377. Playing Horseshoes in the Dark

“I haven’t been myself lately. You know, communicating fairly. I’ve just been stuck on the recliner while my incisions heal. The less I can do, the more I want to control my husband and kids, who are doing the best they can to step up for me. It’s not right, I know. I just can’t help myself. I’m hypercritical when I should be hyper grateful,” moaned Sheila with mild anger and smoldering self disgust.

Eddie, her husband responded, “She’s been meaner than a badger. I went into overdrive because I know how she likes to keep the house. I gave 150% until yesterday when she nitpicked me about something stupid. I lost it. I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’ So I just quit. Shut down totally. It’s hard enough to do double time with appreciation and support. It’s impossible without it.”

“Yeah, I hear you. So Sheila, Eddie stepped up and gave it his all to carry your weight? Is that right?”

“Yes, he did a great job.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No, uh…uh…I…uh… just get so cranky and unfair…the words stick in my throat. I should be doing it.”

“Telling him or doing the work yourself?”

“Doing the housework. It’s my job and I want it done my way.”

“Look, I don’t know any other guy who would do the stuff I do. I’m not bragging; just telling the truth. I’m not your typical husband.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you tell Eddie he is exceptional.”

“I want to… I just have this Miss INDEPENDENCE streak in me that is so angry. I should be doing all the stuff he’s been doing. It’s my responsibility and I’m disgusted with myself.”

“And you are taking out your anger on me and the kids!!”

“But you can’t do the work, Shelia. That’s your doctor’s order. Right?”

“Yes, but it makes me feel so out of control.”

“Sheila, Eddie needs to hear how he’s doing. Otherwise it’s like playing horseshoes in the dark.”

“I’m not following you.”

“Imagine Eddie is throwing horseshoes in the pitch dark. He thinks he knows where the target is and how far away the stake is. He’s throwing blindly, hoping to hear metal hit metal, like a bat operating on sonar. You need to tell him if he’s hit the target or not. Is he close?  Your words are like light for him. The more  you tell him, the higher the wattage bulb for the horseshoe metaphor.”

“Where do you come up with this stuff? Do you play horseshoes?”

“No, I’ve just been married for a long time. So, can you tell him he is exceptional and that you appreciate his efforts?”

Deep breath, “Honey, you are exceptional. And, and, uh, I don’t know any other man who would do what you do willingly. You know my expectations and jump to meet them. Thank you. I do appreciate you. Will you forgive me for being such a bitch? I’m just so disgusted with my uselessness.”

Eddie, “Absolutely. Thanks. I forgive you. I love you, not what you do.”

Sheila smiling, ” Whew! That was pretty simple. Hard but simple.”

“Like killing someone, huh? It’s not complicated, but it is hard.”

Eddie, “The horseshoe image clicks with me. If you don’t tell me what’s up, Babe, then I am in the dark, just guessing at what you need. Keeping me in the dark handicaps, no, dooms me to fail. I can’t fix what you don’t tell me. If you do share your thoughts and feelings…well, it’s like everything lights up, even the horseshoes. That would be awesome to have neon lit stakes and shoes.”

Sheila, “Oh, how cute, Eddie. That would be fun!”

Eddie, reaching for Sheila’s open hand, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”

“You two are too young to be Led Zepellin fans, I guess. But they had a hit song called “Communication Breakdown” in the ’70’s. Let’s see, click on lyrics…. there.”Image result for led zeppelin album covers

Hey girl stop what you’re doin’!
Hey girl you’ll drive me to ruin.
I don’t know what it is that I like about you
But I like it a lot.
Won’t you let me hold you
Let me feel your lovin’ charms.
Communication breakdown
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!
“What I like is how the song bursts out impatiently in the guitar licks to reinforce the content of the lyrics. It just wouldn’t work as a slow number. Likewise, when we talk to one another under stress, we need to slow down and be totally clear.”
Eddie, “We’re more into classic Country music, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta.”
“Yeah, sure. Stand By Your Man. One of my favorites. Let’s get that up here…”
Stand By Your Man

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doin’ things that you don’t understand
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.


Eddie, “That’s a real woman.

Sheila, “Bullseye, Buddy. That’s how I want to be for you.”

Eddie, “Deal! Man, I love counseling!”

Sheila, tugging on Eddie’s wrist,  “Is it just me or did it get a lot hotter suddenly?”

Eddie, “Definitely you got hotter. Let’s go home, Sweetie. Doc, can you give us a few seconds alone? I think I have a double ringer twirling on the flagpole of love. How about that? Poe tree.”

Sheila, “I like it, you big farrier.”

“I’ll be in the front room listening to Barry White songs if you need me.”




365. Epoxy My Brain Shut

Quite unintentionally it’s been good to be me lately in my marriage. Naturally I think history simply caught up to me; the wave I’ve been ahead of has finally crashed behind me and my prophesies are seen as epochal truths. Of course, this is delusional thinking.  Put simply, my wife recently told me one Saturday morn, “I really like how you have been behaving lately. I wish you could always be like this.”

Such comments are simultaneously both a compliment and a complaint. They contain two parts. Part one is the limited compliment, specific praise for something recent. Part two is the ubiquitous complaint, the history lesson that says you usually, no make that almost always, suck. Days like these are comparable to balmy summer days in Antarctica, serving only to confuse the penguins, seals and walruses who live upside down on the underbelly of the planet. Those poor critters are so confused that they dare not venture north, where it’s warmer.

Well, like a penguin in Miami I did not know what to do with such a statement. I asked for some clarification, hoping I would not ruin this un-Cialis moment. Indisputable examples were given. I pondered further. Finally, since my brain chemistry was under discussion or debate, I leaned back against the stove and made a suggestion. “Honey, here’s what I’m gonna do. Since you like my present mood so much and we’re both pretty sure it will soon fall into a computer screen or television abyss, I am going to epoxy my brain chemistry in place right here in this sweet spot of marital bliss. I can put an epoxy-filled syringe in each ear and squeeze until my brain hardens in place. Then I will be your joy boy forevermore.”

Seasoning her egg sandwich, “Oh, I wish.”

“I’m sure. We’ve been married 36 years now, right?  known one another 41 years, or twice as long as we did not know one another. Which is hard to say. I would not want to translate that sentence into another language, say Moroccan. More coffee?”

“Yes. I don’t care about translations. I just want to understand the original so stop the obscure references. It’s nice to be close to you. I feel complete and secure.”

“Oh, I do too. So often we have stress for one reason or another that just derails us.”

“Usually, by which I mean always, it’s you. I am very stable.”

“Yes, but so is concrete.”

“Are you comparing me to a building product?”

“No! I’m, I’m just saying that you are so much more than stable, you know, sexy and smart and … like, uh, stable is just where you start, baby. Just the foundation of the Honey Pot Nation.”

“No! You’re going to ruin it again! You are so impatient!”

“I’ve never been in-patient.”

“And the puns. They are intolerable.”

“I know. I can’t help it. Aren’t you going to eat the yolk?”

“No, egg yolks are gross. Are you going to eat it?”

“Gulp. Mmmmm. That’s your problem, baby girl. You just don’t get my yolks.”

“Uhhhhhh. Must you?”

“Hey, I did not go bait and switch on you. I was like this when we met in 1974. In fact, I was wearing this same Grateful Dead tee shirt without the holes. Listen:  If I epoxy my brain shut now, are you prepared for bad yolks forevermore?”

“No. Let’s think this through. There has to be something else that preserves a mood.”

“Formaldehyde. Radon. Volcanic ash. Death…”

“NO! Stop. Whose death, yours or mine?”

“Does it matter?  It was yust a yolk, my yittle chickadee.”

“What is in your head that makes you so weird? Is it a fungal infection that got into your synapses?

“Possibly. I contracted athlete’s brain in junior high from the gym showers. Mushrooms grew in the dark stall farthest from the frosted windows. That’s where Jody Riccio…”

“Stop!!! You see? This is why I want to hire a hit man. You start with a loving statement from me and then you go down bunny trails that lead to squirrel tracks that lead to mole holes that lead to ant farms that lead to termite tunnels on other planets!!!”

“Honey, honey. Sweet honey bee. You are surely exaggerating my exaggerations exponentially, even intergalactically. I will not lean here and be compared to insect life on any planet. I have standards.”


“Sometimes you must admit I’ve had a standard, at least once. I have stood beneath a bell curve at least once.”

“Standard deviation.”

“Well, you have to have a standard to have a deviation, right? I am an outlier. You gotta sin to be saved. Sister, come forward and accept God’s Holy Spirit on your tortured soul!!!”

“You got the liar part right. Can we focus here?”

“Did you know that Focus means Botox in Japanese. And now I see why. If you get shot up with enough Botox, your face will stay focused for eternity, sort of like the Joker after his weird mouth mishap.”

“I could not endure your happy face forever. It gets scary after a couple of seconds. Stop it! I hate your Jack Nicholson impression. He is so ugly.”

“So the answer is not Botox. How about laser surgery?”

“For what?”

“I read an article in AARP that lasers can melt your wrinkles together and make you look twenty years younger.”

“I knew you twenty years ago. I don’t want that again.”

“I could get my lips done so they are in a forever super model pout. How about this?”

“Don’t make that face. Now you look like Jack Nicholson imitating Angelina Jolie. It’s too freakin’ freaky.”

“Well, in other news, are you going to yoga tonight?”

“Are you?”

“I’m a go.”


“No, I changed my mind.”


“Nah, I’m a stay.”

“I’m putting on these lime green ear muffs now. I can’t hear you.”

“What’dya say?”

“I said, ‘I can’t hear you.”

“Do you still want me to stay like this?

“What?” Reaching for the epoxy syringe.

“I said, ‘Do you still want me to stay this way?'”

“How about we epoxy your mouth shut?”

“mmmmhmmm aaahummm eeyyoooo”

“Yes, this is lovely. Now Immastay. No, Immago. Immatalk. Youashutup. Yeah, nice.”

“mmmmnnnnoooo  aaaahhhhmmmmm puuuhhhhmmmm arrrrgggg.”









358. Oh, No, Toto,Come Back!

Way, way back in my memory bank vault, third shelf on left side, halfway down, is a story that still stings to recall, though I have no real guilt about it at all. It fits under the damp tent of family shame, I guess. Kind of has that putrid mildewed odor in my memory nose.  You be the judge.

My dad’s sister, her husband and their brood of six kids lived in Hawaii for many years during the late 60’s, I think. They had previously lived just ten miles away from us in the burbs of Northern Virginia when I was young, and our families interacted regularly. (I liked my Uncle Jim.  He worked with the Corps of Engineers. He was a kind man who smoked a pipe and laughed genuinely.) My father’s irascible mother would visit both homes the way a ping pong ball visits both sides of a net when she came down from Boston occasionally. “Kitty” was her name and she was the original pretentious piece of work, creating drama where none had existed prior. An emotional pyromaniac, if memory serves me accurately.

Aunt Jean was the hard pear that did not fall far from her mother’s tree, but she strained to be as far away as possible. Intellectualism was her passport. Conflict her train. Acceptance her destination:  To be approved of  by those whom you approve on the spiral staircase to the ivory tower’s penthouse. How very prepositional. Impulsive and free flowing in a pre-hippie era. She longed to talk about books and ideas with my dad while putting up with my unintellectual mother.  Jean had green hair in the freakin’ 60’s.  Granted, it was a hair dye chemistry error, but she wore it like a proud leprechaun until it grew out.

Anyway, the family was coming back to NOVA by way of a cross country drive in a big van, starting in California and ending on our doorstep. They asked my father to pick up their little dog Toto at National (Reagan now) Airport and convey the neurotic little terrier to a kennel. Simple, right?  However, you have to get some background description of my father to understand what follows. He was not an engineer nor was he a great problem solver. He served in the Army at the end of WWII in England and then Germany. He told a story of catching a mouse in his barracks and telling others not to kill it. “Then the damn thing bit me.” In a mouse’s thimble, that was my father.

One time we borrowed a neighbor’s truck and drove into D.C. to pick up a dining room table and chairs that my mom bought from a coworker who lived in a swanky apartment overlooking the Potomac near the Watergate. My dad did not tie anything down in the bed of the truck though we had rope, and as we bounced across the Memorial Bridge in pale orange mercury vapor light, the extension leaf bounced up and out of the truck, landing flat on the bridge where the next fifty cars ran over it and pulverized the damn thing. I ran back and picked up the gravel encrusted table leaf. When we got home, my mother cried in absolute frustration and disappointment. We did not have a lot of nice things, and she put so much psychic energy into the few high profile things we did own. See, if  you have a nice carpet in your living room, you rock. My mom liked images and mirages.




So now you are ready for the main point. My sappy sentimental dad could not find it in his milksop heart to take Toto to the kennel. The dog was in absolute panic mode after flying from Hawaii to L.A. to D.C. in the belly of a huge noisy plane without Xanax. He brought the dog home in its cage and tried to comfort the poor thing in our living room. No good. No sir. We had a wide eyed, panic stricken terrier on the loose in a totally foreign environment.

Just then one of my brothers walked through the front door and Toto hit that hole faster than any NFL running back in modern history. He shot across our yard, through the intersection, and zipped out of sight in the woods beyond the Parkway as the summer sun set. At least he was heading west, I thought. Hawaii is west of here.

There were no words. That dog probably ran until it had a heart attack or seizure. In any event Toto was a total goner, and sentimental JJ was left with an empty cage full of dog guilt. It was bizarrely funny and painfully tragic at the same time. The awful wait began. Dread built. Excuses were rehearsed.

A couple of weeks later, lo and behold, the van with our cousins rolled up to our house. Nervous greetings were exchanged. They may have sensed that we were not so glad to see them. “Come in. Come on in.” And as they gathered in the living room, Jean said, “The kids can’t wait to see Toto.”

That’s when I left out the front door… a little slower than Toto had rocketed away. But I knew I could not endure the shock and horror, the guilt and shame of dogicide. Toto’s blood was not on my hands. Still I imagined the interaction that went down as everyone gathered around the damaged dining table.

“Toto ran away.”

“From the kennel? How?”

“No, from here. You see, I brought him here because he was so upset…”

“You? What? The dog is gone?”

Six kids start crying as voices turned metallic with anger. I don’t like the squeak of fingernails on a chalkboard, so I could not have handled the symphony of discord that must have erupted.

“Oh, no. Toto, come back!”

342. Googly Eyes

Years ago, I mean 26-27 years ago, my wife and I took our two daughters out near Pittsburgh to spend a weekend with a couple we’d met through church, our old Catholic church. I’m talking ages ago, since my third and youngest daughter was not even a glint in her parents’ eyes then, and we stopped going to the Catholic church 16 years ago. I can’t even recall the couple’s names today, (Jim and Maryanne?) but they were kind and vibrant people who wanted to share life and their love of family with us. Their children were older, naturally, since they were maybe twenty years older than we were at the time. Still, their house teemed with toys and games and coloring books and left over cool stuff for kids to do. I vividly recall looking out their kitchen window as my girls played on swings and a sliding board. Erin was 7 maybe, and Grace was 2 or 3 years old. Erin was properly modeling safe, older child behaviors while Grace was rushing toward risky excitement, just the way her daughter Leah does today. As Erin carefully climbed the stairs to the tall sliding board, Grace gamboled up the slide like a monkey, holding the rails with her hands. In this one mental snapshot their different personalities are engraved on my father’s heart.

Friends of our hosts came for dinner and a meeting of the Christian Family Movement, I think it was called. They had known each other since the 1960’s and it showed in how they interacted so lovingly with each other. They all had stories of putting faith into practical application. Jim talked about befriending a widow neighbor down the road who had resisted mightily at first. His kids delivered her newspaper and shoveled her driveway and met her needs. Finally the old suspicious widow consented to their invitations to join in life.

That story impressed me so much that I determined to do the same outreach to an elderly couple on our street, the Johnsons, not knowing that Ruth would soon be a widow. I tried to model loving neighborliness to Ruth and Buck while he was still living. I cut their grass, helped stack firewood, shoveled snow, etc. Over the years my girls got some extra grandmothering from Ruth. They would run to her house to show her their latest guinea pig or sing songs with her has she plinked out a tune on an untuned piano. We still have the mechanical angel that sat on her mantel at Christmas that Jessica so admired. Ruth gave it to her before she moved.

But the story is getting ahead of itself. Back to Greensburg, Pa and the good CFM folks. In our lesson one of the men told a story that used props, little fuzzy monsters with googly eyes. I don’t recall the point of it all, but I do know that all the fuzzy monsters with googly eyes were given to my daughters when the lesson concluded. They thought they were in Oz with all the attention and gifts. We drove home in the early November twilight, grateful for the connections made and the model of family love given to our girls.

Erin and Grace played with their new toys over the next few days and nights. Erin in safe, older child mode. Grace, uh, not so much. The googly eyes became separated from the fuzzy monsters rather quickly, but these were still fun to stick on the end of a finger and wiggle so the “pupil” rolled around the white area. It was all fun and games until, well you know, until someone loses an eye.

I think it was a Thursday night. My wife was at some work related meeting and I had put the girls to bed, Erin quietly and effortlessly; Grace with more maintenance and direction and a billion more words. I settled into the pink corduroy chair in the living room to read the thin local newspaper. I had not finished page one when Grace came down the hallway. She had a finger in her nose.

“Daddy, I have a googly in my nose.”

“Honey, that’s disgusting. Don’t pick your nose. Now let’s get back to bed. I told Mommy that I’d have you guys asleep by now.”

I walked her back to her bedroom and told her to stay in bed.

“But Daddy, googly eye. I have a  googly eye.”

“No buts, Gracer. You get to sleep.”

No sooner had I sat down again and picked up the paper than Grace toddled down the hall again, a little more animated. “Daddy, googly eye nose”, she said with her finger  two knuckles up her nostril as she wrinkled her nose and made a face of worry.

“Gracie, I told you not to pick your nose. Now you have to go to sleep. Now! No more…”

Then she emphatically shouted, “No, no, Dadddy. Googly eye nose”, and pointed up her left nostril.

Fear came over me as I drew her into the light of the reading lamp and tilted her little head back. Impossibly high up in her nasal cavity a googly eye stared back at me, mocking my parental ineptitude. More than any other consequence I dreaded my wife’s wrath… “You did what?” while imagining a scene from the emergency room with child services employees ready to take my three year old into protective custody.

“Oh, no. Gracie, blow.”

She sniffed.

“No, no, no. Like this.” I got a tissue out and demonstrated blowing into it.

What would happen if she sucked the googly eye into her brain? What horrible surgeries would she have to undergo because I had failed so miserably to protect her from fuzzy monster toys with googly eyes?

Finally after multiple blow demonstrations, Grace blew out the dreaded, almost fatal googly eye. It stared back at me in the wrinkly tissue like a dead fish eye.

I thanked God for this minor miracle and hugged her with relief. I would have to tell her mom about it eventually but not tonight. It was just too raw and mucousy for discussion. I put Grace to bed for the last time and gathered up all the fuzzy monsters with and without googly eyes and put them in the trash. Truly, no good deed goes unpunished. Nor do endearing memories ever fail to stab at my old heart.





265. Low octane blood sugar

Ever get that deflated state of mind and body when you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 4 o’clock?  Your heart is thumping and your mind is jacked up about sumpthing or other and you wonder if you have a fever or a touch of mania. You feel Snoopid. Deep breathing and lots of water get drained off. You know better than to use caffeine.  Hooo baby! Bodily warning signals are going off all around, but you manage to postpone sitting down and eating. Finally you inhale a bowl of left over pasta with chicken and mushrooms without tasting a thing. A quart of water washes it down. Eyes closed as CNN anchors prattle on between commercials. “What these jihadists seem to want most is…” Mute. Darkness helps dissolve the inner staccato buzzing of flies playing soccer in a jar that is your brain. In an impossibly insective yet Hispanic falsetto, “Gooooooal!” My flies seem to be Guatemalan.

As late nutrition gets caught up with my blood sugar deficit, I wait. I recall pumping gas at the old Exxon station back in the early ’70s when leaded (yes, leaded) gas was 29 cents per gallon. Cars would hiss and clip clop into the station just off the D.C. beltway on mere fumes. “Ping-ping” went the sensor bell. “Filler up!” the customers would bark at us. Self serve was not common then. We’d get busy checking the fluids and washing the front and back windshields. Service was expected and sometimes demanded. Funny thing is that as gas prices increased, service disappeared. It became something only for the elite or was legislated to remain in New Jersey. Go figure:  the more a commodity costs, the less delivery service you get with it, unless you live in Jersey. So, the hangrier a person gets, the lower his/her expectations drop for service associated with meeting that need… thus no gas attendants and no wait staff in general. Remember when folks actually made careers out of selling clothing? Now it’s mostly point and shoot, self service unless you are at a high end haberdashery.

Let me consider this paradox. If true, then I should expect service at the most expensive restaurants to decline and eventually disappear. Thankfully that has not happened. Can you imagine make-your-own lobster bars and steak houses? And would you tip yourself for excellent self service? “My man, the calamari was superb!” “I know, Sir, for I am you.”

 Oh, that’s a cafeteria or a buffet. Doink!

So we are back to food and brain activity. I don’t really know much about either, just that the absence of the first leads to the absence of the second.

I did not plan it this way, but I was involved in an afternoon court case recently as a witness. Naturally I was anxious since attorneys tend to ask innocent sounding introductory questions that lead to bloody machete slaughter of little lambs a little later. In my case the thing to be slaughtered was my credibility for the presiding judge, no jury. As the afternoon wore on and my breakfast wore out, I began to sing to myself, “I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury. I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury…” I tried not to sway and smile like Stevie Wonder in the witness box. But let’s be honest: Stevie can testify.

 I wish I could have seen the thought bubbles above the other folks’ heads.

“Did I let the dog out at lunch?”

“This medication really constipates me.”

“Boom! That woman is a bitch!”

“Why did I run for judge? It’s more like sludge.”

“My spanx are cutting off my circulation and my bladder signals.”

“This guy seems to be singing that bass song to himself… ‘I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble.'”

Well, there is really no reliable way to prove what others are thinking if they are thinking at all. The other attorney, for instance, introduced herself by saying, “I tend to ramble on, so if you don’t understand one of my questions, just ask me to repeat it.” Now that is thin competition, if you ask me. She was the equivalent of the other brand that loses to Bounty Tough Towelettes every time. Not the quicker picker upper, i.e., useless.

Uh, I mean, she’d be an okay vice president, I suppose, as long as the president is very healthy and well guarded. Just think Joe Biden in a skirt.

So, a hangry mind cycles on the questions being asked and evaluates each one over and over, as if chewing on words were as fulfilling as chewing on venison jerky. Not so, my bloggoiters. If you don’t feed your brain in a timely manner, it goes spanky on you, and I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it is, then it means something negative and shady.

The hearing ended in real time but continued in my sugar depleted brain. I recalled again and again what the smart attorney asked. I evaluated my performance over and over. I needed to get out of the cycle. I was obsessing like an OCD client worried about a shark attack in Nebraska. Unlikely. It was just my unquelled mind. I needed some fuel and time to process it.

Fortunately for the me and the world I found leftover pasta with chicken and mushrooms in the fridge. Bingo. Direct hit on Hangry’s Hanger without a hangover. I can see how tempting it might be for lawyers to drink their lunches and dinners. That rocket fuel of alcohol goes right to the brain without much delay. And the good times roll as surely as Mustang Sally without a subpoena. But no, I don’t go there, friends. Alcohol works like Ambien for me. I’ve been called a Two Beer Queer because I get sleepy after two good beers. And I am not ashamed of this label. In fact, I embrace my low tolerance for all forms of alcohol and LGBT causes. That is to say, I embrace the LGBT community and have a high tolerance for, no, I uh, have a strong endorsement for them. I just need a nap. However, if nominated for vice president, I will serve.




237. circles

Lately it seems many things are going in circles like a slowed down NASCAR race. My focused desire to write has been on the wane. Life has been a skipping cd, which I realize is a dated reference but better than a skipping record. There are days, weeks or even months when monotony pervades.  The news stutters on, repeating itself over and over. It’s not new, folks. War, disease, racism, and ignorance are doing well.  Life’s same old, mindless routine has become a rut. It’s nobody’s fault, I just find myself looking at a fish in an aquarium swimming around and around his little tank, and I feel like a kindred spirit, a fellow ichthus. Glub glub. Boosh. Woosh. Thrum bum bum. My tank is eight miles wide and ten deep, approximately ten across. I swim back and forth to work and stores, church, friends, etc. The aquarium I live in is nice, just a little too familiar sometimes. Maybe a motorcycle jaunt or a skydive would jack me up. Couldn’t hurt. Well, it could kill me, but other than that, it couldn’t hurt.

Went to NYC to visit my oldest daughter. How many one way streets are there in Manhattan and Brooklyn? More than you can drive down. I had a parking space at a metered spot on a one way street last week. I noticed a free parking space behind me on another one way crossing street. It was 50 yards away but inaccessible unless I drove a half mile and made three lefts, which I did. Only to arrive as some deviant miscreant Brooklynite finished parking in that golden void. I cursed once or twice and kept driving in circles to my right this time. Make four rights and you will wind up in a square circle where you began if you don’t hit a bicyclist, which gets tempting after a while. They cut and swerve like birds through the herd of autobuffalos. A little envy naturally arises. Those guys can glide through stalled traffic and run red lights at will. They weave freely among the metal, concrete and asphalt canyons. Until the rains come, then justice prevails.

My daughters went to a musical while the wife and I went to a swing dance club. It was actually a nice time. We were anonymous tourists with no expectations placed upon us except the cover charge. Nothing is free in NYC. The Holland Tunnel cost $13.oo, just to get into Manhattan. (I still have two outstanding parking tickets from 2006, I think. We sold that car, so I think I escaped those charges… nearly $300, no kidding.) Everything seems to round up to a hundred dollars– tickets, club tabs, breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the time you add in a taxi home, well, there’s another $35.  But forget the cost of everything; remember the value of one thing, my Bliago.  Yes, I can dig that permutation of Shakespeare. Besides, next year it will all cost even more so today is gonna be a bargain in five more years.

Circles, circles, circles. My wife helps an antipoverty group in town called Circles. She’s a bit more practically committed than I am. I try to avoid long term commitments beyond marriage and family. Anyway, about a year ago she began mentoring a young woman who wanted to get out of poverty. It went fairly well for the first year. We could see progress despite some obvious limitations involved. Now here’s the kicker:  remember the loud drunk I posted about in post # 128?  Well, our little mentee girl met him and moved him in with her. Remember that I had the guy arrested and then went to the district justice’s three times before he pled guilty and got six months in the county jail. But it wasn’t over then. While I was on vacation in Florida, the arresting officer called my cell phone and asked if I could testify yet again because Mr. Screamy appealed his 26th drunk and disorderly conviction. Yep, so after Screamo got out of jail he hooked up with this woman. Indirectly she funded his alcohol consumption. Every dollar he did not spend for her rent, phone or utilities, he got to spend on liquor. Fantastic. Indirectly we were helping her indirectly help him directly abuse society. Cyclical injustice without bikes this time.

This development did not sit well with me or my wife. After all, Miss Mentee walked our dog. She was connected to my family. But… we are not stupid. After hearing her talk about her drunk and disorderly new boyfriend, my wife put 1/16 and 1/16 together and got 8/64. She inquired about the paramour, and what do you know?  One and the same dude. On top of that, mentee had known the connection for a while and had said nothing about it. Uh oh. On top of that she claimed, “You are all so judgmental!”  You know what? We certainly are. We can judge between a rattle snake and a baby’s rattle, by God. And we do this on a daily basis, most assuredly. In fact, I judged a completely antisocial drunk who was disrupting my business to be breaking the law and had him arrested a year and a half ago. The Boro police and district justice agreed with me and he was sentenced to six months in jail for the 26th time. That’s 13 years total if  you’re keeping score at home. Furthermore, I judged that helping someone reach to get out of poverty was a good and noble thing to do. Yes, I am so judgmental.

We judge all day every day, but we should not condemn. Judging is using our brains beyond simple perceptions and facts. We judge when we plug facts and memories and concepts into a mental matrix of values and priorities. Otherwise we simply chase our tails and repeat the same old mistakes forever. Poverty is not a lack of money, by the way. Many folks live spiritually impoverished lives while others practice impoverished thinking. In any event no good deed goes unpunished.