My fifteen year old grandson Sebi has an undeveloped sense of where the fine line is between dark humor and inappropriate comments. So he is a lot like me. Recently he wanted to know who gets my den when I die and clumsily put in a claim for it. I hardly consider it mine because my wife, youngest son, and the younger grandchildren camp out in it more often than me. They nap in the den, use my supplies, scatter them elsewhere in the house, and leave behind traces of food. The culprits are easy to identify. Tea stains on Estate documents belong to my wife. Drawings of poop are the work of my eight year old granddaughter. Nerf bullets have clearly been fired by Sebi. Chicken bones are my son’s leftovers from snacking with the Colonel. The television is always left on and the channel fingerprints of Sponge Bob, Star Wars, ESPN, and Perry Mason reruns identify individual trespassers. Presumably whoever inherits my den would remodel it because everyone complains that the decor is a gauche shrine to me. The room consumes barely 3% of the square feet of the house, so I am not exactly hogging space. I have little interest in happenings on earth after my death because my expiration represents the end of the world. All history of the universe culminates with my demise. No hypothetical scenarios horrify me. I am guessing that I will not even be in nominal possession of the coveted den when I die. Likely I will be housed in some retirement or assisted living community before I am ready because everyone is so anxious to move into that den.
Geese get a bad rap. An early rapper accused them of “getting fat” in a Christmas fundraiser to “Put a Penny in the Old Man’s Hat.” The gander is a “simpleton” according to Vocabulary.com and the goose is “silly.” This equal opportunity gender bash is immortalized in the saying: “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Grey Goose is an alcoholic partial to vodka. The Serious Goose is unhappy about all of this as Jimmy Kimmel has documented in his book with that title. Goose is third rate in the popular game Duck Duck Goose. Goose Goslin is the most famous person named Goose, although Goose Tatum and other athletes are in the same gaggle. The character Goose in the movie Top Gun was named after a real life pilot who was so nicknamed for messing up and putting his plane in the water. Goose down is a common term. You can goose up something but really no one ever likes getting goosed.
On November 1, The Seattle Times reported that a potentially ruinous wave of sex abuse lawsuits prompted the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to increase the annual youth membership fee by more than 80% to cover rising operating costs, notably liability insurance. When I was a Boy Scout, we used to quote the left eye saying to the right eye: “Between you and me, something smells.” The concept of having users pay for services is grounded in logic. Tolls on highways and permits to hike and camp make a certain amount of sense. But the idea of having Boy Scouts pay the exorbitant costs associated with their abuse creates an image problem. The model may work well on a financial sheet but is not easily sustained and explained by an organization in charge of guiding and helping youth. Even if BSA had attributed the significant cost increases to rigorous new screening and safety measures, it would still be bad publicity for an organization desperately needing to be above reproach. Funding bigger settlements is a concession that BSA still cannot control the problem. This is technically consistent with the Scout Motto. And I do not offer a better plan. My job is to complain about things, then Elizabeth Warren draws up plans, and world leaders help us elect Donald Trump to implement them.
I am curious but lazy, a combination that results in lack of knowledge. Non lazy people who are not curious end up in the same place but do not feel unfulfilled. Lazy people who are not curious are happier than me although I am most jealous of the non lazy curious group. When I visit my son’s family in Arlington, Virginia, I always notice houses backed up to a cemetery. I presume residents with a backyard abutting a grave site get more house for their money because anyone who watched Poltergeist is not in the prospective buyer pool. Down the road, houses line six lane Highway 50. Some have the benefit of an access road but two have driveways that empty directly onto the highway without any back alley. The one at 3344 Arlington Boulevard has a pedestrian ramp angling across the front lawn and connecting to the freeway overpass. So driveway access is also impeded by a height restriction preventing any type of moving van access. Recently I observed over sized boxes stacked at the top of the driveway, indicating that somehow deliveries are possible. I have always wondered who lives there and how much their house is worth but I am too lazy to do the research. Eventually I will bump into a realtor at one of my son’s Chili Cook Off parties and will learn more than I want to know. Thanks to me, you already know more than you wanted to.
Some people have no leftovers because they clean their plate. Others toss what they do not eat. Pet owners sometimes treat animals in the household with doggy bag treats. My youngest son only eats food he likes, enjoys variety, prefers fresh food, and does not like to actually throw away good food. So he saves his leftovers but never eats them because something fresher is always available even if it means driving to a restaurant or fast food chain. But if I eat his leftover food the next day, he notices and says something like, “Where is my Thai Ginger dinner from last night?” Then I kind of owe him some new food. So I always wait until the second or third day to eat his food. He never looks for food that old. And if he does, I tell him it was in the fridge forever and was going bad. Or I say, “I don’t think my grandchildren would take your food.” Which is the truth but suggests an accusation that deflects attention from me. I am part of the club that actually eats their own leftovers but also in the smaller and more embarrassing subset that eats other people’s leftovers. I try to lick the plate when nobody is watching but people have hidden cameras everywhere these days.
Anne Lamott was born to be a writer because she thinks and speaks in quotable soundbites. You can enjoy her writing without being in agreement. I find weighing myself a worthy daily ritual, affirming that I am still all there. But Lamott wishes she “had thrown out the bathroom scale at age 16.” She said: “Weighing yourself every morning is like waking up and asking Dick Cheney to validate your sense of inner worth.” Lamott writes frankly about her difficult childhood with a troubled mother. My childhood was not difficult enough to make me a gifted writer. Even if it had been, I do not know if I would have been able to write unflattering truths about people I know well. I flirt with it but lines exist. If your pain is deep enough, perhaps the lines become easier to cross. Megan Stack says that if you worry too much about what people will think, “it compromises your ability to write anything.” Anne Lamott laid the burden on the people you write about. Her take was that they should have behaved better if they wanted you to write more nicely about them. My take is that I wish people around me behaved worse so I could become famous.
When my youngest grandchild did not know what Kick the Can was, I decided to give everyone that game for Christmas. I could not Blog about it until now because I would spoil the surprise (I doubt anyone is reading this on Christmas morning). When I could not find the game online, I realized I finally had a winning business venture after a string of failures (Moles as Pets, U Pick ‘Em Weeds, etc.). Gary Dahl became a millionaire with his Pet Rock but he too failed at Sand Breeding Kits and Red China Dirt. The key is a funny concept with witty labels and directions. I started with a mailing friendly product that fit in a standard 6×9 envelope. I bought 25 flexible metal plates at Home Depot for 50 cents apiece. My label warned: “some can assembly required, welding tools not included.” But as I stuffed the envelopes, metal edges began inflicting paper like cuts on my hands. So I added a warning about the sharp edges but ultimately could not afford bad publicity killing the buzz. I finally invested in boxes and cans even though that lowers profits on a $15 product ($16.50 after tax). I am going to use the money I make to fund my Hide ‘n Seek project which features an envelope with a blindfold and directions. We are taking orders for both products. If you do not order anything, we will be sending you a complimentary metal plate.
We used to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic but now we are throwing them at each other. Soon we will be setting the chairs on fire and the ship will burn up before it can sink gracefully. The fire will melt more of the iceberg but many will not survive to witness the impact on global warming. Now I know I am an optimist and others have a bleaker view of the future for humanity. But I think we are like rats. We are too many, too resilient, and too stubborn to be exterminated. The pessimists think we will destroy ourselves but I believe we are breeding people who can survive rooting around in the garbage. I like to serve as a beacon of hope on this special day.
I stumbled on two of my grandchildren watching the animated Christmas movie A Year Without a Santa Claus. I mentioned that I did not recognize the film. My granddaughter was incredulous that I had not seen it and informed me that it was “a classic.” I was so amused that an eight year old could presume to school a 72 year old on what is a classic. The movie came out in 1974, a window of time when I had temporarily outgrown Santa movies but had no children of my own. But I know a classic when I see one. The lists rating Best Christmas Movies vary widely. Home Alone is ranked 2nd on one and 52nd on another. The original Miracle on 34th Street (3rd, 5th, and 9th) was released in 1947 and is definitely a classic. But one movie I could not find on any of the lists was A Year Without a Santa Claus. Of course, I have not yet seen my granddaughter’s list.
On Saturday mornings I usually drive over to my sister-in-law’s house to continue our tradition of long Saturday runs. Because of my aging, the long runs are shrinking and my pace is slowing. One of these days she will opt out entirely and tell me her yoga class conflicts with our run. Then one Saturday weeks or months later, I will spot her sprinting with a group of younger runners. Sometimes being able to see into the future is more of a curse than a gift. But I digress. Every Saturday en route to the run, I feel bad when I pass by Lowe’s in South Seattle. The day laborers see me in a pickup truck and make an extra effort to flag me down. I feel like I am snuffing out a glimmer of false hope. In December, the rain has been pouring and noticeably fewer workers have been presenting themselves for hire. Yesterday morning I only saw one person. Bad weather may be a reason but I hope regulars are missing for seasonal work opportunities. I was tempted to pull over and ask the one last laborer if he was interested in a job running a ten miler for me. But my sister-in-law might not appreciate a new jogging partner on short notice. She would likely tell me about her new yoga class that was scheduled on short notice.