Goktug says his boss Old Dan was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer but is going to fight it. Old Dan’s lawyer Rudy is filing suit against his doctor and anyone else who claims Old Dan has cancer. His Sycophants think he is in denial but note that he never smoked cigarettes. He even drinks only non alcoholic bleach. Old Dan claims he has done everything right, so cancer is unfair and must be some sort of fraudulent hoax. One problem is Old Dan’s belief that death is for Losers and Chumps. His family is worried he is planning a Resurrection because he changed his Will and is now leaving all his possessions to himself. Young Dan has been trying to talk his father out of that notion by assuring him that he would safeguard his property and keep it for him until probate clears Resurrection protocols. Rudy claims that Young Dan’s plan would be more legal if he (Rudy) held the assets. Rudy believes more categories exist than just “legal” and “illegal.” He cites innovative examples of “more legal” and “absurdly legal.” He represented a client who sued his partner for his fair share of the proceeds from a robbery they pulled off. The plaintiff and defendant are now both in jail awaiting pardons Rudy is allegedly buying with their loot. Rudy also sought an injunction to invalidate an election based on his own affidavit that he himself voted multiple times. Rudy’s creative way of thinking inside the corruption box impressed Old Dan. So Rudy is now in charge of linking the spread of cancer to illegal immigrants.
When I picked up my six year old nephew Malcolm for his play date with our family, I told him that his cousin Zozie (his pronunciation) would be at my house as she is most every week. He has made regular weekly visits since he was two. Rightly or wrongly we have grandfathered him into our circle of germs during the pandemic. Several times on our drives he has asked rhetorically: “Why are all these people out? Don’t they know there is a virus?” This is both amusing and awkward because we are those people. He undoubtedly heard those words from someone in his family or maybe from his nanny, perhaps when they are stuck in traffic. Each week, I just say, “Yeah, they are crazy.” This has become a ritual. But this day he asks how I know Zozie is at my house. I tell him, “Because I am smart, very very smart.” Hopefully he will start repeating that to everyone. But he informs me that “actually older people get not smart.” Ageism is too complex an issue for me to tackle with him, especially since my aging and diminished faculties make it difficult to concentrate. Instead I am daydreaming about all the one year olds who have bonded with their unmasked immediate family but not with the rest of the world. They only see eyes ominously peeking out of skin-like fabric where a mouth and nose would be on a human face. No visible smiles. No touches. Mask people making moves to distance themselves. Scary zombies wandering around the periphery. What must the youngest of us think? How will they be affected? I doubt masks will remain in style absent a pandemic.
As a reluctant part time teacher, I am coming down a scary learning curve. If I tell my nine year old granddaughter to floss her teeth, she will claim she did it. I will ask why I see no used floss in the waste basket. I naively think this will teach her not to lie. She actually learns to plant clean floss in the trash even if that takes the same effort as just flossing her darn teeth. If she says she has done all her homework and I find overdue assignments on the school website, she will figure out how to block my access to her schoolwork. I will be lucky if I can even access my own email or bank accounts by the time she gets done covering her tracks. I am relieved that she already possesses the skills to survive and thrive in our particular world but I am depressed about the requirements for existing in that world. When I was a child and went rogue, we all took comfort that I was the deviant but the world was sound. Unfortunately, my deviant accomplices and I seem to have turned the world upside down. I always subscribed to the adage that power corrupts. But I recently listened on Zoom to heartwarming origin stories that friends told about their parents. And my insight is that power attracts the corrupt. So many good people do not prioritize power the way the corrupt do. Since I am powerless and cannot even control access to my own den, I may be overgeneralizing. If I had power, I would postulate that a third of the powerful start corrupt, a third are corrupted by the power, and the last third remain altruistic. Then I would lie about which group I was in.
My ten year old grandson Diego is doing a school assignment where you calculate how you would spend one million dollars. His older sister hated doing that project when she was in fourth grade but Diego seems to be enjoying his wealth. He has purchased a home in Florida and a boat. He also bought four cars, one for each parent, himself, and his twelve year old sister. I actually have a driver’s license and could use a new car. My wife says I should have thought of that years ago when I mercilessly and repeatedly beat him at tic-tac-toe. So I am shifting my outrage. Why have I not heard about any of the million going to charity? Is he waiting for the next million before working on feeding the hungry? My wife reminded me that I am not famous for my generosity. That is not entirely true. I am infamous for generously offering my advice to everyone even if they do not ask for it and rudely refuse to take it. Why does his school assign this project to fourth graders anyway? It seems to cause dissention in the family. Why did I not get a million dollars in fourth grade? My wife mumbles something about making Math fun. Nobody made it fun for me. Finally she tried to explain that Diego is only spending make believe money. That is the type of attitude that hurt her back when she was still willing to play Monopoly with me.
The Birthday Paradox amazes us even when we understand the Math. In a room of 23 people, a fifty-fifty chance exists that two have the same birthday. A room of 75 people insures the result with 99.9% certainty. Humans tend to calculate the odds of how many would share their own birthday without considering all the other birthdays that could be matched. Presumably, the compounding power of components could establish corollaries by answering other questions about 75 people in a room. What are the odds any two will share the Coronavirus, be wearing masks, or be in violation of social distancing mandates? My daughter-in-law suggested my wife and I need a break from helping homeschool her two youngest children. She offered to take time off from work so we could be alone and go on a date. We are already too alone. Where are we going on a date? To a restaurant? To the movies? To a Seahawk game? To a party? To visit friends or extended family? To a weekend getaway or a vacation? We are extremely thankful we are currently healthy and have enough alone time to take walks and get our exercise. So we are not complaining. Maybe at our half full Thanksgiving Table we can make a game out of discussing Brain Anomalies like the Birthday Paradox. Why do we keep trying to turn on the lights in a power outage even though our brain has presumably placed a high priority on understanding the futility of that action? Why in a pandemic do we think we still have options that are logically not available to us?
Two weeks ago, my wife and I moved all the furniture back after a rug cleaning. She wanted several pieces rearranged, mainly because she hates and wants to replace two of them as soon as possible. Considering the urgency, I have penciled in my next trip to the Dump for June 2022. Living with worn and dirty furniture saves time and money and preserves my sense of priority. New furniture is not child proof and ages as fast as grandchildren can invent a hot lava rug game and jump from chair to couch while drinking hot chocolate. But I did not want to be added to the replacement list so I helped move offending pieces where the hordes of people visiting us in a Pandemic could not see them. Two days later my wife confronted me, demanding to know who had moved the chairs. The question mark at the end of her sentence was swallowed up by implicit accusation. I was confused until she showed me three chairs back in their old places. I did not move them and suspected she had not yet gone mad. The only other resident, our 16 year old grandson Sebastian, was clearly the culprit. His place on the autism spectrum includes a deep need for all things, including furniture, to be in their proper places. He has lived here over seven years and is the guardian of ritual and constancy. He will not eat dinner even one minute before seven o’clock, no matter if others are consuming his favorite foods. My wife will ultimately win the furniture battle but for now the chairs sit exactly where Sebastian put them. One day he will come home from school and find new furniture. Hopefully I will be there too.
I was a paperboy with a delivery route, unlike my junior high classmate who was a Newspaper Hawker on the main street corner in our Milwaukee suburb. I cannot remember any papergirls in the shack where we picked up and prepared our papers for delivery. I am sure they existed somewhere because the word papergirls did not get underlined in red when I typed it. A friend of mine from Washington state told me he had an early job testing peas. I assumed that he did random taste tests to make sure they were properly tender and tasty. I wondered if he could still eat peas or if that job made him sick of them. But he explained that his assignment was putting peas in a tenderometer which measures their maturity and determines whether they are ready for cropping. Immature peas presumably go back in the queue where my friend must have minded his peas and queues. I looked tenderometer up on encyclopedia.com because it does get underlined in red every time I type it. The internet confirms that a tenderometer is just as real as a papergirl but apparently Rudy Giuliani is contesting official certification of the word until the peas in his pod are granted immunity from being declared losers.
I have less appetite for tension than I did in bygone days. A certain amount of stress can be good for you according to ULifeline, an online resource for college mental health. They explain the difference between good and bad stress. Good stress helps you focus, meet challenges, reach goals, and boost memory. Stress in small doses can fortify the immune system, improve heart function, and protect the body from infection. But too much stress causes the exact opposite effect. Warning signs include (1) inability to concentrate; (2) increase in sickness, anxiety, irritability and anger; (3) sleep and appetite disruptions; and (4) news coverage of Donald Trump and the political divisions in the country. A week ago I watched the movie The Irishman on Netflix. I did not intend to view it in one sitting because it runs three hours and 29 minutes. But I never hit pause or moved from my bed until it was over. So I guess watching Jimmy Hoffa getting killed by the mob is not stressful for me. Pacino, De Niro, and Pesci are cuddly old friends compared to the scary characters on the political stage. I cannot even sit still for a three hour Seahawk game any more. I sneak out to the garden to imitate Marlon Brando with an orange peel wrapped around my teeth. I am relieved that The Irishman movie proved my attention span is still in tact. I am not sick yet because I scheduled my Covid-19 for the flat end of the curve. My irritability and anger cannot increase because I keep them permanently set at Ticking Timebomb. To protect against sleep and appetite disorders, I am practicing eating and sleeping at the same time. The results are mixed. I am losing weight but my wife is getting dangerously stressed.
My feelings were hurt last week. Aging makes it easier to accept slights with good grace. This is mainly because over the years, I have done more than my fair share of stepping on the feelings of others. Stoically taking criticism is a way to relieve guilt for my own transgressions. I cannot ever balance the scales because the tally sheet is about as accurate as a political poll. And I was often too dense to realize I insulted people too polite to act offended. I have made some apologies but many of my victims are dead or still not speaking to me. How do I even phrase the apology? Do I say sorry for telling everyone you were a bedwetter in my wedding toast? What if you were not a bedwetter? Do I also apologize for lying or get in an argument over whether you actually wet the bed. Maybe you were too drunk to remember the insult. Do I just say, “I am sorry for those things I said about you” and figure you will apply the apology to something I have said? What if you reply, “I think you owe the apology to my mother,” and I have no idea why? Was I so drunk that I called the mother of the groom a bedwetter? What if more than words were involved? How many people do I apologize to for pouring the contents of the punchbowl over my ex-girlfriend? Does it matter whether she was a guest, bridesmaid, or bride? Do I offer to pay for the punch and dry cleaning? Do I apologize for cutting in on the father-daughter dance if I knew she was dreading it? I am sorry I ever attended that stupid wedding without an invitation.
I recently saw the name of a song by the Jarmels in print: A Little Bit of Soap. For over a half century I have sung the title lyric as “a little bit of soul.” My comical error was never discovered because I rarely sing in public, songs by the Jarmels are not prominent in my repertoire, and I soulfully pronounce soul just like the Jarmels soulfully sing soap. The lyrics now make a little bit more sense but they make me laugh like I would at a comedy spoof. Maybe much of our country’s deep division is predicated on mispronunciations. Trump conceded!? No, Trump is conceited. We should probably wash our mouths out with soap and start over. You can confuse ignominious with ignoramus because neither word is complimentary but do not call a flautist a flatulist. Mixing up accept and expect can cause unintended trouble. Are you talking about my authenticity or my ethnicity? I always thought people considered me worthy but apparently they were accusing me of being wordy. So I will cut this post short.