How many clicks is too many?

This was appended to an email that found its way to my inbox today:

When you click the link above, you will see our sign-up page.
To manage your subscription fill in your email address and name (legal and last).
Then scroll down and click the big red subscribe button.
You will then be redirected to a form that will give you a link to 
update your profile. Ignore the big red “There are errors below” and click on the link that says “Click here to update your profile”. This will send you an email with a link to allow you to update your profile.

Not only will I ignore the big red “errors” thing, I think I will just unsubscribe.

The power of pretending to be fearless


Since the day some years back when I was changing one of my son’s very first diapers, I’ve blustered about how the Smiths are fearless.

“We ain’t afraid o’ nothin’,” I said for the first time that day.

I repeated it several times while fighting back my ridiculously sensitive gag reflex and wiping that baby boy’s ’s sore butt clean of one of the foulest, stinkiest messes I have ever encountered.

Some of you are snickering. I can hear you.

You’re probably mothers or nurses or both, the true badasses of the world who deal with this shit and so many of the really hard things in life without flinching.

When I was a kid, I could barely stand to pick up dried dog poop in the back yard with a shovel. My first child’s diaper on that one fateful day, and that five-word incantation, changed my life.

I’ve repeated those words to great effect countless times since, fending off challenges small and large, real and imagined, physical and otherwise. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The words have power.

When you persuade yourself that you have no fear, that you can take whatever comes along, you can fake your way through almost anything. Being afraid of nothing, or at least pretending to be, can be liberating.

Sooner or later, it can even become something close to true. I am afraid of very little now: letting my family down somehow; railroad crossings when I’m bicycling in the rain; one other thing that I’m not prepared to share.

Oh, and I can walk the dog and pick up after him without a whimper.

It is entirely possible that what I feared so long ago was being a father. I had seen how not to do it.

I’ve learned something, though, and now that my fearless son will be a father soon, this seems to be a good time to share it:

There really is nothing to fear where you’re going.

You will always worry, but there is nothing to fear.

Pass it on.

First published on

When they is (are?) one person

Is there no better alternative to “they” for an individual who identifies as neither male nor female, but as non-binary? I’ve seen many alternatives but am not persuaded that any of them are better.

This has come up a a few times recently in my little corner of the world. The most recent example was in this NPR story about someone who “is no longer legally male or female and prefers the pronoun ‘they’.”

It’s confusing to use they in a sentence when referring to one person. Small issue, maybe, but it’s the only thing that bugs me about the story.

Well, OK, it’s not the only thing.

Far, far worse and infinitely more distressing is the hate that burbles up from the depths when stories like these come to light. I briefly thought about disconnecting from social media, or at least trying harder to avoid the vile, toxic comments that are so common in the world’s dark online underbelly.

I sometimes envy a good friend who no longer watches the news and has no social media presence or interest. I suppose part of the reason is that he is a lawyer, a former prosecutor who now defends the accused. I imagine he’s had more than his fill of exposure to the uglier side of humanity.

It’s hard for me to imagine disconnecting to that extent as a writer. So far, I’m unable to turn away. Maybe it’s because of my education and experience as a journalist, or some character flaw that makes me inordinately curious about the evil among us.

When “they” is among a person’s preferred pronouns (mine are he/him/his, BTW), I try to respect that, as difficult as it might make construction of a clear sentence.

The slimy creatures that spew hatred from greasy keyboards and incite others to commit violence against people who are different?

It is important to know that those people exist, but they deserve respect from no one.


Dropping “America” before Election Day

Changing my name seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago.

Following Budweiser’s lead when it rebranded as America, I tried to have a little fun emulating one of the dumber marketing gimmicks ever. I changed my Twitter name to B.J. America and my blog to “The America (formerly Smith) Compound.”

My wife never really embraced the notion of being Mrs. America, or Ms. America, but I thought it was worth a try.

My intent was to change back to Smith after Election Day 2016. That’s when America beer will go back to being Budweiser, after what the foreign-owned company’s spokesman predicted would be “the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen.”

How a summer can be patriotic was never really explained.

The thing is, I couldn’t wait until November. I’m not exactly proud of the way America is acting lately.

The name has become too much of an embarrassment. Our discourse, if we can even call it that, has gotten too ugly.

Some elements have gone well beyond ugly. The words toxic and unhinged come to mind.

Candidate Trump is a dangerous GOP mistake who spreads lies and bigotry and plays on the fears and prejudices of millions of Americans to further his incoherent political agenda. Congress continues to do nothing to confront our national addiction to gun violence. We are complicit by accepting their inaction.

That’s not my America.

Back to The Smith Compound.

Learning from the loud ones on the bus

If everyone spoke softly on the bus, or if no one spoke at all, we would miss some fine chances to learn about dialogue, and character, and life.

We would miss the sad, first-person story told to someone on the other end of the phone call or in the seat across the aisle and a couple of rows back…

…a tale about the speaker’s idiot lawyer who wanted him to take a shit deal that would have him locked up a mere thirty days instead of a year when he shoulda got probation…

…about his girlfriend’s asshole parole officer who wanted to send her back to prison just because she wouldn’t fuck him any more…

…about the ex who always whined about child support being late when that bitch was lucky to get anything at all, ever, as hard as it was to get a good job let alone keep one when the bosses were always on your ass for being late.

I mean what the fuck. Fuckem all. Shit.

I pulled the fucking cord so why didn’t this asshole stop? What, is he a fucking idiot?

The loud ones can teach a writer who listens. Listen.


“Armed = dangerous” explained

A few weeks ago, I posted a simple equation as a comment on a news story about toddlers and others who had been shot over the weekend.

Armed = dangerous

Just yesterday I learned that it isn’t simple enough for some gun-ownership advocates to comprehend. One asked me what it means. Another, if I understood the fuzzy thinking, took it to mean that I am for banning personal firearms ownership. When I said that I am for no such thing (I used the term “paranoid bullshit”), I was called a liar.

man-886601_1280The equation neither says nor implies anything about intent. It’s a simple statment of fact. An armed person is a dangerous person. If good guys with guns weren’t a danger to bad guys with guns, what would be the point?

Unfortunately, armed men and women with the best of intentions routinely prove to be dangerous to themselves and others by handling firearms carelessly, wrongly assuming weapons are not loaded, and accidentally shooting themselves and others.

Armed people who don’t understand that carrying a deadly weapon makes them dangerous need to learn this.

Responsible gun owners recognize the danger that is inherent in carrying firearms. They learn how to handle guns to prevent accidental discharges. They keep guns out of the hands of children who don’t have the knowledge, judgment or experience to handle deadly weapons safely.

You hear news reports of suspects at large who are described as “armed and dangerous.” That they are armed says it all.

What do I want for Father’s Day?

For as long as I’ve been at this business of being a father, you would think the question would get easier to answer. It’s tougher than it looks. It is tougher than ever.

My wife and children have already given me everything I need. They don’t stop.

What do I want?

What I want is the same as every other day.

jupiter_ganyA cure for cancer.

A cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

An end to these dreadful politics.

Relief from my country’s addiction to guns and violence.

Love, not war.

I want Jupiter to align with Mars.

That’s all.