BOB’S ANNUAL CHRISTMAS EPISTLE

Dear Family, Friends, Citizens,

U.S. Capitol

Lend me your ears. Mine have not been serving me all that well lately. And I don’t think wax is the culprit. More like the din emanating from the U.S. Capitol and reverberating throughout the land.

Okay, Bob, hold it right there. That’s a contentious way to start a letter at a time of year when we should be focused on charity and goodwill.

Sorry, but the deluge of revelations attesting to the detestable deeds, past and present, of the most powerful person on the planet and his craven minions assaults us daily in our living rooms regardless of which cable news program we are tuned to … except, obviously, for the one named after a small but cunning, treacherous animal that preys on weaker, less wary, more naïve creatures. It is impossible to avoid the much bigger animal in the room, i.e., the elephant, which is also, paradoxically, a jackass.

For good or ill, the mundane matters of our daily lives serve as diversions in which we can find solace or must, of necessity, devote our attention. In the case of yours truly, myriad events have transpired in the course of the year to relieve his obsession with socio-political phenomena. They center on his continued immersion in the world of writing.

Book Business

Tantor Media

I’ve been pleasantly surprised the by the continued success of Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, having thought sales and Amazon rankings would have dwindled considerably by now. Instead, the Kindle (eBook) version was a No. 1 Best Seller in a small category for 15 weeks, and Nos. 2 and 3 in a couple of other, larger categories. Exactly what made that happen, I don’t know, except that I have spent some bucks on promotional services. Other good news was the audio publication of the book by Tantor Media, owned by the world’s largest audio publisher, Recorded Books (now RB Media). One day, I got an email offering a contract with a $500 advance and 20 percent royalties, and I didn’t have to do anything but send the manuscript. A young, aspiring actor reads it – too dramatically, in my opinion, but I’m not complaining. I suspect the publication offer was made because the book had almost 100 (now 107) Amazon reviews with a four-star average.Meanwhile, I began submitting my new novel, tentatively titled Blood on Their Hands, to publishers. I was so confident of it that I violated the advice of writing experts to have it professionally edited. It’s a legal thriller replete with suspense, action, intrigue and humor, and includes a sad love story. I thought I’d have no trouble attracting publishers. Alas, I was wrong. A large British publisher said it was good, but didn’t grab him enough for him to move forward with it. A publisher based in Finland offered a contract, but its books were doing poorly, and it and its satellite offices were too distant.

Then I got an offer for a contract contingent on my making recommended changes. That’s when I realized I should have had the manuscript edited for content, because they were good suggestions. At the same time, the publisher I rejected for the Murder book offered me a contract. But I don’t like the terms, and a former magazine colleague said the outfit is badly managed, though the people are likable. So I’m waiting on pins and needles for the verdict from the other publisher. UPDATE: I was just offered a contract.

New Smyrna Beach Jazz Festival

Writing is the easy part of an author’s work. It’s the promoting that’s difficult, mainly because of the complexities of effecting internet strategies, made much more taxing by the technological challenges, which drive me batty. Intermissions from these stressful, time-consuming conditions are necessary, and my friend Joe, alias Indiana Joe, and I drove to New Smyrna Beach (Florida) in September for the best jazz festival I’ve ever experienced. No less than 29 combos performed in 29 indoor venues over a three-day weekend. No cover charges. I thought these would be amateurish local bands, and was I ever wrong. All were of at least equal caliber to southeast Florida’s musicians. Some come from the jazz program at the University of Central Florida, the second largest university in the country, and others perform at clubs in Orlando and at Disney World.

I was so taken by the area – unfailingly friendly people – that I’m planning to visit Orlando in early January, possibly with Joe or another friend. So many more cultural attractions than here: jazz spots, classical concerts, ballroom dance studios, maybe even some affordable theater. The only problem is horrendous traffic, people who’ve been there say. I doubt I’ll relocate, but it’s possible. On the other hand, considering the direction this country is going, I may want to head in another – across the Atlantic to coastal Portugal. I’ve heard from people, and read, that it has everything, including a year-round balmy climate and warm people.

Portugal

Another thing Portugal is reputed to have is good health care, which would have been a consideration a few months ago, when the wanderlust I’ve been feeling reverberated in my right kidney, and a stone began traveling from its home down a narrow highway. It got stuck, and tried for several weeks to dislodge itself, to no avail. Finally, my urologist tried to pull it free with some kind of rope-and-pulley, but found that the highway took a sharp turn. He had to withdraw and reconnoiter, then returned to the scene a week later and blasted the stone to bits, which didn’t stick around long.

The country is going to pot.

Neanderthals

Incoming U.S. Senator Rick Scott

Speaking of health care, marijuana is all the rage these days, and a referendum legalized it for medical use in Florida, over the opposition of the Neanderthals in the state Legislature and the governor, who now will bring his enlightened views to the national political stage, i.e., the Senate. His name is Rick Scott, and he is totally corrupt – so, of course, Floridians gave him a 68 percent approval rating. See why I’m dreaming of Portugal? I tried pot for my diabolical tremor problem, but it hasn’t helped. Makes me a little dizzy, but I still can whirl around the ballroom floor in the Viennese waltz and remain upright. That’s after a few drinks, too, which do help – with the vocal tremor, not the balance. The problem with ballroom dancing is that, for some mysterious reason, most of the dancers are Trumpsters. I’ve reasoned that ballroom dancing has a sort of glamorous appeal, and it’s this fakery that attracts certain people to celebrity and wealth. It explains why CBS’s Les Moonves stands in line for a $120 million severance deal after more than a dozen women alleged that he sexually harassed and abused them. This wealth worship allows corporate CEOs to make 315 to 335 times the salaries of their average employees.

Leslie Moonves

President Trump

Grass reputedly is effective against a host of maladies, including pain, but it hasn’t helped with the indigestion I’ve been experiencing lately. I consulted with my doctor about it, and she ran a battery of tests, then diagnosed my problem as acute politicitis. “Hmmm,” I replied, “that may well be it.” I explained that, for some unaccountable reason, a copy of the right-wing Newsmax magazine arrived in my mail recently, with a photo of Donald Trump on the cover. His head was lowered, hands folded on a table, eyes closed, his visage worshipful. The suited torsos of what certainly were evangelicals hovered behind him, two with hands touching his back. Next to him were the words: “The President’s Faith.” Page 15 carried a photo of a group of government officials forming a semicircle in the oval office, heads bowed, as Trump stood among them, apparently delivering a prayer. Lines under the photo read: “Trump has been called a president who truly believes in the power of prayer and the need for divine guidance and forgiveness.” I stood, reeling, as nausea gripped me, and bolted for the bathroom, where I retched violently.

Whoever called him that deserves the gold medal for self-delusion. The Christian right in this country is so fixated on abortion that its adherents are willing to overlook what is surely the most egregiously unChristian behavior of any president in the country’s history, and convince themselves that, though he is “flawed” (the understatement of the ages), his heart is in the right place. Any person contemplating the embrace of Christianity could not but conclude that the religion is a sham. Any honest assessment of the pathological liar Donald Trump sees him as a man who never left his childhood, and cares not a whit about anybody or anything except himself and his family (though inclusion of the latter may be a stretch).

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley

U.S. Rep. Steve King

His enablers in the administration and in Congress know what he is, and that he is abysmally incompetent and lackadaisical about the welfare of the country, as witness his unwillingness to read briefs and intelligence reports, and his preoccupation with golf – 150 days, or 25 percent of his presidency, spent at his golf clubs as of Aug. 25. Warned that the national debt was going higher and would have dire consequences, he shrugged and said, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.” It was his only honest moment.

But these Republican backers are similarly oriented, caring almost exclusively about party and power as they gauge the sentiment of Trump’s followers. I have long maintained that it’s not bad politicians who are at the root of the country’s ills, but the voters who put them in office

We can’t make progress on anything as long as people elect such backward party loyalists as the fanatical Rep. Steve King and the ideologically reactionary Sen. Chuck Grassley, both from my home state of Iowa.

Verdict on Values

This strongly conservative direction in the body politic began decades ago, and has resulted in a steady erosion of the values on which this country was founded, values that made America a beacon of hope for humanity around the world. We cared for the poor and sick, but have sacrificed that concern to foster the fortunes of the rich. We welcomed the oppressed from other nations, but now exclude them in displays of hatred such as tearing children from their parents, with some permanently separated.

Vladimir Putin

Kim Jong-Un

We stood for honesty in our politicians, but now too many of us champion a “leader” who is thoroughly corrupt, recent evidence of that being a vast investigation by the New York Times detailing the overwhelming criminality of tax maneuverings by the Trump family. We used to oppose totalitarianism across the globe, and now many of us support a “leader” who embraces ruthless, murderous dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, whom our undear “leader” declared recently he is “in love with.” We used to work with our friends internationally for our mutual benefit, but now insult these nations that have stood with us in our struggles against hostile adversaries. We have abdicated God’s directive to be stewards of the Earth, denying scientists’ warnings that its destruction is underway at the hands of polluters who stand to become richer from their deeds.

Leonard Pitts

And many of us do all of this in the name of Christ, who taught us to conduct ourselves in ways precisely opposite. We have shamed ourselves, descending to a new low from which we may never be able to rise.

But there is hope. Although a dismayingly large percentage of the population remains staggeringly blind and deaf to what a colossal fool this man in the White House is, a large majority repudiated him in their votes Nov. 6 against his sycophantic supporters in the U.S. House. Perhaps not all is lost.

Meanwhile, the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, writing for the Miami Herald in a eulogy of a former president, merit reflection: “No nation can be called kind or gentle that uses gas against children. And any nation where the right of the people to choose their own path is stolen by dirty tricks or mugged by political gangsters is a nation walking under a thousand points of shadow, not light … This moment is haunted by a curious and sobering duality. Some people mourn for George H.W. Bush, yes.

“But some of us mourn for America, too.”

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah To All,

Bob Brink