I once toasted my wife that every day with her was like a holiday, filled with surprises and excitement. Some days are Christmas, some are Halloween, and others are full of fireworks. Chesapeake, Virginia, recently experienced Halloween fireworks when a local 1970 ordinance went viral because it prohibited trick or treating by anyone over the age of twelve. Although violators were subject to arrest, fines, and/or jail time, no one was actually prosecuted for 49 years. But the mere existence of the law drew criticism and prompted an upward revision to age 14 and deletion of the jail time option. Fines of $250 are still possible and restrictions also prohibit trick or treating after 8pm. I expect that some cities somewhere have costume regulations. Products with nuts or too much sugar may be banned in other places. None of this matters to me because trick or treaters rarely appear at our door. I think the steep hill we live on discourages parents and kids from making the climb. My wife says they stay away because I give out copies of my novel Suicide Squeeze. But the book remains as relevant and scary as when it was first published in 2008.
They say you learn something new every day. And they were right. In just the last few days, I learned two new adjectives, soporific and vertiginous, from Michael Chabon’s novel The Final Solution. I learned what a shotgun house is by reading a Michael Grizzly email. And I learned that gephyrophobia means a fear of bridges, the condition afflicting my imaginary friend Michael Rowyurbote. This continuing education trend should be an optimistic confirmation that you become smarter as you age. But I also learned that a footnote to the adage confirms that you forget hundreds of old somethings every day. For example, my wife claims my recent exciting discovery of Hieronymus Bosch is made possible only because I had forgotten that I always loved his artwork.
Both the future and the past have so many different versions. Last week I shuffled and stumbled beltless and shoeless through airport security without a traveling companion. I ordered a healthy Harvest Salad on the plane. The tiny quinoa particles poured through the gaps between the plastic fork prongs and cascaded all over me and the surrounding area like pinballs escaping from their machine. As I brushed myself off with a copy of Time Magazine, I noticed a tasty Ann Patchett quote that saved my day: “I’m very, very sure that my memories are true and accurate, and if I put them up against the memories of my family or friends, they would have very different true and accurate memories.”
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, what the [expletive deleted] happened? This is a wonderful example of human humor. I laugh when I hear that question posed to the mirror even though it represents a sad and frustrating personal truth. Logically this should not be funny to me. But humans regularly laugh at our own misery. I think that is cool. But an alien species studying us some day may find it funny peculiar.
I waste a few seconds here and there every day. I quickly click boxes of obvious junk emails and then hit the delete button. Instead, I should be taking efficient actions like unsubscribing but the delete click ritual is as satisfying as popping bubbles on bubble wrap. I have stopped clipping my toenails but only because I can no longer reach them. That saves me time and means I can no longer wear shoes. That saves more time by eliminating shopping for footwear. Once you gain momentum, efficiency begets more efficiency. The money I save from not buying shoes goes directly to saving the environment. I am constructing biodegradable straws from orange peelings. A few kinks still need to be worked out. Anyone who has read all of my Blog postings has invested about 18 hours of time in that endeavor. That is one whole day of doing nothing else if you spend six hours sleeping. A few rare people could do something better with a free day. But not me. Writing the Blogs actually takes longer than reading them. And that makes me a big part of the problem. I hope I remember to make more sense of this in the morning when the Margaritas wear off and I can revise this draft.
One of the twelve Apostles was St. Jude aka Judas Thaddaeus. He was called Judas of James by Luke, presumably to distinguish him from Judas of Iscariot, another of the twelve. Matthew and Mark dropped the Judas in favor of Thaddeus. After Judas of Iscariot became infamous for betraying Jesus, Jude became the favored form of Judas. But enough conflicting references exist to cast uncertainty upon the somewhat mysterious St. Jude. Various traditions have Jude preaching in Mesopotamia, Judea, Idumaea, Persia, and Libya. He was allegedly martyred in Beirut, Syria, around 65 AD. In 2018, the name Judas ranked 5379th in popularity in the United States. The name Jude ranked 157th, partly due to the popularity of Jude Law. The disparity two thousand years after the Iscariot fellow demonstrates his lasting negative impact even far from the Middle East. Although neither name existed in America 2000 years ago, all Apostle names became very popular. Judas Iscariot squandered the advantage of two Judases. Whatever your name, remember that you have the power to ruin it (Adolf) or popularize it (Arya from Game of Thrones) for others well into the future.
Paul Fetscher finished second in a Marathon. A reporter asked him if he felt foolish because he was the person who talked the winner into entering the race. Fetscher reflected for a moment before answering, “No! I’d rather get second in 2:29 than win it in 2:31.” Presumably, he felt the other elite runner pushed him to a faster time even though he lost the race. Runners are famously interested in PR’s (Personal Records) but that cuts both ways. He might have run a 2:29 anyway in pursuit of a PR. I do know Fetscher is more noble than me. I would not have gone out of my way to lobby a dangerous foe to oppose me. I would not have reflected before answering the reporter. I would have quickly admitted I made a big mistake! And Fetscher’s time would be better spent recruiting me because I could not finish within an hour of him in a Marathon.
An art gallery sneaked up on me when I was innocently walking through a mall. I was surprised how many pieces of art were labeled as untitled. I assume untitled works reflect an artist’s desire not to bias the viewer’s interpretation of the art. Artists are the most creative people around. They should be able to title a work without compromising the viewing. It should be part of the fun. Should an author publish a book without a title because it might suggest the wrong thing? Maybe an artist skips the title because he or she is too busy or disinterested to finish the paperwork. The untitled phenomenon is illogical if an artist just wants to keep descriptions private because any one displaying or publishing work is already saying, “Look at my stuff.” Maybe holding something back preserves some sort of advantage over the masses viewing the art. But then, why not mess with them further and name a red vase “Blue Mongoose?” I am surprised I have not yet heard of people naming children Untitled in order to insulate them from others jumping to conclusions based on stereotypical biases and judgments.
“Difficult to see, the future is,” said Yoda. And he was as wise as anyone in the universe. Bryan Walsh has written “a brief guide to the end of the world” for those of us not so wise at visualizing the future. Walsh explains why we are so slow to take action now to reduce the effects of climate change: “If we view our own selves in the future as virtual strangers, how much less do we care about the lives of generations yet to be born?”
Simon Drop landed in Pennsylvania in 1753. His family can be traced back to the twelfth century through lands and a manor they held in Norfolk, England. Simon could have named his twelve children Mike, Lemon, Cough, Tear, Dew, Gum, Ear, Eye, Rain. Egg, Air, and Back. If he had the gumption and imagination to do that simple thing, his line might not have died off as it did. He and his family might be famous even now. Another example of missed opportunity.