Saturday, February 28, 2015

I have been--and ever shall be--your friend

A piece of my heart is crippled with this loss. We all knew this would happen. It had to. After all, none of us can live forever, not even our heroes. After all, we have already suffered the loss of Deforest Kelley, Jimmy Doohan, Gene and Majel Barrett-Roddenberry... And let's not mince words. Leonard Nimoy was a hero. When I learned of Nimoy's passing yesterday afternoon, I was at work where I could not take the time to mourn and to think about how I felt. I was of course, deeply saddened.

Nimoy, along with the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise, has been a part of my life for nearly 50 years, Yes, 50 years. I was nine years old when "Star Trek" first premiered. It amazes me that man of his humble stature could have enthralled us fans for half a century. Even more amazing is that Nimoy's first film appearance was in 1951. Usually, when I have eulogized a celebrity on my Facebook page I need to do a little research but not this time. Any TREK fan worth his (or her) salt knows this stuff forwards and backwards.

For the casual observer, Leonard Nimoy was Mr. Spock. For those of us who loved him, he was so much more than merely that. Author, poet, photographer, director, film and television actor, stage actor, singer, humanitarian, father, son, husband and friend are all words to describe the man. Words not mentioned often enough were his humor, intelligence, kindness and integrity... and humanity.

Nimoy was a man of conscience. He was in the truest sense of the word, a renaissance man. He inspired me as I know he did millions of others. As a boy, I watched the alien Spock who in many ways did not fit into his world--nor in his Mother's. Those of us who have always felt different empathized with the man Spock.

Nimoy had said in the past that the filming of "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" was not all that pleasant yet it was in this film that Spock uttered some of the most insightful words throughout TREK's long history.

"Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more? or "THIS... simple feeling is beyond V'ger's comprehension. No meaning. No hope--and no answers." BUT for the character of Spock we finally got to see the half human, half Vulcan finally take that leap to find comfort in his own skin. And none of this would have been possible without the immense talent of Mr. Nimoy.

Like many fans, I got the opportunity to meet him. Twice. Nimoy was a fan of the ST convention world and enjoyed meeting his legions of fans whenever he attended. His onstage talks were delightful, witty, humorous and insightful. Once, my friends and I traveled to see William Shatner and him together on stage in Chicago. Hilarity ensued. So did tears. Watching the two together and you knew they were--as William Shatner said on learning of his passing--"we were brothers."

For all of those people out there who have never understood--or worse, belittled "Star Trek" and its millions of fans, who do not understand the relevance of the series and its characters and look at today's front page headlines of the New York Times, the New York Daily Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and countless other fine newspapers and see whose photo and eulogy is front and center. If this does not attest to the power of Nimoy's role in "Star Trek," nothing does.

Nimoy would been 84 a month from yesterday. Our world will be a little less logical in his absence and we fans will miss him greatly... but I am reminded of his (Spock's) words... "grieve not for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one." Nimoy's long life was special. He got to do the things he loved and he shared that with us.

"He's not really dead. Not as long as we remember him." ... but we will all miss him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

Think of it, less than 2% of our nation's population carries upon their shoulders the defense of this nation. In earlier times, when the Selective Service Draft was in play this number was a little higher and far more representative of this nation's diversity.

Men, women, some mere children, some like myself, who are much older have given of our time, our lives (too often, literally), our financial security and sometimes (again, sometimes too often) sacrificed our home and family lives, all for love of country.I thank my fellow servicemembers for their conscious efforts to guarantee that our nation's security is continued seamlessly.

I think of the men and women who served before me... my father, his father, my uncle Jim, my brothers Rob and Bryan, my sister Teresa, my friend Beth's father, my friend Shane's father and so many millions more.

This is a shout out, if you will, to them and to those who gave their all--like my former student Hospitalman Ben Rast, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.

We, who serve, have asked so little and I am constantly moved to tears when I think of those who make a concerted effort to thank us, which is why today is so special to we servicemembers. I remember coming home from Afghanistan in March 2009 to be greeted by hundreds of total strangers standing in line to shake our hands as we entered the terminal at Baltimore's airport. I won't lie. I was in tears as each thanked us.

Happy Veteran's Day, colleagues!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

End of Argument? Hardly

The other day a family member, someone with whom I have a great deal of respect, pulled a uncool maneuver on me that I don't agree with. It is no secret I lean left, so does my son, so does my Uncle Garry, most of my friends and a few members of my family so when someone pulled an "end of argument" statement on me, I was 1) sorely disappointed. 2) angered that someone would attempt to shut down a conversation that way.

Today, one of my friends with whom I served in the Navy posted that someone told him to keep his opinions to himself. Frankly, I am appalled! My friend is one of the most fair-minded, middle of the road I know, leaning neither left nor right. In my experience, he has always considered all opinions and given them fair due, which is why he was such a great Navy Chief. He often gives me pause and food for thought.

First off, I cannot imagine anyone telling someone to keep their opinions to themselves. Even when I disagree with someone I enjoy the conversation and debate. Something can be learned from discussion. Too bad people don't try it more. Telling someone to shut up, keep their opinions to themselves, name-calling, end of argument, blah blah... only serves to shut down the opportunity to seek common ground... I say shame on whoever told him that.

Secondly, I may lean left but at least I am willing to give an ear to opposing thoughts. I cannot say, again in my experience, the same of some from the far right. I all too often find them condescending, smug, unyielding, always convinced they are right and all who disagree are wrong. AND yes, I can imagine some from that bent feel the same of those of us on the left.

"End of discussion," to me, reeks of someone not willing to consider motivations of what makes people tick, the "why" they do what they do. "End of discussion" means shut up.

I'm sorry, I do not accept... "go back to your corner of your room and shut up."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saving the world from liberals one book at a time


I don't want to hear (or read) anyone saying, "Oh, the liberals do it too" because I will tell you you are dead wrong. I have worked at Barnes & Noble now for nearly five years and I can tell you little pisses me off more than this.

Whenever someone the likes of Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Al Gore, Jr., or Jimmy Carter write a book or are featured on the cover of a magazine I can bet you my entire week's paycheck that every single day I will find that some customers have turned the item around so that its backside is face out so that we cannot see its cover.

Really? REALLY???

Those who do this have so much time to go around creating extra work for us? You might ask what's the big deal? I can tell you right now that Ms. Clinton's book Hard Choices is featured in at least four locations in our store and somehow these people seem to know where each location is and find the time and energy to turn the book around at each location. 

It is utterly ridiculous that someone can act with such immaturity.

These brave people have the time go around saving the world from nasty liberal commies... one book at a time. They are sooooo brave.

Last week, someone pulled a bunch of books entitled History's Greatest Lies from the bargain section and interspersed them with Ms. Clinton's book on the bestsellers' shelf and a table featuring her book.


A few years back First Lady Michelle Obama published a book on healthy eating and home gardening. I cannot count how many times I heard customer comments "who does that b**ch think she is?"

Oddly enough, I didn't hear similar remarks when Ann Romney's cookbook was released in time for Christmas in 2013. Believe me, if you really think Ann Romney personally cooks her family's meals, I have some prime real estate on Ganymede for sale just for you.

In the time I have worked at the store I have yet to see anyone do the sort of thing to the coloring books from Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson, Glenn Beck, Laura, Barbara or President(s) Bush. Not once!

For God's sale. we are a bookstore. We are a bastion of words, ideas and philosophies. We are a place where we share knowledge and discussion over a cup of coffee and a slice of cheesecake but somehow these freakin' small-minded idiots going around turning books around seem to think they that by their actions they are saving the children, saving the undecided, converted the wretched from the words of their supposed enemy. 

Oh, how brave! I think, in reality, they are cowards. They are afraid of those who think differently, and anyone challenging their dark narrow view of the world. They think they are saving the world! 

Part of me thinks that a bookstore rule should exists that command for every Bill O'Reilly book someone purchases that they have to, in turn, buy one from Rachael Maddow or (shudder) from President Obama, but then (gasp) that would mean I would have to buy one of O'Reilly's books. Noooooooo!

Libraries and bookstores are harbingers of discourse and free thinkers. If people cannot handle OR abide by that, maybe they shouldn't go there!

My thoughts on all of these people? Grow up! You're not in high school anymore!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

To our Dads...

There is little doubt that the men (or women) we become is largely shaped by our Fathers (and Mothers, but then, today is Father's Day). Whether we want to admit it or not, when we grow up we become our parents.

I am reminded of a line from Harvey Firestein's "Torch Song Trilogy" that has served me well throughout my life. Harvey turns to his Mother and says something like this: "Mom, when I am faced with a problem, I think of how you would handle it--and then I do exactly the opposite." 

Now mind you, I look at life and reflect on how both of my parents would face a problem, and in nine cases out of 10, I would do exactly as they. Good people that they are (or were), I often look to them for guidance. Lead by example, ya know?

Dad, Grandma Valda, my Mom and baby me on Christmas Day 1957.

My father Douglas Robert Mappin left us on March 23, 1985 at the age of 47. He was too damned young to be leaving a wife and eight kids behind. I'm sure Dad would have said the same of his dad Robert (who also died at the age of 47). 

I can honestly say everything I am is because of Dad. Dad was a great father and grandfather and a good son. 

He was hardworking. For a good number of years he worked three jobs (as a tool and die maker, a small business owner and a First Sergeant in the Indiana National Guard). With seven boys and one daughter, he toiled to make a good home for his kids. I suspect we kids would have cared little if we had had a little less so that we could have had more time with him.

Dad (second from left) at his workshop, probably around 1978.

Dad was curious about life, he was athletic and a craftsmen. Dad had a small shop to build furniture. He loved assembling models (apples do not fall far from the tree). He loved being out of doors. He loved taking his pontoon boat with we kids and Mom out on Lake Manitou. He loved to fish. If the air was fresh and there was sunshine, you could be Dad was there.

I gained my social conscious from my Dad. I am, like my Dad and like his father and his grandfather before him, a lifelong Democrat. He believed in ensuring everyone have an equal opportunity to a better life. Dad was the president of his local UAW union in his shop. He seriously believed that unions was the answer to ensure all his co-workers be treated equally. 

I remember with pride that Dad was a jungle warfare expert. Dad was so proud of Bryan when he joined the United States Air Force and later when Teresa joined the National Guard. If he had lived, I am sure he would have been similarly proud of Rob  when he enlisted in the Army. My Mom told me once not long after I joined the Navy Reserve, "Your father would be very proud of you right now."

I can still recall sitting on the plane enroute to New Orleans for Navy mini-boot camp and hearing her words. I sat there crying wishing Dad could have seen me then. Dad and I once sat in a local Rochester pub and he asked me why wouldn't I join the military. I knew he would have liked to have seen his eldest child sharing in his dream of defending our nation (at the time, I just couldn't do it as a gay man. President Clinton later made that possible, if only Dad had lived to have seen it).

After my parents divorced in 1967, Dad did all that he could to remain a part of our lives. We four from his first marriage knew he loved us. He may not have been a part of our daily lives but we all knew he was but five miles and a phone call away.

Dad loved a good laugh, was quick to a joke and not above playing a prank or two. On the day I married back in 1975, Dad and Abe (my father-in-law), for an hour or so, refused to leave Phyllis and I alone--both jokingly muttered about "not letting us defile one another in matrimony." Our Moms had to come to our rescue to save that day. 

Dad was an only child and in the years of my youth, he was a doting son. When Grandma Valda's condition (Parkinson's Disease) became more and more pronounced. He did the best he could to see that her medical needs were well-tended. 

Dad never got to see his last four boys graduate from high school. He never got to see any of us become the adults we are today. I do know he was proud as could be when I began school. He told me he wasn't in a position to offer financial aid for my education but he would be there for me if I needed him. I was gratified he offered but really, I was 27 at the time, why should he be responsible?

For all of the great things that I can say about Dad, I wish I could say even more. Dad was robbed of the opportunity to see Rob, Chris, Scott and Matt grow into the great men they became. Except for my son Wes, Dad was robbed of meeting his grandchildren. 

Each of my siblings (except Chris) have had children who never got to know the wonderfully wise man he was--and oh how the grandkids would have loved him! Teresa, Bryan, Mike, Rob, Chris and Matt's kids were robbed of the opportunity to have known him. Even my son Wes barely remembers him.

I wish we could see the man at age 77 and I wonder how life would have treated him. I'm sure he would have done well. 

In 2008, while I was serving in Afghanistan, journalist Ann Allen interviewed me for a piece in The Rochester Sentinel. Not long after that, one of the finest compliments I have received in my life came from a man who served with Dad in the National Guard. He said I sounded "just like my Dad." Frankly, I was honored to be mentioned in the same breath.

If I have but one regret in life, it is that we never told each other "I love you." Men just did not say such things back in the day. BUT I know he knew it (and I knew it too)... That lesson has not been lost on me... my son and I tell each other that daily.

In any case, this is a loving tribute to the man we knew. Dad, we love you. We miss you... and we honor you today. Happy Father's Day, Dad.