The Sam Harris Problem

I trust, if you’ve processed and are familiar with any single element of the title and/or the meme below and if you know me and my connection to those elements, that you understand sarcasm.

However, if that first paragraph simply confuses you, know this…today’s conversation with James has depth, humor, and honesty.  Of course, you’ll be the judge of that, but I hope you do listen.

Oh, and yes Virginia, there is a first official D2D sponsor.

We present to you, “The Sam Harris Problem.”


You Cannot Fix What Is Not Broken

I’m a Speech and Language Therapist.

Once, when I was still an undergraduate student and in Japan with Semester at Sea, a gentleman on a train asked me what I intended to do for a profession.

“Speech and Language Pathologist.”

He puzzled over that final word.  “Pah…thaw…loh…gist,” and he pulled out a dictionary.  (This story is pure non-fiction.  Really.  Yes, I met a kind gentleman on a train in Kobe who asked me what I wanted to do with my life, became confused at the word “pathologist,” and pulled out the perfectly appropriate dictionary for his momentary conundrum with me.)

I think he would have needed that dictionary for “conundrum” too….but that’s beside the point.  He read something approximating, “…a scientist who studies the causes and effects of diseases, especially one who examines laboratory samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes.”

Immediately, I countered, “Nononono!  Um…speech and language therapist.  I’ll help children who have trouble speaking.”


That little cross-cultural moment for a 22-year-old foreshadowed the almost-43-year-old man who sits writing this post today.

Therapist.  Supporter.  Specialist. Service professional. Technician. Helper. Mack Daddy of Communicative Awesomeness.  Anything…but…pathologist.

We speech/language pathologists are trained in a classic western medical model.  Which is?  If I could boil it down, I’d say it’s this:

You are broken and I will fix you.

As such, we need control.  Rigid, specific, multifaceted, all-encompassing control.  However, the only way to get even near that kind of control is to remove a person from that person’s authentic environment…where multiple factors, many unknown, immeasurable, and uncontrollable, can be mitigated.  Then, we selectively choose “in” only those people whose trickier factors do not clash with our controls and standardization.  And, we boot “out” those who are not ultimately compliant in the manner we demand.

So, we do our therapies on a select group of individuals in completely inauthentic environments, with so many controls that a target behavior is destined to change in some way.  But we, by definition, ignore all other factors and pretend that the microscopic change of one behavior in a laboratory setting will then re-integrate into the whole, back in the real world.  We expect, to use professional jargon for a moment, maintenance and carry-over. Meaning, a person will maintain the things learned in the clinical environment and carry them over to other places and people and across various moods/states.

We often target these extensions of our direct therapy by giving very explicit homework to families and educators.  We too often tell them what they must change to also fix their children, instead of looking at the various environments to see what is possible, necessary, and we too seldom authentically ask for their input and suggestions; we treat families and educators as if they are not very important, let alone critical factors in the functioning of the individual with whom they spend the most time.

Of course, if change doesn’t happen in the real world it’s their fault.  Not ours.  The other didn’t do what we said to do right.  So, we’re off the hook.  And we parade out our successes, or others’ successes.

We, as human behavioral scientists and technicians, are loathe to relinquish the control of the absurdly inauthentic, to enter the worlds of the individuals and communities in which we work to learn about real behavior within the messy milieus of everyday life, to contend with the myriad factors contributing to one undesired behavior or another, to admit that not only do we not know everything…we probably know damn near nothing.

And indeed, as long as we’re locked in a sterile room with our clipboards, standardized procedures, manuals, advanced degrees, and the implicit belief that we are tinkers, or perhaps gods of a sort who can deem a person broken then claim the power to fix…we do know damn near nothing.


Reddup Your Reddit (Llewdwell 7.5)

Here’s the thing.

Apparently I’ve come to love using the phrase, “Here’s the thing,” which is the newest of conversational fillers I’ve come to incorporate into my speech.  And here’s the thing, I hate it.

Here’s another thing.

Reddit is all the things all the time.  It’s like culture shock on the streets of Calcutta.  It’s like that box from Hellraiser which, if unlocked, gives the user all of the sensory input all at once at maximum volume.  It’s simply…entirely too overwhelming for me.

Here’s one final thing.

4Chan is Satan’s asshole.  I don’t have any evidence of this, except maybe the Trump presidency, but even that is conjecture on my part.

I love you all.  This is a fact.

I’ve included a couple of pieces of wonderful music.  “Come Close” by Common feat. Mary J. Blige, and “Blue’s Music” by G. Love and Special Sauce.

We present to you, “Reddup Your Reddit (Llewdwell 7.5)



Placebo is Still Magic

My hand writing used to be legible at Times New Roman 8 point font.

Yes, I saved a few pages and compared it.

For reference, the next time you open any word processing program, just change your favorite font, or specifically TNR, to 8 point.  (At any point in my life, and I’m neither proud nor comfortable with this fact, the quexclamation, “Isn’t that exhausting?!” would apply.)

My print, at a time in my life, was as legible as what you’re reading right now.  But, on an 8.5×11 piece of blank paper with approximately 1 cm margins around.  I believe my record (…yes, I counted words too…) was approximately 1,200 words on one side of a page.

I wrote out my papers…even in graduate school, which was 1996 – 1998.  At some point in that window, I purchased my first word-processing typewriter.  It allowed me to type out one line at a time, then hit enter, after which time the motor would take over.  It had correction tape, which usually worked but when it didn’t the situation was rage-facilitating…anyone who’s needed to deal with correction tape knows precisely about which I’m talking.  It also had a bare bones dictionary that was useless for the vocabulary of a speech/language pathologist.  Or most humans over the age of 3, for that matter.  It certainly saved me physical energy…but that wasn’t fully to my satisfaction.  So I still hand wrote most of what needed to be written.

I prefer having what I’m writing laid out fully in front of me.  This is why Microsoft Word was such an amazing thing…but a thing I only used in the computer labs at the University of Pittsburgh, because I couldn’t afford a computer or Microsoft Office.  So, it was Del Duca 8.0 font…through revisions and everything.  Then, after I’d completed the final draft, I would hand write it one more time…THEN travel to a computing lab and type the thing into Word.

You might now be thinking, “What the fuck was wrong with you?”

Or even, “Yeah, that seems about right.”

In any case, this was my life in the late 1990’s.

To this moment, I feel a sense of greater creativity when I hand write.  As if the physical labor inspires more and promotes a deeper dig to the places where word meets thought and emotion, thus communicating messages with greater clarity and depth.  Right now, I’m typing into my laptop from a note book in which the first draft of what you’re reading was written.  Fortunately, I can deal with subsequent drafts within Word because I can see everything as a whole even as I modify the bits and pieces.

When I hand write, I think a bit more about what I’m about to communicate so that I don’t need to redo, scratch that, try this, and whatnot. I usually get it right closer to the first time.

When I type, however, particularly if I have a load of things that desperately need to spill out as quickly as possible, I can dump everything and then move backwards to make sense of it all for you.  And future me.  (This is a critical point.  There are multiple times I read back through words I committed to paper quickly and cannot figure out what the hell I was getting at.  Also, it veers illegible because when I’m spilling a stream of consciousness I shift from printing to cursive.  And upon the read back, I generally curse cursive.)

But think about this.  Within 10 years of the final time I painstakingly printed a 5,000 word draft of a graduate paper, likely near 1999 (…party over, out of time…), technology had become so affordable, so compact, and so advanced that all of us could communicate on hand held devices with exceedingly greater computing power than even the most expensive PC available when Prince’s anthem became nostalgia.  Currently, I have a touch screen lap top that weighs about as much as a smallish hard cover book and takes up no more space than two Sports Illustrated magazines stacked on top of each other.

But paper and pen.  There’s something there, something nostalgic for certain…but also something magical.  It may well be the placebo effect of said nostalgia, but even the magic of placebo is still magic.


My current situation. Under the table and dreaming and whatnot.

Black Card (Update)

I wrote what you’re about to read precisely one year ago.

I carry neither embarrassment nor regret regarding the story or my life.

However, I want to remain sensitive to my audience and respectful to all of the people who supported and raised me…and those who continue to support and raise me.  Yep, I’ve got lots of growing to do and I appreciate each of you who shake me awake a little more each day.

I don’t want my words, in any way, to disrespect the experiences of any individual Black reader or person of color.  I seek guidance at every step so that I can contribute to a better community and society.

So here is a piece of my story, a piece that helps explain my values and passions, and hopefully opens the door for further enlightenment and progress.


I’m white…in case you didn’t know.

Several years ago, while teaching in Atlanta, my friend Jerald gave me a Black card.  No really, he created and then gave me a Black card.  It said, “I’m Black,” and had his signature.  Later that month, Jerald made keys for all of us to access a storage room at the school where we worked.  He put colored plastic rings around each key.  Andrea, another Black teacher, asked Jerald, “Which key is Del Duca’s?” Immediately, Jerald responded, “Del Duca Black.”  She smiled and nodded in agreement.  “Right.”

So how is it that this soon-to-be-forty-two-year-old white guy gets a Black card?

It all starts in 1946.

I know, the math doesn’t work, does it?  Thing is, this story only continues with me.  It started with my Mom.

She was born and raised smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and she was into black music from the get go.  She loved doo-wop, then she loved Motown, then she loved funk, rhythm & blues.  She saw Sly and the Family Stone; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and she even grooved to brother James Brown’s, “Black and Proud.”

My Mom was, and is, Catholic…more hip to the new-testament and social-justice Jesus, the rise of the non-violent civil rights struggle, and the spiritual liberalism of the Kennedy clan and Martin Luther King, Junior.

She cared about fairness, judged a man by the content of his character, and  was, by all accounts, pretty fly for a white girl.

On September 16th, 1974, she gave birth to me.

That’s where her story continues and mine begins.

If nature and nurture predict anything, you can see straight away how I earned that Black card.  Really, I didn’t earn it.  Mom did, and I was fortunate enough to inherit it, cherish it and come of age at a point where I could wear a term like “Wigger” as a badge of…if not honor or pride, then at least simple reality; and neither as a scarlet letter nor a threat of bodily harm.

And then, in a simultaneously serendipitous and ironic turn of events my biological father (…who by all accounts had been a full-blooded Sicilian-American racist raised by full-blooded Sicilian-American racists…) married a Black woman.  He moved in with Angie, his new wife, and her teenage children in the Alequippa projects where he became the only white resident.  Except when I visited, which doubled the Caucasian population.

My biological Father was immature, debilitated by whatever experiences he had in Vietnam and, previous to that, his upbringing in a dysfunctional immigrant home.  Ultimately he proved not a good, not even a decent father.  But Angie and her children?  They were wonderful.  They welcomed me.  The enveloped me in love and they protected me from my Dad, particularly when he was behaving irrationally or overwhelming me with his unresolved emotional baggage.  Which was often.

I loved Angie.  I loved my step-siblings.  I loved the Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Hall & Oates constantly blasting from someone’s room.

I ate government cheese, stood in line for free lunches, and frolicked in sprinklers, not pools.  I felt like a little part of something; gained confidence.  I projected my inclusion into Angie’s family onto the entire community…and there…was the mistake that would sink my titanic confidence.

It was Summer. 1983.

I’d eaten my subsidized snack, splashed in a stagnant puddle, and began the walk back to our apartment.

I noticed four kids, a bit older than me, climbing the steep, rocky hill that formed a natural amphitheater looking down on the front façade of Building C.  I was intrigued.  They hit a flat spot and they started singing, “Under the Boardwalk.”

This was it.

I tore up the hill…as fast a fat-ass preteen can.

Now sweaty, curly hair stuck to my glistening forehead, shorts riding up my now-chafed inner thighs, nearly out of breath, I reached the flat.  There, next to the bass, was a spot.  For me.  I hit my mark, and I joined in.

And the singing stopped.

Not me, though.

“Un-derrrr the boh-whoa-oard walk…”

(Now I realize the quintet has become a solo)

And one of the Faux-Drifters stepped back and shoved me with all of the anger and frustration he could muster.

They say a rolling stone gathers no moss.

A fat kid, however, gathers all kinds of shit along the way.

As I neared the bottom, their laughing ceased and the chorus resumed.

I stood.  Angry.  Embarrassed.  Sad.  And in unbelievable bodily pain.  I stared back up, and at a distance that now seemed impossibly far the quartet performed to an audience of anybody but me.

I limped back to the apartment, my spirit crushed…and Angie wiped me off and built me back up.  And Shawn, her son closest in age to me, told me to forget about all that mess.  He referred to me as brother.  And William, the eldest, who had Colecovision…let me play uninterrupted until the tears dried and I licked the salty remnants from my cheeks and lips, “Sarah Smile” drifting down the hall from my half-sister Tanya’s room.

(If you feel like leavin’, you know you can go…)

You see…that experience could have pushed me in any number of directions.  But I had my Mom.  And I had the love and protection of one Black family.

I came to love soul food.  I heard Newcleus’, “Jam On It” and was a certified hip-hop head until…well, until this very moment.  I absorbed the art…through music, literature, spoken words, and other media…of numerous Black luminaries.  I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and I helped found a KIPP charter school in East Point, Georgia.  I hit emotional rock bottom there in Atlanta and was enveloped in the love of a Black man and his Baptist church.  In 2004, Jerald, and Neriah Baptist Church saved me, just like Angie and her clan did twenty years earlier.

I got my Black card from my brother, Jerald.

And although I no longer have the actual artifact, those words remain in my soul…I’m Black…with Jerald’s signature, the songs of Neriah and the embrace of Pastor Lindsay, and the words of Angie and her family etched lovingly upon my heart; all wrapped in a bow of unconditional love from my Mom.

So if you need me…

…on a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be.


“A Life Restored” (Ernie Barnes)

Rain Delays and Sun Rays Always Flip My Frown (Fireside Chat 1)

This podcast might be the pure encapsulation of how much I adore my wife and, when I unpack my suitcases and have a few angst-depleted breaths to simply exist, my life.

Sitting outside with Jen as the sun finds it’s daily nest at the Western horizon, a small but substantial fire crackling between us, the dog relaxed, wine and spirits, old-school soul and R&B playing on a Bluetooth speaker, the temperature purt’ near perfect.

Then…the skies erupt in sheets of unrelenting rain.

Jen works extra hard, my one-person grounds crew, to ensure Penelope and the rest of the recording equipment stay dry and safe…even as her glass of oak-aged Spanish red fills with rainwater, her clothes clinging to her now shivering body wet from the deluge. (Feels like this is going in a certain direction.  It’s not.)

And finally…we have a conversation, albeit brief, in which I come to love her even more than I had just seconds previously. (I dunno, maybe it actually did.)

Come for the company, linger for a laugh, but stay for the music.

Alliteration be damned.

We present to you, “Rain Delays and Sun Rays Always Flip My Frown (Fireside Chat 1).”


Everything I Write is Opinion

Everything I write is opinion.

Everything everyone writes is opinion.

Even facts are facts as I perceive and process them.



I’m looking out of a window of a Starbuck’s café, staring fairly intently at my white Toyota Camry Hybrid while not looking down at the screen or keys.  I can do that because I had several semesters of typing instruction in 9th grade.  I took the home keys fairly seriously.  No, that’s not true.  I took the grade assigned to my work in class seriously.  To be entirely honest, I needed to be perfect…or as close to perfect as I could get.  This is a fact for as long as I can remember.  I have, stuck into my high school senior year book as a dysfunctional-nostalgic (call it “dystalgic”) bookmark of sorts, the one report card I saved from my entire life.  On that report card, in the grid for third quarter marks, with just the word “Math” immediately to the left, is the only C I’ve ever earned in my life.

That…is the report card I saved.

Not the nearly 4.0 cumulative card for all of high school.

Not the nearly 4.0 cumulative card for all of my undergraduate work.

Not the perfect 4.0 cumulative card for my graduate degree.

Not those, but the singular C I received in 6th grade.  For the third quarter.  The cumulative math grade for that year was an A, because I made damn sure of it.

I’m not bragging.

I’m lamenting.

I spent so many years chasing perfection.

I allocated not one second to defining “perfection,” not even a single, fleeting thought as to why the number 100 mattered so much.

To this day I find myself massively concerned with what others think of me, with how I “stack up” against the opinions of the various communities in which I’ve been accepted, or at least tolerated.

I seek acceptance.  I need validation. Accolade is like a drug, a substance on which I rely, behaviorally and, when the psychology becomes immensely toxic, physically.  Indeed, I’ve made myself sick with anxiety, worry, panic, angst, and self-dissatisfaction.

It’s been here for as long as I can remember, yet I cannot remember why it’s there…and even THAT works into my tendency toward self-flagellation because I can’t make myself better fast enough or completely enough.  I can’t figure me out.  Can’t fix me.

Funny that, because I approach my entire calling as a speech/language therapist with counseling-inspired, individual-centered, relationship-based, culturally-informed values.  I’ve shed the medical model, which was trained vehemently into me, and now [try to] approach every human I serve as a perfectly valid and beautiful being.  My goal is not to repair but to support individuals in their pursuit of love, happiness, self-acceptance, independence, and success in whichever manners they decide.

But when I look in the mirror, so often I only see a broken human who needs to be fixed.  But I can’t fix me, and that makes me further disappointed.

It’s exhausting.

And, as I’ve learned from doctors and other healthcare professionals, it’s dangerous.  It might not kill me tomorrow, or ever…but the consistent intensity of the fight-or-flight nervous system is setting me up for a progressively worse quality of life moving forward.  Spiritually and emotionally, it ain’t so good either.

So, it’s important, perhaps critical, that I inhabit endeavors that help reduce anxiety while increasing my present focus and ability to experience the world with clarity, calm, understanding, and forgiveness.  To put it very simply…I must increase love and decrease that which is not love.

[end example]

Everything I just presented to you is the truth as I understand it.


However, as the words tumble out of my brain, through my fingers, onto this page, influenced by my current sensory environment…needing to pee while seated in an air conditioned coffee shop with a lovely cup of single origin to my left and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks in my ears but wanting to get these words out and not break the flow…they are immediately and indelibly rendered as fiction.  Based on a true story, for certain…but presented through the lens of my brain.



My immediate reality is your third, perhaps second person experience.

Your immediate reality might align with my prediction of how you’ll process this, but likely not.

Each human brain perceives the world similarly, as we are all human, but not precisely so, since each human brain develops as a unique functional experimental case study.  I’d venture to write that each brain, at the micro level, functions quite differently.  Like a fingerprint, except with almost infinitely more complexity.

I appreciate that you’ve taken me in, allowed me to reside in your brain for a little while, and shared some of your being with me in return.  Consciousness is a tricky thing, as slippery as faith and malleable as belief.  But it’s what we have here, so let’s use it to increase love…and decrease that which is not love.

If we’re writing the stories of our individual and collective lives, might as well give them happy endings.


It’s a gif. A wonderful gif.

Tom Prigg for Congress, PA-12 in 2018 (pt 2)

Last week, you heard (…or didn’t hear, but if you’re here and are about to hear this, please go back to the first post, which is here but also on Libsyn and iTunes, but now, like right now, here, like right here, is the continuation of…) my conversations with Tom Prigg.  As you remember, or perhaps that last sentence caused you to forget everything, Tom has tossed his impressive hat into the ring to contest Keith Rothfus’ (Pennsylvania’s 12th district) seat in the House of Representatives.  I’m not a Rothfus fan, though I am his constituent.  I’ll do more than just a little bit to ensure that Tom is my representative next Winter.

Here is Tom’s website.

Driven2Drink is proud to re-assert the first unofficial endorsement of Tom Prigg for Congress in 2018.  (That and two dollars will STILL get you a coffee at McDonald’s with a little extra to put in the Ronald McDonald House fundraising bin.)

Please listen.  Please visit Tom’s website.  Please consider, particularly if you live in PA-12 and are not satisfied with the representation of Keith Rothfus, supporting Tom in any way you’re comfortable (e.g. donate, volunteer, post something positive to social media, share this podcast with a friend or family member on the fence).

We present to you, “Tom Prigg for Congress, PA-12 in 2018 (pt 2).”


You’ve Come for a Post…

…but today there is none.

Well, perhaps you might consider this that, as it has been posted and read.

But the truth of the words spilled here on your screen is I’m sharing them just before bed.

Inside I feel an obligation to provide a thing as promised, but additionally I realize that if I only do this for approval, validation, and ego, then what is it but lies.

And yet, here I am.  And here you are.

So yes, this is for me.

But also, it’s yours.




Tom Prigg for Congress, PA-12 in 2018 (pt 1)

Recently, I sat down to talk with Tom Prigg.  Tom has tossed his impressive hat into the ring to contest Keith Rothfus’ (Pennsylvania’s 12th district) seat in the House of Representatives.

Here is Tom’s website.

As my Scotch-Irish & German yinzer (…that’s Western Pennsylvania Vernacular English for people who use the third person plural pronoun yinz, as in, “Hey yinz guys…yinz goin’ dahn tahn ‘nat?”…) ancestors would say, “Tom is good people.”

Driven2Drink is proud to offer the first unofficial endorsement of Tom Prigg for Congress in 2018.  (That and two dollars will get you a coffee at McDonald’s with a little extra to put in the Ronald McDonald House fundraising bin.)

Please listen.  Please visit Tom’s website.  Please consider, particularly if you live in PA-12 and are not satisfied with the representation of Keith Rothfus, supporting Tom in any way you’re comfortable (e.g. donate, volunteer, post something positive to social media, share this podcast with a friend or family member on the fence).

We present to you, “Tom Prigg for Congress, PA-12 in 2018 (pt 1).”