Me and Hank

 

 

LogoCommonSense2We are “self-isolating” now.  In the vernacular of those who can’t seem to avoid throwing awkward words together, we’re “social distancing.”  I’m staying six feet away from those phrases.  I don’t know what you call it.  I’m staying at home, discovering some joy in simple, forgotten things.  That’s more of a mouthful than the two-word, noun-denying affliction above, but at an age when time is running out, I keep trying to get things right.

I’m writing more often during the day.  I do that only when an idea has rattled around in my head, worn smooth as a polished rock. I’m compelled  to spit it out.  My compulsion is only palliative.  I’ve never found a cure.

Thanks to technology, Hank Williams and I have been hanging out together the past few weeks.  Not the “Are You Ready For Some Football” Hank Williams.  The other one.  The original. When I was a young college student, I convinced myself that I disliked country music.  It reminded me of who and what I was—a provincial fool.  Years later, after I grew a brain, I heard Hank singing one day and realized I had forgotten about him.  So for those of you out there who despise the twangy and simplistic tortured love of real country music, I’m here to tell you that I am now old enough to not care what you think of me.  As they say, that’s none of my business.

I don’t care for the current music that is, for some reason, still called “country.”  I know nothing about that.  But if you know Hank’s story, you understand that some things never change.  The most talented among us are often the most tortured souls on earth.

You can learn about how country music began—where it began, how it came to be—in thousands of places today.  I have found the story fascinating.  You’ll hear some names of the true pioneers of that genre.  Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family among others. And later, How Willie Nelson was broke and drunk and sold “Crazy” to an up-and-coming Patsy Cline. And you may, like me, think about why it seems the good die young.

Hank Williams died at 29 in the back seat of a car on a cold, wintery road in West Virginia, with a broken-down spine, shot full of morphine, alcohol and God knows what else. I can’t remember if he was married or divorced at the time.  He left behind a trail of cancelled performances and an angry music industry fed up with his unpredictable behavior.  In a career lasting less than ten years, he had created hundreds—hundreds— of popular recordings, many of which are still being played today.  Twenty-nine.  Dead and cold in the back seat of a car.

His marriage was an on-again, off-again love/hate relationship.  Lots of shouting, throwing things, name-calling.  Hank was no angel—neither was Audrey. There are always two sides to a pancake.  I’m sure that lady had stories to tell, but she didn’t have his ability to tell them.  Hank’s story is in the songs; he loved her and she drove him crazy.  There’s an old axiom in country music: “To sing a country song, all you need are three chords and the truth.”  Boy howdy.dbsig2

So this one’s for Hank.  If you secretly listen to old country music when nobody’s watching, and if you usually pretend that you can’t stand nasally twang, why you just give “Crazy Heart” a listen and see if I’m not right.

Marxist Monopoly At A Social Distance

 

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Alexandra’s cell phone battery sputtered and died while monsters shattered her world outside.

“What will I do now?” she asked.

Her grandfather looked up from his book and smiled.

“You could plug it in and let it charge.”

“That takes forever.”

“Mmmm.” he said, and went back to his book.

“There’s nothing to do,” she wailed.

“You could go outside.”

“The monsters are out there,” she said, pulling back the curtain on the window, looking up and down the street.

“Mmmm,” said the old man.

“There’s nothing to do,” she whined.

He looked up. “You could read a book.”

“Meh,” she mumbled.

He slid the bookmark into the tight crevice of the pages and closed the book.  “Now let me make sure I know what you said.  ‘Meh,’ I believe is a newer iteration that means ‘I’m not interested.’ So, say five years ago, you would have said ‘whatever’ and meant the same thing?”

She stared at him.  Meh was written all over her face.

“Why do you always say ‘Mmmm’ like you know something I don’t?”

“Mmmm. You might find this book interesting,” he smiled.  “This is a short story by John Steinbeck.  Do you know who Steinbeck was?”

“Yes, he was some old guy who wrote a book about growing grapes.  And stuff.”

Her grandfather stared at her and blinked his eyes at least four times.  Maybe five.

“It’s a story about how people behave when the zombies are on the loose.”

“I already know how to behave.  Stay inside.  Social distance, six feet, all that.”

“Don’t be churlish.”

“What’s churlish?”

“If you had plugged in that phone, you could be finding out.  That thick gray book right there in the bookcase is called a dictionary.  All the words are in alphabetical order.”

She stared at him again.  All over her face was churl.

Her grandfather smiled.  “Would you like to play a game?”

“My phone’s dead.”

“No I mean an old-fashioned board game.  In the real world.  In 3D. Let’s play Monopoly.”

Alex sighed, “I always win.”

Her grandfather allowed the slightest of smiles to cross his face.

“Would you like to play a Monopoly game that’s a little more unpredictable?”

“Maybe.”

He pulled the box from the bookshelf and blew the dust from it.

“This is called Marxist Monopoly.”

They unfolded the board on the dining room table and arranged all the pieces, sorting the play money into its proper compartments.

Alex eyed the pieces and grabbed her favorite.  “I’ll be the Scottie Dog, as usual.  He’s my good luck piece.  Do you want the top hat?”

Her grandfather’s wrinkled hand moved over the collection.  “This game is a little different.  I think I’ll be The Boot.”

He handed her a green twenty dollar bill, and gave himself one.  “Now I’ll be the bank, but in this game, we’ll call it the Government.”

“Fine.  Whatever.”

Alex rolled the dice.  A two and a one.  “Three! that gives me Baltic Avenue.”  She stared at the price.  “I only have twenty dollars.”

“Yes,” said her grandfather. “Same as the rest of us.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“Oh, I beg to differ.  It’s actually extremely fair.  We all got the same amount.”

“Then we should have started with more to begin with.”

“Well, in regular Monopoly, you’d be entitled to your opinion.  I’m afraid that’s not the case in this game.  If you don’t stop complaining, I’ll throw you in jail.”

“You can’t do that!  It’s against the rules!”

“Actually, I’m the government and I am the rules.  I can do that.”

Her grandfather rolled an eight, landing on Connecticut Avenue.  “You see?  I don’t have enough either.  Your turn.”

She rolled the dice again, landing on CHANCE.  Her grandfather handed her the orange card. “PAY POOR TAX OF $15” said the little top-hatted millionaire with his pockets turned inside-out.

Her grandfather gave her five dollars in change.  “How do you know that’s right?” she asked.

The top of his head tilted slowly down to a position near his shoulder as he stared at her.

Grandfather rolled again, landing on Tennessee Avenue.  He handed her the dice.

Eight.  She landed on Pennsylvania Railroad.  “Well obviously I can’t afford it,” she muttered.

“It makes no difference.  They’re all Amtrak now.”

“Wait a minute.  Who owns all this property at the start?”

“I do, Alex.  I’m the government.”

“Well I don’t think I like this game.”

“Most people don’t,” said her grandfather.

“I’m not going to play by the rules.”

He moved her piece to JAIL.

“ That’s not fair.”

“Oh it’s quite fair.  I’m the government and I’d do it to anyone playing this game.”

“I quit.”

“Most people do.”

They picked up the pieces and put them in the box.

“That’s an immoral and unwinnable game.”

Her grandfather’s head moved slowly over to his shoulder again as he smiled at her.

“Mmmmm.”dbsig2

(FULL DISCLOSURE BY THE AUTHOR:  I’m never this patient with young people.  I made the whole thing up.)

Coronavirus Zombie Apocalypse: The End Is Near

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As the news networks tell it, the coronavirus zombie apocalypse is continuing.  The red spread of death across the world maps continues to encroach upon us.  The end is near.

The end is near, actually.  As we apply common sense, stay away from other people and wash our hands, the numbers will drop and life as we knew it will continue.

Our society is jaded.  The lackluster solution of washing our hands doesn’t excite us.  If this virus had six heads and was standing in our backyards, we could battle it with flamethrowers.  That would be exciting and then the credits would roll across the screen and we’d be heroes.  The real heroes of hand washing and social distancing don’t generate a lot of enthusiasm.

Now, due to public pressure, the government is buying and distributing millions of corona virus test kits.  They’ll be here soon. My doctor friend cautioned me to view testing in the proper perspective.  Testing is a wise thing, from the perspective of those scientists who need information about it.  It’s of no value whatsoever to me.  My Type II diabetes doesn’t improve because I stuck my finger with a needle.  Testing for the flu helps my doctor determine how to help me, but I don’t feel any better for it. I’m not going to lose weight by standing on my bathroom scale, but I can do it thirty times a day if I feel like it. Next winter, how many times are you going to take a “free” flu test?  Probably as many times as your doctor advises it.

The other day, a good friend described the reality of free corona testing.  Alexandra is a good example.  She’s 27 years old and scared to death that the corona zombie is going to get her. She drives through the WalMart parking lot free testing.  Her result is negative.  But later that week, somebody sneezes in the tattoo parlor and back she goes again. The result is negative. Later that week, unexplainably, somebody’s lips come into contact with her lips, ears and, well, I wasn’t born yesterday.  She feels uncomfortable about it. Test number three. It’s negative also. How many test kits, how many healthcare professionals (who otherwise might be helping someone who really needs it), how much time, money and resources are involved in Alexandra’s apocalypse, while she steals our toilet paper from the supermarket shelves?  Free testing, in the end, may well slow the process of fighting the problem.  We’d be wiser to let people think they’ve got it.  They’d probably stay home, wash their hands and stop stealing my oxygen and toilet paper.

There are untold millions of Alexandras out there.  The abuse of free corona virus testing will embarrass us one day soon. Why don’t we have free drive-through testing for the flu?  Where are our flamethrowers when we have a known serial killer in our own backyard?  I’m in the high risk category because I’m over 60 and have existing health issues.  I’ll take a test when my doctor thinks I ought to.  And I’ll do it just once.  I expect to stay calm throughout the entire procedure.

When I’m sick with the flu or other winter malady, I always think it’ll get better. Then Saint Mary convinces me I need to go to Urgent Care. I lay around for days and hate being sick.  Sooner or later, I start feeling better.  I go out into the world and in a very short time, I am invincible again. This happens nearly every winter, because I always get healthy enough to be invincible until I catch it again. While you laugh at me, please realize that I’ve just described what corona virus is likely to do to us  if  we contract it.

The scientists need the tests.  They’ll get the information eventually, through healthcare providers, and it will teach us all about how to deal with corona virus.  But with free corona testing, we will tie up an enormous amount of time and resources, including health care professionals who could be helping sick people.  

I’m learning things from this zombie apocalypse, though.  I see the photos of the empty store shelves.  It teaches me how folks will treat me when the zombies are really there.

Separation Will Bring Us Together

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I thought I had held forth enough about the coronavirus, but people just aren’t listening to me. Perhaps I don’t have the readership and broad reception of Trump or doctors Oz and Drew, but I do have some common sense for anyone willing to take it.

As promised by many competent health experts, the virus has or will spread everywhere.  It’s highly unlikely that it will kill you.  We have a task in front of us—that’s you, me and everyone else.  It’s up to us to stop or slow the spread of the virus.  Talking doctor heads keep referring to “mitigation.”  That means reducing the severity of the virus.  They’re talking about you.  Not the six people around you, not just the older, younger other people.  They mean everybody.  Here’s your job:

  1. Separate.  In as many ways as possible, stop doing the things that bring you into contact or close proximity with other people, particularly in contained areas where you’re all re-breathing the same air.  Try to get it into your head to keep distance from other warm bodies—stay six feet away if possible.  Cancel your plans for any large gatherings.  They’ve mostly been cancelled for you, and that’s a good thing.
  2. Wash your hands. Scrub them, including fingertips.  Leave that soap on there and scrub them for at least 20 seconds.  Do it several times a day.
  3. Avoid sick people.  I don’t think that needs explaining.
  4. Stop raiding the stores.  You people are acting like the zombie apocalypse out there.  It’s ridiculous. Take the normal amount of toilet paper and leave the rest for us.  I thought some of you people enjoyed a little socialism in your life. Stop it right now. Go to your room.
  5. Avoid television news except to hear any recent advice or instructions.  Then turn it off.  They (all of the networks) are trading on your fear and fanning its flames.  Quit listening.  We’re being asked to work together on this and to sacrifice temporarily.  If you think it’s unfair, it’s not.  If you think your rights are being violated, they’re not.  If you feel offended, get over it.  If you think you’re being asked to sacrifice too much, find a World War II veteran (if you can) and ask him to tell you about the war.  Or his wife or family who stayed home.  They can explain real sacrifice to you and it will be much better coming from them than me. 

This is all very very simple.  Think of the virus as a tiny animal.  Without a warm body to land on, it can’t survive but a few hours.  It will die.  If we all work as a team and deny it the warm bodies it needs, we’ll see those numbers drop as dramatically as they rose.  It really is that simple.  Stop complaining, quit worrying about it and just do it.

If you find yourself thinking that missing a concert or a night at a club is asking too much, then it’s important to know that we haven’t been asked to sacrifice—or work together—for decades.  There are many of us out here who have never truly sacrificed. 

Compared to what others have done in our history, this isn’t even close to sacrifice.  It’s a very minor annoyance and it won’t last.

In My Day

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Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a popular newspaper column for years entitled My Day.  My starchly conservative grandmother, Evelyn Hicks Boehner, would work in her kitchen and mutter “My Day.  MY day.  Who cares about her day?” 

I didn’t get it then, but I get it now. My grandmother’s day was every bit as important as Eleanor’s. I think of those things and how my own day has changed so dramatically over the past few decades.  I’m really not a “back in my day” sort of person.  I don’t want this collection of essays to become some maudlin  Forever Young  tear-jerker.  But maybe there is a time and place for comparing “in my day” to the current world.

I like some new things, you know.

It may surprise my close friends, but I enjoy young people with their unspoiled exuberance and energy.  I am secretly hopeful of their spirit, because they want to change the world and I remember when I wanted to do that.  I disguise my faith in them with the rough exterior of a curmudgeon.  It works well for me, keeping them at arm’s length so I can concentrate on saving the world.

There are plenty of new things I like.  Cell phones, for example, though I worry about people who seem to be addicted to them. A phone/calendar/reminder list/newspaper in my pocket is a convenience I enjoy, yet I often put mine down and walk away from it.  There is a part of me who misses the days when there was only one phone in the house and we didn’t answer it during suppertime.

I miss the news on television.  Every network promises us news and every day—all day—there are men and women on there telling us things, but this is not news.  Depending on the network, it’s a version of the truth, slanted to reflect a particular idiology.  Television journalism, in its infancy, was basically radio that you could watch.  It began as a fifteen minute public service with not-so-attractive guys reading real, hard news and trying to be un-biased.  Yes, they had one or two commercials, but it was a basic premise that if CBS lost the Colgate account, there would still be a news program the next day, and it wouldn’t prefer one toothpaste over another. That’s why we called it a public service.

Thinking that you’re getting unadulterated, un-manipulated information from today’s 24-hour news cycle is like walking into a Las Vegas casino assuming the odds are in your favor.  The only way to survive is with your eyes wide open and your hand on your wallet.  Today’s television news is not about truth.  It’s about pushing an agenda while making advertising money at the cost of our own unguarded innocence. We would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s admonition: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”  Today, in reality, one must decide which side of an argument he or she wants to hear, and then select the appropriate network.

Unbiased reporting is dead.  It died of a lingering sickness. The last time we saw real unbiased reporting was on November 22, 1963, and it lasted three days.  There wasn’t time to slant it; there was time only to tell what was happening.

I’m stepping off the “news soapbox” now, but think about this: of all the ndbsig2ews you learned yesterday, couldn’t you have learned it in thirty minutes from Walter Cronkite and then gone on to spend your time doing something pleasant?

This Coronavirus Thing

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I haven’t written lately.  I don’t know if that begs an apology from me or if it was a relief to you.  I’ve been busy in my workshop for months, building all sorts of things and trying to perfect my Native American beadwork.  Each of them teaches me patience, but I’m a poor student.  I want to develop patience now.  That explains a lot, if you think about it.

I have tried not to sound off on things political.  It occurs to me that having a political opinion on social media changes no minds on the other side of the argument. Not one, not any time, not ever.  Seems like people change their minds when they’re of a mind to change and not one minute earlier.  And that makes my impatience flare up again.

But, politics aside, can we change a few things about how we think about this coronavirus?

I can’t watch the news without fifteen coronavirus stories clogging up my politics.  Readers, are you feeling a disconnect between what the experts are saying and how the media is playing it?

I talked with an old friend of mine who happens to be a very good doctor.  He is very familiar with coronavirus and has several patients suffering with it right here in our community.  Before you scream and tear off to find masks and flamethrowers, these are not Covid-19, the virus in question.  They’re in the same family—like your second cousins twice removed.  Corona viruses have been around for a while.  Only the new one, apparently, is newsworthy.

He pointed out to me that the regular old garden variety flu is killing far more people than CV.  I thought that was worth thinking about.  Why aren’t we seeing frightened media pundits describing the spread of the flu this season—about how many are currently infected and how many are dying?  And showing us one of those maps of the world with different colors of encroaching terror? 

Last week, a doctor who is on the front lines of the CV outbreak spoke calmly and matter-of-factly about the situation.  He said he’s likely to be infected and we ALL are likely to catch it, eventually, in one form or another.  According to this doctor and the most knowledgeable people on earth, about 98 per cent of us will survive in splendid fashion. Some of us will think we’ve caught a cold and get over it.  Many of us won’t realize we’ve got it at all.  It’s a serious matter for older people who have existing medical issues such as respiratory issues, diabetes, heart issues.  I’m one of those people, and I’m as concerned about Covid-19 as I am about the flu. Both of them could send me to a doctor and land me in the hospital.  Both could kill me.  But of course, I could also die from crossing the street without looking both ways, or from apoplexy after watching these wacko nutflakes on TV.

What we’re reading and hearing from the pundits is political.  Politics seldom deals in facts. Listen and read carefully; what the talking heads are saying is one thing.  What the experts are saying is almost entirely different. I call that a disconnect.

How many of us follow the rules for flu season?  Wash your hands.  Don’t touch your face.  If you don’t feel well, stay home.  Avoid contained crowds where you’re all breathing the same air.  If somebody sneezes, hold your breath and walk away.  My wife, Saint Mary, follows all these rules.  I don’t, and I’ve done pretty well for several decades.

My conversation with the doctor ended like this:

dbsig2

Me:  “So, basically, wash my hands and run away from sneezers?”

Dr:  “Actually, Dick….that’s precisely correct.”

Everybody calm down.  Don’t worry, be happy.  All will be well.

NFL: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

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As a dyed-in-the-wool Chiefs fan, I have a problem.

Last fall, the Chiefs released running back Kareem Hunt.  A video released by TMZ showed Hunt in an altercation with a woman in a hotel.  We probably all formed an opinion of Kareem Hunt at that point.  Mine was that if it was a one-time incident, he had acted in a stupid and unthinking manner.  If it was indicative of his character—if he has a tendency to drink too much and kick at women—he should not play for the NFL.  He is a tremendously talented football player, but I agreed with the Chiefs; you behave like that, you’re off the team and you can go sell used cars instead of playing professional football.  I hated to lose Kareem Hunt, but it felt like the painfully right thing to do.

Hunt had been placed on the NFL Commissioner’s Exempt list prior to his release, prohibiting him from practicing and playing with the team.  So, as a clearly uneducated fan, I assumed the NFL would agree with the Chiefs organization and that, sadly, Kareem Hunt would disappear from the NFL.

But in February of 2019, Hunt was signed by the Cleveland Browns!  Due to the pending investigation from the NFL into the domestic violence allegations against him, Hunt was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list after signing his Cleveland contract. On March 15, 2019, the NFL announced that Hunt had been suspended for the first eight games of the 2019 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He will be able to participate in all off-season workouts and all preseason games.  Following the announcement, Hunt was added to the Browns’ active roster.

I am not a football expert. I am just a guy who loves to watch a player with Hunt’s talent.  I don’t understand all the rules. After Hunt’s release from the Chiefs, my thought was “What a waste of talent.  But yeah, you’ve gotta let him go.”  Yet now, within months, he’s playing for the Cleveland Browns after a slap on the wrist from the league.

Something isn’t right here.  Not only is he playing in the NFL, but he’s playing for an opponent and the NFL has apparently set the cost of unacceptable behavior at eight games.  So the Kansas City Chiefs are rewarded for doing the right thing by moving a talented player to an opposing team.  Again, I don’t know the rules, but I don’t think the Chiefs are in the business of trying to get rid of their talent.

My opinion of Kareem Hunt hasn’t changed.  He is an athlete of tremendous talent who does not or cannot recognize appropriate behavior.  Tragically, he also apparently  doesn’t see the connection between inappropriate behavior and his responsibility as a role model for young people.  So I was sadly OK with all this until another team picked him up.

Again, I don’t know all the rules, but I know what’s right.  All the teams in the NFL should play from the same page.  We should all say “Kareem, it’s time for yodbsig2u to find a new career.”  Or, if we play by the NFL’s judgement, Kansas City should be entitled to the right of first refusal.  We didn’t kick him off the team; he literally kicked himself off.  It’s on the video. But if the NFL is saying he should play, then he should be playing for us.

Long Live Strunk and White

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If you don’t like writing or reading, there’s no reason for you to continue with me today.  But, of course, if you don’t love doing those things, it’s not likely you’re seeing this at all.

In my college days, I was introduced to The Elements Of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.  In the years that followed, I broke every rule of language ever devised.  In the beginning, I broke the rules because I wasn’t aware of the rules and was simply unleashed onto any readers I might have had.  I do feel sorry for them.  In later years, with the early help of Strunk and White, at least I’m usually aware that I’ve done it.

What follows are some of Strunk and White’s pearls of wisdom.  Many of you may be familiar with them.  To the rest of you who simply love to read or write, I hope you love them as much as I have.  I break them only when I think you need me to break them.

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

“If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.”

“Nauseous. Nauseated. The first means “sickening to contemplate”; the second means “sick at the stomach.” Do not, therefore, say, “I feel nauseous,” unless you are sure you have that effect on others.”

“Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable. The beginner should approach style warily, realizing that it is an expression of self, and should turn resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style — all mannerisms, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.”

“Place yourself in the background. Write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author. If the writing is solid and good, the mood and temper of the writer will eventually be revealed and not at the expense of the work.”

“Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”

“Overly, over muchly, much thusly…Do not dress words up by adding -ly to them, as though putting a hat on a horse.”

“The question of ear is vital. Only the writer whose ear is reliable is in a position to use bad grammar deliberately…”

“Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style… clarity can only be a virtue…Even to a writer who is being intentionally obscure or wild of tongue we can say, “Be obscure clearly…Be elliptical in a straightforward fashion!” Clarity, clarity, clarity…When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair.”

“To air one’s views gratuitously…is to imply that the demand for them is brisk…”

“The simile is a common device and a useful one, but similes coming in rapid fire, one right on top of another, are more distracting than illuminating. Readers need time to catch their breath; they can’t be expected to compare everything with something else, and no relief in sight. When you use metaphor, do not mix it up. That is, don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.”

“The writer will occasionally find it convenient or necessary to borrow from other languages. Some writers, however, from sheer exuberance or a desire to show off, sprinkle their work liberally with foreign expressions, with no regard for the reader’s comfort. It is a bad habit. Write in English.”

“No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.”

This concludes our lesson today from The Elements Of Style.  It may have taught no one anything, but it has reminded me of why I do this.

My Morning Joe

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There is a routine, a regularity, a simplicity in my retired life. In my former existence, I often felt I was running here and there, doing this and that, solving a multitude of problems for myself and, perhaps, the world.

Today, the world appears to turn without my intervention and my own world is far smaller. Joe the Dog loves this about me. I arise early, sometimes four or five in the morning. After I’ve dressed and open the bedroom door, he’s sitting there, waiting, tail wagging. He knows that I will take the same path to the kitchen, that I’ll get a cup from the cupboard, fill it with coffee and walk to the refrigerator to get the creamer. He knows the routine so well that he will jump backwards on either side of the path he knows I’ll take to the refrigerator. He delights in this knowledge.

I am so happy that I’ve taught him where the refrigerator is. It was easy. I just jump backward like this and he does it every time.

 I will usually sit at my desk for a while, scanning the news and answering e-mails and texts. Joe is very patient about all of this.

He needs rest. He’s crawled into his little nest. I’ll give him some time.

 I usually can hear the newspaper being tossed onto my driveway. So does Joe, and his head comes up, looking at me. I stare at him.

Look at that. I think he heard it, too.

“Joe, you want to go get the paper?”

Yes! He’s learning to do this! I’ll reward him.

 Joe jumps up and races to the front door ahead of me.

Quick. Got to do this the moment he’s thinking about it, while he’s not distracted! 

I open the door and say “Get the paper.”

Hurry hurry. Out the door, along the sidewalk. Sidewalk. Down the steps. Down the steps. Where’s paper? There it is. Pick up paper. Oh, wait. Prance around, show the neighbors what I’ve done. They need to see what I’ve taught him. Up the steps. Up the steps. Sidewalk. Sidewalk. In the door.

 “OK, drop it. Drop it. Good boy. Good dog.” I give him his treat.

Good boy. I give him his treat.

 Joe can be annoying. We have tried to teach him that the tennis balls are his, and things like socks and dish towels are not. I will often notice him sitting at my office door with my sock in his mouth, staring at me. I get up to chastise him, but he runs to the back door and drops the sock, looking at me. I’ll use a little distraction so he doesn’t think it’s a game. I open the door for him and he runs out.

Good grief, I’ve got to go. Does he not understand that a dog can’t cross his legs? Sometimes the only way to get his attention is to pick up the damn sock and stare at him oh good Lord that feels good.

 I open the door to let Joe back in and lecture him about picking up socks.

Listen to that. Isn’t that cute? He’s making that noise again. I’d swear he’s trying to bark.

All I know is what I read in the newspapers. The governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general of Virginia are in trouble and freshmen congressmen are calling for defunding Homeland Security, while their friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks we should be relying on attorneys rather than lawyers! (Don’t ask me; I’m just repeating what she said.)

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But it appears that the world is turning without my considerable knowledge and assistance, while my own world is smaller than it used to be. And infinitely more satisfying. Right, Joe?

 Simple is best.  Less is more.

 

Requiem For A Season

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Most of the world doesn’t know what it’s like to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan.  I’m going to to try to enlighten them. 

Over thirty years ago, the Kansas City Chiefs had completed another of their disastrous seasons.  I took the front page of the sports section from our local newspaper and taped it to our bedroom door.  It was intended as one of those trendy motivators for the next season.  “Remember how this felt,” and that sort of thing.  I don’t actually play for the Chiefs.  I have zero effect on their win/loss column.  But I sometimes think I am on the team and I suppose I felt like I was doing something.

The next year was every bit as disastrous, and I added another headline to the door.  And another and another, as the years went by.  My son Beau, who was a small boy at the time, said “Dad, when are you going to take those down?”  “When they win it all, son.  When they win it all.”

Beau is now 35 years old.  My bedroom door is covered with losing headlines.  “Defensive Debacle,”Chiefs Last In, First Out Of Playoffs,” “Chiefs Playoffs Hopes Disappear,” “Home Field Disadvantage,” “Crash And Burn,” “I Tried My Hardest (All Chiefs fans remember Lin Elliot),” “Titanic Meltdown,” Steel Suffering”.  The list goes on and on.  There isn’t a square inch of wood showing on either side of that door.  And I’ve just added “Tom And The Heartbreakers” to it.  I’m now on a second layer, covering up old heartache with new agony.

It’s not just the papered-over door.  In 1964, my dad took my brother and me to old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to watch our new professional football team.  H. Roe Bartle, the mayor who negotiated their arrival and who was known to all as “Chief,” was, no doubt, pleased that they had shed their old name as the Dallas Texans and become the Kansas City Chiefs.  (At one point, they were to be the Kansas City Texans, which would have made no sense at all and thank God for H. Roe Bartle.)

I’ve been with them, in spirit, since then.

So this is not for Chiefs fans, but for all the others in the world.  Imagine, if you will, something close to fifty years of waiting, of “maybe,” of “almost” and “nearly”.  Imagine a season in which we are finally for real.  It’s not just a lucky season.  We’re for real.  Imagine this game against the Patriots.  For the championship.  Imagine the final two minutes of regulation play and being ahead 28 to 24.  And imagine the Chiefs intercepting Tom Brady.  We have the ball.  All that’s required is to use up the clock.  We’ve just beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots.  And we are headed back to the Super Bowl.  But wait.  What?  We have a penalty.  We don’t have the ball.  Tom Brady and the Patriots are picking our defense apart and we can’t stop them.  They score, they win, we lose.  If you can understand that, you can understand us.

Within minutes, the recriminations begin.  We lost because of a coin flip.  We lost because a phenomenal and outstanding defensive player lined up over the line of scrimmage.  The roaring mob wants Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton’s head.  (I may or may not have screamed that in my living room) Within two days, Sutton’s head has rolled.  Thinking the worst of it was over, I turned on the television this morning and found that someone in the stadium was training a laser on Tom Brady’s eyes during the game.  Seriously?  Really?  You’re a danger to yourself and others. Do you want to win with a laser or with a football team? You should be banned from all NFL games for life.  Lasers do not win championships.  Defense does.

This essay will be dated rather quickly, because August is still in the calendar for 2019.  We will start again.  There are silver linings; this was not simply a lucky season.  We are for real.  We can get better faster if we own up to a few things and dispense with the thousand and one ridiculous reasons we lost.  We lost because we ddbsig2id not win.

Somewhere in this kingdom, the sun is shining bright.  “Start Me Up” is playing while the laser boys take flight.  Foxboro fans are laughing and New England children shout, but there is no joy in Arrowhead.  KC has struck out.

My door is still plastered with losing headlines.  Obi-Wan-Mahomie, tear down these newspapers.