Off the Rack

I have a daughter-in-law who has a very specific approach to finding a spouse. She has had two so far and I am hoping she will have no further opportunity to refine her philosophy. She says searching for a husband should be like going to a clothing store. Do not begin with a specific vision or be too idealistic. Examine the racks of clothes without too much of a preconceived checklist. You can look for two arms and two legs without specifying a requirement for just three buttons on a jacket. Sure, you can choose to shop at an expensive store like Nordstrom or you can have a preference for a certain color dress but you need to be open to possibilities. Some people who think they know what they want are later surprised to find out they were dead wrong. I have not developed my own spousal acquisition strategy because for over 48 years I have been in the wife retention business. I am only repeating my daughter-in-law’s words because she forgot to speak Polish with her 17 year old daughter while I was within earshot. My only philosophy is to be ever alert for good Blog material whenever I hear it.


Virginia Lovers

After we married in 1969, my wife and I lived in Virginia for a few years and readily adopted and displayed as a bumper sticker the new State slogan: Virginia is for Lovers. As newlyweds, we identified with it. As young hippies, we flaunted it like an anthem. It meant something slightly different to us than the original campaign concept designed to attract tourists who love history, love beaches, love mountains, and love all the attractions of Virginia. When we were back in Virginia earlier this month, I noticed that the award winning slogan was still very visible fifty years later. But I wondered why I had not perceived the irony sooner. We knew back in our original residency that Virginia had recently lost its bid to prohibit interracial marriage in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Virginia v. Loving. We were very close friends with two interracial couples and one served in our own wedding party. We reveled in our liberal views and were well aware that Virginia was not leading the fight for civil rights. Still we were oblivious to the contradiction in a slogan that could legitimately be interpreted as “Virginia is for lovers as long as they are regular white people.” Of course, we also lagged in fully appreciating the false reverence for the words “All men are created equal” as applied by founding fathers of a slave holding nation that did not invest in voting rights for women. It all makes me wonder what else I missed while wandering through life congratulating myself on my enlightened views.


Recently a good friend responded to my email by asking, ” What are you doing up at 2:41 a.m.?” This brought back fond memories of my working days when we did not have laptops or smart phones with email capability. Back In the mid 1980’s, my co-workers and I began using PROFS during working hours on computers anchored at our desks. Our electronic mail carried date and time information, so we developed strategies. One of my colleagues came to his office before five in the morning, answered and initiated a few emails and headed over to the Company gym, followed by breakfast in the cafeteria. So it appeared to the boss and others that he was working from 5 a.m. until he sent more emails right before he quit for the day. I would never get up that early but I would avoid evening rush hour by going for my jog on trails adjacent to work around 4:30 p.m. and then emailing some more after 6 p.m. It beat the old system of running at home after work. I do not think anyone was impressed because most everyone knew Stamper was not putting in eight hours of work in a day, no matter when some email was sent. But it was fun staying late enough to find computers where people had not logged off. Then I could send emails from other people. Unfortunately, I was caught doing this because I too often found a way to praise myself in the bogus emails. I avoided getting fired by claiming a motivation to teach employees a lesson for not logging off a computer containing sensitive material. But now an email at 2:41 a.m. only proves I am an old man with a weak bladder and insomnia.

Jail Dreams

On Monday, my six year old granddaughter woke up crying and told me she had a nightmare. She had a dream that I was in jail. I patiently explained to her that she was confused. That nightmare belongs to me alone. My incarceration does not qualify as a bad dream for anyone else. In fact, some people would be disappointed to wake up and discover that I was not in jail. But the incident did provide a teaching moment. If anyone comes to the door or is hanging around the schoolyard asking where I am, my granddaughter now knows to tell them that she thinks I might be in Florida. And she can answer any further inquiries with the words, “Not to my knowledge.” If they persist, she can refer them to her Dad or Uncle Ryan, both of whom are lawyers. She is precocious, though, to be able to recognize the real possibility I could be headed to jail. I will know with more certainty if I can ever get Michael Cohen to return my calls.

Mushroom Clouds

I was working on a caption for a New Yorker cartoon contest in late March. The drawing showed a visitor speaking by phone to a disgruntled chef behind prison glass. I decided to have the visitor say something like: “Labeling the soup Deathcap Mushroom is apparently not considered a legal disclaimer.” I did my due diligence by googling poisonous mushrooms. People often say that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. That is true in the mushroom world in at least three ways. First, Wikipedia’s limited level of mushroom lore completely destroyed my former love of mushrooms. Second, I realized that mushroom sickness and death mostly result when someone with that little bit of knowledge makes a dangerous assumption. Third, in the case of intentional poisonings, the victims had just enough knowledge to trust the poisoner but not enough to identify him or her as a traitor.

Shelf Life

I used to rationalize my hoarding on the assumption that I might some day be able to use the items I was saving, no matter how remote the possibility. In recent years, my age prompted my concerted effort to justify my philosophy by using any of my possessions that had gone unused for decades. I discovered that the special pair of white athletic shoes I saved for tennis and basketball (which I no longer ever played) were useless because the adhesive no longer worked. I embarrassed myself at a summer party where parts of the shoe shed all over the home of the hosts before I realized what was happening. Duct tapes, band aids, ski goggles, and rubber bands have all surprised me with their inability to stick or stretch. Perhaps being transported in a moving van in 105 degree heat to and from Kansas in the 1990’s accelerated deterioration. Old equipment is so outdated that even I would not use it. A garage is a good place to grow rust and mold. Fabrics deteriorate. The holes in my clothes at the back of the closet explain where all those moths in our house were coming from. The list is endless. Someone could have used much of my hoarded bounty years ago if I had shared it with charities that specialize in recycling. Instead I wasted space by selfishly letting the loot rot. This insight has me now worried about my own shelf life.

Vintage Cheerios

I do not have a discriminating palate. I am able to eat most anything without complaint. I would not be picky in a famine but my big appetite would doom me anyway. Recently I found a box of Cheerios in the cupboard that had a best to use date of July 31, 2015. It would make for a better Blog posting if I had the faintest idea of how we overlooked that box for so long. I sampled a few Cheerios and then merged some with my grape nuts. Everything tasted fine, so I assumed 2015 was a good year for Cheerios. I also covertly added a sampling to my six year old granddaughter’s normal organic cereal mix of fruitful O’s, cocoa bunnies, and gluten free sprouted brown rice crisps. She immediately wanted to know why her cereal tasted funny, emphasizing that she meant “funny peculiar” and not “funny ha ha.” I told her that all organic gluten free cereal tastes peculiar by definition without artificial flavors, synthetic colors, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup. And she has been eating that concoction for years without complaint. But she further specified that the suspicious cereal tasted like sushi. So I ended the debate since she repeats everything I say to her Mother and I cannot survive another investigation. Now I have the 2015 Cheerios all to myself.

Dental Replacements

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has a newsletter titled “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week.” Surprisingly, my Blog has never made this weekly “must read” list. This past March, the BBC was advertising the newsletter with a teaser asking: “Could a robot replace your dentist?” I did not watch the accompanying video, although I have always wanted to replace my dentist. I was just hoping to replace her with a massage therapist or an ice cream vendor.

Typical Days

The year I turned 63, my middle son asked me to describe my typical day. In hindsight, I think he was longing for some good news about retirement since he was bogged down in the rat race and needed to dream. Being a braggart, I embellished by synthesizing the best of my year into the most interesting possible composite one day description. But even so, my son responded, “That kind of depresses me.” His response depressed me. I would provide specifics about that typical day but I do not want to depress any more people! Actually I cannot remember all those specifics but back then I was often hiking, chasing moles around the yard, working on family genealogy, lunching with fellow retirees, solving sudoku, and babysitting grandkids. Although I have had the last eight years to work on infusing my days with more excitement, I am going to need more time. Typical days from 2010 look much better when viewed nostalgically from the vantage point of current typical days. And that is also kind of depressing. I sure hope my son does not ask about my typical 2018 day because I cannot stretch the truth or any remaining muscles as easily as I did back in the day.


My friend Dan sent me a version of the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He attributed it to Einstein but many others have been credited with those words. No matter who said it, I applaud Dan’s resolve to change things in his insane life. I have the opposite problem. I keep doing the same thing over and over and would welcome the same results. I run every day but my times are getting slower and my muscles are deteriorating. I shampoo and comb my hair regularly but now it falls out. I tell the exact same jokes all the time but people have stopped laughing. I am apparently insane for expecting the same results. So I am shortening the definition of insanity: doing anything over and over again.