Friday, December 16, 2016

Unexpected Serendipity By Chance

Over an entire lifetime, you will lose things and stuff. Some, if not most, of it will not detrimentally matter beyond interim vexation over the loss. They are nothing more than dust-collecting knickknacks and other junk, absent for whatever reason. Other items, however, might be precious keepsakes, accidentally discarded or misplaced. At some point, an inconsequential candle, in the form of a witch, disappeared during my childhood. No one in my family knows the exact moment of the confounded absconding, but one would guess the occurrence happened around Halloween. Yep, solid detective work on our part. Did it, opportunely, return to a shadowy coven to congregate with other witch candles? Did it, literally, get burned for its waxy curses? Did one of the family dogs, plausibly, ingest it? Whatever course fate navigated for its demise, it has become a pointed joke whenever something goes missing. “Guess it’s with the witch candle,” we will say when an object is unaccounted for and cannot be located.

Pumpkins weren't letting the cat out of the bag on what they knew...

My maternal grandfather, having served during the First World War, received a purple heart and several other commemorative medals for his service. Like the candle, they vanished at some indeterminate date on the calendar. Unlike the former, this instance was not a joke; rather, it was devastating. An incomparable piece of family history was gone. Before my dad passed away, he occasionally scoured the house looking for them. We knew that they had moved with us from our previous residence. While moving out a few years later after his death, my mom, sisters and I again thoroughly searched as we emptied the house of its contents. Literally, we looked in every plausible and unfathomable nook and cranny before vacating the premises. No luck. They were distressingly lost, undoubtedly relegated to the witch candle’s realm. 

For someone who once had been a meticulous and well-kept secretary, my mom was not the most organized person at home. Although she occasionally attempted to maintain the surface illusion of orderliness, her dresser drawers and other storage areas in her bedroom oftentimes were cluttered and disarrayed. While dad had been a restrained “pack rat” - mainly of newspapers and magazines - mom was, in modern-day vernacular, a profuse “hoarder.” Not anything nearly disastrous or debilitating that warranted professional intervention, but still an appropriate label. Unworn clothing, aforementioned curios, craft supplies and, for good measure, greeting cards kept for posterity, to name a few. Due to an oppositely spartan tidiness, I volunteered one lazy weekend afternoon to organize a brass trunk chaotically filled with the latter. 

Combing through the trunk, about halfway down, I came across a large manila envelope. Having fairly substantial, yet odd weight to it, these were no greeting cards. Cautiously opening the envelope, mindful in drawing out its contents, my eyes immediately widened with overwhelming exuberance and recognition: my grandfather’s medals, pinned to a piece of cardboard wrapped in plastic, returned from the abyss. Stunned by their astonishing, if not miraculous, restoration, I could not move. Instead, I stared at them in shocked awe and excitement. When I eventually came out of my trance, I hastily ran to show them to mom. Understandably, she was overcome with disbelieving joy at the sight of her dad’s recovered medals. Obviously, they inadvertently had been tossed into the chest years before, buried underneath the miscellany and forgotten.

While some frivolous things and stuff may be forever irretrievable, the cherished ones that hold special meaning and matter the most eventually, and opportunely, will find their way back.

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Inward Significance For Imagination’s Sake

Honestly, I do not understand what people are expecting when they attend a movie or tune into television. For me, while I want to be engaged and perhaps given thought-provoking material, I also want to be entertained. Criticisms of the latest Star Wars offering, The Force Awakens, center around its supposed similarity to A New Hope; I love South Park too, and understand their nostalgia-fueled critique. Is it not enough, though, simply to appreciate that Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker once again graced our screens played by the original actors - even more, as an integral part rather than in glorified cameos - in an age of reboots? In a few weeks, we even will get another highly-anticipated prequel, Rogue One, to the original movie, as well as a Han Solo prequel movie in the near future. Given, in my opinion, George Lucas’ previous prequel abominations, I never could have imagined any more movies in the franchise. Wrong.

Nowhere is this more relevant than with cinematic and televised comic book adaptations. When I was a kid, I never dreamed of seeing the Batman, Captain America or Iron Man whose adventures that I poured over on the colorful pages in any kind of live-action format. Guess what? That happened in our lifetime - first with Michael Keaton’s Batman, followed by Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America. Now, it is difficult to imagine any of those characters without thinking of their fantastic portrayals. And while we still need to see more of his version of Batman, Ben Affleck - full disclosure, of whom I have never been a fan - has won me over as quite possibly the most genuine portrayal of the iconic character. Agents of SHIELD, Avengers and Justice League live-action? Forget about it, never would happen. Wrong.

Granted, there have been some misses among the hits. Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider, Thomas Jane’s Punisher and Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern come to mind. But you know what? Even as maligned as they might be, each of those versions are still entertaining. While Ghost Rider and Punisher have found successful new life on the small screen, perhaps the same fate awaits Hal Jordan on the big one. Yes, Hal Jordan. The other Green Lanterns - namely, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner - easily could show up in part two of the Justice League movies...thus, perhaps initiating a spin-off Green Lantern Corps movie franchise? You listening DC Comics?

Then along comes Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. I mean, how could anyone replace Lynda Carter’s 1970s version? Not a chance, right? Yep, wrong again! As if the lasso of truth itself has wrangled around our collective minds, I have never been more excited for a movie. From her performance in the wrongly criticized Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to the trailers, this solo movie looks not only to be an epic comic book adaptation but also one of the period piece variety. Call it sexist if you want, but the majority sentiment that Gal is hot in the part is undeniable. You know what else? From the footage so far, she also embodies the very essence of Diana from Themyscira, aka “Diana Prince,” as envisioned in the comic books since her creation by William Moulton Marston in 1941:  god-like strength but compassionate warrior; preference for peace and love over war and violence; symbol of female empowerment and independence.

DC Comics and The CW Network just finished an epic and fun crossover among their television shows, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the much-anticipated Defenders and Punisher series are riding high. Yet, by all accounts, both companies have much more planned for future development. What, are you kidding???!! We are living in a golden age of live-action comic book adaptations...get over yourselves, stop complaining and enjoy the entertainment!

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rhinestone Cowboy On the Road

July 1976. The bicentennial of the United States. As we occasionally did during the summer, we vacationed in Florida. Not only to visit our paternal grandparents, but also Disney World. We would make the trip numerous times over subsequent years. Our Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon loaded, we piled into our usual seats. Dad at the helm, mom in shotgun, my sisters in the middle row; I took up position in the back well among the suitcases. Seatbelts? Who needed seatbelts? I was protected by a hard plastic wall of American Tourister! Thus, I settled into my makeshift fort. My cavalry, breaking camp from our previous destination, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, would soon follow “riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo.”
    Our mission was to find Holly. That is, Holly Hobbie.

Horse Soldiers II:  The Holly Hobbie Raid

    Wait, hold on…now that I recall, the Olds CC and Williamsburg was the ’78 trip; we drove an Oldsmobile Cutlass on the ’76 trip. The Holly mission indeed was the ’76 trip, because I recall sitting between my sisters in the backseat. Either way, on one evening, we ate dinner at Top of the World in Disney World. “Gloria,” a singer by training and daytime soap opera actress, was the entertainment. During her performance, she came over to our table. Turning her attention my way, she began singing to me. At a pause, she said I reminded her of her little boy. She winked, I blushed. We had a moment.
    Yes, it was definitely 1976. A very good year.

1970s version of a safe space

    The following year, 1977, we were flying into Dallas, Texas. Dad, working for American Family Insurance, was heading to Brownsville to recover a stolen car, which we then would use to drive back to St. Louis. Thus, this was both a business trip and family vacation. To lovely Brownsville - a place very much remote and hostile, straight out of a classic Western movie - and other points along the way, like old cowboys “ridin’ out one dark and windy day.” When we stopped at a gas station because dad had gone the wrong way - toward the Mexican border rather than our overnight destination of Corpus Christi - “a bolt of fear went through” mom that dad would be shot and the rest of us kidnapped never to be seen again. Fun for the whole family!
    First, we had to survive the landing into Dallas.
    As we circled the airport, the airplane chaotically banked and turned as it went “a ploughin’ through the ragged skies and up a cloudy draw.” Although only five years old at the time, I questioned the ability of the flight crew.
    “Does this pilot know what he’s doing?” I incredulously asked, more out of frustration than fright.
    Little did I realize, but people sitting around us heard my exclamation. Immediately, they burst out in both laughter and applause. For me, the incident sparked a future, albeit unrealized, interest in attending Annapolis toward a career as a naval aviator. Ironically, it also heightened an inherent fear of flying. I wouldn’t fly on an airplane again for decades - to attend a friend’s wedding - choosing instead the preferable road trip even if “that's takin' the long way.” When we later dined in Corpus Christi, my one sister would have instilled in her the lifelong nightmare of being served a whole fish - particularly, Lutjanus campechanus, otherwise known as Northern Red Snapper - complete with gaping eyes, floppy fins and rough scales. Yes indeed, fun for the whole family!
    Flash forward 11 years to 1988. Summer, before the start of my sophomore year in high school. My parents and I go on a weekend road trip through Kentucky and Tennessee, my sisters preferring to stay home. Along the way, we would visit Louisville, Lexington, Fort Knox, Nashville (and Vanderbilt University) and, lastly, Kentucky Lake before returning to St. Louis. Driving past Vanderbilt on our way to dinner, I admired the southern scenery and charm...of its coeds. The campus seemed nice too. As such, I placed it on my growing list of potential college applications, alongside Alabama, Colorado and, my future alma mater, Missouri. Arriving at Kentucky Lake mid-afternoon, my dad and I rented a boat. Mom chose to stay ashore, relaxing in the comforts of the air-conditioned lodge.

By air, land or sea...we'll rescue Holly Hobbie!

    Motoring around and exploring the lake for a few, fun-filled hours, we got stuck in mud at one point in an unmarked shallow cove. Of course, I was the one manning the wheel at the time. However, dad felt guilty, if not embarrassed, for not realizing the deceptive depth of the water. Reluctant and fearing what might lurk in the murky waters, I nonetheless volunteered to give us a push. Feeling around for the propeller to ascertain its location for safety reasons, I took up position on the boat’s stern and gave it several heaves. Meanwhile, I unpleasantly felt numerous fish swimming about and brushing against my bare legs, which was unsettling and increased the anxiety of the situation. After several attempts to dislodge the craft as dad gunned the engine, we eventually escaped the predicament and made our way back to the dock.
    Our enjoyable day on the lake had come to an end, and so had our weekend of adventurous travel. Piling back into the car after cleaning up, we set a course “on the road to [our] horizon” back toward home.
    Yippie i ay, Yippie i oh!

[Read similar stories and much more in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life -]

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Electoral College Triumphs, Not Trumps

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president."
-Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. president

Every four years, it happens. Armchair constitutional and legal “scholars” who believe themselves smarter than Alexander Hamilton - you know, that guy from the highly-acclaimed musical with which everyone is so enamored? - and James Madison cry out after an election with calls to abolish the Electoral College. Instead, they feel presidential elections should be decided by popular vote, i.e. direct democracy. In the words of Jason Patric’s character, Jim Bowie, in The Alamo, “you don't like the outcome, so you change the rules?” To advocate for the change is to further advance the gradual dismantling of our founding generation's ideals and fundamentals at a time when, now more than ever, we should return to and seek their guidance. Yes, voters rightfully can be angry, frustrated, upset, etc, over the results of an election that does not go as one had hoped. Yet, we, as a nation, have an understanding to accept not only how our presidential elections have been conducted since the country’s inception, but also the outcome whether one agrees with it or not.

The Electoral College and the American Idea of Democracy, by Martin Diamond

As is so often equally forgotten during this time - or, is it simply no longer taught in civics class (do these even still exist?) - the United States, in fact, is not a direct democracy. For as long as it may stand, it is a representative republic. Under this republican form of democracy, the Electoral College has operated to preserve equity among the varied populations of the individual states and protect from factionalism and majority mob rule. Otherwise, only the most densely populated areas would have influence in choosing the president. California currently may have 55 electoral votes and New York 29, but Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming’s three each (21 total) are just as vital. That is how Hamilton and Madison designed it to work. Despite complaints from those who fail to understand this importance and dismiss it as nothing more than an antiquated institution, it continues to do so to this day. Even more disconcerting, where does it end? What other supposed bygone ideas - like the Bill of Rights or perhaps even the Constitution itself - might be deemed unnecessary by later generations, despite the contrary?

For the past eight years, voters opposed to the current president, Barack Obama, have been cajoled and lectured that he is everyone’s president. This is the truth, as a president represents the entire nation - even those who did not vote for them. Naturally, one can disagree with and argue against the agenda and policies while still respecting the presidency no matter who occupies it. Again, this is how our system operates. But now with the election of Donald Trump, it seems acceptable to chant, protest and even riot under the banner of “not my president.” This is hypocritical, once again demonstrating the political short memory of the American electorate. While he may not be the popular choice, Trump, like the others before him, is now the president-elect by way of the electoral process. Same as any losing opposition, you do not have to accept the person but you must respect the result of the vote. Otherwise, we will devolve into a society of anarchy and authoritarianism reigning over civility and consensus...exactly as Hamilton and Madison feared, and the very reason for the existence of the Electoral College. 

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Obama's "Dutch Boy" Presidency, Part II

As U.S. voters go to the polls to elect a new president, let's follow-up on the departing Obama administration's two-term record. After eight years, it would be delusional for President Barack Obama, as he and his acolytes continually have done while in office, to place blame for what has occurred during his tenure on his predecessor. Eventually, he must own his own failed record that, indeed, has fundamentally transformed the United States. The economy, despite rhetorical assurances, still has never fully recovered from The Great Recession; many significant indicators are in the red, as they have been for the duration. Much of this is attributable to an historic level of over-regulation - most significantly, the disastrous and poorly implemented Obamacare - that continues to burden small and large business alike. If that were not enough, racial and social tensions are at an all-time high not experienced since the 1960s - where is the utopia of unity promised eight years ago, exasperated by nothing less than the president's own divisive rhetoric?

The international scene is just as worrying. If North Korea is any indication of future problems, Iran ever more is a threat - only difference that the latter directly received billions of dollars from the Obama administration to fund their not-so-subtle ambitions. Meanwhile, ISIS, never given proper credence by the administration as a major threat, evolved and continues to devastating effect upon the Middle East. As it is, a majority of Americans feel terrorism is a bigger threat to national security than before September 11th, a trend attributable to the administration's failures and inability to take the lead properly addressing and combating it. On top of all of this, China and Russia have been flexing renewed confidence because of a perceived withering and weak United States over these past eight years - frustrating our allies and further emboldening our enemies.

Truly, here's to hope and change under a new administration as the nation moves forward.

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Why I'm Voting For Gary Johnson

Despite a continuously expanding list of scandals that should have nullified her candidacy, the contents of Hillary Clinton's emails should be more worrying than some are unwilling to admit. More so than the hackers and leakers with whom some seem to be more concerned, rather than a potential felon candidate ascending to the presidency. The attempted control and influence over supposed impartial government entities and an indispensable objective media is straight out of the fascist propaganda playbook. Undoubtedly, these emails are a terrifying window into a potential Clinton presidency that would only further its absolutism, corruption and dishonesty, with the knowledge that it is answerable to no one. We already have experienced one of the most contemptuous and least transparent administrations in our history over the past eight years; we do not need to continue that trend. To believe otherwise is to have your head in the sand.

Donald Trump is no counter in this contentious “lesser of two evils” contest. He is equally perilous to our republican system as he is repugnant. Abrasive, imprudent and uncouth in his demeanor, especially toward those who disagree with him on political and social issues, he is more schoolyard bully than presidential. By all indications, he knows more about growing his own wealth and portfolio - unashamedly, of bankrupt failed businesses - than the delicate intricacies involved in actually maintaining and growing a healthy economy. Again, we already have experienced eight years of a know-nothing president whose only “success” has been further tanking the economy between rhetorical speeches and economics-challenged policies. A Trump presidency simply would extend this cult of personality trend that has shrouded his predecessor. Also, it is hard to trust a supposed billionaire who, apparently, cannot afford to properly groom his hair.

If you are for civil liberties, fiscal management, responsible government and social acceptance, neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump offer this platform. You know who does fit that description? The Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket. Is it absolutely perfect in every aspect and criteria on the checklist? That answer depends on your personal mindset, but it is the most reasonably sane choice compared to the alternatives. Besides, to demand absolute perfection from our leaders is to deny our own human flaws. Both Johnson and Weld are successful two-term former governors, no less in traditionally Democrat states. Historically, more often than not, former governors have made the best presidents because of their executive experience at the state level. They also do not carry with them the negative trappings that follow both Clinton and Trump into every debate and speech. That criteria alone should make all the difference in the choice.

With an unprecedented disdain by voters for front-runners Clinton and Trump, this election is not just about the immediate next four-to-eight years. This is about the long-term future of the United States, and, even more, the integrity of the presidency. 

©2016 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Editorial Cartoon: For Conscience & Principles

Gary Johnson/Bill Weld (Libertarian Party) -

Jill Stein/Ajamu Baraka (Green Party) -

Darrell Castle/Scott Bradley (Constitution Party) -

Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn (independent) -

 ©2016 Steve Sagarra

Monday, September 12, 2016

Questioning the Health of Presidential Nominees

Voters elect presidents on their intended agenda and policies, and the guarantee that they can execute the duties of the office to their fullest. Yet, there always is the understanding that circumstances may arise during their tenure that hinders that pledge. As such, voters also go to the polls to select vice-presidents for assuming the presidency should the president die, resign or be removed while in office. This is the exact reason that the health of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, was questioned throughout the election. Voters were concerned McCain - given his age and documented health issues - could die in office, thus ascending the very polarizing vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, to the presidency. Voters, including a significant number of conservatives, said no thank you to that scenario.

In 1841, William Henry Harrison died 32 days into his presidency (March 4 - April 4) due to complications from pneumonia - the same condition from which the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, allegedly is suffering according to reports from her campaign. This set the stage for the first constitutional crisis concerning the presidential line of succession (since codified by the 25th Amendment, in 1967), in which vice-president John Tyler eventually was sworn in as president. Same as the fears raised during the 2008 election, unfounded or not, this country should not have to contemplate a repeat of that potential situation at this critical time.

Vice-Presidents elected to presidency in their own right:

  • John Adams 
  • Thomas Jefferson 
  • Martin Van Buren 
  • Richard Nixon 
  • George H.W. Bush

Vice-Presidents assuming presidency after president died in, resigned or was removed from office, and re-elected:

  • Theodore Roosevelt (assassination) 
  • Calvin Coolidge (natural cause) 
  • Harry Truman (natural cause) 
  • Lyndon Johnson (assassination)

Vice-Presidents assuming presidency after president
died in, resigned or was removed from office, but not re-elected:
  • John Tyler (natural cause) 
  • Millard Fillmore (natural cause) 
  • Andrew Johnson (assassination) 
  • Chester Arthur (assassination) 
  • Gerald Ford (resignation)

Worst case scenario: would the current leading vice-presidential nominees - Tim Kaine (D), Bill Weld (L) and Mike Pence (R) - join the ranks of the second group? Or be another overlooked note of presidential history consigned to the third group? All things considered, voters must choose wisely when electing a president...because the nation’s own health depends on it.

©2016 Steve Sagarra

    Sunday, September 11, 2016

    Spirit of America

    We, the People, are an indivisible alliance of ideas, principles and values, and of individuals and cultures. Given the melding of this alliance, the United States is manifest in design not of destiny but of determination in common cause. With this manifest, we are a nation that is embracing of all to not only devote to but also uphold this common cause toward the goals of our preeminent forefathers and founding documents. To achieve these goals, we as a nation have been and ever shall be resourceful. From first in flight to first on the moon, Americans always will be inspired by ingenuity in our resourcefulness. Because of this history of resourcefulness and ingenuity, our conviction holds strong. And due to conviction, we are accepting - both of our strengths and, especially, our weaknesses in order to indeed cultivate and fashion a more perfect union for all who would embody and pursue its glories.

    Does this mean that we are as a nation perfect and infallible? That we have ended discrimination, deterred marginalization or stymied radicalization? That we overwhelmingly have convinced others to bear more fruit rather than ill-will toward our fellow inhabitants not only in this country but throughout the world? No, it does not. Nevertheless, this nation has been and ever shall be that beacon of such hope and promise, pledged in earnest and forged in sacrifice since our provenance. This simple yet important virtue has sustained through difficult times and steered during prosperity. So what is America? Traverse from sea to shining sea, visit a majestic landmark for free, eat and drink the local fare in golden jubilee. Undeniably, you would witness that we are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless and the tempest-tossed. Yet, more than anything, we are the invigorated, the fortunate, the resolute individuals, the blessed gems, the persevering and the undaunted. We stand together in the face of a challenge, and challenge each other to stand together united in our similarities and in spite of our differences.

    Since inception as a sovereign republic, Americans have never desired to be conquerors, oppressors or rulers in the name of absolute authority. Likewise, we never have wished to be subjugated by the same, instead standing with those who would throw off the shackles of such tyranny. It is to this core trait that America owes its very existence, and to which many still flock in search of such dominion and independence from their native hardships and persecutions. Admittedly, this innate characteristic has elicited much consternation, tumult and even rebellious hostilities to balance the necessities of governance and the demands of liberty over the years. Nevertheless, our ability to compromise and reconcile this incontrovertible duality that seems at odds is what binds us as a whole. To paraphrase former president Abraham Lincoln, the union of government and citizens established and composed “of the people, by the people and for the people” could not stand without it.

    Naturally, it is the people - from all backgrounds and ethnicities - who are the heart and soul of America. With this patriotic camaraderie - as opposed to xenophobic nationalism - comes a sense of belonging and identity amalgamated and distilled from many nationalities. In this environment, traditions of the whole take precedent while allowing the free expression of individual and regional ones without fear of reprisal or suppression as so often occurs throughout the world. Despite cynicism and negativity to the contrary, we are but only one of a few nations who can boast of this inherent and guaranteed right whether native- or naturalized-born.

    What is the spirit of America? It is our uniqueness in shared beliefs, fundamentals and tenets, an unprecedented commitment and loyalty to all with blind fealty to none and, most especially, those unabashedly willing to integrate and maintain these virtues on a daily basis. It is the opportunity and promise afforded by these conditions to achieve a life that otherwise might not have been forthcoming under different circumstances. History certainly did not begin with the Treaty of Paris (1783) or adoption of the U.S. Constitution (1789); it is prideful arrogance to believe such a notion. Nevertheless, may it never wane and may these United States of America never face that last gleam of its twilight so long as its citizens continue to strive toward a more perfect union as envisioned by our founders.

    ©2016 Steve Sagarra

    Wednesday, August 31, 2016

    Of Anxious Apprehensions & Confident Security

    During the summer before my senior year in high school, a thief, or thieves, broke into my Mustang. And when I say “broke into,” I mean slashed the taut convertible roof on the driver side, reached through to unlock the door and stole my modest stereo and notably expensive speakers. Despite the damage to the roof, it was a “clean” theft, i.e. efficient and professional, according to the responding police officer. However, that fact did not ease my anger and frustration about the loss of the radio. My high school friends, pooling their allowances and minimum wage earnings, had purchased the stereo the previous summer for “our” Mustang to replace and modernize the outdated original AM/FM one. A gesture that both surprised and uplifted at a time when it was most needed. [For more on that, grab a copy of my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life -]

    Immaterial of the financial cost, there was the characteristic sense of violation that came with the break-in. Strangers had broken a personal, irreplaceable bond attached to the gifted stereo. There also was a sense of karma, as my friends and I - having left behind my recognizable car at our meeting place, believed to be a fairly secure location - had been doing a bit of our own typical youthful shenanigans, albeit harmless, involving toilet paper. Maybe that was true. Ironically, I had to call the police to report the theft...after having just evaded them.

    Recently, my neighborhood has experienced a sporadic rash of car break-ins and vandalism, recalling to mind that incident. Tucked away in a fairly quiet hamlet of suburbia, this was unusual. What was not unusual was not being informed for months about the situation, either by the rental office staff or law enforcement, until a victimized neighbor took it upon themselves to do so. The worst part in some cases, according to another neighbor, is that only windows were smashed with nothing stolen - demonstrating an absolute wanton disregard for personal property by the perpetrators. In light of the circumstances, I since have noticed more foot traffic by other residents during my occasional, and no longer as tranquilly seclusive, midnight walks. In hindsight, it made sense as well why there seemingly had been an increase in police patrols in the area the last few months absent any context for the reason.

    When he purchased the Mustang, my dad had informed me that there was a fairly easy, and non-destructive, way to break into a classic convertible. However, he did not instruct me in the actual procedure - either afraid I accidentally would share the secret or use the knowledge for more nefarious purposes. Bwahahahaha...and no fair reader, although having grown up in New York City, he had never been a member of any car thief guild; he knew, I assume, from a long career in the insurance industry. When I later locked my keys in the car - at the mall, of all embarrassing places - I eventually figured it out after a few attempts. Fortunately, no cops were around, or, understandably, my high school friends and I - wearing our customary attire like the metalhead hoodlums we admittedly were perceived to be - would have had to explain breaking into my own car.

    [Read similar stories and much more in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life -]

    ©2016 Steve Sagarra

    Sunday, July 17, 2016

    The Trichinosis Affair

    Dad always vehemently made certain that any ham or pork-derived meal be fully cooked to its proper temperature. He did not want to die from trichinosis. Whatever in the world was trichinosis. Even being the grandson of a doctor, I had no clue about this mysterious ailment; I suspected, from shared confused eye-rolling expressions, neither did my siblings. Mom simply would tell him to stop being overly dramatic – to his continued protests about not wanting his demise coming from contracting the apparently vile disease. Nonetheless, breakfast – especially those on family-day Sunday, whether at home or a fancy pants brunch locale – invariably involved bacon. It was not a consideration, but the centerpiece. Eggs or, on special occasion, French toast was the underlying accessory to the meal, not vice versa.

    When I was involved in a major car accident, I initially had to stay in the hospital for a few weeks. Stable enough to eat solid food after a few days, my first breakfast was missing something. Yep, the bacon. I knew this was the case because tell-tale crumbs (i.e. “bacon bits”) and an emptied space were left on the incomplete plate consisting only of eggs and toast. Immediately, I complained to the dietitian, medical staff and anyone else who simply ignored my distress at this egregious and nonsensical slight. Their reasoning for the removal? My blood pressure was elevated. Well, no duh! I had just been in an accident...and then you took delicious bacon from me! My soul was crushed, and my spirits demoralized. [Read further about this and much more in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life -]

    Years later, I would be introduced to a different accompaniment: peanut butter. Upon first reflection, I was both intrigued and chagrined. How had this marvel of a concept never crossed my mind? I loved bacon, I loved peanut butter. Why, in all things holy and the time spent on this planet, had I never thought to put the two together? Now, it seemed my entire life had been a waste of cursory ignorance. As happens, though, it is never too late to experience anew the unknown. Thus, I set about making it so at the earliest convenience...which was lunch the next day. Okay, technically it was breakfast, but more like that mid-period between breakfast and lunch that is not yet brunch. Blunch? Breach? Either way, the taste of this newly discovered concoction - placed between two slices of toast - was nothing short of euphoria as they mingled on my taste buds. My brain cleared and filled with enlightened awareness, my body tingled in excited acclamation and my mouth uncontrollably blustered for more.

    To say the least, I instantly was hooked on this wondrous medley.

    A handful of my alleged “friends” think bacon is gross. To dissuade their wrong opinion, I unfriended them; unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect, but such negativity has no place in my world. My dad would agree...just so long as the bacon is properly cooked! Because, obviously, no one needs trichinosis either. (First observed by famed English pathologist, James Paget, as a “sandy diaphragm,” my later inquiry would detail that it is in fact a very serious but treatable parasitic disease that infects the muscles caused from undercooked meat. Sorry for the years of disbelief and mockery, dad!) Thus, I, as we all should, shall forever eat delicious, healthy bacon at a proper, healthy temperature.

    Because where there is bacon, there is life. 

    ©2016 Steve Sagarra

    Sunday, May 29, 2016

    To the Tree and Back

    To the tree. That was as far as dad, the frequently over-protective insurance executive, allowed my siblings and I to ride. No less, only on the sidewalk. A fine scenario for Big Wheels and traditional tricycles, but once graduating to two-wheeled bicycles, with multiple gears, it became ridiculous. Despite a decent sized sidewalk and front yard, a few strides and we were at our destination; then, we had to stop, turn around at the tree and head back toward the driveway leading to the backyard. All on the sidewalk, and, upon occasion, to the mockery of other neighborhood kids. Any deviation from the path, like, perhaps, in the street, would be met with a grave warning - which I experienced more than once transgressing the rule whenever possible. It was not that he thought we could not recognize an oncoming car in order to avoid it. In his professional capacity, he just had seen too many kids who had not - and, even more, drivers not paying attention. This simply carried over to his duty as a dad.
      Decidedly, this ludicrous restriction would be eased and eventually abandoned as gradual disregard triumphantly won out in the battle of wills.
      When my 16th birthday approached, my buddy Kevin and I finally were able to take my birthday present - my 1970 Mustang convertible, powered by a modified Boss 351 Cleveland engine - out for a short spin. An extended short one. Not too extended, but still more than around the neighborhood. I only had my learner’s permit at the time, but Kevin, a few months older than me, already was licensed. Thus, I could drive with him in the car. Besides, we were just driving to the grocery store...and to the popular strip mall across town for a lap around it. There was a grocery store adjacent to it as well, but that wasn’t the one to which we were headed.
      After visiting the grocery store, we backtracked in the opposite direction. A movie theater anchored the strip mall, with a few fast food joints and a gas station. Many high school students hung out there on weekends, just cruising and loitering. The latter, of course, according to the police. As we reached midpoint into our cruise around the main strip, Kevin noted a car beelining toward us as it crossed the large parking lot.
      “Hey, that car looks like your older sister’s Firebird,” he casually stated.
      Turning to my left to look, I noticed the license plate. Exasperated, I shook my head.
      “That’s because it is my sister’s Firebird. And we’re in trouble.”
      She wasn’t the one driving though.
      He pulled behind us, honking and flashing the headlights. I immediately pulled into the movie theater’s parking lot, which was surprisingly empty. Kevin and I sat still, as my dad leapt from the car and slammed the door behind him. He was more frustrated than angry, but it seethed. At least he had taken the time to tuck his red nightshirt - yes, dear reader, a nightshirt! - into his pair of fading jeans, along with throwing on his low-cut blue Converse sneakers. His graying brown wavy hair, however, was disheveled – probably further turning gray as he approached. Thankfully, there was no one around, i.e. high school girls, to see this epic display of fashion.
      “What the hell are you two doing?” he questioned, leaning into my open driver-side window.
      Incredulously looking up at him, I held my nervous laughter. “W-We went to the store, like I said we were, and now we’re heading back home. Did you follow us, dad?” I tersely asked.
      “Funny, it looks to me like you’re cruising around,” he retorted, wagging a stern finger at us. “And, yes I did. Now, get your butts home immediately.”
      He stormed back to the Firebird.
      I calmly drove away without protest and out of the parking lot onto the road toward the waiting intersection. Kevin and I stared ahead in silence as we waited for the red light to change, the music emanating from the vintage radio barely audible over the grumbling engine. Dad was directly behind us.
      Kevin broke the veiled sullenness. “Was he wearing a stocking cap?”
      I laughed, breaking my frustrated glare. “No, that was his hair sticking up. Apparently, he just got out of bed to come look for us.”
      Kevin nodded his head, laughing as well. “Looked like a stocking cap.”
      That blithe peculiarity amused both of us. When the light turned green, we proceeded on without further comment. Privately, as we traversed the road back home, I pondered the events. I had tested the boundaries of my understandably cautious, albeit seemingly inane, subjection, yet again breaching the imposed barrier of the watchman tree. Surreptitiously, I brashly grinned at the thought...also remembering that he was just adhering to his duty as a dad, looking out for his many sons - blood-related or not.
      Today, he would have turned 77 years old.
      See ya at the tree, dad! Wear your stocking cap!

    [Read similar stories and much more in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life -]

    ©2016 Steve Sagarra

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    Sometimes A Great Notion of My So-Called Life

    Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster,
    and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

    Abyss: Who are you?
    Voice: An idea evolving, re-invented, numerous times.
    Abyss: When were you born?
    Voice: Yesterday, maybe tomorrow, it eludes me.
    Abyss: Who do you want to be?
    Voice: Not this, or that, or anything else.
    Abyss: Where do you want to be?
    Voice: Not here, or there, or anywhere else.
    Abyss: Are you who or where you want to be?
    Voice: I am, and I am not.
    Abyss: How would you describe this duality?
    Voice: Like a penitent hermit, living in vagabond exile.
    Abyss: From what are you hiding?
    Voice: An imperceptible, undefined yet constant weight.
    Abyss: How does this make you feel?
    Voice: Like supernova starlight blistering my soul, waking to disquiet shadows bring.
    Abyss: When are you joyful?
    Voice: When I am me, and when I am another.
    Abyss: When are you somber?
    Voice: When I am not me, and when I am not another.
    Abyss: Who is another?
    Voice: Me, and us.
    Abyss: Who is us?
    Voice: I don’t know, without me.
    Abyss: When did you realize this?
    Voice: When I was alone, contemplating ambiguous allusions.
    Abyss: When there was no us?
    Voice: When there was no me.
    Abyss: Who is me?
    Voice: Them, without us.
    Abyss: Who is them?
    Voice: Without us, no me or you.
    Abyss: What is them?
    Voice: They are not us, you and me.
    Abyss: How do you feel?
    Voice: Discouraged and fatigued, awakened and renewed, with all the same hopes, fears, dreams and perceptions as them and us.
    Abyss: Would you live or die for us?
    Voice: For them.
    Abyss: You would live or die for them?
    Voice: For us.
    Abyss: Is it us or them?
    Voice: It is us, and them.
    Abyss: Why do we exist?
    Voice: To embrace, to understand, to share - before it’s too late, before the moment is beyond reach.

    ©2016 Steve Sagarra