The June 28th issue of People magazine included a picture of Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom sharing a kiss. Katy is smooching with eyes shut as her head tilts at an upward angle. Her kiss is not squarely connected to Orlando’s lips. His head is angled away from her. His left eye is open and peering at the cell phone camera in his left hand. Some professional photographer captured this scene. Perhaps Orlando had just positioned his camera and was about to turn back to Katy and snap this spontaneous and beautiful expression of their love. The couple would have done better to just let the paparazzi do the work. We appear more eager to document our lives than to live them. We exhaust ourselves posting on social media platforms instead of basking in the beauty of kisses, flowers, and sunsets we encounter. We feverishly seek props for our next post. I understand the instinct because I give daily WordPress tours of the inside of my head. But I think I am weird. Why is everybody else doing this? Some people have a genuinely generous nature and want to share. But this can lead to dissatisfaction. One theme I hear repeatedly is how annoyed writers are with people who pretend to like their material. Exposing this leads to what? The realization that less people are actually interested than we would like to think? We could theoretically wipe out pretense but we cannot embarrass people into being interested. Early in my marriage I would triumphantly catch my wife not listening to me. Eventually she gave up pretending and told me the reason: I was boring and redundant. Whoa. Why had I headed down that path? So go ahead and give me any kudos you want, no questions asked!
One of my daughter’s-in-law gifted me Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again for Father’s Day. For some reason people close to me are always trying to get me to change. They never give me a book titled How to Remain Exactly the Same. But I was intrigued by the possibility of testing the bold Never too Late words against my age of 73. I do not have much time to waste so I skimmed ahead looking for quick answers. In Week 6 of her program, Cameron identifies “a lack of humility” as “the biggest block to creativity.” This was discouraging because I thought plenty of extremely creative people lacked humility. Many creative geniuses are very humble but I thought room existed for us who lack humility. The words “biggest block to creativity” are very strong. Fortunately, I am halfway there with a well developed false humility. Still I should probably have pursued paths that do not emphasize humility. Maybe politics or telemarketing. Apparently the ego wants us to be an expert so freezes us from pursuing new interests. Humility grants us the courage to take a first small step. Memoir writing, Morning Pages (stream of consciousness daily writing), Artist Dates, and Solo Walks are tools recommended by Cameron and Emma Lively. Those things do sound cool, so I am getting sucked into the premise. Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for anything I say on my Blog because no one offers. However, I do get threatened with restraining orders. Readers I know personally have asked to be removed from posts. At least I think that is what is meant by: “I’m coming over and pounding you to a pulp if I see my name again.”
Stop me if I have already blogged about Heaven and Hell. Oops, too late I already posted this. I am excited because heaven and hell are locations few readers have visited, so my views are not diminished by the vast knowledge of others. We travel by ferry quite a bit where I live. If we are on foot, my wife and I will go up on deck and watch the boarding process below. On crowded days, we will see the last car loaded and the first vehicle that must wait for the next ferry. I always wonder what it would be like to be the least good person to make the cut for heaven. You have martyrs who gave up lives for the Good and you have the Prodigal Sons and Daughters who made peace on a deathbed (or Cross like the Good Thief). You can postulate a hierarchy in heaven that takes care of that. The least qualified person in Heaven might need counseling for feelings of guilt or inadequacy but I presume the theme of Love is very inclusive in a heavenly place. So I am more worried about the least bad person who misses the cut and is stuck in Hell with the very most evil culprits. Is part of Hell actually the punishment of being in a hierarchy where everyone is unhappy about the rung they are on? Are serial killers jealous that they are not in the Baddest category reserved for architects of genocide? Are those who murdered no one tortured by a realization that they barely missed the ferry? Another troubling question for me is whether I may regret posting this someday.
Yesterday the temperature on my home’s security device was 99 degrees in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle (high there was 97). I have this security device because the Cable company would charge me more monthly if I did not install it. I hated letting them win because I know my biggest security threat is their device. For all I know the Cable company is causing the heat wave. Temperatures of 100 degrees are not noteworthy in other places but historically Seattle had a hard time even hitting 90 degrees. My readers, including many who reside around Puget Sound, know more about this than I do. Seattle officially hit 100 degrees on July 16, 1941, at the Downtown Federal Building. When Sea-Tac Airport opened in 1945, it became the new official temperature site for Seattle. When the Downtown Federal Building hit 100 degrees on June 9, 1955, the official Sea-Tac temperature was only 96. So Seattle had one, two, or three 100 degree days, depending on credibility of Downtown Federal Building readings. My friend Goktug recorded a dozen 100 degree Seattle days on his outdoor thermometer but he hangs it inside his barbecue grill. I moved to Seattle in 1962 (again inserting myself in the narrative), so finally experienced an official 100 degrees in Seattle on July, 20, 1994. People had started buying air conditioned cars and houses but it took fifteen more years until Seattle topped the century mark again (103 on July 29, 2009). The forecast for today and tomorrow is well over 100, although this information comes from a Fox affiliate television station. I do not know what warming trends mean or what we should do about them but I hope we can all agree Seattle is getting hotter.
I used to try and write about things other than myself. On one hand I know nearly everything because I read A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. On the other hand, I am not an authority on anything. I have the attention span of a fruit fly with dementia. Fortunately I live in an age of Wikipedia so I can learn anything I need to know when I need to know it and not have to remember it for later. I was the most knowledgeable about things other than myself in high school because no internet existed for easy fact checking by some football coach teaching history. I knew pygmies existed, Pitcairn was an island, and cucumbers were real. So I could write a paper about a tribe of pygmies on Pitcairn Island who use cucumbers for food, bartering, and weapons. Research was easy and fast because I created obscure sources that should have existed in a perfect world. The best part: I never ever plagiarized anything. Unfortunately, this technique did not work well in college when I had to submit a 50 page Senior Thesis on the Marshall Plan to graduate. Apparently Thurgood Marshall had nothing to do with that Plan. So I gradually became less knowledgeable when truth was favored over imagination. Many people publish on every possible aspect of history, geography, art, dance, horticulture, medicine, science, sports, music, self-help, poetry, photography, sex, love, and Kim Kardashian. But no one has ever written anything about me except me and my high school Principal who sabotaged my college applications with hearsay, allegations, and grades that should have been confidential. So I have a unique niche where I am a world expert. Even Wikipedia does not have an entry for me!
I tend to divide people into four quadrants whenever possible because four rants is usually a perfect number for 300 word Blog postings. Quadrant One houses people who project a positive vibe when you meet them but the halo effect is misleading because they are not who they appear. For example, psychopaths, sociopaths, and osteopaths could find themselves in this category. You are excited about the doctor you met but if the doc turns out to be a psychopathic osteopath, this can be a big disappointment down the road. Quadrant Two includes people who live up to the halo effect they project. Readers of my Blog invariably fall into this quadrant, although for the sake of a cheap laugh I just lost any followers connected to an osteopath. Quadrant Three individuals like me may cast a bad impression at first. We can seem a little too cynical, sarcastic, and full of ourselves. Later the reverse halo effect is confirmed when it turns out we are living in a court ordered Narcissist Treatment facility and stockpiling restraining orders. Quadrant Four residents also present badly when you first meet them. Maybe one rear ended your car when you impulsively decided not to run the red light. But by the time the movie ends, you are best friends getting wasted together on Friday nights. Everything is relative and relatives are at the root of most problems. When you are in Quadrant Three, you long for a day you might be able to squeeze into Quadrant Four unless your relatives have also wangled a ticket there.
I could upgrade my postings with better material but a few more people would have to die or I would need to be famous enough that the acclaim would justify embarrassing or slandering some of the living. The catch 22 is that I cannot get famous (or infamous) without first using the edgier material. I can speak more freely than I can write because the words are not frozen in print. I can respond to hearsay by saying I was misquoted. I have spent a good deal of my life rationalizing the past into skewered narratives that justify my actions in a self serving way. My middle son says I am good at doing this, so I include that talent on my LinkedIn Skills and Endorsements page because so few entries reside there. I recently attended a post pandemic (is that term premature?) dinner party of nine and became part of the entertainment. I can say my wife and I were hilarious storytellers. The other seven witnesses cannot contradict that because none of them read my Blog. My wife did an hysterical imitation of our 13 year old granddaughter putting on makeup on a Facetime call while explaining rapid fire how she “had a crush on Allie long before my best friend Evie but Evie thinks she was crushing on him first but he held my hand when I was afraid to ride the elevator at the mall and he has a twin sister who is my best friend…” Live listeners can feed off each other’s laughter and facial expressions. Or maybe the wine makes everything funnier. So I would like to encourage readers to get together in groups and read my posts over drinks. I think this will improve my writing.
Humans have short term survival instincts. The long game has logic to it but immediate needs are urgent in the moment when perceived well being is at stake. Since the cooperation of others is needed for our own survival, humans have perfected many techniques to procure alliances. The LOVE approach is aimed at those held close. It relies on a positive response to the “If you love me” pressure. The JUSTICE appeal targets a broader audience that includes authority figures. This is rooted in the logic of what is fair. The POWER card is played against those who are weaker. The threat can be either subtle or direct. The PITY tactic can be used on almost anyone if you do not mind groveling. The DEBT collection can even be employed on enemies as long as you have a persuasive IOU. A five tool player in baseball is a rare find who excels at hitting, power, speed, fielding, and throwing. Likewise humans who can manipulate others with love, justice, power, pity, and debt are equally rare five tool survivors. Sometimes they are just known as “tools.” I have long advocated for a sixth tool of humor but so far everyone thinks I am just tooling around.
Retirement ages like 65 were invented because at such an age, you need enough time for all the doctor and dentist appointments, therapies, and treatments. I remember when all my doctors were older and dignified, radiating knowledge and expertise. It was shocking when my medical providers began turning into my own age. But I kept thinking I was younger than I was. When a doctor in Wichita explained why I should have a certain procedure, he used the words, “This is what I would recommend for my own father…” I did not hear the rest. His father! I was in my 40’s. How old did he think I was? I finally accepted that some doctors were getting younger than me. This is both good and bad. I show age bias with my reluctance to have my 74 year old ophthalmologist perform surgery on my eye. I went to high school with him and am just projecting my own incompetence because I do not think I should be allowed to cut my own toenails. But then again, I was shocked that a 14 year old was performing my root canal. I thought he was in the dentist office on a Take Your Son to Work Day. I hate the concept of cheating but I have always cheated on my own medical evaluations. I faked my bite as a 14 year old, avoided braces, and was rewarded with a lifetime of crooked teeth. I memorize eye charts. If the doctor cannot see my floaters, maybe I should not mention them. I even have an Herb Doctor who plants laughter into my treatments. I am healthier on paper than in real life. So odds are that my death will come as a complete shock to everyone, including me.
I did about ten minutes of weeding last Wednesday but it took well over an hour. I moved in slow motion as if I were paid by the hour. I could have gone faster if I pushed myself but I try to listen to my body even though it routinely makes poor decisions for us. It once told me I could ski down a run peppered with moguls and I ended up carrying my skis down the slope in a walk of shame after a spectacular fall that should have prompted me to plant those skis as a giant X warning on Mogul Bad Judgment. My body also told me I could strap long slats on my feet and glide over water while a boat pulled me past skilled water skiers. In fairness to my body, we never discovered whether I could so glide because my girl friend’s father was driving the boat and he never gave me a sporting chance to stand up. He won the battle but lost the war when she dumped me for a different chump. Why do we even have to pull up weeds? Some weeds I recognize but I have to ask my wife which plants I should rip out of the ground ever since I made some bad guesses. Humans love to make categories so we can separate people, animals, plants, and minerals into their separate hierarchies. We are very judgmental. I am not even supposed to wear certain colors together because they allegedly clash and will apparently offend the eyes of all who gaze upon me. My mind is now operating in slow motion. I started drafting this post last Wednesday. I have not finished working on it but body and mind are both screaming for me to hit “schedule.”