Friday, June 14, 2024

I Accidentally Pulled the Trigger

Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's" -Mark Twain

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

I'm still in France, but not for long. I'll be returning to the U.S. with my new friend and his family the week after next. He's got his people trying to contact Bruce "I've never actually been a blue-collar anything" Springsteen's people and arrange a meet up down the shore.

This column was originally published in 2018, but once again I've done a bit a lot of rewriting and updating. Wouldn't it be cool if you could rewrite your life? Gotta run, Collette and I are going to our favorite French McDonalds for a farewell feast of snail nuggets and pommes frites. 

She's going to stay with her maman for a while as my impending departure has hit us both harder than we ever expected it would. C'est la vie. 

When I was but a wee fact, till I was at least in my late twenties, it was possible to engage in heated political discussions, as much for the fun of it as anything else, without feeling that civil war was inevitable.

Not that it was possible to do so with everyone. There's a reason people say don't discuss politics or religion at the dinner table.

I encountered this advice later than many I suspect. When I was a kid, one of seven siblings, everything was freely discussed at the dinner table except for sex, as my fellow Boomers hadn't invented it yet. 

But this was so long ago that supper was at five p.m., attendance was mandatory, and Uncle Walter told us everything that we needed to know about national/international news at six. 

A few years later, when I was old enough to know everything, late-night debates with a bunch of people I didn't go to college with were a thing. Lines were drawn and (mostly) observed and it was the intellectual equivalent of a (mostly) friendly sports rivalry. No need to take it particularly seriously (mostly).     

Fast forward to the Eighties: The most intense year or so of my life (so far) culminated in the spring of 1985. I was managing a fleet of someone's ice cream trucks in Austin, Texas (hello Tom and Miss Kitty, wherever you are) when I hired the woman, now deceased, who would in short order become my wife, to drive one of the trucks.  

She and her nine-year-old daughter, the mother of two of my four and a half grandkids -- it's very complicated, I've been married only once and have never reproduced -- with whom I currently share my house...

{How come she says you share her house?} 

Anyway, they lured me to Canada's deep South (Northern Ohio) to "meet the family" and I've been stuck here ever since.  

As to my sojourn in Texas, there was much in the way of partying and little in the way of intellectual debate, but once married the endless party ended. My bride had come pre-equipped with a kid and marriage, partying, and kids don't mix very well in my semi-humble opinion.

Late-night passionate debates never made a comeback in my life. I married a sick chick, physically sick, but a veritable force of nature. Betwixt helping to keep her alive, the three of us fed, and my gift for working my ass off while avoiding the burdens of financial success I usually went to bed early.

{OK, Roy, what's all this got to do with Trigger?}

I clicked my heels three times and I was a widower and a grandfather. One evening I found myself having dinner with a friend and a couple in their mid-twenties early on in the new millennium.

This was my first encounter with triggering someone and triggering at least its current version, wasn't even a thing yet. I thought I was a man ahead of my time but it turns out that the phenomenon has been recognized as far back as WW1. 

Interestingly, includes the word triggered in its slang dictionary, which is where I learned about the fact it's been around for over a century. 

Even more interestingly, Wikipedia has a relevant entry and if you scroll to the end you'll discover that  "Although the subject has generated political controversy, research suggests that trigger warnings are neither harmful nor especially helpful." 

Anyways... After dinner, over coffee and pie, a debate broke out over I remember not what. Although there's a slight chance that I may not be entirely correct, I have a vivid memory of intellectually dominating. 

It was me v. my friend and the male half of the young couple. I confess I neglected to monitor the emotional weather manifesting on the face of his lovely wife. 

Hooge mistake.

At some point, while I was not paying attention — I, a man who had been successfully married for 21 years and who had learned many lessons the hard way — there was a metaphorical explosion. My dining companions and I were riddled with psychic shrapnel.

"She leaped to her feet and stormed out of the restaurant in a huff." 

That's not a quote from a romance novel, that's exactly what happened. Really.

Although he was young and, relatively speaking, they had not been married very long, he knew the rules. 

"He leaped to his feet and followed her out to the parking lot."

"I think you just pissed her off," said my remaining companion, reacting no doubt to the baffled look on my face.

"Did we just get stuck with the check?" I replied.

My young friends returned to the table as my older friend and I were in the process of splitting the check, calculating the tip, and discussing which one of us was going to act as a collection agent to recover the cost of their food.

She, said nothing. Although the storm had apparently passed, ominous dark clouds lingered.

{I thought there had been an explosion?

He, politely and diplomatically...well, long story short, it was explained to me that she passionately disagreed with me. 

Although she lacked the social and or rhetorical skills — and most importantly in my semi-humble opinion a command of the relevant facts to contest whatever it was I had been on about — she knew she was right, and she knew I was a bully, case closed.

That's not exactly how he put it but that's exactly what he said.

Although I confess my heart wasn't in it, I apologized for being a boor and fled the scene of the crime ASAP. 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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Friday, June 7, 2024

You Don't Know Jack...

...but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Image by Colleen ODell from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." 

This one's from 2017 and has also been "considerably edited, altered, and updated." Yes, gentlereaders, I'm still in France. My new friend has persuaded me to stick around for a few more weeks at his expense. 

I'll be returning with him and his family. They've rented a cottage "down the shore," which is how people in New Jersey and (South?) Eastern Pennsylvania refer to the Jersey coast. 

{What's with the (South?)?}

I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia for a few minutes in a past life, which is where I first heard the term, but I don't know if it's commonly used elsewhere in Eastern PA so for the sake of accuracy...

{I should know better, shouldn't I?}

Anyway, I've made him aware it's hardly the South of France but when he heard on the news this week that indicted Senator Bob Menendez is going to be on the ballot this fall, and that his son is running for Congress, he decided this is a state he wants to visit. 

He's been making Tony Soprano jokes ever since. 

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

You don't know Jack. 

It's important, very important, that you know that you don't know. If you know that you don't know, you know a lot more than many people.

Allow me to explain.

Let me begin by endorsing the wisdom inherent in the statement, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."                                                                                       -John Adams

That is to say, the facts are the facts, regardless of what we think they are or want them to be.

"All we want are the facts, ma'am." -Sgt. Joe Friday 

The facts are indeed, the facts, and the fearless pursuit of the facts is necessary if one wishes to know the truth. But the truth is, at best, provisional. 

"Provisional: serving for the time being" -Merriam-Webster

{Awesome, dude, thanks for clearing that up.}

"Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in a woman, never found in a man." -Sister Mary McGillicuddy

Truth is provisional — subject to change if/when new facts are discovered. A new fact may be hiding in plain sight or living in a hut in Siberia. That doesn't bother a true scientist and it shouldn't bother us. Living in a world of shades of gray everything is much more interesting than living in a black-and-white world, which would be quite boring.

"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong." -Richard Feynman, genius and Nobel Prize winner

[In light of the anti-semitism currently making a comeback on woke college campuses all across America I wish to note that Feynman applied to Columbia but was rejected because only a limited number of Jews were permitted to attend "back in the day" so he had to settle for M.I.T.]  

{Can we expect a point or just more quotes?}

I have two points actually (and more relevant quotes). The first is that everything we think we know is provisional, that is to say, subject to change when we uncover new facts. That this is the nature of reality. That while acknowledging this can make you feel a little crazy sometimes, not acknowledging this can get you killed.

My second point is that although we inhabit a provisional reality we should never stop looking for truth, but, a well-lived life requires that we make provisional choices and that we need to relax and enjoy the ride

As to point one, dealing with provisional truth, the trick is to keep in mind that a new fact may leap out from behind a rock at any moment. Cultivate that attitude and remember that there's always going to be more you don't know than you do know. Think like a Buddhist and cultivate beginner's eyes, another way of saying maintain an open mind. 

Pay attention and you'll minimize the odds of being run over by a bus.

 "Our brains are pattern-recognition machines, but not good ones. That's what gets us in trouble. We see patterns where none exist. None of us are exempt from that. But we can use our limited sense of reason to see past it." -Scott Adams

As to point two: Living a well-lived life, of provisional choices.

Just because everything we think we know is provisional, it doesn't follow that this knowledge need reduce us to insecure neurotics fearful of believing in anything. 

Or, worse yet, cause us to declare that "like, everything is like, relative man." The latter is the universal justification for an empty, amoral life with no path ever chosen other than the one that satisfies the appetite of the moment.

God, or evolution, or whomever/whatever, has blessed us. We're not just eaters, procreators and _______, we're eaters, procreators and _______ who are self-aware we're eaters, procreators and _______. 

We can choose to be enthusiastic carnivores or self-righteous vegans (yes, I'm biased). We can choose to be libertines, virgins, or something in between. (No bias, whatever works. But remember, discretion is a virtue and exhibitionism is tacky).  

Now what? Step one is acknowledging the undeniable fact that we have to share the playground with the other kids. This requires restraint, respect, a willingness to live and let live, and never forgetting the Golden Rule.

Irregardless of whether or not you're familiar with the Golden Rule, Wikipedia has a great article that includes versions of it from all over the planet and from all sorts of different cultures that's worth a read and that includes the following:  

"The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one would want to be treated by them. It is sometimes called an ethics of reciprocity, meaning that you should reciprocate to others how you would like them to treat you (not necessarily how they actually treat you). Various expressions of this rule can be found in the tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages."

(My emphasis. I tend to believe that positive affirmations that have survived for thousands of years likely have merit.)

Step two, from the unsolicited advice department: make a choice. Impose a frame. Adopt a working protocol. Decide on some rules. Whatever you say, goes, but only for you. Everything else requires negotiation. 

Choose a goal that will serve to keep you getting out of your warm, comfy bed in the morning and you will immediately feel like you're walking on solid ground. Trust me on this. If you choose the wrong goal, choose another. If you reach your goal, pick another one. 

Simple, right? 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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Sunday, June 2, 2024

The Secret of Life

Image by Nuno Lopes from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." -Slick Willy

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

Sorry this column is late, life in the South of France moves at a leisurely pace. Pretending to be rich Eurotrash for the last month or so has been fun, but I'm running out of money. 

I should be home by now but I'm still here, in France I mean. The pic of the Eiffel Tower is deceptive in that Collette and I have yet to visit the Louvre or the city wherein it's located. 

We're currently staying at a remote chateau that belongs to a reasonably wealthy native who has fortunately managed to avoid the downsides of inherited wealth who/whom we happened to meet at a McDonald's of all places. 

He's a conservative family man and I'm advising him on finding a place to spend the summer back in the U.S. with his family as he wants his kids to see what America is actually like as opposed to how it's presented by the world's media.

He finds America fascinating and as mystified as I am as to how it is the Donald paying hush money to a well-known and enthusiastic professional could result in being convicted of committing dozens of felonies. I recently came across the phrase Bananas Republic on the Worldwide Web of Contradictory Knowledge.

The following Cranky's on a vacay column is from 2016, but it's been considerably edited, altered, and updated.      

The secret of life is that so-called real life is just high school with money. Once you embrace this notion, much becomes clear.

When I was in school, I noticed a phenomenon that hasn't changed. Much has obviously changed since I graduated from high school in 1971 and the subsequent, but unrelated, beginning of the collapse of Western Civilization in 1972 — the year disco songs started showing up on the charts — but not the phenomenon I'm about to explore.

I know this because of the Stickies, all children of the new millennium, who/whom I monitor closely.


Despite my 39 documented college credits and nearly nine years of cranking out columns, I've managed to avoid becoming a master grammarian but the who vs. whom thing has always caused me trouble. I'm now too old to care all that much and I'm thinking about making who/whom company policy. 

I've helped to finance/parent/clean up after this sticky syndicate of savages, all of who/whom have turned out reasonably well...

{Wait-wait-wait. I'm certain that's a whom.}

I agree, Dana... So much for company policy. Anyway, for the record, I mention this because it was the right thing to do, not because I'm hoping they will never let a certain old crank starve, or go without high-speed internet access. 

But don't worry about me guys, I'll be OK. Now, where was I? 

As a young callowyute, I noticed that kids of only slightly different ages were often radically different creatures. Grade levels served as a reliable index. 

Every September, after another summer of working on the family farm at the family's steel mill on the Sou'sidah Pittsburgh, I exchanged my steel-toed work boots for a pair of cheap dress shoes from the local Thom McAn store and returned to school. 

{Dress shoes?}

I'm so old... When I was young everyone that went to Catholic school wore dress clothes or uniforms. Skirts only for girls with no "patent leather" shoes to prevent inadvertent immodest reflections. 

Most of the kids that were one grade level behind me seemed childish and dorky. Most of the kids that were one grade ahead were cooler than me and seemed to know something I didn't know.

[Question: Why is the American school calendar still built around an agrarian culture that no longer exists?]

As a callowyute, I was taught that at some point this process would end and that I would be a grup. All that was necessary after that was a slow but steady accumulation of skills and wisdom which I would pass on to the callowyutes in my life. 

[Of course, I wouldn't be like most grups, I'd still be cool. I'd never wear socks with sandals. I'd open a vein rather than wear an all-polyester outfit that included a white patent leather belt and shoes (and sandals with black socks). I'd only drive cool cars. Etc.]

Legally speaking, in the US at least, you can vote or become a porn star at age 18 and you can buy booze when you're 21. Science says that H. sapiens, on average, are not fully mature till roughly the age of 25. This explains a lot. 

{Let me guess, Colonel Cranky wants everyone to be 25 before they can vote, drink, or boink for bucks.}

Nope. On our current trajectory, I think that 21 and 18 will both eventually be lowered to 16. I support the current age limits to help prevent that from happening till I'm personally deleted.  

But if I were King I'd require that everyone has to pass the same citizenship test that immigrants have to pass to become naturalized citizens in order to register to vote.   

Once we finally fully mature we spend the rest of our lives waiting for the next dramatic step -- that day when we will wake up filled with wisdom, certainty, and financial security — which never actually happens. We will never actually graduate from high school.

Social/dominance hierarchies will always be a thing. Gossip/rumor/innuendo will always be a thing. The pursuit of happiness will always be a thing, but obtaining contentment is as good as it gets. 

The maturity gap between you and both the younger and older kids will narrow and the lines blur but the average reasonably well-adjusted 40-year-old, for example, will find the average reasonably well-adjusted 30-year-old lacking in specific as well as vague ways.

What will change is that most of the kids that are older than you will gradually become less cool than you are as the years go by. 

Eventually, you'll look around and decide many of the kids that are your chronological age are now also older and also less cool than you, which will make you feel pretty good... till it dawns on you that you have no shortage of contemporaries who likely feel the same way about you. 

And as the crowd of H. sapiens that are younger than you keeps growing larger, you'll be reminded of how you felt when the world was top-heavy with clueless old people — like you?

Most H. sapiens will gradually/slowly/painfully learn to share the playground with others, perhaps even pick up a bit of wisdom here and there. Many will not. We will start out confident that we won't be like our parents; that our lives will be _______, _______, and _______! Then our lives will mostly just happen to us.

Some will win, some will lose, most will tie.

You're probably in better shape than me. I'm almost 71 years old, still overthink everything and in my heart of hearts I'm the same horny, insecure callowyute destined to be a rockstar and enlightened Taoist master that I was as a young man — just (thankfully) much less so.

You will do the job, take care of the kids and the parents who are morphing back into kids, keep the car running, etc. Since it's relatively easy to fool most callowyutes/ourselves/other grups, we will all participate in a lie agreed upon (HT: David Milch). We will all pretend to be well-adjusted grups when in reality we're just high-functioning high school kids.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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