As the world burns…


Posted on December 3rd, by James McAllen in Uncategorized. 2 comments

Ok, so it’s been a while since my last blog post. It’s been more than a while. It’s been weeks; months even. I don’t really have an answer as to why. It’s not like I don’t have anything going on in my life. In fact, I have a ton of things going on, just nothing that seems to be blog worthy.

Last week, we spent our first Thanksgiving together as a family. It was a great day. We ate at home, then went to see the paternal family for dessert. It was a great day, just not blog worthy.

On Friday, we packed up the car and headed upstate for our first family vacation. We had a great time. Well, I think we did. I gave the boys their first driving lesson, and I showed them how to make a campfire. It was a lot of fun bonding with two teenagers. I decided to write a blog about it when I got home.

It sucked.

I spoke to one of my friends about my lack of creative output in the last few months. I haven’t worked on my book, I haven’t played any music. I haven’t written a blog. He asked what was different in my life.

I’m no longer miserable. I’m friggin happy.

I firmly believe that all art comes from a dark place, and I’m no longer in that dark place. I was determined to write something this week; anything, even if it meant being miserable.

***********************

I got the first text yesterday around 4:30. I was asleep at the time, but when I got up, I saw that there was another shooting in California. I had to run out of the house, so I didn’t have time to watch the news. By the time that I got home, the shooters were dead, but the information about their identities was still scarce.

I was flicking back and forth between CNN and Fox, while at the same time scanning the news sites. There was an endless stream of rhetoric and speculation on Twitter and Facebook. Everyone had the answers: Guns were the problem; lack of guns were the problem; Muslim radicals, white supremacists. It was amazing how people that never seem to get off the couch all knew what the answer to the worlds biggest problems were.

Me? I had no answers.

Around 10 o’clock, we gave up and watched Survivor. Well, I watched Survivor. Brandon watched his phone; Valarie watched her eyelids.

After the show, I went back the the news. For some reason, I wanted to know who the shooters were, but for the life of me, I didn’t know what I wanted the outcome to be. Did I want it to be a terrorist attack? Or would I feel better if it were white militants? What about a gangland shooting? We haven’t had one of them in a while. Was it workplace violence, or a drive-by? What outcome would make me feel better about the world we live in?

By 11pm, word was trickling in about the identity of the shooters. Sean Hannity was practically salivating when it was learned that the shooter wasn’t named Jack Armstrong. Twitter was apoplectic that the shooters weren’t white.

How the hell did we get here?

The FBI was setting up for a press conference when I finally succumb to sleep around midnight.

This morning, I had to take a friend to the hospital early, so I didn’t have the opportunity to spend a few hours on Facebook arguing about the 2nd amendment, or radical Islamists, or the Giants chances of making the playoffs. I sat in the waiting room going through social-media withdrawal because I posses a “not-so-smart” phone. The signal was blocked and I couldn’t get any of the info that I so desperately needed. Instead, I was forced to read a book that I’ve been carrying around in my briefcase for the last 3 weeks.

Around 9:30, I went to a diner near Methodist hospital to get some breakfast. When I sat down, the waitress asked my if I wanted coffee.

“No thanks”, I replied. “I’ll take a diet coke.”

A few minutes later, someone sat in the booth behind me. The waitress repeated the ritual.

“Coffee?”

“No. A diet coke please.”

I made a mental note to find out what kind of whacko drinks diet coke at 9:30 in the morning.
Aside from me, of course.

I waded into the first pages of my book as I slowly ate my Spanish Omelette. “An Unlikely Union” The love-hate story of New York’s Irish and Italians is a story near and dear to my heart, given that I’m a product of that union, but this book was very disconcerting. Evidently, it wasn’t all peaches and cream with my ancestors. The Irish in New York were less than hospitable to the incoming Italians. Can you imagine that? The shanty Irish actually looked down on the peasants from Italy? Talk about the pot and kettle.

I’m only about 40 pages in, but I’m pretty sure that I know how this turns out. Those pug-faced Irish boys look across the aisle in church and see those raven haired, dark-skinned beauties and imagine a life of good sex and endless pasta, while the round shouldered Italians see those Red-headed, fair skinned beauties and know that those women won’t be in the bathroom shaving their mustaches the minute they turn 30. And as such, the largest intermingling of rival ethic groups begins.

When I was a kid, I was fully Irish, barely even acknowledging my Italian heritage. By the time I was in my late 20’s, it was the exact opposite. I sounded like an extra from Goodfellas. Especially when I was around people that I didn’t know. I thought it sounded tougher. Now, I’m 50-50, right down the middle. So is my wife, and the kids and about 2/3rds of my many cousins.

As I leafed through the pages of the book; a veritable history of this city, the rhetoric sounded all too familiar; the established population wanted no part of the onslaught of immigrants that were infiltrating their neighborhoods. In the 1850’s, it was the Irish who were the interlopers, by the turn of the century, it was the Italians. In the 20’s and 30’s, it was the Jews trying to escape the anti-semitism of Europe. They all came here looking to escape famine and war, looking for a better life. In 2015, it’s the Syrian refugees that are occupying the discussion. I’m not going to lie, I’m one of the ones who thinks that Europe should take care of them. It’s their problem. I just don’t verbalize it. Of course, we will accept the refugees. That’s what we do. We’re Americans; a nation of immigrants, and champion of the oppressed. It dawned on me that 50 years from now, it will be the children of the Syrians that will be complaining, “Don’t let those Kurds in here.”

As I got up to leave, I turned to see my fellow diet-coke drinker and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was none other than comedian Colin Quinn. I’ve been a fan of his going back to the days of Remote Control on MTV. We exchanged greetings and I paid my bill and left. I run into lots of celebrities in my travels. I always say hello, but I try not to bother them any more than that. I never ask for autographs or selfies, and I never bother them when they are eating. I do however, like to slip them a bookmark for my book. I got a block away when I realized that I forgot to do so. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

I went back to the waiting room of the hospital and dove back into the book. I was aghast that the Irish priests made the Italians worship in the basement of Old St. Patricks. Those Irish pricks. Can you imagine, they were prejudiced against Italians cause they were a little bit unkempt.

Now mind you, I’m catholic by birth, but I haven’t been to mass in about 30 years and I’ve been openly atheist for the last 20. In fact, I hate the Catholic church. I think they should be prosecuted as a criminal enterprise, but as I was reading the account of how the Irish bishops treated the priests coming over from Calabria, I had one overriding thought in the back of my head – “It’s still better than being a protestant.”
Friggin Wasps.

The hours passed and by now I was losing my mind. I could feel the germs crawling all over my skin. I was having severe social-media anxiety, but on the positive side, I knew I would be writing a blog today. Good, bad or indifferent, I was going be write a blog.

I got the text to retrieve my friend around 1pm. We walked to the car and made the ride home engaging in a wide ranging discussion about life and happiness. We came to a few conclusions

  • The world is no different now that it was in 1910 or 1740, the same biases and prejudices abound, the only difference is the media. It’s instantaneous and ubiquitous now, ready to deliver bad news in a nano-second.
  • It’s not your career that defines you, it’s your hobbies that make you happy.
  • Hospitals are horrible places to spend your time.

I don’t know what to do about gun violence, or police brutality, or Syrian refugees, or ISIS. I’m just glad that I’m not the one that needs to come up with the answers. At the end of the day, there are only three things that matter in my life. Three things that make me happy.

Love,
art,
and Baseball.

My wife will be home in a few hours. I can’t wait.
I wrote a new blog today.
76 days until pitchers and catchers.





2 thoughts on “As the world burns…

  1. Well said. There are answers out there, but none that make Everybody happy.

    Like the fault lines I live too close too….something’s going to give

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