Saturday, September 9, 2017

Grocery List

This month marks the one-year anniversary of my father’s death.

I’m heading back to the Detroit area for a few days soon. That’s where he lived much of his life, and that’s where he died. Aside from the funeral, it will be the first time Ive been to his grave.

My father was creeping up on 89 years old when he breathed his last. His health and mobility had declined dramatically over a period of less than two years. I can’t be sure, but I think he was ready to go.

I don’t have much in the way of fatherly memorabilia. But most of his stuff remains in the house his widow still occupies; maybe I’ll be able to pick something up.

On several occasions I’ve had to rummage through the personal effects of someone who recently died, and been encouraged to choose something as a keepsake. Sifting through a lifetime’s worth of someone’s stuff: what a strange experience. Once was for my paternal grandmother, and the other my maternal grandfather - oddly symmetrical, it seems.

In the case of my grandmother, I chose a small cut glass clock that didn’t work. Honestly, I did not want that artifact, but was pressed to choose something. It has resided on my daughter’s dresser ever since.

From my grandfather’s stuff, I chose an old union booklet. This struck some as a little peculiar, but it had, and still has, an odd value to me. He belonged to the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. His dues were all paid up.

A few years later I came into possession of one of his awls. I’m not a carpenter, but it’s perfect for rounding out the inside of brake and shifter cable housing on bikes. They compress when cut.

What about my dad?

There was no great purge of worldly possessions (at least, not when I was around). There isn’t much I want, frankly.

I already value a slip of paper I found tucked into one of my books (Ironweed). I must have shoved it in there as a bookmark once, during a visit. It is a most trivial thing: my dad’s grocery list from four or five years ago. But it means something to me, perhaps because it is so commonplace.

The physical objects our forebears leave behind may serve as memory triggers, but far more important is how they’re imprinted on our psyches. For most of us, our parents are encoded into our brains. We carry them in our heads, cradle to grave – and that is what matters most.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Real Donald Trump

His Twitter handle is, “real Donald Trump.”

Well, we got to see the real Donald Trump on August 15, in a press conference from Trump Tower. There isn’t much I can add to the megatons of criticism that is, quite properly, raining down on this morally bankrupt pig.

I’m going to add to it anyway. Heather Heyer could have been my daughter.

A recurring phrase among his supporters has been, “Let Trump be Trump.” They’ve done just that, and the results are as repulsive and horrifying as they are predictable.

The Internet was down at work on the day of Trump’s presser, so we all got to leave early. Was home in time to see the disgusting spectacle, live on MSNBC. This repugnant filth, this so-called president, all but formally repudiated his condemnation of the racist thugs who rallied in Virginia a few days earlier.

I won’t re-hash it. But make no mistake – as if you could – those neo-Nazis in Charlottesville brought all the trimmings, from swastikas to sieg heil salutes.

They rallied with torches on Friday night. On Saturday, Heather Heyer was struck and killed by a car that deliberately plowed into protestors. Yet Trump said: “I think there is blame on both sides.”

A CNN analysis, published without a byline, cast Tuesdays press conference as “a moment ripped from the darkest pages of history and transposed into the 21st Century.” No argument with that. It concluded: “[Trump] appears to have abdicated any claim to the traditional presidential role as a moral voice for the nation and the world.”

Uh, no. Donald Trump has never had, and never will have, even the tiniest claim as a moral voice for the nation or the world.

My daughter has already been to an anti-Trump demonstration, at which I photographed a Trump thug-in-waiting (see below). She turns twenty in a few days. My heart breaks for Heather Heyer, for Susan Bro, for Mark Heyer, for Elwood Shrader.

We have seen the real Donald Trump. He is a moral degenerate.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Blood On His Hands

Trump’s utter failure to call the appalling violence in Charlottesville, Virginia what is was is not the least surprising.

The death of a thirty-two year old woman was directly related, and the deaths of two state troopers in a helicopter crash was ancillary, to clashes between neo-Nazis and counter-protestors. The neo-Nazi terrorists came to Charlottesville for a “unite the right” rally, called because city officials planned to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park.

They also came to provoke.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump at a news conference a few hours after the deaths. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

On many sides? David Duke and other known racists spoke to the neo-Nazis. Trump failed to condemn them. He made zero reference to the neo-Nazi terrorists, and their clearly racist and hate-filled agenda. His reference to Barack Obama was apropos of nothing. His remarks expose his complete lack of leadership, as well as his indifference to, and ignorance of, social realities in the United States.

As if we needed further proof.

From what I saw, the white nationalists came to Charlottesville with helmets and other protective gear, like bulletproof vests. Many of them were probably also armed. I don’t know that for sure, though one who was arrested had a concealed weapon. Clearly the intention was at very least to incite violence.

It’s reprehensible, though not surprising, that Trump went straight to “don’t blame me!” rhetoric. At that time no one had blamed him. But blame him we should. He knows perfectly well that he furthered the toxic and divisive environment that led to the Charlottesville deaths.

He only condemned the violence because politically, he had no choice. This racist, divisive fraud could not care less about what happened, and the root causes he almost single-handedly provoked.

At left is thirty-two year old Heather Heyer, the woman killed when a neo-Nazi thug deliberately plowed his car into protestors. Less than twenty-four hours ago, as this is written, she was alive. Her name belongs now with Goodman Chaney Schwerner, Emmett Till, and countless others, who died needless deaths because of white racists. Her blood, and the blood of the two state troopers, is on Trumps hands.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Systemic Evil

“The truth is out,” wrote Julian Zelizer, after the Senate failed to pass even the so-called skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “Nobody is in control of this show.”


On the day of the Trump inauguration, I posted the following to my Facebook page:
Today is a watershed moment in American history. I have nothing but a sense of foreboding for the next four to eight years.

Yesterday I came across a 1999 article by James W. Douglass called A Letter to the American People,” which states in part:

“Two prophets, a president, and a president-to-be were martyred between November 1963 and June 1968, four and a half years that raised some of the greatest hopes in American history. Has our downward spiral ever since as a people, from hope to despair, from faith in change to an acceptance of systemic evil, been because we haven’t recognized the truth of those martyrdoms, bound up as they were with unspeakable forces that continue to threaten us all?”

Douglass refers, of course, to JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X.

It is tempting to view today’s events in Washington as a logical product of those four martyrdoms, and of that subsequent downward spiral. Certainly it is an ascension of systemic evil.

But I also sense resistance: a very real pushback against this systemic evil. I won’t be in DC tomorrow, but I’ll be in Denver, in solidarity with what I expect to be a very large crowd of resisters.

I recall the words of Faruq Z. Bey:

Is it midnight yet?
Are our fears to go ungrounded?
When are the demons to present themselves?

The next day I was, indeed, in Denver, where at least 100,000 people demonstrated against the new “president.” An exhilarating experience: part of a global protest against the most unfit office-holder in U.S. history. Millions took part, worldwide.

Trump has, in the months since, repeatedly demonstrated his incompetence. Now, in late July, it seems like the administration is coming apart at the seams. A word like “dysfunctional” is not strong enough to characterize it.

I get the sense that there is growing opposition to Trump within the Republican establishment. There appears to have been a successful effort to prevent ACA repeal. They’ll try again. Certainly, it is difficult not to sense, however distant it may still be, victory over this vulgar, manifestly unqualified, grotesquely substandard, transparently corrupt caricature of a president.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Stuff of Dictators

Six months into what, with luck, will be a single, truncated term for an illegitimate president, I still find it difficult to write that illegitimate president’s name. This seems fairly common. I often see references to “45,” or “Drumpf.”

Trump, the imposter, campaigned on a handful of vague ideas, like building that idiotic wall and barring people he doesn’t like from entering the country. The last remaining hope for his travel ban is the Supreme Court – weighted in his favor, thanks to GOP duplicity.

He also pledged to “drain the swamp.” The DC ecosystem hasn’t changed much; certainly not for the better. The White House is itself a biohazard, oozing toxic sewage.

As this is written, the GOP plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act has apparently crashed and burned, perhaps for the last time. Let’s hope so. Yet what can you say about a party and a president who are, to date, unable to pass a single significant bill – in spite of controlling the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court?

The indefatigable Trump requires someone to blame. He tweeted that “we” were “let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans.”

Later, in a rare non-tweeted remark, he said, “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say how do we fix it?”

This is his idea of leadership?

For nearly a year, I’ve been using this minuscule LUNG forum to vent my frustrations, resentment, and even rage at this fraud, beginning with a post in August 2016. I titled that one “President Trump,” at a time when joining those two words seemed obscene, even menacing. They are still obscene and menacing.

Since it has become a reality, I have continued. Almost no one reads these posts – certainly not Trump supporters. It’s fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun. But I must continue, for all the good it doesn’t do.

Along the way I’ve become a fan of Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist, who has been using his vastly influential position to really go after Trump. “I don’t trust anything — anything! — coming out of this White House,” he wrote last May, in a column titled “Trump is Insulting Our Intelligence.”

I anticipate each new Charles Blow column, even though he’s mostly preaching to the choir. I see him from time to time as a talking head on MSNBC or CNN. He was interviewed recently on Charlie Rose, that PBS interview program. Blow said he isn’t trying to change anyone’s mind, so much as bear witness. I guess that's what I am doing, too.

I love Charles M. Blow's stuff, but it doesn’t square with my conception of the mainstream media, which ordinarily is part of the problem. Maybe his and similar columns suggest the Establishment is trying to undo what Blow called the most significant mistake the country has ever made.

If I was a newspaper reporter, working in the context of a 1940s movie, and I was writing what I’m writing right now, I’d have to tear the paper from my Smith Corona, crumple it up, and toss it, exasperated, into the wastebasket.

There would be a cigarette dangling from my lips, and atop my head, a stylish fedora pushed back at a rakish angle. Thered be coffee, black coffee – lots of it – and a bottle of not-very-good scotch concealed in my desk drawer.

But I’m not a reporter in a 1940s movie, I’m writing this silly blog post – so I don’t have to trash what I’ve got so far and start over. Yet that is the temptation, as I hear (via Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell) that Trump is toying with the idea of pardons – for aides, for family members, and himself.

It may only be a trial balloon – but that’s the stuff of dictators.

Anyway it’s nearly three o’clock, as you can see, and I’m on deadline. What do I make of this latest development? How do I handle it? What will Perry White say?

We live in interesting times.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Say No More

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”

Hubris is extreme pride and arrogance shown by a character that ultimately brings about his downfall.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Olo Boiler Welding

That thing that looks like a big green cube in the photo below is really a historic old building in downtown Denver.

It’s located near the city’s Union Station transit terminal. I pass it almost every day on my way to work. The photo was taken from a moving bus in early July 2017, using my cell phone.

The building began to intrigue me a year or so ago. I really love these old brick buildings. For me, they evoke great nostalgia, like a Scott Joplin rag.

I became so fascinated with this building that one Saturday morning on my day off, I took the bus to Union Station, my bike on the cowcatcher in front, and rode the four or five blocks to this building to check it out. I took more than seventy pictures, a few of them shown here.

Later I tried to find out something about the building. Even though it’s a registered historic landmark, and has been since 1986, I couldn’t find a scrap of information. (And I thought Google was infinitely powerful!)

It is, or once was, called the Olo Boiler Building - whatever that means. That’s about all I know.

After taking all those pictures, I rode my bike home. It took about two hours.

Now, a year later, that old redbrick building is draped in green, and its immediate surroundings are deeply excavated. I don’t know what the work is all about, but I’m glad to see the building is being preserved.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Real West Wing

The West Wing used to be among my favorite guilty pleasures. A TV drama set primarily in the White House, it’s about a fictional President of the United States, one Josiah Bartlett, and his family and staff.

Josiah Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, is the kind of president you dream of: a man sincerely interested in the good of the American people, and motivated to always do the right thing.

He is genuinely enthusiastic for those things that always have, and still do, make America great – not just its Constitution and Bill of Rights, but its natural treasures, like the National Park System. “I’m a bit of a nut about the parks,” Bartlett says in the first season. He sometimes keeps exhausted staffers listening late into the night, as he goes on and on about Park trivia.

In any given episode, one or more of these staffers face moral and ethical dilemmas. Bright and idealistic, and totally committed, they usually do the right thing. But there are occasional lapses, for which they pay a price, and/or learn an important lesson about governance and/or themselves.

I’ve always recognized The West Wing as fantasy, and the characters as too squeaky clean to be believed. But I like the dialogue; provided you don’t take any of it seriously, it’s a harmless diversion. If only our real public servants were so committed!

But I can’t enjoy it like I used to. The current, real-life occupant of the White House makes it much less pleasurable, even as escapist claptrap. The contrast between TV and reality is so sharp, I cannot flip that brain-switch that allows me to suspend disbelief, and take The West Wing for the guilty pleasure it once was.

Oddly, some take the opposite position. As I prepared this blog post I came across an article that said some people are binging on The West Wing “to cope with the Trump presidency.” Someone named Kate actually said: “I’ve been watching West Wing on Netflix just to see a competent government.”

A competent government?’s fictional.

Even House of Cards, a much darker, much grittier portrayal of American political life, has become hard for me to watch. Its protagonist is thoroughly, unambiguously corrupt, but it’s still a fantasy.

Nothing can surpass the corruption, the negative energy emanating from the real-life White House.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Choose One: Trump is a) a chicken-shit; b) a coward; c) gutless; d) all of the above

When Trump is unfairly attacked, “he will punch back ten times harder.”

This wisdom, this penetrating insight, is attributed to Melania Trump. It’s a steaming load of horseshit.

I’ve about had it with President Pig. Trump’s Twitter tirades, his “punching back,” whether he’s targeting the media in general or specific media or political figures (Mika Brzezinski, SNL, Chuck Schumer, e.g.) are about as courageous as a guy who gives you the finger for cutting him off in traffic.

He’s a gutless blowhard, like bullies always are: all bluster and lies. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

Yet Trump holds the reins of power. There is no denying that. And he must be stopped: there’s no denying that, either. By now, his base knows this, though they’ll never admit it. The ones who won’t accept it are as delusional as their hero.

But I, for one, could not care less about his “base.” I am sick to death of hearing about them – as if they’re some all-powerful entity we must appease. They are vastly outnumbered. Their guy lost the election by three million popular votes. So, fuck ’em.

On weekdays, I have a long, often dull commute home on public transit. (On the way in, I work.) Last December, to pass the time, I created some bogus Trump Tweets; I’ve inserted a few, further down in this post.

I suspect that Trump, the intoxication of his campaign long gone, is losing interest in the Presidency. Maybe he understands, at last, that it hasn’t made him King Donald; certainly he is under a scrutiny he never bargained for. Which explains his childish lashing out.

On the other hand, the presidency feeds his lust for power, so maybe he’s in it for the duration – until his inevitable comeuppance, and public humiliation.

Every day brings a new outrage. As I write this on a Saturday morning in the western United States, the Associated Press reports Trump as tweeting: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”

Interesting question from a man who has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns. (His “question,” of course, is in reference to his police state demand for detailed information about every voter in the country.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Civil War (+ Pessimism)

Even after six months, I shake my head in wonder at the disaster of Trump.

His corruption is so transparent, his complete lack of decency so conspicuous, that I can only be reminded of that line from a Hitler henchman – something about the bigger the lie, the easier it is to pull off.

Too often, I tend to be pessimistic. I admit that freely. I anticipate the worst of outcomes. Many times I am proven wrong, but this has not altered my essentially grim expectations.

In one of these useless LUNG diatribes, I predicted civil war. Or, more accurately, said that one is not off the table. I still think it could happen. This country is so divided that Trump’s removal from office could be the spark that ignites it, especially given the way he encouraged, even incited, violence during last year’s campaign.

“Donald, thy name is division,” wrote New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, in the period between election day and the inauguration. “You and your campaign of toxicity and intolerance have not only divided this country but also ripped it to tatters.”

I’ve become a big fan of Blow’s. He has delivered indictment after indictment since Trump’s elevation. Typically calm and reasoned, I find him far more insightful than, say, that smug Lawrence O'Donnell, or that blowhard Chris Matthews. I’m glad they and other MSNBC mainstays are going after Trump. But they’re all preaching to the choir. The liberals take them in, while Trump supporters turn to Fox News and to Brietbart.

I don’t think the mainstream media is fake news in the way this fake president portrays it. I do think it is beholden to the powers that be, and is little more than a mouthpiece to the power elite. They are lined up squarely against Trump, which is revealing, and why, of course, he hates them so much.

The LA Times did a great series on Trump last spring. You should follow that link, and read the whole thing. There are individual editorials like “Why Trump Lies,” and “Trump’s Authoritarian Vision.” The series as a whole painted a bleak picture, but was not without hope. “We should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents,” it said. “This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.”

Such optimism!

The Washington Post called for Trump’s impeachment in mid-May, just after the firing of James Comey. The paper that brought Nixon down forty years ago correctly said it will take serious commitment to constitutional principle to get the job done. Is that even possible, in the current political climate?

Trump has his true believers. Yet surely, some of his supporters have always been reluctant: reasonable people who had voted Republican their entire lives. I have to believe that, once they accepted this yutz really was their party’s 2016 candidate, they held their noses and loyally cast their red ballots. Perhaps they’ll have that commitment to constitutional principle.

The Trump presidency is compelling psychodrama. It’s a major test of the constitution, probably its biggest ever. Can it protect the country from this lunatic? Or is Trump the death knell for what remains of this democracy?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Government Hacks

On June 21, the Associated Press posted a story about testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee made earlier that day. Bill Priestap, the FBI’s top counterintelligence official, said that in disrupting the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the Russians “used fake news and propaganda and they also used online amplifiers to spread the information to as many people as possible.”

The primary goal of the Russian efforts, Priestap said, was to disrupt the electoral process and aid the candidacy of Donald Trump.

At the same time as Priestap’s testimony, the House Intelligence committee heard much the same thing from Jeh Johnson. “The Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election – plain and simple,” testified the Homeland Security Secretary under Barrack Obama. This hacking was directed at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

And yet, the AP reported, those Russian efforts “did not change the ballots, the final count or the reporting of election results.”

In other words: yes, the Russians interfered with the election to help Trump, but no, it did not affect the final result.

Or that is what seems to be implied. I dont buy it. The AP specifically says the meddling “did not change the ballots, the final count.” If this and other media reports are true – and we’ve all been hearing about it for many months – then the Russian meddling, with its “fake news and propaganda,” would almost certainly have influenced voters long before election day, thus affecting the final result. Changing the ballots had nothing to do with it.

Jeh Johnson acknowledged this, but offered no conclusions. “I am not in a position to know,” he said, “whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the DNC and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election.”

Is it not curious that Trump has shown no interest in this matter, beyond his ongoing dismissals that Democrats have cooked the whole thing up because they lost an election everyone thought they’d win?

As president, he is sworn to uphold the Constitution and is, ostensibly at least, a leader. But then, he knows better than most that he lost the popular election by some three million votes. We must never forget that: Trump lost. In my view, the Russian meddling explains this, and explains why the polling was all so very wrong.

It is clear that we remain in uncharted territory. Trump continues on as a grotesquely unqualified charlatan without a shred of credibility. God only knows where all of this is headed.

Everything Ive written here is based on media reports. People I know of, who claim to investigate the “deep state” and describe just about everything in conspiratorial terms, probably consider me a naif. They view the question of Russian hacking as merely the bas relief of broader and deeper political intrigue. Maybe so. But what I am able to decipher is astonishing enough.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Our National Nightmare

The other day I Googled the words, “Hubris as a fatal flaw.” I did not have anyone or anything in particular in mind. Or maybe I did.

The top hit:
Hubris is extreme pride and arrogance shown by a character that ultimately brings about his downfall. Hubris is a typical flaw in the personality of a character who enjoys a powerful position; as a result of which, he overestimates his capabilities to such an extent that he loses contact with reality.
Who does this remind me of? Oh, yes – of course – that president who, as I’ve said elsewhere, has all the warmth and charm of a spiny-tailed iguana. On principle (at least for this blog post), I will not allow his name to taint this page. Its a word associated with Bridge, the card game, but more nowadays with a scowling, gloomy misanthrope.

Most of my Facebook feed is decidedly anti-Iguana. Consequently I’ve seen a barrage of stuff there, purporting to show his true colors. Most of it, with shadings, is probably true.

Someone posted a 1997 New Yorker profile that really caught my attention. In case you missed it, or didn’t have the stomach to read it all, it said this pretender drinks a gallon of Diet Coke per day (or did then). He does not, however, drink alcohol, or even coffee; nor does he smoke. These are among his few commendable attributes, as far as I know (though the coffee thing is highly suspect).

The reporter described some of the iguanas obvious lies, and then added this:
Salesmen, and [he] is nothing if not a brilliant salesman, specialize in simulated intimacy rather than the real thing. His modus operandi had a sharp focus: fly the flag, never budge from the premise that the universe revolves around you, and, above all, stay in character.
He has only been in office for about six months, as this is written, but we’ve been subjected to a wearying stream of chaos and bullshit. Yet everyone is on to this fraud. In a recent Fresh Air interview, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) suggested that behind closed doors, with no cameras or microphones around, his Senate colleagues, even (especially?) Republicans, acknowledge this.

Surely there will be enough of them, in due time, willing to go public and help make a difference. He is too obvious, too transparently corrupt, and too dangerous.


After Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford, who had his own skeletons, famously said, “Our long national nightmare is over.” God only knows where this new nightmare is headed. It will not end well – Im sure of that. Whether that means bad news for the United States, or for that humorless authoritarian, that terrorist in Presidential clothing, remains to be seen.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Raw Violence

Around noon on Wednesday, the last day of May, a gas tanker on north bound I-25, just south of Denver, careened out of control. It slammed into the median dividing the north and south bound lanes, and burst into flames.

From the office where I work in the Denver Tech Center, we had a clear view of the resulting fire, a mile away. Thick plumes of black smoke rose to the blue midday sky. The injured tanker driver, we learned from online reports, had been transported to a nearby hospital. (Hours later, his condition remains unknown. No one else was hurt.)

As a result of this horrific accident, the freeway shut down in both directions. So did a portion of the light rail train that runs parallel to it. That light rail is the first leg of my commute home.

With the interrupted light rail service, buses began taking affected commuters to the Belleview light rail station, two stops up the line from my usual stop. Service was normal from there.

The bus I boarded was crowded with displaced passengers. It was an ordinary city bus, with one entrance in front and another about halfway back. Inside was hot and stifling, and a tense atmosphere prevailed. I found the only remaining seat.

A minute or so after I got on board, an irritated voice behind me said, “Come on, let’s go! The bus is full!”

A few more minutes passed before we finally lurched forward. We began winding through the heart of the Tech Center, a sprawling, many-miles-long complex of office buildings where thousands work. There is no direct way through it, and we twisted and turned along a sluggish, serpentine route.

Halfway between Arapahoe and Belleview is the Orchard station, not far from the scene of the accident. As we neared it we passed a freeway entrance ramp, where I could see long fire department hoses spraying foamy stuff on the fire.

Since Orchard was shut down we might have bypassed it. But when the driver asked if anyone had to stop there, one passenger did, a guy wearing a green shirt.

“Jesus Christ,” snarled the irritated voice behind me. “The one day I have to pick up my kid!”

“Our tax dollars at work,” whined someone else.

Traffic, already overburdened by cars re-routed from the adjacent freeway, got a little heavier. But after a few more minutes we reached the Orchard station, and stopped.

“Why the fuck are we even here?” asked that irritated voice. “Orchard is still closed!”

“Because somebody has to go here,” someone else calmly replied. “It’s his stop.”

For some reason the guy in the green shirt didn’t get off right away, even though the doors had opened. Instead, he glared back at the guy behind me.

“Come on, man! Get going! I gotta get my fucking kid!”

Green Shirt glared back a moment longer. I sensed a primal challenge, the call of the wild.

“People are so damned impatient,” somebody said.

Green Shirt relented then, and got off the bus.

But the bus didn’t move. I happened to look out the window to my right. And suddenly there was Green Shirt, fists raised, and that snarling guy, fists raised. Both attacked. Punches landed and heads snapped back from the force of the blows.

“Oh my God!” someone yelled.

“They’re fighting!” cried someone else.

The combatants slugged their way out of my view. The driver jumped from the bus. I couldn’t see how, but he stopped the fight.

All told, the ride from the Arapahoe station to Belleview took about twenty minutes, including the detour and fisticuffs. We made the rest of the journey in stony silence. Most riders, I think, wondered what the hell just happened.

I know I did. Even as the bus pulled away from the Orchard station, I began writing this blog post in my head – as if by properly sequencing what I’d just witnessed, I could understand it; could make sense of a meaningless, violent confrontation between two men who were almost certainly strangers. But there is no understanding it. There is only a trite cliché: trying times bring out the worst in people.

At the Belleville station, the light rail waited. I hopped off the bus and onto the train, got out my laptop, and began writing this. At Union Station I jumped off the train and caught a connecting bus right away, ordinarily the second leg of my commute home.

Once on board I resumed this blog post. After sketching out the essentials, I made brief notes for a possible ending: “In spite of everything I got home around 3:30, only fifteen or twenty minutes later than usual.”

But alas! That ending proved to be inadequate.

When I got off the bus near home, and approached the bicycle I lock up every single morning, I found it had been vandalized. Not vandalized, really: I think it was an aborted theft. Someone had stolen both brake levers, and would probably have stolen more, but got scared off.

That’s my assumption, anyway. Why else would some fiend remove the rubber handlebar grips, disconnect the front and back brake cables, and remove both brake levers, leaving everything else untouched?

Yet that is what happened. Brakeless, I rode home slowly and with great care, anticipating stops as best I could. On this final leg of my ride home, I used my feet, Fred Flintstone-style, to bring the bike to a halt. Once home I took an extra bike that’s been lying around for a few years, removed its grips and brake levers, and installed them on my bike.

Addendum: Early Friday, two days after the accident, a Denver news outlet finally reported the tanker driver is still hospitalized but “recovering,” and that his family is “grateful they’ll be able to take him home.” This report also hinted at possible safety violations.