An open letter to Donald Trump from the father of a transgender soldier

Dear President Trump:

I heard, with great dismay and shock, your decision to bar transgender men and women from serving in our military forces.  In a series of Twitter posts yesterday, you stated that transgender soldiers were a “distraction” to the military.

These were your words, as posted yesterday on your official Twitter account.

Continue reading “An open letter to Donald Trump from the father of a transgender soldier”


The best Halloween costume ever is worn by my son Kris

When you’re a single parent, many times the things that you do will immediately reflect on your kid.  Trust me.  You start watching a certain TV show, and eventually your kid will become hooked on that show.  You start listening to a certain band, and eventually that kid will have a Spotify channel devoted to that band.

Case in point.

Last night I was at a going-away party for one of my Facebook friends, and during the night I received a text message from my son Kris.  Apparently he wanted to show off his Halloween costume to me.

Great.  Can’t imagine what it might be.  Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, that baseball bat guy from the Walking Dead…

Nope.  See for yourself.

1029161629_hdrThat’s right.  You’re looking at my son Kris, who is dressed up as silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin.

How freakin’ cool is that?

See, back in the day I used to have a collection of Chaplin VHS movies – City Lights, The Gold Rush, The Kid, The Circus, Modern Times, The Great Dictator.  That, and Buster Keaton’s The General and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last and Speedy.  And we used to watch these films together.  They were easy for a young child to grasp, in that most of the action on the screen was physical, and the intertitles could be read out loud.

So yeah, Kris developed an affinity for silent cinema.

And over time, you don’t really realize the influence you can have on a child.  You hope that when you’re trying to hold down a job and take care of a household and all of that, that you don’t put something in the growing mix that could turn your kid into something less desirable.  It’s part of the goal of being a parent.  It’s almost like the Boy Scout camping mantra.  Leave the campsite in a better condition than you found it.

snapchat-1816888242396189278So yeah, my kid is trick-or-treating in Washington State as one of the legends of silent cinema.  And that’s cool in and of itself.

How freakin’ cool is that?

Freakin’ cool in about a hundred different ways.

Happy Halloween, everybody…

You’re never too old for a CARE package

Yesterday, I put a little gift in a mailer, added postage, scribbled an address, and sent it off to my child, Kris, in Washington State.

I do this on occasion.  It’s the way I roll.

Kris is an adult, but as far as I’m concerned, he still deserves a CARE package now and again.

Why?  Because he’s my kid, that’s why.  You don’t need a better reason than that.

Over the years, I’ve sent several different “package from home” shipments to my kid.  They might include T-shirts from home (I think he still has a Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry shirt), Freihofer’s cookies or donuts or Corn Toasties (Kris REALLY loves the Corn Toasties), snack foods from Stewarts, and even some DVD’s from WMHT (he’s probably the first person in Washington State to have her own DVD of the Hoffman’s Playland documentary).

Sometimes Kris will post on Facebook about a T-shirt that inspires him or that he wants – for example, one of his favorite movies is the Japanese film My Neighbor Totoro.  Once in a while, he’ll post a picture of a customized Totoro T-shirt or hoodie.  What he doesn’t know is that I’ve ordered it and it’s on its way to him.

Look, it’s not like I’m spoiling him.  Far from it.  My Grandma Betty used to do the same thing to me when I was in college – there would be a package of cookies or a tin of brownies or the like in my campus mailbox.  Helped me get through a few days of college life.  No, you can’t have any.  They’re mine. Get your own Grandma Betty to make you some cookies.

Kris goes through a lot in his life.  Every day there are challenges and obstacles that might derail someone with less fortitude.  Doesn’t matter.  Kris still perseveres.  Of course he does.  He’s a Miller, just like me.  We used to joke that we were Millers, born of hearty stock, we would take the bark of trees and use them for the soles of our shoes, that’s how tough a Miller is.

Something to remember.   If you have a family member that’s so far away that you can’t just hop in a car and drive a couple of hours to see him or her, where the only contact seems to be through social media or the occasional phone call…

Just for the hell of it, send that person a CARE package filled with Freihofer’s cookies and Stewart’s donuts, with a T-shirt from the Great Escape or from the Saratoga flat track.

It doesn’t have to be for their birthday or for the holidays or anything.

Just box it up and send it to them and tell them that the only reason you’re doing is is because you still love them.

That’s the best reason anyone can use.

It’s the only reason anybody needs.

So keep an eye out for another little CARE package, Kris.

Just a little treat from home.

As my son Kris turns 30…

My son Kris just turned 30 today.  And at this point in time, I want to wish him the happiest of birthdays and all the best in this world.  30 is a good benchmark for age; it’s a time to look back at what you’ve learned and accomplished, reflect on things, and work forward toward the future.

And you’re thinking… wait a second.  Chuck’s been blogging for putt’near 6 years with the TU, and now he’s talking about a 30-year-old son?

Well, I’ve talked about Kris for years.  I even had a dedicated category on the blog for Kris.

Here’s what happened.

Over the last year or so, Kris struggled with a major life decision.  And what happened was, after much thought and counseling and soul-searching and reflection, Kris began the complicated journey of transitioning from a girl to a boy.

That’s right.  Kris was once my daughter Cassaundra.

At this point, if you feel any urge to make Caitlyn Jenner jokes or Renee Richards jokes, or think that I’m going to start reviewing La Cage Aux Folles, please close your browser, turn off your computer and go stand in a corner.  Because I won’t have any of it.

Because now the questions and more questions that any parent asks when their child decides to transition between genders are now the questions I must ask.  These are the questions I must resolve.

There are many questions.  And I don’t have all the answers.  This isn’t a closed-minded father who thinks that if you’re born a man, you should stay a man.  And this isn’t a “try-everything-in-this-world-because-yolo” father.

I’m just a father who wants the best for his child.

And I’m sure I’ve heard all the questions.  “What about public bathrooms, what bathroom should Kris use now?”

Simple answer.  Whichever one he feels comfortable using; and thankfully Kris knows how to use a bathroom.  Do your duties, wash up afterwards.

I’ve heard the questions.  “Does this mean that Kris changing from Cassaundra is a failure on your part as a father?”

Simple answer.  Kris is 30 years old.  Kris is living and working and previously served our country in the Army National Guard.  Those values came from dear old Dad.  I may not have been the greatest father, but I certainly did my best.  And nobody can take that away.

I’ve heard the questions.  “Is Kris a he or a she?”

I don’t presume.  I asked Kris directly.  He responded back.  I don’t need to ask again.

Now granted, I’m going to slip up.  Heck for nearly three decades I had a daughter named Cassaundra, and on occasion I’m going to – by force of habit – call my child Cassaundra.  That doesn’t mean that I’m disrespecting this journey.  It just means that I’m old and it takes some time to train my almost-52-year-old brain to replace “daughter Cassaundra” with “son Kris” everywhere.  Trust me.  I was born before there were “find-and-replace” macros in my cranial software.

I’ve heard the questions.  I may not have the answers, I may NEVER have all the answers.

But there’s one answer that will never waver.

I love my kid.  I was there at 11:09 a.m. thirty years ago to this day, when a little bundle of joy was placed in my arms.  And I’m there today, celebrating what is essentially a 30-year-long journey to a new birth.

I didn’t know what the future held in 1986.  And I don’t know what the future will hold in 2045.  That’s assuming that I’m around in 2045.

But I do know this.  My son Kris is taking new steps and new journeys, heading on a path that was not previously explored.  And with that, as a father, the most I can do is offer support, consultation, a helping hand and a strong shoulder.

Are there moments where I will be confused or not understand what’s going on?  Hell yeah there will be.  You know what those moments are called?  Being a parent.  You become a parent the day your child is born, and you don’t stop becoming a parent until the moment you get lowered into the earth.  And inbetween that time are a multitude of highs and lows, choices and decisions, reactions and repercussions.

And you never stop loving your offspring.  Because that’s the one constant through everything.

Happy 30th birthday to my son Kris.

Love, Dad.

Thoughts while window-bashing…

Last night I spent some time in reflection.  I do that when it comes to “window-bashing,” my term for removing the old glass from a future Dream Window artwork.  In this case, this particular window frame was coated with dirt and gunk and cobwebs and cracks and flakes and other disgusting thingies.  Heck, I think the window frame itself is probably coated in old lead paint.

But as I’m bashing out the broken glass and sanding the frame and sweeping up all the gungus from the floor… I began thinking again.  I do this on occasion.

And here’s some of the thoughts I had regarding all this.

  • Now that my car is completely paid off, and the title is mine free and clear, I want to spend the year saving up for a Christmas gift for myself.  I’ll save all the loose change, all my winning lottery tickets and OTB winning bets, and in November I’ll turn it all into a B&H Photo Video gift card.  And whatever it comes out to, I’ll go to New York City and buy a goodie for myself.  It’s an oddball Christmas Club conscript, but hey…
  • I’m really enjoying the Empire TV series.  Now if this show debuted in, oh let’s say the late 1980’s, maybe the show’s opening credits would look like this?
  • Last night was Game 5 of the NBL Canada’s first-round series between the (Prince Edward Island) Storm and the Saint John (N.B.) Mill Rats.  I was watching the game via a YouTube stream while I was doing my window-bashing.  Let’s put it this way.  Mike Williams (#7 in orange for the Storm) will never have to pay for a meal in Prince Edward Island again after this.


  • I’m hearing chirping birds outside my window.  I hope those are the birds who flew south and are returning, and are not the birds who consider a Capital District nor’easter “south.”
  • The Washington Avenue Armory’s woes stem from the one true, unassailable fact – it’s a former munitions depot that has been trying for years to become something different; a multi-purpose performance facility with no nearby parking garage.  Maybe at one time in our lives this building would have been adequate for all its roles, but that was before someone built the arena on South Pearl Street.
  • I just recently purchased a Swiffer/Bissell steam-cleaning floor mop.  Awesome stuff, it works like a charm.
  • Competition season is coming up quickly.  And I’ve got a few ideas for upcoming photos.  Some that I haven’t even mentioned in this blog.
  • I entered two of my pictures – The AGFA Bridge Over Ansco Lake and The Three-Two Pitch – in a competition in Florida.  I would share the link with all of you and ask you to consider voting for them, until I discovered that each “vote” costs $1.
  • I need to go to Snow Man and get a Boston Shake.
  • My daughter Cassaundra got a new job.  She’s working at Home Depot.  And she’s getting a new place.  Good for her.  Proud of her.  We all need to get away from things that are toxic in our lives, and she’s doing that with a lot of strength and conviction.
  • One of these days I’m going to blog about my recipe for “hot dog screamers.”  Trust me.  It’s as delicious as Spam Stroganoff or Hula-Burgers.  I kid you not.
  • I think I need a road trip to Philadelphia.  Or maybe to Allentown.  Or possibly south central Pennsylvania.  Yeah.  Weekend road trip.  Works for me.
  • You know, it’s been five years since I worked on that Bottle Service web series, and it still hasn’t seen the light of day.  I would say that my time was wasted in that event, but I did make some great friends by being part of it, so it’s a mixed blessing for sure.
  • NASCAR reinstated Kurt Busch and he can now drive in the sport again.  Memo to Kurt.  Don’t screw this up, it’s your last chance.  Okay, now I’m putting money on him getting tossed out of NASCAR by at least the Southern 500 at Darlington.  Any takers?
  • There are people right now who are trying to read this blog post and determine if they can “find any hidden messages” or secret passive-aggressive comments inbetween the lines.  Here, I’ll make it easy for you.  ˙ǝɟᴉl ɐ ʇǝƃ ʍou ;uʍop ǝpᴉsdn ɹoʇᴉuoɯ ɹnoʎ uɹnʇ oʇ ʍoɥ ʍouʞ noʎ ‘suoᴉʇɐlnʇɐɹƃuoƆ
  • I don’t know why, but every time I work on a window-bashing project, I always cut the side of my right index finger.  No other fingers, just that one.  Not too much blood leaking this time.
  • There are days when I feel like the loneliest sound in the universe is the last heartbeat.
  • And then I go to the blog and there’s comments and discussion; I go to Facebook and there’s “likes” and comments, and I go to Twitter and there’s comments and retweets.  Maybe I’m not alone after all.
  • Of course I’m not alone.  I’ve got all of you, my friends, my readers, my compatriots.  And truly, I could never be alone as long as I have all of you.

Okay, gotta clean up.  I’ve got broken glass everywhere, and between the glass and the rusted glazier’s points and the splinters and the paint flakes and everything…

Anyways, thanks for being my readers.  I really appreciate all of you.

See you tomorrow with another new blog post!

Just packed up Cassaundra’s Christmas gift…

Yes I know how to use a calendar.

Yes I know that the holiday happened last month.

Yes the headline is correct…

However… I gotta explain.

In December, I saw the WMHT “Memories of Hoffman’s Playland” documentary.  And man it was good.  Really, really good.  So I figured I’d get my daughter Cassaundra a copy of it.

So I made a pledge to WMHT – a pledge big enough that I could get a copy of the DVD for her and a copy of the DVD for me.

Everything’s fine.  I’m filling out the forms, I’m adding my credit card infomration…

Click.  All paid for.  And then I got this message.

“Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery of your DVD.”

Well, that certainly means I can get it to her in time for Christmas… Christmas 2015, that is.

Damn it damn it damn it.  Can nothing work the way I want it to?

Last Saturday, the DVD arrived at my doorstep. I immediately boxed it up and shipped it out to my daughter.

Well, not totally “immediately.”

See, every time my daughter comes to visit me, before she leaves she has to stop at the local grocery store and pick up some locally-made foodstuffs.  You know, Freihofer’s cookies, Freihofer’s corn toasties, Freihofer’s this and that…

So before I packed up her DVD in the shipping box, I stopped at my local Price Chopper to get some of those delicious Friehofer’s cookies.

And they were all sold out.



Yep, and the corn toasties were gone as well.

Okay.  Time to call an audible.

And by “audible,” I drove over to my nearby Stewarts.

And they had the cookies.

And while they didn’t have the corn toasties, they did have boxed six-packs of chocolate maple donuts.  A couple of boxes of those, along with a few boxes of cookies, all of you get into the priority mailer box.

And after all that… I shipped the package off.  So I figure my daughter should receive all her treats – the Hoffman’s Playland DVD and the cookies and donuts – if the Postal Service does its job, by at least Thursday at the latest.

Although the way things are going of late, they may end up arriving at her doorstep by June.

And by that time, the donuts would be stale, the cookies would become crumbs, and the Playland would become Huck Finn’s. 🙂

One short day with Cassaundra

My daughter Cassaundra is visiting Albany for just a few days.  I have only a precious short amount of time I can spend with her, in that she has so many people who want to see her before she has to fly back to Washington State.

How do you pack a year of what’s going on dad, what’s going on Cassie, into a single day?

It’s not easy.  There’s a lot of talk back and forth about a lot of different subjects.

And then, in the middle of this one short day that I blocked out all my other activities to share with her…

I came up with an off-the-plan idea.

“Let’s go somewhere today.  Somewhere we haven’t been to.”

And my original plan was to drive somewhere, anywhere – maybe New York City, maybe Boston, maybe the Adirondacks.

Instead, we drove to Schoharie County and went deep into the ground.

The ground of Howe Caverns, that is.

chuckwcassieThere we are, 150 feet below the surface of the earth, in approximately 50-degree weather, walking through the limestone and stalactites and stalagmites of a long-discovered cave.

And although this might be just another tourist excursion, the kind of trip that we all took as kids on field trips, there was something different about this trip.  Something that, amidst the tour guide’s goofy descriptions of the various flowstones and streams and natural wonders…

It reminded me of the fragile bond that we all have in this world.  Those stalactites and stalagmites in the cave were created with millions of years of flowing water and porous stone, and yet we’re warned about touching the stones in that the oils from our hands can cause discolorations in the fragile rocks.

We go through this world thinking we’re indestructible, that no harm can ever come to us.  And then, in a single moment, something happens.  Something changes.  And damage is done.  But the next thing we have to remember, among all, is that even if there are changes we’re not expecting in our lives, the best way to continue on is to make sure that those changes don’t limit you – that those changes instead define you.

We’ve both gone through lives that might make other people just sit in a corner and cry and give up.  But we never stopped.  Even when things might be overwhelming, we continued to make the best of things and plow through.  Just like the stones in Howe Caverns – they continue to exist, even after nearly 200 years of tourism and 50 billion years of waterflow and creation.

After visiting Howe Caverns, we drove to Richmondville and had lunch at a little diner/quilt store.  And we talked.  And we talked about many things between us – the good things, the rough things, the things that only a father and a daughter could talk about.

We needed something to break our tension.  And on the way back to my home in the Town and Village…

The tension breaker drove by us.  It was a beat-to-pieces Subaru Legacy, it looked as if its owner pulled it out of the junkyard and slapped it together with bungee cords and bailing wire.  Oh yeah, and he added a couple of spray paint cans of barf red to cover up the rust – and, just to make the effect even better, he added a spoiler wing to the back of the car’s chassis.

“That car’s Legacy is that it’s a piece of junk,” Cassaundra said.

“It should be left out in the Forester,” I added, jokingly.

“Definitely should have been left in the Outback,” was the response.

And for the next three or four miles, we joked about the car and its misguided attempt to look like a tuner-car.  Tension broken between us.

And at the end of the day, we gave each other a hug and knew that our day together would be memorable and special.  She’ll spend time with other family members and then fly home Thursday.

One short day we had.

One short day.

And in this lifetime that we all experience, we have to remember those short days.  Because all of them make up a lifetime.

Even if it’s spent down in the caverns of Schoharie County…

…or if it’s spent goofing on the image of a misguided tuner car.