One of the things I like about the Country Western music language is the flexibility of the words. You can bend pronunciation so that hell and jail rhyme. Some of my earliest “likes” were fruits and vegetables and they have repaid me with good health. The first “likes” I received were grade school Valentines. Our current culture makes it easy to document “likes.” Just click a button and rate every experience and product. When I was reading law cases, I was regularly blinded by the brilliance of the majority opinion. Then I would read the minority dissent and realize I was duped. In today’s world I would be caught “liking” contradictory Supreme Court opinions because they would both radiate with the beauty of logic and persuasion. I enjoy Blogging because I can participate above my pay grade. Today, if Einstein posted E=mc Squared, I could hit the “like” button, fight the impulse to comment, and bask in my collaboration with Albert. My pal Al would be too polite to passive-aggressively ask, “What exactly did you like about the formula?” If backed into that corner, I would respond, “The majesty of the capital E.” I could follow Albert and confine my occasional comments to pithy remarks. Great hair. Awesome relativity. Check out my Blog. If Proust posted a serial Blog, I could “like” episodes with a jovial “C’est Magnifique!” comment. I would feel comfortable liking any poem Maya Angelou posted. I might even dare to comment with my couplet: “Jello won’t fail in jail, but it won’t gel in Hell.”
Joe Biden said Queen Elizabeth reminded him of his mother. Why could he not just say the Queen was gracious and generous? I voted for Joe Biden for President of the United States, so I am not one of his trolls. But everything reminds him of his mother, his father, and his son Beau who are all fine examples once in awhile. But what Queen wants to be a reminder of any 78 year old’s mother? His mother is not the star of his meeting with Queen Elizabeth. I do not know much about the Queen or Joe Biden’s mother. I do not know if you should take off your sunglasses when speaking to either of them. I am not a student of the etiquette or the characters in the Queen’s Royal Family but likely she is more gracious and generous than I am based on this nitpicky rant I am spewing. So I will say this about Joe. He reminds me of my daughter-in-law’s Uncle Hector who everyone likes and who is authentically pleasant, optimistic, and interested in others. Uncle Hector says I remind him of his mother. I met her only briefly and we did not speak a common language but she seemed more gracious and generous than me.
If Blogging were around when I was young, I might have avoided some criticism for over sharing my life. At around age five, I was explaining my every action to my brother (who was a year younger) as we moved our toy trucks around in the dirt. Kevin rebuked me, “No one cares what you are doing with your truck.” He was so very precocious, warning me with brotherly love that I would make a fool of myself in first grade if I continued annoying everyone with running commentary on my mundane actions. But I was already too deep in the mire of a fool’s compulsion and continued to spew my muddled voiceprint everywhere I went. When I was grown, my Mother asked me at a vacation function to explain how I had lost weight. She was always complimenting me in a vain effort to make me look good. Ironically her good effort made me look vain. As I took a deep breath to begin my detailed accounting, my Dad interrupted with a tone reeking of annoyance, “Yeah, yeah, we all know how Geoff now slices only half a banana on his cereal rather than a whole one.” Clearly he had heard enough of this tale, although his characterization taken out of context unfairly trivialized a story that was loaded with more details and lively witticisms which were now going to go unheard. In my Blog, these stories can finally breathe. I visualize my Dad and Kevin up in heaven staring incredulously at each other. Kevin says, “Can you believe Geoff is writing about what he was doing with his toy cars in Kindergarten and publishing his half banana diet? What is going on down there on Planet Earth?”
Technology has helped create some good habits. Those annoying beeps that tell you to fasten your seat belt actually provoke people to comply. Lives are saved. Sure some people disconnect the beeper but buckling up is just as easy as giving away all your personal information to the internet and allowing corporate and governmental entities to track your every move. But sometimes technology promotes bad habits. Public restrooms install toilets that flush automatically and faucets that stop running when you remove your hands. Soon you get in the habit of not flushing or turning water spigots off. This is bad enough in your own home but a disaster when you are visiting someone. Okay, maybe you do not recognize this problem. Certainly I only know about it through friends. Fortunately the solution is easy. Just install automatic controls on your home plumbing fixtures. Until then, no matter how compelling the evidence is, blame everything on your spouse, kids, roommate, or Donald Trump.
For last Saturday’s post, I calculated that I had lived 26,958 days. This startled me. I doublechecked the Math because I thought the number was too low. I had also slept away a good 25% of each of those days. The number 26,958 is very finite, unlike budgets and spending bills for trillions or bazillions which I cannot comprehend or visualize. If you have a job that pays $26,958 per year, you know exactly how finite that number is. If you want to buy a car for $26,958, you can visualize that number and see that you cannot afford it on a $26,958 salary. When I was very young, I thought living to age 73 came with an infinite amount of days. If I understood how little time that really was, I would not have wasted a couple extra years not getting toilet trained. I would not have “gone drinking” as an activity for so many hours of so many days. Sure, go to a football game and have a few beers, go to a restaurant and order cocktails with dinner, disrupt your ex-girlfriends wedding by getting drunk and disorderly. But what was that activity we called “going drinking?” Thankfully I cannot remember much of it but apparently we thought we had so much time that we wanted to waste some of it by just drinking alcohol until we passed out or got arrested. As I have aged, I realize how valuable time is. That’s why I sit at a screen well into the wee hours of the morning restarting a spider solitaire game over and over because I know I can beat it. At least I am making efficient use of my time by drinking while I play.
What has blogging taught me you might not ask. So I will tell you. When I began posting daily in August of 2016, I had not yet learned the definition of the word circumlocution but I knew how to do it well. As a Company spokesperson at the Negotiation Table, I once finished my long-winded response to a proposal and the bewildered Union leader replied, “I don’t know what you just said.” That was high praise indeed. But I thought no one would read my posts if I rambled incoherently. After a few weeks of posting, I realized WordPress automatically counted my words (and everything else, including how many minutes I nap at the keyboard). Since I no longer needed to count words manually, I self-imposed a 300 word limit on my posts. My writing improved because if I wrote a 328 word draft, I would work at cutting a brag, redundancies, and dead words like “Typically there is” at the beginning of a sentence. This was fun, like a Sudoku puzzle and I could see immediate results. If I was at 317 words and still had a major point to make, I could split the essay into two posts. But then I discovered that I was padding shorter posts to get close to the 300 word limit! My total annual words for 2018 and 2019 were within 570 of each other (less than two words per day), a miniscule difference considering I am allowed over 100,000 annual words within the 300 word limit. I tossed in a 32 word post on June 6th just to prove I was not a bot. It took great discipline to stop that day. I am going to try it again soon. Just not today.
Living has a mortality rate. And that rate is 100%. So everything else which is a subset of living has a lower mortality rate. Lung Cancer. Bungee Jumping. Eating deep fried Twinkies. They all have lower mortality rates than 100%. I hope that is comforting. I feel like I am in Stage Four of Living. Sure, Stage Four anything is not good. Because I never hear about Stage Five. The Grim Reaper has this big badass reputation but Reaper is a loser. I have beaten death 26,958 consecutive days. Thursday I did it by driving 17 miles of back roads from Kenmore to Bellevue instead of taking the freeway. This kept my speed down, insuring that my wife and I would likely survive a car accident. I almost had a heart attack when my wife screamed that I was going to hit a parked car. But my lightening fast reflexes avoided the obstacle. My heart was stronger than the puny Reaper heart. My 17 year old grandson baked a cake for the first time on Wednesday. I had only a nibble to minimize any chance of contracting food poisoning, choking, or succumbing to gluttony. My victories reflect my skill, not luck. I have been outwitting Reaper every single day. The cowardly Grim guy gets token wins by exploiting the sick, the weak, and the elderly like me. Some day if I let my guard down, Reaper may steal my life but I guarantee that he will not beat me at that game twice.
My friend Goktug and his girlfriend Beverly Hill were strolling along Rodeo Drive, oblivious to all the glittering dreams and tarnished realities around them. They were just so absorbed in each other that they might as well have been wandering the street in Concrete, Washington. I became familiar with Concrete in 2007 after my publisher gently explained the difference between cement and concrete to me while editing my novel. If he was so smart, why was he publishing me? He lost his shirt on me and I lost the “r” off my shirt over his constant nitpicking. My book was the last one either of us published unless he reinvented himself under a new name to dodge my next manuscript. If my novel had been about cement or concrete, my ignorance would have been so much more humiliating. When I went back and researched the words in question, I discovered the city of Concrete, famous for This Boy’s Life (a DiCaprio/De Niro film) and a high school built as a bridge over the road leading up to and through it. The city became Concrete when the towns of Baker and Cement City merged in 1909. Each town existed thanks to separate cement factories. So I now have a way to remember that concrete comes from cement. But I had forgotten about Beverly Hill for nine sentences until Goktug told me she had changed her name to Sandy Shore and moved to Cement, Oklahoma, a bigger but less famous city than Concrete, Washington. What are the chances of such a coincidence? About one out of three on this Blog site.
I have always been good at biting off my nose to spite my face. I not only do not learn things beyond my capability but I refuse to learn certain things well within my capacity that would actually benefit me. I still type with one finger, never use an ATM, and send out my Christmas Newsletters via snail mail. Those are a mere sampling of actions I take by default in the swirl of stubbornness, laziness, foolishness, and shamelessness. I make fundamental changes all the time but often well past the time suggested by logic. I do not have the time to spend money on therapy, so I analyze myself with the Decisions Underpinning My Betterment tool: (1) What will happen if I do not change? (2) Is my life in danger if I do not change? (3) Is my marriage in trouble if I do not change? (4) Will the change increase my pleasure? At an early age, I conquered any fear of people laughing at me because that condition was just one preposition away from the great pleasure of people laughing with me. Since I wanted people to like me and had feelings that could be hurt, I deluded myself into thinking I was normal. Most everyone craves being liked and they feel hurt if slighted but some more than others. So most fall along the magical arc we call a Spectrum. But a few of us care a little less about others and a lot more about ourselves and we fall under that arc into what we call the Super High Intelligence Tunnel.
Before I got married, I answered the doorbell if it rang. After I had a family, I merely yelled: “Is somebody going to get the door?” Now if the doorbell rings, I answer my phone or check the microwave. Sometimes I look to see if I left the refrigerator door open or if the clothes are dry. The doorbell is like my Fitbit. It gets me moving on my rounds whether I actually open the door or not. This works for me because nobody ringing the doorbell is bringing me good news. The ringer wants to sell me something or ask me for something, like a vote, donation, or signature on a petition. Maybe a neighbor wants me to trim my trees and bushes which are invading their property. Or a pollster wants to collect some data to use against me. Perhaps I am being served a legal notice or a delivery person is merely notifying me about a package they left on the porch. To add one more random variable, our doorbell has some sort of short and only buzzes intermittently. Part of my treatment for narcissism includes a module on developing empathy, so I decided to try being the doorbell ringer. With a Blog on life support, I wanted to gather source material by asking neighbors, “What is the biggest mistake you have made in your life?” The best answer is, “Opening the door to you.” Some people answer a question with a question: “When are you going to trim that tree and those bushes?” One lady said that marrying her second husband (aka “the liar”) was the worst mistake she ever made but did not elaborate, other than delivering the punchline: “You remind me of him.”