Red Meat!

A deputation from the union confronted me the other night as I prepared their dinner. The dog was the ringleader, and the kittens glared at me. It was about how much turkey I gave them at Thanksgiving.

“Too little!!! Organized labor demands fair treatment!!!” The kittens were fiery in their delivery but stumbled over the sentiments. After all, they aren’t even six months old. The dog, who looked distinctly pudgy from “helping” the kittens finish their food, growled. There would be severe consequences if I failed to meet their just demands. A chorus of “Table scraps! When do we want them? Now!” followed.

I continued dishing out their dinner. Soon, they’d demand an express line for snacks or something else. Since Max, my cattle dog, had taken over as shop steward, there were flurries of small protests over meat at dinner. To be clear, they get a diet of canned and dried food; table scraps are a rare addition. The dog takes issue with this policy.

The problem is that less meat has been eaten at our table this past year, which means fewer opportunities for theft, secret little bits slipped under the table, and the holiday distribution of turkey, roast, and ham.

Anyway, as I put down the bowls, there was a chant from the kittens, “Obligate carnivores demand red meat!” The dog looked satisfied.


Somewhere in the back of a rack of clothes is a suit. Sport jackets, pants, dress shirts; ditto. I donated most of the stuff years ago. As an anthropologist, I was not what you’d call a high-impact dresser. Once my government job disappeared, my next act was working part-time at UPS while running a small videography business and as a marine woodcarver. I didn’t need sartorial excellence in any of these occupations.

Visiting a sawmill to watch timber become slabs and boards did not require a suit. Likewise, as a small business owner, I wasn’t planning on dressing for promotion. I’d have to plan on laughing at myself; I do that anyway.

So the sartorial accent, so to speak, around my shop is very basic. My uniform of the day consists of lightweight dock pants and a dark-colored, long-sleeved T-shirt or Henley. These items become adorned with woodchips or shavings. Coffee stains and varnish provide accents.

This mode of attire is so persistent that when my oldest son married, he and his fiancee required me to submit what I’d be wearing for the service in advance. Otherwise, they were confident I’d absentmindedly show up fresh from the shop.

Ok, I sometimes dress for success with brightly patterned Hawaiian shirts or bold Indonesian prints. After all, a bit of variety is nice.

The wood Pile

I’ve just finished stacking two cords of wood. The picture will give you a fair idea of what this looks like if you’ve never participated in an Annual Festival of Wood. And by the way, two more cords are due next week – so reserve your quarter cord now!

But seriously, I have come to appreciate wood stacking; it’s the perfect way to maintain your core muscle strength, and it gets you outside in the brisk fall air. Set up your radio or phone for some tunes, and you can rock out while you get a free exercise session. It is true that it’s very old school and that your neighbors look at you with undisguised amusement. 

But comes January, when the power is out, and the neighbors are freezing and looking for a motel room until the power gets restored, you’ll be toasty warm. In February, when the neighbors are panicking over how they will pay the fossil fuel bill, you will be content, remembering that your wood costs a bare three hundred a cord – not the cool grand plus they have monthly.

So yes, wood stacking in the fall is a favorite physical exercise. And, comes winter, there is a sense of security that comes from a well-stacked wood pile.

Age Inappropriate

Daily writing prompt
What could you try for the first time?

I’ve been accused of being too reticent in new efforts. I respond that I start slow, build up, and finish big. If you are a beachgoer, you know the approaches; the plunger or the toe in first to get the feel. I am in that third camp – toe in, walk in, and gradually build towards the plunge. If you are in the personality test business, you could make a lot out of this for personality types. 

I maintain that it’s no disgrace to feel things out first. But I have little admiration for those who live vicariously or through escapism alone. The only way you’ll get to tell your grandkids interesting stories is if you do, at some point, go out and try some new things. Not to be garrulous about it, but I’ve tried lots of things. I didn’t say I was successful at all of them, but I tried them. And that’s the thing: it’s OK not to succeed in everything.

So what’s my next act, you ask? Well, the list is long, but I’ve narrowed it down to a Geriatric Elvis impersonator, a door-to-door dietary supplement salesman, or, my favorite, a personal trainer for those indecisive about what they want to do next. I’ll charge a hefty fee, come and help motivate you to do age-inappropriate activities like an attempt to sail to Europe in a giant gerbil cage ( don’t laugh, someone recently tried this). I can video record it so you can show everyone that you are further along the path to dementia than they guessed.

Kind of like doing well while doing good?

Call me!


Remember that song from years ago by the Bare Naked Ladies – If I Had a Million Dollars? Well, I bet it started lots of people musing, “What would I do if I had a cool million?” Of course, the answer is a lot of dumb stuff because most of us have never had a lot of money and might run into issues managing it. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from articles I’ve read on lottery winners.

So doing what I do best, imagine weird shit, I started planning for a future of great wealth. Please note I mentioned planning, not plans. Plans never survive contact with reality. Planning prepares us to face what comes. So, in my planning, I begin by figuring out how to disappear. Perhaps I’ll hide in Oshgosh and pretend to be a janitor. Why? To hide from all the fifth cousins who suddenly rediscover dear cousin Louis, “Lou, I just need a couple of thou for a hot deal!”

Then I’ll become impish and require all requests for aid be submitted in handwritten triplicate, in Classical Latin ( none of that debased Church Latin, mind you!), notarized, and sent certified mail, receipt required. Of course, I won’t be home. For those who persist in seeking me out, I’ll insist that at the audience, they play the William Tell overture using axillary sound effects alone. I’ll be sitting in my rocker reading the Wall Street Journal.

Well, so much for the weird shit. Having managed a budget for an entire Federal program, albeit small, I know exactly how fast a million dollars can disappear. So, I’ve decided that a tithe system will work best: a tenth to my favorite charities – animal shelters, a tenth to immediate family members ( luckily, we are a small family), and so on. Having had friends and almost friends who were con artists, I will not be accepting proposals to multiply the money, buy rare antiquities, or invest in ancient manuscripts. Donations to my Alma Maters will be in round sums, say a hundred dollars. My wardrobe of tattered long-sleeved T-shirts, grungy dock pants, and boat shoes will be upgraded – I’ll buy some new stuff at LL Bean.

I will return to coastal Maine and become even more crusty, irritable, and irascible than I already am. Life is good.

My Way

Daily writing prompt
What details of your life could you pay more attention to?

I’ve been told by gurus of lifestyle change that I should live in the present, not sweat the small stuff, and let go of things that don’t spark passion. I’m not sure what would be left of my unique, confused, and scattered lifestyle if I tried all those things simultaneously. I might sully the comfortable but idiosyncratic conglomerative mess I call life for someone else’s concept of how I should live.

I think it was that great lifestyle guru I knew as my Uncle Lenny, who said he belonged to the Sinatra School of Life – “I did it my way.

Well, it’s not breaking news, but I’ve decided Frank had it right. I’ll do it my way, and if you are nearly satisfied with your own life, that’s what I advise for you, too.

And that pile of self-help books you keep getting for birthdays and Christmas? They make pretty good firestarters for the woodstove or fireplace…but come to think about it, the paper should be compostable, too. You know, come up with your way of getting rid of them!

Wasn’t there another one on not getting hung up on details?


Daily writing prompt
What are your top ten favorite movies?

Lists are so 2010s. A bucket list, a list of your favorite movies, favorite actors, or favorite actresses. Can’t think of a tenth? Well, guilt trip on it a bit; don’t collect two hundred dollars and go to jail in the game of collecting weird data points.
Of course, we all have movies we love, but it’s much more like someone will start off talking about a movie, and we’ll chime in on how much I like it. For most of us it’s compulsive.

But you joined the Significant Lists Society. Your lists of favorite things started off as means of remembering your favorites and enhancing your experience with them; innocent enough. But then oversharing crept in. They became rated for snob factor. You’ll be sneered at because an Adam Sandler movie was on your list. After a while, you “curated” your list for public consumption while keeping a “guilty pleasures” list for Saturday night binge viewing. Eventually, this infected your book list, and you trolled the New Times Booklist for impressive titles.

Look, This has to stop. You photoshop your social media posts, cheat on your Instagram, and no longer know what you actually like. I’ve contacted three of your best friends, and they will do an intervention tonight. 

Please do not yield to the temptation of making a list of the ten things you most want to achieve during an intervention.


Daily writing prompt
List 30 things that make you happy.

As a society, we are getting too attached to itemized lists, stacks of bulleted items, and compilations with the word bucket in the title. Today I’ve used vermillion, Alizarin crimson, and cadmium yellow in my painting. I’m done if I can squeeze in some unbleached titanium oxide and ochre. I’m not joking.

We all know people who feel compelled to list or be listed. 

Happiness can’t be reduced to watching the sunset in the Rockies with your Sweety while eating Chunky Monkey ice cream, followed by a Taylor Swift concert. Those things might evoke pleasure, but happiness? I’d maintain that you’d need to be disposed toward happiness for those things to affect you positively. The wrong frame of mind, and you have exquisite torture, not exquisite happiness. Paying too much attention to lists with little checkboxes is an excellent way to mistake a masquerade for actual life.

Take a break. Take a respite from categories, lists, and checkboxes. Now… hold a deep breath, let it out slowly, and forget you can count. Just be in the moment.