Les Bloch

Les Bloch

“Hold this,” she says.

My three-year-old granddaughter places an invisible something into my open palm.

“What is it?” I ask.

“It’s a donut. For D.”

D is her imaginary friend. D has been a boy, a girl and a dog. All I really know is that D follows her around, appearing and disappearing at her whim. At some point, D will disappear altogether. For now, I go along with the ruse. She will eventually figure out what is real and what is not.

My granddaughter will experience a tidal wave of fake things in her lifetime. One day it will occur to her that she is not a princess, or that the butterfly wings on her Halloween costume won’t actually make her fly. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny will evaporate. She will notice that Auntie’s red fingernails are longer and larger than they were yesterday. She will notice that the grocery checker’s hair sits on top of his head at an odd angle and doesn’t match his sideburns. She will look out the window in her car seat and see a rock made of plastic covering a plumbing valve and pass a cell phone tower that almost looks like a tree.

She will grow older to see images of politicians photoshopped next to Bigfoot. She will watch YouTube videos of mermaids and aliens. She will meet boys who will say anything to get her attention, or a kiss, or more.

She will find that the world is filled with people of many faiths, each believing in something that no one can actually prove. She will wade through the discourse and chatter of opinions in her college dorm and listen with a trained ear. She will understand that more than any truth, what is most important is having the ability to understand and determine what is false. This skill will allow her to survive in a world where falsehoods can end a species. She will look back on that bittersweet moment when D, her imaginary friend, disappeared forever, and she began to see the world as it truly is.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

Les Bloch

She greets me at the door with a smile. I place plastic booties on my shoes. She directs me past the large screen TV silently displaying pictures of war-torn Syria. Inside the bathroom, she explains that her marble floor has spots in a strange circular pattern.

“I think it was the cleaning lady,” she says.

The marble floor is calcium carbonate. “The easiest way to think of it,” I explain, “is that you are walking on bones, a bed of long-dead sea creatures crushed and compressed by time, mined and polished. The acid from her cleaning solution ate away the shine.”

“Can you fix it?” she asks. “It’s driving me crazy.”

I nod, write up a bid. Long before this, I worked in the optical industry, explaining lenses and dispersion and the bending of light.

We walk past the TV again. A talking head reports on the possibility of another planet with similar characteristics to Earth, one in which there may be life.

I thank the woman and head for the company Prius. I turn on the radio, mixing the rantings of right wing doomsayers with the auto-tuned voices of pop stars. My windshield has a horizontal crack caused by a small pebble from a concrete truck, mass times acceleration, the sun glinting off of it, stinging my retina. I squint and pull over in the shade.

I accept that the world is a random sequence of events strung together to make it Monday. I know that a too careful examination of the universe — even with my limited understanding of it — will open a door to the measure of my importance, or lack thereof, in this world. I choose to go on, knowing that not accepting value for my brief and infinitesimal time on Earth would be a mistake.

This is life. Family and friends await. And lemon meringue pie. And a baby’s laugh.

Then a song comes on the radio, filled with angst and love and unrealistic hope, and I shift into drive.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

Les Bloch

In 1938, with funding from the federal government, New York engineers designed the two-lane Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State. Through backdoor wrangling and a few greased palms, construction began. People from miles around had picnics on the hills above to watch the construction of the third longest suspension bridge in America. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.

After completion, the thin span began to bounce and sway. Many engineers thought the design dangerous. Even so, the bridge became wildly popular, even with its topside waving in the wind. The bridge would ultimately collapse into the Narrows below. Many believe the failure to be a combination of frequency and resonance, like a single note vibrating and shattering a crystal glass.

In 2016, a presidential primary was in progress. The frequency of news stories was intense. Certain candidates seemed to resonate with the masses, so dazzling with comebacks, one-liners and insults that it felt like we were all on a roller coaster. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.

There was a certain beautiful resonance to all of it, the way people’s brains were changing, their minds bridging electronic valleys with almost no effort at all. Their attention spans were shortening too, but they didn’t seem to care. They were busy. They clicked and bought things that showed up at their door. Everything was on track.

In 1940, a few months before the Narrows Bridge fell into the gorge, adventurous crowds crossed the bridge for the thrill of it. If DC and New York engineers had built it, what could go wrong? The bridge made some people seasick, but most of the people were thrilled to ride the bridge as it crested and undulated. The bridge was a big money maker. It was like a roller coaster. It was just plain fun.

In 2016, the presidential primary waged on. People were proud. They’d created a whole new frequency, and their resonance would make history.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.


CfakepathLesBloch

Oprah Winfrey is worth $2.9 billion.

I don’t know how much Joe makes. We’re at the river in Gold Country and Joe holds cubes of iron pyrite, the ones that sparkle like little diamonds. During the Gold Rush of the 1850s people would collect this fool’s gold, thinking they’d hit the big time. We’re sweating. He points out the Alders, the birch-like volunteers at the river’s edge. He’s an art teacher.

Damien Hirst, the world’s richest living artist, is worth $1 billion.

We climb down to the river and pull off our shirts. We’re both strong swimmers.

Michael Phelps is worth $40 million.

As always, Joe’s the first one in the water. We’ve been coming here from the Bay Area since we were kids.  Joe was going to be a famous artist.  I was going to be a rock star.

Madonna is worth $700 million.

I dive in after him, both of us swimming in the Stanislaus, the cold water shocking us. Joe’s been my best friend since we were tots. We crawl onto warm rocks to sun. “What kind of clouds are those?” he asks. “Stratus maybe?”

Al Roker is worth $30 million.

“Cumulus?” I guess. We both look at the sky and wonder. The white noise of the river relaxes us. We’ve come up for the weekend and it’s always good. I’m back to work on Monday, but Joe gets the whole week off. Joe collects some dry Alder sticks for barbecue dinner. Joe is an amazing cook. Watching him eat makes me jealous.

Wolfgang Puck is worth $75 million.

“Let’s pick up some wine on the way back.”

“Sounds good,” he says. We head back to the car, the weekend making us feel alive. Joe’s a half-full kind of guy, and I feed off his positive attitude.

Tony Robbins is worth $480 million.

As we drive back towards town, a song comes on the radio. It’s from a new pop star, one that’s getting tons of press and media attention. I wonder what it would be like.

“What if our dreams had come true?” he asks me. “We’d be listening to you on the radio right now.”

“Yeah,” I say, “and you’d be in New York.”

We both laugh, knowing we wouldn’t be here. And that would be a shame.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch248

A new year is coming and already I can hear the pencils scratching out resolutions – lose weight, stop drinking so much, eat right, be a better person. These are all lofty goals, but what about changing your mind?

A new study by the University of Iowa reveals what anyone who's sat through a holiday dinner already knows; that once people come to a conclusion they are highly unlikely to change their minds, even when new information shows their original belief was wrong. It's not surprising that American citizens are so politically divided. Half of us are always right, and the other half are, well, right too. So what can we do to change our minds?

Easy.  Start playing the guitar.  Or the piano.  Or the trombone.

A friend of mine came up to me at a party and congratulated me for playing an instrument – drums -because she read that researchers determined it helps to keep the mind alert and the body active.   It made me laugh. I've been playing drums for 48 years and have watched many of my fellow drummers fall by the wayside due to bad backs, knees and shoulders. Not exactly the spontaneous combustion of Spinal Tap's timekeepers, but years of lifting and pounding do take their toll.

With physical challenges looming and gigs in short supply, I made it this year's resolution to learn guitar. As clumsy as I was at playing my first three chords, I felt challenged and renewed when my brain finally accepted the task. What I suspected this last year has been confirmed by more research:  playing an instrument can actually change your mind, build gray matter and connect new neural pathways never utilized before.

So here's something you can do in the coming year: stick a harmonica in your pocket, take up the steel drum, tune up that guitar and learn a Beatles song. Whether you're eight or eighty, there's a musical instrument waiting for you. No doubt it will change your mind.

And you thought it couldn't be done.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.

 

CfakepathLesBloch

Look in the mirror. I mean right now. Are you smiling? I didn't think so.

I have the same problem and I've been working on it. Ever since I was a kid watching Sesame Street, I knew I was supposed to smile. But smiling, if not practiced daily, can seem like kind of a chore.

I recently started thinking about smiles when I joined a Zydeco band. The band I was in had broken up, and I wanted to keep playing, keep my chops up. Zydeco is a unique musical experience for a drummer. Most of the songs are two steps, shuffles, straight beats and a few waltzes thrown in. The endings are cued with a lick from the accordion player. So I was practicing these songs on my practice set and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I noticed that when I play drums, my face looks more like I'm passing a kidney stone than having a good time. And this is Good Time music. So I had to start practicing my smile too.  

Just getting the old face muscles to form a smile took some effort. I noticed it made me look younger, and at the gig, people would smile back when they saw me smiling.  I started smiling in the grocery store, when I was at the bank, when I greeted customers in my day job. Then I started trading smiles with strangers on the street. I thought maybe they'd think I was crazy but I was just working some muscles in my face and people started reacting in a positive way. Friends asked me if I'd won the lottery. I started feeling better about my job and my life.

My wife started looking at me suspiciously.

"What's going on?" she asked.  

My fake smile was turning into a real one. Bert and Ernie were right. I keep practicing my smile, mostly in the car now. I try to smile for a full minute or maybe through a song on the radio.

I just had my first grandchild and now all I have to do is think of her. I want her to see my face smiling back at hers. I want her to heed Bert and Ernie's advice. I want her to see a genuine smile, one that comes from inside of me and radiates out like a Zydeco two-step on a Saturday night.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch

Oprah Winfrey is worth $2.9 billion.

I don't know how much Joe makes. We're at the river in Gold Country and Joe holds cubes of iron pyrite, the ones that sparkle like little diamonds. During the Gold Rush of the 1850s people would collect this fool's gold, thinking they'd hit the big time. We're sweating. He points out the Alders, the birch-like volunteers at the river's edge. He's an art teacher.

Damien Hirst, the world's richest living artist, is worth $1 billion.

We climb down to the river and pull off our shirts. We're both strong swimmers.

Michael Phelps is worth $40 million.

As always, Joe's the first one in the water. We've been coming here from the Bay Area since we were kids.  Joe was going to be a famous artist.  I was going to be a rock star.

Madonna is worth $700 million.

I dive in after him, both of us swimming in the Stanislaus, the cold water shocking us. Joe's been my best friend since we were tots. We crawl onto warm rocks to sun. "What kind of clouds are those?" he asks. "Stratus maybe?"

Al Roker is worth $30 million.

"Cumulus?" I guess. We both look at the sky and wonder. The white noise of the river relaxes us. We've come up for the weekend and it's always good. I'm back to work on Monday, but Joe gets the whole week off. Joe collects some dry Alder sticks for barbecue dinner. Joe is an amazing cook. Watching him eat makes me jealous.

Wolfgang Puck is worth $75 million.

"Let's pick up some wine on the way back."

"Sounds good," he says. We head back to the car, the weekend making us feel alive. Joe's a half-full kind of guy, and I feed off his positive attitude.

Tony Robbins is worth $480 million.

As we drive back towards town, a song comes on the radio. It's from a new pop star, one that's getting tons of press and media attention. I wonder what it would be like.

"What if our dreams had come true?" he asks me. "We'd be listening to you on the radio right now."

"Yeah," I say, "and you'd be in New York."

We both laugh, knowing we wouldn't be here. And that would be a shame.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch

Okay, I'm going to say it.  Sex.  Three letters that conjure intense feelings, emotions and opinions from almost everyone who hears them.

Each generation is awkwardly presented with the script of human coupling, each parent starting anew with their version of The Talk, the one that explains where we come from and what to do with our private parts. The 'birds and the bees' continues to baffle us, even as we procreate and further the species, largely by accident and fumbling self-discovery. Movies, music and the artist's palette all provide versions as clear as the steamed windows of a bouncing pickup. Sex is loud and everywhere, but honest conversation is barely audible over the din.

The thing that is seldom discussed, in media or private, is the fact that sex and intimacy change and flow like the colors of a sunset sky. Sex at 17, 25, 50 or beyond — if we're lucky enough to have it at all — is not the same throughout our lifetimes. To some of us, sex is a large hunk of the pie chart, to others, barely a sliver. The ebb and flow of sex, as our bodies age and change, brings an appreciation for human contact that is finite, like the lives we share. Figuring out sex and its place in our lives, its importance or irrelevancy or occasional bliss, is a necessary tool in a long term relationship. The learning curve, as with so much of life, is steep and sometimes never attained.

We are all products of sexual union, and yet we never fully understand it at all. We may share ourselves with another human or we may not. A once furious firework may fizzle to darkness or unexpectedly spark again. What we do behind closed doors, or inside that bouncing pickup, might mean everything or nothing, and sometimes both if we live long enough to understand our own heavy breathing.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch

One of my main goals in life has been to raise my kids so they wouldn't turn out to be quite the jackass that I am. Part of bringing up kids is giving them self-esteem, and both my wife and I wanted to impart a sense of self-worth and confidence to our children that would carry on throughout their lifetimes. We read to them at an early age, helped them through sports and homework, and advised them on how to converse and understand their fellow humans. These are tools we hoped would guide them to be successful in their careers and socialize with a large circle of friends and family.

But like an alcoholic telling his kids not to drink, imparting the virtue of self-worth is difficult when the adviser constantly questions his own. Looking back as a child of the '60s, I squandered many opportunities to embrace my abilities and pat myself on the back. I remember being asked by a school counselor whether I thought I was unique and I remember thinking that I was not at all. I would struggle for years to accept that I had a place in the world, a world that admires confidence and scoffs at doubt.

My children are both successful in different but amazing ways, having survived my parenting while flourishing under my wife's. There is a modesty and humility to both of them that made me recently come to this conclusion: parents can raise winners who think they're losers, and that might be just as bad as the other way around. Confidence balanced with humility is a goal that's as difficult to reach as happiness, the ultimate destination we wish on our kids.

I've come a long way to accepting who I am, something that's a struggle for some and joyful journey for others. Allowing myself to be imperfect for my children and accepting who I am makes me a better parent and human being. Raising my opinion of myself and raising children who don't see a jackass gives them insight into their own inner-critic.

And that's the balance I'm talking about.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and project manager for a stone construction company.

CfakepathLesBloch

We are born into light. We lay in our cribs, drawn to the window on the wall, the candle flame dancing on the mantle. It is within our nature to see and learn from this process, gathering the information illuminated by the sun, by the consumption of carbon and oxygen, by electrified tungsten and plasma.

So here's how far we've come, living in the Age of the Screen. We have access to hand-held devices that delight the eyes, touch panels and flat panels and book panels accompanying us in every waking hour. Families are forever plugged into the grid, the flicker of the flame replaced by pixels more colorful, more comforting, more real than real. We are never alone.

This is our flat, bright friend, even as our flesh and blood brothers and sisters sit beside us, each set of eyes shining with the glow, illuminated by the blue light as flat as the world once was. We can see past the Screen. We can see out into the world, but the Screen wants us, wants our eyes to return. This was survival before. This was the fire in the distance. This was the way out of the cave. This was the most precious metal. This was the flower that bore the heartiest fruit. We need to look. We need to see what is shining, what is coming. The light is what has always saved us. It has saved us before.

The Screen will not go away. The Screen will be in our lives. The Screen will be our lives. We cannot live without the Screen now. The Screen will not let us go. The Screen will tell us where to go. The Screen will park our car. The Screen will find us food. The Screen will love us when no one else will. The Screen will listen to what we say. The Screen will lean in and kiss us if we can just wait.

We have to wait.

Why is it so hard to look away? What does the Screen want?   How does the Screen know that this is exactly what we want and now we can have it?

We will always have the Screen now. We will always have the Screen.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch

Look in the mirror. I mean right now. Are you smiling? I didn't think so.

I have the same problem and I've been working on it. Ever since I was a kid watching Sesame Street, I knew I was supposed to smile. But smiling, if not practiced daily, can seem like kind of a chore.

I recently started thinking about smiles when I joined a Zydeco band. The band I was in had broken up, and I wanted to keep playing, keep my chops up. Zydeco is a unique musical experience for a drummer. Most of the songs are two steps, shuffles, straight beats and a few waltzes thrown in. The endings are cued with a lick from the accordion player. So I was practicing these songs on my practice set and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I noticed that when I play drums, my face looks more like I'm passing a kidney stone than having a good time. And this is Good Time music. So I had to start practicing my smile too.  

Just getting the old face muscles to form a smile took some effort. I noticed
it made me look younger, and at the gig, people would smile back when they saw me smiling.  I started smiling in the grocery store, when I was at the bank, when I greeted customers in my day job. Then I started trading smiles with strangers on the street. I thought maybe they'd think I was crazy but I was just working some muscles in my face and people started reacting in a positive way. Friends asked me if I'd won the lottery. I started feeling better about my job and my life.

My wife started looking at me suspiciously.

"What's going on?" she asked.  

My fake smile was turning into a real one. Bert and Ernie were right. I keep practicing my smile, mostly in the car now. I try to smile for a full minute or maybe through a song on the radio.

I just had my first grandchild and now all I have to do is think of her. I want her to see my face smiling back at hers. I want her to heed Bert and Ernie's advice. I want her to see a genuine smile, one that comes from inside of me and radiates out like a Zydeco two-step on a Saturday night.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.

CfakepathLesBloch

One of my main goals in life has been to raise my kids so they wouldn't turn out to be quite the jackass that I am. Part of bringing up kids is giving them self-esteem, and both my wife and I wanted to impart a sense of self-worth and confidence to our children that would carry on throughout their lifetimes. We read to them at an early age, helped them through sports and homework, and advised them on how to converse and understand their fellow humans. These are tools we hoped would guide them to be successful in their careers and socialize with a large circle of friends and family.

But like an alcoholic telling his kids not to drink, imparting the virtue of self-worth is difficult when the adviser constantly questions his own. Looking back as a child of the '60s, I squandered many opportunities to embrace my abilities and pat myself on the back. I remember being asked by a school counselor whether I thought I was unique and I remember thinking that I was not at all. I would struggle for years to accept that I had a place in the world, a world that admires confidence and scoffs at doubt.

My children are both successful in different but amazing ways, having survived my parenting while flourishing under my wife's. There is a modesty and humility to both of them that made me recently come to this conclusion: parents can raise winners who think they're losers, and that might be just as bad as the other way around. Confidence balanced with humility is a goal that's as difficult to reach as happiness, the ultimate destination we wish on our kids.

I've come a long way to accepting who I am, something that's a struggle for some and joyful journey for others. Allowing myself to be imperfect for my children and accepting who I am makes me a better parent and human being. Raising my opinion of myself and raising children who don't see a jackass gives them insight into their own inner-critic.

And that's the balance I'm talking about.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and project manager for a stone construction company.

CfakepathLesBloch

It starts in kindergarten. The flag in the corner. You place your little hand over your heart and — even if the words are too daunting — attempt to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. To live in the United States is a privilege, and soon you learn about the three branches of government. Then, in high school civics, you begin to see shades of gray: that the government, much like your teenage classmates, is imperfect, and that perhaps the flag represents more than just Uncle Sam and the Fourth of July.

In college, you indulge and explore the evils of the overlords, corporate greed and social injustice. You wonder how things could be so unfair, and why no one is willing to stand up for the truth. You've been given the right to vote, and you wield it like a club, bashing down the ignorance and injustice with energy and a spirit of invincibility. You are here to change the world, and it will change because you will make it so.

And then, like a stone that comes to rest after its journey down a raging river, you stop. You settle in. You start to look at the government, at your parents, at the talking heads on TV, at the people around you at this very dinner party, and you marvel. How does it all work? How does America, with all its technology, diversity and distractions, come together at all? How can it be, that each American takes this journey and lands in a different place, each of us perceiving a government that controls us with its laws, with our money, with our time and hard work, and spits out this — a life our forefathers would find confusing, frenetic and overwhelming?

This thing, a creature of insightful and imperfect men, is absorbed into us all.  We are products of our government and culture, a people who have mutated and adjusted in ways our framers could never have imagined. The threads of this process, the tendrils of our collective mind, have slowly changed us from then until now, almost imperceptibly, like that same cloudy stone crystallizing towards clarity. That flag in the corner of the room is made of these threads, and now you're a child again, filled with a different kind of wonder.

With a Perspective, I'm Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and project manager for a stone restoration company.

CfakepathLesBloch

I was talking with a friend about the recent gun violence in Oakland, the rash of infants killed by random gun fire and the 100 percent increase in gun sales under the Obama administration. He pointed out that any argument about guns is basically useless, as gun proponents are wary of any limits on their freedom to bear arms, and gun opponents live in an unrealistic world where the Second Amendment is repealed and disputes handled with grace and humility. It seems as though there is no middle ground.

America is a place where the person holding the gun ultimately wins the argument, and therefore, maybe the best option for those of us sick of gun violence is to simply give up.

Wayne LaPierre, the leader of the National Rifle Association, is convinced that the Obama administration is hell-bent on taking away his and everyone else’s guns. Ironically, there are now nine guns for every 10 Americans, and soon we will reach parity.

Once we all have guns, and I mean every man, woman and child in the United States, then we can start having real conversations. It’s a simple math equation. Where with only one gun there is a winner and a loser, now there will be stalemate. Unless we grow another hand, chances are we won’t be able to absorb more than twice that amount.

Books, movies and video games promote guns as the solution to problems, and Sturm, Ruger and Company had so many gun requests in the first quarter of this year that they had to temporarily suspend new orders. The giant beast of gun manufacture is beyond stopping at this point. The only hope is that it kills itself on its own gluttony.

If this sounds cynical, maybe it is. But the one thing I learned from those books and movies is that when everyone has a gun pointed at everyone else, we either all win or all lose.

It’s our choice whether to pull the trigger.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a writer and construction project manager.