was there because he was my friend and his mother had died.  I felt awkward, not knowing anyone personally, but everyone was very gracious and open and welcoming.  Pete and I exchanged a few pleasantries, and I did not want to behave like a groupie or be a burden on him; so, I eventually trailed off the conversation and let him move to the next mourner cum well-wisher.

He did not take the stage and sing a song of protest, he did not make himself the center of attention.  At that event, Pete Seeger was the most humble famous person I'd ever met.  I now regret ending the discussion so quickly, because when would I have a chance to meet him again?

Well, it appears, never.

Godspeed, Pete Seeger.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What do you do when your club becomes the richest in the world?

by Liz Tray
Manchester City
This week I went to Upton Park to see my beloved Manchester City play West Ham in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final. I had asked for the ticket (I’m a member of the Supporters’ Club, a benefit is requesting tickets) before we won the first match 6-0 but I grab any chance I can to see my team – having moved to London in 2000 away games are pretty much my only chance to see us play. I average a home game a season (this time it’ll be Fulham in March) when I go home to visit but away matches are rather unique. It’s a constantly singing, buzzing, boiling cauldron of intensity. It’s not like that at home, where the size of the stadium dissipates the noise – away fans are the real deal, a devoted band of travellers who follow the team home and away, across not just England but Europe (to think of the days when we were a million miles away from even playing in the Europa, let alone the Champions League). It ain’t cheap (£50+ a ticket – when I moved here it was £35; better team now, they charge fans more: so the club is rich, we are too?) but I can’t complain as most of the away fans have come down from Manchester. Mind you, there are a few ex-pats like me, and I even meet fans from London and the south who started supporting us decades ago (why, I wonder, what did we have to offer then?! I inherited City from my dad, and he from his, whereas they picked us quite randomly).

The vibe at Upton Park was unlike any I’d experienced because of the bizarre scoreline (already 6-0) before we even kicked off. It was an odd atmosphere, with us virtually certain of getting to the final. I’m usually a bag of nerves and stress, as you’d expect, but here we were, one professional display away from our first League Cup (as opposed to FA Cup) appearance since 1976, the year of my birth.

Near the end a bad tackle, ludicrously unpunished by the referee, brought down our new Spanish striker, a complete player if ever I saw one, Alvaro Negredo. He fell very awkwardly and grabbed his shoulder in agony. Anger at the non-award of the free kick fell away quickly, to be replaced with genuine concern, as fans held their heads and covered their mouths in hope that he’d be ok. At worst, it could be a dislocated shoulder, we all thought. The medical team attended to him and he went back on, holding his arm, refusing to go off the field for the last 5 minutes. Tough lad, that one. Then, the sound of what a TV audience must think is booing filled the night air. In fact, it was the low hum of the City fans chanting his nickname: Beast. Certainly, some of the worry was about the possible loss of such a fantastic player to injury but mostly it was of simple concern that a person was hurt. It made me think about what these men mean to me, and it’s why I chose to write this blog.

During the match we pulled out our full repertoire of songs, this is my favourite:
Oh Pablo Zabaleta, he is the fuckin’ man, he plays for Argentina, he’s harder than Jaap Stam. He wears the blue and white, for Pellegrini’s men, and when we win the league we’ll sing this song again.
A little hubris at the end, possibly, but rather said with a wink. We sang songs about Kompany, Touré, Silva, Aguero, all stars of this team that we’re lucky to have. There’s still a disbelief that such talent turns out in the blue shirt. We even found time to have a little chant about one of our only good players of the 90s (Georgi Kinkladze and Ali Benarbia are the only other good players that spring to mind of that era) – a German called  Uwe Rösler (now the Wigan manager; his 13-year-old son is named Colin, after City legend Colin Bell, and he’s at the City Academy). It ends with the line: ‘Uwe’s granddad bombed the Stretford End!’ Old Trafford, you see, was bombed during the Second World War and from 1941-49, if you can believe this, United shared our ground. It might be a bit of a sad testament to the nature of football now that that would seem so unbelievable but until a few decades ago many in Manchester supported both teams. My dad’s dad, Eli, was a diehard Blue but my mum’s dad, Cyril, went to City one week and United the next. In the end, though, I like to think that his heart lay with City, as he and dad went to matches together for over a decade until he passed in 1990. Dad marvels now how he dragged himself to watch terrible football on cold, wet Manchester nights when he had a season ticket (1977-1995). As we sang the Rösler song I thought back to what seemed like only a few years ago, and how we barely had any players worth composing a song about. How on earth did this happen to us?

For my own part, I moved to London the year after we were promoted out of the old Division Three in 1999 (now called League One, and just to confuse you it was called Division One then). At that time we were playing in our charming but crumbling home since 1923 – Maine Road. My grandfather Eli, who I sadly never knew, had been to the very first match there. My father’s first game was in 1960. Mine was in 1988. It has been a long family road. A story from the 1990s goes that the Maine Road groundsman wasn’t able to even paint the white lines on the pitch without handing over cash into the hand of the local paint suppliers. That’s how broke we were. Two decades of financial mismanagement had brought the club to its knees. When I was a kid in the 80s a local businessman called Peter Swales, a diehard Blue with a spectacular comb-over, was the chairman. He was a passionate man but an utterly hopeless businessman and we lurched from one crisis to another. The fans revolted and he was ousted in 1994 and replaced as chairman by Francis Lee, a legendary former player of ours. Unlike most players of that era, who were paid little and ended up getting real jobs after their playing days were over (very few went into management and punditry as it is now didn’t exist then), he had become a successful, wealthy businessman. He had made his fortune recycling paper, primarily toilet rolls. I, literally, shit you not.

He was another terrible choice, as it turned out. Ex-players put in charge at the higher levels always want to run the team and he undermined the many managers he hired and fired. His friend, the late great Alan Ball (brilliant player, World Cup winner) was a hopeless case and relegated us in 1995. And then the managerial merry-go-round started. Let me put this into perspective with a statistic: during Alex Ferguson’s Old Trafford reign of 27 years, we had (excluding Cup and League-winning captain Tony Book’s brief caretaker manager reigns) 17 managers. From August to December 1996 we had 3 managers. In 5 months. That’s what it was like in those days. We were relegated 3 times, up and down, up and down. During our tenure in the 3rd tier in 1998/99 we lost 1-0 at home to Bury. A local team now in League Two (the 4th tier) who, on average, draw 3,500 fans a home game. Even in the 3rd tier we averaged 28,000, over twice as many fans as any other club. I have several friends who are Bury fans; I tell you, they’re real fans, schlepping to watch a team that will never win anything, home and away. I was at Bury College at the time of this defeat. You can imagine what Monday morning was like.

In 1998, finally, a good man took charge and, essentially, fixed everything. He is responsible for where we are now (as is Paul Dickov, but that’s another story: this goal changed the club forever:

David Bernstein (a very clever and rich man, the then-CEO of fashion retailers French Connection and an accountant by trade) was a lifelong Blue and couldn’t bear the disaster any longer. He transformed the club from the ground up, securing financing and doing the deal that got us, at a nice price thank you very much, the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium, which we moved into the year after. Later, Bernstein was appointed as FA Chairman (he just retired – you have to at 70 – and has been replaced by the very stupid TV mogul Greg Dyke) and he just received a CBE for services to football.

But still, even then, we stumbled around for a while, though we were now financially on better footing, and were unfortunately bought by a Thai crook (a former PM and oppressor of his people, a murderer, some say) called Thaksin Shinawatra. Like many fans, I was deeply unhappy with this ownership, and it enhanced the geographical distance somehow. I feel disconnected from the team for the first time in my life and I hated it. Then, the unimaginable happened. In 2008, thanks to the beauty of the stadium apparently, the ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mansour, saw us as the perfect investment. A sleeping giant, as they say. Five years later he’s spent £1 billion and transformed us into a club that can compete at, we hope, the highest level. He has hired smart football people: our Spanish lynchpins, CEO Ferran Sorriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, were both, essentially, poached from Barcelona. He installed our chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, his main connection to the team, who visits Manchester often. Khaldoon has an American accent thanks to his degree, in finance and economics, from Tufts in Boston and is a very clever, tough but likeable man doing a spectacular job – he is supportive and does not interfere in football matters, as so very many idiotic chairmen do (central casting Disney villain Vincent Tan at Cardiff and the moronic Assem Allam at Hull, I’m looking at you). Our manager, Manuel Pellegrini, another shrewd appointment, is now giving us the stable, drama-free, leadership we need. In personality, he is everything the over-emotional, difficult, passionate and impatient Roberto Mancini was not.

Only five years ago I was going through a period of feeling totally disconnected from the team. And now, that feeling is a world away. I still can’t quite believe what’s happened.

Those players are working for me. Yes, for themselves, for the manager, for their money, but when you’re there watching a game live, you can’t help but marvel at how they’re toiling in the cold, getting kicked all over the pitch, working their backsides off, for you. For all of us. There’s a giddy glee now to City fans, after years of longing and disappointment and being kicked in the teeth. Yes, there’s still a fear, which really is unfounded, that it may all end tomorrow… but it could go on forever, as the Smiths song goes.

Nothing stays with you for life like football does. You lose jobs or move houses, or cities, and your team is still there. You lose family members and your team is still there, providing a distraction during unimaginably tough times last year, in my case. I know that these men are highly paid but none of that matters during a game, when you dream and fear and wish and want and they work to try and please you. To gain your love. These men are not machines, devoid of sentiment. They were kids once, who stood on a terrace like the one you’re standing on, cheering their team, worshipping their heroes. They get to do it, for real, they get to be the guy they dreamt of being. Most people have a rather craven view of money. That it fixes everything, that it’s all that matters. I know someone who loves his team but cannot stand any football players. He says they are all yobs. He constantly talks of how they’d rather be paid a ton and sit on the bench than earn less and play every week. He cannot see their humanity. He cannot see past the 5% who are pictured with women not their wives or get into nightclub brawls. I feel sorry for him. These are human beings, with families, and they work hard every day. For you. For me. If anyone doubts that take a look at a feature on our website called Tunnel Cam. We are, it would seem, the only club that does it.

As an example of anthropology it is fascinating. It shows in the clearest way I have ever seen the dividing line of the match and what happens before it – the white line of the pitch, and what goes on before it is crossed. We all know what happens after. But before, players greet each other as friends, as on each team there are connections: the same nationality, a player who used to play with you at a former club, a player who you play with for a national team. It’s all cordial reunions and hugs and European cheek-kissing and shirt-swapping. Lines of mascots (kids aged between 4 and about 10 who accompany the players onto the pitch) stand in the tunnel, holding their hands out to be high-fived by the players, who are charming and kind to them. Sometimes players will have their own children as mascots. These big, tough, tattooed men, gently picking up and kissing their tiny toddlers, who are wearing matching strips to them. You’d have to have a hard heart not to be touched. It’s important to humanise players, not least because it lets you feel connected to men who, in my case, play 200 miles away from where I live (that’s a lot in England!). Additionally, our dual fandom is one facet of my relationship with my dad; it’s an unbreakable bond with him as much as the team.

I cannot even think about our 2012 title win without blinking tears from my eyes. We who had been let down for decades were finally going to win. And we very nearly ruined it. We choked, and then remarkably, United choked. And then, with one kick of a genius boot, I felt like I will never feel again. Because whatever happens next, it will not feel like that day did. That utter darkness until the goal went in:

This clip from that day is a moment that dad and I still talk about, as everything we felt is encapsulated in this few seconds of sheer relief and exploding emotion.  Where a huge, shaven-headed burly City fan sinks to his knees and weeps for everything he’s been through, before being picked up and hugged by another man – a friend? A total stranger? It didn’t matter. It never matters during a match. You’re all friends, you’re all in it together:

Winning the FA Cup the year before had been lovely and a relief but was tainted by Tevez having been on strike for 6 months, abandoning the club. A ridiculous situation caused by the over-emotionality of Roberto Mancini as much as by poor player behaviour. When Tevez, and not the rightful captain, Vincent Kompany, held the cup aloft it left a sour taste. Winning the league was as pure as it gets. It will never feel like that again. I wished I was in Manchester that day – as soon as the game ended I got on a train and made it up in time for the TV highlights. Dad and I watched it and wept. The day after we went to a parade with about 100,000 other people. Two weeks later my mum was gone. That’s why it’s all so important, that’s what football gave me. Something else to think about that, along with support from friends (including the very owner of this blog) and family, saved my sanity.

When I get to the away games, I am consumed by joy, win or lose, in being able to be with my people, my fellow Mancs: in all their happy, sad, angry, thrilled, hilarious, nervous, anarchic, relieved, sometimes disappointed foul-mouthed glory. This is football. At its core, this is what it is. You belong, for life. You love them and they love you. They never leave you, and you never leave them, even if and when they let you down. At the end of the West Ham game, after 90 minutes of brilliant banter (We sang: ‘You’re getting Moyes in the morning!’ They sang: ‘We only need 10!’ (we were 3-0 up by this point, 9-0 on aggregate) and when Stevan Jovetic, a new player who has been unlucky with injury came on, we sang: ‘Who the fucking hell are you?!’) the Hammers fans did a little Poznan (our backs to the pitch, arm over arm, jumping goal celebration) and we did one back to them. Then we all did it together.

The brave, hardy Hammers were 9-0 down and those fans love their team as much today as they did yesterday, as they will tomorrow. That is football. That used to be me. I remember one week in the early 2000s where we played Liverpool twice in a week, Cup and league. We lost 6-0 and 4-0. Times change but people do not. I’m stuck with this club for life.

When I was growing up, Manchester was a very tough place to be a City fan. In my school year, of 100+ girls, I was one of three Blues. Not everyone supported a team of course but there were probably 60 or 70 United fans. What will that number be in a decade? I see kids now at the matches who won’t remember how bad things were. Talking recently with a United fan friend, he told me I was willing to pay any price for success – meaning, in reference to our owners and where their largesse is derived from, I’m turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights conditions in Abu Dhabi in exchange for, one hopes, trophies. If I’d experienced 20+ years of unrivalled success, like he had, and my club was bought by people who treat their citizens like crap would I abandon the club? United may be owned by people sucking the financial life out of the place but at least they’re not human rights abusers. Do I turn a blind eye because I’ve toiled and loved and, through thin and thin, supported a club that let me down every week? Do I think I deserve some success now, at any cost? I wish I was stronger, and I admire people who have turned their backs on the club, in a way. They’re better people than I. Why do I continue to support a club run by people who treat women and gays and immigrant workers like shit in their own country? A regime that if City had a Jewish player he would not be allowed into the country. I cannot defend that, and thus I cannot defend myself. It’s a complicated issue and one I have no answer for. All I can say is that, in daily life, we are all complicit in demeaning others, whether we want or intend to or not. We all own clothing from sweatshops, we all buy computers (and TVs and DVD players) made by Chinese slave labour. I’m just trying to do my best, every day, like everyone else. Unless you live in a tree and wear clothes made of hemp and forage for food you’re complicit too. So I take a little bit of pleasure when I can from football, because it took and took from me for so many years and hardened me to misery and now finally I’m getting something back. What can I do about it except cut my nose off to spite my face? I’ve mostly, not entirely, made my peace with it.

Some City fans take more pleasure in United losing than City winning. I never understood those people even when I was living in Manchester and taking shit from United fans every single day. They pitied, bullied, patronised and laughed at us. And we were pathetic – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it does feel a little nice that they don’t get everything their way now. But, I always say to dad – I don’t care about what other clubs do, who they play, who they lose points to; we can only control what we do, how we play, and do our best. These players are the best that City have ever had. Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m watching. It’s like a gift. Like someone decided that we’d taken enough shit one day and said: it’s your turn. I’ll take it.

Thank you, Liz, for this wonderful article.