Pensa Colas

Goktug and I were sipping Pensa Cola Bushwackers now that we are both fully vaccinated and could get together and play cards in person. He has been so frustrated for well over a year with false hopes that the quarantine nightmare was coming to an end. He has relentlessly railed and wailed against the restrictions on where he could go and what he could do. Some of his confinement is self inflicted. He is not interested in spending an eight hour day in airports and airplanes with a mask on. Now Governor Inslee is expected on Wednesday to rollback to Phase Two restrictions from Phase Three in response to a fourth surge in Covid-19 cases in Washington state. I dealt a new hand and asked where Goktug planned to travel when the Pandemic does eventually expire. Hawaii? Laguna Beach? He said he cannot really be out in the sun and the heat. I further prompted him by suggesting a ski trip but the mountains are too cold for him and he hates driving in snow and ice. He is not interested in going back to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. Been there and done that. Go hiking on the Appalachian Trail? Too old and out of shape to do that again. Travel overseas? Not safe enough, too expensive. After the last hand, Goktug observed that the Pensa Colas were too sweet this time and complained that he never gets dealt any good cards. I told him that no matter what happens, he and I will likely have plenty of opportunity to deal more hands in the next few years. However, I had to warn him that he will continue to be disappointed with his cards.



Anagrams for the title word include draw back, bad wrack, and bawd rack. But I have been more fascinated with spelling words backward ever since I was a child and watched the attention my Dad received when doing it. He cracked up a big restaurant dinner party when my step grandmother asked if anyone had a Tums and he warned that Smut was the backward spelling of that particular antacid. My wife is good at the backward game, presumably due to an overexposure to my Dad and me. She and I preferred it over Pig Latin or regular spelling when we did not want the kids to understand what we were talking about. We even used the code “BS” to indicate we were going into backward spelling mode. Those famous initials were wonderful at disguising what we were really up to. Words would be in the right order but each one would be spelled in reverse, e.g., Stel tup Nitsud pu rof noitpoda. That spelling jumble suggests that we sever ties with our middle son. Masking our words meant he would only be permanently scarred if we actually followed through on the impulse. Obviously our system worked best when we used a minimum of backward words. Once the code was triggered, we could say, “Matt is such an amazing toidi.” Hopefully he still believes toidi is the Irish word for child. We also spelled things correctly as a trick to make our boys precocious spellers before they understood reverse psychology. We would spell out: I-h-o-p-e-t-h-e-y-d-o-n-t-b-r-u-s-h-t-h-e-i-r-t-e-e-t-h. Despite our precautions, they were psychologically scarred anyway. But they have wonderful teeth.

Big Six

The secret plan to form a Super League of six elite soccer teams from England was rolled out to a backlash of criticism. I hope to avoid the mistakes made by owners who came up with that idea. I am the eldest male in family league of 13 franchises that includes my spouse, three sons, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. I have been in secret negotiations to form a Super Six alliance with five other handpicked family members. I made my choices by screening for who would make me wealthier and my life easier. I have the advantage of knowing that the majority of my current Clan of 13 would prefer not to be included in my Big Six unit. That will neutralize their objections. The five I have targeted for my alliance could be troublesome because their fans might stir up trouble by outing me as a mansplaining narcissist. I have retained a public relations firm to counter this unfortunate truth with some fake news. They impressed me with their infamous success in spreading the Big Lies that Joe Biden’s election as President of the United States was rigged by voter fraud and the malicious introduction of Covid-19 on Planet Earth. My consultation with Super Six invitee Mollie (long suffering spouse) hit a snag when she said she was forming her own Super Twelve League that should make everyone happy. Except, of course, for the one poor sap who is being ostracized.

Bed Bath in the Beyond

I keep forgetting my Mom died four years ago today because her Estate has not closed and the bills keep coming in as attorneys, accountants, and the government battle it out to see who gets the biggest share. The government took an early lead with federal and state taxes but I am betting the attorneys may pull off an upset as my Mother has not had a job for a long time and her income is drying up. My siblings and I will eventually divide up the residuals left in the Estate but the attorneys are hoping we will sue each other so the fun can continue. I am getting too old to enjoy that type of sport. Each evening I have to decide whether to walk down and get the snail mail or wait until tomorrow morning when I have more energy. Yesterday I was googling how much money you can take with you when you die, so I can help my children avoid dealing with an Estate. My search results were disturbing. So my wife and I figure we need to start spending down our assets instead. But she is out in the garden right now saving money by doing all the work I finally hired a gardener to do. And I do not know how to stop her from shopping in thrift stores. The frugal habits run too deep. She acquired a cut rate husband and should know that strategy is flawed. Her most valuable asset is a collection of Bed Bath & Beyond coupons that collectively would allow us to buy that business with the cumulative four million percent discount we are now entitled to. Imagine how eager the attorneys, accountants, and taxmen will be to get their hands on that stash.


I hang around quite a few people who are in therapy. Ironically, I am the one who actually needs therapy more than any of them. Maybe I have contributed to their need for a psychologist or perhaps having one is a status symbol. I have an aversion to seeing a therapist because like others before me, I look at the term and see the words “the rapist.” This is not good branding for the career they have chosen which delves deeply into the subconscious. They should pick a job title like counselor, healer, helper, listener, astrologer, or even fortune teller. Anything would be better. I suggest the entirely new name of “thehero” for people in the profession. Clients who are suffering should feel very comfortable getting theheroic treatment in thehappy sessions. In fact, I am willing to offer my services as a thehero because no credentials are required to be one. Eventually the state will notice and start regulating my business but hopefully I will be rich by then.


When I give a speech, I often tell the story when I ran my Volkswagen Rabbit out of oil and blew up the engine because I assumed the oil warning light was defective. The reasons for my assumption are laughable in the cold light of the consequences. I am never paid for my speeches because I usually deliver them during conversations. Sometimes I am only speechifying to pictures hanging on the walls of my home when no one is around. Nevertheless, I make the compelling point that we often go through absurd contortions to avoid life’s warning lights. We do not recognize that alcohol, drugs, or other destructive behaviors are causing the problems. Instead we readily believe that parents, teachers, co-workers, bosses, spouses, friends, and relatives are all wrong. I represent my oil light fiasco as an epiphany but now realize that I am a fraud. I continue to ignore obvious warning lights despite clearly recognizing the syndrome. On Friday, during a weekly long run, I started feeling a dull pain in my upper left leg. I tried to run through it for several miles, involuntarily shortening my stride. I was slowing down my sister-in-law, so eventually I told her to run on ahead while I experimented with emergency gimpy running styles. I totally ignored my body’s escalating warnings until it shot an intense bolt of pain through my leg that literally knocked me off my feet. I scrambled up with blood dripping off my elbow and decided to walk the last three miles. I have learned absolutely nothing since I blew up that Volkswagen engine over forty years ago.


My wife has never been shy about giving me a piece of her mind. She has generously donated so many pieces that I worry she is losing her mind altogether. And yet with all the donations she has made, I am still the dumb one because I keep featuring her in my Blog. She claims my postings are riddled with lies. I explain that the only alternative is the truth and that scares her more. So we have agreed to continue with the lies, although I expect some truth will seep in by accident. According to Wikipedia, lies were invented 4000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. Truth arrived 2000 years later but Donald Trump suspended it in a 2017 Executive Order. Lies are generally held in disfavor although ones told for the benefit of another are acceptable to those who believe pure altruism and goodness can exist. And some hard truths sting worse than lies, like the old favorites: Looks matter, unique soul mates do not exist, and the world is filled with suffering and misery. The good news is that optimism has survived against all odds and I am expecting to have a really good day today.


I do not eat M&M’s because I cannot eat just one or two or fifty. People used to gift me puzzle books because they knew I enjoyed Crosswords and Sudoku. But I cannot keep such books in the house. I am unable to limit myself to one puzzle a day. I enter any cartoon caption contest I can find, although winning one is about as likely as picking six winning lottery numbers. And what do you get if you luck out? Over the years, I got to see my name in the New Yorker once and won two coasters from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I avoid medications because I am terrified of contracting any addictions to drugs. I cannot participate in any Blog challenges because I would spend twenty hours a day on them once I got started. I only allow myself to Blog once a day and limit myself to 300 words. Some have suggested I limit my word count further. I have seriously considered that but it would actually take me more time to carefully construct a 50 word post than ramble along for 300 words. Mark Twain made the point that a long letter is easier to write that a short one. So Mark and I have much in common once you get past the big difference in quality of writing. My brother Kevin once reviewed a draft of my novel and said it was too short. Characters were not developed, descriptions were absent, and tension was lacking. I pointed out that Steinbeck wrote short novels. He reminded me: “You ain’t no Steinbeck.” Even though I knew that truth well enough to laugh, I have spent the 15 years since then proving it, just to be absolutely sure.

Naked Emperor

I identify with everyone in Hans Christian Anderson’s folktale The Emperor’s New Clothes. I just documented my vanity in Monday’s Body Building post, so I cannot distance myself so easily from the vain Emperor who only cared about how he looked in the finest clothes. I also identify with the two weavers who swindled the Emperor by weaving imaginary clothes that were allegedly invisible to fools. My brother and I pulled off many pranks in high school because we arrogantly thought we were cleverer than everyone else but we usually ended up in Jug (detention) or getting hacks back when you were allowed to beat students. I do not remember the weavers getting caught but imagine they were when the Kingdom began using DNA forensics to solve cold cases. I can also identify with the Ministers and Noblemen who lied to the Emperor about seeing the fabric and carried the invisible train because they needed to retain their jobs. I was definitely smart and cowardly enough at work not to speak much truth to power. I identify with townspeople who continue to cheer the Emperor as if he had clothes on even after the child exposes the truth. I myself applaud the Seattle Mariners, pretending they have a shot at getting into a World Series even though they have fallen short all 44 years of their existence. I prefer to identify with the child who outed the naked Emperor because I often blurt out words in pure amazement before realizing that saying them could actually embarrass someone, e.g., “Wow, I have never seen those colors worn together!” I am an Everyman that everyone can identify with because I carry faults of everyone.

Second to Last

Winning is difficult and requires a great deal of discipline and energy. So early in life I adopted a successful strategy of doing whatever it takes not to finish last. If I could get D’s in school, I would not be the student with F’s that had to go to summer school. I always invited the youngest kid in the neighborhood to join our ball games, so I would not be picked last. I tried to pass on my philosophy to my children. When my youngest son beat one person in a big cross country meet, we were more excited than the runner who finished second. Even the guy my son beat was celebrating with us until we figured out he was drunk and had been sleeping in the park when the runners woke him up. At work, I once received a 60 day layoff notice but somebody else must have quit within that period because my layoff was rescinded. If a death caused the cancellation, I would remember because I would have been a suspect. When playing Hearts, I just try to avoid being last so even a third place finish can be a victory. I only need to outrun one person when being chased by the police or a bear. I try not to be in the last category of any donor lists or the last one left at the Bar when it comes time to pay the tab. Playing that close to the margin is exhausting and requires quite a bit of skill. My friend Goktug says that theoretically I could have channeled all that energy into being a winner but he is the last person I ever listen to.