My Election Day Journey to the Belly of the Beast

It’s kind of a ritual for me. On presidential Election Days, I visit a local gun retailer to pick up ammo and accessories for the hunting season. Call it my quadrennial journey into the belly of the beast. But thanks to my shoulder-length COVID hair and redneck baseball cap, I fit right in. You see, clerks and customers in gun shops are a lot more helpful if they think you’re one of ’em, so I tend to travel under cover.

In 2008, a clerk at the now-defunct Gander Mountain store warned me to stock up on ammo that very day, because “if Obama is elected,” he warned, “you won’t be able to find it.” Implication was that Obama would immediately propose regulations to limit the availability of ammunition or pass a “bullet tax” to make it unaffordable. None of those regulations were ever proposed, of course, but a massive ammo shortage did follow the ’08 election, triggered entirely by panic buying by gun nuts.

The ammo shortage lasted a good two years until the NRA faithful came out of their bunkers to learn there was no gun control threat from the Democrat in the White House. But their story didn’t change. In 2012, I dropped by the same gun counter on Election Day and heard the exact same spiel from the clerks and customers. “You know, you guys told me this story in ’08, but have a look,” I said sweeping my arm in the direction of 3 fully stocked ammo shelves — enough to equip a small army.

Nevertheless, the clerk insisted that with Obama not facing re-election in 2016 the President would ram through all sorts of anti-gun legislation. It seemed pointless to remind this guy that the GOPhers has taken control of the House in 2010 and were unlikely to lose it in 2012. These were facts that didn’t fit the NRA’s narrative.

I skipped my trip to “gun heaven” in 2016, most likely because I, too, had done my share of ammo hoarding during the shortage, amassing enough to last me until me until 2020. But supplies have dwindled, so today I stopped at a local gun retailer, despite knowing I’d pay a premium price for the lead AND just might have to put up with the same Election Day bullshit.  

I did pay a premium price for the ammo. But there was no campaign conversation this time. I refused to get within 10 feet of any store employee except to check out. Not a single employee was wearing a face mask to protect customers from the corona virus, yet all of them were wearing sidearms to protect themselves from, well, maybe from liberal gun owners like me.

Every one of these employees was working without a mask in a county on COVID “red alert.” If that ain’t a Trumpian political statement, I don’t know what is. And it’s all based on either arrogance or ignorance. Maybe both.

Yeah, I should have wheeled around and just walked out of the store, but I’m a deer hunter, and you can’t do that without ammo. Besides, this store is pretty mild compared to where I’ll be hunting soon. Here’s a shot taken a few weeks ago at the main intersection of the nearby town.

It ain’t easy being a liberal deer hunter. 

Well, I’m retired. What now?

ToughSledding asks: Where do I go from here?

My new retired-guy profile, shot 01-10-19 while hiking along Michigan’s Boardman River. (Photo credit: Sharon Sledzik)

My last post here was about two years ago, and hardly my best work. The last essay of any substance was more of a rant about just how tough it is to do my job — to teach exclusively online. I caught some shit for that post, but I have long been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke, right?

Today, I have no job. My university offered me a year’s salary to hit the road, so I bought a camper and cleaned out my desk. I am 65, officially retired and collecting a pension. Camping will have to wait until the snow clears and my CPA bride endures another tax season.

So what’s next for me? People ask me this all the time, and I don’t have an answer. You see, I can do whatever I want within reason. I don’t have unlimited resources for travel. And I already live in a lake house with more toys than I’ll ever need. So I’ll have to be creative — at least until Ohio votes for legal marijuana. (Hmm. There’s always Michgan 🙂

“You should write a book,” folks tell me. “About what?” I ask them. “Your experiences. You should share your experiences,” they say.

I don’t think so. My experiences are hardly unique, and If you really want to know my mind, start by reviewing the 474 posts prior to this one. Some are still relevant.

Public relations? I’ve said all I want to say on that topic right here on the blog. I don’t plan to teach PR again. I don’t plan to do PR consulting again. It was a great run, but 42 years in this business should be enough for anyone. I’m movin’ on — though I’d be willing to pick up some freelance writing gigs for the right fee.

The blog? ToughSledding will live on, as I owe it to all the folks who’ve linked to this site in the past 13 years. Thank you for that, but the way. At one time I drew some pretty decent traffic here. But more important, we had some great conversations. I’m not sure that can ever happen again on this or any blog. Twitter sort of spoiled those deep and meaningful discussions, didn’t it?

Let’s go back to my first question: Where do I go from here?  If you have ideas for me — about writing or about life in general — post a comment. If nothing else I’ll see if this blog has any subscribers left.

PR must declare war on fake news — and kill it.

Fake News 202221992“Fake news” earned lots of publicity in 2016, but it’s hardly a new idea. Note here the 1992 TV Guide cover story that casts public relations as the villain — liars for hire and masters of spin. Like it or not, plenty of PR types have made a career producing fake news, and it’s bad for business.

PR historians point to legendary promoter and fake newser P. T. Barnum, who drew people to his circus in the late 1800s by claiming that George Washington’s nursemaid was part of his sideshow. At 161 years of age, this former slave helped wean our first president from his mother’s milk. Yep. Barnum loved a lie artfully told, and more than 150 years later shills of the entertainment industry still use fake news to pull bodies through the turnstiles. Continue reading

How do you picture public relations?

To engage online audiences you need great visuals. We all know this. So why is so much online content so visually mediocre – and sometimes just plain bad? And why are so many online marketers still using stock photos that convey clichéd images?

It was this story by BuzzFeed’s Nathan Pyle that led to my question. Yeah, universities Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.17.10 AMtend to use a lot of stock photos — photos that present a fantasy world where the student body is diverse and beautiful. (It’s all pretty much bullshit, but it sails through the approval channels.) Continue reading

A Facebook manifesto for my 2nd decade in the space

Are you easily offended? If so, you probably don’t belong on Facebook.

Almost nothing offends me, but even MY patience with the social network is wearing thin. Nevertheless, I’ve remained a committed Facebook user since August 2005, taking the Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 1.34.46 PMgood with the bad. Why? Because 4-5 times each week, I stumble into intelligent conversations, connecting with people I like and respect. I also love that Facebook is a time machine that connects me people I knew 10, 20, and even 40 years ago – people I still care about, including some 350 former students. Continue reading

A semi-rant about my ‘cushy’ gig

At least once a month a friend or colleague reminds me that I’ve got it made. I have the cushiest teaching gig around, they say. I work from home 95% of the time. I do that work at my convenience and from a table overlooking a lake. I don’t punch a clock or observe a dress code.

If you think that’s cushy, you don’t have a clue what I do every day. So give me five minutes and we’ll fix that. Continue reading

Little things that change lives

It was January 1968, and I’d just taken my usual seat in the school auditorium. In 15 or 20 minutes the hall monitor would call Bus #75 and I’d be on my way home.

A familiar face – my civics and homeroom teacher – popped through a side door and pointed two fingers of his right hand, one at me and one at my buddy Mike.

“You two, come with me.” Mr. Harris said. He wasn’t the kind of guy you questioned, and certainly not one you ever defied. We followed. Continue reading