Train Tragedy and the Twitter Cruelty That Followed

On Monday night, December 17, two Chicago Police officers were struck and killed by a train while responding to a call of shots fired in the area around 103rd Street and Dauphin Avenue.  The officers were struck near 103rd and Cottage Grove.

According to the ABC7 News, “One of the officer’s bodycam videos shows the officers exit their patrol car, go up a hill to the Metra tracks at 103rd and Cottage Grove Avenue and talk about where the offender could have gone.”

“In the distance, the officers can see a train approaching heading north making noise. Police said it possibly masked the sound of another high-speed, Indiana-bound South Shore Line train full of commuters that was only feet behind them. The bodycam video then fades to black. Police said it happened fast and the officers died instantly.”

Both officers were relatively new to the force.  Both were fathers and husbands.  Thirty-one year old, Conrad Gary had been a Chicago Police officer for eighteen months and leaves behind a wife and a six-month-old daughter.  Thirty-seven year old Eduardo Marmolejo, who’d been on the Department for two and half years, leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

Almost immediately, an outpouring of condolences and support flooded out from around the city and state.  Mayor Rham Emanuel (D) stated during a press conference, “This knocks you back on your heels… There are no words to express our grief, our sense of loss.”

Outgoing Governor Bruce Rauner (R) said in a tweet, “Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and the entire @Chicago_PoliceDepartment.“

Similar sentiments came in from around the country.

flowers from the NY Yankees

Flower arrangements sent to each of the families from the NY Yankees

It seems that in these days of political vitriol and partisan divisiveness, there are at least a few fundamental things on which people across divides can agree.  That this was a tragic loss of life to be mourned is one of those fundamental things, or so, one would think.  That you don’t make cruel jokes as little children’s hearts are breaking and they face a scary and uncertain future, having had a Dad that afternoon, and then with sudden horror to find out he wasn’t coming home from work tonight.  He was never coming home from work, ever, lost in a split second in a tragic and violent accident. Their young world forever changed, a hole cut into young souls that can and will never be mended.  You don’t mock those deaths.  You don’t add your own little sprinkle of cruelty to those young broken hearts who are learning much too young just how cruel life can be.

But, of course, it’s not.  Even this. Even two men, one white, one Latino, protecting a community from a man firing a gun, are accidentally killed by a train, one week before Christmas, each with little ones at home, is not universally considered tragic.  Sadly even this.

The officers were struck and killed around 6:20-6:30 Monday evening.  Approximately an hour and a half later, Carl Nyberg, a politically active volunteer in several Aldermanic campaigns and a committee person for the progressive advocacy group Northside Democracy for America (DFA), tweeted the following at 7:49pm:  “Two people too stupid to avoid getting hit by a train were given firearms & the authority to kill people by the Chicago Police Department.”

carl nyberg tweet

He posted this in response to a news article by Block Club Chicago about the officers’ deaths.

In the days since this tragedy occurred, journalists, the Mayor, the Governor, the Superintendent of Police, all used to seeing people at their worst, used to tragedy, used to seeing the unthinkable, were all audibly and visually moved to tears and near tears while somewhere in Albany Park, bathed in the icy blue glow of a computer screen sat a little man, his soul twisted and dark and disfigured by hate, fighting windmills and patting himself on the back for what he must see as his heroic crusade.

But why?  What would drive someone to so coldly and callously disseminate such a thing to the world?  He had no personal history with either man.  Didn’t know them at all.  No past slights.  No past arguments or fights.  No encounter whatsoever.  And still he felt the need to mock their deaths the way a Sox fan might gloat about beating the Tigers.

He wasn’t standing up against injustice.  He wasn’t railing against abuse of power.  He was simply being mean for the sake of being mean.

And he wasn’t being mean to these two officers.  They’re gone.  They’ve passed beyond the reach of petty meanness.  So Mr. Nyberg’s post has zero impact on them.  Who isn’t beyond that reach of cruelty, are the ones those men left behind.  Mr. Nyberg was being intentionally mean and cruel to the widows and daughters and parents who just an hour and a half prior lost their loved one, and at the time of the post, were most likely just finding out.

Social media gives voice to everyone, and some of those will be extremists.  Some of those will purposely say inflammatory things to garner attention.  The idea of obscurity frightens them, I believe.  To think that their life is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things inspires them to lash out with the most provocative and attention-grabbing statements they can think of in order to garner the attention they so desperately crave. But obscurity is in the cards for us all.

Name the top ten movie stars of the 1920’s, quick.  You can’t? Neither can I.  Even the famous are relegated to obscurity after a few decades. The nameless… they’re relegated to obscurity at birth.  Such is the case with Carl Nyberg.  Only he can’t seem to deal with that.  And so he purposely places himself in the spotlight as much as he can. Nonetheless, obscurity is his destiny.

Now in the days of social media when anyone and everyone can garner a large audience if what they say is extreme enough, it’s no surprise that an obscure attention-seeking inconsequential person would post a defamatory tweet in an attempt to prove to himself his own relevance.  It happens everyday, though rarely so heartlessly.

What is a surprise, is how long it’s taken and how reluctantly, those associated with Mr. Nyberg were to denounce his hate-speech.  Political survival alone should’ve been enough to motivate his friends to deald Raymond Lopez 15th ward reaction to Nybergnounce his hatred in a heartbeat.  But they didn’t.

Within two hours of Nyberg’s tweet, Alderman Raymond Lopez of the 15th Ward took to twitter to publicly denounce and challenge Mr. Nyberg’s post.  In comparison, it took almost two full days for Alderman John Arena, through a spokesperson, to do the same.  Nyberg has long been a supporter and campaign volunteer for Arena.  As of this writing, John Arena has yet to personally, directly, and publicly denounce the words of his long-time supporter, Carl Nyberg, on his social media pages despite a recent visit to the 16th Police District where he vowed support of the Chicago Police officers who patrol his 45thWard.

Arena with the 16th District police officers

It also took nearly two full days for the Northside DFA to sever ties with Nyberg and officially denounce his cruelty.  That is a curiously long time to decide how to react to something that is so clearly and unarguably wrong, hateful, and mean.

And so on a grey, lonely December morning on the south side of Chicago, a young widow stands flanked by two female Chicago police officers, one gripping her hand, the other cradling a six-month old girl who will never have the chance to get to know and love her Daddy.  Shock, sorrow, uncertainty, fear, and the wailing cry of bagpipes are all that fill the frigid air.  Today, the scene replays again.  Another grieving widow.  Three young daughters who’ve lost their Daddy a week before Christmas.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m brought to tears now at the thought as I have been a few times this week.  I’m not alone.

I will never be able to fully comprehend how a tragic event that has brought hardened politicians, cynical journalists, and strangers citywide and across all walks of life to tears can at the same time ignite such hatred and cruelty in the heart of Carl Nyberg and a slow cautious reaction to that cruelty from his political allies.

There is no understanding of it.  There are mean people in the world, which is exactly why we need people like Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmolejo to stand up and combat that evil.

As far as Nyberg goes, all that’s left to say is shame on him.  May he scuttle back into the hole of obscurity to chase his windmills in the recesses of his darkened heart.

In the meantime, it’s going to be a very long time before this city forgets Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary.  Bravery and kindness always outlast cowardice and cruelty.

GoFundMe accounts have been set up for both Gary’s family and Marmolejo’s family. Police on Wednesday confirmed they are official accounts.

carl nyberg tweet

Wednesday afternoon, Edward Brown, 24, of Chicago, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm.


Repeated attempts to contact Alderman Arena’s office have gone unanswered.  His only comments were to the

My request for comment by the Northside DFA was answered with the following press release:

NDFA PR 12-19-18




The Truth About Dad

What Dads try to hide from their children: We really aren’t much smarter than you are. We’ve been around longer and so there are some things we know that you don’t, but we’re still trying to figure this whole thing out ourselves. Still making mistakes, big and small, still learning lessons everyday.

We head out on that unknown path a few paces ahead of you. We face the pitfalls and become slightly familiar with the terrain so we can try to guide you through it. But we aren’t all that far ahead of you. We are also learning as we go, trying hard to be a good guide, but also stumbling and tripping along our own journey. With luck and love, we will all make it to the end of a long journey, me hopefully far ahead of you, you passing the good information I can give back to those following you, without too much pain and sorrow, with many happy adventures, and a whole lot of laughs. My main job is to not lead you into the abyss, to steer you away from the vipers and give you the tools you need to defeat the predators and navigate around the traps. In order to do this though, sometimes I have to double back off the wrong path to find the right one. Bear with me. I’m trying to get us there, but remember, I’m still figuring this out as I go.

One more thing, enjoy the journey, it is shorter than you think.

Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, & Just Another Dead Little Boy

Just another little blurb. Someone has a sex-change, or a cop is too rough, or Donald Trump says something goofy and the world comes to a screeching halt and everyone yells and screams and marches and vents their righteous indignation until the next dumbass distraction comes along. Meanwhile little kids are gunned down on a weekly basis and it’s just another little blurb.

We can build DePaul a new arena, but we can’t hire more police. We can pay millions in no-bid contracts to the Mayor’s friends for poor services, but we can’t invest in teachers. (  

What's he whispering to her,

What’s he whispering to her, “$2.5 million, I’ll split it with you.”?

Why was this little kid out on a scooter after midnight? Who was he working for? Where were his parents? What is society’s plan to fix this? (hint: we don’t have one) We only throw money at problems if we can throw it in the direction of the right pockets. Here, there is no money to be made by the power-players. There is no incentive to fix it other than a purely moral one. The blood of each of these kids is directly on the hands of former Mayor Daley and his decades of corruption and political games that put him first and Chicago second. (

 If we name anything after him, it should be the city morgue.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

His legacy can be summed up in brass shell casings and body bags.

I’m tired of seeing this. I’m tired of hearing about the shootings in the historically gang-ridden neighborhoods and now the historically good neighborhoods. I’m tired of the self-serving indignation and the empty rhetoric. I’m sick of people who focus on flags, flag burning, legalized pot, and other people’s gender while no one bats an eye at the slaughtering of children in the streets of Chicago and in their own bedrooms.


The problem is larger than gun control.  Gun control isn’t a solution when the guns being used in these crimes are already illegal.  They are stolen, they are purchased on the black market, they are owned by and used by felons.  Those guns are already illegal.  The reason the politicians scream for gun control is because it’s a simplistic answer to a complicated problem.  They can get a good sound bite out of it by declaring “we need to get the guns off the streets” they can even introduce legislation and get it passed, but it does nothing to actually solve the larger problem which will take more than simple legislation, more than empty words, and more than a quick sound bite.

We dismantled the mob, we dismantled worldwide communism, we can dismantle these gangs too if we wanted to. So the larger question is, why aren’t we? This isn’t a question for the police, it is a question for the policy makers, those elected officials whose sworn duty it is to represent and protect the rights of the citizens, and yet it seems by their actions that all they are out to protect is their own self-interests and ironically, on occasion, the rights of criminals portrayed in the media as victims.  

The responsibility also falls on us, yes us. It’s in all our interests to put a stop to this senseless violence, but it needs to be a priority when we go to the polls. We have to shout about it, or they have no incentive to do anything to address it. Mention abortion and people on both sides of that issue get red in the face and argue themselves breathless and yet this happens and we just shake our heads, bemoan bad parents, and move on to the sports scores and shopping sales.  It’s time we do something about keeping alive the kids that are here. Let’s focus on the rights of a mother to not have her 7 or 12 year old murdered in the street.


The news story:


He Was Wrigley Field’s Sunshine – Remembering Ernie Banks #14

I’m not supposed to bother famous people when I’m at work, which is usually not a problem. But I knew HE was coming. He was singing the 7th Inning stretch that day which meant he had to stop in the WGN radio booth to the left of me, talk with them for half an inning, then walk over to the WGN TV booth to the right of me. He would have to walk right past where I was working. If I stood in the doorway and hung as far into the hall as the cable on my headset would allow, it would be downright rude of me to not say hello and offer my hand. And so I did. He shook my hand and smiled and said hello back then went on his way to the TV booth for half an inning of talking and singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame. Had it been anybody else, that would be the end of my story, but this was Ernie Banks. After he sang he had to walk past the visitor’s booth again. This time, it was he who stopped me. He stopped by to talk to ME. He asked me some questions. Asked me where the Cubs catcher was from. I looked it up in the Media guide for him. He thanked me. Maya Angelou has a great quote that goes something along the lines of, people will forget what you say and they will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Ernie Banks made me feel like I mattered that day. Just a short stop off on his way out to say hello and I’ll never forget it. His attitude toward life, toward others, and toward baseball is to be envied and emulated whenever possible. I am grateful to have had the chance to meet him a couple of times. May he rest in peace, and if there’s a heaven, may he be there right now smiling and running and putting together a couple of teams to play at least two games before the sun goes down.

Ernie Banks & Billy Williams

Ernie Banks & Billy Williams 2014

Ernie Banks getting ready to sing 7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley Field

Ernie Banks getting ready to sing 7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley Field 2013

Mr. Cub

Mr. Cub Forever

Ernie Banks posing w his statueErnie Banks 1931-2015 Wrigley Marquee


Okay, so it’s time to blog about Christmas I suppose. I don’t really feel like it. It doesn’t feel like Christmas. I think that’s the problem. Here’s why:


1) I’ve spent the last six weeks going out of my way to avoid Christmas carols on the radio, the television, in the stores. It’s impossible. You have to try though because if you don’t you will go insane before December even begins. I used to like Burl Ives’ song Holly Jolly Christmas, but that was before the radio put it on heavy rotation between Halloween and Christmas Day as if it were the National Anthem and every fifteen minutes a ballgame was starting.


My Christmas ‘party’ was here.

2) Last night was my work Holiday Party. My wife looked stunning in her dress. The in-laws were prepared to take the kids overnight. All that was left was for me to get dressed. Then the eight year old came home from school in tears and with an earache and a 101.9-degree temperature. Instead of the party, we spent the night at the Immediate care center, then in line at Walgreens getting coughed on by strangers. Instead of a pasta bar, fresh salmon, and free beer, I dined on some bland bowl of something from Chipotle, or as I like to call it, the place with $7 flavored rice.


3) I live in Chicago and it’s going to be 40 degrees tomorrow. They’re calling for rain on Christmas Eve, which should turn to snow. In other words, slush is going to fall from the sky. I’m dreaming of a slushy, sock soaking Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. The really pretty snow, the kind we associate with Christmas even though we rarely have it which is why Bing Crosby had to dream of it will come. We will get snow. We will get that pretty, heavy blanket of white, but you can bet it is going to fall after Christmas, just in time to bury the decorations my wife will want me to take down, now.


This is what kids who don’t believe in Santa Clause get for Christmas.

4) The kids are getting older. My eldest is in high school and what he wants is either high-tech, too expensive, or it’s clothing. The other two are at the point where the clothes and the toys are about even and Santa is something they either aren’t quite convinced of, or haven’t the heart to tell mom and dad that they don’t believe anymore. Once that magic is gone, the whole thing becomes something else entirely.

5) I won’t be spending all-night, and I mean all-night, putting together little flimsy plastic toys with instructions that would make the people at Ikea scratch their heads in their complexity. ‘This was supposed to be Barbie’s Dream house, why does it look like a Pepto-Bismol factory post-apocalypse?

6) Of course it doesn’t help that right now my house is a cluttered mess and the whole place smells like chili.


7)   It ain’t like it used to be. I don’t have to go into detail on that. If you grew up in the 1940’s, it ain’t like it was in the ‘40’s. If you were a child of the 80’s, it ain’t like it was back in the day. If your formative years were the 1990’s, it’s not like that anymore is it? Our place of reference might be different, but when I say ‘It ain’t like it used to be’, we all get it. We grew up and so did the world. What a shame, huh?


8) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Charlie Brown are On-Demand. It used to be that those shows were Specials, events to be watched all together at the same time, and only one time each year because once it was over, it was gone. If you missed it, you were shit-out-of-luck. Now you can watch them all day any day as many times as you’d like whenever, wherever, nothing special, no event, just another damn show to choose from of the thousands on that digital jukebox of television and movies. Play it again, Sam. No need for a quarter, just hit ‘enter’ on the remote.


9) I’m lucky. Sounds strange but, it’s a reason. So much of secular Christmas is wishing and getting. Well, there isn’t much I’m wishing to get. I mean, at least not material things. My wife and I make a decent enough living that if there is something we really and truly want, we buy it. So, there is no excitement for that gift I’ve been dying to get. Nor is there much excitement for the gift I can’t wait to give, because there is nothing special on her list either. ‘Let’s get through it without getting the flu’ seems to be at the top of the wish-list this year. Can’t circle that in the Sears catalog.

10)   I’m getting older. Shit, I’ve been through this rigamarole now forty-two times. This will be the forty-third. I have to admit, it’s losing some of its charm. I mean, I get it, Bing sings, we go to Mass, the presents get opened, I eat too much, I feel like shit, and tomorrow is depressing because it’s been weeks of anticipation, a flurry of momentary excitement, and then it’s over until next Halloween when Burl Ives starts singing A Holly Jolly Christmas.

27777393 Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Halloween too I suppose, it’s all running together now.


We all fear it. We all try to avoid it. We all commit it. There really is no way around it, but when it happens, damn does it feel bad. Like coming out of the boxing ring defeated, or sulking off the baseball field having dropped the would-be-third-out to lose the game, or throwing the interception that allows the other team to march into your end zone, you replay the moment over and over in your mind thinking ‘if only I had done this instead of that’. Then you look for someone else to blame, ‘you know, had so-and-so blocked his man, that never would’ve been an interception’ or ‘I told my coach I needed work on catching flies’ or ‘hey, my boss should’ve known he’s been overworking me, and he gave me no budget, and the support staff was dismal. I had to do everything!’. But those excuses quickly dissolve because deep down, we know better. It was my fault. I screwed up. I made a mistake! Argh! I’m flawed! Son-of-a-bitch, I’m flawed! (I knew that, but I didn’t want anyone else to know. Now I’ve shown the whole world!)

Then the self-hate starts. Every girlfriend who ever dumped me was right! I am a loser! I suck! Every group of guys who picked me last to be on their team knew I had the capacity to be this sucky one day. Every human resources person who has thrown my resume away after a brief glimps was a hiring genius because they knew I would be a horrible addition to their office or any office for that matter. Woe is me. Let the dog piss on my leg, I am that low a creature that I deserve it. At least then, I’d be contributing something.

Of course that’s not true either. There is a difference between being a failure and experiencing failure.

We all experience failure and we do it from a very young age. Every infant who stares up at you with that cute little voice and says, “aba aah dah ooo gah” is a failure. He has something to say to you and he can’t. He speaks gibberish trying to emulate the language he hears you speaking everyday, and the little angel fails! Can’t do it. Wants to tell you your earrings are shiny and he likes them but it comes out “eeeee ooo mah-bah”, little failure that he is. When he’s hungry and wants to eat, he goes “ah-ah” fails to communicate then reverts to crying, because that is a proven tactic. Then, he tries to move. First he scoots his belly across the floor. Then he does the military crawl, belly on the floor, elbows doing the work. Then he realizes he can go faster on his hands and knees. The final goal of course is to do what he sees everyone else doing, which is to walk. Then one day, he pulls his chubby little butt off the floor by holding on to the coffee table and he stands. He looks around, proud of his accomplishment. Then he turns, lets go of the table and… falls flat on his chubby little ass. Failure! No walking for you!

But think of the courage it takes for someone who knows nothing of the world, to venture off into an act he has never once attempted before. It would be so much easier to wait for Mommy or Daddy to pick him up and carry him, but instead, this little person who’s been on the Earth the length of a mid-season TV show, decides it’s time to get up and try this walking thing. Granted, he doesn‘t know he’ll probably fall down on his fat bum, but he also doesn’t know he might fall forward on his tender little head either. In time, he’ll learn about both, but he doesn’t give up. He’s fallen on his butt a hundred times, and he’s fallen on his head at least a half dozen, and yet, he keeps pulling himself up on the coffee table and venturing away from it step by step, whatever may come be damned.

He has failed. Over and over again, he has failed. But he is not a failure. He’s not a failure because, despite his failed attempts, he keeps trying, keeps learning, each time he does better, goes farther, until one day, he’s running through the house so fast, his mother has given up her spinning class because chasing the kid is exercise enough.

Experiencing failure doesn’t stop him, and that is what prevents him from being a failure. The only real way to experience anything is to be open to the possibility of failure. Whenever something is new, or different, there is a good chance that we are going to fail at first. However, as the old adages go, practice makes perfect, and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. By keeping at it, you not only lessen the experience of failing, you prevent yourself from becoming a failure. Yeah, yeah, we know that. It doesn’t make it any easier though, does it?

That shitty feeling stays with you like a punch to the gut. It hangs in your belly, then moves to your brain, then weighs on your soul. Wouldn’t it be great if, like in the movies, you could just commit yourself to something, become great at it, and, after a short musical montage, show the world you’re a hero not a zero!   But it doesn’t work that way either, does it? Sometimes you try and try and try again, and no matter how hard you work nor how hard you try, you simply cannot succeed. Well, you know what, that’s okay. Not everyone is destined to be Lance Armstrong, including Lance Armstrong himself apparently. Sometimes the hard work doesn’t pay off. Sometimes you fail again anyhow. Does that make you a failure? Maybe in some people’s eyes, but it shouldn’t in your own. The only true way to be a real failure is to let the fear of failing prevent you from trying, from stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new, from taking the chance that she might say no, that you might drop the fly, that you might embarrass yourself in front of people, that you might lose, forget your lines, trip, fall, hit a the wrong note, get beaten, screw up, mess up, fuck up, throw up, or bust-up, be gawked at, laughed at, spit at or frowned upon. There is no reward without risk. You have no guarantee that you will succeed, but without taking the chance, you are guaranteed to fail. I know, we’ve all heard that before, so what to do after you’ve tried and fallen flat on your face?

I don’t know. You do replay it over and over in your head. You go through the five stages of grief. And eventually, you come to terms with it. You eventually have to shake it off and face the chance of it again. It sucks, but you have to. It’s the only way to keep on living. So you try and try again. In love, in work, in play. There really is no other option. Anything else is immediate failure. So you have to take that chance again, and when you do, at least take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Even the most successful people in the world, the ones who seem perfect, fail, and they’ve been doing it off and on since they first tried to talk to their Mommy.

The Strangers We Know, RIP Robin Williams

These people show us one side of themselves. Often a very calculated one. They market themselves to us in a certain way, and though in some cases it is a very different person than reality and in others it isn’t far off, it is just one part of a multi-dimensional person. We invite them into our homes and they make us laugh and that brings them close to our hearts because it’s hard to not like someone who makes you laugh, and we feel connected to them, like we know them. We watch interviews, we see them goof off on Letterman and Carson and Leno, and we see them open up on Charlie Rose or Barbara Walters and we feel we know them from all angles. The truth is, we don’t. If we’re honest, we don’t know the first thing about the actual person, who they are when the cameras aren’t rolling and the lights are down. We see the smiles they give us and mistake them for their own smiles, after all, how can someone who is miserable be so funny?

Simultaneously we hold them to an inhuman standard, as if being entertaining and living in that little box in the family room makes them some other species. But they’re just people. No different than any of the rest of us. We see the fame, the fortune, the ‘love’ showered on them and think, ‘how could anything be wrong in their life?” But fame and fortune don’t bring happiness, and what we see as love is not real love.

We don’t know the demons people battle, even those closest to us, and sometimes the ones who seem to shine the brightest have the darkest storms to overcome. Depression is real. It’s funny to see how judgmental some people can be regarding suicide. No one in their right mind would end their life in such a way, and that’s the point. Depression can take hold in a way so that you are no longer in your right mind. It’s sad, not cowardly. It’s tragic, not sinful. And though we didn’t really know Robin Williams, we can mourn for him and for his family, because when someone makes you laugh, it’s hard not to feel connected, and nearly impossible to not like them.


Robin Williams

You Can Have It When I’m Done With It

We are a possessive bunch aren’t we?  Think for a second of all the things that are yours.  Your car, your house, your keys, your shoes, your hat, your TV, your gum, your wallet, your underwear.  Those things are yours and yours alone.  You own them.

We do the same thing with places.  That’s my office, my neighborhood, my hometown, my school, my country.

And of course, we do it with people too.  I’d like to introduce you to my wife, my son, my daughter, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother, my friend, my neighbor, my niece, my associate, my boss.  And where is my waiter?

Truth is, though, we really and truly own nothing.  No one thing, no one place, no one person.  Not even ourselves.  One day the body will give out and your body will no longer be your body because you will be no longer.  When that happens, your wallet is just a wallet.  Your car will be sold to someone else and become her car.  Your clothes will be given to the poor and become his clothes.  Your job will be given to someone else who will take your office and answer to your boss and work with your associates, who will now be his boss and his associates and he’ll hang a picture of his family in his new office.  Your keys will be passed around to the others who take possession of what was once your house, your car, your office, your locker, your storage room, and the other thirty keys you’d been carrying around for years with no idea what they go to will be dumped because the mystery of what they unlock will be someone else’s mystery and they won’t be able to figure it out either.  Hopefully your underwear will be thrown away.

Your wife will become a widow.  She’ll either stay a widow or become someone else’s wife.  Your neighbors will get new neighbors.  Your parents, kids, and blood family will still own you: “When my Dad was alive he used to….” but you’ll no longer own them.

Even the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat is temporary, all to be recycled and eventually used by someone else, at least for the moment.

The old saying, “You can’t take it with you” is true because you can’t take what isn’t yours, and nothing is yours.

So we spend all this time, energy, and money collecting things to call our own, but it’s a fool’s game because the reality is that that’s impossible.  Everything we think we own, we only rent.  We have it for a short time, and then it isn’t ours anymore.  It is left behind for someone else.  And so, we should give more thought to what we put our time and energies into, with the knowledge that what we’re collecting we are collecting to leave to others.

New people take over your house, and you are forgotten.  Strangers take over your neighborhood and you are forgotten.  The memory of you will, in a generation or two, be almost completely forgotten.  All that will last is the memories you leave for the people you shared the ride with, and when they’re gone, so too are those memories, and that’s about as permanent as it gets.

So cultivate good memories to leave behind for those few people who will carry them when you’re gone, and know that the rest of it is just someone else’s future garbage, then adjust your priorities accordingly.

And try to clean your underwear really well, just in case some asshole decides to make rags out of them instead of throwing them away.