Monthly Archives: April 2016

Happy Privacy Birthday To Me


Tomorrow, April 31st, is my birthday. I would have waited until tomorrow to announce this, but I haven’t been able to find April 31st on most calendars. Actually, it’s my privacy birthday, not my real birthday.

There’s so much identity theft going on these days, I think the business of stealing identity has become a significant part of our gross national product. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. But when people ask me for my birthdate, I often tell them April 31st. I’m trying to protect my identity from being stolen.

Wonk that I am, I memorized which months have 31 days, and which have only 30, way back in elementary school. So it surprises me how many people fall for this ruse. I even have an in-law who sends me a birthday card every year around the end of April.

How old will I be? Plentynine.

I take great measures to protect my privacy, so I’m gobsmacked when I learn about others who aren’t so careful. Celebrities are the worst. The reason why you can find so many nude pictures of celebrities on the internet these days, is because they store their naughty photos on the “cloud” and then secure their cloud accounts with flimsy passwords. Passwords such as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, or the very clever p-a-s-s-w-o-r-d.

Then they act so embarrassed about their sex videos being displayed for the world to see. I’d be more embarrassed about having a password that was just begging to be hacked. I’d be proud of the sex videos.

I protect my identity so well that even I have become confused about me. Who am I, really? These days this is more than just a metaphysical question. Sometimes I have to check my birth certificate, which I keep locked away in a safe deposit box. It gets a little awkward at the bank, when they ask me to identify myself before they’ll let me access that little plastic box. “That is the question, isn’t it?” I’ll sheepishly stammer.

I avoid giving my real name, birthdate, and other identifying information out, especially over the internet. For all anyone who follows this blog knows, I’m President Barack Obama. But really, I’m Elvis Presley.

I hope you don’t feel disappointed at not knowing who the real me is. Me and my ego would love to tell you. But sadly, you’ll probably never get to find out.

Whoever the heck you are.

Five Words Game: Truck Struck

I’m trying something new. If enough people like it, maybe I’ll keep it going. Otherwise it’s pffffft, off to the trash bin.

This is a little exercise to improve vocabulary. Good vocabularies are very important for becoming rich and famous. I’ve selected five obscure words at random from the dictionary. Then I wrote a silly little short story where I incorporated the five words, and put them in boldface. It’s your job to figure out the boldface words without looking them up.

If you’re able to do so, you win a pat on the back. But you’ll have to give it to yourself, unless you want a virtual pat from me.

Short, contextual definitions of each word are provided at the bottom, so you won’t have to consult a dictionary. It’s bad enough that I had to, in order to write this. But don’t look until you’ve tried to figure the words out first!

Good luck!

She consulted the syllabus to see if she wanted to sign up. Her flyaway hair fell across her eyes, and she realized she’d have to wait until she was indoors to finish reading. So she climbed down the palisade and meandered through the paseo toward home. Lost in a daydream, she hummed a dulcet tune as she stepped in front of a speeding truck.

Your Score:

5 right: You’re a word genius, and may soon be rich and famous! Can I ride your coattails?

4 right: You’re still pretty smart. I see 15 minutes of fame coming your way.

3 right: Would you settle for 5 minutes of fame?

2 right: Respectable, but you’ll never rise from obscurity. Unless maybe you’re struck by a meteorite.

1 right: Don’t worry. There’s more to life than being rich and famous.

0 right: I’ll bet you’re real handy with street language, so I won’t mess with you.

dulcet: sweet, or melodious.
flyaway: stray hair that flies in the wind.
palisade: a line of cliffs.
paseo: a sidewalk or pathway often used for casual strolls.
syllabus: a summary of topics to be covered in an academic course.

Holiday of Insults

The leader of the country of Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is getting his panties all up in a wad over people insulting him. I guess there’s a law in Turkey that forbids insulting its president. It seems this law was not strictly enforced until President Erdogan came along; but since his tenure in office, he has charged nearly two thousand Turkish citizens for perceived insults against him.

But he hasn’t stopped with his own citizens. Now this redoubtable president is going after the people of western Europe, who apparently are also picking on him. German comedian Jan Bohmermann recited a satirical poem about this very sensitive Turkish leader, on German TV. This poem suggested that he abuses women, watches child pornography, and even engages in bestiality. Oh my!

The inflamed president of Turkey whined to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, begging her to do something. And she has taken his side and approved the prosecution of Bohmermann.

Apparently, Germany and many other western European countries have antiquated laws on their books which prohibit insulting foreign heads of state. If convicted, Bohmermann could actually serve jail time for his funny little poem.

This seems to have encouraged the Turkish boor, who has now shifted his attention to the Netherlands. He’s now making an uproar over some Dutch cartoons which seem to insult him. And he’s sent an email to Turkish organizations in the Netherlands, asking Turks living there to immediately report to him any insults the Dutch people make against him.

This is not going over well in Europe. Both the Germans and the Dutch are outraged. But can you imagine how this would be perceived if President Erdogan turned his attention to America? This is the land of the First Amendment, baby! And we treasure our First Amendment rights almost as fanatically as our Second Amendment rights.

In the U.S.A., politicians must develop a very thick skin. Any pol who complains about being insulted runs the risk of being laughed down and branded a cry-baby. We Americans have the Constitutional right to insult any leader we want, whether foreign or domestic. And we do.

And the most beautiful thing about our country is that we can insult any political leader without fearing the heavy heel of authority coming down to crush our necks.

We've been insulting our leaders for many years. This cartoon portrays Abe Lincoln as a monkey.

We’ve been insulting our leaders for many years. This cartoon portrays Abe Lincoln as a monkey.

I don’t like to insult people. But I do like having the right to do so, without fear of jail time. Wouldn’t it be nice if citizens of other countries had the same right? So I propose a special national holiday dedicated to telling jokes about world leaders. This will send a message to the world that its possible to have a thriving country, where people can stand up to bullies in positions of authority without fear of reprisal.

And with that in mind, here are some insults I’ve reserved for President Erdogan:

Mr. President, I understand you like to lick the balls of a dog. But when you tire of that, you lick its asshole. You also eat dogshit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I won’t insult your wife, President Erdogan. She’s taken enough beatings from you. Besides, she can’t help that she was born your sister. Your mother is to blame for that. Well, at least she gets half the blame. You must shoulder the other half.

So, President Erdogan, you like to wank off to child pornography, eh? Or do you fuck your dog while watching it? Are you into threesomes? Like, I mean, you with a dog and a pig?

I was stationed in Turkey for over a year, while in the military. This gave me occasion to learn a few of their insults in their native tongue. So if you’ll pardon my phonetic spelling, here are some more insults for President Erdogan, in the language he understands:

Babasan suckola suchdem. (I shit on your father’s beard.)
Sikdirge, eshekolu eshek! (Fuck you, you jackass and son of a jackass!)
Gobble-gobble-gobble! (Now I’m really talking Turkey.)

I feel so much better, getting that out of my system. It’s a sort of lighter-than-air sensation of liberation and power.

It’s nice to be an American.

Move Over, Andy

Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson a few months before he died, in 1845, at age 78. Looks like all his hard living caught up with him.

Daguerrotype of Andrew Jackson a few months before he died, in 1845, at age 78. Looks like all his hard living caught up with him.

Andrew Jackson is getting kicked to the back of the $20 bill by a short little black lady. The Treasury department has announced that in 2020 our 20’s will grace the face of Harriet Tubman on the front, and Andy Jackson on the back.

How could this happen to ol’ Hickory? Why he’s the general who whupped the British in the Battle of New Orleans. He killed a man in a duel. And he carried that same man’s bullet embedded in his chest, near his heart, for the rest of his life. He fought Seminole Indians, and wrested Florida from Spain. And he rendered President John Quincy Adams completely feckless in a bitter political feud, that led to his own election as president.

You didn’t want to mess with Andrew Jackson. Unless maybe you were Harriet Tubman. So what did this little (5’2″) lady do that was so much tougher and greater than our seventh president?

Harriet Tubman (1922-1913) at age 73, looking tough as ever. She even kept Death scared away until the age of 91.

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) at age 73, looking tough as ever. She even kept Death scared away until the age of 91.

Well first, she was born a slave. Just to survive that experience must require a lot of toughness in your bones. Then in 1849, at age 27, she escaped and made her way to Philadelphia. Now she had it made. She could live the rest of her life in freedom and peace. This was admirable of her, but not good enough for Harriet.

This escaped slave decided to return to her former home in Maryland and assist other slaves in traveling the “Underground Railroad” to the North. And she spent the next decade sneaking back and forth across the Mason-Dixon line, again and again, rescuing hundreds of people from slavery. She put her life at great risk doing this, because if she had been caught they surely would have hanged her.

When the Civil War broke out Harriet could have sat back and let the Union army finish the job of manumission. But instead she joined the army. She led a band of scouts in and around South Carolina, mapping unfamiliar terrain for the Union, and performing reconnoitering missions.

She was also the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. On June 2, 1863, she guided three steamboats through the Combahee River in South Carolina, and liberated over 750 slaves from plantations along the shore. Most of these slaves joined the Union army, fortifying the cause.

She spent more than two years working for the Union army, conducting raids, scouting Confederate territory, tending to liberated slaves, and nursing wounded soldiers.

After the war she became active in the women’s suffrage movement.

Our government dragged its feet in recognizing Tubman’s contribution to the war effort. But in 1899 she was finally granted a pension. Ironically it was in the amount of $20 a month.

Andrew Jackson was indeed a tough character. But he owned hundreds of slaves, so he couldn’t have had life that rough. Imagine being Harriet Tubman. Consider what she went through, wading through swamps and cold rivers, stumbling through the dark with slave hunters on her trail. Risking everything for the freedom of others, with no thought for her own personal fortune or advancement. It’s hard for me to think of any great Americans in history who did more for the cause and spirit of freedom than her.

When I weigh these two great Americans, I must agree with the Treasury department. I will feel very proud of my country when I see Harriet Tubman’s face on our currency. So move over, Andy.

Dr. Tippy’s Tips for Treating a Cold

I’ve been battling a cold lately. I think I caught it from Blair, over at Shameful Sheep. She’s just getting over a cold. I believe the cold virus is so pernicious, you can catch it just by reading a post written by someone with a cold. So thanks Blair.

And that means anyone reading this post is going to be next.

So now that you know you’re going to catch my cold, here are some tips from Dr. Tippy, for treating it. But first, please note that I haven’t yet qualified for my doctor’s license in the U.S.A. My medical degree was conferred on me by the nation of Cyberia, which is my native land. I attended Diplomamill University, and graduated Magna Quack Laude.

I take no responsibility for anything, so follow these tips at your own risk:

My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.

My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.

If you are feeling painful pressure on any area of your forehead or face, find a hammer and a nail. Drive the nail, using the hammer, deep into that painful spot. This will hopefully relieve the pressure, and eliminate your worries about any sinus infection.

If your body is burning hot from head to toe, clean out your refrigerator, crawl inside, and shut the door. Stay there for at least four hours. This is guaranteed to cool your body down for good.

Treat a drippy nose by stuffing large sponges up your nostrils. Then wrap a big towel beneath your nose and tie it behind your head. Then wear a Fit-Flex Depends upon your head. Then scatter sawdust shavings a foot deep on your floor. Because no matter what you do for a drippy nose, you’re still going to get snot all over the place, and you’ll need all that sawdust to absorb it.

Treat a sore throat by carrying a megaphone with you everywhere you go. Turn the megaphone up full blast, then whisper into it, “I have a sore throat and can’t talk much,” to anyone who tries to engage you in conversation. If they insist on conversing with you anyway, beat them over the head with the megaphone.

A severe cold, left untreated, will typically last 14 days. But if you employ these treatments I guarantee you’ll rid yourself of your cold in just two weeks.

If you want to thank me for all this great advice, simply write “Thank You” on the memo line of the check, after I send you my bill.

A Big Fix

This is a true story. But I’m changing some names to keep from being sued by a giant auto repair franchise. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they did sue. They seem to be aggressively out for all the money they can get.

My wife’s car got a nail in a rear tire, which started a slow leak. I wanted to avoid driving far, because it only had 17 lbs of pressure remaining, so I picked the closest tire repair shop in town. That would be “Big Deal Tire Center.”

“Did you buy the tires from us?” Dick Cheney asked. I’m changing his name to Dick Cheney so this bastard won’t sue me. In fact, I’ll just call him Dick.


“Then our charge is $24.99.” Dick solemnly announced with all the gravitas of a deep-tread Pirelli.

“All right,” I sighed. I’m accustomed to paying 15 to 20 bucks for a flat fix, but I guess $24.99 is my penalty for being a disloyal consumer. I just wanted the job done, and soon, and without having to traipse all over town on low air, seeking a low price.

About 20 minutes later, Dick summoned me over for a little talk.

“Sir, we inspected your vehicle and we found some problems. Your rear shocks are leaking. It’s ruined your rear tires. Your shocks and tires must be replaced.” Dick spoke like a cop reading me the rules of the road.

I knew about those rear shocks already. And judging from the tread remaining on the tires, I thought I could get five to ten thousand more miles on them before replacing anything.

“I know about that. No thanks. I just want the flat repaired,” I said gently but firmly.

“Those tires are bad. You HAVE to replace them. Now.” Dick grumbled. “I’ve worked it all out. This is what we’re going to charge you.” He handed me a computer-generated estimate.

According to this estimate I would be charged $400 for new shocks, and $156 as the basic cost for new rear tires. But there were many additions to this basic cost, including $6.50 for waste tire disposal, $31.98 for balancing and wheel weights, $16.00 for adding nitrogen into the tires, $25.00 for a warranty agreement, $38.16 for something called “mileage protection”, and $3.50 for “free” re-balancing. The total estimate, with tax, came to $720.35.

I was pretty sure I could get this same work done at another shop for a fraction of the cost. “No thanks,” I reiterated, “I just want the flat fixed.”

Dick leaned over the counter, eyes piercing me like gimlets. “You have to have this done! Your tires are cupping and nippling! There are nipples forming on the tread. That could cause a blow-out!” he remonstrated with much authority in his voice.

Cupping and nippling? How can he say that with a straight face? And I’ve never heard of tires described as having nipples before. I stifled a laugh.

Where are all those cupped nipples?

Where are all those cupped nipples?

Dick seemed angry. Maybe he thought he could intimidate me because I look like an old man. Well I am an old man. And I was needing a nap. I was tired, and was tempted to just give in. But I hate bastards like this, so I decided I wasn’t going to back down, come hell or high water.

“I only want the flat fixed,” I lowered my voice an octave.

He scowled at me. “This work HAS to be done!” Dick expostulated, penetrating me with his Dick-straight stare. He was a big, burly guy with large, round rings in his earlobes that made him look criminal tough. I feared for a moment that fisticuffs were going to break out between this scoundrel and me. But fuck Dick!

“I only want the flat fixed.” I firmly repeated. “Uh, is that going to be a problem? Should I take my car someplace else?”

Dick backed away. “No, no, that’s okay. We’ll fix the flat.”

Finally I was able to get that Dick out of my face. And about 20 minutes later the flat was repaired, and the car was ready to go.

I’d like to say I won’t go back to Big Deal Tire Center again, but I’ve run across this problem at other tire shops also. What is it with the hard sell?

Money, I guess. I imagine there are many people who are easily intimidated by authoritative, aggressive auto mechanics. Especially women and old men. I wonder how much money is wasted by these vulnerable people on overpriced, unnecessary repairs?

So I just want to warn you. Be careful when you take your car in for a simple tire repair. Bring a strong backbone and small wallet. And maybe take a martial arts course. Or you could end up in a big fix.



A few days ago I inadvertently hit the Like button on one of my posts. I started to remove the Like when I thought, “Wait a second, what’s not to like here?”

And then my angels took over.

Good Angel (on my right shoulder): It isn’t fair to Like your own posts.

Evil Angel (on my left shoulder): Who said blogging is fair? Go back and Like all of your posts.

Good Angel: You’ll get stuck up and conceited.

Evil Angel: You already are. And has it harmed you? No, you’re perfect.

Good Angel: It’s trite to Like your own posts.

Evil Angel: It’s trite to engage in this inner debate. Just do it and move on.

Good Angel: What if a post really isn’t that good? If you Like it, then you may not be receptive to constructive feedback from all the non-Likes you don’t receive. Or do receive. Or whatever. Now I’m confused.

Evil Angel: Don’t listen to that confused imbecile! Like, like, like! It’s a war out there and he who dies with the most Likes wins.

I’m still not sure. Can anyone help me with this ethical debate? Is it okay to Like your own posts?

Igor Krensky and the Salt Shaker Incident

Igor Krensky stayed at our house for a while. He was our neighbor. His house had burned down from some sort of lab experiment he’d been working on, and he needed a place to live while it was being rebuilt.

Igor was a genius. He could fix anything, and he was always eager to please. That’s why we let him stay with us. Yeah, I guess you could say we were using him. We charged him $800 a month, room and board, and we let him fix anything he wanted to fix. And we had a lot of broken stuff. There were frozen computers, leaky faucets, a dead vacuum cleaner, and all kinds of other little unfinished fix-it jobs that left me feeling flummoxed and apprehensive about tackling.

I would wait for a strategic moment for Igor to be standing nearby, and then I would try to use the item in disrepair. Then I would point at the malfunctioning thing and cast a doleful glance at Igor. His face would light up into a big wide smile. He was always eager to please, and fixing things was the best way he knew, to make people happy. “Hmmgghh!” he would passionately exhort with a breathy exhalation. And then he’d get to work.

Igor mostly communicated through verbal, whispery breaths. Occasionally he would mumble something that sounded Romanian, Hungarian, or some other central European language. My wife and I were never quite sure where he was from, but we assumed Romania. He looked about 30 to 40 years old. He had blonde hair, deep-set eyes with bruisy shadows beneath them, a prominent nose, and sallow, hollow cheeks. He was tall and thin and rawboned.

He rarely looked at anyone straight-on. It was mostly gazes asquint, where he seemed to be sizing his subject up. He was a calm man most of the time, lost in the genius world of his reflective mind. Just the same, there were a few things that could annoy him and rouse him from his reverie, into a restive state of pique.

For one, you would never want to make a sudden loud noise around Igor. He would jump up from a sitting position, or rise about two feet into the air if he was standing. Then he would stretch his arms out like he was ready to tackle someone, and search the room with quick left and right twists of the neck, trying to identify the source of the commotion. In those moments he would make direct, full-frontal eye contact with you, if you were the source. And you never wanted that. His eye contact was scary.


Igor also had a lucky salt shaker. It was made out of thick glass–thank God for that–so it never broke when it fell on the floor. It was empty. The screw-on top was missing. It was just the glass portion of an empty salt shaker. He would always set it at the very edge of a table or counter top where he was working. And if it ever fell on the floor, Lord help him. Igor would transmigrate into another world.

He wouldn’t hurt anyone on these occasions. No, it was more of a deep inner turmoil that was harming Igor himself. He couldn’t function. He would stop what he was doing, rise from his seat, and glare mournfully at the fallen shaker. Deep, heavy growling sighs would rise from his chest. He would occasionally throw back his head and jab Romanian invectives into the air. He would pace back and forth, next to the salt shaker. He would cry like a puppy, pule like a baby, shake his head vigorously, and lose himself in hysterical bouts of sorrow.

But he would never pick the salt shaker up. Someone else would have to do that. And then his face would gleam with joy, and all would be well with Igor again. But if you set the salt shaker in a safer location, such as the middle of the table, he would quickly pick it up and balance it precariously right there on the edge. And then he’d get back to work, happily mumbling and breathily breathing, while tinkering away with his delightful little tools.

One day my wife and I were watching Igor fix our vacuum cleaner. It was a very expensive vacuum, and so we were intensely interested in this particular repair. We didn’t want to shell out the bucks to buy a new one. He had it up on the workbench in our garage. I sat next to him, and my wife stood opposite the workbench, directly across from me. I was so fascinated watching this mad genius, that I didn’t notice how close my elbow was to his salt shaker.

A reflexive nudge from my elbow, and I glanced over just in time to observe the empty glass shaker disappear over the edge. Thank God for that pile of rags it landed in! It made absolutely no noise. Nobody noticed this tragedy but me. But I couldn’t help but utter a sudden, throaty “Awp!” which I quickly stifled.

Igor startled a little and quickly swung his head at me, gazing directly into my eyes. I had to do something explanatory. But I couldn’t just reach down and pick up the salt shaker. I don’t take on accountability very well. And I didn’t want Igor to notice that his precious shaker was missing. And I especially didn’t want him to know that I was the one responsible for it being missing.

“Aww, ahhhhhhhh, aww, ahhh, ahhh!” I melodiously sang out, trying to convey to Igor that I was so happy I was breaking out into song. He furrowed his eyebrows disapprovingly. I stopped singing. He swung his head back and returned to work, grunting and mumbling something in Romanian.

My wife gave me a quizzical, wide-eyed look, like, “What the fuck are you doing?” I just sheepishly cast my eyes downward and began plotting how to return the salt shaker to its rightful position without anyone catching on.

But apparently Igor’s subconscious had detected something was wrong. He seemed distrait. He fumbled around with his tools, grunting breathy expressions of frustration. His hands shook nervously. He cast gazes about and began breathing and grunting louder and louder.

My wife was becoming visibly upset just watching him become visibly upset. Meanwhile, I sat stone-still, silent and mortified. My wife studied me. She knew by my frozen demeanor that I was somehow the perpetrator of this unhinging scene. Then she spotted the glass salt shaker in the pile of rags on the floor. She pointed it out to me. Igor caught sight of her pointing finger and spun on his seat, facing me down with laser eyes and beads of sweat on his brow.

I could dissimulate no longer. I just very quickly reached down, picked up the salt shaker, and set it back on the very edge of the workbench, where it had rested just a few minutes before. I gave a simpering, nervous, apologetic smile to Igor. Igor growled a long, deep, gutteral growl. He sounded like a jungle cat. He curled his lip and formed a distasteful message of complete contempt, with the scrunching lines of his face. Then he slowly turned back to the vacuum cleaner and tinkered quietly away.

There were no more happy, breathy grunts of pleasure from him. There was only an icicle silence, save the tiny scratchings and tappings coming from his little tools. Igor was pissed.

I had to be punished. It was the only way to get back into Igor’s good graces. That evening I stood in the living room with my shirt stripped from my chest and my hands tied behind my back. My wife approached me with a glass jar, and inside that jar was a dime-sized spider. Igor sat on the couch and watched with an amused interest in his eyes.

I’m deathly afraid of spiders. Whether they be big, medium, small, or tiny; hairy, bald, dull, or shiny, I cannot abide arachnids. My wife lunged at me with the jar. I jumped back in horror. Igor guffawed loudly. My wife lunged again, and began chasing me around the living room with the spider in the jar. I heard Igor utter something like, “Huh-ha, huh-ha, huh-ha!” My eyes were saucers of terror. Igor’s eyes were terpsichorean dancers. I squirmed. He slapped his knee. I squealed. He howled.

This went on for a good fifteen minutes. It was holy, shit-my-pants hell for me the whole time. My wife was a little uncomfortable with it, herself, but seemed to be getting into it toward the end. Meanwhile, Igor’s amusement reached a climactic plateau of pitched, hysterical laughter, then slowly subsided to intermittent convulsive chuckles. Finally he relaxed into a calm, smiling state of peaceful repose. He was back to himself again. Back to the old, eager-to-please Igor.

He slapped my bare back good-naturedly and headed off to his guest bedroom in the backyard, to retire for the night. My wife untied me, let the spider loose in the front yard, and then we both headed to bed. With Igor back in our good graces, all was well in our world. At last we could get a good night’s sleep.

And in the morning, who knows? Maybe I could get him to fix that light switch.

Gender Neutral


I read that men and women become more like each other as they age. I don’t believe this. But I brought the subject up with my wife over a cup of tea.

“Nonsense,” my wife grunted, jerking her arm and accidentally spilling hot green liquid on her new Levis. “Goddamnit, I just bought these!”

“Well they need a few washings anyway,” I reassured, “so they’ll start feeling as soft and comfortable as one of your old shirts.”

“Are those new shorts?” she asked.

“Yes, and I love them! They’re very loose and allow cool breezes to get up inside them. Keeps me dry.”

My wife rubbed a hair on her chin and mused, “Come to think of it, my grandmother acted a little masculine. I remember how she used to wolf-whistle at construction workers.”

“Hmm, now I remember how my grandma could drink any man under the table at her favorite bar.”

“What was her drink?”

“Bud . . . she was a Bud lady.” I softly murmured, as I slowly stroked my thighs while admiring my wife’s broad chest and strong arms.

She put her hand on mine and drew closer. “You’re looking kind of sexy today,” she grinned.

I pulled my hand from hers and put a pouting moue on my face. “Not until you apologize for what you said to me yesterday.”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry I said you look fat in those clothes.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” I wiped away a tear. “I think you were right. I really do.”

“No, no you’re very handsome!” she reassured. “Anyway, I’m feeling tired.”

“And I have a headache,” I said.

We finished our tea and went our respective ways. She lounged in front of the TV set, watching women’s basketball while munching on a bag of potato chips.

I got busy pulling weeds out of the flower garden. Which wasn’t a good idea. I should not have been wearing my new white shorts for such a dirty activity.


This is my uncle on the left, and my dad, at about age 10, on the right.

This is my uncle on the left, and my dad, at about age 10, on the right.

Life comes down to a box of ashes. I know this because I held the box. It was a box that contained my father’s cremains.

My father accomplished a lot of things in his life. He helped raise five children and six stepchildren. He married three different women. All three were difficult women to live with, but he managed not to kill any of them.

He was a crackerjack at his line of work. He made good money and was in high demand. Even after he retired he continued to work part-time, because no one wanted to let him go.

He was well-liked by just about everyone. Even his ex-wives liked him. Especially when he sent in his alimony checks. He had a great sense of humor, was generous to a fault, and was honest to everyone except the IRS.

I spoke with him on a Sunday, and he was doing great. By Thursday he was in the hospital with pneumonia. I called him on Friday, and by that time he was going out of his mind. That’s because he was an alcoholic, and they don’t serve alcohol in hospitals. Twelve days later he was dead, succumbing to a combination of pneumonia and the DT’s.

Shortly after that his body was reduced to a box of ashes. And that’s what his life came down to.

It’s easy to get nihilistic when holding a box of someone’s ashes. What a metamorphosis cremation causes! It drives home the idea that everything we’ve ever accomplished can quickly turn to dust.

But nihilism is not for me. There are good Christians and good atheists. And there are lousy Christians and lousy atheists. I’m a lousy atheist. I don’t believe in nihilism.

Instead I make the assumption that there is life after death. It’s an assumption, and not an absolute belief. But to assume or believe the opposite is too depressing for me. I hope I’m not disillusioning any of my fellow atheists when I say this.

My dad was a good man, and I like to assume he’s enjoying an afterlife. For one thing, he has no more ex-wives to pay alimony to. And I doubt that IRS agents are allowed into heaven. And instead of alcohol, he has something better to drink. Ambrosia.

Actually I have no idea what any afterlife is like. But my best guess is that it’s nothing special. My guess is that nothing really changes on a fundamental level when we change worlds. Perhaps our joys will come from basically the same things. Maybe we’ll continue to enjoy friendships and romances and close relationships. And maybe we’ll continue to take pride in whatever work we do. And perhaps we’ll still love to laugh, make other people smile, and pursue games of cat and mouse with the equivalent of IRS agents.

So my guess is that life really doesn’t come down to a box of ashes. Life doesn’t come down to anything. It remains where it’s at and continues on and on in its own special, non-special way.

Life is all about the moment-to-moment joy of simply living, regardless of what world we live in.

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