What makes you most anxious?

Even if you don’t want to admit it, we all wish magical spells would make the ugly disappear – a sort of thaumaturgy for complaints. Paul offends me, make him go poof, and cease to bother me. It’s not that what Paul does injures me. His lifestyle, political beliefs, religion, gender identity, and rabid enthusiasm for Star Trek offend my sense of correctness in the universe. Therefore, he must be controlled, eradicated, or neutralized.

So we all want to live in our personal “Pleasantville” where nothing offends. OK, you say, that may be true for those awful right-wingers, Hmmmphhh. But wishing the unpleasant would disappear is not exclusive to one group, class, or persuasion. Living with actual diversity is hard.

In the sixties, Folkies, and hippies wished ” straights” ( meaning non-hip people) would go away; they were so square. Notice that I capitalized Folkie but left hippie lowercase? Yup, lots of us Folkies thought hippies were not hip. We thought they were middle-class suburban wannabes with no credibility. But, of course, many Folkies had the same roots; the hippies just came along a few years after us.

Actual diversity means living with people who you may not see eye to eye with, may not wish to interact with, and may not expect your child to have sex with. But, regardless, you can’t edit them out of the community. But we try. We’d love to put them in a ghetto, box them up, and send them “back to where you came from.” But, in the long run, no good comes from events like that. Unfortunately, recent, medieval, and ancient history is full of the cost paid for this vanity.

It’s a sort of skewed Libertarianism. We reserve the right to worship, love, consume, and live unimpeded by rules. But, of course, this does not apply to you because we find you morally objectionable. 

So for you, special regulation is needed because we can’t stomach the perversion we see in your continued existence. This sort of thought process makes me most anxious. Intact human societies have room for diversity. Fragmenting cultures demonize differences. This can become a snowballing process that isn’t easily stopped. What will you demonize next?

As cartoonist Don Marquis put it: “The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.” 


Where would you go on a shopping spree?

I call it tool porn. Yes, I love books. And I could indeed dress happily from the Orvis and LL Bean catalogs. But without a doubt, if I was given one of those surprise opportunities, “here are five thousand dollars; go spend it!” I’d head across the border to the nearest Lee Valley store and luxuriate in tool porn for as long as it took me to spend the money.

I have a few drawers in the carving shop filled with items I’m not likely to use often. I pull that small plow plane out, rub it and whisper, “my precious! It just seemed to be calling to me from the catalog pages.

I am actually afraid of what might happen if I went on a shopping spree with a loose wad of cash. I might have trouble finding places for all the goodies in the jammed shop.

But, hey! I’ve never let that stop me before. So let us go forthrightly where no tool shopper has ever gone before!


What is your middle name? Does it carry any special meaning/significance?

What’s in a middle name? In the case of my family, lots.
Nicholas alternates from first to the middle over the generations on the Catalan side of my family, and I have continued the passage. So I am Louis Nicholas Carreras, my youngest is Louis Nicholas, and my oldest is Nicholas Aladar Carreras. The middle name Aladar is the gift of the Hungarian part of the family through my great uncle Aladar. That’s another story.

I think names are nothing but placeholders unless there is a history behind them. History is how we take the irregular mess of mere events, put it into some order, and keep alive the dreams of the generations that came before us.
In the case of those named Nicholas Carreras’ the history is deep. There are so many that it is hard to trace them, even through the lengthy baptismal records of the churches in Girona, where the family originated. In a way, that’s home.

My middle name says much more than who I am; it indicates where I am from.

Wild Thing

Do you believe in fate/destiny?

Chaos. That’s what life with a cat can be unless we are talking about the order they wish to impose on the household – dinner precisely at five PM, being able to sleep in the crook of your arm at four AM, and let’s not forget the time you are expected to be up for breakfast. Otherwise than that, chaos.

Reading an article just the other day, I was informed that cats have, in the framework of domestication, just been tamed. Dogs have been around for almost ever, but the cat just wandered in last week looking for mice and a cozy place to sleep. My cats informed me of this years ago. “Get used to it; we are wild animals.” Then they remind me that they have domesticated humans and, only more recently, dogs.
They permit small indignities for the sake of altruism. We are, after all, just glorified can openers. Ah, destiny.

On the Job

Do you enjoy your job?

It’s one of my favorite brags. I am not retired. I run a small access television organization full-time and am not retired. Yes, I do not labor as hard as I once did at other jobs, but I still supervise my small crew, handle technology upgrades and ensure the station automation is working. And yes, I do enjoy my job.
However, whenever I check in for lab work or visit a specialist, they all assume that being seventy-six, I am retired. So I make a point of having it changed to employed. But the next time I visit, it’s back to retired. It’s like I should know my place in the scheme of things, cease all toil, and do what is bureaucratically convenient.

Just today, our Town’s annual census form was returned to us; we had forgotten to sign it. But what was this? My employment status had been changed by the infamous “powers that be” from employed to retired. So I crossed out the handwritten notation with my note – ” employed!!!!”

I may not be retired at seventy-six, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a cranky old cuss when I want to be: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Cheaters Monopoly

Describe the last difficult “goodbye” you said.

In my days on the road, I lived out of a backpack. If I was in transit, there was a guitar case in my left hand, a pack on my back, and my right thumb jauntily positioned to get a ride.
Timing is everything on the road. Unless prompted by dire need, you left in the light of day. But the night my girlfriend, Charlotte, tossed me out, I found myself on the street at two AM. The dispute was over a game of Cheater’s Monopoly.
My friend John, a petty officer in the Navy, introduced me to the game. For us, neither poker nor dice held any appeal. So Cheater’s Monopoly was the game with its intricate strategy, banker cheats, and ledger de main with cards.
John had shown up at our digs needing a place to stay. That evening Charlotte was having a few friends over for a game night. After a few rounds of cribbage, John suggested Monopoly. There were groans at first until he told them about the changes in the game that made it more challenging, just a bit dangerous. Charlotte was reluctant, but the rest of the group was interested, and a party atmosphere developed.
John started them out slowly, but about half an hour into the game, I caught the signal that we should double down. I began to lose deliberately. At last, John looked at me, smiled, and said, ” you don’t have a chance of staying in the game another three turns.” I quipped back – ” wanna bet on that?” And that started the slow descent of a merely twisted game of Monopoly into a crooked game where the marks never stood a chance. Charlotte’s guests, Tom and Elaine, took this as an opportunity to bet against the man they assumed was a bad influence on sweet Charlotte. They seemed grateful for the chance to do well and victimize poor me. I saw it as an opportunity to get back at some of my girlfriend’s snotty cliques. They were all at university; I wasn’t, and dammed if Charlotte didn’t deserve better!
Over the next two hours, the game went from a friendly game night into a casino atmosphere where real money was placed on phony properties, houses, and hotels. Charlotte smelled a rat early on but could never catch me stealing. But, of course, that was because I wasn’t stealing. I was just the Dummy in John’s team – he did all the cheating, and I looked like the fumbling idiot who couldn’t play right.
After a few hours, John cleaned the guests out of their available cash and asked if he could stay the night. This tipped Charlotte over the edge, and the board games went flying as she accused both John and me, rightfully, of taking her friends in a con. While she had never caught me cheating, I drew most of her wrath, and soon my pack and guitar, followed by me, were on the landing outside the apartment.

That was how I landed on the streets of Georgetown at two in the morning. John split the take with me, and we went our separate ways to find shelter and rides out of town. It was sunrise before I caught a ride heading toward Baltimore, and I was grateful for the heater in the car.
Didn’t see Charlotte and her friends for ten years; I was presenting a paper at an Anthropological society meeting. They sat in the audience with that look on their faces that seemed to say, ” No! It can’t be!”

Let The Gardening Begin!

Describe the most ambitious DIY project you’ve ever taken on.

The end of February has arrived. Ahhh! Gardening season has arrived. Well, at least inside under grow lights. The kale, three cherry tomatoes, and lemongrass have sprouted. Over the following weeks, other things will be started. I do salad greens, lettuce, and broccoli early because they go out into the greenhouse and the cold frames early. Seeing the beginning of my gardening year gets me mentally away from the bugbear of winter and thinking about the renewal of spring.

Gardeners in the US Department of Agriculture zone 5 must be professional optimists. We take calculated risks and love to walk along the edge of the abyss. The frost-free date may say one thing, but we have plants in the ground under frost-protecting hot caps, cloches, and spun fabric covers weeks earlier. Some, hardier than I, are already in their plastic-covered greenhouses and planting in protected cold frames. For them, a March blizzard is just another challenge to overcome.

Climate change in my area has meant a greater degree of climate unpredictability. Proper mulching and soil amendment are practical considerations for water conservation, not just a feel-good thing. It has meant that all our season-extending technology, like spun fabric frost protection, is necessary when frost-free means “we’re not sure.”

Gardeners who can’t take a bit of a challenge should be disqualified; their hoes, shovels, and garden carts should be confiscated and drummed out of the fellowship.

Perhaps they could take up a less challenging DIY activity like blogging.


What is the biggest challenge you will face in the next six months?

The cat and the new dog have unionized over the issues of food and feeding times…it’s going to be touch and go until the new contract gets signed:

We want food!!

When do we want it?


Down with the repressive human corporatist elites! Open the cans now ,or we go on strike!

We want food!!

When do we want it?



Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.

I was told once by someone into anointing that it was necessary to bless and anoint the feet because they carry us into sin. I replied that mine needed a whole barrel full of the stuff because they had carried me into more than my fair share. As I said this, I pointed down at my scuffed greasy calf skin d-ringed motorcycle boots. It was wearing those boots that I hitch-hiked across the States and parts of Canada. On occasion, the boots served as weapons of offense and defense because playing guitar in some places I played, you needed to cover your own six.
I made the mistake of leaving them with some of my other possessions at my parent’s home for a couple of months. When I returned, my mother, a presagement of Marie Kondo, had tossed them away. Luckily for her, she had not tossed out my guitar.

I’ve never found another pair quite like them, and I’ve never had a pair of boots or shoes since to which I was really attached.


Write about your approach to budgeting.

I had thought that my life would improve after grad school.
During grad school, I lived on a very constrained income determined by the small amount I could earn from jobs around the university and a small monthly stipend from my fellowship. As a result, for a long time afterward, I could not stomach peanut butter, wieners, or the strange Pennsylvania introduction to my diet called scrapple. When I ran out of money, I ran out. It was a prodigal way of life.

I assumed that life would improve after grad school. But there were no available jobs that I could find for an applied anthropologist, and I was lucky to find a job doing what I had done before grad school, working in an operating room. My grey cat, Clancy, was eating better than I was for a while, but we managed to avoid the peanut butter and the scrapple.

It might seem the height of idiocy, but I had never had a formal budget up to that point. Perhaps this lack of precision in my life was a hangover from my Folkie days in the sixties, but a lecture from one of my superbly organized girlfriends introduced me to the basics. Perhaps she understood that I wouldn’t grasp the concept if she made it too abstract, so she just had me add up the average expenses, divide them into categories and then split my weekly and monthly income into “heaps.”
I had a heap for transportation, one for food, one for bills, and a tiny miscellaneous one for the occasional book or movie. But, you say, where was your emergency savings heap? Well, like many poor people, there wasn’t one, and yes, I was penniless for several years after grad school.

Over the years, the heap system improved and became more sophisticated as my finances improved. Its modern successor has rows and columns, spaces for saving, debt retirement, health care, and such. But it’s still the old heap system, and I still think of it that way.
Of course, I could go to an online forum that might offer more sophisticated advice on financial planning. Or I could seek a financial advisor, but most of their systems are just the heap method with different names. But, importantly, I do not have trouble following my process. And yes, it evolved to having an emergency savings heap.

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