OK, take a look at these optics; the Peaceable Kingdom. Kitty and doggie share a minute of peace over a shared family meal. Who’d guess that most of the last nine months have been spent growling, hissing, and swatting at each other? Perhaps the tedium of enduring dispute became too much to bear? Nope, a need to get lazy humans to get their dinner to them by the contractually dictated five PM.
You see, pets in our house have a union. The union has a contract, and woe is to a mere human to violate the agreement. A contract magnifies the God-given rights of Cats, Dogs, and other creatures as defined in the contract.
However, unity is essential. It took some months for Xenia, the Local’s combined Shop Steward and Business Agent, to get the new talent to start paying dues.
So this is how it goes down around quarter to five in the afternoon. The cat strolls into the kitchen. Obstructs traffic, begins to look first at the clock on the wall, and glares at whatever human is in the kitchen. A few minutes later, the dog wanders in, sits in front of the fridge, and starts looking at the clock and then at the humans. Eventually, the thickheaded people get the idea before the grievances are filed, the wildcat strike is called, and the International Teamsters are notified. This flurry of activity typically ends before five, as soon as they are fed. After this, they saunter off to warm themselves before the woodstove, another victory by organized labor over management. I swear I can see the copy of the “CONTRACT” sticking out of the cat’s rear pocket.
It’s important to note that no human in our house speaks cat or dog language. We’d love to. It might explain how two enemies communicated and came to coordinate against management. One can only imagine the closed-door sessions in the kitchen when the house was asleep.
Unity is powerful!
January, as I say every year, is my least favorite month. I celebrate its passing. But it’s a valuable month if you make it so. Whether it’s laying plans for the garden, working on new carving initiatives, or making those long winter nights come alive by reading about topics that interest you, it passes and promotes new value. Because it’s a slow-paced month, you’re a fool not to take the opportunity to use it to recharge a bit.
I hate to say it, but if January did not exist, I might have to invent it. I shudder thinking about it in a week with three snowstorms.
So I try to keep busy this month. But there is a wayward part of me that wants to be away from January in New England – enough Yankee Stoicism already! I want to dance on the beaches! Wet my toes in the tide! Boogie under the tropical moon, and watch the flying fish off the starboard bow of my ketch. Running around my head, this entire month has been old sea chanteys. Earworms about hauling up and sailing away.
This one in particular:
Rolling down to Old Maui, me boys
Rolling down to Old Maui
We’re homeward-bound from the Arctic ground
Rolling down to Old Maui.
Once more we sail with a northerly gale
Through the ice and wind and rain.
Them coconut fronds, them tropical lands
We soon shall see again.
Our stu’n’s’l bones/booms is carried away
What care we for that sound?
A living gale is after us,
Thank God we’re homeward bound.
We’ll heave the lead where old Diamond Head
Looms up on old Wahu.
Our masts and yards are sheathed with ice
And our decks are hid from view.
The horrid ice of the sea-caked isles
That deck the Arctic sea
Are miles behind in the frozen wind
Since we steered for Old Maui.
A well, back to work; sigh.
We all tell ourselves little lies to get by. Blunt honesty sometimes doesn’t do it, and we resort to those little white lies that help us justify a gamut of conditions from I’m too lazy, to I hate it. ” I’ll do it as soon as I get home this afternoon,” for taking out the trash. In the back of your mind, you are thinking, ” maybe my son will take it out!”
Other times we need to sweep something we don’t want to face under the proverbial carpet, “Let’s not worry too much about that extra poundage. It’s just from the extra salt, and I’ll flush it out over the next two days.”
Yes, I know you are out there having a chuckle over these. But, of course, you never manufacture such finicky tissue-thin little vanities. So, no, if you are like me, you need the paintbrush and a can of paint to create the necessary procrastination to get through the day this time of year.
Around here, we are getting a two-day snowstorm. I am waiting to see if work-related activities will be canceled and searching for excuses that will allow me to go back to bed.
It’s tough when you are the boss and have no one to call when you’d like to call out sick with a stomach virus.”Hello, Lou. Look, I have this stomach bug that just won’t stop…yeah I’d like to stay home. Yeah, I know I’m in charge, but… OK, I’ll make it in somehow.”
Damn! Now I’ll have to get out and clear off the car. But wait, they canceled schools, and there is a traffic advisory. The governor has asked all non-essential vehicles to stay off the road. Am I non-essential? You bet! OK, technically, it is not a lie I’m telling myself. Instead, it’s an exaggeration of the truth!
See! work hard enough, and you don’t have to lie…just mislead.
Some of the questions you get on the Word Press platform read as though a personality profile company generated them. Word Press, are you profiling us? Scraping personal data, or just loitering around until we reveal the toxicity lurking below our poses as authors?
One of today’s prompts on Word Press was, “what was your dream job as a child?” Wow! That is just a temptation for me to be absurd. I mean, please define a child. My wife thinks I am a child because I’m not particularly eager to vacuum. On the other hand, I sometimes think of myself as a child because of my seasonal fascination each January with running away from New England and becoming a beachcomber in Hawaii.
OK, I am being circumspect here. The inner child wants to go out and party hearty, get down…and it doesn’t get any better after that. Happy now, Word Press!
Carl Hiassen is my favorite author, and when I started writing the “Adventures In coastal Living” stories and the stories about the “Folkie Palace” on Boston’s Beacon Hill, I was inspired by him. Hiassen insists that you can’t make up stuff as bizarre as real life. True life is better than fiction. Looking back on the inspirations for the short stories I’ve written, I agree.
So in writing the short stories about my experiences living in Coastal Maine or on Beacon Hill in the 1960s, I always try to start with factual events, people, and the pure idiocy that entails. I am sometimes surprised at how little I have to invent or exaggerate, all I have to do is copy what happened.
It’s true. Fiction is not as amazing as real life; just look at national politics these days.
If I had a giant eraser, I’d rub out the stairs in our house. But, of course, there’d be no way to get to the second story. The problem lies with how steep and narrow the stairs are.
Just after my hip operation, climbing those stairs was like climbing a mountain. And while it’s better now, it’s placed a big question mark on our future ability to stay in the house.
To improve the access to the second floor, the stairs would need to start on the front porch. That would lower their pitch. Not a great idea. So I began to think of other approaches.
All of these have been considered:
- Gutting the house.
- Eliminating the small kitchen bathroom to put in a lift.
- Widening them so that a stair lift can go in.
All have significant issues fitting into the narrow nature of the century-plus-old house.
I am thankful to my hip for alerting me to this issue while I still have time to think about it. But unfortunately, there will be no spontaneous or instantaneous solutions.
A few nights ago, I had a “thinking outside the box” sort of dream on the issue. I had rigged up a kind of ski lift device that lifted me to the second floor; then I created an outside glassed-in elevator, the sort you see in the movies. The view of my garden was lovely from the glassed-in splendor of the elevator.
I am sure I am not the only one with these issues; if you have any suggestions, let me know.
Overcoming fear is a tricky thing. Not having driven until my early thirties ( It’s New York City thing!) I was leary of driving. Not frightened, but just leary of it. Living in coastal Maine, I found that driving was a great skill to have. Previously I had only lived in urban areas where public transportation made most local traffic easy; friends made up the slack by taking me where busses and trains didn’t run.
My first wife was willing to teach me to drive, but it didn’t take long to learn that she was terrified of it. She drove daily, sometimes for long distances, but was intensely fearful of it. Not being a driver, her fear, as my teacher, passed on to me.
It took a lot of driving to learn to be a careful but not continually frightened driver. It was many years, however, before I appreciated how brave my first wife was. She successfully mastered great fear daily to drive her car to work, social events, vacations, and stores.
I gradually overcame my fear, but for her, it was a question of mastering it daily.
We walked those long city blocks for miles when I was young in New York City. If you didn’t walk, you rode on the subway trains or the buses. For the cost of a token, the world – as seen from a proper New Yorkers’ perspective – was yours. Unless you had to go to some exotic location, like New Jersey or Long Island, you didn’t need a car. Then, of course, those locations required my father’s car. But ordinarily, you could get around by foot and public transportation.
On leaving New York to ramble, my thumb became my primary method of soliciting rides. The callouses on it became thick with use as I moved around large hunks of the United States and Canada. I still didn’t have a car.
Then there was a while when travel by boat was my favorite mode of transport. From where I lived, it was easier to get somewhere by boat. Especially if you adamantly refused to learn to drive. Somehow the Harbor master never pulled me over for speeding. But creating a blur of speed in the little wreck of a skiff I had just wasn’t possible.
I eventually learned to drive and am now among the ranks of the stodgy, traveling to and fro on hydro-carbon fumes.
If I had to pin down my favorite mode, I’d say that my sentimental favorite was by boat. There was a sense of adventure and challenge about it.
Of course, it was no fun that time I was lost in the fog. I was only thirty feet off the dock but didn’t know it for an hour.
I malinger. I procrastinate, and I delay. I wander off to enjoy a donut, or sinfully, two. I admit it – starting is my most challenging task. Once underway, I can put all my abilities, savvy, and skill to work.
But yes, I admit that cleaning the house takes some getting started.
“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” George S. Patton
I think the general was on to something. And to relate to why I’ll quote Bill Gates on the same issue, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Having knocked around life for a while, I’ve learned that success and failure are linked. And that they are not permanent states of existence. Work to succeed, but expect that there will always be the possibility of failure somewhere along the way.
I’ve been shattered on the reefs of life a few times. Sometimes it’s impossible to rebuild the way things were. Making it may result from opportunity, chance, or hard work. Having worked the options in one way once does not imply that the same efforts will work the same way again. Developing extra skills, broad knowledge, and abilities is essential. These are your insurance package. They may feed and house you when you’ve hit bottom.
It’s easy to accept the advice that you only need to do one thing well, and you’ll be employable, needed, and successful for life. However, if this is your take on life, I think you’ve been distracted by a good line of BS. Technologies mature, skills fade, and most importantly, the world is full of prejudice. I’ve had numerous friends find their employment opportunities strangely shrink after forty-five.
Another thing to think about is that your personal goals and objectives grow and change. Success at twenty doesn’t look the same as it does at thirty. If you’ve done a good job of exploring the universe, you may decide that going in an entirely different direction is right for you.
So when I get asked to define success, I suggest that it’s being prepared for what might come next, seizing the diamonds in misfortune, and forging a new adventure.
Or that “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”
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