Sign of the Times

Black Lives Matter placards are springing up in my neighborhood faster than election campaign posters. I do not know the official racial distribution of the community but assume it mirrors enrollment at Somerset Elementary where my granddaughter attends school between pandemics. For 2020, the school reported 721 students and a minority enrollment of 83% which they characterized as “mostly Asian.” They used to be more specific but such statistics become complex when parents identify mixed nationalities and races. My granddaughter’s five best friends have parents who are (1) Mauritanian and speak French at home; (2) Turkish; (3) Iranian; (4) Australian/South Korean; and (5) Samoan/Filipino. Anecdotally, I have noticed some of the Caucasian children speaking European and Scandinavian languages with their parents. Many wage earners are on assignment from other countries for companies like Microsoft and Amazon. So I am impressed to see all the signs. I served as a college fund raiser for a few years and hated making cold calls. So I recognize even slivers of opportunity. It should be hard to turn down solicitations from canvassers for the Black Lives Matter movement when you have a poster out front supporting the cause. If you say you gave at the office, you look like your support is for show. Business solicitors seek credibility by alleging they have been hired by neighbors who are painting, roofing, gardening, and getting rid of rats. Likewise, fund raisers for Black Lives Matter could point to neighbors with signs when speaking to people without a poster on display. And, of course, they should give away free signs. The drawback for solicitors is that the pandemic makes strangers at the door even less welcome than normal with all the scam warnings. But you cannot hide because they know you are at home.



Coronavirus is giving impetus to the Untact movement where transactions move online and humans are replaced by machines and robots. South Korea coined the term Untact to describe a concept that has been percolating for years as an antidote for rising wages and aging workplaces. Recent business closures due to a pandemic gives a boost to the idea at a time when technology is providing more solutions. Humans could potentially remain cloistered in their homes while robots run the world. Our residences would not actually be prisons or concentration camps because we could order fine foods and play the latest video games all day. Well, one resident of each home would need to be working on running a robot business to insure a steady revenue stream. We would not be able to go out in public spaces, so maybe it would be more like house arrest. But only until the robots invented a vaccine that they would deliver with our other medications. Presumably stockholders in the robot economy would fund charitable funds to subsidize minimum lifestyles for those who do not have access to income. If problems arise, robot security could be the answer if police are defunded. Robots could be programmed to treat people the same. They would be free of emotional distractions like anger and fear. Unfortunately, depending on who is in charge, “equally” might turn out to just mean everyone is treated poorly.

Optimistic at 72

My middle son turned 43 this month. I reflected in a congratulatory email about the unknown good things yet to come. When my wife and I were 43, we had no idea we were going to move to Wichita for a six year assignment. My wife was surprised to start her full-time teaching career in Kansas. We had not yet met our three daughters-in-law and five grandchildren. I did not know I would visit Moscow on two business trips, witness the baptism of two grandchildren in El Salvador, or run the Portland Marathon at the age of 68 faster than I ran the Seattle Marathon at age 32. Who knew Mount St. Helens would erupt, the Berlin Wall would fall, or Obama would be elected President? No matter what your age, your life is still open to possibilities. Some of our dreams may not come true but unexpected adventures are lurking all along the trail. Even if you stumble off life’s cliff, surprises may break your fall.

Two Notes

While trapped inside our home for longer periods than usual, we have noticed little things like the birds nesting in our chimney and gutters. My wife wondered about a certain smell. Did we ever check out our suspicion that some animal died inside our walls? No, the current odor is less pungent than that. More like nonenal, the so called “old person” smell. I reminded my wife that no old people have been allowed entry to our house for over three months due to the pandemic. In what seemed like a non sequitur, Mollie complimented me on my conservation actions that flattened the curve on our water bill. She suggested that we move to phase 2 where I can resume showering. I assume she is not subtly sending me a message like my Mom would. Mollie is much more direct than that. She will loudly state something like: “If you do not drop the bad attitude and start cleaning up after yourselves in the kitchen, I am going to rent an apartment and you are on your own.” I start packing and tell her I am coming with her. That is when she realizes she is trapped in a bad dream. But at least she has new hope that she will wake up, preferably alone in an apartment that smells better. I think I am going to write two notes with instructions for my executor. The first one will explain how much I have appreciated Mollie’s efforts and kindnesses over the years. The direction on the second note will say: “If Mollie has actually caused my death, please destroy the first note and give her note number two.”

Flunking Mellow

Friday after a hectic week of homeschooling grandchildren, I rush to an appointment for a routine basal cell carcinoma excision. Emails and facebook postings from others with bigger medical issues persuade me to avoid grumpiness. The nurse asks if I have ever had a skin cancer procedure. Is she testing for dementia thinking I might not remember a four day melanoma surgery just last July at this same clinic I have been visiting for over thirty years? But I am cheery, happy to be alive. I deny having any of the conditions she inquires about. I chuckle that now she is scaring me about what lies ahead. We laugh. As she numbs my shoulder, we bond over stories of her softball prowess as a first baseman on a traveling team that plays out of state tournaments. I learn about her boyfriend who is a right fielder on her co-ed team. I enjoy being a good listener for a change. The doctor starts to cut the shoulder and asks if I can feel anything. I tell her I would be screaming like a baby if I could. Luckily she can cut and laugh at the same time. I was such a good sport that the nurse smuggles me a double supply of the bigger softer bandages usually reserved for more significant wounds. I arrive home ready to pamper myself reading magazines while lying on the bed watching the latest episode of Billions. I get a call from my youngest son. How sweet. He must be calling to ask how the surgery went. Hey, Dad, can you pick me up in downtown Seattle and drive me to Lincoln Towing? The truck you lent me was towed and the owner has to be present to reclaim it. “ARE YOU ******* KIDDING ME?!”


At Donald Trump’s birthday party yesterday, I learned he was born in a Jamaica Hospital. That sets up a good one liner but the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is located in Queens, New York. So I cannot get an entire truthiness posting out of that one factoid. The young Trump tested off the Enneagram chart as a category 10 Narcissist with wings as Competitive Achiever (3) and Active Controller (8). So far he has been too busy to use those insights for self discovery and the world actually knows him better than he knows himself. The title bout between Bunker Boy and Sleepy Joe features two well known warriors but new insights will emerge. Disclaimers will be everywhere. Lawyers salivate at opportunities to expand words and shrink print size. My own added language to Trump Rally Coronavirus waivers: “You hereby accept responsibility for any and all erosion of American dreams, ideals, and character as identified in the following three volumes of text which will be translated into the language of television over at least the next seven months.” Foreign governments are scrambling to get their disclaimers in order. Not to be outdone, the Biden Camp is slowly developing a waiver for all Americans to sign. The document will release Joe from all liability for not being Obama. In addition, it will disclaim responsibility for any and all Biden and Biden family words and actions in the past, present, or future that in any way enable Donald Trump to continue as President.

Outer Space Solution?

The theory has long been promoted that mankind will unite when the aliens threaten the earth. Not the aliens we disparage as illegal but the legal aliens from outer space. However, we will not unite. When threatened by a pandemic, we do not even unite inside nation states. Emotional accusations fly over the issues of the actual danger and governmental orders to shut down countries, states, and cities. We fight bitterly over testing and who gets what resources. We demonize people if they even look like natives of the country where the virus originated. When we get a vaccine solution, the fighting will escalate over discriminatory access, hoarding, and profiteering. So when the space invaders arrive, do not believe the story lines in comics and movies. We will not be resisting in one unified fashion. Some will be providing the extraterrestrials with maps to China with the assurance that tastier humans live there. Mercenaries will hire on to help the invaders with orderly harvesting. I was naive with my youthful dreams of cannibals from space uniting earth in a great military resistance with our stockpiled weapons. I imagined that victory would lead to lasting peace on the planet. People who call me crazy might be right after all.


Last weekend I attended an outdoor church service because Governor Inslee said I could. I tried to make reservations for five but you can only make them one at a time. I only completed three by the time the Sunday Mass quota of 100 was filled. The demand for a seat at church skyrocketed when people were told supply was limited. The only time my youngest sister got a flu shot was the year we had a shortage in the United States and she and I signed up for a boat trip to Canada to get shots. I am thinking of limiting access to my Blog postings to the first 75 readers. That should help me go viral. Because of demand, my Parish was authorized to add a Saturday service for 50 more people. I made a reservation in my son’s name and impersonated him on Saturday afternoon. I traded him my reservation for Sunday and I covered my ticketless eight year old granddaughter under blankets so my wife could drive past the checkpoint. I received some push back from the moralists in the family but insisted they proceed. Is God going to be mad at people who sneak into Church? No, the damned are those who smuggle extra passengers into drive-in movies or the Evergreen Speedway. I was always willing to pay full price and not just because I did not want to be the one locked in the trunk. But I am not entirely sure what behavior I modeled for my granddaughter.

Our Hero Day

Our Hero Day was born on June 12th in the mid 1960’s at a spaghetti dinner in the basement of a Kirkland farmhouse. Like so many unheralded movements with modest origins but the energy of a handful of zealots, it fizzled. It never became a national holiday or a Holy Day of Obligation. One nominated hero barely survived the Mount St. Helens eruption. He saw a watch on the path with time frozen but did not remove it because it was not his. On another end of the honesty spectrum, I pick up anything left on the ground. Last week my haul was big, including numerous coins and a badminton birdie. Others seem more reluctant to touch abandoned items in a pandemic. I do not even need the treasures I collect. Last week I donated over 100 golf balls to Goodwill from a stash accumulated on my jogs. I was crazy to risk my life running out on fairways and trying to catch some of them on the fly. I do admire heroes who show kindness to people who have been embarrassed. I make some of them heroes by doing the embarrassing. So I deserve partial credit but deflect it to Dour Herod, lead singer of the Concrete Mamas, who farms to feed the hungry. How about Phillipe Foubert, the Frenchman who co-founded the Student Involvement League, an organization opposing the Vietnam War? Or the fellow who spent four months in the Washington State penitentiary at Walla Walla for cheating at Pinochle but turned his life around? Now he tirelessly donates his time teaching card game strategies to senior citizens. By shunning awards, these heroes make it difficult for Our Hero Day to gain traction. Despite the lack of competition, I nominate myself every year but never get chosen.

Duct Tape

I have aged to the point where my body is literally held together by duct tape. My feet and toes are a gnarled mess of neglect and abuse, exacerbated by decades of running and hiking. I was having trouble walking the other day with stabbing pains on the sole of my right foot. Scraping my sock and inner shoe free of debris did not help. I might have picked up a beauty bark splinter while working in the garden but I am not limber enough to view the sole of my foot without breaking a bone somewhere in my body. So I asked my wife if she could spot a splinter. I forgot that her eyesight makes it difficult to even locate my foot. She said our friend Andrea recommends duct taping over a splinter you cannot extract. I usually just lather any friction point with petroleum jelly but decided to take Andrea’s advice. I am uncertain if she is a doctor because I am always talking about myself during our conversations. And she is emergency prone and usually has one that requires a hasty exit while I am speaking. I used the strongest duct tape I could find. It took four days to finally fall off. Maybe the splinter was stuck to the tape. Either way, the remedy was successful so I will be taping up more aching body parts in the future. My wife says to start with my mouth. Her sense of humor is a delight but overshadowed by other qualities.